The Path of the Aura: Intertwining Crossroads

Chapter IX (9): Night Before Day

Location: Team Rocket Main Headquarters (Floor B1): Vehicle Room

Date: October 16th, 2011

Time: 5:00 AM

Giovanni and Lucario, with their battle stances pre-set, and Lucario, with his Aura Vision ability pre-activated, charged towards each other with a flurry of attacks. They constantly threw kicks, punches, and sweeps against each other, never missing a beat in their momentum, albeit never scoring direct hits on each other either. The most that each of them did to each other at the moment was inflict minimal damage from the strike of a blocked attack.

"You're a little plagiarist, Xeno!" Giovanni spoke through a microphone inside of his helmet, so that his voice wasn't stifled by the crystalline-titanium alloy of his battle armor. He threw a few jabs towards Lucario, whom merely avoided them by swerving his upper body around them. "You named your little organization Team liberator? Where do you get the gall to use that name under my roof?"

"If I'm a plagiarist…" Lucario swatted off Giovanni's jabs with little problem and evaded others when necessary, "…then you're a hypocrite! Your lust for power is so great that you resorted to replicating my aura powers, as well as Mewtwo's psychic powers, for your battle armor and benefit! Those are three factors that you plagiarized from us!"

Giovanni, after hearing Lucario speak of highly confidential information, shoved both arms forward at the Aura Pokémon's torso—well aware of where to strike and not to strike. Lucario, seeing this coming with ease, simply elevated his guard and raised both arms to protect himself from Giovanni's gauntlets. The end result simply caused Lucario to slide back about ten feet with the soles of his padded feet.

Giovanni seemed mildly surprised at Lucario's sudden knowledge of his battle armor. "How do you know that?" He questioned the Aura Pokémon.

Lucario's arms dropped down and he reformed his battle stance. "You'd like to know, wouldn't you?" Lucario spoke smugly, but without an alteration in his facial expression.

Giovanni, upon hearing how Lucario understands how his battle armor works, becomes a bit more reckless with his combat. Giovanni started punching more, and to Lucario's benefit, a bit more predictably—however, his Aura Vision already made Giovanni decipherable enough to him.

At the proper time, predicting Giovanni's next few punches, Xeno actually catches both of Giovanni's fists within his paws. Gripping tightly onto Giovanni's fists, he prevented Giovanni from wriggling free.

"You bastard!" Giovanni shouted. "I won't allow you to—"

Lucario immediately jumped, never releasing Giovanni's fists, and delivered a double mule kick onto Giovanni's armor-plated midsection, which transcended greatly onto his bruised abdomen. He released Giovanni's fists just prior to the attack and Giovanni reels back from the impact. Lucario lands back on his two feet after back-flipping off of the impact zone. Giovanni was verbally silenced by the twin kicks to the stomach, and began coughing mildly within his helmet, apparently shocked at how Lucario delivered enough force to pierce his own battle armor and strike at his earlier injuries. The sound of his coughing was easily audible to Lucario's sensitive ears, because of the microphone within Giovanni's visor.

Lucario continues by clasping his paws together and charging a moderate amount of his aura into them. Utilizing HAMMER ARM, he leaps into the air and holds his clasped paws above his head. Giovanni stops coughing long enough to see this attack made above his head and backtracks away, half a second before Lucario lands and brings his paws down, cracking the steel-hard floor with his paws.

"(That could've been catastrophic if it had hit me in the head…)" Giovanni thought with mild concern.

Lucario unclasped his paws and raised himself upright after using HAMMER ARM. He cracked his knuckles after the recoil trauma that they've partially endured, and had this to say.

"It's apparent that solitary hand-to-hand combat isn't going to help me defeat you, Giovanni," Lucario said. "I should just finish you off quickly with all of my power."

Giovanni, unbeknownst to Lucario, smiled underneath his helmet. "My thoughts exactly, so I'll do the same."

Lucario smirked faintly, which Giovanni didn't notice in the least. He had Giovanni in his paws. Now all Lucario had to do was cripple him.

Giovanni, using the replicated telekinetic abilities that Mewtwo possesses, instantly cloaks Lucario in a blue psychic field. Lucario, shackled in physical movement, was soon hovering about ten feet in the air, by Giovanni's PSYCHIC technique. The Aura Pokémon made no intent to free himself from Giovanni's replicated telekinetic abilities, or even struggle. Giovanni automatically figured that Lucario was subdued under his control.

"(How cocky,)" Lucario thought to himself, sensing large amounts of self-confidence clouding Giovanni's judgment.

"A sudden thought just emerged from my head. Would you like to hear it?" Giovanni said.

"Go on," Lucario replied nonchalantly. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm all ears."

"You and Mewtwo never clashed against each other, but only once as a team. Because this suit replicates both its and your quintessence, it's almost as though you're fighting Mewtwo."

"(Not quite,)" Lucario thought, sensing only a fragment of Mewtwo's overall attributes replicated into Giovanni's battle tech.

The mechanisms in Giovanni's right shoulder began to expand metallically and form the triple-barreled weapon that was present earlier, when Giovanni failed to shoot the cargo helicopter down with a missed missile.

"Forget about that old friend of yours, Xeno. I'd like to introduce you to this new one, the Triple Threat."

"Naming your possessions again, Giovanni? How queer," Lucario said with a dulled tone of voice.

"The missile that I fired at you—"

"And missed pitifully…"

Giovanni continued, hiding his spite. "—the missile was just one of three modes of this Triple Threat weapon, called Missile Mode." His weapon switched barrels by rotating clockwise—or counterclockwise as it appeared from Lucario's perspective—and exposed a strip of bullets connected to each other through a fed belt magazine. "This would be the second mode of my Triple Threat weapon: Gatling Mode. And now I'm going to pelt you with lead. Just try to defend against this!"

On his mark, Giovanni fired dozens of bullets within every second at Lucario. Lucario, sensing the instant that Giovanni decided to fire, conjured a protective bulwark of psychic energy—PROTECT—and repelled all of the bullets fired at him. They scattered all across the Vehicle Room, ricocheting across the floor and the scrap metal that was once functioning transportation vehicles, but were now rusting heaps of scrap metal.

Giovanni eventually ran out of bullets, as well as confidence, and was suddenly overpowered by Lucario's PSYCHIC technique, which caused them both to switch places and heights.

"What in the world?" Giovanni was stunned by how Lucario overpowered his replicated telekinetic abilities.

Since Lucario is now free of possible counterattack, he decides to use an attack that he rarely utilizes, because of common prevention. He begins to focus his aura heavily on his left paw and begins to generate an enormous amount of glowing white energy on it. The energy seems to swirl around him before collecting on his left paw, and across his battle armor's left gauntlet.

"(Is that…FOCUS PUNCH?)" Giovanni thinks as he watched Lucario focus on his attack. He realizes that Lucario is in fact using FOCUS PUNCH and decides to break his focus, knowing well enough that one hit from that attack can prove dangerous.

He decides to do something about it, with his extended Triple Threat weapon.

With the powerful servos and hydraulics that his armor has on the barrel of the weapon, he turns it clockwise once more, to Flamethrower Mode. He fires a concentrated stream of fire, but he is turned himself clockwise, so that the fire would miss and hit nothing of importance.

Lucario, seeing the fire stream shoot at a safe distance from his right side, wasn't allowing Giovanni to ruin his focus. The fire that Giovanni is shooting stops as sudden as it fired, because of inefficiency. Simultaneously, Lucario's left paw stops collecting radiant white energy and begins to shines brightly and hum somewhat.

With his free right paw, he holds it up and points it at Giovanni. With his fingers, he says "Come here" in body language. With his telekinetic abilities, he has Giovanni come towards him at high speed. Lucario reels his left paw back, forms it into a fist, and slams it into Giovanni's stomach, once he is forcibly right in front of him. The energy of Lucario's FOCUS PUNCH manages to crack Giovanni's armor plating, and transcends over to Giovanni's pre-bruised abdomen. The sound wave that the punch creates rattles across the entire Vehicle Room, resonating across the scrap metal and echoing from the walls.

