Page 18 of 18 FirstFirst ... 8161718
Results 171 to 175 of 175
  1. #171
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
    Senior Moderator

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Melbourne Australia
    Posts
    3,440
    Season 5 Episode 2: Grudge Match
    Spoiler:

    Jon grinned smugly as Abbee sent Victini onto the battlefield. He knew why she had waited until now. His Scizor had just beaten Abbee’s Gardevoir, one of Abbee’s least experienced Pokemon. She had captured it as a Ralts during her second summer at the Academy, three years prior, and having worked at Elesa’s Gym the last few years, had intentionally kept it as a Kirlia, using the plethora of electric moves it could learn to provide a challenge for matches where Abbee was forced to hold back. However, given her being offered the Gym Leader position, she had decided to let the Pokemon evolve. Alongside her Ampharos and Electivire, another Pokemon she had captured and trained for her role in Nimbasa City Gym, Gardevoir levelled out her battling team, any combination of the three providing enough of a challenge, with Victini being an extra level of difficulty for those who wanted it.

    Given Gardevoir’s lack of experience, and its partial Fairy typing, Scizor made short work of Gardevoir, and now Abbee was sending out her third and final Pokemon. Jon however, was on his first.

    “Scizor, Baton Pass!” Jon commanded, as he returned Scizor to its Pokeball. Victini glared at Jon, expecting this to happen, as Jon sent out his third Pokemon, Blaziken.

    “Goddamn it!” Victini yelled, only understood by Jon, who couldn’t help but grin, and Abbee, who could have sworn Victini was less aggressive during battle before she dated Chris, sighed.

    It was Thursday afternoon of the first week of the Eon Academy’s summer program. Abbee’s team had just begun their session training with Jon that afternoon. Having explained the concept of patience in a battle, he had invited Abbee to join him for a demonstration match.

    Abbee had opened with Poliwrath, with Jon sending out Nidoking to begin with. Despite being at a type advantage, Nidoking dispatched Poliwrath quickly, causing Abbee to send out Gardevoir. Her reasoning was that Gardevoir, despite being her least experienced Pokemon, would be able to dispatch of Nidoking whilst buffing its own attack power. Additionally she knew Jon relied a little too much on Blaziken, the viability of which in battle was proportional to how early it is sent out. This had been part of Abbee’s reasoning to send out Poliwrath as her first Pokemon.

    However, subverting expectations Jon, instead of sending Blaziken out as his second Pokemon, sent out Scizor, and then even further, sent out Blaziken as his third Pokemon.

    “Shadow Claw!” Jon commanded as Abbee ordered a Psychic attack from Victini.

    With blinding speed, Blaziken rushed at Victini, one of its claws engulfed in a spectral light, slashing at the Pokemon, before quickly dodging Victini’s own attack.

    Jon watched intently as Victini, growing more frustrated, acted with no orders. Whilst there was a chance Abbee could be commanding him via his telepathy, Jon knew that these days it was more natural for the two to speak verbally, and given Victini's own frustration, it was more likely that he had just let that get the better of him.

    One point of growth for Victini since joining Abbee in training under Jon, was relying less on V-Create, the move that came most naturally to the Mythical Pokemon, and using other moves in a pinch. However, Victini was still acting rashly, and had not made that much better of a decision with move choice.

    Jon could see that instead of flames forming a V from Victini's crown, they engulfed the entire Pokemon, as it rocketed towards Blaziken.

    "Take the hit!" Jon ordered. "Then Assurance!"

    With a crash, Victini slammed into Blaziken, the fire type choosing not to dodge the attack, causing Victini to take recoil damage. In a flash, Blaziken's fist became coated in a dark aura, as it used the force of Victini's impact to launch itself into a spin, circling around Victini and slamming its fist into Victini at the same time he felt the impact of his own attack.

    Victini collapsed to the ground, before weakly attempting to stand to his feet. Normally, even with the sheer amount of recoil damage Victini took, that one attack wouldn't be enough to put Victini out of commission, even if it were super effective however…

    "Abbee, I recommend you forfeit for Victini's sake," Jon called out, as Victini still struggled to his feet. "Blaziken still has too much fight left in him, and even if Victini does beat it, I still have Scizor…"

    Abbee nodded in agreement. Though she was supportive in Victini's pursuit of a rematch with Scizor, she also knew that even if Victini were to beat Blaziken in this state, Scizor would simply humiliate him.

    "Victini, we're forfeiting," Abbee called out, as Victini looked back at her in disbelief. "It's only a practice match. You'll get him next time…"

    Victini glared at Jon, before walking slowly back towards Abbee. Jon grinned at Abbee, who shrugged, trying to hide her own grin. She didn't blame Jon for withdrawing Scizor. They both remembered how Victini beat Matt Campbell's Shaymin two summers earlier at the College of the North Wind, battling much more ferociously than normal, purely to prove that his win against Avery Miller's Shaymin wasn't a hollow victory. If the dial had been cranked up to eleven for that battle, Victini having another crack at Scizor would send that same dial to a hundred.

    "Before we get into the patience part, what did you all notice about Abbee and I's battle?" Jon said, addressing the thirty five students that were part of Abbee's team. There was silence for a moment, before one of the older students spoke.

    "Abbee's opening play was to capitalise on your habit of using Blaziken early?" Rose, Jon and Alyssa's niece, now sixteen years old and in her third summer at the Academy, answered. "But you didn't let it stop you from using Blaziken altogether…"

    Jon nodded, before grinning at Abbee.

    "Cheers for that. It helped me illustrate the point…"

    Having a hunch she knew what he was talking about, she nodded, though didn't say anything further, on the chance she was wrong as Jon continued.

    "This is where patience comes into it. When Gardevoir knocked out Nidoking, and I sent out Scizor, Scizor could have quite easily finished Gardevoir off with a Bullet Punch, and a lot of trainers don't see past the circumstances right in front of them," Jon explained. "But fact was that once Gardevoir was beaten, Abbee still had one Pokemon left to use, and has two Pokemon on her team, both maybe capable of giving Scizor a hard time if given the chance…"

    Victini glared at Jon who responded with a friendly grin.

    "When Rose talked about my habit of using Blaziken early, she was referring to its Speed Boost Ability, which increases its speed as the battle progresses, and in order to make the best use of it, I tend to send out Blaziken as my opening Pokemon, or normally, my second at the latest. Between that and its wide move pool, it is usually a good play. The trade-off, as Abbee has shown, is that it is predictable, so I need to make sure I have contingencies in place in that event…"

    Jon grabbed the remote that sat on a small table next to him, lowering the screen for the projector, before turning it on. The projector quickly lit up, showing a recording of the battle he and Abbee had just finished. He pressed fast forward until the screen showed Gardevoir beating Nidoking, and Jon responding by sending out Scizor.

    "At this point, I still wanted to use Blaziken because of how versatile it is, however, to send it in against Gardevoir would have been far from ideal, as it would be too disadvantaged without the time for Speed Boost to activate, and given how ineffective Power-Up Punch would be, that also made sending Blaziken out as my second a bad idea. Which meant if I wanted to use Blaziken, it had to be my third," Jon explained. "So instead, I sent out Scizor, who would not struggle to beat Gardevoir, with a Bullet Punch or two and it's Technician Ability, and would resist most of Gardevoir's attacks, meaning there was no real urgency. But instead of rushing to beat Gardevoir, I made the most of the low-risk match up, in order to give my third Pokemon, be it Blaziken, or something else, a better chance…"

    Jon pressed play and all present watched as Gardevoir, who was quicker than Scizor, used Recover, regaining some energy, before Scizor used Agility, gaining in Speed, and following up with a Sword's Dance. On screen, Gardevoir used Mystical Fire, which Scizor managed to avoid the bulk of, only being grazed before hitting Gardevoir with a Bullet Punch, knocking it out. Jon pressed pause again.

    "At this point, I now have a Pokemon that is faster than any Pokemon Abbee will send out, and more attack power," Jon explained. "If Abbee sent out something that Scizor could handle, Scizor was equipped to deal with it. And if she sent out something that might give Scizor a hard time, it will be able to Baton Pass to another Pokemon to handle it. Meanwhile, had I just had Scizor go straight for the knock out when Abbee sent out Gardevoir, Blaziken would have gone up against Victini slower off the mark, and likely been knocked out before it could land a hit…"

    Jon meant no offence to Victini with his might, only to stir the Pokemon that he was on good terms with. Victini however, had had enough. He walked over to Jon, standing at his feet, looking up at him.

    "Jon," Victini said telepathically, including all present in the conversation. "I formally challenge Scizor to a one on one battle, once I've had time to recover from this one…"

    There were murmurs and grins from those watching as Jon stifled a smirk. Abbee shook her head in disbelief. She and Victini had a close bond, however, when Victini was feeling especially competitive, he tended to forget who was the trainer and who was the Pokemon.

    "I refuse," Jon answered simply.

    "I'm challenging Scizor, not you, but if you think Scizor needs your commands to stand a chance, I'll allow you to give orders…"

    Victini was aiming for Jon's pride, however Jon simply grinned.

    "If Scizor were to injure somebody during the course of a battle, as it's trainer I'd be held responsible, just like if you were injured in the course of a battle, it would be Abbee's responsibility to fund treatment," Jon explained, returning the blow by implying Victini would be injured and not Scizor. "As such, I have the right to accept or reject any challenges on Scizor's behalf."

    Victini flushed red, as Jon knelt down, speaking quietly to the Mythical Pokemon.

    "Victini, I'm not going to indulge you in a one on one grudge match because you demand it," Jon said quietly. "I get that you have something you want to prove, and it's admirable. I am seeing the same thing in Cass, and considering where the two of you were when I met you, I am glad to see you both so determined to prove you can win legitimately. But just because you have something to prove, I'm not obligated to accept any sort or challenge…"

    "It sounds like you're scared…" Victini answered verbally, as Jon chuckled.

    "Victini, I am among the most famous battlers in the world, yet even I couldn't just go to Ever Grande City and formally challenge Steven. I'd have to beat the Elite Four to prove I'm worth Steven's time in a formal challenge," Jon explained, before being interrupted by Victini.

    "Abbee is the Nimbasa City Gym Leader," Victini retorted.

    "Abbee will be the Nimbasa City Gym Leader," Jon said, lowering his tone further and giving Victini a meaningful look. It wasn't public knowledge yet that Elesa was retiring and whilst the only people present who could understand Victini were Jon and Abbee, he didn't want Victini to say something to someone else who didn't know, or to someone who did, and they are overheard replying to the comment. "And Abbee hasn't challenged Scizor. You have."

    Standing up, and effectively ending the conversation, Jon began pairing off students to have one on one practise matches, with a focus on making the most of lower risk situations. Abbee, after returning Victini to his Pokeball, quickly helped him, and once the older students who were tasked with helping Abbee run the team were given their tasks, Abbee approached Jon.

    "Don't you think you're teasing Victini a little too much?" Abbee asked. "I know he respects you, but I've never seen him so frustrated…"

    Jon gave a smug grin, causing Abbee to roll her eyes. She had been his student long enough to know when he was setting them up for something.

    "Okay, spill it," Abbee said, her tone hardening. "Why are you antagonising Victini and being so difficult?"

    Like her Pokemon before, Jon gave Abbee a meaningful look before lowering his tone and making sure nobody overheard her.

    "Can you keep a secret?" Jon asked.

    "I kept Rayquaza a secret for three years," Abbee retorted with a grin.

    "Not from a telepath…"

    "How can I keep a secret from a telepath?" Abbee asked.

    "Don't let yourself think about this when he is around," Jon explained. "It's how I kept my stash of beers from being found by Latios…"

    Abbee nodded as Jon continued.

    "Victini has something to prove, and honestly, I wouldn't be doing him any favours if I accepted his challenge and let him beat Scizor senseless," Jon said. "Sure, he'd be loving it, but how long until he finds some other thing he must do to prove himself? Technically, Scizor beat him because I trained it and commanded it, so next he will want to beat me, which is fine. But even if he does that, what next?"

    "Honestly, I don't know…"

    "Does Victini blame himself for what happened to you in Alola?"

    The question took Abbee by surprise, as did the change in Jon's tone. Her silence however answered the question.

    "Short of another situation that I hope you never find yourself in again, once Victini starts fixating on that, and trying to prove to himself he is strong enough to make sure that never happens again, he will be getting into dangerous territory," Jon continued. "He may never be able to do that…"

    "So you just won't let him get there by making sure he never gets past this Scizor hang-up?"

    Jon shook his head.

    "If I just let him have a crack at Scizor, he is happy for a few weeks, maybe months, but it won't last. Because honestly, take away our history, a Legendary, Fire-type Pokemon, that has beaten Mega Rayquaza before, beating a Scizor isn't a huge achievement…" Jon said. "But if I make it so difficult for him to even get the opportunity, and make sure that the achievement is purely from his own initiative and cunning, I'm hoping that this achievement may be able to keep him satisfied for a fair while…"

    A million thoughts raced through Abbee's mind, as she processed Jon's plan.

    "So you'll let him have a crack at Scizor before the summer is over?"

    "If I absolutely have to," Jon answered. "I'm hoping before then, Victini will have made it happen regardless of what I do…"

    Abbee considered Jon's reasoning.

    "Can I at least help him?" Abbee asked as Jon considered the question.

    "As long as it doesn't take away from his sense of achievement," Jon answered. "Try and let him take as much responsibility as possible…"

    Abbee nodded, though dreaded trying to keep this a secret from Victini.

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    ”Dylan…”

    The voice sounded distant, as Dylan quickly became aware of his surroundings. On the wall was a painting of a large, bird Pokemon with rainbow colored wings. The image was largely stylised, and Dylan knew that the subject of it would look vastly different, should he ever meet the Pokemon himself. However, he recognised the Legendary Pokemon as Ho-Oh.

    “Dylan, is everything alright?”

    Dylan looked over to Dr. Tanner, who had just taken a seat on a comfortable looking leather armchair, having just reentered the room.

    “Yeah, sorry,” Dylan answered quickly. “Got lost in my thoughts…”

    He nodded towards the painting.

    “I only just noticed it,” Dylan said. “Are you from Johto? They tend to have the most focus on Ho-Oh.”

    Dr. Tanner shook her head.

    “I grew up in Petalburg,” she answered. “But the myths of Ho-Oh are associated heavily with healing and rebirth. It’s believed the original Raikou, Entei and Suicune were all Pokemon that perished in a fire. A Jolteon, Flareon and Vaporeon, which Ho-Oh resurrected. I guess the sentimental part of me likes the idea of someone emerging stronger from a situation that once left them broken…”

    Dr. Tanner was one of Hoenn’s best psychologists, whom Jon was thankful lived on Mossdeep Island when the discussion of Dylan seeking professional help came up. She was in her early fifties, and during the first session, when she and Dylan had attempted to get to know each other a little better, had told him that she was divorced, but had two adult children, the youngest a few years older than him. She had also mentioned that both were fans of his, which causing Dylan to cringe a little, not being too fond of the publicity he inadvertently received being affiliated with the Eon Academy.

    “So you were telling me before that the summer program has started?”

    They were twenty minutes into Dylan’s fifty minute session, however another patient had arrived in a frantic state, having gone to get a prescription filled, only to find that the pharmacy, which had been sent a digital copy of the prescription, had lost the record. Normally, Dr. Tanner wouldn’t have interrupted a session, however given the nature of the medication the patient was prescribed, and Dylan’s relatively easy-going nature, especially when compared to other patients, she had quickly left the room in order to quickly send a new prescription to the pharmacy, promising Dylan she’d make up the time at the end.

    “Yeah, the other interns arrived a week and a half ago, and the students arrived Sunday afternoon,” Dylan answered. “Program is in full swing.”

    Dr. Tanner nodded in understanding.

    “How are you finding time?” she asked. “Are you managing it well?”

    “As well as I normally do. Better even,” Dylan explained. “The summers themselves, unless a Deoxys attacks the place, tend to be less work than the month or two prior.”

    Dr. Tanner took some notes, something Dylan had quickly realised was not indicative of him revealing some deep psychological issue he carried very early on, as he continued.

    “There are things that we can’t really do in terms of preparation until a month beforehand. We had to close registrations really early this year, because we were at capacity, and everyone else got put on a waiting list, but they have until a month before the summer to cancel and receive a full refund, and their place gets given to the top of the queue,” Dylan continued. “So things like allocating cabins, training teams, timetables and such, all happen in that last month when we know we aren’t going to be switching people around. Then, by the time summer comes, and the other interns have arrived, most of our work is running our classes and training sessions, and making sure our teams aren’t doing anything stupid, which we now have subordinates to handle the latter…”

    “Did you tell the others about your news?”

    Dylan tried for a moment to hide his apprehension towards the question, before remembering, not for the first time, that this session, whilst not out of pocket, was costing $250, and hiding things that were obviously bothering him was just wasting that. Dr. Tanner, as if she could read his mind, grinned.

    “I did, but honestly, it wasn’t a huge deal,” Dylan said. “The others had news as well, and it all got swept up together…”

    “What sort of news?”

    “Justin has finished his degree, pending final marks, and has been accepted into the Sinnoh P.D. Chris has decided he wants to be the first to conquer all seven regional leagues, and is going to do it in a year,” Dylan explained, as Dr. Tanner showed the first hint of shock that session hearing of Chris’ ambition. “Charlotte has been offered a guaranteed spot in next summer’s High Seas Tournament, and Abbee is going to be replacing Elesa as Nimbasa City Gym Leader. So it’s going to be the last summer for all of them…”

    “Not yourself?” Dr. Tanner asked, clicking instantly to his exclusion of himself from the statement.

    “I might not be able to get finance for the property,” Dylan said, recovering quickly. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself when the bank are the ones to make the decision…”

    Dr. Tanner gave Dylan a meaningful look, before deciding not to pursue it any further.

    “Have you been sleeping well?”

    Knowing he’d be pushing his luck being dishonest any more than he had been, Dylan shook his head.

    “Even when what’s going on at home doesn’t keep me awake, when I do sleep, it’s always rough…” Dylan answered quietly. “On a good night, I see Giratina destroying the hospital, and people being mowed down by witches left, right and centre. On a bad night, I see Abbee…”

    Dr. Tanner didn’t need clarification on what he saw of Abbee. She knew what had happened in Alola whilst the battle at the Megamart took place.

    “And Brianna isn’t there. Or if she is, she just laughs and leaves Abbee to die…” Dylan continued. “Victini is there, and he blames me, because Abbee wanted to leave earlier, but I didn’t. Then Jon arrives, and he blames me as well…”

    “And it’s the same every time?”

    “More or less, but it’s been worse lately,” Dylan answered. “Same s**t, different smell…”

    Dr. Tanner nodded in understanding, before laying down her clipboard.

    “If I had to take a guess as to why, I’d put it as a mixture of two things…” Dr. Tanner explained. “The first being that with every day that passes, you are closer to the anniversary of the Spiritwater Crisis. Instead of your own thoughts and conversations with your comrades from Alola reminding you and bringing all this to mind, it’s the fact that by this time next month, it will be on every news report and on the front page of every newspaper. ’Spiritwater, one year on…’”

    “And the second reason?”

    Dr. Tanner considered her words before speaking.

    “I am going to ask a question, but I want to make it abundantly clear that the fact I am asking does not mean I in any way am implying one thing or another,” Dr. Tanner explained. Dylan nodded prompting her to continue. “Do you genuinely believe that if you had agreed with Abbee, and left to join the fight earlier, that Jon wouldn’t have been cursed?”

    Dylan considered denying it but decided that straight up denial would speak for itself.

    “I don’t know that he would have,” Dylan answered, as Dr. Tanner nodded in assent, before continuing.

    “Despite the fact that by that logic, I’d be even more correct in saying you don’t know that he wouldn’t have been cursed, I’m not going to labour the point. It is meaningless for me to tell you that what happened to Jon is not on you, because you have no reason to believe me. I wasn’t there, and to dumb down our professional relationship to a stupid level, you see me in order to help you feel better, so even if I didn’t believe that it wasn’t your fault, I’d still be telling you it’s not your responsibility,” Dr. Tanner continued. “There are other people who are in a much better position to help you see that with their words and time than me, so I won’t waste your time…”

    “I’m not sure I see how this is relevant…” Dylan said with a hint of confusion.

    “I haven’t made my actual point yet,” Dr. Tanner retorted with a grin. “You said it yourself that you don’t know that Jon would have been cursed if you had joined the fight earlier, which by extension means that no matter how much you might blame yourself, you also don’t know that he wouldn’t have. Effectively, you’re feeling guilt for something that logically speaking, you know you shouldn’t feel guilt for. So instead, the guilt you feel like you need to feel for Jon being cursed, you instead channel into something that you are more sure of your convictions in…”

    “Abbee…” Dylan said quietly, as Dr. Tanner nodded, seeing his understanding.

    “And you’ve said yourself, Jon’s condition has been getting worse,” Dr. Tanner continued. “As it does you’re forced to see the damage this curse has done. And you want to blame yourself, but know that really, you don’t know for sure this isn’t your fault. So instead, your mind wanders to what else you’re blaming yourself for, that you cannot convince yourself of otherwise…”

    “So what do I do then?” Dylan asked, his tone growing exasperated. “Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night…”

    “Honestly, as painful as it may be, I think you need to talk to Jon about when he was cursed,” Dr. Tanner explained. “A lot of this seems to stem from an inner conflict, of knowing you shouldn’t blame yourself for his curse, but blaming yourself anyway. If you were to actually hear first hand what it was like there, it may hurt, but it might be enough for you to realise that you couldn’t have done anything more for Jon.”

    “And if that doesn’t help?”

    “In the next six months, we will pass the first anniversary of the Spiritwater Crisis, you will be leaving the Academy, and not seeing first hand the effect of this on Jon. And from what you’ve told me, he may be able to be medicated for his seizures after the summer,” Dr. Tanner answered. “Honestly, you’re being sucked in to the worst of it, but if you can grit your teeth and bear it, you’ll find things will improve…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    "Begin!" Cassandra called out, before her and Charlotte both sent out a Pokemon. The flash of light faded and Cassandra breathed a sigh of relief. In front of Charlotte was her Magmortar and in front of herself was Marche, Cassandra's own Sandslash. She grinned, and didn't hesitate before giving her first command.

    "Bulldoze!"

    "Barrier!" Charlotte ordered at the same time. Cassandra was shocked that despite Magmortar's bulky frame, it was faster than Marche, using Psychic power to reinforce its own defence. Bulldoze struck, however instead of knocking Magmortar out like it normally would have, Magmortar was instead knocked back, worn out but easily still standing.

    Cassandra hesitated for a moment, before giving her next instruction.

    "Swords Dance Marche!"

    The Sandslash cried out, as its attack power doubled, effectively negating Magmortar's Barrier. However, Charlotte had waited to give Magmortar its order, and the Pokemon was ready to obey the moment she gave the word.

    "Scary Face!"

    Magmortar's grin turned into something menacing, as it glared at the Sandslash, unnerving the Pokemon and reducing its speed. Charlotte however was ready for her next moves.

    "Lava Plume, followed by Flamethrower!"

    Magmortar unleashed a wide-spread wave of flame, which quickly engulfed Marche, causing it to flinch. In that moment, Magmortar released a second torrent, this one for more precise, which hit the Sandslash and knocked it out.

    Cassandra looked in shock at Marche who lay on the ground. She had been able to give two commands before Marche fell, whilst Charlotte had given four.

    In her training with Jon, she had faced plenty of different trainers in the nine months, and had held her ground. In the last month or two, she had begun winning more of her matches than she was losing against trainers outside of the Academy. But not even Jon had beaten her Pokemon so quickly in the opening moves of a match.

    "Okay, so how did you do that?" Cassandra asked. She had approached Charlotte for a training match, knowing that her reputation as a battler was terrifying and had hoped to learn from her. And despite losing so spectacularly, this just proved to her how much Charlotte, despite being eight years her junior, could teach her.

    Charlotte grinned.

    "Two reasons that was an easy win," Charlotte explained casually. "First is the opening move. The first move both trainers make will make or break the battle. Even if that isn't true all the time, treat it as if it is."

    "So I didn't make a good opening move?" Cassandra asked as Charlotte shook her head.

    "It wasn't a bad opening move, but I made a better one, and that came down to two things. The first was that I knew that Magmortar was faster than Sandslash, so chances were all but certain that Magmortar would move before Marche," Charlotte explained. "That knowledge will come with experience. Be it classes here, learning about different Pokemon, or battles you have like this one…"

    Cassandra nodded in understanding.

    "And the second?"

    "The second thing that made my opening move better, and the second reason why this was an easy win, are actually one and the same," Charlotte continued. "You have a tell…"

    "A tell?"

    "A subconscious but visible behaviour that indicates what you're about to do," Charlotte explained. "It's subtle but it's something a lot of trainers do, and because you did, I had a good idea of what moves you were about to make before you even made them…"

    Cassandra's eyes widened at this.

    "So effectively I could make more informed decisions, and account for what you were going to order Marche to do," Charlotte concluded.

    "What is this tell?"

    Charlotte considered answering it however, asked herself what Jon would do before grinning in a way that Cassandra knew would infuriate her.

    "I'll let you figure it out," Charlotte said. "If I tell you, you'll try and cover it. But if I don't and tell you to figure it out, you'll be forced to look closer at other trainers and their idiosyncrasies, as well as your own, and be better for it…"

    Cassandra sighed as she called Marche back to its Pokeball. Charlotte grinned, calling Magmortar back as well.

    "Let's keep going," Charlotte explained, nodding to the mounted cameras around the room. "You can get the footage later and review it."

    Cassandra nodded, before sending out Ace the Ampharos, as Charlotte simultaneously sent out her Milotic. Despite the clear type advantage however, she had a hunch the match would not be very different to the first.

    The training session had started as soon as Abbee's group had finished at 5pm, and ran for half an hour, seeing as all of Cassandra's Pokemon were knocked out by that point. When it was over and she had retrieved the recording from the stadium's camera system, she made her way to Jon and Alyssa's cottage, knocking on the back door that led into the kitchen. A few moments later, it was answered by Jon, who invited her in.

    "It's fine," Cassandra said, knowing she'd be quick. "Just wanted to know whether I could borrow your car?"

    "Sure, not like I'm driving it," Jon said, somehow upbeat, yet sardonically, referring to having his driver's licence taken from him due to the risk of seizures. "One of these days though, I should teach you how to ride the bike…"

    Jon's motorcycle remained under a cover since October, for the same reason his licence had been removed. It had been purchased brand new by the League during the mission in Alola, being a less conspicuous form of transport than Latios, and given the fact that Latios became a target, that decision had proven to be a good one in hindsight. Jon had offered, in lieu of the full payment for his role, to take partial payment and keep the bike, which the League had accepted. However by the time it was transported to Mossdeep, the curse had triggered and Jon hadn't been able to ride it since he was in Alola.

    "Maybe after summer," Cassandra replied, both excited and anxious at the thought of learning to ride it. "I just need to get to the Pokemon Centre. I had a training session with Charlotte-"

    She stopped as a wide grin crossed Jon's face, and realised he knew that all of Cassandra's Pokemon were likely unconscious.

    "Say no more," Jon said, though seemed to have a thought. "Though, I have a better idea…"

    Cassandra nodded for him to continue, curious as to what it was.

