The Path of the Aura: Intertwining Crossroads

Chapter XVII (17): When Crossroads Meet

Location: 28°N, 34°E (Solitary Tree atop a Hill)

Date: January 10th, 60 A.D.

Time: 4:21 PM

A long discussion took place between my brothers and I, they craving to know what I did during my banishment. I told them everything that they wished to know that I had to tell them: my S2-PTSDO device—as well as its upgraded second version—, my S3-OSS devices, my encounter with the enigmatic sable-scaled dragon, my meeting with the hooded figure—which led to my inadvertent return to my home village, and various other trinkets of information that they wished to know.

All of this was, what I believed, to be the most relevant information that my brothers wished for me to discuss with them. And during this time of recapitulation, the three of us tended to the immobile Aura Pokémon's physical appearance.

The three of us washed clean the blood that stained his striking fur coat, using the clear Red Sea water nearby us, as well as a few sponges within the limitless storage capabilities of my S1-GS device. Afterwards, I retrieved a clean white cloth and set it on top of a pristine patch of healthy green grass—one free of Lucario's coagulated hemorrhage—before the three of us gently placed his body on top of it. Next, I retrieved a white pillow and a white blanket, both of which were for his comfort. The pillow was properly placed below the recovering Pokémon's cranium—with his dreadlock-like appendages strategically straightened out so that they weren't smothered—and the blanket was placed over him, leaving only Xeno's head and neck visible from the pristine, colorless fabric.

Once Lucario was properly tended to, and my summarization with my brothers was over, the three of us sat down in a circle around Lucario. My two brothers decided to ask me a couple of questions, to pass the time.

"So during your banishment," Ian queried. "You actually lost complete interest in the village that you were born in?"

I looked at Ian's face and nodded. "I used to, but no longer. My place amongst my home and my neighbors is cemented, and my hopes for their better future rekindled."

Ian smiled at my statement. "I'm glad that banishment hasn't hardened your heart irreversibly."

"Likewise," I smiled back.

"And that material you made, out of the polymerization of all of those various elements…" Costas entered the conversation. "Why exactly did you name it 'Auracite'?"

"It's fairly straightforward from my perspective." I looked at Costas and explained. "Ever since I first discovered my Elemental Aura abilities, I always thought of the aura as a powerful force. It's a force that, if used properly, can overcome any challenge and any impediment in its path. The name 'Auracite' is an obvious derivative from aura, because they both can have the potential to supersede any oncoming obstacles."

"Oh, I see now…" Costas remarked, understanding my reasoning.

Once all of the commotion between the three of us ended, I stood back upright and eyed Xeno's unequipped battle armor and utility belt. I noticed these items placed directly beside the tree trunk, and figured that examining them in greater detail would pass the time. Not only that, but I might learn something about the Aura Pokémon and where he hails from.

"(Nothing on this planet looks like you or possesses technological equipment of that caliber.)" I pondered. "(Wherever you're from, Xeno, your gear might make it clear to me.)"

Deciding on this choice of action, I proceeded over to Lucario's battle armor, simultaneously retrieving my S2-PTSDOv.2 device from its respective holster on the left side of my waistline. Once I was directly beside his battle armor, I eyed Lucario's helmet and held it with my remaining hand, already dissecting its construction and function within my mind.

"(The materials utilized in its manufacturing are titanium and various rare crystals.)" I began "(The process to unify these two materials involved high temperatures and mixing them thoroughly, once they were melted enough to meld properly.)"

The next thing that I noticed of the helmet is the visor that shielded Xeno's eyes.

"(This visor is high-tech and capable of projecting various bits of information to its user, through a compacted computer database that is capable of storing approximately one hundred terabytes of data. Rather impressive for its diminutive size.)"

I looked at the front of the helmet, eyeing the dark coloring of the visor.

"(The visor is polarized in the front side of the lens, so as to reduce glare and provide an uninterrupted field of vision.)"

Finally, I looked at the inside of the helmet, and eyed the manufacturing information provided. However, before I could dissect it, Costas was quick to point it out for me.

"Eduardo, did you notice the engravings within the helmet?"

"You mean the red 'R', as well as the number '2010'?" I said, eyeing the mentioned marks.

"Yeah, that's it." Costas confirmed. "Do you know what the 'R' is for? I'm clueless."

It only took me a brief moment to hypothesize a potential answer. "The red 'R' is likely the emblem for whatever organization manufactured this armor."

"You should be careful with that helmet," Ian warned me. "Xeno wouldn't want it damaged unintentionally."

I placed the helmet gingerly back in its original location and eyed Ian with a composed countenance. "You're talking to a person that sees both nature and technology as items greater in value than gold. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine breaking it."

After the external examination of Lucario's helmet, I decided to examine the information that it held within its databanks. With the S2-PTSDOv.2 device that I already had in hand, I connected it wirelessly to the computer within Lucario's helmet. The process to do so was instantaneous, due to the immensely superior technology involved, and the programs involved that broke through any potential security walls as though they were sheets of toilet paper soaked with water.

And as for the terabytes of data that was stored within his helmet, all of it was copied and downloaded into my S2-PTSDOv.2's databanks.

…in under ten seconds.

"(Well, that was fast.)" I pondered as I began to skim through all of the information that I just obtained. "(And without any problems in data transfer either.)"

One of the files that I passed over explained of a criminal organization by the name of Team Rocket. Within these files, I could see information relating to their accomplishments, their plans, their tactics, and their ideas for global domination, all of which involve the use of Pokémon at the heart of their structure.

With great frequency, I saw the logo for Team Rocket within these files: a red, capital letter "R".

"(That same logo…)" I stared lengthily at the image formed from the thousands of pixels of my S2-PTSDOv.2 device's screen. "(It's also present within that helmet of his. Does that make Xeno Lucario an agent of Team Rocket…or a tool?)"

I gave a few seconds of my time to looking at Lucario's current and stable condition, before looking back at my S2-PTSDOv.2 device and skimming through the remainder of the files.

"(I'll just save that question for when he awakens.)"

Looking onward at this vast collection of data that I acquired, I noticed another collection of data. This data contained blueprints for many various technological devices, likely for Team Rocket to follow for the items that they require for their nefarious campaign.

Of the tens of thousands of blueprints that my S2-PTSDOv.2 device acquired and stored within its memory, the select few that caught my eye were blueprints that struck a mental chord of nostalgia within me. The blueprints listed information on how to make a Nintendo DS handheld system—both DS and DS Lite versions—and a surprising twenty-six different adaptations to the Poké Ball capsules, alongside various unofficial or outdated Poké Ball models, one of them depicting the GS Ball.

The reason because these blueprints struck me nostalgically is solely in part due to how their aesthetic appearance is equal to my first three "S-Rank" devices. The GS Ball portrayed through the blueprints is perfectly similar to my S1-GS device, right down to the shape of the "GS" above the opening button. The Nintendo DS handhelds are—from an aesthetic standpoint—exactly similar in appearance as well. The individual designs of those twenty-six categorized Poké Ball models also shared the visual traits as those of my twenty-six S3-OSS devices.

My latest "S-Rank" invention—the S4-BW device—however, didn't show any structural similarities with any of the technological devices that these blueprints portrayed.

The reason for this wasn't difficult for me to wrap my head around, once I figured out where my "S-Rank" devices first originated from.

I saw the designs of my first three "S-Rank" gadgets through dreams that I had about future technology. The origins of any of those devices, I always figured, were from a time period a couple of millennia ahead in the planet Earth's current timeline.

But now, with the information that I've just acquired, I realize now that my hypothesis is, in most ways, true. The only decisive bit of information that I never pondered of was that the designs of this technology stemmed from a parallel Earth.

"(Hmm… I learn something new every day, no matter how much I know as is.)" I pondered before facing both of my brothers. "Would you two believe that the aesthetic designs of my first three 'S-Rank' devices match the products that these blueprints portray?"

My brothers didn't seem surprised by this realization. In fact, they seemed relieved at this understanding.

"I always thought those devices of yours were otherworldly," Ian said.

"It's not just those 'S-Rank' devices of yours, you know." Costas began to explain to me. "Those sixty-four Berries that you gene-spliced, they're plentiful within Xeno's parallel world."

"Really?" I said. "Perhaps then, because of the parallelism of this Earth and Xeno's Earth, many common qualities between both Earths are altered in interesting ways. For example, the natural flora and fauna of Xeno Lucario's Earth show supernatural qualities, while the natural flora and fauna of this Earth do not."

After that informational tidbit, I skimmed over what remained of the data that I downloaded from Lucario's helmet. At the very end of this data, I noticed an encyclopedia-like program—an aptly-named "Pokédex", it was called—, containing data on 649 different species of Pokémon. The data for each and every Pokémon varied in content. Some Pokémon—the common variety—had pages upon pages of information relating to it, while other Pokémon—the rare variety—were lucky to have a word count exceed the three-digit zone.

Of course, the entire Pokédex showed signs that it was updated on a regular basis. The evidence of this comes from the fact that over a hundred Pokémon are added into this almanac within every few years. The most recent update added over 150 Pokémon from the Unova region, and a scheduled update was likely to add over a hundred more.

Aside from those telltale features of this "Pokédex" application, I noticed that certain Pokémon entries were bookmarked for quick reference, all of which had a surplus of information—illustrative and textual—relating to each and every one of them. All of these bookmarked entries, I looked over attentively.

My brothers, one over each my shoulders and glancing over the information alongside me, followed along at these detailed reports.

(National Pokédex entry #004: Charmander, the Lizard Pokémon. It is a Fire-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 00" and weighs in at approximately 18.7 lbs. It has a preference for hot things. When it rains, steam is said to spout from the tip of its tail. The flame at the tip of its tail makes a sound as it burns. You can only hear it in quiet places. Unfamiliar with fire, babies are said to accidentally burn themselves. The flame that burns at the tip of its tail is an indication of its emotions. The flame wavers when Charmander is happy, and blazes when it is enraged. From the time it is born, a flame burns at the tip of its tail. Its life would end if the flame were to go out. The fire on the tip of its tail is a measure of its life. If healthy, its tail burns intensely.)

(National Pokédex entry #005: Charmeleon, the Flame Pokémon. It is a Fire-Type Pokémon that measures in at 3' 07" and weighs in at approximately 41.9 lbs. When it swings its burning tail, it elevates the temperature to unbearably high levels. Tough fights could excite this Pokémon. When excited, it may blow out bluish-white flames. It has a barbaric nature. In battle, it whips its fiery tail around and slashes away with sharp claws. If it becomes agitated during battle, it spouts intense flames, incinerating its surroundings. It calms down only when it wins. It lashes about with its tail to knock down its foe. It then tears up the fallen opponent with sharp claws. In the rocky mountains where Charmeleon live, their fiery tails shine at night like stars.)

(National Pokédex entry #006: Charizard, the Flame Pokémon. It is a Fire-Type and Flying-Type Pokémon that measures in at 5' 07" and weighs in at approximately 199.5 lbs. When expelling a blast of super hot fire, the red flame at the tip of its tail burns more intensely. Its fiery breath reaches incredible temperatures. It can quickly melt glaciers weighing 10,000 tons. If Charizard becomes furious, the flame at the tip of its tail flares up in a whitish-blue color. Its breath inflicts terrible pain on enemies. It breathes fire of such great heat that it melts anything. It uses its wings to fly high. It is said that Charizard's fire burns hotter if it has experienced harsh battles. Charizard flies around the sky in search of powerful opponents. However, it never turns its fiery breath on any opponent weaker than itself. Its wings can carry this Pokémon close to an altitude of 4,600 feet.)

(National Pokédex entry #131: Lapras, the Transport Pokémon. It is an Ice-Type and a Water-Type Pokémon that measures in at 8' 02" and weighs in at approximately 485.0 lbs. They have gentle hearts. Because they rarely fight, many have been caught. Their number has dwindled. It may sing an enchanting cry if it is in a good mood. This gentle Pokémon loves to give people rides and provides a very comfortable way to get around. People have driven Lapras almost to the point of extinction. In the evenings, this Pokémon is said to sing plaintively as it seeks what few others of its kind still remain. Its high intelligence enables it to understand human speech.)

(National Pokédex entry #150: Mewtwo, the Genetic Pokémon. It is a Psychic-Type Pokémon that measures in at 6' 07" and weighs in at approximately 269.0 lbs. It was created by a scientist after years of horrific gene splicing and DNA engineering experiments. Even though the scientific power of humans created this Pokémon's body, they failed to endow Mewtwo with a compassionate heart. It's said to have the most savage heart among Pokémon. Because its battle abilities were raised to the ultimate level, it thinks only of defeating its foes. It usually remains motionless to conserve energy, so that it may unleash its full power in battle. Its cold, glowing eyes strike fear into its enemy.)

(National Pokédex entry #246: Larvitar, the Rock Skin Pokémon. It is a Ground-Type and Rock-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 00" and weighs in at approximately 158.7 lbs. Larvitar is born deep under the ground. To come up to the surface, this Pokémon must eat its way through the soil above. Until it does so, Larvitar cannot see its parent's face. Once it has eaten a large mountain, it goes to sleep so it can grow.)

(National Pokédex entry #247: Pupitar, the Hard Shell Pokémon. It is a Ground-Type and a Rock-Type Pokémon that measures in at 3' 11" and weighs in at an astonishing 335.1 lbs. Its shell is as hard as sheet rock, and it is also very strong. Its thrashing can topple a mountain. Even sealed in its shell, it can move freely. Hard and fast, it has outstanding destructive power. It will not stay still, even while it's a pupa. It already has arms and legs under its solid shell. A Pupitar creates a gas inside its body that it ejects under compression to propel itself like a jet. Its body can withstand a collision with solid steel.)

(National Pokédex entry #248: Tyranitar, the Armor Pokémon. It is a Dark-Type and a Rock-Type Pokémon that measures in at 6' 07" and weighs in at an impressive 445.3 lbs. Its body can't be harmed by any sort of attack, so it is very eager to make challenges against enemies. Extremely strong, it can change the landscape. It has an insolent nature that makes it not care about others. In just one of its mighty hands, it has the power to make the ground shake and mountains crumble. Tyranitar is so overwhelmingly powerful, it can bring down a whole mountain to make its nest. This Pokémon wanders about in mountains seeking new opponents to fight. If it rampages, it knocks down mountains and buries rivers. Maps must be redrawn afterward.)

(National Pokédex entry #253: Grovyle, the Wood Gecko Pokémon. It is a Grass-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 11" and weighs in at approximately 47.6 lbs. It lives in dense jungles. The leaves growing out of Grovyle's body are convenient for camouflaging it from enemies in the forest. This Pokémon is a master at climbing trees in jungles. This Pokémon adeptly flies from branch to branch in trees. In a forest, no Pokémon can ever hope to catch a fleeing Grovyle however fast they may be. Its strongly developed thigh muscles give it astounding agility and jumping performance.)

(National Pokédex entry #254: Sceptile, the Forest Pokémon. It is a Grass-Type Pokémon that measures in at 5' 07" and weighs in at a lightweight 115.1 lbs. This Pokémon is very agile - it leaps all over the branches of trees and jumps on its foe from above or behind. Sceptile has seeds growing on its back. They are said to be bursting with nutrients that revitalize trees. This Pokémon raises the trees in a forest with loving care. The leaves on its forelegs are as sharp as swords. The leaves that grow on its arms can slice down thick trees. It is without peer in jungle combat.)

(National Pokédex entry #255: Torchic, the Chick Pokémon. It is a Fire-Type Pokémon that measures in at 1' 04" and weighs in at approximately 5.5 lbs. Torchic sticks with its Trainer, following behind with unsteady steps. If attacked, it strikes back by spitting balls of fire it forms in its stomach. A Torchic dislikes darkness because it can't see its surroundings. A fire burns inside, so it feels very warm to hug. It launches fireballs of 1,800 degrees F.)

(National Pokédex entry #256: Combusken, the Young Fowl Pokémon. It is a Fighting-Type and a Fire-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 11" and weighs in at approximately 43.0 lbs. Combusken toughens up its legs and thighs by running through fields and mountains. Combusken battles with the intensely hot flames it spews from its beak and with outstandingly destructive kicks. Its strong fighting instinct compels it to keep up its offensive until the opponent gives up. Its kicking mastery lets it loose 10 kicks per second. It emits sharp cries to intimidate foes.)

(National Pokédex entry #304: Aron, the Iron Armor Pokémon. It is a Rock-Type and a Steel-Type Pokémon that measures in at 1' 04" and weighs in at an impressive 132.3 lbs. A Pokémon that is clad in steel armor. To make its body, Aron feeds on iron ore that it digs from mountains. With one all-out charge, this Pokémon can demolish even a heavy dump truck. The destroyed dump truck then becomes a handy meal for the Pokémon. A new suit of armor is made when it evolves. The old, discarded armor is salvaged as metal for making iron products. It is a pest that descends from mountains to eat bridges and train tracks. It usually lives deep in mountains. However, hunger may drive it to eat railroad tracks and cars.)

(National Pokédex entry #305: Lairon, the Iron Armor Pokémon. It is a Rock-Type and a Steel-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 11" and weighs in at a hefty 264.6 lbs. Lairon tempers its steel body by drinking highly nutritious mineral spring water until it is bloated. This Pokémon makes its nest close to springs of delicious water. It makes its nest on mountains where iron ore is buried. For food, it digs up iron ore. As a result, the Pokémon often clashes with humans mining the iron ore. When two Lairon meet in the wild, they fight for territory by bashing into each other with their steel bodies. The sound of their collision carries for miles. It habitually shows off its strength with the size of sparks it creates by ramming its steel body into boulders.)

(National Pokédex entry #306: Aggron, the Iron Armor Pokémon. It is a Rock-Type and a Steel-Type Pokémon that measures in at 6' 11" and weighs in at an earth-trembling 793.7 lbs. Aggron claims an entire mountain as its own territory. It mercilessly beats up anything that violates its environment. This Pokémon vigilantly patrols its territory at all times. Aggron is surprisingly protective of its environment. If its mountain is ravaged by a landslide or a fire, this Pokémon will haul topsoil to the area, plant trees, and beautifully restore its own territory. Its iron horns grow longer a little at a time. They are used to determine the Aggron's age. The gouges in its armor are worn with pride as mementos from battles. While seeking iron for food, it digs tunnels by breaking through bedrock with its steel horns.)

(National Pokédex #355: Duskull, the Requiem Pokémon. It is a Ghost-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 07" and weighs in at approximately 33.1 lbs. Duskull can pass through any wall no matter how thick it may be. Once this Pokémon chooses a target, it will doggedly pursue the intended victim until the break of dawn. It is a nocturnal Pokémon that roams about under the cloak of darkness. There is an oft-told admonishment given to misbehaving children that this Pokémon will spirit away bad children who earn scoldings from their mothers. A glare from its single scarlet eye makes even burly grown-ups freeze in utter fear. Making itself invisible, it silently sneaks up to prey. It loves the crying of children. It startles bad kids by passing through walls and making them cry.)

(National Pokédex #356: Dusclops, the Beckon Pokémon. It is a Ghost-Type Pokémon that measures in at 5' 03" and weighs in at approximately 67.5 lbs. Dusclops's body is completely hollow - there is nothing at all inside. This Pokémon will absorb anything into its body, but nothing will ever come back out. Dusclops absorbs anything, however large the object may be. This Pokémon hypnotizes its foe by waving its hands in a macabre manner and by bringing its single eye to bear. The hypnotized foe is made to do Dusclops's bidding. It is thought that its body is hollow with only a spectral ball of fire burning inside. However, no one has been able to confirm this theory as fact. When it opens its mouth, it sucks everything in as if it were a black hole. It is said that those who look into its body are sucked into the void. Anyone who dares peer into its body to see its spectral ball of fire will have their spirit stolen away. It seeks drifting will-o'-the-wisps and sucks them into its empty body. What happens inside is a mystery.)