Giovanni's body was bent forward from Lucario's punch. His helmet immediately unfolds and retracts, exposing a ghastly look of pain. The pain to his abdomen was enough to cause Giovanni to vomit out blood, directly behind Lucario's back—who should be lucky that the fur on his back was just far enough away.

Lucario hears the splashing of Giovanni's sanguine heave and feels some of it splashing onto the fur on his ankles. "How sickening," Lucario says dryly before throwing him forward, with his left paw that had already punched him in the gut.

Giovanni staggers back and hunches over himself, clutching his cracked armor plate and his heavily-bruised abdomen, failing at showing obvious pain on his face. Blood can be seen running down from his mouth, signs of significant internal injury. "(You cracked the armor,)" Giovanni thought, temporarily paralyzed of speech, "(What power you possess to do so!)"

Lucario revolves his left wrist after sustaining moderate recoil damage from his attack on Giovanni. The pain was decent, but bearable, and Lucario conjures an AURA SPHERE soon afterwards.

Giovanni gets on his knees, having had salt dumped over his wounds—metaphorically speaking. His head is facing downward and his reddened teeth were clenched at the pain he had endured. He suddenly hears an odd sound above his head, a sound that can best be compared to the warping of the wind of a tornado.

Giovanni looks up, face to face with Lucario's AURA SPHERE, which was ominously held within inches to his face. He was able to catch a vague glimpse of Lucario's facial countenance through the sable visor. He could see Lucario's eyes gleam gold, and how they were opened wide and looking down at him. He knew that Lucario was using his Aura Vision ability. He could tell this by looking at Lucario's dreadlock-like appendages.

What he now knows is that Lucario has the intent of performing homicide—merciless homicide—on him. Lucario's uncanny silence just made this a bit more unnerving for Giovanni.

Lucario, deciding to end him already, raises the AURA SPHERE above his head and prepares to thrust it down on Giovanni's face. Giovanni, seeing this, generates an AURA SPHERE of his own after freeing his right hand from its previous position.

Both AURA SPHEREs collided with each other, Lucario dropping his down on Giovanni in an attempt to end him, and Giovanni raising his to defend against Lucario. They both push on at their respective swirling typhoons of aura energy, neither combatant wanting to be underpowered by the other.

Giovanni manages to get up slowly, never thinking at how Lucario might just be allowing him to live for moments longer, and never letting his left hand go from his stomach. Both of their attacks sparked electricity from their swirling energy creating friction amongst each other.

"How disappointing," Lucario said. "You're AURA SPHERE appears equal to my own, because it is my own."

"…" Giovanni thinks on how to break the stalemate. He figures that by using both hands on his AURA SPHERE, he could overpower Lucario's AURA SPHERE. He releases his grip on his stomach and does just that, managing to double the size of his AURA SPHERE compared to Lucario's.

Lucario, instead of mimicking Giovanni with greater power, decides to quickly break the stalemate by using FORCE PALM with his free right paw on Giovanni. He thrusts his paw on Giovanni's stomach once more releasing a concentrated blast of aura that pushes them both back about ten feet, and breaks their AURA SPHERE stalemate.

Giovanni feels a sharp sting of pain on his abdomen once more, and for a moment believes that one of his internal organs has ruptured.

Since they were both still holding an AURA SPHERE—Giovanni's being twice as large—they decided to throw them at each other. Both fired their respective AURA SPHEREs at the same time, and they both collided directly between the gaps of distance between them.

Despite the size difference between both AURA SPHEREs, Lucario's actually overpowers Giovanni's and pushes forward, closer to Giovanni. They both eventually detonated from a lack of a stable power source, when the distance between them and Giovanni was halved.

Giovanni shielded his eyes from the dust that the detonation lifted upward. He began to grow nervous at how quickly these events were turning against him.

"(My battle armor… It can't possibly be this naïve, can it?)" He thought, gradually growing more anxious and erratic in mind and body. "(Are the replicated abilities that I have at my disposal clearly inferior to the original? That shouldn't be! And yet they are…!)"

Lucario stood stagnant, awaiting Giovanni's next move while simultaneously sensing growing irregularity in him. "Are you still worth killing, Giovanni?" Lucario said sincerely.

Giovanni eyed Lucario closely, as if he were the prey of a Houndoom.

"Xeno… You're still full of energy and deliberately stalling so that you can watch me fall apart before you!"

"More or less," Lucario said vaguely, his shrouded eyes temporarily halving and his shoulder shrugging as he said this. "I find it somewhat satisfying to see you fall apart."

Giovanni began to pry open a compartment from the top of his left gauntlet. "Well, it won't work! I'll kill you for rebelling against me, and then I'll hunt down your traitorous friends!"

A thin layer of metal flew off once Giovanni pried it, exposing six Poké Balls that were technologically minimized. He used the telekinetic abilities that he artificially had to cause them to detach from his gauntlet and hover in the air a few feet in front of him, where he enlarged them afterwards by mentally pressing their buttons in.

"I'll wear you down to dust with my strongest Pokémon, and then I'll scatter your body across the mountain range!"

Lucario formed his battle stance and waited patiently for Giovanni to put his next move into effect.

Giovanni had all six of his Poké Balls opened with PSYCHIC and all six of his Pokémon flew outward in a concentrated red light and with the sound of a party popper. The red light of all six of his Pokémon dematerialized, exposing his party to Lucario.

Giovanni's six Pokémon of choice: Golem (Ground-Type and Rock-Type), Nidoking (Ground-Type and Poison-Type), Nidoqueen (Ground-Type and Poison-Type), Persian (Normal-Type), Rhyperior (Ground-Type and Rock-Type), and Steelix (Ground-Type and Steel-Type). All six of them eyed Lucario and scowled at their target opponent, the Steelix in particular showing the most enthusiasm.

Giovanni, with an unsteady and weakened hand, did his trademark snap of his fingers, and all six Pokémon commenced their attacks. Giovanni's Golem and Persian remain above the ground. The Golem tucked itself into a ball and used ROLLOUT towards Lucario, while the Persian simultaneously used QUICK ATTACK towards the same initial target. The remaining four Pokémon burrowed underground utilizing DIG—somehow fitting in the floor that divided the Vehicle Room from Floor B1.

Giovanni's Persian, being the fastest Pokémon in his party, ran twice as fast as Golem could roll and caught up to Lucario in half the time. The feline-like Pokémon pounced at Lucario, claws erect and razor sharp. Lucario predictably saw this coming and counterattacked by clasping Persian's in the neck with his large paw. Grasping its trachea stopped Persian immediately and before it could retaliate with the lashing of its claws, Lucario slammed its head onto the floor in front of his feet, stunning it instantly. He let go of it, and Persian plopped onto its back, temporarily unconscious.

The Golem was unable to see what occurred to Persian and continued with its ROLLOUT towards Lucario. Once again, Lucario subdued the Pokémon once it was within reach. He placed both of his paws out in front, and caught Golem. Golem's momentum didn't so much as budge or stagger him an inch, and it stopped as suddenly—if not, more—than Persian did.

Before Golem could uncurl its body to retaliate, Lucario pumped himself up by using BULK UP. His muscle mass, mostly around his arms and torso, temporarily grew in size beneath his battle armor, allowing the Aura Pokémon to hoist the Megaton Pokémon effortlessly above his head. The Golem, with its back gripped tightly by Lucario, wriggled somewhat to escape, but was unable to due to its physical rigidity.

The immobilized Persian woke up from its temporary "sleep" and saw a "boulder" thrown into the air. Golem's landing place would be directly above Persian. It was too dazed to evade and only watched in horror before disappearing below Golem's massive body. The shock of the fall knocked out the Megaton Pokémon.

