nandosagi: (Daryl Yan)
[personal profile] nandosagi

CHAPTER 2: Cresselia VS. Darkrai

-:-

Many of the staffers who worked in Giovanni's mansion were Team Rocket members, and not all of them were formerly of the gang, either. It had not been hard for him to slip them into supposedly legitimate employment under the radar of the police, and as long as they wore the butler outfits he issued instead of the standard Team Rocket uniform, they wouldn't be found out.

Being that they were from Team Rocket's ranks, the mansion's staff were all well versed in the dirt and rumors floating around the darker corners of their society. Stacia was the subject of some of the most terrifying ones, so when she was doing even the mundane activity of quietly making coffee for Giovanni in the lounge, they stayed away from her.

Not that Stacia minded. She despised dealing with the common idiots who joined Team Rocket just as much as her boss did, so their avoidance was a luxury to her. She needed to focus all of her energy on making the coffee, as she didn't have the best hand-eye coordination with things other than penmanship and often tended to slip up.

Just as she finished preparing the coffee according to her meticulous memory of Giovanni's preferences, though, something on the television in the lounge caught her attention.

"We're back with coverage of this startling breaking news story out of Whitegold City," the male newscaster stated. The TV was tuned to a network other than the Everton News Channel. "As you can see in this footage given to us by the Everton News Channel, a division of Everton International, after fifty years of peace, Darkrai has appeared in Whitegold City and is currently engaged in a battle to the death with its mortal enemy, the city's guardian, Cresselia. A large-scale evacuation has been ordered, mandating that all people within the city's limits move into the Whitegold Dome, the massive sports complex where the Pokémon Bowl is held. It is currently unknown why Darkrai has suddenly reappeared."

"Mister Giovanni will need to know this…" Stacia mumbled to herself.

-:-

Just as the footage had shown, Darkrai and Cresselia were locked in vicious battle in Whitegold City. It was lucky that the evacuation happened so efficiently and quickly, because if people were still in the way of the warring titans, they would have gotten badly hurt. Darkrai's Dark Pulse and Ice Beam attacks, along with Cresselia's Signal Beam and Energy Ball, were going errant, striking significant damage into both the streets and buildings in the surrounding area. Darkrai also had tried several times to put Cresselia to sleep with Dark Void, but the orbs of dark energy simply had no effect on her.

Meanwhile, in one of the apartments of a nearby house, a cookie jar fell over atop a refrigerator. An unseen force opened the lid and picked up one of the round chocolate chip cookies, then materialized to reveal itself as Victini. Victini cheerfully grasped the cookie and took tiny bites into it, at least until there was an explosion near the window. Rattled, Victini floated with its cookie to peer out.

Visible from the window were the two warring Pokémon and their relentless attempts to strike each other down. While the pair jockeyed for position against each other, Darkrai managed to get off several Dark Pulses, one of which grazed Cresselia's body to leave a singed spot on her purple down. Cresselia responded by sending a shower of Energy Balls in Darkrai's direction, several making explosive contact to drive Darkrai back.

"Tini…" Victini said sadly, chewing on the cookie as it sat in the window and watched its guardian fight.

-:-

One hour later, the evacuation of Whitegold City to the Whitegold Dome was nearly complete. In order to speed the collecting of people inside the stadium, they were not being processed upon arrival; instead, all the evacuees' identification passes would be checked once no more people were arriving.

The Whitegold Dome was a massive sports complex that encompassed an entire city block. With a seating capacity of one hundred thousand, it was more than able to hold the roughly fifty thousand and counting that were flowing inside for safety. While some evacuees set up in the stands, many of them stayed out on the vast field of artificial green grass in the stadium's center, including Matt, Nekou, Olivia, Bunny and Katorena.

"All the Pokémon I'm seeing, it's so cool!" Olivia's excitement was at something that really mattered little at the time, but both Matt and Nekou perceived that she was doing it as a means of coping with the terrifying experience that was occurring. "Captain Everton's Cryogonal was like that mean lady Maria's Cryogonal, except it was a different color. Her Cryogonal had blue eyes and ice chains, if you remember. And then Darkrai… this Darkrai is even more awesome than the one Maria had!"

Olivia was speaking of Queen Shadow Maria, the former leader of the now-long-dead terrorist organization Enigma Shadow, which her father fought three times over roughly ten years. In the very last battle between the two of them five years earlier, Maria used both a Cryogonal and then a Darkrai against Rich, but not to much success.

Matt was there when the battle took place, and recalled those events in silence. He couldn't devote much brainpower to remembering things at the moment, though, as he was preoccupied with solving just what was going on in Whitegold City. The sounds of all the countless people around the group, added to the news broadcast playing on the giant video screen overlooking the field, didn't help at all in his attempts to think clearly.

"You say you have met Darkrai before?" Katorena, on the other hand, was surprised to hear Olivia's claims. "I have met many a Legendary Pokémon myself, but never a Darkrai. When I was growing up several friends of my parents owned such creatures, such as Zapdos and Heatran."

"Did you know that Matt has a Heatran?" Nekou chimed in. "He actually did a rather impressive job capturing it five years ago. Even now I have to give him some credit. He's reliable when the chips are down, if you can believe that."

"That doesn't make him any less of a scruffy vagrant in my eyes. Heatran is so rough and uncultured."

"Could you guys just knock it off for now?" Evidently it was Katorena's remark that pushed Matt over the edge, even if his irritation had been building since their arrival at the stadium. "This just doesn't feel right. Something has to be going on here. There's no reason why Darkrai would just suddenly appear and begin attacking the city, then get locked in combat with Cresselia."

"Try checking out that book you got from the woman at the inn," Bunny suggested.

"Excellent idea. It might have something about this legend."

Matt removed the book from his bag and flipped it open to the page he'd read earlier about Victini. From there, he turned to the next page, which indeed depicted Darkrai and Cresselia.

"Darkrai and Cresselia…" he read aloud. "They are as opposite as opposite can be. As Darkrai is the creator of nightmares, Cresselia is the Pokémon that dispels them. As such they are naturally fated to clash wherever and whenever they meet. Such an event has taken place in Whitegold City, where a Darkrai lived until Cresselia came. As fated, they fought, and Cresselia won. After that, Victini was taken into Cresselia's protection, and the city's fortunes changed greatly. It was never the same place again. For that reason I started the annual festival to celebrate both Victini and Cresselia."

"Who founded the festival?" Nekou asked, dropping into the conversation.

"This is a log written by Becket Everton, Liam Everton's grandfather," Matt answered, remembering that Nekou wasn't present when he'd received the book. "I got it from the innkeeper last night. It has information on a number of Legendary Pokémon in it."

"As a reminder if you're just tuning in," Midori droned on over the broadcast, "This is special coverage of the unfolding disaster in Whitegold City provided to you by Everton News Channel. Over the past hour, the Legendary Pokémon Darkrai and Cresselia have been engaged in a destructive battle inside Whitegold City, just as described in the folktales of an identical battle fifty years ago. It is still unknown why this is happening, but we are currently awaiting a statement from Captain Liam Everton, who also serves as city executive, on the crisiscorrection, I am now being told that we will be going live to Captain Everton's address to the city."

As everyone that had been evacuated into the stadium looked upward to the screen, Everton appeared. He was sitting at his desk in his office and looked outwardly angry.

"Citizens of Whitegold City," he thundered, his voice deep and powerful, "and tourists visiting our city as well, I come before you today to bring you up to speed on the disaster currently befalling our beloved city. Slightly over one hour ago, the Pokémon Darkrai appeared. This set in motion a chain of events that has ended in the clash of Darkrai and Cresselia, Whitegold City's guardian. This story is just the same as the one in the folk tales of fifty years ago. Everton International… and myself personally, we are dedicated to the safety of everyone within our borders. For that reason security measure D-10 has been activated, resulting in the mass evacuation of all in White gold City to the Whitegold Dome. This evacuation plan, which, as you know, we have rehearsed annually for years, is designed for the safety of the people. TheWhitegold Dome will serve as a safe haven for all as this crisis plays out. Essentially, it will be the ark that carries the populace into a new tomorrow! Remember, Everton International is dedicated to ensuring your safety as we manage this crisis. Please, remain calm and optimistic. Things will be over very soon. Thank you."

Once Everton's speech was over, Midori returned to the screen. "We're back now, following the statement from Captain Liam Everton on the unfolding Darkrai disaster. This is Everton News Channel's continuing coverage of the incident, and we will continue to bring you live updates and footage of the historic battle between Darkrai and Cresselia as this day goes on."

"Something's wrong," Matt sighed. "Just listening to that… it's never that easy. Something else is going on here and whatever it is, it's very wrong. We have to get out of here."

"And how do you suggest we do that?" Nekou growled in frustration. "There are Everton's guards posted at all the entrances. There's no way out."

