Transformative Work

FANDOM: Pokémon

Team Plasma

Copyright © 2023 Melissa Irene Burrowes

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the Author.

This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations depicted in this story are fictitious.



Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55

Chapter 1 - Harmonia

In this world lived creatures known as Pokémon, and although no one knew, or would know, exactly how many different species of Pokémon existed, they were as varied in appearance, powers, and habitat as the assortment of berries and flowers one could find along the forested, interconnecting routes. These routes were scenic footpaths that any traveler could follow, meandering until the next town or city; to the aspiring trainer of Pokémon, they were also good hunting territory to catch the animals, and had been preserved by regional government for that purpose.

Humans and Pokémon lived happily together, complementing each other as partners in play, work, and sport.

It was the last that was perhaps most notable: Pokémon battling. Pokémon by instinct, were combative animals and those in the wild were observed to regularly compare strength and stamina in battles. It had hence become popular, since ancient times, for humans to test their own Pokémon against another's. They directed their Pokémon's attacks and the animals - which could easily understand human speech, although Pokémon speech was indecipherable to mankind - were unquestioningly obedient to their masters. They would unleash mysterious powers, everything from merely tackling or biting their opponents to fearsome energy rays. Science had classified each Pokémon by elemental type, such as water, fire, or grass, as their attack powers and weaknesses tended to have some correlation to their wild habitat.

These battles were at their heart friendly competitions, never to be prolonged to the extent of severe injury; it had developed as a way for humans and Pokémon to deepen their bonds and learn more about each other. The practice had been standardized with rules and overseen by the Pokémon League, a regional organization headed by four trainers who were considered the most skilled of that area - the Elite Four - and a Champion.

People of all ages competed to see who was deemed the best, travelling to cities around the region and battling officials known as gym leaders. Badges were awarded to the winners of these battling contests and the Pokémon owners collected them proudly. The holder of eight such badges earned the right to challenge the Pokémon League; if successful in defeating the Elite Four, he or she could claim the coveted title of Champion.

War was a distant nightmare here, found alone in history books and gone from living memory, and the people of this planet had seemingly attained the unachievable goal of other societies: that of world peace through a governmental system of interregional council, uniting regions across the planet like autonomous provinces, with freedom and human rights not only surviving but miraculously thriving.

Among these territories was the Unova region, a land celebrated for its unity among a variety of peoples. Yet ideal society cannot stand on the truth of injustice, nor the emptiness of broken dreams; and it was a lost dream that sparked ambition and bitterness in one man, even to rend asunder that land's unity, for it is one of the universe's greatest paradoxes that love can oftentimes be precursor to war.

His name was Ghetsis Harmonia.

The music from the piano drifted through the parlor, enveloping the whole house in a sense of peace. It was a song without lyrics, a romantic tune that perhaps could have a tinge of sadness to it; music that had come to mean much, and soon would mean too much.

As Ghetsis Harmonia played the final notes of the tune, he heard his wife Felicity's voice and glanced over. Her blue eyes were shining.

"Ghetsis. I remember how we danced to that melody on our wedding day," she said.

"The anniversary is coming up," replied Ghetsis.

It was the end of the Autumn season, and the trees outside were already shedding their colorful foliage for the coming cold. They lived along forested route 13, not far from Undella Town; Undella itself was located in a valley, beneath a dormant volcano called Reversal Mountain, and was a resort town for the wealthy in summertime. The tourists had all left by this time of year, leaving the annual residents who were mostly people who had lived there for generations and knew each other quite well.

Ghetsis in particular was a wealthy businessman liked by the townsfolk because of his generous nature, always willing to help those in need. But his true happiness had been in the past year, when he had married Felicity.

Theirs was a love story that transcended years. They had known each other since they were children and had been inseparable playmates, now having realized the deepest wish of their lives, marriage. She had long, wavy blonde hair complementing soft features, yet Ghetsis thought she had the most beautiful mild blue eyes.

Felicity walked over to a table with Pansy blossoms piled on it and began to neatly arrange a bouquet of the flowers into a vase. She glanced at a bassinet that was nearby where their infant son was playing with a rattle. A son had been born to them three months ago, whom they called Nathaniel.

Ghetsis smiled at her. "I see, my love, that the garden produced your favorite flowers."

"Yes! Isn't it wonderful!" she exclaimed, "These must be the last of this year since I heard the temperature is supposed to fall tonight."

Ghetsis walked over to her and put his arms around her. He had green hair, at a length that fell below the shoulders, and the fading sunlight that shone in from outside revealed a reddish shade in his violet eyes to turn them magenta.

"Would you play your harp this evening...for me, my dear? I truly enjoy it."

"Of course, my darling," she replied.

Her pet fox, Zoroark, entered the room and went to her side. Felicity had the female fox Pokémon since it was a young Zorua and in the due course of time, it evolved into its present form. Felicity petted it on the head and gave it a hug.

"Pokémon are our partners," she said, adding, "Humans and Pokémon, together, take each other to greater heights. We are like family."

The fox Pokémon gave a cheerful bark.

This was a sentiment Felicity often expressed, with gentle idealism that Ghetsis admired but never understood, like the delicate petals of the garden's beloved Pansy flowers imbued as much with grace as they were with benevolence. Ghetsis sat at an armchair that was near a fireplace, close to a large harp with a wooden stool that had been polished to a bright shine. It was here that Felicity took her seat and began to play.

Soon the parlor room was filled with a beautiful tune that spread throughout the home, while the fox Zoroark lay beside the baby and kept guard.

Afterwards, the couple sat together side by side on a large sofa that was near a big window overlooking a meadow that was on the outskirts of the forest. They talked for a long time about their wishes and made hopeful plans for the future, and about their son, Nathaniel.

Despite having bank accounts worth billions and owning many properties across the Unova region, Ghetsis and his family lived modestly. Their home on route 13 was rather isolated from any neighbors' residences; it was a one-story house, with large rooms throughout. There was no fence, and the field surrounding the house easily merged with the nearby woodland, so it was common to awaken in the morning with the soft singing of wild bird Pokémon from the trees.

At some point, Felicity said, "It's getting late. I had better put the baby to bed." She kissed her husband and took the infant in her arms and walked out of the room. Ghetsis picked up a newspaper and began to read.

Soon, nighttime arrived and the temperature dipped. Ghetsis closed a window and turned to his wife Felicity, who had just walked into the room. "It might snow tonight. How is Nathaniel?"

"Finally, asleep," Felicity said. "Come, take a look."

He put his arm around her shoulders and they walked to the child's bedroom, and in a cradle, they saw the baby sleeping peacefully.

Felicity looked from the infant to his father and commented, "He looks like you."

"He's got your eyes," Ghetsis replied.

Felicity felt something soft around her ankles and looking down saw her pet fox hugging her. It yapped.

"Do you want to go out, Zoroark?" she asked the fox.

They all walked to the front door and as soon as they opened it, the fox sprinted out into the foliage surrounding the house.

"I wonder if she should stay in the house instead of her den..." wondered Felicity aloud, "she led me to it the other day and showed me an egg she laid. She seems happy staying over there with it, though I told her she was welcome to come stay in the house."

Ghetsis smiled and hugged her. "You care for that Pokémon as if it were your second child," he remarked. "In fact, you rarely even call it into its Poké Ball."

"Well yes, I suppose so," she answered, "but she and I have known each other since she was a new hatchling and we are quite bonded."

As she spoke, she pensively retrieved the small spherical capsule from her housecoat, tapping the button on it so that it opened into a larger size. Poké Balls were essentially pet carriers, made of tree nuts called apricorns and outfitted with special technology that could latch onto a specific Pokémon's genetic code and temporarily miniaturize them for easy transport.

"I know if I ever needed help, she would do what she could to help me," Felicity added, closing the Poké Ball and putting it away.

Suddenly, they heard noises coming from the road nearby, and noticed a couple intensely involved in a Pokémon battle.

"Oh no," said Ghetsis, "Look who it is... that couple who are always creating trouble in town."

"They're known as Dartham and Imelda, aren't they?" asked his wife.

"That's right... brother-and-sister hoodlums. Most people say that they are always either arguing or battling in places that are most inconvenient for everyone. They need to go to a gym to battle, but they won't listen to reason."

"I fear that one day the consequences of their actions will be farther reaching than even they realize," added Felicity, "and innocent people might be hurt."

They closed the door and meanwhile outside, the boisterous duo of siblings went on with their argument.

"You rarely beat me!" yelled Imelda, "You don't have a Pokémon strong enough for it," she added with a smirk.

"Oh yeah? Just wait till you see what I've been training in the cave near Reversal Mountain," snapped Dartham, and threw a Poké Ball into the air. "Hydreigon!"

The Pokémon that emerged was a three-headed dragon type, with frayed wings and ragged feathers. It hissed sinisterly.

"You idiot, that thing looks as dim-witted as a Slowpoke," Imelda scoffed. "Bubblebeam, Frillish!"

The octopus-like Pokémon released a powerful stream of bubbles, and the opposing Pokémon was thrown against the wall of the Harmonias' residence with a thud.

Dartham wasted no time and gave no consideration to the surroundings. "Hydreigon...use Earthquake!"

The tremor sent a shockwave out from the Pokémon, so strong that not only did it send rocks upward from the ground crashing into Frillish, but even Imelda let out a gasp as she lost her footing.

The attack was let loose so close to the building, it shook it mercilessly from its base.

Inside, Ghetsis and Felicity had gone to bed and had fallen asleep in each other's arms. They were jolted awake.

"What's happening?" she asked.

"It must be an earthquake," answered Ghetsis, getting up and racing to the window. He looked outside and saw Dartham and Imelda laughing.

"It's those two hoodlums. They unleashed one of their Pokémon... Felicity, we must get out of the house before it collapses," he said earnestly.

"My baby!" she shouted, leaping out of the bed and running towards the infant's bedroom; with Ghetsis following close behind.

Felicity arrived at Nathaniel's bedroom first and scooped the crying infant up from his cradle. She was trying to think fast, while everything was falling around them, when she heard Zoroark barking outside. She opened the window and found the fox Pokémon on all fours, braced against the earthquake.


She handed the infant to Zoroark which, sensing her thoughts, took the bundle with its front paws and dashed off.

Ghetsis ran into the room moments after Zoroark had left, but in time to see a jagged line race across the ceiling, and for the stones to come crashing down on him and his wife.

The next thing he knew, he was outside in the freezing night wind, among the rocks and debris that used to be their home. Felicity was a short distance away, pinned under a large piece of concrete. He could see Dartham and Imelda at a distance, staring in surprise at the devastation.

He winced as he tried to get up, but he ended up stumbling in pain. Blood trickled down the side of his face, and he realized in a daze that he could not move his right arm, but he was more concerned about Felicity. He turned to Dartham and Imelda. "Please, help me get her out...we have to get her to a doctor..."

The two trainers looked at each other, and with a smirk Dartham recalled his Pokémon. Imelda did the same, and they ran off.

Ghetsis couldn't believe it. Had they really left them to their fate? To be so insensitive was something practically unheard of here, and yet...

He crept to Felicity's side and mustering every effort, somehow gathered enough strength to push the concrete slab from atop her. Still shaking from the exertion, he turned to his wife. "Felicity...?"

She looked up at him, her breathing shallow, and he gathered her as best he could in his arms. "It'll be all right," Ghetsis said. "The other people who live nearby must have heard what happened. Help is going to come soon..."

"It won't come in time," she murmured, somehow knowing.

He fell silent, unsure of what to answer.

Felicity smiled gently at him. "But we were happy, weren't we? For a while, the entire world was in harmony," she said.

Ghetsis managed to smile back, but he was at a loss for words.

"I love you," she whispered to him, her blue eyes seeming to shine in the starlight.

"I love you too, Felicity...I always have," Ghetsis replied.

"Nathaniel..." Her voice faltered, and giving a soft sigh, her body went limp in his arms.

"Felicity..." Ghetsis held her close. "Oh,"

The neighbors finally arrived, with Pokémon to dig through the debris, offering questions and concern and sympathy; but amidst it all, Ghetsis was utterly alone, and for the first and last time in his life he wept unconsolably, under the first icy flakes of Unova's winter snowfall.

Chapter 2 - Unova's Justice

About an hour later, Ghetsis awoke to find himself in a hospital room with his two sisters, Concordia and Anthea, sitting by.

"What happened? I remember the earthquake...and my poor Felicity," he became silent.

"When the emergency authorities arrived at the scene, you had fainted... next to Felicity," his sister Anthea answered.

"...and you've been unconscious for an hour. The doctor said he would come in to see you again, soon," added Concordia.

At this point a doctor walked in, followed by a man in a suit who quickly identified himself as a police investigator by the name of Looker. The doctor spoke first.

"Mr. Harmonia, I regret to inform you that some of your injuries are severe and they may or may not be permanent."

"What exactly do you mean, Doctor?" Ghetsis asked.

"Well, the injuries that are on your right side. Your eye was damaged, and though it will heal and appear normal, your sight in it is gone. Your arm took a severe beating with the concrete and bricks that fell on it, and although the wounds are healing, you've most likely lost the mobility of it. You also have a cracked rib and your leg was severely sprained; the impact of the falling bricks seems to have damaged the muscles, so it's very likely that you will have a permanent limp."

Ghetsis remained very quiet, trying to let the information sink in, and everyone around him remained still, as if in shock. "Alright Doctor, you've said what you had to say. I want to be alone now," he said seriously and without any visible emotion.

"Very well," the doctor replied, "except the investigator here wants to have a word with you."

He turned around and left the room leaving Investigator Looker there to sort things out with Ghetsis, but before he had a chance to ask any questions, Ghetsis spoke.

"Has anyone found my infant son, Nathaniel?"

"No. There was no child found at the scene. We've looked all through the rubble." Looker answered.

"But... there must be something indicating..." began Ghetsis.

"I am sorry," said Looker, "but indications are that the child is gone. Do you know of anyone who might have picked him up? It's impossible that such a small child would have survived such an incident. Are you sure he was in the house at the time?"

"You're asking too many damn questions!" yelled an angry Ghetsis, "If I knew where he was, I wouldn't be asking!"

"Well," a seemingly calm Looker replied, "It might interest you to know, we've arrested the two people responsible for causing the earthquake."

"When is the court date?" asked Ghetsis simply.

"In approximately two weeks. They'll be in jail till then."

"Thank you, investigator. I expect to be there."

Looker left, and Anthea said to him, "Brother, we are going home now, but we will be back tomorrow to see you. We would be glad to have you come live with us, for as long as you need it."

"Yes. I will do that. Thank you," he replied.

"Is there anything you want us to bring you tomorrow?" asked Concordia.

"No. Thank you."

The two sisters left the room, and Ghetsis remained alone with his thoughts. His sorrow was so profound that he felt empty inside.

Two weeks later, the matter was before the court. Despite still recovering from the tragedy, and feeling the pain of his injuries, Ghetsis and his sisters were present.

There was tension in the hallways of the grand historical building, with people whispering in hushed tones about what had occurred the week prior, but inside the courtroom the accused, Dartham and Imelda, seemed quite relaxed and not worried at all about what might befall them.

Their attorney was an elderly gentleman with a serious demeanor who at one point, leant over to briefly speak with them. The pair didn't seem at all fazed with whatever it was that he spoke about with them. The attorney however, didn't seem very happy to be representing them.

The courtroom guard spoke at this point, "Everyone please rise for Judge Demster."

Everyone stood in respect for the judge who entered the room and sat at a high seat behind a wooden desk. He looked over the silent audience and began speaking about the reason for the trial, reading names of the accused and the victims.

All this turned into a blur for Ghetsis. His mind drifted back and forth from the happenings in the court to his life as it had been when his beloved Felicity was alive by his side. The moments of tenderness, the memories, the love... his eyes watered when he remembered how happy they had been at the birth of their son.

Every day since the tragedy was a living nightmare. At night his dreams were of the last day spent with her. During the daylight hours, he kept thinking about how the people who had caused the accident, Dartham and Imelda, behaved with total disregard when he asked them to get help and how they had simply turned their backs. It was something uncaring to the extent that it was anomalous of mankind in contemporary history, and he could still scarcely fathom it. To make matters worse, he was now lame in one leg...with a disabled arm...he had lost vision in one eye...he could no longer pass time playing the piano... He was growing increasingly bitter.

These thoughts kept going around in his mind throughout the trial as each attorney spoke their part. First the representative for Ghetsis and then the one for the pair accused. It was a procedure that seemed almost too ritualized for the circumstances, yet Ghetsis had full faith in it.

Finally, Ghetsis heard the judge say he was ready to announce a verdict, and his mind woke out of his pained daydream to hear it.

Judge Demster began, "Your management of your Pokémon, ordering powerful attacks known to affect a wide area, so close to a building was reckless and irresponsible. I have no qualms to say you are morally at fault for the death, injury, and destruction that occurred from the building collapse."

The judge hesitated.

"But the court cannot judge on whether actions are immoral, only illegal...and the law in this case is plain. The battle happened on a route, not within a city or town, and with no fence around the property there is no evidence - outside of hear-say - that trespassing was willful. The damage done is therefore considered accidental by law. The court hereby finds the defendants not guilty."

Ghetsis was in shock. He looked from the judge to the criminals and back again. Dartham and Imelda looked at each other and smiled. A police officer came to lead them to another room to process the documents that the judge was signing authorizing their release. It was at this time that Ghetsis approached the judge and questioned the verdict.

"My hands are tied," Judge Demster told him. "The law clearly states that any destruction resulting from a battle on a semi-forested route is considered an accident if the person or property was not the direct target of the attack. I wish I could do more. Trainers like those are a danger, and a disgrace to all reputable owners of Pokémon."

"But certainly, something must be done to bring justice..." Ghetsis began speaking but was interrupted by the judge.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Harmonia. I sincerely wish there was a law that would allow me to send them to jail, but unless the law changes there isn't any reputable court that would incarcerate them." Having said that, the judge got up, walked into his chambers followed by a guard and closed the door.

Ghetsis was left alone to ponder his thoughts, and the more he thought about it the angrier he became.

When he finally left the courtroom, he coincided with the pair who he had accused of causing his tragedy. Imelda looked at him with a grin across her face and said, "A happy day for us."

"It's murder and you act proud," said Ghetsis.

"It's an accident," Dartham shouted back, and he and Imelda left laughing. Ghetsis stood at the top of the courthouse steps, more stunned than anything else.

Meanwhile deep in the forest surrounding the town, a Zoroark fox sat in her den, deep in thought. She thought about how her friend Felicity had delegated her baby son to her care.

Zoroark travelled back to the site a few days later, but found it desolate. Sadly, the fox Pokémon retreated into the woodland.

Sensing that Felicity was gone, she knew a great responsibility had been entrusted to her. She had no way of locating the infant's father, so she made her way back to where she had taken the baby. Zoroark had made a warm cozy den hidden in a thicket of berry trees, and when she returned to it, she curled up around the human child and an egg that was placed beside him.

For the next two years, Zoroark would care for the baby, raising the child of her late trainer together with her own cub, and teaching him the ways of the forest and her language. She had to assume that he would spend his life living like a fox.

Chapter 3 - Child of Pokémon

Two years later the shock had worn off for Ghetsis, but bitterness had set in. Ghetsis gazed out a window at the falling snow, lost in his memories. From inside the mansion, he could see the icy peaks of Twist Mountain; the scene held tranquility but did nothing to alleviate his sadness.

Ghetsis, Anthea and Concordia had moved away from the Undella Town area, to one of the more lavish, spacious properties that Ghetsis owned. The reason they had come to this place, on the opposite side of the Unova region, was in an attempt to flee the painful memories of the tragedy, yet the recollections were inescapable for him.

A knock was heard at the door. He didn't look away from the window.

"Zinzolin, we didn't expect you! Come in." It was Anthea speaking. "I've made tea and was just about to serve it." She walked off into the kitchen area as her sister Concordia led the visitor into the parlor.

"It's too cold out there for my liking," Zinzolin announced, removing a large scarf.

Zinzolin Gray was a historian of the Unova region and had written several books regarding the ruins of the area and the legends of Unova's founding. He trained ice type Pokémon, yet he had a habit of complaining whenever the weather dipped below freezing. Ghetsis had always figured he simply enjoyed griping about the climate.

"What brings you around considering the weather isn't to your liking?" asked Ghetsis.

"Came about to see if you were feeling any better," questioned Zinzolin.

Ghetsis didn't respond to that statement, so his sister Concordia remarked, "One might feel some comfort after time, but one never forgets such loss."

Anthea, who had left the room returned at this point with the tea pot, cups and other items for their tea moment. She set it all down on a small round table at the center of the room while Concordia helped her pour and serve it to everyone.

"You ought to get involved with something," commented Zinzolin when he saw Ghetsis was not speaking much, "Get your mind off what happened..."

Ghetsis interjected tersely, "You act as if it were a simple matter. Obviously, you haven't had any major traumatic event in your life."

"I suppose I sound callous," Zinzolin said apologetically. "I can't begin to imagine what it's like, to go through what you have. But I do think you must move on."

Ghetsis didn't respond.

"Actually, I have to find something to involve myself in," Zinzolin dismissed. "I've been studying the history of Unova's legendary dragon Pokémon and their link to the founding of the region, but I'm already sort of fed up with it. I'm thinking about going on hiatus."

Concordia remarked, "It does sound like it's interesting, though."

If there was something Zinzolin enjoyed almost as much as complaining about the temperature, it was discussing Unova's folklore.

"The legends said that one day, a boy with the ability to speak with Pokémon would revive one of the dragons again. The ancient people planned to recognize this person as their king, but he never appeared..."

"That reminds me of this story in the newspaper, about the boy they found in the woods," Anthea said. "They say he was raised by some wild Pokémon so he can't speak human language, but he can communicate with Pokémon."

The exchange caught Ghetsis' attention. "How many of these legends, on average, have you noticed come true?"

"Well, many of the ones about Pokémon had some grain of truth to them," Zinzolin seemed thoughtful.

Ghetsis remained silent and Zinzolin continued speaking obliviously. "Anyway, the two main dragons are supposed to be in their dormant forms, a white and a black orb...and when the boy came of age, he would take one of the stones to Dragonspiral Tower, right outside Icirrus City, where it would turn back into the Pokémon..."

Ghetsis was only half paying attention to him. His thoughts were mired in the legend, and on what had happened to Felicity and Nathaniel. If the system would not change its verdict, then he would change the system; by artifice ideally, by force if necessary. What he wanted was a revolution that would outlive him, a political movement that he could direct, to be publicly led by someone young and charismatic who could capture popular will until the masses had been subdued.

The strategy, once considered, was so simple! By possessing one of Unova's legendary dragon Pokémon, he would have a fearsome weapon at his disposal. If he could find some way to amplify its power, he would be nearly unstoppable. It was the trainers who would be difficult for him to dominate; ancient history had many tales, in different regions, of oppressed people and their Pokémon overthrowing regimes...but if only his movement were allowed to have Pokémon...

"I might very well take your advice, Zinzolin," Ghetsis said to everyone's surprise. His voice was even. "Maybe I should get involved with something."

Within a matter of weeks, Ghetsis was attending social events once again. Everyone would comment in hushed voices about the change of personality that he showed. "The Widower" as he came to be known in his old circle of acquaintances, although none would dare say it to his face because it would be met with an angry look and a sharp retort of, "Life can change for anyone within a matter of minutes...Beware."

He rarely smiled and his conversations were either about politics or science. After a while, his old friends stopped inviting him to their festivities, much to the delight of Ghetsis since he was developing new contacts who he considered vital to his future plans. The people that had known him and Felicity, didn't seem to understand how much her death had affected him, and Ghetsis had grown to hate them for their disregard of this. His wardrobe also began to change, albeit slowly, and it was evident that he considered himself in a perpetual state of mourning, as he would only wear black and a cloak was ever-present to cover his disabled arm. This, together with an eye patch and a walking stick gave him a commanding presence that instilled more than just respect... it made most people fear him.

Revenge for destroying his life was what he wanted to lay upon the world, and revenge would be cold, coming in the form of the young orphaned boy found in the woodland. With the help of his sisters to raise the boy, Ghetsis adopted him; the ulterior motive kept secret even from Anthea and Concordia. If the legends were true, the child was the key to capturing the powerful dragon Pokémon, and invaluable to Ghetsis' plot.

He had green hair, with placid blue eyes; and was judged to be approximately two years of age. Since he had been recovered from the forest together with a small fox Pokémon called a Zorua, they let him carry it everywhere with him, if he so chose. The two were inseparable, and Zorua was considered an unexpected bonus.

Since formalities had to be taken, an appointment was set up to meet with a judge to officially declare Ghetsis as the parent of the child. They all arrived at the courthouse and a guard led them to the judge's chambers. They didn't have a long wait but as the judge entered the room, Ghetsis' sisters gasped. The judge was the same one who had presided over the accusations Ghetsis had issued to Dartham and Imelda when his wife Felicity had the terrible accident.

Ghetsis recognized him of course, and Judge Demster also recognized Ghetsis, but neither one mentioned the trial of previous years.

"As a legality, the second surname is supposed to be that of the mother..." the judge paused here and then said, "since you are a widower you can select to give him your wife's maiden name or your own mother's maiden name. Which shall it be?"

Ghetsis thought for a couple of minutes and then said:

"I request his second surname be that of my wife Felicity... as she and I once had a son together... her last name was Gropius."

"Very well then," affirmed the judge, "What is your son's name?"

"Na..." Ghetsis caught himself; the name 'Nathaniel' had been on his lips unconsciously. He tried to gather his thoughts. He had no preference to what the child should be named; the matter was fairly inconsequential to his plans.

His gaze drifted from the judge, to the child, then back to the waiting judge. His mind sought some designation that would suit a prince in the austerity of his surroundings before at last, his sight rested on a leather-bound book that lay atop Judge Demster's desk. The gilded letters on the tome read: Justice and Natural Law.


"That doesn't seem like a proper given name for a child," Anthea ventured.

"We'll call him N," Ghetsis declared, as if that made it better.

He glanced over at the boy to see him in a cluster with Zorua and the judge's pet Hoothoot; the trio were not paying attention to the conversation of the adult humans. Zorua was yapping something, excitedly and when it finished N started laughing. Hoothoot bounced from foot to foot and seemed to be laughing too. Ghetsis eyed them suspiciously.

"Natural Harmonia Gropius." Ghetsis said decidedly.

The adoption session went on without any fanfare and within a half hour, N was legally declared to be Ghetsis' son.

They all went directly home after the ceremony and feasted on a huge meal to celebrate the occasion.

The first few days the boy was rather aloof, and they realized that he was indeed incapable of speaking human language. Anthea and Concordia began teaching him how to speak and discovered he was very bright and learned quickly.

N was crucial, but only one part of the wider plan. Ghetsis established a militia unassumingly, as a nonprofit group, Team Plasma, advocating for the protection and humane treatment of Pokémon.

The name of the organization was for the ionized gas known as plasma, which maintained an even level of both positive and negative charge that gave it no electric polarity. Ghetsis claimed it was symbolic of the equality that should exist between Pokémon and humans, but he believed that the scales of Justice were uneven, unfair, and thought he could correct this, restoring balance by replacing them with his own.

When N grew a bit older, Ghetsis admitted to him the prophecy foretelling that a boy with the ability to talk with Pokémon would awaken one of the region's ancient dragons. He added, though, that it was N's destiny to become the king of a new dynasty in Unova and to save Pokémon from the cruelty of human ownership. It was the same tale that he told to the members of his organization, and which soon gained acceptance with a bit of help.

Ghetsis made a selection of Team Plasma's members, picking a small handful of scholars, philosophers, and historians that could arguably be considered to be some of the wisest men in the region; publicly to be considered advisors of N, in practicality to act more as generals. He needed to cement N's right to rule, and the endorsement of such learned individuals lent credence to his tale. They were either ardent supporters of the Pokémon liberation cause who agreed with Ghetsis' interpretation of the legend, or who agreed to go along with Ghetsis for a high post in the new government.

The group of men were called the 'Seven Sages': Rood, Bronius, Gorm, Giallo, Ryoku, Zinzolin and Ghetsis himself. Ghetsis included himself to keep a low profile, but his plan remained to use N as a figurehead for his rule, and the rest of the Seven Sages in recognition all deferred to him.

Seeking some excitement, Zinzolin readily joined Team Plasma and the cause of Pokémon liberation, but he quickly suspected there was more to Ghetsis' organization than merely saving Pokémon. Zinzolin's sole interest was to obtain a position of authority and since he knew that Ghetsis had overstated the prophecy, he decided that this was an opportunity.

Meanwhile, N grew up together with his pet Zorua. He was given practically anything he might wish: the entire mansion to explore, a room full of toys, a table at mealtime with so much food and drink it spread out as a banquet. However, he was not permitted to step outdoors.

Ghetsis had a reason for this. He wanted to ensure N's cooperation in his scheme, and the easiest way he could see for that scheme to succeed was in forbidding the public to own Pokémon. Other than Zorua, the only Pokémon presented to N were those that had been rescued from cruel masters.

Only once did N ask - rather astutely - why, if Zorua lived with them happily, did so many other Pokémon lead unhappy lives with humans.

Ghetsis evaded the question. "You never make Zorua battle. You never keep it in a Poké Ball. You treat it like your equal. In any case, Zorua is an exception. You were raised with it."

N looked at the little fox Pokémon, which gave a yap.

"Zorua says she wouldn't mind battling and says Pokémon like to compete in the wild."

"Competing in the wild is a very different thing from being forced to fight for humans," Ghetsis told him. "Do you know that the Pokémon League hosts a competition every year, simply for human entertainment, where Pokémon are expected to fight until they collapse?"

Zorua flattened its ears at Ghetsis, but that ended the discussion and from then on N would not question any more.

Anthea, one of Ghetsis' sisters entered the room and proclaimed, "Sage Zinzolin is here to see you, brother."

"Let him in, Anthea... and please have Concordia bring in some tea and cakes to the parlor area," said Ghetsis.

Anthea left the room and Zinzolin entered, dusting off leaves from his coat and murmuring, "Damn this Autumn season...the weather's getting chillier."

"You could have at least dusted them off on the porch," snapped Ghetsis.

"Lord Ghetsis," Zinzolin spoke up, and then added with a wry smile, "You know, it's still funny to me that we're now calling ourselves with these titles. I mean, we've known each other since we were children. I went to your wedding."

"Eventually the novelty will go away, or you will." Ghetsis replied flippantly.

"A leaf!" N picked it up and studied it like if it were a nugget of gold. "May I keep it?" he asked happily.

"Certainly, N" answered Ghetsis, "Now run along; I have business matters to discuss with Sage Zinzolin."

"Thanks Father!" N said, hurrying off with the leaf.

Zorua chased after her young master with a few cheery yaps.

"That's true!" N replied, equally cheery; the boy and fox continued their conversation animatedly, though the Pokémon's words were indecipherable to everyone else.

Zinzolin waited until N and Zorua had left to turn to Ghetsis and ask directly:

"Have you planned how you will find the dragon the legend is based on?"

Ghetsis looked him straight in the eye and asked, "I've been thinking about it, but what makes you so sure that I have plans to capture it?"

"Why else would you have adopted N?" Zinzolin persisted.

"Methinks you're asking too many questions." Ghetsis replied.

Zinzolin refused to let the matter die. He was very curious as to what was Ghetsis' true motive in all this.

"The legend said he would revive one of the dragons when he comes of age. He's how old now? Six?"

"One of the many virtues you lack, Zinzolin, is patience," said Ghetsis, "When the time is right, all things will come together, and then victory will be mine."

At that point, Ghetsis' two sisters walked into the room, each carrying a tray. Concordia put down her tray of cups, saucers, sugar pot, creamer and a tea pot of the steaming beverage. Her sister Anthea brought a tray of small cakes and settled it next to the tea tray.

Concordia spoke first.

"I just saw N with a leaf."

"Indeed," confirmed Ghetsis.

"Brother, he's six years old and he's never been outdoors," she said.

"He lived his whole infancy outdoors like a Pokémon," Ghetsis interrupted her.

The two sisters looked at each other; Anthea said nothing but Concordia turned back to Ghetsis and said:

"But he's a young boy," protested Concordia mildly. "He should be allowed to play outside."

"It's not my place..." started Zinzolin.

"Yes, it's not your place," Ghetsis concurred with a snarl at him.

Zinzolin fidgeted and changed the topic. "By the way, it's drafty in here," he commented.

They all turned to look towards the doorway and saw that it was wide open and one key member of the Harmonia family, plus his pet, was notably missing.

"Who left the door open?" asked Ghetsis, as he turned to Zinzolin and glared at him. Before the Sage could respond, Ghetsis bolted for the open door with everyone else in pursuit.

"N!" he shouted.

"He can't get very far... he's small," assured Zinzolin.

"That child happens to be my key to success in getting that dragon and conquering the planet!" insisted Ghetsis.

"What?" wondered Concordia. Ghetsis brushed it off with a wave of his hand.

They found N and his Zorua sitting in a tree in the yard, next to a Pidgey.

"Father, you won't believe what this Pidgey told me!"

"Get down from there," snapped Ghetsis.

N obediently climbed down; when he was on the ground, the Zorua gave a little leap and landed in her young trainer's arms.

"What did the Pidgey say?" asked Ghetsis tentatively.

"He says that he was in a battle yesterday with someone who wanted to catch him and he won the battle, so he's still free!" replied N.

Ghetsis hid a sigh of relief. "You see," he said to the boy, "how humans are inflicting misery even on wild Pokémon?"

"Yes father," N answered.

"One day," explained Ghetsis, "You will be Team Plasma's greatest leader...Unova's greatest leader. The prophecy says that one day, Pokémon will be liberated from the slavery of battling for the entertainment of their human captors. You are the one destined for this."

N had a doubtful look on his face, but nevertheless did not argue the statement.

"If you say so, father," was his simple reply.

Chapter 4Chapter 4 - The scientist, Colress

Ghetsis methodically worked towards his goal for many years. Meanwhile the child N grew and matured into a young man of twenty years.

One autumn day, Ghetsis called a meeting of the Sages; and as they gathered around a table in his office in Castelia City, the largest and most majestic city of the Unova region, he announced that he was going to search the planet for a scientist that would help them further their cause.

The person he sought would be a scientific genius dedicated to his work; someone without any political motivation whatsoever, who would have no qualms about the uses found for his findings or inventions. To this end, he attended a scientific conference that a local university was holding, in the hopes of finding someone willing to help him advance his scheme.

The prestigious research conference was being held this year in the Unova region, and it brought scientists from different regions to Castelia University. It was the same university where Dr. Ethan Colress worked.

The scientist was about thirty, but he was already rather accomplished in his field. He was slim, with light amber eyes accentuated by partially metal-framed glasses. His blond hair had a streak of blue in it, which he combed back.

Colress had spent the past couple of years conducting experiments into ways of increasing Pokémon power, and he now was to present his findings. Beside him was a small gear-like Pokémon, Klink, which he had caught at Chargestone Cave. He had gone there to study the effect of electromagnetic fields on Pokémon, and Klink had begun following him around, so he decided to keep it.

"You deserve some credit, too, Klink," he told his Pokémon. "You helped me catch those wild Pokémon for the tests."

Klink let out a cheerful squeak.

Colress began his lecture, and as he spoke, some more people filtered into the room. He noticed most of the audience seemed skeptical of his explanations, except for one of these: a man wearing a dark cloak, underneath which his suit was entirely black save for a slight gold trim. His right eye was covered with a red eye patch and he held a staff with a shield-like insignia. He stood to the back of the room; his expression unreadable.

"Contemporary views have been that the way to bring out Pokémon power is simply by training, but there are several indications there could be a more effective way," Colress was saying. "There has been documented evidence supporting the bond with their trainers as one such catalyst. Literature shows statistical power is a component of the Pokémon nervous system, so one could suppose brain function might influence it as well. The bond of a Pokémon with its trainer is hard to quantify, so my research then, centers on increasing Pokémon power potential through the use of electromagnetic wavelengths that can direct mental processes as well as amplify attack statistics."

"You're saying mind control?" asked one spectator.

"Precisely," declared Colress.

This statement seemed to make some of the audience uneasy. Colress continued his lecture happily and undauntedly.

"Most of the preliminary experiments have been quite promising," Colress explained. "In our first group of test subjects we achieved a 40 percent increase in attack and special attack power, without any correlating losses in defense or accuracy. Our only impediment was in determining the proper strength of the ray. Many of our test subjects appeared disoriented and a few fell unconscious when the experiment ceased. In addition, the electromagnetic wavelength affected some wild Pokémon in the area, so we had to regulate the..."

"Are you actually telling us," said one astonished member of the audience, "that you've been shocking Pokémon with an electromagnetic beam to see if they obey you?"

"In the interest of science," admitted Colress. "We've certainly learned a lot. Apparently, if we amplify delta and gamma brain waves while suppressing alpha waves..."

Once more, an audience member interjected. "...and what about those wild Pokémon you say it affected?"

"It influenced about a five-mile radius around the laboratory," came Colress' response. "We were able to contain the effects as soon as we observed them."

"That's all fine," said the outraged audience member, "except you couldn't possibly know how many wild Pokémon were in that area. How many of them went without proper medical attention?"

Many of the spectators murmured agreement, although the man to the back of the room was as inscrutable as ever.

Colress persisted, "As I said, it's an early impediment. I believe it may be possible to lower the strength of the beam and direct it so that it affects only the target and causes no ill effects. The goal of course is for the test subject to be entirely responsive to the operator and to increase its overall energy."

"At whatever cost, just for your outlandish theory?" The audience member was scornful.

"Outlandish?!" Colress was affronted.

The little gear-like Pokémon floating beside Colress, span faster and released electric sparks angrily. The scientist turned to his Pokémon. "It's all right, Klink." He turned back to the audience. "Scientific research must allow for variables. I did all I reasonably could do to minimize unwanted effects, but we can't hold up science just because of a few setbacks. No discoveries can be made that way!"

The audience dispersed, many of them muttering among themselves in disapproval. Colress sighed and turned to his Pokémon. "At least I've got your support, Klink."

Klink squeaked at him.

Colress was dusting off the blackboard when a voice spoke behind him, and he turned towards it. "Dr. Colress?"

It was the man who had been standing to the back of the room. "Your research is intriguing. I was wondering how soon you could expect to develop such a Pokémon control device."

"For practical use?" Colress was surprised at the question. "It depends on several considerations, but with unimpeded research...perhaps in four or five years?"

"Contrary to what many of your spectators were saying, it does appear to have great potential. Such a device could be useful if it were ever developed."

"I'm glad to hear someone say so," Colress remarked. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

"Mr. Ghetsis Harmonia. I represent Team Plasma."

"Team Plasma, is it?" Colress gave him a sideways look, more curious than anything else. "I would think your organization would be one of the first to denounce my research. From what I've heard, you feel Pokémon can only reach their full potential without the help of humans."

Ghetsis smirked. "What Team Plasma seeks is the creation of a new world," he said. "Your research might have an important role in that world."

Colress was analyzing this when Ghetsis spoke again. "I might be interested in helping you complete your research. You can reach me here," he added, handing him a card.

Colress returned to his office, and was collecting some paperwork from the desk when the departments' dean showed up at the doorway. "Just to let you know that the university is pulling its funding from your project." He said this so bluntly it made Colress freeze for a moment.

"What?" Colress was astounded.

"It's too controversial," shrugged the dean, "Not to mention it's a waste of university funds."

"A waste?" Colress couldn't believe it. "But we've made progress in the research. We've successfully drawn out increases in attack power. Perhaps not as much as early projections might have indicated, but if we keep trying..."

"A Pokémon control device is not useful," said the dean, "and let's face it...the theory that Pokémon power can be increased outside of regular training is, well, improbable."

The dean left, and Colress sank into his seat. Klink floated over, just as he retrieved the card Ghetsis had given him.

"I wonder why he could be so interested in my theories," Colress whispered to himself.

He picked up the telephone on the desk and dialed the number on the card Ghetsis had given him. The phone was answered on the second ring. "Greetings," the voice said.

"Hello, Mr. Harmonia," said the scientist, "As you may recall, you and I had a brief conversation today. My name is Dr. Ethan Colress."

"Indeed," replied Ghetsis, "Call me Ghetsis. If you want to discuss business, come to my office. You know the place."

"I can be there in one hour," answered the scientist.

"See you then," was the reply.

The office building was located on the same street as the Castelia City Pokémon gym.

Two Team Plasma members, in their grey-white uniforms, met Colress in the lobby and escorted him on the elevator to one of the skyscraper's top floors. They showed him to Ghetsis' office and left him alone there.

It was a wide and elegant room, with windows that overlooked the panorama of Unova from above. The carpet displayed the insignia of Team Plasma, while a large wood desk held a stack of papers and a lamp in the shape of a Charizard. A painting to one side of the office depicted the region's two legendary dragon Pokémon: Reshiram and Zekrom.

Colress stood analyzing the painting, when the sound of papers falling to the floor made him jump. His Pokémon was floating near the desk, and had knocked a manila envelope off it. The envelope's contents had spilled out onto the floor. "Klink!" the scientist exclaimed, "What are you doing? We're going to get in trouble."

Klink gave a tiny screech of complaint as Colress went over to collect the papers. As he did, he happened to glance at them; they were contracts, detailing the purchase of building materials, and the floor plans of what looked like a rather complex ship. Amidst all this was a single photograph.

Colress hesitated. It was a picture of Ghetsis, but younger, without the cloak, staff, or eye patch that he now wore. He was standing together with a young woman who held an infant in her arms. There was a certain happiness that shone through, that somehow seemed foreign to the man he had met at the university.

Colress hurried to place it back in the envelope, and laid it back on the desk a moment before Ghetsis walked in.

"You've made an intelligent decision," he said.

"To be quite honest, it was a matter of fate," replied the scientist, "the university pulled the funding to my research."

"A rather stupid move on their part, since a mind control apparatus would be extremely handy to me. I am prepared to offer you unlimited millions toward the completion of your research. In return, I expect that you do not question what Team Plasma does nor why...or, if you do, to accept the answers without objection."

Unlimited millions? The largest grant he had ever received was a few thousand. To think he could conduct his scientific studies without financial restraint... What was this Team Plasma? From what he had heard of them, he had been given the impression – like the rest of the Unova region – that Team Plasma was merely an interest group advocating for the humane treatment of Pokémon. To hear Ghetsis talk, it sounded like there was something illicit about the group. Yet the more important question was, did it even matter?

As Colress spoke, he considered each word:

"As long as I can carry out my research to its entirety, without interference, I have no interest in what you are doing."

"In return for funding, you may work on any new project you come across, but I have requests that I demand be filled. I would like you to develop a laser weapon. I have made these sketches of a concept..." Having said this, Ghetsis handed him some diagrams.

Colress studied them carefully for a while and then said, "This seems quite detailed."

"It's for a weapon that can amplify a Pokémon's energy beam attack, allowing it to be fired like a cannon," Ghetsis detailed, "with a wider range than that attack could otherwise affect. I was further interested in your view as to its feasibility."

"What sort of range were you contemplating?"

"The perimeter of a city."

Colress thought this over. "Yes, it would be possible to create such a contraption." He seemed interested in the possibility. "It would definitely be a fascinating experiment in bringing out the power of Pokémon. But," he added, adjusting his glasses, "the approach would be lacking in, shall we say, compassion."

"I am not interested in whether or not your methods are compassionate," Ghetsis was direct. "That might have concerned the university ethics board, but not me. Can you do this?"

"Yes," answered Colress, promptly.

Ghetsis smiled, half to himself. "Very good, Doctor."

He reached over the papers on his desk, pressed a button on an intercom, and quickly a pair of guards were standing at the door.

"Yes sir," they said in unison.

Colress noticed the extreme training the guards must have been put through in order to act with such precision.

"Show our new partner to his living quarters. I am sure he has personal items he wants transported from his old abode, so make sure you bring them over as soon as possible," ordered Ghetsis.

He turned back to Colress and added, "Tell them where to find your belongings and then when you are settled here, you can begin to work immediately. I don't like to waste time."

"Very well, thank you... Ghetsis," replied Colress as he rose from his seat.

As the scientist followed the guards out of the office, a small smile crossed Ghetsis' face.

Chapter 5 - P2 Laboratory

For the next few months, Colress worked out of the P2 laboratory, a research facility located on a small isle off the coast of route 1. It was one of the properties owned by Ghetsis and quite isolated, surrounded by uninviting waters that swirled around shoals, sweeping by the atoll where the P2 lab stood in eddies and rapids, repelling all but the most daring seekers of wild Pokémon; here the perhaps objectionable experiments of Team Plasma, otherwise having built respectable stature as a political advocacy group and nonprofit for Pokémon, should go unseen by the populace they sought to influence.

As autumn's chill advanced into winter so did the development of the control device, farther than it had ever under the lackluster support of the university. Colress had been tasked with a very small team of research assistants who worked tirelessly alongside him; neither they nor he left the seclusion of the isle those months, and supplies were flown in to them, together with the Pokémon that would be used in the experiments. Ghetsis often made telephone calls to the laboratory to receive updates from his top scientist, and Colress found in him genuine interest and attentiveness to learn of the science, even if his patron was sometimes inclined to request that the lecture be condensed into a less long-winded discourse.

Today was the first day of spring, bringing with it the buds of new leaves, the song of happy bird Pokémon, as well as a call from the Team Plasma leader. Ghetsis would be coming to the laboratory, interested to see firsthand the progress being made on the Pokémon control device.

Ghetsis arrived via helicopter, which landed in the field area outside of the laboratory. He was accompanied by Zinzolin, who the scientist heretofore had not been acquainted with.

"Zinzolin... this is Doctor Ethan Colress, my top scientist in charge of research. Doctor Colress, this is one of my generals, Sage Zinzolin Gray."

This was the first time he had heard the Sages referred to as generals, and the first time he had met any of them notwithstanding Ghetsis, but the label was reasonable to the scientist. He too had been apprised of the prophecy surrounding Ghetsis' son and could predict instituting a new form of government – or as it were, reinstating one of ancient times – was sure to be met with antagonism from the planetary council. Many of the Team Plasma loyalists he had met since working for the nonprofit were romantics who believed the prophesied world of equality would fall into play naturally, as people adapted to the notion of Pokémon liberation.

With his ever-studious nature, Colress noticed the different personalities that found it easy to adapt to the new ideas Team Plasma aspired to incorporate into daily life; he also saw the other side of the spectrum, where people vehemently opposed the new ideology and vowed to fight it.

The scientist could see reason in both sides. One side wanted to preserve tradition and the other seemingly sought more compassionate ways of living alongside their fellow creatures. Colress thought the new society Team Plasma wanted to install was patently improbable, but he kept it to himself. He was a scientist, after all, and without further information and observation he would not establish any conclusions.

Colress led the way into the laboratory; he brought them to a large room without much décor, with a drab concrete floor and walls. What looked like a combination of a satellite dish with a laser was connected to a small control panel, at the very center of the room. The contraption was pointed at an enclosure of hard glass, inside of which – cowering in a corner – was a rather terrified Deerling.

"You have no need to be frightened," Colress addressed the small Pokémon with a smile. "You're a valuable test subject."

The Deerling looked unconvinced.

"Deerling, as you know, have low special attack levels," Colress turned to Ghetsis and Zinzolin. "Solar Beam is Deerling's most powerful attack, with a standard power of 120, but most grass types can do more damage with the move than the average Deerling. Now, under the effects of my device..."

Colress tapped at the control panel, and fixed his amber gaze on the Deerling. The Pokémon had gotten a drowsy look on its face.

"Deerling," said Colress calmly.

The Pokémon stood up straight, seemingly entranced.

"Solar Beam," ordered the scientist.

Deerling bounded forward and let loose a ray of energy. A blinding light illuminated the room, and when it dissipated the Pokémon was standing before the glass, awaiting its next command.

"The numbers are a bit lower than I'd like them to be, but they're acceptable," Colress explained. "Using this method, I've successfully achieved an increase in attack strength comparable to that of Deerling's evolution, Sawsbuck, but I would like to see the statistics surpass that mark."

Colress typed something into the control panel, and the glow surrounding the laser faded. Deerling seemed to wake up from its trance and backed away from the glass partition. The fear had returned to its eyes, but it was now visibly puzzled.

"Very good work, doctor, although the size of the apparatus is rather impractical for field use. When should I expect a more portable sort of the control device?" Ghetsis asked.

"Quite soon," answered the scientist, "I have designed a prototype and expect it to be ready for trials in a week or so."

"That will be suitable," said the Team Plasma leader.

Though Colress had a hunch about what the answer might be, he decided to test his patron with a pointed question.

"Where are you gathering the Pokémon given to me as test subjects?" he asked Ghetsis.

"When you joined Team Plasma, the agreement was that you would not ask of the organization's activities," was the quick response.

"Yes, but if I did ask, to accept the answers without objection," Colress reminded. "Also, I would be allowed to conduct my research without interference. The lack of background information regarding these subjects is an impediment to my research. Mind control is psychological as well as neurological and I must know why these Pokémon act so wary of us. Many of them display signs of acute fear or hostility, even more so than the wild Pokémon I captured for the experiments while I worked at Castelia University."

Ghetsis looked straight at him and said, "These Pokémon have been liberated from their trainers."

"Were their old trainers cruel to them?" Colress asked.

Ghetsis was silent for a moment; at his side was a smirking Zinzolin who was awaiting the moment that Colress was put down in his place. Instead, Ghetsis replied to the scientist in a diplomatic way:

"Doctor Colress, I believe it is your department that can best make that determination. Let me know what you come up with."

"Yes, Lord Ghetsis," replied the scientist.

Colress was observant by nature and analytical by profession, and had already deduced that Ghetsis had given orders to the guards to steal Pokémon. The cagey answer validated his suspicion.

The political crusade was gaining momentum, but Ghetsis was well aware that if people learned his organization was taking Pokémon away by force, it would harm all his efforts at winning public support. Even N and the Sages were told that they intended to release these Pokémon into the wild upon seizure of power, but Ghetsis planned to keep them, and only Zinzolin was aware of it. They were an invaluable armament, and as necessary to warfare throughout planetary history as men or supplies.

Team Plasma's members were told to focus on young Pokémon that evolved into ferocious species. These would be easy to steal yet powerful in the long run; to the guards he said these were the Pokémon most likely to be used for battle, and they were saving them. Until all of Unova was under their control, the guards were encouraged to train them so that these Pokémon would be strong enough to fend for themselves in the wild one day.

This was, ironically, accepted readily. Most of Team Plasma's members saw their extremist actions as righteous, without consideration to the paradox it posed. They kept Pokémon themselves, so that they would have power to free every Pokémon in the region from humans. They were sending out their Pokémon to battle, as a way to enforce their views that battling was inhumane.

Colress had discerned Ghetsis' real plan, quick enough, although true to his word the scientist asked little about it and continued his research. Politics was irrelevant to his science, therefore so long as his research was funded and unencumbered, it scarcely mattered whether the planetary government was a democratic council or an imposed monarchy.