Lucario rolled Golem aside by pushing it with his foot. The exposed Persian was embedded belly-up into a crater that was conveniently molded to fit its body. Its four legs were curled into its body, and it had a stupid open-mouth grin on its face. This becomes rather discomforting when its dazed eyes are added to its countenance.

With the other four Pokémon still underneath the floor, Lucario quickly used FOCUS ENERGY, channeling enormous amounts of aura onto its arms. With the extra muscles and energy surrounding his arms, he lifted them up and with a battle cry, slammed them onto the floor. The EARTHQUAKE that resulted from this resonated all across the floor and on the walls, crumbling the surface of the floor.

Lucario scanned the floor with his Aura Vision ability and sensed three stationary targets. They are three Pokémon that fainted after the tremor rattled them. He lifts one finger in the air, using EARTH POWER to unearth the three stationary targets. Three pillars of building foundation shot upward and catapulted the three Pokémon into the air, where they fell back onto the ground with a bounce. The three Pokémon were Nidoking, Nidoqueen, and Rhyperior, all with confounded and empty looks in their faces.

The only Pokémon that remained is Steelix: the most resilient Pokémon in Giovanni's remaining party. Lucario clearly senses its presence—which is saying something when compared to his last encounter with it—and merely crossed his arms this time, well aware of what it would do, and how he'd retaliate at the Pokémon that removed his freedom.

"(Come at me, then,)" Lucario thought. "(I'll punish you for helping Giovanni in capturing me.)"

The Steelix rises from the ground seconds later and in a different manner than before. Instead of exposing its massive diamond-shattering tail first, Giovanni's Steelix exposed its massive jaws, both halves of which were beside Lucario's sides. Lucario paid no extra attention to this and disappeared within those jaws when they closed.

Giovanni could've sworn he saw Lucario smile before Steelix swallowed him whole.

The Steelix, once it swallowed its catch, emerged completely from the floor and curled its massive body up into a spiral. It attempted to stagnate itself and fall asleep, as all snakes—snake-like Pokémon—do in order to properly digest their meals. However, once it made itself comfortable, it suddenly began violently uncomfortable and shattered its stagnancy by thrashing amongst itself, roaring loudly, as if it were in extreme internal discomfort.

Giovanni looked on in astonishment, well aware that Lucario was doing this, despite currently residing in the belly of the Iron Snake Pokémon.

"I've created a monster…" Giovanni muttered, watching Steelix thrash about from Lucario's actions within the belly of the Iron Snake Pokémon.

His Steelix, from the core of its stomach began to glow an abnormal radiant red. This was clearly the work of Lucario, his OVERHEAT technique in particular. Lucario was roasting Steelix from the inside, taking this important fact into account: the internal structure of a Steelix is both fleshy and soft, and under proper circumstances, highly exploitable.

The Iron Snake Pokémon, as its body heated internally, began to expand from the rapid movement of molecules that made up its body. Steelix suddenly stopped thrashing about and the heat and expansion of its body stretched it out completely.

Barely alive and inactive, Steelix suddenly expels fire from its face. Its eyes rolled back, popped and roasted away under the intense heat and shot out a thick, concentrated stream of fire. Its nostrils and mouth did so as well, and eventually its body segments—the "joints" connecting its entire body together—burst forth fire.

The inevitable occurs soon after, moments before its entire body conflagrated. Its entire body fragmented across the Vehicle Room, once OVERHEAT caused it to detonate. Evaporated blood and molten "metal" dispersed randomly, forcing Giovanni to quickly shield his face with his arms, since his head was clearly vulnerable.

When the event subsided, Giovanni saw a sight that, despite expecting, still managed to leave him momentarily stunned.

Lucario was completely unharmed by Steelix swallowing him earlier. The only difference he had after entering the belly of the Iron Snake Pokémon was frizzy fur. The cause of this was Lucario having been soused profusely by Steelix's saliva and powerful stomach acid—which didn't seem to have any adverse effects on him due to his brevity within the dissolving substance—, and then dried by the effects of OVERHEAT.

He tends to his fur by temporarily dropping on all four paws, shaking his body so that his fur straightens, and then returning to his bipedal nature and brushing his fur with his paw.

"If you're going to have your Pokémon do that to me," He inhaled deeply with his elongated snout, resisting the urge to gag from the strong scent of stomach acid that still clung heavily onto his battle armor and fur. "Make sure that I'm properly immobilized so that I don't fight back."

15.1: Giovanni's Trump Card

Time: 5:17 AM (Dawn)

Giovanni's battle armor begins to moisten from his cold sweat. "I never thought that I would place myself in jeopardy from training you, and yet I find myself in this position." Giovanni looked at Lucario, with an uncanny blend of admiration and apprehension. "I find myself unable to subdue a Pokémon subordinate that I elevated to terrifying new heights in power, and I'm now the target of that said Pokémon."

"Your Pokémon were never a match for me," Lucario added. "They are just as overwhelmed as you are now."

"Xeno… What have you become? No, strike that. What have I done to deserve this from you?"

Lucario had a lot of answers that would suffice Giovanni's question. He could say that Giovanni is in this mess for originally capturing him and Wanderer, forcing them both to work under Team Rocket—under him—against their will. He could say that Giovanni had his Grunts willingly murder Sceptile and Tiny, the two Pokémon that he and Wanderer miss deeply. He could say that Giovanni, alongside the organization of Team Rocket, uses Pokémon more or less as tools for criminal and economical purposes, disposing of them when they don't suffice these two criteria. He could also say that Giovanni was oblivious to the emotional reactions of Pokémon that were enslaved and, if said Pokémon were ever unshackled from Team Rocket's clutches, would unleash all of their power mercilessly on their "masters".

However, Lucario only had this to say to Giovanni's question.

"I'll only bore you with the details of what you are that I utterly despise. Perhaps you can figure it out for yourself in the afterlife."

Giovanni chuckled after hearing this, almost completely recovering from his uneasiness earlier. He discreetly sneaks his right hand close to his left gauntlet and keeps a finger raised above a suspicious-looking button that elevated itself onto the surface.

"I'll have to decline that offer, for I don't intend to die anytime soon," he said with a smile as he pressed the button.

In an instant, the nasal cavities of Lucario's snout stung worse than the poison of a dozen angry Beedrill. Lucario is startled by a sudden jet of mist sprayed nasally by the battle armor's helmet that he wore. He removes the helmet in an instant, seeing how the tip of the snout of the helmet seethed a pale white mist. He blew air out of his snout forcefully, saying "What did you just do?" in a confused and irritated tone of voice.

"I gave you a nasal injection of Pokérus," Giovanni said, removing his right hand from the top of his left gauntlet. "I'm sure you're well aware of the beneficial properties of Pokérus. However, those benefits were completely eliminated with this genetically-modified strand of the virus."

Lucario was suddenly short of breath and hyperventilating to supply his body with oxygen. His eyes disintegrated their Aura Vision ability and became bloodshot and wide when the oxygen that he needed further and further escaped from his body's grasp.

"It blocks off the ability of the lungs to siphon oxygen from the air. Breathe all you want, Xeno. It's pointless."

"You unbelievable bastard…" Lucario clearly said as his legs wobbled. His mouth began to foam from stress, and dribbled somewhat when it overflowed. "You had this implanted onto my battle armor, knowing that I would take it with my plan to escape."

"I dislike losing, Xeno," Giovanni said. "I dislike losing battles, priceless resources, and most importantly, my life. If I have to kill you to survive, I'll kill you. If I had known that Mewtwo would try to kill me by destroying my Pokémon Gym and burying me within the rubble, I would've taken the same precautions as I'm doing so now, against you."

Lucario stopped breathing altogether, once he felt his heart stop beating, and collapsed onto the floor. The battle armor made a sharp metallic sound when he hit the floor, and the foam excreted by his mouth spilled somewhat in the process.

"I prefer winning, and not always because it's fun," Giovanni steps towards Lucario, uncaring if he was still listening or not. "I'd rather win than lose because the winner often loses less than the loser. I'll lose you, cash Miltank, but I'll keep my life, and find another source of profit in the near future. It's nothing personal, Xeno Lucario. Time is money, and this is business."