"Think outside the box," suggested Olivia. "That's what Matt taught me to do to solve problems. There must be another way out than just out the exit."

Bunny abruptly grabbed Matt's shoulder to spin him around, and pointed out someone at the edge of the field where the spectator area began. "Over there, there's Rowena!"

"You're right." Breaking into a jog, with the others following him, Matt called out, "Hey! Rowena! Over here!"

"Sssh, be quiet!" she hissed once they reached her. "Everton's men can't know who I am. I'm undercover and a threat to his plans."

"Well, remember how you said you'd need our help?" When Rowena nodded, Matt continued, "It's time for us to help each other on that. We're looking for a way out of here because we don't trust what Everton is saying about this evacuation."

"Good thinking. I don't trust him either, obviously, and I actually have a way out." Olivia, Nekou and Bunny all crowded around Rowena as she took out her high-tech phone and clicked through files on it. "Here, look at this," she said, settling on a map file. "This is a blueprint of the Whitegold Dome that is publically available. See this maintenance hall here? That leads right outside, and it's unused so they won't think to guard it."

"Can we reach it?" Bunny inquired.

"Of course. Let's join up. It'll be easier to make everything work out that way."

-:-

Carefully balancing the saucer and coffee cup in her right hand, Stacia used her left hand to knock on the door of Giovanni's office. She had spilled it several times, necessitating her remaking it again and again, which was why it had taken her so long to finish.

"Come in!" her boss shouted from inside.

Stacia slowly and nervously disengaged the lock and then nudged the door open with her hip. Giovanni's office was as finely furnished as his lounge – a red velvet carpet coated the floor, while well-kept plants dotted the perimeter of the room against the wood-tone walls. Bookshelves and pieces of art alternately covered the walls, while the only window in the room was a floor-to-ceiling glass door that led to a balcony.

As for Giovanni himself, he was seated at his desk, wearing a black business suit accentuated with red pinstripes, along with a red necktie. He was staring at his computer and scowling as Stacia set down the coffee; she also mentally noted Persian curled up sleeping on the floor next to his owner.

"Mister Giovanni…"

"The coffee had better be good today, Stacia, I need it." Stacia shrunk back while Giovanni took up the coffee cup and sipped the hot liquid. Much to her surprise, he then smiled slightly. "Just the way I like it. Good job, Stacia."

"Thank you, Mister Giovanni," the secretary demurred, blushing slightly. Though she didn't have an air of confidence at all, when she did something that earned Giovanni's praise, Stacia felt proud of herself. She loved being praised for managing to do things correctly. "May I ask why you are angry, sir?"

"My stocks are going down because of what's happening in Whitegold City," he revealed, his voice returning to anger. "The global market is watching them nervously because of Everton International being headquartered there. If something happens to that company, it could send the entire global economy into shock. It's already starting… everything's going down except precious commodities. The stuff nobody buys except to hold some safe money in reliable investments."

"I was just… meaning to ask you if you had seen the news coverage." That question had already been more than answered for Stacia, once she heard Giovanni's complaints and saw a window on his computer screen showing a live stream of the Everton News Channel. "Is there… anything more I can do for you, sir?"

"Remain here with me. If this is going to spiral out of control into a truly global event, I'm going to need help managing it. Have you informed Dr. Zager of what's happening?"

"I… I have, sir." The excitement was rising in Stacia's body, even if she didn't show it. Being able to personally assist Giovanni was the most thrilling thing of all for her.

-:-

The sound of an old, rusted doorknob being turned echoed through the dank alley behind the Whitegold Dome. Rowena was the first to come out of the secret passage into the stadium, followed by Matt, then Nekou, Olivia, Bunny and Katorena. Silence hung over the narrow lane, broken only by the distant noises from Darkrai and Cresselia's fight.

"Alright, what now?" Matt sighed, leaning on a rusty dumpster that had long since been disused. "We got out. What can we actually do now?"

"We can't leave the city," Olivia thought aloud. "It wouldn't accomplish anything, and we'd get caught anyway."

"While I was inside the stadium," Rowena said without taking her eyes off her phone, "I looked carefully to see if Woods was there. Obviously there's a chance I missed him in a crowd of tens of thousands of people, but I can call him to find out."

"Do that."

With Matt's agreement, Rowena pressed a button on her phone, then held it up to her ear. The others watched her and waited with tense anticipation for what would come next.

"Oh, hello?" she abruptly answered finally. "Woods, it's Rowena. Are you at the Whitegold Dome right now? No?" Once it was clear Woods wasn't at the stadium, a sense of relief washed over the group. "We need to set up a meeting immediately. Where are you right now? Okay, stay there. We're on our way."

"Well, where is he?" Nekou forcefully demanded to know.

"He says he's at some old fortune teller named Aurelie's place out on the marsh."

"Could that be the woman from the fortune telling booth at the fair?" inquired Katorena as she adjusted her hat. "Check that card she gave you!"

"Alright, calm down…" As it turned out, Nekou had stuck the card down the front of her dress, even though it had pockets. "Yeah, it's her. I didn't notice that her name was printed on here before."

"I guess we know where we're going, then…" Matt then tilted his head and added, "And I guess you only wear a bra when you're dressed up? It's not like you didn't have pockets available either."

"Is now really the time to complain about getting some fanservice?" she countered. "Just get off my ass. Let's get to Aurelie's house and figure out where to go from there."

"Agreed," Rowena interjected, "the only thing to do now is keep moving."

-:-

Darkrai and Cresselia's fight raged on relentlessly, with neither side gaining the upper hand or getting tired. They were slowly moving into the poorer area of the city, in the direction of the marshland. What chiefly set the two districts apart was the difference in building quality; whereas the business district was filled with high-tech, glass-covered buildings, the poorer area was nothing more than tightly clustered houses made of aged, painted wood.

Taking aim at Cresselia, Darkrai launched a Dark Pulse. However, the blast missed and ripped through the street below, scattering cobblestones until it hit a gas-powered street lamp, which exploded in a shower of metal.

In retaliation Cresselia sent an Aura Sphere toward Darkrai. Unable to move quickly enough after its own move, Darkrai was hit square in the chest. It was sent falling to the street while growling in pain.

Quickly recovering, however, Darkrai countered with a blast of Thunder from its hands. The scattered lightning bolts hit Cresselia several times in addition to tearing holes in numerous surrounding houses.

-:-

A short while later, a large black helicopter bearing the golden Everton insignia was flying over Whitegold City. Inside, Foster was piloting the craft while Baker remotely supervised the final stage of the evacuation from his seat in the passenger cabin diagonally from Everton's. The captain, meanwhile, was nonchalantly checking his investments from the previous day on his computer.

"What's that?" Baker said aloud, holding his hand to his earpiece. "The head count of the evacuees is finished? Excellent. That's good, what has you upset then? …What?"

"What happened now, Baker?" asked Everton with an irritated tone.

"It seems the count of how many evacuees went to the stadium came up short, sir. The guards are forwarding you a list of the missing ones right now."

Almost instantaneously, a series of identification pass photographs appeared on Everton's computer.

The first photo was printed twice, as it was the photo of Matt and Nekou together. Olivia, Bunny, Katorena, Rowena, Aurelie and Woods were the rest of the list.

"Damn it!" Everton fumed, slamming his fist down on the armrest of his chair. "I should have known that it would be Chiaki's group to show up and cause problems!"

"It's not surprising, sir. We can't worry about them right now, though. We have bigger fish to fry."

"You're correct, Baker. At least I get some of my investment back on you. Do we have the infrared scanner up yet?"

"The infrared scanner is fully online, sir. Please have a look at the live feed."

By entering a command into his computer, Everton brought up a program that read 'Real-time Thermal Imaging – Whitegold City' on its header. Most of the screen was splotched with green and yellow, but there were a few spots of red, which indicated high heat concentration. The largest of these spots was over the marshland.

"So there you are, Victini," Everton said to himself with a smirk. "Let's see if any of my slaves have found you yet."

By tapping a few keys, Everton changed the computer screen from the thermal reading to the Dreamyarn Inceptor's readout display. Once again, several views of certain areas of the city appeared; some were in the streets, others near or inside dilapidated buildings, and still more in the swamps. The one thing they all had in common was that Victini was not visible anywhere.

"Did we release that Dream Mist for nothing?" snarled the captain in frustration. "The whole point of this system was to give me countless eyes to find Victini with!"

"Remember that we can use it for other things, too," Baker dutifully reminded his boss. "Even if we cannot find Victini by peering through the eyes of so many Pokémon, the enslaved Pokémon will still do our bidding."

"That is correct. In this case, I'll have to get my hands dirty." Rising from his seat, Everton issued a command to Baker, saying, "We're going to the cargo bay."

Without a word, Baker also stood. The two men walked briskly across the cabin to an elevator, which they boarded. Neither one spoke a word in the cramped, rectangular confines of the lift, both of them opting to obsess over the mission they were trying to carry out.