His disinterest in this was held in high regard by Ghetsis, who began to discuss plans openly before him; among these was the search for a legendary Pokémon that was hibernating somewhere in Unova.

N's coming of age, as set out in the prophecy, was near so Ghetsis was impatiently searching for the two dragons – Reshiram and Zekrom. The prophecy did not say which of the two N was destined to awaken, although Zinzolin and his voluminous knowledge of regional history and myth was given the responsibility of trying to determine this.

While the scientist called Deerling into its Poké Ball – the creature seemed all too happy to return to the safety of the capsule – he listened to the conversation of the two Sages. "My other investments are bearing fruit, yet all is for naught without that dragon," Ghetsis was prodding as he addressed Zinzolin.

Zinzolin justified his position. "I've been studying all the likely locations of the dormant Pokémon, Lord Ghetsis..."

"We have embarked on innumerable searches of the Relic Castle and the outlying routes. The stones we seek are not there." Ghetsis broke in. "Nor are they around Dragonspiral Tower."

"Many historical writings reference Mistralton Cave as a dwelling place of legendary Pokémon," Zinzolin said, more encouragingly. "It seems promising. The dragons might be there."

"Very well," Ghetsis relented. He turned to leave; then, seemingly as an afterthought, turned to his chief scientist. "Perhaps you would accompany us on the expedition, Dr. Colress. Your scientific expertise might be beneficial, and you may find some interest in it."

"Yes, Lord Ghetsis," the scientist simply replied.

Zinzolin was leery that this was eagerly taken up by Colress and no sooner did the two Sages step to the waiting helicopter that he inquired:

"Why are we funding his research anyway? It would be unbecoming if it were discovered Team Plasma is backing Pokémon experimentation."

Ghetsis gave him a sideways look and said, "That does not concern me. The majority of the population seem supportive of Team Plasma's core mission."

Zinzolin said nothing for the rest of the trip; he knew his argument had been shot down.

Chapter 6 - Coronation day

Mistralton Cave was near route 6 and could be reached by following a river to a secluded area of woodland. The expedition party consisted of Ghetsis, Colress, Zinzolin and one of the other Sages, Rood; along with a small troop of Team Plasma guards and Rood's ever-present Jolteon.

Out of all the Sages, Rood Elliott was one of the most devoted to the Pokémon liberation standard. He had joined as a fervent champion of the cause rather than as a seeker of power; he was an avowed adherent to the prophecy as set out by Team Plasma. Ghetsis had met him and recruited him as one of the Seven Sages in Vermillion City, a seaport city of the Kanto region known well for its specialist gym of electric types. Perhaps it was fitting that Rood had an electric Pokémon, because Mistralton Cave was known for being dark, and this was affirmed upon entering. The cave was pitch-black inside.

Ghetsis turned to Rood, who faced Jolteon. The Pokémon gazed back up at its trainer.

"Jolteon, use Flash and illuminate the cave," Rood told it.

The electric Pokémon emitted a glow of static sparks, which brightened the cavern and allowed them to proceed. Jolteon was placed at the head of the group as they explored the cavern.

When they had walked several yards into the cave, they came across an elderly man with a Charmander. The salamander-like creature was using the flame on its tail to give light.

The old man, taking notice of the expedition party, asked them point-blank:

"Are you seeking the legendary Pokémon too?"

This intrigued Ghetsis and he replied, "Perhaps. Why do you ask? Are you looking for them as well?"

"I have sought Cobalion, Virizon, and Terrakion for decades," the old man replied, "They do not wish to be caught."

"This cave, obviously, is said to be the home of legendary Pokémon, but not the dragons," Zinzolin remembered late.

"You imbecile!" said Ghetsis, "Do you know that every moment is important... and here we are wasting our time?"

Colress, however, was interested in the historical information that the old man had, and asked him, "Would you be so kind as to tell me about the history of this cave? Were those Pokémon very strong?"

The man answered:

"Long ago, at the founding of this region, war was spread out far and wide with various groups claiming to know what was best. The forests were set ablaze in battle, and Cobalion, Virizon, and Terrakion helped rescue the wild Pokémon in the crossfire. The leaders of the groups called for a truce, gathered together and created a council to compromise the issues. Peace was finally born on our planet; except... ever since then, they say, the three creatures resent humans and refuse to join any trainer."

They all thought this over for a few minutes and finally Rood spoke up.

"Mankind only causes suffering to Pokémon," he said.

"Pokémon and humans sometimes suffer unjustly, by the fault of others," the old man acknowledged. "It is how the world is."

Ghetsis interjected, "Action must be taken to create a just world."

"I am sure that the ancient peoples who waged war felt that by their actions, they could create a just world," said the old man, "In the end, they decided that peace was the only way to save the planet from complete destruction."

Dipping his head in farewell, the old man walked away.

After he left, a loud noise was heard deeper inside the cave, and they all instinctively ran towards it to see what it was.

They discovered there were three more people in the cave besides themselves, facing three large antelopine Pokémon in a battle.

"Those must be the legendary Pokémon!" Rood exclaimed.

Three young men, brothers as they told the group later, were confronting them. The boys were all in their teen years, with the oldest appearing about seventeen years of age; they had long hair so platinum blond it appeared white, and blue eyes.

They were commanding three Pokémon of their own known as Bisharp, combination dark and steel types with blade-like projections, which stood upright on their hooved hind legs.

"Night Slash, Bisharp!" one of the brothers said, and one of the Bisharp leapt forward. The blade on its arm shone violet, and it swiped at the Pokémon.

Cobalion and Virizon leapt away, but Terrakion was hit. It glowed with an orange energy and then reared up before slamming its hooves powerfully down. Rocks rained from above them and the three legendary creatures fled, and the three young men were trapped beneath the rocks.

Colress had observed the battle with fascination and explained, "These Pokémon were said to have an unusual ability; upon being struck with a dark type move, their own attack power would increase. Night Slash is a dark type attack, so it increased the power of that Rock Slide."

Ghetsis was interested in the fleeing Pokémon. "After them!" he ordered, "They are extremely powerful and would help our cause."

A small detachment of minions ran after the creatures. Rood seemed a bit perplexed.

"Lord Ghetsis," Rood ventured, "We are seeking the freedom of Pokémon. Is it right that we should imprison these in the process, however powerful they are?"

"We are preparing for a coming war," Ghetsis told Rood. "A war on behalf of Pokémon. We must not be defeated."

"Certainly, Lord Ghetsis, yet I wonder..." stammered Rood.

Ghetsis interrupted him, "Like the Pokémon that we liberate, we would only keep these long enough to aid in our goal...and they would agree with our goal, according to the legend pertaining to them." He studied Rood and added, "Necessary to win a war is not just strength, but obedience."

Before anything else could be said, one of the trapped men yelled out, "Help us...!" He broke off coughing.

The Team Plasma expedition was, however, not going to take any action without the firm command of their supreme leader. The squadron looked towards Ghetsis for leadership.

For Ghetsis, however, their plea had stirred recollections of collapsed rubble and desperation in a shocking way. The past was still too painful. He shook his head as if trying to remove these memories and ordered, "Let's get them out."

Zinzolin was aware of why Ghetsis would be motivated to help the trio, yet feigning both boredom and ignorance, he asked, "Why?"

"They might be useful," stated Ghetsis sharply.

"Shall I send out my Klink?" asked Colress, "He can clear some of the debris."

"Yes, Colress. Do," Ghetsis replied.

Without delay, the scientist – along with the Team Plasma minions – ordered Pokémon to set to work clearing away the rocks and debris that had rained upon the trio of brothers. Soon the trainers were free, profusely grateful towards Ghetsis for having commanded his entourage to come to their aid.

"We trained under Koga," explained the eldest brother, "the gym leader of Fuchsia City in Kanto, the great ninja and master of poison type Pokémon."

"We are dark type specialists, so we did not join his gym. We returned to our homeland of Unova and set off on our own journey," said another.

"When we heard of the legendary Pokémon that dwelt in Mistralton Cave, we decided to try our hand at capturing them," the youngest one added.

"You ventured into the cave without a lantern or a Pokémon that knows Flash," scolded Rood. "You could have been trapped in a dark maze for days or weeks."

"We are trained to hide and strike in darkness. The three of us are one with the shadows," explained the eldest. "My name is Marcus; my brothers are named Paul and the younger one is Xavier."

"A Shadow Triad," Ghetsis considered.

"I recognize you, sir, as the leader of Team Plasma," added Marcus, "We have heard you speak and have tremendous respect for your mission. Now that you have saved our lives, we vow complete loyalty to you and your cause."

"Excellent." Ghetsis was visibly impressed with the eloquence the young man demonstrated. "You three brothers will be my personal bodyguards; I will give you everything you need and want to live comfortable lives, in return for your complete and total loyalty."

"Command and we obey!" shouted the three brothers.

"Indeed. Without a doubt, your loyalty will be tested," the Team Plasma leader informed them.

This caused the three to stand up straighter and salute.

During all this time Ghetsis organized a celebration to be held of N being crowned king. It would be a fundraiser for Team Plasma, yet more importantly it was a symbol of what was to come. The region can scarcely imagine, thought Ghetsis with vindictive pleasure.

The coronation ceremony was more pomp and circumstance than practicality, but it served the dual purpose of rallying their base and announcing the true onset of their operation. Afterwards, Ghetsis and N would begin travelling across Unova, holding assemblies and making speeches, to garner public support for their eventual takeover of the region.

Colress had been invited and told it would be a formal event.

The scientist travelled to Ghetsis' residence, a mansion in Icirrus City. It was a sprawling estate on the hills that distantly overlooked Icirrus' stoic windmills and ponds to one side, Twist Mountain to the other; the mansion was somewhat secluded by foliage, with the air of a castle of yesteryear, and surrounded by a high fence.

Upon arrival, he was met by some Team Plasma guards at the entrance, who escorted him down a corridor and eventually to a wide archway. He encountered Ghetsis here.

"Dr. Colress, I'm glad to see you came." Colress noted the Team Plasma leader was not wearing his typical suit with the black cloak; instead, he wore an outfit more in the style of ancient Unova adorned with designs and historical symbols. The cloak was a contrast of gold and indigo, with a collar bearing Team Plasma's insignia. It reminded Colress a bit of the extravagant attire of the university's commencement ceremonies.

As the two men shook hands, Colress analyzed his handshake: firm and fast. He is sure of himself and very determined, he thought.

"Thank you for the invitation, Ghetsis," replied the scientist cordially.

Ghetsis showed the scientist around the premises, talking to him about his vision for an ideal society where all the Pokémon would run free and wild. A world where humans would not have the creatures as pets or do battle with them.

Colress listened and said very little, because he was in fact psychoanalyzing the man. The more Ghetsis talked, the more Colress analyzed his character, personality, body language. It occurred to him that the ceremonial Sage garb was the first time he had ever seen Ghetsis wearing an outfit that was not primarily black. He also noticed that Ghetsis never mentioned the woman or infant in the picture that had fallen out of an envelope the day Colress had visited him at his office.

"Your research for Team Plasma will be important to our new world," said Ghetsis at last, though he posed the succeeding question almost with gingerness, "Are there any developments?"

"As you requested, Lord Ghetsis," Colress began, entirely forthright, "I have examined whether the liberated Pokémon viewed their prior trainers as being cruel. It would appear in a preliminary study that in most cases they feel sorrow, missing their owners, and many consider their Team Plasma overseers as the cruel ones."

"Which is why, it is better to just keep them," Ghetsis replied matter-of-factly, "Militarily speaking, in particular the strongest ones with attack powers that are scientifically enhanced."

The blatant admission of this plan, confirming what the scientist had already inferred, was a nod to the respect he had earned from the Team Plasma leader. Or perhaps it was prodding, an attempt to see the extent of his disinterest in his financier's unlawful activities.

"Logical," considered Colress, "however, perhaps more consideration and kindness should be shown to them, because that will promote a more faithful response from them on the battlefield."

"That is not my concern," Ghetsis insisted, "insofar as they will obey Team Plasma's orders."

"I only relate my scientific observations," said the scientist, adding, "As the mission statement of Team Plasma says, 'It is a war to benefit all the Pokémon'... is it not?"

"Precision befits science, Dr. Colress, but it is sometimes intangible by necessity for the other Sages." Ghetsis was cryptic, then added, "It is a war on behalf of justice."

He's hiding something, but obviously interested in my scientific discoveries and inventions. That is really all that matters, reasoned Colress.

"Colress, I'll give my speech before crowning my son N. Feel free to eat all you like, listen to the music and walk around the grounds of the estate. You will join me and the rest of Team Plasma as we begin journeying across the Unova region, but soon I will establish a laboratory for you that will be the most magnificent in this world," the Team Plasma leader said this with a flourish of his hand over his head.

"How generous of you, Ghetsis. My scientific research won't disappoint you," said Colress.

"I know it won't," replied Ghetsis.

They now found themselves at the entrance to the ballroom where hundreds of people were gathered waiting for Ghetsis to give his speech. There was an ensemble playing music in one corner of the room and a few people were dancing to pass the time, while others were at a buffet table selecting their meal.

A young man of about twenty years of age walked through the crowd and stopped in front of Ghetsis saying, "Father, I think this is a bit much, just to place a crown on my head."

"Nonsense N," replied Ghetsis, "A coronation deserves fanfare and besides, it's perfect for me to give a speech outlining my views and future plans." He then turned to Colress and introduced the lad.

"Colress, meet my son N. The soon to be king of the Unova region."

The scientist extended his hand and N after hesitating for a moment, shook it.

"Since you'll be making your speech first, I'll be waiting in the garden area for you to summon me," said N to Ghetsis, and walked off briskly.

"Some people don't seem to understand, preparing tomorrow's world begins with what we do today," lamented Ghetsis.

"I'm sure they will mature eventually," replied Colress diplomatically.

Meanwhile, N had strolled into the gardens surrounding the mansion, and he stopped to look up at the moon shining in the night sky. He had been granted access to the outside only this morning, and he was still fascinated by the expanse of the sky. His memories of having been in the forest were long ago, and even then, he always recalled the canopy of trees that sheltered the ground.

He was about to turn around and go back into the house, when he heard a soft voice singing behind some flower bushes.

Curiously, he stepped around the corner of the plants and he saw a young woman, of about his own age, sitting on a rock bench humming and looking at the starlit sky. She had long, wavy dark-brown hair, and vivid blue eyes that matched the blue accents on her cream dress. Sitting at her feet was a Vaporeon.

She turned in his direction and stood up startled.

"I'm sorry if I frightened you. Please don't stop singing, it's really a pretty tune," N quickly said.

"I...better get back in the building. The speech might be starting soon," answered the girl.

"It won't start for another fifteen minutes at least. By the way, my name is N."

"My name is Hilda. Is your father Mr. Ghetsis Harmonia?"

"Yes, indeed."

"So then, you are to be crowned king tonight."

"I expect so. Though it was never my idea; I will make the best of it, I guess."

There was a moment of silence, and then Hilda spoke.

"Your garden has beautiful fragrant flowers, and the air is so fresh and cool at night I was inspired to come out here and sing. I like music you see," she smiled, and N felt his heart skip a beat.

"Well, you are welcome to come anytime you like," he said, smiling back at her, "You are prettier than any flower in this garden."

"Thank you," Hilda replied, then looking down at her pet she introduced it, "This is my Pokémon, Vaporeon."

"You're a trainer?" he seemed a bit surprised.

"Yes," she answered quickly.

N bent down to interact with the water type animal. "Hey, Vaporeon," he greeted the Pokémon, which happily squeaked.

"I see," N translated. "Hilda is from Nuvema Town, and she's travelling around Unova, helping gather information about wild Pokémon for the Juniper Lab in her hometown...and you often battle other Pokémon to get experience..."

"So, it is true," she noticed, "You can speak to Pokémon."

"Yes," N said, a little self-consciously. "But I must admit, I don't agree with forcing Pokémon to fight."

Vaporeon gave an adamant cry, which seemed to surprise N. "You say..." He hesitated.

"I wouldn't force my Pokémon to fight," Hilda said with insistence, "Vaporeon enjoys it... I can see how happy he looks when he's engaged in battle."

"Vaporeon says he likes you," said N adding, "He enjoys travelling with you, and finds Pokémon battles fun."

"You sound surprised at this," she remarked, "I guess I didn't know how serious Team Plasma's members were about the issue of training and battling."

"Please understand..." N explained, "Up until now, I'd never met a Pokémon like Vaporeon, other than my friend Zorua," he added. "I haven't met many trainers before, either."

"Is that so?" Hilda asked, fairly surprised.

From the inside of the house, there was a trumpeter heralding the arrival of the primary speaker, and a voice announced Ghetsis' name.

"My father is about to begin his speech, we should be going in now," said N, "Come. You would honor me by being my guest tonight." He put his arm out for her to grasp, and she did. Together they walked into the ballroom and sat near the podium where Ghetsis was standing waiting for the clapping to subside.

There were some whispers as they walked past the crowd, with several people being heard asking around if anyone knew who she was, but N and Hilda ignored them. As soon as they had sat, a Zorua came scampering to him and hopped onto his lap, wagging her tail. N petted her head and introduced her to Hilda.

"My fox friend," he said happily.

"Oh! What a beautiful Zorua," she exclaimed.

By now, Ghetsis had seen N arrive with the girl but he made no comment, simply starting his speech, while Colress sat at a table on the sideline listening, observing, and analyzing; it was at this point that Zinzolin walked over to Colress, extending his hand in a greeting.

"Good seeing you again, Doctor Colress."

"Good evening, Sage Zinzolin," replied the scientist, "Seems that there is a lot of interest in this event, as a large crowd has come to witness it."

"Indeed," Zinzolin answered, "This should be considered a historic event."

They both turned their attention to Ghetsis who seemed to be in the middle of a passionate monologue. "Team Plasma's mission, as you've probably already been informed, is to seek a new world order. A world of justice for both Pokémon and humans."

This elicited applause from the audience, and Ghetsis waited for it to stop before he continued his speech.

"We cannot have a just world without the liberation of Pokémon from their human oppressors. For too long, we have treated Pokémon as commodities, as if they exist solely for our use. We imprison them in Poké Balls, fight them to exhaustion, and collect them like objects. The ancient people of Unova knew this way of life was wrong, and knew that one day, a leader would end injustice and bring forth a new era of peace, prosperity and equality for all of Unova: humans and Pokémon alike. It would be someone with a gift...the ability to communicate outside our species...who would be recognized by the region's legendary dragon Pokémon as a hero worthy of the title of king. For ages untold, the prophecy went unfulfilled, but the dream has merely slept like the ancient dragon, awaiting the day of truth. At last, this day has come."

Ghetsis had a way of stirring up the crowd, a way of expressing his ideas that was somehow inherently convincing, so much so that it was rather baffling to Colress why a man this eloquent had not gotten into politics sooner. Colress could see how the listeners hung enthralled on each word, a great many of them being won over to his cause.

On cue, N stood from his seat; Colress looked from N to Ghetsis.

"They look so much alike," Colress remarked. "You can tell they are father and son."

"N is Ghetsis' adopted son," Zinzolin told him.

"Adopted?" This was surprising to Colress.

"His wife and biological son died many years ago," added Zinzolin, "Excuse me, I must join the other Sages."

He left Colress to ponder his words, while all the Sages stood in a line, three on each side, and draped a cape over N's shoulders.

Colress was still considering what Zinzolin had said as the ceremony proceeded. Followed by the Sages, N walked to the throne beside the podium. He sat down and turned expectantly, obediently, to Ghetsis.

As Ghetsis looked over at N, Colress noticed with mild interest that the young man, for the most part, deferred unquestioningly to Ghetsis; the scientist could tell that even though N thought the ceremony was too flamboyant and even unnecessary, he had such respect for his adoptive father that he wanted to please.

"We are not only crowning our rightful ruler today. We are taking a stand against the injustice of our world, and in so doing, we enshrine our hopes for the future...and avenge our memories of the past."

He lingered on the words, as if they held some hidden significance, before turning away from N to look down the walkway.

Anthea and Concordia approached, each carrying one end of a pillow that bore a five-pointed crown. It was solid gold; a perfect replica of the ones used by ancient Unova's leaders.

They knelt on the carpet, holding up the crown on its cushion, and the Team Plasma leader walked over to them. The other six of the Sages stood on either side of the path.

Ghetsis took the crown and approached the throne solemnly, the entire room hushed. The gold crown was heavy, and with only one hand able to support it, he became unsteady when he was about to place it. At that instant, N reached up and held the crown from the other side.

There was something about N's blue eyes that were striking to Ghetsis; his mind constantly pushed away the notion...but for the first time, the impression was vivid. N's eyes reminded him of Felicity's.

But it can't be... It just can't.

Ghetsis placed the crown on N's head and then, turning around to face the crowd, exclaimed:

"Long live the true ruler of our land...long live the king of Unova!"

N stood up, following long-rehearsed protocol, and waved at the spectators. The audience stood as well, cheering and applauding with delight – even Zorua was happily bouncing up and down – but while Colress joined in the applause, he was still studying the resemblance between N and Ghetsis. The hair, the shape of the face... Could it be there is some biological relation between them that is being kept a secret and thus, remaining unsaid?

After the coronation, an orchestra began playing music for all in attendance. N returned to Hilda and asked:

"Would you have this dance with me?"

"Absolutely!" replied Hilda enthusiastically.

The band played several tunes continuously and the couple danced them all; the musicians finally took a few minutes to rest and eat, and the couple sat down laughing about how time was going by so quickly.

Ghetsis had noticed N had taken an intense interest in the girl and was happy at the prospect of N possibly falling in love. It would help my cause immensely, because if N married and had a child it would perpetuate my legacy. After all, my new regime must have heirs to carry on. This thought put Ghetsis in an even better mood than he was in already, and he ordered his servants to make sure that N and his guest had every comfort they requested without delay.

N and Hilda became inseparable at the coronation ball. At one point, the orchestra played a waltz, and they danced it so gracefully that everyone took notice of the young pair who appeared entranced with each other and seemingly ignored all other guests at the event.

"What are your plans for tomorrow?" he asked her.

"I expect to travel to Castelia City and will be there for a few days," she replied.

"I want to meet with you again," N answered. "We'll be travelling to Castelia City as well in a couple of days. It's our first stop of many; we will be holding speeches around the Unova region."

"When is the speech?"

"Around noon in Castelia's central park."

"That's good," Hilda said cheerfully, "I can be at the Casteliacone ice cream stand an hour beforehand."

N took hold of her hand. "It's on Mode Street," he told her, "I will get word to you when I get to Castelia, hoping you will let me know where you will be at some point, so we can find each other."

"I will," concurred Hilda.

Across the room, Ghetsis sat with the other Sages discussing business and the current political climate. At one point he turned to Zinzolin and asked, "Have you heard any other news while you were out and about amongst the populace?"

"Well, from what I've heard both the regional government and the Pokémon League are getting worried about Team Plasma," Zinzolin said with a concerned look.

"Give it time; soon they'll be downright terrified," replied Ghetsis; smiling a small grin.

Zinzolin seemed a little flustered by this response, but he recovered himself quickly. "Anyway, that's really not what I came to talk to you about." He motioned towards the buffet table.

Ghetsis followed his gaze and became tense when he saw two familiar people. Twenty years older, but still unmistakable: Dartham and Imelda.

They were laughing, immersed in the party. Both Dartham and Imelda apparently were unaware who their host was. The past was visibly far from their thoughts, but it could never be for Ghetsis; the memories of when all he loved had been torn away from him.

"They want to join Team Plasma," Zinzolin was saying. "I said I'd speak to the team leader about it and let them know, but I'm more than aware who they are so I expect you'll..."

"Let them join," Ghetsis told him.

Zinzolin was surprised. "I thought for sure you'd want them far away."

"They stay. I presume you haven't told them who I am?" he stared at Zinzolin directly.

A shiver went down Zinzolin's spine. "No, I haven't told them, and I won't. You have my word," he replied.

"Your word... for what it's worth," said Ghetsis dryly.

Zinzolin walked away and over to where the crowd was, leaving Ghetsis alone with his thoughts.

Things are falling into place, perfectly.

Chapter 7 - Team Rocket

The coronation party was being deemed a success. Hundreds of people had come, some supporters of Team Plasma, others simply out of curiosity; they all milled about discussing the notion of changing the way society had lived for thousands of years.

To the side of the audience sat a couple who were keeping to themselves: a man and woman in their twenties. The man had shaggy violet hair and green eyes, while the woman had long, bright-red hair paired with blue eyes; they had flown in from Kanto that morning with the very intent of their trip being the coronation. Their comportment was distinguished and most of the people in attendance presumed they were wealthy donors to Team Plasma, so the two were extended every courtesy. They were accompanied by a Meowth, a cream-furred cat with a glinting gold horn, which sat at their heels.

The three of them kept watch of the table where the Sages sat and when they observed the group of top-ranking Team Plasma members dissipate into the crowd, leaving Ghetsis alone, they approached.

"Mr. Harmonia, my name is James," the man introduced himself, "and this is my companion Jessie..."

The Meowth let out a pointed meow; the two of them gave the cat a sideways glance but it merely narrowed its eyes and coiled its tail about its paws. They turned back to Ghetsis.

"Mr. Harmonia, we would like to talk to you about issues you pointed out in your speech," James began.

"To begin with, you may address me as Ghetsis," said the Team Plasma leader.

"Ghetsis," James affirmed. "We've been thinking about what you said, and it is true that more thought should be given to how we humans treat Pokémon. But I must say, your vision seems like it would be difficult to achieve."

"Oh?" Ghetsis asked.

"The world is very big," Jessie pointed out. "I would really want to know how wide-reaching you see Pokémon liberation going."

"Now, more precisely, your boss Giovanni Delavita wants to know how this affects his syndicate," Ghetsis spoke straightforwardly. "I am fully aware that you are here as representatives of Team Rocket from the Kanto region."

This caught both James and Jessie off-guard, and they were momentarily speechless. Meowth was the one who hissed, leaping up to stand on his hind paws, "I told you guys they'd see through us!"

Ghetsis looked uninterested. "The interests of your organization and mine are not as incompatible as casual observers might infer. Why don't we instead, discuss your employment opportunities."

"Such as?" asked Jessie.

"Giovanni doesn't appreciate your talent," continued Ghetsis, "I've heard he views the three of you as his most inefficient agents but I can see value to my team in having you join us...especially Meowth." He gestured to the feline Pokémon.

"Meowth?" Jessie and James echoed in surprise. Meowth purred at the recognition.

"A talking Pokémon would certainly help promote our cause, provided your cooperation in speaking at our political rallies," Ghetsis added. "I can guarantee Team Plasma would offer you more suitable renumeration for your work than Team Rocket does."

"Mind if we discuss this for a moment?" asked Jessie, as she led her companions aside to discuss the issue.

"What do you guys think?" whispered James, when they were out of earshot.

"A bigger paycheck just for talking nice about his plans? Can you imagine all those shiny coins?" purred Meowth.

"True..." hesitated Jessie, "but I don't like it. One thing is what we currently do; another thing is this political power grab. He doesn't look like he's going to put it to an election, that's for sure."

"It does seem kind of sinister," James concurred.

"Well, you're right," Meowth said. "plus, this business about separating Pokémon from people. We should be able to hang around with people if we want."

The little conference disbanded and they approached Ghetsis again.

"We'll have to turn down your offer," said Jessie.

"We'll pass on what you've said about your business not affecting Team Rocket's affairs to our boss, Giovanni," added James.

When they walked away, Zinzolin approached Ghetsis and said, "That talking Meowth would be very valuable to our organization. It should be easy to capture; I could send in two of our members and..."

"No," interrupted Ghetsis. "I've offered them the opportunity to join in our ranks and they turned down the chance. It seems the three of them work as a team. In any event, they might change their mind when they see how successful our mission is."

"But, with a Pokémon such as that one on our side..." persisted Zinzolin.

"I said no," Ghetsis said emphatically, "No more discussion on the matter." He then added, " go walk around and see if you can overhear what comments are being made about the Plasma vision."

Zinzolin dipped his head and left.

He crossed with N, who had already bid farewell of Hilda and was walking over to where his father was.

"I'm afraid I haven't had much opportunity to shake hands or pose for photographs..." N began to excuse to Ghetsis.

"You've been dancing. Any time making the acquaintance of our organization's supporters is well spent," said Ghetsis, who was still privately fancying the idea of N's perpetuating a Harmonia dynasty.

N said nothing to this. He had not presumed to ask Hilda if she was a supporter. Surely if she was attending, she had to be to a given degree? Yet her views on Pokémon battles were nothing like what those Team Plasma set forth.

Luckily for him, Ghetsis did not pursue the topic further.

Outside in the patio, Jessie, James and Meowth were talking on a small video-phone with someone in the Kanto region; a man dressed in a tailored suit, with slicked-back dark hair and a stern gaze. A large, slim white cat Pokémon called a Persian sat on his lap, eyeing the monitor.

"We've completed the mission you sent us to the Unova region for, boss," Jessie smiled. "We don't have anything to worry about with these Team Plasma people."

James cheerfully added, "Their leader, Ghetsis Harmonia, says our organizations are more compatible than people realize."

Their boss, Giovanni, was unenthusiastic. "How is that?"

There was a pause. "Well...umm..." Jessie considered.

"If he says the organizations are compatible, that could simply mean he fancies taking over Team Rocket's operations," Giovanni's voice was sharp.

"They don't seem to be interested in a business takeover," James assured.

"More like a political takeover," added Jessie.

Once the words were out, they realized this sounded even worse than the former. Meowth covered his face with his paws in embarrassment.

"Explain to me why I haven't docked your pay," Giovanni snapped.

The Persian on his lap purred loudly. The three Team Rocket members were rather thunderstruck, so Giovanni relented.

"Return to the Kanto region," Giovanni ordered them. "I'll have to travel to Unova and speak to this Mr. Harmonia myself." So saying, he hung up.

James turned to Jessie. "Do you think we should have taken Ghetsis up on that offer to join Team Plasma?"

"No," Jessie was adamant. "We may be under-appreciated at times, but we're still loyal Team Rocket members."

"I wonder if that Persian is having a saucer of cream for supper?" Meowth mused.

They got up from the bench where they sat and were leaving when they heard a trainer call:

"Flamethrower, Houndoom!"

A burst of fire lashed at the cat Meowth. He leapt away in time to avoid getting singed, and the three Team Rocket members turned sharply to see where the attack had come from.

Jessie, James and Meowth were faced with a growling Houndoom. A Spearow fluttered by the dog's side.

The trainers of these Pokémon were a pair of Team Plasma members. Still dressed in their showy attire from the event, the two defiantly stood before the Team Rocket agents.

"Hand over your Poké Balls," said one of the Team Plasma guards.

Jessie and James looked at each other and laughed.

"You've got things mixed up," James smiled.

"Your top brass are trying to save Pokémon, not steal them," agreed Jessie. "We're the thieves."

"That's right; we aren't thieves." The Team Plasma member looked smug. "We liberate Pokémon, from trainers like you."

Jessie frowned at this. "At least we're honest crooks. We're going to put you in your place."

With a flourish, Jessie and James threw Poké Balls into the clearing to unleash two violet, poison type Pokémon. The snake-like Arbok appeared, coiled and hissing; beside it was a Weezing, a globular creature that floated in the air, emitting grey clouds of smoke.

The battle began instantaneously.

"Poison sting!" ordered Jessie, and the snake Pokémon shot a spray of thin, glistening shards towards Houndoom.

"Flamethrower!" one of the Team Plasma members countered.

"Smokescreen!" shouted James.

"Gust, Spearow!"

When the last two attacks collided, the cloud of smog was thrown back at the Team Rocket trio and flung them into disarray.

Meowth was coughing and trying to figure out where his two companions were, when he was struck unexpectedly by an ice attack. He turned to see a Weavile, a weasel-like Pokémon, snarl at him and run off.

The cat Pokémon hissed back and gave chase.

When the smokescreen dissipated, each member of the Team Rocket group found that the others were nowhere in sight.

Meowth was contending with the Weavile when from behind him a chain of ice whipped out, knocking him off his paws. He unsheathed his claws to see a snowflake-like Cryogonal floating above them. As the creature swung the chain of ice again, Meowth leapt out of the way, now on the defensive against two enemy Pokémon.

Colress, meanwhile, was leaving the coronation party. He was walking by when he overheard the commotion and noticed the cat Pokémon Meowth battling the two ice types; he could also see Sage Zinzolin seeming to lie in wait behind some of the patio's tall flowering bushes. Colress hesitated at a distance, analyzing the scenario.

Farther off, Jessie and her Arbok were confronting the Team Plasma member with the Spearow. Jessie, however, was acutely aware that her companions had gone missing.

As the Spearow swooped down at the snake, Jessie wasted little time.

"Poison sting!" Jessie ordered. "Fire it into the air!"

Arbok whipped out of the way of the attacking Spearow and unleashed its attack towards the sky.

From a distance away, James could see glistening in the moonlight above the trees, the shards that had emerged from Arbok's attack, as his Pokémon fought with Houndoom.

"Weezing, return," he said, recalling his Pokémon. Abandoning the battle, he raced towards Jessie's location.

Meowth, too, had seen Jessie's signal; with a last slash of claws at Weavile, he ran away from the ice types, past Zinzolin.

Zinzolin threw a net over the cat Pokémon. Meowth let out a screech of complaint.

"Mrrreow! Let me go!"

"You are now part of my entourage of Pokémon," smirked Zinzolin.

"I am a free Pokémon," said Meowth punctuating it with a hiss at the end, "I am nobody's chattel."

"That might have been true once upon a time, but no longer. You now belong to me."

"To you? Does Ghetsis know about this?"

"Notice I said you belong to my group of Pokémon, not to Team Plasma's. Ghetsis is acting like a fool, not wanting to capture you for his own, and respecting your freedom. You are nothing more than just a cat Pokémon."

"Hissssssss, just wait till I get out of this captivity... I'll sink my claws into your arm and show you why cats need to be respected," said Meowth showing his fangs.

Zinzolin snickered at this, but suddenly a bolt of electricity shot out at him, striking his hand and causing him to drop the net with a gasp. Meowth landed on all four paws and, shaking off the net, dashed into the bushes.

Zinzolin whipped around to see Colress standing to the side with Klink by his side.

"Sage Zinzolin, Pokémon are supposed to be our equals," said the scientist with emphasis.

Zinzolin was infuriated. "Don't act holier-than-thou! Your experiments don't do anything to further the idea of Pokémon being anything less than subordinate to their human masters."

"My experiments are sanctioned by Lord Ghetsis." The scientist spoke equably, irritating Zinzolin all the more. "I do not recall your foray to appropriate Team Rocket's Meowth as being authorized by either Lord Ghetsis or King N."

Zinzolin brusquely recalled his Pokémon, Weavile and Cryogonal, "If you are such an intelligent scientist, then you should know the Seven Sages aren't to fall afoul of."

"Only one of them concerns me, and he's your superior too," replied Colress.

Zinzolin was furious and it showed on his face. He turned and walked back into the mansion.

A meow came from the undergrowth. "Is he gone yet?"

"Yes," said Colress.

Meowth leapt out of the bushes. "Doctor Colress, isn't it? Thanks for rescuing me! I owe you one!"

"You're quite a remarkable Pokémon!" observed Colress, "It's not every day one encounters a talking Meowth."

Meowth scampered off.

Colress watched as the cat joined two figures who had appeared at a distance near the trees.

Jessie and James threw their arms around Meowth and hugged him. "We're a team, always and forever," said Jessie.

The cat purred. His two human companions glanced over at Colress, and without a word the Team Rocket trio stepped away into the trees and were gone.

Chapter 8 - The speech in Castelia

The next day was sunny and warm, promising to be a perfect day for N to start out on Team Plasma's political campaign. In practice it was his father Ghetsis handling all the particulars; N was expected only to show up briefly, smile and wave and shake hands, while Ghetsis would be the voice of the movement, and N, who privately found the prophecy more as a burden than anything desirable, was content to leave the speeches to him.

A limousine, with the insignia of Team Plasma painted on its doors, awaited the young king outside; as he approached the veranda, his father turned towards him.

"Today begins your journey. You shall guide the world towards a better future," Ghetsis told his son.

Zorua gave a happy yap and giving a little leap from N's arms, raced over and bounded into the car.

This was N's first time off the mansion premises since he had been adopted. They took the scenic highway that ran around the region, and from the elevation at which the thoroughfare was they not only had a view of beautiful wild landscapes but of the grander expanse, stretching out infinitely towards the horizon, that was Unova.

There was serenity in the way the sun cast its rays across the trees, and in the sparkling rivers that ran through the routes. A flock of Altaria, with their cottony, cloud-like wings, flew past the highway at a distance; the way they soared created a natural camouflage with the sky, and it was challenging to see when one bird began and the other ended. Once or twice a Pokémon could be spotted lifting its head from the tall grass, too far away to determine what species they were.

All of this was a marvel to N, and as Zorua was happily pawing at the window, N spent half the voyage just gazing outside with fascination.

Ghetsis was occupied with reading some papers, so nothing was spoken until N finally broke the silence.

"The world is so...big," he remarked, still staring out the window.

"...and before long it will be mine," Ghetsis replied absentmindedly. He quickly realized what he had said and corrected, "...ours."

N didn't seem to notice, or care. "I know the prophecy says I'm supposed to become the ruler of this land, but I don't know how I'll be able to." He turned to Ghetsis. "I scarcely know enough about all the different people and Pokémon who must live in this place in order to rule well. The Unova region is vast, much more than I remembered it – and to think there are so many other regions out there as well..."

"You don't have to think about things very much. You'll have me and the other Sages to delegate most of the work to. Issues are clear-cut; it's the natural way of the planet," his father replied.

"Are they?" N asked.

Ghetsis didn't like the spark of curiosity that glinted in his eyes; it reminded him of Zorua, before it got into mischief. His painstaking plans would not be served by N taking it upon himself to find out what ailed the world.

"What's important is what the ancient prophecy says you're destined to do. When you take power, you're going to return the equality and peace between Pokémon and humans that was lost long ago."

"I guess then, once again, the entire world will be in harmony," N said.

The words brought back a memory that was far too painful. Hadn't those same words been said twenty years ago, one last night, under the falling snow...?

Ghetsis looked away, his voice quiet. "I'm sure it will, N."

If Unova's countryside was astonishing to N, it was nothing like Castelia City. Shining skyscrapers reached up to the clouds as towering modern monuments of mankind's industry, while people rushed about on the wide streets, each with their own problems and with scarcely enough time for a greeting.

Pokémon training had become a source of business here, attested to by the number of shops and boutiques catering to the aspiring trainer, the institutes that studied battling technique, the billboards that promoted battle items and new Poké Ball types, the sheer flashiness of the city's Pokémon gym, all summed up by a grandiose Pokémon Center near the docks.

"You can see all too well here how Pokémon are treated like commodities," remarked Ghetsis, who was always seizing the opportunity to make this point to N.

"I see." N was pensive.

The limousine stopped in front of the Harmonia Office Building located on the same street as the Pokémon Gym; Colress the scientist, was standing in front waiting for them as the two got out of the vehicle.

"Greetings, Commander Ghetsis," said Colress.

"Stop the formality, Colress. It is quite unnecessary for you to address me as such," Ghetsis pointed out.

"Thank you for the honorable distinction," responded Colress with a small smile.

"I presume there is something you want approval for," asked Ghetsis.

"If you will excuse me, Lord Ghetsis, indeed there is something... I would like to make a psychoanalysis of the audience at your speech; specifically, Pokémon trainers and their pets."

"If it aids your research," answered Ghetsis, "Our speech will likely end in an hour, and afterwards I will return to the Team Plasma office to collect some paperwork, so you have time for your study. I expect all members at Prime Pier by 3," he added.

"Prime Pier?"

"We will be travelling the region by ship," said Ghetsis.

They set up for their speech in the city's central plaza. Two banners bearing Team Plasma's logo were placed on either side of the field and a line of guards in formal grey uniforms stood behind Ghetsis as he addressed a small but growing crowd.

The newly formed Team Plasma had grown substantially, but there were two members that Ghetsis was primarily interested in – the two trainers, Dartham and Imelda, whose reckless battle had caused the fateful building collapse almost twenty years ago. They were among the more ruthless Team Plasma members, and they were also among the guards standing at attention during the speech.

Ghetsis had decided to make certain that they were welcomed in. He had plans for them, and their involvement in his organization would make those plans easier. For their part, the two trainers had no knowledge that Ghetsis of Team Plasma was Mr. Harmonia of the events past, and they were received warmly into the organization; unwittingly for them, like two Rattata to an Ekans nest.

Castelia City was situated on a peninsula that overlooked an ocean, and it was bordered by two rivers. Far across one of these rivers was another city called Aspertia.

This scenic city was built in a valley at the center of a forest, and a young man called Hugh Black and his sister Rosa, hailed from there.

Hugh was around 24 in age, with spikey navy-blue hair and dark brown eyes, and wore a long sleeved, high collared jacket with dark grey pants. His younger sister, Rosa, had recently turned 20, though she perhaps looked younger than she was. Her long light-brown hair was picked up on the sides into two ponytails, and her bright blue eyes held a cheeriness of spirit. The pink visor she wore, together with a long-sleeved shirt bearing a pink Poké Ball design, coordinated surprisingly well with her short, frilly yellow skirt and black tights.

They had travelled to Castelia City on a holiday, and to taste the ice cream the big city had become famous for. As they walked down the street, cradled in Rosa's arms was a Purrloin, a violet-furred cat Pokémon that looked happy to be out-and-about watching all of Castelia City's activity.

"Hugh, this Purrloin is the best birthday gift ever!" exclaimed Rosa delightedly, hugging the Pokémon. Purrloin gave a joyful meow.

"I caught her on route 19," her brother Hugh said. "I'm glad you're happy, and I know she's going to be a pampered pet with you. Since we've been in Castelia City you've already taken this Purrloin to the groomer's and bought her a Casteliacone all for herself."

The Purrloin licked its lips at the reminiscence.

The brother and sister came shortly to the park, and as Hugh and Rosa strolled through, they took notice of the multitude congregating here together with the Team Plasma members in their regalia.

"Hey, I wonder what's going on over there?" mentioned Hugh with curiosity.

They wandered over to join the crowd of onlookers observing the event. Rosa found her gaze drawn to the banners with the organization's shield-like insignia.

She spoke thoughtfully. "I think I recall hearing something about this group when we were at the Pokémon Center last. Team Plasma they're called...they advocate for Pokémon rights, but they say a prophecy is about to come true that will bring in a new form of government."

"A prophecy? As if politics wasn't mystifying enough at times," Hugh remarked.

Dartham and Imelda were among the guards standing in a line behind the speakers. Imelda took one look at the Purrloin Rosa was holding and whispered something to Dartham who replied, also inaudibly; both seemed very interested in the Pokémon, but it went unnoticed by Rosa and Hugh.

Ghetsis, in the flamboyant attire of the coronation ceremony, was in the middle of a speech. "We presume Pokémon are happy living alongside us...that we have come to live together because we want and need each other. We assume this is proper, as humans. But what of the Pokémon? Do we really know what they wish?" As he spoke, he paced from left to right, while the minions behind him stood inflexibly at attention in military order. "Pokémon are subject to the selfish commands of trainers, in battles that are conducted purely for human entertainment... They get pushed around when they are our supposed partners at work... They are imprisoned in Poké Balls, sent out to toil for us as if they exist for our benefit... yet we see this as suitable, for we have managed to capture them from their home in the wilderness or hatched them into predestined imprisonment. Certainly, this is not even sympathy."

His lecture was articulated with all the zeal of the revolutionary, evincing a wholehearted adherence to his cause. This was not belief of helping Pokémon but of the necessity of imposing his own rulership. The inequity of the current planetary governance, which had permitted laws of such inadequacy – laws which his wife and child had fallen victim to – could not be suffered further; if the people would not care then they would be instigated to action despite themselves. Ghetsis scarcely bothered about the Pokémon, save it would be far simpler to reign if his army were solely permitted to keep Pokémon. The populace would be manipulable and willing to relinquish ownership of their pets if they felt they were doing a good deed.

Pokémon liberation, as a political platform, had gained support amongst the citizenry. He prided himself immensely in how he had created in Team Plasma his perfect stratagem; the means of fomenting rebellion under the pretense of compassion. His ulterior design had gone unnoticed by the masses; he would now have them recognize N as their leader.

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, Pokémon are not much different from humans. They are living beings that contain unknown potential. They are living beings from whom we humans have much to learn. Tell me, what is our responsibility towards these wonderful beings called Pokémon?"

Ghetsis at this ceased pacing and faced the audience, extending his arm emphatically.

"Pokémon liberation! We must free all the Pokémon! Only then will we truly be equals, and the world truly be just."

Hugh was astounded. "It's a diatribe against half the planet. Practically everyone owns a Pokémon. How could anyone fall for this?"

Hugh's sentiments were not universal; a sizable portion of the audience seemed swayed by Ghetsis' politics.

Rosa was diplomatic. "Well, I think it should be up to the Pokémon." She glanced down at the Purrloin which in turn looked up at her with wide green eyes. "You are happy being my Pokémon, aren't you Purrloin?"

Purrloin gave a happy mew; politics were foreign to the little creature, who was content however her human was content.

"Whatever," Hugh brushed off the issue as he retrieved a Poké Ball. "I leave politics to the politicians. I'm going to challenge the Pokémon League with Pidove and become the Unova region's Champion!"

"Everyone says that," Rosa smiled.

"Yeah, but I mean it," Hugh rejoined with a grin. "The best is that now we can have brother-and-sister matches to train our Pokémon."

Rosa seemed to be uncertain about this. "I'm not that into battling. I just want to snuggle with my Pokémon."

Hugh laughed good-naturedly. "Pokémon love to battle! I know a place nearby where we can train."

"Excuse me," a cordial voice spoke; they turned to be met by studious amber eyes framed by glasses. "That Purrloin you have is astounding! I couldn't help but notice the statistics of your Pokémon. It displays more assurance than others of its species." He tapped at a tablet he held, where energy levels were plotted out on a chart. "Somehow, it would seem, you're succeeding in bringing out the power of your Pokémon. Is it a pet, or do you plan to use it in battle?"

"That's what we were discussing," Rosa told him, while petting Purrloin.

"It's still very young," analyzed Colress, "so it probably needs more training before it can hold its ground in a serious Pokémon battle; but for its low level it does have remarkably high speed!"

"You seem to know a lot about Pokémon," observed Hugh.

"Excuse me, I don't think I introduced myself!" Colress straightened his eyeglasses. "My name is Dr. Ethan Colress. I'm a scientist researching different methods of bringing out the power of Pokémon. I must say, your Purrloin does seem to display a lot of potential! It's evident you take very good care of it."

Purrloin was purring loudly. Rosa petted the cat on the head and replied, "Thank you! I always treat my Pokémon with kindness and it knows that I am very fond of it."

"I see," answered Colress, "Most of Team Plasma advocates liberating Pokémon from humans, as a way to improve the lives of the creatures, but such a view has not become popular throughout mankind and it has not been fully recognized. Team Plasma says they believe that Pokémon can only reach their full potential without human intervention." Colress adjusted his eyeglasses and added, "However, I disagree!"

"What?" Hugh, who seemed to have been getting dazed by the scientist's explanation, now became alert.

"I think humans have a large role to play in bringing out the hidden potential of Pokémon and that is the theme of my research!" added a happy Colress. "Whether the bond between a trainer and their Pokémon is enough to bring out their maximum power, or if there is another, different approach."

"It sounds like fascinating research," said an interested Rosa.

The scientist then remarked, "I am sorry... I spoke about myself and my research, but I never asked your names."

"My name is Hugh," Hugh introduced.

"I'm his sister Rosa," his sister said.

Purrloin meowed, and Rosa added, "and you've already met my Purrloin."

The kitten purred in response to the introduction.

"Hugh and Rosa. I'll remember those names. I do hope we meet again," Colress smiled. "Perhaps when Purrloin has increased in level, I can see how it does in battle against my Pokémon, Klink."

"That would be fun," Rosa returned the smile and Purrloin gave a happy mew.

As the scientist left, Hugh gave Rosa a sideways look. "I thought you weren't into Pokémon battles."

"Usually... but he's cute," smiled Rosa.

Hugh rolled his eyes in response.

With the speech over, Hugh and Rosa wandered off for their Pokémon training; it was then that Dartham and Imelda decided to act.

Colress noticed the two Team Plasma minions following the siblings and he in turn decided to see what lay in store.

Chapter 9 - Purrloin

Castelia Sewers was accessible from the piers; it was a dingy, grey place, seldom frequented aside from those who worked here, or those who had some interest in the poison type Pokémon who dwelt here – either study or capture of them. Now in springtime the waterways had not been drained, but pathways alongside the canals could be traversed easily.

"I don't like this place," Rosa announced.

"This way," declared Hugh, as he boldly led them down a corridor to a flight of stairs.

The stairway opened out to an idyllic site; a grassy back lot with a pine tree in the center, cozily enclosed by tall buildings that shielded it from the big city noise. Wild Pokémon could be observed to scamper away into the grass as they approached, and the scent of blossoming flowers filled the air.

"I found this place the last time I came to Castelia," Hugh said proudly. "Isn't it a great place to train our Pokémon?"

Purrloin hopped down from Rosa's arms and gave a cheerful meow. "Purrloin does seem to think so," Rosa considered. The kitten bounded around, eagerly lashing its tail to and fro.

Hugh sent out his Pokémon, the pigeon-like Pidove. The little bird fluttered beside him as the trainers took their posts on either side of the grassy lot.

"Go easy on Purrloin, Pidove," Hugh instructed his Pokémon, which gave an acknowledging coo.

"Ready, Purrloin?" Rosa asked her cat, "Try Fury Swipes," to which Purrloin acted swiftly, leaping at Pidove.

"Gust, Pidove!" ordered Hugh. The bird flapped its wings mightily, whipping up a small gale. It tossed Purrloin back, but the kitten got up again with a playful growl.

"Look at that!" The exclamation caused Hugh and Rosa to glance up. They were faced with two seemingly outraged Team Plasma members, still in the grey attire of the event – Dartham and Imelda.

"Forcing those poor creatures to fight in an inhumane battle," Dartham snapped at them.

"It's Pokémon abuse," jeered Imelda.

"Come on, Rosa," said Hugh, leading his sister to the stairway. Their exit was barred by the Team Plasma members.

"We're going to free those Pokémon from you," declared Dartham.

Hugh and Rosa dashed past them, down the corridor, pursued by their tenacious enemies.

"Go!" Dartham and Imelda threw two Poké Balls in the air, and in a flash of light their Pokémon appeared: the octopus-like Frillish, and the three-headed dragon Pokémon Hydreigon. The Hydreigon stood menacingly in their path, hissing.

Dartham and Imelda walked over complacently. The place seemed desolate; even the wild Pokémon of Castelia Sewers had hidden themselves, seeming to perceive the imminent fight.

"Oh really?" Hugh was in disbelief. "So, you're going to battle us? That seems hypocritical."