(National Pokédex entry #359: Absol, the Disaster Pokémon. It is a Dark-Type Pokémon that measures in at 3' 11" and weighs in at approximately 103.6 lbs. Every time Absol appears before people, it is followed by a disaster such as an earthquake or a tidal wave. As a result, it came to be known as the Disaster Pokémon. It lives in a harsh, rugged mountain environment. This Pokémon very rarely ventures down from the mountains. It sharply senses even subtle changes in the sky and the land to predict natural disasters. It is a long-lived Pokémon that has a life-span of 100 years. It senses coming disasters and appears before people only to warn them of impending danger. Rumored to sense disasters with its horn, it became a target. It fled deep into the mountains.)

(National Pokédex entry #374: Beldum, the Iron Ball Pokémon. It is a Psychic-Type and a Steel-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 00" and weighs in at a hefty 209.9 lbs. Instead of blood, a powerful magnetic force courses throughout Beldum's body. Beldum keeps itself floating by generating a magnetic force that repels earth's natural magnetism. When it sleeps, this Pokémon anchors itself to a cliff using the hooks on its rear. They communicate with each other using brain waves. All the cells in its body are magnetic. It converses with others by using magnetic pulses. In a swarm, they move in perfect unison.)

(National Pokédex entry #375: Metang, the Iron Claw Pokémon. It is a Psychic-Type and a Steel-Type Pokémon that measures in at 3' 11" and weighs in at a sturdy 446.4 lbs. When two Beldum fuse together, Metang is formed. The brains of the Beldum are joined by a magnetic nervous system. By linking its brains magnetically, this Pokémon generates strong psychokinetic power. This Pokémon turns its arms to the rear for traveling at high speed. The claws tipping its arms pack the destructive power to tear through thick iron sheets as if they were silk. It flies at over 60 miles per hour. It floats midair using magnetism. Its body is so tough, even a crash with a jet plane won't leave a scratch.)

(National Pokédex entry #380: Latias, the Eon Pokémon. Latias is a Dragon-Type and a Psychic-Type Pokémon that measures in at 4' 07" and weighs in at a lightweight 88.2 lbs. Latias is highly sensitive to the emotions of people. If it senses any hostility, this Pokémon ruffles the feathers all over its body and cries shrilly to intimidate the foe. Latias is highly intelligent and capable of understanding human speech. It is covered with a glass-like down. The Pokémon enfolds its body with its down and refracts light to alter its appearance. They make a small herd of only several members. They rarely make contact with people or other Pokémon. They disappear if they sense enemies. It communicates using telepathy. Its body is covered in a down that can refract light in such a way that it becomes invisible.)

(National Pokédex entry #381: Latios, the Eon Pokémon. It is a Dragon-Type and a Psychic-Type Pokémon that measures in at 6' 07" and weighs in at a respectable 132.3 lbs. Latios has the ability to make its foe see an image of what it has seen or imagines in its head. Latios will only open its heart to a Trainer with a compassionate spirit. Even in hiding, it can detect the locations of others and sense their emotions since it has telepathy. Its intelligence allows it to understand human languages. It has a docile temperament and dislikes fighting. By folding back its wings in flight, it can overtake jet planes.)

(National Pokédex entry #403: Shinx, the Flash Pokémon. It is an Electric-Type Pokémon that measures in at 1' 08" and weighs in at a respectable 20.9 lbs. All of its fur dazzles if danger is sensed. It flees while the foe is momentarily blinded. Its forelegs have a muscle-based system of generating electricity. The extension and contraction of its muscles generates electricity.)

(National Pokédex entry #404: Luxio, the Spark Pokémon. It is an Electric-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 11" and weighs in at approximately 67.2 lbs. Its claws loose electricity with enough amperage to cause fainting. They live in small groups. It rests its forelegs on others to communicate with rhythmic electric pulses from its claws. By gathering their tails together, they collectively generate powerful electricity from their claws. Strong electricity courses through the tips of its sharp claws. A light scratch causes fainting in foes.)

(National Pokédex entry #405: Luxray, the Gleam Eyes Pokémon. It is an Electric-Type Pokémon that measures in at 4' 07" and weighs in at approximately 92.6 lbs. It has eyes which can see through anything. When its eyes gleam gold, it can spot hiding prey-even those taking shelter behind a wall. It spots and captures prey hiding behind objects. Luxray's ability to see through objects comes in handy when it's scouting for danger. It can see clearly through walls to track down its prey and seek its lost young.)

(National Pokédex entry #445: Garchomp, the Mach Pokémon. It is a Dragon-Type and a Ground-Type Pokémon that measures in at 6' 03" and weighs in at a stout 209.4 lbs. When it folds up its body and extends its wings, it looks like a jet plane. It flies at speeds equal to a jet fighter plane. It flies at sonic speed. It never allows its prey to escape. Its body is covered in fine scales that reduce drag, enabling it to fly at high speeds. It is said that when one runs at high speed, its wings create blades of wind that can fell nearby trees.)

(National Pokédex entry #447: Riolu, the Emanation Pokémon. It is a Fighting-Type Pokémon that measures in at 2' 04" and weighs in at approximately 44.5 lbs. They communicate with one another using their auras. It has the peculiar power of being able to see emotions such as joy and rage in the form of waves. The aura that emanates from its body intensifies to alert others if it is afraid or sad. Its body is little yet powerful. It can crest three mountains and cross two canyons in one night.)

(National Pokédex entry #448: Lucario, the Aura Pokémon. It is a Fighting-Type and a Steel-Type Pokémon that measures in at 3' 11" and weighs in at approximately 119.0 lbs. It has the ability to sense the Auras of all things. It understands human speech. By catching the Aura emanating from others, it can read their thoughts and movements. It's said that no foe can remain invisible to Lucario, since it can detect Auras. A well-trained one can sense auras to identify and take in the feelings of creatures over half a mile away.)

(National Pokédex entry #477: Dusknoir, the Gripper Pokémon. It is a Ghost-Type Pokémon that measures in at 7' 03" and weighs in at approximately 235.0 lbs. The antenna on its head captures radio waves from the world of spirits that command it to take people there. This feared Pokémon is said to travel to worlds unknown. Some even believe that it takes lost spirits along with it. It is said to take lost spirits into its pliant body and guide them home.)

(National Pokédex entry #483: Dialga, the Temporal Pokémon. It is a Dragon-Type and a Steel-Type Pokémon that measures in at 17' 09" and weighs in at a jaw-dropping 1505.8 lbs. It has the power to control time. It appears in Sinnoh-region myths as an ancient deity. A Pokémon spoken of in legend. It is said that time began moving when Dialga was born. This Pokémon completely controls the flow of time. It uses its power to travel at will through the past and future. It is said that time flows when Dialga's heart beats.)

(National Pokédex entry #484: Palkia, the Spatial Pokémon. It is a Dragon-Type and a Water-Type Pokémon that measures in at 13' 09" and weighs in at an impressive 740.8 lbs. It has the ability to distort space. It is described as a deity in Sinnoh-region mythology. It is said to live in a gap in the spatial dimension parallel to ours. Its total control over the boundaries of space enables it to transport itself to faraway places or even other dimensions. It is said that space becomes more stable with Palkia's every breath.)

(National Pokédex entry #487: Giratina, the Renegade Pokémon. It is a Dragon-Type and a Ghost-Type Pokémon that measures in at 14' 09" (Altered Forme) or 22' 08" (Origin Forme) and weighs in at a massive 1653.5 lbs (Altered Forme) or 1433.0 lbs (Origin Forme). It appears in an ancient cemetery. This Pokémon is said to live in a world on the reverse side of ours, where common knowledge is distorted and strange. It was banished for its violence. It silently gazed upon the old world from the Distortion World.)

All of the information that the three of us analyzed left us physically stagnant, eyeing the S2-PTSDOv.2 device's screen with bewilderment and speculation. The potential of these creatures that Lucario had on file—their abilities, their assortment, their attributes—proved to be mentally overwhelming for my brothers…and myself especially.

"(How does the world revolve with these creatures?)" I pondered. "(With their powers, this parallel Earth that Xeno hails from would split in two!)"

"(Do humans live alongside these behemoths?)" Ian pondered. "(How do they exist with these monsters running amok?)"

"(Dialga, Palkia, Giratina…)" Costas recalled the names of the Sinnoh Region deities. "(For some reason, all of this information just screams 'Japanese' to me.)"

I closed my S2-PTSDOv.2 device and keep it in hand. I looked back at the Aura Pokémon that lay unconscious within the makeshift white resting area. Just staring at his tranquil countenance filled me with new questions that I couldn't wrap my head around, primarily from a considerable lack of information that I've yet to obtain from the source.

"(Of these thirty-two Pokémon—yourself included—that you bookmarked into the installed Pokédex application…)" I pondered what I recently learned. "(I can only assume that they connect to you in some way.

I noticed signs of movement from him as I looked on at him and pondered. However, those signs of movement were mild to practically nonexistent. At most, it was a reflexive twitch of the pointed ear, a swallow of the throat, a tightening of the eyelids, or a shift of the snout. All of which were just clear signs that he is alive, and recovering soundly from his past ordeal.

"(What way exactly, I won't know unless I ask you, and that's until you awaken from your slumber.)" I concluded.

No longer needing the S2-PTSDOv.2 device for anything relating to this moment, I stored it away on my person. Afterward, I plucked two random S3-OSS devices from their respective slots and held one in each hand. However, before planning my next choice of action, I took this time to compare the designs of my S3-OSS devices with the Poké Ball models that Lucario had on his databank, as well as those on his unequipped utility belt.

The two S3-OSS devices that I held were the S3-OSS.B device in my left hand and the S3-OSS.T device in my right hand. I recalled how the designs of these two S3-OSS devices—as well as those of my other twenty-four—originated from these Poké Balls that Lucario had digital information on and physical reproductions of as well.

"(According to Xeno Lucario's stored data files, my S3-OSS.B device looks just like the Great Ball and my S3-OSS.T device looks just like the Luxury Ball)." I pondered, and also took the time to notice that Lucario had these two mentioned Poké Balls within their respective slots on his utility belt. "(These devices of mine are capable of optical surveillance… So what are those Poké Balls of yours capable of?)"

Deciding that I can simply look up the function of those Poké Balls from the data that my S2-PTSDOv.2 device acquired, I chose to unearth that topic until after my little errand.

"Costas, Ian?" I faced both of my brothers. "I need to return to my laboratory to check on the condition of my Berry plants. It shouldn't take me too long. It's just simple maintenance to see if all of the systems keeping them alive and thriving are functioning properly, and to collect their bounty if their fruits are ripe. I'll return back before you all miss me, and so that I don't leave our Pokémon guest unattended. Until then, can I rely on the both of you to keep an eye on it?"

"Of course you can," Costas's pleasant response was automatic, almost instinctive.

"Even if our furry blue friend awakens while you're out, the fact that he's comfortable with the both of us should keep it here." Ian assured me.

"Good," I said one last word before having my two S3-OSS devices hoist me high into the air, and carry me over the horizon, towards my home village. However, I decided to fly at only ten percent of what the S3-OSS devices are capable of, knowing that I was no longer rushed of time and that the worst was behind me.

My brothers stare on at the horizon that I've transcended over for a few moments after I've left from their field of vision. Once I was no longer within the area, their eyes home in onto Xeno, and their minds home in onto his mind—metaphorically speaking.

"I wonder what it's dreaming about right now," Ian muttered with curiosity.

"With all of the head injuries that I've acquired, I should count myself lucky that I can dream between nights." Costas trailed off before smiling at his brother. "Am I right?"

Ian just smiled and rolled his eyes, knowing from life experiences just how his brother behaved, and how to tolerate it.

23.1: Recollection! Aura vs. Hooded Figure

Location: Xeno's Subconscious

As the Aura Pokémon remained unconscious, his mind was left to wander about recent events that occurred to him. He recalled, from his memory, the events prior to his present state: his encounter with the hooded figure.

He recalled their earlier conversation. He remembered how the hooded figure, through his Superior—the Dark One—, knew of his past accomplishments and how much potential Lucario has yet to access. Also, according to the hooded figure, the Dark One sees him—the "Pokémon of Prophecy"—as a potential threat to His plans of global conquest, and therefore must be eliminated before he can further mature from his (surprising) martial infancy.

"Come at me then, with everything you've got." he said, moments before he charged towards the hooded figure.

The hooded figure, seeing Xeno rush at him recklessly—with eyes glowing gold and maliciously honed in onto his being—, maintained a firm battle stance and waited for the Aura Pokémon.

As he was running towards the hooded figure, Xeno extended his left paw out, and forced the paw-spike on his left paw to glow white before morphing into his METAL CLAW technique. The three-pronged, twelve-inch claws that Lucario temporarily possessed were aimed directly towards the hooded figure's torso, the intent of impalement clear within his battle-hardened mind.

The hooded figure, his battle plan about to take effect, smiled at the impending Aura Pokémon.

Lucario closed the distance between him and the hooded figure and thrust his METAL CLAW technique onto the torso of the hooded figure. Before he could smile at his successful attack, he quickly felt as if something was amiss. For starters, even though he knew that he struck the hooded figure pointblank, it felt as if he struck air. He couldn't even feel any blood pouring onto his paw from the hooded figure, let alone any resistance of striking the shrouded entity.

The hooded figure, despite having Lucario's METAL CLAW technique strike him steadfastly, didn't seem to show any signs of pain whatsoever. If anything, the hooded figure simply chuckled ominously at this situation.

"What's so funny?" Lucario inquired bluntly, unsure what the hooded figure was thinking, because he was unable to bypass the black aura with his Aura Vision ability.

"I'm laughing at your imminent situation…" The hooded figure said with an evil grin. "You're about to enter my world: a world of darkness and pain!"

As soon as the hooded figure finished speaking, his entire body spontaneously dispersed into a thick, black gas. This same gas spread rampantly across the area, as if intended to do so. Any physical trace of the hooded figure no longer seemed identifiable.

Lucario's reaction to this was immediate. He withdrew his METAL CLAW technique and dissipated it. However, the moment that he did, he suddenly found himself surrounded by and within the hooded figure's world.

Lucario was now within a world of darkness.

"(What is this shroud?)" Lucario thought, unable to make much sense of this phenomenon. "(Its pitch black in here, even with my active Aura Vision ability…)"

As Lucario continued scanning what appeared to be utter blackness before him, his ears perked somewhat when he could've sworn that he heard the hooded figure chuckle at his situation. In response to this, he turned his head to look all over his field of vision, hoping to see any trace of the hooded figure.

Much to his dismay however, he saw nothing but more sable emptiness.

"(That black aura of yours…)" Lucario began to hypothesize. "(…Its perfect camouflage within this vicinity of obscurity. And because of that, you're invisible to my refined eyes, with or without my Aura Vision ability active.)"

Despite this optical disadvantage, Lucario's martial morale never faltered. He remained in his battle stance, calm and composed mentally, ready to attack when he was able to identify any trace of the hooded figure.

"(Of course, if I so much as hear you coming, then—)"

Lucario found himself suddenly cut short in thought when he felt a sharp pain surface from a laceration on the left side of his torso. He could feel his fur moistening with the warm hemorrhaging from the freshly-made injury, his aura highlighting the injury according to his Aura Vision ability.

"(…Oh Arceus…)" Lucario pondered, his eyes widened—according to what he could feel of his blackened actions—at the fact that he heard absolutely nothing of the hooded figure's attack.

"Welcome to my world of pain," The hooded figure spoke from behind Xeno's presence. "I just gave you your first cut."

Lucario was immediate to react to the location of the voice of the hooded figure. He conjured an AURA SPHERE within his left paw, performed an about-face, and fired it forward towards the hooded figure.

Unfortunately, as the AURA SPHERE flew farther and farther away in utter blackness before disappearing altogether, it was clear that the hooded figure moved away from his general location.

"Damn you and your invisibility before me." he cursed.

"Oh, how rude," The hooded figure spoke from Lucario's right side. "I show you generous hospitality by inviting you into my world and you reply back to me with such a heinous remark."

Xeno was once again quick to pinpoint the location of the hooded figure, and he decided to act more quickly than before. He tilted his head to his right, inhaled once and puffed up his chest to peak capacity, before firing a FLAMETHROWER from his mouth in his general direction. The stream of fire stretched about fifteen feet forward before dissipating once Lucario ran out of breath a few seconds later.

"Oh, I seriously hoped that you burned to a crisp after that FLAMETHROWER technique," Lucario smirked as he spoke telepathically.

Almost immediately after he finished his statement, he felt two more slashes form onto his body. This time, they were on his back, and Lucario could feel that the pain caused by both slashes were shaped into a "=" symbol. Both slash marks, sure enough, cut deep enough to draw blood and progressively mar Lucario's fur sanguine.

Lucario yelped in pain, and swiped his arm behind him in a horizontal sweep, launching a purple PSYCHO CUT blade in the process. However, as was the case with both of Lucario's AURA SPHERE and FLAMETHROWER techniques, the PSYCHO CUT blade traveled onward before vanishing gradually.

"Nope, you just missed again…thrice actually." The hooded figure said before cackling at Xeno's predicament.

"Don't you mock me!" Lucario shouted with his temper now building.

For the next minute, Lucario launched a vindictive frenzy of attacks in all directions. In one moment, he erected both LEAF BLADE in one paw and METAL CLAW in another paw. With both attacks, he darted across the entire field of darkness, slashing blindly at whatever was in front of him—which unfortunately, was just a bunch of air.

Unfortunately for the Aura Pokémon, that was never the case for the hooded figure.

Between every two-to-four slashes of Lucario's bladed techniques, he could feel the hooded figure tearing another collection of rifts of flesh on his body. He could feel the lacerations concentrate more on the front and back side of his torso—likely what the hooded figure preferred—, albeit he could feel a few form on his arms, legs, and even his dreadlock-like appendages. He could feel that some gashes cut into his flesh, some deeper than others, a few even nicked his bones.

All of them—one hundred of them to be exact—caused massive hemorrhaging, too much for Xeno to tend to in this current situation.

He was beginning to feel light-headed from a significant drop in blood flow, enough to force his paw-spikes to revert back to normal—dismissing his LEAF BLADE and METAL CLAW techniques. His Aura Vision ability disappeared from use as well, his blood pressure dropping too low to maintain it.

The Aura Pokémon was hunched over somewhat, his mouth agape and hyperventilating. Each and every one of his remaining blood cells was now working double-time—or perhaps triple-time—to supply his body with oxygen, just to prevent him from inadvertently collapsing. The temperature of his core body dropped somewhat as well, which is to be expected alongside all of the other symptoms that he had presently against him.

"Poor little puppy…" The hooded figure spoke in front of the Aura Pokémon, with a feigned, mocking tone of pity. "You're all tuckered out and bleeding onto the floor like a little bitch, while I'm not even breaking so much as a sweat on you."

"…" Xeno could plainly hear the hooded figure in front of him, but was incredibly fatigued to attack. Part of his conscious wanted to say a snappy remark, but he knew well enough that it wouldn't digress from this blood-bitter truth.

"You're not able to see this—what with all of this black and all—, but you're literally showered in your own blood."

"…" Lucario paused briefly from hyperventilating to smell the blood on him. And sure enough, he could smell a vast amount of it on him. The smell of it was so great that he was unable to sniff for any traces of the hooded figure's scent.

"I'm surprised that you're actually still standing. With all of the blood that you've shed on the floor, you should be dead by now."

"…" Lucario, through what mental activity his fractioned blood still blessed him with, recalled his past events, where he escaped death by the skin of his canine-like teeth. He recalled his clashes with Absol—as a Riolu and in his current form—, his capture by Giovanni's Steelix, his unexpected injection with an altered Pokérus virus, his encounter with his mentally-distraught friend Sceptile, and his encounter with the Pokémon deities of the Sinnoh region.

Unfortunately, he was only able to recall bits and pieces of it. His mind was faltering on him, causing his vision to unnoticeably fade, much to his dismay.