    "The Pokemon Centre isn't the only place on the island with a healing machine. The Gym has one too," Jon explained. "And it just so happens that I was planning on training with Steven there tonight, and was wondering how to get there…"

    Normally Dylan or Alyssa would drive Jon, however Dylan had not yet returned from his appointment and Alyssa was trying to finish a work piece before the deadline. Jon considered taking Latios, however, given his own fame, being sighted would likely result in being flooded by fans. Even worse, would be if the public realised that the High Seas Champion and the Hoenn Champion had a weekly training match in the Gym.

    Cassandra grinned at Jon attempting to be subtle.

    "I'll tag along," Cassandra agreed.


    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    "How are we doing?" Victini asked Abbee, who grinned.

    "Forty thousand tweets and counting…" Abbee replied. They sat at a table in the dining room, which was seeming a little too crowded given the amount of students at the Eon Academy that summer, surrounded by students who were on their own phones, browsing Twitter for the hashtags that Abbee and Victini had managed to get trending.

    #VictiniVsScizorRematch
    #SSWishmakerGrudgeMatch
    #JusticeForVictini


    It was Victini's idea to use Jon's renown against him, and Abbee's to do that by using hashtags. She had got them started on her own account, and, knowing the password for Dylan's, had crept onto his to share them as well. Between them, as well as those at the Academy they had talked into sharing it, they had reached fifteen thousand tweets. It wasn't until Abbee bribed Justin into making a post himself with the hashtags that it sky-rocketed to thirty-five thousand. Charlotte had since seen it and shared it as well, putting them at the fourty-thousand mark.

    "Do you think he'll see it?" Abbee asked.

    "He'll see it…"

    Abbee turned to see Violet walking over to join the table. She shifted aside, allowing room for the fellow intern to join her.

    "Cass is driving him to his training match with Steven tonight," Violet said, albeit a little quieter so people wouldn't start asking why Jon needed to be driven around. "I drove the other week and he has the radio set to Planet Golem religiously. And in their evening update, they go over what's trending…"

    "If only we could get in on a billboard…" Victini muttered as Abbee's eyes widened. She looked at Violet.

    "What time does Jon usually leave?" Abbee asked Violet.

    "Between six-thirty and seven," Violet answered, unsure what Abbee had in mind. She quickly got up, scooping up Victini.

    "The Mossdeep Freeway has a digital billboard with an Eon Academy advertisement on it…" Abbee said, as Violet remembered seeing it. "Dylan rented the space when we got back from Alola last year, and got a year's worth of advertising with unlimited revisions. He did it all through a web-portal…"

    Violet grinned at what Abbee was hinting towards, as the trio quickly left the dining hall, making their way to the lodge, Abbee leading the way upstairs into Dylan's room. As expected, his laptop was on the desk. Abbee opened it before typing in her birthday when asked for the PIN. The computer unlocked, welcoming her, as she opened the web browser and began typing the web address of the advertising agency that owned the billboard.

    "Dylan is nefarious for leaving his passwords saved on his computer. Probably because he doesn't expect me to take advantage of that…" Abbee explained. She opened the login page for the website and Violet grinned to see Dylan's email address prefilled and a long string of asterisks in the password field. "Bingo…"

    Knowing Dylan would be back soon, Abbee quickly found a photo of Victini online, trimming it from its background, and placing it in a banner, before getting a photo of Jon and Scizor from the High Seas Tournament, and adding that in. Finally, were the hashtags.

    #VictiniVsScizorRematch

    #SSWishmakerGrudgeMatch

    #JusticeForVictini



    "It's not pretty…" Abbee said with a grin as Violet nodded in agreement. "But it gets the point across."

    "How long will it take to update?" Violet asked as Abbee returned to the web-portal and uploaded the image.

    "Should be instant…"

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    "This is Planet Golem, Hoenn's home of all things rock!"

    The radio played quietly as Cassandra drove Jon's car down the Mossdeep Freeway, towards the exit that would take them to the Mossdeep Gym.

    "Maybe if you're here, I can convince Steven to head to the bar after training like we used to," Jon said. "He's been going straight home after, which takes away half the fun…"

    Despite the fact Jon couldn't drink for the time being, he enjoyed the atmosphere of the bar he and Steven frequented after their training sessions. Steven however, didn't want to drink in front of Jon and knew Jon would not let Steven deprive himself on his behalf.

    "Maybe," Cassandra replied. "But I don't want to be off site too long. It's one thing to get the senior students to keep an eye on my team while I go get my Pokemon healed. It's another to do that so I can gallivant around with you and Steven…"

    Jon chuckled at the description of their usual tame, one or two beers at the bar, as gallivanting.

    "So how did your training with Charlotte go?" Jon asked.

    "It was over before I knew it, and not because I was having the time of my life…" Cassandra retorted. Jon grinned.

    "She is terrifying…"

    Cassandra went to respond, however could hear the radio presenter faintly through the car speakers.

    "And trending at numbers one through three in the last hour, is something from Hoenn's own Jon Drake, and his Eon Academy!"

    "Jon, have you checked Twitter lately?" Cassandra asked as she turned up the radio.

    "Not for a few hours?" Jon asked, as he realised what was going on. "I disabled notifications after your little stunt in Alola, and realised I preferred them being off…"

    "Helped along by his premier students, #VictiniVsScizorRematch, #SSWishmakerGrudgeMatch and #JusticeForVictini are trending in the top three spots," the radio presenter explained. "It seems that the Victini, who was formerly trained by Cassandra Silvers, is out to prove that it's humiliating loss against Jon Drake's Scizor in the grand final of the first High Seas Tournament was a fluke on Scizor's behalf, and is doing whatever it can to make that rematch happen…"

    "Was Victini like this when he was with you?" Jon asked. "He seemed a lot more relaxed and less obsessive…"

    "Not until we beat Avery then lost to you…" Cassandra answered with a grin. "You and Scizor created this monster…"

    "We are now accepting callers to discuss this," the presenter continued. "You're on the air with Planet Golem. What do you have to say about all this?"

    Cassandra tried to listen to the caller, who began harping on about how Jon owes Victini this rematch, especially considering Scizor had the opportunity to use both Double Team and Swords Dance before Victini even entered the field. However her attention was diverted by the changing of the digital billboard above the freeway. What was an advertisement for Pokemon food, had changed to the next promotion in its rotation.

    "Jon…"

    Jon's attention, which had been on the caller, was drawn to what Cassandra was looking at as she slowed down, and pulled over into the emergency stop lane of the freeway. On the giant screen was a banner containing a picture of Victini, as well as a photo of Jon and Scizor from the High Seas Tournament Grand Final, and the three hashtags.

    "Goddamn…" Jon muttered. Whilst he had told Abbee that Victini would need to force the battle to happen, this wasn't what he had expected. He quickly grabbed his phone, and turned down the radio before typing in a number.

    "Who're you calling?" Cassandra asked. Jon didn't answer, however spoke into the phone.

    "Planet Golem? This is Jon Drake himself. Put me on air…"

    Cassandra grabbed her wireless earbuds from her pocket, which she had brought so she could watch the recording while she waited for Jon and Steven to finish their training session and turned them on, before opening Planet Golem's website on her phone and listening to the broadcast.

    "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have just been informed that we have Jon Drake himself on the line. Jon, what do you have to say about all of this?"

    "I have a bit to say… David…" Jon said, only just remembering the name of the presenter in time. "But it comes down to this; as first High Seas Champion, and the trainer of the Legendary Pokemon Latios, Rayquaza and Giratina, if I were to simply accept the challenge of anyone who posts on Twitter, I wouldn't have time to do anything else. I get five challenges on Twitter a day from people who hide behind keyboards as it is, knowing that I wouldn't actually accept it…"

    "Some would argue that as someone who calls themself a Pokemon Trainer, it is your obligation to accept any challenge. I've heard rumours of those who treat eye contact as the acceptance of a challenge…"

    "I am the High Seas Champion and trainer of three Legendary Pokemon, but even I couldn't just demand a formal match from Steven Stone," Jon answered back knowing full well of the irony of the fact he was on his way to a practise match with Steven. "I'd still have to best the Hoenn Elite Four before Steven would be obligated to meet my challenge. In the same way, I am not obligated to meet every challenge. If I were challenged by Avery Miller or Freddy Davis, I'd meet those challenges regardless out of good faith, given the complexity of the first High Seas Tournament. But outside of that, I will only meet the challenges I choose to meet."

    "So what would it take for Victini to force your hand into accepting his challenge?" the presenter asked. "You said yourself, Steven Stone would be obligated to accept your challenge if you beat the Elite Four. What are your conditions?"

    Jon grinned.

    "If Victini wants a crack at Scizor, then he needs to beat my own Elite Four. My four strongest Pokemon. Blaziken, Latios, Rayquaza and Giratina…"

    There was silence on the air as the presenter listened in shock.

    "Then he can have a crack at Scizor…"

    Jon knew that Victini, as strong as he was, could not beat all four of these Pokemon. All of them resisted at least one, some both, of his types. Instead, he hoped that Victini would instead, think less directly about this, and come up with a more creative solution to outsmart him.

    "Until then, I will not meet Victini's challenge…"

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    It was after dinner when Chris and Justin collapsed onto the couch in the intern lodge. Despite both not having team training with Jon that afternoon, Chris had been taking a class each day that week, alongside Cassandra, with whom there seemed to be awkward tension, whilst Justin was dealing with behavioural issues amongst some of the younger students in his team almost all day.

    "For what it's worth, we'll probably miss this, come next summer," Justin joked as Chris just groaned. He honestly didn't mind the teaching work or the amount of it. It was just exhausting. Though it didn't help that he always felt on edge around Cassandra.

    I’m aware,” Chris answered. “If I drank, I’d be needing one after today…”

    The answer surprised Justin a little.

    “You don’t drink?”

    “After the s**tshow back in Jubilife on my birthday? That is to say, not for a while.” Chris asked rhetorically. “I made an a** of myself, got us thrown out of the bar, vomited more than I ever have in my life, and woke up on your couch waiting for the sweet embrace of death to spare me from the hangover I had…”

    “That pretty much sums it up…” Justin agreed. “Maybe there is hope you’ll grow up like the rest of us…”

    Chris pulled a face in a childish implication of impersonating Justin, before both, despite their exhaustion, laughed.

    “So what’s got you so tired?” Chris asked. “You haven’t taught today? And you teach alongside Steven Stone of all people. I imagine he’d be taking the lead, and you’d be assisting him?”

    “Actually, he leaves the bulk to me, and fills gaps I may leave,” Justin answered. “Steven says that unless I’m a beat cop the rest of my life, moving up the chain of command will require me to be able to coordinate and lead teams. So he figures that it's good experience being the point of contact for the students, and the authority figure…”

    “But you didn’t teach today?”

    “I teach three classes Monday, two Wednesday and one Friday,” Justin explained. “Nah, today, I think all of the younger students in my team got together and snorted a fat line of white powder in the morning, because they were bouncing off the walls all day…”

    Chris grinned.

    “Now that you mention it, they did seem hyperactive this morning,” Chris answered, remembering the class he ran for Justin’s team. Justin sighed in response. “Do you think you got your point across?”

    Justin scoffed.

    “Doubt it,” Justin said before grinning. “But I don’t think they’ll be a problem after tonight…”

    Chris gave Justin a look of fake concern.

    “You aren’t going to abduct them and tie them to the rocks on the beach in their sleep or something, are you?”

    “No, but they’d probably rather that to what I have planned,” Justin joked. “Abbee needed a favour, so I asked her if, when Dylan gets back, she could convince him to put on the grumpy face and scare them straight…”

    Despite finding Justin’s solution amusing, Chris remained silent at the reference of Abbee, Dylan, and their relationship. Dylan would be a good person to scare some sense into them. His large frame, tall stature, as well as his relative silence and visibly serious nature would be enough to get the point across. And if that didn’t, the nightmare monster that lived in his shadow would…

    “What favour?” Chris asked, curious. He knew both Justin and Abbee well enough to know that they wouldn’t be bargaining if they needed help from each other unless it was something the other necessarily wouldn’t want to do, and even then, both were still more likely to help out than Dylan, Charlotte, or Chris himself.

    “She is trying to get a few hashtags trending, so asked if I could make some posts to give them a boost,” Justin said, before adding cynically, “because for some f**ked up reason, I’m somehow the most famous out of the five of us…”

    Curious, Chris withdrew his phone from his pocket, having not had a chance for hours to check. He pressed the home button, lighting up the lockscreen, where he was quickly distracted by the half dozen missed calls and text messages.

    Clair.

    “What the…” Chris said without realising, as Justin looked over.

    “Everything alright?”

    “My sister has been trying to get me all afternoon,” Chris answered. “Normally I don’t hear from her more than once a week…”

    Without waiting for an answer, Chris stood to his feet, as he called Clair. He was incapable of standing still on the phone, with longer calls usually resulting in him walking laps in whatever room he was in.

    ”Chris, what is the point in having a mobile phone, if you don’t answer it?” Clair asked as soon as she answered the phone. Chris’ face flushed red. Despite the fact that Clair was almost ten years older than Chris, and now both were adults, with Clair getting closer to being thirty by the day, they still found it easier to bicker with one-another than have a serious conversation.

    “Clair, I have a job,” Chris retorted sarcastically. “One that doesn’t hinge on people showing up once every few days for a challenge, and pay me to browse twitter the rest of the time…”

    Justin winced at Chris’ harsh words, despite Chris having made clear earlier that he and Clair, despite not being close in the traditional sense, generally got along very well, even if their conversations turned to cheap shots at one another.

    “Funny you talk about that, because if you want to keep your job, it would have helped to answer the phone,” Clair said.

    “What are you talking about?”

    “Well, the Gym’s insurance wouldn’t cover any employees working with Pokemon that don’t have a licence, and I imagine the Eon Academy’s would be the same…”

    Chris was confused for a moment, until Justin noticed his face go white.

    “Oh s**t…”

    ”Yeah, your League registration has expired,” Clair confirmed. ”Three months ago. I’m surprised you didn’t know…”

    “I’ve been at the College of the North Wind,” Chris answered. “I stayed onsite, and they have their own healing machine and PC system…”

    “The renewal letter arrived months ago, but Dad accidentally dropped it down the side of the fridge and forgot about it,” Clair continued. ”I don’t know why you haven’t registered to have it sent to your email…”

    “Clair, save the lecture,” Chris answered exasperatedly. “How bad is it?”

    ”Well, the letter said you’re in the overdue phase, which means if you submit the renewal, you will be fine,” Clair explained. ”The bad news is the cutoff for the renewal is Saturday, and any later, your licence will be revoked, and you’ll need to go through the entire application again…”

    The application process for League registration tended to take around three months, which Chris didn't want to have to suffer through again.

    “Okay, so I’ll just log in now and submit the renewal?”

    ”Let me finish,” Clair retorted. ”If you do that, it will take three business days to process, and considering tomorrow is Friday, it will be too late by the time it is processed…”

    “S**t…” Chris muttered. “Surely you can pull some strings, being a Gym Leader and get it fast-tracked?”

    ”I can’t, but I found out something interesting…” Clair explained. ”During business hours, Pokemon Centres can process the renewals in person, and instantly…”

    “So if I want to start my trip as soon as summer is over…”

    ”You have to get to a Pokemon Centre during business hours tomorrow, and get this sorted out…” Clair finished. ”Otherwise, Second To None will be Second To Unregistration…”

    “Is there anything else I need?” Chris asked, hoping that he wouldn’t need documents like his birth certificate. “ID or anything?”

    ”Your driver’s licence will prove it’s you,” Clair answered. ”And you’ll need a witness to sign the renewal if you want it processed instantly. Someone not employed by the Pokemon Centre, or related to you…”

    A few minutes later, Chris ended the call, before looking at Justin.

    “I need a favour…”


    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    As Jon and Steven got to the end of their practise match, with Scizor facing Claydol, Cassandra sat on a bench to the side of the battlefield, tablet on her lap as she watched through the recording of her battle with Charlotte for the twelfth time. Specifically, the opening match. Marche versus Magmortar.

    The app allowed the footage from multiple cameras to be overlaid in whatever format Cassandra wanted, and she had the largest segment of the screen focused on her, with others showing Charlotte and the two Pokemon. She pressed play again, and watched as Magmortar increased its defence with Barrier, absorbing most of Marche’s attack, before striking it in rapid succession, knocking it out. The match had taken less than fifteen seconds, which Cassandra hadn’t realised until she watched the footage of it earlier that evening.

    “Goddamn…”

    Cassandra looked up, to see Jon looking over her shoulder, and watching the footage of Marche being beaten in record time.

    “Steven, check this out!” Jon called, as Steven walked towards the pair.

    “Glad I’m providing some quality entertainment,” Cassandra remarked, though still rewound the footage, allowing Steven to see the matchup that ended as quickly as it began.

    “Goddamn…” Steven agreed, as Jon grinned.

    “We know that it wasn’t through lack of skill that you lost. More so, the fact that she is-”

    “Terrifying…” Cassandra nodded. “Believe me, I witnessed that first hand…”

    At Jon’s prompting, Cassandra handed him the tablet, before he quickly reshuffled the windows, opening other camera angles on them, before he and Steven watched again in awe.

    “Honestly Jon, at the rate she is improving, I think this is your last summer where you can confidently say you’re better than her,” Steven said, surprising Cassandra a little.

    “There’s nothing confident about it,” Jon agreed. “Though if she is that close to me, she isn’t much further from you…”

    “I’m well aware…”

    The pair watched, however as they did, grew more confused.

    “Cass, I don’t think I could have even beaten you that quickly…” Jon said, sounding puzzled. “Do you know how Charlotte beat you?”

    “She said her opening move was better, and that she was able to make that better opening move, because I have a tell,” Cassandra said, as Jon looked at her confused, though Steven seemed to understand. “Some behaviour she noticed which indicated what I was going to do. Said that this one is common among trainers, and when she noticed it, it gave her an idea of what I was going to do, so she could react before I even made a move.”

    “Did she tell you what the tell was?” Jon asked. Cassandra shook her head.

    “She said that if she told me, I’d just learn to hide it. But if she didn’t, I’d be forced to analyse my own patterns, and get into the habit of analysing other trainers as well, and that I’d be better off for it,” Cassandra explained, nodding to the tablet. “That’s why I am watching that opening match on repeat. I did something there that gave her the match, but honestly, I have no clue what…”

    “She’s your student, through and through,” Steven admitted to Jon, referring to Charlotte not telling Cassandra what exactly her tell was, whilst Jon watched the clip again. Cassandra wasn’t wrong. She gave a total of two orders, and nothing seemed to stand out in her behaviour, even to someone as experienced as he was. Granted, whilst he was not one to shy away from mind games in a battle, identifying miniscule patterns like Charlotte had in this case, was beyond him. Jon looked to Cassandra, handing her the tablet.

    “Do you want her to tell you?”

    “Honestly, no,” Cassandra admitted. “She is right. Figuring this out on my own will help develop skills similar to what she has.”

    Jon nodded, satisfied, though Cassandra continued.

    “However, I might ask for a little direction,” Cassandra added. “Because it seems like I’m making no progress here…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    Cassandra awoke early the next morning, making a cup of coffee, and finding a comfortable spot on the couch in the intern’s lounge. Despite the fact that she tried to convince herself that she hadn’t become reliant on the comforts of living as a human, she knew that, especially in the last year, she had become very reliant on good coffee, and should she ever decide to become an Eevee again, she’d need to figure out a way to use Shadowcraft in order to brew the drink that had become part of her morning ritual.

    The tablet sat on the coffee table in front of her, however this time, instead of her battle with Charlotte the afternoon before, she was watching tournament battles between Charlotte and other competitors from the last two years. Specifically, the battles that Charlotte managed to have the first Pokemon beaten as quickly as she had against Cassandra. Dylan was the next to wake, followed by Jarena, then Justin. However, after not being able to find out what Charlotte may have seen in her, she changed tactics, instead, settling for a recording of Charlotte battling Chris, which resulted in a tie.

    “Trying to find some weakness?”

    Charlotte sat on the couch next to her, having awoken, and heard the audio of the battle downstairs.

    “Trying to figure out what this tell is,” Cassandra explained. “Or, if I can, what I am doing that Chris isn’t, that gives you the edge.”

    Charlotte grinned, as Cassandra continued.

    “You’re right, I’d be better off if I figured it out myself, but I’m getting nowhere,” Cassandra admitted. “So can you give me a hint? Some idea of what I’m looking for?”

    Charlotte pondered the question for a moment, before deciding on a way to address this.

    “I’d start taking notes,” Charlotte started, as Cassandra quickly put her coffee down and opened up the voice recorder on her phone. She nodded, as Charlotte continued. “All but the most experienced students will have the same tell as you when battling against you. But even the most experienced would have it against Jon, Steven and the five of us who’ve been here since the start…”

    Cassandra nodded, as Charlotte thought for a moment.

    “I would have the same thing if I weren’t aware of it, but I manage to hide it, regardless of who I battle. Chris on the other hand would only have this tell battling against Jon, and only if it weren’t a battle where he had something to lose. Dylan’s style of battling means that he doesn’t have it. None of the five of us would have it against any of the students, though Abbee and Justin would only have it against Jon, myself and Chris,” Charlotte explained. “Abbee, however, has a slightly different way of battling to the other four of us, and that makes up for it at times. Check out her battle against Matt Campbell for that difference. As for Justin, he’d only have it if he isn’t currently working through some sort of tactic. As for you, I know for sure you’d have it against me, and likely Dylan as well. Abbee and Justin, maybe, but not as likely as you would against myself, Jon and Dylan. As for Chris, I don’t think you’d have the tell against him…”

    Cassandra ended the recording, still trying to process what Charlotte had just said.

    “So have you watched all these combinations and identified these patterns?” Cassandra asked, still shocked that Charlotte was able to rattle off such a comprehensive list. Charlotte shook her head.

    “I don’t need to. In terms of Jon and the other four, I know them well enough to know when they would and wouldn’t fall into the trap,” Charlotte explained. “If you want to see it first hand, Chris, Justin and Dylan all have their team training against Jon, and I can guarantee there will be battles between at least one of them and Jon. If Chris and Jon battle, and Chris doesn’t treat it just like a practice match, he will do it. Justin will against Jon if he doesn’t have a detailed plan he is using in place, and Dylan won’t at all.”

    “What about Jon?”

    Charlotte grinned, almost menacingly.

    “I’ve never seen him do it, but I want to be the first to make him do it…”

    Cassandra had one word going through her head at the answer.

    ”Terrifying…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    “Damn it…” Violet muttered, as she tossed her phone onto the couch, with only just enough restraint to ensure it wouldn’t bounce off, and smash on the floor. She was up to her tenth call over the last three days, and whilst she hadn’t expected an answer, that didn’t make the situation any less frustrating.

    “If they wanna be immature about it all, screw ‘em,” Jarena offered. “The only reason their cushy, middle-class lives are going on unaffected enough that they can ignore you, is because of what we did in Alola…”

    “I’m not calling them because I want to make amends,” Violet answered, as she sat on the couch, picking up her phone again to draft an email. “I called him once, and he picked up because he didn’t recognise the number. He only stayed on the line long enough to tell me how much of a disappointment I was. I’m done begging for forgiveness, and permission to live my life. I’ve apologised, and reached out. If they want to keep acting like this, that’s on them…”

    “So why are you trying to reach out to them then?” Jarena asked. This whole thing seemed foreign to her. Despite the initial awkwardness, her family didn’t hold any resentment towards her, more so unsurprised that the years of fame, before her apparent death, were, for lack of better words, a giant prank. Cassandra’s family, whilst not as chill about everything that happened as Jarena’s, relatively speaking, were still willing to talk about it. Violet’s parents, Barry and Natalya Radcliffe, however, were refusing to even answer phone calls.

    “So why the effort?” Jarena asked from where she sat in the lounge. “Obviously you aren’t pleased about this…”

    “There are only two things you can be certain of in life,” Violet said, stating the old adage. “Death and taxes…”

    “Did someone die?” Jarena asked. Violet shook her head.

    “That’d be easier to deal with,” Violet joked morbidly, earning a stifled laugh from her friend. “No, my tax return is due…”

    “Weren’t they due months ago?” Jarena asked, remembering that she and Cassandra had visited an accountant in Mossdeep together.

    “They were, but I got an extension,” Violet said with a sigh. “Remember how you needed to re-register with the Hoenn Taxation Office after we came back?”

    Jarena nodded, recalling how weird it was, going through the process of coming back from the dead, in terms of logistics, such as opening a new bank account.

    “Well, you needed ID to do that, right? Like your birth certificate? Same as getting another driver’s licence,” Violet continued as Jarena nodded. “Well my parents have mine, and don’t listen long enough to understand that they’re screwing me over by refusing to cooperate. I got an extension on my tax return to give me time to work things out with them, but I’m running out of time…”

    “Could you try calling them from Jon’s phone?” Jarena asked. “Or get someone else to call them? Heck, even get a new one issued?”

    “I’d hoped that this could be enough to open the door a little with them, and now it’s too late to get a new one,” Violet answered. “And they’d hang up the moment that they knew it was me, or about me…”

    “Could Latios reenact the S.S. Wishmaker?” Jarena half joked. “Fly to Johto over the weekend, sneak in while invisible and steal your birth certificate?”

    Violet laughed at the recollection, though shook her head.

    “Honestly, I want to handle this myself. I don’t want to run to Jon to bail me out whenever things are tricky,” Violet answered. “However, there’s not much I can do from here, and I’m sure as hell not flying all the way to Johto just because my parents won’t cooperate. But I’m getting nowhere with phone calls and emails…”

    Violet’s words trailed off as she had a thought. Jarena had proposed using Latios’ own extraordinary talents, his supersonic flight, telepathy and invisibility to solve the problem. But Latios wasn’t the only one with extraordinary talents. And whilst she hadn’t used hers to have an effect over a huge distance like this, she knew of someone else who had.

    “Is Willow around?”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    The grounds of the Eon Academy were oddly quiet, as all the students were in their second period classes. Two thirds were in the two rooms of the main hall, where Justin and Steven taught Pokemon Knowledge, whilst Cassandra and Chris were teaching Tactics and Strategy. In the Stadium, Jon and Charlotte coached the remaining third of the students in Practical Training. Whilst Abbee remained in her room, preparing for her Trainer Career class that would be occuring in the following period, and Violet and Jarena discussed Violet’s predicament with her parents, Dylan and Willow stood by the small hole in a garden bed that he had dug, which contained a lockbox.

    “So before I perform this spell, run me through the way all this works…” Willow said. “Just because if we do this wrong, we may be burying a time-bomb…”

    Dylan nodded.

    “So you have placed a Shadowcraft circle encasing the property, which acts as a giant tripwire?” Dylan asked. Willow nodded in confirmation.

    “Think less tripwire, and more like a dome-shaped membrane,” Willow explained. “An invisible membrane that will detect anyone crossing through it, be it on foot, in the air, or even underground…”

    “And the activation of that is conditional to the intent of the person crossing in,” Dylan continued, a hint of a question in his voice.

    “Exactly. If they enter through with ill intent towards the Academy or any of its inhabitants, that will trigger the activation of the spell, which in turn, will trigger the conditional light illusion spell…” Willow concluded. “So in practice, if an intruder were to cross the boundary, then they would be surrounded by a pillar of light, which will go through any obstacles, visible only to us staff members…”

    Dylan grinned.

    “And to power it, we take a leaf out of Brianna’s book…”

    Inside the lockbox that sat in the hole was a diamond. It was nowhere near the size of the diamonds Brianna Levine had used in Alola, however for their purposes, a spell that would largely remain dormant, and when triggered, only produce light, a small diamond was more than enough.