Before they knew it the elevator had stopped at the floor they needed. Floodlights mounted on the walls of the cargo hold cast a bright, harsh red glow throughout the vast iron chamber. Despite all the space available, however, the hold was occupied only by two vehicles. One of them, a gray Segway-like hoverboard, was the one Everton decided to use.

Stepping onto the hoverboard's platform, Everton pressed several of the keys on the wide dashboard spread before him. This activated the vehicle's powerup sequence, illuminating both the eight-inch touchscreen centered on the dashboard as well as the multicolored keyboards on its left and right. A string of plasma lights positioned across the front of the dashboard flicked on, as did the spotlight near the foot platform.

"Activate the synchronization between the mobile unit and the central servers," Everton ordered, without shifting his rigid, straightforward gaze.

Baker was nearly ahead of the order, already hard at work on a computer console against the nearby wall. As he worked, a series of windows came and went from display on the hoverboard's screen during the process of the data upload.

"Synchronization complete, sir."

As if to test the validity of Baker's claim, Everton entered a short command using the right-hand keyboard. This brought up a window containing the thermal imaging of Whitegold City; apparently satisfied, he then released his Klinklang and Cryogonal from their Ultra Balls.

Finally, he pressed a red button on the left side of the dashboard, bringing up a video link to Foster at the helicopter's controls.

"Alright, Foster, listen up."

"Sir?"

"Open up the cargo hatch. I'm going out to search for Victini personally."

"Yes, sir."

Turning to Baker, Everton completed his thought, "And you, Baker. You bring the truck and follow after me in a short while."

Baker briefly eyed the truck sitting on the other side of the cargo hold. "As you command, sir," he answered.

Just then, the sound of heavy metal moving prompted Everton to take hold of the handles that served to control the hoverboard. As the cargo hatch slowly creaked open, the floor where the hoverboard was sitting lowered as well. Once the moving platform reached a stop, with the pneumatics controlling its rise and descent letting off pressure, Everton brought the hoverboard off the ground and sent it gliding smoothly out into the airspace over Whitegold City. He knew where he was going with Klinklang and Cryogonal, and started flying toward the marsh.

-:-

With his group left to trek through Whitegold City to the swamp area by themselves, Matt found himself stuck walking as the leader to cut away brush with the blade inside his right sleeve. Rowena and Olivia were right behind him, the former guiding his path using Aurelie's business card map and the latter just enjoying the adventure through a seemingly exotic forest. After them, Bunny was simply enraptured by the scenery. Bringing up the rear, Nekou and Katorena were riding on the back of Tanya, Matt's Heatran. Marie in turn was riding on Nekou's head like usual while she held Zorua in her arms.

After what seemed like forever in the underbrush, the group emerged into a murky clearing right on the edge of the swamp. A single, run-down house sat on the shoreline, surrounded by greenish-brown reeds and lilypads floating on the black water. A yellow hovercraft was also sitting next to the house.

"Is this it?" Bunny wondered.

After double-checking the business card several times, Rowena nodded. "It should be."

"Alright, you know what that means, you two," Matt said, turning to Tanya, Nekou and Katorena with the Dusk Ball in his hand. "Free ride's over."

"What rot," complained the stuffy girl. Despite this, Katorena did get off of Tanya.

Nekou did as well, but she couldn't resist getting in one jab. "The more footwork you make me do, the less energy I have to do other things, you know."

"I don't want to hear it from either of you right now, seriously. We have more important things to do. Tanya, thank you. Return." A red beam lashed out of the button on the Dusk Ball, pulling Tanya back into its boundaries. It wasn't until then that Matt noticed the huge footprints she'd left behind in the soft earth. "Let's go…"

Matt didn't even get the chance to turn and head for Aurelie's home, however, as Olivia precluded him. She rushed off toward the house while shouting, "It's time for more fortune telling! Open up!"

"Now, now, Olivia…" Matt tried to caution, "being so rude won't get you anywhere."

"Says who?" Nekou interrupted, forcing a look of complete seriousness onto her face even though she was joking. "You can be a badass bitch if you want, as long as it's what you choose."

"I like the sound of that. 'Badass Bitch Olivia.' I might take that on as my name, if it gets my dad to notice me…"

"ENOUGH!" It wasn't Nekou provoking Olivia into bad behavior that so angered Matt, though it didn't help. The problem came from Olivia using said bad behavior as an admittedly appropriate justification for bringing back her very serious problems with her father again, which was something Matt just couldn't deal with.

He then realized he was being watched. The door of Aurelie's home was open, and Woods was standing there staring at the group of them arguing.

"You guys done?" he asked, only half-joking.

"For now," Matt replied in kind.

"Well if that's the case, then Aurelie has asked me to invite you all inside for some tea."

"Tea?" In an instant, Nekou was back at the head of the group, practically in Woods's face, beaming with excitement. "You said there's tea? Tell me, tell me now, where is it?"

"I do say," Katorena chimed in, "I might want a spot of tea myself."

"There's plenty to go around. Please, come inside."

-:-

A chain of Aura Spheres was trailing right behind Darkrai, and it frantically flew through the air in hopes of not only escaping Cresselia's assault but gaining a vantage point over her as well. Eventually, Darkrai started using trees as shields, baiting each Aura Sphere into hitting one.

Though Darkrai tried to hide in the aftermath left by the blasted trees, Cresselia saw easily through the dust cloud and sent one of her Energy Balls down. A pained growl from inside the cloud indicated that it was successful, a fact proven when Darkrai emerged with a few scattered burns on its body.

"Ra!" Darkrai screamed, tearing the energy for a Dark Pulse from its claws.

Cresselia countered by firing a shining, multicolored Signal Beam, and the two attacks met halfway in a powerful explosion. Darkrai hesitated to attack blindly and this came with a price – its opponent did not likewise wait, and as a result, a second Signal Beam came through and throttled Darkrai straight into a house. In fact, the impact was so forceful that part of the house started to collapse from it.

However, the complacency that allowed Cresselia to get in such a major hit soon reversed on her, as when she relaxed from attacking for just a brief moment, Darkrai lunged out of the wreckage, grabbed her, and launched Dark Pulse at point-blank range, creating an energy blast around them both.

-:-

Matt, Nekou, Olivia, Bunny, Katorena and Rowena were all sitting at a table inside Aurelie's house, sipping tea from delicate white china. The rooms were all quite dark, both from the darkly painted walls and the fact that the main sources of light were candles. Nekou quite clearly didn't mind the darkness, though, as she was busy trying to memorize as much as she could about the dwelling while looking around in awe. The walls were covered in various trinkets of stained glass and items crafted from yarn, such as a Sigilyph-themed dream catcher.

"Are you enjoying the tea?" Aurelie asked the group, while slowly walking into the room and sitting on the opposite side of the table alongside Gothitelle. "It's a recipe that's been passed down through generations of Whitegold City residents."

"Well, I…"

"This is some of the best tea I've ever had!" Nekou blurted out, interrupting Matt completely. "You're going to have to give me the recipe sometime, because I must have this in my life! Seriously!"

"You sure are enthusiastic," Matt uttered with a hint of sarcasm. "The tea must be good."

"It is, though," Rowena opined, adding, "I could write an interest piece on this alone if I was that kind of journalist still."

"I believe you all said you had some business, didn't you?" Woods spoke up. He was not with the others, instead opting to lean standing against the wall. He seemed to be distracted by fiddling with his cell phone. "I was just getting my fortune read here, but you wanted me to wait up, so what's going on?"

Adjusting her glasses, Rowena said, "We're very suspicious of what Everton is up to. Is there anything you can tell us about what's happening? About the evacuation plan, its rehearsals, anything?"

"We've been doing the rehearsals for at least twenty years now. Everton told us that it was in case of an emergency just like this. They went off roughly the first few years, but before long, the city got it down like a well-oiled machine."

"Miss Nekou…" Aurelie delicately entered, "…I am ready to finish your reading now."

"Are you sure you can handle my spiritual energy this time?"

"I'll have to, otherwise I'd need another medium to connect your energy and Gothitelle."

"Ooh, I have an idea!" Olivia exclaimed. "Use Dalian!"

"That is a great idea. Good job, you brilliant little thing. I love you for that." After giving Olivia a well-received pat on the head, Nekou took out one of her Poké Balls and opened it. "Dalian, come out here, would you?"

Dalian was a Pokémon with similarities to Gothitelle. She was feminine in appearance too, but her body was smaller, with a more defined shape. Like Gothitelle, she was mainly black in color with white ribbons on her body. The main difference was that while Gothitelle had the flat discs attached to her head, Dalian had pigtails instead.

"Ah! A Gothorita, Gothitelle's previous evolution stage! We can do the reading just fine this way. Dalian, please come right over here…"

Aurelie gestured to a spot next to Gothitelle, so Dalian jumped off the table and walked there. Once she was in position, the fortuneteller continued her instructions.