Giovanni stops walking forward when he is within kicking distance of Lucario and looks at the fallen Aura Pokémon. His helmet is reapplied onto his face and his Triple Threat weapon rotates clockwise, setting itself up onto Missile Mode once more. He aligns the trajectory of the missile so that it was aimed downward and directly towards the dribbling Aura Pokémon. And with a mild smirk of satisfaction, he fires only one missile pointblank at Lucario, instantly blinding his visor under a thick coating of dust and gravel that the explosion kicked up.

"(How odd… There should be mutilated appendages and flesh alongside this debris,)" Giovanni thought, ignoring the dust and debris that he disturbed. "(…Damn Steel-Type Pokémon and their resilient hides.)"

The dust eventually cleared, and Giovanni's weapon reloaded another missile, prepared to fire once more. However, to Giovanni's surprise, he saw something that he wasn't expecting, not in the least. He saw something that actually made his eyes widen underneath his visor, jump back and reacquire his apprehension.

He saw a PROTECT-ive barrier.

The barrier dissipated and Lucario's paws curled into fists. He rooted them onto the floor and slowly got back up onto his feet. He blinked a few times and wiped off the saliva that hung from his mouth. He used PSYCHIC to have his helmet return to him, where he forcefully tore off the internal apparatus that nasally injected him with a genetically-modified strand of the Pokérus virus. The helmet hovered back onto his head and fixed itself comfortably in place afterwards, and then he no longer used his telekinetic abilities.

He could clearly tell, through Giovanni's reaction, that he was absolutely terrified at him. His Aura Vision ability would prove immaterial presently, because he truly felt that it was unneeded at present.

"What kind of demon are you to survive that fatal dose?" Giovanni spoke to the Aura Pokémon, one that he has lost recognition of.

"…" Lucario, despite his solid countenance, was actually just as surprised as he is. However, he didn't show it through hyperbolic body language. He merely looked at his paws, flexing them momentarily, somewhat unsure as to what kind of phenomenon occurred just now.

"How are you still alive? I demand an answer!" Giovanni's voice spiked and rattled across the Vehicle Room in an echo.

Lucario was still discombobulated at his body, at how his heart resumed beating on its own and how he was able to get back up on his feet, as if he was never injected with malignant Pokérus to begin with.

He snapped out of his self-inflicted trance and told Giovanni the first explanation that entered his mind.

"Because… The aura is with me?"

All of a sudden, Giovanni sprang forth at him in a reckless rush, fueled of primal rage and mental vacuity. "That's not good enough for me!"

Lucario saw this coming at him as if Giovanni were a mile away. He simply reached out his left paw when Giovanni was close enough, and grabbed him tightly by the neck. With his free right paw, Lucario charges a frigid blue energy and approaches his right paw to Giovanni's armored face. All he does with the paw is flick his finger at Giovanni's visor, before thrusting his left paw forward, letting go of his neck, and shoving Giovanni away from him.

Giovanni seemed more discombobulated than before. He quickly grew enraged at the downgrading flick on the forehead and extended one hand at Lucario, attempting to generate an AURA SPHERE. However, the AURA SPHERE never came, and Giovanni suddenly found himself rendered immobile. Alongside this, he felt rather cold and trembled mildly.

He found himself spontaneously frozen stiff, his armor turned into one massive ice sculpture.

What Lucario did earlier was the cause of this. Lucario used SHEER COLD to flash-freeze Giovanni in his place.

"Now it's my turn to 'demand an answer'," Lucario said to Giovanni, mimicking Giovanni's tone of voice earlier.

"…" Giovanni only chattered and attempted to speak stifled expletives under his helmet. He and his battle armor were rendered stagnant under the sub-zero temperatures of the ice. His electrical and technological systems, which gave his battle armor all of its power, were rendered useless when the flow of energy from its power sources were halted outright.

"What is to be gained or lost through a draw?" Lucario said. "Whatever the answer is to this question, it serves you more of a purpose, Giovanni, because you think of what is to be gained or lost through a win or a loss."

Giovanni still attempted to break himself free from the ice shackles that Lucario put on him, but with zero progress.

Lucario approached the frozen statue that is Giovanni, sensing and knowing that there's no further danger from him. His head was positioned somewhat close to Giovanni's visor, as if he wanted the Team Rocket Boss to look at him straight into his crimson eyes and know true fear.

"I will say this to you though: you lost your Pokémon, but still live with this draw. However, this is only temporarily because I still hunger for your death, like an Ursaring craving Magikarp that are swimming upstream. I just won't kill you today because you're not worth it yet, especially after you pulled off such a cheap trick as injecting me nasally with detrimental Pokérus."

Lucario turned his back on Giovanni and looked at the cargo hatch door, the exit to Team Rocket Main Headquarters. He could see that the break of dawn was rising over the mountain range, bathing them both in today's sunlight. His eyes were locked onto the Sun, the visor he had on protected him against the harmful ultraviolet rays.

"Perhaps until your primal combat skills improve, I'll kill you then, unless my SHEER COLD technique does so for me, and saves me the trouble of doing so in the future." He concluded, without looking back at Giovanni.

Giovanni, still in a fit, spoke more foul stifled invectives and still attempted to move in order to free himself from this glacial prison, to crush Lucario's skull in within the helmet that he wore.

Unfortunately for Giovanni, Lucario had already disappeared from his view, within seconds of leaving the cargo hatch door, never to return again.

Time: 7:28 AM (Morning)

An awakened Team Rocket Grunt, one of the first to come back from his senses after yesterday's plan from Team Liberator, lethargically proceeded towards the Vehicle Room. He has his hand on his bloody shoulder—the area where Luxray's fangs punctured his flesh—, and entered the Vehicle Room, still bleeding somewhat from the puncture wound.

"Holy crap…!" The Grunt said after seeing the absolute destruction that the vehicles in the Vehicle Room were in. "What the hell happened here?"

The Grunt vigilantly stepped forward across the Vehicle Room, each vehicle he was passing by more gnarled than the last. He scans further ahead and sees a frozen bipedal figure, clad in Team Rocket battle armor tech. He instantly recognizes the battle armor, and knew that only one person in Team Rocket has the authorization to utilize it.

"…Giovanni!" The Grunt said before hurrying over to him.

He stops to his side and sees the condition that his party of Pokémon was in. He sees five of them unconscious and defeated, and sees repulsively chunky fragments of the sixth. The largest of which was its massive cranium, which was hemorrhaging profusely from its blown eyes, snout, mouth, and neck.

"(What happened to your Steelix?)" The Grunt thought. "(It's in fragments!)"

The Grunt reaches into his utility belt for his Poké Balls, only to find that they're all missing.

"(Where in the world did my Poké Balls go?)" He thought to himself, looking into his front and back pockets for them, finding nothing but wasted time.

The Grunt improvised in how to free Giovanni from his ice prison. He noticed a sharpened fragment of Giovanni's Steelix beside him and picked it up, disregarding the blood on it or the faint traces of heat that it retained.

With this tool in hand, he would chip the ice away. He began with the shoulders, and progressed further around from there.

The Grunts progress was supplemented by the Sun's progress. The ice melted all across Giovanni. And when the layer of ice was thin enough, Giovanni coiled his body and shattered it completely, startling the Grunt in the process.

Giovanni fell to his knees and immediately took off the helmet that concealed his head. He removed the helmet manually since his battle armor's circuits and hydraulics were frozen over, and served only one purpose at the moment: multiplying his body weight by a factor of three. His face was wet with water, iced over in some areas, especially around his combed hair, which now had a similar appearance of an arctic tundra. His face appeared as blue as the skin on a Wailord, especially around his lips, which were open and exposing chattering teeth.

If he had remained frozen for a slightly longer period of time, he would've developed severe hypothermia—and possibly die as Xeno might've wanted.