    “The diamond will be enchanted to absorb any residual energy from Shadowcraft performed on the property, storing it until the detection spell is triggered,” Willow explained. “And in order to prevent the diamond being overloaded with energy, it will have a hybrid enchantment, causing it to leak energy out when it is near capacity. Which will be visible in how this garden grows…”

    “One question,” Dylan explained. “What’s to stop someone just digging up the lockbox and taking the diamond?”

    Willow considered the question. She hadn’t placed any sort of spell on the lockbox in the current schematic, which meant she could enchant it however she pleased.

    “I’ll put a mild curse on it,” Willow answered simply. “One that will give them the insuppressible need to find a bathroom.”

    “Won’t that curse be gone once it’s triggered?” Dylan asked.

    “It will be, but honestly we only need to buy a little time…”

    “Why’s that?”

    “Because being within the boundary, wanting to disable what is effectively our security system, is ill intent towards the Academy, which will make it impossible to remain hidden from us for long…”

    Dylan nodded in understanding.

    “So are we ready?” Willow asked, as she began placing a series of reagents in the lockbox surrounding the diamond. Copper coins on one side, with a few blank keys from the hardware store on the other side of the diamond, chosen for their galvanised metal construction, before coating the entire contents of the box with salt. Dylan nodded.

    Willow removed a scrap of paper from her pocket, which contained the long winded and detailed incantation for the complex spell that she was about to perform. After a few moments reading through it, she took a deep breath, and began reciting it, allowing the Shadowcraft to pull energy from the void, affecting the world around her.

    The entire incantation took a little over a minute, as the contents of the lockbox began to glow. When the glow dissipated, the reagents that surrounded the diamond were gone, leaving the diamond which seemed to sparkle a little more than it did prior.

    “I’m really glad you figured out that spell for the diamond,” Dylan noted. “I think all of us who were in Alola will sleep a little better for it…”

    “It only took nine months,” Willow remarked sarcastically. “Granted, the first three months were trying to convince the League to loan me the evidence they confiscated…”

    In addition to Willow’s own tomes and belongings that she had been forced to leave at the Megamart, all Shadowcraft related items found were confiscated by the League after the battle was over. Despite Willow’s crimes being pardoned for her role in betraying Agatha, and helping to capture Marshadow, the League were hesitant to return her belongings to her, and even more hesitant to provide copies of other tomes, including Agatha’s own handwritten notes.

    The tipping point, in which an agreement was made, was the need for translation for the League. Most of the older, more advanced tomes, were transcribed in ancient Shadowcraft glyphs, and whilst government linguists would eventually be able to translate them given enough time, the very near brush with failure in Alola had the League on edge, wanting to know whether the confiscated items contained details of even worse horrors than Endkath and the Netherlink. As such, an agreement was made, in which Willow, under heavy supervision, was allowed to go through the confiscated material, translating the script, and if the contents were not deemed dangerous, to retain a copy.

    The notes that Willow had been allowed to keep, had not contained the exact spell that Brianna had used on the diamonds in Alola, though she knew this would be the case. If Agatha had known the spell herself, she would have used it to keep the dark clouds and winds in place, without tying up a large portion of her force keeping the spell active.

    However, given Willow’s own understanding of Shadowcraft, alongside the collective notes of all Shadowcraft users confiscated by the League, with enough time, she was able to recreate the spell, leading to this point.

    Once Willow had cursed the lockbox, Dylan carefully began to bury it in the garden bed, making sure not to touch it, and risk the effect of the curse, in relative silence. After a moment though, he spoke.

    “Willow, I was wondering something…”

    Willow looked towards Dylan, having heard the change of tone. He wasn’t looking at her, instead looking at the ground where he was burying the lockbox. However, his face wasn’t the usual, occupied expression he had when he worked. Instead, it was pained.

    “What’s up?” Willow asked, trying not to sound too concerned. It was no secret amongst those who lived at the Eon Academy that Dylan was seeking a psychologist, given the trauma of Alola. The pair were friendly, and had been since returning to Hoenn. But Dylan’s tone was different…

    “I was wondering… if you could tell me about the battle in Alola,” Dylan said, before adding quietly. “When Jon was cursed…”

    Willow remained silent, unsure if she would be doing more harm by telling him. She knew that half of Dylan’s own pain from Alola was guilt. Guilt for Abbee’s extremely close brush with death, and guilt for not being there to help her and Jon during the battle with Giratina and Marshadow. Understanding the silence, Dylan continued.

    “My psych told me that deep down, I know that even if I was there with you guys, Jon might have still been cursed, but I still blame myself…” Dylan explained. “And because of that, I just channel the guilt towards what happened with Abbee. Because of that, she told me I should talk to Jon about it, and hear what happened first hand. Actually find out what happened…”

    Willow understood Dylan’s words, and by extension, why he didn’t speak to Jon about this, despite having known Jon for four years at this point, and herself only one. He didn’t want Jon to worry about him. Just like Jon didn’t want Dylan worrying about him.

    ”You two couldn’t be more alike if you tried…” Willow thought to herself. She considered how best to address this, and spoke.

    “Jon and I were only together for a few minutes of the fight. We had waited until the battle between Giratina and that thing that Aaron turned himself into to be over, or until it would force us to intervene, like if it were going to move towards Heahea City. Jon also wanted to wait until Agatha was occupied, seeing as her joining the fight would cause it to end the same way it did at the hospital the day before,” Willow recounted. “Once Giratina won, and Jon got word Agatha was occupied fighting the Diamond Ladies, we intervened before Nicodemus and his force were able to heal it too much. Strike while the iron is hot, and all that. At first it was us against Giratina, Nicodemus, a few witches, and a heap of Ghost Pokemon…”

    Dylan felt his stomach sink hearing just how outnumbered the pair were.

    “Rayquaza was keeping Giratina busy, whilst Nicodemus was coming for me. Jon directed Blaziken, Nidoking and Jolteon to dispatch a large group of the Ghost Pokemon, and once they were down, had them hold back the witches. That’s when Marshadow appeared…”

    Willow’s hand dropped down to her belt where Marshadow’s Pokeball was clipped. Despite Marshadow being far easier to rehabilitate than Giratina, especially when Willow removed the curse similar to the one Agatha had placed on Giratina, she still felt anxious looking back to that day.

    “Latios managed to split Marshadow and Giratina up, and myself, Latias and Latios moved the battle with Marshadow elsewhere. Nicodemus went to follow us, but Jon got in his way and fought him, causing a bit of a stalemate, whilst his Pokemon kept the witches busy, and Rayquaza fought Giratina,” Willow explained. “I couldn’t see anything but Giratina and Rayquaza after that. Rayquaza got the upper hand, but when Brianna’s diamond overloaded and accelerated the Netherlink, it empowered Giratina. But by that point, Jon had been cursed…”

    Dylan remained silent hearing this. Had he been there, Darkrai would have been able to put the witches, Nicodemus included, to sleep.

    “There’s something you have to remember…”

    Dylan looked up, making eye contact with Willow for the first time since.

    “I didn’t know what was happening there, but I could see the shack where you and Abbee were from where I was battling Marshadow. I had no clue you were even there…” Willow explained. “Abbee wanted to leave, and help Jon, but you didn’t want to disobey orders, and risk Brianna becoming a bigger threat, right?”

    “Yeah…” Dylan said quietly, wishing he didn’t have to remember that conversation.

    “Well even if you did listen to her, you would have crossed paths with Latios, Latias and myself battling Marshadow before you reached Jon,” Willow explained. “Giratina wasn’t the only one being empowered by the Netherlink. Marshadow was as well, and even though Latios and Latias were both battling it, it was a battle of attrition at best, moving towards a losing battle…”

    “You captured Marshadow in the end,” Dylan protested, though Willow shook her head.

    “Only because Jirachi closed the Netherlink. Fact is, we were losing, and could only lose until the Netherlink closed, and Marshadow returned to normal. Latios was doing everything he could just to keep the battle going with both of them against Marshadow, because he knew the moment he or Latias fell, the fight was over,” Willow explained. “You would have crossed paths with us before getting near Jon, and fact is, even if we eventually won, we would have needed your help too much for you to leave us to fight Marshadow alone. Even if you and Abbee joining the fight would have allowed us to capture or kill Marshadow with the Netherlink still active, you would not have gotten to Jon in time to prevent Nicodemus from cursing him…”

    “We might have thought Jon was in more danger,” Dylan offered, though surprisingly, knew he didn’t believe his own words. “Or we would have split up. Abbee would have fought with you, and I with Jon.”

    “I know you care too much about Abbee to have left her with me whilst you helped Jon,” Willow said gently. “And the fact you’re feeling this way is proof enough that you wouldn’t have left me to fight Marshadow alone…”

    Dylan remained silent.

    “I was in Eon Squad HQ when Jon gave you the orders to try and find Brianna’s diamonds. You were only not part of the fight, because you followed Jon’s orders. And because you did the right thing and followed his orders, there is no way you would have been able to stop Jon being cursed,” Willow concluded. “The person who shoulders the blame for this is Agatha, and she got what she deserved. This isn’t your fault…”

    “Willow!”

    Willow looked over to see Violet and Jarena approaching. She quickly looked back to Dylan.

    “I’m happy to talk about this whenever you need to. Whatever it takes to help you understand that you’re not to blame,” Willow said quietly, so only Dylan could hear. “Just don’t keep all this to yourself, okay?”

    Dylan nodded, as Violet and Jarena arrived, looking down at the freshly dug earth.

    “You’ve done it?” Jarena asked, having had the plan explained to her by Dylan months earlier. Willow nodded.

    “We have the best security system on the planet,” Willow said proudly, trying to hide the seriousness of the conversation she had just had with Dylan.

    “Well, as much as I’d love to give you a break, I need your help,” Violet said. “I need to know how to perform a spell that Agatha used…”

    There was silence, as Willow looked at Violet in shock.

    “Nothing nasty,” Violet reassured. “At least, nothing inherently nasty…”

    “What spell?” Willow asked, shocked that anything her former mistress did could be considered not nasty.

    “The one she used to cause us all to have the dream…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****
    “Sorry, but no,” Jon said as Chris felt his stomach sink.

    “Justin has his licence though?” Chris retorted, his own licence only being for a motorcycle. “And he’d be a safe driver.”

    “I don’t doubt that,” Jon agreed. “It’s our insurance that has a problem with it…”

    Chris and Justin stood before Jon in the arena, as Justin’s team, who had just finished their afternoon training session with Jon filtered out of the Stadium. Dylan, whose team was next to train with Jon that afternoon, had entered, and quietly walked over to see what the discussion was about.

    “The insurance for mine and Alyssa’s cars require the driver to be twenty-one or over,” Jon explained. “And Justin is a few months shy of that. If you were to be in an accident, you’d have no insurance…”

    Chris sighed as Jon continued.

    “The only person under twenty-one that was likely to drive either of our cars was Dylan, but he had his own car, and is twenty-one now anyway,” Jon explained, nodding towards Dylan.

    “You can borrow my car if you want,” Dylan said, addressing the offer to Justin, which, despite himself, caused Chris to breathe a sigh of relief, however Justin was cautious to not get too ahead of himself.

    “I appreciate it, but I can’t drive your car,” Justin answered. “I can only drive an automatic…”

    Chris groaned, having his recently renewed hopes dashed by Justin’s inability to work a clutch and gear shift, something he knew how to do from riding his motorcycle.

    “How can you not drive a manual?” Chris asked, as Justin shrugged.

    “I only got my licence to help my chances with the police force, and all their cars are automatic,” Justin explained. “Lessons were cheaper, and I could get my licence sooner…”

    “Sorry guys,” Jon said. “Maybe see if Jarena is free to drive you? Cass has her team's session after Dylan, so she’s busy, and Violet has had some hiccups getting her licence back.”

    “Charlotte can drive a manual,” Dylan added.

    Chris looked between the pair, and considered his options. If both Jon and Dylan’s cars were on site, it meant that Charlotte and Jarena were both likely at the Academy. However, he had no clue where, or if either could drive them. Besides, Justin had agreed to the favour, and he didn’t want to pull them away from whatever they had planned for the afternoon. However, he had another idea.

    “Jon, do you have a set of riding gear?” Chris asked, knowing the answer. He had purchased a set in Alola for riding around Akala Island. “A set that could fit Justin?”

    Jon realised what Chris was thinking, and nodded.

    “Alyssa knows where it is,” Jon said, as he noticed Dylan’s group beginning to filter in. “Go ask her for it, and tell her I gave the all clear…”

    With a grin, Chris grabbed Justin’s shirt by the shoulder and pulled as he began to run out of the Stadium, knowing they were burning the limited time they had left.

    “You know it’s illegal for someone who has had their motorbike licence for less than three years to carry a pillion passenger?” Dylan said quietly.

    “Why should I know?” Jon asked, feigning ignorance, though fooling nobody. “Those laws weren’t in place when I got my licence…”

    Understanding why Jon allowed it, Dylan nodded, though Jon looked at him curiously.

    “How do you know?” Jon asked. Dylan shrugged.

    “Your bike is gathering dust,” Dylan said. “I figured I’d look into getting my licence.”

    “Why not?” Jon asked rhetorically, though knew why. It was the same reason he didn’t offer for Chris to take his bike, knowing it would handle carrying both himself and Justin better than Chris’ low-powered bike, which he was required to have for his first three years riding. Jon’s was illegal for Chris to ride, and even if Jon could pretend he didn’t know the current laws for new riders, if Chris were to crash it, aside from the risk of serious injury, Jon’s insurance wouldn’t cover someone illegally riding it, and if he were willing to take that risk, he would allow Justin to drive his car. For Dylan to be able to ride it, he’d need to learn to ride on something less powerful and still wait three years, by which point, Jon hoped he would be in Unova.

    “Are you sure this is a good idea?” Justin asked ten minutes later, as Chris tossed him Jon’s riding jacket and pants.

    “No,” Chris answered simply. “But not being a good idea doesn’t automatically make it a bad idea…”

    “Let me rephrase this,” Justin asked. “Are you sure this isn’t a bad idea…”

    “It’s the best we have,” Chris said, as Justin put the clothes on over his current shorts and singlet that he wore. “I’ll take it easy getting there, so we’ll be fine…”

    “Isn’t it illegal practically everywhere for provisional licence holders to take a passenger?”

    “Very.”

    “And you aren’t worried about getting caught?” Justin said, slightly concerned at Chris’ recklessness. “You don’t exactly have many points left…”

    Justin wasn’t wrong. Given how much Chris rode during his travels, and how easy it was for the bike to pull past traffic, he had a few speeding fines, meaning that two more traffic violations, and he’d be without his licence.

    “I’ve been at the College of the North Wind for six months, and haven’t gotten a fine in that time. By the time I leave here, I’ll have most of my points back,” Chris explained, as Justin began lacing up a pair of heavy boots. “Besides, my licence is from Johto, which means that the number plate recognition software of Hoenn cops won’t give an instant read. I don’t have to wear high-vis anymore, so unless they pull me over and check my licence, they have no way of knowing I’m on a provisional licence…”

    Justin remained quiet, as he stood. Chris sighed.

    “Look, I know this goes against your superior moral code, being a future cop and all,” Chris teased. “But it’s a tiny risk to take now, to not put my entire project on hold. Besides, you studied a law degree, and most people who do that make a living by having no moral code, so if it’s really bugging you, pretend you’re a lawyer instead of a wannabe cop…”

    Justin couldn’t help but snort at Chris’ obnoxious comment, but got the point he made. Taking this risk was Chris’ best bet to not have his project delayed.

    “If I get caught, the worst that will happen is I lose my licence for three months. In which case, I’ll have it back by the time I get to Galar…”

    “Okay, I’ll stop questioning you,” Justin said, raising his hands to stop Chris from continuing to sell the plan. “Just focus on not getting us killed…”

    Less than an hour later, Justin climbed off the back of Chris’ motorbike, wondering how Jon could enjoy the experience of riding it, and how Chris could happily travel entire regions on it. Chris, who had already climbed off and removed his helmet, walked towards the door, Justin following him.

    “Lose the helmet,” Chris said quickly. “Take it from me, they flip their s**t if you walk in with a helmet. Thinking you’re going to hold the place up or something…”

    Justin wondered what Chris had done to have him be so aware of the need to remove his helmet, though figured, had he not been warned, he would have done the same thing.

    “I’ll meet you in there,” Justin said, as Chris nodded, walking through the automatic doors. Deciding it was too hot to keep the riding gear on, Justin quickly removed his borrowed helmet, followed by the jacket, pants, and even the boots, opting to walk into the Pokemon Centre barefoot. Whilst there was the risk of the gear being stolen, Justin figured that all it would take is a tweet to let the thief know the gear they stole belonged to Jon Drake, for it to be returned anonymously under threat of retribution, so he left it on the motorbike.

    A few minutes later, Justin entered, to find Chris standing by the counter, signing his name on a form as the attendant waited. He looked over to see Justin, before ushering him to join him.

    “All that’s left is for you to witness it,” Chris said, handing Justin the pen and sliding the form towards him, pointing where Justin needed to sign. He quickly scribbled his messy signature, before writing the date in the next box, and giving the form to the attendant.

    “So that’s sorted?” Chris asked. “My registration is renewed?”

    “I’ll process it now, and the computer system will verify everything is in order,” the attendant explained. “Once that’s done, your registration is renewed.”

    “And how long will that take?”

    “About half an hour,” the attendant explained. Chris looked at the clock on the wall. It was only 3:50pm, and whilst the Pokemon Centre was open 24/7 for healing Pokemon, for official business such as this, business hours ended at 4:30.

    “And if something is wrong?” Chris asked. “I’d only have ten minutes to fix it, and I need this done today…”

    The attendant looked between Chris and Justin, before sighing.

    “Look, if something is wrong, and you can fix it before 4:30, I’ll stay behind to confirm it’s worked,” the attendant answered. “But let’s try and avoid that…”

    Without another word, the attendant left, as Chris and Justin made their way to some seats in the waiting room, Chris half breathing a sigh of relief. As both trainers collapsed into their seats, Justin smirked.

    “So Second To None isn’t delayed…”

    “If all this goes forward smoothly,” Chris answered. “And if I’ve learnt anything from the last four years, you should never expect it to…”

    Justin nodded in agreement before counting out when things went drastically wrong.

    “Lance sending guys after Jon, Meteor Falls caving in, Deoxys attacking,” Justin recited, as he counted on his fingers. “Poachers at the Whirl Islands, the Department of Defence trying to take the Academy, those witches coming after us, Lance escaping, and the rest of the Spiritwater Crisis… Am I missing anything?”

    “I think you got the bulk of it…” Chris said in agreement. “Honestly, I signed up that first summer because I wanted to know what actually happened on the S.S. Wishmaker with Lance, and whether Jon was the piece of s**t Lance had been trying to convince us that he was. I didn’t expect things to go the way they did…”

    “I don’t think anyone did,” Justin agreed as Chris went quiet for a moment. Justin nudged his friend, noticing the space. “What’s up?”

    “Nothing,” Chris said. “Honestly, I was just thinking about where I’d be if I hadn’t come here that first summer. I sure as hell know that I wouldn’t be doing STN if I hadn’t…”

    “You’re not wrong…” Justin said in agreement. “I don’t know where I’d be. I doubt anywhere worthwhile though…”

    “Well I can tell you one thing for sure,” Chris said, as he couldn’t help but grin. “You wouldn’t be so famous that the High Seas Tournament tried to recruit you…”

    “Well if we’re going down that path,” Justin said. “Charlotte would have left you behind years ago…”

    “She already has,” Chris said with a laugh, as Justin looked at him in shock.

    “You two are at the same level, aren’t you?” Justin retorted in confusion. “It’s always been that one of you pulls ahead and the other catches up, then pulls ahead themself…”

    “Not anymore,” Chris said. “In tournament battles, Charlotte has been better than me for almost a year now. Our battle last summer was a fluke. I managed to catch her by surprise and force a tie. But if I hadn’t, she’d have beaten me. This is why I’m completing STN…”

    Chris cracked his knuckles, as Justin cringed at the sound, before continuing.

    “Fact is, if I try and make it as a competitive battler in the same scene as her, I’ll only ever be her equal at best, and her runner up at worst. She’s just got me beat,” Chris admitted. “She has a level of skill that I don’t, and by the time I have that, she’d be further ahead anyway. But there is something I have her beaten in…”

    “Being a stubborn pain in the a**?” Justin asked, as Chris rolled his eyes.

    “Sheer grit, though part of that is stubbornness…” Chris answered, realising the uncomfortable level of truth in Justin’s answer. “Charlotte’s a better battler, but she’s too level headed to consider attempting something as stupidly ambitious as STN. She wouldn’t risk wasting a year of her life, chasing a glorified title, when she could be getting stronger and making a name for herself in the competitive circuit. But I guess I’m just reckless enough to give it a try…”

    Justin couldn’t help but shake his head. He had known Chris since Day 0 at the Academy, and had known that his pride would not let him fall behind Charlotte. So to hear Chris happily admit that she is the superior battler, and that he was choosing a path to allow himself to escape her shadow, shocked him. Even more so, was the fact that Chris admitted this with no resignation or bitterness, but humour and optimism.

    “So the plan is Galar first?” Justin asked. Chris nodded.

    “Kalos after that, then Unova,” Chris explained. “Sinnoh next, then Hoenn, before Johto, then Kanto…”

    “When will you be in Sinnoh?”

    “I’ll ideally be arriving in early February, and making my way through the Gyms. I need to beat one every six days on average to keep on schedule,” Chris explained.

    Justin quickly did the numbers. He would start at the Sinnoh Police Academy in Jubilife City in September, and remain there a little over six months. After which, he would likely be stationed at Snowpoint City, being his first preference, which very few other officers would be willing to be stationed at.

    “So if Snowpoint is the last Gym, you’ll probably be arriving there a week or two after I move there…” Justin said, as he double checked his numbers. Chris grinned.

    “We’ll have to grab a drink then,” Chris explained. “Because by then, I’ll have beaten three Pokemon Leagues, and be well on my way to beating my fourth, and I’ll want to celebrate. That and you becoming a cop, but I think my reason is a little more exciting…”

    “A**hole,” Justin joked, though, knowing how different life would be for all of them come September, was already looking forward to it.

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****
    “So what have you found?” Cassandra asked as she sat on a couch in the empty main hall, with the exception of one other person. The projector was on, however with no source selected, it projected a blue screen.

    “Footage,” Steven answered, as he handed her a portable hard drive. “I’m glad that Jon wanted to show the five this…”

    Cassandra gave Steven a puzzled look, however he simply sat on the couch, nodding for her to take the hard drive to the projector. She obliged, and as she plugged it in, the media reader sparked to life on screen, displaying five files. One for each of the original five interns.

    That evening during dinner, Steven had found Cassandra furiously scanning through notes and watching recordings of various battles. After telling Steven of Charlotte’s cryptic analysis of all the interns, Steven had an idea, telling Cassandra to meet him in the main hall after the campers were in their cabins for the evening. By this point, Charlotte had him curious too, and he knew of something that between the pair of them, may help crack Charlotte’s riddle.

    “Three years ago, Dylan had the idea of capturing all the Pokemon that the Academy has, so Jon bought a metric crap ton of Pokeballs, and sent the five interns around Hoenn for a week to capture as many Pokemon as they could,” Steven explained. “And while they were gone, Jon wanted to teach them a lesson…”

    “What sort of lesson?”

    “By that point the five of them would never lose to their students in a serious battle. Jon however, would beat them without too much difficulty, which is where the problem laid,” Steven explained. “They were honestly a lot closer to Jon and my level than they realised at that point, even with only Abbee and Justin having Legendary Pokemon. But Jon had identified in all but Dylan, some very easy weaknesses to exploit. They weren’t obvious, but if they were identified, they could be beaten quite easily. But because they only ever lost to Jon, and fact is, he ranks amongst champions, they didn’t learn anything by losing to him. They’d just write it off as ’of course I’d lose to Jon’...”

    Cassandra nodded, her intrigue growing at what this footage contained, as Steven continued.

    “So to make it obvious just how exploitable these weaknesses were, while they were gone, Jon decided to spend that weeks team training sessions going through footage of the five interns battling with a fine tooth comb, helping the students to learn to analyse a trainer, and identify weaknesses that they could then exploit,” Steven explained. “Then, at the end of the week, when the five returned home, a student from each of their teams challenged them, and all but one of the five were beaten…”

    “That one being Charlotte?” Cassandra asked as Steven grinned.

    “Dylan…”

    Cassandra’s eyes widened. She knew that Charlotte didn’t have Deoxys at this point, however she was still a formidable battler without Deoxys.

    “I’m not showing you this to give you a silver bullet to beat Charlotte,” Steven said. “Even if Charlotte still had this same weakness, I know you don’t want to rely on that. But I figure if Charlotte has given you some cryptic analysis of everyone, hearing someone else's thoughts might help you line the pieces up…”

    Cassandra nodded in agreement. Before pressing play, she grabbed a nearby whiteboard, and divided it up into five sections, each containing a name of one of the five interns. She quickly wrote Charlotte’s analysis of their battling, specifically who by her estimates, would have the tell she identified in Cassandra, against each trainer. Steven couldn’t help but find what he was seeing amusing, likening Cassandra’s furious note taking to a meme he had seen of a television character by a wall of posters, pins and string, deep in a supposed conspiracy theory. When Cassandra was ready, she pressed play, and began watching through the footage Steven had provided. The footage itself was a mixture of Jon lecturing each team, with battle footage from battles earlier in the summer superimposed, paused at crucial moments so Jon’s commentary explained what they were seeing.

    “Charlotte’s biggest strength in battle is lulling her opponent into a false sense of security, when really they are just falling into her trap, as well as her uncanny ability to predict what her opponent is trying to do. Most battles she spectates, she can see what moves are being used, and figure out what the person ordering them is trying to do,” Jon on screen said as he explained to Charlotte’s team, which at the time consisted of seven people, compared to the thirty-five this summer.

    “He’s got that right,” Cassandra remarked as Jon explained how Charlotte sent out her Roserade, correctly predicting Jon would open with Nidoking, which Cassandra remembered he did on the S.S. Wishmaker five years earlier. The explanation continued to how she used the advantageous matchup to buy time in order to ruin Jon’s strategy with Blaziken, and after Roserade had beaten Nidoking, she had chosen to have Roserade use Venom Drench on Blaziken, knowing that long term, it would do more damage than simply attacking Blaziken. From there, Jon managed to beat her Milotic, before Charlotte’s Drifblim finished off Blaziken, before forcing a draw with Jon’s Absol.

    “This is a goldmine…” Cassandra muttered as Steven nodded.

    “Even at this point, Charlotte was a championship level trainer, as was Chris, and the other three were at least at Gym Leader level,” Steven noted. “But it gets better…”

    As Jon on screen explained that by acting in a way that was completely against what Charlotte expected, he was able to rattle her into acting against her own plan. Whilst she didn’t understand exactly what he meant, her eyes widened when it got point out that despite the fact Blaziken fainted, it had not taken a single damaging hit the entire battle, with all of the damage it took being from the poison, and had Charlotte just stuck to her initial strategy, and stalled Milotic with Protect and Recover, Blaziken would have fainted with Milotic being unharmed.

    Despite trying her best to not rely too much on what she heard in this, wanting to beat Charlotte by identifying her own weakness and preventing Charlotte from exploiting them, she couldn’t help but take note of one thing Jon said.