"Now, join hands and focus your minds as one. Gothitelle, when you reach complete synchronization, read Nekou's future!"

"Gothitelle…" the elder Psychic-type replied to her trainer. Along with the younger Pokémon working with her, she focused her mind, and soon found herself feeling profoundly as one with Dalian's mental abilities.

Before long, the two united, and they both cried out in unison as a window to another galaxy was created, just like it had been for Katorena. Aurelie wasted no time in looking it over, analyzing it for signs of Nekou's future.

"I see... hmm… this is quite something…" When Aurelie turned back to Nekou and the others, her face was cloaked in shadow, rendering her appearance rather frightening. "Nekou, you stand at a crossroads. From where you are now, your path can go in one of two directions, which will lead you to one of two very different fates. Down one road, you will find yourself walking alongside friends and allies. You will be challenged to a painful degree, but if you can keep your feet on this road, at the end you will ultimately find salvation and happiness. The other road, however, will lead through nothing but sorrow, ultimately bringing you to complete and utter despair. The choice of which road you'll take will be in your hands."

For once, Nekou was silent. All she could do was stare into the purple cloth thrown over the table as she tried to comprehend everything Aurelie had told her. She was used to her carefree, casual lifestyle, and if something was going to happen to disrupt that, Nekou was unsure of how or even if she'd be able to cope with it.

Her troubled line of thinking was interrupted when she felt a nudging against her arm. Next to her, Marie and Zorua were looking up at her with great worry, concerned for the well-being of their mother figure.

"Aww, it's okay," Nekou soothingly said, patting both of their heads and smiling. "Everything will be just fine, I'm sure."

"I think we're done here, then," Matt declared, rising from his seat. He then turned halfway and addressed Woods, saying, "Mister Woods, I have a question to ask you myself. Would you take us to where you alluded to Victini possibly being?"

"I suppose," Woods replied, pushing himself forward off the wall, "but why? There's no guarantee it will be there."

"I'll level with you. I have been paying attention to all the information I've been hearing about Victini, and I've come to a decision. We will go to where Victini is and I will make the contract to acquire the Victory Star for myself."

A loud collective gasp erupted from the people gathered around Matt when he made this announcement. Not one of them – not even Katorena or Rowena, whom he'd just met – could believe he'd take such an action.

"But… why?" Devastatingly enough, it was Olivia who put words to the shock they all felt. Her voice was shaky, reflecting the repeated feeling of betrayal she had. With Rich gone, she couldn't bear to have another role model, even one she abused regularly, fail morally like this. "You can't mean it…"

Though he was shaken by Olivia's pleading, Matt elaborated on his decision. "The only way I can ever have peace is if I learn the truth behind what happened at La Ciudad Dorada," he explained. "I've learned of Reshiram, the legendary Pokémon whose flames burn to reveal truths. If I can find Reshiram, I can learn the truth that I desire, and the Victory Star can guide me there. I don't care what price I have to pay to make that contract. If I have the Victory Star, I can find Reshiram, and then my existence will have completed its meaning."

A sharp impact suddenly struck the side of Matt's face, sending him crashing to the floor. It was Nekou, who, having risen while Matt was giving the explanation of his plans, had smacked him.

She now towered over him, and the candlelight glowing in her glasses concealed the tears forming at the corners of her eyes from him. "How can you even think about throwing your life away like that? You don't know what the price of Victini's contract is! You want to take a gamble on potentially throwing away everything on a risk that might not even pay off? It's not worth it! It's not fucking worth it! Just... just look around you! Look at Olivia! What do you think she would do if something happened to you?"

Matt couldn't respond. He had gotten back on his feet, but Nekou's outburst completely stunned him. He still couldn't see the tears in her eyes, but when he looked to Olivia and saw her openly crying, something in his mind snapped back into place. Just seeing Olivia made him realize how irrational he was being, and that it didn't matter what he wanted to learn or accomplish because his first duty was to maintain her well-being instead.

"Nekou… you're right," he finally said, albeit very quietly. His mood brightened, however, when he turned to Olivia. "So, Olivia, do you want to see Victini?"

"Do you promise not to do anything stupid?" she begged tearfully.

Matt ignored how painful this question was to him and simply answered it, "Of course."

-:-

As Woods led Matt, Nekou, Olivia, Bunny, Katorena and Rowena to his black hovercraft, which was landed next to Aurelie's house on the swamp water, Victini watched silently from the bushes nearby.

-:-

"This is terrible, Butler… how could the festival gone this wrong?"

Diane and Butler were still in the Whitegold Dome with the other evacuees, and like the others, they were growing nervous and agitated. The ceaseless live broadcast of Cresselia and Darkrai's vicious battle wasn't helping matters any.

"I don't know, Diane, but everything's going to be okay. Everything will turn out just fine. Once we meet up with Matt and Katorena, they should be able to help us." Just then, Butler was alerted by his hand being nudged. It was his Mightyena, who was trying to get his attention. "What is it, Mightyena? Have you found Matt and Katorena yet?"

Mightyena barked, then turned and started to walk off, beckoning Butler and Diane to follow him. They did so, and were led toward the hall where the abandoned maintenance passage was.

-:-

Woods drove the hovercraft down the murky waters of the swamp for about fifteen minutes, during which few words were exchanged between the passengers. Their goal turned out to be an old church made of gray stones that rested right on the boundary between the marshland and the poorer urban area of Whitegold City.

"Wow, it's so beautiful…" Bunny said in awe as she disembarked the hovercraft with the others. While walking up the hill to the church, she continued, "I can feel the history coming off of this place…"

"It's one of the oldest landmarks in Whitegold City," Rowena added. "This church has been here for over one hundred and twenty years, at least."

Woods set his hands on the handles affixed to the heavy wooden doors of the church and started to push them open. While he did this, he continued the story, "One hundred and thirty-five years, in fact."

The interior of the church was somewhat dim, with light filtering in through the stained glass windows on the left and right walls, four on each side. Each opposite pair depicted the same image as its counterpart – the first two displayed a sword-shaped castle floating in the sky; the second pair an old man with long, flowing white hair and a beard; the third and fourth pairs, meanwhile, depicted two different poses of Victini itself.

The group stared at the splendor of the stained glass windows and stone walls as Woods led them down the aisle between rows of seats. Matt and Bunny were especially intrigued, with Matt even taking out his tablet computer to record footage of the church's magnificence.

"One thousand years ago," Woods continued to explain, "The place in Unova known as the Kingdom of the Vale was destroyed, and its inhabitants, the People of the Vale, scattered to the winds. Some of the People of the Vale eventually made their way here, to Kanto. They founded a settlement and lived in peaceful isolation for centuries. Eventually, however, they had to connect to the outside world. It was Liam Everton's ancestors who first promoted interaction and trade with the settlement, and the small village soon grew into what we know today as Whitegold City. One hundred and thirty-five years ago, the People of the Vale who lived in the city at the time constructed this church as a monument both to the city's prosperity and two the memories of their lost homeland. Many of the residents of the city today are descended from the People of the Vale, including me."

"What a story…"

"Indeed, it is quite fascinating…" Katorena shared Olivia's enthralled reaction, as the two of them were both staring at Woods to pay close attention.

Having made it to the back of the church, Woods opened the gnarled door that sat there. It loudly creaked as he opened it, the hinges not having been maintained regularly for years. A dark staircase lay beyond the doorway, one that was lit only by a string of tiny bulbs that activated when Woods flipped a switch on the wall.

"Come on. If Victini is here, we'll have to go down. Follow me."

The stairs were made of old, decrepit wood, so when Woods set foot on them, they let out a sickening groan. Each step he took down the dimly-lit path produced a louder and louder sound. This was true for the others when they started down the staircase as well, even Katorena, despite her light, petite frame.

Wherever Woods was leading the group, it was quite far underground, judging by the length the staircase went on for. The passage was also quite cramped and dusty, which made Matt and Bunny nervous; Nekou, on the other hand, seemed to not mind it. At any rate, when Woods finally reached the bottom, the sound of his shoes hitting the stone floor echoed back up.

"Come down here, all of you," he instructed, moving to the left and looking for something on the wall.

"What are you doing over there?" Matt asked, confused about walking into the dark chamber at the bottom of the stairs.

"Looking for the light switch." As if on cue, Woods just happened to find the button at that exact moment.

"Hey, Matt, since when did we have to go down into smelly basements?" Olivia complained. "It's dark and it stinks down here!"

Amidst Olivia's laments, Woods flipped the switch, turning on the rickety light system in the basement, which was actually just some bulbs hanging from the ceiling by cords. As for the room itself, while it was rather spacious, there was little inside. Shelves lined with torn containers of various dry foods surrounded the walls, and on the far end of the room, there was a small pool filled with still water.