"(Dead…huh…)" Xeno recalled enough of his past clashes to know just how precarious his own life has been set at times. "(And yet I…still live...despite what I've…gone through.)"

"Of course, with all of the hardships that the Dark One has informed me about you, I shouldn't be surprised to see you show such resilience."

"(Setting skills aside…what else has kept me…alive?)" Lucario pondered over this mystery.

"Still, you can only physically endure so much before your body fails you." The hooded figure continued.

"(That prophecy…is clearly too vague…to tell me...anything new…about myself.)" Lucario's elevated rate of breathing stabilized during this martial hiatus.

He stabilized just enough for him to consider one last technique.

"One more blow should finish you." The hooded figure's tone of voice grew somewhat more serious. "One more blow, to kill an infant before it reaches maturity."

"(So I'll just put…my survival instinct…to the test!)" Lucario formed a battle stance, disregarding the pain that this caused on his open lacerations.

Just as the hooded figure was about to decide his final choice of action, he noticed the Aura Pokémon's entire body glowing abnormally. He noticed Xeno emanating a brilliant yellow light, which simultaneously sparked small bolts of electricity in assorted locations.

"What are you—?"

"If what you said…about me is true…" Lucario began to concentrate his energy into pure electricity that the fur on his body was temporarily containing. "…If in the Dark One's eyes…assuming that He actually possesses eyes…He sees me as a potential threat…"

The electricity that Lucario was generating began to spark much more stalwartly, as the Aura Pokémon put more energy into it. The glow that this voltage was causing was actually strong enough to light the dark field that surrounded him. And because of this, Lucario was now able to see the hooded figure, which presently showed signs of astonishment at Lucario's power.

"(This light…)" The hooded figure shielded his eyes from the brightness of it by crossing his arms over his face. "(It's cutting through my darkness!)"

"Then I have to survive…long enough to mature…my infantile power…to fulfill my prophecy!"

The immediate end to Lucario's bold testimony caused his DISCHARGE technique to peak in power. Lucario stretched his body outward—disregarding the vile feeling of his lacerations splitting open with his movement—and the electricity dispersed in all directions at light speed, nullifying any form of evasion—especially his capability to drop into the shadows—that the hooded figure could perform.

The technique, sure enough, struck the hooded figure outright. His entire body became a victim to Lucario's DISCHARGE technique. His skeleton temporarily seeped through his flesh just from the sheer light that the electricity generated. His flesh cooked and smoldered with every arc of electricity that jumped across his skin. His muscles jittered unnaturally as the current disrupted basic neurological communication. His vocal chords tore at the force that he was screaming through all of this.

During this brutal retribution, the hooded figure's sable screen dispersed, revealing the undisturbed natural location that the both of them resided in.

The duration of the technique lasted for as long as Lucario's damaged body could muster. The technique stopped altogether after about ten seconds of continuous use, something that is difficult to do on a technique that disperses electrical energy ubiquitously in an instant.

Once DISCHARGE no longer existed in this scene, Lucario—now more fatigued than ever—eyeballed the hooded figure, fighting off his fading vision, hyperventilating heavily, and took full note of what he inflicted upon the enemy.

The hooded figure was smoking profusely from the smoldering energy that Lucario's discharge technique inflicted upon him. His black robe gave off the fragrance of ash remains—something that Lucario's sensitive snout can effortlessly identify—, and appeared more or less just as it smelled.

The hooded figure, whose face was still shrouded by his arms—as a means to protect his eyes from the bright light that Xeno emanated earlier—remained stationary for an abnormal amount of time.

Lucario didn't need his Aura Vision ability—partly because he was unable to muster the energy necessary to utilize it—to know that his DISCHARGE technique left the hooded figure's body roasted to the third degree. All he had to do was look at the hooded figure's exposed hands—fighting off his warping vision—to see the damage that he inflicted upon him.

The hooded figure eventually set his arms down—slowly and as pain-free as physically possible—, exposing his charred face before Lucario. His countenance was filled with seething rage, which resided underneath peeling layers of blackened crusty skin. Most of his hair was burned away as well, leaving many bald spots on top of the hooded figure's reddened scalp.

"You rabid, bipedal bitch!" The hooded figure spitefully shouted, letting the pain of opening his mouth to speak drive his voice to intensify. "I will see to it that your death is as brutal and sanguine as possible!"

"…" Lucario's eyes began to sag, and his body began to wobble under the gentle breeze of the Red Sea's marine air.

"However, as much as I want to kill you…" The hooded figure's tone of voice mollified. "…I find myself having to remedy my own injuries first."

"…" Xeno's eyes were failing him, but his ears weren't. He was still listening attentively at the hooded figure, while fighting off his fatigue simultaneously. The evidence of this was his half-open, semi-soulless, sanguine eyes, as well as his head tilting low and jerking back upward about every ten seconds.

The hooded figure's shadow warped into a broad circle that he resided into the midpoint of. And just as sudden as the shadow transmogrified, the hooded figure began to sink into it, as if it were sable quicksand.

"Of course, I've inflicted enough damage onto you to make your death a likely possibility." The hooded figure said as his knees sank below his warp shadow. "Howbeit, if you still survive this and continue your prophetic trek, then I'll simply pursue you and eradicate you at the earliest opportunity."

The hooded figure reached for the back of his neck with his right hand and grasped the tip of his hood, pulling it back upward and having it conceal his smoldered head once more. After he did this, the hooded figure crossed his arms and smiled underneath his veil, stalwartly able to ignore the pain of his inflicted burns. His body was now submerged up to his shoulders, and sinking about an inch a second.

"…Until another day, Aura Pokémon of Prophecy. I await your animal blood on my hands, and your cobalt body on the floor."

With those final words, the hooded figure disappeared from view. His shadow followed suit, and collapsed into its center before vanishing altogether. Any trace of the hooded figure was no longer apparent.

With the hostile threat—for the moment—no longer present, Xeno took this time to examine the severity of his lacerations.

He looked down and tilted his head down rigidly to see that his entire front side was drenched in blood, and marked heavily with rent flesh. Lucario wanted to put a paw on his wounds and heal them with his innate abilities, but didn't know which one he should clench first. All of them seemed as serious to him as the others, the size of which mattering not when they were all draining his body of life-sustaining blood.

So rather than waste precious time examining each incision in greater detail—especially the ones concentrated on his backside—, he decided to act fast and heal each injury individually, starting with the ones around his torso.

He placed a paw on an incision that just narrowly scraped across his sternum. He thought of enveloping his paw in beneficial aura that would help him RECOVER from his injuries.

"(If I use RECOVER…on myself…to seal these lacerations…, then I'll…I'll…)"

Unfortunately, his drained stamina could no longer resist his imminent collapsing any further. His wellbeing relinquished to unconsciousness and caused him to fall back and onto his back, passed out from his detrimental injuries, his blood seeping into the grass that he lay upon, and his tail forcibly bent downward.

23.2: Grand Confusion

Location: 28°N, 34°E (Solitary Tree atop a Hill)

Date: January 10th, 60 A.D.

Time: 5:07 PM

The sanguine eyes of the Aura Pokémon opened, groggily and slowly, during the day's reddening twilight. Xeno found his physical being placed comfortably on top of a white cloth, with his head resting pleasantly on a white pillow—with his dreadlock-like appendages spread across on the pillow and not below his head—, all with a white blanket keeping him pleasantly warm—or at least contained the escaping heat from his body.

He also could feel that he no longer bared the brutal lacerations that the hooded figure plagued his flesh with earlier, nor his fur rendered uncomfortably sticky from a surplus of coagulated blood.

He simply felt clean and relaxed, as if he had bathed himself, fallen comfortably asleep for the night, and awakened from his slumber.

Lucario's eyes stared off at the evening sky, at the scarlet clouds that hovered lazily thousands of feet above his reclined body. His mind however, trailed off at his most recent memories.

"(How am I still alive?)" He pondered with an insouciant mental tone. "(I recall planning on using RECOVER to tend to my critical injuries, but then I fell onto the floor from severe fatigue.)"

Lucario shuffled his body a little within his outdoor mattress until he was resting on his left side. In doing so, he now faced the massive Berry tree that I had planted long ago. He eyed his unequipped items—his battle armor and utility belt, with his colleague's Poké Balls as well as his own, undisturbed from their respective slots—and noticed that they remained where he had originally placed them.

He also took note of the wildlife of the Berry tree—green iguanas and white cockatiels—, all of them stagnant and resting for the day. However, he paid little thought to this and shuffled himself until he was resting on his right side, facing the Red Sea and the descending sun.

"(So…if I didn't tend to my mortal injuries, who—?)"

He quickly stopped pondering to himself when he noticed two people sitting by the shore of the Red Sea, both of which were far enough from the water to not get soaked by it, and yet staring at the massive body of water before them. Lucario could feel a chord of nostalgia strum within his memory when he noticed the back of their heads.

"(Those two… Are they who I think they are…?)"

The Aura Pokémon, as gradually and as painless as he could make this on his recovering body, got himself back upright, and hobbled over towards both people. In doing so, Lucario fought off his weakened body's tendency to give out from his overwhelming mental persistence and continued forward.

And as he got incrementally closer—slowly so that he didn't trip over himself—, he could begin to hear their conversation.

"Hey Costas, have you ever wondered how the Red Sea got its name?" Ian said with a tone that desired to start a conversation.

"Is it from that time where Eduardo shoved Mercury's Roman battalion into that body of water, and then electrocuted them until they perished?" Costas smiled at that detailed memory. "He practically chummed the water sanguine and attracted sharks to their bleeding corpses."

Ian simply shook his head at this uneducated guess. "No, it has nothing to do with Eduardo causing Roman scum to explode with electricity, and then having their bleeding corpses become shark bait. I was referring to a more…plausible hypothesis."

"Lay it on me, then." Costas was all ears.

"Well, according to Eduardo, there are a few theories as to how the Red Sea acquired its prominent name, His favorite theory—likely because it's the most achievable—is that the underwater foliage is actually responsible for altering the color of the Red Sea. Eduardo says that there's this species of algae—Trichodesmium Erythraeum—that, when their blooms die off, actually cause the sea green color to change into a reddish-brown color."

Costas ogles the aqueous body of the Red Sea in amazement. "Wow, there must be a surplus of algae if it can make the whole Red Sea turn crimson."

When Xeno was within speaking distance of both brothers, he said "Costas? Ian? Is that you?" in a purely curious tone of voice, just moments before his feeble legs no longer supported his drive, and he collapsed within feet from their vicinity.

Both brothers turned their heads and upper bodies behind themselves when they heard Lucario speak, as well as flop onto the floor. Much to their hopes, Lucario was awake. But against their prognosis, he was prematurely active.

And seeing the Aura Pokémon (once more) on the grassy floor, both brothers were quick in assisting their most recent friend.

Both brothers stood back up onto their feet and fretfully rushed over to their comrade. Costas retrieved Lucario's left arm, while Ian retrieved Lucario's right arm. Both brothers, as they hoisted his body upward, were careful in not accidentally hurting themselves from Lucario's dangerously keen paw-spikes. However, they had a respectable and helpful grip on Xeno, so their need to worry about that was nothing more than an extra safety precaution.

And with their assistance, Xeno Lucario regained his bipedal posture, one foreleg at a time.

Both brothers, with one of his arms on each of their shoulders, helped guide him back over to his makeshift colorless bed. Lucario found himself properly supported, albeit reluctantly guided.

"I don't know if you have a naturally-active disposition or are just a quick-healer," Ian talked beside Lucario's right ear. "But it's imperative of you to rest to regain your strength."

"We found you black, blue, and red all over." Costas resisted the urge to snicker beside Lucario's left ear. "You're actually quite fortunate to still be alive."

Both brothers stopped walking when they reached the white bed that Lucario arose from. They removed Lucario's arms from their shoulders and expected the Aura Pokémon to get back to bed. However, Xeno was far more resilient than the naked eye could perceive.

"I'm well aware of my butchered state earlier," Xeno almost whimpered at the atrocious feeling that he recalled his body endured earlier. "However, I'll feel much better if I remain upright rather than on this outdoor bed."

Xeno briefly eyed Ian and assured him of his earlier statement.

"After all, you are right in saying that I have a naturally-active disposition."

Ian seemed to smile at his earlier speculation.

Lucario, recalling how both brothers were present when he regained consciousness, had a question surface within his mind.

"How did the two of you heal me so quickly?" Lucario inquired before he examined where his lacerations once formed on his fur, detecting no anomalies whatsoever, not even a scar or a bald spot. "No. Not just quickly, but perfectly as well."

Both brothers looked at each other, with motionless facial expressions, unsure at how to break this news to him.

Of course, when they re-faced their befriended Aura Pokémon, they had their word choice set.

"We never healed you, Xeno." Ian admitted somberly.

"To be honest, we just stood idly by and watched." Costas confessed with a stern visage.

"You both…did nothing?" Lucario couldn't comprehend the situation, and seemed emotionally stunned by this conundrum. "Then…who saved my life?"

Just as Xeno finished speaking, he suddenly sensed a strong concentration of aura, emanating from an impending object, flying high above the sky. He looked behind his place and stared at the sky, as did both Costas and Ian when Lucario did so. They all saw a small, human-shaped speck amongst the darkening sky.

Xeno didn't know what to make of this, but both Costas and Ian did.

"Get ready, Xeno," Costas told the Aura Pokémon.

"Your savior should be arriving shortly," Ian followed suit.

Just as my brothers and the Aura Pokémon noticed my imminent arrival, I was already directly overhead of them three. With both the S3-OSS.B ("Great Ball") and the S3-OSS.T ("Luxury Ball") in hand, I had them both drop me like a stone onto the floor. However, just before hitting the grass below, I had them impede my descent when I was only a couple of feet above the surface. The result was a comfortable descent onto the ground.

Based on the anxious facial expressions of both of my brothers, they seemed to await my arrival. However that was not the case. What they truly awaited was for a proper introduction between, what they believed, to be the two most powerful forces on this planet.

Lucario seemed to take into full detail my entire external appearance. He was quick to assimilate the key details that made me separate from the tellurian norm. He took notice of the black "X" from the sashes placed over my torso, and the holsters by my waistline, all for storing my S1, S2, and S3 devices. He noticed the eye patch over my left eye, as well as the second blood network that was present across my hands and my patched left eye—not the ones on my stomach and feet that my clothing and shoes concealed however. He also took into account my basic fashion sense—a white shirt, blue jeans, and monochrome shoes.

"…" All of me just seemed to stun Xeno's physical being, for some unknown reason.

"Well guys, I'm back from my little errand." I said while storing my unneeded pair of S3-OSS devices away within their designated slots on my sash, keeping my eyes focused on my gadgets for the time being. "There's nothing abnormal to report at all. All of my Berry trees are in optimal condition and producing a plentiful bounty of delectable fruits. And the greenhouse system keeping them alive and healthy is functioning suitably as well."

Once my two S3-OSS devices were secured, I directed my mono-optical gaze towards my two brothers. And in doing so, I noticed that Xeno had regained consciousness and was standing upright just between my brothers and myself.

"…" Xeno Lucario, for reasons that I've yet to comprehend, was just staring at me with a hollow, fixed stare.

"I see that you're now up onto your two feet." I began to converse with the Aura Pokémon, with a temperate and welcoming tone of voice. "You regained consciousness when I was off on my little errand, eh Xeno?"

"…" Xeno remained still as a statue, the thoughts radiating within his mind virtually nonexistent.

His current status didn't alter my attempts at communicating with him. I just cogitated that he was analyzing my being silently and continued speaking to him, stepping a little closer towards him in the process.

"How are you feeling right now? Has your strength returned to you after that horrendous collection of lacerations that I mended earlier?"

"…" There was still no response from the Aura Pokémon.

Another differentiating tactic was in order.

"Are you hungry, Xeno? Do you desire something to eat? You were unconscious for a respectable amount of time after all."

"…" Just a soulless sanguine stare is all that I was receiving from Lucario's established eyes.

Both of my brothers, whom appeared anxious at our eventual first acquaintance, now appeared anxious for an entirely different reason.

"(This can't be going well…)" Costas pondered.

"(Its body language…)" Ian pondered alongside his brother. "(I can't help but feel as if it'll…)"

I remained unmoved by Xeno's social rigidity and continued with one last tactic.

"How in God's name did you obtain your profuse injuries earlier?"

With that question, Xeno finally showed signs of a reaction towards me. Unfortunately for me, that reaction was blindingly swift and offensive.

Lucario, from his perspective, formed METAL CLAW on his right paw, just as he brought it up to my left eye. And faster than I could see, Lucario raked the left side of my face, leaving a three-pronged slash that sliced deeply into my flesh, as well as my useless left eye, and the eye patch that concealed it, freeing it from being strapped onto my face.

Still within the second that his first attack was launched, Lucario's left paw flared a shining white light before he followed up with a devastating uppercut. His SKY UPPERCUT technique struck stalwartly at my lower jaw, shifting it forward abnormally and almost luxating it from its normal placement. Also, the sheer physical power that Xeno surprisingly possessed actually lifted me off of the ground and about ten feet up into the air.

I descended down onto the ground, back onto the floor, unconscious by the alacrity and the density of Lucario's sequential techniques. My shredded and divided eye patch fell afterward onto the floor directly beside me, slower than when I did, no longer concealing my blank left eye—especially since both my eyes were abnormally retained open, my left eye bleeding profusely.

Before Lucario pondered striking me when I'm down, he suddenly felt his energy drain from him to the point where his METAL CLAW technique disbanded, and he kneeled down to one knee. His strength had not returned to him after his brutal ordeal, and his body didn't want to cooperate with his mental perseverance. He found himself hyperventilating momentarily to cope with the fractioned blood within his body.

My brothers, upon seeing my unconscious body on the grassy floor and bleeding on the left side of my face, reacted immediately to this and ogled their "friend" with traumatized facial expressions.

"What the hell did you just do?!" Costas shouted in negative astonishment.

"Why did you just assault our brother?!" Ian followed his brother's lead.

Xeno feebly stood back up on both feet and ogled the antagonistic countenances of both Costas and Ian.

"Oh…I have a surplus of reasons as to why I struck him in cold blood." He smiled vindictively at his actions. "For starters, that man is the one that—"

Lucario's eyes widened and his grin disappeared when he recalled one critical detail that Ian mentioned earlier.

"Did…did you just say that…he's your brother?" Lucario was beginning to ingrain mental discombobulation, and his tone of voice reflected that.

My brothers were keen to notice Lucario's blunder and slowly nodded at him with cautious faces.

"So then…" Xeno elevated his left arm and pointed a stubby digit of his paw directly at me. "That person is…your brother…Eduardo?"

My brother repeated their earlier action once more.

"…" Lucario remained silent as he attempted to make sense of all of his recent experiences. In doing so however, he was only growing exponentially more and more discombobulated. The severity of this was gradually reflecting itself on his countenance, in the form of cringed eyes, and a skull-splitting headache.

"…Xeno?" Costas meekly inquired at this unexpected behavior.

Lucario's headache proved to be agonizing enough for him to clutch the sides of his head in anguish, and growl deeply at the distress of it all.

"…Are you alright?" Ian inquired as well, unsure of what to make of his choice of action.

Lucario head hyperbolically felt as if bullets fired from multiple machine guns ricocheted endlessly within the inside of his skull, tearing away at his sensitive brain tissue with each uncoordinated redirection of the metaphorical firearm ballistics. The torture of it all caused his clutched head to reel back in pain, his paws' digits to press into his cranium, and his mouth to open wide in roaring pain.

My brothers, puzzled by Xeno's distressing behavior, figured that words would not suffice here. They decided to approach Lucario and see what they could do within their power about this.

However, Lucario wasn't thinking properly at all with this massive encumbrance plaguing him. He lowered his head briefly to ogle—with dilated, trembling, bloodshot eyes—both brothers approaching him. And at the sight of this, he instinctively made like an Abra and used TELEPORT to warp away from his current location, disappearing from sight, and from this location.