    “Don’t let her talent in predicting how things will go weigh you down…”

    When the video was finished, Steven clicked onto the next one, which was Abbee. This was the one Cassandra was looking forward to seeing most, second only to Charlotte’s, not because of her own history with Victini, but the asterisk next to Abbee’s name every time it appeared on the whiteboard.

    "None of the five of us would have it against any of the students, though Abbee and Justin would only have it against Jon, myself and Chris,” Charlotte had explained. “Abbee, however, has a slightly different way of battling to the other four of us, and that makes up for it at times.”

    “Abbee’s main strengths are her creativity and ingenuity, as well as the close bond she has with Victini, who can telepathically communicate with her, and will,” Jon on screen explained, and as he did, Cassandra felt a flicker of understanding, only for a moment. She knew they were onto something. In his peripheral vision, Steven saw Cassandra lean forward, concentrating hard on what was in front of them, as he explained the strategy Justin had used against himself the day before, and how Abbee had countered it. However, it wasn’t until Jon explained how Victini cost he and Abbee a win against Dylan by acting of his own volition that it clicked.

    “That’s the asterisk,” Cassandra said to Steven, as she quickly paused it. The opened her phone, finding the battle between Abbee and Matt Campbell that Charlotte had referenced. Steven waited in silence, knowing that Cassandra was on the verge of a breakthrough. Cassandra quickly jumped through the battle, finding a section with Jon and Camilla’s commentary.

    “Shaymin is following every one of Matt’s orders, while Victini is making his own decisions half the time…” Camilla’s voice said from Cassandra’s phone

    “And?” Jon asked.

    “You saw what happened before with Hydreigon when it stopped following orders…”

    “This could not be any more different. Victini isn’t acting on his own because he is disregarding orders. He is acting on his own because Abbee trusts him to make the snap decisions at a moment's notice. And Victini trusts Abbee to plan ahead and give him a winning path. Which is better teamwork than Victini just following Abbee’s instructions,” said Jon’s stern voice from the phone.

    “The thing that Charlotte said, which makes Abbee different, is the fact that when Victini is on the field, he makes half the decisions. She doesn’t just order him around, like almost every other trainer, but let’s Victini do what he thinks needs to be done,” Cassandra explained. “She lets him handle himself in a battle, whilst she looks more to the bigger picture to guide his decisions…”

    Steven nodded. Whilst he didn’t know what Charlotte had been referencing, this was something that made Abbee unique amongst most trainers. Whilst Jon had a tendency to let Latios make decisions, Latios usually followed orders to the letter in battle, and followed Jon’s lead.

    As the video detailing Abbee’s battling style came to an end, Steven took the remote.

    “Honestly, I don’t think Justin’s is going to be any help,” he explained. “Nor Dylans…”

    “How so?”

    Steven nodded towards the whiteboard.

    “If we’re trying to identify a pattern, you need variance. According to Charlotte, Justin would have this tell against herself, Chris and Jon. Justin won’t have it unless he has a detailed plan, but honestly, that’s too vague, and I was the one to deliver the lecture for Justin’s team, as I had spent some time with him during the winter before,” Steven explained. “And Charlotte reckons that Dylan doesn’t have this tell, which means no matter what we see, we won’t see Dylan showing and not showing this tell…”

    “So Chris?”

    “There are enough factors to Chris having it that if we can identify what those factors really are, we can identify the tell, like you did with Abbee,” Steven said. Cassandra looked over to the whiteboard. According to Charlotte, Cassandra wouldn’t have the tell against Chris, and Chris would only have it against Jon, and only in a match where he didn’t have something to lose. There was something that confused Cassandra though. Of all the people there who were more experienced battlers than herself, she’d not have the tell against Chris of all people.

    “Chris’ weakness is that he is too damn competitive. When he is under pressure, and wants nothing more than to win, he goes extremely on the offensive, not using any tactics other than brute force. That’s why he and Charlotte have tied every time…” came Jon’s voice from the screen.

    “How come Charlotte doesn’t beat him then?” asked a girl from the team. “You said she is his match, and he loses his head when it gets really hard? Shouldn’t Charlotte beat him?”

    “If that were all, yes…” Jon said, struggling to hide his amusement. [/i]“Except if you aren’t aware of it, this weakness is infectious. Even though Charlotte is one of the most cunning trainers I know, the moment Chris slips into this habit of his, she slips into it as well. Abbee and Justin have fallen prey to it a few times as well, but Charlotte in particular is the one it spreads to the easiest…”[/i]

    “Pause it…”

    The words left her mouth before she even knew she was saying it, however she needed a moment to think.

    “Chris goes on the offensive completely when he is under pressure, because he is too competitive,” Cassandra repeated. “Or at least he did back then…”

    “He has grown past letting his competitiveness dictate his decisions,” Steven noted, as Cassandra nodded.

    “But according to Charlotte, not his subconscious,” Cassandra explained. “She said Chris will have this tell when he isn’t battling with something to lose. But when he is battling herself or Jon, and has something to lose, he has the tell. And we just heard he has a history of letting the pressure he is under, and his own competitiveness adjust his actions…”

    Steven nodded in agreement, as Cassandra lent forward, trying to piece everything she had heard together.

    ”When he is under pressure, and wants nothing more than to win, he goes extremely on the offensive, not using any tactics other than brute force…”

    The words echoed through Cassandra’s head. She knew this was important, but didn’t know how. Trying to avoid spiralling into a dead end, she opened her phone to the footage of her own match with Charlotte, and pressed the cast button, causing the video to appear on the projector, before she pressed play.

    On screen, Marche followed her command, rushing in towards Magmortar with a Bulldoze attack, which Magmortar took, assisting itself with a Barrier attack. Cassandra then ordered a Swords Dance attack, after which, she did not get to call another move. Swords Dance was the last attack Marche made before Magmortar finished it off. She quickly rewound in silence, as Steven watched intently, wondering if Cassandra was becoming too obsessed with this. As she pressed play, she watched closely, considering what she heard of Chris’ battling as she analysed the footage.

    “I see it…” Cassandra said, as Steven’s head whipped around to look at her. “I know what the tell is…”

    Steven waited in silence, as Cassandra considered this tell, and what she knew about the other trainers.

    “Come on, don’t leave me hanging!” Steven pleaded after a few seconds.

    “When I am in a battle I don’t think I can win, I do what Chris does, or did,” Cassandra said correcting herself. “I don’t hesitate when I order an offensive move…”

    She rewound and pressed play. On screen the match began, and Cassandra, without waiting for an invitation, ordered a Bulldoze attack.
    “I mean, sure, if that’s the case, it makes sense Charlotte ordered a Barrier attack,” Steven said, sounding unconvinced. “But that isn’t enough to give her an edge?”

    “It isn’t,” Cassandra agreed. “But the flip side of that is that if I am not going on the offensive, I hesitate before giving the order…”

    The pressed play again, and on screen, clear as day, there was a moment of stillness, before Cassandra called out for Marche to use Swords Dance.

    “Charlotte heard the hesitation, and knew that Magmortar was safe for a moment, so instead of using Protect, or buffing its defence to block an attack, she had Magmortar use Scary Face to slow Marche down, and buy her some free hits,” Cassandra explained. “If I had just ordered another offensive move, she’d have played defence. But she knew I wouldn’t, so struck then…”

    “That is very specific…” Steven said. “I mean, if what you’re saying is true, then it makes sense how she beat you so quickly. But surely there is something more likely than that…”

    “When Abbee commands Victini, half of their communication is telepathic, and Victini will act on his own far more often than any other Pokemon would, so Charlotte would not be able to use this against Abbee. Abbee may be silent, and Victini is readying a huge attack, and she wouldn’t know,” Cassandra continued, processing all of this as she spoke. “Dylan doesn’t give the tell, but that’s because defensively speaking, he is unshakable. He isn’t as offensively talented as the other four, but his defence is that solid, that he can buy time to whittle down his opponent, so it makes sense Charlotte can’t use this trick on Dylan. His defensive battling is just as intentional as his offensive, if not more…”

    Steven began to realise just how right Cassandra was as he considered these words.

    “As for Chris, his tendency to go on the offensive under pressure means that he would not be in the position where he is in a battle he doesn’t know he would win and act defensively. Even if he doesn’t just resort to offensive attacks anymore, I’m willing to bet the impulsiveness is still there to some degree, and he wouldn’t hesitate on a single move…”

    “Goddamn…” Steven muttered, knowing that Cassandra had cracked it. “She is reading her opponents that much?”

    “She’s terrifying…” Cassandra agreed. “But there is one thing I don’t understand…”

    “What’s that?”

    “By this logic, I’d have this tell against you, Jon and the five interns. But Charlotte reckons I wouldn’t have it against Chris…”

    Steven considered Cassandra’s question, and though he had a hunch, he knew it wasn’t his place to say.

    “I think Charlotte needs to be the one to answer that…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    “So we have everything?” Violet asked, as Willow did a quick count of all the materials in their room, before nodding. The spell they were about to perform was not a simple one, and they didn’t want to mess it up. Needing the floor space, they had disassembled Violet’s bed, leaving the frame stacked in neat pieces and the mattress leaned up against the wall. On the floor were flattened cardboard boxes taped together to make a strong enough surface that they could walk on without putting holes in it, and drawn on that was a large, circular glyph, the inside edge of which was lined with other strange symbols. Like numbers on a clock, various reagents were strategically placed. The circle itself glowed with an eerie purple pulsing light.

    “So when I perform the incantation, I will pass out…” Violet asked.

    “I think so,” Willow explained. “I never performed this spell myself, but I did ask Agatha about it early on, before I realised she was a lunatic…”

    Jarena listened quietly to the pair as Violet nodded.

    “Once you’ve passed out, effectively you will be in a dream world that you have complete control over. You can’t affect anything outside of the dream world, nor can you prevent whoever you pull into it from waking up. But you will be practically a god inside this world…”

    “How are you going to do this?” Jarena asked. “Try and scare him into giving it to you?”

    “I considered it, but no, I don’t think that would work too well,” Violet explained. “Most of the time I know I am dreaming, and can even wake myself up from them if they go bad. If my dad is the same, then if I make this dream terrifying, he will just wake himself up. Especially if he knows that the me in his dream isn’t just a figment of his subconscious…”

    The digital clock on the desk read 1:30am, however, as Violet said the words, she had a thought.

    “Though, I may be overthinking this…” she muttered, before looking back at Jarena. “Leave it with me…”

    Jarena nodded, though before she could answer a voice called out from the other side of the door.

    “Are you guys planning an apocalypse in there?”

    The voice belonged to Justin, who had heard voice from his room below, and wandered up stairs to see what had the three witches awake at this late hour, only to see a steady pulsing light emanating from under Violet’s door.

    “Because one of those this year was more than enough,” Justin continued, as Violet couldn’t help but laugh.

    “No apocalypse,” Violet assured. “Think of it as a Witch Slumber Party, complete with Shadowcraft Prank Calls…”

    Justin chuckled to himself, before making his way back to the stairs.

    “Carry on…”

    “You ready?” Willow asked. Violet nodded her head.

    “Jarena, hold me upright, and when I pass out, lay me down,” Violet explained. “So I don’t disturb the reagents…”

    Jarena moved into position, as Willow handed Violet the transcribed incantation.

    “Whenever you’re ready…”

    Violet nodded, before beginning to quietly recite the incantation. It was medium length, and her focus wandered a little as she wondered what would happen to her once she recited the final word. However, as the final word left her mouth, her body went limp, as she instantly fell unconscious, Jarena struggling with the sudden lack of any resistance holding her friend upright. She quickly lay her down, as inside Violet’s mind, the work began.

    She found herself in a black space, disembodied, yet sensing all around her. As Willow had told her, she forced herself to remember the moments before passing out, so as to not induce panic at the odd sensation, before slowly beginning to focus. She considered what sort of dream she wanted to form before she pulled her father into it, however, knew the sort of person he was. Like most, he was vastly more comfortable in a place he knew well. She considered having it be her childhood home, however thought of somewhere even better.

    Her strained relationship with her father stemmed from the fact that ninety percent of the time he was away from home as a travelling sales rep. When she was in her early teens, he received a promotion, putting him in a management position in the company’s head office in Olivine City, however despite the fact he now rarely had to travel compared to his previous role, he seemed even more distant. She remembered one of the few occasions she had been in his large office, and how comfortable he was there.

    Forcing herself to remember the basic details, she focused on constructing the black space into a rough copy of her fathers corner office, placing the furniture and picture frames in the places she remembered them being. She didn’t focus on detail, knowing that in a dream, nothing is quite as it is in reality, and that his own memory would fill in the blanks when he arrived. Finally, when the office was ready, she focused her thoughts into creating a form for herself. She considered making herself a child, hoping to appeal to some sort of paternal instinct, but figured that wouldn’t work. He was never around when she was a kid anyway, so why would he care if he was speaking to the child version of her now?

    Instead, she opted for a form she knew he was at one point or another, proud of.

    Her hair was shorter than it was in the waking world, and much better cared for, with Violet these days opting to let it grow out a little longer since returning to the human world. She wore an expensive, glossy black leather jacket, that has cost her at the time more than the car she was considering buying now that she had saved some money from her job at the Academy. She wore a pair of black jeans, that despite not appearing to be anything special, had cost more than her father earned in a week, and a pair of black shoes which she recalled buying to wear to a TV appearance, and had not touched again until she sold them later in order to try and cover her debts. She looked in the mirror that hung on a wall of the office, and was shocked at the fact that she looked exactly the same as she did a week before the S.S. Wishmaker incident.

    “Geez…” Violet muttered in distaste, as she spun slightly to view her outfit. “Did I always look this pretentious?”

    Knowing that she had no reason to wait any longer, she began reciting the next part of the spell, which she had memorised prior, which, if he were asleep, would bring her father into this dream. After a few moments, she blinked, and found the room she was in, suddenly much more detailed, with the gaps filled in by the memories of Barry Radcliffe who stood before her. He wore his usual work attire, a pair of dark blue slacks and a white button up shirt under a blue tie. He looked around the room, then at Violet. A look of disdain crossed his face, as he muttered something under his breath.

    “I just want to talk,” Violet said calmly.

    “There’s nothing to talk about,” Barry said, as he began walking towards the door. Violet remained still, letting him. He opened it, and to his shock, there was no busy work floor outside, only blackness.

    “Hear me out, and I’ll leave you alone,” Violet said. “I’ll stop calling you, and I won’t do this again…”

    Barry didn’t bother trying to understand what Violet was saying about his situation, and instead snorted with derision.

    “You’re a figment of my imagination,” Barry retorted. “You aren’t real…”

    “Don’t you remember how Agatha gathered all the witches in Alola? How I knew what she was planning so I could tip off the League?” Violet asked, as Barry looked at her confused, before understanding dawned on him. “This place might not be real, but I am…”

    “What have you done?” Barry asked, though Violet ignored the question, knowing that every second that passed was a second before her father realised he could wake himself up, and left.

    “You weren’t taking my calls, and I needed to talk to you…” Violet explained. “So I figured I’d use my talents to get a hold of you…”

    Violet moved towards her fathers desk, and sat in the large office chair, staring him down for a minute.

    “If you’re not willing to look past my mistakes, then that’s your decision, and I won’t waste our time trying to play happy families,” Violet explained. “We’re past that. All I want is to be able to live my life, and even if we aren’t on good terms, I had hoped you’d at least be civil enough to hear me out. Honestly, all I wanted was for you to send me my birth certificate, so I can get my driver’s licence, do my taxes, and just live my own life. You do that, and honestly, I’ll do everything I can to just leave you alone, seeing as it’s obvious that’s all you want…”

    “And if I don’t?” Barry said. “If this is just a dream, I can just wake myself up…”

    “You’re right, you can…” Violet said, as she stood up. “But if you don’t do this for me, if you keep being difficult just to spite me, I’ll do the same thing…”

    As she finished her words, the floor around Barry began to crumble away, as the walls became engulfed in flames.

    “I won’t keep calling you on the phone, because I’m sick of hearing your voicemail,” Violet said simply. “Instead, I’ll visit you every night. And the difference between this dream and your others, is that you’re not in control of this place. I am…”

    With a loud bang, the desk in front of her and the chair behind her vaporised into particles of light, exploding outwards, as Violet herself began to rise into the air, arms outstretched. Vicious tendrils of light materialised in the blackness, whizzing past Barry’s face, towards Violet’s hand.

    “You might be able to get yourself out of this dream. But as long as you need to sleep, and I know you will eventually, I’ll just be able to pull you back in…” Violet said coldly. “And my imagination is the only limiting factor of what these dreams can be…”

    There was a vicious roar in the distance, that Violet recognised to be that of Giratina, as Barry’s head whipped around to where it came from. By the time he looked back, Violet was gone, until he turned around, and found himself staring face to face into her intense green eyes. He stumbled back in shock, forgetting the ground had collapsed away from the area around him, and fell. However, as he fell into the blackness, he saw he was falling towards the same room he had just fallen from. Violet raised a hand to catch him in mid air and prevent him from falling into an endless cycle.

    “I don’t want to do this,” Violet said. “I’m past using Shadowcraft to manipulate and intimidate people, but you’ve left me no choice…”

    Barry looked around in shock, before settling his sights on her.

    “You just want your birth certificate?” he asked quietly.

    “Not even the actual document. A scan sent to me…”

    Barry sighed indignantly, before glaring at Violet.

    “I’ll send it through in the morning…”

    With her purpose fulfilled, Violet changed the scene to her childhood home as she remembered it. The kitchen specifically. Additionally, she let her appearance reflect how she looked now.

    “Thank you…” Violet said, before considering her next words.

    “I won’t call you again unless it’s important. So if I do, pick up the damn phone, so I don’t have to go to all this trouble again,” Violet said. “But if you do decide you want to try and work things out, you know where to find me…”

    Barry remained silent, as Violet stared him down, though knew she was now wasting her time.

    “Goodbye Dad…”

    With that, she opened her eyes, ending the spell.

    “Did it work?” Willow asked. Violet stretched her cramped limbs, before nodding.

    “I think so. I think I got my point across,” Violet answered with a yawn. “I’ll find out in the morning…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****

    “So what if I were to catch Latios away from Jon, and try and convince him to throw his battle?”

    Victini asked the question as he and Abbee sat at the dining room table in the kitchen of the intern’s lodge. It was shortly before 8am Saturday morning, and having heard Jon’s conditions for allowing Victini to battle Scizor, they were trying to figure out whether meeting them would even be possible.

    “You remember two years ago when Rose accidentally got the spare room in the lodge infested with bugs?” Abbee recalled. “Latios was about to tell Jon until you stopped him…”

    Victini remembered that day, and nodded gravely. Abbee was right. Just like he was loyal to her, Latios was loyal to Jon…

    “Wait a minute,” Victini said, as he remembered something else from the day. “Remember how we stopped him from telling Jon?”

    Abbee shook her head.

    “I threatened to tell Jon about the keg he had stolen,” Victini explained. “Latios loves Jon, but he also loves beer, and I think if we were to bribe Latios…”

    Abbee smirked at Victini’s idea.

    “And worse comes to worst, I think if we could get Latias in our corner, she may be able to help convince him to help you out,” Abbee suggested…

    As Chris walked down the stairs, he could hear Abbee talking, and Victini replying verbally, seeing as Abbee gained the ability to understand him last summer. He had been planning on making a cup of coffee before he went to the dining hall, where students would soon be making their way to prepare breakfast, however stopped. Every time he had seen Abbee since they broke up, it had been in a group. Especially in the last week. And whilst Dylan would more than likely just go about his business and pretend Chris wasn’t there, which Chris was equally willing to do, he knew Abbee wouldn’t.

    He considered skipping coffee, or making some excuse to chat to Jon in the morning, knowing that Jon would offer him one if he went up to the house to talk. However he realised he was being ridiculous. It was the end of the first week of summer, and would not be the last time he’d face this situation. And additionally, by the end of the year, he’d be in Nimbasa City, battling Abbee as Nimbasa City Gym Leader, and if he couldn’t get his head out of his own thoughts now, he’d struggle to beat her then. He sighed silently, before walking into the dining room, with obvious intention towards the kitchen.

    “Morning,” Abbee said casually, as she looked at the notebook in front of her, which had strategies for beating Blaziken, Latios, Rayquaza and Giratina half scribbled.

    “Morning,” Chris replied, as he made his way into the kitchen through the door on the other side of the dining room. He entered as he made his way towards the coffee machine, pressing the power button, causing the boiler to heat up.

    “Blaziken gives us a few options,” Abbee said to Victini. “If it enters the battle late, Stored Power would be the best way to handle it, seeing as you’d be using buffs to survive the match.”

    Abbee began scribbling though had a thought.

    “Though it might pay to taunt it first, since that would be an obvious play, and would be decimated by a Protect or even an Endure…”

    “What if Blaziken comes out first?” Victini asked, and whilst Chris could hear him, he couldn’t understand.

    “Out of the gate, you’re faster than Blaziken for about one attack,” Abbee answered. “Future Sight. That way if Blaziken reduces your power, or buffs its own defences, it’ll still take a big hit…”

    The machine beeped, as it finished preparing Chris’ coffee. He grabbed the mug, before walking out.

    “Hey, Chris…”

    Chris stopped, as some of his coffee spilled forward over the edge of the mug, burning his hands slightly. He swore under his breath, and quickly put his lightly burnt finger to his mouth, before turning around.

    “Sorry,” Abbee said with a weak grin. “Just wondering if you knew much about Rayquaza? Seeing as you used to go to Southern Island with Jon and all that. That and you know more about Dragon Pokemon than even Dylan…”

    Chris placed his coffee on the table, grabbing a leather coaster so the hot mug and spilt contents wouldn’t damage the wooden finish of the tabletop, before considering the question.

    “Honestly, I don’t know much that could help you. That was years ago,” Chris said, trying to think of anything he knew. “Dragon type moves are only super effective against other dragons, and Victini would handle flying moves, so you don’t need to worry too much about those. But I’m pretty sure Rayquaza knows at least one or two Dark Type moves and maybe a Rock Type one as well…”

    Abbee began taking notes, as Chris continued.

    “If this were a normal battle, I’d tell you to not bother with Victini against Rayquaza and to use Glaceon instead. I’d eat my shoe if Glaceon weren’t beaten by it, but given its Ice typing, it would really make an impact on Rayquaza,” Chris continued. “But you gotta use Victini so that’s redundant…”

    Abbee remained silent, as her and Victini looked at eachother, Chris figuring they were strategizing telepathically. He looked between the pair, and then Abbee’s notes. Giratina had nothing but question marks around it, which confirmed Chris’ theory. Victini couldn’t beat all four of these Pokemon in succession.

    “Look,” Chris said, his tone becoming a little more serious. “Don’t you think you’re making this harder for yourself?”

    Abbee and Victini looked at Chris, somewhat puzzled.

    “Jon’s making it hard,” Abbee said, as Victini nodded in agreement. “He set the Elite Four challenge…”

    “And that’s the only way Victini will have a chance at Scizor?” Chris asked. Abbee nodded, though halfway through, seemed to doubt herself, and lose conviction in her nodding.

    Victini cried something irritably out, and Abbee translated.

    “He says ‘what’re you getting at?’”

    “I’m saying that in my team’s sessions with Jon, I am used for the demonstration every time, and battle Jon three times a week. Justin does the same thing, so I assume you do as well?” Chris asked. Abbee nodded.

    “The problem is that every time Victini is out at the same time as Scizor, Jon Baton Passes Scizor out to something that beats Victini….”

    “And you honestly think that if Victini can’t beat whatever gets Baton Passed out to face him, he can beat all four of those Pokemon, then finish off Scizor?” Chris asked plainly. The question wasn’t meant to offend, though Victini glared at Chris for doubting him. “Look, all I’m saying is you’re planning to pit Victini against four Pokemon, two of which Jon never uses in training sessions, and are amongst the most powerful Pokemon in the world, alone, when you could have a three on three match in your session, and if you play your cards right, have Victini and Scizor battle, both Pokemon fresh and ready to go. Logically, it makes no sense…”

    “You’re right…” Abbee said, shocked that she hadn’t looked at it that way.

    “Honestly, I think Jon set that challenge to distract you,” Chris added as he sipped his coffee.

    “Distract us from what?” Victini asked. Chris shrugged, before standing up.

    “It’s not that hard to force a match to go a certain way,” Chris answered simply. “I’ve done it before, and it worked a treat…”

    Knowing that any more information would take away from their own sense of accomplishment, Chris left them to figure it out, knowing that last time he helped in this way, they figured it out on their own.

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****
    “So you’re ready?” Charlotte called out, holding a Pokeball in hand. Cassandra could see it wasn’t the Master Ball that she knew housed Deoxys, though also knew that Charlotte wouldn’t send out Deoxys in a practice match against Cassandra just yet. Cassandra nodded. She readied her own Pokeball.

    It was the lunch hour of Monday during the second week of the summer, with Charlotte’s team set to take to the field to train with Jon. From 1pm, the stadium would be occupied for afternoon training sessions, and not free until 5pm, and whilst Cassandra could wait until then, she knew that Jon would have Charlotte’s Pokemon too exhausted for a training match with Cassandra after, whilst, given Charlotte’s prowess, her Pokemon could likely handle a battle with Cassandra and then go into training with Jon.

    “Let’s do this,” Cassandra explained. “Then I need to round up my team…”

    All the interns had been told to have their teams gathered together and ready before the second afternoon training session, though the order didn’t come from Jon. Instead, each of the interns was told to make sure Jon wasn’t aware…

    “Count of three then,” Charlotte said with a grin, before beginning to count.

    ”One.”

    ”Two.”

    ”Three!”

    Cassandra threw her Pokeball forward revealing Gale the Frosmoth, as Charlotte sent out her Gengar. Whilst Cassandra was thankful that Gengar was the least experienced of Charlotte’s Pokemon, she also knew that Gengar were very tricky Pokemon, and that they had a double resistance to Bug type moves.

    “Curse!” Charlotte ordered.

    “Quiver Dance!” Cassandra responded instantly. Whilst she didn’t want to give away that she had identified the tell, she figured that an exception to it would be the opening move. Given the time between choosing the Pokemon and the match starting, there was time for her to think over the move then, before calling it as the match started, instead of hesitating to rethink it. Charlotte, if she had noticed, didn’t give anything away.

    Gengar, at the cost of its own energy, placed a curse on Gale, who quickly flew a quick path through the air, as its Speed as well as offensive and defensive power for special moves increased. However, within seconds, its energy left it, leaving it far more exhausted than the opening round of the battle should. However, Cassandra now had an edge. Gale was faster than Gengar, and would be able to attack again before Gengar could strike.

    Gengar was still a very quick Pokemon however, darting in and out of shadows, and Cassandra knew that her next move, whilst being fairly accurate, may not be enough to land the hit she was after. She needed Gengar to stop moving even for a second.

    “Gale!” Cassandra called out, before intentionally holding her tongue for a second. “Icy Wind!”

    “Shadow Ball!” Charlotte called out over the top of Cassandra’s order for Icy Wind, however the moment the words left her mouth, she seemed to know something was off.

    Gengar stopped its evasive manoeuvres for a split second to line up a Shadow Ball, however was met by an icy gust of wind from Gale’s sub-freezing wings. It still managed to land the hit with Shadow Ball, weakening Gale further, as did the subsequent effect of the curse, however, the surprise attack was enough to slow down Gengar, and buy Gale a chance for one last follow-up hit.