The Grunt saw him on his knees, shivering from the cold that he endured, and stepped in front of him to check if he was alright. The Grunt noticed a countenance that showed signs of disappointment. And much to his better judgment, he decided to ask about it.

"Sir, you don't look so good, physically and emotionally."

Giovanni's face warmed up enough to allow him to stop chattering his teeth. "Xeno… I couldn't stop it."

"Xeno? Xeno Lucario?" The Grunt made sure. "What about it?"

"He formulated an escape," Giovanni said, looking down at the floor, "and like an absolute neophyte, I let him leave successfully. He got away with virtually all of the Pokémon in this building!" He punched the ground in frustration, cracking the ground in the progress, and burying his fist knuckle deep into the floor.

"At least the Grunts on missions right now didn't lose their Pokémon," The Grunt thought to himself. "And we still have Pokémon housed within our other clandestine bases within the Kanto region."

Giovanni was well aware of this, but the setback that his primary headquarters sustained would take years to recover from.

"Help me remove this battle armor," Giovanni snapped his fingers at the Grunt, and held out the hand that did so. "It's beginning to injure me rather than benefit me."

"Yes sir!" The Grunt dutifully grabbed his hand and began to remove the battle armor, segment by segment.

Giovanni vindictively thinks of Xeno and plans his revenge on the rebellious Aura Pokémon. Once he and his HQ recover, he plans on making vast improvements on his battle armor. He already possesses powers similar to those of Mewtwo and Xeno—both of which need fine tuning and hundreds of hours of further testing—, and ponders the possibility of assimilating the abilities of other Pokémon as well.

He looks at his party of defeated Pokémon—especially the Steelix that Lucario scattered across the Vehicle Room—, thinking of using them for his battle armor's future evolution.

"(I'll conquer the world one day, and I'll need the power of every Pokémon that I can get my hands on in order to do so,)" Giovanni thought, aware of the work that is required for his future goals.

15.2: Additional Cargo

Location: Mt. Moon (Summit)

Time: 10:09 AM

Lucario ventures farther and farther away from Team Rocket Main Headquarters, deliberately choosing to travel far, especially because of the damage that he and his Pokémon allies did to the Vehicle Room. He figured that the Grunts that he had Dusknoir and Luxray knock out should've awakened by now, and that they would be on the alert for him. He had their vehicles scrapped, but not their communication devices. And to keep himself from slacking off, he always assumed that they were still on the hunt for him.

The renegade Aura Pokémon hopped across each mountain that was in front of him, stopping once he reached the summit of one mountain. He paused to observe his surroundings, knowing that he was presently in the mountain range of Mt. Moon.

He looks directly behind him, disregarding the gusts of cool mountain wind that were omni-present. He could see Team Rocket Main Headquarters from here, despite having traveled dozens of miles during this short amount of time. And from this distance, he could still identify the main structure, as well as the infamous red letter "R" that was on the front of it.

Part of Lucario is in disbelief that his escape was now a reality. He looked back forward, seeing the vast rocky scenery—freedom—again, with the cloudy layer of fog hiding the bases of the mountains. The scenery, albeit tranquil and cool with its gusts of clean and healthy mountain air, was not what Lucario was attentive to. He thought of his allies and where they were exactly. He ordered them to leave and commence Phase Three of Team Liberator's Plan, whether or not he'd survived his fight with Giovanni.

Since their cargo helicopter was clearly nowhere in sight, he'd have to commence the arduous process of tracking them down. He wouldn't know where to begin, and would most likely travel across the planet, just to find one metal contraption.

It would be like finding a needle in a haystack, as cliché albeit as close to the truth as it seems.

"(If I was a cargo helicopter,)" Lucario thought to himself, "(I'd be over the horizon by now…)"

He sighed deeply and with a bit of a groan, for two reasons actually. The first reason was the tediousness of locating his allies.

The second reason was one that was within his field of perception.

"I know you two are back there." Lucario said, not looking back again. "You both should reveal yourselves before I fire an AURA SPHERE at you out of self-defense."

From behind a boulder that was the size of a small car, two voices were audible.

"I told you that our aura would give us away to it," A figure with a logical, low-pitch telepathic voice said.

"I don't believe you," A figure with a shrill, bird-like voice said.

The two figures exposed themselves from behind the boulder. Lucario, so as to show respect, turned around to see them. Before his eyes, he saw a Beldum with a Torchic perched on the top of its head.

(National Pokédex entry #374: Beldum, the Iron Ball Pokémon. It is a Steel-Type and a Psychic-Type Pokémon that measures approximately 2' 00'' in height and weighs in at an astonishing 209.9 lbs. It converses with others by using magnetic pulses. In a swarm, they move in perfect unison. Unfortunately, no other Beldum is within the area.)

(National Pokédex entry #255: Torchic, the Chick Pokémon. It is a Fire-Type Pokémon that measures approximately 1' 04'' in height and a derisory 5.5 lbs. A fire burns inside, so it feels very warm to hug. It launches fireballs of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Makes you wonder what keeps a Torchic from spontaneously combusting itself.)

"Why are you following me?" Lucario asked, deciding not to waste his time reading their minds.

"We saw you fight against that metal man earlier in the day and—"

"I know. I was sensing your aura in the middle of that fight." Lucario clarified.

"What did I just tell you, Torchic?" Beldum reminded the Chick Pokémon that was perched on the top of its head.

"(*Sigh*) you're right again, for the umpteenth time," Torchic muttered before resuming its earlier conversation. "Anyway, we saw that fight earlier and thought that we could join you and learn from you."

"(How straightforward,)" Lucario thought of their desire.

"So, what's your answer?" Beldum inquired. "Tweety up here is just itching to know."

Lucario turned his back on them both and looked over the edge of the summit of the mountain that he stood on top of.

"No" was the only word he said before leaping down.

Both Pokémon—Beldum, to be specific—moved over to where Lucario just stood and saw him, down below, leaping forward with great speed over the asymmetrical terrain.

Torchic had this to say, while Lucario was still close by and within earshot.

"Where in the world are you going?" Torchic's sharp voice echoed across the environment.

Lucario was already hundreds of feet ahead of them and said "Home!" Lucario's telepathic voice was audible enough for both Pokémon to hear, but only just.

Both Pokémon watched on as Lucario went farther and farther away.

Beldum had this to say.

"You want me to follow that dark-furred Lucario…right?" It said submissively.

"Of course! Hop—er, hover—to it!" Torchic hopped a couple of time on Beldum's head to motivate it, tapping its toenails on Beldum's metallic surface in the process.

"(Why do I let others order me around?)" Beldum thought depreciatively before hovering forward at a respectable speed, one fast enough to follow Lucario without losing sight of him, or causing the perched Torchic from losing its footing.

Location: Celadon Forest (Outskirts)

Date: October 17th, 2011

Time: 1:52 PM

Lucario had been traveling for over thirty-two hours since he escaped from Team Rocket Main Headquarters solitarily. Despite having crossed a few hundred miles of terrain, he showed minute signs of exhaustion. He stopped occasionally to feed on the Berries that were scattered around when he felt famished, and then proceeded forward.

During those breaks, he would often notice that Beldum and Torchic caught up to him. This was immaterial to him and he would proceed onward to his intended destination.

He stopped in front of Celadon Forest, where trees began to block the horizon. The sunlight and part of the sky glistened through the leaves. Lucario's visor proved enough of a bulwark to protect his blood-red eyes from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Without looking away from the outskirts of Celadon Forest, Lucario had this to say with a stagnant countenance:

"Your endurance is remarkable, Beldum."


Lucario, for little necessary reason, decided to turn back to see what was going on. He noticed Beldum had collapsed on the grass floor out of fatigue and Torchic is pecking at the back of its head, in an attempt to refresh it.

"Did I not make myself clear yesterday? I told you both that you shouldn't follow me." He said with concern and not anger.

Torchic paused its pecking at the Iron Ball Pokémon and looked up at Lucario. "And why should we. We have a reason to do so."