Both Costas and Ian were left frozen in their tracks, and looking around their field of vision in vain to see where the Aura Pokémon could've warped off to.

"What was that all about?" Costas looked back at his brother, unsure about what just occurred.

Ian looked back at his brother and responded with shrugged shoulders.

As my brothers were fixed on themselves, they never noticed when I came back to my senses.

When I regained consciousness, I blinked and shuffled my eyes a few times, both eyes stinging a bit—my left eye in particular—from remaining open and becoming somewhat dry for a prolonged period of time. I also shuffled my jaw somewhat, disliking the sore feeling that I had on my joints. But once that was taken care of, I collected my physical presence and bent myself forward until I was on one knee. When I did so, I noticed blood dripped down onto the foliage below. The reason for this was immediate for me to recall, but I paid no mind to it, and looked around myself for my amputated eye patch, noticing simultaneously that Xeno Lucario was nowhere within the area.

The eye patch that came off of my eye lied directly adjacent of me. I notice its presence on the floor and retrieve its pieces, with my right hand. I stare at it and contemplate an idea.

"(These eye patches are always too fragile for me to use.)" I ponder before discarding the eye patch by surrounding it with my hand in the form of a fist, and then spontaneously combusting it by emanating Red (Fire) Aura on my hand for a few seconds.

Afterwards, I stand back upright on both feet and open my hand, seeing how the eye patch was now reduced to filthy ash.

"(In the future, I should make a far superior one,)" I pondered as I watched the wind steal away the ash in my hand until only some mild dark residue remained in my hand. I wiped this away effortlessly by rubbing on the side of my jeans. "(Perhaps if I brainstormed it at a later time, I could have a potential 'S-Rank' device in hand.)"

My brothers eventually notice that I've regained my bipedal posture. They were quick to approach me, thankful that I was still alright.

"Whew…thank God that you're alright." Costas was relieved to see me still alive.

"Well…except for…" Ian traced three fingers along the side of his left eye, matching their movements with the coordination of my three-pronged laceration.

I look down at my white shirt and notice that the left side shoulder area was stained somewhat with the blood that was currently dribbling from the left side of my face—the slash wound that stretched from the top of the left side of my forehead, to the center of my left eye, to my left cheek. This blood, if my face leaned forward from my body, dripped down onto the grass below. I briefly placed my left hand on my wound—while simultaneously disregarding the sharp stinging pain—, and then removed it, noticing that it was mostly covered in blood.

"Yeah, I know," I said with sympathetic nonchalance, despite being on the receiving end of Xeno's one-two punch. "And judging by its lack of presence, I'd assume that it disappeared?"

Costas simply nodded in confirmation of my assumption.

"More like 'teleported' if you asked me." Ian corrected.

"(Teleportation, huh…)" I discreetly pondered in astonishment of Lucario's ability before returning from my digressed topic. "What exactly made it choose to warp?"

My brothers briefly looked at each other with puzzled countenances and then looked back at me.

"We don't know what exactly." Costas believed. "But we believe that it was enough to cause Xeno to have a headache, one potent enough to cause it to lose any rational thought and warp away without a trace."

Because I was unconscious for the brief moment that this occurred, I was forced to use my imagination to reconstruct the scene. And when I did so, I could properly picture Lucario clutching his head in what would appear to be a headache of skull-rattling proportions.

"And that all began when Xeno realized that the person it harmed was the only person that seemed most likely in returning it home." Ian added.

"(…Interesting…)" I accepted this key piece of information as fact.

"So…what are we going to do now?" Costas inquired me, waiting for an answer.

"…" I decided to face the tree, noticing that all of his equipment was still present on the trunk, untouched in the least. I hold out my sanguine left hand towards Lucario's equipment and have it and my left hand both emanate Purple (Psychic) Aura, before telekinetically shackling his equipment and having it hover towards me until it is a few feet above of my head.

Now with my right hand, I retrieve my S1-GS device and hold it above my head. I open the device and assimilate all of Lucario's equipment into my infinite inventory, before storing my S1-GS device away and disengaging my Purple (Psychic) Aura.

"I'll tell you what we're going to do." I began speaking and reached for my S2-PTSDOv.2 device with my right hand—not wanting it to be stained red. "We're going to locate Xeno Lucario once more."

My brothers were in full agreement with me.

"Is it so that it can ask us what was on its head?" Costas inquired me.

"Is it so that it can apologize for raking you upside the head?" Ian followed closely behind.

I open my S2-PTSDOv.2 device dexterously with one hand and access the mainframe for my S3-OSS devices. And before I input the command to have all twenty-six S3-OSS fly off of my sash and scatter across the globe once more, I tell my brothers "Yes, but only if it desires that."

After that, a simple tap of a digital button caused every single one of my S3-OSS devices to detach from me, dart themselves high into the sky, and smack the sound barrier with twice the speed that it can manage.

Ian offers his hand to me. "Eduardo, let us locate him for you, while you tend to that wound on your face."

Knowing that it was for the better, I hand over my handheld omni-computer to him, before stepping beside them and proceeding over to the shore of the Red Sea. I only take one brief look behind me to notice my brothers ogling the screen of my S2-PTSDOv.2 device, while Ian showed enough skill to operate the basic controls of my S3-OSS devices.

"(Hopefully, we'll find that mysterious Aura Pokémon before anything critical occurs to it again.)" I ponder before stopping when the water of the Red Sea comes within inches of sousing my monochrome shoes. I place my left hand over the left side of my face, knowing that I'll leave a bright red handprint in the process, but that I'll wash it off afterward. "(I just wish finding him would be instantaneous rather than time-consuming.)"

With my uncovered right eye, I scan the entire Red Sea, seeing nothing but aquatic enormity over the horizon. Even if I concentrate on the edges of the water, I only see a lighter shade of blue, emanating from the sky above, as well as a few partial patches of white, from the cumulus clouds that harbor the same space.

My left hand emanated Green (Healing) Aura and gradually mended my wounds shut, preventing the taste of my blood from seeping into my mouth in greater concentration. My left hand, no longer required to emanate Green (Healing) Aura, drops back down to the side of my waist, curled up sufficiently to block off the abnormal coloring of my blood staining the inside of my hand.

"(What a massive world we live in. What a surprise to realize that there is another.)"

The next few minutes were spent cleansing my body from any traces of coagulating blood that Xeno drew from me. I exchanged my soiled shirt for a fresh new white one from my S1-GS device, and then I kneeled down to the Red Sea and washed my hands and face with the water before me.

When the skin on the left side of my countenance no longer felt brittle and crusty with coagulated blood, I stopped cleaning myself and waited for the water to disperse my discarded blood and return to its normal transparency. It only took the Red Sea a few moments to do so before I was able to see my reflection on the surface.

My working right eye was entirely focused on the three-pronged scar that Lucario's METAL CLAW technique branded onto me earlier. The scar itself wasn't as notorious as the ones on my backside—the aftereffects of the heinous Roman whipping session that I endured over a decade ago—, nor as abundantly flesh-consuming.

If anything, what this attack left me is a noticeable, almost vertical line that ran right through the center of the emptiness of my left eye.

To the average human being, bitter vindication and immediate vengeance would be almost instinctive to inflict on the assailant of such an injury, especially if it was an animal. Of course, since I'm not an average human being—or not even human as I've recently begun to mark myself—, I wouldn't think of doing these acts of retribution, not even in the least, for I respect this individual of the natural world just as equally as any other good person.

The only topic that this warrants of me is the pestering inquiries as to why he chose to do this to me in the first place. For what reason could Lucario have in raking me upside the left side of my face? What was going on in his mind during this swift attack? Why did he TELEPORT away afterward, his brain scrambling within his skull from a severe headache?

I wish to ask Xeno for answers to these questions when we meet again. I wish to ask what he knows that I don't.

I faced by brothers again and notice that they're doing just as great a job as I would in searching for the Aura Pokémon. Judging by how they're handling my S2-PTSDOv.2 device, I could tell that they were reconnoitering every piece of land that the twenty-six S3-OSS devices hovered over, utilizing every possible lens function that each Optical Surveillance Sphere possessed.

Lamentably, they were having no luck at all, because this world is just too massive for twenty-six fist-sized "S-Rank" devices to survey over, even after taking out the obvious impossible variables—such as locating an anthropomorphic, bipedal canine within the large oceans of Earth.

If the size of the planet wasn't in their favor, the rotation of it wasn't cooperating with them either. The night sky continued to creep closer and closer upon us, and would make locating our mark somewhat harder, despite my S3-OSS device's Night Vision lens.

"(I suppose I'll have myself another sleepless night ahead of me…)" I pondered monotonously before returning to both of my brothers.

23.3: Nighttime Headache

Location: Saudi Arabia (Desert)

Date: January 11th, 60 A.D.

Time: 2:32 AM

Against what my brothers and I thought of our target, he never warped far enough away from us. And rather than TELEPORT to the other side of the planet, he simply teleported a few hundred miles from our general location, more than enough to put himself in the middle of nowhere.

It's not that he decided to warp himself here, in the middle of a blazing desert that is now a frigid and oversized sand box, poorly bathed under the faint glow of the moonlight. He was unable to do so. His presently diminished strength prevented him from transferring his physical existence from Point A to a much farther Point B.

Of course, with his head feeling as if it was a pincushion for knives, the undulating temperatures were having no greater effect on him.

Since he teleported over to this desert, he dragged his feet over the sandy, uneven terrain with every step of his padded feet. Each step seemed to create a miniature canyon rather than a pristine footprint. He traveled at a snail's pace for a Pokémon of his physical caliber: about five miles as of now. His forepaws seemed glued onto the sides of his skull, placed there as a worthless attempt to mollify his excruciating headache.

The headache itself was draining his strength farther down than before. His tail dragged along the sand behind his feet, the muscles lining the base of his tail no longer able to muster up the strength to keep it level. His lower jaw was hanging loosely by its sockets, as he was hyperventilating and moaning from fatigue and pain, and dripping of running saliva. His snout dripped somewhat of blood from an earlier aneurism as well.

Eventually, it all proved too much for him, and the front of his being collapsed over onto the freezing sand. His face buried partially into the sand, staining with a mixture of dribbling blood and saliva that moistened it. The remainder of his body went limp, freeing his conscious from bearing the weight of his headache anymore.

Thankfully, the position of his mouth was against the position of his snout, so he was still able to breathe and not suffocate in the sand.

Very little time passed after Xeno fell unconscious when a sable rift in space formed about fifty feet behind Lucario's present location. The rift in space formed a sphere of darkness, about six feet in diameter, as well as black enough to blend into the nighttime background.

This same sphere of darkness dispersed into the air, revealing the presence of the hooded figure once more, his black cloak blending into the sable setting quite effectively. The only area that his black cloak didn't conceal was his face, because the hooded figure didn't feel the need to conceal it. Alongside that, his face no longer bore the damage that his opponent inflicted on him with an electrical DISCHARGE. This made it clear that the hooded figure was true on his word: he fully recovered from his past ordeal, as well as obtained himself a new black cloak to replace the charred one that Lucario rendered his last one.

The hooded figure nonchalantly stepped towards his fallen opponent's general presence, ogling the Aura Pokémon with a mild sense of pity, much like before during their very brief battle. He stops at the left side of the Aura Pokémon, close enough where one more proper step will put his foot on the back of Xeno's lumbar vertebrae.

"(I knew that you'd be confused by this revelation,)" The hooded figure pondered to himself, his eyes angled downward and locked onto the back of Xeno's head. "(However, I didn't think that it was possible for someone—or something—to faint from severe discombobulation.)"

The hooded figure, to ensure that Xeno was actually unconscious, tapped the left side of his ribcage with his shoed foot a few times. Much to his expectations, Lucario didn't even so much as growl.

"(How effortless it would be of me to kill you right now in your present condition, all distracted, helpless, and martially infantile…)" The hooded figure smiled at the thought of reckless animal slaughter, but only briefly when he recalled why exactly he was here. "(…Unfortunately, I was given very strict orders by the Dark One to restrain myself from doing so, and I'm beginning to understand why.)"

The hooded figure recalled his previous tête-à-tête with Eduardo. He recalled the two times that he interacted with me, when the hooded figure "convinced" me in returning to my home village—when in reality he knocked me unconscious and transported me into the center of the scrimmage —, as well as his explanation of Xeno Lucario, the Aura Pokémon. He only thought of them so briefly, because he was still pondering to himself.

"(Both you and Eduardo are already beginning to connect socially. And if I were to kill you now, the timing is not yet perfect. The personal emotional shock of it all wouldn't cripple Eduardo enough for me, for the Dark One, to respond to.)"

The hooded figure then recalled his brief clash of yesterday, the one that ended with the hooded figure's retreat after enduring electrical injury to the third degree, and leaving Lucario with one hundred lacerations all around his body.

"(You're an enduring little bastard, and that past clash was only meant for me to test your current strength. From that battle, I can guarantee myself that you—as well as Eduardo—will be a larger encumbrance in due time. Nevertheless, the two of you aren't the only ones that can evolve in strength. I'll be following closely behind, proving to be just as stalwart as the both of you.)"

The hooded figure, with his primary soliloquy accounted for, now decided to digress from this topic and contemplated what to do with the Aura Pokémon that won't kill him.

"(With those devices of his, Eduardo will eventually find you. That much I know.)" The hooded figure grinned maliciously once more. "(However, I won't make this easy on him, or any less inflictive on you.)"

The hooded figure reached his right hand down to the back of Lucario's head and gripped the Aura Pokémon by his dreadlock-like appendages. Then, the hooded figure hoisted his limp body upward and closer to his level of posture, deliberately void of concern over how he was treating Lucario, or how exponentially dense Lucario has become after falling unconscious. The hooded figure's surprising strength has allowed him to lift Lucario onto his legs, and then support his unconscious weight in a flimsy bipedal posture.

The hooded figure takes one quick look at Xeno's face—his drooling, epistaxis, unconscious face—and then averts his eyes shortly after in unquestionable abhorrence.

"(Ugh… I should've concentrated the majority of your injuries around your face rather than your body.)" The hooded figure's face cringed at seeing such an expression. "(I just can't stand the sight of you repulsive animals! How Eduardo admires, adores and respects you beasts as a whole is beyond my understanding.)"

The hooded figure's shadow spontaneously coils around itself and forms a wide circle that his feet stood in the center of, and Xeno's unconscious body resided within. From that same shadow, the hooded figure's feet—as well as Lucario's own—gradually sank into the sable rift. And in a few seconds, the remainder of their body followed. The hooded figure reequipped his hood over his head with his free left hand, just seconds before his head—as well as Lucario's moistened face—slipped underneath the black rift.

That same black rift assimilated into itself until nothing else remained within this desert.

23.4: Return of the Dragon

Location: 28°N, 34°E (Solitary Tree atop a Hill)

Date: January 11th, 60 A.D.

Time: 9:06 AM

Just as I suspected earlier, my brothers decided to pass the torch that is my S2-PTSDOv.2 device back onto me. They desired to sleep during the night, and asked if I could take over, knowing that I've grown accustomed to the occasional sleepless night. And because of the present situation, I agreed to this automatically, and they huddled by the tree's trunk.

Operating the S3-OSS devices in tandem, I continued to scour the globe for any trace of Xeno Lucario. Of course, because of the sheer scale of the planet, the time required for this was daunting. In conjunction to this, my individual S3-OSS devices were spread too thinly across the planet.

So because of this, I've decided to reset the placement of my S3-OSS devices to return directly above me and spread out evenly outward from our current placement. Once I inputted this specific command, all that I had to do was wait for the S3-OSS devices to reunite together before departing once more.

The time that it would take, from my calculations, for all of this to occur would be approximately thirty minutes. I decided to have some breakfast while I waited.

Thirty minutes later…

Just seconds after I had finished my breakfast and stored away the used silverware, my S2-PTSDOv.2 device received feedback from one of my S3-OSS devices: my S3-OSS.R. When I learned of the placement of my S3-OSS.R device, my body's natural reflex to breathe seemed to temporarily leave me.

The placement of my device was over Rome, the capital city of the people that I despise the most on this world.

I honed the sharpness of the lens of my S3-OSS.R towards a massive empty lot within the center of this taboo city. Entirely around this lot, a ring of construction materials surrounded the land—a future sight of a Roman construction project. And from within the center of this barren earth, I could see Xeno himself put on display, his body restrained in a similar method when I was during the torture session that I endured years ago—his arms shackled by the wrists, both of them chained and looped over an upside-down "U" wooden structure, forcing him upright by the strength of two Roman soldiers restraining him.

Alongside those two soldiers, eight more surrounded the Aura Pokémon, each of them facing him from a safe distance of approximately twenty feet, their feet forming the points of an imaginary octagon in the dirt. Each of these ten soldiers seemed far more ostentatious in their exterior appearance than the soldiers that I've collided with in the past. Their armor appeared night black in color, with rutilant tunics underneath that almost seemed to exude a golden aura from these corrupt people.

From the corner of the screen on my S2-PTSDOv.2 device, I noticed an eleventh person gait into the scene, stopping behind the imaginary octagon of the placement of those eight soldiers. This person, the most grandiose of them all, wore an all-covering pristine white tunic that was filled with far too much luxurious detail for me to digress onto. This same person, when his presence was made apparent by these ten soldiers—excluding the two that were physically occupied in restraining the Aura Pokémon—, received obedient and subservient bows from his fellow people.

It didn't take a genius with an approximate I.Q. of 10,000 to realize that this person was Nero, the current emperor of Rome.

Once I've received all of the information that I needed to formulate my next choice of action, I knew that there was not a moment to lose in retrieving the Pokémon that might hold the skeleton key to my questions.

With great haste, I stored my S2-PTSDOv.2 device back into its respective holster and reached for two of my S3-OSS devices from my central sash, with the intention of flying over to that location at Mach 2. Of course in doing so, I immediately assimilated the bitter truth that all of my S3-OSS devices are presently indisposed by my past choices of scattered reconnaissance.

"(Well…crap…)" I thought at my elevating dismay.

Seeing as how my most obvious attempt at reaching the Aura Pokémon was inaccessible with the timeframe given, I began to contemplate a Plan B.

I've no transportation vehicle that can travel at any speed close to Mach 2, much less greater than Mach 2. So nothing in my S1-GS device would be of any beneficial use to me.

My Elemental Aura abilities, if I manipulated them to my advantage, can actually allow me to fly over to Lucario. However, similarly to my earlier dilemma, I'm unable to reach supersonic speeds at my current level of expertise. Anything shorter than supersonic speeds, and I'll likely arrive to a post-scene of an unfortunate murder, and then most likely soil all of the evidence when my emotions and Elemental Aura abilities in conjunction run amok.

As much as I would like to unleash primal, vindictive carnage on the Roman's stronghold, I'm conscious of the intellectual proficiency that I possess to remain concrete on my primary objective of rescue. Unfortunately, I find myself feeling an unpleasant sensation that hasn't surfaced forth from me in years.

A feeling of indisputable, infantile, and unadulterated helplessness reached the surface of my being, one that weighs further down on the remainder of me presently than yesteryears ago, because of my evolved abilities and recent accomplishments.

Thankfully, before I begin to sulk over hyperbolic mental exaggerations of uncorrectable failure, a bright idea emerges from my mind, one that just might bring Lucario out of harm's way.

My trump card is my recently-discovered dragon form.

If I transmogrify into my pure white dragon form—without reducing myself to critical levels of fatigue—, and then supplement my form's natural ability of flight with my Light Green (Wind) Aura, I just might transcend supersonic speeds and reach that infernal Roman stronghold in minutes.

With this plan set firmly into my mind, my only obstacle in setting my strategy into realization is how to access my dragon form, consciously this time, and without self-inflicting injury.

I ponder that the closest way to find this answer is to meditate on it, to clear from my head any other irrelevant thought, any anxiety or erratic stress, until I'm successful.