    “Giga Drain!” Cassandra ordered, as Gale launched a bright green orb from its wings, striking Gengar directly. Despite the type disadvantage, Gengar was weakened by its own use of curse, as well as the Icy Wind that had been enhanced by Quiver Dance. Gengar collapsed as Gale’s energy was restored, only to be lost again to the Curse.

    “You’ve figured it out,” Charlotte called out with a grin as she returned Gengar to it’s Pokeball.

    “You thought I was going to pull back instead of that Icy Wind?” Cassandra asked, as Charlotte nodded.

    “If I knew you were going to try and land a big hit, I’d have played defensively and tried to have Gengar avoid it,” Charlotte explained. “Especially since I’d used half its energy to place the curse. Still, I thought it’d be weeks before you figured that out…”

    “Steven helped me by showing me footage of you, Abbee and Chris, and Jon analysing all of you,” Cassandra answered. “Between that and what you told me the other day, I figured it out. There’s just one thing I couldn’t figure out.”

    “What’s that?”

    “Why do you think I’d not have the tell against Chris?” Cassandra asked. “I do it in battles I don’t think I can win, and I know that Chris would wipe the floor with me in a serious battle, just like you would…”

    Charlotte’s expression flattened.

    “I probably should have kept my mouth shut…” Charlotte muttered to herself as Cassandra gave her a puzzled look. “You sure you want the answer to that? You might not want to hear it…”

    “If it helps me understand my own battling better, then I want to hear it.”

    Charlotte nodded, before considering her words.

    “You don’t show the tell against Chris because the fact you won’t beat him isn’t what’s on your mind when you battle him. Even in a serious battle against me, you know that it’s just a Pokemon battle, against me, but honestly, I don’t think you’d be like that in a battle against Chris…”

    “And why is that?”

    “Because when you look at Chris, you see the guy who tried to kill your best friends…”

    There was an uncomfortable silence as Charlotte said the words and Cassandra looked at her in shock.

    “I know that Chris isn’t Lance,” Cassandra protested, as Charlotte held up a hand to silence her, a gesture she had subconsciously picked up from Jon.

    “I’m not saying you have some grudge with Chris because of what Lance did. I know you wouldn’t do that,” Charlotte explained. “But honestly, I’d have to be blind to not see that you are a hell of a lot more comfortable around the other four of us than you are with Chris…”

    Cassandra’s shoulders slumped as she knew she couldn’t argue with Charlotte there.

    “Jon told me that Lance’s biggest weakness is his pride, and I know Chris shares that with him. He’s one of my best friends, so I’d know,” Charlotte said, smirking at the fact that she had just referred to Chris that way. “But I also know that Chris does everything he can to not let that take him down the same path as Lance. I also know, having seen them both battle, than they are both talented trainers, both with an uncanny skill with Dragon Type Pokemon. Heck, sometimes when I see Chris battle with his Dragonite or Charizard, I see a young Lance…”

    Cassandra sighed, as Charlotte grinned.

    “I know you’re not just holding what Lance did against Chris. All I am saying is that when you battle him, I’d bet anything that in your mind, you’re battling the trainer who attacked Violet and Jarena, without even realising it,” Charlotte explained. “And honestly, I think that’s going to help you grow as a trainer…”

    “How so?” Cassandra asked, her attention piqued by Charlotte’s comment.

    “You hesitate making certain moves when you battle me because there is a level of uncertainty. You’re uncertain you’re making the right move by not going on the offensive,” Charlotte explained. “But if I’m right, you won’t hesitate making any move when battling Chris, and I can tell you, if you want to stand a chance at beating him, relying only on offensive tactics will get you nowhere. So maybe you should use Chris as a training dummy, to practise your more strategic plays. He’ll wipe the floor with you most of the time, but if you can get used to a few combos of strategic moves without hesitating against him, then you will be able to apply that to anyone else…”

    Charlotte checked her watch, seeing her students would be arriving before too long. Whilst they had time for another round, she figured it would not be as beneficial as letting Cassandra think over what she said.

    “Keep an eye on what Abbee does during her session this afternoon,” Charlotte noted, having had Abbee seek her out to work on her plan. “The tactic she is using is one that we saw Chris use three years ago. Honestly, you could learn just as much from him as you could from me…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****
    "Everyone take a seat," Jon called out to the thirty five students in the stadium. It was only the beginning of the second week and the students already knew that Jon would not be starting the session until they were quiet. And given this was the opportunity to learn from Jon directly in their weekly schedule, within a few days, they had mastered the act of listening silently. At least, Abbee's group had.

    As the students made their way to the seating, Abbee remained on the battlefield. Chris had been right. At some point in every session, Jon would have a practise battle with Abbee to demonstrate a concept or tactic before the students would be grouped to practise it themselves.

    "This week will be a crash course in control tactics. Specifically tactics that control the flow of the battle by limiting your opponents options," Jon explained, as Abbee forced herself to hide her grin. "And by extension, how to identify and avoid being trapped by them."

    "He's gonna see control tactics…" Victini said telepathically from where he sat on Abbee's shoulder. For a moment, Abbee broke, letting a grin cross her face.

    Jon went into a brief lecture, discussing moves such as Rage Powder, Follow Me, or Spotlight, which when used in a double battle, can force all attacks to be made against a bulky Pokemon, leaving a less resilient but harder hitting Pokemon to wreak havoc without risk of damage. He then show footage of the battle between Chris and Charlotte in Goldenrod City the summer before, where Chris managed to force a tie on Charlotte by having Lugia use Imprison, prevent Deoxys from using any shared moves, the most important of which were energy recovery moves. Lastly he showed the battle between Dylan and Brad Jenkins two years prior, in which Dylan had his Dusknoir use Skill Swap on Brad's Cresselia, stealing its Levitate ability and by extension, dismantling Brad's entire strategy which revolved around his Garchomp using Earthquake to hit both opponents whilst Cresselia avoided the hit. At the same time, Dylan was using Ally Switch and Protect to keep both Pokemon from taking match ending blows. When he was done he looked to Abbee.

    "You got any ideas for control tactics?" Jon asked.

    "I have one or two," Abbee answered plainly as Victini struggled to remain neutral. Jon nodded.

    "In that case, for the demonstration, you try and use them against me and I'll try and counter them."

    Abbee nodded, stepping to her line on the end of the battlefield.

    "Let's do this then…"

    ************************************************** ************************************************** ****

    "Guys, you gotta keep quiet!" Justin hissed at the group of boys in his group that were gathered by the door to the Stadium. "If they're too quiet inside and they hear you, Jon will ask questions!"

    Chris, Charlotte, Dylan, Justin and Cassandra were all in on the plan. Victini wanted a public grudge match with Scizor, and Abbee was certain that she could force that during their training session battle. And given how public of an affair they had made it on Twitter, it was only right that they get a big audience. As such, each intern over the last two days had been informing every member of their team of two things. The first, to gather by the stadium entrance once Abbee's team were inside and Jon's focus was on them, and to make sure Jon didn't hear about this.

    "Are they almost ready?" Cassandra asked Dylan. He held his phone in front of him, patched into the stadium's security cameras.

    "He's still lecturing…" Dylan answered. Charlotte nodded.

    "It was the longest goddamn lecture he has done in one of these sessions," Charlotte said, having had the same session before.

    Chris, having not considered the fact Charlotte would know the content, had an idea.

    "Can you tell how far through the lecture he is?" Chris asked. Charlotte answered by directing a question to Dylan.

    "Can you see what video he is playing?"

    "My battle from the College of the North Wind," Dylan answered. Charlotte nodded.

    "Well that's the last video, and considering how quickly you wiped the floor with Brad, it'll be over soon."

    The interns began quietly letting their students nearby know that they would be going in soon, and to wait for Dylan's signal.

    Dylan watched on the security cameras as the video ended, before Abbee and Jon spoke for a brief moment, and Abbee made her way to her place on the battlefield.

    "That's our cue," Dylan said. "Let's head in…"

    Inside, Abbee had selected her first Pokeball, as had Jon, when everyone's attention was piqued by the sound of footsteps entering the seated sections of the stadium. Jon looked up in confusion at the near two hundred people entering and finding seats.

    "Can I help you?" Jon called out, confused by the sudden influx of spectators.

    "Just here for the show," Justin retorted "Pretend we're not here…"

    Jon looked from Justin, to Charlotte and Cassandra, where they stood by the barrier to get the best view, to Dylan, who had his phone in front of him, working furiously on something. Unbeknownst to Jon, he had logged in to the Eon Academy's twitter account, and was about to live stream the security camera footage of the battle. Jon looked to Abbee, who couldn't help but grin.

    "Come on Jon," she called out. "They're waiting for the demonstration…"

    Jon knew this was an attempt to have Victini battle Scizor, however wasn't sure what Abbee had planned. Regardless, he breathed an internal sigh of relief that he had chosen the team of Pokemon for this session that he did, given he now had nine to choose from instead of the six he had for many years prior.

    "Begin!"

    Abbee threw her first Pokeball forward, revealing Ariados as her opening Pokemon. Jon lobbed his, having opted for Nidoking.

    "Earth Power Nidoking!" Jon ordered.

    "Sticky Web!" Abbee retaliated.

    Despite the distance between the two Pokemon, Nidoking's attack struck, as he roared and mounds of earth erupted from the stone floor of the battlefield underneath Ariados. Weathering the hit, Ariados spat thin strands of sticky silk, which dispersed through the air scattering on the ground surrounding Nidoking. The large Pokemon was slowed by the hazard, allowing Ariados time to follow through with a follow up attack.

    "Leech Life," Abbee ordered, hoping to deal some damage whilst also restoring some of her Pokemon's energy.

    Ariados darted forward before leaping bodily into Nidoking, sinking it's fangs into the Pokemon and sapping it's strength.

    "Now Psychic!" Abbee commanded. Using a form of hypnotism, Ariados unleashed a barrage of telepathic signal on Nidoking, causing it to cry out in pain. However, Ariados had remained still for too long, giving Jon a opportunity to retaliate.

    "Flamethrower!"

    Despite not being a Fire Type, Nidoking was capable of learning the powerful fire move if taught, and Jon had made use of this before. The flames erupted from Nidoking's jaws, striking Ariados and knocking it out.

    "Abbee has used a very useful trick, where if your Pokemon is the slower of the two, but you are able to slow the opposing Pokemon down enough, you will be able to get an instant follow up attack," Jon explained. "However she left Ariados in Nidoking's range a little too long."

    "Keep talking Jon," Victini said telepathically to Abbee. "You haven't seen nothing yet…"

    Abbee selected her next Pokemon opting for Glaceon. Despite Nidoking normally being the faster of the pair, Sticky Web had slowed it, allowing Glaceon to strike first.

    "Hail!" Abbee ordered. Glaceon cried out as a fine mist of powdered snow erupted from its hide, and a supernatural hail began to fall from the ceiling. As it did, Glaceon's outline seemed to shimmer and lose shape temporarily, as it's Snow Cloak ability took effect.

    "Double Kick!"

    Nidoking rushed forward, descending on Glaceon and striking it with two kicks, both of which hit the ice type Pokemon hard, however not hard enough to put it down. Additionally, Nidoking had just put itself in close quarters with Glaceon, allowing it to use a heavy hitting move, without risk of missing.

    "Blizzard!"

    A freezing, spectral wind kicked up, catching the falling chunks of ice, and sending them flying towards Nidoking. The large Pokemon resisted the attack for a moment, before collapsing to its knees, unable to run, given the webbing that restricted its movement, and unable to fight anymore.

    "What was that about hanging out in attack range too long?" Abbee called out, earning a chorus of laughter from the crowd. Jon smirked at her, before sending out his next Pokemon. Abbee felt her heart rate rise as she saw the Pokemon she knew he would send out to taunt her, and even more, her Mythical partner that sat on her shoulder.

    Scizor entered the battlefield, and with no hesitation, both trainers resumed their match, with spectators cheering far more than they would for a standard practise battle.

    "Scizor, Double Team!" Jon ordered, as Scizor split into multiple spectral copies.

    From the stands Charlotte watched in confusion.

    "What the-" she muttered under her breath. Hearing the comment Cassandra looked over.

    "What's up?"

    "Scizor has Technician, like my Roserade which means weaker moves to a certain point will actually have double power, and I know for sure Bullet Punch is affected by that…" Charlotte explained. "Bullet Punch would also bypass Sticky Web, and likely knock Glaceon out in one hit. So why didn't he use that?"

    "Maybe he knows that he can beat Glaceon easily, so is making the most of this low risk opportunity?" Cassandra suggested, having learnt early on that that was one of Jon's favourite plays. Charlotte shook her head.

    "Abbee only has one Pokemon left at this point, and given the audience, Jon knows it would be Victini to have his grudge match with Scizor," Charlotte explained. "Scizor and Absol are the only Pokemon he runs a Double Team tactic with, because both of them are glass cannons, and even with a type advantage, Jon wouldn't use Absol against Victini if he had the choice. He'd likely use Latios or Blaziken, in which case Scizor would be better off using Agility or Swords Dance before Baton Passing out, not Double Team…"

    Charlotte's brow furrowed as she tried to figure out what Jon was playing at. He wasn't the sort to just use the wrong move. This was intentional, but Charlotte had never seen him use Scizor in this way against Abbee. What worried her more was that Abbee didn't seem to see anything wrong with this, being that focused on her own plan.

    "You really know Jon's tactics that well?" Cassandra asked.

    "He's been my teacher for four years. You pick up a thing or two after that long," Charlotte answered. "Dylan knows him even better…"

    Abbee watched unphased as copies of Scizor flooded the battlefield, instead grinning, before giving a single word command.

    "Roar…"

    Jon felt a sinking feeling in his stomach as he realised what Abbee had just done.

    Glaceon, despite its small frame, let out a terrifying roar, causing Scizor to retreat to Jon, forcing Jon to withdraw it for now and send out another Pokemon.

    "Abbee has used a brilliant trick, making use of the fact that we only use three Pokemon each. By beating my first Pokemon and using roar on my second, I am now forced to commit my third Pokemon now, giving Abbee the tactical advantage when it comes time for her to choose her third," Jon explained. "I'm guessing that her plan is to beat whatever Pokemon I send out now, so that Scizor can't Baton Pass out when Victini comes out to play. Very good control tactics…"

    "Damn straight!" Victini said telepathically, projecting the signal to all in the room, inciting another burst of cheering.

    "That's brilliant," Cassandra said softly, as she understood what Abbee had done, admiring her former partner's Trainer.

    "She learnt that tactic from Chris," Charlotte explained. "He used it to beat Dylan in our second year. And obviously, Jon didn't remember…"

    "Well Abbee… Victini…" Jon said, letting the Pokemon's name hang in the air. "You've made a very bold assumption. That you can beat my next Pokemon…"

    Jon threw a Pokeball forward and there was a collective gasp as the Pokemon was revealed.

    Seven meters from nose to tail, with a tough emerald green hide and piercing yellow eyes in jet black sockets, Rayquaza stared down Glaceon, who seemed almost like a child's toy in comparison. The very air went still, and the Hail stopped falling as Rayquaza's Air Lock ability took effect.

    "S**t…" Chris muttered, as he took a step forward to get a better view. He knew that Jon would fight tooth and nail the moment he knew what Abbee was trying to make happen. However Rayquaza was not what he expected.

    "Rayquaza!" Jon commanded. "Destroy the Sticky Web!"

    Rayquaza roared in confirmation, eager to battle with such a large crowd to see, and let off a Dragon Breath attack, spreading it across the ground where Ariados' web remained. The ground ignited with a quick succession of explosions, which Glaceon managed to dodge before Abbee gave her next instruction.

    "Aurora Beam!" Abbee ordered. Whilst it was not Glaceon's strongest Ice Type attack, Rayquaza's double weakness to ice made up for it, and the secondary effect of reducing Rayquaza's attack power, which would help Victini immensely.

    "Guys, we are seeing history being made right now…" Justin said quietly. "This is Jon's first public battle with Rayquaza, that isn't a life or death situation…"

    Dylan nodded in agreement as he watched the comments flood in on the live steam, in support of both sides.

    Rayquaza took the hit, roaring in anger before focusing its attention on Glaceon.

    "V-Create!"

    All watching were shocked when it wasn't Abbee that gave the order, but Jon, causing Victini to look at him in puzzlement. However, Victini's eyes widened when Rayquaza's own crown ignited into a large, flaming V, as the Legendary Pokemon dived towards Glaceon.

    "You poser!" Victini yelled out verbally, Abbee being the only one close enough to hear and understand him. "That's my move! Get your own!"

    "Victini…" Abbee said knowingly, helping Victini to see the irony of what he just said…

    Despite Glaceon having a snowflake's chance in hell of remaining standing after this attack, this worked in their favour. If Jon had actually taught Rayquaza Victini's signature move, it would have the same drawbacks. A massive cut to defensive ability and speed. Abbee wasn't the only one to realise this.

    "Either Jon has lost his mind in the theatrics, or he is up to something…" Cassandra said to Charlotte, who grinned.

    "You're really becoming one of us," Charlotte joked. "What have you noticed?"

    "V-Create costs the Pokemon that uses it its resilience and speed. Effectively, Jon could have used any other move to finish off Glaceon, but he chose one that was self destructive…" Cassandra explained, knowing the details of her former partner's signature attack.

    Charlotte considered her words and what she had seen before.

    "He is definitely planning something. Between that and the Double Team, something is up…"

    Rayquaza slammed into Glaceon, knocking the Pokemon unconscious before it even hit the ground, forcing Abbee to withdraw it, and Victini to hop down from her shoulder.

    "I never knew how much I wanted this rematch until now…" Victini called out to Rayquaza, as he rolled his head back, stretching his neck.

    "Latios isn't here to help you this time…" Rayquaza sneered.

    "Good," Victini retorted. "I don't need his help any more to beat your a**..."

    "Victini!" Abbee called out in shock at how antagonistic Victini was being, and chalking it up to Chris' influence. Rayquaza however was amused.

    "Big talk for a little Pokemon," Rayquaza answered. "Let's see if you can follow it through…"

    "You ready?" said Victini's voice in Abbee's mind.

    "Ready when you are," Abbee replied with her thoughts. "Remember, let Rayquaza come to you…"

    Knowing that Rayquaza was just as deadly from a distance, Abbee knew it would need some incentive to come in close.

    "Psychic!" Abbee ordered. Victini's eyes flashed white as a telepathic wave struck Rayquaza, causing it to feel sharp sensations of pain in its mind.

    "Dragon Breath!"

    Rayquaza heard Jon's command, before launching a sharp, direct stream of flame towards Victini. Given Victini's superior speed and Rayquaza's diminished speed, it was able to raise a telekinetic barrier to disperse the flames outwards, blocking his own vision.

    "Extreme Speed!" Jon commanded Rayquaza. Before Victini could see what was happening, the Legendary Pokemon shot forward at blistering speed, colliding with Victini. However, this was the opportunity he and Abbee had been waiting for.

    "Now Victini, Glaciate!"

    One of the perks of Abbee's job was living in the region where the mythology surrounding Victini was strongest. And when Elesa, as a surprise for Abbee, had brought in an expert from Castalia University on Unova Mythology, the pair learnt the extent of Victini's abilities. Specifically, that Victini was capable of learning the signature attacks of the three Legendary Dragons of Unova…

    Whilst all the attacks were powerful in their own right, they were best left a secret, for a situation like this.

    As Rayquaza struck Victini, the air surrounding them froze to far below freezing point, and blew back at Rayquaza with a vicious chill. Whilst Glaciate was the weakest of the five moves, it's true strength was the ability to slow down the target with every hit.

    With Rayquaza stunned by the hit, Abbee knew that Victini would be tempted to overdo it before the real fight.

    "Charge Beam!" Abbee commanded, knowing Victini was well practised in this attack from their time at Nimbasa City's Electric Type Gym. The attack itself was relatively weak, more so used to increase Victini's offensive power. However given Rayquaza's own compromised defences from V-Create, and the attacks it had already taken, Rayquaza took the electric attack, passing out from the shock, and collapsing on the ground.

    "Goddamn…" Cassandra muttered, seeing the victory that Victini had just won. She knew that Jon had made a call earlier that gave Rayquaza the disadvantage, but despite this, Victini still seemed to have plenty of energy left, and she had little doubt that in a serious one on one battle, he would beat Rayquaza even with Jon battling properly.

    There was silence for a moment before cheers erupted and Jon returned Rayquaza to its Pokeball, seeming far too content with the way this battle was progressing. Cassandra knew more than ever that he was up to something.

    The cheers continued when Jon sent out his final Pokemon. Scizor. The red Bug-Steel type materialised again, and Victini glared at it.

    "No running away this time!" Victini called out, however Scizor remained eerily silent. Without waiting for the order, Victini leapt forward, his crown igniting into a flaming V, and rocketed towards Scizor with a V-Create.

    "Protect!" Jon ordered as Scizor silently raised a Protect barrier, which took the attack. "Then Double Team!"

    In the blink of an eye, Scizor had split into multiple copies again, dispersing across the field as Victini lost track of his target.

    "Something doesn't add up," Charlotte said, growing frustrated. She could tell there was one simple thing she didn't know, which is what made none of this make sense, though couldn't figure it out. "Victini hasn't been slowed, even by that V-Create, seeing as it didn't hit. And Scizor is slower than Victini off the mark. So how did Scizor act so quickly?"

    Cassandra considered the question, as well as what Charlotte had said before, and felt her stomach sink as she realised what Jon was doing. A glance over to Dylan, to see the disappointed look on his face confirmed it.

    "He's going to kill you Jon…" Cassandra muttered, earning a look from Charlotte. "Just watch…"

    Victini attempted to telepathically lock in on Scizor, like he had on the S.S. Wishmaker, and was shocked when he couldn't find the consciousness like last time. Knowing that every moment he wasted was a moment Scizor could use to knock him out like last time, he readied another V-Create, aiming for one of the Scizors, only to hit a copy which vaporised upon impact.

    Abbee watched as Victini grew confused, and knew that despite this being Victini's battle, she needed to take control of the situation.

    "Victini!" She yelled. "Incinerate!"

    Regaining his focus, Victini roared out in anger, as a wave of flames pulsed outwards in all directions, striking copies and vaporising them.

    "Protect!"

    Jon gave the order as Scizor raised a barrier just in time to block the oncoming flames. However all the copies were gone, and Victini wasn't going to fall for the same trick twice.

    "Agility!" Jon commanded, before Abbee gave her next order.

    "Work Up!"

    Victini couldn't help but grin, knowing that when the pair had spent the last two days scheming, they had decided to employ another older tactic that had worked well for them. Work Up had no visible effect, so nobody would suspect a thing if Victini used another almost invisible move instead.

    "Slash!" Jon ordered. Scizor darted in at blinding speed to melee range with Victini, slicing it with one of its claws. Charlotte looked at Cassandra confused, as to why Jon used Slash instead of Night Slash or Brutal Swing, but Cassandra just nodded to the battlefield knowing Jon wouldn't keep this up much longer, and that this decision had confirmed her theory.

    "Flame Charge!" Abbee ordered. Victini encased himself in flames, before launching himself at Scizor, who with uncanny speed, dodged the attack, though remained within striking distance.

    "V-Create!"

    Victini's crown flared to life, as it rocketed at higher speed towards Scizor, who, unable to dodge this faster attack, responded to Jon's call to use Protect by raising a barrier. And whilst V-Create was successfully stopped, the Future Sight attack Victini had created earlier faced no resistance. Scizor was struck by a telekinetic blast from behind, and in that instant, seemed to lose form. Victini wondered for a moment if he had accidentally killed the Pokemon, before realising he now stood face to face with something he had never seen before.

    A bipedal Pokemon with flowing white fur with red streaks and tips. Sharp claws adorned its paws as it stared at Victini intently, with menacing red and yellow eyes.

    "What the hell is that?!" Charlotte yelled, unable to comprehend what she had just seen. Jon answered her question, however.

    "Zoroark! Shadow Ball!"

    Zoroark cried out as a spectral orb launched from its jaws, knocking Victini back, who was too stunned to dodge the attack.

    "Jon had Scizor use evasive moves instead of offensive ones-" Charlotte began.

    "Because it wasn't Scizor. It was Zoroark using its illusion ability to pretend to be Scizor…" Cassandra finished. "That's why Scizor seemed too fast…"

    "Focus Blast!" Abbee ordered, as Victini snapped back to attention, forwarding his rage at being tricked towards the strange Zoroark. He charged up the bright blue orb that made up the Fighting Type move, and launched it, as Zoroark descended on the Mythical Pokemon. Focus Blast, however, phased straight through Zoroark, striking the barrier on the other side of the field, as Zoroark descended on Victini.

    "Shadow Claw!" Jon ordered. Zoroark's deadly claws became engulfed in a spectral energy, as it slashed at Victini, knocking it back. Victini was sent flying in the air, and crashed to the ground, unconscious, and unsure of what just happened.

    Jon walked towards Abbee who looked between the odd Zoroark, and her unconscious partner in shock.

    "This is what I was talking about…" Jon said to her. "Keep planning like this, and Victini will get his rematch…"

    "You know that you just added that Zoroark to his list, right?" Abbee replied, realising just how long this summer was going to be…


  2. This post has been liked by:


  3. #172
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
    Senior Moderator

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Melbourne Australia
    Posts
    3,440
    It has been nearly two months since I released an episode... Dear lord.

    But, I have three weeks left of classes, so I am hoping I can get back into the rhythm of writing now that this monster is done. My goal was to try and have storylines for all main characters, but considering this episode was 27,000 words, I realised that is not viable, so moving forward, there will likely be characters who are just rammed into story lines, or may not appear in great detail at all, seeing as the cast just keeps growing. But hey, I'm actually really happy with how this turned out.

    Anyway, enjoy...

  4. #173
    Cheers and good times! Neo Emolga's Avatar
    Senior Administrator

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    17,425
    And…

    Spoiler:
    That was some SERIOUS bait and switch right there, Jon! xD



    Honestly, I didn’t expect that and I totally even forgot about Jon having access to a Zoroark. I thought for sure Abbee found a way to force Jon’s hand into giving the final matchup that Victini has been dying for years over, but wow, guess it just wasn’t meant to be. At first, it felt like the ULTIMATE CHEESE MOVE for Jon to do that, but knowing him, he’s always got aces up his sleeve and almost always comes prepared, so it’s surprising in one way, but not surprising in another. Still, Jon has totally legitimate reasons for giving Victini the big “nuh uh” no matter how far and to what extent Victini tries to make his demands via every social media site and advertising agency in existence. Still, I’m curious as to what Victini is going to try and do after this whole incident. Is he going to double-down on that revenge plot, or is he going to back away from this and derive his satisfaction by other means? I have a feeling it’s going to be a double-down and Victini’s going to make this personal and might even become a bigger scare to Jon than even how Jirachi was! Jon better watch his beer and ice cream! xD

    I also like how you’ve been developing Cassandra into being more of a strategist and sort of Charlotte’s apprentice, so to speak. Sure, she’s got lots of catching up to do, but she’s on the right path when it comes to doing it and I feel it’s a strong, solid step in the right direction for her goals.

    Also, Violet pulling Barry, her father, into the dream and giving him a very interesting and unusual proposition was a fun and unique plot mechanic that I honestly haven’t seen done before in any work of fiction, so kudos to you for that. I doubt someone would ever want to be yanked into a nightmare night after night over something trivial. I know I sure wouldn’t! xD

    I also think Chris might be way too over his head with his STN plans. It’s already ambitious enough to try and beat that many leagues, but within a strict time limit like that is going to be brutal. We’ll see how he does, but I think it’s going to be trouble and he’s definitely flying too close to the sun with those wax wings of his.

