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  1. #161
    P i k a c h u Chakramaster's Avatar
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    Man these were all incredible dude!

    Spoiler:
    each character was handled very nicely and it built up a strong story and was very engaging to read. It was very nicely paced too. Everyone else's characters had something to do and it fit so well too. The ending to the fights were intense and rewarding. Even in the epilogue. I really enjoyed how the Diamond Ladies made that broadcast and basically showed they were done hiding.

    The time is upon us...


    . Pika Pair with the yellow bundle of fluff Chibi Altaria..


  2. #162
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chakramaster View Post
    Man these were all incredible dude!

    Spoiler:
    each character was handled very nicely and it built up a strong story and was very engaging to read. It was very nicely paced too. Everyone else's characters had something to do and it fit so well too. The ending to the fights were intense and rewarding. Even in the epilogue. I really enjoyed how the Diamond Ladies made that broadcast and basically showed they were done hiding.
    Spoiler:

    Cheers for the kind words. Really glad you enjoyed it! And cheers for filling me in on your idea for Jirachi closing the Netherlink at the cost of falling asleep. Honestly, it tied in to Rayquaza Mega Evolving really well. One of the themes that got pushed a bit, particularly after the ill fated tactics meeting was that teamwork isn't as clear cut as we agree on everything and do everything together and the way that Jon and Jimmy, despite being very different and clashing the evening before, still fought with their own strengths on the same battlefield (relatively speaking), without necessarily being nearby one another or explicitly fighting as a traditional team shone that a bit. In the end, Jon would have lost if not for Jimmy and Jirachi, and they would have lost if not for Jon and Rayquaza. And if either side had lost, everyone would have lost. It was a lot of fun to write.

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  4. #163
    P i k a c h u Chakramaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by [Desolate Divine] View Post
    Spoiler:

    Cheers for the kind words. Really glad you enjoyed it! And cheers for filling me in on your idea for Jirachi closing the Netherlink at the cost of falling asleep. Honestly, it tied in to Rayquaza Mega Evolving really well. One of the themes that got pushed a bit, particularly after the ill fated tactics meeting was that teamwork isn't as clear cut as we agree on everything and do everything together and the way that Jon and Jimmy, despite being very different and clashing the evening before, still fought with their own strengths on the same battlefield (relatively speaking), without necessarily being nearby one another or explicitly fighting as a traditional team shone that a bit. In the end, Jon would have lost if not for Jimmy and Jirachi, and they would have lost if not for Jon and Rayquaza. And if either side had lost, everyone would have lost. It was a lot of fun to write.
    Hey for sure! No worries man!

    Spoiler:
    I wouldn't have known how to get there myself. You made the story come to life for all these characters. Thanks for making it a great experience for everyone to read! The whole battle would've been lost from how I read it if anyone didn't play their part in some way. It was a fun read!

    The time is upon us...


    . Pika Pair with the yellow bundle of fluff Chibi Altaria..


  5. #164
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
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    Spiritwater Epilogue/Side-Story: Loyalty
    Spoiler:

    Chapter 1
    “Are we sure this is a good idea?” Willow asked, as she looked nervously between her companions. “Last time Giratina was let out of it’s Pokeball it was-”

    “Trying to stop us from preventing Agatha from ending the world?” Steven offered, as Willow nodded in agreement.

    “I know we have to let Giratina out eventually, but are we sure we aren’t taking too much of a risk doing it now?” Cassandra asked, however instead of Jon answering, it was Dylan.

    “There isn’t a better way to do this…” Dylan answered. “It’s already been three months, and the longer Giratina remains in the Pokeball, the higher the chances are that there will be psychological damage, which will make this even harder…”

    “Dylan’s right,” Jon added. “We’ve put this off long enough, and won’t get a better shot than this…”

    Jon looked up at Rayquaza, who floated in the air behind him.

    “Are you ready?”

    Rayquaza let out a low growl of assent. Jon nodded.

    “The longer we take, the more stressed we will be and the more likely we are to talk ourselves out of it,” Jon explained. “Let’s just do it…”

    The five trainers were at Southern Island, having flown across on Latios, Latias, Rayquaza, Flygon and Skarmory, arriving and setting up camp the night before. It was well into October, and the cooler spring weather had well and truly set in. Now, it was morning, and time to do what they had come here to do…

    Surrounding the empty space they had nominated to be where Giratina was sent out, was Rayquaza, Latios, Latias, Darkrai and Registeel. Cassandra, having been practising using Shadowcraft non-verbally in all the spare time she had when she wasn’t training under Jon, silently readied a sleeping spell, which alongside Darkrai’s natural ability to put people and Pokemon to sleep, would quickly incapacitate Giratina should the need arise.

    “In 3…”

    Willow shuddered, before focusing on the space Giratina was about to appear.

    “2…”

    Dylan readied Metagross’ Pokeball, knowing that if the Pokemon there couldn’t contain Giratina, he needed to be ready.

    “1…”

    Jon took a breath, before throwing the Pokeball into the space between them. It hit the ground, exploding into a bright flash of light, as a terrifying roar rang through the air.

    Before the light had disappeared, Rayquaza had dived toward Giratina, wrapping itself around the Pokemon tight, holding three of its six legs against its body, causing it to collapse under its own body weight. Giratina roared in furious, vengeful anger, before Rayquaza constricted, causing it to wince in pain.

    “Giratina!” Jon roared at the Pokemon. “Look at me! Do you know who I am?”

    Giratina stopped struggling as much, causing Rayquaza to slacken its tight grip, as Giratina looked around, seeing how outnumbered it was, before fixing its gaze on Jon, the holder of the voice that called out to it.

    “You’re Rayquaza’s trainer…” it said through a growl. Jon nodded.

    “Latios’ too,'' Jon explained. “But not just them. Yours now as well…”

    Giratina roared and began to struggle again, however, Rayquaza, well rested, and now with the upper hand, unlike last time they fought, tightened its grip.

    “Let me tell you something Giratina,” Jon called out, as the Pokemon pretended to not listen, and struggled. Jon held out Giratina’s Pokeball. “You see this?”

    Giratina, curious as to why Jon would be referring to the Pokeball, looked at its new trainer, with fury evident in its eyes.

    “This is no standard Pokeball. This is one I commissioned from the League specifically for you…” Jon explained. “I have implanted a heart monitor in my body that will track my heartbeat. That monitor is linked to your Pokeball…”

    Jon fixed his gaze on Giratina, refusing to be intimidated by the Legendary Pokemon, knowing that if he did, it would make this all the more difficult.

    “The moment the Pokeball doesn’t sense my heartbeat, it is programmed to use the return function on you,” Jon explained. “So you could kill me if you like, but just know that you will have milliseconds between my heart stopping, and you getting sucked into this Pokeball. And honestly, I am the only hope you have of having a life outside of it. I know plenty of people who would rather me leave you in it, and lock it away somewhere…”

    Giratina however, noticed something else. Jon held the Pokeball in his right hand, however his left hung loosely by his side, the black shrivelled flesh visible for all there to see. Jon only ever hid it from his daughter, and those outside the Academy. Giratina realised that Jon had been cursed, however at the thought of that, realised something. A sensation of absence it hadn’t felt in years…

    “My master is dead…” Giratina said, sounding shocked, which surprised Jon, Cassandra and Willow, the only people present who could understand it. It looked to Jon. “Did you kill her after you captured me?”

    “No,” Cassandra answered, as Giratina looked around towards her, locking her in its gaze. “We had incapacitated Agatha without hurting her, and planned to take her alive. However, she preferred death to becoming a prisoner, so she took her own life…”

    Cassandra expected Giratina to begin struggling again, however the Pokemon seemed to calm somewhat.

    “Good…”

    The reaction to this from Jon, Willow and Cassandra was visible, as Steven and Dylan looked at the trio in confusion. However, Willow realised something wasn’t right.

    “How did you know she was dead?” Willow asked Giratina. “She is far from an easy person to kill. Hell, Cassandra got lucky with that non-verbal Shadowcraft. If not for that, we’d be in a very different position…”

    Jon realised that Willow raised a good point. Giratina should have no way of knowing what happened to Agatha. It was captured before her suicide, and hadn’t been allowed out of the Pokeball since.

    Giratina looked to Jon.

    “I was like you. I carried a curse…” Giratina answered. “And for the first time in years, I don’t feel it awakened within me…”

    Cassandra’s eyes widened as she realised what Giratina was saying.

    “Agatha cursed you?”

    “She wanted obedience, so she placed a curse on me that would have no effect unless I were to either use my true power, or disobey her…” Giratina answered bitterly. “She knew that despite her power, I was still stronger, so tricked me, placing a curse on me that would put me through immense pain should I use the full extent of my power, or disobey her. But I don’t feel the curse lurking anymore, which means that she is no longer living…”

    Jon and Willow both realised something, albeit two very different things. Willow decided to wait to share her observation until later, however Jon couldn’t wait.

    “This true power of yours…” Jon asked. “What is it?”

    Giratina made a strange noise, which those who understood realised was laughter.

    “You worry that I could use it to escape this fool?” Giratina said, as Rayquaza growled in annoyance. “I am still without it, however, it is now in reach. But yes, if I had it, I would not be your prisoner…”

    Giratina focused its gaze on Jon, remaining silent for a few moments, before speaking.

    “You, New Master, you wish to control me?”

    “It’s not Master, it’s Jon…” Jon answered. “And no, I don’t. Honestly, I’d love for nothing more than to release you, but until I know without a shadow of a doubt that you aren’t going to hurt anyone, you will stay with me. If you behave, I’ll treat you like any of my other Pokemon, until Latios is convinced you’re safe to release…”

    Jon nodded towards Latios, who cried out in acknowledgement.

    “And Latios is nearly impossible to trick…”

    “So I’d have to earn your trust in order to have a remotely normal life, even as one of your Pokemon?” Giratina asked, as Jon nodded.

    “And that’s easier said than done…”

    “What if you could earn my trust?”

    Jon gave Giratina a puzzled look, and the Pokemon continued.

    “There is something you could do for me, and in return, to show my gratitude, I would obey without question…” Giratina explained, as Willow gave Jon a nervous glance.

    “What exactly would that be?” Jon asked.

    “Help me regain my true power…”

    “No way,” Willow said angrily. “We risked everything trying to capture you, and you just told us you could escape if you had this true power...”

    “I am not asking you…” Giratina said to Willow, before addressing Jon. “Being without it is not my natural state. Agatha tricking me into relinquishing it, and then preventing me from getting it back, would be like someone tricking you into losing your limbs…”

    “Jon, this sounds like a bad idea…” Cassandra said, as Jon sighed.

    “I’ll think about it…” Jon said to Giratina. “Before we place you back in the Pokeball, was there anything else you wanted to say?”

    Giratina shook its head, and remained silent, as Jon pressed the button on the Pokeball, causing Giratina to shift into a white light, before being absorbed by the device.

    Chapter 2
    “Surely you’re not considering agreeing to this?” Cassandra asked Jon. The sun had already set by the time they ate their dinner, planning to fly back in the morning. Had they had their conversation with Giratina during the summer, when the sun would be setting close to 9pm, they would have left Southern Island immediately, however with the sun setting early, and night bringing its chills, they decided it best to wait until the following morning to leave. As such they sat around a campfire, eating a stew that Steven had reheated over the fire, citing it as a recipe he learnt from his trip to Galar a few years earlier.

    “I am…” Jon answered, as he stared at the fire, immersed by the flames, before taking a sip of his beer, which had remained cold enough due to the night chill.

    “Jon, I know you’re not that stupid,” Cassandra answered. “Willow hit the nail on the head. Giratina can use that power at any point to escape you…”

    “So it says…” Jon answered.

    “What, you think it’s bluffing?”

    “I don’t know that it’s not.”

    “Steven, talk some sense into him!” Cassandra said to the Hoenn Champion, who was sitting on the opposite side of the fire, his own beer in hand. Cassandra had seen them having beers together often, and since moving into the Eon Academy, had wondered exactly how much beer the pair go through.

    “It’s not my place,” Steven answered simply, as Cassandra’s jaw dropped.

    “If it’s not the place of the Hoenn Champion to tell Jon he is being stupid for even considering this, whose is it?” Cassandra asked, as Jon couldn’t help but grin at the comment about him being stupid.

    “Cassandra, you know what one of Jon’s most annoying habits is?” Steven asked, as Jon couldn’t help but laugh at the question. Cassandra shook her head, wondering where Steven was going with this. He took another sip of his beer.

    “He always withholds just enough information, for you to think he is being an idiot, or an a**hole, and waits until he absolutely has to, to give the rest…” Steven explained. “I’ve stopped questioning him unless I absolutely have to, because I’m sick of enabling it…”

    “So how do you know he isn’t being an idiot, or an a**hole?” Cassandra asked, as Steven grinned.

    “You don’t,” Steven answered. “He acts like an idiot and an a**hole just enough that you can’t rule it out completely, which is why this habit is so goddamn annoying…”

    “What can I say?” Jon said, before taking a sip of his own beer. “You can read me like a book…”

    Cassandra took a deep breath, before looking to Jon, realising Steven was right. If Jon was considering doing this, there had to be something he knew that she didn’t. Unless this was one of the odd occasions where he was being an idiot…

    “Okay Jon, what is it?”

    “Fact is, that unless Giratina’s power allows it to mess with electronics, the moment my heart stops beating, Giratina will be sucked back into its Pokeball. It would take a hell of a power, whatever this power is, to get around that…” Jon explained, however Dylan was the one to question Jon at this point.

    “Giratina said that with this power, it wouldn’t be your prisoner,” Dylan explained, before asking Cassandra’s question again. “Do you think it was bluffing?”

    “I don’t think bluffing, per say, but more referring to something else,” Jon answered. “Remember, Giratina was grappled by Rayquaza, and surrounded by Latios, Latias, Darkrai, Registeel and the five of us. And when Giratina made that comment, it was referencing Rayquaza only a few seconds earlier.”

    “So you think Giratina meant it would be able to fight off Rayquaza and the other Pokemon with this power?” Steven asked, as Jon shrugged.

    “I think it’s more likely than whatever power Giratina has being capable of getting around this failsafe of ours…” Jon answered.

    “I disagree…”

    Everyone looked at Steven, who now that Jon had revealed more of his cards, was now revealing his own.

    “If Pokemon Mythology is anything to go by, I think that Giratina, with this power, is more dangerous than we realise…” Steven explained, as Jon sat up a little straighter, curious.

    “Okay, what makes you say that?”

    “Most myths of Legendary Pokemon have them grouped based on their origin or role. Take Rayquaza. It is always affiliated with Groudon and Kyogre, and is believed to be just as strong. Or Lugia and Ho-oh. Cresselia and Darkrai…” Steven explained, as Jon nodded, following so far. “Giratina in practically all mythology, is linked heavily with Dialga and Palkia, which are effectively the beings in control of all time and space respectively…”

    Dylan’s eyes widened.

    “You think that if Giratina got this true power, it would be in a similar ballpark to Dialga and Palkia?” Dylan asked.

    “I think it’s worth considering the possibility,” Steven answered. “And I can say for certain that if we tried this Pokeball-Heart Monitor trick on Dialga or Palkia, they could get out of it quite easily…”

    “I hadn’t considered that…” Jon muttered, as his brow furrowed. “This complicates things…”

    “Which is exactly why you shouldn’t agree to this,” Cassandra said.

    “However, if we are using mythology to inform this decision, we need to look from all angles…” Steven explained. “Most myths seem to dictate that Giratina lives in a world away from our own, being banished there by Arceus itself for the destruction it caused. If we believe that Giratina’s true power makes it truly dangerous, by that same logic, we should believe that there will be intervention if Giratina were to be as dangerous as mythology could indicate it may be…”

    “Steven, are you seriously suggesting we do this because Arceus will fix it if it goes wrong?” Cassandra asked. “We don’t even know it exists!”

    “I’m not,” Steven answered. “I’m saying that if we rely on myths and legends to inform this decision, we shouldn’t rely just on the ones that sell our case, whatever it may be…”

    “Cassandra,” Jon said, getting her attention, as he normally just referred to her as Cass. “What do you think happens if I refuse?”

    Cassandra went to answer, but realised that it was not going to help her case. She knew if Jon refused, it would put their whole plan back a dozen steps. Jon had bought them time by telling Giratina he’d think about it, but if they refused, Giratina would likely disobey more than it normally would. Any attempts to rehabilitate and train it would likely be fruitless, because Giratina would do all it could to rebel.

    “I handled training Rayquaza abysmally. Because being caught with it would ruin my life, I treated it like a liability, and honestly, it was a miracle that Rayquaza was willing to look past that when it counted most. Fact is, that if I hadn't acted based on my own self preservation, Rayquaza would likely be ready to be released by now…” Jon explained. “Instead, I honestly think Rayquaza will need to be with me for another two or three years, even without Giratina in the equation. I don’t want to make the same mistakes with Giratina…”

    “So you’ll let it get stronger?”

    “I’ll give it the chance to rise to the occasion,” Jon explained. “You know how Steven said I tend to withhold information? There is one thing I hadn’t mentioned yet…”

    “And that is?” Steven asked, not at all shocked to hear this.

    “Latios was sight sharing with me the whole time, and whilst his emotion sense is far from perfect in picking out lies, Latios believed that Giratina meant what it said, when it told us it would obey if we helped it…” Jon explained.

    Cassandra went silent. It was no secret that despite their friendship now, Jon would have simply detained her, Violet and Jarena on the S.S. Wishmaker, if it weren’t for Latios asking him to give them a chance.

    “And then, there is the risk of attack…”

    Nobody said a word, as they had been trying not to consider the idea.

    “We made enemies in Alola, and chances are, one day it will catch up with us,” Jon explained. “On its own, I’d be content without potentially relying on Giratina, but then there’s Blackstone…”

    Lance had tipped Jon off about the mercenary group, who may set their sights on Jon and those with Legendary Pokemon at the Eon Academy, and whilst Lance at the time didn’t believe they were being targeted then, they all knew that could change, and they’d be none-the-wider…”

    “Honestly, without Agatha, witches don’t scare me as much as Blackstone do…” Jon explained. “And if Giratina is loyal by the time they arrive, with this true power it talks about, we would stand a much better chance…”

    “Anything else you’re withholding?” Steven asked. Despite knowing that this was a difficult decision, he was growing tired of the conversation.

    “Only one thing…” Jon answered. “Giratina obeyed Agatha, and did the things it did, because Agatha had a curse placed on it, forcing it to obey under threat of pain if it didn’t. If we keep it prisoner, using this Pokeball thing to make it obey us, are we any better? Honestly, I think us taking a chance on it could be the difference between this going smoothly, and it being a long, painful affair…”

    Cassandra knew that Jon raised good points, however this didn’t sit right with her. She looked towards Willow, who sat in silence, and realised she hadn’t spoken at all during this conversation.

    “Willow, surely you have some thoughts about this?” Cassandra asked, as Willow looked up at her, before looking around at those present, her expression serious and solemn.

    “I have some thoughts, based on what Giratina said…” Willow explained. “But it’s not about this deal…”

    Jon looked over, curiously at Willow, nodding for her to continue.

    “Giratina knew that Agatha was dead, because the curse she placed on it was no longer active…” Willow began. Jon sighed, as he realised what she was getting towards. “Which indicates that these sorts of conditional trigger curses rely on the person who placed the curse remaining alive for them to function…”

    “Willow, I appreciate your concern for me,” Jon answered. “But the war is over, and Nicodemus is a hollow shell at this point…”

    The head injury that Nicodemus suffered at Jon’s hands was what many considered to be a fate worse than death. Nicodemus lost all awareness, unable to move himself around, unless heavily prompted to, and unable to speak or comprehend his surroundings. Jon didn’t know if he was trapped in his own mind, but tried not to think about it. Regardless, Nicodemus was not a threat to anyone anymore, and would rely on full-time care for the rest of his life.

    Cassandra realised what Willow was implying, and felt shock at the fact that deep down, she agreed with Willow. If Nicodemus were to die, Jon could be free of the curse that threatened to kill him at any point. She quickly dismissed the thought.

    “Jon, he’d be put out of his misery,” Willow suggested, however Jon shook his head, as the others remained silent, shocked to be hearing this conversation.

    “Even if I were okay with this, how would you do it?” Jon asked, his tone sharpening. “Would you just murder him, and hope you didn’t get caught? Or try and convince a judge that he deserves the death penalty? Or appeal for an assisted suicide, because he is not going to have a good life the way he is now?”

    Willow remained silent. She hadn’t considered that. She had simply seen it as a way out of the current situation. Trade Nicodemus’ current half-life for the sake of Jon’s. On paper, it seemed like a good deal.

    “If we were still in Alola, and I were to end up in a fight against him again, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill him if that were what was needed to end things with less people getting hurt in that moment,” Jon answered. “But that’s past us now. Now, we just need to accept that this is how things are…”

    Jon looked down at his blackened hand, before looking at Willow.

    “We will figure out another way out of this,” Jon answered. “End of discussion…”

    Before anything else could be said, Jon stood up without a word, tossing his empty beer bottle in the box they had brought for rubbish, which clinked loudly against the other empties in it, before making his way to one of the two large tents, which he shared with Steven and Dylan.

    As he climbed into his sleeping bag, he sighed. Fact was, that despite his words earlier, the idea was tempting. Trade Nicodemus’ miserable life, for a guarantee that his despicable curse wouldn’t take him away from Alyssa and Amelia. However, he knew that he couldn’t do that, and didn’t want to set the example that that was okay…

    Jon was the second to awaken the following morning, looking around the tent to see that Steven was still asleep, whilst Dylan’s bed was empty. The smell of food cooking on the fire however, indicated what Dylan was doing exactly.

    One by one, all five members of the party awoke, and once they were ready, they moved back to their original places, alongside the Pokemon tasked with containing Giratina should it try to fight or escape. However this time, Rayquaza was instructed by Jon to wait until Giratina tried anything hostile before restraining it.

    As expected, when Giratina was allowed out of the Pokeball, it remained still. It knew that Rayquaza had subdued it last time, and was trying to convince Jon to help it, so made sure it didn’t hurt its chances.

    “Tell me what it is you’re wanting us to do, exactly…” Jon said evenly.

    “I normally live in a world parallel to this one, because this world strips me of my power. There, I can be myself, but here, I am trapped in this slow and cumbersome form. Whilst I’d like to return to my home, I know you don’t trust me enough to simply let me return on my word alone. So if I must stay in this world with you, allow me to regain my true, more comfortable form…”

    “How do we do that?” Jon asked, as Dylan listened with curiosity, as Latios translated Giratina’s words telepathically. A little over a year ago, he had researched Giratina when trying to figure out what was causing a boy in Canalave City to be trapped in a nightmare he couldn’t wake up from. At the time, he had been confused by the sheer lack of information about Giratina, and the huge variance in artists' depictions of the Legendary Pokemon. This however, answered some of that confusion, with Giratina describing having another form.

    “A stone, placed somewhere in this world, which is imbued with the energy of my home,” Giratina explained. “If I had the stone, I’d be able to shift between this form and my natural one…”

    “And where is this stone?”

    “I… I don’t know…” Giratina admitted, seeming almost embarrassed. “I can sense it in this world, and I know that it is somewhere close to myself…”

    “Close geographically speaking?” Steven asked, able to understand by way of Latios’ translation.

    “In terms of distance, no,” Giratina explained. “Somewhere with ties to myself…”

    “And how do you know this?” Cassandra asked, sceptical. Giratina turned an eye towards her.

    “How do you know how to breathe?” Giratina asked, without waiting for an answer. “It is knowledge so vital to your survival, that you simply know. Just like how I know of this stone…”

    Before Cassandra could respond, Jon interjected, his mind made up.

    “I’m willing to oblige your request, but before we make this agreement, there are some things you need to know…” Jon answered, as Cassandra scowled. She didn’t trust Giratina, having seen the carnage first hand of it destroying Section B, regardless of whether it was forced to obey Agatha or not.

    “What things?” Giratina asked.

    “Firstly, despite it being against my better judgement, I am giving you a chance to have a looser leash, and to cooperate with that. I will keep the auto-lock mechanism on the Pokeball for the time being, just for some peace of mind…” Jon explained. “If we are going on some trek to find this stone, and I die, you will be returned to the Pokeball faster than you can hope to escape, and you will likely never be let out again…”

    Giratina nodded in understanding as Jon continued.

    “Secondly, if, somehow, you get this power of yours, and manage to get away from me, you will be better off hiding forever in this other world you supposedly prefer, because if you betray me, as long as I draw breath, I will hunt you down…” Jon said coldly, making sure there was no mistaking where he stood on it. “You’re getting this chance because I’m giving it to you. Nobody else here wants to, and it sounds like Agatha refused as well. If you prove my willingness to try and make things work with you to have been a mistake, I will not be as forgiving as I am right now…”

    Giratina glared at Jon, angered by the hubris the trainer showed towards a Pokemon of its calibre.

    “Are we clear?”

    Giratina growled in agitated assent, as Jon nodded in approval.

    “Good,” Jon answered. “I’ll see if I can find any leads as to where this stone may be…”


    Chapter 3
    “I thought you were done going off like this…” Alyssa said, as Jon threw another hoodie into his small travel bag. “You said that the S.S. Wishmaker would be your last job, and then all the stuff during the Spiritwater Festival happened and…”

    She trailed off, before sighing. She was right. Jon had said he wouldn’t take on any more League operations after the S.S. Wishmaker. However, when Steven had asked Jon to capture Rayquaza, Alyssa had supported him, given the fact that Steven really had nobody else he could ask. After that, it had been three and a half years before the Diamond Ladies arrived at the Eon Academy, and despite Alyssa being far from happy about Jon going to Alola, she also knew that given the potential consequences of the League failing to stop Agatha, Jon was needed. And surely enough, Rayquaza played a pivotal role in stopping Agatha’s plans. However, he had come home, carrying a curse that could kill him at any moment, and promising to be done. And now, he was wanting to go to Sinnoh, chasing after this lead about Giratina, and she was far from happy about it.
    “This is different,” Jon answered, not for the first time in the previous few days. “No military or witches trying to stop me with lethal force. Heck, I would be extremely surprised if I even got into a fight…”

    “But the clear difference is you’ll be travelling alone with Giratina, who not even six months ago, was trying to kill you and Rayquaza, so it could help Agatha with that disgusting plan of hers…”

    “I’ll have Rayquaza and Latios with me,” Jon tried to reason, however he was interrupted by a voice at the door.

    “And he’ll have me…”

    Jon and Alyssa both looked to the doorway, where Cassandra stood, a small duffel bag loaded with clothes for travelling, as she leaned against the doorframe, her expression challenging either of them to object. Jon took the challenge.

    “No, I won’t,” Jon explained. “If Agatha’s followers show up here-”

    “If Agatha’s followers show up here, Violet, Jarena and Willow will cover all bases that Dylan and Steven can’t, which from what I know of the pair of them, won’t be many,” Cassandra interrupted, as Jon opened his mouth to protest, before Cassandra cut him off again. “And if Blackstone show up, which I doubt they will since you will be having three of the Legendary Pokemon with you, I’m sure that between everyone staying back here, they can hold them off until we can get back…”

    Jon went to argue, however realised he couldn’t. Cassandra was right. Though her coming would mean one less person to defend the Academy should they be attacked, it was already well defended enough without her there.

    “Beyond that, what if this curse triggers while you’re gone?” Cassandra asked. “Depending on what it is, I may be able to slow it down and buy time to stop it before it kills you, if I’m there to do that. But if you’re alone…”

    “She’s right, Jon,” Alyssa said, hiding the sigh of relief that he wasn’t going alone. She still was far from pleased about this excursion, and didn’t want to give any indication she was giving ground. “If you must do this, don’t do it by yourself…”

    Jon looked between Alyssa and Cassandra, who had now entered the room, before fixing his gaze on Cassandra.

    “You’re not worried about the fact that Giratina will likely spend a lot of time out of the Pokeball?” Jon asked. “It’s no secret it makes you nervous…”

    “If you need to ask, should you be okay with going alone?” Cassandra pointed out. “Giratina is either safe enough, or isn’t. That doesn’t change based on your agenda.”

    “Noted,” Jon remarked as Cassandra continued.

    “If you think Giratina will behave itself, I’m coming. Especially seeing as if you’re wrong, you will need all the help you can get, and if you’re not being honest, you shouldn’t be going alone anyway…”

    Jon nodded, accepting the fact that Cassandra would be joining him on this trip, before looking to Alyssa.

    “You can track my phone, so keep an eye on that. I’ll update you whenever I get the opportunity and keep you in the loop…” Jon said to his wife. “But I have to do this. Compared to other missions, this is pretty safe in terms of risk, and the reward for doing it could be game-changing. And the punishment for not doing so would make things even more difficult than they already are…”

    Alyssa sighed, before fixing her gaze on Jon.

    “If you have to do this, don’t do anything reckless,” Alyssa said, before nodding to Jon’s hand. “I don’t want you coming home with something like that…”

    “I don’t want to come home with something like that,” Jon agreed, before kissing her on the cheek. “But I’ll be careful.”

    “And I’ll turn him into a Dunsparce if he tries doing anything stupid,” Cassandra added. “Keep him safe from himself…”

    Alyssa nodded her thanks, before Jon left the room Cassandra in tow, wanting to have one more conversation before he left. As he looked for the person he was wanting to talk to, Cassandra spoke.