I folded my body down onto the grassy floor below my feet. I sit cross-legged, with my elbows reclined on my knees, and my hands interwoven together by their fingers. I close my eyes and free my mind of any immaterial thought, finding that the last thought to exit my mental activity is how chronologically strangled my time had suddenly become.

Once I was completely free of my mind, my body soon followed suit—quick to do so due to the lack of sleep that I deliberately withdrew myself from—, and then I found myself within the confines of my own cerebral.

Location: Eduardo's Subconscious

Time: Unknown

Inside my consciousness, I found myself hovering downward and descending within a sable abyss. I had great difficulty seeing where I was going with such little light illuminating this location, and yet I knew I was descending downward because of a faint gravitational pull that made my body feel as light as a feather. Also, because my head was facing downward and I was being pulled downward as well, I felt a very mild sensation within my skull of elevated blood pressure, as well as mild vertigo.

"(What is this place?)" I pondered, astounded that I entered this mental state with such ease.

Seconds after that brief thought, I stare directly down and begin to see traces of the "floor" within this dark chasm. I noticed a neon-like crimson light that at first appeared as a small dot off in the distance. However, as I continued to descend downward, my eyes widen slightly as I noticed that this dot possessed a shape to it, once inspected closer and in more detail.

The shape appeared before me as a star-shaped pentagram, surrounded by a circle that connected all five evenly-proportioned points. The entire structure was highlighted sanguine and radiating as faintly as a red dwarf in the vast emptiness of the cosmos.

While the overall shape and scarlet illumination of this symbol was an enigma to me, I did assume that this is the "Ground floor" to this mental environment of mine.

As I was within fifty feet of this brilliant pentagram, I angled by body completely around itself, swapping the placement of my head and feet. The end result allowed me to gently touch down onto the surface of this platform, no longer falling and—hopefully—initiating the next step of my plan.

I looked all around myself, hoping to see any signs of the colorless dragon that I became earlier. But unfortunately, after about ten seconds of observation, all that resided around me was utter blackness, and mild disappointment within me.

"(Where could that dragon be?)" I pondered.


As if premeditated, I suddenly began to hear minor signs of monstrous footsteps within this vacant vicinity. The footsteps followed closely in tandem with a single second time differential, and seemed to contain a sufficient amount of mass into them to cause this red-starred platform to resonate mildly. Unfortunately, the sound of the footsteps echoed heavily within this environment, so I found myself unable to accurately pinpoint where the exact source was coming from.

Of course, I found myself not needing to listen to it, once I saw my dragon half gradually emerge from the darkness, directly in front of me.


At first, I saw its gleaming ash-black eyes—both of them, not just one like my own—appear from the darkness.


With another earth-trembling step, I saw the remainder of its head emerge from the shadows, the glimmer of its exposed facial bones—from its outwardly-angled teeth, to the bone spikes that stuck out of the back of its jaw line—becoming clear to my uncovered left eye.


With a third step, its entire upper body emerged from obscurity, exposing its pristine, elongated, and crested white neck, as well as its spacious, colorless wings before me. The entire length of its arms appeared as well from the dimness of this nothingness. I could easily calculate the length of its claws at this stage.

They appeared about nine inches long, at the shortest.


On its fourth step, its lower body appeared forth, from its stalwart lower legs—brandishing knife-like claw, just as intimidating as those on its arms—to the base of its tail. The entirety of its underbelly was present before me now, and I noticed no difference in color scheme whatsoever.


And with one last step, it stopped approximately five feet from my stable stance, within arms' reach of me. Because of its towering height compared to mine, it had to stare down at me—since I was only six feet tall, and my dragon half was two-and-a-half times that, from head to toe, excluding its equally lengthy tail or the span of its wings—with ash-black eyes that expressed more curiosity towards me rather than hostility, much to my overall safety.

Of course, this was difficult of me to perceive with a countenance so genuinely scaly and unbending, so alien and unreadable. Its tail wasn't helpful in helping me analyze the dragon's personality towards me either. I looked briefly down at it and noticed that it was curled up to the right side of its tree trunk of a right leg, lying on the floor of this mental milieu, the tip of this whip-like tail flickering mildly left and right—feline-like, though not genuinely so.

My reptilian doppelganger, in favor of my wellbeing, wasn't growling at me in any tone whatsoever. I couldn't aurally perceive it growling at all, even if it was one that the average ear could detect, or one that a massive scaled organism could resonate at a low enough frequency. My ears, my otherworldly sensitive sense of hearing that can detect even the faintest details, was detecting nothing aside from faint breathing from this draconic behemoth.

I tilted my head back up to its level just seconds before our expected tête-à-tête began.

"Eduardo, evolving brandisher of Elemental Aura," My dragon half began to rumble the earth with its abrasive, bass voice this time, and not with its feet. "Why did you divide yourself and seal me away within this mental abyss?"

Because I was conversing with myself, I knew that bliss of mental privacy was unnecessary and null, and only the truth should be discussed. "I don't know what you're talking about." I responded with utmost honesty and cluelessness at this topic. "All I seek, within myself, is my alternate form. I require you. I require this other me, this dragon me."

My dragon half retreats back a few stalwart steps before doing an about-face in front of me—almost swatting me upside the head with its broad wings, were it not for me tilting my head back slightly. It confirms my words and, without looking back at me, rumbles "What use do I have to offer you—me—after such a dreadfully extended hiatus from existence?"

My answer could not be more undeviatingly absolute. "There's a creature from a parallel Earth—a Pokémon by the name of Xeno Lucario—that I desire to save from Roman clutches. You, my hidden power, are my only hope of seeing that Pokémon live another day."

My dragon half turns itself 180 degrees to face me, returning to my field of vision. When it did so, I noticed an elevated curvature of its scaly lips, a devilish "V" formed by its teeth, a smile on its face. This was followed promptly by the most sinister chuckle that I've ever heard, one that made me, through this scaly body, seem so unquestionably antagonistic that I've temporarily forgotten my disposition.

"Heh heh heh heh heh… This power can't aid," My mirrored self begins to explain. "It only destroys all within its reach!"

As this hellish reptile continued to guffaw, the entirety within this plane of existence suddenly began to alter and transform before us. What was earlier a black oblivion of the mind has suddenly become a third-person replay recollection of my earlier actions.

And what was presently on play of my memory? Of all things, it was my clash against Mars and his Roman battalion of 500 soldiers. And because of our present location having changed before us, we appeared to be directly in the middle of this clash.

The totality of the battle played forth before me in all of its brutal brilliance. I saw myself—as well as Costas and Ian—exit our village home, only to experience first-hand the roasting of our beloved community. I saw myself, seething with rage, my fists clenched and my jaw in a muscular vice. I saw Mars, his legion of soldiers, decimating this village and its population. Then I saw Mars himself notice my presence and charge towards me with sword in hand, and bloodlust in mind, before stopping in his tracks when he saw what was occurring to me.

That's when my present dragon half opened its jaws wide, bared its hideous teeth, and roared in malicious laughter, one which echoed over the mental illusion that is present before us.

My ears were locked on at this nightmarish voice of satanic laughter of mine, and my functioning right eye was locked on at my unexpected transmogrification. All that I've felt undergoing throughout my metamorphosis—my blood becoming acidic, the flaming arrow piercing my left lung and setting my body ablaze, my massive wings and whip-like tail sprouting forth from my backside like a hell-born butterfly emerging from its cocoon, and the overall physical calamity that I endured when my body muscle and skeletal structure changed shape and grew—was replayed before me, for myself to see in disheartening, third-person detail.

When the overall scene of horror subsided with my human scream being the last thing to warp into a draconic roar—moments after a shockwave erupted from me and knocked everyone back—, I found myself unable to distinguish that roar from the cackling laughter that my dragon half unknowingly got itself into. The reason was simple when I understood that the voices of both are one and the same.

Once both the roaring and the mad laughter subsided, the next thing that I notice—recall—myself doing is kneeling onto the floor, hyperventilating and breathing fire simultaneously, in utter fatigue at the physical shock of the physical conversion that I underwent.

Mars, showing no signs of fear at the moment, rushed over towards me, hell-bent on my demise. But when his sword was about to fall on my head, I disappeared from sight, appearing in the core of his army, and tearing them apart with a terrifying amalgamate of brute force and Elemental Aura abilities.

I recall every little detail when it came to the point in time where I restrained Mars and listened at his earlier arrival to this village, where Xeno Lucario had bested him in combat and spared him before sending him away. I favored listening to Costas's and Ian's viewpoint of this information, and decimated Mars's body when I no longer had any lingering use of him. I then noticed his gutted body thrown into the Red Sea, where it sank until the sunlight could no longer shine on his freshly-rotting cadaver.

This aquatic end to Mars caused the entire area surrounding us to return to its sable norm, with the pentagram's crimson light illuminated the area faintly, and my dragon half continuing to speak to me in its unique tone of voice, the emotion of it amplified by the intimidating red glare of the platform's light that appeared to deceive the dragon's color as red instead of white.

"If you intend to save this 'Xeno Lucario' creature of yours with this locked power that you desire to unleash, you'll only repeat your earlier performance, and render that Pokémon into a mutilated hollow shell, just like what you did to that thick-headed general!" My dragon only seemed to smile at this idea, and contained its urge to cackle again.

These booming words of my other half resonated heavily into my psyche—as well as in my ears. I fully comprehended and understood how atrocious my earlier actions were, and never became conscious earlier of such unadulterated graphic violence.

I always knew that I had no problem with detailed manslaughter, especially because it's inflicted on the people that I despise, on people that get in my way, on people that risk the halcyon and immaculate village that I grew up in. However, with this dragon power that I've recently tapped into, I've realized just how much of a barbaric monster I've become.

My martial nature has become reflected onto the outside, with this form.

However, with this in mind, I've already established within myself my loss of connection with humanity, knowing well enough that I'm not human and that I'll never be. And I don't intend to change my ways either in order to blend into the masses, because I'd reluctantly lose my individuality in doing so.

Also, because of this decisive bit of personality trait that I adamantly know about myself, I know within my heart that what I choose to do is righteous and unyielding.

My lips curled upward and formed a smile, one where the mind reinforcing it is in absolute assurance of reasons for past actions.

"What a load of bullshit," I began. "So long as I'm in ironfisted control of my abilities, I'm completely dogmatic of my actions and consequences."

"" My dragon half stayed silent, knowing well enough where its smaller half was going with this.

Once again, the sable background surrounding us transformed into the same exact scene that we were viewing earlier. The difference this time is that it resumed from the point in time post-battle, where I staggered my exhausted draconic body back to my house, where Costas and Ian waited.

I glanced over briefly at this scenery beside me before locking ash-black eye with ash-black eyes once more with my dragon half.

"I've never utilized my powers for selfish gain or unreasonable sinful acts. My choice on what to use these obtained powers of mine has always resided on the realm of moral righteousness, for the protection of others."

The dragon within the background of this mental recollection has now stopped within feet of both Costas and Ian. Both of my brothers looked on at me, with no signs of fear at my actions or of my stature. They appeared as trustworthy and as openheartedly as they always were with me.

"With these powers of mine, I'm no earthbound abomination that solely exists to obliterate all within reach and all within sight. I selflessly use my powers to protect those that I care about, those that I love and treasure, against any harmful threats that might place my dearly beloved in peril."

My mental background now fades away and returns to sable norm when it depicts the moment in time where I lose consciousness before my brothers and collapse onto the sandy floor below. I pay no attention to this because I'm well aware of how this third-person perspective flashback ended.

"I am Eduardo, Man of Bulwark!" I speak with faultless authority, and hear my voice echo within this mental confinement, with just as much intensity as that of my dragon half. "And so long as I live, with absolute awareness towards my actions and consequences, I will remaindecisive in mind and stalwart in body, so that those that I respect can live their lives without the encumbrance of danger and the trepidation of death!"

"" The countenance of my dragon half appeared as vacant as it normally is, silent before the bulwark of a pledge that I decreed upon myself.

However, in knowing this, it returned to its original ideas and resurfaced them in a manner that I didn't anticipate them to.

My dragon half smiled and cackled a bit, before its body posture dropped somewhat, tears streamed down its eyes, and it began to cry.

"How long have I desired the freedom that was reluctantly stolen from me?" The dragon half confessed before me.

"…" I recoiled slightly from this change of behavior, but didn't budge any further and continued listening, listening to where this was going.

"The division and mental imprisonment that neither of us recollects has left me missing the outside world that I've viewed from your memories." The dragon's tone of voice cracked over flooding emotions, causing an unholy combination of sadness and malice to ring within my ears. "The brief taste of freedom that I received when we clashed alongside Mars's enemy forces, with powers that you've never accessed before, has left me begging to return to this physical realm, and unchained from this mental depression!"

Upon hearing these tearful words of genuine desire, I decide to appease to my larger half and extend my right hand out to it. My dragon half is quick to notice this, as well as the comforting smile that formed on my countenance.

"I needed your help, and you needed mine," I explained. "This way, we'd be helping each other out, and no longer suffering pointlessly as two halves, but as one whole."

My dragon half's return to emotional equilibrium was almost instantaneous that I had to recall when exactly it occurred. It wiped away the excess tears from its eyes with its arms and took in a couple of deep, rumbling breaths.

"You're absolutely right." It said unquestionably.

"No, we're absolutely right," I corrected my altered self playfully.

My dragon half smirked and nodded at my correction before it reached out its clawed right hand and connecting it with my own.

Just as we both did so, the mental fissure that we both presently dwelled in now blinded our existence with brilliant white light. And during this moment, the both of us temporarily lost feeling in our physical placement, apparently becoming fleetingly detached from our physical bodies and reuniting as a whole.

"The whole entity that we once were has now been restored." The dragon's voice echoed within this field.

"I only wish I remembered what happened that divided us apart." My voice echoed before I found myself awakening from my subconscious and returning to my original place on Earth.

Location: 28°N, 34°E (Solitary Tree atop a Hill)

Time: 10:11 AM

After this mental journey of mine concluded, I instantly recalled Xeno Lucario's current predicament. In doing so, I opened my eyes, my naked right eye giving my facial expression more composure than earlier. I knew now that I stood a chance in rescuing the captured Aura Pokémon, especially since I retrieved this power that I had—with no memory on the matter—sealed away before.

I slowly stood back up and looked briefly at the sun through the corner of my left eye, judging its present eastward presence and then calibrating myself to look northwestward—the direction where Rome resides from here—, facing the coastline of the Red Sea in the process.

With my mind focused on one primary objective, I pondered "(I'm ready to save you, Xeno Lucario)" before my Elemental Aura abilities flared in unison.

In an instant, my body was set ablaze with the power of the twelve Elemental Aura abilities that I had presently learned—Red (Fire) Aura, Orange (Melee) Aura, Yellow (Lightning) Aura, Light Green (Wind) Aura, Green (Healing) Aura, Dark Green (Nature) Aura, Light Blue (Ice) Aura, Blue (Water) Aura, Purple (Psychic) Aura, Brown (Earth) Aura, White (Light) Aura, and Black (Darkness) Aura. All twelve of these traits to my power flared one by one, in a blend of attributes, across the areas of my body where they were highlighted—my right eye, my extra blood vessels, and my aura field. And just as quickly as this occurred, I became completely cloaked from existence of the outside surroundings, once this phenomenon of mine revolved rapidly around myself and encased me in a spherical cocoon of aura proficiency.

The force that this feat generated was easily overpowering the natural environment around me. The water by the Red Sea was repelled back, the grass surrounding where I stood upon was obliterated, and the earth surrounding me was blown apart and thrown into the air, creating a gradually-increasing crater that I stood upon. The overall sound of this mimicked the potency of gale-force winds, likely caused by the sound of air shredding into itself as it revolves around me.

All of this seemed to provide an excellent substitute alarm clock for my sleeping brothers.

My brothers wake up immediately and notice this scene of natural distress that was occurring all around my encasing rainbow sphere. Both brothers looked at this in astonishment, but with no apparent fear of the situation—especially since they're aware of the person behind all of this—or knowledge behind the reason of it all. They simply watched on, wondering where I was going with this.

Eventually, this same sphere outwardly expands to triple its original diameter, before dissipating into the air a few seconds later. Once it does, the Eduardo that my brothers knew has taken on the alter ego that I've recently acquired in my past Roman clash.

The enveloping rainbow sphere that my Elemental Aura formed for me has allowed me to transform at will into the dragon that I once became. My overall posture remained unchanged from my anterior body, staring on at the same exact direction that I was facing, upright and steadfast.

And with this eerily nostalgic body of mine once more in my control, I outstretched my massive wings to my left and right sides, my elongated tail outstretched directly behind me, and then I inhaled massively and exhaled deeply only once to accustom myself to the differences between my normal form and this one. The factor that settled into my physical norm the quickest was my recovered vision on my previously patched left eye.

My two brothers, from behind my back, ogled my draconic return and couldn't fathom how I successfully mastered this recently unearthed trait of mine.

My wings and tail, after outstretching them, remained outstretched for obvious reasons. With my elongated neck, I rotated my head to the left, almost entirely backwards of my posture, and eyed my brothers with my regained left eye, as well as a toothy—and accidentally unnerving—smile.

"Costas… Ian…" I begin to explain to my incredulous brothers, with this antagonistic voice that my draconic form inadvertently acquires. "Before you curiously ask me how I transformed again, I'll need to take my leave immediately."

My brothers remained silent and attentive, their jaws hanging by a thread at how much in disbelief they were at me.

"And when I return…they'll be a total of four of us present and accounted for."

My brothers almost felt their hearts skip a beat at the sound of such reinvigorating words. Then again, that could've easily been from the tone of voice that I presently displayed, but I knew that it wasn't because they've habituated themselves to the plain unholy sound of it.

With no time to waste, I squatted down somewhat before catapulting myself into the air. Once in mid-air, I flapped my massive wings and elevated myself higher into the air. And in the process, I streamlined my body and traveled forward, already reaching triple-digit speeds in the process.

Once I had a surplus of momentum going for me, I amplified my speed by firstly emanating Light Green (Wind) Aura in sufficient quantities, and then activating my Aero Sphere Twister technique. The end result created an anti-drag ovoid of wind that enveloped my entire body. And when this was supplemented with my heightened speed, I overshot the levels of velocity that my S3-OSS devices could. In short, I rocketed northwestward from my earlier location.

…At the ear-shattering speed of Mach 3.

My brothers could only watch on from their earthbound presence as I disappeared over the Red Sea horizon in mere seconds, the air crying in pain as I sliced through it.

"Costas…" Ian began, staring off in the direction that I travelled. "Have you ever pondered just how surprisingly little we know about him?"

"Yes I have…" Costas replied, looking ahead as well. "But I'm too busy thinking just how unique he is compared to everybody else. He's easily one in a million, maybe even one in a billion."

"No, he's not," Ian explained. "He's just one. The one that coexists with us all."

23.5: Uniquely Mysterious

Location: Rome (Empty Lot)

Time: 10:22 AM

Xeno Lucario, debilitated of strength after his mental episode hours earlier, remained upright and chained, forcibly by the presently overpowering strength of two of Nero's personal Roman guards.

Despite the chain of events that led to him falling unconscious hours earlier, he was presently conscious, and fully awake and aware of his surroundings. He watched on with an irritated facial countenance at the Roman guards before him, knowing that he was powerless at this moment—because of the state that the hooded figure had left him in earlier. He made sure that each and every Roman guard around him paid attention to his sanguine glare.

The eight Roman guards soon surrounded the subdued Aura Pokémon within their imaginary octagon, each and every one of them holding barbed whips that could tear flesh apart with every strike onto the body. They all carefully uncoiled these whips with their hands, hoisted them behind their backs, and jerked them forward so that they'd strike Lucario's furry blue body. They all whipped the Aura Pokémon a few times before abruptly stopping when they noticed an unexpected abnormality.