    Definitely another great chapter with plenty of new plot surprises.

  5. #174
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
    Senior Moderator

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Melbourne Australia
    Posts
    3,440
    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Emolga View Post
    And…

    Spoiler:
    That was some SERIOUS bait and switch right there, Jon! xD



    Honestly, I didn’t expect that and I totally even forgot about Jon having access to a Zoroark. I thought for sure Abbee found a way to force Jon’s hand into giving the final matchup that Victini has been dying for years over, but wow, guess it just wasn’t meant to be. At first, it felt like the ULTIMATE CHEESE MOVE for Jon to do that, but knowing him, he’s always got aces up his sleeve and almost always comes prepared, so it’s surprising in one way, but not surprising in another. Still, Jon has totally legitimate reasons for giving Victini the big “nuh uh” no matter how far and to what extent Victini tries to make his demands via every social media site and advertising agency in existence. Still, I’m curious as to what Victini is going to try and do after this whole incident. Is he going to double-down on that revenge plot, or is he going to back away from this and derive his satisfaction by other means? I have a feeling it’s going to be a double-down and Victini’s going to make this personal and might even become a bigger scare to Jon than even how Jirachi was! Jon better watch his beer and ice cream! xD

    I also like how you’ve been developing Cassandra into being more of a strategist and sort of Charlotte’s apprentice, so to speak. Sure, she’s got lots of catching up to do, but she’s on the right path when it comes to doing it and I feel it’s a strong, solid step in the right direction for her goals.

    Also, Violet pulling Barry, her father, into the dream and giving him a very interesting and unusual proposition was a fun and unique plot mechanic that I honestly haven’t seen done before in any work of fiction, so kudos to you for that. I doubt someone would ever want to be yanked into a nightmare night after night over something trivial. I know I sure wouldn’t! xD

    I also think Chris might be way too over his head with his STN plans. It’s already ambitious enough to try and beat that many leagues, but within a strict time limit like that is going to be brutal. We’ll see how he does, but I think it’s going to be trouble and he’s definitely flying too close to the sun with those wax wings of his.

    Definitely another great chapter with plenty of new plot surprises.

    Spoiler:

    Haha Victini will be more determined than ever, and Jon is all for it, seeing the level of strategizing he and Abbee went through to get that close. Biggest difficulty will be me figuring out a way for Victini to get the proper match, seeing as Jon now has Zoroark to make things difficult, and won't fall for the same tricks twice.

    Yeah, it was fun having Cassandra follow Charlotte this episode. And honestly, I'm looking forward to seeing what she learns from everyone there, especially Chris. And speaking of Chris; ye of little faith! Steven himself told Cassandra that in their second year, Chris and Charlotte were both Championship level trainers, with the other interns being at Gym Leader level. This is before Lugia was in the picture XD Honestly, Chris will not struggle to beat the Gym Leaders (except maybe Abbee, having Victini in her corner and Chris posing enough of a challenge to justify using him, and Candice, being the eighth gym badge of her region, being ice type and having Regice). His biggest challenge will be the Elite Four, taking on five trainers with a single team. However, he has also spent six months training under the producer of Elite Four killers, Camilla Blakely at the College of the North Wind. Chris will be challenged for sure, and have to work his a** off. But I think you might be underestimating him (which is dangerous to do to any of the interns XD)

    Glad you're enjoying it though! Keen to get into the thick of it.

  6. This post has been liked by:


  7. #175
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
    Senior Moderator

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Melbourne Australia
    Posts
    3,440
    Season 5 Episode 3: Familiarity
    Spoiler:

    “So this morning’s seminar is on genetics and selective breeding,” Jon explained to Dylan and Abbee. “Specifically, while we will explain the benefits, we will make it clear that it is not without negatives, and to only contribute to the system ethically. Which is also a good way to plug what you’re going to be doing after summer is over.”

    It was the Saturday of the third week of the summer program, with Jon delivering a seminar, with Dylan and Abbee there to assist. Their role would be to coordinate some of the Academy’s Pokemon, specifically, some that Dylan had bred to be near identical, with only their temperaments being different, in order to show the difference that makes on a Pokemon’s battling ability. The trio sat in the lounge of Jon and Alyssa’s cottage, with Amelia sitting on the floor, her back resting against the couch entranced by Yuki, Alyssa’s Vulpix, who chewed on a toy on the floor on the other side of the room. Despite Alyssa having left for Rustboro that morning, she had left the Pokemon, knowing that it would amuse the four year old while she was gone.

    “And you don’t think we may risk setting them up to treat these things as the be-all and end-all?” Dylan asked, having strong views of the current state of the breeding industry, and the regulations that were supposed to keep it ethical. This was part of the reason why he wanted to become successful as a breeder. To change the public view of what ethical Pokemon breeding was. However, he felt his stomach turn when Jon referenced these plans, still not feeling comfortable leaving Jon in this state.

    “I’ll be making it clear that of all my Pokemon, only Blaziken was bred for competitive use, however even then it is far from genetically perfect, and that the trainer is more important than the breeder,” Jon answered. “Heck, I think the only bred Pokemon amongst the five of you is Chris’ Ninetales, which even then, was bred to be a pet like its mother…”

    Jon looked over at Yuki, and Abbee couldn’t shake the very odd feeling she felt at the thought of the Vulpix that Alyssa had chosen not to evolve, being the mother of Chris’ Ninetales. At first glance, one would guess the opposite.

    “Either way, I think we’ll get the point across…”

    Jon’s words trailed off, and Dylan felt an uncomfortable sensation as he looked back at Jon, having been looking at Yuki, who was now playing with Amelia, the young girl having approached it.

    Jon’s eyes seemed to glaze over, as his muscles went limp.

    “Abbee,” Dylan said quietly, getting his girlfriend’s attention, before nodding towards Amelia, as Jon quietly began to convulse.

    Abbee, who had also been looking at Amelia and Yuki, heard the urgency in Dylan’s tone. She looked at Jon, her heart skipping a beat as she realised what was going on, before realising what Dylan was saying.

    “Hey, Lili!” Abbee said, as she stood up, making sure to stand in a position that obstructed Amelia’s view of Jon, as the seizure took control of his body. She attempted to sound enthusiastic and happy, despite being terrified herself. “Let’s go have some ice-cream!”

    The only thing that Abbee knew Amelia was passionate about was Pokemon, and she had one in the room to keep her occupied. However, she hoped, like Victini, the sweet treat was enough to incentivise the young girl, and was thankful when she stood up, without seeming to notice Jon, and ran like all young children seemed to, towards the kitchen behind her, as Abbee followed, closing the door, hoping that Jon and Alyssa kept some in the house.

    As soon as the door shut, Dylan leapt to his feet, as Jon began to convulse violently, roughly grabbing him by the shoulders, and laying him down on the couch, placing him on his side so he wouldn’t choke on his tongue, or, if he were unfortunate enough to vomit during this episode, choke on that.

    At this point, Dylan knew there was nothing more he could do. Sadly, Jon would continue to convulse for a minute or two, until the episode ended, and he returned to his senses. Unfortunately, the rest of the day would be a sickly, uncomfortable mess for him.

    “Hey, Lili, come back here!” Dylan heard Abbee call out, as Amelia had gone to see if her dad had wanted any ice-cream. “This is girl’s only ice-cream! More for us!”

    Whilst Dylan considered attempting to pick up Jon, knowing he could carry him to another room if he were remaining still, he also knew that he risked dropping Jon, considering he was convulsing, Jon choking on his tongue if he didn’t keep him relatively on his side, or risked being hurt himself by a stray arm. Finally, after a minute, the movement slowed down, until Jon was still, groaning quietly. When he realised what had happened, and started to remember fragments of the conversation before the attack, he spoke quietly.

    “Did Lili see?”

    Dylan shook his head.

    “We noticed it before she did, so Abbee took her into the kitchen,” Dylan said quietly. “Promised her ice-cream…”

    Jon breathed a pained sigh of relief, though midway through, he felt a sharp pain dig into his head, which was sadly all too familiar to him by this point.

    “Can you go get me my meds,” Jon said weakly. “And a bucket…”

    Dylan considered the request, but knowing that it may worry Amelia, he instead placed an arm under Jon’s armpit, and lifted him to his feet. The pair quietly walked towards Jon and Alyssa’s room, Dylan unable to make eye-contact with Jon. They had just entered the room when Jon broke from Dylan’s aid, rushing for the ensuite. Specifically, the toilet, which he arrived at just in time before vomiting profusely. Dylan, wishing he were desensitised by this point, went to the bathroom cabinet, grabbing the familiar bottles of aspirin and anti-nausea medications, preparing them with the cup of water that Jon used when brushing his teeth. He knew that Jon would need to finish vomiting before he could keep them down.

    It had been a little over a week since Jon’s last seizure, and about the same time since the one before. He walked into the bedroom to give Jon some privacy, and waited as minutes passed, hating the feeling of helplessness he felt. Finally, the sound of vomiting stopped, and Dylan heard Jon weakly calling out to him. He entered the bathroom, not saying a word, and struggling to make eye contact. From the floor by the toilet where he sat, looking pale and deathly, Jon held out a Pokeball.

    “Let Latios out, and tell him what happened. He can keep an eye on Lili. Probably safer that way anyway…” Jon said, the last sentence especially bitter. “When Latios has Lili entertained, get Abbee to come see me. I want you to round up the other workers at the lodge, and I’ll give Abbee my instructions…”

    Reluctantly, Dylan took Latios’ Pokeball, before leaving Jon’s room, closing the door behind him. He stood still for a moment in the hallway, his hands shaking, as he struggled to keep a straight face. His right hand held the Pokeball, whilst his left dug its fingers into his palms, which began to bleed from the nails cutting through. He took a deep breath, before letting Latios out of the Pokeball.

    When Latios got his bearings and realised where he was, he looked at Dylan with a hint of confusion for a moment, before realising why.

    ”Another one?” Latios asked Dylan, who nodded somberly in response.

    “He’s in his room, and will probably try and get some sleep. He just wants to give us instructions,” Dylan said, trying not to sound too upset by what he had seen. “He wants you to look after Lili…”

    Latios nodded in understanding, before following Dylan down the hall towards the lounge where they had been sitting. In the kitchen behind the closed door, he heard Abbee and Amelia’s voices as Abbee indulged the young girl’s chatter. He opened the door, looking at Amelia directly.

    “Lili, Dad’s feeling a little sick, so Latios is going to keep an eye on you,” Dylan said, trying not to sound too worried, and risk worrying her. “Abbee will put on Sylveon, and you can watch TV with him…”

    “Okay!” Amelia said, seeming unphased by the news, which both relieved and concerned Dylan. Relieved that she didn’t seem traumatised by what just happened, but concerned that she may be desensitised to Jon being as unwell as he was, given the frequency of his seizures.

    As Amelia went past Dylan, carefully carrying the bowl piled high with ice-cream, Abbee gave Dylan a concerned look, which he responded with a blank stare.

    “He asked me to round up the others at the lodge, and for you to see him,” Dylan said flatly. “He’ll give instructions, and then you can let us know at the lodge…”

    Abbee nodded, though her look of concern wasn’t just for Jon.

    “Dylan, are you okay?”

    Dylan remained silent for a minute, before answering quietly.

    “Does it matter?” he responded bitterly. “Doesn’t change anything…”

    Before Abbee could try and talk further, he made his way to the back door, walking out, trying to guess where everyone would be on the property, and hoping that he wouldn’t run into Chris on his own. Abbee watched as he left, before turning around to look through the doorway to the lounge, where Amelia sat next to Latios on the couch, whose wingspan was almost double the width of it. As soon as Abbee got Super Sylveon Smile Squad on the TV, Amelia was already entranced by the colourful scene, everyone thankful her favourite show was available to stream. She walked past the pair, making her way to Jon and Alyssa’s room, having never been in there herself. She knocked on the door quietly, before hearing a weak reply, telling her to come in.

    She was immediately met by the smell of vomit, and cautiously walked through the room towards the ensuite on her right, where Jon remained. He had shuffled himself so that his back rested against the cabinet under the sink, where he kept his eyes closed, hoping that blocking the light would dull the headache he felt.

    “Jon…” Abbee said. “I’ll do whatever I can, but surely you’re better off having me round up the others and Dylan relaying instructions…”

    “He can’t look after himself,” Jon replied, chuckling sardonically. “If I had him here, he wouldn’t follow orders…”

    Jon sighed, before weakly attempting to stand up. Abbee made her way towards him to help him to his feet, as the pair walked back into the master bedroom.

    “I’ve texted Steven and he is on his way to take care of the seminar,” Jon explained. “I want Chris and Charlotte to assist him in whatever way he needs. And because we’re going to be short staffed this afternoon, tell Cassandra and Willow that they’ll need to run some sort of activity to keep the campers occupied…”

    Abbee nodded, as Jon continued.

    “Justin and Jarena are on night duty,” Jon explained, Abbee well aware that meant staying awake, potentially well after midnight, to make sure that at best, campers weren’t keeping cabin mates awake, and at worst, weren’t attempting to sneak out. “Latios can help them, but if Latios isn’t here, ask Violet if she can stay in the spare room here tonight, since I can’t be left alone with Lili, in case this happens again…”

    Abbee looked at Jon confused, having not heard her or Dylan’s name.

    “What about Dylan and I?”

    “Your job is to make sure Dylan takes today off,” Jon laughed weakly. “He already works more than enough when things are great, and when they aren’t he works even more. He hasn’t had a day off since before campers arrived. So take him into town, and keep his mind off things here…”

    “That’s easier said than done,” Abbee lamented. Jon nodded.

    “Which is why you’re the best person to do it…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *********

    The atmosphere was tense in the crowded lounge of the intern’s lodge. All five of the original students were there, as well the Diamond Ladies, Willow and Steven. The couches were at capacity, with a few people standing, and others sitting on chairs taken from the dining room.

    “You’re all aware by now Jon had a seizure this morning,” Abbee stated, as there was a nod of solemn understanding. “Latios is looking after Lili while he tries to get some sleep and recover. While he sent Dylan down to find all of you, he gave me your marching orders…”

    “Steven, can you improvise a seminar for this morning?” Abbee asked, as the Hoenn Champion nodded, having gotten Jon’s message and made his way over.

    “I’ll talk about held items. We don’t cover them here because they aren’t used in competitive battling, but it is an easy topic to improvise, and I’m sure between all of us, we can scrounge some items up,” Steven replied as Abbee nodded. She looked towards Charlotte and Chris, who sat on one of the couches.

    “Jon has said you two are to help Steven however you can,” Abbee explained, as the pair nodded, before she looked to Cassandra, and then Willow. “Cass, Willow, Jon wants you to run some campsite activity this afternoon, to try and keep the campers occupied while we are short staffed. Think you can do that?”

    Cassandra considered the summer camps she attended as a kid, remembering one of the games.

    “I think we can sort something out…”

    Next, Abbee turned to Jarena who sat with Violet on a couch, and Justin who stood behind them.

    “Jarena and Justin are on night duty, and Latios will help you guys,” Abbee explained, as both trainers nodded in understanding. “Violet, since Latios will be helping Justin and Jarena, and Jon doesn’t want to risk having another attack while he is alone with Lili, he wants you to stay in the spare room in the house tonight.”

    “Understood,” Violet replied, knowing that whilst her job, if all went well, would likely be boring, she also understood how much it meant to Jon. Even amongst their earliest meetings, he knew how much Jon cared about Alyssa, and honestly didn’t think he would care as much about another human being, until the Diamond Ladies returned four years later, where they met Amelia. Even if it meant admitting his own weakness, he wanted Amelia to be safe, and having another person in the house would guarantee that.

    Abbee looked over at Dylan, who gave her a puzzled look.

    “What does he want me to do?”

    “He wants you to get off site, and take a day off,” Abbee said, as Dylan’s brow furrowed.

    “I’m not going to relax while everyone else is picking up the slack!” Dylan answered, his tone more agitated than most had ever heard.

    “Jon said you haven’t had a day off since the campers arrived, and knows you’ve been working the hardest out of all of us,” Abbee said. “Even today, you kept the situation under control, and made sure Lili didn’t notice. He wants you to take a break…”

    “I’m not leaving everyone else to cover running this place, while I have a break!” Dylan protested.

    “Well Jon told me my job today was to make sure you take a break,” Abbee retorted, before looking at those present. “Does anybody object to Jon giving Dylan the day off?”

    The others all shook their heads, expressing their agreement, with the exception of Chris who remained silent, not wanting to get on Dylan’s bad side.

    “Just take the break,” Abbee said, her voice softening a little. “So that Jon can rest easy knowing we’re doing as we’re told…”

    Dylan looked between his girlfriend, and those present who had sided with her, before relenting.

    “Fine, but only this once…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *********

    The seminar was due to start in an hour, as Chris and Charlotte sat in the foyer of the stadium, a table in front of them, containing various battle items. Whilst Mega Stones would be valuable for a demonstration, neither had made public the fact they had keystones, and despite the fact that Abbee, Dylan and Jon had made it public that they had them in Alola, they weren’t sure that it was common knowledge about them yet.

    “Having any ideas?” Chris asked, as he looked through the various held items on the table, trying to figure out which would suit his Pokemon best.

    “One or two,” Charlotte commented as she was making the same considerations. “But I won’t tell you…”

    The pair were both attempting to remain light hearted, almost to pretend that the events of that morning didn’t happen. That Jon wasn’t currently trying to sleep off the debilitating after effects of his seizure.

    “So why do you have so many items?” Charlotte asked. “And why have I never seen them before?”

    “People challenging the Elite Four are allowed held items,” Chris explained. “Ruling is that as long as the Pokemon is in possession of it at the start of the challenge, doesn’t switch it mid challenge, and can use it unassisted, they can use it. The only exception is Mega Stones. I am allowed to assist with using one.”

    Charlotte grimaced at the idea.

    “Doesn’t that mean whoever has the most money available to them has the best chances?”

    Chris shook his head.

    “It’s not like I can go and buy a hundred revives and keep my Pokemon fighting on chemicals alone,” Chris explained. “That would be making it pay-to-win.”

    “Well not everybody can afford a Key Stone and Mega Stone,” Charlotte noted, before nodding to the pile of items on the table. “Or half these items.”

    “Technically they can,” Chris answered. “Don’t worry, I thought the same thing until Camilla explained the fairness of it…”

    Charlotte shot Chris a puzzled glance, as he continued.

    “Think about it. For somebody to take on the Elite Four, they need to have beaten every Gym in the region, right?” Chris explained, as Charlotte nodded. “And when they beat the Gym Leader, what do they get?”

    “A badge.”

    “And?”

    “A T.M?” Charlotte asked, as Chris rolled his eyes.

    “That too. And…”

    Charlotte looked at him blankly. She had never bothered taking on the Gyms in her home of Sinnoh. Considering how many people took on the challenge, and how few actually beat the Elite Four, she viewed it as the regional government attempting to put training wheels on all new trainers, when really, she wanted to learn to handle Pokemon on her own.

    “Money!” Chris said in exasperation.

    “Really?” Charlotte asked, shocked at the revelation. “How much?”

    “For a first Gym in the region, about $50. Can get as high as $175 for the final gym,” Chris explained. “Regardless, a trainer who makes it to the Elite Four, in Sinnoh at least, has earnt just shy of a thousand dollars from wins against Gym Leaders…”

    “I guess, but what about the cost of living?” Charlotte asked. “And if someone begins with more money, they still have an advantage…”

    “Why do you think the League gives trainers a set number of free stays in Pokemon Centres?” Chris countered. “And at the end of the day, any trainer goes into the League with a maximum of six Pokemon, which means that they can only use six items. That Choice Scarf was pretty standard at about $120. I could buy one for each of my Pokemon, and not even have used three quarters of the money I won before then.”

    “Mega Stones are a bit more expensive than that though,” Charlotte said, and Chris nodded his head.

    “Agreed. About $400 for a Mega Stone, and another $100 for a Key Stone,” Chris answered. “But the flip side is that the Pokemon can only hold one item, so even if I had all the money in the world and could afford to buy six Mega Stones, only one can be used per battle, so it’d be wasting the item slot on the Pokemon holding them by doing that…”

    “I guess you’re right,” Charlotte admitted, having no more objections she could offer. Fact was that given the rules for the Elite Four, as well as limits of battle items, there was a clear ceiling in the advantage money could buy, which almost all challengers would be able to get close to.

    As the pair continued to look through the items, a mixture of them owned by Chris, Steven and Jon, Charlotte couldn’t help sneaking glances at Chris, watching him intently pick out an item, before considering which of his Pokemon could work well with it. Little did she know that for every other situation, he had a planned loadout, only changing things up now because he knew of her freakishly accurate ability to predict her opponent’s moves, and wanted to come up with something so new and unheard of that it would catch her by surprise. As they worked, Chris happened to glance up, as an idea struck him, and spotted her staring for a little too long in her peripheral vision.

    “Everything alright?” Chris asked casually, before seeming to have another idea, and placing down the Assault Vest he had been holding.

    “Yeah,” Charlotte answered, before reconsidering. She was tempted to bring up the fact that Jon’s instructions only had them on the clock for the day, and that they’d be free after the seminar. She wanted to raise the idea of the pair of them going into Mossdeep City and finding somewhere unusual to get dinner. And for a moment, she was about to do it, before Chris looked up, and looked towards her. Specifically over her shoulder, seeming to respond to a sound coming from outside.

    Charlotte over her shoulder, out the double doors which had been left open to let the cool breeze through, and noticed what Chris had heard and seen. Dylan’s car driving past, as he made his way into town, following Jon’s orders. From where they sat in the foyer of the stadium, they could see the passenger side of the car, where Abbee was visible in the passenger seat, following her own orders from Jon to make sure Dylan took some time to get his mind off things at the Academy.

    In the silence that followed as the car left the property, Charlotte heard an almost inaudible sigh from Chris, as he began rummaging through the items again, seeming far more focused than normal, which was the biggest sign that he was faking it.

    Charlotte forced herself not to sigh as well, seeing Chris’ reaction to Abbee being with Dylan. She and Chris had started off as less than friendly rivals, eventually growing to respect each other during their first summer at the Academy, and embracing the way they forced each other to grow stronger, shocking themselves at the fact that they had somehow become friends. Charlotte figured it was around the same time that her, Chris and Justin got arrested, for getting into a fight that Chris started when some guys in town were harassing her. Sometime before the start of their second summer though, Charlotte had found herself acting strangely around him. To quote Abbee, she was always in striking range every time he said something dumb, which at the time, was quite often. She had denied seeing Chris as any more than a friend, to both Abbee and herself, until it became obvious that feelings were brewing between Abbee and Chris.

    Knowing that nothing good would come from how she found herself thinking of Chris, she ignored it, for the sake of her friendship with both himself and Abbee, which ironically became easier after Abbee had broken up with him, two summers before. Chris, in his dejection at losing Abbee, became volatile and argumentative, lashing out at Jon, Dylan and Abbee, and honestly, making it easy for Charlotte to force down the feelings that she felt.

    It wasn’t until last summer that Charlotte had begun to see something different. At first she thought it was the old Chris, seeing how much Chris was acting like his old self during their grand final match in Goldenrod City, and watching as the year of animosity Chris felt towards Jon, and even Abbee and Dylan seemed to dissolve as he realised just how much danger they were in, battling Agatha during the Spiritwater Crisis.

    Really though, it was the confrontation in the Johto Medium Security Prison that caused Charlotte to realise that Chris wasn’t simply his old self. Chris and Lance in the visiting room had been attacked by a group of Agatha’s followers, intent on taking Chris as a hostage to coerce Jon, and killing Lance in order to make a statement, given his reputation for attacking witches, and had been saved by Justin and Charlotte arriving with Chris’ Pokeball belt, unaware that one of the Pokemon was Lance’s own Dragonite. Despite the fact that the three of them were exceptional trainers to say the least, the small space made it difficult to fight off their attackers, resulting in Justin being knocked out and concussed, and Charlotte receiving a flesh wound from a spectral blade conjured by Shadowcraft. To Charlotte’s disgust, the only reason they survived, was that in the scuffle, Lance managed to get a hold of the Pokeball on Chris’ belt, containing his Dragonite, and used it in a surprise attack to kill their final attacker and dispose of their Pokemon. It was at that moment that Chris surprised her.

    When it became clear that Lance was going to escape, despite her own injury, she was willing to fight Lance, and try to prevent him from leaving. And she figured had she not been injured, she would have succeeded. Between her six championship level Pokemon, and Lance only having the one, it would have been an easy win. But Chris refused, instead choosing to let Lance go, knowing that Justin needed medical attention, as he lay unconscious on the ground, as did Charlotte, who was in no state to fight.

    What had surprised her the most though, was Chris choosing his own path. She had known that Chris struggled with living in Lance’s shadow, and had escaped that by placing himself in Jon’s. For the first time however, she saw Chris making his own decision, not affected by either his cousin or mentor.

    Chris was different. He was more like the person he was before he dated Abbee, than he was like the person he was after they broke up. But there was something else Charlotte could see. A sense of self, independent of his previous mentors, and having broken free their shadows, a drive to become a legend in his own right.

    Since then, the feelings she had ignored were bubbling to the surface, regardless of what she tried to do. And honestly, she was sick of ignoring them. She had been this close to actually doing something with them, until seeing what she had, which just confirmed what she already knew.

    Chris still had feelings for Abbee. Even though it had been nearly two years, she could see it still hurt him to see Abbee with Dylan. The key difference being that he now knew better than to be angry or upset like he was back then, and instead, just forced himself to forget. And Charlotte knew that as long as that was the case, as long as Chris couldn’t just be himself around Abbee, she didn’t stand a chance…

    “Are you two ready?” Steven asked, as he entered from the stadium. “Given the short notice, I’m just going to let the pair of you battle first, and then go through the replay with the students, explaining the use of the items.”

    Charlotte shook herself out of her thoughts, as Chris answered.

    “Just about,” Chris explained. “I just need a minute to give my Pokemon their items.”

    “Same,” Charlotte said, as she looked at the clock. She had fifteen minutes before the seminar. Steven nodded.

    “Knock ‘em dead,” Steven said to the pair, before making his way back into the stadium.

    Half an hour later, Chris and Charlotte stood opposite each other, as the last of the students finally found their seats, and Steven finished his introduction to the content of the lecture. Finally, he called for them to ready their first Pokeball. Once they had, he said the magic word.

    ”Begin!”

    Both trainers sent out their first Pokemon, and both were a little concerned when they saw what the other had sent out.

    Chris had opted to send out Lugia as his first Pokemon, which worried Charlotte, seeing as Deoxys wasn’t going to be her’s. However, Luxray held a significant type advantage against Lugia, which had Chris worried.

    “Psychic!” Chris ordered, knowing that attacking from a distance was the best way to handle Luxray. The powerful electric type’s attacks were less accurate the further they had to travel, so Chris figured his safest bet was to not let Luxray get close.

    As Lugia roared, a telekinetic blast struck Luxray, staggering it for a second, as the Mind Plate that was tied around Lugia’s neck amplified the power of its Psychic Type attacks. However, Chris had not accounted for something in his assessment of the matchup. Strapped to Luxray’s head were a pair of goggles, which Chris couldn’t identify from the distance he stood away.

    The Zoom Lens that Luxray wore only would take effect if Luxray acted in response to Lugia, and when Charlotte ordered a Thunder attack, the normal inaccuracy of it was all but negated as an intense bolt of lightning was launched from Luxray’s hide, rocketing towards Lugia.