"You may have a reason to follow me, but you might not have a life to follow me with, the both of you."

Torchic was puzzled. "What do you mean by that?"

"If the both of you are going to continue to follow me, then you're precariously intertwining your young lives with mine," Lucario began his explanation. "In the hands of Team Rocket, I've become a renegade, a Pokémon that has been classified as gone AWOL. I will be hunted ad infinitum by the 'metal man' Giovanni." Lucario's tone of voice changed when he quoted the Chick Pokémon's line yesterday. "If you value your life—as well as that of your submissive friend before you—, then you'll comprehend this choice and stay away from me…far, far away."

"I don't care!" Torchic said automatically and stubbornly.

"(I do…)" Beldum was still able to hear—with whatever derivative ears that it has.

Lucario shook his head in disappointment, feeling as if his time was drained with these two Pokémon. He proceeded within the Celadon Forest, leaving both Beldum and Torchic behind once more.

Torchic, seeing Lucario abandon them again, still felt a strong urge to follow him. It noticed that Beldum was still on the floor, fatigued from traveling for over thirty-two hours with little time periods to rest. Torchic wanted to peck at it to motivate it to continue, but all that did for the Chick Pokémon was make its beak sore.

Instead, Torchic got on top of Beldum and walked backwards on it, causing them both to move forward, as if the Iron Ball Pokémon were a wooden log.

"(Why don't I ever have a choice in this?)" Beldum thought as its face rolled over the grass and leaves of the forest floor, feeling rather fortunate that it doesn't have an open mouth on its face, or a tongue, or even taste buds for that matter.

Location: Celadon Forest (Cliffside)

Lucario stood precariously close to the edge of the Celadon Forest Cliffside, the location where he defeated a malicious Absol obsessed on seeing his species of Pokémon become extinct, almost losing his own life in the process.

He looked down at the Cliffside's edge and only saw thick trees, not the forest floor itself. In looking down, he concentrated on his memory to recall what happened here when he was only two-and-a-half years old, over fifteen-and-a-half years ago.

(Lucario's Flashback)

"You'll never be able to kill me." He crunched the AURA SPHERE in his paw and had it become a boxing glove. He also forcefully grabbed Absol by the neck with his right paw, not caring anymore about the pain induced by his broken bones in doing so. He only recalled momentarily how similar this final attack was to the day that he and Absol met for the first time.

"…Ah (*gasp*) …and why is that?" Absol was choking now, and eyeing Lucario dead center in its blood-red eyes with its one remaining eye. It had absolutely no more energy left to try to defend.

"I've already said so," Lucario brought his left arm back as high as he could, as if wanting to put all that he currently has left in one final attack. "I have more of a purpose and the willpower to support it than you'll ever have."

Knowing this was his final attack that'll decide who's victorious, Lucario brought his fist down upon Absol's face, having a much more directed explosion aimed perfectly at its face and not onto him like before, delivering a stalwart punch that easily imploded Absol's snout and jaw, as well as rendering any form of recognition of this Disaster Pokémon impossible.

Absol only heard the sound of a gale storm in its remaining ear before hearing the sound of rushing air. It felt so much pain on its face, as if a boulder was dropped onto it, but it could care less, because now it knew for a fact that it was falling off of the cliff.

"(…I'm…finished…)" It thought briefly, accepting its fate before falling to the trees below.

Lucario, with the AURA SPHERE spent, stared down at the falling Pokémon. His vision was slowly beginning to distort into blurriness, just as it noticed Absol disappear into the trees below. His sense of hearing faded away as well, preventing him to hear the sound of Absol's impact below.

Now he was beginning to lose his balance as the unfair hand of unconsciousness began to wrap itself around his neck.

"(My species…has been saved…from further anguish…)" His vision was beginning to blend together on its own, slowly merging all available colors into darkness. "(And now…)"

He began to lean towards the cliff's edge against his will; rolling back his eyes and slowly closing them before losing consciousness to the point of not being aware of his current situation.

"…I'm…finished…" Lucario muttered those last words before finally losing his balance and falling off the edge of the cliff.

(End of Lucario's Flashback)

Lucario knew that a fall from this height is easily fatal to most Pokémon. He recalled falling from a greater height during the fight with Absol. He survived it mainly due to two reasons: he rejuvenated himself due to the Berries that Tiny provisioned for him before the fight and because he used ENDURE to resist the fall's impact.

"Good riddance, Absol." He thought before stepping away from the Cliffside and proceeding onward, strongly believing that Absol was no longer alive and on this world.

Torchic and its method of choice for transportation—Beldum—came a few seconds after Lucario left the Celadon Forest Cliffside. Torchic stopped rolling on Beldum within feet from the edge of the cliff and stepped off of the Iron Ball Pokémon. It then walked over and perched itself momentarily to the edge of the cliff, raising itself up onto its toes and leaning over slightly to see what resided below, albeit very carefully so as to not lose its balance.

All it saw below were a bunch of dense trees that cloaked the floor below.

"(What went on in your head, Lucario?)" It thought before looking back and catching a glimpse of Lucario proceeding within the Celadon Forest.

As expected, Torchic was quick on deciding to follow him once more, and utilized Beldum as its method of transportation once more.

Location: Celadon Forest (Tree House - Ground Zero)

At the tree house—or to be more specific, what little there's left of it—, Lucario observes the faded ash remains that was once the home of him, Sceptile, Tiny, and Wanderer. He recalls that this is the location where Team Rocket killed both Sceptile and Tiny, and another flashback ensues.

(Lucario's Flashback)

"SELFDESTRUCT!" The Grunts who owned the Koffing shouted.

"EXPLOSION!" the Grunts who owned the Weezing shouted.

"...What…?" Lucario was stunned to hear those two attacks being ordered. He swore he felt his whole physical being sink with dread at the thought of having the Grunts willingly put the lives of their own Pokémon's in jeopardy, just to take out other Pokémon.

Within one moment of those words, the Koffing and Weezing didn't hesitate to utilize an attack that would likely eliminate their existence in a heartbeat. They quickly made themselves glow a blinding white light, preparing to explode.

Sceptile and Tiny remained stationary, since they knew that they couldn't escape because they were surrounded. They closed their eyes, fatalistically accepting death, hoping that it would be quick and painless.

Tiny even went as far as clinging onto Sceptile's left leg, as if it was a farewell hug.

However, Lucario wasn't going to accept that kneeling down. Quickly, he got up on his two furry feet and used EXTREMESPEED to sprint towards the targeted Pokémon, planning to retrieve them and free them from a fiery death. Just as quickly as he ran, he exposed his cover to the Team Rocket Grunts in the process with that same gale-making speed.

"What in the world?" The very same Grunt that did the double-take earlier to a shrub was the first to notice Lucario, quickly followed by the remainder of the Grunts. He wasn't flabbergasted by the fact that a Lucario was here in a forest—since they're more common, despite being seldom seen by humanity, in cold and tall mountain ranges. He was more discombobulated by the fact as to why the Lucario he saw was charging towards the intended explosion site.

"(Almost…there…)" Lucario could feel enough dread and suspense in his heart to the point of seeing the world slow down in front of him, adrenaline surging to his mind and slowing down time before him. He could even feel his own accelerated heartbeat pulsate within his head, since he can't hear it with his ears due to the rush of wind caused by EXTREMESPEED.

He made one final leap across the wooden remains of the tree house, paying little attention to the fact that his sense of time slowed down before him at the moment. He landed and made one final dash towards Sceptile and Tiny.

Sceptile opened its eyes for a brief moment, noticing Lucario running towards it. Its eyes widened quickly, yet Tiny's eyes remained clamped shut, its being fully cringed for fear of death.

"…Lucario…?" Sceptile said at the sight of the Aura Pokémon, here of all places.