"Victini's here?" Rowena wondered aloud, unable to comprehend that a rare and powerful Pokémon could be in such a run-down place. "Judging by the food, someone's been here, but Victini?"

"I put the food here," Woods informed the others. Taking a step forward, he continued, "I'm not sure if Victini is here right now, but this is where it lives. Victini!" he called out. "Hey, Victini! Victini, if you are here, please come out! Victini!"

There was no response to Woods's invitation after several seconds, prompting Olivia to sigh in frustration.

"How disappointing," she groaned, shrugging her shoulders. "I guess Victini wasn't here after all."

"You sure are boring, old man," Nekou added as an insult to Woods. "First I kick your ass at cards and then you lead us on this wild goose chase? Even Matt is more interesting than you."

Nekou reached into her pocket and took out a RageCandyBar, a confection covered in a green wrapper, not even noticing the glare Matt gave her for her remark. While she started to unwrap it, Katorena coughed.

"Victini is part Fire-type and part Psychic-type, so I was very interested in meeting it," she commented.

"I'm sorry, Katorena," Bunny said in an attempt to comfort her new friend. "Seeing Victini would have been quite interesting, indeed, but it looks like we won't be doing that."

"Haven't you had enough of strange experiences with rare Pokémon?" Nekou deadpanned while chewing on her candy bar. "It was just Moltres and Zoroark the other day," she said, alluding to the events of two days prior in Argyros Town. "Maybe this is for the better, if you could possibly consider that."

With that, Nekou swallowed the bite of chocolate and moved to take another. Much to her surprise, however, she found herself unable to move her arm very far easily, as if something was pulling on it.

"Nekou, what are you doing?" The sight of Nekou's arm jerking subtly back and forth was rather humorous, and as such, Matt got a chuckle out of it. "Candy is for eating, not for playing."

"Shut… shut the fuck up! I don't know what's going on here, okay? I can't move my arm! Something's grabbed it and won't…"

"Tini! Tiniiiii!"

The voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere simultaneously, and it gave the humans in the room pause. It had no visible source, which only made its otherworldly sound even more unsettling. A moment later, the RageCandyBar finally tore itself out of Nekou's hand, at which point it floated – seemingly by itself – several feet across the room.

"What the hell is going on?" Olivia screamed, giving words to the shock everyone except Woods felt.

And then, the explanation for everything became clear. The candy bar stabilized in the air, and as it appeared to be getting eaten, Victini materialized, happily chewing away at the sweet snack. Instantly, the mood in the air whiplashed from one of disappointment to one of surprise, excitement and joy. At long last, the goal the group had sought had finally appeared before them.

"It's Victini!" Matt, Olivia, Bunny and Rowena all exclaimed at once.

"Am I still boring?" Woods grumbled to Nekou, having been vindicated by Victini's appearance.

Nekou, however, didn't care what he had to say at all. "Hey, you! What right do you have to take my candy? It belongs to me!"

"Easy now, Nekou," soothed Matt, who held his hand out in front of her. "Victini's had to sustain itself without too many treats, it looks like, so cut it a break."

The only response Nekou had to this advice was to take in a breath and puff up her cheeks to show her frustrated anger. Meanwhile, Katorena decided to take action and boldly walked right up to Victini.

"Greetings, Legendary Pokémon Victini," she said, curtsying while speaking with her usual stuffy dignity. "My name is Katorena. I am training to be an expert of Psychic-type Pokémon and it is an honor to meet you."

Becoming distracted from the candy bar for a bit, Victini stared at Katorena with its wide blue eyes. Judging her to be a friend, it jumped onto her head and started playing with her hair while cheerfully saying its name.

"Stop it, you rogue! Get off me!" Katorena was actually clearly fighting back laughter as she tried to get Victini off of her head, making it clear to the others that they didn't have to worry about anything.

Satisfied with what he was seeing, Woods turned to the exit. "I have some things to do, so I'll leave you to your devices now. Have fun with Victini, alright?"

"Don't you worry about that, old man!" exclaimed Olivia, having picked up Nekou's way of referring to him.

-:-

"Klinklang, Gear Grind!"

"Klang! Klinklang!"

Everton's Klinklang hovered over to a thick section of underbrush growing on the banks of the swamp. It started rotating its gears at an extremely fast speed and then pushed into the weeds, mowing them down between the rapidly-turning components of its body. Multiple Tympole, Palpitoad, Poliwag, Krabby, Marill and Wooper fled as their home in the grass was destroyed.

"Damn it!" Everton thundered, slamming his fist down on the dashboard of his hoverboard. He was positioned next to his Cryogonal, both of them floating over the swamp's water. "Why can't I find it? Where is Victini?" He looked down at the thermal imaging radar, which was showing similar readings to the ones from earlier. "The Dreamyarn Inceptor didn't help with this at all, and even though this thermal imaging program is indicating I'm near Victini, I just can't find it!"

A beeping sound emanating from the computer screen on the dashboard snapped Everton out of his enraged state, even if temporarily. It was being caused by a small icon of an envelope on the screen.

"A text message?" After tapping the icon with his finger, Everton read the message to himself. As its meaning sunk in, he slowly began to smile broadly. "I see," he said pensively, leaning forward with his elbow on the dashboard for a moment.

He then hit several of the computer keys to his left, causing communication channels to Baker and Foster to open.

"Baker! Foster!"

"Sir!" the two guards rigidly answered.

"Where are you two?"

"Foster is about to drop me off in the truck," Baker replied. "We just landed."

"Both of you come to my location in the truck," Everton instructed his henchmen. "Bring all the capture equipment. Soon, complete victory will be mine."

-:-

In the basement of the church, Olivia was playing with Victini alongside her Minccino, Rowena's Cinccino, Marie and Nekou's Zorua. Katorena, meanwhile, was sitting on a bench nearby and simply watching, trying to maintain her air of dignity.

"The appearance of Darkrai and subsequent showdown between Darkrai and Cresselia… and then, the evacuation plan that was carefully rehearsed for years before it was actually needed, at which point it just happened to fit what was happening perfectly… doesn't it strike you as far too coincidental?"

Rowena, Matt, Nekou and Bunny were sitting on another bench and working together to plan their next move. The reporter had a small notebook computer out and was using it to review her notes on the situation.

"I agree," Bunny responded, nodding. "Things just don't happen like that for no reason. It sounds almost like it was planned out."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Rowena confessed. "All of this fits together far too well to simply be chance. I fear that Everton may be the man in the shadows manipulating this entire situation. The battle between Darkrai and Cresselia provides the perfect cover story to pacify the masses while simultaneously keeping tabs on everyone so they won't get in the way."

"But what is he after?" Matt questioned.

"Here, have a look at this."

Rowena loaded a video on her computer, then turned it so the others could see the screen. The clip was of a political television talk show, and the host, a slightly overweight man with thinning blonde hair, was about to interview Liam Everton.

"We're back. Let's introduce our guest for tonight. He's the president of multi-billion-dollar international corporation Everton International and an important leading figure in the global economy, Captain Liam Everton. Good evening, Captain."

"Good evening."

"Let's get right down to business. You're always a busy man, Captain, running here to tend to petroleum development, there to maintain your interests in global banking, all the way over there for freight shipping, investments in new technology… well, my point is that you always have a lot of things going on for yourself. Tell us, what's keeping you busy these days?"

"I'm glad you asked that. I'm working on finding a brilliant energy source that will change the world. I don't have it yet, but it's right within Whitegold City itself! Just begging to be taken! Once I get it, the conversation about energy in this country will be changed forever, I promise you that."

"When is this clip from?" asked Nekou.

"This is from the October 29, 2008 broadcast of Down To Business, the business-themed talk show based out of Goldenrod City. Whatever this energy source he's talking about is, it's in Whitegold City and I think it's what he's pursuing right now. If you ask me, I think it's a massive new oil field that's located underneath the city."

"What if I was complicit in all this?" Matt clenched his hands on his lap and stared down intensely at them. The thought quickly overtaking him was that his speech was also part of Everton's plan of diversion, and even if he had no clue of what he was being used for, Matt could not live with the guilt. "We can't even tell just how far Everton is willing to go, and some of it might be my fault…"

"It's not your fault in any way," Bunny said, raising her voice slightly to get her point across. "If our worst suspicions are true, Everton's been planning this day for possibly even twenty years or more. He may have been planning this for longer than some of us have been alive! How could you have had anything to do to actually affect that?"

"You know, for once, you're actually right," commented Nekou, sarcastically but honestly. "The only thing you could be responsible for is not doing anything about Everton now."

"You guys will be along for the ride, though… actually, I'd ask if you were willing to follow me into battle against him, but after what we've already been through, Everton seems like nothing."

-:-

Little did Matt know that Liam Everton was right outside the church at that exact moment, floating on his hoverboard above the church's courtyard. As the captain gazed down at the stone shrine, his mind filled with excited thoughts about his decades-long quest coming to an end.