    Despite Lugia’s Multiscale ability dampening the first hit, Chris could see that one or two more of those attacks would likely end Lugia’s time in the battle, Legendary or not. He considered his options, before making a decision.

    “Psycho Boost!”

    Chris had chosen the move for multiple reasons. The first, being it was the only Psychic Type attack that Lugia knew stronger than it’s Psychic attack, and the second being that the tradeoff of reducing Lugia’s offensive power for special attacks would not be too noticed, as now, Chris had no reason to keep Lugia at a distance, seeing as Charlotte had made it clear that Luxray was just as happy with that arrangement. The third reason was that he hoped that Charlotte seeing Lugia use Deoxys’ signature move might rattle her enough to throw her off her game.

    Lugia roared as a sinister purple orb of psychic energy materialised in front of it, growing to the size of a large yoga ball, and launching at Luxray. Luxray didn’t attempt to dodge, instead, readying a Thunder attack at Charlotte’s word. The two attacks phased through one-another, hitting their targets directly.

    Lugia, who had been keeping itself afloat with large wing beats, slowly descended to the ground, still conscious and upright, but not in a position to keep flying. Luxray didn’t look much better. Both trainers however had to make a calculation. Chris knew that whilst Lugia was naturally quicker, and could use Recover before Charlotte could have Luxray land an attack, he also knew that if Luxray used a move like Quick Attack, Lugia would go down before it could recover.

    “Protect!” Chris ordered. Charlotte however, didn’t order an attack, instead withdrawing Luxray. Chris swore under his breath at the wasted opportunity, as Charlotte sent out her second Pokemon. Deoxys…

    Deoxys emerged from the Pokeball, before shifting into its deadly attack form, which Chris knew was far faster than Lugia, although had little in the way of defensive capabilities. Despite this, Chris knew he had the disadvantage, especially being unable to use Protect reliably so soon.

    “Recover!” Chris commanded, as Charlotte remained silent, using Deoxys telepathy to give orders. Deoxys teleported, and for a second, flickered into existence in front of Lugia, before disappearing again. Chris looked confused at the Pokemon, as Lugia took the opportunity to recover its energy. However, as Lugia finished the attack, he noticed something around Deoxys neck. The pink Mind Plate that Lugia had been wearing. He looked at Lugia, who now seemed far more ready for battle, and was horrified to see tied around Lugia’s large neck, a blue scarf.

    Before Chris could give another command, Lugia used Recover again, forced by the Choice Scarf that Deoxys had used Switcheroo to give it, increasing Lugia’s speed dramatically, but forcing it to use the same move again and again.

    “Dark Pulse!” Charlotte ordered, as Deoxys generated in front of the crystalline organ embedded in its chest, a flickering black light, which exploded into a devastating beam, striking Lugia directly and undoing the effect of the Recover move it had just used.

    Knowing he had no choice, Chris withdrew Lugia, knowing that he only had one other Pokemon that could put Deoxys on the ropes.

    “Thunderbolt!” Charlotte commanded as Chris sent out his next Pokemon. Hydreigon, which had once been the Deino Chris had captured during their second summer, materialised, before being struck with the electric attack. However as the light cleared, Charlotte saw the item that Chris had given Hydreigon. A set of goggles over its larger main head. She remembered when they looked through items there were only two three sets of goggles. The Zoom Lens she had given Luxray, a Scope Lens that were a different colour to what Hydreigon wore, and a set of Choice Specs…

    “Dark Pulse!” Chris ordered.

    “Endure through it!” Charlotte commanded. “Get close!”

    Charlotte knew that whilst Protect would alleviate the damage, Deoxys needed to be close to Hydreigon in order to land the only move it knew which could end this quickly, and by the time Protect had blocked it, Deoxys would then be struggling to avoid the second Dark Pulse that would follow the first before it could land the attack.

    Deoxys launched forward, blasting through the Dark Pulse that would have otherwise decimated it if not for the Endure, getting into melee range with only the bare minimum of its energy left.

    “Now Superpower!”

    Deoxys with blinding speed, began a brutal assault of strikes from its tentacle-like appendages, striking Hydreigon in rapid succession, until both Pokemon passed out from the ordeal.

    Both trainers returned their Pokemon to their Pokeballs before sending out their next Pokemon. In a matchup that had been performed many times before, Garchomp, wearing the Spoke Lens, faced Roserade, who wore a Rocky Helmet, as both trainers called their opening moves.

    “Dragon Rush!” Chris commanded, causing Garchomp to become encased in a draconic aura, and begin bearing down on Roserade.

    “Grassy Terrain!”

    Chris had no reservations about Grassy Terrain. He had seen this trick more times than he could remember, Roserade having mastered the art of mixing it with a Leech Seed in their second summer, and had known what was coming. He knew that the battle was going to be decided by this match-up, and unlike other matches, he knew that brute force would be his best bet. Put simply, Roserade would not give him enough time to come up with a plan that relied on anything less.

    Garchomp struck Roserade, as the hidden Leech Seeds exploded into the air, ensnaring Garchomp. Chris had hoped that the Scope Lens Garchomp wore would have taken effect, landing a critical hit, however had no such luck. Meanwhile, Garchomp took damage from Roserade’s rocky helmet, before Leech Seed drained some of its energy, restoring Roserade, and the Grassy Terrain added to that effect.

    “Bulldoze!” Chris ordered.

    “Protect!” Charlotte countered.

    Garchomp rushed forward, causing spikes of earth to rupture from underneath the Grassy Terrain, however the attack was blocked, before Grassy Terrain and Leech Seed took effect again, healing Roserade again, and further reducing Garchomp’s strength. Chris however had planned this. He knew Bulldoze wasn’t going to hit, instead only using it to get Garchomp closer to Roserade without taking any attack damage.

    “Stomping Tantrum!” Chris ordered.

    “Mega Drain!”

    Empowered by the fact that Garchomp’s previous move had failed, Garchomp unleashed its attack on Roserade, who tried to buy time by hitting Garchomp with Mega Drain at the same time. Whilst Roserade’s energy was being depleted by the ferocious attack, at the same time, it was also having its energy restored. However, by the time the attack had finished, both Pokemon collapsed, as Chris sighed.

    “Still drawing?” Chris called out, as both trainers sent out their final Pokemon, which had happened to be their first. Lugia and Luxray.

    Knowing Lugia held the advantage, now with the majority of its health restored from the forced Recovers, whilst Luxray was still on its last legs, Charlotte opted to play defensively.

    “Protect-” she began, before realising the match was over, as she heard Chris’ order.

    “Trick!”

    Despite having the same effect as the Switcheroo she’d had Deoxys use earlier, the speed at which the move occurred was different. She had chosen Switcheroo because whilst the actual switching of the items itself was slower than trick, Deoxys would have been able to act to make the switch quicker. Meanwhile, the opposite was true of Trick, and given Lugia’s far higher speed than Luxray’s, Lugia had teleported the two items into eachothers place before Luxray had registered Charlotte’s orders and acted. The Protect barrier was raised to nothing, and Charlotte knew that whilst Luxray would be quicker than Lugia now, it would only use Protect. And unlike Chris earlier, she had no other Pokemon to switch in.

    “I concede!” Charlotte called out, as Chris cheered with excitement, having not beaten Charlotte for a long time, as the crowd watching roared. The pair met in the middle of the arena, where Chris could not wipe the grin from his face.

    “You know I probably would have lost if you hadn’t shown me that trick,” Chris offered, as Charlotte sighed.

    “I should have accounted for that, and not left Lugia unchecked” Charlotte lamented. “I got ahead of myself having Deoxys attack before I knew what you were sending out. If I hadn’t, Deoxys could have beat Hydreigon, taken out Garchomp with an Ice Beam, then finished off Lugia…”

    Chris knew Charlotte wasn’t saying this to invalidate his victory, but more so to highlight her own mistake. And he knew she was right…

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *********

    It was nearing 1pm, as the summer heat bore down on Dylan’s car. It was reversed into a carpark, with the tailgate down, allowing Abbee, Dylan, and Victini, their permanent third wheel, to sit, watching the waves crash in. The hard-lid that normally secured the tub was raised, held up by the gas struts, blocking the sun, allowing the pair to sit in the shade as they spoke quietly. They had parked the car a few hours earlier, getting lunch at a cafe, before walking to a nearby ice-cream shop, where both trainers had bought themselves a cone, and Victini a tub, before making their way back to the car. The conversation had been quiet, with Dylan acting almost as reserved as he had been during their first summer.

    “So why here?”

    Abbee’s question was out of the blue enough to pull Dylan from his thoughts. Her tone wasn’t convicting or accusatory. The thing that surprised Dylan the most was how casual it was, given what they were getting away from back home.

    “Why here?” Dylan asked, unsure of what Abbee was asking.

    “I didn’t tell you to come here. You stopped the car here, and we figured out lunch from there,” Abbee explained. “And last summer, when I decided that I didn’t want to leave here without talking to you, I found you here…”

    Dylan remained silent, as Abbee continued to probe.

    “Is this where you go when you have something on your mind?”

    Dylan looked out at the waves that crashed onto the beach. He could see outlines of various Water Type Pokemon in the water, narrowly avoiding surfers who rode the incoming waves. Most notable was a pod of Wailmer.

    “I guess I do,” Dylan said quietly, having never considered it before. “Before last summer, I hadn’t been down here in years…”

    Abbee nodded, eating a little more of her strawberry cheese-cake flavoured ice-cream, before asking her original question.

    “So why here?”

    Dylan stiffened for a moment, before Abbee rested against him, placing her head on his shoulder. He relaxed a little, before answering.

    “Mum left when I was twelve, and things at Bill’s just went to s**t,” Dylan said, making sure not to refer to his former stepdad’s house as home. “He was fine at first, but he started drinking more, and becoming more and more bitter. Within six months, all it took was some stupid insignificant thing for him to start screaming at me, and a year before he started hitting me…”

    Dylan looked out to the ferry, noting that it wasn’t the same one that he used to watch as a kid, and realised that this habit of his started nearly a decade ago.

    “I was almost thirteen when I started working at the Pokefood store, but because they couldn’t legally hire me as permanent staff, I’d just do odd jobs. Mostly delivering catalogues, and Charlie, the guy who owned it, knew I wanted more work, so he recommended me to a few people he knew. One of them wasn’t far from here, so I used to eat my lunch here when I worked for him,” Dylan explained. “And as things got worse at home, and I just wanted to not be there, I found myself coming here…”

    The ferry blew its loud air horn, signalling nearby boats to clear away as it was about to depart.

    “I used to imagine being old enough, and having enough money aside to be one of those people,” Dylan said, nodding towards the ferry. “Get on it, get to Lilycove, and jump on the first plane that would take me far away from here. Back then, the idea of staying here a second longer than I had to was my worst nightmare. Hell, I worked my a** off all year to pay for summer camps, just to get away…”

    “So why did you come to the Academy?” Abbee asked. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you did…”

    “It was my final year of school, and my boss knew that if I worked as many shifts as I had in the past few years, I wouldn’t be studying for my finals. He cut my shifts in the months before my exams,” Dylan answered, laughing lightly to himself. “I’d put down a deposit before Christmas as a last resort, in case I couldn’t get to one off site. And the shifts I lost meant that while I could afford the camp, I couldn’t afford to get myself there and back. So I had to settle for staying on the island.”

    Despite himself, Dylan put his right arm around Abbee, and pulled her tightly towards him.

    “Then you saw that bruise, told Jon, and the rest is history…”

    “I’m glad I did,” Abbee remarked. Dylan nodded.

    “Honestly, five years ago, I didn’t think I’d have any reason to want to stay…”

    “Do you actually want to stay?”

    Abbee’s voice had suddenly become more serious. Dylan remained silent.

    “Dylan, look at me…”

    Dylan pulled his gaze away from the waves, and looked down at Abbee, who was staring him down.

    “I remember when we were at Mt. Pyre, and you started talking about your ideas for becoming a Pokemon breeder. And when you move, we won’t have to be long distance anymore, and I know how much you hate being long distance…” Abbee said. “When I think about that, I find it hard to believe that you actually want to stay…”

    Dylan considered trying to disagree with her, but knew that she knew the truth. It had been many weeks between Jon returning from Sinnoh, and having his second seizure. The one that eliminated the possibility of the one in Sinnoh being an isolated incident, and made it clear that they were now a fact of life. And in that time, Dylan had made it clear that as much as he loved being at the Eon Academy, he was ready to make a life for himself somewhere else. And he knew that to tell Abbee he wanted to stay was to say he effectively wanted to keep her a world away.

    “I want to go…” Dylan admitted. “Live a life that isn’t reliant on Jon. Live a life with you. But honestly, I don’t know how Jon’s going to get through this summer…”

    “He’ll get through it because we’ll be here. Like today,” Abbee said.

    “Abbee, we’re sitting at a f**king beach, eating ice-cream…” Dylan muttered angrily, as Abbee recoiled. The only other time he had lashed out like that was two summers earlier, after finding out she had organised for the group to go to the Firehouse to try and set Dylan up with a waitress they had met a few days earlier, despite telling her to leave it. He took a breath, before adding quietly, “sorry…”

    “I know this is the last place you want to be…” Abbee said. “Honestly, I don’t want to be here either. Jon and Alyssa are like a second family to me. They’ll never replace Mum and Dad, but they’re the closest anyone has been to doing that-”

    “Then why are we here?” Dylan asked exasperatedly. “Why are we letting the others pick up the slack? I mean, Latios is doing more than us right now…”

    “Because Jon told us to,” Abbee said, conviction evident in her voice. “Dylan, when has Jon ever let us down?”

    Dylan remained silent, knowing the answer.

    “Even when we were facing what was effectively the end of the world, and Jon was all that stood between Giratina going to the Megamart and helping Agatha wipe out everyone there; even when everyone else would have given up, he didn’t let us down,” Abbee stated. “So if Jon thinks what’s best is that I force you, the person who has probably picked up the most slack since the seizures started, to take a few hours off, and try and get your mind off this, then goddamn it, let’s spend all day sitting at the f**king beach, eating ice-cream…”

    ”I’d be okay with that…” said Victini’s voice, as Abbee sighed at her partner undercutting her point. Dylan however couldn’t help but grin at the remark. Knowing that he’d be most reasonable now, Abbee took the opportunity.

    “Look, how about this; let’s go find a bar, spend an hour or two there. Preferably one showing Pokemon battles, so we can have fun finding their weaknesses,” Abbee stated, leaving no room for negotiation. “After that, we’ll go back, and if there is anything we can do to help, we’ll do it…”

    “Okay…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *********

    After being told that their task was to come up with a site-wide game for two hundred campers, Cassandra’s first thought was to her own younger days, when she attended summer camps as a child, and trying to remember what games they had played on those camps. Granted, none of the camps she attended had more than fifty campers, and had at least five camp workers to keep things moving. Meanwhile, there were two hundred campers, and the pair of them to run the game.

    Whilst they had known that if asked, any of the other workers on site would have helped run the game, they also knew that they had their own jobs. Chris and Charlotte had just helped Steven with his seminar, which they had intentionally run longer, in order to buy time where the students were occupied. Violet would be staying in Jon and Alyssa’s house as a last resort in case Jon had another seizure, and Justin and Jarena had the hardest job. Night duty…

    “Capture the flag won’t work,” Cassandra said, as the pair sat in the intern lodge lounge. “With that many people and just us, it would be far too easy for people to be dishonest and not return to their team's flag once they are tagged. And nothing involving Pokemon either, because it would be a nightmare to keep safe…”

    “Agreed,” Willow said, as she considered other ideas. “If we had a smaller group, I’d say Remoraids…”

    “What’s that one?” Cassandra asked, having never heard of it.

    “One person is nominated to hide, and everyone else tries to find them. But once they are found, any person who found them hides with them,” Willow explained. “It’s confusing when you’re chatting to someone from a distance and find they have just disappeared.”

    Cassandra couldn’t help but grin at the idea, but Willow had already dismissed it.

    “Problem is that with a group this big it would take less than a quarter finding the person and joining them in the hiding place before it’s just a joke…” Willow added, as Cassandra sighed, knowing she was right.

    “Honestly, all the games I could think of that could accommodate this many people need more people to make the game run,” Cassandra said, as she leaned back in her seat. “Really, we need more staff, but I don’t want to give them more work…”

    “Are there any games that can run themselves, or the campers could run?” Willow asked. Cassandra considered the idea, before shaking her head.

    “If they were adults maybe, who understood that there was more to life than winning at any cost,” Cassandra said, ignoring the sheer irony of her assessment. “But really, they’re kids, and if we can’t run capture the flag, because we don’t know they wouldn’t be dishonest, I don’t see how they could keep the game running smoothly themselves…”

    Her words trailed off as she looked at the clock on the wall, realising they were running out of time. Willow noticed this, and went to speak, before having a thought.

    “Damn it… Why didn’t I think of this earlier?” Willow muttered to herself, before beginning to scribble on the piece of paper in front of her. Cassandra shot her a puzzled look. “What makes us different from just about any other camp workers trying to organise a game for their campers?”

    “We’re short staffed with far too many campers?”

    “Nope. Even more unique…” Willow said. Cassandra looked at her, puzzled, before Willow muttered a quick incantation and snapped her fingers, causing a flame to spark to life at her fingertips. Cassandra’s eyes widened.

    “Shadowcraft…”

    “Exactly!” Willow explained. “We have talents very few other people in our position have. Yet we are in a tricky spot and haven’t even considered using them…”

    “Honestly, I get so focused on battling, I forget I’m a witch sometimes…” Cassandra said in disbelief.

    “So let’s go back to earlier ideas,” Willow asked. “And ask ourselves whether our ability to use Shadowcraft would make up for the numbers…”

    “I mean, theoretically we could make capture the flag work…” Cassandra answered. “Light illusion spell to make it visible if someone has been tagged and needs to go back to base?”

    “If we had more time, we definitely could,” Willow agreed. “The problem is, that level of spell would be affecting the entire property, and likely would need to be powered by a diamond, like the security system I set up. Even if we had the diamond handy, it would take days for it to store enough energy from our Shadowcraft to be able to power the entire game…”
    Cassandra nodded in understanding. Even though this idea wouldn’t work now, it had proven to them just how much their ability in Shadowcraft widened their options.

    “I think you’re on the right track though,” Willow explained. “We can’t let the students keep the game running and enforce the rules because we can’t guarantee they will be honest. But a light illusion spell is a good way to make sure the truth is visible…”

    “The spell just needs to be completely dependent on the students, so that their energy can power it,” Cassandra said, as Willow nodded in agreement. “Nothing area based, because we’d need to find an additional source of power.”

    The pair sat in silence, considering any and all options, until Cassandra’s eyes widened.

    “I have an idea…”

    An hour later, Steven, Charlotte and Chris had finished with the seminar, and the campers remained in the stadium, where Cassandra and Willow were ready to address them all.

    “For this afternoon’s activity, we have a campsite wide game that everyone will be involved in…” Cassandra said through the microphone to the audience, some of whom weren’t paying a great deal of attention. “A game called Infected...”

    There were curious murmurs from those present as Cassandra explained the game.

    “This is a game you will not play anywhere else, and for it to work, I need one brave volunteer, who would not mind me performing a harmless spell on them…”

    All went silent, as nobody had ever thought they would be subject to Shadowcraft at the Academy that summer. Finally, one student raised their hand. Cassandra called them to join her down the front. She was joined by a girl who appeared to be fourteen or so, with light brown hair, and piercing blue eyes.

    “What’s your name?” Cassandra asked, knowing this student was in another intern’s group. She had seen her in classes, however being less than a fortnight into a camp with two hundred campers, she hadn’t learned all their names yet.

    “Issy,” the girl replied, as Cassandra nodded. She spoke into the microphone, addressing everyone.

    “There has been an outbreak of a zombie virus,” Cassandra explained, channelling every terrible zombie movie she had ever seen into her words. “And Issy, our brave volunteer, has offered to be our patient zero…”

    Cassandra put the microphone down, before addressing Issy.

    “It’s just going to be some lights,” Cassandra said to the girl reassuringly. “They’ll disappear at the end of the game.”

    Issy nodded, albeit a little nervously, as Cassandra took Issy’s hand, placing her own hand over the girl’s wrist, and focusing on the incantation she had memorised. Willow had devised the incantation, being far better at composing spells than Cassandra, however insisted Cassandra perform the spell.

    ”You don’t have a history of siding with Agatha,” Willow had said. ”They’d be more comfortable with you using Shadowcraft on them than me. Besides, you have this non-verbal thing pretty down, and it will be less worrying if they don’t hear you speaking an incantation.”

    Around Issy’s right wrist was a ring of light, tendrils of which wrapped themselves around her hand.

    “This is purely a light illusion,” Cassandra explained to the crowd. “How do you feel, Issy?”

    “Completely normal,” Issy said as Cassandra held the microphone in front of her.

    “Now, go and shake Willow’s hand,” Cassandra said, nodding towards Willow. Issy walked to the other witch, shaking her hand awkwardly, and to everyone’s shock, Willow’s hand now had the same light illusion affecting it. Cassandra then shook Willow’s hand herself, and sure enough the illusion had spread.

    “It’s working perfectly…” Willow said, unable to hide the grin she wore. Cassandra nodded.

    “The spell is purely a light illusion,” Cassandra repeated into the microphone. “One that will spread if contact is maintained between somebody with it, and somebody without. Issy will remain here for five minutes, in that time, you will be allowed to leave and either hide, or set up a defensive position.”

    Cassandra quickly opened the notes on her phone, in which she had spent the last half hour writing down rules.

    “Pokemon are to remain in Pokeballs for the duration of the game. You are allowed in the stadium, classrooms, dining hall and main hall. Lodges, the kitchen, and Jon and Alyssa’s house are off limits,” Cassandra explained. “You can move furniture, however you cannot block doors. Anything you do to the property must be able to be reversed. After an hour, if there are more zombies than there are people, the zombies win, and vice versa…”

    Cassandra looked at Issy, who seemed to grow more excited by the second.

    “On your marks,” Cassandra said into the microphone. “Get set…”

    The anticipation was thick in the air, as Cassandra, who couldn’t help but grin, said the final word.

    “Go!”

    Students rushed from the seating towards the exit, as Issy waited, Willow having set a five minute timer. When the timer finally hit zero, Cassandra gave Issy a nod, before she dashed out, looking for anybody to tag.

    “If only Agatha could see this,” Willow said to Cassandra as the pair made their way outside to watch the game. “Instead of using our power to dominate people and control them, using it to organise a game for some kids to play…”

    Cassandra grinned, and took in the sight of Issy, who had managed to tag another person already, causing panic and confusion in those who hadn’t managed to find somewhere to hide. There were at least forty kids in sight, fleeing from Issy, and her growing number of accomplices.

    “The old hag would have done us all a favour and had a heart attack,” Cassandra joked. “Maybe that’s what we should have done. Set up a Shadowcraft kids activity in Heahea City…”

    Willow snorted with laughter at that.

    “Honestly, I don’t know how you can create such complex spells,” Cassandra noted. “I thought the three of us were exceptional at using Shadowcraft before I met you. Turns out, we were just good at catching people unaware…”

    “Sadly, it is something Agatha taught me. I was one of the first to arrive in Alola, and when she chose me to be one of her inner circle, she made sure I knew enough to make best use of my role,” Willow said, albeit a little quieter. “I’m just glad that I can make better use of it now…”

    Willow sighed, before feeling aware of the fact that her bringing up the past was likely souring a proud moment. The pair had used their Shadowcraft for something purely enjoyable, with no expense to anyone else. Even when Cassandra had been living in the Star Glade, she hadn’t done anything like this, instead focusing her Shadowcraft on survival and healing. To see dozens of students having fun, purely because they decided to use their Shadowcraft, had served to sweeten what for both of them, for a long time, had been a slightly sour taste.

    “I mean, complex spells aside, in a fight, you’d have me beat, hands down,” Willow added, confusing Cassandra a little. “Non verbal Shadowcraft. Not even Agatha was capable of that. Honestly, the only other person I know uses it is Brianna Levine, so I’m glad we have one on our side…”

    “Honestly, I still am not quite sure how that happened,” Cassandra admitted.

    “I mean, it was either use it or watch the world end,” Willow noted, though Cassandra shook her head.

    “I’d used it once before that. The day before during the attack on Section B,” Cassandra explained. “I saw a Pokemon killed, and it sickened me. I used some of its fur to turn a nearby witch into a Pokemon. Then I used a blinding hex, but the moment I touched the ashes to use for it, they were enchanted and ready to go…”

    Willow, whose curiosity surrounding Shadowcraft eclipsed all there, seemed to become distant, as she considered what Cassandra had said.

    “From what I’ve seen, non-verbal Shadowcraft is most difficult the first time it is used, and gets substantially easier the more it's used. But that first time is difficult enough that not even Agatha could perform it,” Willow said, more so to herself than Cassandra, before looking at the other witch directly. “I figured you managed to cross that threshold because the need was there. You had been silenced, and effectively disarmed, with no way to stop Agatha. But if that wasn’t the first time, then I don’t think a strong need is the driving force to cross the threshold…”

    Cassandra nodded.

    “The need was definitely there when we faced Agatha, and that made it easier then. But I didn’t need to blind that witch the day before,” Cassandra answered. “Honestly, I think I was able to perform that spell without an incantation because in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to make that witch feel retribution. There was not a shred of doubt or uncertainty. I knew exactly what I wanted to do…”

    Willow nodded, having not considered that.

    “I thought I wouldn’t cross that threshold, short of chasing some near death experience, because in this life I now have, which is really quite peaceful, I have no need to perform Shadowcraft non-verbally,” Willow explained. “At the same time, I don’t know that where I am now leaves me wanting anything as much as you wanted to see that witch get what they deserved…”

    “Well, hopefully you can figure this out without things going to hell again,” Cassandra joked, as she looked out towards the kids playing their game. Issy’s group of infected had grown to a dozen people, who were now coordinating themselves to make assaults on specific areas. She saw three students, all with matching white lights around their hands, slowly moving towards the door of the main hall, where they were certain a large group of students were setting up a defensive position with the classroom tables and furniture.

    “This is gonna be good…” Cassandra said with a grin.

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *********

    The sun was setting in the sky when Jon heard a knock at the back door. He had slept until mid-afternoon, waking and feeling the lethargy of waking from a long day-time slumber that he had felt even before the curse activated. Most of the nausea was gone, his stomach feeling just a little uncomfortable, and his headache which had been a sharp pain, like his head had been filled with razor blades, before being violently shaken, had weakened to a dull throbbing. He had forced down some toast with a minute amount of butter, not wanting to risk upsetting his stomach, as well as forced himself to drink plenty of water, attempting to rehydrate himself.

    Seeing as the knock was at the back door, which led directly into he and Alyssa’s kitchen, and not the front door, he knew it was one of the workers. It was rare that a student came to find him directly, given that, this summer especially, he was least present out of all the workers, who could usually address any need a student had that would get them to seek him out. But when they did, they usually came to the front door.

    He saw Violet through the window before he opened it.

    “You know you’re an hour early?” Jon said, as he double checked his watch, making sure he hadn’t slept longer than he had realised.

    Violet nodded.

    “Honestly, I don’t think you’ll have another attack tonight, so I have the easiest job, and figure Latios could use a decent break between helping you this afternoon, and helping Justin and Jarena tonight…”

    Jon nodded in understanding, appreciating Violet’s thoughtfulness.