"We're fighting for a different reason," Imelda scoffed. "The eventual liberation of Pokémon! Bubblebeam, Frillish!"

Hugh turned to his Pokémon. "Pidove, Gust!"

Frillish was faster. The stream of bubbles hit Pidove, which squawked and was tossed back, but it recovered itself enough to flap its wings and create a blast of wind. Frillish merely braced itself, as if it were a strong breeze.

"Your Pokémon can't do much damage," Imelda laughed. "Bubblebeam!"

Frillish struck the bird Pokémon with the Bubblebeam attack again; Pidove fainted and plummeted to the ground, where Hugh recalled it.

The only Pokémon they now had left in battling condition was Purrloin. Not for long, thought Dartham with a smirk.

The little cat Pokémon arched its back and growled.

Dartham ordered, "Earthquake, Hydreigon!"

The tremor shook through the concrete corridor. Rocks burst upwards from the ground to strike the cat Pokémon; Purrloin let out a sound that was more a squeak than a meow as it was thrown into the air, and it fell to the ground, knocked out.

"Purrloin...!" A horrified Rosa recalled her Pokémon, but she was seized from behind by Dartham.

"Let my sister go!" shouted Hugh. He lunged at Dartham only to be struck with Frillish's Bubblebeam attack. Hugh was hurled backwards with the impact and fell down.

"Rock Slide!" Dartham, not releasing Rosa, snapped to his Pokémon.

Hydreigon hissed and let loose its attack. Before Hugh could get onto his feet, boulders showered onto the ground on all sides, trapping him in the center.

Imelda snatched Purrloin's Poké Ball away from the struggling Rosa, who was then pushed to the side by Dartham. Loose now, Rosa leapt at the thieves to try to retrieve her Purrloin. Dartham struck her across the face, and she let out a cry as she fell to the ground.

"Rosa!" Hugh couldn't get to where his sister was.

The two victorious thieves raced off, crossing with Colress.

"Where are you two hurrying off to?" the scientist inquired.

"You're a Team Plasma member, like us; I recognize you," Dartham said.

"We've liberated a Purrloin!" Imelda exultantly lifted the Poké Ball.

The two minions ran off as Colress looked past them to the direction they had come from. He saw Hugh struggling to reach out from beneath the mountain of stones.

Colress immediately ran over to him.

"Klink, Gear Grind! Break the rocks," he said, unleashing his Pokémon, and Klink let out a squeak and rushed at the rock pillars in a spinning tackle. They crumbled, and Hugh was able to climb out.

Hugh reached his sister and hugged her as she cried:

"Team Plasma took Purrloin!"

"Team Plasma?" Colress asked with a surprised look.

"This isn't the last they've seen of me!" Hugh announced. "I'm going to get Purrloin back!"

"You're going after them?" asked Colress, now with genuine surprise.

"Hugh!" Rosa protested. "You saw how they defeated Pidove!"

"I don't care how long it takes," Hugh vowed. "I'm going to get stronger and stronger, until my Pokémon can beat all those thieves and crush everything they stand for!"

"I must caution you if you're planning on going after any member of Team Plasma. They can be quite ruthless in their tactics," Colress said with a serious tone of voice.

"That may be so," replied Hugh, "but I don't tolerate theft and certainly not the attack they inflicted on my sister and me."

"Oh, Hugh... my Purrloin!" sobbed Rosa.

Colress felt a tinge of sadness seeing the girl suffering and tried to cheer her up, "Don't worry. Perhaps the cat will escape, somehow. It has happened."

"Do you think there's a possibility?" she asked.

Her brother Hugh interrupted, "I'm not waiting for that slim chance. I'll find a way to get the Purrloin back."

"If you're going on that type of adventure, you must be careful and plan before you strike," advised Colress, "Team Plasma is a very well-organized group."

Rosa began to dry her tears as Hugh took her hand and led her away, with Colress following deep in thought.

The group exited Castelia Sewers to walk alongside the docks. "I wonder if they take the Pokémon they steal to their office," Hugh was speculating.

"Hugh, what if they were acting on their own?" Rosa posited.

"They were ordered to steal Pokémon by their superiors, the Seven Sages," said Colress, in bold admission. "Team Plasma plans to release most Pokémon when they take power; in the meantime, they use those they liberate, in turn, to liberate others – a sort of ironical justice, in their view. They do not hold these Pokémon at their office here. You might find Purrloin by following them as they journey across Unova, however."

"How do you know?" Hugh inquired.

"A hunch. A scientifically educated guess," Colress gave a small smile. "Either way, I'm quite certain Lord Ghetsis is after something much bigger than merely freeing Pokémon into the wild. I also anticipate that your search of Purrloin will be quite valuable to my research."

Hugh looked suspicious, but the scientist gracefully took leave of them.

"I have a ship to catch. I do hope you reunite with your pet."

Chapter 10 - Day of Vengeance

Ghetsis had told the militia to gather at Prime Pier after the Castelia City speech. He had announced that morning they would be travelling the region by ship, which Ghetsis had ordered constructed to his specifications as a black sailing frigate with blue accents. The ship had been recently built, and it was to set off on its maiden voyage.

Colress recalled having seen the plans for it in Ghetsis' office, the day he had been recruited as Team Plasma's top scientist. Blueprints on paper could hardly portray the true majesty of this craft wrought into reality.

It was an impressive sight, a vessel that could both sail on water and fly in the skies. It had the most advanced weaponry known and had been clocked at speeds that would make any aviator envious.

Colress admired the ship. "Fascinating contraption."

Zinzolin was less lauding. "It's almost like a Psyduck."

"Psyduck are incapable of flying," Colress told him.

Ghetsis gave Zinzolin a stern, one-eyed look. "Actually, it was designed after the Giratina."

"In Sinnoh region mythology, it's a legendary Pokémon known for its destructiveness," Colress explained cheerfully.

"I know what a Giratina is," insisted Zinzolin irritably.

"Father," interrupted N, "I'd like to go straight in, if you don't mind. I have a few things to do."

"Yes, N," affirmed Ghetsis. "Why don't you also show Colress where his office and laboratory are located?"

N went aboard quickly, carrying Zorua and followed by the scientist. It was then that Zinzolin turned to Ghetsis and asked:

"What are you calling her?"

"The Plasma Frigate."

"That's kind of plain," Zinzolin remarked.

"Zinzolin, you know very well there is only one other name I would give her," said Ghetsis adding, "This ship is probably going to be destroyed in the events that are to come. I won't see her die twice."

Having said that, Ghetsis went aboard ship and walked on ahead, leaving Zinzolin trailing. Just as the gangplank was being raised two people hurried to board: it was Dartham and Imelda.

Zinzolin spoke to them, "I thought for a moment you two weren't going to make it aboard before we set sail."

"We've liberated our first Pokémon!" Imelda cheered.

"A Purrloin," Dartham, said with a grin, and proudly held up the stolen Poké Ball. "I always wanted a pure dark type Pokémon."

"I spotted it, stupid," Imelda snatched the Poké Ball away from him.

"Yeah and I'd like to see how you could've gotten it without my Hydreigon," Dartham responded.

Zinzolin snatched the Poké Ball from them and placing it in his pocket, said with emphasis, "Technically, they don't belong to any human. They're our equals, and we're seeing that they return to their homes in the wild...eventually."

"Oh of course, Sage Zinzolin," Dartham hurried to agree.

"We're just training them until King N takes power, to make sure these poor, exploited Pokémon are strong enough to fend for themselves, right?" Imelda stated.

"Lord Ghetsis wants to see you two, in his office, as soon as we depart. In the meantime, you can help with the sail rigging," replied Zinzolin, ignoring Imelda's question. He turned to leave and then glanced at them again; they were still dressed in the formal grey uniforms.

"What were you wearing when you liberated the Purrloin?"

"These outfits," said Imelda.

Zinzolin thought for a moment. "Well, next time, those are only for special events, as ordered by Lord Ghetsis. You are to wear the black uniforms and always cover your faces."

The frigate sailed out of the harbor, and it was only when it was out in the open seawater, away from any cities, that it set off into the sky. Ghetsis had ordered that the ship circle the outer edges of the Unova region, flying above the clouds when possible so as to avoid unnecessary public attention.

Colress, fascinated by the view, had gone out on deck to observe the bird Pokémon flying by. As the ship passed by a flock of flying types, he took the opportunity to try out a prototype of his Pokémon control device: the Colress Machine, as it was now called.

Contrary to what many of the lower-ranking Team Plasma members, and the authorities later on, thought, the scientist had not named the device himself. The name had originated among a segment of the Seven Sages, who would refer rather thoughtlessly to it as "Colress' Machine" but Colress optimistically decided that it was as good a name as any. He would point it at the bird Pokémon that flew past and, snatching control of them mid-flight, get whichever ones he selected from the flock to land on the deck in front of him. The sight of this test offended a large portion of the Team Plasma members who saw Colress' research as contrary to their ideology of Pokémon liberation from humans, but Colress, who had gained Ghetsis' favor, was Team Plasma's top scientist and there was little any of them could do but grumble amongst themselves about his experiments.

Ghetsis had come on deck only once, at the onset of the Frigate's flight, and then went to his office on the ship.

Meanwhile, Dartham and Imelda followed Zinzolin down a corridor lined with windows that could look out onto the deck; they could be opened or shut via a button in Ghetsis' office that lowered portions of the wall. It was intended for armored defense in the case of a military strike. These windows were currently shut and the hallway was rather dark.

They were met at the entrance of the office by his three guards, known as The Shadow Triad. On Ghetsis' orders, Dartham and Imelda were told to leave their own Pokémon at the entrance. Zinzolin watched in silence as they gave their Poké Balls to the Shadow Triad.

"Follow me," ordered Zinzolin.

Ghetsis' office on the Frigate was octagon-shaped; the farthest wall from the entry was lined with widescreen monitors where he could observe everything happening inside and outside the ship. In the very center was an executive-style office chair, bordered on three sides by a u-shaped wood desk.

Ghetsis was sitting at his desk, and turned to face them.

"Hail, Lord Ghetsis!" Zinzolin saluted him and turning to the pair following him, motioned to them to do the same, which they did.

"Here is a Purrloin, which they have liberated," he said to Ghetsis, and handed him the Poké Ball.

"Very well, Sage Zinzolin. Leave us now and return in a few minutes," ordered the Team Plasma leader, as he placed the Poké Ball in a drawer of his desk.

Zinzolin left the office quickly and almost immediately Imelda turned to Ghetsis and asked:

"Which one of us can keep the Purrloin?"

"You are insolent for speaking without first being acknowledged. You both are just new recruits and have not earned that right yet."

The pair looked at each other in surprise, and remained silent.

"The response to your question," Ghetsis continued, "is neither one of you gets to keep the Purrloin."

Ghetsis got up from where he was seated and walked to the side of the office. He pressed a button on the wall, and it slid open to reveal a balcony. He walked out onto it, and the two unsuspecting Team Plasma members joined him.

"We're currently flying above Reversal Mountain," Ghetsis motioned to the volcano below, then to the horizon. "Have you ever looked out on the Unova region this way? It appears so peaceful; one can scarcely imagine the injustice that reigns below."

"Well, the way Pokémon are treated is really unjust," said Imelda. She was reciting Team Plasma's mantra to the organization's founder, an all-too transparent attempt to flatter.

"Not only Pokémon. You already know the legend of the dragon Pokémon, which is why N will soon be seen as the rightful ruler of this region. The dragons themselves, Reshiram and Zekrom, have their own symbolism." Ghetsis explained calmly. "The two dragons are said to represent the search for truth and an ideal world, two conflicting goals in many ways, but it shows a natural equilibrium."

"How so?" asked Dartham.

"There is a certain balance in this world," Ghetsis went on. "Pokémon and people...good and and white." He turned to them and added:

"Balance, in everything except what happened to me, my wife and child."

There was a moment when they just stared at him, their eyes huge as the realization came over them. Yet no one spoke. Finally, Imelda stammered, "I didn't recognize you, wearing that cloak."

"I have to live the rest of my life with these injuries. At least I don't have to endure people staring at me with pity."

The two fidgeted but said nothing.

"I survived," Ghetsis added. "The same can't be said for Felicity, or Nathaniel."

He tapped his staff, loudly, on the floor. The Shadow Triad guards obediently appeared in his office.

"Black and white," he reiterated, icily. "Today I'm going to correct the imbalance that persists, from the day you destroyed the last things I ever held dear."

Dartham reached for a Poké Ball, then recalled with some measure of shock that their Pokémon had been left behind when they entered the office. As if emphasizing this point, one of the Shadow Triad guards placed the Poké Balls they had left with them on Ghetsis' desk.

The two went pale with fear.

"Revenge is more just, than justice," Ghetsis snapped.

Imelda rushed to the desk to try to reach the Poké Balls, but was seized by the guards. Dartham, abandoning his sister, tried to escape for the door but one of the Shadow Triad struck him across the back and he fell to the ground. They were forced back to the balcony, struggling and shrieking.

Zinzolin walked in just in time to see as the two trainers were shoved off the height by the Shadow Triad. Dartham reached out at the last moment and managed to hang on to the edge of the balcony floor, while Imelda clung desperately to his leg.

Ghetsis motioned for the Shadow Triad to step back, and they retreated a short distance as he approached the balcony.

"Don't do this! Pull us up! I plead with you!"

"You mean the way I pleaded for help when my wife and child were dying?"

"But..." Dartham sought words, defense, some justification where there was none; his heartbeat shook with dread, his hold gradually loosening from perspiration, Imelda let out a frightened sob – the smallest smile crossed Ghetsis' lips – he finally blurted out in a terrified and desperate timbre:

"It's murder, and you act proud!"

"No." Ghetsis' voice was cold. "It's an accident."

With a sudden, swift movement, Ghetsis slammed the staff down on Dartham's hand. He released grip on the floor and with a scream, the two fell into the volcanic abyss of Reversal Mountain.

Zinzolin walked to the balcony and peered down. He stepped back, a bit unsettled, and turned to Ghetsis.

Ghetsis had stepped away and was handing a Poké Ball to the Shadow Triad guards. "You may have this Purrloin." When the Shadow Triad left, he turned to Zinzolin.

Zinzolin noted, "I guess it's better never to cross you."

"You're wiser than I thought," Ghetsis was as serious as ever.

Zinzolin frowned but said nothing more.

The Team Plasma leader took the Poké Balls on the desk and, separating one of them, handed the rest to Zinzolin.

"Take these Poké Balls to Colress," Ghetsis dismissed Zinzolin. "He said he needed more Pokémon for his experiments."

Zinzolin took the Poké Balls wordlessly and glanced at the capsule Ghetsis held. "What about this one?"

"This one," answered Ghetsis, "stays with me."

Zinzolin gave a small dip of his head and left, and Ghetsis was once more alone in the office with only his memories.

Outside, Colress had gotten control of a seagull Pokémon called a Wingull. He held out his hand, where the Wingull perched, completely entranced.

A small group of Team Plasma members, standing off to the side, at last could not bear to keep their political views to themselves. "Pokémon aren't your playthings to control, they're our equals. You ought to be thrown out of Team Plasma."

"This is scientific research," Colress replied mildly.

"Scientific research?" The group started laughing.

Colress adjusted his eyeglasses with a smile. "Wingull, peck them!"

Letting out a squawk, the bird Pokémon flew at the astonished Team Plasma members, who ducked and tried to shield themselves as it swooped down at them in its attack.

Now it was Colress' turn to laugh.

Zinzolin walked over at this point. "Colress?"

Colress shut off his device and the Wingull, now alerted and surprised, flew off. The Team Plasma members who had been jeering before, hastily left.

"Ghetsis said to give you these Pokémon to use in your experiments," said Zinzolin, handing the Poké Balls to the scientist.

"Some more of the liberated Pokémon?" Colress seemed to find the irony in this amusing.

"Liberated the hard way," replied Zinzolin cryptically.

Colress looked at the Poké Balls and, using a small device he retrieved from his lab coat, scanned the contents. "Fine collection of Pokémon specimens. This should be good for my research," he said.

"Whatever," answered Zinzolin with apparent disinterest, "I must go review marching maneuvers with the troops."

Zinzolin left and Colress walked to his laboratory with the new set of Pokémon.

In Ghetsis' office, meanwhile, the leader opened the Poké Ball he had kept from Dartham and Imelda's collection. Hydreigon emerged in a white gleam.

"In case you don't know, your trainer is dead," Ghetsis addressed the Hydreigon. "I'm your new master."

The creature gazed without reaction at Team Plasma's supreme leader, who returned an icy look.

"I scarcely know why I deign to speak to you. Simple tools don't have thought or emotion and Pokémon can't be anything but," Ghetsis added a bit resentfully. "Why else would you obey your trainers so readily, even when your actions cause such senseless anguish?"

The Hydreigon hissed at him, a reply perhaps, but indecipherable to Ghetsis who was too embittered to be interested in a translation.

N walked into the office at that point, and noticed the Pokémon with interest.

"A Hydreigon? Is this one of the Pokémon we've liberated?"

"Yes. I intend to keep this Hydreigon, until all Pokémon are released into the wild, that is."

"Hello," N greeted the Hydreigon, which let out a screechy sound. N translated.

"He says his old trainer was unkind to him. He says he was frequently battled to exhaustion."

The Hydreigon hissed. N looked a bit surprised, but added:

"He also says... he wants you to know that it's the way of Pokémon to be loyal to their human companions. Had it been up to him, the events long ago would have been different." N turned back to the Pokémon. "What do you mean?"

The Hydreigon didn't respond.

Ghetsis turned to N. "It appears that this Pokémon doesn't like speaking with humans; even you N."

N looked at the Pokémon with sympathy, then he turned towards Ghetsis and said, "Well father, the reason I came to see you is to ask if I can join Sage Zinzolin in his review of the troops. They're on the top deck rehearsing."

"Yes, that would be fitting," agreed Ghetsis, "You should know how to command the respect of our troops. Go."

"Thanks, father!" exclaimed a happy N, then turning towards the Hydreigon he said, "Nice meeting you."

When N left, Ghetsis turned back to the Hydreigon, which lifted its three heads and stared at him.

"I'm going to see to it that you learn a new set of attacks. Our top scientist, Colress, should be able to determine what sort of attacks make the best use of a Hydreigon's strengths. You are not permitted to use Earthquake anymore."

Hydreigon hissed.

"It's common knowledge that Pokémon which have had a former owner, oftentimes refuse to obey their new trainer. Indeed, Team Plasma has liberated many Pokémon to then find them recalcitrant." Ghetsis' violet gaze was unreadable, but he said, "It is, however, in your best interest to do as I say."

Chapter 11 - Forest of the Zoroark

Following the plans Ghetsis laid out, the idea was to travel from city to city lecturing people of the evils of Pokémon ownership. Indoctrination was the word that the opposition used to describe it but that did not deter Team Plasma in the least. Ghetsis insisted that N come with him and observe how persuasive his speeches supposedly were.

N was generally obliging about it and would follow him around after the rallies, except on this particular day as his father finished his speech, dozens of his supporters surrounded him clamoring for a chance to ask questions or find out how to join Team Plasma. It was at this moment that a bored N started looking around and noticed a familiar face. It was Hilda. She was seated at a bench with her Vaporeon.

N felt his heart skip a beat and, without thinking twice, hurried over to where she was sitting.

"Hello Hilda," he greeted. She looked up and he noticed a sad look on her face.

"Hello N," she replied. "Do you really agree with all that your father just said in his speech?"

"Well, it's all that I've heard him say my entire life," he answered honestly, "but I have thought that there are some Pokémon that actually enjoy being with humans and living with them on a day-to-day basis."

The Vaporeon sitting next to Hilda looked bored with the conversation and padded over to her bag. "I'm going in my den," the Pokémon said, which intrigued N.

He observed as the Pokémon pawed at Hilda's bag until a Poké Ball rolled out; pushing a button on the Poké Ball with its nose, Vaporeon vanished inside in a flash of light.

N was astonished. "Did Vaporeon just go into its Poké Ball itself?"

"Yes, it does that sometimes," Hilda affirmed.

"I thought they all saw Poké Balls as prisons," N questioned.

"Not really," she answered, "If a Pokémon doesn't want to live with a human, it will let you know soon enough. They will complain relentlessly. That is a rare occurrence however; they know they can be well fed and safe living with humans."

"I see..." said N and remained silent for a few moments as he thought this over.

They both sat there watching the crowds which were still surrounding Ghetsis in the distance.

"He's probably going to be busy for a long time," conceded N, "Why don't we take a ride on the Ferris wheel?"

"I've seen them, but I've never ridden on one," Hilda replied. "I think I'd be afraid to go up so high."

"Don't worry," N assured her, "I'll be with you. I've gone up on it already."

"Okay," she agreed, and before long they were seated on the giant wheel and riding to the top to view the spectacular landscape. Hilda gazed outside at Nimbasa City, all the way to the outlying wooded routes and distant mountains.

"It's beautiful!" exclaimed Hilda.

"Not as beautiful as you," said N suddenly.

This made Hilda turn from the view to look at him. She blushed and he noticed it.

He took her hand in his and said, "Hilda, you are very special to me. I think about you all the time. I believe I have fallen in love with you."

"I believe the same is happening with me N, but what would your father say if he knew that you are in love with a member of the opposition?" she asked.

"He must understand. He must," he answered with earnest, "We're heading to Driftveil City next. It would be good if you could meet me there at the Market in the center of town."

"Yes. I will do that," she agreed.

They gazed in each other's eyes, and he leant towards her, wrapping his arms around her in an embrace. They kissed tenderly, the view outside fading away as they became lost in the moment.

When the Ferris wheel ride ended and they were strolling back, Zorua – who had been scampering around after the Sages till now – ran up to them.

N petted the little fox, and almost as a sudden thought asked Hilda, "If you could do anything, what would it be?"

"One day," she confessed, "I want to challenge the Pokémon League with Vaporeon."

This was a surprise to N. "Why?" he asked simply.

"Pokémon battles are a way to bond. People work together with their Pokémon. Vaporeon might be the one fighting, but it's relying on my directions and judgement. It's a sort of partnership."

N was listening with interest, although Hilda could tell he seemed uncomfortable with the notion; finally, she said:

"I guess I sound idealistic, don't I?"

"There's nothing wrong with that," N smiled at her.

Zorua let out three sharp yaps and ran off.

"Where's Zorua going?" wondered Hilda.

N turned to Hilda and said, "She says she has something that belongs to you, and wants us to follow her."

N and Hilda hurried out the Nimbasa City gates onto route 16. There was a break in the fence, and Zorua stopped here, turned and yapped.

"That's Lostlorn Forest," said Hilda.

"Zorua says it's in the forest. Zorua, hold on!" N called out as the fox Pokémon turned to enter the woods. "I've heard people sometimes have trouble finding their way out of that forest."

Zorua gave a yap and scampered into the bushes.

"What did she say?" asked Hilda.

N looked a bit embarrassed. "She says that Zorua never get lost, so if we stick close to her, we won't either."

N and Hilda pushed through the grove of trees to find themselves in a secluded meadow clearing. A shining waterfall cascaded into a clear stream, and flowers were sprinkled across the grass. Pine trees surrounded the field.

Zorua was happily yapping next to a hollow stump, on the other side of the creek. N and Hilda joined her.

"What do you have there, Zorua?" asked N.

Zorua retrieved a large black stone from underneath some moss. It had the appearance of a black pearl. The fox Pokémon gave it to Hilda.

"It's very pretty," said Hilda politely.

"Zorua says it belongs to you," N translated, then looked at Zorua. Zorua yapped insistently.

"She repeats that the rock belongs to you, and says there's another rock out there that belongs to me," translated a bewildered N. "Zorua also says that this rock didn't have the level of protection in this forest that it ought to, and she's glad she was able to give it to its rightful owner before someone took it." He turned back to his fox Pokémon, which had adamantly flattened its ears. "Zorua...but they are just rocks."

Zorua gave a little snarl.

"She says it's not just a rock; it's an important rock."

Just then, out of the bushes another, older fox emerged.

Zorua gave a happy yap as she ran towards her and they danced around each other for a few minutes.

"I can't believe it!" N was delighted. "It's the Zoroark that was raising me when I was found in the forest...I am so glad to see you after all this time!" He bent down and hugged the Pokémon.

Zoroark barked and N translated, "She says she moved to this forest, because she could sense a prophecy was close to fulfillment and she wanted to be near this stone. She says Zoroark and Zorua are Pokémon that have held sacred roles in the history of Unova, and she realized when I was little that I would have an important destiny."

The fox gave another bark.

"What did she say now?" asked Hilda with interest as she put the pearl-like rock in her bag.

"She says you have an important destiny too." N smiled, looking at Hilda. He turned back to the fox Pokémon. "We've got a lot of catching up to do."

Rustling in the bushes made Zoroark become alert, and then dash off. N and Hilda turned to see Zinzolin.

"Oh, it's you Zinzolin. What now?" N asked.

"Your father sent me to get you. We're heading towards Driftveil City."

"Already?" N stood up and, casting a final glance towards where the large fox Pokémon had vanished, scooped up Zorua and followed Zinzolin back to route 16. Hilda accompanied them.

"I see you have made a friend," asked Zinzolin, glancing sideways at Hilda.

"Yes. Her name is Hilda. Now tell me..." answered N changing the subject. "What about the towns that are located past Marvelous Bridge?"

"Ghetsis sent some of the other Sages there. He says we can reach a larger population in Driftveil, so we're heading in the opposite direction."

Zinzolin led the way back to Nimbasa. They walked in the forest for a while and upon reaching the route 16 fence came across a tree full of berries that were of a bluish color.

"Berries! They're ripe for picking!" shouted Hilda happily.

At the sound of 'berries' a bright light cast from Hilda's bag, and Vaporeon sprang out to sit before them.

"Decided to come out of your Poké Ball, Vaporeon?" Hilda smiled.

Vaporeon made a squeaky cry and stood up on its hind legs, balancing itself on the tree trunk, and extended a paw towards the berries. Hilda picked one and gave it to her Pokémon.

"That's an Oran berry. Enjoy!" Hilda told the animal.

As the Vaporeon munched away at the berry, Zinzolin saw an opportunity to learn more about N's new friend.

"You seem to have a good relationship with your Pokémon," he began saying. "So, you like water types, I see."

"Yes," she replied, "besides that, this Vaporeon and I have bonded quickly. I'm quite fond of it."

"To be honest, I've wanted to train an Eevee for a long time now," Zinzolin said. "I'd evolve it into a Glaceon. However, Vaporeon would probably be my second choice. You can teach Vaporeon many of the attacks Glaceon can learn."

N piped up. "Sage Zinzolin's an expert on ice types."

Hilda looked intrigued. "Really?"

"Well," Zinzolin smiled, but he did nothing to dispute the claim. "I did raise my Pokémon from low levels."

"Then being one of Team Plasma's Sages must be hard for you." Hilda remarked.

"Oh?" This surprised Zinzolin.

"Well, you'll have to release your Pokémon once you take power."

Zinzolin snickered but said nothing.

Hilda pried, "Won't everyone, because of the ban on Pokémon ownership?"

The Sage relented, "Only irresponsible trainers."

"How do you determine whether someone is a responsible trainer?" Hilda asked.

"By whether they're a member of Team Plasma," Zinzolin answered with a grin.

"My father says that eventually they'll all be released into the wild," N pointed out.

Zinzolin, suddenly realizing his faux pas, changed the subject quickly and addressed Hilda.

"Would you consider joining Team Plasma? We could use a powerful Pokémon like your Vaporeon," the Sage admitted.

"Until our goal is achieved," N added.

"No thank you," Hilda declined, "I do agree that more should be done to help Pokémon...but I can't help but feel there's a better way."

"I can see that," N replied, "but really, most Pokémon are happier in the wild."

"Well, I know your father is looking for you," said Hilda ignoring N's comment, "I'll be on my way."

"I'll see you later Hilda," was his response.

Hugh and Rosa had arrived at Nimbasa City. "Now, where are those crooks?" Hugh fumed, "Their next speech was supposed to be here."

"Maybe they don't know they have thieves in their organization," Rosa considered.

"Or maybe Team Plasma's just a front for Pokémon smugglers." Hugh was less willing to give them the benefit of doubt.

Their conversation was interrupted when they suddenly heard someone call out, "Pichu!"

The scene played out before them like theatre. Four Team Plasma members, with their formal grey uniforms, raced by; Hugh could see one of them held a small Pokémon, which was struggling to escape. Upon hearing the outcry, the four turned to face an old man who was apparently the Pokémon's trainer.

"Please, give back Pichu," said the old man.

"You and your wife run a Pokémon breeding center," shouted one of the four Team Plasma members. "You're perpetuating the cycle of Pokémon oppression! The Pokémon hatched there are born into human ownership."

"How many more Pokémon have you got back at the daycare?" sneered another guard.

"Give us those Pokémon, and maybe we'll think about overlooking your captivity of this little rodent," blackmailed a third minion.

Pichu let loose an electric attack, but as the young Pokémon could only produce a mild voltage, it scarcely gave them an electric shock.

The Team Plasma guards laughed.

Hugh had seen enough, and he threw a Poké Ball into the air. "Get them, Pidove!"

Bursting forth from its Poké Ball, Pidove swooped down on the robbers, striking at them fiercely. The bird Pokémon had become swifter since the day Purrloin had been stolen and was giving them quite a challenge to fend off.

The four thieves went running directly to where Ghetsis was. "I knew you were all a bunch of Pokémon robbers!" Hugh shouted at them.

Ghetsis had been having a conversation with three other Sages: Bronius, Rood, and Zinzolin, the latter of whom had already sent N on his way back to the Plasma Frigate. They all looked up to see what the commotion was about.

"What's happening?" Ghetsis asked, angrily.

Rosa replied accusatorily, "They stole a Pokémon from an old man. He and his wife are all alone except for his Pokémon which keeps him company. It's wrong to put them through such hardship, and if this is what Team Plasma is all about then people should know the truth."

One of the Team Plasma guards defiantly said, "He runs the daycare on route 3!"

"Return this man's Pokémon," Ghetsis ordered.

"Return it?!" the lead guard questioned.

"You dare question my orders!?" shouted Ghetsis.

"No, your lordship. Never."

"Then return the Pokémon at once!"

They quickly released it and the Pichu scampered back to the daycare owner, who gathered the little Pokémon in his arms.

"Now for Purrloin," Hugh seethed.

"Purrloin?" The Sages all glanced at one another, seemingly perplexed.

Hugh insisted, "You crooks stole my sister's Purrloin in Castelia City!"

"You're so determined to fight us...over a Purrloin?" Zinzolin was disdainful. "Purrloin are one of the most abundant in the Unova region. Go catch yourself another Purrloin."

"We don't want another Purrloin, we want our Purrloin!" Hugh snapped. "You go catch yourself another Purrloin...from the wild! No stealing!"

Zinzolin gave a scowl, but Ghetsis spoke calmly.

"I assure you, we know nothing of this Purrloin. Team Plasma advocates for humane treatment of Pokémon, and for society to rethink the selfish ways they oppress them. We do not steal them."

One of the four guards added, "If we free Pokémon it's only from trainers who treat them cruelly."

The remark only added to Ghetsis' disbelief at the level of stupidity, and to Hugh's fury.

"You self-righteous crooks!" Hugh was becoming more incensed by the minute. "You're going to have to give Purrloin back, one way or another. We're going to bring you and your criminal group crashing down! I can only imagine how many more Pokémon you have stolen!"

"Our goal is that eventually every Pokémon will be released into the wild," Ghetsis lectured. "The bond between a human and Pokémon can seem heartwarming, but it is to the detriment of the Pokémon. We merely wish to educate people about this. For the benefit of all, we will continue our campaign to win the hearts and minds of Unova and create the just world that I...that Team Plasma seeks."

"Yeah right. You're just common Pokémon thieves!" retorted Hugh.

Ghetsis didn't flinch. "Why would we steal? The ancient prophecy is inevitable and the day a new government rules over Unova, then all Pokémon will be freed. Whether you had your Purrloin with you or not, it would be freed."

"No way; not without a fight," Hugh responded.

Zinzolin chimed in with a sneer. "Battling? Such outmoded views of Pokémon are exactly what Team Plasma struggles against."

"Damn hypocrite!" Rosa countered.

The four Team Plasma members were unwittingly keeping their side on the defensive. "If you did have a Purrloin liberated from you, then it's better off!" shouted one minion. "Pokémon belong in the wild – not being kept in Poké Balls, forced to fight for humans."

"Enough!" shouted Ghetsis, "No one orders Team Plasma to fight... We decide when and where we fight, for the benefit of our cause."

He turned and walked away briskly, with his guards following close behind. Zinzolin and the other Sages looked at each other momentarily and rushed to catch up. One of them, Rood, was heard saying:

"The plan is to go to Driftveil next, isn't it?"

"Be quiet," Zinzolin said to him, "Ghetsis hasn't told the Plasma army yet and he doesn't like things announced until he gives a direct order."

Hugh and his sister Rosa watched them as they walked away.

"Strange," said Rosa.

"Well, they said they were heading to Driftveil City next," remarked Hugh, "Is that past route 5?"

"I think so, but we should check the map..." Rosa was searching her bag. "I can't find it. I probably dropped it when we ran after those thieves."

She walked back and found the map on the ground near where they had originally been standing, and saw that the Team Plasma group with Ghetsis had retreated there. Rosa hid behind some bushes to listen.

"Do you take this revolution lightly?" Ghetsis was saying.

"Never, Lord Ghetsis!" one of the minions hastily answered.

"That was why we were trying to liberate that Pichu," added another, proudly. "We could have gotten him to give us all of the Pokémon at his daycare center for that Pichu."

"In broad daylight, while wearing your event uniforms?" Ghetsis demanded sharply.

"I'm sure your intentions were good," Rood chimed in, "but Team Plasma cannot be seen as criminals when we are out saving Pokémon." He turned to Team Plasma's supreme leader, who was visibly annoyed. "Lord Ghetsis, they are from my regiment..."

"Astonishing you have no shame," Ghetsis interrupted him.

Rood quietly insisted, "Surely they will be more judicious next time."

"My perfect plans are being spoiled by inept people," Ghetsis snarled.

Snapping his fingers, the Shadow Triad – his personal guards who followed him everywhere – surrounded the four Team Plasma members who had tried to confiscate the Pichu.

The four now looked astonished, even affronted at the idea that their leader was backtracking on what they thought was an explicit order.

"Lord Ghetsis, you told us to steal Pokémon!" insisted one.

"I gave you direct instructions not to lead anyone to us." Ghetsis fixed his sharp violet gaze on them. "If you cannot fulfill your duties then you don't belong with Team Plasma."

"I know you requested that, your Lordship, but..."

"I don't request, I demand, and questioning me is treason," interrupted Ghetsis, "You have disobeyed at your risk."

He turned to the Triad and said, "Take these imbeciles and put them under arrest till I decide their fate."

"Your order is our command," shouted the trio in unison.

The group from Team Plasma left with prisoners in tow, and Rosa hurried back to tell Hugh what she had seen and heard.

The Plasma Frigate was hidden in a forest clearing near route 5, away from the main road and undiscovered by those outside of Team Plasma. They were going to travel to Driftveil City next, but Ghetsis had decided to first make an example of the four careless Team Plasma members, before insubordination became rampant.

All of Team Plasma had been called to the deck, without explanation. Most of the Sages stood in a line in the rear upper deck, behind the warriors. Zinzolin and Rood were the only two who stood in the front row, and Colress took a post beside Zinzolin.

The four guards who had so brazenly run to the Sages after the robbery were placed before the crowd, their hands tied behind their backs. They fidgeted uncomfortably, embarrassed at their predicament and how they were essentially being put on display.

Ghetsis walked out of the ship's quarters with N by his side, and they both stood before the group. Ghetsis spoke.

"Fellow Pokémon liberators! I summon you here to make absolutely clear what our mission is. The creation of a new world. A world where both Pokémon and humans can be equal. Where all Pokémon can be free from bondage and live in the wild. Our mission is to liberate all Pokémon from their human masters, in any manner that is needed. To that end, with King N and I as your guide, you will be part of a new established society. A more just society. A society like the planet has never seen before. To accomplish this, there must be complete submission to our agenda."

Ghetsis let his words settle over the audience before adding:

"You must show that you perfectly carry out your orders, and in so doing the enemy will fear us. No failure can be tolerated nor be accepted, for if we do, our enemies will not hesitate to try to divide us."

Having finished his speech, Ghetsis turned to his Shadow Triad and, raising his staff high above his head, struck the ground with it as a signal for them to act.

There was a flash as Poké Balls opened, and a line of water type Pokémon appeared before their trainers on the deck. They faced the four guards, who exchanged a glance.

"Soak them with Water Gun!"

The Pokémon let loose their attack, which doused the four in a spray of water. The guards gasped from the cold, and one, trying to shield her face, tripped and fell in the puddle of water. Some of the onlookers held back a chuckle.

"I think they're wet enough," Ghetsis decided.

When the Pokémon ceased their attack, the drenched guards were coughing and shivering. One of them turned to face Ghetsis.

"We've learned our lesson."

"A bit late, unfortunately for you," Ghetsis replied.

At a signal, Rood walked up to stand beside Ghetsis. The leader of Team Plasma faced the other Sage and said:

"By disobeying orders, these four are disloyal. As one of the Seven Sages, prove your loyalty to Team Plasma or join them."

A disconcerted Rood turned to his Pokémon. Jolteon walked over and sat at his heels.

The Pokémon looked up impassively at its trainer, awaiting orders. The four guards only now realized what was to become of them, and the terrified looks on their faces betrayed it; while the spectators had been stunned into silence.

"Thunder," ordered Rood.

Jolteon let out a cry and unleashed an electric arc, which shot up into the sky before falling to strike the Frigate's deck. It was drawn instantly to the water that had pooled here, and with it the four doomed guards.

Ghetsis looked back to the audience. He could see that he had frightened them to the point of submission; exactly what he had intended to do.

This seemed true even of Zinzolin. At the very least, he looked paler than usual. What had been done prior to Dartham and Imelda, Zinzolin had up to a point expected; he had noticed the coldness in Ghetsis' gaze at the coronation gala, to see them again, and if he was going to go so far as to launch a political campaign to win the hearts of Unovans and acquire power, it seemed unsurprising to Zinzolin that Ghetsis should wish to settle scores with the pair somehow. This was different in his eyes.

These four people had not done any personal offense, and the turn of events astonished Zinzolin. Despite years of being acquainted with Ghetsis, he had never thought of Ghetsis as an executioner.

"The cause demands loyalty and productivity," Ghetsis told the hushed onlookers. "The next traitors who disobey orders will face execution by Hyper Beam firing squad."

With a motion of his staff, the militia was dismissed. The Team Plasma leader turned to Zinzolin and Colress.

Ghetsis studied Zinzolin, and then told him, "Watch your step."

"I'm a bit... seasick," Zinzolin ended the statement feebly.

"We're on land," an annoyed Ghetsis pointed out.

"Land-sick," Zinzolin excused himself and left.

Colress had observed the whole event impartially and even now did not betray any emotion. "With your permission, Ghetsis, I return to my research."

"Indeed, I insist you do," answered Ghetsis, "Our mission must not be delayed any longer than necessary."

N did not speak until everyone had left, "Was that really the only way to resolve that issue? Is death the only answer to failure?"

Ghetsis paused for a moment before answering, "Our current society knows nothing more than violence and injustice. But all that will change when we take power."

"But father, wasn't there any other way other than putting them to death?"

"They do not understand anything else. Perhaps in the future it will be unnecessary."

N was quiet as he thought this over.

From that day forward, the four unlucky guards were forever known as 'the four.' Team Plasma members were quick to point out within their organization that the fate of the four was what happened to those who dared defy Ghetsis' orders.

As the day wore on, the atmosphere on the Frigate got busier. Ghetsis preferred having his dinner in the late afternoon before the sunset and having a lighter meal in the night.

"Is the meal ready to be served?" he asked a servant.

"Yes, my lord."

"Then serve it. Have my son notified."

"Yes, my lord."

Several minutes later, Ghetsis and N were seated at a large rectangular table with an expansive array of foods set before them. Servants walked briskly around serving them whatever dish they requested and as they settled to eat, the help stood by awaiting any orders their master might give.

"I've noticed you have a friend. A girl," mentioned Ghetsis.

"Yes... father," said N with hesitation.

"She's the same one from the coronation party, isn't she?" his father asked.


"Well, that's fine. It's good to have more people on our side, especially the younger generations that are more eagerly educated to new ways. What is her name?"

"Hilda," N replied simply, because he wanted to give as little information as possible until he knew what his father's intention was.

"Invite her over for a meal, and perhaps a tour of our facilities," said Ghetsis, "If she is going to become part of our regular entourage at some point, then she should be made to feel at home."

N had been staring at his food as he ate, but at this point he looked up to see his father.

Ghetsis had a faint smile on his face, rare for most to see but N knew him well enough to notice it.

"Very well, father. I will invite her and let you know," he replied.

Chapter 12 - Zinzolin and the Cold Storage

Driftveil City was a port municipality known for its import-export trade and many hotels. A market lay to one side of the city, and today it seemed especially busy as shoppers perused a wide variety of items.

Team Plasma had set up for their speech in the clearing outside of the marketplace. Ghetsis came over, dressed in the regalia with which he commonly gave these speeches, to find Zinzolin discussing something animatedly with the group of grey-outfitted Team Plasma members. When the other Sage saw Ghetsis, he turned alertly to the guards.

"A salute to our supreme leader!"

In unison, the guards raised their fists and shouted:


Ghetsis briefly studied the minions, then turned expectantly to Zinzolin.

Zinzolin did not disappoint. "I taught them a new cheer. Now whenever we attack somewhere, everyone will know not to mess with Team Plasma," he added with a proud grin.

Ghetsis stared at him seriously. "Zinzolin, give me one good reason – just one – why I shouldn't place you in front of an eager firing squad."

A visibly nervous Zinzolin tried to explain, "It shows excitement. It shows they support a worthy cause, but more importantly it shows devotion to the supreme leader, Ghetsis Harmonia!"

"You're beginning to worry me," was Ghetsis' simple answer, "Nevertheless, it has a nice ring to it. Leave it."

Zinzolin sighed in relief; he did not want to cross Ghetsis – in fact no one did. By now all of Team Plasma knew to what extent Ghetsis would go to achieve his goal, and everyone else in the territory was about to find out.

The Cold Storage warehouses were on the outskirts of Driftveil, besides the docks where goods were loaded onto commercial ships for transport. They were refrigerated storehouses for perishables, but the area was somewhat desolate today. It was on the asphalt stretch outlying the Cold Storage premises that Hugh and Rosa were training Pidove.

Rosa had collected twigs and small branches that lay around the grass. She now began throwing them into the air, while Hugh directed Pidove:

"One to the left! Two more to the right!"

Flying up and diving, Pidove wove quickly to seize the sticks in mid-air. When it had succeeded in taking them all, the bird Pokémon landed on the ground. It deposited the twigs at Hugh's feet and let out a cheerful squawk.

"Good work, Pidove! You didn't miss even one this time!"

A familiar voice chimed in, "I must say, your Pokémon is becoming fast."

"Dr. Colress!" Rosa greeted. "Good to see you again!"

"Rosa and Hugh," Colress responded with a smile. "I see you're travelling."

"Yes," replied Hugh petting his bird Pokémon on the head, "I am trying to get my Pidove stronger; then we can battle a gym leader, but first we must pay a visit to Team Plasma and get my sister's back."

"Are you really planning to confront Team Plasma?" asked Colress.

"They have my sister's Purrloin!" Hugh exclaimed. "I'm not forgetting about that."

"What if you succeed in retrieving your stolen Pokémon?" asked the scientist.

"There must be dozens, if not hundreds, of other Pokémon that have been taken away from their trainers," said Rosa.

"...and you are planning to 'liberate' them? Sounds similar to what Lord Ghetsis says," Colress pointed out.

"There's a big difference," interjected Rosa, "Pokémon in Team Plasma captivity are suffering psychological trauma by being separated from the humans they have grown to love and trust. When we free them we'll try to help them go to whomever and wherever they want."

Colress analyzed Rosa. She's obviously someone who thinks about others...a nice personality.

"Makes sense," Colress said. "Well, I would enjoy speaking about the subject further, but I must go now." He had gone a few paces before turning back to them, as if suddenly recalling something. "By the way, I saw something near the docks that reminded me of the day we all first met."

"Oh?" asked Rosa, but Colress had already walked off.

Curiosity hit them, so Hugh and Rosa went to the Cold Storage site. As they were nearing the wharf, Rosa suddenly pulled her brother behind a fence with shrubs.

"Look!" Rosa's voice was urgent and whispered.

Hugh followed her gaze and saw several Team Plasma members loading cages with Pokémon into a container. They were being directed by Zinzolin.

"Not a bad selection," Zinzolin was saying as he looked over the cages. "I think Ghetsis is going to be happy with these."

Some of the Pokémon growled at him, but others looked too frightened to do much more than shrink into a corner of their pen.

"I don't see Purrloin," Rosa murmured to Hugh.

"Someone's coming," whispered Hugh to her, "Look."

A heavy-set man walked up to the guards. He was wearing a big brimmed hat and had a stern look on his face.

"You're Clay, the Driftveil gym leader!" one of the guards recognized him.

"So, it's true," Clay exclaimed. "Team Plasma is involved in stealing Pokémon!"

"We can take him," declared one of the guards.

Poké Balls flew into the air, and a bunch of Pokémon appeared ready to attack on behalf of Team Plasma.

Clay sent out his own Pokémon, and in the glow emitted by the Poké Ball a mole-like creature, Excadrill, appeared. Hugh decided to get involved.

"Go, Pidove!" he called out throwing a Poké Ball into the clearing. His bird Pokémon appeared in a flash of light.

"Give back those stolen Pokémon!" said Rosa as she and her brother emerged from hiding.

"You?" Zinzolin looked astonished. "You're those two we met in Nimbasa City!"

Hugh was adamant. "I told you thieves we were going to bring your criminal group crashing down!"

"Come on!" Zinzolin called to the Team Plasma guards.

"What about the Pokémon?" questioned a guard.

"Drop them and let's get away from here!" Zinzolin shouted to them, causing the guards to recall their Pokémon and flee.

"You run away like Patrat!" snapped Hugh, chasing after them with Rosa in close pursuit.

Clay called back his Pokémon. "I'm going to get reinforcements," he shouted at them, as he hurried back towards the city.

Hugh and Rosa followed them as far as inside one of the warehouses. The interior of the building was frigid, and frost covered many of the containers. They were placed haphazardly throughout the stockroom. Water had spilled across the floor at some point, and it was now a sheet of ice.

"Where did they go?" Hugh wondered.

"In a place like this, they could be hiding practically anywhere," Rosa said.

"I believe they went into the container over there," said a recognizable voice.

They looked up to see Colress. The scientist was standing atop one of the containers with a sly smile.

"Thanks," said Rosa, and hurried towards the container.

Hugh started to follow his sister, but then he hesitated and looked over at Colress. "Are you coming?"

"As a scientist, I am a detached observer," answered Colress. "I don't want to influence the results of my experiment."

Hugh gave him a suspicious look, but the scientist merely adjusted his eyeglasses. With a shrug, Hugh chased after his sister.

The two, burst open the door of the container to find Zinzolin and the group of Team Plasma guards at the far end.

"It's freezing here," Zinzolin was complaining to the guards. "All of you – huddle around me! I can't take this cold."

"You're the one who ran in here," one snide guard pointed out, which made Zinzolin turn to him and snarl, "How dare you address me in that fashion! We shall see about this when we get back to headquarters."

The guard kept silent, and Hugh took the initiative, "You are evil for harming Pokémon!"

Zinzolin, realizing who was speaking answered condescendingly, "Pokémon are our king's friends. Why would we harm them?"

"You are harming them!" Rosa retorted. "You're traumatizing them by snatching them away from their homes."

"Take care of those trainers," Zinzolin ordered the guards.

Colress, watching from afar, waited patiently and before long the sounds of a Pokémon battle could be heard. Everyone soon exited the container; the Team Plasma group being forced out by Hugh's Pidove swooping down on them and their Pokémon.

"Astounding, simply astounding!" Colress was measuring the attacking Pokémon's statistics on his device. "This Pidove is doing remarkably well, despite fighting unaided in a battle against eight Pokémon. Perhaps the encouragement from its trainer is more of a motivating factor in drawing out power, than the coercion given to the Team Plasma Pokémon..."

"Gust, Pidove!" shouted Hugh.

With a flurry of fluttering wings, a powerful gale of wind tossed the Team Plasma Pokémon that still stood against the side of the container, knocking them out.

The Team Plasma guards recalled them, but they now had no Pokémon left in battling condition. The only one who did was Zinzolin.

"Let's see how your puny bird does against ice," he snapped.

He seized a Poké Ball to send out a Pokémon, when Clay walked in with several other men. Accompanying them were some evolved fire type Pokemon.

"There are the Pokémon robbers," Clay pointed to the Team Plasma group.

"We surrender," Zinzolin announced. The Team Plasma guards exchanged a worried look, but no one defied him.

The band of Team Plasma members were escorted out of the warehouse. As Zinzolin passed by, he shot an irritated glare at the brother and sister who had confronted them.

"Hugh and Rosa, is it?" the Sage queried sinisterly. "The day we take power, if you're not far away from this region, I'm personally going to oversee what happens to you."

"You extremists are never going to take power if we can help it," Rosa retorted.

As everyone dispersed, Hugh recalled his Pokémon. He looked around the warehouse. "Where did Colress go?" he wondered.

Rosa searched the frozen surroundings. "I don't know," she said, "But he did help us out."

Except for Ghetsis, all of the Seven Sages were presently either making speeches in other cities or attending to responsibilities ashore. Here, in his office aboard the Plasma Frigate, Ghetsis was looking over some maps of the territories he planned to invade. Colress arrived, and standing at the doorway of the office peered in. Ghetsis glanced up and waved him over.

"You're just in time, Colress," Ghetsis said, "I wanted to discuss the range of power our new weapon could have."

"I am still in the process of doing the mathematical calculations for it, but of course I will immediately bring you the information as soon as I have it," answered the scientist.

"I am sure you will," replied Ghetsis without looking up from the maps.

"There is something I believe you should know," added Colress. This statement made Ghetsis stand up straight and look directly at him in expectation.

"Zinzolin," began Colress, "was taken prisoner."

"Prisoner? ...What an outrage! A representative of Team Plasma, losing a battle!" Ghetsis pounded his fist on the table. "To whom did he lose the battle?! Who has him prisoner!?"

"Well, to be accurate... He didn't lose a battle. He surrendered."

At this statement, Ghetsis stared directly at Colress in disbelief, his good eye growing wide.

Colress continued, "Clay, the owner of the local mining company and the gym leader of Driftveil City, took him prisoner and is planning to turn him in to the authorities. His guards fought as much as they could, but to no avail. They followed Zinzolin's lead when he surrendered, but they didn't seem happy about it."

The look on Ghetsis' face was so intense that Colress lifted an eyebrow in wonderment. The leader's face was turning crimson in anger.