    “So do you have any idea where we are going?” Cassandra asked. Jon nodded as the pair left Jon and Alyssa’s house, walking towards the in-construction lodges being build to house the two hundred attendees for the next summer’s program. Jon had been forced to close registrations at that amount, knowing the Academy simply couldn’t host that many people in a single summer at their current size.

    “Sinnoh,” Jon explained. “My flight leaves this afternoon, so I suggest you call the airline and beg for whatever seat they can offer, as soon as possible…”

    Cassandra nodded, having not considered that, as Jon explained further.

    “Giratina is referenced in numerous regions' mythology, but Sinnoh most prominently,” Jon explained. “And some traditions even place it at Spear Pillar, where Dialga and Palkia were said to have been born…”

    “So we are checking out Spear Pillar?”

    “It’s our best lead,” Jon explained. “But, Giratina said it can sense this stone, so we may arrive, and Giratina can sense it in the opposite direction. But, Spear Pillar is a start…”

    “Sounds like our best option right now,” Cassandra agreed as Jon continued.

    “Our flight leaves at 4pm. I was going to have Latios fly me to Lilycove, but if you’re coming, we’ll have to take Rayquaza, so it will take longer,” Jon explained. “Be ready to leave in an hour, flight or no flight…”

    “What happens if I can’t get a flight?”

    “You’ll take my plane ticket and Latios will fly me to Sinnoh,” Jon explained. “He can keep pace with the plane without trying too hard…”

    “What if the curse kicks in during the trip?”

    “Well the other option is I am on the plane and you take Latios, so either way I’m boned,” Jon explained. “The curse isn’t going to be delayed by us planning for it in every eventuality. So let’s forget about it, and focus on what’s right in front of us…”

    Cassandra sighed, however, knew she had little time to argue with Jon.

    “I’ll meet you at the front gate in an hour…”

    Cassandra left, making her way to the lodge where she lived, knowing she would struggle to get herself onto Jon’s flight in under an hour, whilst Jon made his way to one of the rooms being built, where he could hear the sound of music being played. It was clearly Dylan’s taste, that was being blasted loud enough that Jon could hear it outside.

    Inside the room, Dylan wore old clothes that were now marked with flecks of spilt paint. In his hand, was a brush he was using to paint the walls of the under-construction lodge. The floors were bare, having not been carpeted yet, and whilst lights, switches and outlets were wired in, the building itself wasn’t hooked up to the Eon Academy’s grid yet. Whilst they could afford the work being done, it was simply a matter of time. Painting was something Dylan could do outside of normal working hours, which was one less thing for the professionals to do, allowing the project to be finished quicker.

    “It looks good,” Jon called out, as Dylan turned, noticing Jon, and withdrew his phone from his pocket, pressing the volume buttons to turn the music down. “I still can’t believe we are up to lodge five and six…”

    “We honestly couldn’t fit another on the property if we tried,” Dylan said. “The only reason we could build these ones was because of the exemption that Steven got from the city council in terms of permits. Technically, these would be illegal if Steven hadn't thrown his weight around with the council…”

    Jon nodded in agreement.

    “Honestly, I need to see if I can convince some of the owners of the neighbouring properties to sell,” Jon answered. “Difficult thing will be not giving away just how much we need it, and giving them reason to double their asking price…”

    Dylan nodded in agreement, as Jon continued.

    “Listen, Cass and I are leaving for Sinnoh in an hour,” Jon explained, as Dylan gave him a puzzled look.

    “I thought you weren’t leaving until 1?” Dylan asked, looking at his watch. “It’s not even 10am…”

    “I was when it was just me, but if Cass is coming, Latios can’t carry both of us, and we are limited by Rayquaza’s top speed,” Jon explained. “So the trip to Lilycove will be longer…”

    Dylan considered this for a minute, before looking at Jon.

    “I’ll come too,” Dylan said, though Jon shook his head.

    “Cassandra is already going to struggle to get onto my flight to Jubilife, and if she can’t, we at least have the option of her taking my place, and I fly there on Latios. But if you come, we don’t have that option,” Jon explained. “Besides, I want you here in case anything happens…”

    “Witches?” Dylan asked. Jon nodded.

    “Or Blackstone, but they’re less than likely, especially with Charlotte, Abbee, Chris and Justin gone, as well as myself and my three Legendary Pokemon not there,” Jon answered. “I only agreed that Cassandra could come, because I knew that Violet, Jarena, Willow, Steven and yourself would be here. And whilst the others can handle themselves well, I get most peace of mind leaving this place when things may go wrong, knowing you and Steven are here. I mean, you were the reason this place wasn’t a burning pile of rubble when Deoxys attacked…”

    Dylan nodded, though wished Jon were wrong. He wanted to be there as well, knowing he could help, but Jon was right. Nobody outside the Academy knew he was gone, though Blackstone would likely know he left Hoenn the moment he entered Jubilife Airport, given what Lance had told Jon a few months earlier of their illicit access to government systems. For Dylan to go, would thin their already thin defences.

    “One more thing,” Jon said to Dylan, catching his attention again. “Don’t tell the others what I am doing. I don’t expect you to lie to them, but unless lying to them is the only way to avoid telling them I’m not here, don’t tell them…”

    Dylan nodded, knowing what the other interns were like. Charlotte, Chris and Justin had all planned on making their own way to Akala Island to help Jon, Dylan and Abbee, the latter two were there because they wanted to help Jon. He knew that the moment any of them found out, especially Charlotte and Justin who were in Jubilife themselves, they’d join Jon, whether he liked it or not. It was easier to keep it a secret.

    “My lips are sealed…”

    Chapter 4
    “Is this really necessary?” Cassandra asked, as she and Jon, both very rugged up, walked towards the eastern gate leaving the Jubilife City boundary. Both wore thick winter coats with hoods, beanies underneath, covering the top of their heads, as well as scarves piled up to cover the bottom halves of their faces, leaving only their eyes exposed. “We probably attract more attention like this than if we didn’t…”

    Cassandra raised a valid point. Whilst the weather was getting colder, as they had passed the halfway mark of autumn, they were dressed for winter in Snowpoint City, which was still a way off. Most people wore a light jacket, and potentially a hoodie. And both trainers were receiving strange looks, despite the heavy hiking packs they carried indicating they were likely going to tackle Mount Coronet.

    “We look exactly like people trying to hide their identity, and doing a terrible job of it…” Cassandra added, noticing a couple nearby looking at them curiously.

    “I’m okay with that,” Jon explained. “As long as we don’t look like Jon Drake and Cassandra Silvers…”

    Jon had explained to Cassandra his desire for secrecy. Especially given it would be easy for Charlotte and Justin to force their way into this trip given they were both likely in Jubilife somewhere.

    “I still don’t get why you don’t want Charlotte or Justin knowing you’re here…” Cassandra said. “You said yourself that this isn’t a dangerous mission, compared to previous stunts, and you think Giratina will behave itself. So why would it be a problem if they did want to come?”

    “You have your phone on you?” Jon asked, as Cassandra nodded. “Open up Instagram and search for Justin…”

    Cassandra opened up Instagram, and quickly found Justin’s profile, having followed him herself after enrolling at the Academy, as she did with Jon’s other students.

    “Okay, now what am I looking-” Cassandra said before something stood out to her. “Goddamn…”

    “How many now?” Jon asked. “I haven’t checked in a while…”

    “3.6 million followers…” Cassandra said in shock. Her old account from her pre S.S. Wishmaker life, which had been left behind and forgotten about, sat on 200 million followers, however her current account sat on five thousand. “Are all your students this famous?”

    “Abbee has 2.8 million. She already had lots of followers before enrolling because of her dad and her own competing. Charlotte and Chris have about 2.4. Dylan is sitting on 1.8, though barely uses Instagram himself,” Jon explained. “I have 3 million. Only Steven has him beat, but at this rate, Justin will likely have more than him in six months…”

    “So why does Jusin have so many more?” Cassandra asked. “He doesn’t even compete, does he?”

    “As a high school student, he played a vital part in discovering a new Legendary Pokemon, and captured it himself. The summer after, when Deoxys attacked, Justin was the one who got the SOS signal out to the mainland, before he and Regieleki helped turn the tides on what was a battle of attrition,” Jon explained. “When it got out that he was in a relationship with Candice, his popularity blew up, seeing as of all the Gym Leaders, the only one with more followers than her was Elesa. Then, if he wasn’t famous enough already, he was the first to battle in our challenge against the College of the North Wind last year, and exceeded all expectations people had of us…”

    Hearing this, Cassandra felt a sense of determination in her flare for a moment. What Jon described was a normal kid, who during his first summer, had barely taken the opportunity in front of him seriously, now being one of the most respected trainers on the face of the earth, despite not even competing himself. She wondered if, given time, she could earn a reputation like his, however was pulled from her thoughts when Jon continued.

    “You and I already struggle to stay unnoticed, but if Justin and Charlotte were to come, it would draw attention to us. And if we’re going to be working with Giratina, that attention will do more harm than anything else,” Jon continued. “But even if it didn’t, they have their own lives. Charlotte may not even be in Jubilife competing, but if she is here, it is likely for a short break, before another competition, which, if she thought what we were doing was important, she’d pull out of, and if I have come here and kept her in the dark, she’d know it was something big. And Justin is in his final year at Jubilife University, and I don’t want to interfere with that…”

    “So keeping the other interns in the dark isn’t because this is too dangerous?” Cassandra asked. Jon shook his head.

    “Honestly, I think they could handle this with less risk that I could, seeing as they aren’t carrying a curse like I am,” Jon answered. “But I’m Giratina’s trainer, so this is my responsibility…”

    The pair had reached the edge of the city, and were now walking east along Route 203, as the sun was falling towards the horizon behind them. Once clear of the city, they made their way off the main path, into a far more wooded area, walking a few kilometres, before finally, finding a clearing far enough away that nobody would accidentally stumble upon them. Or, which seemed more likely, if Giratina did need to be restrained, they’d have plenty of space for Rayquaza and Latios to fight it, without there being any collateral outside of the trees.

    “You ready?” Jon asked Cassandra. Despite this being the third time Jon had let the Pokemon out, and previously, it had seemed calm and reasonable, she wondered, given what she had seen of the Pokemon under Agatha’s orders, whether she ever would be ready. She nodded, albeit uneasily.

    Jon pressed the button on Rayquaza’s Pokeball, and the green, serpentine Pokemon flew up into the air above the clearing, poised and ready to attack if Giratina posed any threat. Latios, who remained invisible, watched the path behind them, looking out for any people who may stumble upon their whereabouts, as Mount Coronet loomed not too far from where they gathered. Finally, Jon pressed the button on Giratina’s Pokeball.

    The Pokeball exploded into white light, as Giratina materialised, like last time, still and calm, taking up most of the space in the clearing. However, it looked around curiously, realising this was a different place to the last two times it had been called from its Pokeball. It looked towards the silhouette of Mount Coronet, before Rayquaza placed itself between Giratina and the distant mountain, its challenging gaze almost daring Giratina to try something.

    “You sense something?” Jon called out, nodding to the peak of Mount Coronet. “Up there?”

    Giratina nodded.

    “If nothing else, in that direction,” Giratina answered. “I have never been this close to it, so I am unsure how far away it is…”

    Jon nodded, before looking at Giratina’s narrow wings, which seemed insufficient to lift its huge body.

    “You can fly, correct?”

    “I can fly in this form, though more comfortably in my other…”

    Jon nodded, before whistling. Latios descended by Cassandra, as Rayquaza flew down towards where Jon was, leaving all in the clearing cramped, as Rayquaza growled at Giratina.

    “Let me remind you that if for any reason, my heart stops, the Pokeball will activate, and you will be captured again,” Jon explained. “And if you give me any reason to think you’ll try and escape, or hurt somebody, this trip is over. This is your one and only chance. Am I understood?”

    Giratina nodded, as it growled in assent. Jon nodded in agreement, before climbing onto Rayquaza, whilst Cassandra rode on Latios’ back.

    “You can sense this thing, and we believe it is at the top of Mount Coronet,” Jon explained. “Lead the way, and behave yourself…”

    Giratina gave a triumphant roar, before crouching for a moment on all six legs, and jumping into the air, as its wings began to beat, lifting the large, Legendary Pokemon into the air. Latios and Rayquaza began to follow, keeping their sights focused on Giratina, which was difficult in the half-light of sunset, who ascended towards the peak of Mount Coronet.

    Whilst Jon had slept most of the flight to Jubilife, likely because, as much as he tried to hide it from all but Alyssa, he struggled to sleep at night, Cassandra had bought access to the aircraft’s Wifi, and was researching Mount Coronet. She was thankful that the altitude of Spear Pillar wasn’t high enough that they’d struggle with the thinning oxygen, however had been worried that Jon hadn’t looked into that.

    The trip to the peak of Mount Coronet itself was short, flying directly to the top, despite being slowed by Giratina leading, which in the air, was the slowest of the three Pokemon. It took twenty minutes for the three Legendary Pokemon to land at the peak of Mount Coronet, Spear Pillar, where behind them, the landscape of the western half of Sinnoh was bathed in a red light from the setting sun falling beneath the western horizon.

    “One day, I gotta make it back here on foot,” Cassandra said quietly, as Jon grinned. It was a beautiful view, however he understood Cassandra feeling as though they hadn’t earned the reward that was in front of them. He turned, to see Giratina wandering curiously around the space they were in. Having not paid much attention to it himself, being distracted by the sunset, he only noticed for the first time just how strange it was.

    The peak had been flattened, Jon guessing that it would have been a laborious task for the time it was done. The ground itself was paved in surprisingly even and matching stones. Surrounding them were pillars and statues, all of which were broken, and large chunks of stone, which Jon realised was the ceiling that the pillars once held up, littered the area.

    “This was a building,” Jon said, as Cassandra nodded in agreement.

    “It was a temple, most likely to Arceus itself,” Cassandra explained, having read that online during the flight to Jubilife. “Legend has it that Dialga and Palkia, along with the rest of the world, were formed here…”

    Jon nodded in understanding, before looking to Giratina, who had made its way to the northern end of the stone slab, which overlooked Snowpoint, Eterna and Celestic. However, its focus was not on the cities, now lighting up as night fell, but a symbol carved into the ground, reminiscent of a triangle, however inside of it was a large circle, taking up most of the area of the triangle. Superimposed on that circle were three smaller circles, each within the point of each apex of the triangle. He approached the Pokemon cautiously.

    “Any of this mean anything to you?”

    Giratina turned, fixing its gaze on Jon, before looking back to the symbol.

    “I don’t know…” Giratina answered. “I feel closer, but if this is the place, the feeling is underwhelming…”

    Jon looked around, realising just how empty it was. Whilst he had been intrigued by the view, and then the history of where they stood, when considering it relative to why they were actually here, he realised why Giratina was disappointed. Honestly, there was nowhere that seemed like it should house a stone, and Giratina seemed to believe this was not the place.

    “So where do you think the stone is?”

    Giratina looked around, finally settling on looking east of their location.

    “Somewhere that way…”

    Jon looked, however with the shadow cast by Mount Coronet projected over the landscape, and the sun now past the horizon, he couldn’t make out any details where Giratina seemed to be looking.

    After speaking to Cassandra, Jon decided that it would be best to spend the night on Spear Pillar. Despite it being cold, they had packed well, carrying warm sleeping bags and extra layers in their packs, and Jon raised a good point.

    “Depending on cloud cover, which Rayquaza can get rid of if need be, we should be able to see as far as Solaceon Town,” Jon explained. “With the sun rising in the east, it should be well lit early so that we can see what’s down there and get a better idea of where we are headed…”

    When it was decided, Jon sent Latios down to gather firewood, knowing that unburdened by delicate human passengers, Latios could accelerate and decelerate at ungodly speeds, and would likely be at the base of the mountain in record time. Sure enough, Latios returned within an hour, carrying telekinetically a large amount of firewood, most of which dried out somewhat quickly from the air rushing past it during flight.

    Cassandra lit the campfire, as Jon grabbed some food from his own bag. After setting aside enough for himself and Cassandra, he withdrew a generous amount for the three Legendary Pokemon, knowing it would do little to satisfy their appetites, and made a mental note to buy more supplies the next day.

    Latios and Rayquaza both accepted the food without hesitation, however Giratina looked between Jon and the meal on offer curiously.

    “There’s nothing wrong with it,” Jon said casually. “If I really wanted to get rid of you, I’d have just left you in the Pokeball…”

    Giratina looked at Jon, before accepting the food, which Jon tossed into the air for the large Pokemon to catch in its mouth.

    With the fire lit, and the temperature dropping rapidly, Jon gathered from his own pack, a tarp he had rolled up meticulously, as well as some rope, and began suspending it from whatever pillars were nearby. The covered area underneath it was not large by any means, but would provide where they slept with plenty enough cover from any snow or rain that may fall during the night, and otherwise dampen their spirits as well as their bedding. He figured it was only going to get colder, so it was worth getting it all set up before they were comfortable.

    An hour later, Jon and Cassandra sat around the burning fire, with Latios sitting with them, and Giratina sitting in the same place on the northern edge of the ruins, Rayquaza watching intently. Jon didn’t intend on letting Giratina remain out of its Pokeball whilst he and Cassandra slept. Whilst he didn’t think Giratina would sabotage this opportunity it had been given, Jon didn’t want Rayquaza being forced to supervise the Legendary Pokemon all night, especially in the cold. And considering how cold it would get, Jon figured Giratina would be more comfortable in the Pokeball anyway. However, despite this not being the place they were looking for, it did seem to have resonated with Giratina, who continued to look at the carved symbol on the ground.

    Jon, Cass and Latios spoke quietly by the fire, as the temperature grew colder, considering what was north east of here that may have a connection to Giratina. However, as Jon felt himself shiver, despite the heat of the fire in front of him, he looked to where Giratina remained, as well as where Rayquaza watched vigilantly. He looked from there to the overly large pile of firewood Latios had brought, which they’d barely make a dent in.

    “Latios, can you load up the fire,” Jon asked, as Cassandra looked at him in confusion. “We aren’t going to use it all at this rate, and it’ll likely go to waste if we don’t use it tonight…”

    However as he finished, Jon nodded to the two Legendary Pokemon who stood away from the fire, both of whom were trying their best to hide how cold they were.

    Latios took the rest of the wood, at Jon’s command, knowing once it burnt out, they’d likely be wanting to sleep, and piled it high, turning what was a medium sized campfire into a large bonfire. Once it was ready, Latios hit the pile of wood with a Dragonbreath attack, causing it to ignite.

    Jon looked towards Giratina, before calling out.

    “It’s not going to change if you keep staring at it…”

    Giratina looked around, realising Jon was addressing it, before growling, feeling as if Jon were mocking it. He raised his hands in a placating gesture.

    “Come sit by the fire. You must be freezing…”

    “And why would you care?” Giratina asked. “If I froze to death, it would be one less thing for you to worry about…”

    “If you froze to death, I’d have come all the way out here for nothing,” Jon joked. “Even if I didn’t care, Rayquaza isn’t going to let you out of its sight, and I don’t want Rayquaza freezing to death either…”

    Rayquaza looked at Jon indignantly, as if Jon had somehow tarnished the image it had worked so hard to maintain by alluding to the fact that Rayquaza, like most living beings that weren’t Ice Type Pokemon, didn’t enjoy the cold.

    Cassandra watched warily, as Giratina stood to its feet, and slowly walked towards the large bonfire that she, Jon and Latios sat around, albeit further away now from the heat it was producing. Once Giratina was in place, Rayquaza floated over, sitting on the opposite side to Giratina, however keeping its gaze fixed on the Pokemon.

    There was silence for a few moments, before Jon addressed Giratina again.

    “So what is this place to you?” Jon asked. “It seems as if you have some connection to it…”

    Giratina remained silent, causing Jon to continue.

    “Were you born here?”

    “No,” Giratina answered. “I was born somewhere else, though I do not know where…”

    There was silence, before Giratina continued.

    “But that carving on the ground… It is like where I was born…”

    Cassandra couldn’t help but look at the Pokemon with curiosity. Despite her own apprehensiveness about it, she was intrigued by Pokemon mythology, and now she had one of the Pokemon with the least amount of recorded knowledge by humans, sitting in front of her, speaking of its own creation…

    “How do you not know where you were born, if you know it wasn’t here?” Jon asked, as Giratina glared, taking the question as an insult.

    “If you found yourself in a room, with no memory of how you got there, and then were teleported to somewhere far away, could you find that room again?” Giratina asked, as Jon shook his head, though understanding.

    “Did that happen to you?” Cassandra asked.

    Giratina nodded solemnly, before considering whether to answer, and finally deciding.

    “The reason that I lived in another world isn’t just because this world strips me of my power… I, like all Giratina before me, was banished there, moments after being born…”

    “By Arceus?” Jon asked, as Giratina nodded.

    “My true power, the one this world strips me of, is one that if not controlled, can lead to chaos,” Giratina explained. “Arceus has always banished us from this world, as the only way for us to return here is to learn to control our power. And even if we were to find a way out of our forced home, and back here, we are forced into this form, where our power is severely limited, as what you humans call a fail-safe. So once we gain enough control to be able to leave our isolation, we are only given the option of living as half of ourselves here, or remaining whole, but alone…”

    “If Arceus doesn’t trust you enough to allow you to live in this world in your natural form, why does this stone exist?” Cassandra asked.

    “Arceus does not distrust us!” Giratina roared, as Cassandra recoiled slightly, the sound reminding her of Agatha’s attack on Section B. Rayquaza reared up where it floated

    “Calm down,” Jon said firmly, glaring at Giratina, and holding a hand towards Rayquaza, indicating for it to wait. “She just asked a question…”

    Giratina glared at Jon and Rayquaza, before fixing its gaze on Cassandra.

    “Arceus knows our power is hard to control, and as such, is dangerous. However, just like reaching this world is a feat of control, I believe that getting the stone, allowing use of that power here, is another feat of control. A test…” Giratina explained. “Any of my kind who can get the stone, can only do so because they are so proficient in their abilities that they won’t risk accidentally bringing about untold destruction…”

    Cassandra nodded in understanding. Jon however, was thinking about what Giratina had told them earlier.

    “Could this stone be in your birthplace?” Jon asked, as Giratina considered the question.

    “If it is, I don’t know where that is. I only have this sense, which grows stronger the closer I get…” Giratina explained. “It is nearby, relatively speaking…”

    “Do you remember what it was like there?” Cassandra asked. Giratina looked back to the symbol carved into the ground, before answering.

    “I remember little of it. It was similar to here, but out of the weather, like a cave,” Giratina explained. “And when I look at that marking, I couldn’t help but remember that place…”

    “I wonder what this place is then, if you weren’t born here. Maybe where Dialga and Palkia were born…”

    Cassandra had raised the question, however Giratina gave her a puzzled look.

    “You talk about the three of us as if we have always existed…” Giratina answered. “We live, and die, just like all beings but Arceus itself…”

    “How has time flowed then, if Dialga is capable of aging and dying?” Cassandra asked.

    “We don’t reproduce in the way that other Pokemon do. The universe requires myself, Dialga and Palkia to exist, and as such, when we are needed to be born, we are…” Giratina answered. “Should I die here and now, an egg containing another of my kind would appear where I was born. As it would with Dialga and Palkia…”

    “Maybe this place is where the first Dialga, Palkia and Giratina were born, as the world came into being, and since then, they were born in this other place?” Jon offered, however, this conversation gave Cassandra a concerning thought, one that Steven had raised on Southern Island, but they couldn’t confirm.

    “You refer to yourself alongside Dialga and Palkia as if you’re equal to them,” Cassandra noted. “Are you?”

    “In my natural state, yes…” Giratina answered, as Jon listened intently. “I am their equal, created for a purpose by Arceus, just as they were…”

    “So if Dialga rules over time, and Palkia rules over space,” Jon began. “What do you rule over?”

    ”Gravity…”

    Chapter 5
    “Jon, are we not going to talk about this?”

    It was shortly before sunrise the following morning. After the revelation that Giratina was the master of gravity, the conversation had dwindled, with Jon, Cassandra and Latios realising the implication of this, and going rather quiet. They had returned the three Pokemon to their Pokeballs, before going to sleep. Cassandra had not raised it, figuring Jon needed time to process this, however now, when they had to decide where they were going next, it needed to be considered.

    “What’s there to talk about?” Jon asked, as he rolled up his bed to place it back in his hiking pack.

    “The curse Nicodemus placed on you has a glyph for gravity, and we just learnt that Giratina is the master of gravity,” Cassandra explained. “I’m certain that the trigger which will activate it is Giratina itself…”

    “Do we know how?” Jon asked, and Cassandra shook her head.

    “Even if we don’t, every moment you spend with Giratina is a moment you risk this curse activating, and me bringing you home in a bodybag…”

    Jon looked up from where he was packing, shock evident in the look he gave Cassandra.

    “Are you saying we should call this off?”

    “I’m saying I don’t want to have to tell Alyssa that the curse activated and I couldn’t save you,” Cassandra replied, raising her voice slightly. “I don’t want to tell Lili her dad is gone…”

    Jon went silent hearing this. He knew Cassandra had a point. He continued rolling up the sleeping bag, as he considered her words.

    “I know it’s not certain that this curse is linked to Giratina,” Cassandra pleaded. “But we can’t ignore the fact that it was given to you whilst you were trying to capture Agatha’s Giratina. It may be nothing, but we can’t treat it like it is, and pretend nothing has changed…”

    “This changes nothing…”

    Jon’s words were sharp, shocking Cassandra a little.

    “Jon, we have good reason to believe this curse could activate at any moment Giratina is out of its Pokeball, and we have no clue what specifically will activate it!”

    “We have good reason to know this curse is dependent on Giratina,” Jon corrected. “As far as I am aware, all my options are equally f**ked…”

    “Jon-” Cassandra argued, before Jon interrupted.

    “Think about it!” Jon snapped. “The trigger could be Giratina winning a battle under my command! Or the trigger could be me letting Giratina down! No matter what I do, I have the prospect of this curse activating! I can’t run from it because I don’t know where it will strike from, and every move I make to escape it, could put me closer to it!”

    Cassandra remained silent as Jon asked her a question, the frustration of the last few months worrying about this curse now bubbling to the surface.

    “You’re saying I throw in the towel?” Jon asked. “Well what if the trigger for the curse is me betraying Giratina? I’d be dead, and that’d be on your conscience!”

    “Are you trying to guilt trip me?!” Cassandra asked angrily. “I’m not the one who cursed you, Jon!”

    “I know you’re not!” Jon answered back. “I’m saying that we know so little that I can’t make any sort of informed decision that actually stands to help! Any decision I make could have the opposite effect of what I intend, and I won’t know until it’s too late!”

    “So you pretend nothing’s wrong?!”

    “No, I do what I know is right, regardless of my circumstances!” Jon yelled back. “I can’t change what’s happened to me, or safely take any sort of action against it, so the least I can do is keep my word to Giratina, and try and do the right thing if nothing else!”

    Spear Pillar was eerily quiet. Wild Pokemon didn’t venture up here, and the only sound present was the wind. Cassandra looked at Jon in shock.

    “I’m not disregarding what you have to say because I think you’re wrong. You could well be right,” Jon said, his voice quieter. “Honestly, the thought of leaving Liss and Lili terrifies me. But we just don’t know enough, and if a blind decision has to be made that could kill me, I don’t want that weighing on anyone else's conscience. This decision has to be mine and mine alone…”

    Cassandra bitterly realised he was right. There was no way of knowing what action would protect Jon, given there were so many potential triggers for the curse. And if he did listen to her, and that resulted in the curse activating…

    “I’ll agree to keep going on two conditions,” Cassandra said firmly, refusing to budge on this. “The first is that you don’t leave my side, and the moment you feel anything out of the ordinary, anything at all, you tell me. That way if this curse activates, I might be able to slow it long enough to buy some time to identify it and try to remove it…”

    “And the other?”

    “Latios listens to your thoughts at all times. That way if you feel something and try to dismiss it, Latios is aware and can tell me before you let yourself get killed…” Cassandra said, before looking at Jon, her gaze hardening. She knew that Jon, whilst right, was also somewhat stubborn, and that if she wanted to have any chance of convincing him to pull the plug if more information about the curse came to light, she needed him to compromise now, when the stakes were, relatively speaking, lower.

    “What if I refuse?” Jon asked.

    Before she could answer, Jon felt a wave of fatigue hit him out of nowhere. His knees became weak, as he collapsed to them, and felt his consciousness begin to drift, as the urge to close his eyes and sleep became almost unbearable. At first he thought the curse had activated, until Cassandra spoke.

    “I don’t need incantations for basic spells anymore…” Cassandra reminded Jon. “And sleeping spells like this are among the most basic…”

    Jon felt the effects leave him, as he suddenly grew more aware.

    “If you refuse, I will put you to sleep, and have Latios carry me back to Jubilife, while telekinetically carrying you,” Cassandra explained. “If he knew you were being stupid and refusing, he’d be all for it…”

    Jon knew she was right. Latios, even without Cassandra’s demand, would want to be listening in to Jon’s thoughts, though that alone, had little chance of stopping the curse taking effect, should it trigger. He needed Cassandra’s knowledge and abilities in Shadowcraft to have a chance of saving him should it activate.

    “Do we have a deal?” Cassandra asked. Jon nodded in agreement.

    “Deal…”

    With the agreement made, the pair both finished packing their bedding, before Jon allowed all three Legendary Pokemon out of their Pokeballs, Giratina being the last. As the sun rose, Jon and Cassandra stood by Giratina as it looked east, Sunyshore City

    “Anything stand out?” Jon asked, not being able to make out anything further than Solaceon Town and its ruins. He gazed around, as Giratina spoke.

    “There…”

    Whilst Jon couldn’t make out details of where Giratina looked, he saw the shimmer of light reflecting off water, and realised it was a large body of water that Giratina was looking at, past Solaceon town.

    “Sinnoh has three lakes, doesn’t it? Each affiliated with a Legendary Pokemon?” Jon asked Cassandra, as he pointed to where Giratina seemed so interested in. She nodded.

    “Lake Verity, Acuity and Valor…” Cassandra answered, however as she looked, something seemed to confuse her. “But that’s none of them…”

    Jon looked at her puzzled, as she continued.

    “Lake Verity and Lake Acuity are in the north and west of Sinnoh respectively, with Lake Valor in the East,” Cassandra explained, before looking in the area around it. “But that’s not Lake Valor. That is…”

    Jon looked to where she was pointing, and saw that a decent distance away was a larger lake, which seemed to be far more pronounced among the landscape, compared to the one Giratina had been looking at, which was well hidden by rock walls and trees, only visible from the reflection of the rising sunlight.

    “Are you sure it’s not that lake?” Jon asked Giratina, pointing to Lake Valor, however Giratina shook its head.

    “I feel nothing from there. But this lake…” Giratina said, looking back to the smaller, hidden lake. “Something is there… I can feel it…”

    When the site was packed up, Jon and Cassandra both climbed onto Rayquaza. Whilst she had been flying on Latios, Cassandra argued that if the curse activates during flight, Jon’s chances would be better if she were as close as possible. Tired of arguing with her, Jon relented, as Cassandra climbed onto Rayquaza’s back, behind Jon. The large Pokemon barely noticed the extra weight, before the trio of Pokemon took off, and began their descent eastbound, towards the unknown lake. As they got closer, a cave became visible on the far side of it, protected by rock faces which kept the lake hidden from view from all angles but the air.

    “I mean, it won’t take long to search the place,” Jon noted, as he nodded towards the cave. The lake it sat behind was small, but the cave was even smaller. “Unless it goes deep underground or something…”

    There was no way that Giratina could fit through the entrance, however if the walls weren’t too thick, Jon figured it would be able to fit inside the cave if the entrance opened up into a large cavern.

    “Are you sure it would be there?” Jon called out to Giratina. “I can get you through the door via a Pokeball, but if this place is supposed to be a challenge for you to find, I’m not sure how you’d get in that door on your own…”

    “It is part of the challenge,” Giratina answered. “Using the small amount of power this form gives me with enough finesse would grant me passage inside…”

    “If you say so..”

    Jon however, noticed the look of determination on Giratina’s face, suspecting Giratina could sense something inside the cave.

    There was hardly enough space for all of them on the small shore of the lake outside of the cave, so Jon called Giratina back to its Pokeball, before landing and calling Rayquaza back as well.

    “I don’t know how both Rayquaza and Giratina will fit in that cave,” Cassandra noted.

    “They won’t,” Jon answered. “It’s just too small…”

    “So we go in with Giratina and not Rayquaza?”

    Jon nodded. He looked to Latios.

    “Has Giratina had any concerning emotions yet?” Jon asked, aware that Latios’ sense was far from certain in determining intentions, but the best avenue they had. Latios shook his head, before crying out.

    “It seems focused on finding this stone, and doesn’t want to risk losing this chance…” Latios answered. “It was effectively Agatha’s prisoner, and had given up on ever getting this opportunity…”

    Satisfied enough, but still far from happy about it, Cassandra nodded, as she followed Jon and Latios into the cave. As they entered, and the light disappeared, Jon jumped in fright as he blinked, and when he opened his eyes again, everything he saw became brighter.

    “Sorry, that’s me,” Cassandra said, realising what she had done. Out of the three Diamond Ladies, only she had crossed the threshold of being able to use non-verbal Shadowcraft, and as such, had gotten into the habit of performing it when she needed to use spells, in order to grow more proficient in it. It had been a miracle that she had been able to silence Agatha despite being silenced herself, and now didn’t want to risk being that close to imminent death again. One of the side effects was that her Shadowcraft tended to take people by surprise.

    “You did this in Sky Pillar, didn’t you?” Jon asked, now remembering the sensation, as he took in the dark corners of the cave. Whilst it was brighter, it was at the cost of seeing colours. The more the spell did to enhance his vision, the less vibrant colours were, to the point where when Latios floated towards a dark corner of the room they were in, Jon’s vision of it was black and white. “For a second, I thought the curse had just kicked in…”

    The room they were in seemed to take up the majority of the cave based on what they saw from outside, however something didn’t add up. The ground was level, and in three directions, they saw tunnels leading into other caverns, however in the centre of this room was a large, ominous stone pillar. Following Giratina’s lead, they made their way deeper into the cave, finding themselves in a cavern the same size as the one they had just left. Jon looked around in shock.

    “Something’s not right,” Jon said to Cassandra, who felt the same way. “This place is-”

    “Bigger on the inside?” Cassandra asked. Jon nodded, as they continued into another cavern, as he watched the daylight from the entrance behind them grow dim. However as they reached the next cavern, Jon felt his stomach churn at an observation. He looked back to see the daylight visible through the first cavern, just as prominent as it was in the last cavern, despite being physically further from the entrance to the cave.

    “This room is identical…” Cassandra said in shock, getting Jon’s attention. “It’s identical to the one we were just in…”

    She looked up at Giratina, worry becoming evident in her voice.

    “Is this some sort of trap you’re trying to lure us into?” she asked, however Jon answered.

    “It’s no trap,” Jon answered. “The tunnel behind us will take us to the room by the entrance, regardless of where we are. It is legitimately impossible to get lost, though I have no clue how…”

    “But if one of us goes back, I don’t know that we’d regroup without all of us heading back…” Giratina answered, surprising Jon that it didn’t retaliate to Cassandra thinking this was a trap. “So stay together…”

    Giratina was right, Jon and Cassandra realised. If one of them went to the room by the entrance, chances were that they couldn’t simply walk back through the doorway they came and regroup. And if Jon was wrong, and they couldn’t simply walk back the way they came and find themselves instantly by the cave entrance, splitting up could prove fatal.

    Giratina led the way, its pace increasing the further into the cave they got, until Giratina stopped mid stride as they entered a room, almost causing Jon and Cassandra to bump into it.

    “What’s wrong?”

    “This room is different,” Giratina answered. Jon looked past the large Pokemon, and realised it was telling the truth. The last four rooms had been identical however this one looked different. Whilst it had a large pillar in the centre, Jon looked behind him, and with his Shadowcraft enhanced dark-vision, could see the outline of the pillar in the entrance room.

    “What do you think it means?” Cassandra asked.

    “We’re getting closer,” Giratina answered. “The moment I entered this room, I could feel the stone much closer than it was in the last room…”

    They spent another twenty minutes walking, all through rooms that looked identical, whilst Jon wondered how it was possible for so many rooms large enough for Giratina to walk uninhibited to exist in what he knew to be a small cave, without it going deeper underground. However, Giratina seemed to shudder as they entered another room with a pillar.

    “You think it’s close?” Jon asked, figuring Giratina had noticed something.

    “It’s in the next room…”

    “Which way?” Cassandra asked, though Giratina shook its head.

    “It doesn’t matter,” Giratina answered, confusing Jon and Cassandra. “It’s in the next room…”

    Cautiously, Jon, Cassandra and Latios followed Giratina as it walked towards the nearest tunnel, before they finally found themselves in a room they had never seen before. There were no pillars, and for the first time, the ground changed incline, with the four sides of the room stepping down deeper, with the deepest point of the room at the dead centre. Lining the edge of the room were torches, lit by purple, spectral flames. However, the centre of the room, which seemed like the place to display Giratina’s prize, was empty.

    “Maybe it’s the wrong room?”

    “It isn’t,” Giratina said, before beginning to growl. Cassandra looked intently at the lowered space in the centre of the room, before noticing a flicker of movement in her peripheral vision. She swung her head around, fixing her gaze on one of the torches, and watched in shock as the flame leapt from the torch, rushing along the ground to the centre of the room. One by one, the others followed, causing Jon, Latios and Giratina to notice, as they pooled on the ground in the room’s centre.

    Once the last flame joined its brethren, they stopped flickering simultaneously, with an eerie stillness, before the now large collective flame grew, beginning to take form. It was serpentine, like Rayquaza, however at one end, the tail came to a point, whilst the middle section was thicker. Large spikes erupted from the sides of the bottom half of the body, as tendrils erupted from the top half, which was raised like a serpent ready to strike. Rings of glowing red banded themselves around the rest of the body, which remained purple with its flickering flame light properties, before, where the head seemed like it needed to be, eyelids seemed to open, revealing two menacing red eyes, glowing ferociously.

    “What the fu-” Jon began, however Giratina roared, cutting him off.

    “This is the challenge…” Giratina said. “How I earn my true form in this world…”

    Chapter 6
    The shadow darted forward, launching itself at Giratina causing Jon and Cassandra to scatter to avoid being struck, as Giratina took the hit and was launched backwards. Giratina disappeared for a split second, attempting to use Shadow Force, however before it reappeared, the shadow disappeared identically. Giratina appeared behind where the shadow had been, and attacked at the air in front of it, not hearing Jon and Cassandra’s warning before the shadow materialised behind it, slamming into Giratina with an attack. Giratina roared angrily, before using the spikes on its wings to perform a Shadow Claw attack, which the shadow quickly blocked with what looked like a Protect attack. Jon grabbed Scizor’s Pokeball, however Giratina noticed the movement.

    “Stop!” Giratina called out to Jon. “This is my fight! I can’t have another Pokemon fight alongside me!”

    Despite himself, Jon pocketed the Pokeball, as Giratina took a hit, this time, from what appeared to be a Dragonbreath attack. Giratina roared in pain, as Jon grimaced, before calling out.

    “What if a Pokemon isn’t fighting alongside you, but I’m battling with you?” Jon called out, as Giratina’s next attack missed, before the shadow dissolved into the ground, seeming to skate across it between Giratina’s six legs, before emerging underneath it, and knocking its back half into the air. “Is that allowed?!”

    Giratina shuddered at the thought of battling under Jon’s command, however as it took a follow up hit from the shadow, in the form of an Earth Power attack, it realised that may be its only option.

    “I think it is…”

    Cassandra grinned at Jon, as he stepped forward.

    “Then follow my lead!” Jon commanded. “Protect, then Will-O-Wisp!”

    Giratina raised a Protect barrier in time to block another Shadow Force attack from the shadow creature, before using the moment of surprise it had bought itself to hit the opponent with a breath attack, giving it a burn.

    “Latios,” Jon said quietly. “You can’t fight this thing, but I need your help…”

    Latios nodded, as Jon explained.

    “Try and use your telepathy to find out what it is…”

    The shadow hit Giratina with a Dragon Claw attack, as Jon ordered a Breaking Swipe.

    “Now Hex!” Jon commanded as the Breaking Swipe struck. Giratina roared, as a spectral light rushed from it, striking the shadow creature.

    ”This is weird,” Latios said, before Jon felt his vision replaced by Latios. His, Cassandra and Giratina’s emotions were all visible to Latios, but the shadow creature had no aura. ”I’ve never seen anything that had no aura when I’ve looked for one, and it has no thoughts to read…”

    ”How is that possible?” Jon thought back, not wanting to risk whatever this creature was viewing Jon and Latios tactics as cheating.

    ”It has no consciousness whatsoever,” Latios answered. ”This isn’t a Pokemon…”

    The not-a-Pokemon, hit Giratina with another Dragonbreath, this attack succeeding in paralysing Giratina, and buying itself the opportunity to land another hit, this time with what appeared to be a Shadow Claw. Giratina cried out in pain, as it seemed to struggle to get back to its feet. Jon knew it likely only had one attack left, before it fell, and he had to make it count.

    He considered Latios’ observation that this creature was not a Pokemon, but also lacked thoughts, emotions, or even a consciousness. It was not a living creature. As he considered this, a thought, so crazy, that it may just work, struck his mind.

    They came to this cave, and entered this cavern looking for a stone, and found this. Giratina was certain the stone was here, and that this was part of the test to earn the stone. And whatever this thing was, it was not a living creature. Therefore, technically, it could be argued that it is an object.

    “Giratina, Poltergeist!”

    Poltergeist was a ghost attack that Jon rarely saw used. Standard tournament rules didn’t allow items by default, though trainers could allow their Pokemon to hold items if both agreed prior to the match. However, this was rare, and didn’t happen often. And considering Poltergeist required the target to be holding an item in order for the move to succeed, it was practically never used in tournaments. And whilst Giratina’s opponent wasn’t holding an item, Jon couldn’t help but wonder what the effect would be if it were used on an item.

    Normally, the pokemon performing the move would become incorporeal, and possess the item being held by the target, which would have been ripped from whatever held it, be it the Pokemon’s limbs, or apparel designed to hold it in place, and from there, used as a possessed weapon to deal Ghost-type damage. However, in this case, Giratina became intangible, launching itself into the shadow, and seeming to take control of it. The shadow creature was thrown by an invisible force into a wall, causing the cavern to shake, before the ground, and then the opposite wall. Giratina reemerged as the shadow lay still on the ground, and began to shrink.

    Giratina watched cautiously, as the shadow began to melt, losing the shape it held, and condense itself into a small form. After a few seconds, once all the shadow had condensed, the texture began to shift, revealing a small, jagged, pale gold, polished stone, similar in tone to Giratina’s own horns.
    “Is this it?” Jon asked the Pokemon nodding to the stone.

    “Yes…” Giratina answered. “The Griseous Orb…”

    Giratina stepped towards it as Jon spoke.

    “Remember, Giratina,” Jon said. “We made a deal…”

    Giratina nodded.

    “I said I will obey if you help me regain my true form…”

    Giratina placed one of its feet on the orb, which seemed to shift, becoming incorporeal and turning to shadow again, before seeming to be absorbed into Giratina. As it did, Giratina glowed, and Jon and Cassandra watched in awe as it began to change shape, into the same shape of the shadow creature it had just fought. When the light disappeared, Giratina floated in front of them, retaining the same colouring as its previous form, though now more serpentine, with the horns now having shifted angles, looking less like a crown and more like a knight's helmet. Instead of black wings, six black tendrils erupted from its back, each with a red spike on its end.

    “Thank you, Jon…”

    The words seemed to surprise Jon a little. He hadn’t heard Giratina refer to him by name, and was shocked by the sincerity in its voice.

    ”Giratina meant that…” Latios commented, seeing Giratina’s emotions, as Jon couldn’t help but grin.

    “You’re welco-”

    Cassandra looked at Jon in alarm, as he wondered what had happened. He had intended to say ’you’re welcome’, and for a split second after, believed he had. He felt his vision begin to blur, and went to step towards Cassandra, however stumbled forward, as his left leg, despite making contact with the ground, offered no feeling of resistance, causing him to lean forward too far. He felt the stinging pain of his face hitting the ground, unable to brace himself for the fall for some reason.

    “Jon!”

    The words were distant, and whilst Jon recognised the voice, he struggled to pick where from. His vision, although feeling slow, quickly went black, as he fell unconscious.

    Giratina watched in horror as Jon collapsed, and Cassandra fell to his side. She fought the urge to rouse him, being almost certain of what this was, and knowing the time she spent doing that would be vital. Not wanting to risk performing the spell incorrectly, Cassandra placed her hands on Jon, who seemed more like a corpse by the second, and began performing the same incantation she had performed on Jarena after she was cursed during the attack on Section B. However, relatively speaking, the curse placed on Jarena was simple, and she had Violet’s help, giving them time to find a solution. This time, she knew nothing of the curse currently ravaging Jon’s body, and didn’t have Violet to help slow it. On her own, she could only guarantee delaying it a minute if the curse was as complex as she feared it was.

    “Is this the curse?” Giratina asked, and Latios nodded, not wanting to distract Cassandra, despite panicking himself at the prospect of losing Jon.

    Cassandra finished the incantation, knowing she had little time, before non-verbally performing an insight spell on Jon, knowing that now that the curse had activated, it would be on full display.

    She closed her eyes, and in her mind’s eye, Cassandra could see a series of glyphs, behind a screen of what appeared to be glass. However, with each passing second, the glass cracked, as her spell to slow the effect continued to be fought back by whatever curse Nicodemus had placed on Jon. She quickly looked at the glyphs trying her best to translate them, until suddenly, the meaning was clear.

    ”The Thief’s mind will bleed, after winning the loyalty of the Lord of Gravity…”

    Cassandra’s eyes shot open as she realised what had happened. Nicodemus didn’t know for sure that the primary effect of the curse would kill Jon, and if it didn’t, that Jon wouldn’t succeed in taking Giratina. And in the event of that, should Giratina’s allegiance ever truly shift…

    “He’s having a stroke!” Cassandra exclaimed, as she considered her options. “If Jon captured Giratina, Nicodemus didn’t want Giratina to be loyal to Jon, so placed a curse that would only activate if Giratina’s allegiance shifted!”

    Giratina felt a bitter anger rise up at Agatha. Even in her death, and Giratina’s subsequent release from her curse, Giratina was still being manipulated by her.

    “Can you stop it?” Latios asked anxiously, looking at Jon who lay unmoving.

    “I can only try once the delay-spell I placed on it isn’t in effect, but it takes time, and Jon might not have enough!”

    Cursing Agatha for both this curse and its own, Giratina’s eyes widened, as it had a thought. It focused its gaze on Cassandra, who knew that Jon likely had less than thirty seconds before her delay spell failed, and the curse continued.

    “I have an idea that may save him…” Giratina said to Cassandra. “There isn’t time to explain, so I need you to trust me…”

    Cassandra looked at Giratina in shock, unable to believe this Pokemon, which had been the epitome of the nightmare of the Spiritwater Crisis, was now offering to help Jon. Her suspicions were high, however, she realised that for this curse to activate, Giratina must truly be loyal to Jon. She looked at Latios.

    “Do you trust Giratina?” she asked. “Jon’s life depends on it…”

    Latios looked at Giratina, and didn’t hesitate before answering, in the form of an instruction.

    “Do it…”

    Giratina nodded, and in an instant, the cavern became empty…

    Chapter 7
    Jon woke for a minute before opening his eyes. He had a splitting headache, and could hear muffled voices, which slowly became clearer. However, the trigger point that made him open his eyes was the sudden feeling of nausea. He attempted to sit up, but lacked the strength to do so. Instead, using the little strength he had, he forced himself to roll onto his side, as the contents of his stomach made their way up his throat, and he vomited on the ground beside him, sickened further instantly by the smell.

    “Jon!”

    Eyes watering from the act of vomiting, the source of the voice was a blur, already hard to see from the dim conditions of the room they were in. However he recognised it as Cassandra, who quickly helped him to crawl onto his hands and knees, before the next wave of vomit struck. He felt a pain in his head, as he emptied the contents of his stomach, however forced himself to ignore it, especially when the vomiting finally ceased, and he didn’t have that distraction. He clumsily sat back down, struggling to sit upright as Cassandra sat next to him, taking his weight so he could sit upright with less of an effort.

    “Jon, do you remember who I am?” Cassandra asked, concern evident in her voice.

    “Yeah, Cass,” Jon answered groggily, as the headache began to subside. “What happened?”

    Jon looked around to see Latios watching him, his eyes red from tears, and Giratina watching from a distant corner of the room, looking as if it felt guilty for something.

    “Do you remember Akala Island?” Cassandra asked, as Jon nodded.

    “My memory’s fine,” Jon answered. “Did the curse trigger?”

    Cassandra nodded.

    “The trigger was Giratina becoming loyal to you…” Cassandra explained. “Nicodemus didn’t want to give you the satisfaction of having Giratina as an ally, so placed a curse that would cause a cerebral haemorrhage the moment Giratina’s allegiance truly shifted…”

    Jon looked in shock between Giratina and Cassandra, before settling back on Cassandra.

    “If I’ve just had a stroke, how am I not dying?” Jon asked. “I mean, I feel like s**t, but honestly, this feels like a bad concussion…”

    “Giratina,” Latios explained. “It saved you…”

    Jon looked at Giratina, who despite this, still seemed unable to make eye contact with Jon.

    ”It blames itself for the curse triggering,” Latios explained telepathically.

    “Giratina,” Jon said weakly, waiting until the Legendary Pokemon made eye-contact with him to continue. “Thank you…”

    The Pokemon nodded awkwardly, as Jon asked the follow up question.

    “But what did you do?” Jon asked.

    “I broke the link between you and Nicodemus,” Giratina answered evenly. “In the same way that the link between myself and Agatha was broken by her death, and I was freed from her curse, I found a way to break your link…”

    “How?” Jon asked, looking to Cassandra.

    “I don’t know,” Cassandra admitted. “You were only out for a matter of minutes, and even though Giratina broke the link, that only stopped the haemorrhage from getting worse. We arrived here, and the curse was not activated anymore, but some damage had been done, and you were haemorrhaging. I only finished healing the blood vessel about a minute before you woke. I’m hoping the fact it was stopped in a matter of minutes means there won’t be any lasting damage, but…”

    “Arrived here?” Jon asked, before looking around, and realising for the first time that they weren’t in the place where Giratina had battled the shadow. They were somewhere different. Still inside a cave however this one seemed far more natural, with those around him illuminated by light pouring in from a nearby entrance, and in the opposite direction, an eerie glow. “How did we get here?”

    “I created a gateway…” Giratina said, though realised that Jon was more confused hearing that.

    “A gateway?” Jon asked.

    “How would that break the link?” Cassandra asked. Giratina considered the question, before nodding to Jon’s bag.

    “Get a sheet of fabric out. Some clothing or something…”

    Confused, Cassandra obliged, getting a tee from Jon’s pack, and holding it out.

    “Latios, hold it in the air, flat and taut, but don’t grip it too tightly. Be willing to move with it…”

    Cassandra watched as the plain white tee rose into the air, and was stretched out.

    “If I concentrate the gravity in the centre…” Giratina explained, as despite Latios’ grip, the shirt seemed to fold in half, though with a clear and intentional space between the folded halves. “It forces the centre down, and either side being held in place to now be parallel…”

    Jon watched in utter confusion, as Giratina’s example made no sense, though the Pokemon continued.

    “Then if I concentrate the gravity heavily on one of the parallel sides towards the other…”

    As Giratina said this, gravity seemed to affect a small part of the shirt, but instead of pulling it down towards the ground, it pulled it towards the parallel, folded side, causing it to make contact, and Jon suspected, stretching his shirt.

    “Giratina, back up…” Jon said, his head too sore to figure out what Giratina was implying. “What does the shirt represent?”

    “Space and time…”

    Cassandra’s eyes widened as she understood what Giratina had just displayed.

    “I don’t follow…” Jon said, but Cassandra interjected.

    “You were able to break the link between Jon and Nicodemus that the curse relied on, by bringing Jon to a time where Nicodemus doesn’t exist?”

    Giratina nodded, as Jon’s head snapped around to Cassandra at what she just said.

    “We travelled through time?!”

    “Yes…” Giratina answered evenly. “Space too…”

    “But Dialga and Palkia control time and space!” Jon exclaimed in shock. “How can you control them?”

    “I can’t control them, but I control gravity, which can affect them…” Giratina answered. “It’s far from accurate, but if the need is great enough, I can control gravity to force two distinct points in time and space to collide, creating an opening, and travel between them…”

    “So then where, and when, are we?” Cassandra asked, knowing that Giratina may have taken them into the future, when Nicodemus had died, or into the past, before he was born. “And if we go back to the present, will the curse just reactivate?”

    “Not if you remove it…” Giratina explained.

    “But I couldn’t Nox Purge that alone if I tried!” Cassandra protested, as Jon considered Giratina’s words.

    “The Nox Purge is a general removal spell, when you don’t know how to remove a curse, or don’t know what curse you’re removing, isn’t it?” Jon asked, as Cassandra nodded. “We only talked about it because he had no idea of what the curse was, and no way of finding out without killing me…”

    Cassandra realised the pair were right. A Nox Purge was only being considered because they couldn’t remove the curse with other methods. Even if they were to try and remove the curse that had affected Jon’s hand, they risked triggering the unknown curse. But now they knew.

    “Let me take another look at it…” Cassandra explained. “Without the pressure of you coming home in a body bag if I take too long this time…”

    Jon nodded as Cassandra closed her eyes, and focused on a nonverbal insight spell, placing her hands on Jon’s forearm, as in her mind, the glyphs began to appear, indicating that the spell, despite having been interrupted and not able to activate, was still present. However, the glyphs were the same she had seen of the spell when it was activated, giving all the information she needed of it.

    As she looked through the glyphs, she began to notice the patterns of where the two curses intertwined, and where the conditional dormancy was written throughout the second curse. They were like a series of wires controlling a bomb, spliced in some places, triggering each other in other places, and each posing their own risk. However, she had an idea.

    “This curse is too complex to remove with anything but a Nox Purge, and now that I can see it, I am certain it would take more Shadowcraft competent people than we have at our disposal to remove it without the risk of being killed ourselves, even not accounting for the fact that a Nox Purge would require letting the first curse, the one that messed up your hand, run its course, which would likely kill you before we could remove it,” Cassandra explained. “However, Willow taught me something. Something risky, that allows Shadowcraft to be used to do things that no known spells can do…”

    Jon wanted to ask a question, like why Willow hadn’t used this method Cassandra had learnt of before, but figured there would be a reason that would be explained.

    “The insight spell we use is purely for inspecting curses placed, however there is a spell that when used in conjunction with an insight spell, can make minor changes to the curse. Not remove it completely, but make minor changes…” Cassandra explained. “For example, the curse that turned Jarena into a flower, the most I could change is the colour of the petals…”

    “How does that help?”

    “Because this curse is complex, as are our circumstances. First up, the curse isn’t a simple curse that will cause you to have a haemorrhage. It relies on an activation trigger. And secondly, you are likely the first person to have survived this curse, and that works in our favour…”

    Jon looked at Cassandra, who as she explained her idea, became more and more confident that this would work.

    “Curses remain until they are either removed, or the victim is dead. Even in Giratina’s case, with Agatha’s curse, Giratina likely still carries the curse, however it is unable to activate unless Agatha came back to life, or Giratina was to go to a point in time when Agatha was still alive. You, Jon, are no exception,” Cassandra explained. “You still carry that curse, which having activated, should have killed you, and is likely still attempting to now, given Giratina’s allegiance shifting, but without Nicodemus being in this time, it won’t be able to do anything. However, if nothing changes, the moment you return to the present, when Nicodemus is alive, the curse will activate, and all my hard work healing the haemorrhage will have been for nothing. But if I change the activation condition…”

    Cassandra grinned, knowing for certain she could save Jon.

    “If I change the activation condition to something that will never happen, the curse will never be able to activate,” Cassandra explained. “I don’t know what, but let's say I changed it from ’the Thief’s mind will bleed, after winning the loyalty of the Lord of Gravity,’ to ’the loyalty of the Lord of Cheeseburgers…’

    “Cheeseburgers?” Jon asked.

    “I’m hungry,” Cassandra retorted. “But the point remains, the curse should remain inactive until you win the loyalty of the Lord of Cheeseburgers…”

    “Okay, but hypothetically, let’s say I start competing again, and I get sponsored by a burger restaurant owner who calls himself the Lord of Cheeseburgers or something…”

    “Then you’d have another stroke and likely die,” Cassandra answered. “So we need to be careful with how exactly we do this…”

    Jon nodded, having a suspicion that was the case.

    “A Lord of something that does not exist,” Jon muttered. His knowledge of Pokemon Mythology wasn’t as intensive as Steven and Cassandra’s, however he knew that there were Legendary Pokemon that ruled over practically anything in different myths and legends, and whilst he knew the likelihood of earning the loyalty of any of them was slim, a year ago, he never would have considered the possibility of capturing Giratina, or earning its loyalty like he had. Suddenly he had a thought.

    “What if we went super specific?” Jon asked. “Like the Lord of Seeing-Eye Growlithes to Blind, Deaf and Mute Space Cowboys?

    “That could work if we could make that big of a change, but I can only reliably change a single glyph. That would require adding numerous glyphs, which I can’t do,” Cassandra answered, though realising that the principle was correct. If they could find something simple to change the glyph to, that was extremely specific, it could make the activation condition non triggerable. She began trying to think of extremely specific words that she had come across in online browsing, however was interrupted by Latios, thankful, because she realised she wouldn’t know the glyphs for these oddly specific words.

    “What about changing Gravity to Disloyalty?” Latios asked. “If the curse will only activate if Jon were to win the loyalty of the Lord of Disloyalty, he’d be pretty safe…”

    “Goddamn…” Jon muttered as he realised that Latios had solved the problem. If some being was the Lord of Disloyalty, such as a Legendary Pokemon, it would be against their nature to be loyal. And to become loyal, would effectively prevent them from being the Lord of Disloyalty. “Latios, you’re a genius…”

    Latios grinned, as Cassandra nodded, making a mental note of this. She doubted this would be the last time she found herself face to face with a curse of this nature, and Latios had effectively come up with a solution to neutralise any conditional trigger curses, in the form of a paradox.

    Jon, by this point, was feeling normal again, albeit with a slight headache, and slowly stood to his feet. He looked at Cassandra.

    “You think this will work?”

    “I think that we will never get a better opportunity than this,” Cassandra answered, as Jon nodded, holding out his cursed left hand. She took it in both of hers, before closing her eyes, and starting the incantation, having not used the spell before and not wanting to risk making a mistake. As she did, glyphs appeared before her in her mind again, however something was different. The glyphs, instead of being rigid and unmoving were now flowing, and malleable. She focused on one, and found as she did, a line that emerged from the body of the glyph began to bend slightly under the focus. She quickly stopped, not wanting to accidentally make this curse somehow worse, and realised this is exactly why this method of Shadowcraft was not widely used, instead, looking around for the glyph she was after. Gravity.

    As she worked, she realised that Latios’ solution was even more ingenious than she had originally believed. Whilst she could read glyphs in front of her, she was far from fluent in them, and could not reproduce any without seeing them with full certainty. However, the glyph representing loyalty that was present in the curses activation condition, served as a good base to begin her adjustment of the gravity glyph. She spent what felt like hours, but was really only a matter of minutes, focusing on the gravity glyph, forcing and contorting it until it mirrored the loyalty glyph. Once that was done, she began adjusting the new glyph further, contorting it until the meaning had shifted to be the opposite. She inspected the final product numerous times, which was difficult without risking changing it for the worse, until satisfied she could do no better. She opened her eyes, to see Jon, Latios and Giratina watching her expectantly.

    “I’ve done everything I can,” Cassandra said. “The trigger has been changed. The only risk is that I got the glyph wrong, and the trigger is now something different entirely, but I am certain I got it right…”

    Jon nodded, taking her at her word, out of faith in her abilities, but also not wanting to consider what would happen should she have been incorrect.

    “Do you think you have one more in you?” Jon asked, as Cassandra looked at him confused.

    “What for?”

    “For Giratina,” Jon said, as Giratina looked at him in surprise. “Giratina can travel through time and space using its gravity manipulation, but if you’re right, and Giratina accidentally finds itself in a time where Agatha is still alive…”

    “The curse will reactivate and Giratina, now with its full power, will be forced to obey her…” Cassandra realised, knowing that before Agatha even had that opportunity, Giratina would be in immense pain, with its current form being a trigger for it. Jon nodded. The chances of Giratina finding itself in a time when Agatha was alive, and its own curse activating were slim at best. However, Jon knew for certain that Giratina was now loyal to himself, and wanted to make sure the Pokemon knew it had made the right decision.

    Cassandra approached Giratina cautiously.

    “May I?” she asked, as Giratina nodded in agreement. She placed a hand on the Pokemon, before performing an insight spell. It didn’t take her as long to identify the glyphs, many of them being similar or identical to the ones that made up Jon’s curse.

    ”The Lord of Gravity will know unspeakable pain, should it use the full extent of its power, or disobey its Mistress…” Cassandra read, as Jon winced at the words that bound Giratina to Agatha during her twilight years. Jon considered how this could be changed to neutralise the curse.

    “We can only change one glyph?” Jon asked. “Basically one word?”

    Cassandra nodded as she opened her eyes.

    “Well it has to be the ’unspeakable pain,’” Jon said, more to himself as he processed this than any other reason. “Anything before, we risk the curse potentially harming somebody else, and anything after, we only neutralise half of the curse…”

    “And it’s not just as simple as changing pain to joy,” Cassandra continued. “We don’t want Giratina being forced to feel one thing or another from this curse…”

    Jon nodded in agreement, as the pair spent a few minutes in silence, contemplating Giratina’s curse, before Jon had the thought.

    “What about Freedom?”

    “Freedom?” Cassandra asked. Jon nodded emphatically.

    The Lord of Gravity will know unspeakable freedom…” Jon said, reciting the original curse, with the amendment made. “By definition, this should not affect Giratina’s emotions, because for it to do that, it would be taking away Giratina’s freedom…”

    “It makes sense…” Cassandra agreed, albeit cautiously. This was not as clear cut as the solution that Latios proposed for Jon’s curse. She looked to Giratina, surprised at how much more comfortable she was around the Pokemon, considering how apprehensive she was that morning. “Your call. Do you want us to try?”

    Giratina considered the proposition, before nodding in agreement.

    “I think it’s safe,” Giratina answered. “And if not, there is far worse that could be forced upon me…”

    Cassandra considered her own knowledge of glyphs, and whilst she knew the glyph for freedom, like the one for disloyalty she was not completely certain in her ability to reproduce it, however this time had no reference point like she had with disloyalty.

    “If I do it now, I am more likely to make a mistake,” Cassandra mentioned. “But if we wait until we get back to the Academy, the others can help me make sure I do it right…”

    Giratina however shook its head.

    “I have waited long enough to truly be rid of Agatha’s curse, and can’t bear it a moment longer. If there is a risk, so be it…”

    Cassandra nodded gravely, hoping she wasn’t going to create a fate worse than what Giratina had already been cursed to by tampering, however, the Pokemon had made up its mind. It wanted her to try, even if there is a risk.

    Like before, she spoke the incantation of the spell she had used on Jon, and slowly, but carefully, forced her will on the glyph for pain, condensing lines that didn’t need to be there into the lines that did, and splitting some to create new lines. Again, after what felt like hours, leaving Cassandra exhausted, she finally opened her eyes a few minutes after beginning, and nodding towards Giratina.

    “I’d need to double check the change when we get back, but as far as I am aware, if you were to wind up in the same time as Agatha, or by some sick act of fate, she returned from the grave, her curse won’t affect you…”

    “Thank you,” Giratina said, feeling gratitude towards the young witch, though also guilt at its role in the conflict against its now-allies back in Alola. “Sincerely…”

    Cassandra nodded weakly, before sitting down, however Jon, who was feeling as close to normal as he figured he would be without sleeping his current state off, stood to look around, repeating the question he had not received an answer to yet.

    “Where are we?”

    Chapter 8
    “I don’t know exactly…” Giratina admitted. “I had not manipulated gravity in this way since before I was tricked by Agatha into revealing myself to her, and knew we didn’t have much time, so simply opened a gate that was the most natural and easy for me to open…”

    “So we could have wound up in outer space…” Jon said, sounding less than amused.

    “I have never been to outer space, so no…”

    “But you don’t know this place?” Jon asked, realising Giratina must have been here if it were able to transport them as naturally as it did.

    “It doesn’t seem familiar…”

    Jon looked from the entrance to the cave, and then behind him to where the eerie glow came from.

    “Well, I think whatever is causing that glow is more likely to kill us than whatever might be outside, so let’s make sure we aren’t totally screwed if we need to run,” Jon suggested, as Cassandra chuckled, before slowly rising to her feet.

    The pair, followed by Latios and Giratina, made their way towards the large entrance which poured in light from outside. It blinded them for a moment, as they stepped outside, feeling the chill of an icy wind passing over them, and as their eyes adjusted, they found themselves surrounded by sheer cliff faces and mountains. Jon pulled his phone from his pocket and was not surprised to see he had no service. Either they had gone in the future far enough that his phone service had ended, or in the past before he even had the service. Or maybe before phone towers even existed. Despite himself, he grinned.

    “Latios,” Jon called out. “Mind getting us a better view?”

    Latios cried out in agreement, as Jon, Cassandra and Giratina’s vision was all replaced with Latios’ own, shocking Giratina for a moment. Jon felt his stomach drop, as it always did, as Latios ascended directly upward into the air, gaining in speed as only he could. The sun was low in the sky, and close to a horizon, which on its own, Jon would not have been able to identify whether it was rising or setting. However, the moon was rising from the other horizon, seeming to indicate the sun was close to setting. Realising that must be west, Latios looked to the south, and after a second, Cassandra recognised where they were.

    “We’re in Johto, right by the northern border,” Cassandra said, disbelief in her voice. “Maybe even further north…”

    Jon was going to ask how she knew, seeing as all he could see to the south was an immense forest, and a large lake. If they were where she said they were, Mahogany Town and Violet City should be visible to their south. However as Latios glanced back towards the west, he saw it. Two large towers pierced the sky, standing taller than all the trees in the area surrounding it. Jon realised that was Ecruteak City, however could not see the city as he knew it around it, but instead a small settlement. He began looking closely to where Mahogany Town should be, and realised it was there. However, it was hidden among the trees, with small, wooden buildings that blended into the forest surrounding them. The lake they had seen directly to their south, between where Latios levitated, and what would become Mahogany Town, was the Lake of Rage.

    “How far in the past are we?” Jon asked, not expecting an answer. Cassandra however, had one.

    “I’d guess about five hundred years…” Cassandra answered, shocked that she was even saying it. “The towers in Ecruteak City were built seven hundred years ago, and burnt down a hundred and fifty years ago. But they are both there, and there is a town around it, though nothing huge…”

    Before Jon could truly appreciate what they were looking at, Giratina’s roar startled him, forcing him to break the telepathic link with Latios, something he had only been able to do after years of practice.

    Regaining his own vision, he looked to Giratina who growled menacingly at an elongated shadow that sat unnaturally still on a nearby rocky outcrop.

    “What is it?” Jon asked, as Cassandra regained her own sight, and looked to where Jon and Giratina were staring.

    “I don’t know, but it isn’t normal…” Giratina answered.

    Almost in response, the shadow seemed to consolidate, and take form, like Jon had seen Darkrai do from where it hid in Dylan’s shadow. However, the form it took was much larger, and moments later, Jon was shocked to find himself face to face with another Giratina.

    “Is this part of the test?” Jon asked Giratina, as the new Giratina that had appeared in a way Jon didn’t think possible, flew towards it.

    “I don’t know!” Giratina answered, as it blocked the attack. “The test should be over!”

    Giratina roared, before lashing out at the attacker with an Ancient Power attack. Rocks of various sizes and shapes ripped from the outcrops nearby, slamming into the attacking creature, and as soon as they struck it vanished. Instead, the rocks seemed to strike something else, throwing it back. The Pokemon seemed shocked by what had just happened, not anticipating its prey being able to hit as hard as it did.

    “What is that?” Cassandra asked.

    The Pokemon stood to its feet, as Jon took in features of it. Its body was light grey, with red accents across it. It had black claws that looked dangerously sharp, and stood a few inches shorter than Cassandra. Its eyes were a menacing yellow, and it stood on its hind legs, with a large white mane that billowed in the winter wind, each long lock of fur tipped with red of varying levels of paleness. The form was familiar, and it wasn’t until Jon realised what they had just seen it do that he realised. He withdrew an empty Pokeball from his pocket, as well as Blaziken’s, knowing he couldn’t miss this opportunity.

    “It’s a Zoroark, but a variant that must be extinct in our time!” Jon said excitedly, as he sent out Blaziken. The fire type emerged from the Pokeball, looking around confused, as Cassandra spoke.

    “Is it okay to capture it?” Cassandra asked. “Technically we shouldn’t even be here…”

    “This is a species of Pokemon that doesn’t exist in our time, which means it is likely extinct,” Jon said. “I’m not just capturing it for battling, but also for Dylan to try and breed. We might be able to save an otherwise doomed species of Pokemon…”

    Whilst Cassandra knew that Dylan wanted to breed Pokemon, and Jon was likely capturing it so that Dylan could break into the breeding industry with something completely unique that would likely get him some business and attention, she knew that normally the idea of a Pokemon going extinct saddened her. And Jon was right. This would be resurrecting a species doomed to die out and be forgotten.

    “Power-Up Punch!” Jon ordered Blaziken. Blaziken darted forward, however surprisingly, Zoroark was quicker, striking Blaziken with a hard hitting Shadow Claw attack. This was the first indicator that this Zoroark wasn’t a Dark Type like Jon was used to, and as Blaziken struck Zoroark, its fist seemed to pass right through it. However, Blaziken’s speed increased as its Speed Boost ability kicked in, and Jon already knew his next command.

    “Shadow Claw!”

    Blaziken leapt forward before Zoroark could strike again, however, to Jon’s shock, the attack, like the Power-Up Punch before, still passed through Zoroark, which struck Blaziken again, this time landing a critical hit and knocking Blaziken out.

    “Why can’t Blaziken hit it?” Cassandra asked, as Jon couldn’t help but grin.

    “It’s a dual-type. Normal and Ghost,” Jon said excited. “No other Pokemon has that typing, and it means that it is immune to both its types, as well as Fighting Type attacks! The only thing that can hit it hard are Dark Type moves…”

    Cassandra couldn’t help but be impressed by Jon’s quick assessment of the unknown Pokemon in front of him. This quick analysis, determining what type it is based on the momentum of the battle, was something he was endeavouring to teach her, however knew that Jon’s speed and accuracy only came with experience. He called back Blaziken before sending out Scizor. Absol was a Dark Type, however Scizor knew Dark Type moves, as Cassandra remembered well from her battle against Jon on the S.S. Wishmaker, and Absol was a little too much of a glass cannon for a battle with too many unknowns such as this one.

    “Brutal Swing!”

    As Zoroark readied a follow-up attack, Scizor struck accurately and hard with a Brutal Swing, knocking Zoroark back, causing it to flinch, as Jon commanded for another. As the second hit, Jon pelted the empty Pokeball, hoping that Zoroark would not resist, seeing it was the only one he had.

    What he hadn’t considered was that Pokeballs didn’t exist in this period of time yet, and Zoroark didn’t attempt to evade the Pokeball, not knowing what it was. The Pokeball struck, converting Zoroark into light energy, and sucking it in. The Pokemon didn’t even resist, not knowing what had just happened to it, as the Pokeball clicked, signalling the Pokemon was secured.

    He picked up the Pokeball, the satisfaction he felt at capturing the unique Pokemon allowing him to ignore the minor headache and nausea he still felt. Cassandra looked around the rocky landscape around them, considering their options.

    “Should we try and find others?” Cassandra asked.

    “Depends,” Jon answered. “Did you bring any empty Pokeballs?”

    Cassandra shook her head, as Jon continued.

    “That was my only one, and I think discovering anything more will be too depressing if we can’t capture it…” Jon answered, as Cassandra nodded in agreement. She looked back to the cave.

    “So we see what’s making that creepy glow?”

    Jon nodded in agreement as the small group made their way back towards the cave. In the distance, a cold blue light glowed from the end of the tunnel, where they had been previously while Cassandra had neutralised the curses afflicting Jon and Giratina. As they walked closer however, the glow became brighter, until finally, they entered a large cavern, where in the centre of the room, stood a raised, triangular platform. Illuminated by the glow was a pattern that Giratina immediately recognised.

    “This is it…” Giratina said, remembering the same pattern etched into the stone floor of Spear Pillar. “This is the place I was born…”

    “Guys…” Cassandra said, her voice slightly unnerved. “What’s that…?”

    Jon, who had been distracted by Giratina, looked towards Cassandra who was staring at the left hand corner of the triangular platform, on the side closest to them. The source of the glowing was revealed to be a carved circular pattern in the stone, and sitting in the centre of that was a large egg…

    The egg itself was larger than any Pokemon egg Jon had ever seen, roughly the size of a small exercise ball, and was dark blue colour, with veins of silver and light blue webbed across its surface. As Cassandra took in the size and colour, as well as considering Giratina’s revelation of this being its birthplace, she found the answer to her own question.

    “Dialga…”

    Jon looked at her in shock, as he realised that what she had said made sense. If Giratina was born in this place, it made sense that Dialga and Palkia were as well. However…

    “I thought Dialga and Palkia were practically gods themselves?” Jon asked, before looking at Giratina. “Actually, if you’re their equal, you too… So how is there an egg? And how were you born here?”

    “Only one of each of our kind exists at a given time,” Giratina answered, repeating the explanation from the evening before. “When we die, an egg, like my own, and like this, comes into existence here, and another of our kind is born from it…”

    “So Dialga has died?” Cassandra asked. “And another will be born?”

    Giratina nodded gravely, as Jon moved closer to the egg, trying to get a better look. Having a thought, he grabbed his phone out, and opened the camera app, before taking a quick photo.

    “I’ll likely never see something like this again,” Jon explained, though Cassandra was too focused on her own questions to question Jon.

    “I thought Dialga and Palkia remained outside of time and space respectively,” she noted. “Surely the egg would be safer outside of time?”

    “I don’t know for certain, but I imagine that the Dialga forming in that egg is too weak to survive outside of time. Or maybe, if it were to be outside of time but not hatched, another would come into being, resulting eventually in multiple Dialga…”

    Jon moved closer, kneeling a matter of inches from the egg, inspecting it closely.

    “It’s thoughts are strange,” Latios explained. “Barely formed, and not articulate, but simple enough to make out, though not truly understand…”

    Jon nodded, as Giratina floated towards the egg, wanting to inspect it itself. However, once Giratina reached the platform, the glowing from the circle etched into the stone surrounding it flared into a bright light, blinding everyone for a moment, before flashing into darkness, with the egg disappearing before their eyes.

    “What happened?” Giratina asked.

    “I think that was a defence mechanism,” Jon explained. “I’ve heard stories of Dialga, Palkia and Giratina fighting when they happen to be at the same point in space and time. I imagine that given the significance this place has to you three Pokemon, Dialga’s egg will naturally jump through time if it detects you getting close. Just like yours would likely open up a gateway, or Palkia’s would move elsewhere in space, if Dialga were to be here…”

    Before Jon could continue, his vision went black, as he felt his legs grow weak. He collapsed to the ground, alarming Cassandra, Latios and Giratina, who rushed to his side. He convulsed violently, the whites of his eyes visible through half opened, as his limbs jerked.

    “He’s having a seizure!”

    “I thought the spell couldn’t activate anymore?!” Latios asked, as Cassandra performed an insight spell, nonverbally, as the need for it made it happen naturally for her. However she barely needed to use it to answer Latios’ question.

    “This isn’t a spell!” Cassandra said, her voice rising in a panic as she rolled him onto his side, so he wouldn’t swallow his tongue, or if he bit it, choke on the blood... “There are no spells causing this!”

    Latios forced his way into Jon’s mind, however quickly had to retreat, as Jon’s thoughts were unintelligible, flashing from one to another.

    “His mind is like static,” Latios said, as Cassandra began another spell, her eyes closed, which would allow her to see the flow of blood through Jon’s body, and identify whether he was having another stroke. However, she saw that despite his heart beating quickly, circulating the blood at high pressure and faster than normal, there were no bleeds. His circulatory system was functioning as it should. This was good news in one respect, but bad in that it made her fears all the more likely.

    “I think the stroke did more damage than we realised…” Cassandra said, her voice going weak. “There is nothing supernatural about this seizure…”

    Slowly the convulsions slowed, until Jon lay still, breathing heavily, before groaning with a pained voice.

    “My head…” he wept, before letting out a pained breath. Cassandra remained silent, as she couldn’t help but think about how Jon’s life would never be the same as it was that morning. Suddenly however, the resignation turned into panic.

    “We need to get out of here,” Cassandra said. “Jon needs a hospital…”

    She didn’t know exactly what to make of the seizure, not being a doctor herself. She had a rough idea of anatomy from the amount of healing Shadowcraft she had performed, however this was beyond her limited scope. All she knew was that despite being interrupted, and the affected blood vessel being healed, Nicodemus’ spell had done damage, and she was not qualified to determine the extent of it. She looked at Giratina.

    “Can you take us back?”

    Chapter 9
    The atmosphere of the Eon Academy was at its darkest the week after Cassandra and Jon returned. Giratina had used the same gravity manipulation method to return them to the present in Sinnoh, however had made one error. Given the lack of fine control it had over the destinations of the gateways it opened, they arrived back in at the hidden lake of Sinnoh a week after they had left. Neither Jon nor Cass realised, until they left the cave, and Jon and Cassandra’s phone, upon connecting to a tower and getting service again, exploded with text messages from Alyssa, Violet, Jarena, Dylan, Willow and Steven. Cassandra had been the first to realise what had happened, and given Jon’s memory of what happened prior to his seizure being extremely hazy, and feeling fatigued by the episode, Cassandra was the one to call Alyssa, and tell her what had happened. She winced as she heard Alyssa break down in tears upon hearing of the curse activating, and despite doing her best to stop it and mitigate any damage, it seemed her best was not enough. She felt her stomach sink as through tears, Alyssa thanked her for saving Jon, feeling guilty that what happened to Jon in the cave in Johto, might very well be the first of many…

    With Jon too weak to act on his own, Cassandra took his Pokeballs, returning Giratina, and instead sending out Rayquaza. Latios helped Jon onto the serpentine Pokemon’s back, before Cassandra had climbed onto Latios’ and the pair had flown north to Veilstone City, Latios constantly listening to Jon’s thoughts, in the event of another seizure.

    The next three days were spent in Veilstone Hospital, where various tests and scans were performed on Jon. Alyssa arrived during the second day, to find Jon feeling much more like himself, to her relief. Further good news was that the scans showed very little tissue damage to Jon’s brain. Cassandra had caught the stroke in time, and with Giratina’s help, stopped it and healed the bleed before it could do more damage, even earning an offer for a job at the hospital, after Jon’s doctor heard the story of how Cassandra had saved him. However, the doctor that had Jon assigned to her care did attribute to the seizure he had to the damage, and whilst she couldn’t say for certain that Jon would have more seizures, she couldn’t rule out the possibility that he may continue having them, and if he did, likely for the rest of his life…

    The return to the Academy wasn’t a celebrated affair, as much as Jon tried to force it. All who had remained behind after Alyssa left for Sinnoh to meet with Jon at Veilstone Hospital, had been kept in the loop by Alyssa of roughly what had happened, and whilst they were thankful Jon had survived the ordeal, despite the odds being stacked massively against him, nobody was willing to celebrate that, given the cost that it came with. Thankfully, Jon hadn’t had a seizure since, meaning that technically, it could have been an isolated incident, simply the aftermath of what had been a violent stroke, despite Cassandra’s work to save Jon. Even the fact that Giratina was now loyal to Jon, and obeying instructions not only from him, but Cassandra as well, was overshadowed by the cloud of concern and despair that overhung the Academy.

    A week after Jon had returned to the Academy, Dylan found himself in one of the lodges, continuing painting. There was little left to do, and whilst he had done more in the previous week than he normally would, trying to distract himself from the doom and gloom that was overhanging the Academy, he felt no closer to putting down the brush and finishing up for the day.

    “It’s looking good…”

    Dylan turned to see Jon standing by the door. Though he knew he shouldn’t be, he was surprised to see Jon acting normal. Physically, Jon had been fine since arriving back in Mossdeep a week earlier, and seemed to not be letting the health scare bother him. That being said, Dylan knew Jon well enough to know that seemed to be was nothing certain.

    “I’ve only got one room left,” Dylan said, before having a thought. He quickly made his way towards the window, opening it, allowing fresh air through the room. Jon looked at him, a cynical grin crossing his face.

    “Worried the paint fumes will cause another fit?”

    Dylan sighed, before nodding.

    “Sorry,” Dylan said, as he placed the brush on the tray. “This is all just… a lot…”

    “Don’t worry, you’re not the only one,” Jon said, as he looked down at his cursed left hand. “Everyone’s acting weird about this…”

    Dylan wasn’t sure how he felt hearing that. Jon sighed.

    “Cassandra has cancelled half of our training sessions, though I know she has been in the stadium, just training without me. I think she is worried I will work myself too hard to help train her. Willow has barely left her room, studying all these old tomes, hoping to find some sort of spell that can repair the damaged tissue,” Jon explained. “Alyssa hasn’t let me be alone with Lili…”

    Jon didn’t harbour any negative feelings towards his wife about that. Honestly, he admired the fact she was brave enough to make that decision. Should Jon be looking after Amelia, and have another seizure, it would likely terrify the three year-old girl. And if he happened to be holding her and collapsed…

    He sighed again.

    “Sorry,” Jon said to Dylan. “I know we’re all just trying to do our best, given all of this, and I shouldn’t just pretend that things are normal…”

    Jon nodded towards the door outside.

    “You got a minute?” Jon asked. “I got something to show you…”

    Dylan nodded, and followed Jon outside, curious to see what he had. As they made their way to one of the few clear areas outside, that hadn’t been developed into more lodges, Jon removed a Pokeball from his belt, before nodding to Dylan.

    “Darkrai around?”

    “After Akala, I don’t feel comfortable without it nearby,” Dylan said, as he nodded down towards his shadow, where he knew Darkrai preferred to remain than its Pokeball.

    “I captured it when Giratina took us to Johto, seeing as it attacked us,” Jon said. “Honestly, I don’t think it is likely to be violent, and can be trained out of it, but it doesn’t hurt to have Darkrai ready…”

    Unaware that Jon had captured a Pokemon during his trip, Dylan’s eyes widened, as Jon threw the Pokeball a small distance away, giving them space in case the Pokemon attacked. When the Pokemon appeared, Dylan didn’t recognise it, however it didn't take long to figure out what it was.

    “Is that a Zoroark?” Dylan asked, as the white Pokemon looked between himself and Jon, apprehension visible.

    “It is. An extinct variety,” Jon explained. “I brought it back so that we could revive the species, but I’m not going to let any breeders near it for a little while…”

    “Why’s that?”

    “I want you to have first dibs,” Jon explained. “This Zoroark is a dual Normal-Ghost type, which means it is only weak to dark moves. And honestly, I think that once word gets out this exists, competitive battlers will pay top dollar to have one bred for them…”

    “Really?” Dylan asked. “There are a fair few Pokemon with three immunities like that, aren’t there?”

    Jon couldn’t help but grin. Considering how far Dylan and the others had come, it was rare these days for them to not realise what Jon was implying when it came to tactics, and Dylan especially, despite not being the strongest battler, was hard to sneak something past. He enjoyed feeling like he could still teach them something.

    “There are, but what do the vast majority of those Pokemon have in common?”

    Dylan was quiet for a few minutes, inspecting Zoroark, having never seen anything like it before, until his eyes widened, and Jon saw visible excitement in them.

    “All Pokemon that naturally have three immunities, without considering abilities, are partially Ghost Type,” Dylan realised. “No other type has two type immunities, so almost any Pokemon with three type immunities is going to be disadvantaged against this Zoroark…”

    “The only two Pokemon in that list that it would struggle to beat are Sableye and Spiritomb,” Jon explained. “This is going to shift the metagame of the competitive battling scene…”

    Dylan looked at the Pokemon in awe, who seemed to realise it was the subject of conversation, before having a thought and looking towards Jon.

    “Why me?” Dylan asked. “A lot of breeders of competitive Pokemon would may tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds, to have a limited exclusivity of breeding this Pokemon?”

    “Because I believe in your vision,” Jon answered simply. “Fact is that the breeding industry is far from perfect. So many Pokemon are bred, but because they aren’t perfect are neglected. And the standard among trainers is to capture Pokemon from the wild, which we overlook how messed up that actually is, because it is the most convenient. But you want to change that…”

    Dylan nodded.

    “I want the standard to be that people seek out Pokemon from breeders, that way there isn’t an impact on wild Pokemon, and more of the rejected breeder Pokemon find homes,” Dylan said, as Jon nodded in agreement.

    “And that is a hell of a task. But there are some things you will need to be able to make that change,” Jon explained. “Publicity, to get people actually hearing your message and knowing that is an option, enough Pokemon to breed, that if someone wants a certain Pokemon, the option of getting it through you is there, and space and resources to care for all these Pokemon. And all three of those things are limited by one big thing…”

    “Money…”

    Jon nodded.

    “When you leave this place, whenever that may be, and set yourself up, I’ll leave Zoroark in your care for a while, until you can breed enough to get you started,” Jon explained. “With a monopoly on the market, it will effectively be a licence to print money…”

    Dylan nodded in understanding, however was hesitant in thinking about this future, and was noticed in this apprehension by Jon.

    “Everything alright?” Jon asked. “I thought you’d be ecstatic about this?”

    “I am,” Dylan said. “But honestly, I don’t know how soon this is all going to be…”

    “You talked about next summer being your last?”

    “I did, but maybe I should stay a little longer…”

    Jon could tell Dylan wasn’t telling him the whole truth, and didn’t take long to realise what the whole truth was.

    “You don’t think I can run this place without you?”

    The question wasn’t indignant or hostile, instead, undertoned by sadness.

    “I don’t want to leave you hanging, especially if the others might not be coming back after next summer,” Dylan protested. “At the rate the Academy grows, I’d be leaving at a terrible time if I were to leave after next summer…”

    “But those circumstances were the same when you first talked about this being your last summer,” Jon answered. “All that has changed is what happened to me in Sinnoh…”

    Dylan remained silent, Jon having hit the nail on the head.

    “Dylan, I feel fine. It was one seizure, within an hour of me having a stroke…” Jon said evenly, trying to be empathetic towards his student, but not risk being clear enough. “I might never have another seizure…”

    “You don’t know that for sure,” Dylan argued, though Jon shook his head.

    “I don’t, but even if I knew for sure I was going to have more, I wouldn’t want you putting your life on hold for my sake,” Jon replied. “Besides, I can always hire more staff, and Steven and Willow will be around…”

    “But what if this just gets worse?” Dylan asked. “And eventually you can’t run this place anymore?”

    “Then that’s the end. I close up, or sell the property,” Jon said. “But that’s my last resort…”

    Dylan grimaced at the words.

    “Even if this didn’t happen, I’m not immortal. I couldn’t run this place forever, and honestly, I don’t think I’d want to. I do want to retire one day, you know?”

    “I could run it when you decide to retire,” Dylan offered, however Jon saw through it.

    “Is that what you really want to do?” Jon asked, knowing the answer. When Dylan didn’t reply, he moved towards Dylan, placing a hand on his shoulder.

    “This is my responsibility to shoulder, and even then, we are talking about the worst case scenario,” Jon said. “If things get worse, and I need more help to keep this place running, we will cross that bridge if we reach it. Until then, I don’t want you putting your life on hold for that…”

    Realising the time, Jon withdrew his hand, before looking towards he and Alyssa’s house.

    “Bring your laptop to the house tonight. We’ll do some research, and see what property prices are like,” Jon said to Dylan. “Time is running out for us to get the gears turning, if next summer is your last here…”

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  7. #165
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
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    And with that, Season 4 (Spiritwater) is finally complete. And from there, onto the last (official) season...

    235,284 words. Longest Season so far, and had I done another Epilogue like I normally do, instead of the Prologue I have planned for Season 5, it would have likely been very close in length to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix...
    Last edited by [Desolate Divine]; 07-16-2022 at 06:54 AM.

  8. #166
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
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    Season 5 Prologue: Inevitability
    Spoiler:

    “This feels wrong…” Dylan said, only half joking. He sat at the kitchen table in Jon and Alyssa’s cottage, Jon and Alyssa sitting either side of him, and Amelia sitting on the other side of the table, engrossed in an episode of Super Sylveon Smile Squad that was playing on the tablet in front of her. Dylan had learned to tune out the high pitched voices of Amelia’s favourite show, and the constant dialogue about the magic of friendship. In front of him sat his laptop, open to the online banking portal of the Lilycove Bank.

    “Don’t worry, I felt the same way five years ago…” Jon said with a weak laugh. His left hand remained in his pocket, with Amelia in the room. Whilst he had told himself he’d let her see it eventually, it had been nearly nine months, and hiding it had become second nature. Dylan grimaced a little at how weak Jon’s laugh was. He knew Jon had another seizure that morning, and though he didn’t see it, he saw the effect it had on Jon. His short term memory from before the seizure was always foggy, and sometimes never cleared. Additionally, he’d have a splitting headache until he had a chance to sleep it off, and the nausea usually knocked him around for a few hours. On this particular morning he had taken medication for the nausea.

    It was late May, less than two weeks before the Eon Academy would run its fourth summer program, which would have been the fifth if not for the Spiritwater Crisis the year prior. Seven months since the curse placed on Jon activated, causing him to have a severe stroke, which whilst it was stopped and the vascular damage healed by Cassandra, the bleed had been enough to cause minor brain damage, which left Jon unaffected most of the time. However, within an hour of the stroke, he had his first seizure.

    The second seizure didn’t happen for another six weeks, right when all at the Eon Academy had started to believe that the first was simply in response to the earlier stroke. Jon had been with Willow in the Stadium, working with Marshadow to try and rehabilitate the Pokemon formerly belonging to Agatha when it happened. The third was six weeks after that, one night, shortly after he laid down in he and Alyssa’s bed to sleep for the night. The fourth was five weeks later, as Jon and Dylan were painting the new third floor of the staff lodge, which had been built to accommodate the five original interns, as well as Cassandra, Violet, Jarena and Willow. Five weeks later, the fourth occurred, whilst Jon was watching Super Sylveon Smile Squad with Amelia, terrifying the young girl. Even with the explanation from Alyssa that ’Daddy is sick’ it had taken days before their daughter could bring herself to sit next to him and watch TV again, much to Jon’s heartbreak. This had been the turning point for Jon to seek out a specialist neurologist, in order to seek medication, however given the fact Jon was going weeks at a time without a seizure, medication was not recommended. The doctor had explained that the medication that would ideally prevent the seizures had a very fine line in terms or dosage. Too little and it wouldn't have a strong enough effect. Too much, and there would be considerable side effects. The only safe way to determine the dosage would be to start low, and see if the seizures stop, however the medication would take weeks to take effect and with Jon's seizures happening less frequently than once a month, until they became frequent enough that they could see whether the dosage was correct and the medication was working, there was almost nothing to gain by medicating Jon for the seizures.

    The fifth occurred four weeks later, during one of Jon and Steven’s weekly training sessions, and the sixth had only occurred that morning, whilst Jon had been training Cassandra in her mission to compete again, and win legitimately. The trend was obvious though. They were becoming more frequent…

    “Still, are you sure I’m doing the right thing?” Dylan asked. “I’ve never spent this much money before…”

    “Your car cost the same amount?” Alyssa noted.

    “I was spending the military’s money since their little science experiment blew up my old car,” Dylan retorted. “This is all the money I got paid from Alola last summer, and everything else I’ve saved…”

    "Dylan, you'll be owning a property that is only going to go up in value, starting a business which will be subject to grants and League sponsorship, with a service only you can offer, which will be revolutionary to the market, and you're not even twenty-two yet…" Jon laughed. "If that's a bad decision, nearly everyone else your age is making terrible decisions…"

    "Correction," Dylan retorted, half kidding. "The bank will own the property, which I'll be paying off every week for the next twenty-five years…"

    "If your business doesn't do well enough that you can pay it off early," Jon answered back.

    "Besides, even if things change considerably between now and then, you aren't committed to anything in terms of finance," Alyssa said. "The land hasn't titled yet, and this is just a deposit so you have first crack at buying it when it does, subject to finance."

    Jon nodded.

    "Exactly," Jon agreed. "We've all looked over the agreement. If you pay the deposit and then realise that the Unova Government had been using the land to dump toxic waste, you can pull out and get your deposit back, minus whatever dishonour fee the broker deducts…"

    Dylan knew that any more protests would raise questions, and resurrect arguments Jon had shut down numerous times. He wanted to go ahead with it. The land was large enough that he could open his Pokemon breeding business, with enough space to potentially lease a section of land to a tenant. And it was half an hour drive from Nimbasa City, where Abbee lived, and worked as a Gym Trainer in the Electric Type Pokemon Gym. It was also in central Unova, which would ideally bring a lot more business for him than almost anywhere else.

    However, knowing that Jon had another seizure that very morning, and seeing the state he was in, even with mediation for the nausea, made the idea of leaving the Eon Academy for Jon to run without his skills and help, not sit right with him. Jon knew that this worried Dylan, and had made it abundantly clear that he would cope without Dylan as his right-hand man, and that he wanted Dylan to take this opportunity, that he had been wanting for years.

    “Still…” Dylan said, looking at the fourty-thousand dollars that was waiting for his approval to transfer. “It’s a lot of money…”

    “Do you want us to press the button?” Jon asked, knowing all the verification and security checks that came with requesting a transfer for that much money were completed, and all that was left was to approve the transfer. “I imagine it’d be quite nice pressing the spend button on that much of somebody else’s money…”

    “No, I’ll do it…”

    Jon grinned as Alyssa laughed, while Dylan, taking in a deep breath, cautiously moved his mouse over to the Approve button on screen.

    “You know, you probably took that long that they want to confirm it’s you again,” Jon noted.

    “I hope not,” Dylan replied. “I didn’t know it was that hard to prove that I am me…”

    Knowing it was now or never, Dylan pressed the button, causing the page to load with a processing icon. After a few intense seconds, the spinning circle morphed into a tick, as Dylan breathed a sigh of relief.

    “Congratulations,” Alyssa said, putting an arm around his shoulder and pulling him towards her.

    “Don’t congratulate me yet,” Dylan said with a weak laugh. “I still need to convince the bank to lend a twenty-one year old, who is planning on leaving his job, another five hundred thousand…”

    “They’ll give it to you,” Alyssa said reassuringly. “You’ve still got other savings, and no big expenses. While you’re here, food and board is part of your income. No money owed on your car. The biggest expense you have is probably your insurance. Even as a twenty-one year old, that is pretty good…”

    “You’ll join us in the debt-gang,” Jon joked. “Even if you couldn’t afford to keep making repayments, the value of that land will only go up once you build on it, and when the Nimbasa suburbs expand closer to it. It would be like an investment for them, since selling it in ten years would get them their money back and then some…”

    “That’s really comforting,” Dylan said sarcastically, as Alyssa rolled her eyes at her husband.

    “I’m just saying,” Jon said as he stood up and walked to the fridge to grab a celebratory beer. “Even if on paper, your age and the fact you’re leaving here is a risk, the bank themselves don’t have anything to lose lending you the money. They’ll either make a profit on the interest they charge, or make a profit selling the land when the value goes up. They have no reason to reject you…”

    Dylan didn’t respond, however realised what Jon was doing. It was five in the afternoon on a Saturday, and Dylan wasn’t opposed to having a beer at that time. However…

    “I’m good Jon,” Dylan said, nodding to the beer Jon was withdrawing from the fridge. Jon looked between Dylan and the glass bottle he held.

    “You sure?” Jon asked. “It’s a special occasion…”

    “I’m sure,” Dylan said, before lying. “My stomach’s a mess from the nervousness, so I’m gonna take it easy…”

    Alcohol was a potential trigger for seizures in some people who suffered from them, and whilst Jon’s were inconsistent enough to make it hard to tell if they were affected by it, made more difficult by the fact they were increasing in rate on their own, there was also the risk that either alcohol itself, or withdrawals, even those so minor that Jon wouldn’t be aware he was even having them, would cause side effects with the medication he would be put on, if the seizures became prevalent enough to actually be able to figure out the dosage. As such, Jon hadn’t had a beer in three or four months, and despite knowing Jon would object to this if he knew, Dylan had made a point of not having any in front of Jon, especially knowing Latios would likely be having them in front of him.

    Knowing that Dylan wasn’t being completely honest, but not wanting to press the matter, Jon put the beer away, before looking out the window to the lodge, now featuring a third floor, where Cassandra, Violet, Jarena and Willow lived. He sighed.

    “I better go see how Cass is doing after this morning,” Jon said. “Despite everything she’s seen, I think it still shakes her up a little…”

    Dylan and Alyssa nodded, before Jon departed out the back door, making his way towards the lodge. Unknowingly, Dylan watched through the window, looking past Amelia where she sat watching Super Sylveon Smile Squad, waiting until Jon stepped inside the lodge, on the chance that he had another seizure, though right now he was having them once every four weeks on average, and would likely not have another until sometime during the summer.

    “I’m glad that you’re always looking out for him,” Alyssa said, getting Dylan’s attention. “Heck, I’m glad he has so many people looking out for him now. Honestly, before all the fiasco on the S.S. Wishmaker, outside of when my family or his grandparents visited, it was just us most of the time…”

    “What about Steven?” Dylan asked, somewhat surprised.

    “Steven was just a commanding officer for Jon before then. A work colleague, like I had mine. Besides, Jon was more comfortable around his Pokemon than other people,” Alyssa explained. “They didn’t really become actual friends until Jon and I moved to Mossdeep. Before the S.S. Wishmaker, Jon was a lot more worried about his past finding him, so was a lot more private, which made it hard to actually make friends…”

    Dylan nodded in understanding, however Alyssa continued.

    “But, I know why you’re so worried about putting down the deposit and buying the land,” Alyssa continued. “And I appreciate it, really. But I know Jon wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he knew that you were wanting to put your dreams off for his sake. And as much as I appreciate you wanting to help him, I wouldn’t want that for you either…”

    “But it might not just be me leaving…” Dylan said. “I am almost certain Justin won’t be back after this summer, and the others…”

    “Willow will be here for a fair while yet, and Steven loves being on Mossdeep, and helping Jon with the Academy,” Alyssa answered. “And even if Cass, Violet and Jarena don’t want to be here forever, they’ll likely be around long enough that Jon can source enough help before they move on…”

    Dylan remained silent, so Alyssa continued.

    “Don’t worry about us,” Alyssa said gently. “It’s our job to worry about you. So go and give us reason to worry…”

    Whilst Dylan would normally have grinned at Alyssa’s instruction, he couldn’t. He looked at his phone, and pretended to remember something.

    “I promised Abbee I’d call her as soon as I made the transfer…” Dylan lied, before standing to his feet. “I’ll see you at dinner…”

    Alyssa nodded, as Dylan walked out the door that Jon had walked out of a few minutes earlier. When she was certain he was out of earshot, she sighed, before looking at Amelia, who was entranced by the show she was watching.

    “At least I have a fair few years before you’ll worry me like that,” Alyssa said with a weak laugh. “Maybe by then, we’ll know what to do, hey Lili?”

    Amelia looked up, hearing her nickname, giving Alyssa a confused look, causing her to grin.

    Dylan made his way to the lodge, and entered what had become his permanent room on the second floor. Normally he would only live in the lodge during the summer, and spend the rest of the year living in the third bedroom of Jon and Alyssa’s cottage, so Jon wasn’t paying to power the entire lodge for a single person. However, he had moved into the lodge in preparation for the summer program the year before that hadn’t happened, and upon returning to Mossdeep, with Cassandra, Violet, Jarena and Willow all planning on staying, Dylan had remained in the lodge himself, where he had more room, and a little more independence than he did in the cottage. He became thankful for that when it became apparent Jon’s seizures were becoming more frequent, knowing he and Alyssa would value privacy during this time.

    He had been thankful to avoid Jon on his way to his room, having heard Jon speaking to Cassandra in the lounge on the first floor as he made his way in, figuring if Alyssa could tell why Dylan was apprehensive about making the transfer, Jon would be able to as well.

    Once he was in his room, he sat on the bed, as his shadow flickered, and a black form separated from it, standing on the other side of the room, eyeing off half a block of chocolate that sat on Dylan’s desk.

    “Go for it,” Dylan said to Darkrai, who didn’t wait for a second offer, and gratefully at the sweet. As it did, Dylan got his phone, and pressed the button, causing the screen to light up. The lock screen image was a selfie Abbee had taken of the pair of them when he visited her in Nimbasa City over New Year’s Eve. They were both rugged up in scarves and beanies, with a thin layer of snow on each of them, and the lit up Nimbasa City Ferris Wheel in the distance behind them. He looked awkwardly at the camera in shock, as Abbee had sneakily kissed him on the cheek as she took the photo. He quickly unlocked the phone, before finding Abbee’s contact.

    ”Hey!” Abbee said cheerfully.

    “Hey,” Dylan answered back. “Got a minute?”

    ”Yeah, I can talk, not for too long though,” Abbee said, as Dylan heard a lot of movement on the other end of the line. Through the line, Dylan heard Abbee call out, presumably to Victini, ”Have you seen my keys?”

    Dylan heard in the background Victini’s faint cry, which he couldn’t understand, having not been turned into a Pokemon like Jon and Abbee had, and Abbee call back. ”No, they’re not in my pocket…”

    “If now’s a bad time, I can call back later?” Dylan offered, though Abbee dismissed it.

    ”No, it’s fine,” Abbee said. ”Elesa invited me out for a drink tonight, and I’m just running a little late…”

    Through the line, Dylan heard Victini’s voice again, before Abbee translated ”Victini says hi.”

    “Hey Victini,” Dylan said, as Abbee finally found her keys. “Anyway, I made the transfer today. The deposit is paid, so once the land titles, if I have the loan sorted, I can buy the property…”

    ”Dylan, that’s amazing! I’m so proud!” Abbee said, as she closed the door behind her. Little did Dylan know, though he should have expected, Victini sat on her shoulder as she walked out of the apartment, ear placed against the mobile phone she held against her head. The Mythical Pokemon was too used to eavesdropping with its telepathy, which phone conversations didn’t afford. ”How does it feel?”

    “Honestly,” Dylan said, trying to find the words. “Underwhelming, and uncertain…”

    Dylan heard through the line, the ding of the elevator bell, as it began to descend, carrying Abbee to the ground floor of her apartment building.

    “Is this because of Jon?”

    Jon had asked Dylan not to mention his condition to the others, though had given permission for him to tell Abbee, not wanting to be the reason that Dylan kept secrets from his now-girlfriend. Especially considering how hard Dylan seemed to be taking the situation, and knowing how he did have a tendency to not talk about how he felt. It had taken a lot of encouragement from Jon and Alyssa for Dylan to start seeing a psychologist in the wake of the Spiritwater Crisis. Cassandra had quietly informed Jon that most nights, Dylan barely slept, being able to hear him from her own room.

    Dylan’s silence had been answer enough for Abbee who continued.

    ”Jon is probably happier for you now than he was when he bought the Academy,” Abbee said.

    “You haven’t seen him have one of these seizures, Abbee,” Dylan said quietly, not wanting to be overheard. “Or what he is like after one…”

    He was right. Despite Abbee having visited twice since last summer, she hadn’t been present for any of Jon’s seizures, only having heard about it through Dylan.

    ”Look, I know that you’re worried about what’s going to happen to the Academy, and to Jon once you leave,” Abbee said. ”The fact you’re even considering it is one of the reasons I love you. But whatever happens, Jon can handle it. The fact that he can rely on you now as much as he does, and you can fill in for him when he isn’t well, is because he taught you almost everything you know. But you aren’t the only one…”

    Dylan was silent again, knowing Abbee was right, but not believing it himself.

    ”Crap, the bus is early,” Abbee said, as he heard her begin to quicken her pace. ”I have to go, but I’ll video call you when I get home. Try not to let all this get you down. What you’ve done is a good thing!”

    “I’ll try,” Dylan said. “Love you…”

    “I love you too,” Abbee replied, as she hung up the phone. She pocketed it, before increasing her pace again, as the bus, which had rounded a corner a few blocks away, was getting closer to the bus stop that she normally caught it from.

    Whilst busses in Nimbasa City were frequent, this offer for a drink with Elesa had been a last minute invite, and Abbee had not had a great deal of time to get home, get changed into something that was appropriate for the sort of establishments Elesa drank at, and make her way to the bar, especially considering that she hadn’t bothered with a car, living in the city.

    She made it to the bus stop with moments to spare, before climbing on, and scanning her ticket as she did. Finding a seat, she collapsed, rather ungracefully, onto one that was against the window, sighing a deep breath from the exertion of running for the bus, especially in the outfit she had picked out. She wore a dress, cream in colour above the waist with floral patterns embroidered into it, with the skirt being a navy blue, sitting a little above her knees. She thanked Arceus she had worn flats…

    The sun moved closer to the horizon, and was not far from setting when Abbee got off the bus, Victini still on her shoulder. She made her way to the bar Elesa had nominated to be their meeting place, though quickly realised it looked more like a club, despite it only being seven in the evening. The line of people waiting to be let in by the bouncers was close to stretching around the corner, causing Abbee to sigh. She walked past the bouncers, getting her phone from her bag to text Elesa to say she would be late.

    “Miss Strauss!”

    Abbee was surprised to hear her name called out, and turned to see it was the bouncer who had called it. She gave him a puzzled look, causing him to wonder if he had made a mistake.

    “You are Abbee Strauss, aren’t you?” the bouncer asked.

    “Yes,” Abbee answered, somewhat puzzled. She had quite a following on Instagram, and had been approached by fans in the street before. Except they were normally teenage girls, and, much to her dismay, men in their late twenties and thirties, sadly even more frequently since she turned eighteen. However, a middle aged, well built bouncer, was not normally the sort to approach her. “Can I help you?”

    “You’re on Elesa’s list,” the bouncer said, before opening the rope barrier, and stepping aside to allow Abbee past. “She’s in a private booth at the back…”

    Abbee noticed some glares from people waiting in line, who she figured had been waiting a long time, which she pretended to ignore. Victini however, couldn’t help but smirk directly at those jealous figures who had fixed their gaze on his trainer.

    “God, I haven’t been fast-tracked into a club since Cass was famous,” Victini said with a laugh.

    “I’ve never been fast-tracked, or normal-tracked into a club,” Abbee laughed in return.

    Being early in the evening, the music wasn’t too loud, and the lights weren’t too dim yet, so she didn’t struggle to find Elesa’s booth in the back of the club. Elesa, as always, was dressed to impress, and Abbee would not have been surprised if the shoes she wore cost more than Abbee’s entire outfit. Despite the booth comfortably fitting half a dozen people, and cramming ten, Elesa sat by herself, a bottle of champagne in a glass ice bucket to her side and two empty glasses on the table in front of her.

    ”She’s going to try and get you drunk, isn’t she…” Victini asked with a sigh. Abbee grinned, thankful he had the tact to ask the question telepathically, though as far as she knew Elesa couldn’t understand Victini verbally anyway.

    “Elesa,” Abbee called out, as Elesa looked up from her phone, a wide smile gracing her face. Abbee stopped at the rope barrier, where another bouncer waited. Given that it was early in the night and Abbee was obviously sober, he hadn’t stepped between her and the barrier, hearing Abbee call out to the Gym Leader in such a familiar fashion. When Elesa greeted her warmly, the bouncer lifted the rope barrier, granting Abbee passage. She took a seat, as Victini climbed off her shoulder, making himself comfortable on the booth next to Abbee.

    “Let me pour you a drink,” Elesa said, looking as if she had been waiting for Abbee to arrive to open the bottle of champagne, as to not be seen drinking alone. Abbee raised her hands in a placating gesture.

    “Just a small glass,” Abbee said quickly. “I’m a little bit of a lightweight, and haven’t had a chance to eat yet…”

    “Then we’ll get some food brought over…”

    Upon beginning to work under Elesa at the Nimbasa City Gym, Abbee had been surprised at Elesa’s friendliness. Despite being the most popular Gym Leader on all social media, and knowing exactly what to say and do in front of the cameras, Elesa had been known to be less than friendly with fans who approached her in her day to day life. Not to say she was rude or antagonistic, but simply lacked patience, and would not hesitate to put someone in their place if she perceived they deserved it. Abbee realised very quickly however, this was simply what Elesa had needed to do in order to have any measure of privacy or independence in the outside world. Elesa had told Abbee that she had made it her standard to not interact with fans as if they are fans outside of events where she was acting as Elesa the Gym Leader, treating herself as a normal person, and them as strangers. As such, when she was approached on the street by a dozen fans before she even reached the end of her block, she was just as annoyed by the constant attention as a normal person would be by strangers pestering them. Apparently the turning point was having to move home three times in six months, due to fans, embarrassingly Abbee’s demographic, setting up camp outside her apartment building hoping to get a photo or an autograph.

    Given the fact the order was made by Elesa, the various grazing plates of different food were brought to the table at priority speed, with more than the trio, even considering Victini’s enormous appetite, could hope to finish themselves. Abbee had offered to pay her and Victini’s share, however Elesa had waved the offer away stating that this was technically a work meeting, so it could be paid for by the League. Confused, Abbee didn’t question it, as Elesa continued to share a story of another night she had spent at this venue with a bunch of her other high profile friends. Abbee at first was surprised that Elesa considered her to be high profile or a friend which had been noticed by Elesa, who had been quick to reassure her of both of those.

    Despite the flattery of Elesa’s evaluation of her, Abbee was curious to know exactly why she had been invited out, especially since, despite having worked for Elesa for a few months shy of two years, she had never been invited out individually by Elesa before. That and Elesa had referred to this as a work meeting, and knowing her, Abbee figured it could be a work meeting, or just an excuse to spend the League’s money. However, she also knew Elesa well enough to know to simply let her talk. She had learnt pretty quickly that having to put on a somewhat cold persona in public, went pretty against Elesa’s natural extrovertedness, so when she could relax with friends, she enjoyed talking. Finally, Elesa said the words Abbee had been waiting for.

    “So you’re probably wondering why we’re here,” Elesa said, as she began to pour two glasses of champagne, filling both to the brim. “And why I’ve got the champagne…”

    “Hadn’t even wondered,” Abbee lied politely, though Elesa, having done the same thing plenty of times, saw straight through it and grinned.

    “You’ll make a good Gym Leader being that diplomatic,” Elesa said casually, before handing Abbee the glass, before she could process what Elesa had just said. “Cheers!”

    She clinked her glass against Abbee’s and took a drink as Abbee’s eyes widened at the implication of what she said.

    “Wait, what?” Abbee asked, the professional composure she held having cracked from the surprise.

    “I’m retiring,” Elesa said. “From Gym Leading, at least. Focus on other ventures. And you will be my successor!”

    Abbee looked at Elesa in shock, as she realised the gravity of what Elesa had just said, and quickly took a drink from her glass, polishing off most of the contents, earning a laugh from Elesa.

    “What other ventures?” Abbee asked through a hiccup, as Elesa, without being asked, poured her another drink, earning a glare from Victini, who sat next to Abbee, full from the food that had been on offer. Elesa didn’t notice, before continuing talking.

    “I’ve modelled for almost as long as I’ve been Gym Leader, and done a few commercials. And I’ve been offered movie roles the entire time, however have never been able to take them because of my commitment to the Gym,” Elesa explained. “Well, come September, my contract ends, and I’ve decided not to renew it, and see where the film industry takes me!”

    “Congratulations,” Abbee said, though Elesa laughed.

    “I should be congratulating you!” Elesa retorted. Abbee however, wasn’t as sure.

    “Why me?” Abbee asked. “I’m flattered, and I’m more than wanting to do it. But Tessa and Blake have been at the Gym far longer than I have-”

    “Well for starters, even without Victini you could beat both of them single handedly with your eyes closed and not saying a word,” Elesa said, matter-of-factly. She was exaggerating, of course, though Abbee knew that she wasn’t wrong. Being Jon’s student for as many years as she had been, and having been taught by her father, who was a legendary battler in his own right, meant that Abbee’s natural talent had every opportunity it needed to grow, and whilst Abbee would never say it, Elesa was confident than in a proper battle, with both trainers using whatever Pokemon they were comfortable with, and no holding back, Abbee would beat her as well.

    “Still, they know how the Gym runs better than I do,” Abbee suggested, though Elesa scoffed.

    “Please, they make it up as they go, and get it wrong half the time anyway,” Elesa answered. “Honestly, even if there weren’t such a huge gap in skill between you and them, they’re so smug in their belief that one of them will be made Gym Leader once I leave, it makes me sick. The sort of attitude they have, isn’t who I want replacing me and representing the Gym…”

    Abbee was shocked to hear Elesa talk so bluntly about Tessa and Blake that way, though had to admit she had noticed the same attitude about the two more senior Gym Trainers.

    “I’m not telling you this as my employee. I’m telling you this as my equal, and my successor. What qualities of a good Gym Leader they lack, you have in spades. It’s an easy decision for me,” Elesa said, her tone a little more serious. “You came to Nimbasa, hoping to become the Gym Leader one day?”

    Abbee had never said it, and began to stutter in protest as Elesa grinned.

    “Everyone who signs up to be a Gym Trainer is gunning for their Gym Leader’s job,” Elesa explained. “Nothing to be ashamed of…”

    “I spoke to Candice a few years back, when I was thinking I might like to be a Gym Leader,” Abbee explained, deciding to be honest. “She said my best bet was to become a Gym Trainer where the Gym Leader has been in their role for a few years, and is either old enough that they’re looking to retire completely, or young enough that they are getting to the point of wanting to do something new while they still could…”

    “Good advice,” Elesa answered with a laugh. “So when you saw I was hiring?”

    “I jumped on it…”

    “Well, when I retire, Candice will have the record for Gym Leader with the most followers,” Elesa answered. “But when you take over, I doubt it will take long for you to win that record off her…”

    Abbee laughed, however knew that they could spend hours making jokes and not get anywhere.

    “So what about this summer?” Abbee asked.

    “What about it?”

    “Well I was planning on spending it at the Eon Academy. My flight is next week…” Abbee explained.

    “I don’t see why that needs to change,” Elesa answered with a shrug, before pouring herself another glass of champagne.

    “I don’t need formal Gym Leader training?”

    “If I were handing over to Blake or Tessa, I’d want six months just to get them in line, but honestly, there will be two weeks between you getting back, and me leaving, which should be plenty,” Elesa explained. “Besides, I know how much you love being there, and considering last summer, you decided to go be a hero in Alola and missed out, I wouldn’t want to take that from you. Especially with this being the last one…”

    Abbee had known that once she became Gym Leader, she couldn’t keep taking summers off to return to the Academy. However now that Elesa said it, suddenly it became a whole lot more real.

    “So take summer off, learn a heap of new tricks, and come back in September,” Elesa continued. “But after that, you’ll be Nimbasa City’s next Gym Leader…”

    It was only 9pm when Abbee left the club, as the music grew louder and the dance floor got fuller, despite Elesa wanting to order a third bottle of champagne. She felt a little tipsy, as she made her way to the bus stop, ready to head home, and be in her pyjamas by 10pm. She had told Dylan she’d video call him, and knew that’d keep her awake another hour at least. As she walked to the bus stop, Victini remained vigilant, sitting on her shoulder and watching those who passed by.

    Once they were on the bus, Abbee finally spoke quietly.

    “I can’t believe it,” Abbee said quietly to Victini. “I’m going to be Gym Leader…”

    “Will I be allowed to battle?” Victini asked, having only been allowed in battles against some of the strongest trainers to visit the Gym, who requested a battle against a Mythical Pokemon. All of them regretted it.

    “I’ll check with Elesa on Monday,” Abbee said, as she got her phone out. “I imagine you could if you used mostly electric attacks…”

    “Well I got a new one learnt…” Victini replied, as she looked down at Abbee’s phone. “You telling Dylan?”

    “I’ll tell him when I get home,” Abbee explained. “Just wanted to let Charlotte know…”

    It was mid afternoon in Jubilife City, when Charlotte heard her phone chime with her text tone. She stood in the empty stadium of Jubilife City, which she had booked for that afternoon in particular. Her last competition before the summer was in this very arena a week from then, and as a competitor, she had been granted use of the arena for training. In the air in front of her floated Deoxys is its defensive form. It was not taking any attacks, however for this exercise, it was the best suited form.

    Underneath the ground, Gengar hid, popping up from the ground in random places at random times. Deoxys was tasked with stunning Gengar with a weak Thunderbolt attack. Its defensive form reduced its attack power to a fraction of what it could be, as well as reducing its speed as much as possible. However, Deoxys was also tasked with not relying on its telepathy in order to locate Gengar, instead, its other senses, and sheer instincts. Whilst Deoxys had what it takes to beat most Ghost type Pokemon, Dark Types would prove to be more challenging, being immune to Deoxys psychic attacks and telepathy. And Charlotte knew that her best bet to catch an opponent off guard was to turn their advantage into her own.

    Hearing the chime, she called for the two Pokemon to pause, before making her way towards her phone, where it sat on the bench off to the side of the battlefield. She quickly unlocked it, finding a message from Abbee.

    ”It isn’t public yet, so keep it between us, but Elesa just told me she is retiring, and wants me to be her successor. As of September, I will be the Nimbasa City Gym Leader…”

    Charlotte’s eyes widened as she read the words in front of her.

    “Holy s**t…” Charlotte said in shock. Abbee was only nineteen at the start of that year, placing her amongst some of the youngest people to become Gym Leaders, however Charlotte knew that shouldn’t surprise her. She was the first of the Eon Academy students to get a Legendary Pokemon, being only fifteen at the time, and having only turned eighteen a few months earlier, could not have been much younger and still been an operative in Alola the year before.

    ”Congratulations! You’re going to kill it!” Charlotte typed, however, before she could hit send, her phone buzzed in her hand, as the text conversation in front of her disappeared, being replaced by an incoming call from an unsaved number, with an area code in Kanto. She quickly slid the green bar across the screen to accept the call.

    “Charlotte speaking,” Charlotte answered, and heard a woman's voice on the other end of the phone.

    ”Charlotte Jones?” the woman asked, though didn’t wait for a reply. ”My name is Maxine Parks, and I’m the Events Manager at Seafoam Cruises. Is now a good time to talk?”

    The name didn’t ring a bell, however the company she represented did. Seafoam Cruises were the company that owned and operated the S.S. Wishmaker…

    “Yeah, I’ve got a minute,” Charlotte said, before waving to Deoxys, who diligently floated in place, indicating it could take a break, and that this may take a while. It slowly descended to the ground. “What can I do for you?”

    Charlotte asked the question, having a hunch. If the Events Manager from the company that operated the S.S. Wishmaker were contacting her, there was a very solid possibility it was in regard to what she thought it was.

    “I’m calling to discuss the High Seas Tournament…”

    Charlotte’s heart skipped a beat. This was the last thing she had been expecting.

    ”Given the popularity of the tournament, all applicants are screened for their performance history in other official Pokemon League tournaments, and only the top thirty applicants are invited to compete,” Maxine explained, all this Charlotte knew. This was why she hadn’t applied. Despite taking first in almost every tournament, especially seeing as Chris, to her surprise, hadn’t competed in nearly six months, she knew that having taken time off competing while she recovered from the stab wound in her shoulder that she received in Goldenrod Medium Security Prison the summer before, and having not competed at all during that summer, having not registered for any tournaments due to her expectation of being in Mossdeep, she would not be in that top thirty, and that it wasn’t worth even applying. However, this confused her…

    “Aren’t there normally thirty-two participants?” Charlotte asked. “And I haven’t applied to compete?”

    ”That is the reason for our call,” Maxine answered. [i]”The two additional places are wild-card entries, based on public nominations, within reason. If someone who has no history battling at the level demanded by the High Seas Tournament is nominated, they will not be considered, however, if someone battles at the appropriate level, but hasn’t made the cut, and is nominated with enough votes, they get offered a position. And you, Charlotte Jones, are one of the two trainers who are being offered the wild-card entry…”

    Taken by surprise, Charlotte accidentally dropped the phone, which was caught telekinetically by Deoxys. Charlotte nodded at the stoic Legendary Pokemon with thanks, and picked up the phone.

    ”This will be the first High Seas Tournament on The S.S. Wishmaker II,” Maxine continued. ”The sheer amount of damage the S.S. Wishmaker took last summer justified giving the ship an overhaul, including a new state of the art stadium. And because of that, as well as your presence in the High Seas Tournament, as well as the other wild-card entry, should he accept, we honestly believe it will go down in history, second only to the first…”

    The first High Seas Tournament had been the one in which the Diamond Ladies had been exposed as cheaters, and Jon Drake, practically unknown at the time, had taken the championship title, beginning the story of the Eon Academy, and from there, stories of victory in others. Charlotte’s own skill and reputation, as well as those of her friends, were consequences of that very first High Seas Tournament. However a thought clicked into place in Charlotte, as she considered what had just been said.

    “The other wild-card entry is Justin Collins, isn’t it?”

    The professional demeanour Maxine had dissolved for a moment, in shock that Charlotte had guessed it.

    “Going off social media popularity, most competitors who are likely to match or exceed me in the popular vote are either former Champions, like Jon Drake, or would have made the top thirty by their performance throughout the last season’s tournaments,” Charlotte explained. “The only one who battles at the level you require, without qualifying for the tournament normally, is Justin Collins…”

    ”I technically shouldn’t be answering, but you’re correct,” Maxine answered in disbelief. ”Justin Collins took the most votes in the public nominations wild-card entry, and you took the second most…”

    Charlotte couldn’t help but grin. Justin wasn’t fond of the fame he had, yet somehow, had become the most famous of all the Eon Academy interns, much to Charlotte’s amusement.

    “I’m seeing Justin tonight, but I can all but guarantee you, he won’t accept,” Charlotte explained. “He hasn’t wanted to battle competitively in years, and has other plans he is finally able to put into place that this would clash with…”

    ”I’ll speak to him this afternoon if I get the chance, and make the offer myself. But what about you? Do you wish to take the offer, and compete in the fifth High Seas Tournament?”

    Charlotte went silent. Since the tournament began, and seeing the broadcast of it herself as a teenager, it had been a dream of hers to compete in the High Seas Tournament one day. And once she felt like her days of spending summers at the Eon Academy were over, she had planned on applying to compete. And now, the opportunity was in front of her. Beyond that, the wild-card entry winning the High Seas Tournament would be unprecedented, and would likely not happen again for a very long time. However, the tournament, and all the preparation it would require, would cause her to miss this summer’s program at the Eon Academy. She took a breath, hardening her resolve, before speaking.

    “Unfortunately, Miss Parks, I will have to decline the offer, as I already have plans for the summer, that I am not wanting to move,” Charlotte began. “However, I have a counter-offer…”

    ”And that is?” Maxine asked, amused at Charlotte’s attempt to negotiate.

    “You give my place this year to whoever came in fourth on the popular vote, seeing as I can almost guarantee you Justin will turn down the offer as well, and his place will need to be given to third,” Charlotte explained. “However, my wild-card offer will be instead for next year, and I will sign an agreement today if I have to, promising to be there and competing…”

    ”Miss Jones, what you are offering is unconventional, to risk making an understatement…” Maxine replied. ”Some would even argue that it is unfair…”

    “Just like they argued how it was unfair that despite Cassandra Silver’s cheating her first three wins in a knockout style tournament, Freddy Davis, who Cassandra beat in the quarter-final match, wasn’t allowed a battle against Avery Miller, and by extension, an opportunity at the grand final match?”

    It was a low blow, Charlotte knew, and she heard Maxine stuttering on the other end. Charlotte knew, like in a Pokemon battle, when her opponent's footing had been shaken by a quick and unexpected attack, that was the time to land the heavy hits.

    “Listen, Maxine,” Charlotte said, not giving her a chance to answer. “Here is how I see it. If you say no, next year, I’ll apply through the standard channels, and I can almost guarantee you that I will make the cut-”

    ”Your current ranking indicates otherwise,” Maxine retorted, as Charlotte couldn’t help but laugh.

    “My current ranking is affected by an injury I sustained last summer, as well as not competing during the summer. Don’t look at my overall score, but check out my win to participation ratio since I moved up from junior leagues…” Charlotte said, knowing it was 0.9725, higher than Jon’s was before the first High Seas Tournament. She heard Maxine typing, as she continued. “So with that in mind, if I were to set my sights on competing, I am certain I would make the cut. And I’d get what I like, being able to compete, without Seafoam Cruises getting any of the benefits of agreeing to my proposal…”

    ”And those benefits are?” Maxine asked, having stopped typing, and able to see the ratio Charlotte had referenced.

    “Publicity,” Charlotte answered evenly. “I know for a fact that Jon Drake has been pestered for years to attend the High Seas Tournament as a special guest, all in the name of a publicity stunt. I also know that the only reason he accepted last year, was so he had an excuse to be in Alola for the operation to stop Agatha. Now, given how little time there was between him accepting the offer, and the tournament itself, I imagine there was little change to ticket sales compared to previous years?”

    Maxine realised where Charlotte was going, and listened as she continued.

    “Now consider this. Let’s say that the High Seas Tournament ends, and at that moment you are able to announce that next year, making her High Seas Tournament debut, is student of the original High Seas Champion, Jon Drake, who, having concluded her time as his student, is now ready to take his title…” Charlotte explained. “You’d have almost a year to promote that, and fans of mine who otherwise wouldn’t be invested enough to come on the S.S. Wishmaker for the High Seas Tournament, will either snap up the early bird tickets, or make a point of saving to buy tickets that they otherwise wouldn’t…”

    ”And you’re sure you have enough fans to make that worth our while?”

    “I obviously have enough that offering me a spot this year is worth your while…”

    Maxine remained silent for a minute, not fond of the shift in the balance of power that had occurred. She was used to being the person with the authority, that held the bargaining chips the other person wanted. However, Charlotte had quickly reversed that, and she was unused to it.

    ”We will consider it,” Maxine answered. ”I’ll be in touch…”

    Charlotte had a hunch she knew what that meant. Maxine would be seeing if she could recruit Justin for this year, before making the decision. Potentially even making the offer to him that Charlotte had just proposed, knowing that she could capitalise on both trainers being pre-booked to compete.

    “You know where to find me…”

    The call ended, and Charlotte quickly sent Justin a text.

    ”You’re about to get a very interesting phone call. See you tonight…”

    Justin read the text, as he walked out of the Jubilife University Library, having returned all the books he had borrowed. If he forgot to return them then, and all went to plan, he’d likely wind up with a large fine from the library. Granted it would be hard to forget them. His apartment in Jubilife City was mostly packed, with only the bare essentials needed to survive before he took his flight to Mossdeep City, left over. Before he left, he would put everything into a storage unit in Jubilife, and from there, what happened next hinged on circumstances outside of his control. Technically speaking, when his current lease ended in a fortnight, he would be homeless, however, what should be his last summer at the Eon Academy would keep a roof over his head.

    He avoided treating this summer as his last with any certainty, because there was one key factor that could allow him to return next summer. Being rejected to join the Sinnoh Police Department.

    The previous nine months had been stressful to say the least. Knowing that the application process took the good part of a year at the best of times, Justin had applied to join the police force in the autumn of the year before. First had been the eligibility checks, which hadn’t concerned him, given he had not even had a speeding fine, and although technically he had been arrested in Mossdeep four years prior, due to him not starting the fight, and acting largely in self-defence, it had not been put on his record. The entrance exam, which had come next, was where the stress really began, although if he failed that, he would only have to wait six months to attempt it again.

    Despite never considering himself an academic, he passed the exam with flying colours, something he attributed to the skills he had to pick up in order to survive in his Bachelor of Law. However from there, things were even more stressful, because there were many steps to the recruitment process, and from then on, rejection at any would require a twelve month wait before he could reapply. However, one by one, Justin passed them all, from the physical evaluation, to the psychological evaluation, until two weeks ago, he reached the final stage of the recruitment process. The panel interview.

    Anxiety was an understatement when describing how he felt during the interview with two senior recruiters, and that anxiety was amplified by the fact that no feedback was given. He would only know weeks later when he received the email, either rejecting him, or offering a place in the Academy. Having come so far, and knowing rejection would result in another twelve months before he could even start again, although bypassing the entrance exam, he was anxious to know the outcome, good or bad. Good, and he would have a place in the Sinnoh Police Academy in Jubilife City for their autumn intake. Bad, and he would return to Jubilife after summer to gather his belongings, and from there, move to Snowpoint until he could reapply.

    “Justin!”

    He was pulled from his anxious thoughts by someone calling out to him. He turned to see David Fraser, one of his professors, making his way towards him. Justin had only seen him an hour earlier, during what was the final exam of his Bachelor of Law. Already worried about having not received the email from the Sinnoh Police Department, his thoughts immediately shifted to him having made some mistake with his exam, such as using the wrong colour pen, and the whole assessment now being null and void, and needing to be retaken. David noticed this, and quickly raised his hands in a placating gesture. He was in his early fifties, slightly rounded, with greying black hair and brown eyes. He wore a plain pair of slacks and a white button up shirt.

    “Everything’s fine Justin,” David said reassuringly as he reached him, extending a friendly hand for Justin to shake. “You think I’ve got bad news?”

    “Sorry,” Justin said, giving a weak grin.

    “You look like an anxious wreck,” David noted, a tinge of concern in his voice. He had been one of Justin’s first tutors at Jubilife University, and when Justin had been slandered by Silver Wing News two summers before, David, who still practised law occasionally, had offered to represent Justin should he decide to sue for defamation. Justin had appreciated David’s relaxed and reasonable demeanour, whilst David had appreciated Justin’s work-ethic. Despite the content not coming to Justin as easily as other students, he still excelled from sheer determination and willingness to try. “Has this exam got you stressed?”

    “Surprisingly, no,” Justin laughed. “I barely worried about the exam because I was too worried about other stuff…”

    Seeing a frown of concern on David’s face, Justin realised he needed to explain himself.

    “The email to tell me whether or not I’ll be able to join the police,” Justin explained. “It’s due any day now…”

    Realisation dawned on David as he couldn’t help but grin.

    “You’ll likely be the most overqualified cop in Sinnoh,” David joked. “Law degree, and training under Jon Drake for five years…”

    “Four technically,” Justin answered. “Last year I didn’t get to Mossdeep…”

    David nodded, before asking another question.

    “So when they accept you, what happens next?”

    “I specifically requested to be in the autumn intake, so I’ll be at the Eon Academy during the summer, and after that, spending a little over six months at the Jubilife Police Academy. Then, if all goes to plan, I’ll be placed in Snowpoint City to begin work there,” Justin explained. “If I don’t pass any of this semester’s classes, I’ll defer my degree for a year, and once I’m settled, complete them online. No point in not finishing my degree when I’m this far through…”

    “Well if it makes you feel any better…” David said, before looking around and lowering his voice when he was content nobody was listening. “All your other subjects this semester, you have passed. And I had a quick look at the exam you just completed before I came here, and it's the same level of work that you’ve been delivering. I’d be willing to bet anything that you’ve passed…”

    Justin sighed a little with relief.

    “So is that why you called out?”

    “Not directly, no,” David explained. “However, I knew that you had your heart set on joining the police, and that once you finished, I likely wouldn’t have you as a student again. Unless you felt like getting your masters degree whilst you worked…”

    “Yeah, I don’t see that in the card for me,” Justin laughed, as David nodded, holding out his hand again.

    “I figured as much. So I just wanted to see you off myself. Chances are, you won’t be able to be here for graduation with your training. So I wanted to wish you all the best now, and thank you for being such a great student…”

    “What can I say?” Justin asked. “I had a great teacher. But remember, I might not make it, so I may still see you at graduation come autumn…”

    Before David could respond, Justin felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, and the notification of an email being received chimed. His heart skipping a beat, Justin’s hand instinctively fell to his pocket, before realising it would be impolite to check now, and resisting the urge. David noticed this and grinned, knowing exactly what Justin was thinking.

    “Check it,” David said. Justin quickly retrieved the phone from his pocket, and without looking at the subject or the preview, tapped on the email, before placing his thumb against the finger-print scanner, unlocking the phone. The screen was white for a moment as the content flashed, and Justin quickly recognised the logo of the Sinnoh Police Department. He only had to read the first few sentences….

    ”Dear Mr. Collins.

    We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the Sinnoh Police Department, pending training. Your training will begin on September 19th, 2022, at the Jubilife City Police Academy…”


    “I got in…” Justin said breathlessly, almost unable to believe it himself. David grinned.

    “Told you,” David replied. “Most overqualified cop in all of Sinnoh…”

    Justin spent the next two hours making his way across the city to the cafe where he and Charlotte had agreed to grab dinner that evening. In light of his news, he had forgotten about Charlotte’s vague text message when the call from an unsaved number in Kanto appeared on his phone. He sat in a quiet bus, which had stopped for the driver to switch with another beginning his shift. A woman by the name of Maxine Parks was on the line, explaining to Justin that he had been nominated and received the most votes to compete as the wild-card entry in the sixth High Seas Tournament. He quickly explained that he did not wish to compete, and would not be available to compete anyway. In response, he was promptly offered a definite position in the following year's High Seas Tournament, to which he also promptly rejected, before ending the call, leaving Maxine Parks in disbelief. On any other day, the offer would have shocked him beyond belief, however he was already shocked beyond belief, and numbed to the shock of the offer to compete in the High Seas Tournament.

    It was early evening when Justin and Charlotte sat in a cafe in the northern edge of Jubilife City, and Justin gave Charlotte his news.

    “So this will be your last summer at the Academy?” Charlotte asked. Justin nodded.

    “If I had been rejected, I wouldn’t have been allowed to apply for another twelve months, so could have gone next summer as well,” Justin explained. “But I guess you guys will just have to go on without me…”

    “See, you’re slightly off base there…” Charlotte explained with a smirk. She wasn’t going to spoil Abbee’s news, however she had her own, which had only been confirmed minutes earlier, by a call from Maxine Parks, accepting her proposal from earlier in the day, and confirming Charlotte’s place in next year’s High Seas Tournament. Justin gave her a confused look, as her smirk widened into a smile.

    “You’re not the only one who got offered the wild-card entry to the High Seas Tournament…”

    Justin looked at Charlotte in surprise. He hadn’t mentioned the call to her, knowing that she had wanted to compete in that herself, and didn’t want to risk making her jealous, considering the popularity he had, which he hated, had given him an opportunity she had been working hard towards. However, suddenly it clicked.

    “Wait, if you took the wild-card entry, you won’t be able to be at the Academy this summer?” Justin replied, confirming to Charlotte that he had received the same call.

    “I convinced them to give me a place in next year's one. That it would help them sell tickets if the moment this year's tournament entered, they could publicise I’d be competing in next years,” Charlotte laughed. “They said they’d think about it, but I knew that they’d realised they could probably sell more tickets if they did that with you, and that they’d ask you first…”

    “Yeah, they offered me a place in this year’s tournament, and when I turned it down, offered me a place in next year’s,” Justin explained. “I don’t think they expected to be rejected so quickly…”

    “And once you did that, they called me back, accepting my offer, and trying to do everything they could to get an agreement sent to me and signed before I could change my mind,” Charlotte said with a grin. “So this summer will be my last one as well…”

    Justin’s phone, which sat on the table between them, began to ring, and both trainers instinctively looked at the screen.

    ’Side-piece.’

    Charlotte gave Justin a look of concern, as Justin sighed. He answered the call, leaving the phone on the table, and pressed the loud-speaker button.

    “Hello Christopher,” Justin said evenly, as Charlotte choked on a laugh, realising that Chris likely set that contact name himself, and Justin never changed it. “You’re on loudspeaker with Charlotte…”

    “Hey Side-piece,” Charlotte said, before looking at Justin. “Has Candice seen this?”

    “She thinks it’s hilarious…” Justin said, thankful his girlfriend was not the sort to jump too far to conclusions, even when Chris’ joke didn’t require much jumping at all.

    On the other end of the line, Chris, not used to being called by his full name, realised what had happened, and began to laugh.

    ”I didn’t realise the two of you were together,” Chris said. ”That works well. I have a question for you both.”

    “And that is?” Charlotte asked.

    ”What flight have you guys got booked from Jubilife?” Chris asked. ”I haven’t got mine booked yet, and realised I am running out of time…”

    Chris had mentioned to both Justin and Charlotte late last year that he’d be coming to the Eon Academy again, though didn’t give any specific reason why. However, Chris’ call raised another question.

    “You’re in Sinnoh?” Charlotte asked, before continuing without waiting for a response. “You haven’t competed in six months!”

    ”I told you, I’m working on something…” Chris explained.

    “Yeah, so I figured you’d be at home in Blackthorn?”

    “If you were in Sinnoh, why not let us know?” Justin asked, a little taken aback by the fact that his best friend had been geographically closer to him than he had been in months and hadn’t mentioned anything.

    ”I just did,” Chris answered. ”Besides, if I told you earlier, I’d have given away the surprise…”

    “The surprise being?” Charlotte asked.

    ”Nice try,” Chris answered. ”The surprise being what I have been working on…”

    “I’ll forward you the flight number once I get off the phone,” Justin answered.

    ”Thanks,” Chris replied, before asking his own question. ”Why are you two together?”

    Both trainers looked at eachother, before Charlotte pressed the mute button.

    “I don’t want to tell anyone else until I sign the agreement,” Charlotte said quietly. “What about you?”

    “I’m accepted now,” Justin answered, before unmuting the phone.

    ”You guys there?” Chris asked.

    “Yeah, we’re here. Lost signal for a second,” Justin explained. “Just celebrating because I got accepted into the police…”

    Patrons at nearby tables glared at Justin and Charlotte, as loud noises of Chris’ cheering came through the phone, causing Justin to quickly turn the volume down.

    “He sounds a lot more like his old self…” Charlotte whispered.

    “Let’s hope seeing Abbee and Dylan doesn’t change that…” Justin murmured.

    “Well in that case, let’s go get a drink,” Chris suggested.

    “When?” Justin asked.

    ”Tonight?”

    “You’re in Jubilife?” Charlotte asked in disbelief.

    ”Yeah,” Chris said, not waiting for either trainer to object. ”I’ll send a place through. Be there at nine…”

    Chris ended the call as the pair looked at each other in disbelief.

    “I didn’t know he was here…” Charlotte said. “He just said he was working on something, but I figured he was at home if he wasn’t travelling. I mean, if he isn’t competing, it’s not like he can afford to live out of home…”

    “Same,” Justin said in confused shock. “Maybe we can get an answer out of him later?”

    On the other side of the city, Chris sat in the dorm-room he had been allocated at the College of the North Wind. It was larger than his room at the Eon Academy, and whilst the furnishings seemed to be more expensive, they were less modern, and seemed to be there more so for the aesthetic than any practical reason.

    On his desk sat a laptop, open to a webpage editor, on a site that was not live yet. The url in the address bar read projectstn.com, and the site appeared to be simple in nature. At the top, was a countdown, showing years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds. The countdown however, was paused at one year remaining, which would begin when the site went live. At the bottom on the screen, was a placeholder for an embedded YouTube video, which was programmed to pull the most recent video from a YouTube channel that had not been made live itself yet. Between the player and the countdown was a thirteen across, seven down table, each space containing a small image of a person, that could be expanded if the mouse hovered over it, though some on the right hand side were empty. Three down and four across contained Elesa, though Chris was unaware that would soon change. Four down, and eight and thirteen across were Candice and Cynthia respectively. Five down and thirteen across was Steven, and six down, eight across was his own sister, Clair.

    After having competed for a year, between his third, and what would have been his fourth summer at the Academy if not for other circumstances, Chris soon became bored. He rarely lost, and when he did, most of the time, it was against the same person. Charlotte. However, from said boredom, an idea came to him. An idea that if achieved, would put Chris in the history books. An idea that if achieved would cement Chris’ name as a master trainer, completely separate from Jon, Clair, and Lance. A goal that when Chris had visited Mossdeep eight months prior, and spoken to Jon of this, had even shocked Jon.

    Chris planned to conquer all seven regional Pokemon Leagues in under a year. Galar, Kalos, Unova, Sinnoh, Hoenn, Johto and Kanto. Roughly a badge, or an Elite Four Challenge per week. To this day, nobody has conquered all of them, and to do it in a year, would set a record with Chris as the first holder, and very few ever being able to beat it.

    Knowing that Jon’s specialty was three-on-three tournament battling, which would not be enough to help him achieve this goal on its own, Chris had sought out Camilla Blakely, former Sinnoh Champion, and founder of the College of the North Wind, the graduates of which made up many Elite Four members worldwide, and by extension, many of Chris’ targets. It was no secret that her curriculum focused on beating regional Leagues. After explaining his goal to Camilla, and proving his resolve to it in a series of matches against her current five best students, as well as Camilla herself, Camilla agreed to spend the six months between then and summer, tutoring Chris personally.

    Now however, Chris was ready to leave the College. He hadn’t battled Charlotte in six months, and despite planning on stepping away from the competitive circuit to focus on Gyms and the Elite Four, he was still eager to see if he had pulled ahead, however knew Charlotte also had the same six months to improve.

    Having taken his bike to the shipping company, and it now already on its way to Hoenn, Chris knew he would need to be quick if he wanted to get to the bar he had sent Justin and Charlotte on time. He considered telling them about ProjectSTN when he saw them, but figured he’d wait. He had a hunch that he and Justin weren’t the only ones who were not going to be returning to the Academy after that summer, and wanted to wait a little longer. He quickly grabbed a light jacket, as well as his phone and wallet, not bothering with his keys. Despite the age of the building, the dorms of the College of the Northwind used electronic locks with keycards, and without his bike, his keys were another thing to lose. Granted, he would not be drinking anywhere near as much as he had last time he had gone to a bar with his friends. He quickly shook off the humiliating memory as he made his way to the laptop. Despite knowing that nobody would enter his room while he was gone, he still didn’t want to risk ProjectSTN being leaked before its time. He glanced one more time at the banner at the top of the webpage, taking in the title, before closing the laptop.

    Project: Second To None…’


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  10. #167
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
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    The final summer with all five interns at the Academy is about to begin. Hard to believe a side story that started as a way to scratch the post S.S. Wishmaker itch has evolved this much.

    Don't fret though. Still got a lot more planned, albeit, in a different way.

  11. #168
    Cheers and good times! Neo Emolga's Avatar
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    Finally got around to catching up and…

    Spoiler:
    Holy crap does Chris have CrAzY ambition. Second to None sounds kind of insane, but so does a lot of things Jon and his interns have done and they’re still alive and kickin’. But yeah, it would be pretty legendary if Chris were to pull it off.

    In the meantime, given everyone’s future situations and what the years to come involve, it definitely sounds like this will be everyone’s last summer together at the academy. Like you said, the amount of development and incredible lore you’ve built upon what started off as Wishmaker is insanely impressive and it’s been a thrill ride the whole time.

    It’s good to see the interns have big dreams that have already begun to show signs of promise. Looking forward to seeing how it all turns out and what kinds of interesting challenges they’ll face along the way. :3

  12. #169
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
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    Season 5 Episode 1: Capability
    Spoiler:

    The stench of vomit wafted through the ensuite of Jon and Alyssa’s bedroom, as Jon crouched on his knees, his head hanging over the toilet. The sheer distance between his face and the water, and the implications it brought to mind were enough to add to the nausea, however he didn’t need that. He felt his head go light again, as the contents of his stomach rose up in his throat. However, his stomach had been empty three retches ago, and at this point, it was just painful dry reaching.

    “You got the meds?” Jon asked weakly, as Dylan stood by the door, unable to look at Jon. Despite Dylan being taller and stronger than Jon from the day they met, Jon had always seemed indestructible. An unstoppable force that could move an immovable object. However, an hour ago, he had another seizure, and despite it only lasting a minute, it was enough to make the rest of the day near unbearable. The nausea and the splitting headache would remain with him until he could sleep it off. On a normal day, he’d simply ask Dylan to have Darkrai hit him with a hypnosis attack, but today wasn’t normal, and he was already running late.

    “I can take care of it,” Dylan said to Jon. “The meeting was supposed to start fifteen minutes ago, and people are probably already asking questions…”

    “Cass, Violet, Jarena and Abbee all know,” Jon answered, as he spat the foul remnants that remained in his mouth into the toilet, before slowly standing to his feet, and pressing the button to flush the toilet. “I will be able to keep the meds down now-”

    “They could take anywhere between half an hour to an hour to take effect,” Dylan answered. “And even if you were to go now, you probably reek of vomit, and you look like you’ve been hit by a bus…”

    Dylan wasn’t trying to be hurtful with his assessment of Jon. It was accurate. He was pale, and Dylan was sure that the smell would linger in Jon’s hair and clothes.

    “I’ll shower and get into some clean clothes, and by the time I get there, the meds should be doing their thing,” Jon explained, as he grabbed a glass that sat by the vanity. He filled it with water, and began gargling, trying to remove the taste of vomit, before he took the medication, which would require a mouthful of water to swallow.

    “Jon, I can handle the induction!” Dylan argued, as Jon spat out another mouthful of water.

    “I’m not saying you can’t,” Jon replied, grimacing as his head throbbed a little more painfully than it did before. “But honestly, ninety-nine percent of the time, I am fine. It’s just when I have these seizures-”

    “It’s been two weeks since the last one,” Dylan retorted.

    “When I don’t have seizures, I can handle this, but if the first time the others see me after my stroke, I don’t show because I can barely think straight or keep my breakfast down, then the days where I’m fine, I’ll be treated like a cripple…”

    Knowing how much Jon hated the feeling of uselessness, or the feeling of being a liability, Dylan remained silent, as Jon took the two pill-bottles from his hand. He quickly grabbed one of each, an anti-nausea medication, and a painkiller for his headache, and swallowed them with a mouthful of water.

    “Keep them busy while I have a shower and get changed,” Jon said, as he stumbled towards the shower, and turned on the cold tap. He didn’t touch the hot one. The vomiting had left him feeling feverish, and the cold water, despite being uncomfortable, was still soothing.

    “I’ll let you do this on one condition,” Dylan said, as Jon chuckled.

    “You think you could stop me?” Jon asked jokingly, knowing full well, especially in this state, Dylan could overpower Jon with no effort.

    “Darkrai could,” Dylan answered. “And you’d wake up in a few hours feeling better, so it’s a win-win…”

    Jon sighed, knowing Dylan was making better points by the second.

    “What’s this condition?”

    “Be there, make an appearance, say your hellos,” Dylan explained. “But let me handle the bulk of the meeting. If you’re worried about being treated like a cripple, your hazy memory and headache are going to raise alarm bells with the others…”

    Jon nodded at Dylan.

    “But this isn’t like hiding your hand from Lili,” Dylan said, his voice dropping. “The others will figure out things aren’t right, and it’s going to be hard for myself and the Diamond Ladies to cover for you while keeping secrets from them…”

    “I’ll tell the other three,” Jon agreed. “Tonight…”

    Dylan sighed with slight relief, before walking out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him, whilst Jon stripped down to shower.

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

    Abbee watched in confused shock at the six other people who loitered on the battlefield of the Eon Academy’s stadium. On one side, stood Justin, Charlotte and Chris, who spoke quietly amongst themselves, and on the other, the Diamond Ladies, Cassandra, Violet and Jarena, who stood in concerned silence. Abbee noticed they had been checking their watches a lot. Jon was half an hour late, and whilst Chris, Charlotte and Justin were content chatting, and hadn’t picked up on the nervous energy, the Diamond Ladies seemed concerned. It didn’t take Abbee long to piece together what was going on.

    “Surely Dylan can just handle this?” Jarena said quietly.

    “Do you really think Jon is going to sit this out?” Violet asked. “This is the first summer program in two years, and Dylan’s last one…”

    Abbee walked towards the Diamond Ladies, surprisingly more comfortable with them, given the uncertainty of things between herself and Chris.

    “Will Jon be okay to run the meeting?” Abbee asked quietly, as Violet and Jarena spoke amongst themselves.

    “Even if he isn’t, he’ll still do it,” Cassandra answered in an undertone. “Dylan hasn’t left the house since Jon had the seizure this morning, so is probably trying to help him get on his feet…”

    Abbee heard the door open, and turned, not noticing the Diamond Ladies do the same thing. Charlotte, Chris and Justin glanced over, seeing Dylan enter the room alone, as Charlotte and Justin waved and called out greetings. She gave him a puzzled look, having not seen him since she arrived, and he returned it with an expression that said ’later’. Chris remained silent, looking at some section of the floor, that he hoped appeared interesting to him.

    “Jon just got held up with something, so will be a little longer,” Dylan explained casually. “If anyone wants a coffee, we probably have time to make a few cups before he arrives?”

    Justin, having become borderline addicted to coffee during the late night study sessions, both for his degree and the entrance exam for the Sinnoh Police Department, decided to take the offer, and noticing Chris’ apprehension with Dylan and Abbee both in the room, invited Chris to join him as the pair left the stadium to make their way to the lodge.

    Charlotte, who had remained with Chris, not wanting to leave him unattended despite how much better he seemed to be doing compared to the end of their last summer at the Academy, was now relieved of duty, and approached Abbee and the Diamond Ladies to speak to them.

    “And to think how much Jon hung it on us when we were late,” Charlotte joked to Abbee, who forced a grin at the joke. She knew Charlotte was perceptive, and would notice any sort of apprehensiveness towards the comment if it showed.

    “Must be something important,” Abbee agreed, before looking between Cassandra and Charlotte. “Charlotte, you probably already know who this is. Cass, this Charlotte Jones. At a guess, if anyone is to follow in Jon’s footsteps and become High Seas Champion, it is Charlotte, especially since her battling is-”

    “Terrifying…” Cassandra said finishing the sentence, as Charlotte couldn’t help but grin. “Pleasure to meet you. If Jon thinks your battling is terrifying, I might need to learn what I can from you…”

    “It’s strange. That’s my favourite compliment for my battling,” Charlotte explained. “I met Violet and Jarena when I visited last year, but you were away?”

    “In Johto, visiting my parents,” Cassandra said with a sigh. “When you cheat your way to the top of the world, get caught, then fake your death for four years, only to come back, you kind of end up owing a lot of people explanations…”

    Cassandra shuddered at the thought. Whilst things with her parents, although still extremely awkward, were in a much better state than she expected, it took her a long time to find the nerve to call her parents after the Spiritwater Crisis. She knew she had to make the first step, as until she reached Mossdeep, her parents had no way of reaching out to her directly, whilst she could find them in any phone book, though if they hadn’t moved house, she still remembered her childhood phone number.

    As they spoke, Abbee looked around, partially to see where Dylan was, and spotted something on the ground. The centre marking of the battlefield, what in previous years had been the Eon Academy logo, of the Latios silhouette, was now different. Instead the silhouette was different, now showing two Eon Pokemon, one smaller and one larger. Charlotte and Cassandra noticed Abbee’s gaze on it, as Charlotte took a second to understand why Jon had changed the logo, and Cassandra grinned.

    “I mean, it’s the Eon Academy, and now there’s twice as much Eon,” Cassandra explained. “Willow is with Latios and Latias off-site.”

    “They still inseparable?” Abbee asked with a smile.

    “Not as much as they were right after we all got here,” Cassandra explained. “Latias battled alongside Willow, but in a completely different league to Jon and Latios. So Latios is trying to teach Latias some tricks…”

    Abbee nodded before looking back at the logo, a little nostalgic.

    “Still, I do kind of miss the old logo…”

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

    “You know, you can’t avoid them forever,” Justin said, as the coffee grinder in the staff lodge screeched.

    “I know…”

    Chris opened the fridge, considered grabbing a drink, however decided against it. In previous years there had been some cans of soft drink available for any of them to take, and whilst there were cans there, he couldn’t be sure they were just as available, especially considering five people now lived full time in the lodge, and may have bought them for themselves. He closed the fridge.

    “Honestly, it’s been that long since I’ve seen either of them…” Chris said. “I haven’t seen Abbee since that night in Jubilife, and I caught a glimpse of Dylan when I visited Jon last November…”

    Justin pressed a button on the coffee machine, as it began to work its magic, while Chris continued.

    “I guess, I just don’t know whether they want anything to do with me. Whether they’d get annoyed if I tried to say anything,” Chris continued. “And chances are they’ll be together all the time, so it’s not like I can just work things out one at a time-”

    “Kind of happens when you’re in a relationship,” Justin joked, as Chris rolled his eyes, before sighing. Justin continued. “Honestly, last time you saw them, you were pretty okay with them…”

    “Until I ran my mouth?”

    “Until you ran your mouth…” Justin agreed, considering his next words carefully. Charlotte had told him later of her conversation with Abbee and Dylan, whilst Justin had been with Chris as he vomited in a nearby bush. About how they wanted to see Chris return to his old self, and how they weren’t angry with him as much as they pitied him. And Dylan’s observation that he may need to hit rock bottom before he could work through his issues. However, he didn’t want to risk telling Chris this, especially since his friend had surprised him since last summer.

    “You want to make things right with Abbee, don’t you?” Justin asked. “More than Dylan…”

    “I want to make things right with both, but Abbee especially,” Chris answered.

    “Remember our first summer?” Justin asked, wishing he didn’t have to think about this. “What I did to her?”

    Chris nodded, knowing that despite Justin and Abbee having been on great terms since their second summer, his actions in their first summer had hurt her.

    “Remember Dylan’s eighteenth birthday? We threw that funeral for his childhood since he didn’t want a party?”

    Chris couldn’t help but grin at the recollection, though was shocked at the fact that it was four years ago now. He and Abbee had been fifteen at the time, with Charlotte and Justin sixteen. Now he and Abbee were nineteen, with Charlotte and Justin being twenty and Dylan turning twenty-two that summer.

    “Abbee and I were setting up the lodge, and things were awkward. I apologised, and honestly, it had been less than two weeks since her dad had died, and she missed out on having that last conversation with him,” Justin said. “But she told me not to beat myself up too much over it. Just enough that I wouldn’t do it again. But she was glad we had worked things out, because she was worried everyone was going to walk on egg-shells around us forever…”

    The coffee machine finished filling the coffee cup underneath it, which Justin took appreciatively, before having a sip.

    “You’d know better than me that that is just who Abbee is. She wants to be on good terms with everyone, and wants to work things out,” Justin concluded. “The last two years haven’t been enough to change that…”

    “What about Dylan?” Chris asked. “I mean, even when we were on good terms, he wasn’t an easy person to read, and we had only been here a few weeks last summer before I messed things up. He and Abbee are together, and even if she wants to make amends, if Dylan hates me, then I doubt she’ll want to work things out…”

    “Dylan was dealing with his own s**t that summer,” Justin answered, though left out the fact that Dylan had been different since returning from Alola the summer before. He didn’t blame him. Charlotte had told him that Abbee had died in Dylan’s arms, and had been resuscitated on the one in a million chance of the witch they had been assigned to investigate, taking pity on her, used some advanced Shadowcraft in order to undo the damage and give her a chance at being resuscitated. Justin hadn’t been able to visit the Academy, unable to leave Sinnoh between his final year of study, and his application for the Sinnoh Police Department. However even in terms of the messages they exchanged, Dylan was not himself. “Besides, you had beef with Dylan when you were with Abbee, and she didn’t let that stop her from working things out with him, and being friends…”

    Justin raised a good point, which Chris couldn’t argue.

    “Don’t try and force it, or pretend that nothing happened,” Justin said. “But don’t walk on eggshells around them. I know for sure, Abbee would hate that…”

    Chris remained silent, as Justin looked out the window of the lodge, and noticed a figure walking towards the stadium from Jon and Alyssa’s house. At first, he didn’t recognise the figure as Jon, given how slowly, and unsteadily he walked.

    “Come on,” Justin said. “Jon’s going to get to the stadium before us…”

    Jon had only arrived in the Stadium a minute before Chris and Justin returned, taking the opportunity to greet Charlotte, who shook his hand enthusiastically, whilst Abbee hugged him, though Jon noticed to his dismay, she seemed to be extremely cautious with him, as if he may break from the embrace.

    “Jon,” Justin called out. Jon turned, noticing him and Chris, and made his way over, his slow and unsteady gait now all but gone, well hidden from months of practice.

    “Justin,” Jon said with a grin, as he shook Justin’s hand. “It’s great to see you…”

    Jon looked around, noting that nobody was listening in. Even Chris, who was the closest to them, seemed distracted, allowing Jon to lower his voice.

    “Any news?”

    Justin had listed Jon as a character and professional reference in his application to join the police, given Jon’s role in training Justin, both in terms of quick, tactical thinking, as well as Pokemon battling in general, and Jon’s own role in League operations. This was what he had been waiting to ask Justin.

    “Chris and Charlotte know, but I haven’t told the others,” Justin said quietly. “But I got in…”

    Jon grinned widely, before slapping Justin on the shoulder, although Justin noticed that the strike was weaker than it should have been.

    “I knew you would,” Jon said with a grin, before looking to Chris. “We’ll talk later…”

    Jon quickly spoke to Chris, greeting him, and trying his best to make it clear in his tone and mannerisms that Chris’ words and actions two years prior were not in Jon’s mind, especially since Jon could see a reservation in Chris that he hadn’t seen since the weeks after Jon had pulled Chris out of Shoal Cave, after nearly freezing to death. Once he had said hello to all the visiting interns, he called for them to grab one of the numerous folded chairs that Dylan had brought by earlier that day, setting them up in a circle, before he began the briefing for the summer that was going to begin.

    “I’m glad to see you all here, especially since last summer got a little derailed before it even began,” Jon said, as he sat on the chair, both hands in the pocket of his hoodie, which was far from appropriate given how warm it was. Even Justin, having been the most perceptive towards Jon seeming unwell, hadn’t noticed that his left hand hadn’t left the pocket. “There’s been a few changes. Firstly, in terms of people, there are a few introductions, that whilst may seem redundant, need to be made…”

    Jon looked to where Cassandra, Violet and Jarena sat.

    “Some of you already know each other or have already introduced yourselves, but to cover all bases, joining us as interns this summer, we have Cassandra Silvers, who seeks to compete professionally again, Jarena Farrell, who wants to save the world, one abandoned or neglected Pokemon at a time, and Violet Radcliffe, who is still figuring out what field deserves to have her natural skills and intellect most,” Jon explained. “Not currently present, is Willow Scalera, the trainer of Latias and Marshadow, who is using her vast knowledge of Shadowcraft to make sure that the Eon Academy remains safe, should any grudges that were formed last summer make their way here…”

    Jon then looked around to where the others sat. Next to Jarena sat Dylan, with Abbee on the other side of him. Charlotte sat next to her, with Justin and Chris on her other side. He directed his words towards the Diamond Ladies.

    “You already know Abbee, and by now, are well familiar with Dylan,” Jon continued. “However, here we have the terrifying Charlotte Jones, the down-to-earth Justin Collins, and the strong, and even more loyal, Christopher Kingswood…”

    Chris felt a slight pit in his stomach at being called loyal, however noticed something which distracted him. An uneasiness from Cassandra. Whilst Violet and Jarena seemed as interested in him as they were by Charlotte and Justin, Cassandra seemed unable to hide an interest in Chris, that did not seem like the pleasant type. He figured he knew why. He didn’t hide the fact that Lance was his cousin, and figured they probably knew, and considering the last time they saw Lance was on the S.S. Wishmaker, where he tried to kill Violet and Jarena, and frame Jon, he wasn’t surprised that Cassandra seemed to be apprehensive towards him.

    There was a general greeting from both sides of the room.

    “In terms of this summer’s briefing, I’ll leave that in Dylan’s very capable hands,” Jon said, now growing thankful that Dylan had strong-armed him into giving him this responsibility. Whilst the nausea was gone, the medication had only dulled the headache, which still pained him, albeit with less intensity, and made it difficult to focus on smaller details.

    Dylan nodded, before grabbing his phone, and opening his notes.

    “We had to close registrations this summer before last Christmas,” Dylan explained. “We reached two hundred people, and even if we used all the space we could to build more lodges, any more than that would have been too big of a jump for us to handle…”

    “We literally doubled our numbers from the last summer we ran,” Charlotte said in disbelief. “I think things are going to be tricky regardless…”

    “You’re not wrong,” Dylan agreed. “But we’ve made adjustments to the program, and to your roles as interns, which should allow things to run smoothly.”

    “What changes?” Justin asked.

    “Well, you will not be working as directly with your teams,” Dylan explained. “The five of us who have done this before will have teams of thirty-five, whilst Cassandra will lead a team of twenty-five. Each team has five returning students, who have been contacted, and agreed to help coach your team. In terms of general training, they will be responsible for seven students each. They will take care of the general training, whilst our roles in that will be identifying where students in our team need extra help, and coaching the five senior students under us in how to help those they coach. They have also been strategically placed in terms of accomodation, and will be arriving two days before the rest of the students to be trained for their role…”

    “Wait, what about classes?” Abbee asked, having not heard this level of detail from Dylan. “Last summer that we ran, we had forty to sixty people in each class, but made it work because we used the main hall and the Stadium. The Stadium could fit a hundred people easily, but the Hall would struggle unless we emptied the dining room?”

    “Three classes will run simultaneously, with two groups attending each. We’ll use the Stadium, the main hall, and the old classrooms we used in our first two summers, which have had the internal walls knocked down to make one large usable space. At most, there will be seventy people in any given class,” Dylan explained, as a grin began to cross his face, knowing what the follow up question would be. He wasn’t surprised when it was Justin who asked.

    “If three classes are running at a time, who is taking them?”

    “Everyone in this room,” Jon answered. “Plus Steven…”

    There was a cry of alarm from Abbee and Justin. Chris looked at Jon in shock, as Dylan took lead of the conversation again.

    “Myself and Jarena will handle the Raising Pokemon classes. Abbee and Violet will be heading up Trainer Career. Steven and Justin will look after Pokemon Knowledge,” Dylan explained, reading his notes. “Charlotte and Jon will take care of Practical Training, and Chris and Cassandra will be in charge of Tactics and Strategy…”

    Cassandra had known that Jon would be putting her in charge of Tactics and Strategy, having identified her own strength in that area early on, and seeing this as an opportunity for her to grow, being forced to understand concepts well enough to teach others. She had also known that Jon would place one of the interns with her to run this class, however had heard so much praise of Charlotte’s own tactical genius, that she figured Charlotte would be her partner in running the class. Finding out she was paired with Chris instead, was surprising to say the least. She quickly hid any indication of that surprise, as Dylan continued.

    “Because we don’t have a continuous program where returning students will cover new content in subsequent years, the curriculum is largely the same as previous years. Abbee, Charlotte, Chris and Justin, you have all done this three times already, and have a week to look over the content and fill any blank spots before campers arrive,” Dylan explained. “But honestly, these were chosen based on your strengths, so you should not find it too difficult of a transition…”

    “What about you guys?” Charlotte asked the Diamond Ladies. “Are you okay with being thrown in the deep end during your first summer?”

    “Jon told us about these allocations six months ago,” Violet explained. “He has covered two summers worth of content with us since we arrived here, and we’ve had plenty of time to prepare.”

    Jarena nodded in agreement.

    “Besides, in mine and Cass’ case, our allocations line up with what we are planning on specialising in long term,” Jarena explained, before nodding to Violet. “And even if we didn’t earn our way to being at the top of the world, in terms of handling the media, and PR stuff, Violet was by far the best out of the three of us…”

    “If Violet wanted to be treated as the leader of the Diamond Ladies, she could have made that happen regardless of what either of us thought,” Cassandra agreed. “So Trainer Career is a good fit…”

    Dylan nodded in agreement, having lived with the Diamond Ladies and Willow since their return, and having seen their strengths since training under Jon.

    “In terms of what was one-on-one training with Jon, that has now changed to accommodate the number of students,” Dylan continued. “Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, there will be four sessions after lunch, where individual teams will train with their team leaders and Jon, and Tuesday and Thursday will have three. This means each team will have four sessions with Jon a week instead of two…”

    As he spoke, Dylan quickly pressed a few buttons on his phone, and all present felt their phones buzz in their pockets, as an email arrived.

    “I have just sent a copy of all the documentation we’ve been working on for this summer. It has everything from who your senior students are that will help manage your teams, to your teams themselves, the Pokemon they battle with, down to their room allocations and any medical conditions you need to be aware of,” Dylan explained. “As well as any emergency procedures for various situations that could arise…”

    In previous years, the first question asked would be ’what situations?’ However, even for Chris, Charlotte and Justin who were not present in Alola, their experience of being targeted in Johto provided enough of an answer. They had been targeted as hostages for Agatha, who wished to use Latios’ blood to accelerate her plans, and if not for being underestimated, as well as Lance stealing his Dragonite off Chris, they would have been taken, and likely killed. Justin was concussed, and Charlotte suffered a stab wound to her shoulder, which had taken months to fully recover from.

    “It’s not just Alola that might resurface,” Jon said, his tone shifting to a more grave expression. “In all honesty, without Agatha or Nicodemus, and with the Diamond Ladies and Willow in our corner, what’s left of what happened in Alola, doesn’t scare me as much as what else is out there that we don’t know about…”

    “What else is out there?” Chris asked, speaking for the first time since the meeting began.

    Jon considered his thoughts, before deciding to be honest.

    “What I am about to say doesn’t leave this room,” Jon said, ignoring the dull throbbing of his headache. “Have you ever heard of Blackstone?”

    The question was aimed towards Abbee, Charlotte, Chris and Justin. Despite having Jon’s permission to share his condition with Abbee, he had told Dylan to keep Blackstone’s activity a secret. Given that Blackstone had seemingly unrestricted access to League and government databases, it wasn’t unreasonable to believe that Blackstone couldn’t get access to information such as text messages sent. With the exception of when Lance tipped Jon off to begin with, all discussions of Blackstone were held in person, with nothing being recorded or sent electronically.

    Nobody who the question was addressed to answered in the affirmative, and Jon continued.

    “After I returned from Alola, I got a phone call late at night from an unknown number. It was Lance,” Jon said, before holding up his hand to halt the incoming stream of questions. “Blackstone are technically a mercenary group, but if evidence could stick, they’d be considered terrorists. Lance has set his sights on them, I think because he thinks he can do some damage if he isn’t restricted by League Protocol. According to Steven, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find dozens of odd occurrences, things like people going missing, or in some cases, turning up dead with no trail to follow. Important evidence going missing before a massive court case, or certain places being destroyed in freak accidents that seem too convenient. And in some cases, not enough to create any sort of pattern, or place any responsibility on them, Blackstone is hinted towards…”

    “And you think Blackstone are coming after us?” Abbee asked, before looking over at Dylan, wondering why he hadn’t mentioned it. Jon shook his head.

    “I think it’s a possibility, especially this summer,” Jon explained. “I’ll get to that. But Lance told me that in his own investigation, it has become clear that they have much more at their disposal, and are a much bigger threat than we realised.”

    There was a grave silence as Jon continued.

    “Firstly, they have developed means of breaking through the standard Pokeball security, in order to adjust the data on the chip of a Pokeball. Something that until Lance tipped me off, the League believed to be impossible, and still haven’t figure out how they’re doing it,” Jon explained. “The League tries to find dangerous people by looking for people with weapons, or unregistered Pokeballs, because honestly, ninety nine times out of a hundred, people who have them are up to no good. But Blackstone could have six Legendary Pokemon all in normal Pokeballs, board a plane, and the airport security would believe there are six Dunsparce in the Pokeballs, registered to a fake Trainer ID…”

    Justin went to speak, however Jon halted him, having asked the question of Lance that Justin was about to ask him.

    “They also have access to League and government databases that puts the guys at the Whirl Islands to shame,” Jon continued. “And the only way to remove their access with any guarantee of certainty, would be to effectively create another completely new network, with absolutely no link to or information about it on the previous network or any of their devices. And from there, destroy the old network. Something the League wouldn’t do on the basis of a tip off from Lance…”

    “So they could effectively create a fake trainer card, and reprogram a heap of Pokeballs to transmit that they are carrying common Pokemon, when really, they have dangerous Pokemon, and it isn’t going to raise alarm bells?” Justin asked. Jon nodded.

    “The League are investigating the current standard of Pokeballs, trying to see if an exploit exists that would allow this, however it’s tricky, because whilst Lance may be blowing smoke out of his a**, there is no way to prove it. If they find nothing, it could mean no exploit exists, or the League simply couldn’t find it,” Jon explained. “As for the access to their computers, Lance believes that before Steven discovered the computer Hill sold with government access, and had their access revoked, Blackstone got a hold of a list of IP and MAC addresses, and have access to legitimate League machines, and through them, access to the entire network, and there is no way to prove that or disprove that short of getting the information from Blackstone themselves…”

    “So why might they come here?” Chris asked, as Abbee nodded in agreement. Jon had temporarily shelved the question, wanting to make sure they understood the severity of the potential situation first.

    “Lance says that they are after something. Something big,” Jon explained. “He doesn’t think that is here, as we aren’t on their radar at the moment. But he told me that he knows Blackstone have at least four Legendary Pokemon at their disposal, and may have as many as we do here this summer, which he also knows. Really, what he is saying is that despite the fact there is likely nowhere else on the planet with as many Legendary Pokemon as there are here this summer, the Eon Academy is relatively the least secure site, which makes sense. It is a summer school, not a military base. And even if Blackstone don’t have their sights on us now, if this big thing they have their sights set on is too big for them to handle with their current arsenal, then we would make a good target. To quote Lance, if they get a hold of even a few of our Legendary Pokemon, they go from being very difficult to take down, to f**king impossible…”

    “Let them try,” Dylan muttered angrily, though Jon flashed him a look.

    “If they try, then we have a fight on our hands, made more difficult by the two hundred students under our care,” Jon explained. “I know that you guys don’t need lists of emergency procedures for dealing with things like the Whirl Islands, where some half-baked poachers have set their sights on you, or even when a psychotic witch has decided you’d make a good hostage. You have proven you can all handle yourselves. But this is a whole other league…”

    Knowing his focus was wearing thin, as the nausea was beginning to fight through the medication, Jon gestured to the phones that most of them held.

    “We’ll keep this brief. I know it’s been a long time since the five of you have been together, and really, outside of the changes in roles, and the new risks of Blackstone, not much has changed. Everything you need to know is in the document Dylan sent you,” Jon explained. He stood slowly, and began to stretch his limbs that had grown stiff from his sitting position. “Seeing as you will likely be busier this year, and have less time to just enjoy yourselves like you have had in previous years, I’ve pulled some strings and gotten another permit for a campfire on the beach tonight. All Eon Academy staff are welcome, though I personally won’t be having too late of a night…”

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

    The sun was beginning to set when the thirteen people arrived on Mossdeep beach. Dylan had driven his car, bringing Abbee, Charlotte, Chris and Justin, whilst Cassandra drove Jon’s car with herself, Violet, Jarena and Willow. Alyssa, having returned from a day trip to Lilycove with Amelia that afternoon, drove herself, Jon and Amelia, who had just turned four the week prior. Steven met them at the beach, happily greeting the interns who didn’t live on site, not having seen Abbee since the summer before, nor Chris, Charlotte or Justin since the summer before that. The trio that had not been in Alola the summer before, also met Willow, and Latias, seeing first hand why the Eon Academy logo had been updated, before Dylan asked Justin to help unload the firewood from the tub of his ute. Chris joined them without being asked, however as they worked, Justin glanced at Jon, noticing something.

    Normally Jon would be the first to help, however he stood to the side, listening as Cassandra and Alyssa, with his left hand in his hoodie pocket. Despite how much Jon tried, the position didn’t seem natural to him, and whilst he seemed invested in the conversation, he looked distant.

    “Is Jon alright?” Justin asked Dylan quietly. Dylan froze for a second, not knowing how to answer. He didn’t want to lie to Justin, especially because he knew his friend wasn’t asking out of any ill will, but concern. He also knew that Jon had told him he would tell the others the truth that evening.

    “He didn’t come out of Alola unmarked,” Dylan replied, matching Justin’s tone. “He told me he’ll tell you all tonight…”

    Justin nodded, though felt his heart sink a little. The Spiritwater Crisis was nearly a year ago, and Jon seemed like he was very unwell, and using all the energy he could to hide whatever had happened.

    From a few metres away, Abbee watched as Dylan asked Justin for help, and Chris joined him in helping unload the firewood. She was conflicted in how she should feel about it. Whilst Chris seemed to be doing okay, especially compared to the last time she saw him, last time he had seemed fine, until she or Dylan said something which he retaliated to by acting out.

    “So I hear that congratulations are in order…”

    The voice was quiet, and Abbee turned to see Steven behind her, a knowing grin on his face.

    “I think?” Abbee replied with a laugh. “If you’re talking about what I think you’re talking about and not some rumour that I haven’t heard yet…”

    “A certain Gym leader deciding to retire, and naming her successor…” Steven said with a grin. “You hear these things when you’re as involved with the League as I am.”

    “You practically are the League,” Abbee retorted, glad that this was what Steven was talking about, and not some rumour of her being pregnant, like seemed to happen to Elesa a few times a year. “But thanks. I’m really excited, but honestly, sad to leave this place…”

    “It had to happen eventually,” Steven answered. “I know Jon will be ecstatic to hear it…”

    “He doesn’t know?” Abbee asked, somewhat surprised.

    “I didn’t tell him seeing as it wasn’t my news to share,” Steven answered. “And I spoke to Dylan after I found out, and he said the same thing…”

    As the sun went down, and the campfire was lit, those present mingled for the next hour, as they waited for the pizza’s they ordered to arrive. Charlotte found herself talking to Cassandra and Willow, the former wanting to learn more of Charlotte’s own wins, particularly against Jon. Whilst she had improved dramatically since enrolling at the Eon Academy, she hadn’t managed to beat Jon in a proper battle yet, and had heard that Charlotte was the person to speak to about figuring out how to beat Jon. Despite Dylan having beaten him the summer before, Cassandra had realised that the win Dylan had earned was the result of Jon’s own weakness in battle, Dylan’s own near impenetrable defences, and Dylan learning something of Mega Evolution that Jon wasn’t aware of. Of all interns, Charlotte was the one who, if challenged by Jon then and there, stood the best chance of beating him.

    Violet, who was fascinated by the fame Justin had amassed, despite not seeking it in any way, as well as the study he had undertaken whilst he prepared to apply for the Sinnoh Police Department, had approached him, curious as to the anomaly that was Justin Collins. And to Cassandra’s shock, Jarena had approached Chris, making friendly conversation, and asking questions about him, surprising Chris just as much.