"So there it is. This was where Victini was hiding out all along, was it? It all really does return to nothing, where it all started. And so here is where it begins… the new era in the history of energy!"

The sound of a truck engine signified the arrival of Baker and Foster in their silver Humvee emblazoned with Everton's golden logo on the doors. Once the vehicle stopped, the two guards – each carrying two large armored briefcases – jumped out. Under their captain's watchful eye, Baker and Foster carefully arranged the briefcases on the ground to form a diamond pattern.

Seeing that they were finished, Everton pushed a button on his control panel, making the briefcases open. A lightning rod-like device rose up from the inside of each case, but otherwise, nothing happened yet.

"Everything's ready now. All that remains is the main ingredient to create the dish." Everton snickered to himself when he saw the live feed of Darkrai and Cresselia's battle that appeared on his dashboard screen, then used one of his keyboards to enter a command code.

-:-

One of Cresselia's Aura Spheres had hit Darkrai, sending the nightmare-creating Pokémon skidding in the mud. Before Darkrai could recover and retaliate with a counterattack, the collar around its neck activated, sending an electric shock through its body.

"Raaaaaaiii!"

The electric shock soon ceased, but the collar wasn't done; it started to force Darkrai to turn in the direction of the church, toward where Everton was. When Darkrai tried to turn back, another brief shock was delivered. Left trapped between being electrocuted and Cresselia bearing down on it with another Aura Sphere ready, Darkrai chose the only available escape and began flying toward the church.

Cresselia wasn't far behind. She had abandoned her latest Aura Sphere in favor of Signal Beam, but every kaleidoscopic laser sailed right past her target as Darkrai swerved in midair to dodge.

The pair of warring Pokémon showed no sign of letting up their conflict as they sailed over the city. Darkrai certainly wasn't trying to retreat and flee from Cresselia, but the collar left it no choice. If Darkrai did anything other than follow where it was being led, the shocks would become even harsher as a result.

It took less than three minutes for Darkrai and Cresselia to enter the field of Everton's notice. He watched intently as Darkrai flew right past his eyes, as well as those of Baker and Foster, but did nothing else.

Once Cresselia entered the courtyard, though, everything changed.

"Now!" Everton roared, slamming his hand down on one of the dashboard buttons.

The lightning rods sticking out of the four briefcases sparked to life, releasing stray electricity as they powered up. In mere moments they honed in on Cresselia and used blasts of lightning to restrain her. As her body started to spasm violently in response to the agonizing energy coursing through it, Cresselia cried out.

-:-

"Vicuti?"

Victini sensed something as it was playing and abruptly stopped, much to the surprise of Minccino, Cinccino, Marie and Zorua. It simply stared unflinchingly at the doorway without moving.

"You lot, what is wrong with Victini?" Katorena had picked up on the change in Victini's behavior as well, and she felt worried by it. "You all see it, right? Why isn't Victini cheerfully gallivanting anymore?"

"I see it," Olivia concurred. "Victini, what's wrong?"

There was no response. Instead, Victini floated into the air and said its name, then darted out of the basement room. Immediately, Matt, Nekou, Bunny, Olivia and Rowena were also on their feet.

"Hurry!" Matt ordered, taking charge of the group. "After Victini, now!"

"Something has gone very wrong…" Rowena added quietly.

While the group gave pursuit to Victini, the six running back up the gnarled stairway and back through the main church, they silently wondered about what was going on. Was it that one of them had done something to upset Victini? Did it simply sense a snack or treat of some kind? Was danger imminent nearby?

It was the third of those possibilities.

Just as Victini emerged from the church, the trap restraining Cresselia released her and locked onto Victini instead. The legendary Fire-and-Psychic-type was dragged, screaming, into the center of the diamond, where it was pinned by the electrical bolts inside an energy field. Escape was impossible, and the pain was nearly too much for Victini's body to endure.

Moments later, Matt and the rest of the group burst out of the old cathedral. Immediately, the sight of Victini being tortured inside the trap made them recoil in horror.

"Victini!" Matt gasped. "What's happened?"

"Cryogonal, use Wrap!"

On its trainer's command, Everton's Cryogonal suddenly descended from the sky and attacked Matt's group with its ice chains. The chain on Cryogonal's left side grabbed up Bunny and Olivia, while the right-hand chain collected Rowena and Nekou. On both sides, the victims got squeezed tightly by Cryogonal in order to restrain them.

"It's that scoundrel Everton!" Katorena shrilled once she saw him on his hoverboard nearby. "Just what do you think you're doing, you vile man?"

Everton lowered his altitude and drew closer to Matt, Katorena and Cryogonal's victims. "I am simply fulfilling the fate I was destined to complete!"

"Excuse me," Nekou moaned from the confines of Cryogonal's ice chain, "could you make this a little tighter? If you think you're calling this being tied up, you really are a failure of a villain."

"You're lucky you're not already dead. Real winner you've got there, Chiaki," Everton shot back. However, when Matt started laughing, Everton became confused. "What is so funny?"

"Oh, just how hard she just owned you. It's funny that you decided to use restraints on someone who it looks like she likes it!"

"Don't forget about us!" Bunny cried out, referring to herself, Olivia and Rowena, all three of whom seemed very uncomfortable.

Suddenly, Matt felt like he was being watched and turned to his left, where he spotted Woods leaning against a nearby tree. Breathing a sigh of relief, he said, "Oh, thank goodness, Woods, you're still here. Help us out, please!"

Woods did not respond, and now it was Everton's turn to laugh.

"You aren't really that good with observing your surroundings after all, are you?" he taunted while retreating on his hoverboard to his original position behind Baker and Foster. "Let me spell it out for you." Everton then raised his right hand next to his face, flashed the 'V' symbol, and called out, "Victory Star!"

"Victory Star!" Baker was the first to mimic the salute.

"Victory Star!" Foster promptly followed.

Finally, in front of six sets of horrified eyes, Woods stepped up next to Baker and Foster and flashed the salute himself. "Victory Star!"

"You've been… working for Everton all along…" Rowena voiced, nearly barely able to speak in her state of wide-eyed shock. Woods was someone she had trusted from the very beginning of her mission to take Everton down, and now that she realized he was still with her target the whole time, she felt like a complete fool.

"Survival of the fittest, Rowena," Woods said smugly and directly. "I really did like you and your earnestness in pursuing Captain Everton, but in the end, it's Everton who will be standing on top when all is said and done. And the winner is the one whose side you want to be on when all the cards have been played. With the power of the Victory Star, Captain Everton will save this city from the economic hardship that has enveloped it!"

"But look what he's doing!" Matt yelled in anger, gesturing to Victini inside the torturous trap and the injured Cresselia nearby. "I can tell you're a good man, Woods, so how can you stand for this? He's destroying the culture of this city!"

"Like I said, it's about survival. That's an unfortunate fact."

"Give it up, Chiaki," Everton mocked, wearing a wicked grin. "Even if your friends weren't neutralized, it's impossible for you to stop me. Baker! Foster! You too, Woods! Go forth and buy time for the Victory Star to appear!"

"Yes, Captain Everton!" all three replied before throwing Poké Balls.

Baker and Foster used their Sawk and Throh, as before. Woods's Pokémon, however, was something new – a green, yellow-eyed cactus with two smaller, pink-flower-topped cacti for ears.

"Your Throh and Sawk are looking as healthy as ever," Woods complimented Foster and Baker, making it sound like he hadn't seen them in a while. "Maractus is doing well too."

"That's good to hear."

"Foster, Woods, shut up!" Baker fumed. "Focus on Captain Everton's orders!"

"I'll take care of these three," Katorena declared, stepping forward in front of Matt, who looked at her with surprise. "You focus on the big fish, ruffian! Go after Liam Everton while I battle these three knaves!"

"Are you sure?"

"Don't question me! Know your place and do as I say!"

"Alright, alright!" Sufficiently cowed by Katorena's outburst, Matt separated from her to face Everton alone. "None of what you're trying to do makes any sense, Everton. That's irrelevant, though… I can't stand by while you do it."

"Really, now? Will a boy like you actually have the power to stand up to me?" Everton taunted in response, his grin widening. "Very well, let's see what you've got."

From the inside of his suit Everton took out a third Ultra Ball, one that as yet had remained unseen. When he opened it, it released a towering draconian Pokémon with six wings jutting out from the black covering on his back. Three blue heads also grew out of his body, but only the middle one was fully functional; the left and right heads were positioned like hands and less than fully developed, with the purple pupils of the middle head's red eyes missing. From the Pokémon's blue underside emerged two limp, useless legs as well as a tail, tracked with tank tread-like markings.

"Dre-eiiiii!" the Pokémon roared, his voice blasting from the mouths on all three of his heads.