"Lord Ghetsis, are you feeling all right?" asked Colress.

"Not much," was the response, "You're in charge of things till I return, Doctor," added Ghetsis as he grabbed his staff and headed for the door, "I will go get Zinzolin and his guards out of the situation they are in."

Colress followed him out of the office and watched as he headed to the warrior barracks to gather a small army together. Wearing a small smile, Colress walked back to his office.

The Driftveil City Pokémon gym was located on the basement level of what served as the office for Clay's mining company. Zinzolin and his guards had been brought to this building and were being held in the lobby area.

"You'll be here within an hour?" Clay was talking on the phone, "I need someone to take these here robbers off of my hands."

Hanging up, he turned to his assistants. "The authorities are delayed elsewhere and can't come at the moment. We have no choice but to keep 'em here till then."

Zinzolin decided to prod. "You're digging rampantly like a Diglett, trying futilely to find any means to counter our cause. You're going so far as to frame us because we struggle for Pokémon liberation."

"Is that why you're stealing Pokémon and transporting them somewhere in cages?" the gym leader asked with irritation.

Zinzolin was smug as ever. "You cannot halt the revolution. When our king takes power your establishment views will be publicly shamed. Everyone will be disgusted at your outmoded idea that Pokémon battling is acceptable."

The guards decided to get into the dispute. "As a gym leader, you promote the abuse of Pokémon," said one.

"How is it, making money off of Pokémon suffering?" added another.

Clay looked annoyed. "I'm going to be real happy when the authorities get here; then I won't have to listen to your yammering," he snapped.

"Sir," one of Clay's associates appeared at the doorway of the gym, "There's a gentleman here that wants to speak with you...he's bringing an entourage with him and says it concerns the prisoners."

"Let 'em pass," said Clay.

In walked Ghetsis in full splendor of attire. He was dressed in the formal robes of a Sage and was followed by a group of his guards who stood behind him in complete attention as if awaiting orders.

"Clay; it's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Ghetsis Harmonia of Team Plasma. I've come to pick up my associates."

"Your associates were stealing Pokémon," Clay replied.

"There must be some misunderstanding. What Team Plasma promotes is a just world where Pokémon are free from oppression...a world that will emerge when the true ruler of Unova establishes his administration. We have no need to steal to achieve our goal."

"I've heard your speeches," Clay said, his eyes narrowing. "You talk very eloquently and you describe a society of total equality that's so pretty it's unachievable. Why don't you talk plainly for once?"

"Plainly?" Ghetsis' violet gaze gleamed. "Team Plasma has an interest in Driftveil City. It's a key port and center of commerce with other regions. We have many more members than what you see before you."

Clay fidgeted with apprehension as the full depth of Team Plasma's plans came to his mind. "That sounds threatening."

"It's a promise. What's more, if you don't release them, I will destroy your building... before I proceed to annihilate the city."

"How dare you!" answered Clay, "How dare you threaten us? What will the authorities say when they arrive and hear that you said that?"

"I will say the same to their face, and I will add that you are a very stupid man. Make your decision... Now!"

Ghetsis snapped his fingers and all the guards stood in front of him with Poké Balls in hand, ready for his orders.

Clay felt fear, and relented. "Fine. Take 'em and git!"

"A decision worthy of a businessman who has achieved such success in his enterprises. Your grasp of the situation is outstanding," answered Ghetsis snapping his fingers once again. The guards returned the Poké Balls to their belts and Zinzolin hurried to the Team Plasma leader's side. For once he seemed humble. "Ghetsis...thank you..."

He was interrupted by a stern Ghetsis, "Well, although we are but two of the Seven Sages, I'm sure our king would not be pleased to lose even one of his valued advisors."

Ghetsis looked at Clay, but the gym leader did not say a word.

As Hugh and Rosa were walking by the building, Team Plasma was exiting it. "What a sight to behold," remarked Hugh.

"Apparently, Ghetsis is more powerful than any other Sage," added Rosa.

When the Team Plasma group arrived to the Frigate, Ghetsis dismissed his troops and told Zinzolin, "I am going to change outfits. Go to my office and wait for me there."

"Let me explain..." began Zinzolin.

"Go!" shouted Ghetsis, and left.

It was only a matter of minutes before the Team Plasma leader returned, but to Zinzolin it seemed like an eternity.

Ghetsis sat down without saying a word and stared at Zinzolin for a solid minute in silence. His stare was unnerving for anyone who knew him, but for Zinzolin it was even more so, because he was well aware of how aggressive Ghetsis had become and how dangerous it would be to summon his wrath.

Finally, Ghetsis broke the silence.

"I want to know why you didn't battle."

"Mighty Lord Ghetsis, we were outnumbered. They had fire types and my ice Pokémon would have been quickly defeated."

"Didn't your guards have various other types? How inept are you to go out into the territories with just one type of Pokémon?"

"I feared for my life," maintained Zinzolin, with emphatic hyperbole, "That man, Clay, has a reputation for being a tough character."

"Enough!" interrupted a visibly annoyed Ghetsis, slamming his staff on the ground. "Team Plasma has a reputation, as well. Your guards battled, or so I've been told. Yet, you, who is supposed to set an example, along with the other Sages, surrendered? You're a damned warrior! You know very well the number one rule in Team Plasma is 'never surrender, fight to the end for the cause'."

"Forgive me, supreme leader Ghetsis... I am truly ashamed," replied Zinzolin, lowering his head.

"Indeed. The only reason I am sparing your life at this moment is because you and I have known each other since my youth," said Ghetsis, adding, "But you had better not make another mistake such as this one again, because my patience wears thin."

At that moment, N peered in from the office doorway.

"Father, I'm sorry to interrupt your meeting..."

"That's all right, N. What is it?"

"Zorua apparently got into a fight on the deck with the Shadow Triad's Purrloin," N explained, "May I take her to Colress and ask him to heal her?"

"Yes, you may; at least she fought, even if she lost," answered Ghetsis, looking sternly at Zinzolin.

"Actually, she won," said N, "But she's got a few scratches. Father, I thought you would be angry that I let Zorua battle to her delight. You've often told me that Pokémon..."

Ghetsis interrupted him, "Obviously your Zorua is special and should be treated a bit differently, perhaps with more independence. Go take her to Colress for treatment and give her a favorite meal. She deserves it."

"Thank you, Father!" exclaimed N with a happy grin, and ran off.

Ghetsis turned back to Zinzolin and said seething, "Even the little fox Pokémon knows Team Plasma fights."

Zinzolin remained silent. He knew it would become far worse for him if he got Ghetsis even more irate.

"Go now," dismissed Ghetsis, "I have work to do."

With a hurried bow of his head, Zinzolin left the room quickly.

If any more mistakes occur, it will take an intense effort to achieve my goals, thought Ghetsis scowling to himself. Team Plasma must establish a reputation of aggressiveness, while maintaining the image that we merely seek humane treatment for Pokémon. This feat is difficult enough. The time to strike is when I have the legendary dragon, not before...if imprudence among the Sages doesn't strike first.

Colress was at his office looking through some notes he had written and comparing mathematical figures, when N showed up at the door. Colress glanced up and noticed he was carrying his fox Pokémon, Zorua.

"Doctor Colress, could you take a look at my Zorua? I asked my father if it would be okay for you to examine her and he agreed."

"Of course. Bring her over to my desk."

Colress examined Zorua. "Her injuries aren't too bad," the scientist determined.

Zorua gave a couple of yaps.

Colress looked at N, as if waiting for a translation. N sheepishly said, "Zorua says, just wait until you see the other Pokémon. ...Zorua! You shouldn't be fighting at all. Think about that poor hurt Purrloin." Zorua flattened its ears.

Colress took a small bottle of medicine from a cabinet and sprayed it onto the scratches, which instantly faded. Zorua shook its fur and yapped.

"Thanks, Dr. Colress," said N.

"You're welcome," Colress replied.

Scooping up the fox Pokémon, N left the laboratory, crossing paths with the Shadow Triad.

"Your majesty," one of the guards said, bowing to N as he walked by.

The young king walked quickly past them without any acknowledgement and the guards continued walking down the corridor past Colress' office.

The scientist called out to them, "I heard your Purrloin lost a fight with N's Zorua."

They turned to face him and said, "Yes, that's true. Difficult to believe that a low-level Zorua could beat our Purrloin."

"You should let me examine it, to make sure it recovers fast. It won't battle as ferociously if it's in a weakened condition," Colress persuaded.

The guards looked at each other and one of them shrugged his shoulders, "Makes sense," he said as he handed a Poké Ball to him.

The scientist took the Poké Ball and placed it in a Pokémon Restoring Machine, a device that healed all Pokémon.

After a while, a light on the device flashed with a beep signaling that healing was complete. Colress retrieved the Poké Ball.

"We're coming back shortly," said one of the guards cryptically, taking the Poké Ball.

"Coming back shortly?" Colress wondered.

"We're going to teach this damn cat a lesson," came the harsh reply as the Shadow Triad went out into the corridor.

Colress decided to observe. He stood at the office door and watched as they walked a short distance.

"Purrloin, come out!" said one of the Shadow Triad as he sent out the little cat Pokémon.

Purrloin appeared in a glittering light from its Poké Ball, but it looked unhappy. The Triad guards berated it.

"You made us look like fools for having such a weak Pokémon."

"Yeah, that battle was disgraceful," added another.

"Losing to a pet," the third scoffed.

Purrloin hissed at the Shadow Triad.

"I guess it misses its trainer," one of the guards smirked.

"You're our Pokémon now," said the first, "We're going to teach you to obey us."

They seized Poké Balls and Purrloin backed up into a corner, although its back was arched and it looked ready to attack.

The scientist, who had been measuring Purrloin's power, analyzed the scene and looked at the statistics displayed on the tablet he held.

Colress made up his mind to intervene. "Excuse me, but this Pokémon is rather intriguing. It seems to be withholding its power for some reason. In fact, it's already increased enough in level to evolve into a Liepard and yet it hasn't."

"We'll get it to," one of the Shadow Triad said menacingly.

Purrloin growled, its ears flat.

"I would like to study it at the laboratory. Why don't you give me the Purrloin?"

The Shadow Triad exchanged a glance; one of them answered, "I think we can lend it to you, but only for a couple of days."

The Triad guard recalled Purrloin into its Poké Ball and gave this to Colress.

As the scientist watched them leave, he sighed and stepped back into his office whispering to himself, "Quite a busy day, today."

Chapter 13 - A family dinner

Although he had some reservations about introducing Hilda so soon to his father; N obeyed Ghetsis' request and invited her to come to his home to share a meal with them both.

Hilda accepted without much thought, if anything she figured that their relationship was moving along and becoming serious.

A couple of days later, N showed up at the door of the dining room of the Team Plasma Frigate with Hilda. Ghetsis was already sitting at the head of the table with servants moving quickly to serve the food. The table was set in expectation of three.

"Enter. Don't delay," ordered Ghetsis as he noticed them standing at the entrance.

The two walked over to his side and N made the necessary introductions.

"Father, this is Hilda White... Hilda, this is my father Lord Ghetsis Harmonia."

"You may call me Ghetsis," said Ghetsis as he shook Hilda's hand. "Formality is best left for formal events, and this is a family dinner," he added.

"Thank you, sir," replied the girl.

N noticed that although he usually was seated at the other head of the table, this time the places were set to the right and left of Ghetsis, presumably to ease conversation. So, he ushered Hilda to the seat on the left side of his father, and he sat to his father's right.

Their plates were quickly filled and they all proceeded to eat in relative silence, until the dessert was to be served, then Ghetsis spoke up.

"So. Hilda," he began, "Are you from this region of Unova, or are you travelling?"

"Indeed, I am travelling," she answered, "Although I am from this region, from the town of Nuvema."

"She's helping the professors of this area collect information for the Pokédexes, father," interrupted N.

Ghetsis noticed the interruption and grew suspicious.

"Interesting," he said adding, "Do you have a Pokémon of your own?"

"Yes, I have a Vaporeon, and I hope to catch a few others," replied Hilda.

Ghetsis held up his coffee cup to his lips and paused for a moment glancing at N, who looked sheepishly down into his dessert dish.

"What are your thoughts on liberating Pokémon?" asked Ghetsis straightforwardly.

At this point N broke into the conversation once again, "Father...must every conversation include politics? Why can't we just have a meal without bringing up the topic of Pokémon liberation?"

"Because my dear son," answered Ghetsis with a stern look on his face, "the future of our planet depends on it."

Hilda disliked the tension that was building and decided it was time to speak openly.

"If I must be frank about my opinions, then so be it," she said, "No, Ghetsis. My answer to Pokémon liberation is no. I do not agree with Pokémon being taken away from their homes, unless they are complaining about being mistreated or they want to live in the wild. Many Pokémon love their humans and their humans love them and consider them part of the family."

"I can see you are unafraid to speak your opinion," replied Ghetsis, "A quality I find admirable." He glanced at N and added, "She could be quite useful in our group if she could be persuaded to see things our way."

N said nothing but looked towards Hilda, not knowing what to respond. Hilda got up from her seat and said, "Perhaps I should leave now. I don't want to disturb your evening further."

"Nonsense," answered Ghetsis, "You are my son's guest and, in this home, we have freedom of speech." The manner in which he spoke held a tinge of derision. "N. Give her a tour of the frigate before you take her home, and come see me upon your return before you go to bed for the night."

Ghetsis got up and left the table, leaving the couple alone and in silence.

"Come Hilda," said N, rising from his seat and taking her hand. "I will give you a tour before it's time for you to leave."

As they started going through the hallways of the Frigate, N showed off all the many art pieces that his father had collected throughout the years, and pointed out the various rooms and explained their use. Somewhere along the way they saw Colress at a distance, who motioned for them to come closer.

"Greetings, N," he said, "I wondered if you could aid me with my research. My understanding is that you can comprehend Pokémon language. We have a Purrloin in the laboratory and I was hoping you could translate what it has been desperately trying to tell us."

"Sure, Doctor Colress. I'd be happy to help out whichever way I can. For the benefit of the Pokémon, of course."

Hilda looked from Colress to N and back again, and Colress noticed it.

"You may bring your friend along, if you wish," he said.

"Ah, yes!" replied N, "Colress, this is Hilda... Hilda, this is our top scientist Doctor Ethan Colress."

Colress extended his hand to Hilda and she shook it.

"So, you're the famous Doctor Colress..." she began.

"Thank you for the kind words," the scientist interrupted, "Some might call me 'infamous' but my interest is simply science. Science, I believe, is progress."

This statement made Hilda hesitate for a moment. True. Anything can be used for the good or ill of humanity, although it all depends on the person putting it into practice. She thought about this some more as Colress led her and N to his laboratory.

When they arrived to Colress' office, the scientist showed them through an adjoining door that led to his laboratory.

"I thought there was only one door into the lab," said N surprised.

Colress smiled briefly, "There was only one, initially, but I had this one built so that I could go back and forth easily to check my research notes." He then pointed to a Pokémon seated on a table near a corner of the room, "That's the Purrloin, over there."

N saw the Purrloin and immediately walked over to it.

"Hello," said N to the cat Pokémon.

Purrloin began meowing adamantly, occasionally accentuating its monologue with a hiss. N was listening with astonishment. "Is that so?"

Purrloin gave a ffftt.

"What is the Pokémon saying?" asked Hilda.

"She says she was taken away from a trainer she cared about. Now she's unhappy. She wants to go back home."

Colress asked, "Does she say who her original trainer was?"

"Someone called Rosa," said N.

"I thought so," Colress whispered half-to-himself.

N turned back to the cat Pokémon. "Wouldn't you be happier in the wild?" N ventured, which elicited a mingled hiss and ffftt from Purrloin.

"I guess not," Hilda discerned.

At this point, Colress interrupted, "Thank you for your help N. I can proceed with my research now."

"That's it?" said an annoyed Hilda, "You're just going to leave it here? What about finding its owner?"

N took her by the arm and said, "That does not concern us. I came to this laboratory by request of Colress, otherwise I never would have." He gave her a slight pull on the arm and she let herself be led out of the office. Once outside she had more to say.

"That's just wrong, N. Why can't you see that the cat wants to be with her human. She suffers, N. Please do something about it." N noticed she had a pleading look on her face.

"I am sorry, Hilda... but this is not the time or place to discuss this. I will take you home now."

She said nothing more and they walked through the corridors in silence. When they were almost at the exit of the Frigate, they crossed paths with Zinzolin.

"Greetings, Sage Zinzolin. Have you met my good friend Hilda? She is my dinner guest tonight and I'm giving her a tour of the Frigate."

"Yes, I recall we met near Lostlorn Forest," Zinzolin shook her hand. He turned towards N. "I've been looking into the historical texts about Unova's dragon Pokémon and I found something out. I'm heading to tell your father."

"Is that the dragon I am supposed to awaken?" N asked.

"How many dragons are there?" Hilda interrupted.

"There are two," N told her. "The prophecy says I'm going to awaken a legendary dragon Pokémon, but it doesn't say which one."

He was being honest, Hilda could see this; but she also noticed how Zinzolin cast his eyes down and said nothing.

Zinzolin spoke again. "I think the dragon you're supposed to wake up is Reshiram. Most of the ancient writings point to the hero who can speak with Pokémon as being in search of truth in some form."

"Reshiram is the dragon Pokémon that represents Truth," N told Hilda, and then turned back to Zinzolin. "What about Zekrom?"

"The dragon of Ideals," Zinzolin considered. "There's less written about it. The legends say only people chosen by the dragon Pokémon themselves as worthy trainers, can wake them up; for Zekrom, it's supposed to be someone who has strong ideals."

"The Dark Stone and the Light Stone...that's how they're often referred to in the legends..." A thought occurred to N, and he asked Zinzolin, "What did you say they looked like again?"

"Each one looks like a giant pearl. Zekrom's orb is black and Reshiram's is white."

"That sounds like the rock Zorua gave me," Hilda remarked.

"You have an orb?" Zinzolin's eyes opened wide with realization of new information. "May I see it?"

"Sure. Here it is." Hilda took the orb out of her travelling bag and handed it to the Sage.

Zinzolin took the black orb and studied it closely.

"Where did you find this?" he asked mildly.

"In Lostlorn Forest," Hilda replied.

N added, "Zorua says it belongs to Hilda."

Zorua yapped, and N petted the little fox Pokémon on the head. "I know, Zorua... and there's a rock somewhere that belongs to me." He turned back to Zinzolin, who seemed both very interested in the stone yet a bit disconcerted.

"Well, it is a very unusual stone," Zinzolin finally stated. "I think this might be the dormant Zekrom. I always thought it would be somewhere like the Relic Castle ruins."

"Then is Reshiram's stone out in the woods, too?" asked Hilda.

"The prophecy is cryptic," the Sage admitted. "It says something like the hero has the map of truth with him but will unscramble it when the time is right."

Zinzolin handed the orb back reluctantly, and Hilda put it back in her bag, saying, "I guess the prophecy is real."

The Sage nodded and added, "I must hurry to meet with Ghetsis now. It was nice chatting with you both."

He hurried off and the pair continued towards the exit.

When Zinzolin arrived at Ghetsis' office, the door was wide open and the Team Plasma leader was sitting at his desk studying some regional maps.

"Come in, Zinzolin," Ghetsis said, asking, "Was there something you wanted to see me about?"

"Indeed, Lord Ghetsis," was the reply. "I was re-reading some of the ancient texts; and I think the dragon that N is supposed to awaken is Reshiram, which resides in the Light Stone."

"Good work, Zinzolin. Now we know exactly what we're looking for."

"There's another bit of information that I've come across," added Zinzolin, "It seems that N's friend Hilda has obtained the Dark Stone, and thus has possession of Zekrom."

Ghetsis stared at Zinzolin in complete silence for a moment, as if letting the information sink in.

"This appears to be one of those rare days when you have done excellent work, Zinzolin. Good that you have informed me promptly."

Zinzolin bowed and left the office.

Ghetsis pushed a button on his desk and seconds later his personal guards entered and said, "Hail Lord Ghetsis. Command and we shall obey!"

Ghetsis turned to face the Shadow Triad, and ordered:

"Find out everything you can about N's friend, the trainer Hilda White, and inform me immediately of whatever you learn."

The Shadow Triad saluted and left.

Shortly thereafter, N stepped to the door of his father's office and knocked. Ghetsis waved for him to enter, and he did so followed by his pet fox Zorua.

"Did you want to speak with me, Father?"

"Yes, N. Have a seat."

"If it's about Hilda, I don't want to discuss it at the moment, father. I am attracted to her and want to pursue the possibility of a long-time relationship."

N was interrupted by Ghetsis. "As a matter of fact, I think it is an excellent idea that you are so fond of her. It is a relationship worth pursuing."

This statement took N by surprise. He had not expected his father to be so accepting of his relationship with a member of the opposition. He just stared at Ghetsis.

"Don't look so surprised N," Ghetsis added, his motives hidden perfectly, "I was young, once."

Chapter 14 - Valuable endeavors

The next day Ghetsis and his son N made a surprise visit to Colress' laboratory. They found their top scientist studying a blackboard with mathematical formulae written across it, which were related to the energy cannon being developed. N, who enjoyed mathematics, took immediate interest.

"Why not try this number instead, Dr. Colress?" asked N while picking up a piece of chalk and writing on a side of the board.

"Well, while that might be relevant," explained Colress, "the resulting equation won't be as exact as the experiment demands. As you can see by the working of the figures, it does not address the issue of energy loss."

"True, Dr. Colress," answered N seriously, "I see it now. What are you calculating this for?"

"Very important research for Team Plasma," replied Colress, with suitable vagueness.

Ghetsis stood by, watching them both discuss the mathematical figures, but soon tired of it and addressed Colress:

"I gather from all this that you are still working on that important equation you and I had originally discussed. By the way, N has told me of a Purrloin that is unhappy to return to the wild."

"Yes," answered Colress. He immediately produced a Poké Ball from his lab coat pocket and sent out the cat, which emerged in a blaze of white light. "This is the Pokémon."

Purrloin gave a mew.

N turned to Ghetsis. "She wishes to go back to her human friend, father... a lady named Rosa."

"Then," Ghetsis announced, with the same fervor of his speeches, "we shall reunite her immediately. Team Plasma seeks the happiness of all Pokémon, so if this little creature finds it in the company of a human, then we must find Rosa for Purrloin's sake – though this be unlike most Pokémon."

This satisfied N, but when he was out of hearing range, Ghetsis turned back to Colress.

"Do not permit N to speak to any of the liberated Pokémon in future. A Purrloin is commonplace, but my plans will not be aided by the loss of a stronger, rarer Pokémon."

"As you say, Lord Ghetsis," Colress said.

The Plasma Frigate was docked near route 3 for events Team Plasma would be having in Nacrene City.

Zinzolin's thoughts were ceaselessly wandering from his morning duties, which were the military drills that had become standard by Ghetsis' command. They were not such a concern of Zinzolin's; the concept of ever having to defend the Plasma Frigate from an enemy strike was far from his shortsighted conjecture of what might befall the Unova region.

He was still annoyed about how Colress thwarted his capture of Team Rocket's Meowth back at the coronation ceremony. It seemed to Zinzolin that this was uncalled-for interference. It never once crossed his mind how vengeful Team Rocket would have been against all of Team Plasma had he succeeded in seizing one of their Pokémon; the syndicate had a dark, murderous reputation.

Zinzolin had his suspicions Colress somehow caused him to have been cornered at the Cold Storage in Driftveil as well, although this was on its surface meritless speculation. His inference lay in that Colress had been ashore at the time, lingering round the warehouses, and in the look of mischief in his eyes when he had next seen him.

At last, he decided he would deliberate no more of it; at his first leave he hastily headed to the Plasma Frigate's laboratory.

Zinzolin walked in to find Colress working on a gadget. The little gear-like Pokémon, Klink, floated beside the scientist as he poked at the device; the Pokémon gave a squeak as Zinzolin approached.

"Don't you ever take time to relax?" said Zinzolin to Colress.

"My research is relaxing to me," answered Colress without looking up.

It was then that Zinzolin noticed an egg placed in a basket on the table. It was surrounded by a warm-looking blanket, and a lamp shone a spotlight on it.

"What is that?" Zinzolin queried.

"An egg," Colress said matter-of-factly.

"I know that," Zinzolin snapped, "Where did you get a Pokémon egg?"

"I found it in the grass near Celestial Tower, when we made that stop around Mistralton City," said the scientist. "I've examined it and it appears to be an Elgyem egg...a psychic type; by my estimates it should hatch in a few days."

"So now you're conducting experiments on baby Pokémon," Zinzolin's disapproval was overplayed.

"On the contrary," Colress was indifferent, "I plan to keep it as a pet, like Klink. The evolved form of Elgyem is Beheeyem, which does have certain documented ability to manipulate the brain of its opponents. Having the added assistance of such a Pokémon may prove useful in my research."

Zinzolin observed him sourly; Klink looked like it wanted to attack Zinzolin in response, but Colress was disregarding both of them and continuing to poke at his device.

"People are beginning to call you the Dark Scientist," remarked Zinzolin.

"Oh?" This made Colress look up with curiosity. "Why would that be?"

"Because the authorities are calling you the Dark Scientist," Zinzolin smirked.

Colress considered this for a moment. "Science is neither dark nor light. It merely seeks the advancement of knowledge."

"That may be, but your experiments are sinister enough to have frightened half the region. Not to mention you're being funded by such a questionable patron."

Colress straightened his eyeglasses. "I presume you receive funds from a different benefactor?"

"Let's say I can better invest my funds, instead of funneling them into the development of technology he'll use for his advantage," Zinzolin was gesturing to the device Colress was working on.

"What Ghetsis wants with my research is of no concern to me," Colress countered, adding, "By the way...curiosity makes me ask, when exactly did you turn against Ghetsis?"

Zinzolin looked at him in surprise while a very calm Colress simply adjusted his eyeglasses and awaited a response.

"I don't know what you're talking about," answered Zinzolin, and walked away.

To Dr. Colress, Zinzolin's resentment towards him was of negligible consequence, and he felt what was more disquieting was Zinzolin's conspiring against Ghetsis. He had hitherto come to know that Zinzolin was an old acquaintance of Ghetsis, yet his conduct was not that of any friend, nor of the sort that could be dismissed as anything less than the first poisonous bud of treachery.

Colress had gratitude towards his benefactor for having wholeheartedly provided him the backing for his analyses, so informing Ghetsis of the possible subversion was important. Still, he was a scientist, and observance of the dispositions involved in this interorganizational power struggle by the Sages gave him plenty of new lines of tests to pursue. He decided to approach the matter through indirectness.

When he walked into the Team Plasma leader's office, carrying the device he had been working on, he found Ghetsis studying the monitors behind his desk. The windows out in the corridor were open, allowing the afternoon sunlight to stream in and mingle with the office's fluorescent lighting.

Ghetsis turned expectantly to him. "Have you located the trainer of the Purrloin?" Ghetsis inquired.

"Yes," affirmed Colress. "Rosa Black, from Aspertia City. She, together with her brother Hugh, have been journeying around the Unova region."

"Perhaps I have met them," Ghetsis considered. "Two obstinate trainers who confronted us in Nimbasa."

"Likely," the scientist casually acknowledged. "I have found them to be quite intriguing people. I have been analyzing the way they raise their Pokémon."

"So long as your associations with them do not compete against your loyalties to Team Plasma," Ghetsis dismissed this as a certainty and went on, "The sooner the Purrloin can be returned to them, the better. N has been much too preoccupied with that Pokémon's plight."

At this point, Zinzolin walked in and stood at the doorway.

"Sage Zinzolin," said Ghetsis.

"We've got a bit of public relations trouble," Zinzolin smirked. "Seems one of the other Sages took it upon himself to attack the Nacrene City museum and steal some artifacts they had on display as a way to promote the cause."

"Who would dare? Who is it?" asked the leader.

"Gorm. Shall I show him in?"

"Immediately. He has an explanation to give, before meeting his fate."

Colress, who had been silently observing and listening to the conversation, spoke up. "This is an interesting turn of events. I am quite curious to see what kind of personality would attempt to go against you, Ghetsis." Then looking sideways to Zinzolin he added, "Not to exclude other characters from the research observation of course."

"Whatever suits you, Doctor," Ghetsis said. "I don't know if a study of stupidity helps your research any, but you're welcome to stay."

Ghetsis, however, had noticed the sideways look Colress had given Zinzolin, so he turned to face the other Sage directly and said, "Do you think there might be others who consider treason as Gorm does?"

"N- No," stammered Zinzolin, "You are the supreme leader."

Gorm was shown into Ghetsis' office soon after that conversation; fear was present in his eyes, although he was trying his best to hide it. "Great founder of Team Plasma and defender of the true king of Unova...!"

"I told you to liberate Pokémon, not attempt a poorly timed publicity stunt," Ghetsis snapped.

Gorm was so ingratiating, it only annoyed Ghetsis further. "Supreme leader, I beg for mercy. There was this girl who saw us freeing a Minccino..."

Ghetsis stared at him without a hint of sympathy. "Somehow, the way this is sounding doesn't help your plight any."

"It wasn't even her Pokémon we were liberating, and yet this trainer chased after us to reclaim it," Gorm recounted. "She cornered the guards in Wellspring Cave and took back the Pokémon. She didn't seem at all intimidated by us; she even said she'd do everything possible to stop our radical politics, as she called it."

"How does this justify the museum attack?"

"I couldn't let it go," Gorm insisted. "We saw her again going into the Nacrene City museum, so we staged a raid on the place. We made a speech denouncing how the museum promotes Pokémon inequality, then made off with some ancient Dragonite bones they had. The museum curator is married to the Nacrene gym leader so they're opposition anyway. We figured we could lure the trainer into Pinwheel Forest and ambush her. Besides, that's just wrong...displaying the bones of a dead Pokémon, even if it lived thousands of years ago."

"Did you catch the trainer?"

"Well," Gorm looked embarrassed, "She caught us."

Ghetsis was silently thinking up what punishment he would inflict on this so-called Sage for his ineptitude, when Gorm continued speaking:

"She tracked down the guards and made them give back everything we'd taken. It couldn't be helped," Gorm added defensively, "I've never seen such a well-trained Vaporeon..."

"She had a Vaporeon?"

"Yes," Gorm said.

"Describe this girl."

"She's brunette; she was wearing a pink-and-white trainer's cap. She just looks like an average Pokémon trainer. I saw her speaking with N at the local café though. They had lunch together, and then he walked with her all the way to the museum; she went in alone."

Zinzolin ventured, "Hilda?"

Gorm seemed to brighten up, as if he had been somehow vindicated. "Oh, do you know the girl?"

"Perhaps," replied Ghetsis noncommittally, "Nevertheless. The point at hand is that you are not to do any confiscation of any kind without my personal authorization. Remember, we are not thieves."

"Yes, your excellency," said Gorm bowing.

"Now leave my presence, before I change my mind and decide against clemency; you know it is not my typical response to failure," added Ghetsis.

Gorm bowed again and left without saying anything else, and as soon as he closed the door behind him, Zinzolin asked Ghetsis, "Are we really not punishing him?"

"He has given me information, and that balances out the attempt at insubordination. That's the only thing that saved his life," and then with emphasis added, "I expect you are not considering some sort of treason."

"Never!" replied Zinzolin quickly, "My allegiance is always to you, my honorable leader."

"You may leave now, except for you Doctor," instructed Ghetsis.

Zinzolin left immediately and Colress got the impression that he was happy to leave the room; his thoughts were briefly interrupted by Ghetsis' voice.

"Colress, I see you have developed a new gadget. How does it work?"

The scientist turned back to his patron, who had allowed his usually stern countenance to wane; he was gazing curiously at the little device.

" newest version of the Colress Machine, you see. I've made it more compact," he explained, and walked over to Ghetsis to show him the contraption. It was a remote-control handheld device, with an antenna and a screen that displayed attack power statistics and other pertinent data of whatever Pokémon it was pointed towards. By shifting modes and pressing a button, it could then be used for its true purpose: to seize control of a Pokémon's mind, amplifying its power in the process.

"You've completed it, then," said Ghetsis. "Excellent."

"...but then again, in science, nothing is ever complete," Colress said with a smile. "There are always experiments to conduct."

He handed Ghetsis the contrivance.

"You point the device at the subject Pokémon, and press this button..." Colress motioned to the large button in the center of the remote control. "The electromagnetic waves primarily increase Pokémon attack power. Their influence on control is in actuality quite minor and could be easily substituted for any number of alternate methods. You see," he added, "it's really not the device that can control a Pokémon."

This surprised Ghetsis, and Colress cheerfully continued explaining.

"The Colress Machine is a focal point for the subject Pokémon; the wavelength merely captures their attention. It's the operator who can capture their mind."

Zorua trotted happily through the door, at that moment. Unexpectedly, Ghetsis pointed the device at the little fox Pokémon.

Zorua stood alertly, its gaze blank.

Ghetsis smiled, half-to-himself. Colress was watching with interest.

"You're the first person I've seen, besides myself, who can successfully use the Colress Machine," the scientist noted.

Zorua woke from the trance suddenly, looked from Ghetsis to Colress and back, then ran out the office door.

"It takes some practice," Colress said.

Ghetsis handed the device back to Colress. "This will be valuable to my endeavors."

As the scientist left for the laboratory, the Shadow Triad came into the Team Plasma leader's office.

"Lord Ghetsis," said one of the Triad, bowing, "we have gathered information about the trainer Hilda White, as you requested."

"She hails from Nuvema Town," said the second Triad guard "She helps compile Pokédex information for Cedric and Aurea Juniper, the professors heading the Juniper Laboratory. She is a vocal opponent of Pokémon liberation, with ties to several high-profile adversaries of our great cause."

"She has been told to travel to Chargestone Cave next, to study a Pokémon that has its habitat there," added the third.

The Team Plasma leader considered their discoveries only for a brief moment; then he spoke.

"We will be giving another speech in Mistralton City soon, near Chargestone Cave," Ghetsis decided coldly. "There we will seize the Dark Stone from young Hilda...and eliminate her."

Chapter 15 - The gauntlet in Chargestone Cave

The following morning, Colress boarded a Team Plasma helicopter, followed by his Pokémon, Klink. He took with him the Poké Ball containing Purrloin.

While Team Plasma had been at Nacrene City, Rosa and Hugh had gone to challenge the Castelia City gym, which they had overlooked in their desperation to pursue Team Plasma after the theft of Purrloin. Nacrene had been too far away for them to come to, as their lone Pokémon was too small to fly them there, so they had decided the best use of their time would be toughening Pidove by battling at the gym.

Colress knew they were now travelling on route 6 and was hoping to meet with them there. Upon arrival at the route, the scientist requested that the aircraft land in an out-of-the-way area; he would go on himself without Team Plasma guards.

Colress found them at the entrance to Chargestone Cave. What seemed like several large boulders blocked the pathway; Hugh and Rosa were standing around unable to get through.

"Where did these come from?" Hugh was wondering, "The path to Mistralton City is supposed to be right through Chargestone Cave."

"Are we going to have to go the long way around back through Nimbasa?" Rosa asked.

"By the time we do that, Team Plasma will be long gone," her brother replied.

Colress spoke up. "I'm glad I could catch up with you before you left the area."

The pair turned to see him, and Rosa smiled. "Colress! Hi!"

Colress returned the smile and glanced at the line of rocks. "Interested in these?"

"Yeah," Hugh scowled. "There's no way into Chargestone Cave because these boulders are blocking the road. We don't have any Pokémon strong enough to move them."

Colress took a device from an interior pocket of his lab coat and pointed it at the rocks.

"These are actually Pokémon," Colress said, studying the device.

Hugh and Rosa seemed quizzical. Colress pressed a button on the device, and instantly all the Pokémon stood up. They were bug type Pokémon that seemed to have rocky shells.

"They're Crustle," Colress announced. "It seems they were lying here, out of energy for some reason." He faced the Crustle and ordered, "Move to the side of the road."

When they complied, he shut off the device. The Pokémon looked a little perplexed, but stronger.

"Well, whatever happened to them, they should be okay now," Colress said. "My device should have given them enough of an energy boost. I wonder what caused them to lose energy?"

Hugh squinted at him suspiciously; Rosa looked intrigued. "That's an interesting device," she said, "Please explain it. I'd like to know more about it."

"Oh, you mean my Colress Machine?" Colress proudly turned back to his device. "Yes; I developed it! It's still a prototype, but it's at the heart of my research. This device increases the energy of Pokémon, maximizing their power. Perhaps most usefully, the electromagnetic wavelength captures their interest and aids in rendering them entirely under my control."

"Mind control?" The look on Hugh's face was reminiscent of those of the appalled spectators at Colress' university lecture. He narrowed his eyes and added, "I see no benefit to a Pokémon control device."

"I got the Crustle off of the road, for one," Colress pointed out. "How long would it have taken if you had to push them off the path? Not to mention get them to the Pokémon Center, in the strange condition they were in?"

"It just seems to me that could cause a lot of mischief in the wrong hands," said Hugh, defending his opinion.

"Science is progress," insisted Colress, "and I will add, that science has no political tendency, merely the advancement of knowledge."

"That's true, Hugh," interrupted Rosa, "I studied Pokémon nursing and any advancement in science is progress no matter the governing power in control of a territory."

"Incidentally, Rosa," Colress mentioned, "I believe this Pokémon belongs to you."

The scientist retrieved a Poké Ball from his lab coat and opened it. Purrloin emerged in a flash of light, with a happy meow.

"Purrloin!" Rosa shouted as her Pokémon gave another meow of recognition and leapt into her arms, purring loudly. "Colress, I don't know how I can thank you enough!"

"My pleasure," replied the scientist simply.

"Thanks, from me too!" Hugh chimed in, "How did you get Purrloin away from Team Plasma?"

"In a sense, Purrloin had become a liability for Ghetsis. He wanted me to return it," Colress said, then added, "I would like to see Purrloin compete with Klink. Your Pokémon cares a lot about you, more than most other Pokémon I've seen, and battling with you would be the best way to test my theories that Pokémon display their power when they are friends with their trainer. Do you find this acceptable?"

"What do you think, Purrloin?" Rosa said to her cat.

Purrloin gave a happy, affirming meow and purred.

"Well then, I will test you to see if you're a trainer who can bring out the hidden potential of Pokémon! Let's begin then, shall we?" asked Colress.

Rosa's response was to take a step back and shout to her cat Pokémon, "Get ready for battle, Purrloin!"

"Battle post, Klink," Colress said to his Pokémon. "Gear Grind!"

Klink spun at Purrloin in a tackle; the cat Pokémon sidestepped the move and it missed.

Purrloin leapt at Klink, its claws glinting violet. The gear-like Pokémon tried to dodge, but was met by the cat's attack. Purrloin was springing about with a rapidity that was enviable by most other Pokémon, and Colress was fascinated by the figures rendered on the device. He decided to test Purrloin further.

"Autotomize," ordered the scientist; Klink began spinning into the air, at a high speed around the battlefield.

It was now faster than Purrloin. Klink struck with its electric attack Discharge, shocking the opposing Pokémon, and spun off to safety. Despite this, Purrloin held its ground determinedly; with each attack, it seemed to push aside its weariness as it leapt to counter.

At last the scientist called:

"Discharge again – finish the fight!"

"Payback, Purrloin!"

The cat braced itself against the electric shock before taking a flying leap to tackle its adversary, and the Klink fell backwards onto the grass, knocked out.

"Klink?" Colress said, poking at his Pokémon, "You did well. Come into your Poké Ball." Klink gave a couple of squeaks and obeyed.

"You did it, Purrloin!" Rosa said, hugging her Pokémon. Purrloin purred.

"That actually makes a lot of sense," Colress reasoned, as he studied statistics on his device. "Payback increases its damage when the opponent attacks first. But it's still a dark type move, which Klink is resistant to. Not to mention Purrloin is lower level than Klink, yet it somehow endured the Discharge attack and mustered all its strength for you." Colress turned to Rosa, his amber eyes shining. "Magnificent battle. Excellent command of strategy! This is an essential notation for my research. It seems that the more a trainer and their Pokémon trust and try to understand each other, the more the animals are willing to battle to their utmost."

"I love my Pokémon," was Rosa's reply, at that moment Purrloin began to glow a glittering white.

Colress, Rosa, and Hugh all watched as the cat Pokémon was engulfed in light, which grew taller. "Purrloin's evolving?" Hugh said with surprise.

The light faded and revealed Purrloin's evolution: a sleek purple cat Pokémon with golden spots and paws. Magenta streaks of fur painted its green eyes, and its tail was curved sharply. It gave a happy meow.

"Congratulations! Your Purrloin evolved into Liepard!" announced Colress.

Colress held out his device again, measuring the newly evolved Pokémon's power. "Perhaps there is much to be said for bringing out a Pokémon's strength through friendship...although my tests are still ongoing," he hurried to say.

Rosa was petting the still-purring Liepard.

"Now that you have your Pokémon back, where will you be travelling to?" the scientist asked.

"We've heard that Team Plasma will be making another speech in Mistralton," she answered.

"We're going to rescue all the other stolen Pokémon from them," her brother added.

"I'm going to Mistralton also," said Colress, "Perhaps we shall see each other there."

"Why don't you join us?" Rosa asked.

"I would like that very well," Colress answered cheerfully, "I'll heal my Pokémon, and then we may be on our way."

Team Plasma had already made speeches in Mistralton City some time prior, but Ghetsis had a reason to return. Mistralton, with its bustling airport, was another municipality that was militarily strategic and additional efforts were being made to win over the people here. Unfortunately for Ghetsis, the people of Mistralton tended to have political views opposing Team Plasma so, if anything, the trip here was excellent to 'liberate' some more Pokémon that could be drafted into their ranks. Mistralton, by virtue of its influx of people who had travelled to and from other regions, gave them a wider assortment of Pokémon that were otherwise infrequently found in the Unova region.

The more important thing today, Ghetsis felt, was the trap that had been set for Hilda White in Chargestone Cave.

Chargestone Cave, right outside Mistralton City, was known for its electric type Pokémon. It was seldom dark in its depths, lit by stones that would glow with electromagnetism and, accordingly, held such a strong charge that many electric types would evolve when exposed to the energy.

Hilda was walking through the cavern when she was suddenly surrounded by the Shadow Triad.

"Come," said the Triad guard simply, and Hilda was led to where N and Zorua stood.

The Shadow Triad members bowed reverently. "Your majesty, we have brought the one you wished to see."

N glanced up from his conversation with Zorua.

"Hilda," he smiled.

"Hi N," Hilda returned the smile. "Why all the formality? Is this a new protocol for seeing you?"

"You have been chosen by Team Plasma," he answered.


"Does that surprise you?"


"I suppose it should."

The ambiguity of the conversation was unrelenting. "Chosen for what, N? I must know what is expected of me," she added.

"I don't know," N said finally. "Team Plasma – well, my father, really – wants to test you. He has most of our finest warriors stationed at the lower level of this cavern."

The Shadow Triad guards exchanged a worried look, which went unconsidered by either N or Hilda. N continued speaking, rather cheerily.

"I overheard it would be a test of your battling skills."

"Oh, well, if he wants to battle me, I'd be happy to!" she replied cheerfully.

A member of the Shadow Triad spoke. "Your majesty, with your authorization we depart."

"Yes, you may," approved N, and the Triad guards bowed and dissipated into the shadows.

"I like Chargestone Cave," N continued, "You can see mathematical formulae at play here; the separation of charges and the balance of the world."

"This is a pretty interesting place," observed Hilda, "but if everything was so discrete then the charges wouldn't attract each other."

She pushed one of the stones; drawn by magnetism, it stuck to one of the boulders and let out a myriad of multicolor sparks.

Zorua gave a happy yap. N laughed. "You know, Zorua was trying to explain something like that. I still am not convinced..." He turned to Hilda, his blue eyes shining in the glow of light that bounced off the rocks in the cave. "I am convinced of one thing, You and me... and all your ideals and dreams of the Pokémon League challenge."

"Oh N..." Hilda replied.

He took her hand and pulling her towards him, they kissed.

At the center of town in the city of Mistralton, Ghetsis was about to walk on stage to speak when the Shadow Triad came before him and Zinzolin.

"Lord Ghetsis," they bowed, "We beseech you for clemency!"

"Clemency?" echoed Ghetsis.

The elder Triad guard spoke. "His majesty, King N, requested that the lady Hilda be brought before him. He has warned her of the ambush."

"Such a nuisance, these setbacks!" Ghetsis seized his staff, then turned to Zinzolin. "Sage will speak in my place."

"Sure!" Zinzolin was a bit too eager, but Ghetsis could not bother with it.

Ghetsis hurried, in full regalia, to the cavern; the minions stationed to attack Hilda were instructed anew. They were to battle her, but she was to be unharmed. As he was coming back down the path, he came across N and Hilda.

"N told me you wished to see how I battle. You should have let me know," Hilda added happily.

"Hilda. I wanted to surprise you." An understatement, thought Ghetsis with annoyance.

"Where are the other trainers?" she asked.

With his staff, Ghetsis gestured down the narrow pathway, and said, "There are some Team Plasma members down this way. You will battle each of them in turn, without a chance to heal. The goal is to make your way to the steps at the end of the cavern, leading out to the Mistralton City exit." He hesitated as if for effect and glancing at her sideways, asked, "Do you think Vaporeon will be strong enough to withstand our gauntlet?"

"This reminds me of the Battle Subway," came the seemingly unconcerned reply, "The new battle challenge in Nimbasa. The goal is to walk through a specially designed subway train, battling trainers, until you arrive at a spot where you face the conductor." Hilda looked at him and smiling proudly stated, "Vaporeon did really well in it!"

Her assurance was either surprising or irritating to Ghetsis; he had been trying to see just how much determination and courage she had, and now was faced with the truth that she was not going to back down easily.

The battles initiated and Vaporeon fought well, lithely leaping and attacking the opponent creatures, knocking out some of them in one strike; it occurred to Ghetsis that even had they caught her unaware, her Pokémon would have outmatched theirs anyway, and she would have walked out of Chargestone Cave unscathed.

"Now," he announced, when she had defeated all of the Team Plasma minions there, "you'll face me in battle."

He threw a Poké Ball onto the cave ground; Hydreigon emerged with a snarl.

"That type of Pokémon is weak to ice," Hilda considered, "This should be easy," she spoke in a low voice, half to herself.

Ghetsis smirked but said nothing. This will be her defeat, he thought.

"Aurora Beam!" called Hilda; the Vaporeon bared its fangs and let loose an iridescent icy ray, which struck Hydreigon directly. The three-headed dragon spun backwards, but righted itself in midair with a hiss.

"Focus Blast," commanded Ghetsis.

Hydreigon sent out a burst of energy. Vaporeon's attempt to evade the attack were futile, and the water type Pokémon collapsed.

Hilda was surprised; she hurried over to the water type. "Vaporeon! ...are you all right?"

Vaporeon sat up, but it was quite unsteady and incapable of further battle. "I'll take you to the Pokémon Center straightaway," she told her Pokémon, recalling the weakened creature to the Poké Ball.

She stood up to face Ghetsis. The Hydreigon fluttered beside its master.

"Your Pokémon is really strong," she acknowledged.

"It knows it is in its best interest to be," said Ghetsis, his one-eyed stare fixed on her.

Hilda felt a slight shudder. Somehow, she found that statement disquieting; N broke the uneasy silence.

"This is what I mean," he said, "Pokémon battles inflict pointless pain. Let's get to the Pokémon Center to heal Vaporeon."

He walked away with her, leading her away from Team Plasma and hence to safety – to Ghetsis' chagrin.

Ghetsis left Chargestone Cave to find Zinzolin giving an impassioned speech.

"Compatriots and fellow subjects of our king! We must unite in the cause of Pokémon liberation! We must bring forth a rebellion of thought, to save all Pokémon and bring a better world!"

Zinzolin's embellished discourse, though mortifying to Ghetsis, did seem to rally the assembly. They appeared quite taken by him and cheered enthusiastically their growing support.

"At least this embarrassment helps Team Plasma," Ghetsis muttered. "People are so gullible."

During all this time, Colress, Rosa and Hugh had been journeying through Chargestone Cave. They found each other to be good travelling companions. The cave was long, giving them ample time for conversations; these began with Hugh's goal to challenge the Pokémon League, and Rosa's decision to travel around the Unova region with her brother, a conversation that led invariably to the political situation with Pokémon liberation. But this was not all they spoke of.

The two siblings told of their home in Aspertia City, while the scientist spoke of his research; so too, how it had brought him before to Chargestone Cave and that this was how he met Klink.

Their three Pokémon, Klink, Liepard, and Pidove, took the lead as they traversed the cavern, fighting off any wild Pokémon that sought a challenge with them.

"Klink seems happy," considered Rosa.

"Yes," the scientist jotted down a note, "I have heard that many Pokémon enjoy training in the area they used to live. Is that so, Klink?"

Klink gave two or three delighted squeaks.

Round the turn, they were met with another trainer who wished a battle with them, three Pokémon on three, and the trial was taken up readily. Their Pokémon quickly trounced their opponent's; Klink evolved at the end of the battle.

"Klang!" Colress gave his pet a hug. "Do you Pokémon, left to your preference, tend to evolve when you are happy?"

Klang squeaked joyfully.

His Pokémon's joy was mirrored in him. Rosa felt her heart leap inexplicably to see Colress' happiness, as if it were her own, and she could not really reason it through before she heard Hugh griping:

"Now only Pidove has to evolve. I've been training it yet still. I've got to find a way to get it stronger, quickly!"

"Oh Hugh, being strongest isn't the only thing that training Pokémon is about," his sister remarked, but Hugh was not very persuaded by this.

"It is, if we're to stop Team Plasma," he insisted.

Hugh's impetuosity was a fascinating contrast to Rosa. Colress was analyzing each of them thoughtfully, and it occurred to him the incontrovertible difficulty of such a quest as halting Team Plasma that the two siblings had manifestly devoted themselves to. He could see little manner of their success in such an endeavor, and without saying as much he inquired how they intended to achieve it.

"We should like to find out where they are holding the stolen Pokémon," said Rosa. "You expressed a view, back in Castelia, that they would be imprisoning them on their ship."

"Yes," said Colress, "but you do not know where their ship is."

She nodded but was swift to dismiss the concern. "If they are travelling by ship, then they must have brought it with them wherever they are making speeches."

"While true, you would not only have to locate the vessel but get aboard. Then you would have to determine where the creatures are. The Plasma Frigate is quite a large ship. You might be captured yourselves first."

"We've got our Pokémon by our side to help us," Hugh answered, and that ended the conversation.

Team Plasma's speech had ended when they came to Mistralton, so Hugh made a beeline for the local Pokémon gym.

"See you later!" Rosa waved at the scientist, who smiled at her with a reciprocal wave.

When Rosa and Hugh had left, and Colress was sure they'd gone, the scientist headed in the direction of the Plasma Frigate.

Interesting turn of events, he thought.

Later that day, when all the Sages were aboard the Plasma Frigate, Ghetsis asked of Zinzolin:

"Where's N?"

