The Path of the Aura: Intertwining Crossroads

Parallel Prologue (Part III (3)): The Most Reluctant Decision of a Lifetime

The last place Lucario resided was by the Forest Cliffside, facing off against a Pokémon whom wanted him dead and soaked in blood: Absol.

Through a long battle however, a victor and a loser was decided between them.

The victor of the battle was—predictably—Lucario. He suffered only a few injuries in the process, since he used MEGA DRAIN to heal to near perfection during the middle of the battle. At the end of the battle, the injuries he sustained and endured with were scratches on his back and puncture wound bite marks on his right shoulder, a tongue bitten partially off, moderate internal bruising, first-degree burns, and multiple broken bones on his right arm and tail.

Absol on the other hand, suffered more and endured less. It had one of its hind paws bending backwards and multiple bones protruding outward of its flesh, as well as a missing left eye, a mutilated blade-like appendage/right ear, and a face reduced to bone fragments.

In the end, Absol fell off of the cliff and disappeared within the foliage of the earthbound trees. Lucario nearly fell off of the cliff himself due to exhaustion, but was spared a similar fate thanks to the quick reflexes and quick reaction time of Sceptile and Tiny, as well as one other Lucario by the nickname of Wanderer.

All three Pokémon pulled Lucario away from the cliff, and with the help of the whole throng of Pokémon, gave those three help by carrying the victor of this decisive battle to his room to recover from the serious—but not life-threatening—injuries.

To help out further, the throng of Pokémon also brought a surplus of medical supplies. They brought multiple Berries that they knew would aid the Aura Pokémon in his recovery. They brought Oran Berries to recover vitality and health, Rawst Berries to help his burns heal quickly, Sitrus Berries to help aid with the healing of fractured bones and the flesh that they've cut into, Lum Berries to help further with the burns and even to help recover some mild fur loss, and Pinap Berries which are helpful for making medicine. Added to the remaining Magost Berries—for flavor—that were in Sceptile's tree house, those Berries were utilized to make medicine.

Knowing that their work was done, they decided to leave matters to Lucario's friend's paws and claws.

Location: Sceptile's House (Lucario's Room)

Estimated Time: Afternoon

Once the unconscious Aura Pokémon had been placed on his personal bed, the three Pokémon began to help with his recovery. Each of them was assigned different roles to play with helping Lucario's recovery.

Sceptile was self-assigned the role of the medic because of its surplus knowledge over nature and its wondrous bounty. It converted the necessary quantity of Berries in its inventory into medicine by first slicing them all in half by means of LEAF BLADE, then extracting all of their juices by squeezing them into a cup of water, ensuring that there's an equal balance in both nutrition and flavor. It would also proceed to preparing a few more to utilize over the next few days.

"Thank Arceus that this evolution comes pre-equipped with a superfluity of knowledge relating to nature and its bounties," Sceptile spoke to Tiny, whom was sitting on a nearby table and doing its role relating to Lucario's recovery, while squeezing the Berries obligatory for medicine. "Don't you think, Tiny?"

"Yeah… Thank Arceus for that."

Tiny's role involved manufacturing the vast quantity of bandages, out of long blades of grass and leaves, for Lucario's wounds and burns to heal. Since Tiny had an exceptional gift for manufacturing helpful items out of forest materials, it was the obvious candidate for this role.

"And thank It too that I've learned to weave helpful items out of what nature has to offer." It said while working with both high speed and precision. "Don't you think?"

Sceptile just nodded, and Tiny noticed briefly before resuming its work, but that didn't last long because it stopped a little while later and looked outside a nearby window. "How long does it take a Lucario to gather fallen branches?"

"…I don't know." The Forest Pokémon replied. "Wanderer should've been back by now though."

Location: Forest (Around a Heavy Amount of Trees)

Wanderer was working on its role with aiding Lucario in his recovery. It was atop of the tree's branches, scanning the area around it with Aura Vision for a couple of perfectly-straight branches to utilize for realigning his fractured bones, one for Lucario's right arm and another for his tail.

"(I know they wanted me to gather branches on the floor…)" It thought to itself while scanning about the trees nearby. "(…but they're far too…decomposed for the task ahead. It's better to retrieve fresh branches from the trees above.)"

Once it found some branches, it proceeded to mutilate them. It used SWORDS DANCE to have its gold-colored paw-spikes glow and then modify to a length and dimension similar to that of a knight sword, only the blade lied flat along its paws—and still retained its color.

With its attack set, it leapt across the branches with sufficient skill before locating the tree with two branches on it, each one about three feet long, more than enough for what they're going to be used for. Next, it jumped one last time toward the branches before giving two slashes to their base in the form of an "X" before slamming into the tree, using SWORDS DANCE to cling onto the bark.

With its task accomplished, it deactivated its Aura Vision and SWORDS DANCE technique, and jumped off the tree, down to the brown soil below. It then proceeded to retrieve the fallen branches on the floor.

"(Now these are as fresh as nature will deliver them as,)" Wanderer thought to itself with the branches in custody before strolling back to Sceptile's tree house, plucking off the leaves and budding branches on the obtained branches along the way.

Location: Sceptile's House (Lucario's Room)

Estimated Time: Evening

Wanderer finally arrived back to the tree house. It walked over to the kitchen to deliver the items relating to its task, and instead of receiving a cheerful "Good job, Wanderer" or "thank you, Wanderer" by its fellow comrades, it received this instead by two Pokémon standing up by the kitchen entrance:

"What the hell took you so damn long?" Sceptile, arms crossed and a foul facial expression, was pissed off at Wanderer's lack of sense of time.

"We've finished a while ago with our tasks, and you've decided to take your time on a moment as serious as this?" Tiny mimicked Sceptile's actions and was as equally pissed off.

A miniscule blood vessel bulged behind Wanderer's head, just above its right set of dreadlock-like appendages. It evidently didn't enjoy such a wickedly distasteful reaction by them. It extended out its right arm in front of Sceptile and exposed the pristinely-straight branches before telepathically saying "Do you want these Arceus-damn tree branches or not?" in a slightly irritated tone.

Without removing its abominable countenance, Sceptile forcefully took the branches from Wanderer's paws and then ogled the pristinely-straight tree branches, pondering quietly as to why the light-furred Aura Pokémon took so long in getting them.

"For someone as mentally-stalwart on nature as yourself, you fail to realize that the more appropriate tree branches are the ones that reside above the forest floor, where they're less squalid, disease-ridden, newer, and much stronger!" Wanderer telepathically attacked Sceptile with its reasoning.

"…" Sceptile continued to stare at the branches, with its frustration and pride battered by sophisticated and acute vocabulary.

"You should never judge someone when you don't know all of the facts," Wanderer concluded before sitting down on the chair adjacent to Tiny's, relieved to have counterattacked at something that briefly pissed it off.

"Wow, you just got verbally subdued by Wanderer's vocabulary," Tiny said, sensing the shattering of Sceptile's pride.

"(I really have to watch what I say and think around these two species of Pokémon…)" Sceptile continued to do what it loved to do: ponder. "(Otherwise it can be utilized against me when I don't want it to.)"

"I think you should apologize to Wanderer," Tiny added a possibility before removing the branches from Sceptile's claws and placing them along with its finished set of organic first aid bandages.

"You're right," Sceptile said feebly before turning to Wanderer. "Sorry about the outburst," Sceptile apologized in a lowly tone, without restraint or hesitating in the middle of it due to second thoughts of its mentioned words being the right thing to do.

"…" Wanderer looked over with its eyes only at the verbally-conquered Forest Pokémon and realized that it just overreacted. "No no, I'm sorry. I should've simply told you my reasoning beforehand."

"…Well…okay then…" Sceptile was briefly stunned by Wanderer's sudden change in mood, as well as the turn of events that this specific part has taken.

It then recalled its conversation earlier with Tiny.

"Say Tiny," Sceptile dropped his height to its level.


"You remember our talk earlier in the morning about me being taught how to—"

"I haven't forgotten," Tiny reassured it. "We'll start your training tomorrow if you want."

Tiny then placed one of its paws on top of Sceptile's forehead, right between the upward-pointing horn-like structures, analyzing its mental capability.

"Although…" Tiny said in a concerned manner before removing its paw from Sceptile's forehead. "You'll probably be capable of learning about half of what I can teach you."

"Define 'half'," Sceptile wanted a less vague answer, not caring if it can't learn everything in Tiny's disposal.

"…Well…" Tiny thought for a bit on what it can learn before speaking once more. "You'll probably b—"

"You'll probably be able to gain some telekinetic and telepathic abilities." A familiar voice spoke unexpectedly.

Everyone turned their heads to the source of the voice, and noticed Lucario leaning on his left side in the doorway to the kitchen. He was clutching his right arm, just above his elbow, with his left arm, keeping it away from further discomfort. His tail was dropped down, with its tip on the floor, as if it was discomforting keeping it level without having broken bones scrape against each other abnormally. He was also mildly spilling blood from his mouth—residue from his partially mutilated tongue. He still had a collection of burns scattered across his furry body, and his legs quivered uncontrollably below him.

"…" Tiny was left speechless at how Lucario could have the gall to get up in his current condition.

"…" Sceptile was in somewhat awe at how he was up on his legs, even if those legs were wobbling like sheets of steel.

"(…What a stalwart and willful Lucario…)" Wanderer thought to itself.

"You'll most likely be able to learn mental techniques and utilize them at basic levels, but they'll be challenging for you to learn—oh crap, there goes my legs…" Lucario lost control of his legs and fell face first—but not snout first—onto the wooden floor below, with a light groan due to falling above his left arm, thankfully not his right arm.

With great concern, both Sceptile and Tiny rushed over to his aid. Tiny, to his left side, had a good grip on his left arm to help hoist him up, and Sceptile, to his right side, had a good grip on Lucario's torso—not his right arm for obvious reasons—to help hoist him up.

"You really shouldn't be up an on your feet at the moment," Wanderer stood up from its seat and walked over to him, eyeing him in the face. "After such a physically-demanding battle, it's best of you to recover in the comforts of your own bed."

Lucario feebly got back on his two feet and then lifted his head, noticing the light-colored Lucario in front of him. Instead of saying "Fine then" or some other form of comprehension, he said this instead:

"Who the hell are you?"

"For the answer, you should ask your friend Sceptile," Wanderer pointed its left paw at the Pokémon to Lucario's right side.

Lucario looked over now at Sceptile, with a look on his face that easily referenced "Well?" without actually saying it.

"…Alright then…" Sceptile said before continuing, "Lucario…this is Wanderer."

Immediately, Lucario removed the aid from the two Pokémon to his sides, not falling over once more after regaining partial lower body strength—much to their surprise—, turned his head to Wanderer's location and shrank his blood-red eyes immaterially and briefly. "You mean the same Wanderer that you were remembering by the waterfall earlier today? The same one that stalemated against a Legendary Pokémon…?"

Wanderer felt a bit admired when he said that.

"Yeah… And you read my mind to learn that, didn't you…" Sceptile felt mentally violated.

"Sceptile," Lucario looked back at the Forest Pokémon, resisting the temptation to smirk. "Your mind is about as secretive as the color of the leaves."

"Or like the changing seasons," Tiny added its opinion.

"Or like the cycle of day and night," Wanderer said while twirling its round fingers around in a circle, so as to symbolize the eternal cycle of day and night with hand gestures.

Sceptile was beginning to think that all of this was because of some external reason. "Is all of this because I'm green, or because I have scales and not fur?"

Both Lucario and Wanderer shook their heads against Sceptile's claim, but Tiny didn't.

"Is this all because I'm green?" Sceptile continued, still believing his friends to be secretly racist.

"Only if you want it to be," Tiny covered its mouth after saying that and tried its very best not to laugh.

"…" Sceptile wasn't fully sure what to feel. It didn't know if it should feel pissed off, or depressed. But before it could decide…

"Can we just focus on what's more important?" Lucario said, resisting its current pain. "I'm injured and in desperate need of all of your useful medical aid."

"Oh right!" Tiny forgot, as did everybody else. "No more time to waste here now."

All four of them went over to Lucario's room and since Wanderer was the last one to leave the kitchen, it had to collect all of the medical supplies, being careful with the medicine so as not to spill it. They were placed on one of the tables that Lucario had in his room.

Once all of them were there, Sceptile obtained one of the two fresh tree branches that Wanderer had collected and snapped one of them to arm bone length pieces and pressed them onto Lucario's right arm, one between the elbow and shoulder, and one between the shoulder and the wrist.

Tiny did the same action with the branches but placed them on Lucario's tail, one piece at the very end of his tail, right between the tip and the area where the vertebrae bends, and the other between the tail base and the location where the vertebrae bends.

With that done, all that was left was to place the bandages. Since Wanderer was the only aid left with two empty paws, it was the only one that can do that task at hand.

However, just because it has two paws holding nothing but breathable air doesn't fully conclude that it would need to use them.

"Sceptile," Wanderer began. "Do you still remember the time where we traveled together for only a few days?"

"Uh-huh," It responded with an absence of thought as to where this was going.

"So, do you remember then…about a specific 'ability' of mine…that was demanding of massive mental concentration?" It continued before extending out its right paw and activating its Aura Vision abilities.

"("Massive mental concentration"…?)" Sceptile thought, getting a mild hint of déjà vu.

Lucario couldn't help but say "Where exactly is this leading to?" in a curious, low tone.

Tiny couldn't help but think the same, but remained silent and listened attentively.

"…Are you saying that you've mastered your psychic abilities?" Sceptile remembered.

"…?" Lucario was a novice to the whole "Psychic" topic. He didn't fully understand any of this, and yet didn't choose to read Wanderer's mind to understand.

"Well…I haven't mastered psychic abilities in general…," Wanderer admitted. "…albeit I've grown proficient in my telekinetic abilities." It said while beginning to glow a purple-colored aura, mostly concentrated onto its paws.

With little time going by, Wanderer telekinetically commanded the bandages to float into the air, and then stretch out in mid-air. Next, they were commanded non-physically to quickly wrap around Lucario's upper right arm, securing the tree branch in place.

"Lucario, can you cut the bandage so I can resume with your lower right arm?" Wanderer inquired with the bandage floating around in front of him.

Lucario looked at the bandages close by and calmly said "yeah, sure" while lifting his left arm and scraping his paw-spike in them to cut them off.

Wanderer immediately sealed the placed bandages and resumed by rolling more of the bandages around Lucario's lower left arm, sealing the tree branch placed there in place. Lucario knew when to cut them off when they were placed in front of him, without Wanderer having to ask again.

After a second severing, Wanderer quickly wrapped the remaining roll of bandages around Lucario's tail, not needing to cut them to cope with the bent tail. All Wanderer did to compensate was twist the roll of bandages once around itself and then roll around the tail's end.