(End of Lucario's Flashback)

The thought that they perished in the explosion made Lucario mourn over them once more. He couldn't ponder a way in which they survived the explosion caused by the kamikaze Koffing and Weezing. Once his eyes began to water and tears streamed down his furry blue cheeks due to these painful resurfacing emotions, he decided to leave.

Torchic stops at the ash remains that Lucario eyed earlier, faintly hearing the Aura Pokémon sob as he walked away, and wonders what his waterworks were all about, since they were connected to this small wasteland within the Celadon Forest.

"(What connection does this place have with Lucario?)" Beldum thought, seeing the ash with its own eye, albeit turned ninety degrees on one side.

Location: Celadon Forest (Waterfall)

At the waterfall, Lucario recalls how he would often meditate here for a good portion of the day, at least a few hours, in order to enhance his innate aura abilities and keep himself stable.

He recalls how Tiny used to play here often, while he meditated. He remembered how Tiny would climb up to the top of the waterfall and dive down into the lake below. He also remembered one time where Sceptile washed his bed sheets for him, because he awakened with a cold sweat from a dream that revealed to him—although he didn't realize it yet—Giovanni coming to Celadon Forest.

Lucario chose not to think further of this because he was still somber over recalling the incident at their tree house over a year ago.

What he chose to do instead is meditate underneath the waterfall, like he did before Team Rocket captured him. He proceeded across the water, by swimming so that he could wash away the grime he collected recently —the stomach acid that dried and clung onto Lucario's battle armor and fur—, and placed himself on the "island" that the waterfall fell on.

He crossed his legs, clasped his paws together, and closed his eyes underneath the visor he wore. The fact that he had his battle armor on him as he meditated didn't concern him, despite the fact that it came from the same people that captured him and utilized him for their collective revenue.

Beldum—whom recovered from its fatigue and hovered once more—and Torchic—whom stood on top of Beldum's head—watched on as Lucario meditated underneath the waterfall. Torchic hopped off of its hovering perch and scuttled around the pool of water, until he was close enough to Lucario, without getting wet.

Lucario hears a chirping voice over the roar of the waterfall.

"Xeno…Lucario…" Torchic recalled. "That's your full name, right?"

Lucario opened his eyes underneath the visor. Torchic couldn't tell that it was being watched already, since Lucario is as still as a marble effigy.

"That what the metal man—I mean, Giovanni—called you, right?"

Lucario decided to speak, so that he didn't give Torchic the speculation that it was being disregarded. "Correct," He said concisely.

"What kind of a man is this Giovanni that you speak of?" Beldum spoke, hovering over the water, about five feet away from the Aura Pokémon.

Since Lucario was no longer meditating anymore, he stood up and jumped over to dry land. He used OVERHEAT in low power output in order to have the water clinging onto his midnight blue fur and battle armor evaporate away. Alongside that, he faced both Beldum and Torchic and had plenty on his mind about Giovanni to tell the both of them.

"Giovanni is the leader of a malevolent organized crime syndicate known as Team Rocket. He only sees two characteristics about Pokémon that help run his organization: money and power. He strives in obtaining the strongest Pokémon possible and disposes of those that he deems feeble and useless."

"He's that bad?" Torchic said.

"He's the primary reason why I wanted you both to stay away from me."

A significant amount of silence passed, enough for Lucario to dry off completely and stop using OVERHEAT. Lucario didn't have to read their minds to know that they were concerned with leaving him. He could read that from their despondent physiognomy.

Because of this, he had this to say.

"However, if you two desire accompanying me..."

Lucario could already see their frowns turn upside down. As for Beldum, he could see it took notice and twitched its head somewhat.

"…it has to be on one condition." Lucario temporarily raised one finger from his left paw.

"Anything, name your price!" Torchic blurted out immediately.

"(Must you always leap before you look?)" Beldum thought against Torchic's outburst.

"Alright then," Lucario smiled faintly. "My one and only condition is that I will train you, unlock your dormant potential and allow you both to defend against future threats."

Both Pokémon were astonished at Lucario's "condition".


"You'd do that, for us?"

"Of course," Lucario said. "After all, I said earlier that 'you're precariously intertwining your young lives with mine'. I might as well strengthen you both to reach a magnitude that I can feel comfortable with."

Torchic, well-content with Lucario's "condition", looked at the waterfall, up at its highest point and down below at the rock "island". "Do you think I could begin my training by meditating underneath this waterfall, like you did earlier?"

"No, not yet," Lucario warned the Chick Pokémon. "You might get crushed by the weight of the water. You're still too small and fragile."

"(Maybe I'll be free of your headstrong and dominant nature if you're crushed…)" Beldum trailed off in thought.

"Beldum, you do realize that I can hear your thoughts, right?" Lucario said, eyeing the Iron Ball Pokémon underneath the shroud that is his visor. "Would you like me to tell it what you just thought?"

"Go right on ahead. Torchic knows what I think of it," Beldum explained. "But that's the quintessence of friendship: you have to pinpoint the negativities of your friend and accept them, whether they're fixable or not."

15.3: Back From the Dead

Location: Celadon Forest (Core)

Time: 2:36 PM

Beldum, Lucario, and Torchic ventured into Celadon Forest's Core, an area which showed the tallest trees out of anywhere else within the current location. To pass the time, Beldum and Torchic conversed with Lucario, mostly of his past.

"So tell me again as to why you decided to bring your battle armor with you, when you know quite well that it came from the people that will hunt you persistently."

"There are great assets and strengths within this battle armor that supplement my own over time." Lucario responded effectively. "Giovanni mentioned that its crystalline-titanium alloy has properties that gradually amplify my aura abilities, my psychic abilities…my overall martial potential. Because of this, if Giovanni ever rears his back-combed head at me again, stronger than before, I'll repel his strength back with my own."

"What do you suppose your friends are doing right now?" Torchic said, perched on top of Lucario's helmet this time.

"They might be dropping off the first of hundreds of captured Pokémon off at their respective locations. But since I don't know where they are, what do I know?"

"Do you think they're here?" Beldum said.

Lucario stopped walking and Beldum stopped hovering forward upon seeing this. He used his Aura Vision ability underneath his visor—and the Chick Pokémon perched on top of his helmet—and scanned his surroundings. "No, they're not here. I don't sense their aura at all."

He stopped using his Aura Vision ability and they proceeded forward across the Core of Celadon Forest. They soon found themselves out of the foliage norm and, to their surprise, surrounded by a natural oddity.

All three Pokémon were surrounded by fallen trees that cluttered an area the size of a small street. All of the trees showed signs of decay, and were falling apart with age.

"How queer," Lucario said. "This wasn't here before."

"How long have you been gone from this forest again?" Torchic reminded him.

"Over a year ago—or 372 days to be precise…"

Lucario proceeded forward across the uneven terrain, scanning this new phenomenon for all of the information that its worth.

"A surplus of events could've occurred here during my absence."

All three Pokémon slowly proceeded across the vastness of this deforestation, clueless as to what exactly happened here. They stopped moving once Lucario identified the ingrained remains of the trees.

Lucario stepped closer to one of the mutilated trees and noticed the surface of the tree, where the rest of it was removed. He rubbed across its exposed surface with his paw, noticing how smooth it was, free of splinters or rough edges that would cling onto Lucario's fur for all their worth.

"I've heard that some Pokémon have witnessed humans chopping down trees with massive metal contraptions," Torchic recalled. "Do you think that some humans came here while you were away?"

Lucario contemplated the possibility of manmade deforestation briefly. His answer to this was a flat "Unlikely."

"What makes you so sure?" Beldum inquired.

"Just look around you."

Beldum rotated its body a full 360 degrees, examining the barren area. Torchic did the same, tapping its toenails on Lucario's helmet in the process.

"If humans came over, they would've literally left a distinguishable path of destruction behind them. However, this whole area is enclosed by the surrounding native foliage."

"Your point is?" Torchic was still unsure.

"Something else did this, for reasons unknown."

"Could another Pokémon have done this?" Beldum said.