"With H."

"Your humor escapes me, Z."

"I didn't mean harm..." stammered Zinzolin.

"Never mind," replied Ghetsis, "Our battle victories have surpassed all expectations, and that greatly pleases me. He is attempting to solve an unsolvable puzzle. Let him."

Zinzolin had eluded Ghetsis' ire, but his curiosity overcame whatever sagacity held him from inquiry that might irritate his superior, and he ventured, "Team Plasma has not yet captured any territory, Lord Ghetsis."

The Team Plasma leader's violet gaze gleamed. "Common minds are easily influenced by authority and power; by winning the hearts of the foolish masses we are one step closer to enacting the laws which will crush my... that is, our opposition. It is a victory, without violence. That said, the violence will come later."

Zinzolin didn't like the sound of this, but he kept quiet.

" far as Hilda White goes," Ghetsis added, "she is an ordinary trainer; she cannot awaken Zekrom. N is captive by years of indoctrination. Hilda has influence on him, but it will never last long enough to prevent us from winning the impending war. Her end will come when she least expects."

Chapter 16 - Mayor of Opelucid City

Opelucid City was where Team Plasma's next scheduled speech was to take place. It was renowned for its historical architecture, which blended easily with trees and more modern buildings to give Opelucid its slogan: 'Time's Dividing Line'

It was here that Hugh went to face the city's gym leader for a Pokémon battle, with his sister Rosa tagging along as usual, and it was here that the duo met Colress yet again.

"Hello, Colress!" shouted Rosa as she approached him, "How nice to see you again."

"Indeed, good to see you!" answered Colress cheerfully.

"Hello," said a less enthusiastic Hugh.

"What brings you to Opelucid City?" asked Rosa.

"I was interested in seeing some gym battles; my research requires it at this point," replied the scientist.

"Then you have good timing," Hugh interjected, "I'm going to challenge Drayden, the gym leader. Maybe you'd like to come with us to see the battle."

"Oh, please do come," added Rosa.

"Very well," said Colress, "I shall tag along. I've heard he is also the mayor of this place."

"Is he, really?" asked Hugh. "That's interesting."

The Pokémon gym of Opelucid City was a stone building of evenly stacked black and white rock, hewn atop the roof into sculptures of two dragons facing either side like sentinels.

Hugh said, "What I know about Drayden is he specializes in dragon types, and his signature Pokémon is a Haxorus."

"That's going to be difficult for Pidove." Colress considered, "An unevolved Pokémon, pitted against the final evolutionary stage of Axew."

"We can beat him," Hugh staunchly declared. "Besides, my Pokémon has evolved into a Tranquill since you last saw it."

"So soon? It was a low level not so long ago."

Rosa replied, "He was training it in the grass along route 11 but when it got tired, instead of returning to the Pokémon Center, he fed it that bitter herbal medicine he bought at Driftveil."

"They were a bargain price," Hugh added happily, "If we had stopped training to run back to the Pokémon Center and heal, my Pokémon would never have evolved so fast."

"You gave Pidove so many of those Revival Herbs that Tranquill looks too sick to its stomach to even want to battle," Rosa reminded her brother.

"I still say it was a better purchase than all that milk you bought for Liepard," Hugh countered.

"Liepard likes anything with cream. She gets happy whenever I give her a saucer of milk," said Rosa defending her actions.

At this point, Hugh gave up the quarrel with Rosa and said, "Let's go into the gym."

"Good idea," she agreed.

Once inside, Hugh approached a clerk and asked, "I'd like to challenge the gym leader."

"You'll have to sign in and wait your turn, because he's not here right now," was the clerk's response, and added, "He heard that Team Plasma was holding a rally in Opelucid so he and his daughter Iris went there."

"So... is he in favor of Team Plasma's agenda?" asked Rosa.

"Not at all," replied the clerk, "Drayden is stalwartly against Pokémon liberation, both as a gym leader and as a politician."

Hugh spoke up, "He'd get my vote, then."

"Where is the rally?" Rosa asked.

"I'm uncertain," replied the clerk.

"Ghetsis is holding his speech in the city plaza," Colress interrupted, "I believe it started about an hour ago."

"Let's get over there," Hugh decided. "Maybe we can find the gym leader."

The city's plaza had a large fountain, and it was before the fountain that Ghetsis was speaking. By now, political discontent had spread across the Unova region and the ideological antagonism was apparent in society.

As Ghetsis spoke, murmurs could be heard within the crowd and the audience was growing in size; overall, they seemed favorable to his cause. Ghetsis ignored the murmurs and continued speaking.

"The legend of the dragons has come true," he told a burgeoning audience. "Our new king has emerged and his name is N; just as the prophecy told, he has the ability to communicate with Pokémon and knows their plight. I, Ghetsis, am his father and his premier advisor. I am to give you the vision for a perfect world where both humans and Pokémon will live in harmony. For too long, Pokémon have been oppressed and used by mankind. We can and will live, as equals through Pokémon liberation! All Pokémon should be freed. All Pokémon should be given a chance to live their lives without the submission to any human."

"...while all people submit to Team Plasma tyranny!" came a shout from the sidelines of the crowd. At this, Ghetsis glanced over to see Drayden, the mayor of the town. The politician had a frown on his face. He was accompanied by his young daughter Iris, who held a small dragon type known as an Axew; they watched the political confrontation quizzically.

Ghetsis did not back down. He addressed Drayden:

"The current government is unjust and imperfect. Power only suits perfection."

"...and you're hunting for perfection?" challenged Drayden.

"I am perfection," Ghetsis replied.

This unforeseen retort flustered Drayden, and Ghetsis smirked. The audience, like good Mareep, were cheering the Team Plasma leader's every word without stopping to analyze what he had said. Team Plasma had large support in Opelucid, so much so, it was baffling that the populace had elected a gym leader for mayor.

This place will be easy to conquer.

"That's a bold response," said Drayden, "What makes you think that you have all the answers to the world's questions?"

"It's a fact. Take yourself, for example," began Ghetsis, "A gym leader that was elected mayor, in a town that has over 90 percent support for my ideas." Ghetsis paused here to let his statement sink in before he continued. "You are one of the most stupid, if not the stupidest person I have ever wasted my time with. You will be deported from this territory as soon as I assume control of it... I suggest you start packing your bags."

Drayden fell silent. He could not believe that Ghetsis had said those things. Finally, he found his voice.

"You have some nerve speaking to me that way!"

"It's not difficult," was Ghetsis' quick response, "You are a worthless, pathetic excuse of a human being."

The surrounding group that had gathered to hear his speech were still mingling around, listening to the conversation the two men were having, and when they heard Ghetsis retort, they erupted in applause. Drayden was flabbergasted.

"You see," the Team Plasma leader pointed out, "I have already won them over."

At this point, Ghetsis snapped his fingers and the line of Team Plasma guards surrounded him. They all marched away in proper military form, leaving behind a very irate Drayden.

"Troublemaker," the mayor fumed, but he was too afraid of Ghetsis to speak up anymore.

"I thought N was supposed to be king," Iris interjected, "Why is Ghetsis saying he would be ruling?"

Drayden stopped to consider this but shrugged it off without much thought. "N is his son; it stands to reason he'd be given some role in N's government. In any case, it was probably an oversight on his part."

"What about the legend, father?" insisted Iris.

"I know the legend, too; the real legend." Drayden was irritated. "It says someone seeking truth or ideals, with the ability to communicate with Pokémon, can awaken one of the dragons...but it says nowhere that he would become ruler, only that the ancient people wanted him to."

"Do you think N can speak to Pokémon, or Ghetsis?" the girl asked her father.

"I don't know, Iris... but I have my doubt that it would be Ghetsis, because his temper is too quick and he is very impatient."

Axew chimed in, giving a cheerful cry. Iris smiled at her pet. "Well, I don't think its right to separate Pokémon and people. Everyone will be sad."

Her father didn't answer this statement as he was deep in thought, worried about what the future might bring.

Meanwhile, Colress, Rosa and Hugh had gone to listen to Ghetsis. They had been standing in the back of the crowd and had seen and heard Drayden's encounter with the Team Plasma leader. The brother-sister duo decided to walk up to Drayden and introduce themselves, and Colress naturally, thought this would be a good opportunity to analyze another interesting personality, so he tagged along.

"Mayor Drayden, my name is Hugh," he said, "This is my sister, Rosa. We were at the gym."

"Good to meet you," said the mayor, "I suppose you are journeying to challenge the Pokémon League."

"It started that way, but actually we're travelling Unova to stop Team Plasma," Hugh answered adamantly, "They're stealing Pokémon, all for their crooked political agenda. Two of those thieves stole Rosa's Purrloin."

"I have heard lots of people saying that... even Clay, Driftveil's gym leader, says he caught some Team Plasma members in the act of smuggling stolen Pokémon with one of the Sages overseeing it," affirmed Drayden. "You wouldn't happen to be the same two trainers who helped Clay?"

"That's us," Hugh replied, "The Sage in question was Zinzolin."

"We only got my Pokémon back when Colress helped," added Rosa.

She gestured to the scientist, who dipped his head in acknowledgment and stepped forward.

"Dr. Ethan Colress," he introduced himself, shaking Drayden's hand. "I am a scientist; my research centers on ways to bring out the power of Pokémon."

"That seems like interesting work," said Drayden cordially, "Isn't the most efficient way simply to train Pokémon regularly?"

"This is what most trainers do, but research persists."

Drayden seemed to still be considering something; he was studying the scientist thoughtfully. "Dr. Colress... Have we met prior?"

"I don't believe so."

"Your name sounds like I know you from somewhere. Did you ever work in Mossdeep City, in the Hoenn region? I made a speech there once at the Space Center – collaboration between cities across regions and so forth."

"I haven't been to Mossdeep, I'm afraid."

"Hmm," wondered Drayden.

"In any event," said Colress, with a small smile, "I'd like to observe some gym battles for my research. I was fortunate to encounter my friends here in Opelucid and was hoping I might see their match today as well as a few others."

"Certainly, doctor; I have no objection to it," Drayden replied, "I know I likely do have a few more trainers waiting at the gym too, but I couldn't let those Team Plasma scoundrels go unchallenged."

"No apology needed!" Hugh said. "I think it's too bad that so many people are falling for Ghetsis' deceptions."

"The world nowadays is in a sad state, when some arrogant hypocrite like Ghetsis can make people believe Pokémon liberation is the lone answer to helping abused Pokémon and all of mankind's woes," Drayden said and then, in an unanticipated sentiment, he added, "I can certainly emphasize with some of what they say, but I can never forgive the way they reject everything else."

"My father makes the best speeches!" Iris chimed in happily, "Much better than any Ghetsis makes."

"Most people greatly underestimate Team Plasma," said Colress.

"Yes, but at least we live in a civilized time; in the ancient days, we'd have to worry of them doing a violent overthrow," the mayor declared, with firm belief. "It's their persuasion that is perilous."

The scientist did not respond to this point.

Drayden continued, "Before I head to the gym, I must drop by City Hall. I left the case containing the gym badges there. You are quite welcome to come," he invited them.

They followed the mayor to Opelucid City Hall where they were introduced to his wife, Allison, and while here took notice of the impressive collection of items he had on display. Most of them were pertaining to dragon Pokémon, his type specialty. One, however, stood out under a glass display case.

The item was triangular, with the look of an antique, so well-kept that it still shone. It was a long silver pyramid, with a smaller gold one on the opposing end, and seemed almost like a top. "What is this?" Rosa wondered.

"The DNA Splicers," Drayden said as he walked over to her.

"DNA Splicers?" she remarked with curiosity. "I'd never heard of it."

"It's supposed to bind to the DNA of the ancient dragon Pokémon and merge them somehow," Drayden added.

"Absofusion," Colress corrected.

Drayden looked at him steadily and replied, "I guess that's the scientific term."

"How can they combine?" asked Rosa.

"They were said to be one dragon in the beginning." Drayden told her. "Of course, I've never seen the DNA Splicers actually used, nor would I want to."

Colress was questioning. "Why is that? Such a Pokémon would probably be powerful," he added. "It would share the strengths of each absofused dragon. Scientifically, it would be a fascinating subject."

"Power like that could be dangerous under the direction of an unethical trainer," said the mayor seriously. He gave Colress another inquisitive glance and asked:

"I apologize, what did you say your name was again?"

"Dr. Colress," replied the scientist.

"Colress," Drayden echoed, "Where have I heard that name? It sounds familiar."

The question went unanswered, and the group all went to the gymnasium for the battles.

On a panel stretching across the wall, the species of the two Pokémon on the field were laid out, as well as their strength plotted as a green, horizontal line. "That's similar to what you've got here," Rosa noted, glancing at the screen of the device that the scientist held.

"Yes, but I have a few more figures," Colress said. He proceeded to explain how to read the information on the Colress Machine to Rosa, who was as intrigued by it as he. "See, here you can measure the five main statistics... Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, Speed..."

Hugh cared little for the science of Pokémon. "Tranquill, are you ready for battle?"

The bird Pokémon did look sick to its stomach; it shook out its feathers but was unenthusiastic for the fight.

Tranquill's attacks were lackluster; seemingly riled by how it had been exerted till evolution, it fought but fell under two Dragon Tail attacks by Haxorus.

"Perhaps some more training," Drayden advised, as Hugh recalled the bird to its Poké Ball.

The battle over, Liepard sprang before Haxorus with a mew. "Liepard, wait!" cried Rosa.

The Pokémon gave an eager meow. "Are you saying you want to try battling Haxorus?" Rosa guessed, to which the Liepard replied by hugging her with a purr. "But Liepard..."

"You've barely trained Liepard," Hugh pointed out. "If she wants to, go ahead, but it's probably a lost battle."

Haxorus, for its part, was not tired at all and seemed thrilled to continue battling.

"I have no more battles scheduled for today," Drayden said. "I'm willing to accept your challenge if you're up to it."

"Well, if you want to, Liepard," Rosa assented.

Liepard joyfully leapt back onto the battlefield, with tail lashing.

"This should be a fascinating comparison," Colress jotted down some notes.

Liepard was fast, confounding Haxorus with swiftness. This battle took longer than the two-or-three turn clash that had ended in defeat for Hugh; Liepard spun around Haxorus' attacks, leaping in and away with its Night Slash. Whenever Haxorus struck Liepard, the cat righted itself in midair, returning with vengeance, until the dragon type fell onto its side. Liepard's ears flattened as it pounced on the opposing Pokémon, pinning it down.

"This then, belongs to you," Drayden presented her with the Opelucid gym badge; a shiny, silver pin shaped like a star.

"I couldn't possibly!" Rosa protested, "Hugh, you're the one who came here to win a badge. I was a spectator."

Hugh was graceful with the turn of events, and he encouraged his sister. "No, Rosa, you should. You and Liepard both earned it."

Afterwards, the group was walking out of the gym while Hugh discussed the outcome.

"I could have done better... if only my Pokémon were more evolved," he commented.

"Perhaps I can be of some help," offered Colress as he explained, "Technical Machines are used to teach Pokémon attacks they otherwise would not know unless inherited through breeding. When Tranquill evolves into Unfezant, you can use this to have it learn Hyper Beam, the strongest attack Unfezant can learn."

Colress retrieved an item from his lab coat.

"This is the TM for Hyper Beam," the scientist explained, handing it to Hugh. Hugh took it and gave Colress a surprised look, which Colress disregarded.

"Hyper Beam has standard statistical power above 150," Colress informed them, "In any Pokémon battle it would be used for brief duration, but it merits mention that many energy attacks, especially those with power above 100 can be lethal when sustained. Be judicious about using this attack at its full strength unless you find yourself in a life-or-death situation where you find it is your only recourse for self-defense."

Hugh seemed a bit dazed by the entire explanation and said, "Why would we be stuck in a life-or-death situation? Seems unlikely..."

Rosa interrupted him, "Hugh! This is fascinating...and who knows what life will bring. Please, Colress, continue."

So, Colress kept explaining.

"Pokémon liberation is not an average socio-political movement," the scientist continued, "That is my analysis of Team Plasma and if so all this peace that the world has taken for granted might be lost. That aside if you intend to confront Team Plasma, you must have the strength to protect yourselves and your Pokémon."

"Of course, we would protect our Pokémon," said Hugh.

By now, they had arrived at a fork in the road and it was obvious they weren't heading in the same direction since the brother and sister started walking to one side and the scientist took the other road.

"Well, I guess we'll see each other again, sometime," mentioned Colress.

"Yes," Rosa replied, "I hope so."

"Will you be staying in this city?" asked Hugh.

"Perhaps for a few days," answered the scientist, "but the company I work for tends to travel around, so I'll be on my way eventually."

"Well then, good luck Colress," said Rosa with a small sigh and shrug of her shoulders.

Colress noticed this and smiled at her saying, "It's more than likely that we will see each other again, Rosa. Like I said, I travel around a lot."

Rosa smiled at him and a thought crossed his mind... She is quite pretty.

Chapter 17 - Find N

As Ghetsis prepared for a speech at the Lacunosa Town Auditorium, he realized he had not seen his son N most of the day. He called for Zinzolin, who arrived promptly.

"Yes, Lord Ghetsis... you summoned me?" Zinzolin asked.

"Where is N?"

"No one has seen him all day..."

"Then find him! I want him present when I give my speech today," Ghetsis ordered.

Meanwhile in the neighboring town of Village Bridge, N and Hilda had spent the day together, and now stood along the center of the bridge watching Lapras swim in the river below. Village Bridge was unique in that the community had sprung up on and around a stony bridge that was the oldest in the Unova region. Colonial houses lined the bridge, and flowering vines crept on the walls.

"It has been wonderful spending the entire day with you, Hilda," said N.

"Yes, N," she agreed, "It was difficult to throw off your guards, though... they're probably still looking for you."

They both laughed impulsively at this thought.

"Can you imagine?" chuckled N, "My father yelling at the guards that were supposed to keep track of me..."

"Hopefully their punishment won't be too severe," observed Hilda.

"True." N became silent momentarily. "I just remembered... my father is supposed to give a speech today and he had told me to be there. What time is it?"

Hilda looked at the clock on her transceiver and they reacted fast.

"Oh no!" N exclaimed, "I'll be late!"

He grabbed her hand and together they ran down the bridge towards a Plasma vehicle that he had left parked nearby.

"I'll drop you off first, Hilda... then I'll go to the auditorium to meet my father."

They got into the transport vehicle and sped off, not knowing that the Shadow Triad had been watching from afar. The car had a tracking device that enabled them to locate it, but they didn't know where N had actually been until they saw him get into it – with Hilda. Now they dutifully informed their master Ghetsis.

N arrived at the auditorium and rushed to a waiting area, where he found his father silently reading through a script of the planned speech.

Ghetsis looked up from his papers and, when his gaze fixed upon N, he frowned.

"Where have you been, N?" he asked.

"Out seeing the area, a bit," was his answer.


"Ah... yes."

"Now you resort to lying?" Ghetsis seemed angry, "I know you were with that girl, Hilda. You should know that I am aware of the goings on at all times."

N suddenly felt that he needed more courage, so he decided now was the time to speak truth.

"Father, I love Hilda. Yes, I was with her and I know that you don't really approve of her, but I will always love her."

"N," began Ghetsis, his tone softening, "believe it or not, I understand what you mean about always loving someone... but please don't lie to me anymore. Times are approaching where war will be a daily staple and you need to be protected. Guards should always be around, whether or not you are accompanied by a... friend."

N relented.

"Yes, father."

The Team Plasma event was soon after that, and well-received in Lacunosa, though more as curiosity than as a call to arms. The townspeople were not very political; they were inclined to live their day-to-day life uneventfully, yet Ghetsis had every assurance that as a walled township Lacunosa would eventually play a role in his conquest of the Unova region.

Notably absent was Zinzolin, who as one of the Seven Sages usually was in attendance unless he had been sent as a Team Plasma representative elsewhere.

The walls of Lacunosa Town were wide enough to walk on, with houses at intervals. Colress, who had wandered about the whole town studying the Pokémon the locals owned, spied Zinzolin exiting one of these dwellings atop the wall and bidding farewell of an elderly lady at the doorway. The scientist lingered patiently for Zinzolin to descend the stairs and then spoke.

"I see you've been mingling with your relatives."

Zinzolin turned sharply, as if he had only now realized of the scientist's presence. Colress smiled at the Sage's discomfiture.

"Lord Ghetsis sent me to tell you N has been found already," explained Colress, adding, "I learnt you had kinsfolk in Lacunosa from some of the townspeople. They're quite talkative. They said you might be found here."

Zinzolin interjected, "I would prefer Ghetsis did not learn I was visiting them."

"He might execute you for acting in such a secretive way," said the scientist.

"He says he will," Zinzolin replied straightforwardly, "and I take some precautions, but deep inside Ghetsis is reluctant to put to death someone who has known his family for so long. I take advantage of that."

The bold statement intrigued Colress, who adjusted his eyeglasses and considered Zinzolin as he spoke.

"You know, we have been at odds unnecessarily," the Sage continued smoothly, "Perhaps we could come to a friendly alliance..."

"Gladly, as long as you don't interfere with my research."

This answer irritated Zinzolin; Colress was analyzing him blithely.

"My experiments are proceeding quite satisfactorily under the patronage of Lord Ghetsis. What merits further study is your wish to sustain such secrecy concerning what should otherwise be considered a natural, social meeting with your relations," the scientist added, looking ever more interested.

"It is no concern of yours, scientist," Zinzolin countered.

"Perhaps. But is it a concern of Team Plasma's?"

Zinzolin left without responding.

Sage Zinzolin arrived to the Plasma Frigate about the late afternoon, to find that Colress was up on deck accompanied by his Pokémon Klang, as well as another animal that was quite nondescript. It was a small greenish-grey creature with a short tail, large head and bright watchful eyes. Zinzolin had every plan to head directly to his quarters, but curiosity was inexorable and he instead halted to inquire of the scientist, "Is that what hatched from your egg?"

"Yes. The egg hatched yesterday. This is an Elgyem."

Zinzolin eyed the psychic type Pokémon, which gazed back up at him ambivalently.

"What a nondescript creature," Zinzolin said scornfully, "I'd think it would be awkward – even embarrassing – to own a Pokémon that looked like that."

Elgyem's eyes glowed; suddenly, Zinzolin was seized with a frightful headache.

"Ow, ow, ow..." complained Zinzolin, holding his head.

"Elgyem, that's quite well," said Colress; to which the animal ceased its attack. "Zinzolin may be annoying, but he is one of the Sages, and therefore ought to be treated with respect."

Elgyem gave an apologetic squeak to its trainer.

"Beheeyem have the ability to manipulate their opponent's mind," the scientist explained, adjusting his glasses, "The pre-evolved form, Elgyem, are still inexperienced, so what they do is give headaches to anyone they find bothersome."

Zinzolin scowled crossly, "I'm unsure which of the two of you gives the worse headache: that Pokémon, or your scientific lecturing!"

"Perhaps not as much as trying to analyze the incongruity of a Team Plasma Sage who offends a helpless baby Pokémon."


"As Team Plasma members, we care for and wish happiness for all Pokémon, do we not?"

Zinzolin perceived the discussion was being observed by some of their wide-eyed minions, as well as two other Sages - Rood, and more importantly, Lord Ghetsis.

"Of course," came the reluctant answer from the Sage.

Later that evening, Dr. Colress returned to Lacunosa Town.

He climbed the steps up to the houses along the wall, and arrived to the place where he had seen Zinzolin conversing with the elderly woman. He noticed the same lady outside of her house, complaining as a young man was leaving.

"Don't worry so much, grandmother...I'm just dropping by the Poké Mart to get some things."

"It's late," insisted his grandmother.

"I'll be back shortly," he said with a laugh, and hurried on his way.

"Young people nowadays," she huffed.

Colress glanced at her curiously. "I thought there was a curfew."

"The curfew is not an official one," she said, "but most of the townspeople do keep it out of tradition."

The elderly woman turned her attention to the scientist.

"I recognize you; you were hanging around with the Team Plasma members."

"Dr. Ethan Colress," he introduced himself, shaking her hand.

"Zinzolin told me of you," she said, "Won't you come in? It's very cold out here."

Colress was wondering about the general preoccupation with cold weather that seemed to beleaguer Zinzolin and his acquaintances, even as he examined and complimented on the photographs the elderly lady had placed about her abode.

"I have many grandchildren." Her pride was noticeable. "The man you met outside is one of my eldest – on his journey to challenge the Pokémon League. Lacunosa is on the way to the Opelucid gym, so he stopped here and will be setting off again tomorrow."

"I see Zinzolin here, as well," Colress observed, motioning to a photograph.

"Yes, Zinzolin is my son-in-law," she said, "The lady beside him is my daughter – his wife. They met in Lacunosa years back. The little girl with them is their daughter," she added.

"I saw him speaking to you outside earlier in the day," Colress remarked.

"He came calling as he was in the area. Just asking how I was doing."

He could detect a hint of tension, divulged subconsciously through her body language, and Colress decided to find out why.

Before he could speak, the elderly lady asked:

"Dr. Colress, what is your work for Team Plasma?"

"I conduct research for them."

"It must be important research."

"I believe so. Why?"

"I have heard some of the Plasma opposition say unkind things of your work."

Colress smiled an affirmation. "I believe they have given me the appellation of 'the Dark Scientist'," he noted.

"Such political nonsense," said the elderly lady, walking to an armchair off to one side of the room and sitting down. "You should hear some of the offenses they say of the Sages."

"The climate has turned quite politicized lately, throughout the region," said the scientist, who did not tear his eyes away from her.

"Here in Lacunosa Town people mostly have no interest in it. Whoever's in power scarcely matters so long as we can live our peaceful lives."

"You look sleepy," he stated suddenly.

"I usually go to sleep early," she said.

"I think you could continue talking with me," His amber eyes studied her diligently. "You find it relaxing somehow. It is...isn't it?"

Her gaze was focused on his, unblinkingly vacant, akin to the Pokémon he entranced.

"Tell me," Colress asked tranquilly, "what did Zinzolin want to know today?"

"He wanted to know about the beast that lives in the Giant Chasm."

"What beast?"

"Since ancient days, a great beast has lived in the cave near Lacunosa Town. It comes out by nightfall, with cold winds, and is a peril for Pokémon and humans alike. That is why the walls were built around Lacunosa – to repel the creature."

"I have heard that legend," said Dr. Colress, "Why did Zinzolin want to know about the Giant Chasm beast?"

"He wanted to know if it still dwelt there."

"Does it?"


"Why did you seem tense earlier when I remarked upon having seen Zinzolin speaking with you?"

"He said to keep his inquiry secret."

Colress considered this, but at last said:

"It is quite late. Now, you might fall asleep...natural sleep...and when you awake from it, I suspect you might not recollect our conversation."

He paused, then said, emphatically:

"You will not recollect our conversation."

He snapped his fingers. "Sleep," said the scientist, and left.

Not long succeeding this, her grandson returned. He found her fast asleep in the armchair and woke her.

"I think you dozed off," said her grandson. "Who was that scientist anyway?"

"He's a charming young fellow. One of Zinzolin's colleagues."

"What did he want?"

She hesitated, then remarked with perplexity:

"I cannot recall what we spoke about."

Chapter 18 - His majesty's map

On the outskirts of the Unova region there was a little town called Anville. It was the hub of all the railway system in the territory and where Team Plasma were on this day.

Rosa and Hugh had travelled here too, but this was the fourth such town where they found the search for their enemies and the stolen Pokémon to be taxing. It was increasingly challenging to them, as they balanced the Pokémon League gym battles with chasing Team Plasma and inquiring as to the whereabouts of the Plasma Frigate. They had not made headway with even seeing the infamous warship, no one seemed to know the place where it had been moored, and an attempt to track Ghetsis in Lacunosa as he left the auditorium was fruitless; they ended up in a battle with a very eager yet apparently ignorant trainer on the nearby meadow route who hindered them long enough for the ship to depart.

Hugh had entertained the notion of heckling the speakers at the event here in Anville Town, so that even if they could not find the vessel, they would have been some annoyance to Team Plasma and the day not be a waste, but Rosa dissuaded him saying the outcome would be like that of the Opelucid City mayor – that is, a public humiliation to their cause. Contesting Ghetsis and his ease in swaying the public to Team Plasma's view was one thing, but it sometimes seemed that it was worse to dispute the allegedly prophesied leadership of his son N, who merely by being handsome, well-spoken and demure was fairly unopposed even by those who questioned some of the policies put forth by his father.

N knew of his influence, yet was not arrogant. He privately viewed the whole thing as wearying. Though he believed in the Pokémon liberation philosophy, he appeared at the political events because of requirement; he had more interest in spending time with Hilda, however it might displease Ghetsis.

The two lovers, N and Hilda, had gone presently to watch the trains departing the turntable; they found the best view from the overhanging stone bridge in the center of town. Doing this had become a sort of tourist attraction in Anville and N would not miss the ritual. He recalled playing with a small toy train set often as a child, but the sheer size of real trains was astonishing to him. Hilda never treated his lack of knowledge regarding the outside world as in any way strange, nor did she make reference to it, and he was grateful for that. Secretly, Hilda felt it was outrageous that Ghetsis should have prevented N from seeing the outdoors for so many years, for if he criticized the captivity of Pokémon in Poké Balls, which they only spent as much time in as was necessary for transport, surely keeping an innocent human captive – to have never felt the warmth of direct sunlight nor seen how it glistened over a clear body of water, neither beheld the spectacular cities man had hewn or the sweet scent of wildflowers on the wind; to be banished in this seemingly capricious way from the myriad beauties and joys of the outdoors all the way through childhood – surely that was worse, but she never said so.

From the bridge, they walked a short distance to where people were boarding the trains. It was a beautiful late-spring day; the trees had become leafy and the flowers were at their peak of bloom, so that the breeze would sometimes cascade petals from the boughs.

Vaporeon had been let out of its Poké Ball to follow them about and get some sunshine, and as N and Hilda sat on one of the benches to rest, the water type animal stood beside its trainer, listening as the conversation flowed from pleasantries to the inexorable matter of politics. They were a unique pair in these times, dissenting viewpoints who could easily discuss a contentious issue with each other without descending into the bitter quarrels that had become rife across Unova.

"Team Plasma is urging a boycott of the Pokémon League competition this year." N told Hilda, "They don't want people to tune in to see it on television or radio."

"It is the region's biggest sporting event, N." Hilda answered, "I doubt that'll make much of a dent."

"There won't even be a competition this year," N brushed this aside.

This assuredness surprised her, as N continued explaining insistently, "Hilda, you must admit, it is a bit barbaric. The way the spectators cheer to see one side attain victory, without a thought for the losing Pokémon that has been knocked out on the battlefield and is in pain."

"You speak as if they were fighting to the death," she replied.

"I know your beliefs about this are different. But if you could follow my logic..." N said. "For too many, the relationship between a Pokémon and a trainer is defined by one thing – the Poké Ball. If all the Pokémon were liberated, trainers wouldn't be trainers anymore. There would be equality."

"I don't think it's so one-sided," Hilda maintained.

Vaporeon seemed to have been listening to the conversation; it now joined in with a couple of cries.

"Vaporeon wants to know what kind of a den he would have without a Poké Ball." N smiled. "That's the great thing about it – you can have whatever den you choose."

Vaporeon gave a sharp cry. N looked a bit awkward, but he translated what the animal said nonetheless:

"Vaporeon says he likes his Poké Ball. It's protected from both the elements and predators."

Accentuating this remark, the creature poked the capsule open and went into it.

"Well, Vaporeon is an exception," N dismissed.

"Is that how your father describes Zorua?" asked Hilda.

"Yes," said N, "What else could they be? I saw so many Pokémon as I was growing up who had been hurt by their human trainers; Pokémon who had been rescued from horrible fates by Team Plasma..."

"Couldn't they have been the exceptions?" Hilda questioned.

"We cannot gamble it," answered N.

Hilda decided to not pursue the topic any further for the time being and changed the subject.

"That's an interesting puzzle cube," she mentioned with interest, poking at the bronze square that N carried about his waist, "It looks like an antique somehow."

"Zoroark gave it to me one day when I still lived out in the forest, so I had it when they found me. I've played with it since childhood, but I can't solve it," he responded then added:

"I haven't the scarcest idea why I was out in the forest, anyway."

"Could you have wandered off and gotten lost, maybe?" Hilda wondered.

"I don't know...nobody seems to know...maybe that's why I like mathematics, there's not much ambiguity," N speculated. He became pensive for a while and sighed adding, "I guess I've been secluded all my life. Not counting Zorua, the only Pokémon I'd ever seen had suffered terribly because of humans...but since we've been travelling around Unova, I've met people and Pokémon who are close friends. This enigma about my background is one of many questions. There are many things I don't know. If I only knew what the truth is, whether Pokémon really do want to live alongside humans, or if most of them would be happier out in the wild...maybe then I'll find some answers."

Zorua was pawing insistently at the cube, and yapped at her trainer. N glanced down at Zorua, then at the cube.

"Come to think of it," he mused, and took the cube. Somehow, the pattern had become more visible to him, and with it came realization of the way to unscramble the cube. "I wonder..."

N began fiddling with the cube and just as he turned the final section, completing the puzzle, the cube gave a loud snap and became immobile.

"You did it," Hilda remarked.

"It won't budge now," N said.

He then noticed that one of the blocks seemed loose; and poked at it until it came off.

"You can read the inscription..." mentioned N.

At that moment a familiar man's voice interrupted them.

"Found something interesting? Hopefully you will share it with the rest of Team Plasma."

It was Ghetsis. They turned to see him standing there with Zinzolin at his side and an expectant look on his face. The speech he had been holding in town must have recently concluded, as Ghetsis and Zinzolin were still in their formal attire.

"Let me see it," asked Hilda, ignoring them and glancing at the puzzle. "It says, 'Wonderment rules.' "

"Wonderment rules?" questioned Zinzolin, "That's certainly cryptic, to say the least. Where did you learn how to read the ancient writing, Hilda?"

"I don't know," she admitted, "I simply can."

Zinzolin hurried to retrieve some papers he had to translate the text himself; while Ghetsis walked up to the pair to observe the puzzle closer.

"There's more," added Hilda, "It shows a map and mentions some ancient settlement that was flooded... 'where the dragon of truth slumbers.' "

Hearing this brought a sudden thrill for Ghetsis; the long-awaited moment when the powerful legendary Pokémon would be found and harnessed. At last his Team Plasma would have the power to assail Unova and bring the region under his reign. N's reign – officially.

Ghetsis turned to Zinzolin and asked him, "Well? What say you, Sage Zinzolin?"

"I think she's right about the translation," affirmed Zinzolin. "There are submerged ruins off the coast of Undella Town. Methinks that is what it refers to."

"I can help find it," Hilda offered with sincere interest, "You'll need a water Pokémon. My Vaporeon knows the attack Dive...we'll be able to explore the ruins easily."

Ghetsis considered the situation. If we don't bring her along, she'll likely go anyway of her own accord. Besides, her Vaporeon will be essential to navigate through the undersea ruins.

"Agreed, Hilda. You will come with us on our search," ordered Ghetsis.

Chapter 19 - The Abyssal Ruins

The shimmering waters of Undella Bay were a deep blue, and many people were out swimming in the cove either themselves or with a water Pokémon, though the springtime breeze still held a chill that summer would dispel in a month's time.

The Plasma Frigate had sailed into the bay, to where the sea was deepest. From the deck, Ghetsis could see Undella Town at a distance, as well as N conversing happily with Hilda and her Vaporeon at the ship's railing.

Ghetsis watched them guardedly. Hilda's ability to read the ancient text without prior training was unnerving to him, much perhaps as the fact she had come into possession of the Dark Stone, yet he had no foreboding that her presence would be too much impediment to the furtherance of his plans. The prophecy told of a boy who could talk to animals, not a girl who could decipher the words of ancient peoples, and indeed she along with her water Pokémon would be useful for this undersea excursion. Dispensing with her afterward would be trivial for its ease.

Ghetsis made his way to where the pair was standing; he was followed by Zinzolin, who spoke. "This should be the site of the Abyssal Ruins."

"The what?" asked Hilda.

"They are called the Abyssal Ruins," Zinzolin explained, "as they are located in the deepest part of the bay. No man has ever explored it fully. It is a maze so winding, with areas of forcefully rushing waters, that those who have tried to venture into the profundities have either been tossed out by the currents before they get far, or lost forever."

"We have a map," Ghetsis dismissed Zinzolin's bleak concerns.

"Well, if you do hopefully return, the discoveries should be great historical findings," Zinzolin added a little more optimistically.

"I will return Sage Zinzolin... I temporarily leave you in charge of the Plasma Frigate," Ghetsis replied, adding, "Colress will also stay on board to continue with his necessary research... I don't want him disturbed."

Zinzolin had an unmistakable scowl on his face as he replied:

"Why should that scientist stay onboard?"

"It would be wiser on your part to remember not to question my decisions." Ghetsis looked directly at him, "Need I remind you of my capabilities?"

Zinzolin realized he was facing defeat if he pursued this conversation so he relented. "No. No. Of course, not..." his voice trailed off and Ghetsis smiled.

The Team Plasma leader then turned to Hilda and asked, "So is your Pokémon ready to meet the challenge?"

"Absolutely!" Hilda exclaimed. She turned to her Vaporeon and gave her initial order, "Vaporeon, Dive!"

Vaporeon swished its tail in a flourish and a large bubble formed around itself and Hilda.

"There's plenty of room in here, come in!" said Hilda, motioning to N and Ghetsis.

Once they were all within the bubble, it gently lowered them to the ocean floor. They were surrounded by fish Pokémon and undersea plants, but in the pocket of air surrounding Vaporeon, the little group was dry and safe.

"It's kind of like observing from the Marine Tube," Hilda smiled.

She noticed N looked curious, and she elaborated. "It's the underwater shortcut connecting Undella Town and Humilau City. They finished building it recently. It's mostly for tourists," Hilda added, "but if you visit at a certain time in the afternoon you can see Wailord swimming."

"I've never been to Undella Town," N remarked. "I know we're really close by, though. Maybe we could make a stop there?"

He turned hopefully to Ghetsis, who tersely responded, "There's nothing worthwhile there."

A short distance away from where they stood, they could see what looked like a large square structure. "Those have to be the Abyssal Ruins," N remarked.

A series of steps led into the undersea building. Vaporeon walked ahead of them as they made their way through the ruins, down a corridor. The bubble of air seemed to encompass an entire section of the passageway, up to the ceiling.

The carvings in this place were identical to those on the cube, and the ruins inside were composed of giant square blocks of stone. These made up the floor, ceiling, and walls; much like if the builders had intended to imitate the cube. The carvings on the blocks were luminescent, glowing a mysterious blue color, which allowed for visibility as they made their way through the maze-like paths.

The corridor had many turns and several alternate lanes branched out. They followed the path drawn out on the map, and soon came to a central stone block with a small, rhombus-shaped aperture. Something was inscribed here above the gap, in a strange sort of hieroglyphics.

"It says, 'Primes lead to truth.' read Hilda.

There were also four spaces, two on each side of the aperture. Below this were ten small stone blocks with lines etched in them.

"I guess we've gone about as far as we can," Hilda said.

Ghetsis looked at her sharply. "You underestimate Team Plasma. If we can't get in like this, we'll blast the way open."

N however, looked like he understood the puzzle perfectly. "It's a math problem," he declared.

Both Hilda and Ghetsis stared at him. N explained, "It refers to prime numbers. Between one and ten, there are four such numbers...2, 3, 5 and 7. From what it looks like, each of these blocks has a different number of lines drawn on them between one and ten..."

N took the small blocks with the number of lines corresponding to the four numbers and placed them in the spaces. He then removed the loose block from the cube and placed it in the small central gap in the stone.

There was a large sound like a switch, and suddenly the stone block that had the strange writing moved aside. The water where they stood rushed away in a torrent, as if it was being drained, and the bubble surrounding them, burst as the room was left dry.

They all looked at each other without saying a word and finally N broke the silence.

"It seems we are led down this path," said N, replacing the block on the cube.

They walked down the corridor, which sloped up, to find themselves in a small room. In the center was a white pedestal that held what looked like a giant pearl. There were carvings on the pedestal depicting a feathered dragon Pokémon. The far wall had another stone block with hieroglyphic writing.

"This is Reshiram?" N lifted the white stone gingerly with both hands. It shone momentarily, a glittering orange, and then the light faded.

"We've found it," Ghetsis whispered.

A Pokémon's cry echoed through the cave and Hilda realized it was her Vaporeon. She ran over and found it was staring at the wall with the hieroglyphics.

"There's more written here," said Hilda.

Both N and Ghetsis looked over at her, and N asked, "What does it say?"

" 'Here waits the dragon of truth, who awakes only for he who speaks with all beings...the great King...' " Hilda's voice trailed off.

"The great king... who?" questioned Ghetsis.

" 'The great King Harmonia,' " Hilda finished reading.

They all stared at the ancient words for a few minutes and finally Ghetsis said, "The ancient Unovans not only prophesied that a new king would emerge but they also predicted his lineage." It was easy to detect contentment in his voice.

"Well..." said N, shyly avoiding everybody's glances.

"We'd best head back to the Plasma Frigate," decided Ghetsis, "Destiny awaits my – that is, Team Plasma's – your, new world."

When the little expedition party returned triumphantly to the ship, they were greeted by the cheers of Team Plasma members on deck; their spirits were boosted, all exultant knowing the divination they had been propounding for years now would soon come to pass. There was a level of motivation surpassing what had been seen amongst them heretofore, affirming utter willingness to fight the current government to enthrone their prophesied leader.

Ghetsis was especially happy, but he knew that Team Plasma had some inevitabilities to dispense with before they launched their first attack.

"Take the Light Stone to the laboratory so Dr. Colress may examine it," Ghetsis told his adopted son, waving him off. "We have some preparations before we head to Dragonspiral Tower."

N left, and when he had entered the ship's interior Ghetsis turned to Hilda. She was patting Vaporeon on the head, and she turned to glance up at him.

"Hilda," Ghetsis faced her, "Team Plasma's acquiring the Light Stone is a great victory for Pokémon liberation. I am still mildly surprised that you should help the revolution."

"N is not the revolution," Hilda answered.

"No, he's the image of the revolution," Ghetsis interjected, "When he awakens Reshiram, the prophecy will be fulfilled. He will be ruler of Unova and free all Pokémon from enslavement. The matter of you having Zekrom in the form of the Dark Stone does not change anything. There's no way the legendary Pokémon would awaken to a random trainer from who-knows-where."

"Nuvema," she corrected, "and why do you think I want to try to awaken Zekrom?"

"I know fully well you're with our opposition," Ghetsis said. "I was even told how you foiled the attempts of some of our members to liberate a Pokémon near Wellspring Cave."

Hilda was silent for a long moment; finally, she spoke:

"That Minccino belonged to a little girl. It's bad enough that Team Plasma is trying to impose its radical views on the rest of the region, but when you start stealing beloved pets from children..."

"Seize that stone!" snapped Ghetsis, and in an instant, Hilda was held by two guards.

"Vaporeon!" she called.

Vaporeon let out a snarl and leapt up, biting one of the guards. He swung his arm, tossing the Pokémon aside, but it was enough for Hilda to kick the other guard and race away.

The other Team Plasma members threw Poké Balls onto the deck and in a flash, Hilda and her Vaporeon were now confronted by a weasel-like Watchog and two hissing Liepards.

Hilda was undaunted. "Surf, Vaporeon!"

Vaporeon shook itself, and a large wave rose from the sea to crash on the deck of the ship. It tossed the two Liepard backward, but Watchog jumped up on the ship railing and then lunged at Vaporeon. The two Pokémon writhed around on the Plasma Frigate's deck, clawing and biting.

Ghetsis was becoming impatient. "Stop these petty Pokémon battles and get that orb!"

One of the guards tried to grab Hilda's bag away from her, and a tug-of-war began. The strap snapped; with a gasp, Hilda fell overboard clutching the bag. Vaporeon, seeing this, left the battle and leapt into the water after its trainer.

Ghetsis walked over to the Frigate's railing in time to see Vaporeon swim over to her. Hilda reached out to hang onto her Pokémon; she looked up at him and the guards.

At that same moment, N emerged from the interior of the ship. He froze when he saw what was happening.

"At least I'll see to it that you never live to revive the other dragon," Ghetsis was so vicious that it shocked Hilda. "Hyper beam! Fry them both!"

"No...!" N exclaimed. He ran over to where Ghetsis stood, just as Watchog let loose a yellow energy beam towards Hilda and Vaporeon.

"Dive!" Hilda exclaimed, and a large bubble formed around her and her Pokémon. Vaporeon dove underwater with Hilda just as the ray struck the ocean where they had been.

"Damn them. They've escaped," muttered Ghetsis. He turned and faced N, who had a shocked look on his face.

"Why?" was the only thing N could say.

"Because I want that second dragon," Ghetsis said adamantly, "and I'll do whatever it takes to get it in my grasp."

"No matter who or what you have to destroy?" asked N.

"You're becoming soft. That girl is making you question too much," Ghetsis said, staring at N.

"I am not questioning you," replied N, "I just want to understand."

"We don't need a dissident to your reign out there with a dragon Pokémon as powerful as Reshiram," snapped Ghetsis.

N tried to calm down as he sought a reasoned protest. "But if according to the prophecy, only certain people can awaken the legendary dragons...she can't do anything with that stone."

"The prophecy is what it is," Zinzolin's voice broke in, and they all turned around to see him standing there listening. "N is right about her not being able to do anything with the stone," he added.

Ghetsis seemed annoyed and said, "Zinzolin, you seem to have a habit of showing up unannounced. You should consider if it's wise to continue this, otherwise I will do something about it."

"Personally, I'd like to see her revive the other dragon," N interrupted and his remark was enough to cause Ghetsis to have a double-take.

"Say that again," ordered Ghetsis whirling around to face N.

N meekly replied, "Well, if that happened, she'll want the two dragons to have a big Pokémon battle...and if we win, then it's really obvious to everyone that destiny is on our side."

Ghetsis looked sour, but the many Team Plasma guards surrounding them had already heard their chosen ruler of legend speak, and there was a collective murmur of agreement in the group.

"N," said Ghetsis harshly, looking directly at him, "A good general always consults with others when making decisions that could determine the future of his people. We shall discuss this issue further, later."

N did not reply. The others around them also remained silent, and there was an eerie calm that fell upon them.

Chapter 20 - Discordant epochs

Ghetsis, N, and Zinzolin were standing on the outside aisles of the Frigate and watching the changing of the guards that routinely patrolled it.

"Plasmaaa!" shouted the guards in triumphant unity.

Ghetsis looked at Zinzolin, "I see they have not lost the bad habit that you taught them."

"But they like it!" Zinzolin replied enthusiastically, "I asked them if they thought it was unworthy of Team Plasma, and they all said that it gave them a sense of teamwork."

"The things I must endure to achieve world conquest," said Ghetsis shaking his head in disbelief.

"But father," added N, "I like it too!"

"Okay, no," an incensed Ghetsis turned to Zinzolin, "No more trying to indoctrinate my son with your ideas. He is supposed to be picking up my ideology."

Turning to his son, he said, "N, this just proves that the masses need an intelligent leader or they fall for any idiocy that is placed before them," taught his father. "From now on, it is forbidden for you to hang around with Zinzolin without supervision."

"Father, if I am the king and of age, why can't I hang around with whomever I want?"

"Who put those thoughts in your head?" asked Ghetsis, "Was it that woman, Hilda? You could have your pick of any woman in the kingdom, and you picked a dissident!"

"No father!" replied N, "She has nothing to do with it!"

"Well then!" persisted Ghetsis turning to look at Zinzolin, "Do tell me that it was the distinguished Sage standing to my side. It would give me the final reason to stop forgiving him his missteps."

Zinzolin had an alarmed look on his face, but before he could respond they heard a familiar voice from behind them.

"Permit me to address the issue, Ghetsis," interrupted Colress. "I heard the latter part of the conversation and have analyzed all aspects of it."

"Yes. Please do intervene and explain it, Doctor Colress," sighed Ghetsis, "This is all very distressing to me."

"Indeed. It must be," agreed Colress, "After all, you want to groom N to perpetuate your ideology for many years to come and it wouldn't be logical to have him indoctrinated with someone else's ideas. Here is the answer..." Colress stopped here for effect and after a small pause, explained eloquently:

"N is of an age where he has begun thinking about things on his own. He is thinking about what he has been taught all his life, and putting it into perspective with the current planetary situation, and comparing it with other people's opinions that he has come in contact with. Indeed, it is not only one person or two, but many that have been forming his independent views. He may very well retain some of your opinions but others might be tweaked."

"Sounds accurate, father," added N.

"You're extra speechy today, Colress," sneered Zinzolin.

"Thank you Colress," interrupted Ghetsis with a stern look at Zinzolin, "This affirms that I should be more alert as to who my son speaks with from now on."

A fidgety N stayed silent.

The Plasma Frigate had been docked at the P2 laboratory, as Ghetsis wished to meet with his sisters who were in nearby Accumula Town on a visit. N saw the opportunity to find Hilda, who he had not heard from since the incident in Undella Bay.

Nuvema Town was close, so N snuck away unnoticed; he asked a wild water Pokémon playing in the shallows for a ride to the route 1 shoreline. The animal, entertained by the concept of a human who could speak its language, was happy to help. From there, N – with Zorua as a tagalong, snarling away any Patrat that seemed inclined to fight – walked through the grass to reach Nuvema.

Nuvema Town was quaint; found along the far edges of the Unova region, it was small and unassuming, with little houses circled by trees. The large building with the red-tiled roof was unequivocally the Juniper Lab, where Hilda worked as an assistant. As N approached, he crossed paths with a lady in her thirties.

The woman had light-brown hair, with an open lab coat worn over an ensemble of a white blouse and green pencil skirt; she was carrying a small stack of manila files, together with some documents. Zorua padded amicably over to her with a yap. "Hello," she smiled at the little animal.

N spoke, hesitantly. "Are you Professor Juniper?"

"I am," She shook his hand, although it was a difficult feat with the files she held. "Dr. Aurea Juniper, the younger of the professors. Come in; I've got to put these somewhere before I can speak with you."

N followed Aurea Juniper into the laboratory. They came presently to a wide room with white tile flooring, outlined by long tables, bookshelves, and indefinable equipment for testing. An older man walked in from the adjoining room to greet them.

"May I introduce you to my father, Dr. Cedric Juniper..." Aurea thought for a moment. "I don't think I caught your name."

"N Harmonia," he said.

"Team Plasma's N?" Cedric and Aurea exchanged a quick glance; Aurea walked to a desk on the side without comment to deposit the files.

"Is that offensive?" N addressed Cedric.

"Politics come and go," was his cryptic reply, paired with a shrug.

N waited for Aurea to sort the files somewhat. As he did, his eyes caught sight of rows of Poké Balls in a glass cabinet on the wall, as well as a Pokédex on the table before him. He gazed a bit pensively at these things but said nothing.

Aurea returned to where he was; she noticed his silent scrutiny and decided to say something about it.