Sceptile and Tiny were free to step back now, and a good thing that they did.

Wanderer telekinetically obtained the second of a few dozen rolls of bandages and had it wreath every area of Lucario's body, since he did endure burns across his body. Within seconds, both legs were concealed with bandages. In a couple more seconds, the bandages had migrated up from his thighs to his back and torso, leaving his chest-spike exposed. In a few more seconds, they had reached his neck. In a few more seconds, they had fully concealed his face, all the way up to his ear's tips, only exposing his eyes, mouth, and dreadlock-like appendages. Finally, the remaining quantity of bandages on the roll was wreathed around Lucario's arm, bent strategically to compensate for Lucario's shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

He was now fully concealed with recuperative bandages, giving him the uncanny appearance of a mummy, if grass was used for bandages instead of nylon.

"You didn't even complain, let alone speak about how the bandages were securely placed," Wanderer said, placing its paws down and turning off its purple energy and Aura Vision.

Lucario looked at his paws, and then the remainder of his body, only able to see about 2% of his own fur stick out between the grass bandages. "There's no reason to complain. I'm not a fastidious and obnoxious Pokémon." Lucario slowly sat down on his bed, appreciating the strength of the bandages, despite the choice of materials used. "I know that you three wanted to help me with my recovery. I greatly appreciate it."

"You're welcome," Tiny happily said, since it was the one who made the bandages.

Sceptile nodded, and then walked over about two feet to pick up one of the many cups of Berry medicine that it made earlier. "Here, drink this," It said, giving Lucario one cup of Berry medicine.

With the medicine in his grip, Lucario sniffed the medicine, unsure of what exactly is inside of it. "What are its ingredients?"

"Oran Berries for vitality recovery, Rawst Berries for burn treatment, Sitrus Berries—your favorite—for injury recovery, Lum Berries for nutrition, Pinap Berries, and Magost Berries—Tiny's favorite—for flavor." Sceptile was specific with Lucario's question.

"(Hearing 'Sitrus Berries' is enough for me,)" Lucario quickly thought before bobbing his head up and drinking the whole cup of medicine in one sudden gulp, adoring the taste to the medicine—surprising since medicine is notorious for its abhorrent taste. He shook the cup above his head, making sure he caught every last drop in his mouth before putting it back on his nearby table.

As he was smacking his lips, he was instantaneously feeling the healing effects of the medicine—and gradually feeling a little drowsy in the process, due to the mild fermentation of the Berries utilized. He grinned somewhat underneath the bandages.

"Please sir, may I have some more?" He said serenely.

"…" Tiny and Wanderer were a little confused at the odd abnormality of Lucario's normal disposition.

Sceptile however, wasn't stunned by this. It knew that this was caused by one abnormality in the medicine. "(I must've used a fermented Berry for an ingredient…)" It thought to itself briefly before answering Lucario's question. "Until tomorrow Lucario, it's only one serving per day."

"…Okay…" He said casually and with a stupid grin underneath the bandages.

Sceptile found this current predicament mildly surreal.

"Say Wanderer… Can I ask you a few questions?" Lucario said, still being aware and in control of his actions, albeit a bit buzzed in his mental state and personality.

"…Ask away…" It said, thrown off somewhat by Lucario's state of mind.

"Why are you here?" he said in a bit of a blunt tone.

Sceptile was actually about to say that very same question eventually, but was now reduced to saying "Lucario has a point. Shouldn't you be up in the mountains?"

"I…" Wanderer had a brief flashback of the time before now and after splitting off from Sceptile—when it was still a Grovyle—, which was about six years ago. It remembered heading off into the Sinnoh region and residing around Mt. Coronet, where other Lucario, whom were used to cold climates, resided. It then remembered leaving about a month before now, when it heard the news of a planned fight going to occur in a forest in the Kanto Region. "...I left because I heard of a fight to occur in a forest in the Kanto region," Wanderer said when it snapped out of its self-induced trance in the form of a flashback. "I heard that the fight was going to be between a forest-residing Lucario and an Absol."

"But you didn't account on seeing your old friend Grovyle now, right?" Tiny spoke before going to the kitchen briefly and retrieving a Magost Berry as a snack.

"No, I didn't account for that, especially since my old friend has evolved."

"But only recently," Sceptile interrupted. "I evolved only two weeks ago."

"I see…" Wanderer quickly comprehended that.

"Can I say my next question?" Lucario spoke after remaining silent.

"What's it about this time?" Wanderer said.

"Am I able to learn the psychic abilities that you've mastered?"

"Yes…and then some," Wanderer replied back. "All Lucario and Riolu possess the capability to learn psychic abilities. Some have greater psychic and aura abilities than others. For example: all Lucario and Riolu are capable of viewing aura and reading the minds of others, albeit some of them are capable of learning and mastering more."

"Like what?" Tiny said, with a Magost Berry stuffed in its mouth.

"Some can gain telekinetic abilities, others can hypnotize, wipe out memories, warp time, teleport, levitate…"

"Is there anything else?" Lucario was quite curious at what he—as a species—can learn, and felt as if there was more that Wanderer can say about the topic.

"Uh…" Wanderer looked at the tree house ceiling, trying to mentally recall an important ability that a Lucario can use.

"You know little about that, don't you?" Lucario squint his piercing red eyes at the light-furred Aura Pokémon, as if he was suspecting something.

"I know enough to explain what I discerned."

"Explain please," Lucario said.

"…There's a myth inscribed on one of Spear Pillar's…pillars." Wanderer remembered only a fraction of this. "It prophesizes a Pokémon, any Pokémon excluding Arceus, that defies normal Pokémon laws. I only wish I knew more, since I never finished deciphering the unusual pillar's Unown's language."

"…" Sceptile and Tiny were a bit disappointed when they heard next to nothing about a prophecy inscribed on one of Spear Pillar's pillars.

"(*hic*)" Lucario only wished that he knew more.

"To save you some time, the last three questions that you're currently pondering about, relating to my age, origin, and the battle with a Legendary Pokémon," Wanderer read Lucario's mind briefly. "I'll answer immediately."

All three Pokémon listened attentively.

"I'm approximately fourteen years of age…" Wanderer answered one of Lucario's remaining questions.

"(So Wanderer's fourteen, the Absol I felled in battle was ten, Sceptile and Tiny are around eight…, and I'm only two and a half?)" Lucario was simultaneously content and confused of its current age.

"…I was born an orphan in a mountain range around the Snowpoint Mountains in the Sinnoh region. I traveled frequently before choosing to reside on Mt. Coronet, where I resided approximately a few weeks ago..."

"(For the same reason that I did when I was traveling…)" Sceptile thought, "(…all for seeing and memorizing new experiences, just for the hell of it.)"

"…and finally, I battled with a Legendary Pokémon when I was only five years old…" Wanderer grinned a bit, remembering this specific event so fluently that it could prattle on about it, never missing a key detail. "…The Legendary Pokémon, Ho-oh."

"…!" All three Pokémon grew wide in their eyes the instant they heard about Wanderer fighting Ho-oh. They knew well enough what it looked like, despite never seeing it with their own eyes, from commotion among the forest residents. It was the most Phoenix-like of all Pokémon, one that commonly roams the Johto region.

"I remember seeing it soar above the blue sky a few hundred feet above a wide grass field in the Johto region that I was traveling across, and I was feeling bored to death when traveling on my own, about three years before joining up with Sceptile, when it was still a Grovyle."

Wanderer noticed Sceptile react positively to its reference to it.

"I felt boredom to the point of requesting a fight with a Legendary Pokémon, despite my poor type matchup to it."

"How'd you get its attention?" Tiny wondered, easily comprehending the fact that Ho-oh was about a few hundred feet above Wanderer.

"The only way I was able to on ground: I launched an AURA SPHERE towards it," Wanderer's mind wandered off into a flashback.

(Wanderer's Flashback)

Location: Johto Region (Secluded Grass Field)

Nine years ago…

Wanderer strolled across this massive field, green grass as far as the eye can possibly see—and even farther if Aura Vision is utilized. A significant gale traveled across this green landscape, driving each and every of the billions of blades of grass to dance happily in the wind.

"I remember all too well the scenery of that specific field…" Wanderer spoke within the flashback.

Wanderer stopped one time and scanned the whole lush green scenery. In its core, it was beginning to mentally fracture.

"It was too simple! I couldn't see an end to it!" Wanderer's right eye's lower eyelid twitched upward when it remembered the sight that chipped away at its sanity.

Sceptile, Tiny, and Lucario were feeling mildly uncomfortable with Wanderer's reaction to its past memory.

"I swear to Arceus, I was going to do something brash if I'd walk another mile and see further green!" The upper half of the fur on Wanderer's body began to stand on end, an obvious sign that remembering this particular event proved hateful to it.

"…Like…what specifically…" Sceptile noticeably hesitated to ask, fearing an explosive attack of Wanderer's primal rage.

"Suicide was on my list," Wanderer's fur began to sink back to its original shape, and then it raised a closed right paw and pulled out one thick finger. "Along with mentally breaking down," a second stubby finger grew from Wanderer's right paw, "and reluctantly stabbing my own two eyes with my paw-spikes," Wanderer's third finger emerged from behind its right paw, and then the whole right paw closed, did an about-face and Wanderer faked the action of stabbing its own eyes with its paw-spike, "just so I could see something different, or not see at all."

Wanderer—in the flashback—tried to attempt the third action mentioned, but was feeling massive doubt in doing so, as well as questioning the purpose of the action.

"(All of that self-inducement possibility…because of a little stress and/or boredom?)" Sceptile thought, dubious at such stupidity.

"Watch what you think around me!" Wanderer's teeth were significantly exposed, as well as its fists clenched, when it snarled telepathically at Sceptile's blunt mental remark.

Sceptile swallowed nervously and stepped back when it realized that Wanderer was discreetly reading its mind and warning it with a possible physical attack.

Tiny and Lucario weren't paying attention to what was physically going on in front of them.

Wanderer—in the flashback—grew bored with the action it was doing and sat down with crossed legs afterward, nearly falling asleep and tilting over to the point on falling on its snout—since the flashback's source wasn't recalling anything.

"Anyway…" Wanderer continued with the flashback's plot—getting its flashback-self to stand up, subservient and alert. "…I saw the Legendary Pokémon Ho-oh soar through the sky above me soon after."

The flashback-Wanderer looked above its field of view and saw Ho-oh fly about 300 feet above its head.

"It was then that I realized that I had to conquer my boredom with the only method that I could mentally manufacture," Wanderer grinned eerily, remembering clearly the following actions. "And that was to challenge the Rainbow Pokémon to a martial duel."

Flashback-Wanderer placed its right foot back, formed a stalwart stance where both of its paws were placed to its right side, with their palms aimed at each other and only apart by about one foot, while still keeping its eyes locked at the roaming Ho-oh.

"One AURA SPHERE purposely aimed to Ho-oh's intended path would be enough to get its attention," Wanderer continued, having its listeners listen closely, obviously interested in what they believe will occur.

Flashback-Wanderer immediately generated a spherical typhoon of aura energy between its palms, about as large as a bowling ball. And then, it fired the AURA SPHERE at a targeted trajectory that was purposely ahead of Ho-oh's flight path.

The aura attack flew past Ho-oh while it was in mid-flight and flew off a good distance further before fading away in the air. Ho-oh was immediately startled and stopped flying forward, wondering where the attack came from. Since it paid enough attention to the direction of the AURA SPHERE fired at it, it accurately measured the attack's source and did an about-face, instantly seeing an oddly-colored Lucario on the grass field below it.

And even if it didn't pay attention to the AURA SPHERE's trajectory, Ho-oh could simply see Wanderer, a light-furred Pokémon that stands out from the green grass.

Flashback-Wanderer immediately grinned abnormally when Ho-oh saw it, almost as though it was eager for battle. Its Aura Vision ability immediately activated a short time after.

"I was overflowing with excitement when I noticed Ho-oh's ire that I couldn't help but…chuckle over it." Wanderer said, knowing well enough that its mood changes when it fights an opponent.

The Wanderer in its flashback was snickering excitedly when it noticed Ho-oh's scowl.

"So what happened next?" Tiny was curious.

Wanderer's odd grin came back, and it happily said this:

"I ran forward, and Ho-oh quickly gave chase."

The flashback-Wanderer did what was expected and Ho-oh did the same.

With arms positioned behind its back for maximum drag reduction and a head and back tilted lower than when it's standing upright, it glided across the massive grass field with long leg strides, easily exceeding 100 mph in the process. It smirked somewhat while speeding along the grassy field, boredom completely drained from its mind.

Ho-oh gave chase, diving down low onto the ground, about four feet above the earthbound grass, and matched Wanderer's speed with little effort.

"I knew Ho-oh was pissed off…" Wanderer made them realize this fact.

The flashback-Wanderer sensed the aura around Ho-oh, as well as its anger, all without looking back since it is currently using Aura Vision. It didn't show signs of worry as the Rainbow Pokémon followed.

"…and yet I didn't do a damn thing about it. I wanted this battle to last until I was finally able to see something other than the grass I was running on back then."

"(I can't believe all of that was just to escape from boredom…)" Lucario thought.

Ho-oh suddenly began to glow in a white light that coated its entire feathered body, increasing its currently matched speed of 100 mph to 150 mph in only two seconds.

"And in doing so, I became a target of its stalwart attacks." Wanderer didn't shudder or even cringe negatively when saying so.

"Was that a good or bad thing for you?" Lucario inquired, seeming to have the fermented medicine's effects wear away from his body.

"It was a good thing, it would be more entertaining if Ho-oh did attack me than just chase me," Wanderer spoke in an acquiesced tone.

Ho-oh, now flying at about 150 mph and emanating a white light, used SKY ATTACK in an attempt to ram into Wanderer beak-first, but Wanderer expertly evaded the attack by sidestepping and jumping into the air and, with a mid-air cartwheel, stepped aside and continued to run forward to see the Rainbow Pokémon's reaction.

"I remember its move set that it used on me." Wanderer continued, still having the attention of those inside the room. "Firstly, it utilized SKY ATTACK and missed me narrowly."

Ho-oh, realizing that its attack was unsuccessful, dispelled its current white light and was feeling a bit of abhorrence toward the light-furred Lucario. With fiery rage, it performed a U-turn by rising up into the air and concluding by finding itself in the same position that it was in before SKY ATTACK was used. It flapped its multi-colored wings menacingly, remaining in hot pursuit of Wanderer.

"What did it use next?" Sceptile questioned, curious to Ho-oh's move set gamut.


For its second attack, it antagonistically regarded a Lucario's weakness to fire and began to have fire spewing spontaneously from its mouth.