    “I think Latios would appreciate that,” Jon said, grinning despite himself, and beckoning Violet to follow him. The pair walked towards the hallway that led to the bedrooms.

    Jon directed her to the guest room, which prior to last summer, had been Dylan’s room during the academic year, but had not been inhabited since the lodge now had permanent residents and was not closed. Once Violet had placed the few belongings she had brought in the room, a pair of pyjamas, a tablet, and her phone charger, Jon ushered her towards Amelia’s room, gesturing for her to keep quiet. The pair could hear the young girl’s voice behind the door, seemingly talking to somebody who wasn’t there.

    Jon opened the door, walking in, as Violet followed. Yuki, Alyssa’s Vulpix, sat curled up on Amelia’s small bed, as she sat on the floor, hair wet from the bath she had just had, and in her pyjamas, with a plastic toy teacup,tea-pot and bottle in front of her. Opposite her, wearing a fluffy, powder-blue scarf, and sparkly pink fedora, was Latios, a teacup in front of him.

    “Would you like some more beer Latios?” Amelia asked, as Violet’s jaw almost dropped. Jon sighed, unsure if he should be more concerned about whether Latios’ taste for beer, which had stemmed from his own, was a bad influence on his daughter or not.

    Latios nodded, as Amelia poured the imaginary liquid from the plastic bottle into Latios’ cup, which he then pretended to drink.

    “I don’t mean to interrupt your tea-party,” Jon said to the pair. “But Lili, it’s time for bed…”

    Amelia protested, though Jon, still being gentle, didn’t relent, and within a few minutes, Jon managed to get her to bed, as he, Violet and Latios left the room.

    “You will tell nobody of this…” Latios said to Violet, unable to hide the embarrassment, which made this all the more amusing to Violet.

    “There’s two beers in the fridge,” Jon said to Latios. “You’ve earned it. Have a few hours break, and at eleven, go find Justin and Jarena to give them a hand…”

    Latios, letting out a sigh of relief, left Jon and Violet, leaving the house via the kitchen, where he telepathically opened the fridge to get the beers.

    “Just don’t leave the cans where kids can find them!” Jon called out. “Last thing I want is parents thinking my workers drink on the job…”

    As Latios left, Jon turned to Violet.

    “Can I get you a drink?” he offered. “We have a few more beers stashed away, and a couple of premixed rums?”

    “Just water’s fine,” Violet answered. Even if she had felt like an alcoholic drink, she knew Jon couldn’t have one as well, and like Dylan, to Jon’s annoyance, she wouldn’t have one in front of him.

    Violet made her way to the lounge, and a few moments later, Jon returned with two glasses of water, placing one in front of her. This was the first time in weeks she had seen Jon’s cursed hand, knowing he was very intentional about keeping it hidden from those outside of his inner circle. And especially wanting to keep it hidden from Lili.

    “I’m sorry you’re having to spend your Saturday night keeping me company,” Jon said casually. “If Alyssa were home, it would be fine. But we don’t want to risk something happening to Lili if I’m the only adult here and I have another attack…”

    “It’s okay, I’d have likely been watching a movie or something in my room anyway,” Violet replied. “Honestly, seeing the effort you guys are going to to look after Lili despite all this, I’m happy to be a part of that…”

    Jon nodded, having a hunch that he knew part of the reason why she framed it the way she had.

    “Did you get things sorted with your dad?” Jon asked. Violet nodded, although half-heartedly.

    “It took me threatening to gatecrash every dream he would ever have and turn them into nightmares for him to listen, but he kept his end of the deal,” Violet explained. “Sent a copy to me the next day. Taxes are done, and my new driver’s licence is on its way. But I don’t think he is too interested in doing family Christmas’ any time soon…”

    There was an awkward silence for a moment, before Jon decided to ask the question.

    “Do you want family Christmas’ with him again?” Jon asked.

    “I’m done asking for forgiveness, and trying to make amends,” Violet answered, though Jon shook his head.

    “That wasn’t the question…”

    Violet went silent for a moment, considering her answer.

    “I’m an only child. Mum was as well, and her parents passed away when I was a kid. Dad hasn’t been on speaking terms with his family since before I was born. They’re the only family I have left,” Violet explained. “So yeah, I’d like to have them in my life, but not if it means I have to be condemned for mistakes I’ve already made up for…”

    “Good answer,” Jon said. “I know that it’s not an easy question to think about when things are that difficult…”

    Violet nodded, considering Jon’s own history.

    “Are things okay between you and your dad?”

    Jon sighed, as he tried to consider the question.

    “We’ll never be on a weekly phone call basis. Right now, I don’t even make a point of just keeping in touch. I’ll send him an invite for Christmas, or Lili’s birthday, and while I’d never go to Kanto for the sake of seeing him, I’d say hello when I visit Grandma,” Jon answered. “Things are better than I ever thought they would be, but I’m not exactly going out of my way to continue that trend…”

    “Does he know about your condition?”

    Jon considered the question.

    “Honestly, I don’t know,” Jon admitted. “I had to tell Grandma the truth, because when we visited her earlier this year, I didn’t want to risk her panicking if I had a seizure then. I told her that I didn’t want it to be public knowledge, not even my hand, but also didn’t want her to feel like she had to lie to her son for my sake. She might have told him. But she might not have. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make a difference…”

    Jon leaned back, placing his feet on the coffee table.

    “At the end of the day, whether he knows or not, nothing’s changed. I still can’t drive myself anywhere. I still can’t go a week at this rate without a seizure. I still can’t be trusted to keep my daughter safe…”

    Violet considered arguing his last point, but knew he would rather her not try and convince him otherwise. Sadly, that was the truth. With Amelia so young, the potential for harm if he were to have a seizure whilst she was under his care was definitely there.

    “I help stop the apocalypse, by capturing Giratina, to give you guys the chance to take down Agatha, and give the others a window to close the Netherlink, and this is the thanks I get,” Jon said quietly, sounding the most bitter about this that Violet had ever heard him. She didn’t think less of him. Considering how long it had been since the curse activated, and it getting progressively worse, she understood he was getting sick of putting on the brave face. “Fate’s got a pretty f**ked up sense of humour, hasn’t it?”

    Violet nodded in agreement, before asking the question that she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer to.

    “Do you regret it?”

    Jon shook his head.

    “It terrifies me to think of the odds from that day that led to us winning,” Jon answered. “So many little things, that had they not happened, would have resulted in us failing. Had Agatha not found out about Eon blood speeding up the Netherlink. Had Willow had any other Pokemon, and not been able to find us. Had I not kept Rayquaza’s old illegal Pokeball in my jacket pocket. Had Rayquaza not Mega Evolved. And that’s just from my involvement. Your’s would have its own list. Any one of those things playing out even the tiniest bit differently, and we would have failed. And that terrifies me…”

    Violet sighed in grim agreement. Had they taken Jon’s side in the argument the night before, and let Jimmy walk out, there would have been no way for Jon to have communicated with Jirachi the next day. Had they not run into Avery and Abital near the Megamart, they would have been trying to fight Agatha whilst her supporters flanked them. Had Agatha killed them instead of merely silencing them. Had Cassandra not used non-verbal Shadowcraft….

    “I don’t regret it, because I can say with a concerning amount of certainty that it was the only way…” Jon answered. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t wish that mission turned out very differently…”

    There was one word that Jon said, which had Violet’s mind begin to wander.

    “How did you get involved with doing operative work for the League?” Violet asked. “I didn’t think they used external operatives. At least, I didn’t before the S.S. Wishmaker…”

    “Honestly, I was among the first. The S.S. Wishmaker was the first time they explicitly sought out external operatives. Most on the League’s payroll don’t have the time to dedicate to getting to the level needed to blend in as competitors in the High Seas Tournament. Not to say they can’t handle themselves, but their talents are more in coordinating Pokemon in life or death situations,” Jon explained. “For that, it was easier to find talented battlers who would naturally pass as competitors, and give them the minimum training needed for the operation, than the other way around. Before that, it was really uncommon…”

    “So how did you get involved?” Violet asked. “The way you talked about wanting that to be your last operation made it sound like it was far from your first?”

    Jon nodded, beginning to realise how old he was, when he did the maths and figured out how many years it had been.

    “I was twenty-one or so. So about thirteen years back,” Jon said, surprising Violet, who realised she would have only been fourteen at this point. “I was competing in this tournament, and was approached by Steven. First time I had ever met him…”

    “Why you?”

    Jon grinned.

    “Steven was there because the League had reason to believe that the tournament was being used as a drop site for a huge drug deal. Made sense, given the sheer density of people, the amount of people dressed in the same merchandise, and the scrutiny being on the battlers, to make sure they aren’t cheating,” Jon explained. “Steven had been looking into all the competitors, and came across myself. He saw I was battling under a fake name, and there was little he could actually find out about me, and thought I was one of the people involved in the exchange…”

    “He thought you were dealing drugs?” Violet answered, in disbelief, especially seeing the bond Jon shared with the Hoenn Champion presently. Jon nodded.

    “This was enough for him to do more digging into me, and he found the police reports. About my dad, and what happened to my mum. He saw enough to take a chance on me,” Jon explained. “He didn’t know if competitors were involved in the trafficking or not, but knew that his presence would raise suspicions. He needed somebody on the inside, and figured, given the fact that through my dad, drugs had all but ruined my life until I moved in with Grandpa and Grandma, I’d be a safe option to be his inside person…”

    “And you found the dealers?”

    Jon nodded.

    “Steven told me later just how much got seized during that tournament, and it was no small amount,” Jon explained. “After that, if he ever needed someone on the inside of a tournament, I was the person he called…”

    “Did you get any other jobs?”

    “Other than Spiritwater and investigating three dodgy girls who had beaten himself, Cynthia and Lance?” Jon asked, unable to hide his grin. “About eight or so others. Most of them smaller than the first one. Though there was one where I managed to help get about thirty illegal Pokeballs off the streets. That made headlines worldwide, though naturally I was not included in those…”

    Intrigued hearing about this, Violet continued to pose questions.

    “So what sort of training did you receive?”

    “Very basic training when there was time,” Jon explained. “That first job, I didn’t have more than a day to prepare, but a few others, when they were planned far enough ahead, I received some training. Firearms training was definitely there, though that was the only thing that required any sort of practice to maintain. And even then, when we went to Alola, I had told Steven I wouldn’t be carrying, and didn’t want Abbee or Dylan carrying either, because I knew they’d be safer relying on their Pokemon than a gun.”

    Jon scratched his chin, as he tried to remember what other training he did. Honestly, he enjoyed talking to Violet about this. It was rare he got to talk about his life prior to the S.S. Wishmaker, and it not be something negative.

    “One of the best things I learnt was how to break out if I am cable-tied to a chair,” Jon added. “Came in handy when we were attacked at the Whirl Islands two years ago.”

    Violet’s eyes widened, having never considered it, and briefly forgot that she was a witch, and even without reagents, presuming she could still speak, could quite easily break all but the strongest of bonds holding her in place.

    “Why all the questions?” Jon asked. “You thinking of enlisting?”

    “Thinking of trying to,” Violet admitted. “Whether the League would take me on given my past. I mean, we offered to help after the S.S. Wishmaker, but they didn’t want anything to do with us…”

    “A lot’s happened,” Jon noted. “And honestly, I think if you guys hadn't come forward when you had that dream, and it had been Luneth who tipped off the League, they would have been kicking themselves for turning you away…”

    Jon stretched his stiff neck, rolling his head back to look up at the ceiling.

    “It’s funny,” Jon said quietly. “Six years ago, I’d have laughed in your face if you told me Shadowcraft was a thing. Then, the world changed when the three of you were caught out. And what Spiritwater made terrifyingly clear is that Shadowcraft has existed since well before you three got involved, and has been kept secret. Even if a lot of Agatha’s supporters were relatively new to it, herself and Nicodemus at the very least had been practising it a lot longer…”

    “You’re not wrong,” Violet said. “We got caught and Shadowcraft became public. And within four years, dozens of people gathered together to bring about the end of the world…”

    Jon nodded.

    “The thing is, that Shadowcraft is still so new…” Jon said, an almost whimsical grin crossing his face. “Like, Cass fixed my broken hand on the S.S. Wishmaker, and Brianna managed to repair a heap of internal damage in Abbee, and perform a blood transfusion. Willow has effectively created the best alarm on the planet here. And she and Cass together ran a kid’s game this afternoon with Shadowcraft. But honestly, in the world outside of the Eon Academy, nothing has changed. Sure, people know about Shadowcraft, and are aware of it, but it’s not like we have hospitals employing Shadowcraft users to effectively remove the need for life-saving surgery, or nurseries employing them to accelerate the growth of their plants. I guess, I wonder when the rest of the world will catch up. Hell, I wonder if by the time Lili is finishing high school, universities will have degrees in Shadowcraft…”

    Violet had never considered this. Until she had moved here, her abilities had never been a public part of her life. She had used them in secret whilst the Diamond Ladies were competing, and then, when in hiding as a Pokemon, had used them to keep the Star Glade and its inhabitants safe. Even now, she still placed Shadowcraft as a last resort to any challenge, almost forgetting she was a witch, when really, within reason, she had no reason not to. And eventually, the world may begin to look to it more and more.

    “So don’t get too worried about not being able to be recruited,” Jon concluded. “Even if not today, the League will see you’re worth your weight in gold to them…”

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *********
    “I swear,” Justin said quietly, as he sat on the outdoor table that stood between the lodges where Jarena waited for him. “I have never wanted to slap a kid before. But Sean… Goddamn I have been tempted…”

    It was well after midnight at this point, however between the full moon, and the lights on a timer that were scattered across the property, he saw Jarena grin at him.

    “That bad?”

    The pair were on night duty, which effectively meant staying up and making sure campers weren’t keeping each other awake. Whilst they knew there was no way to force the campers to sleep, at least, without getting complaints from parents, the best they could do was make sure that the campers who were willing to stay awake all night at the expense of their next day, weren’t keeping other campers, in their own cabin or neighboring cabins, awake all night as well. Normally after the first week, when the novelty of sharing a cabin with new people wore off, and the workload of the Eon Academy caught up with them, it wasn’t a problem. However, being a Saturday which was far less intense, as well as being wound up by Cassandra and Willow’s game of Infected that afternoon, the campers were all a little more rowdy than usual. And one cabin in particular was kicking it up a notch, no thanks to Sean.

    “Honestly, I am at the point of telling Jon to handle this kid,” Justin said about the fourteen year old. “I have never met a kid who doesn’t know when to stop talking anywhere near as much as him. Or a kid who backchats so much. Did I tell you about the Breloom incident?”

    Jarena shook her head, as Justin sighed from frustration at this one camper.

    “So you know the mob of Breloom that live on the Island?” Justin asked. “They sometimes jump over our fences to eat the grass?”

    “Yeah, I’ve seen them around…”

    “So you’ve seen Steve?” Justin asked. “The freakishly big, six foot tall one?”

    “Steve?” Jarena asked, as Justin shrugged.

    “I don’t know where the name came from. I just know that he is called Steve,” Justin explained. “When all the students arrived, Jon let them know that Steve has been hanging around here a lot by himself, and to steer clear of him. He gets a bit funny if Jon or Dylan gets too close, but he knows them, and tends to just stare until they walk past. But he is usually near the edge of the property and minds his own business, so they let him do his thing. The thing is, we don’t know how he would react if a camper got too close, so we’ve told them to stay away. Even if they have Pokemon, this one is big, and wild. There is every chance that if Steve attacks them and they send out a Pokemon, Steve would just go for them anyway…”

    Jarena nodded in understanding.

    “And I’ve caught Sean four times since he arrived trying to sneak up on Steve,” Justin sighed. “Every time I tell him not to, he just argues with me about how Pokemon love him and he is fine and nothing will happen, and I end up wanting to walk over to Steve so he will hopefully knock me out and I don’t have to listen to this crap…”

    ”Justin…” said Latios’ voice in Justin’s mind. ”They’re getting noisy again…”

    Jarena, who had heard the telepathic message as well couldn’t help but grin as Justin sighed, standing up again.

    Given the sheer number of students, and how spread out over the property they were, Latios remained in the air, invisible, and using his telepathy and emotion-sense to monitor the campers. By this point the bulk of them were asleep. There were twenty-four still awake, and of those twenty-four, eighteen were quiet and trying to sleep themselves. All eighteen who were still awake trying to sleep, were in the cabins surrounding the six who were still very much awake and hyperactive. Sean’s cabin.

    As Justin made his way towards Sean’s cabin, he could hear from outside heavy footsteps of someone running across the cabin, and through the crack in the blinds, could see the flickering lights of phone flashlights.

    Justin didn’t bother to knock on the door, knowing that it just gave the other boys in the cabin a few seconds to pretend they were behaving themselves, and pin the blame completely on Sean, who lacked the subtlety to avoid the blame. He swung the door open, and found everyone in their bed, laughing immaturely, at Sean, who had jumped onto the bed of one of the other boys, who was yelling at him to get off.

    “Sean!” Justin yelled. “Get off Blake’s bed and go to sleep!”

    Sean got off the bed, and walked towards his own, however didn’t get into his bed, instead stood looking back at Blake, making funny faces and calling out immature jokes.

    “Sean!” Justin said, though Sean ignored him continuing to make faces at Blake. “Sean, look at me when I’m talking to you!”

    Sean looked at Justin, his face still carrying the immature grin.

    “Get into your own bed, and go to sleep,” Justin said, trying to remain calm enough that he didn’t snap at Sean. “It’s been nearly two hours since light’s out. Everyone in the cabins around you are still awake, because you’re keeping everyone in here awake. I’d rather be asleep right now, but I’m stuck trying to get you to be quiet…”

    “The other cabins are all asleep,” Sean argued.

    “I guarantee you they aren’t,” Justin retorted. “Latios is in the air above the cabins and can see who is still awake. You’re keeping everyone in the nearby cabins awake.”

    As soon as Justin said the words, he realised he had made a mistake.

    “That’s an invasion of privacy!” Sean protested. “I’m going to sue this place for that!”

    “Sean, shut up!” called out one of the boys, who despite being amused by Sean’s clownish behaviour, had already grown to be sick of him and his constant talking.

    “That’s illegal!” Sean continued, and whilst Justin, having just finished his law degree, knew that was not true, he knew reasoning with Sean was not worth the energy.

    “I don’t care!” Justin said, not too gently. “Stop being a pain, and go to bed!”

    ”Brace yourself…” Latios said to Justin telepathically.

    Sean opened his mouth to protest, however he, and all the boys in the cabin jumped in fright, whilst Justin managed to resist that urge, when telepathically, they heard an ungodly draconic roar, followed by a voice that Justin knew Latios was faking.

    ”STOP TALKING AND GO TO SLEEP!”

    For the first time that evening, there was silence…

    “Latios wants to sleep,” Justin said, his voice now quieter and more reasonable. “He and I will be up until we’re convinced you’re not keeping the other cabins awake. So unless you want to see Latios really tired and p**sed off, just go to sleep…”

    When there was no response from the boys, Justin left, letting out a frustrated sigh. Whilst he was glad for Latios’ help, it was also concerning that it took Latios intervening for any progress to be made.

    “Thanks,” Justin called out, although not too loudly, to Latios.

    He arrived back at the table where Jarena waited.

    “You don’t have to wait up,” Justin said quietly, knowing the girls were all asleep. “Even if the boys are silent, I’ll be up for another hour to make sure they aren’t just pretending until I go to bed…”

    “It’s fine,” Jarena answered. “Jon put us both on night duty, and I figure you’ll find the next hour less boring with some company.”

    “You’re not wrong…” Justin admitted.

    “How did it go?” she asked, nodding towards the boys cabin.

    “They’re quiet now, because Latios may have traumatised them,” Justin joked. “I went in and Sean was on Blake’s bed. By the time I got him to go back to his, I said he was keeping the other cabins awake, and he told me they were asleep. And I made the mistake of telling him that Latios was keeping an eye on things and could see they were all awake…”

    Jarena grinned, as Justin sighed again.

    “He starts arguing about how it's an invasion of privacy, and how he is going to sue the Academy for it,” Justin said, fighting back a yawn. “Told me it was illegal, which I can guarantee him, isn’t correct. By that point Latios was sick of him and scared them all straight with a telepathic message telling them to shut up and go to sleep…”

    “It’s gonna be a long summer,” Jarena noted. “He’s in Chris’ team isn’t he?”

    Justin nodded.

    “Which makes things more difficult because Chris is the sort to get himself into trouble if Sean pushes him as far as he pushes me,” Justin answered. “Dylan might have a better chance at handling Sean, but I’d be opening old wounds if I asked Dylan to deal with one of Chris’ kids…”

    Jarena looked up at the night sky, which was clear. Given the relatively small size of Mossdeep Island, there was little light pollution, making the stars visible.

    “I didn’t think I’d wind up here,” Jarena said quietly, half to herself. “Trying to get kids to go to sleep and stop being annoying…”

    “What, when you were famous?” Justin asked.

    “Even after that, honestly,” Jarena admitted. “Once we decided we were done, we torched everything. We didn’t make a contingency plan to become human again. Didn’t save any DNA, or any of our possessions just in case we changed our mind. Heck, we buried our Shadowcraft books, only because we couldn’t know for sure whether burning them would curse us or something…”

    “So how did you become human again?” Justin asked. “If you had no human DNA samples?”

    Jarena shuddered remembering how Jon got the samples.

    “Don’t ask…” Jarena said. “It’s something I’d rather not think about…”

    Confused, Justin didn’t probe further, however asked another question.

    “What was it like, living as a Pokemon?”

    Jarena considered the question.

    “It’s hard to answer,” Jarena explained. “I mean, life directly before that was far from good. We were broke, hated and had no prospects moving forward. Jon and Alyssa had offered to help us out, but at the time, this place was nothing more than an idea, and we wanted to make our own path. So compared to being a human after being caught, being a Pokemon was great. We got a completely fresh start, and not only that, we got to actually do some good. And we got to see what was actually important for the first time…”

    Jarena remembered the feeling of being caught, and the confession the trio had made.

    “It’s tricky to explain. Like, when we got caught, we realised the things we had treated as being so important were actually not, like the fame and the money. And we weren’t exactly clueless on what the right thing to do was, but at the same time, we were starting over, figuring out for ourselves what was actually important, and by extension, what our own standards were, after years of moving in the completely wrong direction. Like, after the last five years, I don’t think I would have been as cool with torching that cabin in Johto as I was back then…” Jarena explained. “And spending that time in the Star Glade helped us learn what was important. Honestly, I wonder whether, had Agatha made us have that dream three years earlier than she did, whether we would have been willing to find Jon and tip off the League, or whether at that point, we still had some growing to do…”

    Justin nodded in understanding, and despite not knowing them personally the way they were before the S.S. Wishmaker, found it puzzling to think of the Diamond Ladies as any different to the way they were now.

    “The Star Glade was our home, but at the same time, it always felt like we were outsiders. Not because the Pokemon excluded us. More so, we just knew we were different, and there was nothing we could do to change that. We could physically be Pokemon, and live among Pokemon, but the fact was, we were humans who had turned ourselves into Pokemon, and I think we all tried to pretend that wasn’t the case,” Jarena continued. “The Star Glade was what we needed for where we were at, but what happened with Agatha made us realise that it was not meant to be a forever thing, and that it was time for another change…”

    As Justin heard this, he felt a strange sensation, as though he had lived that moment before, recognising the feeling as déjŕ vu.

    “God, that was weird…” Jarena muttered.

    “What’s that?”

    “I just got the most intense feeling of déjŕ vu,” Jarena laughed. Justin however gave her a puzzled look.

    “Same…”

    His tone was questioning, however before either of the pair could question it, they felt Latios’ voice in their minds.

    ”Something’s here…” Latios said, confused alarm in his voice.

    “Blackstone?” Justin asked verbally, knowing Latios would hear his thoughts simultaneously.

    ”I don’t think so,” Latios answered. ”It’s a presence. Something powerful, but familiar…”

    Justin, glad he had his Pokeballs with him, stood. It was past 1am, and he didn’t want to wake the others over a false alarm.

    “Where is it?” Justin asked. He looked to Jarena. “You got your Pokemon with you?”

    Jarena nodded, as Latios remained silent for a moment.

    ”It’s on one of the neighbouring properties…” Latios answered. ”About a kilometre between us and the old Space Station…”

    Justin stood to his feet, as Jarena gave him a look.

    “We’re going alone?”

    “Latios will come with us,” Justin explained. “If it’s something bad, Latios will come back and warn the others. I’d rather them be here in that regard…”

    “How bad could it be?”

    “At best, a migratory Legendary Pokemon. At worst, Blackstone or any witches still loyal to Agatha that want revenge…”

    The pair walked quietly towards the edge of the property, as Latios silently descended to meet them. They climbed the fence, before making their way towards where the Space Centre that Deoxys had levelled three years earlier used to be. Latios took the front position, with his emotion sense allowing him to see any potential people or Pokemon that were hidden by the darkness.

    “Do wild Legendary Pokemon just show up here often?” Jarena asked quietly. Justin shook his head.

    “Only time was Deoxys, and honestly, until the government got involved, it was harmless…”

    It didn’t take long for Latios to spot what he had sensed.

    ”I see something…”

    Justin thought he could see a faint light in the distance. He turned off the light on his phone, and once his dark vision adjusted, he could see it. A faint silver glow. When it was close enough to identify, Latios went silent.

    “Is that a Pokemon egg?” Jarena asked.

    Before them was an egg, bigger than any they had seen before. It was the size of a large yoga ball, a dark-blue, slate-grey colour, with glowing veins of silver and light blue webbed across the surface.

    ”It is. I’ve seen it before…” Latios answered in shocked awe. ”This is Dialga’s egg…”

    Both trainers looked at Latios in shock.

    ”When Giratina took Jon and Cassandra back in time, to try and buy time to stop Nicodemus’ curse from killing Jon, Giratina took us to the place it could warp us to in space and time most naturally, and it accidentally took us to these ruins in Johto…” Latios explained. ”Given their power, there can only ever be one Dialga, Palkia or Giratina, and whenever one of them dies, an egg will appear in these ruins. And when we were there, this Dialga egg was there, waiting to hatch…”

    “But you went back hundreds of years…” Jarena asked. “Surely this can’t be the same egg…”

    ”It is. Its thought patterns are the same, just more developed,” Latios answered. ”Dialga exists naturally outside of time, rarely entering into a point in time. But for some reason, it can’t exist outside of time as an egg. So it exists in a point in time, and if Giratina or Palkia get too close to it, it will warp to somewhere else to remain safe. I don’t know how many times it has warped since, but it has warped here…”

    “How close?” Justin asked.

    ”Within a few metres…” Latios answered. ”We need to take it with us…”

    Both trainers looked at Latios in shock.

    ”Dialga’s safeguard only protects it from Palkia and Giratina. Anyone else could do whatever they wanted to the egg, and it won’t stop them,” Latios explained. ”We can’t leave it…”

    “Remember what happened last time?” Justin asked, evidently concerned. Latios nodded.

    ”Which is why we tell nobody. We don’t hand it over to the League. We keep it at the Academy, until it hatches and can fend for itself…”

    “Why not have Giratina get close to it and make it warp again?” Jarena asked, although as soon as she finished the question, she knew the answer.

    “If it’s here, we can protect it if the need arises. But if we do that, it’ll either go to the past or future, and we’ll have no way of helping if things go bad…” Justin answered, as Latios nodded in agreement.

    ”Triggering the warp is a last resort…” Latios said. ”The safest hands are our own…”


Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •