nandosagi: (Black Rock Shooter)
[personal profile] nandosagi
Note: Bunny Spruce from Nothing, Everything is used with the permission of that fic's original author, Bay.

-:-

-:-


CHAPTER 1: A New Beginning








The Indigo Plateau airport was quite busy that day, with plenty of travelers coming and going from the various nations around the world. As a result, the high-tech terminal was packed with people, making Matt’s search for the pickup point of their transport rather frustrating. Taking great care not to lose his charge amongst the crowd, Matt gripped Olivia’s hand firmly but carefully with one of his own lavender-gloved hands.

Olivia was cooperating, too – at least until they passed a sandwich stand in the terminal that had a television near its counter.

“Today’s the day!” blared the voice of the announcer over the TV. “The charity tournament staged by the Frontier Society to benefit the reconstruction of Cinnabar Island will take place today at Indigo Stadium!”

The announcer was then replaced by a woman’s flat, nearly-emotionless voice. “There are still opportunities to see the show, so please come by.”

“Mom?!” Olivia jerked to a stop right in front of the sandwich stand, nearly pulling Matt’s arm out of its socket. “I just heard my mom’s voice! Mom, are you here?”

“It was just the television, Olivia…” Initially, Matt grimaced at the delay in moving through the crowded airport, but he quickly brightened when he realized that this was another opportunity. He sidled up to the counter and tapped his finger on it, producing a rather loud clanking sound on the metal surface. “Excuse me, good sir.”

Turning away from the TV, the middle-aged, mustachioed man that served customers at the stand smiled at his potential buyers. “Good morning to you. What can I help you with?”

“We just want a couple drinks. I’ll take a Soda Pop, and…”

“Some chocolate-flavored Moomoo Milk, please!” chirped Olivia.

“Coming right up!” The man stepped away from the counter and headed to a refrigerated case a few feet away, from which he withdrew a tall plastic bottle covered in light blue wrapping and a smaller yellow container with “Fresh, Delicious 1% Moomoo Chocolate Milk!” written on it. He delivered the two drinks to Matt and Olivia, but found the appropriate amount of money being pushed to him before he could even ask for it.

“Thank you,” Matt said, smiling as the server took the money in surprise. “By the by, would you be able to point us toward the pickup point for people leaving by car?”

“Right around the corner, down the hall and to the left.”

“Thanks. Have a good one!”

“Same to you!” called the sandwich shop operator to his customers as they walked off.

Holding Olivia’s left hand while she used her right to hold the chocolate milk, Matt led her along in the direction given by the man. They soon found themselves at an outdoor carport, where bright yellow taxi cabs were busily running in all directions to bring people to their destinations.

“Now all we’ve got to do is find the car your mom sent to pick us up.” Straining, Matt searched through the packed rows of cabs and passengers for something that stood out.

Sipping at her chocolate milk, Olivia was oblivious to Matt’s struggle. She was too busy staring at what she had seen herself only about a dozen feet away. “Hey, look at that.”

“What?”

“That cool limousine over there.”

Matt directed his sight in the direction guided at by Olivia’s outstretched arm. Right near them awaited a high-class black limousine, its paint glistening in the sun. Next to it stood a chauffeur wearing dark sunglasses and a black suit with an insignia printed on the breast pocket.

Recognizing the symbol on the man’s suit, Matt chuckled lightly to himself. “Never do spare any expense, even today, do you Anabel?”

“Are we gonna get to ride in that?!” Olivia excitedly asked.

“Sure looks that way. Let’s get on the move.”

-:-

Meanwhile, another gathering was taking place in a cave not far from the populated areas. This one wasn’t so legitimate, however. The small gathering of people in that cave didn’t have charitable means in mind at all.

There were four of them, three men and a single woman. One of the men was dressed in mostly black, including a pair of white boots, a white belt and black beret to complement his sharp eyes and angular green hair. One of the other men was wearing a tattered white lab coat and round glasses, and the redhead woman had a white blouse and skirt that fit well on her curvaceous figure.

One thing all three of them had in common was that somewhere on their clothes was an emblem of a red ‘R,’ identifying them as subordinates of the fourth member of their group, an imposing, middle-aged man in a black trench coat and fedora.

“So four of our five are assembled, Master Giovanni,” reported the beret-wearing man, his voice quivering slightly.

“Do we have a location on the missing agent, Proton?” responded Giovanni, the man in the fedora.

“Yes, she is in the area doing recon, sir.”

“Good. Now… this is the greatest opportunity for the resurrection of Team Rocket. Surely we all realize this.”

“Don’t you think you’re coming in too light for this mission?” questioned the man in the lab coat, as he brushed a lock of his messy blue hair from his face. “I would think you’d need more manpower than you’ve got on this job.”

“You shouldn’t be questioning Master Giovanni after he continued funding your research, Gideon,” Proton snapped, in an angry reproach of his colleague.

“It’s true that the remaining agents at the Rock Tunnel hideout could be used here,” stated the woman, “but it would be an even bigger gamble. If we failed and they got caught as well, it would truly be the end of Team Rocket. That would be a most dreadful outcome, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, Ariana, you are correct,” Giovanni observed. “We will execute our attack when the trainers and their Pokémon are weak. Once we take over the stadium, we exchange all present for a sizeable ransom and announce our rebirth to the world. I lay my name on it, Team Rocket shall rise again!”

-:-

Matt and Olivia’s limousine ride wasn’t a long one, taking no more than fifteen minutes to take them from the airport to the grand stadium complex where the event was to be held.

The complex was quite vast, with the stadium area itself taking up a full city block. Around it, a small but modern city played host to all kinds of facilities, from banks to restaurants to offices and hotels.

As for the actual stadium and its immediate surroundings, the entire landscape was dotted with trees that stood up well in the weather of the area, which was a bit on the cold side. Ropes hung from tree to tree as well as between some trees and the buildings themselves, and hung on these ropes were gold-bordered red flags bearing the symbol of the Frontier Society, a stylized Poké Ball with seven small stars surrounding it.

Walking up to the stadium’s entrance, Matt and Olivia were greeted by a young woman in a butler’s uniform.

She bowed to them politely, then said, “Mr. Chiaki and Miss Mistbloom, welcome to Indigo Stadium. Commissioner Mistbloom isn’t here yet, but she has provided instructions for your accomo…”

“Can you tell us where we can eat?!” Olivia cheerfully blurted out, interrupting the guide. “I’m really hungry!”

Thankfully, the young woman was not offended by Olivia’s good-natured rudeness, though this was at least just a little because of who she was. “Yes. Please, right this way.”

Matt and Olivia followed the guide into the building’s opulent lobby, where they had to make their way past many other guests. Some of these other people were going to the stadium’s various facilities, and those who weren’t going places were instead relaxing on large benches and watching prerecorded battles on numerous plasma screen televisions.

Eventually, they reached the restaurant area of the complex. There was a bar made of shiny, polished oak, behind which lurked countless bottles of all kinds of liquors from around the world. Across from the stools at the bar, about three dozen dining tables covered in white tablecloths sat, ready for more formal needs by the customers.

“Mr. Chiaki, Miss Mistbloom, please wait here until Commissioner Mistbloom has arrived.”

“We will,” Matt answered. “Thank you very much. Now, let’s see…”

“Matt!! Look at the pretty lady on the TV!”

Olivia’s excitement was directed to a television near a seemingly abandoned table. On it was a woman holding a microphone, whose bright pink dress and yellow-and-pink, curled hair stood out vividly against the natural backdrop she was in.

“Hello everyone, it’s Teachy TV time! It’s me, your hostess Yoko, and I’m at the Indigo Plateau for the Frontier Society’s charity tournament! I hope everyone plays along with me as I compete, and all of you remember to have fun too!”

“I’ll have fun, I promise!” Olivia exclaimed to the television, clenching her fists in sheer passion.

Watching all of this, Matt chuckled, then turned away. He didn’t want to interrupt the enjoyment Olivia was already deriving from their trip.

A square object rested alone on the table right before Matt’s eyes. Intrigued by what it might be, Matt took a step closer to it. Its green wrapper bore the identification “RageCandyBar” and a Red Gyarados logo.

“I wonder if Olivia would want…”

A sudden flicking sound near Matt’s head made him freeze in his tracks. There was a switchblade right next to his face, warning him not to move.

“It would be a good idea for you to step away from that RageCandyBar right now,” growled the young woman holding the blade, “otherwise I’ll have to open you up before I open it up.”

“I don’t think that’s going to work on me,” Matt countered sarcastically.

“What?”

By this time, Olivia had noticed what was happening and pieced together the reasons for it, and stepped over in worry. “Matt, just get me my own candy…”

The moment the young woman saw Olivia, her demeanor completely changed. She dropped her switchblade and lunged toward Olivia, grabbing her in a tight embrace.

“OHHHHH!! You are just ADORABLE!” the mysterious woman squealed.

At first Olivia didn’t fully understand what was going on, and was put off by this unknown person’s over-the-top admiration. She quickly got used to receiving this attention, though, and gave into a gleeful laughing fit.

Matt could only watch as Olivia reveled in the spotlight the woman was giving her. He found it awkward, as the young woman’s rather curvy figure was not hidden much behind the revealing blue top she wore, although her long, flowing black hair – accented with red streaks – draped over some of her skin. What struck Matt as unusual, though, was that aside from her top, her other clothing was relatively tame, from her long, sky-blue gloves, form-fitting red pants and black boots. The only other thing that stuck out all that much were the two silver-lined tails attached to the back of her top as if it were a coat.

“What are you doing?” he finally managed to ask.

“Well a girl’s gotta protect her chocolate, right?” Laughing to herself, the woman stood and saluted to Matt by holding her right hand next to her right eye and extending her thumb, pointer and middle fingers. “Who are you two exactly?”

“My name’s Matt and this is Olivia,” Matt answered, being accompanied by a courteous bow from Olivia.

“Call me Nekou. Remember my name and the chance I remember yours could go up.”

“Oh, I’m not going to forget much after all of this,” deadpanned Matt in response.

“Hey! I remember you!” Somehow, Olivia had already gotten halfway across the room, and was now calling out to someone else. “You battled with my mom!”

Catching up with Olivia while barely noticing Nekou lurking behind him, Matt nervously said, “Now, now, Olivia, let’s not be bothering others.”

“But it’s the one my mom battled at the Grand Festival! The one Nando beat in Sootopolis City, too!”

Indeed, when Matt looked up, he realized what Olivia was talking about. Though it took him a brief moment, he quickly recognized the girl, whose long brown hair came down from under a cream-colored hat that matched her shirt. Just like always, she was wearing her yellow shoulder bag, crumpled socks and pale shoes, too.

“I didn’t expect to see you two here, Matt, Olivia,” said the girl.

“And I didn’t expect to see you either, Trista,” Matt replied, smiling. “I guess Anabel invited you too. It’s been more than four years since you were in the finals at the Sootopolis Grand Festival, hasn’t it?”

“It has, it has.” Noticing something that confused her, Trista’s facial expression became inquisitive. “Isn’t something missing? Where’s Sheena?”

“We’re not seeing each other anymore.” Matt’s answer was mumbling and melancholy, and he couldn’t look Trista in the eyes while giving it. “It was on good terms though. We just decided that things weren’t what we both wanted.”

“I’m sorry I brought it up…”

“Oh, no, don’t worry about it!” Quick to change his tune, Matt rushed to ensure Trista didn’t think he was upset with her. “Everything was on very good terms. I do wish that we had managed to stay in touch, but I’ll meet her again sometime or another. No need to worry about that now. What’s been up since we last met?”

“I’ve been taking some time off from traveling, so I’ve been unwinding back where I was born, in Whitegold City. This is the first big thing I’ve done in a while, actually.”

“Whitegold City?” Olivia suddenly cut in. “That’s where your speech is, isn’t it, Matt?”

“Yeah, it is.” Noticing Trista’s confused gaze, Matt explained, “After this, I’m going to Whitegold City to give a speech on alternative energy sources at a banquet sponsored by Everton International.”

While Matt, Olivia and Trista continued chatting – with Nekou still lurking around – they were all unaware that they were being watched. At a table on the far end of the dining area, twirling the straw in his drink, was a young man with an air of mystery. Many of his features were obscured by the wide, dark hat, black longcoat and scarf he was wearing, but a scowl was visible on his face.

“Matt Chiaki and the vile pretender Olivia Mistbloom… ugh. She does not even deserve to bear that name. All of you who call Rich Mistbloom a hero… I will personally exact vengeance on all of you!”

Quite unexpectedly, the mood in the hall was changed when the televisions were switched from what they had on. All of the monitors first displayed a short animation of the Frontier Society logo, followed by a series of panning shots of the stadium.

“Good day, one and all!” blared the voice of the stadium’s announcer, ensuring that all eyes were on one of the screens. “It’s a brisk but lovely day here at the Indigo Plateau, so welcome to the Frontier Society charity tournament to benefit Cinnabar Island’s reconstruction! Trainers have come from all over the world to both watch this battle and buy in as well. Now, let’s get started! To open the proceedings, we have Cinnabar Island Gym Leader Blaine and Frontier Society Commissioner Anabel to give some remarks.”

The main chamber of the stadium – the battling area – was also its most extravagant. While the battlefield itself was not very different from that of an ordinary stadium, most everything else was. The walls, columns and floor around the seats were all done in various shades of gold, lending the stadium a majestic appearance. A retractable dome topped the chamber, as well.

Above the battlefield was a balcony, and a man stepped out onto it, then approached the microphone unit set up on it. He wore a white hat with a red band and dark sunglasses that glistened in the light, along with a classy white vest over his distinctive crimson shirt. Also, he had a sharp white moustache, wore light brown slacks, and held a cane shaped in a question mark.

“Hah! Welcome, all of you! As you might remember, six years ago, our beloved Cinnabar Island was destroyed by a fiery wrath from the bowels of our very planet. All that we knew was taken from us in a single night. But fittingly, as fire can tear down, fire can rebuild!” Blaine’s spirit burned as hot as the fire he spoke so lovingly of, energizing the crowd. “Like the phoenix written of in legend, Cinnabar Island will rise again, bigger and better than it ever was before! The Frontier Society's generous sponsorship of this tournament will allow us to rebuild our beloved home! Cinnabar Island will rise again! And now, Frontier Society president Anabel Mistbloom will deliver some remarks on this occasion.”

To brisk applause, Blaine stepped away from the microphone. A second figure appeared in the darkness of the entryway to the balcony and slowly made its way out. The first thing to appear was a leg encased in a purple pant made of the finest cotton from exotic countries, quickly followed by the second. A rim of frilly white lace hung around the woman’s waist, as well as around the sleeves of her light-purple top.

“My mom!” Olivia exclaimed, glued to the television. “She is here!”

“Anabel is here…” Matt repeated. He was looking at the screen in shock – Anabel looked quite different than she did the last time they had met. Once a petite woman with a vibrant face full of life, the years since then hadn’t treated her well. Visibly malnourished – somewhat bloated around the midsection but very bony in the arms – her face was now sunken in, with dark circles under her dull, lifeless eyes. Her expression was just as empty, and her once short, vividly-purple hair was now a blank silvery shade and much longer, with bangs growing nearly over her eyes.

This sad spectacle only continued when she attempted to speak. She opened her mouth, but no words came out, forcing her to nervously clear her throat instead. She then adjusted the microphone in front of herself while clearly struggling to find words.

“Yes, thank you... as Blaine said, this is quite the occasion. A region-wide Battle Frontier where trainers of all skill levels could better themselves... we both dreamed of it. It makes me unspeakably happy to see its inception with my own eyes.” One wouldn’t know this by the pained look on Anabel’s face, which communicated many emotions but not happiness. “Three years ago, we set these events in motion. With the help of Johto’s own Professor Elm and Professors Aurea and Cedric Juniper from Unova, the Frontier Society undertook a great experiment to migrate exotic species of Pokémon from overseas to Johto and Kanto, creating the possibility for the first truly global adventure right in a trainer’s backyard. Aurea Juniper has continued studying the migration patterns and effects of these new Pokémon in their environments, providing enlightening findings that prove our project was successful. Now, three years later, the Frontier Society is finally ready to formally open. If Rich were here, he would truly be…” At the mention of Rich, Anabel choked up again. Her face clenched as she tried to fight back tears. “He would truly be proud of everything we’ve done to realize his dream. He always envisioned a competitive trail where anyone of any skill level could battle and improve while enjoying themselves, and we’ve finally made that come true. With Rich in our memories… let’s commence the tournament to honor the Frontier Society’s opening.”

Putting aside his concerns about Anabel for the moment, Matt reached into his bag and withdrew a Dusk Ball, a special kind of Poké Ball colored mainly black and patterned with green circles. “Well, Tanya, the time we’ve prepared for has finally come. If we are to learn the truth behind what happened that day… it all begins here.”

-:-

When the tournament commenced, many tough trainers and Pokémon were pitted against each other. A total of sixty-four trainers entered for a series of one-on-one sudden-death battles. As he was slotted in the fifth bracket out of thirty-two, Matt had to simply observe the first four battles. He watched as Klinklang, a Steel-type Pokémon comprised of four interlocking silver gears – one of them with a simple face – and a spiked rim faced and was defeated by the Feraligatr commanded by a familiar young man with long red hair.

In the second battle, Trista battled using Nova, her Typhlosion, against her opponent’s Lucario. She effortlessly won this battle and moved on. As for the third of the matches, it saw the Normal-type Bouffalant – a large buffalo covered with brown fur on most of its body save for its head, where an oversized black tuft resembling an afro grew – defeat a Fearow. Finally, in battle number four, a boy using a Dugtrio managed to overpower his opponent’s Exploud.

When the time came for his battle, Matt found himself facing the mysterious trainer who had been watching him in the dining room, which, of course, he was still unaware of. The trainer didn’t care that Anabel and Olivia were both watching from their respective vantage points when he cursed Matt for being associated with them and with Rich, but when he sent out nothing more than a Drowzee, Matt casually threw him aside using Tanya, his Heatran, and her Dark Pulse. He didn’t even manage to learn the young man’s name.

Sometime later, in the fifteenth bracket, the Teachy TV idol Yoko sent out her Meganium and managed to win against a Lapras. Some of the other matches in the rest of the first round included Kingler VS. Crobat, Porygon2 VS. Dusknoir, Mr. Mime VS. Staraptor, Gliscor VS. Zangoose, and Leafeon VS. Mismagius.

During all the battles, Anabel sat alone in her own personal luxury box, holding a cup of coffee in her trembling, gaunt hand. Blaine had a similar box, but it was elsewhere in the stadium. Meanwhile, in the dining room, a man with thin black hair and thick eyebrows, who was wearing a heavy brown trenchcoat over his dark suit, sat at a table. He pretended to be watching one of the televisions but was barely paying it any mind, instead opting to thumb through a small notebook marked “Notes of Investigation” and glance suspiciously at other customers.

The thirty-two remaining trainers were then divided into sixteen brackets for the second round. Yoko and Meganium had to defeat the Kingler trainer and had little trouble doing so, while the young man with the Feraligatr came out on top against the trainer using Mr. Mime. Trista wiped out the Leafeon facing Nova in one hit with Eruption. Matt had a great struggle in this round, as he was pitted against the Bouffalant trainer; he had to hit Bouffalant repeatedly with powerful Flash Cannon and Dark Pulse attacks before it went down, but Bouffalant did not have any especially effective moves against Tanya.

Meanwhile, Nekou was still in the dining room as well, but her situation had changed greatly. She had a large spread of various foods before herself – several hamburgers, piles of French fries, bags of potato chips and pretzels, and a tall plate of macaroni and cheese – all of which she was relishing in along with the huge sodas she was hydrating herself with. Lying on the table amongst all of this food was the reason why she was able to do all of this – she’d stolen Matt’s credit card.

With sixteen trainers remaining, the tournament continued. Over the next rounds, Matt faced a Glalie, which he defeated easily, and the Porygon2, which put up a mighty fight it very nearly won using electrical attacks. Trista and Nova had their own challenges, barely overcoming the swift, dangerous attacks of the Gliscor in the tournament with Eruption before coming up against Druddigon, a Dragon-type Pokémon with a rugged, spiky blue body, a red head, and jagged blue wings. Yoko, meanwhile, had to put her Meganium against a Lickilicky and a Slaking, both of which Meganium had to rely on her bulk to wear out and win against. Finally, the red-haired young man with the Feraligatr handily defeated the Mamoswine and Ninetales he battled.

With that, the semifinal matchups were set. Trista would face Yoko, while Matt would face Silver, the Feraligatr trainer.

-:-

“Nova, use Flame Burst, quickly!”

“Counter with AncientPower, Meganium!”

Both Nova and Yoko’s Meganium, having taken several hits each in the course of their battle, still showed great amounts of energy as they went in for another clash. With an earth-shaking roar, Nova took the first move by belching out a large fireball. Meganium didn’t flinch in the face of this, however, and fought back by pulling up and throwing several rocks using psychic power. The fireball was hit by one of the rocks, splitting it up into smaller chunks that then got split further by the other rocks. By the time Meganium actually got hit, she only had to take a few smaller blows.

“The two attacks all but cancel each other out!” declared the announcer. “How will Trista and Yoko move on from this?”

Seizing on Trista’s hesitance, Yoko found an opening and showed a surprising amount of skill in doing so. “Meganium, Nature Power!”

The flower around Meganium’s neck started to glow, followed by the Grass-type Pokémon creating a field of energy divided into red, blue and yellow.

“That’s Tri Attack!” Trista growled as she saw the energy field coming rapidly toward Nova. “Nova, try to dodge it as you use Blast Burn and finish this up!”

Just before the swirling vortex of energy swept over Nova, threatening not only to injure him but to possibly paralyze or freeze him, he fell forward to all fours. Tri Attack harmlessly sailed over him, prompting Yoko to scream in frustration. This stance was also perfect for Nova to carry out his own attack, using the fiery quills around his neck to engulf Meganium in a stream of flames.

“Come on, Meganium!” Yoko cried. “I know you can get yourself out of this! Break the fire with AncientPower!”

“Megaaaa…” growled Meganium, struggling desperately against the relentless force of Nova’s flames. She used every bit of energy she had left in a valiant attempt to pull up another AncientPower attack, but right as the rocks started to lift from the ground, her body gave out.

“Meganium is unable to battle!” called out the battle’s referee, gesturing toward Trista and Nova with the flag in his right hand. “The winner of this battle is Trista of Whitegold City!”

“And that’s it! Moving on to the finals is Trista, showing off her powerful fire skills once again!”

-:-

“How interesting that she makes it this far…” Anabel observed, watching Trista’s battle from her personal box. She silently recalled how, at the Pokémon Contest Grand Festival five years earlier, she had battled Trista and Nova in a semifinal match of her own. Beating Trista back then was a struggle, but it was a memory she was still fond of. Thinking of it also made her think of Rich, her late husband and Olivia’s father, but Anabel had numbed herself to the pain so much that she remembered only how proud he was of her winning the Grand Festival.

Snapping herself partially out of her haze of memories, Anabel looked down at the coffee cup in her hand. It was empty, and this wouldn’t do for the level of exhaustion she felt. Sighing, she lifted her heavy, stiff body out of her seat and turned, intending to go refill the cup.

Standing in the doorway, accompanied by her Arbok, was Ariana.

“Honey, as much as I can appreciate the need for a good cappuccino, you ain’t leaving this room.”

-:-

Having plowed through the hamburgers and macaroni and cheese, Nekou was now devouring the rest of the pretzels and potato chips she’d racked up using the credit card stolen from Matt. She was oblivious to her surroundings until several people ran down the hall on the other end of the dining room.

“Hm? Is something going on?” Nekou grimaced bitterly and reached into her pocket. “What a bother. It shouldn’t be so hard to get some peace to eat in. Screw it.”

From her pocket, Nekou withdrew a small, rectangular device with a plus-sign shaped control pad, two buttons, a digital screen and two earbud-style earphones. She put the listeners into her ears and started using the control pad to click through the device’s directory, until she found the title ‘Alejandro.’

“Finally, some peace and quiet.”

Nekou hit one of the buttons, starting the music on her player, then went back to her food.

-:-

“You… I knew you looked familiar!”

In the hallway connecting the other areas of the stadium to the actual battlefield, Matt had run into Silver and quickly come to a realization – though they had never quite met face-to-face before, Matt had seen Silver battle. It was at the Grand Championship of the Go-Rock Frontier five years earlier, though Rich – who had been Matt’s friend at the time as well – never battled him.

“I know we haven’t met,” Silver coldly said. “I’m good with faces. You don’t look like someone I know.”

“It was the Grand Championship five years ago, actually. I watched you battle because I was with Rich Mistbloom at the time.”

“Oh, so you were his friend? I guess battling you should be a worthwhile challenge. A man like him would have been prejudiced with who he befriended.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Matt answered back as the two started walking side-by-side down the hall. “He was just a pretty easygoing guy from when I knew him. He wouldn’t hate anyone unless they really did something to earn that hatred.”

“I didn’t know the guy, so I mean, there’s no love lost there that I have to fight you. You’re just a worthy opponent for me, that’s all.”

Matt and Silver walked past a television screen on the wall just as it buzzed to life with a hijacked signal, catching them off guard and prompting them to stop.

“Today… we are pleased to announce the revival of Team Rocket!” boomed Giovanni’s voice over a shot of the battlefield.

“Team Rocket?” Matt uttered, his eyes widening to reflect the surprise he felt. “That band of criminals from years ago?”

However, for as surprised as Matt was, the mixture of shock and rage on Silver’s face easily outsized it. “Team Rocket… they’re back?! I’ve had enough of these worthless…”

“Yes! Yes! Being back they are, troublemaking once again, that is what they’re doing!”

Running down the hall with his dark leather shoes banging loudly against the floor, the man in the heavy brown trench coat came up to Matt and Silver. He was in such a rush, though, that he had to catch his breath immediately upon reaching them.

“Looker?!” gasped Matt. This was yet another person he knew in some way from the past. “Boy, this day keeps getting better and better. Let me guess, you knew they’d be here?”

“Indeed, I did know in fact! The Team Rocket and its plan of resurrection has been tracking on my radar for a time that’s quite long!”

“Whoa, whoa, back up,” Silver said in frustration, while shaking his head. “Who is this guy again?”

“I am a globe-trotting elite agent of the International Police! My name… no, my code name, it is Looker. That is what they all call me. Currently I am being posted to the case of the Team Rocket and their resurrect…”

“As you can see, Team Rocket has taken this stadium and its inhabitants hostage…” Several images flashed on the screen, including Proton guarding the defeated contestants with his Weezing, then Ariana and Arbok holding Anabel hostage in her box. “We, the executives of Team Rocket, hereby issue our demand. We demand $1 billion in cash to be delivered via a single helicopter from the Tohjo Continent government offices in exchange for the safety of all the hostages in the stadium.”

“I didn’t think they’d be low enough to pull a stunt like this…”

“An observation of astuteness, Matt Chiaki.” Looker turned to Silver and set his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “You shall now be becoming my assistant in rescuing the trainers who were defeated.”

“What?! I didn’t volunteer for that!”

“Too bad, having been drafted you’ve been. Matt, go to the main arena of battle! Take down the one who calls himself their boss of the Team Rocket, and I will be along shortly to bring him under arrest! Now, away we go!”

Dragging a sighing Silver by the arm, Looker ran off down the hallway back toward where the chamber for the defeated trainers was. After shaking his head to get out his frustration over the situation, Matt turned and went the opposite way, toward the arena.

-:-

“What do you… what do you want out of me exactly?” Anabel uttered in sheer exasperation. She’d sent out a Gothitelle – a humanoid Psychic-type Pokémon whose black body was divided into conical sections, each with a white ribbon fronting them – but Ariana had simply blown her off.

“Like I said, honey, I ain’t got a problem with you. There’s no reason for us to battle. It doesn’t fit in with the mission at all one bit. Although… this is one hell of a luxury setup you’ve got for yourself.” Gesturing around the room, Ariana continued, “Look at this stuff. Plush seats, fine carpeting, air conditioning accurate to the tenth of a degree… honey, I can tell you sure know how to appreciate the finer points of life, even if it’s not obvious on the surface.”

“It’s how Rich would have wanted it!” Anabel blurted out, before even realizing it. “He would have built it this way for me!”

“A man, huh? Honey, I think you’ve got to acknowledge to yourself that like it or not you want this stuff for yourself. It doesn’t matter if your man would have wanted it for you too, a woman does what she wants in the end. Now sit down and relax. I told you I have no reason to hurt you, all you need to do is stay in here and wait until the ransom is paid.”

The two women stared at each other. Neither could say they truly understood the person she was looking at, but a certain spark of empathy between the two was undeniably there. It was as if they had both seen things just like their counterpart had, and the only difference was in their reactions.

This moment didn’t last long, however. A reaction of tense surprise could be heard from the massive crowd outside the box, prompting both Anabel and Ariana to rush to the window.

Standing out in the middle of the battlefield was Matt, looking around carefully as he searched for the culprit of the attack.

-:-

The first thing on Matt’s mind, actually, was ensuring that Olivia was safe. He had to search for her in the stands, but he did manage to spot her, and luckily, she seemed blissfully unaware of just what was going on. She most likely thought the attack was actually just part of the show, so she was still cheering as happily as ever.

“Good, you’re safe,” Matt said to himself, verifying what he was seeing. Satisfied with his findings, he turned to face in the direction of Anabel’s box. “Leader of Team Rocket, show yourself!” he shouted loudly and brazenly. “If you are truly going to resurrect your team, show your power to me!”

Matt didn’t actually think his words would have any effect, so when the sound of clapping reached his left ear, he turned toward it and let a surprised gasp escape the confines of his throat.

He was being approached by Giovanni – whom he recognized from old news reports on the original Team Rocket as the group’s leader – and the criminal boss was sarcastically smiling and clapping. Seemingly, Giovanni was mocking Matt, and Matt knew it.

“I’ll give you one thing, kid. It sure takes some real guts to face me head-to-head like this.”

“Guts?” Matt snickered in response, a wry grin appearing on his weathered face. “What takes guts is trying to take an entire stadium hostage with, what, four guys?”

Though that figure was nothing more than a product of Matt taking a stab in the dark, he was unexpectedly close to the actual size of the Team Rocket group, prompting a shamed grimace from Giovanni. The mob boss parsed his lips while setting his hand on the Poké Ball in the pocket of his suit jacket.

“It sounds to me that you’re pretty confident in yourself. No matter how small my numbers are, it’s still my team against just you. Team Rocket will not fall! Excadrill, take him down right now! Metal Claw!”

With lightning-quick motions, Giovanni pulled the Poké Ball from his pocket and threw it into the air, releasing a mole Pokémon whose body was brown with red streaks on its front. Above its white face was a silver iron spike with two curved protrusions rising from it, and likewise, similar spikes made up both of its paddle-like claws, which were each divided into three segments.

Excadrill plummeted from the height at which it emerged at a great speed, with her right claw drawn back and glittering like metal in preparation for a fierce strike on Matt himself.

Matt just grinned, not fearing the overwhelming might of the Pokémon facing him.

Just when it looked like Excadrill’s attack would connect, a shower of sparks indicated that it had hit something that wasn’t quite what Giovanni had expected. Matt had his right arm raised up to protect himself, and protruding from the sleeve of his coat was a silver, pointed metal blade. This rendered Excadrill’s attempted strike completely useless, and with a mere swing of the arm he was using to defend himself, Matt threw Excadrill back.

“What the…?!” gasped Giovanni, genuinely surprised at what had just happened.

It wasn’t until what he saw lurking under the now-open eyepiece on the mask covering the left side of Matt’s face that he began to piece things together. Where Matt’s right eye was blue, his left eye was a vivid red. When a small spark of electricity jumped up Matt’s face, making him shudder and close the eyepiece, it just confirmed Giovanni’s suspicions.

“All of those unusual traits… you’ve got a cybernetic body, haven’t you?”

“You’ve got me,” Matt admitted, retracting the blade back into his arm. He seemed bitter instead of proud about his abilities. “Just about my entire body was taken from me by the deeds of Team Galactic. My arms, my eye, my left leg… my only choices were to become a living science experiment or spend a lifetime as a nearly limbless stump stuck in a mechanized suit. You can see which one I chose.”

“Impressive…” Giovanni actually did seem visibly impressed, though by what wasn’t quite clear immediately. “What conviction. A man like you would be a valuable asset for an organization like Team Rocket.”

“Well you can count me out,” Matt said forcefully. “I owe loyalty to only one cause, and anyone who stands in my way will be eliminated. That is something you can depend upon.”

“Then show me the force of your convictions. Let me see with my own eyes what kind of power you possess!”

“If you want it so badly, have it your way. Reuniclus, make your mark!”

From his bag, Matt produced another of his own Poké Balls, which burst open to release a rather unusual creature. Its main body was similar in shape to a cream-colored, humanoid figure with a large head, but containing that was an external body made of a green, jelly-like substance. This bizarre gelatinous mass shaped ears and two three-fingered hands around the internal body, held up by floating orbs of varying sizes within the jelly.

“Excadrill, Hone Claws, let’s go.”

Excadrill’s silver claws began glowing brightly as she crossed them. Just as quickly, she abruptly separated them, making them grow slightly longer and sharper.

“A move that raises the power of future attacks,” Matt carefully observed. “Unsurprising from a man such as yourself. Reuniclus, hit it with a Focus Blast!”

Rising high into the air, Matt’s Reuniclus pulled back her arms and focused the energy between her hands, creating a ball of light-blue energy. Once she had taken careful aim, Reuniclus took careful aim and threw the sphere at Giovanni’s Excadrill, hitting her with explosive force that scuffed up the metal on her body.

“I won’t stand for such a thing!” Giovanni growled at this turn of events. “Excadrill, bring down that pest right now with an X-Scissor!”

Shaking off the pain from the hit she’d just received, Excadrill started running forward in Reuniclus’s direction, then made a great leap into the air to close the gap between them.

“Use Flash Cannon to stop it!”

Reuniclus’s body took on a bright shine as she absorbed light energy into herself. The glow of her external body blocked her vision of where Excadrill was, but she could still sense where her opponent was positioned. That was lucky, for Excadrill was just about to hit with a cross-slashing attack at close range.

The X-Scissor never connected, though. Right before it made contact, Reuniclus released all of its energy, resulting in a bright explosion of smoke and light. Excadrill was thrown to the ground, while Reuniclus disappeared into the cloud.

“Finish it off with one last Focus Blast!” Matt cried out, thrusting his right arm out.

There was no way Excadrill could have seen it coming. The blast that rained down came right from the aftermath of the clash between Flash Cannon and X-Scissor, leaving her a sitting duck. She fainted nearly immediately upon being struck by the attack.

“You’ve bested me in this round, but it’s not over. Excadrill, return! Now, Donphan…”

Giovanni reached into his pocket for another Poké Ball, but suddenly, he found himself unable to move his arms. Twisting his head around to see what was wrong, he discovered that Matt’s Reuniclus had somehow gotten behind him and was gripping his arms, rendering him immobile.

“How the mighty have fallen,” Matt said sarcastically, mocking the fallen Team Rocket boss as he approached the pair. “Good job, Reuniclus, keep him trapped.”

Coughing, Giovanni panted, “What do you want from me?”

“Truth.” It was evident that Giovanni did not understand what Matt meant by the confused expression that appeared on his face. Matt also picked this up, and continued, “You were on the top of the world in the circles of villainy and secret societies for years. Surely you picked up some… intelligence that is useful to me. Tell me, what do you know about the incident in La Ciudad Dorada six years ago?”

“Don’t you know everything about that? You were there!” Seeing that Matt wouldn’t back down, Giovanni resigned himself to answering. “The prince of that country, Count Fernando the Eighth, murdered his parents to instigate the conditions for a revolution. He then got the Heatran you captured – the one from Cinnabar Island’s volcano – to create the conditions for a drought, which he would then solve to earn the gratitude of his people and the right to become king. The final piece of the puzzle was his inviting you to solve where the Golden City of La Ciudad Dorada was hidden, which you did, but you also defeated him and led to his death.”

“That is all true. Certainly you kept up on your current events then. But…” Matt’s face suddenly darkened considerably. “That’s not what I want to know about. During that incident, I started to care about someone quite deeply. Her name was Eleanor Laplace and she died due to Fernando’s actions… and I have reason to believe a secret group known only as the Guild was involved. Fernando the Eighth accused me of being one of them even though I wasn’t. I want to know everything you know. Tell me about the Guild and what it is.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” For once, Giovanni was being relatively honest with someone outside of his own allies. “The Guild only existed back in the nineteenth century, where it was involved with the downfall of the Colchester family that ruled this entire continent at the time. There is no more Guild now.”

Somehow, Matt wasn’t satisfied with this response. He suspected that Giovanni was withholding details, but he was also able to see that getting anything more out of his captive would be impossible. Luckily, just then, Looker came running out onto the battlefield.

“Ah, well done you have done, Mr. Chiaki!” the detective complimented. “Captured the Executives called Proton and Ariana, that I have done. Seeing that I am that you caught the boss, Giovanni!”

“Yeah, here he is. It’s not like he has anything interesting to say, so hand him over, Reuniclus.”

Giovanni growled to himself, as he didn’t appreciate at all the casual insult leveled at him by someone he already didn’t like. He didn’t have much time to wallow in his anger, though, as Reuniclus abruptly shoved him right into Looker’s grasp. With swift movements Looker restrained Giovanni with handcuffs pulled from the deep pockets of his trench coat.

“Under arrest, that’s what you are, criminal scum!”

In his own mind, Looker was extremely proud of his work. Enraptured in this bubble, he dragged the miserable, grumbling Giovanni off into the hallway back into the other parts of the building, not even noticing Silver standing there at the passageway. For a split second, as the two men brushed past him, Silver exchanged a heated, angry glance with Giovanni.

“You were bested again, father,” Silver mumbled, once he was again alone. “If you couldn’t defeat him alone, I have no chance against him either…”

-:-

“What do you mean he resigned the match and left?”

It was about twenty-five minutes after the failed raid on the stadium came to an end. Matt and Olivia had reunited in the dining hall, where things had largely gone back to normal, and he was now being informed by a tournament employee of the fact that Silver had abruptly forfeited his upcoming battle and left, leaving Matt to head to the finals against Trista by default. He didn’t understand quite why Silver would do this, given that the Pokémon he was using had a strong matchup against Tanya.

“The final match will be held tonight,” revealed the employee. “Please feel free to do what you wish until then.”

“What was that about?” Olivia had suddenly appeared at Matt’s side while the employee walked off. “You forfeited your match?”

“No, I didn’t. Silver did. Sounds like he just had a change of heart after that little row just now with Team Rocket. Olivia, want something to eat? There’s not much else to do.”

“Yeah!” chirped Olivia happily. “Just get me a burger and I’ll be good with it.”

“Sounds good to me. I could go for one too.” Matt reached into his pocket and felt around – then paused in shock. His credit card was gone. “Damn it, I didn’t need this today,” he angrily spat. “Olivia, have you seen where my credit card’s gone?”

“Nope,” Olivia answered with a shrug. “Think someone took it?”

“We’re about to find out. Reuniclus, make your mark!”

Once again, Matt took the ball containing Reuniclus and threw it into the air, setting the gelatinous Psychic-type free.

She looked at her trainer and said inquisitively, “Ranku, ranku?”

“Reuniclus, I need your help. Use your psychic powers and lead me to where my credit card went, would you?”

“Rankuku!” A soft blue light filled Reuniclus’s eyes as she started using her powers, filtering out slightly to give her body a similar hue. She quickly turned around and began floating off, prompting Matt and Olivia to hurry after her.

It didn’t take long for the trio to discover the source of the trouble. They all understood when they were led to the table where Nekou had now finished off all of her food save for a huge slice of chocolate cake she was rather messily eating. She was too busy enjoying the food and her music to even notice Matt and Olivia right away.

She only snapped out of her aloof state when Matt walked up to the table and reclaimed his credit card, which was still sitting right there in the open.

“What gave you the right to take this?” he snapped.

In response, Nekou merely raised her face up by tilting her head back, smiled, and took an even messier bite of the cake. “I don’t care. Too busy enjoying this cake.”

“What?!” Matt was flabbergasted at her attitude, and let it be clearly known. “Take the damn earphones out and listen to me!”

“Fine,” Nekou sighed, pulling out the two small devices from her ears. “What do you want?”

“What do I want? Well, you only stole my credit card and racked up what’s got to be a good couple hundred dollars of charges on it!”

“You wouldn’t want a poor girl like me to starve, now would you?” As she whimpered this, Nekou leaned forward, allowing her chest to rest on the table.

“Olivia, don’t look at this.” Evidently Matt saw right through Nekou’s ruse. “Don’t even try to play these games with me, Nekou.”

Nekou’s forced sweet demeanor disappeared instantly, getting replaced by a catty scowl. “Oh, **** it, fine. What do you want out of me?”

“You’re going to be working for me from this point forward. I don’t care if a deadbeat like you hasn’t worked an honest day in her life. You’re working for me until every penny of the debt you now owe me is paid up in full.”

“So what’s my first assignment, hmm?” Nekou’s mischievous personality had reemerged, and further, she was in the mood to cause trouble again too. The look on her face was just as shifty. “You want me to do some special tasks for you?”

Matt instantly understood what she meant, and it made him jump in horror. “No! No, no, no, no, no!” None of them realized that they were beginning to attract a crowd that was staring at their antics. “I want you to act as my assistant, that’s it!!”

“Your… personal assistant?”

Overwhelmed with embarrassment and frustration, Matt leaned on the table with his left hand and pressed his right hand against his face.

“I’m not having this discussion with you. You do what I say, that’s it.”

“No, you listen to me. I do what I feel like doing. If that just happens to be what you want me to do, you’re lucky.”

Matt just stared at Nekou, completely exasperated at what he’d gotten himself into. It took him some time to find something to say, and when he did, it was a very simple question. “So how did you get the card off me in the first place, without me noticing?”

“I didn’t. Marie did.”

“Who’s Marie?”

As if on cue, a Sneasel popped out of Nekou’s hair, having been clinging to her back and using her hair as a curtain to hide behind the whole time. She enthusiastically said her name and waved, her adorable appearance provoking a reaction from Olivia.

“Awwww, it’s so cute!” Matt’s young companion cooed, getting as close to Marie as she possibly could, visibly unnerving the Sneasel. “Aren’t you just the cutest thing? There’s no need to hide!”

“She’s kinda shy,” Nekou warned, “so back off.”

“I get the feeling that they’re alike in more ways than just this…” thought Matt as he watched this bizarre scene continue to unfold.

“Give me a rum, on the rocks. I need one.”

One person who benefitted from the spectacle created by Nekou’s antics was Anabel, who was able to slip into the dining hall and reach the bar unnoticed. Olivia didn’t notice her mother’s presence until Anabel was already seated at the bar and receiving her drink.

“Mom! Mom, hi!!”

In an instant Olivia was across the room and next to her mother, leaving Matt and Reuniclus to catch up. Nekou carefully watched, but did not get up from her table.

“Mom, I’ve been looking for you!”

Though she looked at her daughter and smiled slightly, Anabel cringed at the sound of Olivia’s voice, something that Matt quietly picked up on. “It’s good to see you again, Olivia. You’ve grown into a fine young woman.”

“Thanks!” Olivia’s unfailing cheerfulness completely revealed the fact that she didn’t pick up on her mother’s sorrow at all. “It’s all thanks to Matt taking care of me, though.”

“Oh, now, now, there’s no need for that.” It wasn’t that Matt felt he didn’t deserve the credit. He certainly believed he had earned recognition for his efforts tending to Olivia, but he didn’t feel comfortable getting such praise from Anabel. “Just keeping a promise.”

“Was Dad mad at me?”

The question that had been on Olivia’s mind from the beginning finally came out, interjecting itself into the conversation like a knife. While Matt simply shuddered and then paused fully, surprised by Olivia’s boldness, Anabel’s reaction was another matter entirely. She slowly reeled back, her eyes widening in horror while their pupils shrank. Water could be seen forming in the corners of her eyes as well, but again, Olivia missed it.

Matt knew he had to jump in. “Olivia, don’t ask such a thing. Of course your dad wasn’t…”

“I want to hear it from Mom!” snapped Olivia, taking Matt completely aback. He hadn’t suspected for a moment that the girl was capable of such a reaction. “She knew him better than anyone else!”

Olivia’s outburst cowed Matt, and he wisely chose to withdraw from pressing the issue further. He backed off to allow Olivia the space she needed with her mother, who thankfully seemed to have recovered from the shock of the original question.

“Dad wasn’t mad at you, Olivia…” Anabel finally managed to respond, albeit in a voice that was barely above a hoarse whisper. “He loved you more than he loved himself. Even more than he loved me. You were his world.”

“Then why did he abandon us? He promised he’d never leave you and me, Mom! He promised, and he’s been gone for five years now!”

“You have to understand, Olivia…” The raw negative emotion was beginning to return to Anabel once more. “Sometimes things are demanded of people that require them to leave everything behind. The trip your dad went on… he did it for us, believe it or not.”

“But five years?!” It was becoming increasingly evident that a lot of pent-up anger and frustration was erupting in Olivia, too. Her eyes were watering, and her voice started to sound scratchy as she continued to yell. “Mom, you have to realize now, Dad left us behind to pursue his own dreams all alone! He didn’t love us anymore!”

Those words struck many chords in Matt, who was watching quietly from the sidelines. Hearing Olivia completely lose faith in her father drove so many emotional stakes into him that the fingers of his mechanical hands shook with metallic shudders. It contrasted with the situation Matt himself had come up in – neither his mother nor father cared much at all about him or his younger sister Amanda. Worse yet, she was born with deformed legs that doomed her to a wheelchair, and ended up becoming blind due to an accident during an experiment conducted by his father. Eventually the two of them ran away from home, only to be stuck in a blizzard outside Snowpoint City and nearly killed.

Matt knew the truth about Olivia’s father Rich and what had happened on that day five years earlier, which had come to be referred to as the Day of Reckoning by those familiar with mythology. He was there and so was Olivia, but Olivia was so distracted by the presence of multiple Legendary Pokémon that she didn’t notice what had happened. On what was called the Day of Reckoning, the Legendary Pokémon Arceus was summoned into the world from its Beginning Dimension by an insane woman ironically trying to prevent the prophecy predicting the Day of Reckoning from occurring. She took control of Arceus but her plan went horribly wrong, resulting in Arceus going on a rampage that very nearly resulted in the destruction of the entire universe. Heroically, Rich sacrificed himself to protect the entire plateau they were on from being annihilated by a falling meteor, and he died in Anabel’s arms. From that point forward, nobody was able to tell Olivia the truth about her father’s fate, instead feeding her the lie that he had gone on a short-notice trip. Even in the five years that Matt had been tutoring Olivia as per Rich’s final request, despite her escalating suspicion about the story, he was never able to bring himself to tell her the truth.

His desire was simple – preserve the truly well-placed belief Olivia had in her father. It was for that reason that watching her lose all faith in him broke Matt’s heart. He simply couldn’t stop himself from interfering again after this.

“Olivia, go play with Nekou. I need to talk to your mom a bit myself. Maybe Minccino will want to meet Marie.”

“Oh, that’s a good idea!” Luckily for Matt, his suggestion somehow distracted Olivia enough to get her mind onto a different subject. She rushed back over to the table where Nekou was still sitting and released her Minccino, a small, gray chinchilla Pokémon with large ears, from its ball.

Satisfied that Olivia’s attention had been sufficiently diverted, Matt sat down at the bar next to Anabel. A visible sadness filled his one uncovered eye, reflective of the anguish he felt over Olivia’s naiveté. “Don’t you think you’re going to have to tell her soon? How much longer can she go on thinking Rich just up and left us?”

“And you would have her lose the one thing that makes her have any belief in going on with life?” Anabel snapped back, her voice coming out in a hiss garbled by the rum in her throat. “If she believes he’s still out there, at least she has a reason to keep living… she’ll keep going on looking for him…”

“But she’s believing in a lie,” Matt tried to reason, “and that’s going to make her hurt even more when she eventually does find out the truth. You’ve got to think of that!”

Anabel ignored Matt’s plea and put her hand to her head while slumping forward in her chair. “Ugh… I have such a ****ing hangover…” Even with this fact, though, she didn’t hesitate to down even more of the alcoholic concoction available to her.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” The erratic behavior he was witnessing was beginning to worry Matt profoundly. He hadn’t known Anabel for all that long before Rich’s death, but he knew that this was nowhere near normal. “Anabel, please, listen to me. Your hair’s gone white, you look malnourished, you’re drinking heavily… you can’t be coping like this.”

“Like you’re any different?! Don’t dare project your problems onto me!”

Matt grunted and pulled back. Anabel’s words were true, overwhelmingly so. Over the years since not only Rich’s death but the incident in La Ciudad Dorada – including Eleanor Laplace’s death, the actions of Fernando VIII and the emergence of knowledge of the Guild’s supposed existence – Matt’s hair had grown much longer, he’d developed five-o-clock shadow and had started turning to drinking himself to escape his own demons. Of course, that was all on top of the extensive surgeries and rehabilitation he had to undergo in order to receive his cyborg body, without which he wouldn’t even have normal mobility. He had been burned badly during the La Ciudad Dorada incident, then the problems were compounded when he was trapped in the evil Team Galactic’s UFO as it exploded at the climax of Rich’s battle against them. Indeed, Matt realized right away that he was just as broken as Anabel, if not more so, and handling it as poorly as she was.

“Look at this scene, the two of you moping around. You’re even more undeserving than I thought.”

The tense exchange between Matt and Anabel was interfered with by, of all people, the mysterious trainer Matt had crushed in the first round of the tournament. He still obscured most of his face with a scarf and hat, rendering his identity completely unknown.

“Who are you?” Anabel wondered aloud. She should have been aware of his name, having watched the entire tournament, but remembering it was the last thing she was thinking about.

“You’re back after I humiliated you out there? Whatever you’re talking about, you’re probably the most undeserving of all. What are you talking about anyway?”

“The legacy of Rich Mistbloom,” the mystery trainer answered, remaining perfectly serious throughout. “You, Matt Chiaki… Anabel Ein, the harlot who seduced him… and Olivia Mistbloom, the usurper who resulted from that wretched union… all three of you are my targets. None of you deserve the limelight of that bastard’s legacy, and I will see to it that the truth is told to the world. You asked my name? My name is Renzo. Remember it, as one day I will bring down the entire tainted pyramid upon your heads. It will be an epic event.”

Before his forced audience could counter with anything at all, Renzo turned and stormed off, leaving the dining hall and the stadium entirely. Left stunned, Matt found that his only option was to try and console Anabel, who was beginning to tear up from the insults Renzo leveled at her and the people she cared about.

“Anabel, he’s just a jealous poser. Don’t pay attention to people like that. He just wishes he had the kinds of things you have.”

“I’m a harlot and I seduced Rich…? I really, genuinely loved him…”

“No, no, don’t listen to those things! I know you loved Rich, and I know you love Olivia too. Don’t listen to people like Renzo.”

Anabel tilted her head upward so she could meet Matt’s gaze. She stared right into the intense sincerity in his visible eye, and she was sure that underneath his eyepiece, his cybernetic eye reflected the same. Just that gaze gave her the consoling she needed, and she was able to wipe the tears from her eyes.

“Matt? Matt, there you are!”

Much to Matt’s pleasant surprise, the voice calling to him this time was not only recognized, it was friendly too. His mouth cracked into a slight smile as he lifted and turned his head toward the voice’s source, a woman wearing a sharp, black-and-gray business suit. She had sparkling blue eyes that contrasted against her brown hair, which was arranged into a pair of long, wide ponytails.

“So you finally made it, you little trickster!” Matt chuckled, offering the girl a handshake, which she firmly accepted.

“It was a long ride to get here, but it sure was worth it.” Spying Anabel, the woman became visibly concerned and asked, “Did I interrupt something?”

“No, not at all. Let me introduce everyone… Anabel, this is my friend Bunny Spruce. She’s an archeologist and historian of some note who I’ve worked with in the past. Now we’re organizing an expedition up to the mountains near here to find the Argyros Ruins.”

“They’re ruins of an ancient town settled by devout Tenganists thousands of years ago,” Bunny further elaborated. “The town has been gone since ancient times, but we wanted to go see it and look for anything about their culture we could find. And Matt, I have to tell you...” Before continuing, Bunny smiled broadly. “The advance team located the site. I know exactly where the Argyros Ruins are. Are you ready to go see them?”

“Of course, do you even need to ask?” Matt stood and nodded to Anabel. “Anabel, feel better, okay? I’ll be back in a few hours and we can talk more. Bunny, how about I introduce you to my own team?”

“Go right ahead. I’ll need to know them anyway, after all.”

After taking several steps away from the bar, Matt beckoned for Bunny to follow him, and the two of them walked to the table where Olivia and Nekou were watching Minccino and Marie play under Reuniclus’s watchful eye.

“Bunny, first, you’ve already spoken to Olivia before.”

“We haven’t met since I gave that guest lecture at the Rustboro School four years ago, but I remember you well,” Bunny said, extending her hand to Olivia. “You’ve grown into a fine young woman, Olivia!”

“You got that right!” was Olivia’s cheeky response. It would have come off as arrogant if she wasn’t giggling while she said it.

“The final member of the team is… this one…” Matt sarcastically said while gesturing toward Nekou. “Her name’s Nekou, and she’s working as my assistant for a while to pay off some debts.”

“Bodyguard,” Nekou suddenly chimed in, attempting to derail and ruin Matt’s explanation. “I’m guarding his body.”

“This is going to be one pleasant trip…” Matt thought, slumping over in annoyance.

-:-

Not far from the stadium, Giovanni sat alone in a small room in the basement of an unknown facility. He was sitting on a small metal chair at a table and had his hands cuffed behind his back.

When the door on the far end of the room opened, Giovanni looked up, but he only growled when he saw that it was Looker, entering with a cup of coffee in his hand.

“I won’t make your job easy,” snapped the criminal boss.

“Now, now, not be I wanting you to do that,” Looker answered, sitting down at the table. “If easy is the interrogation, then fun it isn’t. I just am having of a few questions to be asking of you…”

-:-

Somewhere, in a small temple contained within a cave, a flash of light appeared. It expanded rapidly until it was a radial cluster of energy, almost like a portal. A Pichu spilled out of it and stumbled up, scratching her head as she attempted to figure out her surroundings. She wasn’t just any normal Pichu, though – her left ear had three pronounced spike-shaped tufts protruding from its tip.

“Pichu?” she said, her voice echoing through the empty stone chamber.











END of CHAPTER 1.

May 2012

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