    Dylan looked towards Jon, who looked around the group of people who seemed to be enjoying themselves with a sense of reservation. He knew that he owed it to his students to tell them the truth of his condition, especially since in terms of the group present, those who didn’t know were the minority. However, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and Jon didn’t want to end that.

    The pizzas arrived, as all present settled in a circle on chairs around the fire, eating and chatting. Jon had bought a case of beers to take, which Dylan had offered to bring, his car offering the most space. However, Dylan had chosen to forget to bring them. Jon couldn’t have beer at the moment, and Dylan didn’t want to drink in front of him. Whilst they hadn’t had the conversation, he knew that Steven also avoided drinking in front of Jon when he could. Abbee didn’t like beer, nor did Justin or Charlotte. He wasn’t sure if Chris liked it, but considering Chris’ change in temperament after a few drinks last time, Dylan figured that it would not be noticed. Instead, they drank various soft drinks brought by the pizza delivery guy.

    Once people were finished eating, and the boxes that had been emptied were thrown onto the fire, causing it to flare from the oil soaked into the cardboard, Charlotte decided that she wouldn’t get a better opportunity. Jon had mentioned not wanting to have a late night, and Amelia was looking tired.

    “So, I’ve actually got some news…” Charlotte said with a grin. Puzzled faces glanced around, with the exception of Justin, who was aware. Charlotte had intentionally kept it a secret, waiting for Seafoam Cruises to send the agreement in writing. Once she had Justin look it over, and make sure she wasn’t making a mistake signing it, she had signed the agreement, locking in her plans for the following summer.

    “This will be my final summer here,” Charlotte said, to the shock of practically all present. “Next summer, I will be competing in the High Seas Tournament…”

    Chris’ jaw dropped as Jon couldn’t help but grin.

    “How come I knew it would be you chasing that title?” Jon teased, as Charlotte shrugged, unable to hide the satisfied grin from her face.

    “Wait, how’re you going to do that if you’re here this summer?” Steven asked. “The High Seas Tournament is invitational, and the thirty-two participants are the highest ranking competitors throughout the competitive circuits during the rest of the year? Even if you win every match, missing this summer’s tournaments will put you severely behind, especially since there is a big break over Christmas and New Years Eve?”

    “Hey, yeah!” Chris said, realising Steven was right. “I did the numbers last summer, and based on the invitations sent out for that summer, it was impossible to be in the top thirty-two!”

    “You’re both right, except for one thing,” Charlotte explained. “Only the top thirty trainers are invited…”

    Chris and Steven looked at Charlotte confused, when Cassandra answered.

    “The remaining two entries are wildcards. Popular vote,” Cassandra explained, before going slightly red with embarrassment. “Technically, I didn’t compete enough in the tournament circuit. I had spent the year battling Gyms in Sinnoh to battle Cynthia.”

    Steven grinned at Cassandra, as she continued.

    “We knew that tournaments had too many people watching who could spot something was up, compared to Gym and League battles, and the amount of attention we would get beating a Regional Champion would be more than even some of the bigger tournaments,” Cassandra explained. “So I technically wasn’t ranked high enough to get an invitation to the High Seas Tournament, but got offered a place through the popular vote, wildcard entry…”

    As Cassandra said this, she began to realise something that after five years, she had never considered, having been invited to compete in many tournaments before the S.S. Wishmaker, as Steven’s grin widened.

    “Wait, did you stack the vote so I would get invited, and you could investigate us?” Cassandra asked Steven as he burst into laughter. Violet and Jarena realised that Cassandra was likely right, and looked at Steven in shock.

    “We were prepared to if somehow somebody else got the most votes,” Steven answered. “But no, you legitimately got the most votes and offered the spot…”

    Cassandra sighed with relief, glad to know she didn’t have one more illegitimate achievement that she hadn’t been aware of. She looked to Charlotte though, now confused.

    “Seafoam Cruises contacted me a few weeks before the tournament,” Cassandra explained. “I had to cancel other appearances to attend. Did they start planning a year in advance?”

    Charlotte shook her head.

    “Technically, I got the second most votes, and was offered a place in this year’s tournament, but I convinced them to lock me in for next year instead…”

    This took everyone but Justin by surprise, Jon most of all. He looked at Steven.

    “Weren’t Seafoam Cruises a stubborn pain in the a** to work with?” Jon asked. Steven nodded.

    “They fought us on practically every aspect of the operation,” Steven agreed. “We had to pull rank and threaten to remove the League certification from their tournament to get them to cooperate.”

    Jon nodded, remembering Steven having told him this over a beer years earlier.

    “So how did you convince them?”

    “I made them an offer they couldn’t refuse…” Charlotte replied, as Dylan looked at her with mock concern.

    “You threatened them?” he asked. Charlotte grinned.

    “I told them that if they locked me in now, they could advertise the fact I would be competing next summer from the moment this year’s High Seas Tournament ends, and potentially get more tickets sold early on. I also told them that the person who got the most votes would not be accepting the offer anyway,” Charlotte explained, as Justin gave him a look. “They weren’t convinced, so I told them that I am going to be competing next summer anyway, even if it means I have to win every single tournament I can get myself into, and that the only difference will be that they won’t sell as many tickets.”

    Alyssa laughed at Charlotte’s cunning, as she continued.

    “They said they’d get in touch with me, and sure enough, they called the person who got the most votes and got offered the other wildcard spot, who turned them down, and they realised that I had more leverage than they thought,” Charlotte explained. “So they sent me the contract a few days ago, and I signed it. Short of me having some hugely controversial arrest, I will be competing in the seventh High Seas Tournament…”

    There was a chorus of congratulations, as Chris asked the question that had escaped everyone else’s mind.

    “So if you got the second most votes, who got more?”

    Charlotte grinned, before jerking her thumb at Justin, who sat next to her, and the chorus of congratulations shifted to an exclamation of shock.

    “Are you competing as well?” Abbee asked. Justin shook his head.

    “Charlotte guessed that if anyone was going to beat her for the public vote that wasn’t already there, it would be me,” Justin explained. “And she was right. I turned it down. I actually got some news an hour or so before Seafoam Cruises called me…”

    “And that is?” Steven asked, though everyone else present who knew Justin before that day knew him well enough to know what it would be.

    “I got accepted into the Sinnoh P.D. After summer, I begin training at the Police Academy in Jubilife, and from there, I will hopefully get posted in Snowpoint,” Justin explained. “So yeah, this is my last summer as well. I can’t exactly get three months off from the S.P.D. to come here…”

    “I wouldn’t expect you to,” Jon agreed. “You have the potential to make more of a difference in the world out there than being here every summer…”

    Justin grinned, remembering the conversation he and Jon had towards the end of his first summer, after the incident with Abbee’s phone. He had told Jon that he wanted to do something substantial with his life, to make a difference. He wanted to be remembered, not just by the people who had to, but others, for the sake of his actions.

    “I had my last exam for my degree the other week, and my tutor thinks I’ve passed it, but if I haven’t, I’ll repeat that class online in whatever spare time I have,” Justin explained. “But I’ll be a cop by this time next year…”

    There were more congratulations, as Justin looked to Chris, having had a thought.

    “What about you?” Justin asked. “You had been in Jubilife for months without telling Charlotte and myself, telling us you were working on something, but refused to tell us what or why…”

    Jon grinned, before addressing Chris himself.

    “I don’t think you’ll get a better chance to blow their minds than now, Chris,” Jon said, as Chris couldn’t help but smile, despite the awkwardness he felt at being around Abbee, Dylan, and now, the Diamond Ladies. Jon was the only person he told, and the biggest reason for telling Jon was to make sure Jon was aware of why he was planning on going to the College of the North Wind, and not risk offending Jon, especially given his own words to his mentor the summer before.

    “I had been at the College of the North Wind since the start of the year,” Chris said, as all the other interns looked at him in shock.

    “But you hated them?” Abbee said, despite herself.

    “Just the ones who were being smug d********s,” Chris answered. “Sophie and Natasha were cool. Even Brad, once he got beaten. And Camilla’s attitude was pretty different once Jon wiped the floor with her whole team, using only Blaziken…”

    Steven laughed at Chris’ account of Jon and Camilla’s battle, and surprisingly, Jarena was the one to ask the obvious question, having gotten to know Chris a little before dinner.

    “Why go to the College of the North Wind?” Jarena asked. “I mean, Jon trains the three of us during the Academic year?”

    “Jon specialises in tournament battling, but I’ve got a project I’m working on, which Camilla’s training would be more suited towards,” Chris said, grabbing his phone. “If you’ve got your phone, go to projectstn.com...”

    All present, with the exception of Jon, who knew what Chris had planned, followed the instruction, and one by one, found themself on a website, with black and white images of all the Gym Leaders, Elite Four, and Champions of the seven regions that had a recognised League Challenge, each region represented as a row, with Galar being the first. Steven recognised a photo of himself alongside the Hoenn Elite Four members.

    “You plan on beating all of these people?” Charlotte asked in disbelief. Chris nodded.

    “What’s the timer for?” Justin asked.

    “The moment I arrive in Galar, I will start it, and it will count down from a year, and because the timer will be ticking away during next summer, I won’t be here…” Chris answered, as Charlotte shook her head in disbelief. “If I beat every League, but the timer hits zero the day before I beat the last Champion, this project will be considered a failure…”

    “Goddamn…” Steven said, surprising even Jon at how shocked he was by this. “This is not going to be an easy task. If you pull this off, it will be unprecedented, and honestly, I don’t know that this achievement would ever be beaten…”

    “I know…” Chris said nervously. “That’s why it’s ProjectSTN. And I guess I’ll be seeing you sometime in the next year for a challenge, Steven…”

    “What’s STN stand for?” Violet asked, equally impressed by Chris’ ambition.

    “Second to None…”

    Silence permeated the beach, as those present digested what Chris had just told them all.

    “Nobody has ever pulled off something like this,” Charlotte said, still processing what Chris had planned.

    “See, Charlotte, Second to None means-” Chris began sarcastically, as Charlotte rolled her eyes.

    “I know what it means, dumba**,” Charlotte retorted, earning a laugh from Justin, as Chris flashed her a grin. “This is just… big…”

    Chris nodded in silence, as Abbee spoke.

    “This looks really impressive Chris, but there is one thing you’ve got wrong here…”

    Chris looked at Abbee in shock, partially because she addressed him almost as if two summers earlier hadn’t happened, and partially because he had double checked the website meticulously before making it live.

    “What’s wrong with it?” Chris asked, almost panicked. Abbee grinned.

    “I have it on good authority that Elesa is retiring from Gym Leading, to get into the film industry, and has asked one of her younger Gym Trainers to be her successor,” Abbee explained. “And once her successor returns from her final summer at the Eon Academy, she’ll take charge of the Nimbasa City Gym…”

    Chris and Justin looked at Abbee in amazement at her news, as Jon, having been somewhat of a father-figure for the young woman since the sudden loss of her father, felt a sense of pride swell up in him. She had only received the job as Gym Trainer at the end of the summer before last, and after less than two years, was being offered the role of Gym Leader.

    “So if this is anything to go by,” Abbee said to Chris, holding up her phone, still open to his website. “I’ll be the first person here to have a crack at getting in your way…”

    Despite being the fourth lot of congratulations, the chorus was still sincere, and when it quietened down, there was an awkward silence, as Jon looked at Dylan. When it became clear Dylan wasn’t going to speak up, Jon addressed him directly.

    “Come on Dylan, don’t pretend that you’re going to be here on your own next summer,” Jon teased. “I hate keeping secrets…”

    Dylan looked at Jon, before sighing internally. He had wanted to keep this a secret, in case he changed his mind, and considering how much Jon struggled to even run the induction that afternoon, he felt even more unsure about leaving. However, now Jon had put the attention of Chris, Charlotte and Justin on him, and Dylan knew he couldn’t talk, or not talk, his way out of this.

    “I placed a deposit on a piece of land in Unova, just outside of Nimbasa City,” Dylan explained. “If nothing changes, once it's titled, I’ll be trying to convince the bank to lend me enough money to build a house on it. Once I do that, I’ll start my own business, breeding Pokemon…”

    There was a cheer of congratulations from Charlotte and Justin, as Chris remained silent, looking at the sand in front of him. Having passed through Nimbasa City once or twice in the two years prior, though on neither occasion, having made a point of seeing Abbee, he knew that the land surrounding it would suit Dylan’s purposes, especially considering the business side of it, in which many trainers, prospective customers would be passing by. But he, like all there knew that each region had many places that would tick those boxes, and there was another reason Dylan had chosen that location in particular.

    Chris glanced over at Abbee for a second, noticing the look of pride she wore for her boyfriend, and felt the bitter thought that he didn’t recall seeing that when she was with him.

    “So this is really it,” Abbee said, her voice going a little quieter. “The last summer we will all be here…”

    Jon nodded.

    “It had to happen eventually, and honestly, I think this is pretty great. You all get to take the world by storm together…”

    The conversation continued, as the moon rose, each talking and asking questions of each other's respective plans for the next year. Steven was the first to go, citing a challenger due to arrive in Ever Grande City the next day, and therefore, an early start for him to arrive there and take the challenge. As the night wore on however, Dylan wondered when Jon would finally tell the others of his own challenges from the year prior. Jon noticed Dylan’s puzzled looks, and sighed. It was nearing 10pm, when he spoke.

    “Liss and I better get Lili home,” Jon said, nodding towards his daughter who sat on his lap, barely able to stay awake. He noticed Alyssa give him a puzzled look, however she didn’t say anything further, instead nodding.

    “We aren’t as young as we used to be,” Alyssa agreed with a laugh. She moved towards Jon, picking up Amelia from his lap, as Jon wouldn’t have been able to gently remove her, allowing him to stand, with revealing his left hand.

    “We’ll see you back at the Academy,” Charlotte said, to which Jon nodded. As those remaining said goodbye, Dylan got to his feet.

    “I gotta find out when Jon wants us ready tomorrow morning for training,” Dylan lied, knowing the answer already, wanting to dismiss himself.

    As Jon, Alyssa and Amelia climbed the stairs towards the beach carpark, Jon stopped when he heard footsteps approaching on the wooden steps behind them. Alyssa turned, noticing he had stopped.

    “You didn’t tell them…” Dylan stated quietly, his brow flattening into a line. “You said you’d tell them tonight.”

    “I know,” Jon said, as Alyssa sighed. He considered his thoughts before continuing. “It’s just that everyone seemed to be having a good time, and were in good spirits with all your news. I didn’t want to dampen them by telling them about what’s happened…”

    Dylan felt a pang of guilt at Jon’s reasoning. He was right. Despite his own anxiety about everything, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and given how flat out that summer would be, it was likely the only opportunity they would get with all of the employees to simply get to know each other and enjoy each other's company.

    “It’s just that,” Dylan began, before looking over his shoulder, and lowering his voice. “I don’t know about Chris and Charlotte, but Justin’s asking me questions that aren’t mine to answer. He can tell something is off…”

    Jon’s shoulders slumped, knowing that he hadn’t hidden his condition as well as he thought.

    “I told him that you’d tell him tonight, because that was the plan, but I don’t want to lie to him, or keep putting it off and make him worry,” Dylan explained. “You said yourself, you don’t want them thinking you’re some sort of cripple now…”

    “Jon…” Alyssa whispered, shocked that her husband had that view of himself. He had never explicitly said it, always trying to remain optimistic for her sake, but earlier that day, when Jon was a post-seizure wreck, and looking like he couldn’t handle the briefing, he has let slip his own feelings to Dylan, in an attempt to get Dylan to allow him to handle the briefing himself. “Do you really think that about yourself?”

    “Not on a good day,” Jon answered evenly. “But when I am liable to collapse into a fit at any moment, and be a vomiting, pained mess for God knows how long, it’s hard not to feel a little broken…”

    Alyssa went silent, thankful it was late and Amelia was completely asleep, unable to hear. Jon looked at Dylan, then at the group still sitting on the beach.

    “You’re right, you shouldn’t have to lie to him,” Jon said with a sigh. “I’m hoping Justin’s forgotten about that since you had the conversation, but he is too smart for that. So, only if you want to, you have my permission to tell him. All of them. Otherwise, I’ll tell them tomorrow…”

    His headache, which had mostly subsided but still lightly throbbed behind his eyes, sharpened for a moment, causing him to wince.

    “Come on,” Alyssa said with a sad sigh. “Let’s get home…”

    Jon nodded, before putting a hand on Dylan’s shoulder.

    “I appreciate how much you worry, but really, it’ll be okay,” Jon said quietly as Alyssa walked towards the car. “In a twisted way, it's better that these are becoming more frequent. It means that when I finally start on the medication, which should be easier for it to actually work…”

    “You shouldn’t have to rely on that…” Dylan muttered. “You help save the world, and get cursed for it…”

    “A lot of people didn’t make it back at all,” Jon reminded Dylan. “If I have a rough year after, and things can improve after that, then honestly, compared to the alternatives, that isn’t a bad deal…”

    Jon slapped Dylan on the shoulder, before making his way to Alyssa’s car, and climbing into the passenger seat. Angrily, Dylan kicked the step in front of him, which gave a thud, as he quickly regretted it, hoping those on the beach didn’t hear him. He made his way back down, and was greeted by a question from Charlotte.

    “So do we get a sleep in tomorrow?”

    “10am is start time,” Dylan answered, matter-of-factly. “So plenty of time…”

    Dylan sat at his place between Abbee and Jarena, noticing Justin looking at him, before glancing away once spotted, and knew that Justin hadn’t forgotten.

    Dylan was quiet for the next half an hour, and it seemed to spread. Justin, knowing something was wrong, was the next to be content pretending to listen to the conversations surrounding him, whilst not participating himself, followed by Abbee, who knew Dylan had a lot on his mind. It was Willow and the Diamond Ladies who went quiet next, before Chris, still feeling self conscious realised that if he spoke, all present could hear him, and wasn’t comfortable with it.

    “Geez, you guys are the life of the party,” Charlotte noted after realising how little the others had contributed to the conversations since Jon had left. When nobody responded to her joke in kind though, her tone shifted. “Is everything alright?”

    There was silence for a minute, as those aware of Jon’s condition looked between each other. Finally, Dylan spoke.

    “Jon was going to tell you guys something tonight, but thought we were having too good of a time to ruin it,” Dylan said quietly. “He told me if the right opportunity came up, that I could tell you…”

    Cassandra looked at Dylan with surprise, knowing Jon well enough to know he would want to tell them himself.

    “Is everything alright?” Charlotte asked. Chris remained silent, not knowing how Dylan would take him asking the question, and Justin already had a hunch on what the answer was.

    “No…” Dylan said weakly, before taking a breath and continuing. “Jon got hurt back in Alola…”

    Willow watched Dylan, and considered stepping in, but decided against it. She was there when Jon was cursed, but Jon trusted Dylan as much as he did his own family, and had given Dylan permission to share, not her. And Dylan knew the others far better than she did.

    “When things went to s**t in Alola, like, really to s**t,” Dylan explained. “Myself and Abbee were investigating a potential threat, whilst the Diamond Ladies alongside a few others, were performing some reconnaissance on the abandoned Megamart where Agatha and her followers were hiding. Willow and Jon were at HQ, planning a trap to lure out and capture Agatha’s Giratina and Marshadow.”

    Dylan shuddered internally as he remembered that day, wishing he could just forget.

    “Agatha’s plan, using the Netherlink, could have been accelerated if she had the blood of both Latios and Latias. That’s what tipped Willow over the edge into helping us,” Dylan explained, nodding towards Willow. “But one of Agatha’s followers used this spell to turn himself into a monster…”

    “You mean that weird Lugia?” Charlotte asked, remembering seeing the battle on the television in her hospital room. Dylan nodded.

    “It turned on her, and began attacking the Megamart, and Agatha sent Giratina and Marshadow to kill it, so we took the opportunity to make our move,” Dylan explained. “Cass, Violet and Jarena, as well as the operatives they were with, infiltrated the Megamart to dismantle the Netherlink, and take on Agatha, whilst Jon and Willow rushed to the battle between the Lugia and Agatha’s Pokemon, to let them weaken each other, before capturing Agatha’s Pokemon…”

    Cassandra looked at the sand, struggling to make eye contact with those there. Despite that day ending in victory, that victory still came at a cost. Jirachi fell asleep in order to grant the wish that closed the Netherlink, and had only awoken very recently. Even then, he was still drowsy. And Jon…

    “Agatha’s followers, led by this creep called Nicodemus, were protecting Giratina, which allowed it to kill the Lugia, however when Jon and Willow began battling, they got in the way. Willow took Latios and Latias, and battled Marshadow, whilst Jon had Rayquaza battle Giratina, while he tried to dispatch Nicodemus, who was trying to kill him,” Dylan continued. “Rayquaza was being beaten, and Jon wasn’t able to direct it like it needed until Nicodemus was out of the picture, but he couldn’t get a window, so he grabbed Nicodemus’ hand, which was channelling a curse, with his own hand, and used his free hand to hit him with a chunk of concrete…”

    Justin’s eyes widened, as Chris, finally spoke.

    “Is Nicodemus… still alive?”

    “Unfortunately,” Dylan said bitterly. “If he had have died, the curse that he put on Jon would have died with him. The useless piece of s**t is rotting in some high care facility, practically a vegetable…”

    Charlotte was shocked to hear Dylan speak of someone, especially someone who she realised had a permanent mental disability, in such hostile terms, however she figured that the answer to her next question would justify it.

    “What curse did he put on Jon?” she asked quietly, almost as if saying it would make it more real.

    “It was a hybrid curse,” Cassandra answered, understanding how it all worked better than Dylan. “At face value it looked like some horrible curse I haven’t seen, which all but destroyed his flesh. It started with his forearm and hand, but if he hadn't knocked out Nicodemus before he could finish the curse, it would have spread, and once it hit his heart or brain, it would have killed him then and there…”

    “That’s why his hand is always hidden in his pocket?” Justin asked, as Chris realised that even when he saw Jon last year, he didn’t see Jon without one hand in his hoodie’s pocket. Cassandra nodded.

    “He still hasn’t let Amelia see it,” Cassandra answered. “Or anyone really outside of the operation and the Academy…”

    “So if this is a hybrid…” Charlotte asked, as Cassandra nodded.

    “There was another curse interlaced in it, which had a conditional trigger, and we had no way of knowing to any useful degree what that trigger was, or what this other curse would do,” Cassandra explained. “I don’t know whether things were better before it activated or not, because honestly, we were all terrified that anything could trigger it, and it kill him, and us be unable to do a damn thing about it. Jon and I argued a bit about it. I wanted him to be more careful than he was being, but the way he saw it, he had no clue what would trigger it, so taking any measure to avoid it could just as likely put him closer to triggering it…”

    “It was months before it triggered,” Dylan explained. “Myself, Jon, Steven, Cass and Willow went to Southern Island to let Giratina out of it’s Pokeball for the first time since Jon captured it, and try and figure out if it could be rehabilitated. When we did, it lashed out, and Rayquaza restrained it, and we found out that Agatha had placed a curse on it, forcing it to loyally obey her, at risk of immense pain…”

    Jarena tensed up hearing this. Despite still being far from comfortable around Giratina, she loathed Agatha for resorting to such barbaric methods of inspiring loyalty from such a powerful Pokemon.

    “But with Agatha gone, Giratina wasn’t bound to her, and made Jon an offer, where if he helped it regain its true power, it would obey him,” Dylan said. “And Jon accepted…”

    Charlotte, Justin and Chris looked at Dylan in shock, as if he just told them Jon had made a deal with the devil himself. In their eyes, Giratina was close to it.

    “Did Giratina…” Justin began, though Cassandra quickly interjected.

    “Giratina didn’t hurt Jon,” Cassandra explained. “I was as skeptical as everyone else, but Jon was insistent he take the deal. He said that he had treated Rayquaza like a liability, and that had done more harm than anything. Meanwhile, if he took Giratina’s offer, he would have a better chance of earning its loyalty, and if he refused, Giratina would likely rebel and be more difficult to train. But Giratina kept its word, which is where everything went downhill…”

    There were confused glances, as Cassandra continued.

    “The second curse, the one we couldn’t identify; the trigger for that was Giratina becoming loyal to Jon. Nicodemus had placed it as a spiteful contingency. Should he fail, and Jon capture Giratina, and Giratina become loyal to him, Jon would be killed, and Giratina would be punished for betraying Agatha by seeing its new trainer die,” Cassandra explained. “Jon and I travelled to Sinnoh, and helped Giratina find this stone that lets it change into its preferred form, and Giratina became loyal to Jon, so the curse activated, and Jon had a massive stroke…”

    “Wait, what?” Chris said, all apprehension at speaking gone. “Is he okay?”

    “Yes and no,” Cassandra replied. “We were at the peak of Mt. Coronet when we found out that Giratina was related to the curse trigger, and Jon wanted to keep going, so myself and Latios were both watching him intently. So when the curse triggered, we knew and I was able to slow it for a minute to figure out what was wrong, but there was nothing I could do on my own. Then Giratina saved him…”

    “How?” Justin asked, both asking how the Pokemon that had caused so much destruction in Alola could save Jon mere months later, and how it managed to stop the curse.

    “Giratina, in the form Jon helped it regain, is as powerful as Dialga and Palkia, but instead of time and space, it rules over gravity, and with enough finesse and control, gravity can be used to manipulate time and space,” Dylan answered, as Cassandra nodded in agreement.

    “Giratina opened a wormhole to a place in time where Nicodemus hadn’t been born yet. The curse relied on Nicodemus to be able to function, but without Nicodemus existing in the world at that time, it couldn’t, which gave me time to stop the haemorrhage before it did too much damage,” Cassandra continued. “But we still had the issue of the curse triggering when we returned to the present, and I couldn’t remove the curse on my own. But with the curse having activated, I was able to modify it, changing the trigger to an impossibility, so we could return without it activating again.”

    “So is Jon okay?” Charlotte asked, shelving all the questions of time travel she now had. “Other than his hand?”

    “We stopped the stroke before it did too much damage, but didn’t stop it early enough,” Cassandra explained. “Within an hour, Jon had a seizure, and has been having them since.”

    “He had one this morning…” Dylan said quietly. “They only last a minute or two at most, but afterwards, he is really unwell for most of the day. That is why we were late for the briefing…”

    Charlotte looked at Abbee and Cassandra, having remembered her own joke about Jon being late, and realised that it wasn’t just Jon losing track of time.

    “Jon is fine the rest of the time,” Willow interjected, as Dylan nodded emphatically. “Honestly, he is himself every other day, but it’s just when he has these seizures, they really knock him down…”

    “How often does he have them?” Justin asked, as all went silent, not wanting to answer. “What, once a week?”

    “No,” Dylan answered. “But…”

    “But what?”

    “The first seizure after the one he had with Cass after his stroke took six weeks. We’d thought that it was once off. But ever since, they’ve been becoming more frequent,” Dylan said quietly. “But his last one was only two weeks ago. They’re becoming more frequent, and honestly, at this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was having two a week before the end of the year…”

    A somber silence fell across the group, before Abbee spoke for the first time, having heard all of this before from Dylan.

    “How’re Jon and Alyssa handling it?”

    “They’re putting on a brave face,” Dylan answered, surprising Cassandra a little that he was sharing that level of detail. “But even with all of us here to help, even on the good days, the seizures just complicate everything…”

    “How so?”

    “After the first, Jon had his driver’s license taken away from him, seeing as if he had a seizure behind the wheel of a car, it would be a disaster. And after we realised that the seizures were going to keep happening, he and Alyssa decided it was for the best if he wasn’t alone with Lili, in case he is holding her when he has a seizure. I know he hates that, but knows it’s necessary…” Dylan explained. “He can’t be medicated yet, but the medication he will be going on reacts to alcohol, and even the most minor withdrawals, so he can’t have a beer anymore. That and…”

    Dylan went silent, which only served to pique the interest of those there further.

    “I don’t want to leave this place with Jon only getting worse…” Dylan said quietly. “He’s had me here since the end of our first summer, and since the seizure’s started, he’s relied on me even more. I’d been talking about moving on after this summer since before he had the stroke, and he refuses to listen to any possibility of me sticking around a little longer to help. He says he doesn’t want me putting my own future on hold for him…”

    The only sounds heard were the waves crashing, the crackling of the fire, and the distant cries of Pokemon, as all went silent, feeling similar. Jon had relied on them more and more as years went on, to the point where during the summer, each of them were taking on just as much teaching responsibility as Jon. They had all been prepared to leave after that summer, however, with the exception of Abbee, they had believed Jon was just as capable as he was the summer prior, and would be able to handle it.

    “The four of us will be around for a little while longer,” Violet said, trying to cut through the silence. “Even after the five of you go, myself, Cass, Jarena and Willow will be around, and so will Steven. And honestly, given the reputation the five of you with Jon have made for this place, I think Jon will have people lining up at the gates at the prospect of working here…”

    “And Jon will be able to be medicated soon,” Jarena added. “And we haven’t given up on finding a way to undo the damage with our own talents...”

    Cassandra nodded, before looking at Dylan.

    “Dylan, I know you don’t want to hear it, but Jon’s right. You’ve done more than enough…” Cassandra said. “Don’t feel like you need to put your life on hold…”

    Dylan sighed, before standing to his feet, looking out to the ocean, not wanting to make eye contact with those present.

    “Let’s just get through this summer first…”

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  14. #170
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
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    The interns are back at the Eon Academy, together there for their final summer. But it's not all happy reunions...

    Enjoy!

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