"Possibly," Lucario said before using his Aura Vision ability once more. For a brief amount of time, he scanned his surroundings, looking beyond the area of deforestation that he, Beldum, and Torchic resided upon.

When his Aura Vision faded away into nothingness, he had this to say to his followers: "However, there's one fatal flaw with that hypothesis."

"Like what?"

"Where are all of the Pokémon that normally inhabit this forest?"

Both Beldum and Torchic were rendered speechless. They remembered with detail, as they followed Lucario earlier, that there was no other Pokémon within Celadon Forest, not even one.

"Let's continue onward," Lucario suggested. "Perhaps they're concentrated in a specific location."

All three Pokémon ventured deeper within the Core of Celadon Forest. Beldum and Torchic continued within the forest once more—Torchic hopping over from Lucario to Beldum in the process—, leaving only Lucario to look back at the deforestation one more time.

"(What happened here in my absence?)" Lucario thought as he took a long look at this disheartening scene. He proceeded within the forest a full minute after.

Torchic and Beldum, temporarily absent from Lucario's presence proceeded onward. The foliage of the forest blocked more and more sunlight, until it gave the illusion that it was night. The abnormal setting of the Celadon Forest caused the survival instincts of both Beldum and Torchic to heighten somewhat.

Beldum hovered slowly forward, with Torchic on top of its head, sweeping across the forest with its eye.

"Do you get the feeling…" Beldum said, "…that we're being watched."

"…Yes," Torchic said while surveying the area in front of it.

As Beldum continued to hover forward, it noticed an oddly-shaped patch of fallen leaves that resided on the base of one of the trees. It hovered closer to it and lowered its height.

"What do you think this is?" Beldum said, looking down.

"I'm not sure." Torchic said, stepping backwards to compensate for Beldum's head tilt.

Lucario caught up to them and noticed that they were both observing a point of interest. He looked down at what they were observing and said "Do you want me to unearth this?"

They both nodded, Torchic almost losing its balance when Beldum nodded.

"Alright then," Lucario quickly spun its left arm around in a circle and launched a concentrated GUST of wind that blew away the dead leaves. The leaves crumbled in the wind and scattered in fragments to their right.

Upon seeing what he unearthed, he muttered "Oh my Arceus," with mild astonishment.

What he had just unearthed was a decaying corpse of a human being and a couple of small Pokémon that were clutched tightly in its hands. Clothing was still present on the corpse, albeit it was dissolving and rotting alongside the corpse, heavily in random places compared to others.

What struck Lucario odd was what was on the belt that this person wore.

"(Two Poké Balls…)" Lucario thought briefly, only noticing two Poké Balls on the corpse's belt.

Without gagging, or even thinking of how repulsive the corpse looked and smelled—especially to his heightened sense of smell—, he retrieved the Poké Balls with PSYCHIC. He exposed the Luxury Ball that he had on him earlier—the one Wanderer gave him yesterday, which he held onto after leaving his belt behind with his colleagues—from the fur on the side of his thighs and compared it to both Poké Balls that he was holding.

While the Luxury Ball that he held was mostly black in appearance, with a gold band across the center, and a red band above it, the other two Poké Balls looked nothing at all similar to it. One simply looked like an ordinary Poké Ball, painted green in place of red, and decorated with four red "teardrops"—two on the left and two on the right—and a single yellow dot above them. The other Poké Ball had a shadowy black in place of red, and possessed a yellow "H" that covered its entire upper hemisphere.

Through the valuable experience that he obtained in Team Rocket, he was able to deduce the identity of both Poké Balls: a Friend Ball and an Ultra Ball.

Lucario tucked away his Luxury Ball and played a bit with the two new Poké Ball models that he found. "(Did this trainerperish in the center of the forest, unable to locate an exit?)" Lucario thought. "(Perhaps not… This forest may be expansive, but it's no labyrinth of flora.)"

He was about to ask for the opinions of both Beldum and Torchic when he noticed that they were no longer by his side. Since Lucario wasn't using his Aura Vision ability at the moment, he used his eyes to look around himself for them. "(Where did those two go? They're usually right behind me.)"

His finely tuned eyes soon targeted two Pokémon fleeing from their previous location. The shock of the corpse caused them both to flee in a hurry, and away from this part of Celadon Forest.

Lucario was about to run after them when he heard a rustle of the leaves to his left. He looked in that direction and caught a glimpse of a darting figure heading over, at a blurring fast pace, directly over to Beldum and Torchic.

"(Whatever that thing is, it's heading straight for them!)" Lucario thought with his intrinsic instincts flaring.

Not wanting to take the risk in assuming that the unknown figure is not hostile, he pressed the buttons on both of the Poké Balls that he was holding, having them enlarge in his palms. With one quick forward sweep of his arm, he launched them at his two targets, never thinking once that the Poké Balls might've been broken or used by their previous deceased owner. With both Poké Balls in mid-air, he steered their course with his telekinetic abilities.

Both Beldum and Torchic never saw the Poké balls coming behind them as they made direct contact with them. Much to Lucario's intentions, both Pokémon were assimilated within the Poké Balls' complicated circuitry in the form of quintessential red energy. Beldum was captured within the Ultra Ball and Torchic was captured within the Friend Ball.

Both Poké Balls immediately returned to their thrower, milliseconds before the trees that surrounded them were leveled in an instant, their trunks cut through horizontally by what appeared to be a faint white horizontal streak of briefly-charged air.

Lucario caught both Poké balls as they flew back towards him. He shrunk them into their compact size and tucked them away beside the Luxury Ball in his possession. The Aura Pokémon was still on the alert after witnessing this sudden deforestation.

"(I didn't even see what cut down those trees…)" Lucario thought, astounded at the speed of the unknown figure.

Before Lucario decided to activate his Aura Vision once more, in order to pinpoint the anonymous figure, the mentioned figure spoke to him, with a hissy lizard-like voice.

"You're trespassing in my forest! Leave now or else you'll join the corpses rotting away here!"

Lucario eyes widened as he recognized the identity of the enigmatic voice in a heartbeat. His eyes began to sting from premature signs of crying.

"Sceptile, is that you?" He spoke with tears forming in his eyes.

The figure that Lucario identified as Sceptile jumped over the fallen trees and landed about ten feet in front of the Aura Pokémon. Sure enough, the figure that Lucario identified as Sceptile was in fact the Sceptile that he knew and loved, albeit with moderate differences as to the last time that he and it last met.

The Sceptile that Lucario remembered was free of scars and pristine in physical constitution. The Sceptile that was in front of him now was mostly different in outer appearance. Lucario noticed uncountable quantities of burns and scars littering the Forest Pokémon's body. He noticed that Sceptile's entire right arm, up to the shoulder, was missing. Its arm, however, was replaced by what was strapped on Sceptile's back: a massive scabbard that housed an equally massive buster sword.

This buster sword was just as large as Sceptile in terms of body length. It consisted of a long red hilt, long enough to be wielded with both hands—but was only wielded with one—, and was tipped with a circular golden knob at the end. The blade itself was in the shape of a long lengthwise rectangle with a triangle-shaped tip cut off of one end. The blade—metallic silver in color—was sharpened to deadly razor-like quality across all of its edges. The blade and handle were connected by a cylindrical segment that was gold in color.

Overall, the blade just screamed "decapitation hazard" to its target and easily had the mass—and arm wielding it—to level multiple tree trunks in one horizontal sweep.

"(Where in the world did you get that massive sword from?)" Lucario thought privately, never thinking about Sceptile's physical appearance, having a clear understanding of where those scars came from.

"I'll repeat myself," Sceptile said, only this time it crouched down with its feet spread further apart, its left clawed hand gripping the hilt of the massive buster sword. "You're trespassing in my forest. Leave now or I'll kill you where you stand!"

The tears from Lucario's eyes disappeared as quickly as Sceptile's hostile intentions were revealed. "(What's happened to you, Sceptile? What have you become?)" Lucario thought, too much in shock to form a battle stance.

"No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow." —Alice Walker

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