"We are researching the early evolution of Pokémon – when and how they came into existence. For Pokémon and people to get along better, we need to take steps to learn more about them. The Pokédex is one way to do that."

N looked unconvinced. "There is another way to get along with Pokémon...letting them live in peace."

"Team Plasma's worldview," said Aurea, with a small, almost rueful smile.

"Professor Juniper," said N, a bit tersely, "You appear to have no qualms about the relationship between Pokémon and people. You put Pokémon into categories using arbitrary rules and think you can understand them like that... The very idea of a Pokédex revolts me. Having to trap and confine many Pokémon in Poké Balls for such a trivial thing!"

"Looks like you're not my biggest fan. Your opinion is understandable. It happens to be different from mine, which is equally understandable. How about if all people get to decide for themselves how to relate to Pokémon?"

N was incensed. Cedric was watching the impassioned conversation without interference, judging them both.

N snapped, "You're saying I should just allow people to think whatever they want and treat Pokémon however they want, no matter whether the Pokémon suffer? I refuse to tolerate the existence of a world like that!"

"We ought to tolerate different opinions, respecting each other despite them. These times are becoming increasingly politicized as they are."

A voice at the laboratory entrance made them both look up to see Team Plasma's top scientist.

"Your majesty, Ghetsis sent me to find where you went. As the future ruler your safety is paramount; especially now at this crucial stage, wandering far is inadvisable without alerting one of the Sages first. ...Professors Cedric and Aurea Juniper," he acknowledged them with a nod.

"Dr. Ethan Colress," She was brusque.

N glanced from one to the other, the antagonism was one-sided on the part of Aurea, but Colress equably seemed to expect it. "You all know each other?" he ventured.

Aurea affirmed, "We studied together at university. I can't say I have much collegial respect for a scientist who would conduct his research in such ways as you, Colress."

Cedric cleared his throat, "Irony of these times," he quipped.

Aurea seemed to soften her stance. "I suppose even I am getting caught up in these political disputes. I should take my own advice. What did you come to see me about, N?"

"I'm trying to find Hilda," N got to the point. "I know she works for you, and I thought you might know of her whereabouts."

"I sent Hilda to Striaton City, to see Dr. Heather Fennel."

"Dr. Fennel also studied with us," noted Colress. "Her research centers on the dream states of Pokémon – a cousin branch to my science."

"Yes," concurred Aurea. "Fennel's laboratory is in Striaton. Her pet Munna, which she had been using in her research, has gone missing. Hilda went to help her search for it."

"Elgyem can transport us to Striaton," said Colress as he ushered N to the exit.

"Thank you." Colress said to his colleague; prompting N to respond accordingly, "Yes... thank you."

Fennel's laboratory was located in a two-story brick edifice, down a street near the Pokémon Center. She had violet hair that was long and straight, with a flower pinned to it and they found her standing on the steps with a dish of Pokémon food, calling for her Munna.

"Dr. Fennel!" At the exclamation, she glanced over at them and smiled as she seemed to instantly recognize her colleague.

"Doctor Colress! It's nice to see you again! How has your research been going since you left Castelia Unversity?" Fennel was not as put off by his scientific analyses as Juniper was, which only made N more curious as to the scientific examinations Dr. Colress conducted.

"Very well!" said Colress cheerily. "I have made several advances in it since aligning with my current benefactor. Far greater, I should say, than under the auspices of the university. How has your own study been proceeding?"

"Not very well," Fennel spoke honestly. "You see, my Munna was aiding with the experiments, but she went missing yesterday."

Fennel showed them a photograph; in the picture, she held a Pokémon that was a small pink ball of fur, and the two of them were standing happily amidst a topiary garden. "This picture was taken in the park area across Striaton. I hope she's all right..." added Fennel worriedly, "I've been searching everywhere for her...I went over the whole city."

"You seem to care a lot for Munna," N observed, "But yet... you were using her for your study?"

"She's my assistant, and she's part of the family," she explained looking forlornly at the picture.

N thought about Fennel's description of Munna as she continued speaking.

"Legends say Munna eat dreams. I don't know about that, but they certainly tap into the dreams of anyone sleeping, and seem to dispel nightmares. They're very tame, benevolent creatures. It's already documented that the dream mist given off by a Munna changes color when in proximity to someone who is having either a good dream or a bad dream."

Colress shared her interest. "Have you noted what color Munna emits when exposed to a somnambulistic state?"

"Not yet," mused Fennel. "That would be interesting for a collaboration... Oh, but I must find my poor Munna first! I fear she may have been stolen," she added sorrowfully, "I've heard that there have been many thefts of Pokémon around Unova lately. Many of them have been political."

"It is one of the blights of our times, I'm afraid," acknowledged Colress, without much elaboration.

N spoke up again, "Professor Juniper of Nuvema told us that Hilda had gone to see you, to help you find Munna."

"Oh, is she a friend of yours? I sent her to search the Dreamyard," Fennel stated.

"The Dreamyard?" queried N.

"An abandoned factory site outside of Striaton City. It earned its name from having wild Pokémon with the ability to induce sleep or trance states, such as Jigglypuff, Hypno, and other Munna. If you're heading in that direction, you ought to take an Awakening," she advised, handing them a small blue potion bottle.

They thanked Fennel, yet as she went back into the building N found he was still wondering of Colress. N was ignorant of the work being conducted by Team Plasma's top scientist, or why the movement even had a top scientist come to that. He deliberated over whether inquiring would cause him to look ignorant, something a king should not look in the presence of his subordinates; however, he knew Colress was not one to see this as opportunity for political gain, as some of the Sages might, hence inquisitiveness won.

"I recall you saying Dr. Fennel's study was a cousin branch of your science. What is your science, Dr. Colress?"

"Methods for bringing out the power of Pokémon," came the unfailing answer.

"I know that's what you often say, but what exactly does that mean?"

Colress hesitated, and N prodded:

"I know you were working on something the Sages call the Colress Machine. What is that exactly?"

The scientist relented. "It is a device that boosts the power of Pokémon through the use of an electromagnetic wavelength. The E-M waves can be mesmerizing to Pokémon so they also aid to place the creatures in a highly suggestible state where they follow commands without objecting. Mind control, in layman's terminology."

"You're what?" N's outrage escaped him.

"Your father was quite interested in the mind control aspects of my research. It seemed the foremost reason for his enlisting me in Team Plasma."

N did not know what to say at the revelation, and seemed unsure how to proceed without offense. At last, he found his voice. "I'm aghast."

"I disagree." Colress said, "It's really a form of hypnotism."

This did not improve the issue any in N's eyes.

"Well, your majesty, I take my leave and return to the Plasma Frigate. I will let your father know you are in Striaton, so he can send a helicopter to pick you up shortly."

"Very well, Dr. Colress," was all N could muster himself to say.

Chapter 21 - Dreams defined

N soon came to the Dreamyard, the derelict factory where Fennel had sent Hilda. Once the tall grass seemed to rustle, perhaps marking the hiding-place of a wild Pokémon, but nothing else stirred.

"This place feels so desolate..." commented N.

Zorua yapped and scampered off.

"You heard Hilda?" N followed his pet fox to a small stretch of grass outside of a fenced area.

He found that Hilda was in the middle of a Pokémon battle with Hugh. As Rosa and Liepard watched, Vaporeon and Tranquill tussled under the direction of their trainers.

"Fly, Tranquill!" called Hugh, and the bird steeply flew into the air.

"Dive, Vaporeon!" Hilda cried.

Vapreon jumped into a pool of water that had formed from recent rainfall; as was unique to its species, it seemed to fade into the liquid. When Tranquill flew down, it fluttered near the water, unsure where to strike and hence susceptible itself.

"Now!" called Hilda, and Vaporeon sprang nimbly into the air, its fangs snapping at the bird Pokémon; Tranquill narrowly dodged the attack.

"I don't see the point of Pokémon fights," N whispered to Zorua. "Why, this is merely watching one's friends getting hurt."

Zorua, however, was restlessly following the moves of the two Pokémon in their combat; eagerness got the better of the small fox and she jumped into the fray.

"Zorua!" protested N.

The two fighters had been apprised to his presence, so he stepped onto the field and scooped up Zorua.

"N," commented Hilda, "I was surprised to see Zorua jump into the fight... considering your opinion of Pokémon battles."

"Hi Hilda..." the young king began. "I was wondering how you were doing."

"I didn't think you would, after what happened on the Frigate," she answered with sincerity.

"You must know I had nothing to do with that," N insisted earnestly.

"I know," she sighed, "but the political situation is getting worse. N, sooner or later you'll have to choose whether to continue supporting Pokémon liberation."

"Even if I did, it wouldn't matter," he said with emphasis, "The prophecy says when I take power all Pokémon will be freed."

"It's not a prophecy," Hilda was adamant. "It's a scam."

N stared at her, shocked by her words. "You don't believe the prophecy, then."

The other two trainers, who had been standing by listening, now spoke. "You're Ghetsis' son, who Team Plasma wants to recognize as king of Unova," Rosa observed.

"The king of the bandits," scowled Hugh.

N took notice of them. "Opposition? Plainly; judging from the way you treat your Pokémon."

"Let it go, N," said Hilda, but neither of the two men would.

Hugh snapped, "Your Team Plasma steals Pokémon from loving homes!"

"We liberate them from cruel humans, who force them to fight," N rejoined.

From the sidelines, Liepard gave a hiss, and it was then N recognized the cat.

"The Purrloin from our Frigate!" He bent down, and Liepard entwined herself around him in a greeting. "I almost didn't realize it was you since you've evolved..." he looked up at Rosa and surmised, "I guess you are Liepard's trainer."

"Yes," she said.

The cat Pokémon was crouching, eyeing Zorua, as if ready to pounce. Zorua took one look at the feline she had fought with, now evolved; the fox decided a rematch was inexpedient and hid behind N.

"Doctor Colress said he would take her to you, as she wished. What matters to Team Plasma is that the Pokémon are happy," N was resolute; Rosa could tell that he firmly held the conviction.

"Do you know Colress, then?" queried Rosa.

Suddenly, a sharp squeak of distress interrupted the conversation. "Did you hear something?" asked Hilda.

"It's a Pokémon!" exclaimed N, "It says it's in danger!"

They all followed the squeaky sound, with N in the lead, and hurried through the bracken, emerging in a clearing at the center of what had formerly been the main factory building. The roof was corroded away and the floor here, exposed to the elements, was being partially overcome by the grass.

In the clearing stood two Team Plasma minions towering over a small pink ball of fur. It was a Pokémon called Munna.

The guard kicked the little creature, which squealed in distress, looking up in fear at her harrassers.

One of the guards looked up and noticed the little group. "King N!" he shouted and stood at attention.

"How dare you mistreat a Pokémon!?" said N furiously, "It goes against everything my father has worked for."

"We all know that his speeches are just to con people," the guard said, "besides, the Pokémon refuse to do what we say. They need to be trained to forget their previous humans and obey us."

"Especially with an imminent battle at the Pokémon League," added the other oblivious to the fact that there were outsiders present.

"When I tell my father what you're saying, and you're treating this helpless Pokémon, he's going to agree with me that you don't belong in Team Plasma," N took one pace forward. "If you cannot fulfill your duties..."

Fear lit in their eyes. "No, no, really! We're sorry!"

"Please!" implored the other.

"The one you should apologize to is the Munna," N seethed.

"We're sorry Munna!" the guards shouted at the little creature. The Munna just stared at them.

N couldn't stand it any longer; he walked up to the first guard and struck him hard in the stomach, causing him to bend over in pain, and proceeded to do the same to his partner, who fell down with the punch.

"Remember the four," N said, glaring at the guards who were staring at him in surprise as they recovered from their punishment.

The others were watching wordlessly and N decided the guards should not stay around because he didn't want Hugh or Rosa to learn much more of their plans for a strike on the Pokémon League.

"Get back to the Frigate," snapped N, and the two minions hurried off leaving behind the Munna.

"Now do you see what Team Plasma is really doing?" Hilda confronted him.

"No," N seemed unhappy. "If anything, it's a testament to the cruel nature of mankind. Even they, who were supposedly fighting for the freedom of Pokémon, find it permissible to mistreat this small creature."

"But I'd never treat my Pokémon like that...and thousands of other trainers don't treat their Pokémon like that," insisted Hilda.

"There are exceptions...people like you and Vaporeon. But if those trainers have to be separated from their Pokémon in order to bring justice to them all, then they will be separated. Even though I do feel a bit sad about it."

"Why? Because you think everything has to be just so? The world isn't like that. Sometimes things are not so clear cut," she responded.

"Well then," said N, "if the world's issues have become grey, I will separate them. I will make them distinct, black and white again."

"The world was never black and white," Hilda said firmly.

N studied her, rather with disappointment, then turned and left with Zorua hurrying after him.

Hilda sighed and sadly glanced down at her Pokémon. Vaporeon looked up at her with a cry of solidarity.

"I'd better get Munna back to her trainer, Dr. Fennel," Hilda said picking up the little Munna, "We can finish our Pokémon battle at some future time."

"Sure," agreed Hugh.

Hilda walked away in the direction of Striaton, carrying Munna.

Rosa nudged her brother Hugh and whispered, "Isn't it striking?"

"What is?"

"How much N looks like a young Ghetsis?"

Chapter 22 - That which Ghetsis hid

Ghetsis had plans, and there were few people that he confided in; his sisters were in that small group. He sent for them. Concordia and Anthea arrived promptly at his office aboard the Plasma Frigate and he started speaking immediately.

"I am planning invasions across the Unova region and the area around here might get uncomfortable; thus, you must evacuate. I have some properties in the Johto region. You can stay there until I get word to you," Ghetsis insisted.

The two sisters looked at each other.

"There hasn't been war in ages," Anthea spoke.

"Ghetsis, please let us take N with us," requested Concordia. "What need is there in making him go through war and all the strife that accompanies it?"

"I need him and his exceptional talent of comprehending Pokémon speech," answered Ghetsis.

Concordia knew better. "It's because the dragon will only respond to his commands."

Ghetsis did not dispute this. "I have determined that he will remain with me until such time as I see fit to send him off to the both of you."

"He might get hurt," said Anthea.

"An inconvenience of war," explained Ghetsis, "However, I will make certain that no harm comes to N. He is, after all, the official king."

Concordia looked despondent. "You didn't let yourself get attached to him, even a bit, when you raised him. It was all to get the dragon."

"It is all to get justice," Ghetsis retorted, and added, "If you disagree you may go on your way, independently. I won't harm you nor will I let anyone else do so. But... do not try to interfere with my goals." He ended his sentence with a stern look on his face that made his sisters shudder.

"Of course we would never cross you... you're our brother," Anthea replied quickly; she and Concordia looked at each other with worried expressions.

They were interrupted when N appeared at the door. Ghetsis decided to emphasize his point and spoke to him.

"N," Ghetsis leant back in his seat, "I've been discussing the civil upheaval that will befall Unova when we awaken Reshiram. Anthea and Concordia are leaving for the Johto region, but they are concerned that perhaps you would be safer outside of Unova."

"I don't think I can leave Unova," N said earnestly, "at least not now."

"Are you sure, N?" Ghetsis prompted.

"Well, the legend says I'm supposed to free all the Pokémon," replied N, "It makes sense that I would have to stick around for that... doesn't it?"

Ghetsis glanced at Anthea and Concordia; a small grin forming on his face as N continued speaking:

"I remember all those Pokémon I met when I was growing up. If that's really just a sample of Pokémon suffering because of people, then I can't run off and not help them."

"You see, sisters," Ghetsis said, "N knows where his place is and what he must do."

It seemed the intricacies of Ghetsis' plot were indeed, perfect.

Anthea and Concordia shrugged in defeat and stepped away from the office, but when they were at a short distance from it, they stopped to converse.

"It's so sad, really," Anthea sighed.

"Poor N," concurred Concordia.

"Is something wrong... May I be of any help?" a voice behind them made them turn and see Colress.

"Doctor Colress." Concordia acknowledged. "How nice of you to worry about us."

"We are just concerned about the turn of events, that's all," added Anthea.

"What might that be?" asked Colress, "I overheard you mention the young king, N."

"Indeed." Concordia said, "Our brother Ghetsis wants N to stay... and as you are most likely aware, we are on the brink of a war. My sister and I think that N should not be in harm's way."

"I can understand your point of view, from a maternal standpoint," analyzed Colress, "However, from the point of a king ready to battle an enemy... N needs to participate if he is to gain experience for future fights."

"It's a bit more complicated." Concordia explained.

Anthea jumped in and said, "Ghetsis knew N was the boy mentioned in the prophecy who could awaken the legendary dragon. All this time, it seems, he's been using N as a pawn to exact his revenge on the world."

"...However," added Concordia, "I don't think there's any way that revenge can ever be satisfied."

"His revenge on the world?" asked Colress.

"N was raised indoors," she continued speaking ignoring his question, "he was prevented from accessing the outside, to keep him away from Pokémon. Ghetsis deliberately brought him only Pokémon that had been mistreated and betrayed by cruel trainers, with the lone exception to that being N's lifelong pet Zorua."

"N grew up thinking that most Pokémon were unhappy with people," added Anthea.

Before the scientist could ask any other questions, they glanced back toward the open door of the Team Plasma leader's office. At that moment, Ghetsis and N walked out of it; apparently studying a map of the mountainous terrain surrounding the Pokémon League, and discussing military maneuvers, oblivious to all but their strategizing.

"N's heart is pure and innocent." Concordia added, "There can be nothing more beautiful and terrifying than innocence."

The sisters left without further comments and Colress remained deep in thought and analysis.

Ghetsis and his son walked along the frigate corridors when they came across Zinzolin.

"I was just coming to see you, Lord Ghetsis," said Zinzolin, "May I speak with you in private?"

"Is it that serious?" asked Ghetsis.

"Perhaps," remarked the Sage.

"Wait here for me N. This shouldn't take more than two minutes," Ghetsis ordered his son, "I don't give too much credence to what Zinzolin says."

The two men walked a few paces away and Zinzolin spoke with gravity in his voice:

"I was told by two of my guards that N scolded them in front of some of his friends and proceeded to punch them in the stomach... I know it might be distressing to you Ghetsis, but I believe you should know about it."

Ghetsis looked at Zinzolin wordlessly for a brief moment and then called N over. His son came quickly.

"N," began his father, "I've been told that you scolded and physically punished two of our guards the other day. Is it true?"

N stood up straight, looked first at Zinzolin with defiance and then at his father seriously, acknowledged with a nod of his head and replied, "Yes, father. I would do it again if needed."

"What reason was there?" asked Ghetsis.

"They were mistreating a Pokémon... a small mellow critter called a Munna. What's more, they were doing it in plain sight of others who would get a bad impression of the effort Team Plasma is doing to benefit the world."

Ghetsis looked at his son for a moment and then turned to Zinzolin, "This is bad news?"

Turning back to N, he gave him a hug and told him, "N, my son, I am so very proud of you. That is what any good general would have done. You must always instill fear in the hearts of those you lead, to ensure that you don't lose control over them."

N was happy that he had made his father proud. "Thank you for understanding, father."

The pair walked off and left Zinzolin behind with a surprised look on his face.

Shortly thereafter, Ghetsis called all the Sages to a meeting. N was not present, by Ghetsis' own scheme. He did not wish N to hear some of the discussion that would be held here, but he found a more palatable excuse for it, stating benignly that N should rest as he had a very important event ahead of him – that is, rousing the ancient dragon.

The Seven Sages sat down in a conference room aboard the Plasma Frigate. Colress was called as well; he sat across the long table, where in N's absence Ghetsis had invited him to sit.

This received some unkind expressions from more than one of the Sages – Rood, Giallo and especially Zinzolin; but not one of them would dare question the judgement of the supreme leader in inviting the scientist into this meeting or in extending such distinction to him.

When everyone was seated, Ghetsis spoke:

"Gorm, you will make ready the emergence of N's castle, our new fortress." The Sage bowed in recognition of his duty.

"I was told the liberated Pokémon made to work on the edifice were being overtaxed," Rood expressed this with concern.

"A piteous necessity, Sage Rood," Ghetsis replied, "However, their tiresome efforts will be rewarded by their freedom when we take power."

Ghetsis really paid no heed of the burdens that fell on these Pokémon; many of the other Sages too could not be bothered with it, for as much as they professed to be guardians of their fellow creatures' rights. Colress noticed this, but he felt it undeserving of mention. He had been present when Ghetsis had demanded, himself, that the stolen Pokémon be driven in ceaseless labor to expedite the construction of the palace.

"I have been told the planetary council is convening at Unity Tower in Castelia City," Ryoku remarked.

"They hear the impending drums of war," Zinzolin said with an audible snicker in his voice.

"They have called the Unovan gym leaders for a conference," Ryoku insisted.

"Quite trivial," said the supreme leader, "They cannot match the strength of the legendary Pokémon, which I – that is, Team Plasma – will soon possess." Ghetsis continued giving orders. "Ryoku, Giallo, you shall each amass your battalions on either side of Victory Road – Ryoku to route 23, Giallo along route 10 to ready our strike on the Pokémon League site... and Bronius, you will be in charge of the frigate in my absence... make sure everything stays in order."

Ghetsis turned to Zinzolin and said, "Sage Zinzolin, your historical knowledge of the legend makes it advisable that you accompany us to Dragonspiral Tower."

He then turned to the scientist. "You will come too, Colress. If the dragon Pokémon will not obey N, it falls on you and your Colress Machine to control it."

"Understood." Colress replied simply.

The other Sages looked uneasy at the thought, and it was Zinzolin that broke the silence.

"It is the way of the universe to take from excess and fill emptiness," Zinzolin said adding, "Taking Pokémon from people is restoring balance to nature!"

This statement, with all its incongruity to the general dialogue, served to lift the awkwardness that had pervaded the assembly upon the politically distasteful notion of Colress seizing Reshiram with his mind control methods, or the insinuation that N, despite being the hero of the prophecy, might potentially be unable to command the legendary Pokémon. When all else failed for the Sages, they sought easy refuge in lauding the moralities of Pokémon liberation, and Zinzolin's declaration was a welcome opportunity.

"Now go, all of you," ordered Ghetsis, "Fulfill your missions for Team Plasma." He waved them off and said, "except for you, Sage Rood. You will stay here."

The Sages dispersed accordingly. Rood walked over to Ghetsis and bowed.

"Supreme leader, Lord Ghetsis," Rood said.

"Our mission of Pokémon liberation is about to be achieved," Ghetsis addressed Rood. "But before that, I have a task for you... one that is necessary for the success of the revolution."

Meanwhile, N's Zorua had gone into Lord Ghetsis' study. The way the Frigate had been moored, the sunset faced the window and lit up the whole room in a warm glow. Zorua happily scampered about in the orangey light.

"Zorua..." N called.

The little fox gave a yap, and her master appeared at the doorway.

"Come, Zorua," N told her, "We've got an important event ahead. You shouldn't be playing around."

Zorua gave a series of yaps in response.

N wandered into the room and glanced at the books on the shelf. One of them was entitled: 'Legendary Pokémon of our Planet.'

He opened the book and leafed through it, until he came to a full-page snapshot of an oil painting depicting the dragon of Truth.

"Reshiram," he murmured. He had seen many depictions of the white dragon already, but he wondered how the creature actually appeared. He secretly thought the renderings might not do the Pokémon justice, if it was supposed to be as beautiful and majestic a form as the ancients claimed it to be.

We'll soon see, though, he thought, recalling that he was to awaken Reshiram that night.

Something else had caught his eye though, that had been placed within the leaves of the book. "What's this?" N stated, retrieving it.

It was the photograph of Ghetsis before his misfortune, standing beside Felicity.

N hesitated as he examined the picture, when it was suddenly snatched away from him and he turned with surprise to see Ghetsis.

There was a spark of fury in Ghetsis' gaze, which had exchanged its usual violet for a sinister reddish hue in the bright light of the sunset filtering through the window. N flinched at the sight, but Ghetsis glanced down at the photograph and the rage – to whomever it had been directed – was lost.

"I'm...sorry," N managed. "Was she...?"

"She was my wife," Ghetsis replied bleakly.

"Anthea and Concordia mentioned you had once been married," N said, "but they did not say any more, except that you lost her and an infant son long ago and it pained you very much."

Ghetsis scowled, "The wretched people who were responsible for their deaths have been held to account, not by the law but by vendetta, yet the terrible system that spawned them still stands. That incident was the cause of physical and emotional hurt," he added, "both of which I am forced to endure for the rest of my life."

N was quiet; Ghetsis was studying the photograph wistfully, lost in the memories of his past. His adoptive son ventured:

"What were they called?"

"Her name was Felicity," said Ghetsis, softly. "The child's name was Nathaniel."

"It scarcely dawns on people," N mused. "The consequences of their actions can be farther reaching than even they realize."

Ghetsis stared incredulously at N. How was it that he always seemed to say things so much like Felicity, not by knowledge, but by sheer intrinsic sentiment? If that alone was all, it would have been enough hurt for Ghetsis, yet his adoptive son looked so much like her – especially his blue eyes. Deep down, perhaps he did care about N, and was not merely acting the part for the fulfillment of his schemes, but the importunate, anguishing similarities were barely tolerable.

But how can it be, it can't be! It's impossible! N is an oddity, that's all; his being chosen by some obscure ancient prophecy manifests this.

He composed himself, "N, the world is a cruel place. There is very little justice in it."

N sighed and said, "Perhaps so, father, but Pokémon are quite fair in dealing with each other... maybe more so than humans, don't you agree?"

"Yes, N," replied Ghetsis, "I believe you are correct."

Hilda had gone to see Dr. Heather Fennel to return the Munna. It was a happy reunion for both Fennel and the little animal, and Hilda smiled as she saw them hug each other.

As she exited the building, the Shadow Triad was waiting for her, standing on the steps and blocking her way.

"Is there a problem?" she asked sternly.

"Ghetsis has a message for you: Come to Dragonspiral Tower," the eldest of the three replied.

"Does he say why?" Hilda countered.

"N will be there," the Triad guard informed her.

So saying, the Shadow Triad left.

Chapter 23 - The world they want

The stars glittered in the night sky, above the circular stone colossus that was Dragonspiral Tower. It was the oldest edifice in all of the Unova region and its history had been lost to time; the epic tale of Unova's founding that had unfolded here, now a mystery which only the silent ruins remained as witness to.

Hilda approached the tower. There was total silence and she halted before the entrance.

No one could be seen anywhere. She took out a Poké Ball and sent out her Vaporeon, which appeared in a glistening light.

"I'm not sure what Team Plasma's up to, but I'd like you to come with me," Hilda told her Pokémon, adding, "just in case there's a fight waiting."

Vaporeon let out an affirming cry.

There was nothing inside except for a spiraling flight of steps that reached up to the top of the tower.

But someone's been here, thought Hilda as she looked around. Lit torches had been placed on the walls, illuminating the interior of Dragonspiral Tower in the flames' flickering golden light.

Vaporeon gave an uneasy growl. Hilda glanced down at her Pokémon. "You're right, Vaporeon... there's something I don't like about this either."

A voice suddenly boomed onto the echoing walls of the tower:

"Now! For the cause and our king!"

Hilda looked up to see one of the Sages, who she recognized as Rood. He stood on one of the upper steps, looking down at her; his Pokémon, Jolteon, at his heels.

Without warning, Jolteon gave a battle cry, and a bolt of electricity came crashing down on Vaporeon. Hilda's Pokémon yelped as it was struck.

"Vaporeon!" Hilda exclaimed.

Vaporeon seemed a bit stunned, as they were circled by four Pokémon: a feline Liepard, a weasel-like Watchog, a vulture-like Mandibuzz and the insect Pokémon Scolipede. These had been sent out by four Team Plasma guards, who gave them one command. "Get that Vaporeon!"

Their Pokémon sprang on Vaporeon, but were simultaneously tossed back by a rush of water from Vaporeon's Surf attack.

As Vaporeon contended with the other Pokémon, the guards surrounded Hilda. She raced away from them, up the twisting stairs, only for Rood's Jolteon to bound forward.

The Pokémon blocked her path, snarling, long enough for the Team Plasma soldiers to seize her from behind and try to push her off the stairwell. She reached out and held on to one of the steps, but not before casting her eyes down at the great height at which they were.

Vaporeon heard her scream and looked up at the spiral stairway that towered above where the Pokémon fought. It ran away from the battle without a second thought towards its trainer.

The four guards had poised over Hilda, ready to force her to her death. One of them said:

"Ghetsis Harmonia sends his regards."

With a snarl, Vaporeon leapt at them, and with it came a roaring wave of water. The astonished guards had little time to react before the wave collided and sent them, not Hilda, plummeting off the precipice.

Rood looked displeased as Vaporeon bit onto Hilda's sleeve and helped her climb back up onto the stairs. The Pokémon that had been fighting Vaporeon had chased after it, yet upon seeing what had happened, they now dispersed with squawks and growls.

Hilda now faced Rood; his growling Jolteon stood beside him.

"Jolteon... silence!" the Sage ordered the Pokémon, and it quickly complied.

"Are you going to battle us too?" Hilda confronted him.

"Battle you?" Rood was calm. "Team Plasma abhors battling."

Hilda just stared at him.

"You will find N and Ghetsis on the top floor," said Rood simply, and walked away with Jolteon following.

Atop the tower, four men stood: Ghetsis, N, Zinzolin, and Colress. On this floor, open to the sky, the only indication that there had once been a roof were a row of marble pillars – some fallen – that led up to a clearing. The wall beside the clearing, farthest from the steps leading to this floor, had crumbled away.

"The wind here is cold," Zinzolin complained.

Ghetsis looked impatient. "This is where Reshiram is supposed to awaken?"

"According to the legend," Zinzolin affirmed.

"It would be interesting to see this ancient dragon," Colress smiled. "Such a Pokémon must have astounding levels of power. It would be an impressive test subject."

N looked a little uncertainly at the scientist. "A test subject? These are living beings with feelings."

"Of course, they're living beings with feelings. That's what makes the testing so important and interesting," answered the scientist.

"But what justification is there to put them through an experiment, Doctor Colress?" asked N.

"Science," answered Colress without hesitation.

Ghetsis was tired of waiting. "Enough conversation! Get the stone and wake up my... our dragon."

As N retrieved the stone, Zinzolin turned to Ghetsis with a whisper, "What if he can't wake up the dragon?"

Ghetsis spoke too softly for N to perceive:

"Then I'll blame you for my having wasted 20 years."

Zinzolin shuddered, but N spoke up, "Look."

The stone was shining and as they all watched, it began shaking.

"The legend is true," Zinzolin said with awe in his voice.

"Hold out the stone," Ghetsis told N.

N did as he was told, and the white orb rose into the air, engulfed in brilliant orange light.

At that moment, Hilda ran onto the top floor; she halted in shock when she saw the sight. The glow was so bright it illuminated the surroundings. Ghetsis briefly glanced over but seemed uninterested in her presence here.

N stepped forward. They all watched, seemingly spellbound, as the stone burst into the form of a feathered white dragon. It spread its wings wide and let out a cry not unlike some kind of bird.

Colress pointed the device he held at the Pokémon, which showed no interest in the spectators. It observed N, who returned its bright blue gaze as he outstretched a hand. "Reshiram?"

Reshiram bent down and stared at N before letting out a cheerful cry and resting its head on N's. N smiled.

"Well?" demanded Ghetsis.

"Reshiram says I seek truth," translated N, "and he wants to help me."

A look of triumph lit on Ghetsis' face. Zinzolin exclaimed, "The prophecy has been confirmed!"

Hilda seemed concerned. "N, you can't do this!" Her shout made all of them turn to face her.

"A world where Pokémon and humans live as equals," N ignored her and petted Reshiram on the head. "It's going to be a reality."

"The equality will be in misery. You're going to inflict suffering on both humans and Pokémon," she explained.

At Hilda's statement, N looked at her.

"Meet us at the Pokémon League," N challenged. "We'll see if your ideals are stronger than our dream."

Something began glowing from Hilda's bag, and she pulled out the black stone. It shone briefly, but soon went dark again.

N actually seemed disappointed. "Obviously, Zekrom doesn't think they are."

N got onto Reshiram, which flew off. Hilda gazed at the black stone. Maybe it is true, that the only reason N could awaken Reshiram was because he was chosen for something, Hilda thought. But why would Zorua have given me this, then?

Zinzolin and Colress turned and left, but Ghetsis paused and spoke to her, "You are welcome to come, but it will only be as a witness to history. N has been recognized by Reshiram as the hero of the legend, the true ruler of Unova. Fate has already turned to bring into existence the world he wants."

"The world you want," she said defiantly.

Ghetsis studied the lady. How had she seen through the plot, when no one else had? Yet it was inconsequential...surely, she was nothing more than some random trainer, who had chanced to stumble across the dark realities of Unova's political upheaval?

"I like seeing the look in my enemies' eyes, at the moment when they lose all hope." Ghetsis hesitated. "I can't wait to see that look in yours."

Ghetsis left without another word, and Hilda was then alone at the top of Dragonspiral Tower.

Chapter 24 - Truth and Ideals

The Pokémon League was located on the region's outskirts, in a rather arid area of Unova. It could be reached via Victory Road, the traditional, rugged route taken by Pokémon trainers who had collected eight gym badges and wished to challenge the Elite Four. Here stood two ornate buildings, trimmed with gold, with marble columns and spires in the antique architecture of a bygone era.

Hugh and Rosa arrived at the day's faint, pastel dawn to find the place desolate. They walked through the archway, only to duck behind a tree near the Pokémon Center. There were two Team Plasma guards in front of the doors, which appeared locked.

"Rosa...Hugh," a voice whispered.

They turned to see a familiar scientist.

Colress glanced briefly away to the guards, but no one seemed to have noticed their presence. "What brings you here?"

"We tracked Team Plasma to this location," Rosa answered, keeping her voice low.

"What about you? What are you doing here?" asked Hugh.

"Doing research," Colress evaded the question. "This is not the safest of places. They've taken over the Pokémon League."

At that moment, the guarded doors swung open and four more soldiers marched through, followed by four people whose hands were tied and were obviously prisoners. Behind them walked Ghetsis Harmonia, and his son N.

The would-be king and his father stood at the center of the clearing, together with the dragon Reshiram and N's Zorua, and faced their captives.

"The members of Unova's Elite Four," Ghetsis gloated. "Shauntal, Grimsley, Caitlin and Marshal. Together, you have the fame of being the region's most powerful Pokémon trainers. You're also some of Team Plasma's most high-profile opposition."

"We're stopping the barbaric Pokémon battles held here, once and for all," N announced.

"Starting today, the Pokémon League will be no more!" Ghetsis declared. "This place will become the capital of the new Unovan government."

"So, you and your dragon Pokémon are expecting to take up residence here?" Grimsley inquired skeptically.

"I had a more suitable edifice built," Ghetsis told them.

A rumble shook the land as the subterranean fortress suddenly burst forth from the ground. It was in the style of a mansion several stories high, but made of brown brick, with a stalwart look about it. The palace towered over the surroundings, making the normally impressive Pokémon League buildings look small in its shadow.

Reshiram let out a cry and flew up to the castle roof. The Elite Four could only stare in disbelief at the massive citadel.

Caitlin was the first to speak. "How did you manage to do this?"

"I must credit Alder, the current Pokémon League Champion, for indirectly helping us," Ghetsis explained. "He was supposed to coordinate security for the League grounds, but after his cherished Pokémon companion passed away, he left this obligation in your care while he took leave. You four were so overworked, you allowed yourselves to be careless. We had ample time to construct the castle underneath Victory Road. Quite ingenious, don't you think?"

"If you don't need me at this point, father," said N, taking Zorua from the ground, "I am going to the palace to rest." He turned to leave, but momentarily hesitated and asked, "Are you going to bring them in?"

"They'll get the same consideration they would give me, if they had the chance."

N left, followed by a small security detail of Team Plasma minions; when he had vanished into the castle, Ghetsis turned back to the prisoners.

"Our king has no interest in you. He has more important things to concern himself with. I am the one that deals with executions." Ghetsis smirked.

The captives went pale.

"Obliterate them," Ghetsis off-handedly ordered his guards.

Their Pokémon braced themselves to unleash their most fearsome attacks, when suddenly a familiar voice called out:

"Surf, Vaporeon!"

Ghetsis turned to see Hilda and her Pokémon standing only a short distance away. Vaporeon leapt into the air, and condensation seemed to form around it into a large wave. The water crashed into Team Plasma's group of Pokémon, sweeping them away.

Ghetsis observed her appraisingly. "The holder of the Dark Stone has arrived."

"Let them go," Hilda demanded.

"It's easy to make demands," said Ghetsis, "but are you willing to pay a price if necessary?"

"What kind of price?" asked Hilda with suspicion.

"A battle," Ghetsis explained. "Accept my invitation into the throne room, on the top floor of the castle... that is, if you think your Vaporeon won't evaporate under Reshiram's attacks."

"Threats?" Hilda questioned.

"I'm telling you out of kindness," Ghetsis smiled.

Hilda studied the imposing building, then glanced at the four captives before turning back to Ghetsis. "How many ambushes are along the way?"

"None," Ghetsis smirked. "I am interested in seeing how you expect to defeat the hero of the legend. If you come up to the throne room and face Reshiram, I will release these prisoners."

"Agreed," she promised with a nod of her head.

She was walking unwittingly into his ploy; her Vaporeon would certainly fall to the legendary dragon, and then it would be an unchallenging feat to dispatch her. N must be told after the event, but it would end her influences on the sovereign, influences that were inimical to Ghetsis' own guidance of how the region should be ruled. The leader of Team Plasma turned to the guards.

"Untie them," he ordered gesturing to the captives. They complied, and the Elite Four members scrambled to remove the ropes from their wrists.

"It is in your best interest to leave now," Ghetsis addressed the Elite Four, "because when this battle is over, no one will come to your rescue."

As Shauntal, Grimsley, Caitlin and Marshal hurried to flee, the Shadow Triad guards surrounded Hilda.

"The escort isn't necessary," Hilda said, and brazenly walked towards the palace steps.

"You have courage," Ghetsis told her, "I am impressed."

Having said that, he sent out Hydreigon. He handed the three-headed Pokémon his staff, which it clutched in one of its mouths.

"We shall meet again, shortly," said Ghetsis, as he held on to Hydreigon while it fluttered up to the topmost balcony.

Hugh, Rosa, and Colress had been observing the events from a corner, hidden from view.

"Hopefully, Hilda has had enough practice to confront Team Plasma's dragon," commented Rosa.

"Yeah," countered Hugh, "I've heard folklore about how Reshiram is almost unbeatable, except by another legendary Pokémon."

"In the grand scheme of things," observed Colress, "as far as the rebels are concerned, it will be a decisive battle."

"How so, Colress?" asked Rosa.

The scientist turned to face her, "Because Ghetsis' army is quite strong and united. The Pokémon he has collected have been exhaustingly trained."

"So, what you're saying is, Hilda doesn't have a good chance of beating Team Plasma in battle," replied Rosa.

"There is always a chance," analyzed Colress, "but the percentage of it is low at this point."

"Well, I think she knows what she's doing," interrupted Hugh adamantly, "Hilda doesn't give up easily."

"If indeed she has that kind of determination, then she might succeed. We shall soon find out," said Colress.

The three of them found stairs at one side of the castle and climbed a flight up. There, the fortune of the Harmonia name was obvious.

The walls were of polished marble and shimmered when sunlight hit them from the towering windows that were prevalent in the corridor they encountered. The floors were large grey stones that were perfectly cleaned and smooth. At the end of this corridor, there were more stairs.

They followed these, eventually finding themselves along luxurious hallways lined with several rooms. One enormous room they went into had practically no furniture, except for an elegant wood table in the middle that had, as its centerpiece, a bouquet of pansy flowers.

"Wow," Hugh remarked. "I've always heard stories about how wealthy the Harmonias were but I never imagined they lived this opulently."

"The only flowers I've seen within the castle are pansies," Rosa noticed.

They heard footsteps and within minutes, Hilda walked by the room in the corridor. She didn't seem to notice the three.

"Come on!" said Hugh, "Let's follow."

They ran after her, keeping a distance so as to not be detected, and followed her up a flight of stairs. This led to another hall, lined with banners of the Team Plasma emblem. She went to an archway here that had on either side two statues of legendary bird Pokémon.

Hilda walked in to find an elegant, indigo-carpeted walkway that led up to a golden throne, where N sat. His pet Zorua was on his left, sitting at his feet and Ghetsis stood beside him to the right. Ordered marble columns supported a lofty ceiling, and the tiled floor of the throne room was tinged with gold.

"So, you came," observed N.

"I came because what you're doing is wrong," Hilda said.

N's blue eyes shone triumphantly. "Unova will be ours, and all Pokémon will be separated from humans. Team Plasma has the support of the ancient dragon Pokémon. You don't have any Pokémon that can match it in strength."

"You underestimate the will of mankind, and the friendship with Pokémon," Hilda countered. "What you want is to destroy freedom, and I won't let you."

N stood up and walked down the carpeted path toward Hilda. At that instant, a blast of wind burst through the hall, and he was joined in the center of the room by his dragon Pokémon, Reshiram.

"If that's so, prove it to me!" N defied. "Show me the depth of your determination."

At that instant, a light shone from Hilda's bag, and she paused before reaching for it. It was the black orb.

Hilda held the orb out, and everyone watched in amazement as it rose into the air. It was illuminated a blinding blue, and suddenly it seemed to burst. In its place stood a powerful black dragon Pokémon, which let out a roar.

"Zekrom," Hilda murmured.

Ghetsis was astounded, and exclaimed, "This can't be! Both dragon Pokémon can't can the legend recognize two heroes?!"

N, for his part, seemed delighted at the challenge.

"Zekrom says he was waiting to see how far you would go to defend your ideals. He says he knows now, and he wants to fight alongside you." N smiled. "Now we'll truly see whose dream will reign. This will be a battle fitting for two Legendary Pokémon; a battle to decide the destiny of the Unova region. Reshiram, Fusion Flare!"

"Zekrom, dodge and use Fusion Bolt!" ordered Hilda.

Thus began a Pokémon battle unlike any other. The two dragons spun around in the air, dodging and attacking, bursts of fire and electricity shooting through the sky. When the attacks missed their target, they crashed against the roof.

As they fought, N listened to their cries, and as he did, he seemed to become more solemn even as the battle waged on.

"You can't separate all these Pokémon," Zekrom was saying. "Pokémon belong with human beings; it has been that way for ages."

"No matter what I think is right, it will make my trainer N happy," Reshiram countered.

N couldn't believe it. The Pokémon he had spoken to throughout their travels wanted to stay with their trainers, but now to see that Reshiram was fighting for his beliefs, to the point of disregarding its own...

"Halt the battle!" he shouted, and the Pokémon ceased their fight and faced each other, poised to attack. Hilda looked astonished, but none more so than Ghetsis.

"We're winning!" Ghetsis insisted.

"I see now, how mistaken our plans are," N acknowledged. "We want to create a humane world for Pokémon. All the Pokémon I've spoken to, ever since we began travelling around the Unova region – starting with your Vaporeon, Hilda – they all want to stay with their trainers. I was denying that. Now Reshiram is battling for what I want, yet even he wants to stay by my side. We're not liberating Pokémon, we're taking them away from the people they love. Team Plasma would be doing the exact opposite it stands for, if we persist in our campaign."

"You fool!" Ghetsis was outraged. "The point of Team Plasma was never to create a humane world for Pokémon. It was to conquer the planet!"

"What?!" N's eyes opened wide.

"There was no other reason to awaken the dragon Pokémon, except to have enough power to control the masses," snapped Ghetsis.

"Then you never intended to release the liberated Pokémon?" asked N incredulously.

"Releasing them would be illogical. The creatures would probably try to find their original trainers. I intended that only Team Plasma would have Pokémon. How else could we keep the populace from revolting against us, if they had Pokémon to defend themselves with?" Ghetsis insisted.

"But you can't!" N protested.

Colress, Hugh and Rosa had been hearing the conversation from outside and hurried in to the throne room at that moment.

"No one can stop me!" Ghetsis declared, tightly grasping his staff. "Your dragon Pokémon will still help in the realization of my goal."

"These innocent Pokémon don't know anything about human politics," interjected N, "All they know is they're being taken away from their friends. I thought I understood Pokémon, but even being able to communicate with them I never realized until now...the Pokémon will never be happy if we separate them from their human companions. Father, we can't let them suffer just to seize power."

When N finished speaking, Ghetsis replied coldly:

"You don't deserve to share the name Harmonia with me."

N looked distraught, and Hilda, silently watching the exchange, came to the realization there were more facets to the mysterious Team Plasma than she had thought.

Colress adjusted his eyeglasses, but Hugh and Rosa had finally recovered from the shock of learning Team Plasma's more grandiose objectives. "Are you saying..." Hugh spoke up, "that all this time, the whole Pokémon liberation scheme was to take over the world?"

Ghetsis looked over at them, somehow unsurprised at their presence; years of restraint left him, and he burst into bitter laughter.

"My plans were – are – perfection! The prophecy foretold that only someone who could converse with Pokémon could awaken the legendary dragon, so I prepared N for that purpose. Why else would I have adopted such a warped excuse for a person?" Ghetsis was merciless. His cruelty unsparing, he turned once more to face N.

"You're nothing more than a freak without a human heart."

N remained silent, but his sad countenance revealed how he felt.

"...and you?" Hilda's soft voice made the Team Plasma leader turn to her. "Have you ever really had a heart?"

There was an utter hush across the room; at last, Ghetsis responded:

"As a matter of fact, I did...once."

In that instant, the effects of the Pokémon battle began to take its toll on the edifice, and, as if destiny was having the last word, the roof of the castle began to crumble. Concrete showered down on the throne room, and one of the poles above that was bearing the banner of Team Plasma's insignia slammed down.

"We're all going to be crushed if we stay here!" Rosa shouted.

"Elgyem, do you remember the Pokémon Center in Opelucid City?" Colress turned to his Pokémon, which he had sent out. "Teleport Rosa and Hugh there!"

Rosa and Hugh could barely protest before Elgyem's eyes glowed, engulfing the siblings in energy and immediately teleporting them away.

N turned to Ghetsis. "We have to get out of the castle."

Ghetsis ignored him. Joining Colress at the entrance, the Team Plasma leader addressed the scientist instead. "Seize control of one of the dragons!"

Colress retrieved his device; he tried to aim it but one of the marble pillars holding up the roof crashed down, separating Ghetsis and Colress from N, Hilda and the two dragon Pokémon.

"The ray's reach is being blocked," Colress lamented.

"Damn them," said Ghetsis, "Let us leave this place."

"Elgyem!" called Colress, and his Pokémon teleported him, Ghetsis, and itself out of the doomed castle.

As the last remnants of the castle collapsed around them, N took Hilda by the hand and ran to a corner near the throne, where he turned to Hilda and said with a sorrowful look on his face:

"Hilda, I'm sorry. I can only hope you don't hate me... I've never stopped loving you."

"I don't hate you. I don't think I could ever hate you; my love is too strong," replied Hilda.

They retreated behind where the throne had been and saw half of the castle wall had collapsed. The bright morning sunlight shone in, a beautiful wash of white light that was incongruous to the war-torn scene surrounding them of the palace being destroyed.

"I must speak to you," N began, "You've taught me more than I ever thought possible. You're the last dream I have left," N continued, "and that's why I have to leave you, to save your life."

"Save my life?" asked a shocked Hilda.

Reshiram flew out of the building but stayed fluttering near the precipice. It called to its trainer, but N was determined to get his point across to Hilda.

"You once told me, you dreamt of challenging the Pokémon League with Vaporeon. You saw it as a way to show the friendship and bond between Pokémon and human beings, how they willingly work together and help one another, even though you thought your view was idealistic."

"That's all it was," Hilda sighed, "beautiful, impractical, idealism."

N shook his head, but time was running short; the castle floor was quivering. He glanced at Reshiram, then turned back to her.

"Don't give up on your dream. You have determination, you have optimism, and if anyone can succeed in this, it would be you."

Hilda's voice became softer and she said:

"Not alone. Together."

N embraced her, and their eyes met directly. "My darling Hilda...maybe in the future we can meet again... remember the Ferris wheel at Nimbasa City?"

He kissed her as the castle was falling to dust around them, but for that brief moment in time, there was nothing and no one else but each other; a moment that both knew in their hearts would not last.

Hilda whispered in his ear, "I will meet you at the Nimbasa Ferris wheel."

N's response was simply to stroke her hair and then, picking up Zorua and mounting Reshiram, he was gone in a flash; the white dragon vanishing against the backdrop of the clouds and pure sunlight.

Hilda stood there alone for a moment watching meditatively. Then she climbed atop her own dragon, with Vaporeon leaping up alongside her as she gave Zekrom orders to fly away.

Meanwhile, Ghetsis and Colress were met outside at the Plasma Frigate by the Shadow Triad, Zinzolin, and Rood. There was commotion in the sky above them and they looked up to see a battle being waged. Team Plasma's Pokémon had met those of an opposition militia, and they fiercely fought in mid-air. At the far side of the plateau, Team Plasma was trying to hold off an attack by ground.

"Lord Ghetsis," Rood announced, "A number of the gym leaders arrived commanding opposition forces to reclaim the Pokémon League. We do not know how they came here so rapidly."

"No doubt alerted to our position by that trainer Hilda," determined Ghetsis.

"The palace is imploding," Zinzolin said urgently. "Where's N?"

"He's a traitor." Ghetsis' animosity towards his adopted son surprised Zinzolin.

"Ghetsis, you can't disinherit N!" Rood protested, "He's the chosen ruler of the prophecy!"

"You assume to question me?" Ghetsis spun towards him.

"Perhaps the time has come to do so," Rood answered.

"Who wrote the prophecy?" questioned a defiant Ghetsis.

Rood stared at Ghetsis speechlessly for a moment, until finally he found his voice again, and asked:

"Are you saying that all this time, you've just been manipulating people's hearts as you wish?"

"Think Rood; after all, you must be considered a Sage for some reason," Ghetsis faced him directly and raising his staff above his head, challenged, "Isn't that what all leaders do?"

His violet gaze was so fierce, Rood cringed, fearing the imminent blow from Ghetsis' staff, and thus remained silent and cast his eyes down in submission.

"I don't have any interest in where that good-for-nothing has gone." Ghetsis admitted, "I want Hilda's dragon, and I intend to go after it."

The Shadow Triad, ever-present wherever Ghetsis was, suddenly exclaimed:

"Mighty Lord Ghetsis! Up above us! Zekrom has emerged."

Indeed, Hilda had found her way out of the castle ruins and she and her Vaporeon were now flying on Zekrom.

Ghetsis saw an opportunity. "Hydreigon!" he shouted, retrieving a Poké Ball and ordering the Pokémon within. "Cast them out of the sky!"

Ghetsis' Hydreigon burst forth with a screechy cry and, swooping up to their height, shot an energy attack at Zekrom.