-:-

"We apologize to our viewers," Midori waffled on the news broadcast whose live stream Giovanni and Stacia were watching on his office computer. "It appears that we have lost the live feed of Cresselia and Darkrai's battle. In order to continue our unbending goal of delivering the most up-to-date news as you need it, the Everton News Channel will work to restore the footage as soon as possible. This is the continuing live coverage of the disaster in Whitegold City, and we will be right back with more."

"What do you think, Stacia?"

"E-Excuse me, sir?" As made plain by her reaction, Stacia wasn't used to being asked her opinion on anything.

"What do you think of this situation?" Giovanni posed again. "The unnatural appearance of a Pokémon long gone from Whitegold City. The resulting war between it and its sworn enemy, which threatens to destroy the entire city. How could the man who rules that place with an iron fist not know something about what is going on?"

"What… what exactly are you suggesting, sir?"

"Liam Everton knows far more about this than he's made apparent. His news broadcast is clearly an attempt at good public relations to maintain his façade during the disaster, in order to move focus away from his true connection to the events playing out."

Just as Giovanni finished his explanation of his hypothesis, a window he'd minimized into the upper-left corner of his screen began sounding an alarm beep. His hand swiftly went to the mouse sitting on his desk, which he used to guide the cursor on its way to expanding the window.

What he saw made him slam his fist down on the armrest of his chair so hard that it woke Persian out of his sleep nearby.

'Black City Exchange Trader's Account,' read the header of the window. Below it, a number of stocks were listed – Kanto Region Sovereign Currency, down 499 points so far that day. Driftveil Freight, down 503. Canalave Mining Corporation, down 478. These were just three of Giovanni's stock holdings, but the numbers were looking the same across the board. Hurriedly, Giovanni pulled open the window that displayed the general listings for the entire Black City Exchange, and much to his and Stacia's horror, the steep drop was afflicting nearly everything. Only precious commodity stocks, such as Brick Piece Reserves, Star Piece Trading, Icirrus Mineral Collection and Nugget Futures weren't in the red, and they were shooting upward at just as much of an alarming rate.

"The events in Whitegold City are tanking the stock market already…" Stacia astutely observed. "All investors are running to get their money into the safe, long-term commodity exchanges…"

"Stacia…" Giovanni said into his folded hands, showing a hint of nervousness, an unusual emotion for him, "put in a call to Governor Tobias's office. Tell them I need to speak to him right away. And once you're on a secure line, get that contact out to Dr. Zager already."

-:-

"Medicham, Ice Punch!"

"You won't get away with that, Katorena. Maractus, Cotton Guard!"

Breaking away from her Beheeyem and Starmie, Katorena's Medicham bore down on Woods's Maractus with her fist encased in freezing cold energy. Maractus, however, faced this without fear and generated a barrier of thick cotton around her body, deflecting nearly all of the strike's impact.

"Just where we wanted you. Go forth, Throh! Use Stone Edge!"

"You get in a shot too, Sawk. Poison Jab!"

Sawk and Throh double-teamed Medicham on the orders of their trainers. The latter created a field of energy around his body that turned into dozens of sharp-edged rocks, and by swinging his arms around, Throh made the stones barrage Medicham. Almost immediately after that, Sawk jumped in and stabbed Medicham in her stomach with his upturned hand, which was glowing purple.

Weary from the two strong attacks she had weathered, Medicham fell back.

"Medicham, be careful, I implore you!" Thinking of how tough Baker, Foster and Woods actually were, Katorena realized that she would need a great dose of ingenuity to win against them. She relished the challenge. "Medicham, Zen Headbutt! Beheeyem, use Psychic to hold Sawk in place for Medicham! And Starmie, hit them all using Blizzard!"

"Throh, hurry and use Wide Guard!"

Showing surprising agility for his squat body type, Throh stepped forth and spread his arms, creating a shield in front of himself and his allies that blocked the blast of icy air that Starmie sent their way.

The shield did not, however, block the psychic powers that grasped Sawk's body, holding him down. He was left a sitting duck as Medicham charged with her head lowered and glowing.

Meanwhile, Matt had sent Tanya to battle Everton's third Pokémon, the menacing dragon he called Hydreigon. Despite her size, even Tanya was dwarfed by Hydreigon's massive body; he had to be at least eight feet in height. He also had the ability to fly, which was rendering Tanya's job fighting him as a lot harder.

"Crawl around all you want, little rat," Everton shouted from the safety of his hoverboard while Hydreigon flew around above Tanya's reach. "You will never be able to defeat me! Hydreigon, Focus Blast!"

"Counter with Flash Cannon, Tanya! Hurry!"

Tanya and Hydreigon launched similar blasts from their mouths at their foes; Tanya's was bright silver while Hydreigon's was red. The two attacks met in between their users and exploded grandly, reflecting the kind of power that went into them. Matt had to hold his hat down to prevent it from being blown away by the wind gust.

Off to the side, Bunny was desperately writhing within the bondage of Cryogonal's ice chain, trying to reach her Poké Balls and send one of her Pokémon to help Matt.

They remained just out of reach for her, however, so she craned her neck to call back to Olivia. "Olivia! See if you can reach one of your Poké Balls! We need to help Matt!"

"I can't move enough to reach them!" Olivia answered, a response that caused both of their hearts to sink.

"Kuruu!" Nearby, Cresselia had finally pulled herself off the ground, where she'd been thrown following her release from Everton's trap. She looked up in pain, crying out when she saw her beloved friend Victini being tortured inside of the energy field.

Unexpectedly, Cresselia's body began to glow with intense silver light that soon focused on her head. It was a Zen Headbutt attack, just like Katorena's Medicham's but much stronger. She released a shrill cry into the air before ramming the energy field surrounding Victini. Sparks flew everywhere as she used all her strength to force closer and closer to Victini, eventually coming within inches of the center of the field, while the energy from her Zen Headbutt was absorbed evenly into the four generators.

"Vi… kuu…" Victini weakly groaned, trying to turn itself toward Cresselia, the one source of reassurance it had at the time.

Taking notice of Cresselia's valiant rescue effort, Everton grunted in amused disgust. "Cresselia, are you really that foolish, to think that you can break through there after I had you pinned inside?" Flicking his hand forward with little care, he ordered, "Hydreigon, Flamethrower."

It was then that the true, terrifying potential of Hydreigon's ability became apparent. He didn't even have to turn to attack Cresselia, he just used one of his smaller, undeveloped heads to flick a fireball in her direction. When it hit her, she was violently thrown away from Victini and the machines.

"Tiniiiii!" cried out the horrified Victini as it watched its friend disappear from sight.

"Everton, how could you?" Matt shouted, having seen enough of the man's cruelty. "Stop this!"

"Stop this?" the captain mocked from on high. "I'm just getting started. Hm?"

A series of Pokémon cries prompted Matt to turn around. He spotted Olivia's Minccino, Marie, Nekou's Zorua and Rowena's Cinccino rushing toward the generator cases. The group of four made a valiant attempt to break one of the cases, first with Marie and Zorua using Ice Beam and Dark Pulse simultaneously. That was followed by Cinccino shocking the generator with Thunderbolt, and finally, once Cinccino's electric attack subsided, Minccino hit the case four times with a cyclical tail attack.

None of it worked; the case remained undamaged. Almost immediately, Everton and Hydreigon had repositioned themselves, now hovering above the group of four Pokémon.

"Useless. Hydreigon, prepare a Dragon Pulse."

Inhaling deeply, Hydreigon gathered up a massive cloud of purple energy in a spherical shape before his center head. It was obvious what he was going to do with it, prompting both Olivia and Rowena to scream.

"Stop! Minccino isn't a part of this! Leave her alone!"

"Neither is Cinccino! Your problem is with me, not her! Back o…"

Rowena was cut off when she felt Nekou tightening up against her back, crushing her against the confines of Cryogonal's ice chain. Wisps of Nekou's hair strangely started to drape over Rowena's shoulders as well.

"Are you going to hurt Marie and Zorua…?" Nekou growled through her tightly gritted teeth. To get a handle on her rapidly escalating anger she forcefully shut her eyes, but when she reopened them, they were filled by a strange, bright yellow glow. "It'll be the last mistake you make!"

Everton ignored Nekou, while maintaining his smug demeanor, and instead addressed Victini. "Now, Victini, you have a choice. You can choose to reveal the Victory Star to me and give me what I want, or I can have my Hydreigon kill these four Pokémon purely because you won't cooperate. What will it be? The choice is yours!"

"Everton, you're sick!" Bunny howled in disgust. "Is there no length you'll not go to?"

"Of course I have no limits!" replied Everton in an almost flippant manner. He glanced over to the ongoing battle pitting Katorena against Woods, Foster and Baker, then turned back to Victini and lowered his hoverboard's altitude slightly. "Decide, Victini. I'm running out of time and patience for your resistance!"