None of their whips were drawing blood from Xeno's body. They weren't even scratching the surface of his skin. At best, they merely irritated his ears with their air-snapping sounds, and ruffled the patches of Lucario's fur where the whips made contact.

They couldn't harm him physically, and only worsened him emotionally.

"(If I wasn't so debilitated right now, I'd kill all of you senselessly.)" He growled within his thoughts.

One of the Roman guards breaks off from the group's imaginary octagon and walks back to a discombobulated Nero, who was watching on from a reasonable distance.

"Your Excellency," The Roman guard began. "It appears that the whips aren't effective at all on this sapphire beast."

"Yes, I can see that." Nero said, glaring at this beast, even when Lucario locked eyes with him as well. "I've never seen an animal so small possess a hide that is this physically dense. I can't even begin to fathom its constitution."

"What are your orders, Your Excellency?"

"…" Nero contemplated how the barbed whips were ineffective at scratching Xeno's flesh, and quickly contemplated a different tactic. "Set the whips aside, and pierce him with a barrage of arrows."

The Roman guard, after receiving his orders, was quick to return to his group and pass on the Roman Emperor's orders. The able-bodied eight guards set aside their barbed whips and retrieved a bow, as well as a loaded quiver, before returning to their original location.

Seeing all of this simply caused Lucario to yawn out of boredom, and not sense any signs of danger whatsoever.

"(Unless they can give me one hell of a headache, I'm just not going to give a crap.)" Xeno pondered and stared attentively at each Roman guard.

Each Roman guard retrieved an arrow from their respective quivers and loaded their respective bows. They pulled their strings back and aimed directly towards the Aura Pokémon. They all fired in tandem, each of their arrows firing straight and true, directly towards a relaxed Aura Pokémon.

Unfortunately, all of the arrows met a similar fate of uselessness as the barbed whips did when they made direct contact with Xeno. Each and every arrow bounced off of his body before falling onto the floor, none of which managed to draw blood or scratch his skin. A couple of the arrows were aimed directly at his eyes, but he was more than able to see these coming and tilted his head to avoid their path, causing the arrows to miss and hit the floor when gravity pulled them back down.

The same Roman guard that received Nero's orders showed considerable signs of frustration at Lucario's resilience and threw his bow aside in the process. He then decided to take matters into his own hands—quite literally—and ran directly behind Lucario before gripping the sides of his head with two gauntlet-gloved hands. With his fingers practically at Lucario's eye sockets, he forced Xeno's eyelids open, causing growing frustration with the Aura Pokémon.

"It's eyes! Shoot for its eyes again!" The guard shouted at his colleagues.

The Roman guards were immediately aware of their colleague's reasons and followed his demands. They quickly retrieved another arrow from their quivers and reloaded their bows.

Xeno Lucario, now severely pissed off at his personal space being violated, exposed his gritted fangs and snarled heavily.

"(Don't you touch me!)" He pondered, before leaning his head forward—pulling the Roman guard behind him forward as well—and slamming the back of his head alongside the front of the guard's head in the form of a skull-rattling HEADBUTT.

The strength of the attack—despite Lucario's feeble state—was easily enough to break the Roman guard's nose, as well as knock him back and down on the floor, freeing the Aura Pokémon's face from his cold, metallic hands.

The Roman guard could feel his head rattling and his nose hemorrhaging from the blunt trauma that the back of Xeno's skull inflicted upon him. He curled himself up slightly and put a hand on his nose, quickly noticing that when he removed said hand, all he saw on it was blood concealing metal.

The Roman guard looked up at his assaulter and noticed that he was looking back at him, grinning and snickering at his broken nose injury.

"You blue, bipedal bitch!" The Roman guard was seething with rage as he got back up on his feet.

However, just before he could make another hostile move at the Aura Pokémon…

"Enough!" Nero demanded. "Don't let your anger cloud your better judgment!"

The Roman guard managed to have Nero's words reach him and immediately proceeded over towards him. He loyally bowed down before Nero, placing one knee on the floor and tilting his head likewise, deliberately absent-minded about his broken nose hemorrhaging a sanguine stain onto the earth below. "…My apologies, Your Excellency. (*Sniff*) I just briefly let my temper flare and burn a hole through my sense of reasoning."

Nero allowed this incident to slide and focused his attention towards the Aura Pokémon once more. Xeno was presently staring at him vehemently, anticipating whatever failure of an attempt he could ponder next.

Because of this, Nero contemplated his next move carefully.

"(Blunt force doesn't seem to have any reasonable effect on this animal, nor does piercing force either.)" Nero began to ponder. "(If I want to slaughter this abnormality, I need to strike at it when the iron is hot.)"

Nero then recalled key words that his respective guard mentioned earlier.

"(Perhaps fire would suffice as a plausible tactic against this cobalt beast. Fire is extreme enough to render the strength of resilient metal into manageable lumps that can be shaped into useable items. I suppose I can apply this similar tactic in rendering the life out of this natural oddity.)"

"(…I don't like whatever is going on inside of your head.)" Lucario pondered, unsure of whatever Nero is planning due to his current incapability of reading minds.

With his next tactic set, Nero clasped his hands together and looked down at his kneeling subsidiary.

"Rise up as you once were, noble sentinel." Nero began, and immediately received the response that he commanded. "I need you and your men to ready a furnace. We are going to cleave this feral monster in two with a sword set ablaze in white-hot intensity."

"Yes, My Excellency!" The Roman guard accepted Nero's new orders, and proceeded back to his colleagues, where he spread the word and had the seven other able-bodied guards follow him in order to assemble the item desired.

Lucario's eyes widened slightly and his ears dropped moderately to the side. "(Oh crap… They're trying now…)" He pondered with mild anxiety.

Location: Mediterranean Sea

Time: 10:34 AM

Just above the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, I rocketed across the water at a terrifying Mach 3, pushing myself onward towards my intended goal.

My superior speed actually caused a delay in reaction of the water as I passed by above it. From below the surface of the calm waters, I would be seen as a massive winged figure, streamlined and reptilian, fully encased in a ovoid dome of wind—supplemented by my Light Green (Wind) Aura—and speeding onward in the blink of an eye. A split second later, the wind that was snapped from my sonic boom would upset the tranquility of the water and cause a pillar of it to shoot upward a few stories into the air, before splashing back down onto the water below.

I managed to hunch my head and neck underneath my underbelly to see the aquatic wake that I briefly left behind me, before aligning myself back forward a few seconds after.

Across the left side of my face, I noticed towering cumulus clouds forming above the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, a few dozen miles away from my ongoing location. These clouds, dozens of square miles in size, only lasted on the horizon for about a minute before they disappeared from my heightened sight.

At this speed, I could see the world revolving directly beneath me, and I was actually transcending it instead of following it.

On another day, I would find myself enjoying this indescribable euphoria of speed and scenery. However, on this day, I knew what was more important. And I only hoped that, despite my abilities reaching new levels of versatility, I wasn't too late in fortifying the safekeeping of Xeno.

Location: Rome (Empty Lot)

Time: 10:40 AM

As Nero demanded, the eight able-bodied Roman guards constructed a furnace within the area. Half of the guards gathered solid blocks of cobblestone, while the other half gathered small wooden logs and coal to burn.

The guards that collected the solid bricks placed them all in a shape of a hollow cube, five feet across from one point to another, with only a hole on one of the walls. The guards that collected the flammable material inserted it within the furnace and ignited it with spark rocks that they had in hand.

The end result created a concentrated inferno that managed to exceed 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nero approached the furnace and unsheathed his equipped Gladius sword from its scabbard. He inserted the entire blade portion within the hole on the wall, sparing the handle that he held from the intense heat—for obvious reasons.

As the blade took its time in heating up, Nero ogled the Aura Pokémon with a vindictive countenance.

Xeno noticed this and mimicked the Roman Emperor's actions, only to feign mental rigidity and prevent any signs of weakness from being exposed to the public.

"(What kind of a predicament have I gotten myself into?)" He began to ponder his misfortune. "(I'm powerless in freeing myself, and too restrained of time to gather my strength back… I don't recall how I ended up here in the first place…)"

Lucario briefly looked away from Nero to notice the sword that he held within the furnace. The silver blade of the Gladius gradually began to glow a faint red color as its temperature was equalizing with that of the conflagration.

"(…And now I'm about to be stabbed to death…by a primitive human race.)" Lucario whimpered under his breath. "(If I even had a fragment of my strength coursing through me, I can create a resistance to fire. However, I don't, and my 'mind over matter' resistance will not prevent me from being pierced through like butter.)"

"(I wonder what could be going on in that little, blue skull of yours?)" Nero pondered, looking at the blade in hand, noticing how its color began to grow more and more scarlet from the heat. "(I suppose it doesn't matter, once I pierce your throat in two.)" He smiled at the thought of slaughter.

Lucario's head tilted down at the dusty floor below his feet. His eyes locked on at the gravel, but his mind wasn't.

"(Where did I go wrong in my life?)" He began to recall his past actions, attempting to make sense of what happened that led to his inadvertent presence here.

(Xeno Lucario's Flashback)

Below on the forest floor, there exists a Pokémon egg between the gnarled and thick roots of one of the thousands of forest trees. This egg was about the size of a basketball, having a blue-colored shell with a yellow ring on the top and a black lower half.

How this egg came to be here is unknown, but what is known about this Pokémon egg is that it is close to hatching.

The egg was faintly flashing a heavenly white light, a light bright enough to illuminate the dark forest floor within a 50 feet radius. The light dimmed after about five seconds, and then the light resumed, with far more potency in its brilliant white glow. The light faded away after a full ten seconds, and as if by sorcery, a Pokémon has swapped places with the egg. The hatched Pokémon was lying there asleep, curled up to keep warm and huddled up to the roots for comfort.

(End of Xeno Lucario's Flashback)

"(Oh…Arceus…)" Xeno grew wide-eyed at his spontaneous moment of low self-esteem and shook his head to remove such self-marring thoughts.

He quickly focused his thoughts on other events in his life, critical events in his life, from past battles where he willingly gambled the safekeeping of his life, and came out victorious. Lucario remembered his past battles, ones with former enemies (Absol), ruthless crime lords (Giovanni), hostile Pokémon (Sceptile), and legendary deities (Dialga and Palkia).

"(How have I still survived to this day? All of those confrontations that I had could've brought me down to an early demise, and yet they haven't, and I survived a stronger Pokémon nevertheless.)"

Lucario pondered his reasons as to why he still breathes today. He quickly thought of plausible reasons that has aided in his overall wellbeing.

"(Is it because I have too much to live for, too much to do before I pass away?)"

Xeno felt as if he was on to something.

"(That's probably true, because there's still a list of goals that I need to accomplish. I have friends back on my home Earth that I wish to see again. I have a certain co-worker that I wish to locate, wherever it may be. I have a prophecy that—even with a lack of concrete detail—must be fulfilled. And finally, I have a certain person that I wish to see crushed by my paws.)"

Nero felt as if he had given Lucario enough time to live and removed his sword from the furnace.

Much to his hopes, the blade was glowing crimson with extreme four-digit heat. He resisted the temptation to touch the blade for obvious reasons, and proceeded over to the Aura Pokémon.

Xeno quickly hears Nero approaching him and has his final thoughts on this subject.

"(Of course, to accomplish all of those goals, I have to survive this encounter.)" Lucario glared at Nero attentively, still feigning a stalwart emotional stature in order to not expose his weakness. "(What a shame then…that I can't do anything to save myself…)"

Nero stopped walking when he was within five feet of the Aura Pokémon, easily enough of a distance to lunge forward with his sword when the moment arrived.

However, it wouldn't be good sport if he didn't savor this moment to its fullest.

"Did I ever tell you…how you came to me in the first place?" Nero began to talk to the Aura Pokémon with an unnerving smile.

Xeno had a strong hunch as to where this was going. He shook his head, and pondered "(No…but I know where this is going.)"

"Somehow, you turned up on the inside of my palace, unconscious and practically gift-wrapped to me by an anonymous source?"

"(Anonymous source...?)" Lucario couldn't wrap his head around the identity of that person.

"Now, while I have absolutely no idea who brought you here, I know well enough who you are, and what you're quite capable of."

"…" Lucario listened attentively at where Nero was going with this.

"I know well enough, from Mars's martial experience with you, that you are Xeno Lucario, the mysterious Aura Pokémon."

"…" Lucario remained unmoved by Nero's realization of his identity. After all, he knew that he told Mars this information. And now he knows that Mars managed to pass it on to Nero.

Nero continued. "You are an enigmatic animal that is unexplainably capable of human speech without so much as flapping your lips. You are in possession of frightening abilities that, if provoked, can destroy entire legions without so much as batting an eye in remorse."

Lucario couldn't help but smile at this and chuckle a bit.

"So all of this time," Lucario began to speak, for the first time amongst these people. "I never needed to keep silent to such a hopelessly primitive human race?"

Nero's smile faded immediately after hearing Lucario's blunt remark. He quickly took the broad side of the blade of his Gladius and pressed it firmly on the forehead and snout of the Aura Pokémon, causing a mild hissing noise from the sound of roasting hair and skin. Nero wished to brand some manners onto the Aura Pokémon, and kept his sword steady until that occurred.

However, all that he received was a phenomenal display of tempered willpower. Xeno remained silent and absent-minded of the burning that his forehead and snout was enduring, not wanting to ease his steadfast façade for even a moment. He glared on at Nero, imagining him dead, to a degree rivaling that of which he wants Giovanni dead.

After five seconds of branding, Nero removed the sword from his enemy's face, noticing a blackened area on Lucario's forehead and snout where the blade touched flesh and fur.

Nero simply scoffed at this and resumed speaking. "Hmm… You remind me heavily of Eduardo, and the two of you—whether your actions were intentional or not—have caused me and my nation nothing but problems during my attempts at expanding my territory."

The mere mentioning of the name "Eduardo" managed to partially resurface the vicious headache that Xeno sustained earlier. "(That name again…!)" Lucario's eyes sealed shut as the cerebral pain resurfaced once again, cringing before Nero and paying no attention to him whatsoever.

"In killing you, one of the two most publically hated and formidable enemies of Rome, my place in history will be cemented for all of eternity."

Lucario simply groaned in pain at the headache's agonizing shackles that tightened its coils around his brain.

"I will be known in history as Nero, the fifth Roman Emperor who brought down one of the most mysterious and dangerous creatures on this planet."

Location: Rome (City Limit)

Time: 10:46 AM

Within the farthest corner of the Roman Capital, daily activity was as normal as it was in any other segment of Rome. Merchants were selling various different items of clothing, food, and jewelry, to those that desired them. Other people were passing the time conversing with one another, talking about their daily or personal lives.

All of this natural commotion amongst Roman citizens was easily disturbed when I passed by overhead in the blink of an eye, which triggered an ear-splitting and building-shaking sonic boom that followed behind me.

My guess is that the sheer force of this snapping of air managed to cause the hearts of these people to skip a beat or two, as well as damage the ears of those who were directly beneath my flight path.

"(Good…)" is what I would think of with a scaly and toothy smile, if I wasn't so presently single-mindedly focused on finding Lucario.

With my drastically-heightened sense of vision—thankfully blessing both of my eyes rather than just one—, I scanned a few miles (one minute) ahead of me, instantly eyeing the Empty Lot where Xeno Lucario was held as a captive prisoner to these people.

I could see the scene as if I was there first-hand. I could see a shackled Aura Pokémon, held under control by two Roman guards—likely because that was all the restraint necessary under his current condition—, with eight more surrounding Roman guards closely watching on within an imaginary octagon that their placement caused.

Directly in front of Xeno, I could see Nero within striking distance of him, armed with a Gladius sword that appeared heat-treated and intended for the killing of the Aura Pokémon.

Knowing now that the moment of truth was fast approaching, I began to slow down from Mach 3 and considered my options carefully on what to do to save Xeno, knowing that I would have to make a split-second decision.

Location: Rome (Empty Lot)

Time: 10:47 AM

"With my Gladius in hand, I will smite you where you stand. And in doing so, I will send your soul to a world where the heat of my sword vastly pales in comparison to."

Lucario remained silent throughout this small speech, struggling in vain against the overpowering restraint that was suppressing him and keeping him in place.

"Veni, Vidi, Vici…" Nero began. "Do you know what that means?"

Xeno, taking his mind off of an attempt to break free, simply looked back at Nero and shook his head. "I don't speak Latin. I only know English…and I find myself bizarrely speaking Spanish when I'm hammered beyond rational thought."

"Interesting…" Nero droned at the unnecessary extra information. "Well then, here's a language lesson for you, for your final seconds of life: 'Veni, Vidi, Vici' means 'I came, I saw, I conquered'…"

Nero gripped the handle of the sword tightly with both hands, and then stepped back with the sword drawn into his body, ready to lunge forward and impale him.

"…As in, I came here, I saw one of my enemies, and I conquered over the control of its pitiful life in order to do away with as I wish!"

Nero, not wishing to prolong this anymore, lunged forward with his Gladius sword. He aimed the razor-sharp tip of the weapon directly at Lucario's jugular, wishing to sever it in two.

Much to his surprise, Xeno reflexively cringed, clenching and exposing his teeth, and closed his eyes in apprehension, not wanting to see the exact moment when his throat would be skewered and then notice his life depart from him as if it were his own breath. It didn't take much thought in his part to realize that he was about to die, and he was genuinely terrified at the thought. He didn't know what would occur to him in the afterlife, what would become of his soul, as well as the close friends that he'd leave behind.

And because of that, mild xenophobia about post-death uncertainty caused him to whimper under his breath, which was faintly audible to Nero, albeit ignored.


Lucario, feeling his heart actually skip a beat when the Gladius sword had infiltrated his throat, temporarily forgot to breathe. He found himself quickly having to hyperventilate because his heart-rate had spiked in intensity, which in turn was siphoning the oxygen from his lungs faster than he could supply them.

Once he had mollified his breathing, his eyelids immediately opened and his eyes widened when he realized something critical.

He was breathing normally.

His eyes immediately looked as far down as they were able to, and he noticed that Nero's Gladius sword did in fact stab him in the throat, and was completely soused in blood. However, only the tip of the blade itself made contact with him, so the blood on the blade wasn't his own. The end result of this merely led to a mild poke on the epidermal layer of skin on his neck, which didn't even draw his own blood because his fur itself was in the way.

From Nero's perspective of this bladed attack, he knew that he penetrated a living being with his sword, clean through the entry wound and out the exit wound that the blade forcibly made with its momentum. However, a shocked countenance and a mild discoloration of his face suggested that he struck something else entirely.

…Something that entered at the last possible split-second.

Both he and Lucario—alongside the ten Roman guards that were present—had to look up to see just what was stabbed with the Gladius sword.


I stood tall, fifteen feet from foot to face, pure white in scaly hide, with my Light Green (Wind) Aura absent at my choice of action. I remained physically stable, my arms unperturbed at my side, my tail on the floor and coiled slightly, and my wings tucked behind my back when they were no longer used.

I placed myself facing Nero, with the sword that he lunged forward with successfully managing to pierce clean through my abdomen—due to my underbelly being a weak point of my overall hide—, stopping at the wider hilt when the rest of the blade buried itself within me. Because of this, I managed to only have the sword stick out from my back and harmlessly tap Xeno in the throat, rather than go right through it as Nero intended.

A fair amount of blood ran down my abdominal penetration, but was significantly reduced by the blade filling up the gap that it formed, as well as heat of the Gladius painfully cauterizing my internal injury. Instead, much more blood could be seen hemorrhaging from my massive jaws. It stained my teeth sanguine and gave the surrounding people an unholy imagery when I chose to smile and chuckle malignantly in my earth-trembling dragon voice.

"(I can't believe…I only had enough time to do this,)" I pondered, feeling the full pain of the sword slicing through my abdominal cavity. "(If I had done anything else…I might've been too late.)"