The flashback-Wanderer realized it was a Fire-Type attack, but didn't seem to feel abject about that fact that was pursuing it from behind. In fact, it smirked in a nonchalant manner.

"…Thankfully, I had a powerful defense against such an attack of a high caliber," Wanderer assured them, in case they were feeling a sense of concern.

Ho-oh cocked its head back and then fired a massive star-shaped fireball toward the flashback-Wanderer, feeling strong animosity to its newfound opponent.

The flashback-Wanderer leapt about six feet into the air purposely, and then did an about face in mid-air. Quickly, it tucked in its body and suddenly conjured a blue-colored, spherical, transparent force-field and had the FIRE BLAST attack strike it. The attack was deflected upon impact, leaving the Aura Pokémon unmarred, and rolling along the ground within the round bulwark.

"I found it more useful to me to learn PROTECT instead of DETECT, since PROTECT fortifies against stalwart attacks, while DETECT evades stalwart attacks, and evasion does have its limits, depending on the terrain." Wanderer gave its opinion on defensive tactics.

"So true…" Lucario nodded in agreement.

Sceptile and Tiny were a little more doubtful. They both couldn't decide what was a more superior defensive tactic, evasion or fortification, and pondered to themselves about that topic.

The flashback-Wanderer's bulwark faded away and it regained its footing on the grassy floor, continuing to run from Ho-oh exactly as it did before its first attack. The Rainbow Pokémon closely followed nearby, mentally confirming the decision of using its most devastating attack.

"After adroitly evading and protecting against two of its attacks, I was sensing great animosity from Ho-oh," Wanderer felt, deep down, that it was doing a magnificent job remembering what occurred during that day. "I knew it was going to launch its trademark attack next, since I was utilizing Aura Vision to read its mind."

"That attack wouldn't happen to be…SACRED FIRE, right?" Tiny guessed.

"How did you know?" Wanderer was surprised at Tiny knowing the name of the attack.

"I've heard some of the Pokémon in this forest reference that specific attack." Tiny admitted.

"I see…" Wanderer trailed off mildly.

Both Sceptile and Lucario comprehended that bit of information.

"Anyway…" Wanderer came back to its flashback, leaving off with its flashback counterpart running across the grassy field, along with a pissed-off Ho-oh following behind it.

The flashback-Wanderer sensed a powerful aura surge within Ho-oh. It had a gut reaction that a powerful attack was on its way soon.

"I knew a blow from its SACRED FIRE attack would literally burn me to ashes, or make me realize how emotionally-excruciating Hell is." Wanderer shivered, not liking the thought of experiencing anything linked to Hell.

"I've been there and done that when Absol used FLARE BLITZ on me earlier today," Lucario interrupted. "Fire is a challenge for me to endure, despite a mental resistance that I try to create against it."

"It's all because of your newly-acquired Steel-type attribute, right?" Sceptile said to Lucario.

Lucario simply nodded with a grim countenance.

"Now isn't that a bitch to Steel-type Pokémon everywhere…" Wanderer trailed off once more before realigning himself and resuming with the flashback. "So… Knowing that SACRED FIRE was coming, I was giving Ho-oh a façade that I was physically incapable of countering against it, when I was truly pondering my next action."

The flashback-Wanderer just continued to simultaneously façade and run, and Ho-oh continued to charge up its firepower. Ho-oh assumed nothing, because Wanderer mentally-confirmed its next evasion.

"I should count myself fortunate that I wasn't facing off against Lugia instead of Ho-oh, since Lugia is a Psychic-Type, and therefore more adept at psychic abilities," Wanderer telepathically said, fortunate for its luck.

Ho-oh's eyes emanated red light—in conjunction to its already blood-red eyes—briefly and then its whole seven-color-feathered body burst into flames, as if it were a mythological phoenix. Soon after, seven perfectly-spherical orbs of fire began to emerge into a ring around Wanderer. These orbs of fire symbolized the seven main colors of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet—, and gave a mild feeling of foreshadowing to the flashback-Wanderer.

"However, they were both just as menacing…" Wanderer admitted.

With an ear-splitting Aerodactyl-like shriek originating from Ho-oh's throat, it commanded all seven of the orbs to suddenly detonate and surround the target in a seven-colored revolving fire pillar of about 100 feet in height. After the attack, Ho-oh's excess aura died off, done for what it was used for.

"So when Ho-oh finally launched SACRED FIRE…" Wanderer added a bit of suspense when it said that phrase.

Ho-oh stopped moving forward and hovered in the air, about 100 feet behind the SACRED FIRE attack it launched.

"…it immediately assumed that I was caught within it and burned to death and ash."

Ho-oh mentally cackled to itself, feeling some satisfaction of killing a Pokémon that had a slim chance of defeating it.

Or so it appeared to the Legendary Pokémon…

"But in reality…" Wanderer smirked mildly. "…The only thing that SACRED FIRE burned was grass."

Once the SACRED FIRE dispersed, Ho-oh was shocked to see a thin and pale-white line of briefly electrically-charged air aimed straight ahead, ignoring the full circle of black-and-burned grass that the line crossed before dispersing into the air.

And its source came from the premeditated path of flashback-Wanderer's EXTREMESPEED technique, and the proof was in the field of air that was electrically-charged white around it, since it was now sprinting at a blistering 200 mph, with its overall being moving at a blur to the normal human eye.

"I recently learned EXTREMESPEED back then," Wanderer added to its actions. "And I used it a split second before SACRED FIRE was used, giving the illusion that I was caught within the flames and burned to oblivion, since Ho-oh was behind me and SACRED FIRE was between us."

A vein on the back of Ho-oh's skull bulged in frustration, and then the Rainbow Pokémon fiercely resumed with pursuing the running Aura Pokémon. It was finding it briefly difficult to catch up to it, until flashback-Wanderer's EXTREMESPEED faded away a minute later, in which it caught up to it steadily soon after.

(End of Flashback)

Estimated Time: Night

"Afterwards, I continued to run until I finally saw a mountain range," Wanderer began to conclude. "I stopped running altogether and did an about-face just as Ho-oh stopped as well in front of me. Despite its currently-malicious and vindictive state, I decided to apologize to it."

"But wait! There's more...! Right…?" Sceptile said with a bit of emphasis—startling some of the listeners—, having a premonition that Ho-oh wouldn't be as forgiving to Wanderer as it thought.

Wanderer nodded and then said telepathically: "It's a naturally-hotheaded Legendary, so I wasn't expecting a simple "apology accepted" from it."

"What did the Legendary Hothead Pokémon Ho-oh do?" Tiny couldn't help but smile and laugh at the connection to Ho-oh's type attribute.

"Its talons gripped my whole torso, it flew high into the air, constantly flipped backwards in mid-air to build up speed and power, and then it flung me clear across the grass field and for a good 500 feet."

"Did you tolerate any sudden injuries upon landing?" Lucario was curious to find out.

"I landed in a nearby body of water, face first. I only endured a substantial nosebleed."

Sceptile looked outside to notice how shadowed and sable the forest was now, since the sun had fallen off of the horizon. It knew that a significant amount of time had gone by since Wanderer came back in the evening, and now it felt as though it was time to get some sleep. "It's dark outside," Sceptile said straightforwardly. "We should go get some sleep."

"Hold on Sceptile," Lucario interrupted just before all three of the other Pokémon could leave the room. "I have two last questions to ask Wanderer before we go to sleep in our designated rooms."

"I nicknamed myself "Wanderer" because I wander a lot," Wanderer read Lucario's mind for only a moment, and answered one of his questions. "That much should be obvious."

"And are you staying in this forest permanently?" Lucario quickly said its second question, wanting it to be heard.

Sceptile and Tiny actually became curious with this sudden question.

Before Wanderer could say the answer to that question, it said this:

"You're an inquisitive dark-furred Lucario, aren't you?" Wanderer said rhetorically before saying what the three current Pokémon wanted to hear. "I've actually grown tired of the glacial conditions of Mt. Coronet, so I'll stay here."

"Well that's good to hear," Sceptile said. "I'll take you to your new room then."

"You should know that it was Absol's room 30 months ago," Tiny informed Wanderer.

"Was it now…" Wanderer was interested slightly at the somewhat immaterial fact, but because Absol was now dead, that fact holds next to nothing in terms of worth.

Sceptile, Wanderer, and Tiny left Lucario's room, leaving him alone and in his bed to get some much needed rest. He grabbed the nearby blanket and concealed himself within it, finding it unusually easy to drift away to sleep. Perhaps it's because of the earlier battle with Absol that's left him drained of energy, or the wounds that he's sustained that require more physical care and rest.

Of course it could also be because of the medicine that's left his mind a bit serene and quiescent. But regardless of what it was, he fell asleep soon after.

The other three Pokémon found it not too difficult to sleep afterwards as well. They fell asleep in their individual room's beds, recalling the battle of epic proportions between Absol and Lucario with great detail to distract themselves until their minds shut down on them as they fell asleep. They didn't have anything more to say today, since the conversation that occurred earlier, involving mostly Wanderer, was finished.

The only sounds heard after Sceptile's last words of the day were the chirping of nocturnal Bug-Type Pokémon, and the nocturnal predatory Pokémon hunting them.

13 ½ years later…

Lucario's Estimated Age: 16 Years

Sceptile's Estimated Age: 21 ½ Years

Tiny's Estimated Age: 21 ½ Years

Wanderer's Estimated Age: 27 ½ Years

Despite more than a decade of time piercing by the four Pokémon, little occurred between them that would be considered life-altering. They never left the forest permanently, only on occasion.

Be that as it may, significant specific changes were made between these four Pokémon. Besides gaining knowledge and new battle techniques, whole tasks were put into effect by each of them from within the serenity of their current home.

First up is Sceptile, the Forest Pokémon. Already being a superlative aid to the whole forest, it has taken the premeditated role of a nature medic for its green habitat. With all of the knowledge in nature and its bountiful resources that it has gained since its evolution over thirteen years ago, it was the perfect choice for this role.

It has also gained a surplus of information for medication for the Pokémon who live in this forest, giving it a stable stream of Pokémon coming to it when they're sick or injured, all thankful for its advice and care. To the whole Pokémon community, it was nicknamed the "Nature Doctor", for its aptitude on simultaneously aiding Pokémon and nature. This nickname suited it better than "King of the Jungle", in its personal opinion.

To add to its achievements, it has also learned a fair amount of what Tiny has had to offer. That includes Aura Vision, mind reading, and even FORCE PALM. However, it hasn't learn AURA SPHERE, which is more of an arduous challenge that Sceptile has yet to complete.

Thankfully, it has at least learned ENERGY BALL recently, which can be considered a stalwart substitute.

Second up is Wanderer, the mountain-dwelling light-furred Aura Pokémon. It had come to the choice of staying within the serenity and positivity of this forest, where it's warmer—but it had to shave off a whole ½ inch layer of fur as compensation—and more loved by its friends, since in Mt. Coronet, most of the local Lucario wildlife there tend to be insulting, stuck-up, and prideful egomaniacs.

In other words, they were often pricks to the Pokémon surrounding them.

So because of that, it has not only adapted to loving the forest that it now lives in, but it has actually developed a goal in its life. It has assigned itself the task of protecting the forest from unwanted intruders, which were often Pokémon Trainers.

The benefits: The occasional souvenirs, such as a dropped Poké Ball or held item from a Pokémon Trainer, a sense of justice and compassion for the forest's residents—which led to more local Pokémon aiding Wanderer with his task, including Lucario, Sceptile, and Tiny—, and imperative martial experience.

The drawbacks: A habit of constant service and readiness, the unpredictability of the next event, the seldom loss of a Pokémon—when they're captured—, and the constantly fluctuating levels of danger when in action, due to fighting a Pokémon Trainer's unpredictable selection of Pokémon in their party, as well as their experience.

The third Pokémon on this list: Tiny, the Emanation Pokémon. Over thirteen years ago, during the battle between Lucario and Absol, it had its aptitude for manufacturing helpful items out of mere grass blades, leaves, and twigs—such as the backpack—exposed to the audience of that battle. So ever since then, it has been significantly occupied with creating these items, for the ease of the tough lives of the forest-dwelling residential Pokémon.

Thankfully, it has plenty of free time to help its friends whenever they're needed.

Finally: Lucario, the Aura Pokémon enigma, as it is occasionally known to the forest residents. After recovering from his serious and injuries about two weeks after his battle with the Disaster Pokémon, he has done his best to train and grow stronger, so as to reduce the possibility of that similar condition from ever occurring again in his life.

He trained with Wanderer and, to Wanderer's surprise, learned all of its mental attacks—PSYCHIC—and other brand new attacks—FLASH CANNON, EXTREMESPEED, DARK PULSE, CLOSE COMBAT, etc—within days!

He also trained with Sceptile, who has learned a variety of new Grass-Type techniques, such as ENERGY BALL—similar to AURA SPHERE in terms of structure, but with a green energy and an electrical "core" within it—, FRENZY PLANT—calls forth massive and numerous plants from underneath the ground—, LEAF STORM—a tornado of foliage is called forth and used for a deadly attack, which grows weaker with every subsequent use of the same technique—, and GIGA DRAIN—a stronger version of MEGA DRAIN. He learned all that Sceptile had to teach him.

Stranger still, to whosoever he spent enough time with, they would all bypass and overtake the unusual four-attack limit, much to their surprise, as well as benefit. To add to that, Lucario continued to learn moves that defied his species' limitations, such as EMBER, WATER GUN, GUST, THUNDER SHOCK, POWDER SNOW, etc.

Also, the oddity of nightmares that occur within his subconscious hasn't reared itself after his battle with Absol, and never again ever since then, as if they died off. But they never did die off within his thoughts, since he still believes that it may be foreshadowing something life-changing, after occurring for so long.

Soon after, he used his growing oddity of learning an unorthodox assortment of techniques for the benefit of the entire forest residents. To them all, he became a helpful and universal move tutor. He vividly explained how to use the variety of attacks that he knew to them, and succeeded with enough patience and time, something that he seemed to have plenty of.

He was quite happy with helping the Pokémon who desire his teachings.

To put it concisely, Lucario had already learned how to do these specific abilities before his battle with Absol: Telepathy, Aura Vision, manipulating his body mass, manipulating knockback, guarding and attacking with aura's aid, walking on water, aura assimilation, FORCE PALM, mind reading, sensing emotions, anticipating actions, and climbing walls and ceilings with his aura.

All of this goes with his trademark AURA SPHERE, as well as the unexpected techniques utilized from other Pokémon, such as the arsenal of Grass-Type techniques and jungle combat skills that Sceptile knew.

But now he had learned so much more, such as Wanderer's wide inventory of powerful Lucario-capable moves and telekinetic-based attacks, Sceptile's evolved attack repertoire, unorthodox and widely-spread set of attacks learned from residing forest Pokémon, and the ability to shatter the four-attack limit on himself and those around him—but only for those that he's spent enough time with.

So that's what occurred within the 13 ½ year gap between then and now, more or less. But now it's time to focus on the present and not the past, especially since the past has already been cemented, but the present and future have yet to be marked.

Estimated Date: Early 21st Century

Estimated Time: Morning

Location: Forest (Tree Tops)

The Forest's Tree Tops, an area of which the entire surface of the forest can be viewed effortlessly, which isn't surprising since the trees are a few hundred feet tall on average, easily the tallest level on this forest.

Lucario was currently on top of one of the taller tree's branches, somewhat enjoying the massive view of the forest's healthy green foliage. Albeit, this was only for about a minute, since he was truly focusing aura to what he plans to do next.

He was about to attempt to FLY, for the umpteenth time since he began about a year ago. However, since he doesn't possess wings or a telekinetic power strong enough to utilize on himself—since he only recently learned telekinetic abilities—, he's had to improvise to even hope to have a chance at flight.

His tactic: use FORCE PALM continuously and with both paws. However, this is easier said than done, since FORCE PALM was never meant to be used continuously. It is however, useable with both paws, much to Lucario's hopes.

The Aura Pokémon looked away at the forest and stared into his own two paws for a brief moment, relying on them for perfecting this unorthodox technique. After that, without giving a second thought at this next attempt, he immediately jumped off with significant height before tilting his body to have his head aim down and nose first, so as to give himself better aerodynamics.

"(It's now or never…)" He thought before immediately conjuring two smaller orbs of bright blue aura within his palms, and then causing them to expel their energy constantly and not briefly, supplying more aura when needed to, which was fairly often.

Just before diving down to precarious and irreversible levels, he quickly bent his upper body upward and, thanks to aerodynamics—as well as the already-learned ability of manipulating his overall weight—, he jerked upward and above the forest.

Astonishingly, he was now flying via aura propulsion at a stable rate of about highway speeds. But unlike most Pokémon introduced to new abilities, he kept his nonchalance, since suddenly getting overconfident can backfire severely to the point of having life or death be decided in a heartbeat.

"(Incredible…)" He thought concisely as he was now gliding a few hundred feet above the tallest trees of the forest with relative ease, loving this new view of a nostalgic forest, with the wind bypassing each and every strand of hair on his body, and leaving an indescribable gale sound into his ears.

However, that sound was a bit of an annoyance and giving him a bit of an earache as well, so he bent his ears back as much as he physically could, preventing any air from entering his ear canals and pounding away at his eardrums.

He also had to narrow his eyes mildly, since the gale created by his acrobatics was assimilating the moisture of his sanguine eyeballs and leaving them more sanguine and irritated as time goes by. Thankfully, the whole vision problem is easily spared with the Aura Vision ability that he possesses in his arsenal. Within seconds, he closed his eyes completely and used Aura Vision to see what was around him.

While flying for about a couple of minutes straight, he realized that using FORCE PALM consistently was a bit of a strain to his overall aura inventory, but he had enough aura to utilize howbeit. Ignoring that fact briefly, he noticed some of the local residents looking at him while he was flying, appearing to be in disbelief as they saw this well-known mystery of an Aura Pokémon in mid-air.

Comically, he also saw his home when he passed by it.

After another minute of steady flying at highway speed, he realized that he was beginning to struggle to maintain airborne, since he was still a neophyte with being able to FLY. The FORCE PALMs of his were fluctuating in and out of use, no matter how much of his aura was being pumped into it. Luckily, he was getting close to a nearby tree, so he could use that as a landing spot.

He quickly tilted himself until he was perfectly vertical in mid-air, and then aimed his paws toward the tree's top, so as to retard himself with aura propulsion, with whatever control he had left. He quickly grabbed onto the tree's top with all four limbs and wrapped himself on it, so as to prevent a frightening fall back down to earth—something that he actually has some experience with.

He felt his heart sink when the tree's top swayed ominously back and forth, but he was able to retain his serenity amidst it. Once the tree's swaying motion subsided, he breathed a few sighs of relief, swearing he was succumbing to mild altophobia for a moment, but not enough to cause permanent results and irrelevant symptoms. He turned off his Aura Vision ability, since it was currently unneeded, and then began to assimilate some of the aura around him from the air by quickly glowing green and using GIGA DRAIN.

Once the aura that he used for flight was replaced and assimilated within him, as well as his slightly-reduced stamina, he put his feet on one of the branches below him, let go of the tree's top once he had secure footing, and strangely desired to FLY again, so as to develop more flight endurance by trying to extend the time of using FORCE PALM consistently, flight experience, and flight speed. He was also thinking of adding more to flying, such as using EXTREMESPEED to boost speed and lift, reducing the use of FORCE PALM.

Albeit, just before he was about to jump, his ears twitched mildly when he aurally sensed the most unusual of sounds. He heard a sound that was genuinely alien to him, the whirring of a helicopter's propellers. When he concentrated further into this sound, he was able to identify two important qualities.

Quality #1: He heard the whirring of helicopter propellers coming from behind him, coming from where he flew to get to where he currently was at now. And quality #2: There were precisely eight of them, but split off into two groups of four.

"(What the hell is this alien sound?)" He stared on into one random tree in front of him, not needing his eyes currently, and twitched his ears somewhat randomly to listen to the sound and attempt to juxtapose it to whatever he had already aurally identified, curious as to what its identity is.

In only seconds, he realized that this wasn't a sound by means of using his sense of hearing to identify with alone. He had to see it instead.

He cautiously performed an about-face, so as to not slip on the tree branch he had his feet on, and with his eyes, noticed a set of four miniscule objects in the sky that were gradually growing in size due to approaching Lucario's location. Lucario was now more curious than before as to what specifically was approaching.

In a premeditative manner, he extended his left paw out from his body, with his palm aimed at the far off oddity as best as he could, since the large distance proved tough to accurately pinpoint at, and clamped the tree's trunk with his right paw, to prevent a sudden fall.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and focused himself for Aura Vision once more. The only difference this time was that he used his left paw as if it were a TV antenna and received better results by doing so.

Instead of seeing with Aura Vision what was directly in front of him, he was able to see much farther off and pinpoint to what his left paw was aimed at. When he caught a better glimpse at the distant group of four objects once he aligned his left arm perfectly to it, he was in for a shock, but for different reasons than a group of helicopters flying around here.

"(Those metal vessels…)" he thought, having absolutely no clue as to what they were named since he had never seen them before, "(There are humans…within them?)"

Lucario was sure that humans were only here to do something that would be harmful of malicious to the forest's fragile ecosystem. He could sense it in the distinct colors emanating from their auras. From them, he was receiving some different aura colors, such as orange aura—for a determined personality—, lavender aura—for goal-related thoughts and how they should be accomplished—, and brown aura—for materialism. All of these colors represented terrible foreshadowing that could alter the normality of this forest, and he knew that from the negative intuition he was receiving.

And the fact that the second group of helicopters was arriving behind them, as well as the first group of helicopters descending down onto the forest floor in an area suitable for landing was only confirming this foreshadowing and proving Lucario's premonition right.

"(They and their premeditated malice shouldn't be allowed here!)" He thought quickly before jumping athletically across the tree tops, somersaulting and flipping in mid-air when needed to. "(They need to be removed promptly!)"

Location: Forest (Base Level)

The sentry Pokémon of the forest, which included Wanderer and about two dozen of well-trained assistants, had their gaze locked onto the ominously-descending second group of four helicopters, while the first group of helicopters hovered right past them. They all had surrounded the intended landing zone of this particular group of helicopters, raised their guard, and waited patiently for the group of people that were premeditated to touch down onto the soil floor.

Wanderer turned on its Aura Vision ability and saw the same three colors of aura that Lucario did—orange, lavender, and brown—, immediately realizing what emotional attributes they were supposed to symbolize.

"There are definitely humans inside those metal vessels," Wanderer forewarned the two dozen Pokémon around it before igniting both of its paws in aura as a preparation for the oncoming battle. "I can sense them."

The two dozen Pokémon alongside Wanderer acknowledged its words and were made just as prepared as it was.

Seconds went by until the four helicopters slowly began to descend onto the crude and squalid floor of the forest, uprising mild clouds of loose dirt and shedding the leaves off of the surrounding trees before finally touching down on the floor below them, with very little sound being heard upon landing…other than the rotary blades loudly chopping up the air.

The deafening whirring emanating from its propellers was bearable to the Pokémon close by and around it, and grew less so when those same propellers slowly began to lower in intensity, until they finally grew silent altogether.

To the aurally-proficient Pokémon—Wanderer included—, they hear the antagonistic humans themselves shuffling within the four helicopters, preparing to leave and attack with what they have armed in their arsenal.

"(About time…)" Wanderer thought with an eerie grin, visualizing the humans about to leave from their metallic fortification. It cracked its knuckles briefly, just itching to fight them and tear them apart in the most gruesome manner possible.

Location: Forest (Floor)

Utilizing the unbelievable jungle combat skills that he learned from Sceptile, as well as the EXTREMESPEED technique that he learned from Wanderer, Lucario zigzagged from tree branch to tree branch with phenomenal speed, approximately 150 mph. It had to travel at this speed in order to swiftly get to where the groups of descending helicopters were, according to what it saw with its active Aura Vision ability.

"(The second group of humans inside those airborne metal vessels descended onto an open field of this forest,)" he thought to himself when scanning the far off area, seeing the whole group of sentry Pokémon, noticing Wanderer amongst them, and simultaneously sprinting across the forest.

However, he was actually more concerned with the tactics that the first group of helicopters was planning.

"(What are these humans planning?)" He saw the second group continue onward above the forest, and he continued to observe them as he moved on to where Wanderer was.

After covering a few miles in about two minutes, he stopped abruptly and dropped down to the forest floor, feeling himself become physically uneasy as to what he saw the first group of helicopters hover over motionlessly.

They ominously hovered above Sceptile's tree house.

To add to that, both Sceptile and Tiny were currently residing within it, a fact made crystal clear by Lucario's Aura Vision ability.

"…No…" He said fearfully, reluctantly imagining what might occur to them. However, he stopped doing so when he imagined them being captured…or dying when trying to escape, so as to not begin to doubt himself about failing to change the outcome.

He used EXTREMESPEED once more to reach the tree house, leaving behind a white streak of electrically-charged air in his wake, hoping he wasn't too late to do something—anything—to protect them.

Location: Forest (Sceptile's House)

Unsuspecting to either Sceptile or Tiny, the first group of 4 helicopters floated portentously above their home, spread apart from each other like the individual sides of a square. Their loud whirring bellowed across the air nearby their location, which was oddly ignored by either Pokémon.

Seconds after, the left and right side doors of all four helicopters opened and from them each came out eight ladders total—two for each helicopter—that fully reached out downward and touched the forest floor. Just as quickly, four people from each helicopter began to come down from their respective helicopters and quickly climbed down the ladders, two people for each ladder.

They synchronically jumped off of the ladders and onto the forest floor when they were six feet off of the ground. They immediately surrounded the tree house afterward, not seeming to care at all if a Pokémon or a person built the tree house in front of all of them, since the structure of the house seemed to be a hybrid of both.

The people that surrounded the tree house wore a long-sleeved shadow-colored uniform, with the men of the group wearing khakis that were tucked into their silver boots and the women of the group wearing a skirt that stopped perfectly between their waistline and knees, with those same-colored boots going up above their knees. They wore silver-colored gloves that had the uniform's sleeves hiding inside of them, and they wore somewhat round shadow-colored berets and a silver utility belt. Finally, on their uniforms, they had a bright red "R" in the center, placed directly where their sternum would be.

These people worked under a malicious criminal organization in Kanto that is infamously known as Team Rocket. As of now, their current mission is simple: capture as many Pokémon as possible…and kill those that don't submit.

They all reached to the back of their silver-colored utility belt and pulled out a compacted spherical capsule. This device had a red top hemisphere, a white lower hemisphere, a black band separating both hemispheres across the side and a white button in the center. The device is known as a Poké Ball.

Each Grunt pressed the button in the center of the devices, having the devices grow from the size of a ping-pong ball to that of a baseball. One after the other, they all threw their Poké Balls up into the air expertly, each orb spin in mid-air as they hovered upward about thirty feet.

Once high enough, they all shot out light from their black borders briefly, and then they all burst open and released a concentrated red light energy that descended onto the floor below. The Team Rocket Grunts caught their respective Poké Ball once they were pulled down by the Earth's gravity and replaced them where they belong, at the back of their silver utility belts.

In one second, the red light energy condensed and dispersed, exposing Fire-Type Pokémon immediately where the red light energy landed. There were exactly four Growlithe, four Magmar, four Houndoom, two Arcanine, and two Magmortar, all with aggression and hate scarred onto the surface of their hearts and their faces.

In tandem, each and every of the Team Rocket Grunts pointed their right paw's first finger at the intended target: the tree house.

Without the Grunts knowing, Tiny peered out of one of the windows, immediately assimilated the visual information of its surroundings, and ran over to Sceptile, all in about the time span of five seconds.

With a smirk coming from some of the Grunts—as well as their menacing Pokémon—they snapped their right hand's fingers. Just as quickly, all sixteen Fire-Type Pokémon launched a specific Fire-Type attack simultaneously from their mouths. The Growlithe used FIRE SPIN, the Magmar used LAVA PLUME, the Houndoom used FLAMETHROWER, the Arcanine used FIRE BLAST, and the Magmortar used OVERHEAT.

All of the Fire-Type attacks hit their mark in only one second, quickly roasting the tree house where it stands, all while the attacks are fired again in tandem—FIRE BLAST, LAVA PLUME, AND OVERHEAT—or kept constant—FIRE SPIN and FLAMETHROWER. This continued on for as long as the Pokémon could muster, which gradually reduced the chances of whatever resided within the tree house to nearly absolute zero.

"(…Oh shit…)" Lucario thought as he was within seconds of reaching Sceptile's tree house, dubious of what he was seeing ahead.

Once there, he immediately dove down and slid behind a nearby shrub. He crouched down and faced the back of it, so as not to expose his cover if he stood behind and observed the crime zone. He maintained a standby posture in case events took a turn for the worst, something that he feels might just happen. The fur on his body that made contact with the soil was scraped off swiftly with his arm, so as to not make any minute sounds that would compromise his position to either the Grunts or their Pokémon. He could still see despite being behind a shrub, due to his constant use of Aura Vision.

It was a sagacious choice to veil his physical being behind a shrub, since one of the closest Team Rocket Grunts heard the sound of dirt being shifted. That one Grunt alone did an about-face, and then he scanned the area, including the shrub that Lucario resided behind, and didn't notice anything there. He turned back to the fire and realized that he could've sworn that the shrub he discerned had something on top of it.

"(Crap… He suspects something…)," Lucario thought, feeling his heart sink a bit within his ribcage.

Just as the Grunt executed a slightly lagged double-take, Lucario quickly swiveled his pointed ears behind him and sagged his head a bit lower. The Grunt saw that same bush and could've sworn that the bush had something on top of it, but figured that it was merely a figment of his imagination.

"Weird…" He muttered to himself as he reset himself to the state that he was at after snapping his fingers.

"(These ears of mind will be the death of me if I don't properly take them into account,)" Lucario thought to himself while wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead unhurriedly, so as to not make even the slightest of sounds again.

Ten more seconds went by until the Fire-Type Pokémon became exhausted from using their attacks. They stopped using their Fire-Type attacks and hyperventilated a bit, recharging themselves slowly. During that time, the wood of the tree house was relinquished into the air in the form of smoke, as well as the fire alongside the wood. Lucario was able to bypass the aura energy emanating from the fire and see traces of what occurred to Sceptile and Tiny.

In a way, he was and was not surprised by what he saw within the fire. He breathed an abated sigh of relief, not surprised when he noticed that both Sceptile and Tiny were still alive and unmarred—since they would be dying like punks if they perished on the spot. He saw that Tiny had formed a defensive stance and used PROTECT with Sceptile inside it as well.

What Lucario was surprised about is that it has been minutes since the Fire-Type attacks were launched. Tiny should've had its entire stamina siphoned away by the double-edged sword—or shield—that was PROTECT, but it didn't.

It's likely because that PROTECT technique was what separated life and a superheated death for them both. Tiny knew that when it first noticed the malicious Fire-Type Pokémon subordinates receive their orders by the Team Rocket Grunts.

However, there was a price to maintaining such a potent bulwark for minutes against deadly conflagrations, and Lucario was able to see what that was.

"(My Arceus, Tiny…)" Lucario noticed that Tiny's overall aura field was being reduced to critically low levels that could perchance prove irreversible to it.

He was easily becoming heavily and selflessly concerned, as well as simultaneously astounded by Tiny's stamina, for the Emanation Pokémon's life was now in jeopardy. He knew that Sceptile could survive due to the dying conflagrations simply by leaping away with Tiny when Tiny's PROTECT technique fades away, something which he thought could possibly occur. But Tiny's case was more serious and can possibly become irreversible as the seconds pass by.

Unfortunately, just as Lucario assumed, Tiny's PROTECT was fading away due to massive fatigue from keeping it active for so long. It eventually faded away altogether, leaving Tiny barely able to stand up properly, let alone remain conscious.

And due to the fire burning away at what remained of tree house, they both were now exposed to the Team Rocket Grunts. And all of those Grunts were astounded with what they saw.

"They're still alive?" One random Grunt rhetorically said to himself.

"Quite a stalwart set of Pokémon…" One other Grunt admired their power, but only mildly, thinking instead of the possibilities one could do with such power.

"That Riolu looks like the source of their survival…" Another Grunt hypothesized accurately.

The Grunt adjacent to her quickly plucked another Poké Ball from the back of his utility belt, and then he began to toss it in mid-air and catch it repeatedly in a serious manner. "We capture that source, and make it our own." He said with pride before launching his Poké Ball with the expertise of a baseball pitcher—excluding most of the technique—grinning smugly as he saw it soar and home in towards the Riolu in front of him.

"(How rash,)" Lucario thought, finding that one Grunt who launched his Poké Ball to be considerably reckless and speculative.

"Tiny, are you feeling alright?" Sceptile asked it, feeling extremely concerned—and somewhat thankful—for Tiny after it used PROTECT heavily to save them both.

Tiny legs gave out due to massive aura relinquishment. It got down to both of its knees, having both of its front paws planted onto the sooty floor below its face. It was hyperventilating heavily and appeared to be somewhat cadaverous in terms of physical state. "Sceptile…" It said weakly, its voice hardly audible amongst the crackling of the flames, "…Incoming…capture sphere…" It looked at the Poké Ball—not knowing its identity—that it was hardly able to see off of the corner of its eye, choosing to be more concerned for Sceptile than its own current health, "…to your left."

Somehow, Sceptile indirectly received the message it was given by the Emanation Pokémon that it was supposed to care more about what will occur to itself than to Tiny. Vaguely knowing this, it did notice the incoming Poké Ball and had its right arm's protruding leaf glow green and morphing into LEAF BLADE.

"I see it," It said with a low hiss in its voice, as well as a squinted look in its yellow eyes.

Just as the Poké Ball was within critical range of Tiny, Sceptile immediately retaliated. It turned its body counterclockwise, brought up its LEAF BLADE-imbued right arm with an upward swipe, and instantly sliced the capsule in two, right across its black band.

Before a reaction by the Grunts—or the Grunt that actually threw the Poké Ball—could be established, Sceptile continued moving counterclockwise and used its massive tail to swat both freshly-cut halves of the Poké Ball, right back at the Grunt who originally threw it, before finishing off by forming a battle stance where its right arm was set ready.

The two halves struck the Grunt perfectly in each eye, leaving the other Grunts momentarily stunned. Only the black band marking of the Poké Ball struck each eye. The victim Grunt didn't budge an inch or change his countenance when the retaliation was made on his face.

Seconds later, the Poké Ball halves peeled off of his eyes, exposing a black bruise ring around them. Just as the Poké Ball halves hit the floor, the victim Grunt comically fell backwards with a thud, like a solitary domino, with little interference from his arms in stopping his fall.

Unusually, no one seemed to care about his current predicament, not even the Pokémon that the fallen Grunt was using at the moment.

Sceptile and Lucario couldn't help but cackle at the comical sight. Sceptile chuckled a little, but Lucario was forced to have a crooked grin and stifled snickers, since he was still hiding and wanted to remain hidden to the Grunts and their Fire-Type Pokémon.

Tiny however, it could only breathe heavily.

However, that moment quickly reversed for the worst. From out of nowhere, multiple Koffing and a few Weezing ambushed the two Pokémon standing above the ash heap that was once the tree house. Sceptile was easily caught off guard. Tiny however, was too fatigued to react. All of the Koffing and some of the Weezing clumped themselves closely around Sceptile and Tiny, with the last remaining Weezing engulfing its entire gaseous being onto Sceptile's right arm, much to Sceptile's surprise.

Lucario watched on at this scene, his tension rising.

That Weezing wasn't being cut by LEAF BLADE since it's a possessed clump of gas, and simply stared at the Forest Pokémon with both heads expressing an evil glare in their eyes. All of the Koffing and Weezing did the same, even to the weakened Emanation Pokémon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Just as he was within ten feet of saving his friends, the Koffing and Weezing immediately detonated, exploding with an immense shockwave since they were all concentrated so closely together. What could be seen by everyone is a spherical red fireball that gave a massive knockback to whatever was within fifteen feet of it.

No one even noticed Sceptile and Tiny flying away from the location, completely engulfed in fire.

Since Lucario was ten feet close to it, most of the explosion's shockwave energy made contact with him vehemently. Lucario was instantly subdued by the shockwave and then sent flipping through the sky and impacting a nearby tree with his back.

The force he sustained was so great that he fell onto the floor, his snout pointing to his right side of his body as his face buried itself into the dirt, instantly knocked unconscious—which reluctantly removed his Aura Vision ability due to stalwart physical trauma—, and simultaneously snapped the tree in half. The end result left him having three-inch-long splinters pierce a significant way through his entire backside, about half-an-inch through his back, quickly staining his pristine yellow torso fur with his own blood.

He also retained temporarily loss of hearing from the shockwave narrowly blowing out his eardrums, but that would quickly recover by the time he came back to his senses.

All of the Grunts began to walk towards the unconscious Aura Pokémon's location and were left puzzled by what he chose to do. They believed that the Aura Pokémon rushed towards the explosion, not suspecting firstly that he could've simply attempted to save them.

"Is that a Lucario?" One Grunt inquired to another.

"I believe so," That other Grunt responded back, "but its blue fur is darker than usual."

"What's one doing here in a forest?" Another Grunt asks to some of the other Grunts.

"I believe the more important question is:" One Grunt reached to the back of his utility belt and retrieved his Great Ball—a Poké Ball model easily identifiable by its light blue top hemisphere, familiar white bottom hemisphere and black ring, and noticeable red band across the top hemisphere—from there. He then brought it up front, so that everyone could see it, and held it menacingly as he continued to creep over to Lucario. "Will that Lucario meet our boss's preferences?"

As they walked closer and more cautiously, they eventually surrounded Lucario in a "U" formation. The remainder of the Grunts—excluding the one that got knocked out cold by Sceptile's tail swipe—retrieved their one Great Ball from their utility belts when they formed that "U" formation, so as to capture it if they understood Lucario was knocked out.

The Rocket Grunts to the left side of that "U" formation noticed something slightly disturbing about Lucario's current facial countenance, and it wasn't the fact that his mouth was agape and was bleeding somewhat from there, which gave his chin and left cheek's fur a purple color when the blood was coagulating.

"What the hell…?" One of those Grunts said, seeing Lucario awake.

"I didn't see this coming…"

"Such a powerful Pokémon…"

"We're boned…"

What they noticed from Lucario was actually paradoxical as to what they originally believed. They all unanimously assumed that this Aura Pokémon was brutally knocked out and therefore, an effortless capture by whomever did so.

But instead, they were all left discombobulated when they noticed that not only was Lucario awake, but was crying silently. The Grunts noticed his tears escape from his eyes and roll off his snout to moisten the soil nearby. They heard his breathing, which wasn't struggled or irregular, much to their surprise.

Physically wise, the Aura Pokémon was stable, despite the internal trauma and blood loss due from piercing wounds and blunt force. But mentally wise, he was breaking down, after seeing the explosion that removed Sceptile and Tiny from existence.

Lucario quickly clenched his left fist, which startled the Grunts to his right a bit, and immediately began to glow a green-colored aura all over his body. "You…bastards…" He said with spite. "…My beloved friends…cease to exist…"

All fifteen available Grunts were left astounded by the fact that the Lucario they were about to capture could speak, and not by the fact that he was pissed off or emanating green light, due to their sense of normality clouding their sense of imagination. They didn't even pay attention to his words.

The green light emanating from Lucario quickly extended outward to the recently-knocked over tree and began to siphon its aura. In seconds, the tree lost its leaves due to a partial loss of its aura and Lucario's wounds were healed, once the splinters were plucked off via minor use of PSYCHIC. The green light died off when he was fully healed, and then Lucario planted his left fist into the earth to lift himself upright.

All of the Grunts stepped back cautiously, since they were now starting to feel a sense of survival rising within them.

He glared at each individual Grunt with much hate as he wiped away with his right arm the blood from his mouth, removing most of the abnormal coloration, not caring currently that his back has a few dry sanguine blotches of his coagulated blood.

"(My God this Lucario is tall…)" One Grunt thought.

"How do you plan to compensate?" He wrinkled his forehead with hate, his eyes gleaming gold and his dreadlock-like appendages hovering horizontally from Aura Vision activating, before crossing both of his arms in an "X" shape. And then suddenly, he extended them out simultaneously, with METAL CLAWS formed and blazing a brilliant white light.

He could not sense any form of guilt or repent from the auras of everyone nearby Sceptile's home, which only made him more willing to tear apart at all souls responsible, be it human or Pokémon, to bite-sized pieces of flesh.

Most of the Grunts began to sweat nervously, while the remaining Grunts were more concerned with capturing their current hostile opponent.

"How do you all plan to pay for the lives that you all so easily destroyed?" He said seriously, eyeing at each and every Grunt for at least a few seconds, having them believe that he was actually staring into their souls and deciding their future, when he was currently reading their minds and scanning for any signs of guilt-imbued second thoughts.

"…" Not one Grunt said a word due to a surplus of intimidation. They all knew that if running became their current action instead of remaining quiescent, they would all be mercilessly mowed down to shreds, especially since their Fire-Type Pokémon are still fatigued from using fire for a set amount of consistency. But what truly sealed their future was the fact that their recent action of killing two valued Pokémon left them unmarred of guilt or second thoughts, since they were ordered to capture or kill.

"No answers? No suggestions? Not even any guilt or signs of repent?" Lucario said, finishing analyzing their minds and deciding their fate.

His choice: kill everyone responsible, both human and Pokémon.

Once that conclusion was set, Lucario grinned at them maliciously, imagining what would occur in the next minute. The accumulation with its bright gold eyes added further dread to the Grunts, whom seemed suddenly paralyzed with fear.

"Well then, allow me to make your final decision!"

With METAL CLAW still valid, he decided to add RAPID SPIN to it. Curling both of his arms counterclockwise and turning himself that way as well, he suddenly unloaded energy and spun exceedingly clockwise, with METAL CLAWs held outward like blades on a ceiling fan. He positioned himself low for better aerodynamics, his feet expertly placed and rotated for minimum dirt drag, and his eyes were kept in the same line of sight that his METAL CLAWs were to prevent vertigo. In doing so, he spun so fast that he caused near perfect gutting from the entire chest cavity to every standing Grunt.

Blood, bones, clothing fabric, and organs were scattered everywhere. The sixteen exhausted Fire-Type Pokémon watched on as their master's internal structure scattered across the forest floor. They didn't care much about that gruesome action though, feeling relieved that they no longer had to serve anyone else.

Once Lucario stopped revolving, he centered himself and formed a battle stance. He saw all of the empty chests of his victims—which included the spine, back half of the ribs, and leftover flesh—and then looked at their heads to notice that they were dead, their frozen grit teeth and screaming faces revealed such. The Grunt's bodies fell over in tandem, pouring what blood remained of them.

Lucario disabled his stance and casually wiped off the blood from his sharp battle claws with his stubby paws, satisfied with his work of vengeance. "(Fifteen of your lives to compensate for the two that you removed…)" he thought while cleaning his METAL CLAWs, "(you're all too generous)," he smirked and chuckled a bit, concealing his current emotional pain with a dark gleeful façade.

Just as he was about to decide to leave the murder scene to aid Wanderer, he was admonished by the sudden hostile growls of the newly-released Fire-Type Pokémon. Lucario was reminded of their presence and he gave them a curious look with his head tilted slightly to the right, negating his METAL CLAWS and reading their auras and minds to determine why specifically they were acting so argumentative.

They were simply wild Pokémon, and had it within their instincts to fight any opponent that they see, not including themselves, since they grew accustomed to working together.

"(The more time siphoned from me here increases the danger of my only remaining friend,)" Lucario thought with all of the Fire-Type Pokémon ogling at him rancorously, with a similarity to Lucario's Aura Vision's fierce stare. "I don't have time to dissipate with you all," Lucario said while scratching the left side of his neck in a blasé manner, keeping his head mildly to the right and exposing some of his satirical canine-like teeth briefly.

None of the Fire-Type Pokémon liked that choice at all and began to stalk him, as if he was their prey.

Lucario stopped scratching his neck calmly and then set his arms to his sides. "Why don't I call on my posse to fight for me, since you all seem so eager to fight, and I'm outnumbered sixteen-to-one," Lucario said without care of their opinion.

With a bit of aura manipulation, Lucario began to disperse fractions of his aura around his surroundings. To the Fire-Type Pokémon watching, they saw Lucario resonating side to side distortedly. But what Lucario was truly doing is using DOUBLE TEAM, but with more…realistic aura duplicates.

In only a few seconds, Lucario made as many doppelgangers of himself as there was Fire-Type Pokémon. They all burst out of thin air without so much as a dispersion of the air around their presence. All sixteen duplicates—excluding the original—emerged quickly in front of him, all with standby martial battle stances.

All of the Fire-type Pokémon were left discombobulated with the sudden appearance of those duplicates. The weaker ones were feeling a bit intimidated as well.

"I must warn you all…" Lucario—the original—crossed his arms, having them placed below his chest-spike, and the sixteen duplicates cracked their knuckles in unison and grinned evilly, intimidating the Fire-Type Pokémon. "…they can all be a bit…unpleasant."

He uncurled his arms and leaped high into the air, and back-flipped twice to get to a tree branch. "Don't say that I didn't warn you…" he said before lifting his left paw in the air with two stubby fingers connected together by their tips, "…especially if you survive their onslaught," he smirked briefly and then snapped his fingers. He then used EXTREMESPEED to hurdle quickly across the tree's branches, away from this place and to where he is more needed.

After the Lucario duplicates heard that snapping of the portly fingers, instant carnage began. All of the DOUBLE TEAM duplicates swarmed the Fire-Type Pokémon and pummeled them to unrecognizable shapes with incredible speed and synchronicity.

If those Pokémon were lucky, the first dozen simultaneous punches across the face should've knocked them out cold, so that they'd die without feeling the rest of the beating. However, only a few were that lucky, and the rest were feeling every bit of pain until death gave them ease and released their souls from their bodies. No counterattacks of any kind were able to be launched, let alone thought of, since they were pounded so severely and so quickly that they, just as quickly, lost the ability to comprehend.

One minute passed until all sixteen Fire-Type Pokémon were found not only dead, but also twisted in appearance. Only proficient observers could recognize the dead bodies, if any were around at the moment.

The clones, once done with their orders, evaporated away into the air.

However, as if defying normal laws, one Lucario clone reemerged from the air. This clone apparently noticed the unconscious Team Rocket Grunt that Sceptile knocked out earlier, and he feels as though he should finish the job.

He conjured an AURA SPHERE in his left paw and then walked towards the unconscious Grunt, throwing the AURA SPHERE and catching it repeatedly in a casual manner. Once within kicking distance of the Grunt, he simply dropped the AURA SPHERE on top of the Grunts head. The Grunt's head was instantly blown off in a gruesome manner—as if it was shot at with a shotgun round, at pointblank range. Flesh, blood, and dust scattered around the area of detonation.

He then eyed the four helicopters in the air. All four of them already began to drop from the sky, running out of fuel after their prolonged time hovering above the forest. They would fall to the earth in moments, on their own.

The Lucario clone, once finished, simply smirked and faded away into the air. In doing so, he relinquished his memories and experiences to the original Lucario, so that Lucario receives what the others experienced, once the aura utilized returned to him.

Location: Forest (Base Level)

The last time that this location was referenced, it was when Wanderer and a couple dozen Pokémon subordinates were about to fight against Team Rocket Grunts that resided within four descending helicopters. But as of now, the scene was similar to that of battlefield warfare—but without pistols, machine guns, or any other modern firearms and manmade handheld explosives—because the only two sentient beings in this forest were humans and Pokémon.

Every minute or so, one Pokémon from Wanderer's group was captured by the Rocket Grunts, and at the same time, the Rocket Grunt's Pokémon were knocked out, or killed senselessly. The two sides were seemingly equal in terms of physical Pokémon quantity, and they kept it that way when either side was weakening.

Somehow, Wanderer managed to stay amongst the unbound Forest Pokémon and continued to discreetly level the field of the enemy Rocket Grunt's Pokémon. However, the Team Rocket Grunts quickly recognized this insolent light-furred Aura Pokémon and started to center their attacks and capture attempts to it.

Wanderer continued to laugh non-telepathically when evading incoming Poké Balls and beating the living daylights of oncoming enemy Pokémon with a few well-placed stabs at a Pokémon with its paw-spikes.

It was holding its own with exceptional skill, using only Aura Vision and its respectable repertoire of both aura and psychic attacks. It was also aiding its other Pokémon subordinates by foiling any attempt to capture more exposed Pokémon by the Rocket Grunts.

And in doing so, it was gradually increasing the chances that a Poké Ball would come out of alleged nowhere, strike it, and then get assimilated by it.

When Wanderer countered a Pokémon attack, it left itself vulnerable for a couple of seconds. A fast-acting Grunt noticed a lighter-colored Lucario that was out in the open and quickly reached for a Great Ball in the back of his utility belt, and then launched it from his hand with the expertise of a baseball pitcher.

The Great Ball, as it flipped forward, somehow evaded every form of obstacles that surrounded this area, as well as any ballistic or volatile Pokémon technique fired. It quickly homed in on Wanderer, and as Wanderer finally noticed it, it immediately realized that it wouldn't be able to evade it. The Great Ball was within feet of making contact with it when suddenly…


Two words that haven't resonated across the air for over thirteen years have been shouted out once more. The source obviously came from Lucario, since he was the only Pokémon in the forest who could use both AURA SPHERE and SOLARBEAM simultaneously.

Perpendicular to Wanderer's current position, a massive beam of concentrated sunlight energy and aura power roared nearby it, obliterating the oncoming Great Ball to ash, and then over-killing that same ash to nothingness. That same attack also left a perfectly-round indentation across the forest that was in its path, for a solid quarter mile before crossing over a cliff.

Lucario, the source of the attack, was seen about fifty feet away, with his paw's inner wrists placed together, standing atop of the forest floor.

He proceeded over to where Wanderer was and said with a smirk, "Aren't you glad that you're still amongst the unbound?"

"Heavily," Wanderer said concisely, briefly placing its right paw around its chest-spike since it could've sworn that it felt its heart stop momentarily, and then continuing with more pressing matters.

"I saw with Aura Vision that you were around Sceptile's tree house…" it droned mournfully, causing Lucario to pinch the area of flesh between his eyes with regret, "…both of them are dead now, aren't they…"

"(*Sigh*)" Lucario shook his head and almost came to the point of crying hollowly once more.

Just as Wanderer was about to say something to mollify the situation, another Great Ball was on its way. However, the intended target of this Great Ball wasn't Wanderer, but the source of the powerful AURA SOLARBEAM attack, Lucario.

Wanderer noticed this Great Ball coming and many plausible options quickly came to its mind. Judging by time alone, the only option that would seem to work would be to quickly charge into the target of the Great Ball, so long as the Great Ball didn't target Wanderer itself in the process.

Wanderer suddenly charged to Lucario, with its right shoulder protruding outward. It quickly shoved Lucario aside and sent him briefly in mid-air, slightly shocked as to why Wanderer shoved him aside.

Wanderer, now in the path of the Great Ball, looked to its left side and saw it coming relentlessly. "(Better me than you, Lucario,)" It thought to itself, knowing that there was no more time possible to evade the Great Ball and was struck by it across the left side of its head. The Great Ball opened up, exposing its reflective interior, and as Wanderer was reluctantly turned into a red glowing energy, Lucario was witnessing this while landing on the dirt floor and sliding across it on his back.

"Damn it! Not you too…!" Lucario got back on his feet quickly and felt helpless in stopping what was going on in front of him, especially since he wasn't fast enough to prevent the Great Ball to fly back to its owner after Wanderer was captured by it, or lock onto it quickly enough to use PSYCHIC on it.

Things took a turn for the worst soon after. Every other Pokémon that acted as Wanderer's subordinates were captured soon after, leaving only Lucario against the remaining enemies and their Pokémon.

Lucario formed his battle stance when he noticed where all the enemies were located. "You humans have captured and killed Pokémon of this forest!" He snarled at the group of Team Rocket members, veiling his emotions of sadness and regret, replacing them with rage, "What possible gain do you all have here?"

Not one of the Grunts gave a thought as to why this dark-furred Lucario could speak. They all remained silent, and returned all of their Pokémon into their Poké Balls.

This rubbed the Aura Pokémon in a wrong way and only made him more enraged. "TELL ME!" He boomed, almost shaking the floor that everyone was standing on, and almost mouthing the words himself automatically.

"These loyal subordinates gain little for their actions," a bold voice spoke from behind the Rocket Grunts. "The Team Rocket organization benefits mostly with this capture genocide, as the Pokémon are distributed intelligently within members."

This voice caught Lucario by a bit of surprise, despite the fact that he had Aura Vision currently active and could therefore see where the voice's source was, but not for the reasons you may believe. What made Lucario's eyes widen in surprise was the fact that he remembers that very same voice from his distant weekly nightmares.

To add to Lucario's uneasiness, the source of that voice crossed over to the front of the group, exposing his identity as well; and to add to Lucario's fear, he recognized that same person completely.

That person was around 6' 6" in height, physically stalwart, with an expensive-looking orange suit with a pristine white shirt and red tie in the middle. He wore expensive, brown shoes—that didn't seem appropriate to the forest terrain—and had short hair that was combed backwards.

These were all specific attributes that Lucario remembers pristinely, ever since being exposed to this same being for 130 times in his dreams since hatching from an abandoned egg on the roots of a tree.

Lucario didn't expose the fact that he has seen this man before. He simply chose to undo his stance, but not his Aura Vision ability, so as to remain on martial standby, and listen closely to what purpose this man has to say for the malicious actions that the Grunts have been ordered to do.

"I am the Team Rocket organization's proud leader, Giovanni," he continued speaking with a sinister smirk and with his arms crossed behind his back.

"(Not as long as I have excess aura at my disposal to burn…)" Lucario thought in an irritated manner.

"Since you want an answer to what possible gain we have in being here…" Giovanni continued to smirk and mock Lucario's previous words.

Lucario growled a bit, exposing his canine-like fangs, and clenched his fist when he heard Giovanni mock his words. His Aura Vision eyes were glowing with anger.

"…I'll give you our reasons for being here, since you crave it." Giovanni uncrossed his arms, but never stopped grinning evilly.

The fact that Giovanni has been grinning for a while now made Lucario fantasize maliciously about Giovanni. "(I would love to leave a permanent frown on that face of his right now…)" Lucario thought, imagining himself personally slicing the corners of Giovanni's lips downward across his cheeks, leaving an everlasting frown in the form of a larger mouth and swollen scars.

"We are here to simply capture your kind," Giovanni explained straightforwardly. "You've seen my subordinates and their Pokémon, right?"

Reluctantly, Lucario nodded once in response to Giovanni's question.

"Each and every one of them was captured or obtained economically by us," Giovanni continued, removing his grin from his face. "Team Rocket uses them for criminal work, economic business, and eventual world domination."

"(World domination…?)" Lucario thought those two words with a surprising amount of underwhelmed care. What Lucario cared about more was what the Pokémon's function in Team Rocket was. "So to you and your organization, Pokémon are just…disposable paraphernalia?" He said with emphasis on the last word.

"Not all of them," Giovanni began to expose one important fact.

Those words made Lucario's eyes widen with shock. "What do you mean by 'Not all of them'?" He was suddenly curious to what Team Rocket's leader had just said, almost overshadowing his malice to Giovanni in the process.

"Team Rocket only uses the most stalwart Pokémon that meet and surpass our expectations in combat," Giovanni confirmed this hidden fact. "To those that can't, they're simply abandoned and forgotten—or killed, as we prefer."

A bolt of dread struck Lucario in the head when he heard the word "killed". He twitched a bit, finding their method of killing unheard of.

"I can tell by your reaction that you find all of this difficult to comprehend," Giovanni smirked once more, and then placed his hand inside the side pockets of his pants—and not for reasons concerning appearance of any sort.

"Your organization sounds obscene!" Lucario was feeling appalled as of now.

"Well, we always try our hardest," Giovanni responded simply, loving the criminal and malicious part of Team Rocket.

"(Oh my Arceus…)" Lucario suddenly became overwhelmed with nausea that he literally dropped down on both knees, put his paws on the floor, and vomit a few times. The thought of this organization and its actions overwhelmed his stomach.

The Rocket Grunts groaned in disgust when seeing Lucario heave assorted digested Berries onto the dirt floor a few times. Giovanni however, didn't show any sign of disgust. He simply chuckled to himself, finding it somewhat amusing that this Pokémon that he was witnessing first-handedly was heaving, all because of the mere mention of something commonly-practiced by his organization.

Some residue was hanging off of Lucario's lips like discarded spider webs on walls. After vomiting, he got back up on his feet and wiped off the saliva he could feel on his lips with his left arm. He also kicked some fresh dirt on top of the dirt that he threw up on, for no beneficial reason. The nauseating feeling in his gut however, it didn't disappear completely.

"Does that answer all of your questions?" Giovanni remains transparent of the repulsive actions made earlier by the Aura Pokémon.

"There's a purpose in you explaining basic details about your organization to me," Lucario said, almost gagging in the middle of those words. "I can sense the malicious aura emanating from your mind. You want to personally capture me."

Giovanni simply chuckled evilly when Lucario exposed that fact to all of the Team Rocket Grunts. "Nothing passes by those artificial gold eyes of yours. I'm more than well aware of that aura-imbued ability of yours, as well as its strengths…and weaknesses. It's only natural that you'd distrust me, someone that seems so cold-heartedly malicious," Giovanni said with absolutely no hesitation or fear.

Lucario scowled at him and set himself in a stance. This stance however, was a charging stance.

"That one attack you launched earlier to protect your friend…" Giovanni recalled, taking a guess to the relationship that Lucario has with Wanderer. "I can immediately assume that it's above and beyond the capability of any Lucario."

After saying a compliment to Lucario's power, Giovanni discreetly pulled out from his left pocket a Poké Ball of a different model, currently the size of a ping-pong ball. However, with the touch of the button on its center, the different model Poké Ball expanded with a futuristic sound and exposed its true nature between Giovanni's fingers.