Hilda gasped as her dragon received the hit and she fell off her Pokémon's back, but she clung to the dragon's neck while the Vaporeon slammed against one of Zekrom's wings and only barely managed to keep itself from tumbling down. Hydreigon hissed.

The two Pokémon spun around in the sky above Victory Road as Zekrom attempted to evade a barrage of energy attacks by Ghetsis' determined Hydreigon, which trailed them tenaciously. Vaporeon, unsteadily keeping its balance, let loose an Aurora Beam but their pursuer deftly flew around it. Hilda tried helplessly to climb onto her Pokémon's back again to no avail.

The legendary dragon was already weak and now tiring from the chase. When a Dragon Pulse attack hit Zekrom's side, it was a critical strike and the last it could withstand.

Zekrom let out a pained roar and plummeted down, but not before countering Hydreigon's energy attack with its own, causing the injured enemy to screech and fly falteringly back to Ghetsis.

N, who had been flying nearby, saw it all unfold.

"Hilda... No!" he exclaimed.

The sky was now streaked with fire, a flurry of battle in the morning sun; violence like paint splattered against the serene backdrop of dawn. Reshiram twisted around to avoid the attacks, but N could not reach Hilda; with a pained heart, he surrendered in sorrow and turned Reshiram away, and the white dragon accordingly flew off.

Vaporeon was the first to reach the river below, splashing easily into the water and positioning itself to catch Hilda. It leapt to seize her by the vest she wore, and quickly swam out of the way as the falling dragon hit the water.

Zekrom, though injured, was surprisingly alert and floated close enough for Vaporeon to transfer the unconscious Hilda onto its back, and they all made their way toward the river coast.

The gym leaders' forces were breaking past the failing Team Plasma ranks, and Ghetsis knew they had lost this battle.

"Rood," Ghetsis turned to the Sage, sternly. "I am granting you, once, the privilege of redeeming yourself from your insubordinate actions. I have a mission for you."

Rood, bowing before him, replied swiftly, "Whatever my lordship asks of me."

"We are yielding this territory and retreating, for now." Ghetsis explained. "I want you to go and bring me Zekrom."

"As you command," replied Rood bowing again.

Suddenly, a loud crash made everyone turn their attention up, towards the distance, just in time to see the castle fall to pieces and be swallowed into the opening ground.

"There goes our dream of a new world," Zinzolin lamented.

"You have no foresight, Zinzolin." Ghetsis told him acridly. "This is where the war begins."

Chapter 25 - The alliances of Rood

Rood set off on the journey to bring back the mysterious black dragon, Zekrom. Accompanying him was a troop of Team Plasma minions, but as they made their way through the craggy landscape of Victory Road, the Sage kept to his thoughts; his Pokémon Jolteon kept close to him, as if the creature was aware that his master had a lot on his mind.

Rain fell over Victory Road while they travelled, as that morning's bright sunlight was replaced by clouds that covered the sky in grey. They walked a great distance until they arrived to a river that wound a path through cliffs, and noticed what had befallen the girl and her Pokémon.

Zekrom and Vaporeon had made their way to the river shore, but were now crouched here out of breath. Their trainer Hilda lay unconscious on the ground.

Vaporeon was the only one who seemed strong enough to fight, and upon seeing the Team Plasma army it growled at them.

Had Rood been loyal to Ghetsis, the water type Pokémon could have been easily overpowered by their number and Zekrom seized, but Rood was loyal to an ideology more than a person; the realization that the prophecy had been exaggerated for what he saw as Ghetsis' individual gain was an outrage to him, as was the deduction that Ghetsis never intended to release the confiscated Pokémon into the wild when N took power.

Rood decided the moment had come to split the Team Plasma army. He did not like the idea of someone such as Ghetsis getting control of the world; it seemed to him that if the current government administration was unsatisfactory, the planet would be worse under Ghetsis' command.

"Team Plasma!" he shouted at the minions.

"Speak and we obey!" was the cry in unison.

Rood raised his voice and ordered, "Go help carry the girl and her Pokémon to safety!"

The warriors in the squad looked at each other in wonderment, then they faced Rood. One of the guards asked him:

"Aren't we taking the dragon to Lord Ghetsis?"

"No," answered Rood. "Now listen to what I have to say, all of you!" He climbed on a stone that was nearby and spoke loudly.

"I am separating from Ghetsis and his agenda. If any of you want to come along now and join me, I can assure you that you will receive the same pay. Ghetsis is not thinking of the greater good," confessed Rood. "He has been using us to take over the Unova region for himself and never wanted the liberation of Pokémon."

The squad leaders looked at each other in surprise, then they looked around at each other, and then finally at Rood.

One of them said, "Most of us have been looking for this chance for a long time, but there are some here that would rather return to work under the command of Lord Ghetsis."

"Very well then," replied Rood without missing a beat. "Those of you who want to return to Lord Ghetsis and Team Plasma, leave now!"

He waited until several of the minions wandered away from the group, and when they were a suitable distance Rood then turned to Jolteon and ordered the animal:

"Jolteon, attack! Thunder!"

The attack was swift and deadly. The soldiers could barely react before they were seized by an electric arc of searing pain and smoke, and all who had refused to leave Ghetsis' army and join Rood's were electrocuted.

He turned to face the two squad leaders and noticed their faces looked pale.

"You are warriors. This is war."

They looked at each other and nodded, then turned back to Rood and bowed.

"We stand ready to fulfill your command, Lord Rood."

"Good. Squad one, you will accompany me to ensure the Hilda girl arrives at hospital for treatment and take her two Pokémon to a Center for attention. Squad two, find a suitable location to establish camp. We will set up base temporarily here, then my plans are to move our headquarters to Driftveil City."

The two squad leaders saluted him and ran off to organize their brigades. Rood stepped down from the boulder and turned to the Vaporeon, which had been listening to the conversation. The Pokémon was no longer growling, but it eyed him with suspicion.

Rood addressed the Vaporeon. "Yes, I did oversee the attack on your trainer at Dragonspiral Tower, but we now have a common enemy."

Jolteon flattened its long ears against the rain that still showered down, and yowled.

Hilda's Vaporeon rested its head on its paws, but it did not take its eyes away from the former Team Plasma Sage.

Some time later, Hilda woke up and, looking around, saw she was in a hospital.

She sat up in bed and suddenly gasped at a sharp pain in her neck that felt as whiplash. Her arms had a few bruises and she was achy all over.

As she sat there remembering all that had transpired, and wondering how long she'd been at the hospital, a nurse walked in.

"Nurse, what city am I in and how long have I been here?" asked Hilda.

"Nice to see you're awake," greeted the nurse, "This is Opelucid City Hospital. You've been here a few hours. You don't have any broken bones but you do have muscle sprains. The doctor will tell you more when he sees you," she replied.

"What about my Pokémon?" asked a visibly concerned Hilda, "They're a Vaporeon and a dragon called Zekrom."

"Don't worry, they're fine. The Pokémon Center is looking after them until you are well enough to retrieve them. The head attendant of the Center commented that your dragon is quite a unique animal."

"Thank goodness," sighed Hilda as she reclined onto the bed, "I feared..." her voice trailed.

"You feared that Team Plasma would confiscate them, didn't you?" finished the nurse, "You don't have to worry about that. We took back the Pokémon League, so now the Plasma militia is on the run."

Hilda noticed that the nurse smiled as she said this, so she said, "You obviously don't like Team Plasma. Am I right, nurse?"

"Perhaps I shouldn't admit it, given the current political climate,'re right. Team Plasma took a Pokémon from me that I had since it was still an egg and I've been searching for it ever since. I just heard that they tried to get it to fight for them and it refused, so they deemed it to be uncooperative and gave it to their top scientist to use in experiments. I have offered a reward to anyone who can retrieve it and return it to me, but no one has been able to do so."

"That's sad," noted Hilda, "What kind was it and how long has it been since you last saw it?"

"It was a Charmeleon and it's been about six months... I miss it so very much," the nurse answered with a sigh.

Before anything else could be said, a doctor walked in. He stopped to look at a chart that was posted on the inside of the door in the room and then approached Hilda's bedside.

"Greetings. My name is Doctor Ernest."

"Hello Doctor," answered Hilda.

"Do you remember what happened before you arrived here at the hospital?" asked the doctor.

"I remember being in the sky on my dragon, my Vaporeon was with me... then we were attacked by Plasma forces and I remember falling into the water...and my Vaporeon catching me and putting me on the back of Zekrom... that's it."

"Well, you fainted. You were brought here and your Pokémon were taken to the Center for evaluation. You have muscle sprains, some bumps and did pass out for a few hours...I recommend you stay for observation at least today, just to make sure that no other worse symptom appears," he responded.

"I cannot," Hilda answered. "I must meet with someone..."

Hilda sat up as she said this, but winced at the effort; the doctor said, "If you insist on leaving, that is your decision; however, you do need rest to recover fully."

"I understand, Doctor," acknowledged Hilda. "May I ask... who brought me here?"

"Mr. Rood Elliott," answered the doctor. "He abandoned his post as one of Team Plasma's Sages."

"Rood did?" The words were a whisper, but did not conceal Hilda's surprise.

She left the hospital at all haste, came swiftly to the Ferris wheel at Nimbasa, but N was not there; she waited three days for him till darkness, when the coo of Pidove abated for the cry of Woobat, yet he did not come. Her heart sank.

"N..." she murmured, at last leaving when the night was too black, "I hope you're all right..."

Far away in another region, N was mourning. He had seen Hilda attacked by Ghetsis' Hydreigon and fall somewhere over Victory Road. He could not imagine any way she could have lived from such a height; as far as he knew, his beloved Hilda was dead.

N longed for peace, and he felt helpless to bring it about. He sat with his dragon Reshiram and his fox Zorua, up on a hill, far from where people congregated. He didn't want to see people; in fact, he desired no more of conversations and political discourse. The Zorua, sensing his grief, cuddled up to him and made a sound.

"Do you believe that, Zorua?" N asked his pet Pokémon, "Do you really believe there's a chance that she survived?"

The dragon roared.

"You too, Reshiram?" he asked.

The dragon roared again and the fox yapped earnestly.

"The only reason I broke up with her was to try to save her life. I thought that if she was not associated with me, my father would not go after her," N reasoned, "I was a fool."

N sat in silence thinking about what his Pokémon had told him. The fox and dragon stayed beside him in silent solidarity, and the three of them gazed out onto the beautiful landscape of this region, an ocean away from Unova. The route they were on was mountainous, and they could see a small lake in the distance. Berry trees dotted the meadowland around it.

"I've decided I'm not going back," N settled, "If perchance I hear information that leads me to believe she is alive, then I will set out to Nimbasa City... but unless that day arrives, I will isolate myself. The world is in a turmoil."

The sun began to set. It was the end of a day and the beginning of a new quest.

N did not sleep well that night; his dreams were fraught with peril, the dreadful certainties of war that had until recently been banished from their planet.

He saw himself flying on Reshiram's back, again above the Pokémon League, witnessing as Team Plasma charged to meet the enemy. Ghetsis was commanding the militia from the bow of the Plasma Frigate; N's dragon swooped down in time to hear him declare:

"Ownership of Pokémon will be outlawed, and I will be ruler of the world!"

A desperate N tried to shout above the din of battle. "You must hear what I have to tell you!" he cried, yet Ghetsis merely waved his staff in the air and all went black.

An instant later, a spotlight lit the world about him as N found himself flat on his back. He was strapped down to a table; darkness hid the surroundings from view, but he could perceive he was in a small room, somewhere aboard the Plasma Frigate. His restraints would not yield, nor would the realization that something ominous was about to befall him.

The sound of footsteps across the floor heralded the army's chief scientist, who stood beside the table. He gazed down at him studiously.

"Dr. Colress!" exclaimed N.

"Ghetsis says you are a member of the opposition," said the scientist. As typical, his demeanor was even, betraying no prejudice; though there was a glint in his amber eyes as he adjusted his spectacles. "There are two categories: those who support Team Plasma and those who dissent. The fate of dissidents is not merciful."

"I must speak with him," N implored.

Perhaps surprisingly, Colress seemed sympathetic, although he did not acknowledge N's request. "It may seem unlikely, but what will happen to you is lenient. You see, when your post as Team Plasma's king was vacated, your father had to make a new appointment. I was accordingly able to prevail upon him to save you from the worse fate of your friend..."

A scream reached his ears and, recognizing the voice, N tried to leap up but the restraints held him back.


N awoke when Zorua's sharp fangs nipped at his arm. He glanced about, disoriented.

The morning sun filtered into the cavern where they had spent the night. The dragon, who had slept with its wings blanketing them, lifted its head when N stood.

N walked out to the precipice, outside of the cave, where they had watched the sun setting the prior night. The view was bright now, accentuated by the morning song of Spearow. Light-green grass swept across the rugged countryside, and far away a few early-rising trainers could be seen hiking with their Pokémon.

The fox Zorua padded out after her master, and was soon joined by Reshiram. N was gazing out again at the scenery; they waited for him to speak.

"Perhaps there would have been no enmity between my father and Hilda, if I had been like anyone else; without any strange ability or ancient prophecy."

N sighed, despondence overshadowing the serenity of the Johto region.

"But that can't be proved with numbers. It's the incompleteness theorem."

Chapter 26 - Team Plasma's second-in-command

A week had passed from the attack on the Pokémon League and the destruction of the castle. Ghetsis had vanished from public view, and the authorities were trying to find him and the rest of Team Plasma's high-ranking members.

He, Colress, and Zinzolin, together with their militia, had been on the Plasma Frigate in the sea off the coast of Unova. Ghetsis was waiting for the furor to settle, to launch his next attack. It was like a game of strategy; each move, well or ill timed, deciding the winner and holder of the region. The rest of the Seven Sages had split up across the mainland, while N's whereabouts were unknown even to Ghetsis.

Colress had finished work on the prototype Pokémon energy cannon that Ghetsis had requested. As he showed it to Ghetsis and Zinzolin, he explained how it worked.

"The target Pokémon would be placed in this containment enclosure," Colress detailed. "Adjusting the dial here, a charge is applied to the enclosure that draws out the Pokémon's special attack power. The level of power can be regulated. Finally, this button," he said proudly, gesturing to a large red button on the control panel, "causes the Pokémon to unleash its most powerful attack, amplifying the beam and firing it from the cannon."

"I am impressed, Dr. Colress," Ghetsis remarked.

"I've tried the process out on a small, confined area on the ship, but I haven't yet seen it on a wide area akin to its intended use," Colress told them.

"Not now," said Ghetsis, "Launching such a weapon at this moment would attract unwanted attention to us."

"We don't have to aim it at any city," Colress persisted, "just out in the ocean."

"No," Ghetsis said adamantly. "We can wait until a more suitable time."

Colress adjusted his eyeglasses and stated, unwaveringly, "I disagree."

"Your disagreement is noted," Ghetsis retorted, "You two come with me to my office."

As they followed Ghetsis, Zinzolin was trying to chat with him, "Have you given thought to who will replace N as king?"

"The one who can fulfill my agenda is the person I will appoint," replied Ghetsis cryptically.

Before Zinzolin could respond to that, there was a flash of light from the deck. It flooded the entire corridor, with a harsh golden glow for a sustained moment, combined with a piercing screech.

"That sounded like a Hyper Beam," Zinzolin stated, "What's going on over there?"

"I ordered an execution," answered Ghetsis calmly.

Zinzolin fidgeted, visibly nervous. Colress adjusted his glasses again but was emotionless.

"I've made an example of several stupid guards," explained the supreme leader, "As they failed in carrying out my orders to eliminate the Elite Four...not to mention they were some of the most inefficient trainers I've ever seen." Ghetsis was incensed. "A squad of six guards, managing some of our strongest Pokémon yet defeated by a lone girl and a Vaporeon?"

"This is why you should let me push the button," Colress piped up.

"Not now, Ethan," said Ghetsis, "you will eventually get your chance."

He turned to Zinzolin and asked, "Where is Rood? Hasn't he returned with Zekrom or sent word?"

"I don't know..." answered Zinzolin with a fading voice, "I know he's quite dedicated to Pokémon liberation and seems to do whatever he's ordered to do."

"May I offer my idea of the situation, Ghetsis?" Both Zinzolin and Ghetsis turned around to face Colress.

"What is your analysis, Doctor?" prompted the leader of Team Plasma.

"It comes with regret that I must inform you of the possibility that Rood might have defaulted on his loyalty to the cause that Team Plasma represents," Colress explained.

Zinzolin stared at him with a blank expression. "Ghetsis, how do you manage to understand him?"

"Silence! Zinzolin, you fool!" Ghetsis was irate, "Colress, are you saying that Rood has defected?

"Yes," replied Colress forthrightly, "If you sent him out with a squad or two, and they have not yet returned from their appointed mission, there are only three possible scenarios. Number one, they encountered opposition ambush and are engaged in a battle. Number two, they were captured and word of it has not reached us... or Number three, they have turned their backs on your mission." Colress paused here, and then finished his explanation, "Ghetsis, it seems more than likely that he has decided to fight you and claim leadership in his own right. He has been questioning many of your moves lately and he has not hidden discontentment."

"The traitor!" shouted Ghetsis, "If I capture him, I will make an example of him before all of my army!"

"He might be miles away by now," interjected Zinzolin.

"The day will come," Ghetsis insisted.

"If we determine Rood's location," Colress cheerfully sprang to add, "may I aim the cannon at those coordinates and then push the button?"

"Maybe," came a lackluster Ghetsis, "but not now."

Two guards were posted to the door leading to where the cannon controls were housed, but Colress was determined to try out the weaponry he had developed. That night, the scientist snuck over to the room, his two newly evolved Pokémon Klinklang and Beheeyem by his side. He stood around the corner and evaluated the situation.

"Beheeyem...?" He turned to his psychic Pokémon and gestured expectantly to the guards.

The Pokémon stepped forward and, before the guards could react, unleashed a psychic attack that made both collapse unconscious instantly.

Colress swiped a card against the electronic lock and the doors opened.

Klinklang and Beheeyem hurried into the room, but Colress turned to address an entranced Pokémon behind him. It was at a distance, awaiting his orders. "Come into the room, Charmeleon, and get into the enclosure."

The Charmeleon did as it was told, then faced Colress.

The scientist shut the enclosure door, switched off the device he held, and the Charmeleon seemed to awaken. It looked around in surprise, and then tried to tackle the door. Finding this locked, it snarled at Colress.

"You should be flattered I selected you for this test," Colress smiled. "It means you're one of the strongest Pokémon liberated by Team Plasma."

Charmeleon's response was to shoot a fire attack at the door.

Colress typed something into a keyboard here, and turned the dial at the control panel. The Charmeleon flinched and growled as the inside of the enclosure began glowing. Klinklang, floating nearby, let out a couple of squeaks and a sharp screech.

Colress was intent on the research he was conducting. His eyeglasses reflected the increasing light emanating from the enclosure as he tapped on the keyboard. "Keep an eye on the doors, Klinklang...don't let anyone interrupt my experiment."

Klinklang gave another squeak.

"For science!" announced Colress, and happily pressed the red button.

Charmeleon let loose a Fire Blast attack. The scientist sprang back as the control board, and the entire contraption, exploded. Outside, the cannon began to spew smoke, and released a fiery onslaught onto the ocean. The seawater sizzled and erupted into steam.

An alarm began blaring through the ship.

When Ghetsis and his guards walked in, they found Colress taking notes and a dazed Charizard on the floor of the enclosure. The room was partially destroyed. Zinzolin hurried to join them.

"You just couldn't wait, could you?" snapped Ghetsis.

"Science is impatient," replied Colress naturally.

"...and this Charizard?" Zinzolin questioned. "We don't have a Charizard."

"We do now," Colress said.

The Charizard let out an angry roar.

"Well, it doesn't look too happy at having been electroshocked like that," Zinzolin stepped back.

"Look at the positive aspect," Colress directed his attention to the Charizard, "My experiment made you evolve."

The Charizard hesitated, now quizzical.

"Do any of you have some Full Restores on hand?" Colress was indifferent. "The blast weakened this Charizard, and I'm not done running my tests."

Ghetsis had been silently appraising the scene; a small smile crossed his lips.

"Dr. Colress," he announced, "I am hereby appointing you the new public head of Team Plasma."

This statement made even the guards do a double-take. Colress just stared at Ghetsis in shock; Zinzolin was outraged.

"How can you appoint him? He's just a scientist!" Zinzolin exclaimed, momentarily forgetting to whom he spoke. "I know you're probably upset about N but really..."

At this, Ghetsis whirled around to face him, his voice so sharp it made Zinzolin cringe. "Remember Dartham and Imelda?"

A visibly shaken Zinzolin swallowed and simply said, "Yes."

Ghetsis responded, "You would do well to never forget."

Colress tried to interject, "Ghetsis, I'm honored, but I'm not interested in power. I only wish to conduct my scientific research."

"Precisely what the organization needs," Ghetsis declared. "Someone intelligent, who is willing to take orders but isn't afraid to do what needs to be done." He turned to the guards and said, "Turn on the speakers, I shall address our team."

Ghetsis' guards immediately took their posts at the security console computers, punched some buttons and turned to address him.

"All ready, sir."

The Team Plasma leader took a microphone in hand and announced over the loud speakers:

"Hear this. I Ghetsis, supreme leader of Team Plasma and commander of the military forces of the new Unova regime, announce that Doctor Ethan Colress is my second in command and should be afforded the same respect as I am. Anyone who values their life should beware of disrespecting my orders. That is all for now."

He placed the microphone down and glanced over at the scientist, who seemed to find the situation awkward.

"You show promise, Dr. Colress. Perhaps more than N," he added, and left.

Zinzolin lingered, and when Ghetsis was out of hearing range, he murmured:

"Enjoy your new level of authority while you have it."

Colress turned to face him, fairly surprised, but Zinzolin left without another word.

Somehow, the full level of influence he now held within Team Plasma hadn't really dawned on him until a few days later, when Ghetsis called the militia to attention on the deck of the Plasma Frigate. Ghetsis was giving one of his speeches to the group and outlining their next move, when he summoned Colress up to where he stood to say a few words himself.

Colress was taken by surprise at this but he stepped forward and said to the crowd, "Greetings to all. Let us follow the example of our great leader Ghetsis, for he truly has vision."

"Yes, sir!" shouted the Team Plasma members. Even their Pokémon stood at attention. Colress could sense Zinzolin was seething with anger, but he did not dare fall out of line.

Ghetsis looked approving, and Colress was fascinated at the quick reaction of the crowd; always analytical, he noted that the Team Plasma soldiers were, for the most part, unquestionably loyal to Ghetsis.

What would be interesting to know is, are they loyal because they truly believe in the mission, or is it simply fear? he thought.

Colress was also given full control of the energy cannon he had completed. They converted a section of the Plasma Frigate's bridge, only a hallway away from Ghetsis' office, for Colress' use. There was a seat atop a platform here, surrounded by windows and monitors; in front of the seat, a control panel spread out that contained not only the energy ray controls and targeting systems but also access to a sophisticated intercom. Some distance away from the platform was a large steering wheel guiding the bearing of the ship; however, manual controls for the direction of the cannon were placed here as well, at the joint call of Ghetsis and Colress – and the disdain of Zinzolin, who saw scant necessity for it – should the electrical ones malfunction during war. The Pokémon enclosure that connected to the energy cannon was placed in a separate room, but it could be viewed on the monitors.

Being second-in-command of Team Plasma didn't take as much time away from Colress' research as he had thought it would, and it was during this time that he at last perfected his Colress Machine. He could now use the Colress Machine effectively on multiple Pokémon at once.

Many of Team Plasma, however, were secretly horrified at the implications of his research. The concept of controlling Pokémon was anathema to the political ideal of Pokémon liberation that they espoused; to have the ill-famed 'Dark Scientist' succeeding N as Team Plasma's official leader and Ghetsis' deputy divided the organization irreparably. A segment of the group with allegiance to N – and in N's absence being led by Sage Rood – began trying to figure out what if anything could counter the effects of the Pokémon control device, to no avail.

Although the completed Colress Machine could increase a Pokémon's power drastically, Colress still wondered whether it was indeed capable of bringing out full power. He had suspicions that the bond of friendship that developed between a kind trainer and their Pokémon could surpass even what his methods had achieved, so he continued his scientific research.

It was this research that led the Plasma Frigate to make its first appearance in public since it had first departed Castelia City almost a year ago.

The Pokémon World Tournament was being held in Driftveil City. This was an event eagerly awaited by many and brought Pokémon trainers from different regions together to compete. Colress enjoyed competing in Pokémon battle events; he saw them as the best opportunity to observe all sorts of training and battling styles. This time was no different, as he had explained to Ghetsis.

"If I enter the tournament, I can observe just how powerful individual Pokémon become under varied training approaches," Colress told him enthusiastically. "Then I can compare their statistics to those collected from Pokémon under the effects of my device."

Zinzolin, who had also been in Ghetsis' office at the time, was dissuading. "We're going to openly sail into Driftveil's harbor to take part in one of the most widely watched events in the region, just to do some scientific research?"

"Yes," came Colress' response.

Ghetsis, for his part, was irritated with the squabbles, and interrupted them saying, "The Pokémon World Tournament is promoted as a display of national unity, despite differences in culture and – especially – opinion. It wouldn't serve them politically to have the event crumble into partisan fighting, even if they were bold enough to attempt apprehending us. If anything, it might help our cause. Therefore... we'll set course for Driftveil," the leader decided.

The last remark made Zinzolin scowl, and it did not go unnoticed by the other two present.

"Be careful you don't get frostbitten," Ghetsis dryly told Zinzolin.

Chapter 27 - The Pokémon World Tournament

Only a short distance away from the Cold Storage warehouses was the event site of the Pokémon World Tournament, a celebration of Pokémon battling. Trainers from across the planet had come here and were entering the large, blue-domed building where the competition was going to be held. A small market had been set up outside of the stadium beside the waterfront, and a large group of people were congregating there perusing the products that were for sale.

The Plasma Frigate docked at the piers overlooking the event and many of the occupants disembarked, among them was Colress, who was participating in the event as agreed by the supreme Plasma leader. He walked down the pier and headed to the building that was hosting the event. Once inside he found the checkpoint desk and presented identification to the clerk.

The man gave him a look of disgust and said:

"We don't accept entries from Team Plasma, especially not from the Dark Scientist."

Colress adjusted his eyeglasses and answered, "I don't think my colleagues will like hearing that very much."

"Your 'colleagues' can go fish for Magikarp. No one conducting experiments like yours gets in," was the reply.

Before the scientist could respond, he heard a familiar voice greeting him, "Hello Colress! Are you entering too?"

It was Rosa. Her brother Hugh was with her but said nothing.

"That depends," replied Colress, "It seems they don't like the kind of science I practice."

"You can't deny him entry!" said a visibly irate Rosa, whirling around to confront the clerk.

"Do you know who he is?" asked the clerk emphatically.

"I sure do," Rosa quickly retorted, "He's Dr. Ethan Colress, my friend, and if this competition is really supposed to be about unity despite differences of opinion, then you've got no right to deny him entry. Anyone with a Pokémon is eligible."

A group was beginning to form around them, since curiosity was hard to beat. People were now interested in seeing the so-called "Dark Scientist" and in how this controversy was playing out.

An older man showed up and identified himself as the clerk's boss. "What's going on here!?" His voice was deep and sounded like a growl.

"I'm sorry sir," stammered the clerk, "but this is Dr. Ethan Colress and he wants to join the competition."

"Well, let him in then. This is a sporting event, not a political debate," ordered the boss.

The clerk did not argue, nor did he speak again to Colress or Rosa; he simply stamped a participation card and handed it to the scientist and then did the same to Rosa and Hugh.

They went in and in an effort to forget the problem, Colress began chatting about his research.

"This competition is good for my investigations," said the scientist, "I want to observe the Pokémon at various levels and different types and how they interact with their humans."

"That sounds very interesting Colress," said Rosa cheerfully.

"Call me Ethan, please," said the scientist, "I feel we are friends and friends shouldn't be so formal,"

"Humph," grunted Hugh to himself, "What now? A budding romance?"

"Did you say something, Hugh?" asked Rosa.

"No, just wondering where the line-up board is, and how long before we do battle," lied Hugh.

After the scientist fought through a couple of battles, he stayed to observe other trainers go into battle with their own Pokémon. He took notes and analyzed their behaviors before, during and after.

When the tournament was half-way, Colress decided to step outside for a while before his next scheduled battle, and noticed that refreshments were being provided for all participants and their guests in the patio area of the gym building.

As Colress was at the buffet table, he was approached by a familiar trio. It was Team Rocket.

"We never got to thank you for saving Meowth," James told him.

"There's no need," Colress demurred.

"Perhaps," Jessie smiled, "but just like Team Rocket never forgets those who have crossed us, we also make it a point to remember those who helped us."

"That's good to know," replied the scientist.

"Our boss came here for the Pokémon battle tournament," James explained, and turned to glance behind him. Colress followed his gaze and saw a middle-aged man with dark-brown hair and eyes, wearing a suit and fedora. He was accompanied by a small security detail and was talking with two of the local gym leaders. A Persian sat regally beside him.

"That's Giovanni Delavita?" inquired Colress.

"He's here officially as the Viridian City gym leader," said Jessie.

Meowth chimed in with a purr, "He has some business he wants to discuss with Team Plasma while he's in Unova. We know you're now deputy to the top cat, so if Ghetsis could speak with our boss or perhaps you could speak with him and relay a message to Ghetsis, it would certainly be appreciated. Our boss has thrown this into our lap."

"I shall see what can be done. How did you find out about our internal movement so fast?" Colress asked.

"We have our ways," answered Jessie with a smile.

"I will speak to Ghetsis at once. Don't wander too far," Colress turned and went aboard the Frigate, where he encountered Ghetsis on the deck. The leader of Team Plasma was looking silently at a garden full of pansy blossoms that had been planted near the tournament site.

After chatting for a few minutes with him, Colress returned to where the little group from Team Rocket was waiting.

"Ghetsis has invited Team Rocket aboard the Plasma Frigate," the scientist announced.

Meowth gave a loud purr and hurried off to tell Giovanni. James and Jessie stayed behind to wait for them.

When the cat Pokémon returned with their boss, the little group followed Colress onto the ship. Ghetsis was standing at the top of the stairs waiting for them and as they arrived, the two leaders shook hands.

"Call me Ghetsis," said the Team Plasma leader.

"Thank you. Please call me Giovanni," was the reply.

Ghetsis turned, led them to his office and once there, got straight to the point as soon as they were all seated.

"So, Giovanni, your subordinates have said that you requested a conference with me. What about?"

"Is there any truth to the rumor that you intend to expand Team Plasma's operations out of the area of the Unova region?" questioned Giovanni without delay.

"That is a straightforward question, and deserves a straightforward answer. Perhaps I shall, if the circumstances tilt to my favor," replied Ghetsis.

Giovanni frowned, "At least I can see that what people say about you being forthright about your responses is true. I believe you're a man of your word," he answered, adding, "My concern is related to my business. I don't want my business operations disturbed and some of what you have said in your speeches worries me a bit."

"You are welcome to consider joining as an ally," added Ghetsis, "Our two forces combined would easily beat our opponents."

"I'm glad that you consider my group to be a formidable alliance, but I will say no," answered Giovanni as he stood up to leave. "My vision is to have a thriving business with as little competition as possible in the regions that I currently dominate, and...your intentions don't seem to have much to do with business, Mr. Harmonia. Thank you for the offer, nevertheless."

"Have a pleasant day," responded Ghetsis and turning to Colress he said, "...escort them off my ship, Doctor."

Giovanni snapped his fingers and his Persian, along with Jessie, James and Meowth, quickly followed him out of the door with Colress in the lead.

As they approached the steps down to the dock, a Pokémon ran past them. It was a rabbit Pokémon called a Buneary and it was followed by Team Plasma minions who were swift pursuit. The Persian that was in Giovanni's delegation took off in a flash after the other creature.

"Where is that Persian off to now?" shouted Giovanni, "Come back here, Persian!"

"Don't worry, I'll bring him to you right away," assured Colress, and chased after the large feline.

Giovanni and his entourage disembarked and headed to a limousine that was waiting for him; at this point, the Team Rocket leader turned to Jessie, James and Meowth and ordered, "Go find out the time of the battle tournaments and most importantly... keep me informed as to what Team Plasma does."

As the trio ran off to fulfill the orders, Colress arrived with the Persian in tow.

"Here you are, Mr. Delavita."

"Call me Giovanni. You have been helpful, Colress. If you ever tire of working for Team Plasma, I can see a bright future for you in my business."

"Thank you. Although, at the moment I am content where I am," replied the scientist.

All of a sudden, a voice spoke up from behind them. "I see you are thinking of doing business in Driftveil City, Giovanni."

"Police Inspector Looker," Giovanni recognized him, but seemed at ease.

"I'd expected something like this," Looker confronted both Colress and Giovanni. "The Dark Scientist, meeting with Kanto's mob boss."

Giovanni feigned offense. "I'm a Pokémon gym leader, Inspector."

"It's what you engage in during your off-time," retorted Looker.

"I run an export business, as well as owning a line of casino properties." Giovanni was so nonchalant that Colress thought it was fascinating to observe. "There's certainly no crime in that; most gym leaders have a secondary occupation, including here in the Unova region. Now, how is Rocket Enterprises any different?"

"Not as long as you stay within the boundary of the law," Looker was annoyed.

"Have I ever strayed from it?" prodded Giovanni.

"Not from what we can prove," Looker relented, "...yet. We know Rocket Enterprises is a front for Team Rocket."

"I'm here for the tournament," Giovanni did not address the statement.

The Persian gave a loud meow.

"Unova has enough troubles with the Team Plasma war," Looker told Giovanni, with a suspicious glance at Colress. "You, and your 'Rocket Enterprises', would both be wise to stay out of it and as for you, Doctor, there's word going around that you're the new head of Team Plasma – the stand-in for Ghetsis, more precisely. There might be nothing illegal about your Pokémon experiments, however controversial they are, but there is with waging regional warfare."

"I have no interest in politics, only science," said Colress.

"Never mind that politics funds your science," countered Looker.

Colress analyzed the policeman. Obviously stressed out, thought the scientist, and then said:

"You need to relax, officer."

The investigator frowned but did not respond. Giovanni saw the opportunity to cut the conversation short. "If that is all, Officer Looker, I have a tournament to go to."

"The title is Inspector Looker for future reference," said Looker.

"Hopefully, there won't be a future meeting," replied Giovanni as he looked straight into his opponent's eyes. "Good-day, sir," he added as he and the Persian got into the limousine.

Looker turned and walked away without saying anything else to Colress, but the expression on his face was angry.

The scientist saw the limousine drive a small distance from where he was standing and parked, obviously waiting for the Team Rocket trio to return with information for their boss.

He turned around and returned to the ship.

Colress met up later with Hugh and Rosa, in time to watch Hilda compete with Giovanni. They watched from one of the front rows of the audience, with a good view of the battlefield.

"I hope she beats him," said Hugh, "I never got to finish a battle with Hilda near Striaton. With any luck I can battle her here at the Tournament."

"Giovanni is a ground type gym leader," considered Rosa. "Her Vaporeon should have no trouble; water types have an advantage over ground types. Is this not so, Colress?"

Colress nodded affirmingly. "Yes, but many experienced trainers have techniques to compensate for their type weaknesses in battle. This is yet another aspect of Pokémon battling that I find so fascinating. Let's see how it plays out."

Giovanni did not send out a ground type; he turned to his ever-present cat Pokémon.

"Persian, I believe you can take this," he stated, and Persian leapt forward.

In the audience, Jessie, James and Meowth were watching the fight.

"Go boss!" caterwauled Meowth; then realizing he had spoken out so conspicuously he sat down, sheepishly licking a paw.

Persian was a true contest for Hilda and Vaporeon. It countered Surf effortlessly with Pay Day; gold shards rained onto Vaporeon, pelting the creature as it futilely tried to evade.

"Finish it. Thunder," ordered Giovanni.

" 'Thunder' ?" echoed Hilda in surprise.

The cat did indeed know Thunder; electricity shot forth from its whiskers to meet the gem on its forehead, then roaring up to arc onto Vaporeon. The water type squealed and was knocked out.

"So much for finishing our fight here," Hugh scowled.

"Giovanni is said to be one of the strongest gym leaders of Kanto," reminded Colress. "If you face him next, he'll likely use Persian against your Pokémon – the flying type is also strong against ground, but weak to electric attacks."

It turned out that the next round pitted Colress against Hugh, and made it quietly difficult for Rosa to know who to cheer for. She supported her brother wholeheartedly, but she was growing quite fond of Dr. Colress, and as she watched them walk onto the stage she murmured to her Pokémon, Liepard, that was beside her:

" you think I'm falling in love with him?"

Liepard meowed in an unknowable reply.

"Round three of the Tournament, between Hugh Black and Dr. Ethan Colress, both of the Unova region," called the announcer.

"Go, Unfezant!" Hugh said, and threw a Poké Ball onto the battlefield. A grey bird Pokémon, with red feathers across its eyes, flew out.

"Klinklang?" Colress turned to his Pokémon, and it swiftly swung forward with a sharp screech.

"Ready for the fight, Colress? I think you'll be impressed by how much stronger my Pokémon is," said Hugh proudly.

"Both of our Pokémon have evolved to their final forms," answered the scientist. "This should be interesting. I want to see you bring out Unfezant's true power."

With the wave of a flag, the Pokémon battle began. "Gust, Unfezant!" Hugh ordered.

Unfezant whipped around in the air, creating a blast of wind; Klinklang was pushed backwards but resisted the attack well. Colress was fascinated at how fast the bird Pokémon was. "Discharge!" said Colress.

Klinklang let loose a blast of electricity, but the adversary Unfezant effortlessly dodged the arcs.

"Hyper Beam!" called Hugh, and a squawking Unfezant dove at Klinklang, shooting forth a gleaming yellow beam of energy. It was the attack that Colress had given Hugh the TM for in Opelucid City.

"Autotomize, Klinklang," Colress ordered, and Klinklang rose into the air, spinning faster. It narrowly dodged the energy ray, which struck against the edge of the battlefield, and the scientist eagerly looked at the device to see how much power Unfezant was emitting. He found himself slightly disappointed; it was equivalent of many Pokémon aboard the Frigate.

I wonder what level of energy would be produced by Liepard? he thought, glancing over at Rosa in the audience. Her Pokémon was seated beside her, contentedly eating some ice cream she had bought. He marveled again at the different ways of raising a Pokémon; Rosa seemed without interest in battle generally, yet her kind treatment of Liepard often seemed to have greater influence on the creature's power than Hugh's stubborn training with Unfezant.

"Quick Attack!" Hugh told the bird Pokémon; it swooped in and lashed at Klinklang again.

"Now, Gear Grind!" Colress said, and his Pokémon released one of the gears. It spun out and struck Unfezant, which chirped but didn't fall to the ground.

Their combat did take several turns. Unfezant had good evasion of Klinklang's electric moves; so too did enduring the Hyper Beam strikes, when they hit their mark, tire out the scientist's Pokémon, but Colress had a strategy.

"Klinklang's getting weak," Hugh noticed. "Fly and dive-bomb it!"

"You have it now, Klinklang," declared Colress, "Discharge!"

Unfezant flew up swiftly into the air, and with a jerk, swooped sharply down, spinning in mid-flight. Klinklang began to release electric sparks, and at the moment the bird Pokémon collided, released a burst of electricity. The light illuminated the stadium, and when it had dimmed both Klinklang and Unfezant fell to the ground in a daze.

"The match ends in a draw," declared the referee.

A draw! So neither of them would advance in the tournament. There was loud applause and cheering from the spectators as they each recalled their Pokémon and, when the two trainers shook hands, Hugh remarked, "The more Pokémon battles you have, the stronger you get, right?"

"It was a remarkable battle," said Colress courteously, "though, I would have liked to see you bring out more of your Pokémon's power, like you did at the Cold Storage."

Hugh seemed somewhat embarrassed at this comment and the succeeding realization – how could his animal have fought more aggressively as an unevolved Pidove? – but the scientist was jovial:

"It's naught to be concerned with. I learned much from this battle; the observation has aided immensely with my research. I'll file away info on this fighting style of yours!"

Chapter 28 - Remembrances of lost dreams

Once the Pokémon World Tournament ended, and the prizes were ceremoniously handed out to the winners, a dance was traditionally held. This was a much-awaited event, almost as much as the Tournament itself.

No one was ever denied entry and it was considered a neutral spot as far as battling was concerned. No politics or warfare could keep anyone out.

All tournament participants had the option to attend the celebration and as such Hilda had decided to go and look if N was to be found there. Instead of N, she saw Ghetsis and Colress.

She walked boldly up to them and asked Ghetsis:

"What nefarious plans have brought you here?"

"Hilda, my beautiful nemesis. If such a title can be bestowed on such a young trainer," he said this and turned his head to glance at the scientist, "An accurate statement, wouldn't you say Colress?"

Colress shrugged his shoulders replying, "Quite true."

"But I will say this," Ghetsis continued, "I respect you as an enemy. You are tenacious and a skilled trainer for your age. Unfortunately, your tenacity might one day be your downfall, and not even your Pokémon will be able to help you then."

Hilda ignored his statements and got straight to the point. "Where is N?"

"The useless freak?" countered Ghetsis.

"He's not a freak," Hilda said, "He has special abilities that no one else seems to have."

Ghetsis didn't answer her, and Hilda insisted:

"You must know where he is."

Ghetsis studied her for a moment before responding, without emotion, "N is dead."

This statement, blunt and unfeeling, was a shock to Hilda. "What? You must be lying."

"Incinerated," Ghetsis added ignoring her comment, "from a Fire Blast attack. I sent guards after him. If Reshiram is owned by anyone other than a Team Plasma loyalist, it poses a threat to my rule. Reshiram won't interfere as a wild Pokémon."

"I don't believe it," said Hilda, looking ill.

"Whether you choose to or not, he's dead, and you won't find the remains anywhere." Ghetsis insisted.

Hilda was incredulous. "Why?" she asked, "How could this have happened? We were going to leave the region. N saw you as his father. He didn't want to oppose you."

"He already did oppose me by siding with you, a dissident trainer from who-knows-where," he replied.

"So, you killed him," she said simply.

"It's of little consequence. He was a pawn who outlived his purpose; a flaw in my perfect plans."

"You really are the evilest person on the planet," Hilda's voice was defiant, yet she was unable to hide the tear that fell from the corner of her eye. "As far as your 'perfect' plans go, you're forgetting one thing: Zekrom. I still have Zekrom, and now more than ever – even if I have to track you and the Sneasel that follow you – I'll never let Team Plasma win."

She turned and left.

One of the Shadow Triad, who usually maintained their military stance, ventured to ask:

"Sir. Are you helping her, or using her?"

"Maybe both," Ghetsis replied pensively.

Throughout the conversation, Colress had remained silent; ever observant and analytical.

After Hilda had walked away a sufficient distance, Ghetsis turned to Colress and said, "Let's find seats."

Since the dance floor was crowded, they decided to board the Frigate and watch everything from the deck since it was next to the dance area. As they looked around at people dancing, Colress spied a familiar face; it was Rosa, who was there with her brother Hugh.

"Excuse me, Ghetsis," said Colress to his patron, "I see someone whom I know."

Ghetsis waved his hand in approval and Colress rose from his seat and walked over to where the girl was seated.

"Hello, Colress!" Rosa said to him as he approached her. She had a smile on her face that made Colress smile back. He outstretched his hand to shake hers and then did so again to her brother Hugh.

"Greetings, Rosa," said the scientist, "Nice to see you came to the celebration after the tournament."

"Oh... I try to come every year, though this is the first time we entered the battle competition. I really enjoy the music," she replied.

Meanwhile, the Team Rocket trio had been sent off on an errand by Giovanni; they now returned to his table with information.

"He said he can meet with you now," James informed him.

"Very well," decided Giovanni, glancing at his watch. "I'll spend a few minutes more here at the gala, then I'll head to speak with him. Anything else?" he added, upon noticing Jessie, James and Meowth were still standing before him.

"Well," said Jessie, "We took notice that the Team Plasma members have a special cheer..."

"I've received word that it was their Sage Zinzolin who is to be faulted for it," Giovanni said dismissively.

"In any event" continued James, "we started thinking: Team Plasma has their cheer so how come Team Rocket doesn't have anything like that?"

"We came up with a motto!" Meowth purred.

"A motto," echoed Giovanni.

"Prepare for trouble!" Jessie declared.

"...and make it double!" James joined in.

"To protect the world from devastation!"

"To unite all people within our nation!"

"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"

"To extend our reach to the stars above!"



"Team Rocket, blast off at the speed of light!"

"Surrender now, or prepare to fight!"

Meowth leapt forward with a meow, claws unsheathed. "That's right!"

Giovanni stared at them wordlessly.

"What do you think?" grinned Jessie.

When Giovanni continued to merely stare at them with incredulity, his two bodyguards chimed in. "That's pretty good!" said one.

"Hey, we could even play with the words depending on the assignment we're on," added the other.

"Yes – it's versatile!" James agreed cheerfully.

Giovanni waved the waiter over for a refill of his drink. "Team Plasma is more dangerous than I had initially envisioned," was all he said.

The Persian on his lap gave a long meow; its two cents, which Meowth gave a small growl in reply to, but the cats' conversation went disregarded by the humans.

Colress was sitting with Hugh and his sister Rosa, watching the people twirl on the dance floor.

"Don't you dance?" Colress asked Rosa.

"I do. If someone asks me to," hinted Rosa.

"Well then, may I have this dance, miss?" asked Colress with a smile, as he stood up and stretched out his hand.

Rosa returned the smile warmly. "Absolutely," she replied and standing up, took his hand and told her brother, "Be back later, Hugh."

"Alright," was the simple reply.

When they walked to the dance floor, a waltz began. Their eyes met; they danced and danced. It was a song without lyrics, a tune with a tinge of sadness attached to it.

Hugh watched the dance guardedly. While he was glad to see how happy his sister was, there was something about Colress – he couldn't determine what. They had befriended him, had crossed paths with him several times now, and yet they still knew practically nothing about the mysterious scientist.

Those who surrounded them were not their only observers. From the deck of the Plasma Frigate, Ghetsis stood, watching Colress and Rosa dance. The melody reached the ship, and with it the sad recollections of a moment gone, a time destroyed; and the recollection how Ghetsis and Felicity had danced happily to the same music at their wedding.

The Team Plasma leader didn't turn away from the scene, even when Zinzolin walked over to stand beside him.

Zinzolin had heard the music and recognized it. With a gleam in his eyes, he addressed Ghetsis. "What a familiar tune. Where have I heard that before?"

Ghetsis gave him a sharp look, yet did not retort. He turned silently and went to his office within the ship.

Zinzolin held back a laugh.

Chapter 29 - Moon and tide

One melody blended into another and time passed quickly. Colress and Rosa eventually decided to step away from the party. The solitude near the trees and seashore offered a quietude where they could speak undisturbed, and a beautiful view of the way the moon, young in the darkening dusk sky, shed its glow upon the water. Liepard followed them closely, the cat carrying its tail high.

"So Ghetsis Harmonia has come to this event," Rosa said derisively, when Colress had mentioned the fact, "The man who thinks he can take over the planet by liberating all Pokémon."

Colress adjusted the eyeglasses on his nose. "Ghetsis is a man with power to match his ambition. He is not someone to be taken lightly."

"You really believe that?" Rosa answered.

"Standing against him will be dangerous, Rosa. I'm interested to see the outcome of your eventual confrontation with him. However..."

Colress wavered upon realizing both he and she had spent a protracted moment merely gazing at each other. He was pensive for a long moment, mired in unreadable thoughts, before he tore his sight away to the ocean.

"...fighting Team Plasma will not be easy," Colress said, eventually.

"My brother and I have managed well till now," she replied with fortitude. "And we have our Pokémon to help us."

"You truly believe the bond of friendship with your Pokémon can win against an army?"

"I would face the legendary dragons themselves, without hesitation, with Liepard by my side," Rosa asserted. "Whether we win or lose, we do it as partners."

Liepard paced restlessly around them, alternately purring and butting its head against their legs.

"I wonder what she's trying to say," Rosa commented.

"Pokémon are very perceptive creatures," remarked Colress mildly.

There was more Colress wished to tell her, yet he could not formulate the words. He felt awkwardly torn. His growing worry for her safety battled incessantly with the knowledge detachment was overall best – for both of them. There was a reason they had stepped away to the outskirts of the party, for him to say many things that had not yet been said, though the right way to say them still eluded him incessantly. Liepard's keen eyes watched him steadily, as if aware of his predicament.

"You called me aside to say more than merely warn of Ghetsis," discerned Rosa.

"Well...yes." Colress hesitated, pensive again.

"Ethan," Rosa spoke up, filling the uncertain silence, "we're heading to get the next gym badge. Why don't you travel with us?"

"My employer would make that difficult, unfortunately," he replied benignly.

"I know you're always on the move, but we're heading in the same direction, aren't we? We could travel together as long as we could, before you have to set out on your way again..." Rosa hesitated; she evidently had something she wanted to say too, and could not find the right words either. She turned back towards the people at the party, and then towards Colress.

"It's just...there is an uncertainty in the wind somehow," she justified. "Political tension is rife across Unova; I can see it. Ever since the incidents at the Pokémon League, nothing has been the same."

"That should hardly matter," Colress assured her. He realized, however, the half-heartedness in his attempt; it mattered a great deal, and would matter more before long.

This conversation is getting nowhere, he realized, chagrined.

Apparently Liepard noticed this too. The Pokémon let out a long, insistent, meow.

Rosa sighed. "Somehow I'm never sure when I shall see you again either..." she trailed off. "My feeling that way does not make sense, but I suppose many things in the world are like that. Maybe only the Pokémon really can understand the truth in feelings."

Liepard tackled her trainer from the back. She gasped and fell forward, and Colress caught her in his arms.

They were closer than they had ever been now, the proximity blocking out all but the mingling of their heartbeats and the loud purring of a contentedly squinting cat. Rosa gazed into his amber eyes, and Colress found he could not tear them away from her blue ones anymore.

Rosa's voice returned to her, though it was whispered, and her eyes never left his. "I guess...Liepard can see how I feel."

His words were as soft in reply:

"The things you and your Pokémon have seen and felt... Do they belong to you and you alone?"

It was a feeling of mutual attraction. A magnetic pull like the moon upon the tide. The force drew them together at last, and their lips met in a kiss.

His arms wrapped around her in an embrace, their emotions and love and desire entwining into a united warmth. It repelled all the questions of political upheaval and war drums, as if these realities were merely bad dreams. The only truths and ideals left were their own.

Yet when they parted, he felt conflicted. How could he get her to understand? How could he get himself to understand?

To align his scientific studies with their deepening relationship was feat enough. Science demanded an objectivity within the confines of experimentation, a willingness to accept the findings no matter whose worldview it would end up aligning with. Could such detachment towards her and her Pokémon exist in a lover's embrace? The experiment had not concluded yet.