"…" Nero, having to look directly upward at me, remained frozen in fright at the terrifying reptilian juggernaut that managed to get in his way. He never let go of his sword, mostly because the thought of doing so never occurred to him.

Looking down at this feeble human, I growled aggressively at him, pondering methods as to how to dispose of him. However, I managed to set that all aside for now and turned my massive head to the left, slowly and carefully considering my injury, choosing to see how Xeno was faring with my left eye.

Similarly to Nero, Lucario ogled me fearfully, and I could plainly imagine why.

The sight of a fifteen-foot-tall dragon, who endured a sword stab to the abdomen, who speaks in a voice that sounded as if Satan Himself had possession and personal use of my vocal chords, and who has a face that could make any person empty their bowels…

I'd be terrified myself actually, if I had a mirror to look at myself with right now.

Thankfully, I had a surplus of heart and a steadfast attention of others to do this:

"Are you alright…Xeno Lucario?" I spoke with the gentlest possible tone of voice that I could muster, with this encumbrance of a hellish voice of mine.

Whatever fear that Xeno had over me was fading away faster than he imagined. He quickly understood the fact that I was here on his side and to physically protect him from an early demise, because if I wasn't here to protect him, then I wouldn't be present here at all. And if I wasn't here at all, the sword that was piercing through my abdomen wouldn't have its tip on his jugular. It would instead sever clean through his neck.

"Yes…I'm alright…" He said, only slightly hesitant at responding back, likely because he was still intimidated by my stature and unsure as to why I'm here.

"...Good…good…" I smiled slightly and muttered before facing back and looking down at a shell-shocked Nero. "(Because you have no idea…how much this hurts right now.)"

"(What the hell just happened?!)" Nero pondered, frozen in place and still active of mind. "(I so much as lunge my sword forward and suddenly have this reptilian beast appear out of nowhere to take the blow!)"


My eyes widened slightly when I heard that sound, because it related to a form-specific draconic trait that I had briefly neglected, and now recalled instantly.

"(Oh right…)" I chuckled devilishly. "(My blood is acidic in this state of body…)"

All three of us suddenly heard a slight hissing sound that mimicked the audible potency of an aggressive snake. I was fully aware of what this is and what this would spell to Nero's sword. However, both Xeno and Nero were unsure of this, and only locked their eyes at the source of this sound.

Before the eyes of the Aura Pokémon, he could see the Gladius sword that was penetrating me began to melt away. The acidic blood that stained the sword sanguine began to eat away at the blade, starting with the tip of the sword and migrating downward towards the exit wound on my backside.

Upon seeing this, Xeno had this to ponder.

"(Acidic blood…)" he muttered mentally. "(How queer, and yet so resourceful…)"

The sword disappeared from his point of view once the sword began to melt away within my body, from the hemorrhaging that was occurring within me internally.

From Nero's point of view, he suddenly heard the hissing sound of deteriorating metal fast approaching him. He looked at his held Gladius and noticed how my entry wound that concealed his blade began to smolder and fume a noxious white smoke.

"(What in the…?)" Nero was quick to ponder before removing the blade from my body.

My oversized, blood-soused teeth clenched mildly when Nero suddenly removed the blade from my abdomen. The pain that resulted from it was horrendous, but bearable to a powerhouse.

Before Nero's eyes—as well as those of his personal guards—, he noticed that the blood-soused Gladius was half-eaten by my acidic blood, and dissolving at an alarmingly fast rate. Once the corrosion reached the hilt and came within millimeters of Nero's hand, he immediately dropped the handle in fright, moments before the handle itself dissolved away into the sand, along with some of the sand itself. The end result created a small crater on the floor, fuming of white smoke, where his Gladius met its end.

I could hear a sufficient amount of astonished exclamations surrounding me. I paid no mind to them and focused my ash-black glare on Nero.

"Who…what the hell are you?!" Nero looked upward to me and locked eyes with me, truly terrified of my stature.

His question guaranteed a straightforward answer from me, one with absolute assurance of my identity.

"I am Eduardo."

The mere mention of that eminent name caused a further uproar of exclamation from my surrounding audience. Even Nero—and even Xeno—were greatly dumbfounded that I existed before them in this state of body.

Xeno Lucario, despite being taken aback at my new body, was surprised to find out that the headache that plagued him earlier—caused at the mere mention of my name—no longer existed within his skull. With his ruby red eyes already locked onto me, he recalled what I looked like when we first met, and imagined that normal form of mine in place of my dragon form.

This mental juxtaposition was brief and allowed Lucario to reach this mental conclusion.

"(Perhaps this new body of his is easier for me to individualize...)" He figured for now.

"You're…Eduardo?! That's impossible!" Nero shouted at me with uncertainty. "You don't possess the ability to become this!"

"…" I didn't so much as say anything in response to this. I simply crossed my massive arms and looked at him with a serious glare, waiting for him to remove this immaterial doubt.

"…Mother of Jupiter…" Nero understood my serious posture at once, and spoke at me with severe incredulity. "When did you acquire the ability to become this?!"

I didn't feel like keeping anything secret from him, so I uncrossed my massive, scaled arms and responded immediately to Nero with this:

"…I genuinely have no idea." My voice trembled before the earth. "For all that I know, I've had these abilities of mine locked away within me, waiting to be unlocked under critical circumstances."

"…" Nero looked at me with a hollow countenance, his neurons detonating individually within his mind from the sheer improbability that he comprehended from what I've said.

"…" Xeno on the other hand, simply tilted his head slightly to his right side, apparently smarter than Nero and having an easier time dissecting what I've said as an unlikely truth, and yet still having his doubts over it.

Nero eventually had enough of this and changed the topic, as well as his disposition.

"Do you have any idea how disastrous your actions have been to my nation?!" Nero decided to blow his fuse at me. "Do you have any idea how many thousands of people you've single-handedly killed from our armies?! And do you have any idea how badly you've compromised our intentions of global expansion?!"

"I have a clear understanding of my choice of actions towards your nation. I'm well aware of what I choose to do in response to you and your leadership." I responded to his spite with nonchalance. "And I will have you know that you had this dilemma brought upon yourself and Rome."

"…" Nero listened on, knowing that it was vitally important from his rank as Emperor to understand my logic in actions towards his empire.

Lucario did so as well, to better understand the type of person that I am.

"Your civilization murdered my parents fourteen years ago, when I had just hit the age of thirteen. The death of my parents under the merciless iron fist of Rome alone cemented my eternal hatred towards your race!"

My spite gradually transferred over to my speech, amplifying the diabolicalness of my tone of voice. To all those that were listening, they had difficulty in keeping their knees from clattering against each other.

"And three years later, your civilization had the audacity to visit my home village," my right clawed hand trailed off to my strapped S1-GS device on my right side, "desire my S1-GS device, crucify my brothers and me onto a wooden post, and lay martial waste to the village and its citizens!"

"…" Nero, Xeno Lucario, and all ten of the Roman guards present on this Empty Lot listened closely, hearing genuine words—heavy words—that came from the core of my massive, beating heart.

"If it wasn't for my inner strength unlocking from myself and erupting forth under such a critical situation, my village would just be another brittle obstacle for your armies to overcome and conquer. Instead, I put you all—aside from your garrulous General Mercury, or should I say Prattlecus—in your proper place that faithful day, on May 2nd, 49 A.D., where 999 soldiers became roasted chum for the sharks that inhabited the Red Sea."

"…"Nero recalled these events mentioned by Mercury to the emperor before him—Claudius—from a mission document that he examined before taking this position. However, with the source of those events present before him, there was far more emotion reinforcing those past documents, as well as opinion.

I had to hunch over to his level of height to get my face parallel with his, and had my massive head approaching within inches of his. Nero stepped back slightly, enough in case he felt as if I would shove him off of his feet. He never lost eye contact with me, and neither did I.

"Did you not think that there would be consequences to your actions?! Did you not think that I would have it in my better judgment to defend people that I love, people that desire to remain free, against hostile people such as yourself?!"

Lucario, taking my words into full account and recalling what both Costas and Ian mentioned about me before, had this to ponder:

"(He fights…for the safety of those that he cares deeply for…)"

Nero, having to inhale deeply and a few times, in order to overcome the fear that my voice ingrained within him, responded back.

"Well…regardless of our different opinions in our martial standings, one factor remains clear about Rome, and about me."

Nero tilted his face closer to mine, practically placing his forehead vindictively on mine in the process.

"As Emperor of Rome, I will see to it that my empire continues to expand as our greatness spreads over the planet." Nero briefly looked to his left side, over to Lucario, and locked eyes briefly to him.

Lucario noticed this, tilted his head further to the right, and did the same.

Nero disengaged his glare and focused it back onto me. "I will see to it that you—and your bipedal bitch of a pet—meet a slow and painful death when we continue to expand our territory and overlap our world over yours!"

I no longer saw the need of lowering my stature down to his level of ineptitude and tilted my body back upright. When I did so, my head and my eyes still remained firm on him, with a face that now expressed mild spite.

"Tell it to someone…" I said before I held up a coiled hand towards his face.

Nero's head tilted back slightly at how close I put my claws near his face. His eyes were forcibly locked onto my hand.

"…whose parents you've yet to kill."

A split second after my last word, I flicked my middle finger across the surface of his forehead. In doing so, because of the massive strength that this body possessed, I managed to knock Nero back about ten feet and onto his back. The Roman Emperor was quickly knocked unconscious by this blunt force, and his forehead was bleeding somewhat by my nail scratching the surface of his skin.

Unsurprisingly, the ten Roman guards surrounding us weren't going to let me get away with that. They all decided to unsheathe their swords and rush towards the two of us, even the two Roman guards that were originally keeping Xeno restrained.

Lucario, his arms chained but no longer restrained upward, fell back down and level to his body. Unfortunately, because they were held upward for an extended amount of time, his shoulders grew viciously sore from lack of use and lack of proper blood circulation, making his arms useless for the time being.

Not like it matters much, because he is still lacking in strength from earlier fatigue.

"Eduardo?" He stayed close to my winged, crested back, looking around himself to notice that we were surrounded. "I hope you have something in your repertoire against this!"

"I always do. Just be sure to brace yourself," I face the Aura Pokémon by my backside and assure him.

Xeno nods at what I say and gives me a faint smile.

I manage to do the same thing in response before I face the charging Roman guard directly in front of me. I locked eyes with this brave, but foolish man and formed a defensive stance. I inhaled once and focused my inner aura to a heightened quantity. The end result allowed me to emanate White (Light) Aura to a higher degree, in an aura field wide enough to cause Lucario to step back in wide-eyed surprise.

"What in the…?"

"Get down, Xeno!" I suddenly roared at him with urgency, my aura practically flaring at the rumbling of my voice.

Lucario didn't have a second thought in my words, and immediately obeyed my command without questioning it. He dropped down onto the grainy floor and made himself perfectly parallel to the floor, even resorting to bending his ears and tail as low to the floor as he physically could. In this undeniably prone posture, I couldn't so much as kick at him or swipe my tail horizontally at him either.

This was my intention, for I didn't want to strike at him inadvertently.

Faster than I thought possible with this massive body of mine, I twisted my entirety to face all directions around me, all ten of the Roman guards surrounding me. I simply extended both arms and pointed one clawed finger at each oncoming sentinel, ten claws for ten people, one claw respective to each incoming "threat", all in only a few seconds time.

With this sway of movements done, my White (Light) Aura dissipated almost completely from my body, leaving me physically relaxed, standing and stagnant after my "martial" actions have ended. All that remained of my White (Light) Aura were ten individual glimmers of light on the tips of each of my razor-sharp claws, each of them serving a purpose other than something similar to nail polish.

I inhaled once, briefly held in my breath, and exhaled with a very mind rumble in my voice. After clearing my mind for a few seconds, I looked down at a grounded Aura Pokémon, who never budged an inch after my command, whose face was on the floor below.

I decided to break his inactivity.

"Alright…" I spoke with welcoming warmth. "…you can rise now."

Lucario, upon hearing my words, stood back upright and brushed off the earthly debris that clung onto his fur. He quickly looked at everything around himself, and was absolutely speechless at the present state of all ten Roman guards.

Each and every failed assailant remained encapsulated and imprisoned within a levitating sphere of white light. From within their hovering cages of luminosity, they all struggled to break free of this puzzling phenomenon that I set up. However, their efforts were in vain and hopelessly pointless. These spheres were resilient enough to contain everything essence of them—their mass, their shouting, their struggling.

"I'm not done yet." I told Xeno, who faced me upon hearing me speak to him. "All that I have left to do to them is end them."

I lifted up my arms and held open my hands before my torso and before Lucario's eyes, each nail that I had glimmering with White (Light) Aura that kept these spheres in existence.

"(Luster Sphere Bomb,)" I pondered before rolling my thumbs over each of my fingers in tandem, snapping my fingers and breaking the glimmers of light on my claws in the process.

The instance that I broke all ten lights on my fingertips, all ten of the brilliant and pallid spheres suddenly emanated enough light to blind the entire area, causing all within the Empty Lot to be shrouded in a blinding blanket of white illumination.

Xeno's eyelids instinctively shut tight to protect his eyes from the sudden bright flash. He opened his eyes seconds after when the glow of my technique faded away from existence. He immediately scanned the area where the Roman guards were, only to find zero trace of them whatsoever.

Since his aura potency hasn't recovered yet, he is unable to use his Aura Vision ability to see at a deeper level at his surroundings. Instead, as a fitting substitute, he asked me a question.

"What did you just do?" He said with a tone of curiosity and disbelief.

"I vaporized their totality to nothingness with magnified light."

23.6: Mysteriously Unique

Time: 11:02 AM

Xeno Lucario was just completely astonished at the power that I possessed. From my perspective, he didn't seem to care if I took full notice of his facial expression or not. He simply stared on at his savior, curious and pondering just what else I was capable of.

Looking down at the Aura Pokémon, I quickly took notice of the chains that were tightly coiled around Lucario's wrists. I took it upon myself to reach for both of his arms, stick a nail underneath what little space I could between the metal and his fur, and break off his shackles with surprising ease. The broken metal merely dropped down to the earth, the chains jingling against each other as they coiled onto the floor.

Lucario rubbed the soreness off of both of his wrists with his paws. "Thank you, Eduardo…for saving my life." He said with absolute sincerity in his telepathy.

"Your welcome, Xeno Lu—(*Cough*)"

All of a sudden, I felt an undeniably irritating sensation originate from within my throat, which caused me to spontaneously start coughing hoarsely and loudly. Thankfully, I had it in myself to face away from the Aura Pokémon a split second before this happened.

That choice seemed awfully wise in my part, especially because I spat fresh acidic blood onto the sandy floor with each individual cough.

Once I stopped coughing, Lucario looked at the floor where my blood flew down onto. The blood splatter that painted the dirty floor quickly acidified the area that they coated and burned away with some of the floor, leaving a noxious white smoke as the byproduct.

His eyes trailed back onto my mouth, where he noticed that fresh blood overlapped the layer of coagulated blood that was present on my teeth and lower jaw, from the stab wound that I endured earlier. After that, his eyes descended slightly south, where he ogled the stab would itself. He quickly perceived that my abdominal would hadn't healed and sealed yet from both the inside and outside, and was managing to elevate upward from its gastrointestinal point of origin, and escape from my massive maw—and simultaneously from my stab wound—in the form of violent coughs.

"Are you alright?" He asked me with elevated concern.

"I'm fine," I say with my body hunched over somewhat and my head dropped, with blood dripping off of the tips of my teeth and onto the floor, where they sizzled and dissolved away. "I've endured an injury—(*cough*)—similar to this before, from a ballista round. I just have to heal myself—(*cough**cough*)—with my innate abilities, and then I'll be perfectly al—"

"May I heal you?" Lucario offered his aid for my injury.

"…Excuse me?"

"May I heal you, please?" He repeated himself, to make sure I understood his desire to support me. "It's the least that I can do for you."

It would be awfully rude in my part to refuse his act of repayment, so I found myself saying "Of course" open-heartedly.

"Alright then," He says just before he reached his left paw over to my abdominal wound.

The instance that I saw Xeno's action, I backed away slightly, almost automatically when I knew what he intended to do just now.

"Be careful, my blood is acidic in this form, remember?"

Lucario simply rolled his eyes at this. "Yes, I know," he muttered before reaching forward anyway, and placing his paw directly onto my wound, apparently absent-minded at my draconic trait.

I almost came to the point of shoving Lucario away for his general safety. However, I stopped myself from doing so when I noticed a critical detail on Lucario's paw.

Even though Lucario's left paw was clearly making contact with my blood, it wasn't deteriorating at all.

He concentrated much harder than normal with what little energy he could possibly muster at this moment, and decided to resort to his HEAL PULSE technique to heal me. He had his left paw emanate a pleasant pink aura, and his technique of choice quickly went to work on my injury. I could feel its beneficial effects causing the pain in my abdomen—as well as the crude slit that Nero's Gladius sword left within and through me—to disappear gradually.

"My blood… How is it not corroding you away?" I questioned him.

"It's because of my Steel-Type attribute." He began to explain, his eyes locked onto my injury and his concentration unfaltering as he continued. "Steel-Type Pokémon have an unyielding immunity to Poison-Type techniques and abilities. I simply assumed that your blood matched these conditions of the Poison-Type attribute, and nothing else."

"…I have so much to learn about you and your world's workings." I stated flat-out and honestly.

"As do I," He said, feeling the exact same way.

A few more seconds passed before Xeno could no longer concentrate on keeping HEAL PULSE active, with what little aura he had recovered at the moment. Thankfully, he had healed the great majority of my injury, sealing the wound from the entry point, from inside and out the back. The remaining injury was reduced to mild internal bruising, which would disappear in a few days without much lingering thought in my part.

I palpated the scar and coagulated blood that remained from my healed wound, impressed at his ability to mend an injury, despite his diminished strength. "Thank you, Xeno."

Lucario, fatigued after spending what little strength he recovered, panted slightly and smiled at me in the process. "You're welcome."

My eyes quickly took notice of his forehead and snout, which appeared much blacker than what I recalled from recent memories of him.

"Did you get burned?"

Lucario stopped panting and widened his eyes when he recalled Nero's only significant injury placed on him. His paw was placed on his forehead and was shuffled between that and the tip of his nose. He felt sharp, stinging pain from the tender burns that Nero inflicted on him, but made little facial expression in showing it.

"Yes," he admitted to me. "Nero is to blame for this."

I looked over my shoulder at the emperor that I personally gave my middle finger to earlier. I noticed that Nero was still unconscious and bleeding slightly from his forehead. I disregarded him because I knew he was no longer a threat at the moment, and focused my attention back to Xeno.

When I did so, I noticed the paw that Lucario placed on his forehead flash and fade in white light, his struggling attempts to focus and utilize RECOVER with fragments of unworkable strength.

I had a surplus of compassion to pluck his paw off of his forehead, and substitute my right hand in place of his own. My claws never touched his face, thankfully because they were too long to do so and I didn't want to grip his head. I simply felt like placing a hand on his head, and offering my help.

"You're still recovering from your earlier ordeals." I mentioned. "Let me heal you instead."

Lucario really couldn't argue with my logic and simply nodded in favor, with my hand shaking slightly from his head movement.

"Alright then," I repeated Lucario's earlier words and had my right hand exclusively emanate Green (Healing) Aura.

Lucario, just like with my injury, could feel stinging burns disappear with remarkable speed. And because I still had plenty of strength to burn, I didn't hold anything back with my recovery abilities. The burn that Lucario had was replaced by a pleasant feeling of healing skin within seconds. I disconnected my Elemental Aura ability when its use was completed after about ten seconds, and simply brushed off charred flakes of ash from Lucario's fur with my thumb before removing my hand from his forehead altogether.

"Thanks really aren't necessary anymore," I said. "We're both thankful enough that you're still breathing."

Xeno nodded in agreement with me again, and decided to change the topic.

"Back when you told Nero that this form remained dormant within you, we're you speaking truthfully?"