What Giovanni was holding in his left hand was an Ultra Ball, a Poké Ball model easily identifiable by its shadow-colored top half, nostalgic black band and white bottom hemisphere, and the yellow "H" on the surface if seen overhead.

Giovanni locked-on to Lucario with vigilant and open eyes, never once looking away at Lucario and not once looking at the Ultra Ball that he drew from his left pocket. Knowing that Lucario could read his mind and anticipate any future mentally-planned actions, he used that to his advantage, something that few people can manage unless they practice.

"(I wonder if that Lucario will prefer to be captured with this Ultra Ball…)" He thought while raising the Ultra Ball out into the open.

Lucario, like a sensitive TV antenna attuned to brainwaves, detected those thoughts with his Aura Vision ability and suddenly charged towards Giovanni in hate, with his aura-imbued golden eyes leaving streaks of light in his wake, crossing both arms in the shape of an "X". The paw-spikes suddenly began to emanate green light and quickly, he uncrossed those two arms in a swift motion, causing the glowing green paw-spikes to lash out in the form of glowing green scimitar-shaped LEAF BLADEs. The tips of those recent LEAF BLADEs dug long and thin furrows into the soil as Lucario continued to charge with air-slicing speeds.

"Let's see you think about my capture without your head on your shoulders!" He roared.

The Rocket Grunts began to cringe from intimidation alone, however Giovanni showed no signs of trepidation in any manner. All of the Grunts stepped back, but Giovanni didn't budge an inch at all. What he simply did was casually toss the Ultra Ball to Lucario, putting little effort in his throw.

Lucario immediately saw this Ultra Ball homing in onto him and quickly chose to bury the LEAF BLADEs more into the soil and plant his padded feet onto the earth as well, not wanting to risk capture. Once he had retarded in terms of speed, he formed a defensive battle stance, with LEAF BLADEs adequately placed for immediate use. He believed—from Giovanni's thoughts—that the Ultra Ball incoming towards him was intended for capture, and he was prepared to slice it into multiple unrecognizable pieces once it was within range.

"(…Idiot…)" Giovanni smirked, knowing that Lucario had stepped onto his Ursaring trap.

The Ultra Ball, that Giovanni threw, was never truly meant to capture Lucario. In Giovanni's perspective and thoughts, it was meant to surprise Lucario, and strike him down when he was made vulnerable by Giovanni's feign.

When Lucario sensed the word "Idiot" emanate from Giovanni's thoughts, he instinctively knew that something was wrong. That came to be a reality when the Ultra Ball, which he believed would capture him, opened up and released a large red collection of energy that quickly materialized into a muscular humanoid Pokémon that's easily identifiable by its four individual arms—the Superpower Pokémon Machamp.

The Ultra Ball returned to Giovanni's hand, but the energy of it being thrown continued on in the Pokémon that the Ultra Ball released. That Fighting-Type Pokémon used that energy and charged towards the cringed Lucario with the intent of snapping Lucario in half with its grotesque physique and brute force.

"Machamp…!" Giovanni shouted to his Pokémon. "…Remove Lucario's resistance with MACH PUNCH!"

Lucario comprehended those words quicker than Machamp and brought up both LEAF BLADEs in front of his face and chest, choosing to defend against the attack, since MACH PUNCH is a lightning-fast attack and incredibly difficult to evade, as well as one of his type attribute weaknesses.

He currently had a foul countenance, since he knew that Giovanni had literally used Lucario mind-reading abilities to his advantage. "(*Sigh*) Arceus-dammit…" Lucario sighed after falling victim for such a bluff.

Machamp, still charging, heard Giovanni's commands and utilized the mentioned attack by launching a lightning-fast punch from one of its two left arms. This punch struck only air since Lucario was still farther off, and that was one of the two uses of MACH PUNCH.

MACH PUNCH's first point was that it could be used to deliver dozens of quick jabs onto the opponent or victim in seconds, or it could be used for long range, albeit with less quantity and somewhat weaker power. When used for long range, the attack strikes air and that very same air is rocketed towards the target.

The MACH PUNCH attack from Machamp launched a concentrated gale that rushed over to Lucario, the target. When it hit Lucario, its power was more to handle than he thought. He felt as if the entire front side of his body had been hit by a falling tree. His body went limp, much to his astonishment, and he was hardly able to keep his LEAF BLADEs on standby, let alone stand upright or keep his head up.

The energy from MACH PUNCH didn't stop there when it struck him. The attack kept going and, to the Grunt's surprise, left a perfect scar on a tree behind Lucario that was shaped like him. The scar was so immaculate that Lucario could fit into it if given the opportunity.

"(*Cough*)" The attack was so powerful that it partially bruised his body, his sudden cough coming from the air escaping from his lungs.

"Now, subsequent yourself with FOCUS PUNCH!"

Machamp heard Giovanni's orders and, still running towards Lucario, charged up both of its right fists with white energy. The attack it was using, FOCUS PUNCH, requires a short amount of time in which the user must focus itself to deliver the most powerful of Fighting-Type attacks. If struck by the opponent before fully concentrated however, the user's focus is broken and the attack is stopped until the next time that it's used.

Since Lucario was surprisingly stunned by MACH PUNCH, he couldn't counterattack at the hostile Machamp. But that doesn't mean that he can't defend.

Lucario, as a last-resort method, used a powerful defensive technique known as IRON DEFENSE. His entire body, fur included, suddenly and briefly glimmered in brilliant metallic silver and reflected light just as equally. Since he was a Steel-Type Pokémon—as well as a Fighting-Type Pokémon—he already has significant natural metallic properties in his body, and IRON DEFENSE enhances those natural metallic properties of his. Lucario knew that he was going to be in a world of hurt, which is why he used IRON DEFENSE, so that he wouldn't be knocked out cold and made an easy target for capture.

Machamp had easily caught up to Lucario and didn't slow down or hesitate when Lucario had already utilized IRON DEFENSE. As expected, Lucario got hit by FOCUS PUNCH dead center at his stomach. For a brief moment, his feet didn't budge an inch when FOCUS PUNCH made contact, but his body—especially his spine—vertically curled around one of Machamp's fists.

Lucario's countenance clearly showed signs of physical damage, but he knew that if he didn't use IRON DEFENSE, he could've had his spine snapped in half. Instead, he only sustained a sore back, and a brutal stomachache.

"(*Cough*)" Lucario coughed up blood this time, and struck Machamp near the eyes with it. "Is that all (*cough*) that you've got?" Lucario was taunting Machamp for some logical reason, since he suffered tolerable amounts of damage that he could easily overcome due to both his Steel-Type's incredible defenses and his Fighting-Type's exceptional stamina and physical power.

He also still had LEAF BLADE and Aura Vision active, a sign that Machamp wasn't hitting stalwartly enough.

Machamp slightly responded to Lucario's taunt and gave Lucario a serious facial expression with its thick lips, and then it used its second fist to send Lucario flying backwards. As if comically, Lucario had not only collided with the tree that Machamp's MACH PUNCH had left a Lucario-shaped scar on, but he had actually placed himself perfectly within the scar on the tree.

"Oh big surprise…" Lucario continued to taunt Machamp's power, as if deliberately getting it angry so it could lose its serenity. "You used your second right fist in tandem, along with a second subsequent FOCUS PUNCH."

Lucario, feigning no signs of physical fatigue or damage, placed both forepaws on the tree and hoisted himself out of the tree with little energy. He stepped forward slowly, concealing soreness and pain from Machamp's attacks with remarkable skill.

"I didn't even know that a Machamp was capable of such…complicated actions." He continued insulting Giovanni's Machamp, knocking off the individual splinters that had hung onto his backside's fur simultaneously. "What do you plan to do next? Do you plan on planning your next choices of attacks, you retarded hulk of uncontrollable brute force?"

Giovanni, for the first time since placing himself into this forest, was actually expressing a serious countenance that had an upside-down grin on it. It was as if he was foretelling that Machamp was succumbing to Lucario's taunts and going to pay severely for any future reckless actions.

Machamp retracted its right fist and cracked all of its knuckles quickly after hearing those powerful words, not liking being called a "Retarded hulk of uncontrollable brute force" by a Pokémon whom survived its physical onslaught. With rage, it ignited all four fists with FOCUS PUNCH's white energy and charged once more, battle crying in the process.

To relieve the sore feeling of slamming into a tree, he cracked his neck bones by rolling his head to the left and right, and he rolled his black fur-padded shoulders a few times to crack the lower area of his neck simultaneously. To finish, he cracked his knuckles, releasing small bursts of aura from each individual knuckle.

All of this was done casually, as if he didn't care anymore if Machamp was a threat or not.

"You're incapable of anything but imbecilic and predictable physical power," he said with a haughty, sinister leer when done cracking his sore bones.

Just as Machamp was about to strike with a quadruple FOCUS PUNCH attack, Lucario quickly extended his left paw out, as if he was going to fire an AURA SPHERE at it, and had his paw's palm focused on the incoming bulldozer of a Fighting-Type Pokémon.

In an instant, he had his entire paw emanate his natural translucent blue aura and without explanation, that same aura of his enveloped the charging Machamp itself. Lucario's aura quickly made Machamp stop in its tracks, to its surprise, when it was only seconds away from fragmenting Lucario's skull with its subsequent punches.

Machamp had become prisoner to Lucario's PSYCHIC attack.

"With brute force and little intelligence to support your potential…" Lucario said before twitching his paw's digits.

All of a sudden, Machamp's grotesque hands, which were still utilizing FOCUS PUNCH, suddenly bent inward and the Superpower Pokémon began to brutally strike itself. To everyone within the area, which includes Lucario and the Team Rocket Grunts, they were visualizing a Machamp crush itself with its own force and with the most powerful known Fighting-Type attack as well.

To the Grunts, this was apprehensively disturbing and nauseating. To Lucario, this was part of his battle strategy. And to Giovanni, this was a form of Machamp's punishment that he imagined committing to it due to disobeying orders.

That Machamp had not only, against its will, pummeled its internal organs to a bruised pulp, but it had also shattered its ribs as if they were glass windows on a house's walls. The surface of its fists formed bruises due to heavy physical use, and those very same bruises literally ruptured and coated all that they punched with blood. Machamp was no longer in control of itself.

"…You're nothing more than a stalwart contrivance that I'm free to abuse for my benefit."

Now Lucario telekinetically-forced Machamp to pummel its own pre-grotesque face, and just like its chest, its face quickly became as broken and gag worthy to look at. Within a few seconds, Machamp had immediately passed out, but not from the mere exhaustion of its face being punched into an unrecognizable form. It's unconscious because its skull had cracked inward. The evidence was obvious when a large mark of implosion across the forehead, right between the lumps, was visible.

Be that as it may, it was still alive, but only just.

"(You're better off with Arceus above us than here where you're misused by humanity,)" Lucario thought honestly, as he made the Superpower Pokémon stop attacking itself, causing it to go limp and have both its head and four arms dangle under gravity's control. "(Knocking you unconscious will free you from further pain,)" he continued to ponder about Machamp as if talking to it.

Lucario saw Machamp's perpendicular appearance to the earth, paying more attention to its injuries and shed blood. On the outside, he was keeping a stalwart personality with powerful words and countenance. Albeit on the inside, he was feeling compassion and pity for it. He felt the need to liberate Machamp from Team Rocket, for its own good.

"(And now to quickly liberate you…and then punish the source of this malice…)" Lucario angled his paws so that his LEAF BLADEs pointed forward, one above the other, pointed directly at Machamp's heart and trachea.

Under the influence of PSYCHIC, Machamp immediately darted over to Lucario. To the surprise of the Grunts, Machamp was immediately halted in its tracks once it made contact with both of Lucario's LEAF BLADEs. Without problem, both LEAF BLADEs pierced Machamp across the two targeted areas: the heart and trachea. Lucario didn't even budge an inch backwards when Machamp was pierced in two different areas simultaneously.

All of the Grunts cringed in disgust over the gruesome event that occurred to Giovanni's Machamp. Giovanni, however, still expressed a fowl countenance. He knew that, even though Machamp loathed him—as does many Pokémon that reluctantly serve Team Rocket—, it was still a juggernaut of a Pokémon that had shown its potential over and over again before his eyes.

But once that was set aside of his mind, he knew that he could simply obtain a fresh new one quickly, since he saw Pokémon as being disposable tools that could be obtained easily via crime and the black market that Team Rocket supported and thrived on.

Lucario de-activated his LEAF BLADEs and Machamp, being supported only by the scimitar-shaped blade's existence, fell to the floor and onto its back. It was, not surprisingly, bleeding excessively, due to the massive puncture wounds through its trachea and sternum, as well as the wounds inflicted onto it internally.

Lucario, still seeing the surroundings around him, looked down at the deceased Superpower Pokémon and noticed its aura had dissipated into the air. "(May Arceus have pity on your soul…)" He thought, not showing any type of facial expression that exposes sadness or guilt for his actions. He was only scowling due to Giovanni's cruel disposition, which led him to free this Pokémon from further torment.

When Lucario looked back at Giovanni with his ominous scowl, it disappeared when he had just barely managed to see Giovanni's next action. Giovanni dropped Machamp's Ultra Ball, and then with rage, smashed it with those posh shoes of his.

"(You're about as disposable as this shattered Ultra Ball under my feet!)" Giovanni thought in rage and with gritted teeth.

Giovanni's subordinates looked at his action, but their mouths remained quiescent and closed. They knew that if they did do so due to a misplaced sense of discipline, the consequences can border between the realm of having one of his Pokémon unleash hell upon them or immediate expulsion from Team Rocket.

Lucario raised a nonexistent eyebrow at Giovanni's action, and then he tilted his head to his right and scratched the left side of his neck with his left paw, slightly exposing his sharp, canine-like teeth. "I can tell that you're easily able to replace that Machamp that I had pierced to death due to what you were merely pondering over," Lucario stopped his current action after saying what he had said. He had purposely excluded the action that Giovanni had committed on Machamp's Ultra Ball, finding it rather odd in his point of view.

Giovanni made a few quick breaths through his nose, adding extra force to exhaling through them. He did this to regain some of his lost composure before replacing his attention to what matters: Lucario.

Before speaking to the Aura Pokémon in front of him, he noticed that a strand of his well-groomed brown hair had moved out of place and he quickly moved it back to where it belongs, with a quick upward sweep of his hand over his forehead. "You should count yourself invaluable when I capture you and assimilate your vast feral power as my own." Giovanni said seriously and with an ill-omened tone of voice.

"(How corny…)" Lucario resisted the urge to laugh when Giovanni threatened him. "If you ever succeed in capturing me…" Lucario mentioned that possibility to Giovanni, not denying the likelihood of his capture. He knew that there was the possibility that he would be captured and become martially-abused by Giovanni and his goals, and he was willing to prevent that with whatever physical and mental power he could muster. "So why don't you just release another one of your brainwashed subordinates and I'll liberate it in front of you and your posse's eyes."