Matt couldn't watch this horrific display of cruelty any further. Deciding to act, he started to call out, "Tanya, hit Hydreigon with Flash Cann…"

He never got the chance to finish giving the order, as it no longer mattered. Whether it was due to Everton's blackmail or the trap generators finally sapping the last of the energy it had to resist, Victini gave in. With one last scream, it released an energy pulse of massive proportions. The temperature of the area increased from the heat, which in turn weakened Cryogonal, thus loosening its grip on Nekou, Rowena, Bunny and Olivia. Tanya was able to stand fast against the gust, but Minccino, Cinccino, Marie and Zorua could not; neither could Hydreigon, whose flight turned into a liability. Medicham, Beheeyem, Starmie, Sawk, Throh and Maractus all were pushed back as well.

The energy pulse released from Victini's body was so immense in scale that it covered the entirety of Whitegold City, taking the form of an eight-pointed star within a circular border. No one on the ground would have been able to perceive this; it was only visible from the sky.

This was exactly what Everton wanted to see, too. Feeling an overwhelming sense of wicked triumph, he glided the hoverboard backward and down, and got off of it once he landed. Meanwhile, the battle between Katorena and Everton's henchmen ceased, the four trainers becoming so distracted by the events unfolding around them that they no longer could focus on their fight.

"Is that…?" Katorena gasped, slowly realizing the true gravity of what was going on. For what appeared to be a simple but hot glow of light, the energy struck fear deep into the girl's heart.

"There it is…" Everton's eyes widened and his voice became strained as he fought back the insane, overwhelming excitement he felt at what he was seeing. He stepped closer to the brightest part of the field, which radiated for feet around Victini itself, and breathily exclaimed, "…the Victory Star! After so long, I've finally found it!"

Foster and Baker were both stunned by what they were seeing, so it fell to the rather starstruck Woods to say something. His eyes were glassy from the emotions he felt himself at seeing the Victory Star finally reveal itself. "We can save the city now, Liam!" he called out. "No oil field on this planet is outside of our reach now! With that potential, every single resident of this city can be given a good-paying job working on our projects!"

"Woods," Everton said without turning from Victini, "you are relieved of duty."

"What?" Caught completely off guard, Woods recoiled.

"I said, you are relieved of duty! What don't you understand? I don't need soft-hearted fools like you in my visionary future!" Raising his arms partly upward, Everton continued to ramble, "To fully embrace the future offered by the Victory Star, only those who truly fear nothing and refuse to accept anything less than total victory can come forth! The world is on the brink of a fundamental transformation, no, an evolution to a new and ideal stage! And I… I shall be the one whose hands shape that future!"

"Stop this, Everton!" Matt yelled one last time, even though he knew by now that it was in vain. "You're deranged! This has to stop!"

Paying Matt no mind, Everton stepped into the inner core of the energy field. Within there, it was like a whole other world, nearly completely sealed off from everything outside. Now isolated alone with Victini, Everton slowly approached his prey while reciting the same chant listed by his grandfather in the log of Legendary Pokémon.

"Oh Victory Star, shine the light on the path I must take to my dreams. Victini, turn my road into one of fortune…"

A voice suddenly sounded in Everton's mind, visibly surprising him. "Do you choose to make the contract of the Victory Star? Is that why you are here?"

"Indeed it is!" The truth of who he was being addressed by quickly arrived, and Everton seemed even more confident for it. "I will fulfill that contract! I accept the power of the Victory Star, whatever the price!"

"And so your choice is made. Let us begin, human."

Now looking directly at Everton, Victini's eyes illuminated with a bright light while Everton's left eye filled with this same light. As the brightness grew, Victini slowly formed a mental link with Everton, creating a space in which they thought as one being with access to the thoughts of both minds. In order to create the contract, Victini began scanning Everton's mind for his deepest desires.

Much to Victini's horror, it could find absolutely nothing. Everton's mind was completely blank.

"Are you surprised, Victini?" An intense burst of malice erupted in Everton's voice as a wide grin deformed his aged, bearded face. Seizing Victini in a forceful, two-handed grasp, he viciously demanded, "The contract is not specific! Give me your powers… all of them!"

Unable to escape, Victini had no ability to avoid what rapidly became inevitable. It cried out in a screeching voice that echoed through the entire swamp area, then started bestowing its power onto Everton. This process was symbolized by the heat pulse covering the city to begin congealing back into the area, specifically into Everton's left eye, causing his monocle to break.

Because the bubble that had surrounded Victini was gone, Matt was once again able to see what was happening with it and Everton. Realizing quickly what was happening, he recalled Tanya into her Dusk Ball, then turned to Katorena. "Hurry, recall your Pokémon! Get them out of harm's way!"

Without a word, Katorena complied. She along with Matt and everyone else could do nothing as the terrifying spectacle of Everton's dreams being realized played itself out before their eyes.

"Yes, yes, oh yes!" screamed the cruel executive, blasting his voice skyward. "The energy… the energy flowing into this old body is making me new again! Soon I'll have everything I've aimed for!"

Finally, after well over a minute of the torturous process being inflicted upon it, Victini transferred the last of the power into Everton, causing a splash of blood to erupt from his afflicted eye. At the same time, the heat pulse amplified greatly and exploded, blowing away everyone standing nearby and ripping through the entire city. Every inch of water in all of Whitegold City spiked in temperature, even beginning to steam slightly for a time. Everton's Cryogonal was forced by the heat spike into a vapor state, releasing its four prisoners. The energy blast also decimated the four generators pinning Victini in place.

The site outside the church looked like a war zone. While most of the city escaped physical, material damage, the area where the incident happened did not – the landscape was charred and all of the people and Pokémon were scattered everywhere.

Matt was the first one back on his feet after the bizarre, devastating event. Victini had been thrown near his feet, so he picked it up before running over to Nekou, Olivia, Bunny and Rowena.

"Are you four alright?" he desperately asked.

"We're fine…" Nekou answered. "What the fuck just happened?"

"We'll have to figure it out later. We have to get out of here!"

"But how?" Olivia was trembling, clearly greatly frightened by what she'd just experienced.

"Hey! You five, look!" Woods was calling out to the group from a slight distance away. "Katorena, you too! All of you come with me on my hovercraft!"

"And why should we trust you, traitor?" Katorena shrilled.

"Trust me or not, it doesn't matter! I have nothing more to hide and we have to escape!"

Matt glanced back to the other four with him, who each nodded, one at a time. Rowena hesitated the longest, having had the most intimate relationship with Woods and thus the deepest sense of betrayal. She did eventually acquiesce, however, and the group rushed to join him, each one of them recalling their respective Pokémon as they ran.

As the hovercraft motored off into the distance, Baker and Foster apprised their situation from the church's courtyard.

"They got Victini…" Foster blankly stated, "and Woods went with them too…"

"Then we must give pursuit!" Baker fumed. "Captain Everton's pride and success is at stake!"

"Cool your temper, Baker."

Both security officials abruptly turned, and much to their surprise, Everton was standing behind them. The fabric of his suit was lightly burned from the heat pulse, and he had his eyes closed. From the inside of his jacket, he extracted a new monocle to replace the broken one and attached it to his face.

Smirking, he said in a quiet but menacing manner, "Why are you two panicking? We're in no hurry to catch up with them. There is truly nowhere they can go!"

At the end of his sentence, Everton snapped his eyes open, and what Baker and Foster saw caused them to gasp in a combination of excitement and disgust.

Their boss's left eye had changed. The normal coloration, his pupil and iris – they were all gone. Replacing them was the same eight-pointed star that had been projected over the city. On the star, the diagonal points overlaid the horizontal and vertical points. The upper diagonal points were colored red, forming a 'V' shape, while the bottom diagonal points were light blue. Finally, the horizontal and vertical points were darker blue.

"The Victory Star…!" both guards exclaimed.

"Yes, it is," Everton confirmed with arrogance. "This is the true Victory Star, which will guide me to absolutely any victory I require it to. Foster, give me a report on the effects of the destabilization of Victini's energy field."

"Yes, right away, sir!" The escalation of the situation made Foster nervous, a fact that was clearly reflected in his shaky voice. He ran back to the truck and fetched a rectangular, black tablet computer, then returned to Everton and Baker. "According to the readings, a few minutes ago when the energy field destabilized and you acquired the Victory Star, a significant spike in the surface temperature of the water in the city as well as the humidity in the air was recorded."

Looking up at the sky, Everton spied some dark, rapidly-gathering clouds. Satisfied, he started walking back toward his hoverboard.

"My plan is going along perfectly. All that's left now is to capture Victini and prepare the ark. Defeating Matt Chiaki and his ragtag little band of rats won't be hard… Baker! Foster! Collect your gear and get the truck going again. We're going after them…" As he entered a command into the right-hand keyboard on the dashboard, Everton finished, "…but first, let's send them a little surprise, shall we?"

END of CHAPTER 2


May 2012

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