"Absolutely," I confirmed.

"When did you become this dragon?" Lucario said out of genuine curiosity, never seeing this side of me when we first met.

"To be honest, about an hour ago," I admitted, "because this draconic state of body was decisive in your survival today."

Lucario raised an eyebrow and tilted his head at me in confusion, unsure what I actually meant until I finished explaining my side of this story.

"When I learned of your location with my technology in hand, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to reach you in the timeframe given."

He felt his heart sink slightly when he heard that I might not have been able to reach him and save his life.

"No vehicle that I possessed would take me over here quickly enough, and no ability currently in my repertoire would do the same."

"…So how did you come to my rescue?" Xeno spoke with a mild tone that almost made him regret asking me.

"I reluctantly gambled on the idea that I could access this form hidden away within myself. And if I was successful, I might fly over to you at supersonic speeds, with my innate abilities coursing through this body, and save you from an early death."

"…" Lucario was silent, and listened on.

"I will assure you that I'm not a risk-taker, but an adapter instead, because I have both the intellect and the versatility to support it. So, because of that, I decided to access an ability of mine that I didn't fully understand and utilize yet, make the most of it in the constricted time that I had, and thankfully managed to arrive here in the split-second where you're life hung in the balance, where I found myself taking Nero's sword in your place."

"…" the Aura Pokémon still remained silent, analyzing my words once I had stopped talking. He looked down slightly and pondered deeply.

I waited patiently to hear his response to this.

"…Even though I didn't know that my overall survival was decided by chance," He began. "I'm just thankful that everything worked out for the better."

A small smile formed on my face when I knew he accepted this truth.

Xeno looked back at me and smiled as well. "You mastered the ability to transmogrify into this intimidating beast, and successfully utilized it to selflessly protect me from an untimely death."

I nodded my head slightly at his statement, and then looked around my location, taking where we were into full account.

"Let's get the hell out of here." I strongly suggested. "Both Costas and Ian are likely worried about you. I promised them that I'd bring you back."

Lucario nodded in agreement, having had enough of Rome today.

"Also, the longer I'm here, the more I can feel my hate over this nation flare within me."

"My thoughts exactly," Lucario added. "After my 'welcoming treatment' here, I can't wait to leave this dump."

"Hop on my back, and I'll make sure we're over Rome's horizon faster than you can say 'Nero is a Zero'."

"'Zero' isn't the word I had in mind to describe him," He admitted. "But If I said that in place of 'Zero', then it wouldn't rhyme."

Xeno Lucario, as though he was timed to leave this place, quickly hopped onto my back and clung onto me as if he were a magnet. He had himself placed directly on my shoulders, directly between where the bases of my massive wings were. He configured himself so that his stout legs were dangling over my shoulders and partially within my field of vision, his furry rear end seated between my wings and directly onto my spine, and his lean arms coiled around my neck, so that he wouldn't fall off when I took off.

Once I could feel him properly secured onto me, I quickly squatted down and jumped high with my powerful leg muscles. Once airborne, my wings took over and flapped rapidly and stalwartly to keep me airborne, each flap kicking up tremendous amounts of dust that temporarily blinded the area below.

In only a few seconds, I reached a few hundred feet in height and took off in the opposite direction of arriving here.

Once the wind beneath my wings no longer kicked up dust around the Empty Lot, the tellurian powder settled back down onto the floor, and over Nero's recumbent body.

Some of this granular debris managed to become inhaled by Nero, as it was settling back down to earth. And once the dust invaded Nero's airways, his upper body sprang upward from sudden bronchial invasion, and he began to cough heavily to eliminate the dust from the blebs within his lungs.

His coughing episode was brief and stopped after a few seconds. Afterwards, he got back up on his feet, and felt a warm sensation emanate from his forehead, and dribble down across his face.

He rubbed his hand across his forehead and cringed slightly when he felt the open gash that I left on him with a simple flick of my middle finger on him. He brought his hand in front of his eyes, and could plainly see that his hand was painted red by his own blood. His hand curled up into a fist before his eyes, and shook with frustration.

"…That cold-blooded bastard!" His teeth gritted as he began to recall very bitter and very brief memories of what I did to him. "He knocked me unconscious and spilled blood from me! He spilled royal blood from me!"

Nero then recalled his select Roman personnel and looked around the area to see where they were. He was quick to understand that they were nowhere to be seen, as if they disappeared without a trace.

"…And then he annihilated my personal guards without so much as leaving a drop of their blood!"

Out of great spite, he looked at the sky all around him, attempting to see if he could still catch a sight of me. Much to his fading luck, he manages to catch a brief glimpse of us as we were flying over the horizon, just barely able to make out our distinct figures over the great distance.

"And to top it off, he took that bipedal, son of an actual bitch with him as well!"

Nero, unable to catch up to Xeno and I, even if his present profession depended on it, simply accepted his losses for today and sat down on the same area of floor where he stood back up from. He contemplated this situation to the best of his ability and pondered any possible connections between the Aura Pokémon and me.

"Eduardo… He obviously came to the aid of this 'Pokémon' creature." Nero began to analyze. "But, for what reasons exactly, I can only speculate."

Nero pondered to the best of his ability, with what little he knows about the exact characteristics between both Xeno and I.

"I suppose that the only thing I can do is assume that they're both connected in some way, regardless of how long they've known each other for."

The idea that the both of us were connected caused him to ponder how he could apply that to his desire for our downfall.

"And if that's the case, it'd be more desirable to eradicate them simultaneously rather than individually, for the better future of my empire."

He placed a hand over his chin and contemplated this monumental task at hand.

"If only I knew how to match their might…" He droned before immersing his mind on a shallow topic.

As Nero pondered ideas as to how to match the herculean power of both Lucario and I, he never noticed that he was being watched by the hooded figure, which presently stood directly behind Nero and about fifty feet away from him. His entrance to this place—a sable rift in space—was made under Nero's sense of hearing.

The hooded figure appeared behind Nero without his hood on, his face exposed, and therefore his emotions as well. He was presently grinning maliciously, after having listened earlier to Nero's desires over the downfall of Rome's two most dangerous enemies.

He had what Nero wanted, a tactic to defeat both Xeno and I, and he was quite willing to pass this on to the Roman Emperor before him. He reapplied his hood and proceeded over to Nero, shrouded in mystery and in surplus of cunning.

Location: Mediterranean Sea

Time: 11:24 AM

The return trip home was far more enjoyable than the arriving trip earlier, when I crossed over the Mediterranean Sea. For starters, I didn't fly over earlier to merely enjoy the scenery. I flew over because the life of someone that I cared about was in jeopardy, and I found myself forced to fly over this monumental body of water at Mach 3 in order to reach him in time.

But now that Xeno Lucario was spared an unfortunate end—because I intervened at the last possible split-second of his judgment—and was properly fastened and riding on my back, I felt relaxed enough to simply cruise over this body of water at a lackadaisical 100 mph.

The both of us took a few moments of our time in silence, enjoying the simple, yet beautiful scenery that completely surrounded us. We could feel the wind transcending over our bodies—Lucario more than I because of his fur coat and present surface area—from my flight pattern. We both noticed the clear cerulean sea below us, the undersea fauna that was in abundance here in the Mediterranean Sea, even at surface level, as well as the trail of water that I disturbed from my momentum. Finally, we gazed at the massive wall of cumulus clouds that collected themselves over the horizon and formed directly above this body of water.

Setting aside the wind that whistled into his ears and treated his dreadlock-like appendages as if they were wind chimes within a hurricane, Xeno still felt thankful that I came to his rescue. However, he knew that any more thanks would be unnecessary.

So instead, he decided to break this tranquil silence by entering a different topic.

"Eduardo, may I ask you a question?"

"Hmm?" I heard him and paid attention to what might follow.

"That technique that you utilized on those Roman sentries…" He began. "What in the world was that?"

Within my head, I recalled the technique that Lucario observed me perform.

(My Flashback)

I lifted up my arms and held open my hands before my torso and before Lucario's eyes, each nail that I had glimmering with White (Light) Aura that kept these spheres in existence.

"(Luster Sphere Bomb,)" I pondered before rolling my thumbs over each of my fingers in tandem, snapping my fingers and breaking the glimmers of light on my claws in the process.

The instance that I broke all ten lights on my fingertips, all ten of the brilliant and pallid spheres suddenly emanated enough light to blind the entire area, causing all within the Empty Lot to be shrouded in a blinding blanket of white illumination.

Xeno's eyelids instinctively shut tight to protect his eyes from the sudden bright flash. He opened his eyes seconds after when the glow of my technique faded away from existence. He immediately scanned the area where the Roman guards were, only to find zero trace of them whatsoever.

(End of My Flashback)

After replaying my actions within my mind, I rotated my head over to him, enough so that one of my eyes managed to detect him. "That technique was an Elemental Aura ability, one of many within my expanding repertoire of supernatural traits."

That answer just led to another question from the Aura Pokémon.

"What is 'Elemental Aura'?" He asked me with a puzzled glare.

I found myself looking back ahead, facially frozen and having sharp, shifting eyes in the process. No one has ever asked me this question before, not even my two brothers, whom observed these abilities firsthand and learned of my martial and supportive potential through various conflicts. Perhaps they picked up enough of what I was capable of doing, and decided that questions were unnecessary, when demonstrations were in supply.

Thankfully, I knew Elemental Aura like the technology of my "S-Rank" devices, and I found myself quick in thinking of a proper answer to say.

"Elemental Aura…is a self-named ability that remained dormant within my unconscious psyche." I began to explain. "It awakened and surfaced to my consciousness during a critical moment of my life."

"During Mercury's invasion of your home village," Lucario recalled this informative tidbit from Ian's explanation of me after his victory over Mars.

"Yes, that. Anyway," I resumed, "It's an ability that I've honed since that faithful event over a decade ago. My initial range with these abilities only encompassed six attributes back when I first utilized them—Fire, Melee, Lightning, Healing, Water, and Psychic. However, with further experience, I managed to double my scale of attributes—Wind, Nature, Ice, Earth, Light, and Darkness."

Xeno Lucario listened attentively throughout my short, but definite explanation.

"The color of my aura represents which attribute I'm presently in control of, hence the name 'Elemental Aura' that I gave this phenomenon. With experience that I cumulatively acquire, I'm able to broaden my range of techniques that I can perform and evolve the potential of my capabilities. Because of this, each attribute that I've gained mastery over is constantly growing in quality of power and quantity of procedures."

"Interesting…" He mumbled with telepathy. "How second nature is 'Elemental Aura' to you?"

Again, I was told a question that no one else has asked me before. However, I didn't seem as frozen as before when he asked me what Elemental Aura is. I simply responded to his question with an answer that came naturally to me.

"Second nature…?" I began. "No, first nature is how I would describe Elemental Aura fitting with me."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Ever since I first realized I was capable of…" I held my hand in front of my face and had it emanate three different Elemental Aura abilities in tandem before me, beginning with Red (Fire) Aura, then to Yellow (Lightning) Aura, and ending in Light Blue (Ice) Aura. In doing so, my hand blazed in fire, then crackled with static electricity, and finally froze the air vapor around it, before doing nothing else when I decided to stop. "…performing such impossible feats, one critical fact has always been in play with me, and has never made itself vanish."

"And what would that be?"

I looked back at the Aura Pokémon. "Ease of access."

Lucario simply gave me another puzzled look, unsure of what I meant by this.

I looked ahead at my direction of flight once more. "I've never had any decisive difficulty in wielding these abilities whatsoever, whether training in perfecting and evolving them, utilizing them to aid me in helpful tasks, or when slaughtering enemies during combat."

"Perhaps you're simply a natural in these abilities of yours." Lucario speculated.

I shook my head at his answer, knowing that it was incorrect from my perspective. "If I was more accepting of how I function, then I would've settled on that conclusion years ago. However, I've never accepted that because I feel as though there's something…abnormal about these abilities that I wield. Or perhaps, it's greater than that, and it's something abnormal about all of the abilities that I wield."

"Such as…?" Lucario waited for my response.

"I have this…nagging, lingering feeling that I've utilized these abilities before, sometime and somewhere ago." I admitted. "I feel as though I've sealed these Elemental Aura abilities deep within me, and not just Elemental Aura, but my capability of transforming into this as well, and whatever else I might have buried deep within me. Because of that, I've never had an incidence where my powers were out of my control or difficult to master."

Xeno Lucario, as he was already doing so before, listened attentively in order to learn more about me.

"With more experience in these abilities of mine, I feel as though I'm regaining lost pieces of myself, and becoming further and further whole."

"And you are certain of this?"

"Before today, this idea was simply a pestering feeling that nibbled away within the confines of my thoughts." I continued. "But now, when I mastered the use of this dragon body that I previously didn't know I could become, that opinion that I used to have is now a fact that I've cemented into myself."

"I see…"

I felt as though I've said as much as I needed to about my inner strength, and decided to change the topic.

"You know, I first decided to locate you after what I've heard my brothers say about you." I said. "They told me that you possess abilities similar to my own, and I thought that you might hold some answers that I seek."

"I would figure as much, but you'll find no such luck with me." Lucario admitted. "We both wield aura as an extension of ourselves, but that alone is merely coincidental. The method by which our strength is expressed is different. I wield aura as an extension of my strength, as is the case with my native species of Pokémon. You wield aura as a method to control core elements and attributes, something that is yours, and as far as I know, yours alone."

"I know," I understood. "I came to realize that when I looked deep within myself before saving you. I understand that you don't hold the answers that I seek, and that I should look elsewhere."

"Where will you begin?"

"I don't know." I sighed. "All I know is that I've had these abilities of mine locked away within me. They've remained dormant and, until I turned sixteen years of age and protected my home, completely out of my realm of understanding. And because of that, the question I must ask myself is this: When and why did I seal away my abilities? Because, as it turns out, I have no memory whatsoever of sealing my abilities away, even though I now know that I was the one who did so. All I need to know is the reasoning behind it."

"That will be difficult for you, because you're the only one in that position of problem." He realized.

"(*Sigh*) I know…" I groaned over the daunting task that I had in hand. "It's yet another question to add to my mental list…"

Lucario hummed in monotone at this, and then decided that it was his turn to change the subject.

"My first reason in locating you was because Costas and Ian strongly believed that you are the only person alive who can help me return home."

"Really?" I responded. "Sadly, you'll find no luck with me either. Multi-dimensional travel is, at the moment, a complete enigma from my knowledge. I've never even consider the possibility that more than one dimension exists until I first heard about your point of origin."

"Oh…I see…" Lucario spoke with great despondency.

The tone of Lucario's telepathic voice caused me to look back at him with concern.

"I never said that this is out of my realm of understanding." I assured him. "I will make it a goal of mine to see to it that I help you in your cause, especially since the information of your world that I downloaded from your helmet is far too great for me to simply ignore."

Xeno didn't seem to respond to the fact that I hacked into his helmet's databanks. After all, he knew he did so when he stole this same digital information from Giovanni's files.

I looked back in front of me again. "I only ask for your patience, and the rest is simply in my hands."

"Okay then," Lucario said with rekindled hopes.

Xeno allowed a few minutes of silence and admiration of the scenery go by before resuming our earlier conversation.

"About earlier…when I raked your face with my sharp claws…"

I listened to what he had to say, having a strong suspicion where this was heading.

"I was dealing with some mental confusion during that moment…" He confessed with solemn feelings, "…and I've realized that my earlier action towards you was out of a phenomenal fallacy. I don't want to hold any negative feelings between us, so—"

"Apology accepted," I cut him short. "I've endured harsher blows anyway. Your sucker swipe was nothing more than a scratch on my body, compared to the severe injuries that I've sustained in the past."

"…Uh…" Lucario didn't expect me to apologize so easily to him.

"Besides, I was never spiteful over your sudden attack, even if I tried to hold a grudge over it," I continued. "If I was, then I would've likely not come to your aid, and you wouldn't be on my back right now. You would be a dead body, dissected and harvested for Nero's personal use, in the name of fashion and money."

"…" Xeno stayed silent when he realized my apparent lack of vengeance over him, as well as my dark speculation on an alternate outcome of him.

"If anything, I'm more confused as to why you attacked me," I mentioned. "And with what you just said earlier about 'dealing with some mental confusion', I now know the plain reason why."

"I see then…" Xeno understood. "Well, the mental confusion that I had was great enough to literally gnaw at my mind."

"That would explain your headache," I quickly added.

"Yes, that. Anyway, it's cleared up now, after I've realized something important, something that you, of all people, should know." He said. "Would you like to know what it is?"

"…No, not just yet," I let him know. "Let's save that topic for when we regroup with Costas and Ian."

"Are you sure?" He insisted. "What I want to tell you—what I must tell you—will leave you just as discombobulated as I was."

"I'm sure." I stayed firm. "After all, I prolonged my realization of your existence when I did this same thing to my brothers."

Lucario shrugged his shoulders unnecessarily—because I wasn't watching—and looked over his left side with dropped eyes. "Suit yourself."

About ten seconds went by before I recalled something that the both of us should probably do.

"You know, we never properly introduced ourselves." I stated, before looking over to him once more. "Would you like to do the honors?"

Lucario smiled at this, and said "I am Xeno Lucario, Aura Pokémon of Prophecy" with tangible authority in his title.

I followed suit.

"I am Eduardo, Man of Bulwark."

We both smile and even chuckle at our forming friendship, as well as the titles we chose for ourselves. However, when I noticed Lucario's ears drop, his eyes widen, and his posture shift back slightly, I stopped laughing because I sounded unnaturally maniacal and was starting to intimidate him.

I looked back ahead with shifting eyes, "…Sorry about that."

"It's alright," He forgave me.

About ten more seconds went by before I brought up a different topic.

"How fast have you ever flown before?"

Lucario took a few moments to think about that.

"On my own as of now, I have trouble reaching this speed." He began. "But when I rode on the back of Latios, it felt as though we were flying at a speed a few times faster than what I can muster."

"So, simply put…" I responded, "…you flew at half the speed of sound."

"Yes," He confirmed my response.

"Has Latios ever broken the sound barrier?"

"If it has, then it wasn't when I was riding on its back." Xeno said, before he realized where I might be going with this. "Are you capable of that?"

"I flew over to you at Mach 3." I said. "I'm considering Mach flight to return to my brothers. They're likely worried sick about the both of us, you especially."

I faced the Aura Pokémon of Prophecy yet again, and continued.

"Would you like me to fly at Mach 3?"

The inner speed-freak within Lucario surfaced somewhat upon hearing what the Man of Bulwark said.

"Yeah, why not," He agreed. "But…won't the wind resistance at that speed knock me off of you?"

"Not if you hold on to me tightly." I suggested.

He took my words to heart, and hunched his upper half directly over the back of my neck, as aerodynamic as he could possibly make himself. He had his torso slightly shifted to the right, so that his chest spike wouldn't "backstab" me. His arms wrapped much more tightly around my lower neck, he readjusted his seat somewhat, he tucked his tail in slightly, he coiled his feet on my shoulders slightly more, and his head rested on the back of my neck.

"Okay, now what?" He said, his body now placed closer to mine.

"Try not to black out."

After my last words, my body flares with Light Green (Wind) Aura, and the wind surrounding us forms a protective ovoid dome against oncoming wind, in the form of my Aero Sphere Twister technique.

Once I had this aerodynamic scalpel in play, I unshackled my handicap and rocketed through the air, slicked across the water below, and detonated the air around me with a loud snap. With this body and this Elemental Aura ability in play, I was easily exceeding quadruple-digit speeds, and quickly capped out at 2100 mph, or Mach 3.

Xeno Lucario was thankful that I gave him time to tighten his grip over me. The G-forces he was feeling from my high-speed flight were surprisingly powerful, and it took some mental straining and face cringing in his part to keep his blood from migrating down to his feet. It also took some physical rigidity in his part to keep from sliding off of me.

"(Looks like Eduardo and I are blasting off again!)"

"I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time." —Anna Freud

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