All of the Team Rocket Grunts "oohed" after hearing Lucario's words. They sided with Lucario for only that brief moment before remembering whose side they were truly on. Fortunately for them, Giovanni had his eyes on the prize, the dark-furred Aura Pokémon, which possesses unknown battle potential.

Completely ignoring the Rocket Grunts, he had tucked his right arm into the left inner pocket of his orange suit for only a brief moment, never looking away from Lucario at all before extracting another ping-pong-sized Poké Ball from there with a grip so stalwart that veins began to protrude from his right hand.

It was still safe to assume—for both Lucario and the Rocket Grunts—that Giovanni was pissed off. The specific model of the Poké Ball that Giovanni had drawn out could only be noticed when he pressed the button in the center of it to enlarge it to normal size.

Once Giovanni's forceful grip had wrapped itself more naturally to the Poké Ball, the model was more noticeable. It was a Heavy Ball, easily identifiable by its gray top half, nostalgic black band across the center and white underbelly, and the pattern of blue "bubbles" on the gray top half.

"You won't find this Pokémon as easy to liberate as that Machamp!" Giovanni spoke forcefully before casting out the Pokémon in the Heavy Ball. However, he didn't throw the Heavy Ball towards Lucario. Instead, he literally planted it onto the soil below his feet, close to where he shattered Machamp's Ultra Ball, burying it wrist-deep and somehow releasing the Pokémon within it into the soil. When he lifted the Heavy Ball, which was shockingly pristine and free of dirt, a deep hole was seen below, along with a loud and ominous rumble below the dirt.

"(What the hell?)" Lucario was left somewhat dumbfounded when he noticed Giovanni didn't throw the Heavy Ball. He was not used to searching for hostile targets underground, and he knew that it was underground due to his sensitive ears picking up sounds from below the earth.

Still using Aura Vision, he looked down and scanned the soil below him, only to find one massive problem with his Aura Vision. Since even soil itself emanates aura, faint amounts of it albeit, there's such a surplus of dirt layers between the hostile target and Lucario that the hostile target was temporarily veiled in an aura bulwark.

"(…So this is what Giovanni meant…)" he recalled what Giovanni said earlier while searching below for even a fragment of the target Pokémon aura.

(Lucario's Flashback)

Giovanni simply chuckled evilly when Lucario exposed that fact to all of the Team Rocket Grunts. "Nothing passes by those artificial gold eyes of yours. I'm more than well aware of that aura-imbued ability of yours, as well as its strengths…and weaknesses. It's only natural that you'd distrust me, someone that seems so cold-heartedly malicious," Giovanni said with absolutely no hesitation or fear.

(End of Lucario's Flashback)

"(…by the aura's strengths…and weaknesses…)" he continued to ponder as his aura-enhanced eyes darted across the dirt, seeing only dense aura and not even a mere flash of the target Pokémon's unique aura, with small beads of stress-induced sweat forming to the side of his eyes caused from a lack of necessary awareness.

It was then that Lucario realized that his sense of hearing was more of an asset here than his Aura Vision ability. For the first time, as far back as Lucario can remember in his life, his Aura Vision was outmatched by his proficient sense of hearing, which wasn't failing him at the current moment, and he had to shift tactics and rely on that to locate the hostile target that Giovanni summoned.

"(I can't believe that a human being would be so knowledgeable over aura, a topic that my species is proficient in,)" Lucario came close to becoming stunned by that realization.

As a change of tactics, Lucario actually chose to turn off the Aura Vision, allowing the veins to the sides of his eyes and inside his eyes to relax and shrink—a bit of relief for his depressurized head—as well as his dreadlock-like appendages to become gravity's toys once more. He now had his feet firmly placed onto the soil, closed his eyes, and listened for the location of the target Pokémon, as if his ears were the radar of a submarine. This was the only action that he was doing, which meant that his full attention was set on merely pinpointing the target's location and depth, and not reading minds at the moment.

Giovanni wasn't worried at all. With a smug grin on his face, he thought "(Idiot... You can't adapt to save your life.)"

The immediate instant that Giovanni stopped thinking about Lucario's apparent lack of adaptability, a massive silver metallic tail suddenly shot out of the earth behind Lucario.

Much to Lucario's surprise—which was evident by the fact that his eyes suddenly opened up wide with shock—he didn't budge an inch, and his heart sank to as low as his feet.

Before Lucario could react—or at least perform an about face to see what specific Pokémon was behind him—that same silver tail quickly wrapped around Lucario twice, preventing him from wriggling himself free, since his arms were pinned to his body.

The fact that his protruding chest-spike and two paw-spikes not causing damage to the hostile target Pokémon immediately gave him all the information needed to confirm its identity. The Pokémon that used its metallic tail to bind his body was a Steel-Type, since it was both silver and as hard as steel.

Only one Pokémon has that exotic tail and a long physique to match it, and he knew that it belonged to a Steelix.

With only his entire head, feet—below the ankles—, and tail tip—with the rest of his tail forcefully bent down—exposed from Steelix's massive tail, Lucario found it near impossible to escape, since he currently had no free movement of his body whatsoever.

He couldn't conjure an AURA SPHERE because it requires the use of his hands, and any oral-based attacks—such as HYPER BEAM, which he didn't know currently—, would be easily prevented and/or avoided by simply being tilted out of the way. He also had little experience with Fire-Type attacks, since he only knew EMBER. To top it off, he found it consecutively difficult to both breathe and remain conscious due to a lack of necessary oxygen and stifled blood flow that Steelix's tail was cutting off from him—a fatal hindrance to any Psychic-Type techniques.

"(How…did…I…surrender myself…into…Giovanni's Pokémon…trap…?)" Lucario thought with a tone that wasn't a question. "(I…heard…something else…in…front…of me… I…know it…!)" His thoughts, as well as his brain, were succumbing to oxygenic starvation, so he knew that he had little time left until he was reluctantly at Giovanni's mercy.

He didn't like the fact that he was slowly being enervated to unconsciousness at all, and he didn't like how it felt as equally. He could slowly feel his heartbeat increase in strength, not from excessive work, but because he was being encompassed tightly enough to have his chest-spike press onto his sternum. His head felt as if it was only half-full of his own blood, and his eyes were bulging somewhat out of proportion from Steelix's grip.

The hostile Pokémon decided to expose itself and, as if it were a reanimated corpse buried into the dirt, rose with a wide arc and a low-pitched, earth-rumbling roar—a metaphor for its secondary Ground-Type attribute. It moved its head closer to the helpless Aura Pokémon, eyeing it with a horrible look on its face. It breathed on him with an atrocious scent in its breath, not that Lucario was able to smell it currently due to gradual suffocation, and an intimidating growl that would make a human easily empty the contents of their bowels.

Lucario equally eyed it—and hated this Pokémon because it had abated him to nothing—but lacked the power currently to even form a hateful countenance. He knew the instant that he would fall unconscious, he would immediately be in possession by Giovanni, and would wake up soon after, working disrespectfully for him.

"D…d…d…d…da…" Lucario could barely speak even with telepathy, since he was so starved of oxygen that he would blackout at any moment now.

Giovanni grinned maliciously, eyeing the suppressed Aura Pokémon with a sense of eagerness. He was already beginning to visualize in his dark mind what he could accomplish with him in his organization's possession.

And they all have one thing in common: inevitable global domination.

Lucario averted his eyes from the facially-monstrous Steelix and stared on at Giovanni for as long as his remaining moments of consciousness allowed him to. His lungs were shrinking in terms of use, and his heart was weakening.

"(Damn you, Giovanni! Damn you, Steelix!)" Was just one of the two thoughts that he desperately wanted to muster the strength to think. The second of the two thoughts was "(Who was burrowing underground in front of me?)"

"D…d…" The assorted colors currently observable by his failing eyes were grudgingly blending together to form black only, just like the aftermath of defeating Absol over thirteen years ago.

"(You belong to me now, Aura Pokémon…)" Giovanni thought sinisterly and with a grin to match his tone of thoughts.

Lucario finally lost the ability to stay alert and conscious. His eyes simply closed, without his neck going limp since Steelix's coils were too secure and too tight. He stopped breathing, and his heart was hardly beating once every other second, the only thing keeping him alive. His weight also increased by 2000%—a defensive mechanism of the Steel-Type Pokémon—which didn't seem to add any effort to the Steelix that was currently wrapping it.

Steelix, sensing that its victim had fallen unconscious, opened wide its massive jaws, exposing a fleshy interior in the process. It raised its tail, without moving Lucario in any different direction or angle, and lowered its head simultaneously to begin to devour Lucario.

Giovanni however, didn't want that to happen, since he recognized Lucario's potential. He didn't want Lucario to naturally become food and have this chance disappear before his eyes.

And so, with great haste, Giovanni raised Steelix's Heavy Ball and aimed its center point towards its large and rugged head. Automatically, the Heavy Ball fired a red laser that made contact with Steelix's head, and harmlessly converted its respective Pokémon into absolute red energy, before assimilating it into the Heavy Ball through that same center point. The Heavy Ball had to open up though, because the Pokémon that it is returning is massive, and therefore had more energy to assimilate.

Lucario, being in mid-air and having nothing to support him, fell to the earth with a fairly loud thud. However, he didn't fall face-flat onto the dirt below. Strangely, he fell to the dirt, and remained in a position that's the equivalent of someone sitting on the floor by sitting on their legs. Stranger still, he didn't fall over afterwards. He simply had his head tilted down, as if he was staring at the dirt, but with closed eyes.

Giovanni stared at the Heavy Ball that contained Steelix and felt a moderate amount of disappointment for it. "(You're still too feral for designated objective use,)" Giovanni thought to himself, looking away at the Heavy Ball. He pressed the button on its center to shrink it to pocket-size and then placed it away in the same left inner jacket pocket.

From his right inner jacket pocket, he pulled out yet another different model of a Poké Ball. This one in particular was custom made by Team Rocket, and intended to have a higher catch rate than any other Poké Ball commercially available to the public—except the Master Ball, which catches Pokémon without fail.

To the Team Rocket organization, it was simply referred to as "Team Rocket's Poké Ball", as possessive—and unimaginative—as it sounds. It is identifiable by its black top half, red bottom half, white centerline, and big red "R" above the white button on the center. It is a Poké Ball that only higher-ranking members of Team Rocket may possess.

Not choosing to waste any time, since Lucario could still wake up at any moment, Giovanni quickly pressed the center button of "Team Rocket's Poké Ball" and then threw it with skills emulated from professional baseball pitchers—once again, without the gestures.

The "Team Rocket's Poké Ball" rocketed out of his hand, spun itself into a red and black blur across its side axis, and then struck Lucario on his right temple with such force to the head that it did two things to him: it drew blood from the right side of his head, and it actually toppled him over to his left side, causing the earth to rumble mildly.

"Team Rocket's Poké Ball" hung in mid-air long enough for it to open and the Pokémon it struck quickly transformed into pure red energy before becoming assimilated into it. Still defying the laws of gravity, "Team Rocket's Poké Ball" closed and then flew back towards Giovanni's right hand.

From there, it began to rattle from side to side, with tapping sounds echoing from the inside, and the center button flashing red every second.

Giovanni ogled "Team Rocket's Poké Ball" (as well as all of the Rocket Grunts), with a sense of confidence. He truly believed that Lucario had been subdued enough to not resist capture. Seconds went by, and all throughout that time, Giovanni never stopped grinning or had second thoughts that contradicted his goals.

Against Lucario's wishes, "Team Rocket's Poké Ball" stopped rattling and flashing red altogether, having the center button's red flashing light fade to nothing and a futuristic electronic sealing sound rung briefly in the air.

"(You're all mine now)," Giovanni thought, feeling rather content with himself. The Rocket Grunts breathed sighs of relief. Giovanni pressed the center button of "Team Rocket's Poké Ball", shrinking it to ping-pong ball size and placed it away in his right inner jacket pocket.

With this mission of the forest complete, Giovanni proceeded to his respective helicopter, with the Grunts following close by.

They all entered their respective helicopters. The engines began to start as soon as everyone was inside them. After a few seconds, all four helicopters began to hover above the floor, leaving circular indentations across the dirt below and blowing much of the dirt into the air. After a few more seconds, the helicopters have already escalated higher than any tree in the current area. Within one minute since the helicopters were on standby, they were beginning to return to HQ, along with Wanderer and Lucario inside their respective Poké Balls.

The group of four helicopters had passed by the area where the conflagration occurred. Every single person noticed, from within the hovering metal vessels, the mercilessly-slaughtered and mutilated corpses of both the second group of sixteen Team Rocket Grunts and their Fire-Type Pokémon, as well as the burning remains of the fallen four helicopters as well, and they questioned what could've possibly done this malicious action.

They didn't seem too concerned of the burned down tree—that was once Sceptile's tree house—, or the mid-sized crater—where Sceptile and Tiny were last seen before detonation—left in the center of it.

"Giovanni, sir…" One concerned Grunt, sharing the same helicopter with Giovanni, spoke to him with a low, slow, and concerned tone. "What do you think could've caused that to them all?"

Giovanni continued to look out of a nearby window, with dropped eyebrows and a ponderous countenance. A short amount of time went by until a concise phrase came out of Giovanni's mouth: "I have no idea."

He had absolutely no clue as to what could've done such a gruesome endeavor. He wasn't even aware that the answer to the Grunt's question was currently residing within "Team Rocket's Poké Ball" that is, as of now, within Giovanni's right inner jacket pocket.

All four helicopters hovered away from the disturbing sight and flew away from the forest altogether within minutes, intending to reach their HQ within a few hours. There was no longer a chance of stopping them, especially when the four helicopters were optically impossible to see from the farthest edges of the forest.

As for the odd event involving Lucario trying to locate the enemy Steelix from below the earth, only to end up tuned in to the wrong target… The second target that Lucario identified against his intentions could be heard burrowing under the earth where Lucario was captured.

If Lucario were still around that area, still listening satisfactorily for Steelix's location, he would notice the sounds of the burrowing drawing closer to the surface. Within seconds, he would notice the source of that burrowing. He would notice a green forearm, topped with two short clawed fingers and a short clawed thumb. That same forearm would have two long leaf-like blades on the side of the arm that doesn't have a thumb on it. It would all be marred with serious burns and moderate lacerations.

All of this would seem somewhat nostalgic to him, especially if that forearm was unmarred.

"Everyone dies. Everyone leaves. What matters is the things you build together before they go. What matters is the part of them that continues in you when they're gone." —Orson Scott Card (195) ("Children of the Mind")

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