Nor did she know of his loyalties and rank within Team Plasma. Very briefly, as brief as the glimpse of some legendary creature racing across the horizon, came a flicker of worrisome thought – of banners of military might, of executions at dawn, of that darkness named treason. Yet Colress found he could not tell her these things.

"Rosa, you must listen. The world is going to change drastically from what we know. Not one person in Unova truly sees the depth of it yet. You sense the political turmoil already, and this vitriol in society will only worsen. It may even reach a point where everything and everyone will be called to answer, to choose whether it be ideals or truth that calls to them. It's not...time...for us...yet."

He finished dismally.

"I suppose we got carried away." Rosa swallowed once, as if steadying her voice. "Maybe it is better we just be friends..."

"No. That's not it."

She studied his features attentively, and then replied:

"I trust you."

"Trust me because you feel it in your heart. Not because I want to make you do so." He said this with strange adamancy.

"I do not know what troubles you, Ethan, nor why it should matter so much in the grand scheme of things..." Rosa lingered, "but I know I trust you."

They stood together at the water's edge, relishing the quiet comfort of each other's presence. Suddenly, they heard Hugh call out, and they turned as he ran to meet them.

Hugh spoke urgently. "I caught sight of two uniformed Team Plasma guards hurrying off somewhere."

Colress saw Rosa tense. "Then Team Plasma is here after all," she said.

"I wonder what scheme they're up to now," Hugh growled, "Let's go after them and stop them."

"I do think it's a bit reckless," warned Colress, "but if you believe in your Pokémon, then follow them to the dock. Team Plasma has their ship anchored there."

"You saw them there?" Rosa inquired.

Colress smiled, without addressing this. He had decided not to worry about the issue anymore. His research had to be conducted, and seen through to its result; this was paramount. "I might follow you," the scientist added. "I'd like to observe how your Pokémon fare in battle."

Chapter 30 - Conspiracy for power

Hugh, Rosa, and Colress hurried towards the dock, where they found the grandiose warship. The gangplank was unattended, and they were able to walk on board the deck before being confronted by a group of Team Plasma guards.

"Intruders!" snapped one. "Stop them, Houndoom!"

"Zubat!" called another.

The canine and bat Pokémon each sprang forward.

"Get them, Unfezant!" Hugh said, throwing a Poké Ball into the air. There was a flash of white light and the bird Pokémon appeared flapping its wings in midair.

"Houndoom, Flamethrower!"

"Zubat, Supersonic!"

Houndoom shot a fiery stream at Unfezant, while Zubat unleashed three pulses of light; Unfezant flew around in a sort of airborne dance and dodged each attack.

"Unfezant, Fly!" ordered Hugh. "Let them have it!"

The bird, with a fearsome cry, spun up into the air and then swooped down onto its opponents. The Houndoom yelped as it was knocked off its paws, and the Zubat dodged narrowly with a zigzagging flight.

"We have them on the defensive!" a delighted Hugh exclaimed.

Colress was pointing his device at the battling Pokémon to measure their power; Zinzolin's sharp voice, directed at Hugh and Rosa, made him look up.

"We shall not let you run around on board the Plasma Frigate as you please!" Zinzolin had emerged from inside the ship, and was accompanied by his snowflake-like Pokémon Cryogonal.

"Sage Zinzolin, acting important," Hugh spoke condescendingly to him. "You Team Plasma are damn thieves! Where are you keeping all the Pokémon you've stolen?"

"Ice Beam!" the Sage snapped, and Cryogonal spun rapidly, letting loose an icy energy ray. It struck Unfezant, which squawked and fell onto the ground before Hugh.

"Unfezant!" Hugh was shocked at how swiftly his prized Pokémon had been knocked out.

Cryogonal released another ice beam attack; ice spread out across the deck of the ship and Rosa let out a surprised cry as she slipped. Hugh tried to catch her, and both lost their balance and fell. Colress stepped farther away, observing.

From afar, Ghetsis had appeared on the balcony outside his office; he had overheard the commotion, but as he watched he seemed to have only a mild interest in the proceedings.

"Get these curious trainers off the ship," Zinzolin ordered, and Hugh and Rosa were seized by the guards.

"You're going to pay, you crooks!" Hugh vowed, just as he and his sister were pushed off of the Frigate.

Zinzolin glanced away from them, up to the balcony where Ghetsis stood. Ghetsis made a motion with the staff he held, indicating that the ship should leave.

Hugh and Rosa observed the Frigate depart out to sea. Hugh was fuming, but Rosa's shocked voice broke his thoughts. "They have Colress!"

Hugh looked at her in surprise. "You're right, they never threw him overboard with us! Why would they want him as a hostage?"

"We have to save him," Rosa insisted. "He's our friend. The only reason he boarded the ship was because he was tagging after us."

Colress, meanwhile, was happily studying the notes he had taken of the battle between Hugh and Team Plasma.

"Truly fascinating, some of the information I've compiled!" Colress was saying to an annoyed Zinzolin. "His Pokémon, Unfezant, showed a spectacular display of stamina at the tournament...but alas, maybe there isn't much to be said for bringing out a Pokémon's power through friendship. It was no match for that ice beam attack, although my research is ongoing."

Zinzolin whispered something to his Pokémon Cryogonal, which concealed itself in a fog. Colress continued talking, "Incidentally, they were helping me with my research. You didn't have to treat them so harshly."

"You didn't have to lead them here," Zinzolin countered.

"They were going to come on board anyway," said Colress, "because they followed some of the guards who were wandering around in plain sight. Zinzolin, you're supposed to keep the guards in line."

"Don't tell me how to do my job, scientist," Zinzolin retorted angrily, "Stick to your research."

"Then do it properly, or Ghetsis will have something to say about it," replied Colress calmly.

"Well, it seems that you are taking your job seriously," smirked Zinzolin, "and I thought you only cared about your stupid little science projects."

Colress bristled at anyone calling his research a stupid science project and he wasted no time in addressing this statement.

"It seems stupid to the uneducated, small mind, so naturally I don't expect you to appreciate scientific progress of any kind," smiled Colress.

"Now, Cryogonal!" shouted Zinzolin, addressing his disguised Pokémon.

Without warning, Klinklang squeaked and pushed Colress to the side. Both it and its trainer fell against one of the sail masts just as a chain of ice, swung like a whip, crashed into where Colress had been standing. Zinzolin's snowflake-like Pokémon Cryogonal, the originator of the attack, appeared in a cloud of mist.

"It's apparent you don't have much ethics when it comes to Pokémon battling," Colress observed.

"The time has come for you and I to face off," said Zinzolin with a frown as he unleashed another Pokémon. "Go – Weavile!"

"To battle, Klinklang!" shouted Colress to his faithful friend, and tossing a Poké Ball onto the deck, added, " too, Beheeyem!"

The animals lashed at each other with ferocity, while their humans directed their attacks; each watched and waited for an outcome that would decide a winner. Meanwhile, up above in the surrounding decks were members of Ghetsis' army that were watching with interest.

Ghetsis appeared among them and with a wave of his hand, ordered them all to silence and observation without interference. They all watched intently as the Pokémon continued the battle till Klinklang and Beheeyem knocked out Zinzolin's Weavile and Cryogonal.

Zinzolin was furious. "You're a poor excuse of a scientist!"

Colress, ignoring the statement, recalled his Pokémon back to his side and was turning around in silence, when Zinzolin took a dagger out of a hidden pocket in his jacket and threw it towards him. Once again, a swift Klinklang stood in front of his human and thwarted an attack.

Colress had had enough. "Direct attack, Klinklang!"

No sooner had he said this, Klinklang zapped Zinzolin with an electric shock that knocked him off his feet.

"Again, Klinklang!" said Colress, and Zinzolin was treated to a second dose of the attack.

Zinzolin sat up and held his head in his hands, as Ghetsis came down from the upper floors where he and several dozen of the soldiers had watched with interest.

"Good battle. Acceptable outcome," he added, looking from Zinzolin to Colress.

"You're siding with him?" protested Zinzolin.

"You deserved it. He saved me the trouble of doing it myself. As it stands, you are very lucky I don't have you executed." Having said this, Ghetsis turned and walked away.

Zinzolin stood, grimacing and still holding his head, and Colress analyzed him.

"I know there must be some bit of information you are keeping from Ghetsis," Colress said, composedly, "and I suggest that sooner or later he will discover it and will tire of being so lenient."

"We shall meet again in battle, scientist!" Zinzolin snapped emphatically, then walked away.

Colress watched as the Sage left the deck and vanished into the ship's interior.

As Zinzolin strode briskly down the corridors, he kept going over the succession of battle moves that had happened during his fight with Colress. The thought that he – one of the illustrious Seven Sages – had been defeated by Colress in front of the Team Plasma army was loathsome to his sensibilities, and he could not figure out how the scientist's pets could trounce his relentlessly trained Pokémon. He had fully expected to portray the former Castelia University professor as an inadequate military second-in-command, more bookish than battle-ready, but merely ended up embarrassing himself.

At some point he turned a corner and saw Ghetsis coming out of a room; the leader didn't notice Zinzolin as he walked off in the opposite direction.

I wonder what is in that room? Zinzolin thought. He decided to explore, whether it would get him in trouble or not.

Zinzolin approached the door to the room hesitantly, and then opened it to find it had been remodeled as a parlor area of sorts. Obviously a private one for Ghetsis to sit alone in his thoughts, he considered, with a subtle smirk.

There was an armchair facing a window that offered a landscape view of whatever area they were visiting at the time, with a fireplace nearby, a shelf full of books of different subjects, a large wooden desk with chair similar to what the leader had in his office, and a vase full of pansies that was ever-present throughout any place that Ghetsis called home.

Zinzolin tiptoed in as if there were someone listening. He had learned to not underestimate Ghetsis and his security detail.

He dared not touch anything for fear that the security breach would be detected, and then... he spied something shiny in a corner of the bookshelf. Overcome with curiosity, he approached.

There in plain sight was, without a doubt, a Master Ball. It was violet-colored and marked with two magenta circles; the most valuable of all Poké Balls, for it could capture any wild Pokémon unfailingly.

Without thinking twice, Zinzolin placed the Master Ball in a pocket of his coat and left the mysterious room following the corridor to its end.

He did not know Ghetsis was watching him on a security monitor in his office.

Chapter 31 - Kyurem

The Plasma Frigate was sailing in the ocean off the coast near route 21, when Ghetsis called Colress to his office via the intercom. As soon as his deputy arrived, Ghetsis played back the video of what had transpired.

"That conniving Zinzolin took a Master Ball from my living quarters," the Team Plasma leader snapped. "I had been saving it. I don't know what he thinks he's doing, but he's placing himself in a precarious situation. I have been postponing his execution for too long as it is."

"Lord Ghetsis, I believe I know where he may have gone," Colress said, "I saw him leaving the Frigate in the direction of Lacunosa Town. I have observed he has a tendency towards anything cold, and the Giant Chasm outside Lacunosa is quite well-documented as one of the naturally coldest areas of Unova throughout the seasons, although the reason for this is mysterious."

"He had some sort of incident in his youth getting lost in snowy weather around Lacunosa," Ghetsis affirmed, "but he never spoke about it much to anyone. That probably is where he went."

"Shall I send a small troop of guards to retrieve him?" Colress asked.

"No. I'm entrusting you personally to find Zinzolin, and recover the Master Ball," Ghetsis waved off his second-in-command, "before he catches a Patrat with it or something else commonplace."

Colress sent out Klinklang and, riding the Pokémon, floated off the ship and headed to Lacunosa, all the way to a cavern outside of the town on the farthest edge of route 13.

The Giant Chasm cave was located in a hollow in the land; one followed the sloping, grassy terrain and found oneself confronted with a great hole on the side of a cliff.

"The townspeople of Lacunosa say they built the walls surrounding their village to keep away a beast that lives here," recounted the scientist as he spoke to his Pokémon.

Klinklang gave a little screech in reply.

"Undeniably it's a high-level wild Pokémon of some sort," added Colress. "I expect you're prepared for battle, just in case, Klinklang?"

Klinklang squeaked an affirmation and entered the cave.

Colress tagged after his Pokémon, but Zinzolin was nowhere to be seen. The cave was narrow and stretched in either direction; it seemed to have several other exits.

He glanced over to see Klinklang interacting with a Clefairy.

"Did you find something, Klinklang?" asked Colress.

Klinklang squeaked and the Clefairy bounded over to the scientist. It gave an animated monologue of squeaks and chirps that Klinklang seemed triumphant about, but were otherwise indecipherable to Colress.

"Alas, it's at times like this that it would have been useful for N to not have left Team Plasma," Colress sighed. "He could translate what you Pokémon are saying."

Klinklang chimed in, squeaking insistently.

"Did you see Zinzolin go by here?" Colress asked the Clefairy.

The Clefairy bounced around happily and danced a distance away, then looked back at the scientist.

"Do you want me to follow you?" asked Colress.

The Clefairy gave a happy jump and a cry, before bouncing away.

Colress and his Pokémon Klinklang followed the Clefairy out of the cave, into a wide forest surrounded by canyon walls ending at a clearing that had a lake in the middle.

"Crater Forest," Colress realized where they were.

He walked over to the lake and examined the water. "This is salt-water," he noticed with interest. "This must be the area that was connected to the Abyssal Ruins."

The Clefairy was letting out squeaks and bounding around, indicating beyond the lake. Colress glanced over to see another cavern. "Did Zinzolin go there?" he asked.

Clefairy squeaked and nodded.

"Thank you," said the scientist as the Clefairy bounced off into the grass.

Ancient steps had been carved into the rock, leading up to the tall cavern entrance. Inside, the air was freezing, and pools of water that lay on either side of a central, rocky path were motionless.

A Pokémon's roar echoed through the cavern, reverberating against the walls. Colress and Klinklang hurried their pace and emerged in the deepest part of the cave where ice covered everything. Sunlight filtered in, sparsely illuminating the frozen setting.

Standing a short distance away was Zinzolin, accompanied by Weavile. In front of them in the cavern clearing, a violet capsule shook restlessly from side-to-side. It was the Master Ball.

As they all watched, the ball grew still, and with a click the red indicator light on it flashed off.

"Kyurem was caught," Zinzolin murmured, and then shouted triumphantly. "At last!"

"Kyurem?" echoed Colress.

The Sage turned towards the scientist, a grin on his face. "I hadn't realized that you had been witness to my greatest achievement. The capture of Kyurem."

"Apparently, you have not been very forthcoming with Ghetsis," said Colress seriously. "You have been inquiring about this particular Pokémon previously, I learned, yet maintained the creature's existence secret from the rest of Team Plasma."

"What I knew and didn't tell Ghetsis is that there are actually three dragons," admitted Zinzolin. "The fire Pokémon of Truth, Reshiram...the electric Pokémon of Ideals, Zekrom, and...the ice Pokémon of Emptiness, Kyurem."

"Reshiram, Zekrom and Kyurem," repeated Colress as if memorizing the information. "Fascinating. Ghetsis will be pleased to hear you caught the third legendary dragon for him."

Zinzolin laughed scornfully at this. "Kyurem is mine, scientist, and from this day forward so is your position as the public head of Team Plasma." He threw the Master Ball in the air with a cry:

"Go, Kyurem!"

There was a flash of glittering light and the dragon appeared, towering over Colress and Klinklang. It was grey with a golden horn, and ice covered its face, tail and wings to give them a stony appearance. Its cold yellow eyes fixed on the scientist.

"You'll pay for mocking me aboard the Frigate," Zinzolin snarled at him. "I'll freeze your body and soul! When Ghetsis finds you, he'll just have to count you as one of the casualties." The Sage turned dramatically to Kyurem.

"Glaciate!" ordered Zinzolin.

The dragon stared at Colress, then with a snort, turned away.

Zinzolin couldn't believe it. "You dumb Pokémon! I said, Glaciate!"

Kyurem growled at Zinzolin, who shivered a bit.

Colress straightened his glasses, a small smile on his face as he offered his analysis. "Zinzolin, as you are a self-professed expert on the history and legends of Unova... surely you recall that the legendary dragons only obey those trainers who they, themselves, select as being worthy?"

Zinzolin was fuming, and Colress continued talking, ignoring this. "A Master Ball can catch any Pokémon without fail. The most incompetent trainer can hurl it at the most powerful Pokémon and still be unable to command effectively."

Colress then added with a smile:

"There are three ways to control a Pokémon. By winning their loyalty through kindness, by enforcing their submission through brutality... and then there is the scientific way." Colress retrieved the device from the inside of his lab coat, his amber eyes shining.

Before Colress could say more, much less point his device at Kyurem, Zinzolin hurried to pull the dragon back into the Master Ball.

"I suggest you tell Ghetsis about the dragon," Colress said simply, and then turned around and walked out the same way he had come in.

Zinzolin was left considering the situation.

The scientist wandered outside the cave for several minutes making notations and observations for his research, and then saw the Sage walk out of the cavern and head straight towards him.

Colress stood ready for a new challenge, but Zinzolin stood before him and said:

"The prophecy says that the day Kyurem leaves the Giant Chasm, the other two dragons – Reshiram and Zekrom – will be drawn to its location. At that point it might be possible to combine them."

"Well then," replied Colress, "This should make Ghetsis happy. The man he believes to be a longtime friend has now found the legendary dragon."

"I've already told you, scientist," snarled Zinzolin, "The dragon is mine. Team Plasma will be mine. If anything, I'll now be the new commander of the Team Plasma army."

"What will Ghetsis say?" questioned Colress, "When he learns that you have committed treason... because whether I say it or not, Ghetsis will find out... he always knows who has been loyal and who has not."

"He will never believe it. He thinks I am his friend," said Zinzolin with a smirk growing on his face.

Colress did not respond to this. He climbed aboard Klinklang and rode off.

When the scientist returned to the Plasma Frigate, he went directly to see Ghetsis. He found him studying maps in his office.

"Ghetsis," began the scientist as he walked in, "I have located the Master Ball and Zinzolin. You are now the owner of one of the legendary dragons."

Ghetsis looked up, "So, Zinzolin did do something sensible for once."

"Unfortunately, Zinzolin indicated he wanted to keep the dragon for himself." Colress told him, "I advised him that doing so would be injudicious."

"If he does finally commit treason after all, he will forfeit his life," Ghetsis declared.

"He may be rethinking the matter," Colress admitted, "When I was returning, I saw him heading in this direction."

"Which dragon does he have?" inquired Ghetsis. "I presume he captured Reshiram, somehow, from N; since Zekrom is already being kept inside a Poké Ball by that trainer Hilda."

"He has a third dragon, the existence of which he had not informed you of," said the scientist. "It is an ice type named Kyurem."

At that moment, Zinzolin appeared at the office door. He saluted Ghetsis, but he seemed uneasy to see Colress there already.

"What have you to say, Sage Zinzolin?" prompted Ghetsis, giving him yet one more chance.

"Lord Ghetsis," he said simply, and placed the Master Ball on the desk. "I have brought you Kyurem. The legendary dragons are in fact, three. They will allow Team Plasma to rule the world."

Ghetsis studied him briefly. "Why did you not tell me earlier of the existence of a third legendary dragon?"

Zinzolin was fidgety. "I... was not sure of it," he lied.

Colress turned to Team Plasma's supreme leader and said, "From what Zinzolin tells me, the other two dragons will be drawn to Kyurem."

"Yes, Lord Ghetsis," relented Zinzolin. "The three dragons can be combined to create a super dragon."

"The proper term is absofusion," said Colress.

"Very well, absofused," Zinzolin corrected with a glare at the scientist, "The resulting Pokémon would have increased power and aspects of all three dragons, but this requires the use of a device called the DNA Splicers."

"Good. We shall proceed at once," announced Ghetsis.

"I do not know where the DNA Splicers are," Zinzolin admitted reluctantly.

Ghetsis frowned, but simply said, "It is then essential we discern the location of this item. If the other two dragons will eventually appear, we must appropriate them before their trainers attempt to seize Kyurem from us," he added, turning back to the map of the Unova region on his desk. "Acquiring the capability to fuse these creatures is now Team Plasma's priority."

Colress straightened his glasses and said:

"They are in Opelucid."

This made Ghetsis, and Zinzolin, turn to him in surprise and wait in silent expectation of an explanation.

"When we went to Opelucid City for your speech," Colress said, "I was conducting research which made observing gym battles pertinent. The gym leader of Opelucid is the city's mayor, Drayden, whom I met; although at the time he did not know I was a Team Plasma member and was quite chatty. He told me that he is in possession of the DNA Splicers."

"Very good work, Doctor Colress," Ghetsis smirked, a glint in his eye. "We will now officially place your weaponry at practice in the field...when we lay siege to Opelucid City."

After the meeting in Ghetsis office, it was decided that a course would be set to Opelucid City for the attack.

Ghetsis dismissed them and closed the door to his living quarters; a signal that he did not want to be disturbed unless it was an emergency.

Zinzolin went his own way and Colress arrived at his laboratory still thinking about all that had occurred during the course of the day. After about an hour of sitting and analyzing, Colress decided to check on the condition of Kyurem.

The dragon was being held in the enclosure on a lower-level floor where the "Kyurem Cannon" as it was now called, was located. The beast was cable-connected to it since experiments were to take place.

When he arrived, he found Zinzolin standing in front of Kyurem's enclosure, watching the ice dragon. The Pokémon was staring dismally out at its captors.

The scientist stood next to the Sage and before he could utter a greeting, Zinzolin spoke:

"All my life, I've been after this Pokémon. Somehow, being trapped in this tiny enclosure doesn't suit such a majestic beast."

"Perhaps, but by doing so we can increase its power," answered Colress.

They both stood there in silence contemplating the animal, when Colress looked at the Sage, fixing his eyes steadily on him.

Zinzolin began to speak as if mesmerized by an unknown force.

"The cold," he began, "is nature's deadly force, beautiful yet inexorable each winter, and man's civilization is powerless to stop it. All they can do is conform to it."

"True," Colress agreed.

"There should be no question of my fascination with ice types," continued Zinzolin, "They are Pokémon that can wield winter's fury... I saw this firsthand once."

"Was it a long time ago?" asked Colress.

"When I was younger, I met Kyurem," confessed the Sage. "I was raised in Undella Town, which is where Ghetsis grew up as well. My first Pokémon was a Sneasel...which has since evolved into a Weavile, the same one I have. Sneasel, as you know, is a partial ice and dark type; because of the latter I would often let it roam by night. One day, it didn't return, and thinking it had gone back to the Giant Chasm, I went there in search of it. I found Sneasel there in Crater Forest; apparently it had gotten hurt in a battle with a wild Pokémon, and I gave it a Revival Herb," Zinzolin recounted, "Suddenly, a blizzard swept through the woods, and everything was instantly covered with snow and ice. It was then when I saw Kyurem for the first time...magnificently towering above the pines."

"Did you battle it?" Colress asked.

"I didn't have the opportunity. It fled," revealed Zinzolin, "I was trapped in that avalanche of snow. Sneasel, being half ice type, was at ease in frozen terrain and was able to go for help, but even after the townspeople of Lacunosa rescued me I still had caught cold and was ill for a week after that," he continued, "but the true power of high-level, ice type Pokémon still dazzled me... as did how agonizing the frigid weather can be. It left me with the paradox: a love of ice type Pokémon yet a revulsion of the cold."

"Quite fascinating, in fact," Colress straightened his eyeglasses. "Your escapade from years past seems to have created a trauma in your mind. I might be able to psychoanalyze this in further depth and help you overcome it."

Zinzolin, as if coming back to the realization of the moment, turned with a surprised look on his face towards Colress.

"Don't try your mind-control experiments on me, scientist," snapped Zinzolin.

"Do you feel anything positive came of the incident?" Colress asked, ignoring his comment.

"Well," said a visibly calmer Zinzolin, "Among the citizens of Lacunosa Town who came to my rescue, was a lovely young lady who today is my wife."

"Perhaps then," suggested Colress, "You should concentrate on the good that came out of the incident. The fact you met someone you love, who loves you back."

"I hate to admit I agree with you Colress," answered Zinzolin, "but... you may be right."

They stood there for another few minutes in silence, and then the Sage began speaking again, saying:

"What will happen to a world taken over by Team Plasma? Most people will be forced to toss out their Poké Balls, a product of civilization, and send their Pokémon back into the wild or face the penalty of law. It is a victory of nature, and mankind will have to conform itself much as it does to the cold."

"...and this dragon?" asked Colress.

"Kyurem," Zinzolin then spoke to the dragon, "you will undeniably have a role, be it by Ghetsis' or my command. I want to see how that happens."

Colress decided he knew enough. It struck him how unhappy Kyurem looked at its predicament, and the scientist jotted down a few notes; snapped his fingers, and left without addressing Zinzolin again.

Zinzolin stood there, left to wonder what had caused him to reveal so much personal information.

Chapter 32 - Opposition forces

Hilda headed to the Driftveil Continental Hotel, on the shoreline of the city that overlooked the Drawbridge.

The opposition was having a meeting here, and many of the region's gym leaders – who had fought at the battle to reclaim the Pokémon League – were also in attendance. At the head of the group stood a man who quickly acknowledged her. "Hilda, the trainer chosen by Unova's legendary Pokémon of ideals."

Alder was about forty years of age, with long red hair and grey eyes. He wore a poncho and sandals in the style of the ancient Unovan peasantry, giving him a rather unassuming look for a Champion of the Pokémon League. Ever since Ghetsis began his war tactics, Alder was frequently heard saying, "If I had never left the Pokémon League the siege might never have occurred."

A lady of around thirty, named Skyla, spoke up. "It's not your fault, Alder. You were mourning the loss of your companion Pokémon."

Skyla was a pilot for the Mistralton Cargo Service and the gym leader of Mistralton City; a specialist in flying types who had a reputation for being of a kind, caring demeanor. Perhaps it was acquired from her habit of rescuing injured wild bird Pokémon found around Mistralton and releasing them when they had recuperated; this was pointed to as the humaneness of the gym leaders, in contrast to Team Plasma's negative depiction of them, and coupled with her warm personality most people amongst those opposing Team Plasma had only blameless things to say of her. Her blue eyes were almost as vivid as Hilda's, and she had auburn hair loosely picked up by a ribbon matching her aquamarine attire in hue.

Alder was wavering. "The only positive aspect was that although there were injuries, there were no fatalities on our side."

Hilda was silent, lost in the memory of what Ghetsis had told her at the tournament, and trying to push away the image of what were surely N's last moments. Yes, there had been no fatalities on their side...

"The Pokémon League is isolated," Alder kept talking, "I cannot fathom the devastation if they were to attack one of our cities."

Skyla interrupted with a wide-eyed look. "Surely you don't believe such a terrible thing could happen in this day and age?"

"They'll do it," Clay chimed in, "Their leader Ghetsis threatened to attack Driftveil before, remember?"

"You should have called his bluff," said Drayden. "This is a civilized, modern era. War like that was from the ancient days."

"Yes," agreed another wholeheartedly. "Why would any army ever attack civilians?" A murmur of agreement rippled through the crowd; this was the popular opinion, and Clay frowned but stayed silent. Alder shrugged, uncertain.

A new voice spoke up from the entrance. "Ghetsis doesn't seem to be someone who will make threats spuriously."

They all turned.

"Mr. Giovanni Delavita, the gym leader of Viridian City in the Kanto region," Alder greeted him.

"So, you are also against Team Plasma?" queried Skyla.

"I am not certain what to think of their motives," Giovanni sidestepped, "but a governmental system that could outlaw Pokémon ownership and battling would have wide-reaching effects on our economy. I think most gym leaders and businessmen would give serious thought to its repercussions in determining their stance."

"Exactly what I say," Drayden agreed.

"So, what is Team Plasma's next course of action then?" Alder prompted. "They've been out of the public eye since that battle, and now they suddenly reappear under the safeguard of the tournament's immunity."

"They're planning something," said Skyla ambivalently.

"Why would they appoint Colress as their public leader?" asked Burgh, the Castelia gym leader. He was slim and tall, and had long brown hair and eyes of pale green; Burgh was an artist by profession and, as his Pokémon specialty was the bug type, he habitually remodeled the interior of the gym with a selection of his paintings and sculptures depicting one species of bug Pokémon. The previous décor scheme had emphasized the Combee, but he had become fed up with it and had already begun work on a Spinarak design.

Hilda spoke, "Everyone already knows Ghetsis is the leader of Team Plasma."

"But why would he choose Colress as his right-hand man?" Burgh pondered.

"The Dark Scientist certainly isn't the stellar example of equality and humane treatment for Pokémon, presuming Team Plasma still wishes to perpetuate that façade," added Lenora, the Nacrene gym leader. The wife of the Nacrene Museum director and an archeologist in her own right, she was black with forest-green hair and raised normal type Pokémon.

A trainer to the back of the room spoke, his voice sheer outrage. "Word came that he was torturing a Charmeleon to force it to evolve."

He recounted the tale, exaggerated by distance and the opposition hearsay through which it was being passed along, with a horror that was reflected throughout the assembly.

"That poor Pokémon," said Skyla.

"Maybe Ghetsis wants a deputy like himself, cruel and without scruples," speculated Clay.

Mayor Drayden nodded, but Hilda could tell he had a more compelling concern. "Unfortunately, the Dark Scientist knows there is a way to combine the legendary dragon Pokémon."

This was intriguing to her. "Combine them?"

"It's an old legend. I don't think Ghetsis wants to do that," the mayor added. "It would be too difficult to catch the dragons."

"Hilda, you've got Zekrom," Burgh turned to her, "No one knows where Reshiram went, but Team Plasma doesn't have it."

"With no dragon at all Team Plasma is weaponless," crowed another person. "As soon as the Sages are rounded up the rebellion should crumble."

With this hopeful assumption, the meeting disbanded; Hilda could not share their security in anticipating the near-end of the war. Nor could Alder, it seemed, but he was being diplomatic and said nothing to dampen spirits however premature their declarations of victory might be.

Giovanni for his part was enigmatic as ever; the Persian beside him squinted its eyes with a purr but seemed to reflect the inscrutability of its owner.

Hilda fell into conversation with Mayor Drayden along with his young daughter Iris. The mayor, after the conventionalities of introduction, expressed interest in the plans Unova's 'hero of ideals' would pursue subsequent to their triumph at Team Plasma's now-decimated castle.

"I've been flying from city to city," she explained, "I'm challenging the Pokémon League. Zekrom is a fast flyer, and since I've already been to most of Unova's towns while gathering Pokédex information for the Juniper Lab my journeying has been straightforward."

"Many of the other gym leaders speak of you as a trainer to contend with," Drayden said. "How many badges have you collected thus far?"

"Five out of eight," she said with pride. "From the cities of Castelia, Mistralton, Nacrene, Nimbasa and Driftveil. I expect to train my Pokémon in the fields of route 12 outside Lacunosa, before proceeding to Opelucid."

"So, the next gym in line for you to challenge is mine, the Opelucid City gym," Drayden inquired cordially.

"Then I'll get to see Zekrom battle," Iris piped up. "I've never seen a legendary Pokémon fight before!"

"I'm challenging the gyms with Vaporeon," Hilda said, "Zekrom enjoys battling, but since its practically guaranteed he'll win as a legendary Pokémon I don't really think it's a fair fight."

"That may be, but politics doesn't have to be fair – only appear to be," Drayden told her.

Hilda somewhat protested, but Drayden would hear none of it.

"As Zekrom's trainer, you're now a sort of symbol for those opposing Team Plasma. It is essential that you win. I'd better send Iris to fight in my place."

"Yay!" cheered an oblivious Iris.

No sooner had Drayden and his young daughter left that Hilda heard a purr, and glanced down to see a Persian entwining itself around her legs in greeting. She looked up and saw Giovanni walking over to her.

"Hilda, good to see you again."

"Good to see you too, sir."

"It was a good tournament, wasn't it?" he asked.

"Indeed, it was. Your Persian is really well-trained," she said adding, "I never expected it would know Thunder."

"As a ground type specialist, many of my Pokémon are weak to water types," explained Giovanni, "Persian helps to even the odds, and often throws my opponent's plans in disarray. All things considered, though, your Vaporeon fought valiantly."

"Thank you, you are very kind," she answered.

"I think it is important that you know... Rood is residing here in Driftveil," Giovanni told her.

"Doesn't he fear the authorities?"

"He claims he had no part in the thefts of Pokémon, and when he found out what Ghetsis was doing and planning he left Team Plasma."

"Did he?" Hilda questioned.

When Giovanni stayed silent, she persisted:

"I suppose I should seek him and give him my thanks for rescuing me and my Pokémon."

"Maybe," Giovanni said, adding, "Remember this bit of advice... No matter how strong you are, sooner or later everyone loses."

With this cryptic remark, Giovanni left.

Chapter 33 - Those in peril

Atop a hill overlooking the Driftveil Gym was a mansion, not as big as the one where Hilda and N had first met in Icirrus City, but still impressive. It was here that Rood was stationed and Hilda made a point to seek him and thank him for saving her.

As she entered the gardens surrounding the mansion, she was stopped by guards who requested her name:

"Halt. By order of Sage Rood, identify yourself."

"Hilda White. I have come to request an audience with Lord Sage Rood, and methinks he would like to speak with me. Please notify him of my arrival."

One of the guards ran off to dutifully notify the Sage of her presence on the grounds while the other one stood by, with a look of distrust, keeping watch over Hilda.

Soon, two other guards returned with the original one in tow; and escorted her into the building bringing her to Rood's office. Hilda began speaking immediately:

"I was told that you are the one who brought me and my Pokémon to safety," she said.

"That is so," responded Rood.

"I wanted to thank you for that... and to ask why would any member of Team Plasma care about me, considering you didn't take the opportunity to steal my dragon," said Hilda bluntly.

"I guess you haven't heard that I have gone my separate way... Ghetsis and I see things a little differently. I don't care about taking your dragon, like he does."

Hilda looked at him with suspicion. He continued talking.

"Perhaps the way we were approaching Pokémon liberation was misguided," said Rood gingerly. "Unlike King N, I don't have the ability to understand the voices of Pokémon. Therefore, I don't know what sort of world they would prefer. But we were wrong to steal in pursuit of that goal, and there is very little that can be done to compensate for this."

The Sage gestured to some animals. "We are caring for some of the Pokémon that had been separated from their trainers."

"I would think you would have let them return to the wild," wondered Hilda. "Wasn't that the goal of Pokémon liberation?"

"That appears to be what Ghetsis had said and told anyone who would listen. However, I believe I can do a better job at creating a better world." Rood admitted.

"Don't you still believe that Pokémon should be wild?" Hilda queried.

Rood waved this off as inconsequential. "The danger of Ghetsis taking power supersedes the matter for now. A world with someone so power-hungry as dictator will not be good for Pokémon, or humans. People must recognize this and set aside their differences to halt this mutual peril. Once Ghetsis' plans are stopped, then work can truly be done towards a free world for Pokémon."

"You are planning more than what you let on..." Hilda discerned. "I can see what you have here is your own army. You intend to confront Ghetsis, don't you?"

He rose from his seat and walked over to a large window with an expansive view of the gardens that surrounded his estate and then turned and said:

"Your dragon Zekrom is a valuable ally in the war against Team Plasma," Rood answered, "You would be indispensable to deciding who reigns over Unova. Join us and I promise you a very comfortable life... perhaps even a governorship in a small area of the territory."

"Forget it. I prefer to fight alone, with my Pokémon," Hilda replied, "but I'm sure if you plan to attack the Plasma army, our paths will cross again as allies on the battlefield. Nevertheless... I thank you once more for saving me and my Pokémon."

Rood dipped his head in recognition, and when Hilda left and the door closed behind her, one of the minions inquired:

"Shall we go after her dragon, Sage Rood?"

"No," Rood spoke adamantly. "Unlike Ghetsis, we want a world for the happiness of Pokémon. Zekrom chose her as one of the heroes of the legend. Zekrom will not be happy without her."

Not long after Hilda had left the premises, a commotion was heard at the doors, and Hugh and Rosa burst in. They were accompanied by their Pokémon, a defiant-looking Unfezant and the hissing Liepard.

"Sage Rood!" one of the minions raced after, profusely apologetic. "They forced their way in..."

Rood did not seem angry. "Yes, I remember you two trainers from Nimbasa City."

"Aren't you Team Plasma members?" Hugh asked.

"Formerly Team Plasma," Rood corrected. "Ghetsis lied to us about the true reason for his actions. We wanted to help Pokémon. Instead, we ended up helping him in his self-centered plans to take over Unova. At that time, I believed we were on the side of justice, but I was conceited, and I couldn't see the unhappiness we were causing."

"Then you might be able to help us, now," declared Hugh.

"A friend of ours is in danger," said Rosa. "Team Plasma kidnapped him."

"He's a scientist studying Pokémon," Hugh chimed in again. "We don't know why they took him hostage, but we're going to rescue him."

"So, the reach of Ghetsis' ambition and malice is growing ever wider," said Rood. "I'm unsure why Team Plasma would abduct your friend. They have their own scientist, who conducts the most horrendous experiments and has now become Ghetsis' deputy. Still, if your acquaintance was kidnapped it's likely he knows something that Ghetsis wishes to know."

Rosa gave this some thought and remained silent.

"Without the strength of a legendary Pokémon, Ghetsis is at a disadvantage in the war," Rood considered. "He does not have N's dragon Reshiram, and without Hilda's dragon Zekrom there is only one dragon left. You mentioned how your scientist friend was studying Pokémon. Perhaps he knows about this dragon, and his abduction has something to do with that."

"There's a third dragon?" the brother and sister said in unison.

"I do not know exactly," admitted Rood. "Sage Zinzolin knew the ancient legends and history of the dragons. But I have heard there is one more."

Hugh and Rosa thanked Rood for the information and as the brother and sister walked away from the mansion, they discussed their next step.

"That's the key," Hugh said, "Now, who else other than that Raticate, Zinzolin, would know about this third legendary Pokémon?"

"Mayor Drayden," Rosa realized.

"Sure," Hugh brightened up. "He's the dragon type gym leader and he knows a lot about the legends. Maybe he'd tell us something about the third dragon."

"We find the dragon, we find Ghetsis," Rosa reasoned, "and we find Colress."

N, during all this time, had stayed far away from Unova and was living in the Johto region.

He had spent some time near Blackthorn City, which had a large population of trainers who specialized in the dragon type, but after a period of mourning he began to journey around Johto at the insistence of Zorua – who persisted in claiming that Hilda might be alive.

The culture here, since primitive times, was even more emphatic of coexistence between Pokémon and people; and N was fascinated at the way the two enhanced each other. There was peace here, the only indications otherwise were occasional hearsay of Team Plasma's war in Unova. Many people were concerned it would filter to the Johto region, but there was no danger of this being imminent.

N, above them all, hoped the war would stay distant; it was a nightmare to be forgotten as best as he could, but he knew that if Unova fell, the war would inevitably spread to the other regions of the planet and the tranquility of this place would be lost.

The biggest issue besetting Johto at the present was the corruption and criminality sponsored by Team Rocket. The organization had its stronghold in the neighboring region of Kanto and its claws effortlessly reached onto Johto. Team Rocket was aware of N's presence on their territory but as he showed no signs of involvement in politics here or even interest in anything remotely connected with their operations, they let him be.

For now, N's travels had brought him to Ecruteak City. This was a notable municipality of Johto, known for its mystical legends and antiquity.

The elegant Tin Tower that seemed to watch over the city was a pagoda-like turret, which had been built in ancient times to replace a similar structure that had burnt down. The remnants of the original tower still could be found nearby and was referred to by locals simply as the Burnt Tower; it was said to have been the nesting place of a legendary fire-bird known as a Ho-oh, but the Pokémon had supposedly flown off when the first tower was engulfed and no one in modern times had ever seen the mythical creature again. N didn't know what to make of the account, which reminded him a bit of the Unovan legends of the dragons. Zorua however relished hearing Johto legends... she said it was because she was a mystical little fox and was drawn to anything reminiscent of Unova's own ancient mysteries.

Reshiram, being a long-lived legendary Pokémon itself, probably knew more, though the dragon seemed to only smile upon hearing human interpretations of the legends and would not elaborate.

Ecruteak City was also home to some traditional dancers, and N noticed one of them practicing outside with her Pokémon: a Vaporeon. He sadly watched them twirl about, reminiscing of his beloved Hilda and happier times.

"N!" The familiar voice made him turn.

"Anthea and Concordia!" N greeted his aunts while Zorua yapped a hello, as they came over.

"N, we did not expect to find you here!" exclaimed a cheerful Concordia. "Did your father Ghetsis decide you should travel to Johto for political campaigns? I know he had wished you to remain in Unova till the conquest was successful."

N faltered slightly; he looked a little downhearted again and his aunts perceptively noticed it, so Anthea decided to talk about themselves instead.

"Your father sent us to this region so that we would not be caught up in Team Plasma's raids," she said. "Johto is such a beautiful region! We have not yet gone beyond Ecruteak and a visit to neighboring Olivine but we are planning a trip to see the National Park soon."

"Where are you staying?" asked a curious N, who seemed gratified that they should speak of a different topic. "Does father have property in this area?"

"Yes, he does," Concordia replied.

"Your father has kept the information as quiet as possible." Anthea confirmed. "We have a place to the far side of Ecruteak, with a view of the Tin Tower."

"Come, stay with us whenever you wish," said Concordia.

"I might do that... sometime," replied N.

He watched as his two aunts strolled away, and he sighed; Zorua started yapping and wagging its tail. "Do you want to go to the garden?" he asked her.

The fox jumped up and down in excitement and trotted away as if leading him, so N followed. Soon they arrived at a garden area, near the Tin Tower.

It was a peaceful place. There was a crystalline pond, and willow trees draped their branches beside the water. Some monks were lingering around with their Pokémon; this place was part of the temple area that adjoined the Tin Tower, meant to protect the ancient nesting site of the region's legendary bird Pokémon.

Reshiram was curled up here napping, and when he approached, the dragon raised its head.

"Thank you for letting Reshiram stay here while I walked around Ecruteak," N addressed the monks. "I know he's indifferent about Poké Balls, but I still feel awkward about carrying him around in one."

"Your Pokémon is graceful and powerful, like the Ho-oh that used to nest here," said one of them. "You care well for him."

N went over to Reshiram. The dragon poked his arm with its nose, but it seemed serious and worried.

"Reshiram, you've been deep in thought all day," N remarked, petting the dragon on the head. "What's wrong, my friend?"

The white dragon roared. "Far in our native Unova...I sense Kyurem is suffering. Humans are inflicting agony on him. He is calling to me and Zekrom for help."

"Kyurem? Who's Kyurem?" asked N.

"N, I must go to him. I must save him." Reshiram was obdurate. "He is my brother."

Chapter 34 - The frozen city

Hugh and Rosa flew to Opelucid City on Unfezant's back, and they reached their destination by mid-night.

Hugh recalled Unfezant, but Rosa noticed Liepard's Poké Ball shaking, and she sent out the cat. It appeared with a meow.

"You want to come out and walk, Liepard?" she asked the feline with a smile, and Liepard purred and entwined itself around her in a hug.

Opelucid City was relatively tranquil at this hour, as much as a city of its size could be, but it had a certain nocturnal beauty. Lights glistened from the buildings, and shone on the water pouring from the fountain in the city plaza. Liepard hopped up onto the edge of the fountain and lapped at the water.

"I think this is the first time we've been here at nighttime," Rosa turned to her brother.

"You're right," said Hugh adding, "Let's find Drayden."

The mayor was nowhere to be found but when they went to the Pokémon Center, they found his daughter Iris was up past her bedtime, playing with her pet Axew in the lobby.

"Hi Iris!" greeted Rosa, "is your father around?"

"Follow me; I'll take you to him!" Iris hurried out of the building with Axew, hesitating outside only long enough for them to catch up.

The City Hall was a multi-storied building in the center of town, surrounded by trees and flowering bushes, with the mayor's residence on the top floor; Iris brought Hugh and Rosa here, and Drayden instantly recognized them. They sat in the parlor area to talk while Iris' mother, Allison, ushered the young girl to bed and brought them refreshments.

"There are many legends," Drayden told them. "Most point to the dragons as having been one Pokémon that split into three."

"So... there is a third dragon beside Reshiram and Zekrom," remarked Hugh.

"The third is Kyurem," explained Drayden, "the dragon of Emptiness."

Drayden recounted the stories easily from memory, and Hugh and Rosa listened with interest. Liepard sat beside Rosa, squinting its eyes.

"There's not much constancy among the ancient legends," Drayden admitted. "One of them says there was a rift between two brothers, and the dragon Pokémon, unable to decide who to defend as its trainer, divided itself. In that myth, Kyurem was a shell of a Pokémon that was left behind. Lacunosa Town has its own legend about Kyurem having fallen from a meteorite that created the Giant Chasm. They built walls around their town to protect themselves from the dragon. The most famous, or infamous legend," he added a bit contemptuously, "since Team Plasma began its war on Unova, is that the dragons will awaken only to those they view as heroes, people who espouse either truth or ideals and who they see as worthy of being their trainers."

Rosa piped up, "So that means Kyurem is dormant and will choose a trainer when it awakens?"

"Kyurem is already awake," said Drayden. "The Pokémon lives somewhere in the Giant Chasm. But it stands to reason, if Reshiram and Zekrom have chosen trainers, Kyurem will select a trainer as well. The three are closely bonded. I don't know how it will define 'emptiness' though."

"It doesn't seem to be something that one would set out seeking such as truth or ideals," agreed Hugh.

"Well, Kyurem was always perceived as the different dragon," Drayden admitted. "It did stay awake while the other two went into hibernation."

"There's another legend," he added, "that says the day Kyurem leaves the Giant Chasm, it will call the other two dragons to it. This is what concerns me, especially given the political climate. Someone might take it upon themselves to try to combine them – absofusion – and then command an undefeatable Pokémon. You recall the DNA Splicers, the item I showed you when we first met."

"Yes, you said that could be used to fuse the dragons," Hugh remembered.

Drayden nodded. "I am protecting the DNA Splicers as best I can, but I fear that item is now imperiled."

"Why?" asked Rosa.

Drayden scowled. "Because of the Dark Scientist."

"Who?" said the siblings in unison.

"Ghetsis' second-in-command," said the mayor irritably. "It's unfortunate, but I guess he fooled the three of us."

When they gazed at him quizzically, he softened his demeanor and asked, "You don't know?"

A commotion was suddenly heard from outside, and Allison ran to the window, "Something's happening outside!"

Hugh and Rosa left in a hurry with Drayden close behind, to see what was happening.

They raced out into the open, into the street, where it was even more noticeable how astonishment or terror had overcome the citizens of Opelucid. People were standing about in awe, observing something in the sky, while others were rushing around frantically. The brother and sister gazed up and then saw the cause.

The Plasma Frigate was hovering ominously over Opelucid City; the elegant Giratina ready to strike at a world that did not remember war.

Mayor Drayden stood at the door of the City Hall, staring incredulously at the sight. He had never imagined this scene, and he could not imagine even now what was about to occur.

Inside the Plasma Frigate, Dr. Ethan Colress was in his seat at the cannon controls, focused on the experiment he was conducting. From monitors displayed on the dashboard he could see the ice dragon Kyurem, trapped in the enclosure that had been connected to power the Plasma Frigate's most formidable weapon.

He twisted the dial, and as the electricity was applied to the enclosure, the meters on the control panel displayed the dragon's increasing attack power – and the corresponding rise in amperage that was being inflicted. Kyurem thrashed about as the scientist poised over the red button.

"It's science, Kyurem. I'll have you surpass your limits," he murmured.

There was suddenly a burst of cold white light that shot down from the ship, almost simultaneous with a thunderous boom.

A blast of freezing air exploded through the city, racing past Hugh and Rosa in a gale of icy condensation; the force, upon striking the buildings, covered them instantly in a crust of ice. It spread across the ground, turning the city into a glacial landscape; cars screeched across glassy streets, their windshields rapidly and unexpectedly encrusted with ice, to crash against each other violently, while in the city plaza the spray of water from the fountain froze in an ethereal scene.

The lights flickered only once, and Opelucid City went dark.

The city was thrown into disarray, and the population into panic. From above in the Plasma Frigate, Colress was ecstatic.

"Eureka! I did it! Kyurem's ice power tripled under my scientific methods!" he shouted.

The guards looked at each other and saluted at him, saying:

"Wonderful news, sir. Commander Ghetsis will be proud."

"Yes. Lord Ghetsis is in his private quarters. Get word to him that Opelucid City is frozen," said the scientist without looking up from the monitors. It was obvious he was more interested in the scientific data showing up before him than in what this meant for the war. He dismissed the guards with a wave.

As the scientist poked at the tablet he held, he compared the information displayed there to statistics produced on one of the monitors on the dashboard. "This does merit more research however," he said, half-to-himself. "It seems Kyurem has more potential, and yet the energy cannon is at its highest setting. There doesn't seem to be any way to force this power out."

He glanced out the windows at the frozen scenery of Opelucid City and noticed two of his friends below. He felt his heart leap, though he could not tell whether he was joyful to see them or alarmed they were in the heart of the battleground.

That's Rosa and her brother Hugh! I wonder what they're doing in this area? the scientist thought.

Down below in the frozen city, there was chaos amongst the populace. The Team Plasma army descended in droves from the Frigate ready to thwart any rebellion that might arise.

In the midst of the soldiers was a familiar face: Sage Zinzolin Gray.

He arrived at the steps of City Hall with several of his minions and two Pokémon in tow, Colress' Beheeyem and his own Weavile. He saw Drayden standing there incredulously.

"What is this?" Drayden asked him, "Do you think by freezing the city you will get power? All we need to do is send out some fire Pokémon and melt it."

"It's cold here," Zinzolin declared pompously, glancing around, "and this ice is unmeltable and unbreakable. Only the other legendary dragons can counter it, and they will soon be Team Plasma's."

Shock was evident in Drayden's voice. "But this is outrageous! It's summertime and the town is shivering."

Zinzolin smirked. "You should be grateful to our supreme leader that he chose to freeze your city and not obliterate it. Remember, the reason you're shivering from cold now is because you're alive."

The mayor of Opelucid City just stared at him, speechless.

"In many ways this extreme cold is a testament to our very existence! But enough philosophy," Zinzolin dismissed the matter. "Drayden, hand over the DNA Splicers!"

"So, that's what you're after," Drayden clenched his fists. "I was present for the battle to reclaim the League, when your castle collapsed and you were initially defeated. I know how lofty your goals are; you won't stop until freedom in Unova is eradicated. What makes you think I will comply?"

"The faint hope that Opelucid's voters didn't elect a total fool for mayor," countered the Sage.

"Go ahead, kill me," said the mayor defiantly, "Be aware that I will not go down without a fight."

"Yes, I will kill you," replied Zinzolin coldly, "as well as your entire family, unless you comply with our requests."

Drayden was silent for a moment. "I don't have the DNA Splicers," he finally said.

"Don't lie to me," Zinzolin responded, "Team Plasma knows you do. Nor would you pawn off something that's been in your family for generations."

At a signal, the minions advanced, and with them their snarling Liepard and Watchog. Drayden threw out a Poké Ball. His dragon type, Haxorus, appeared in a blaze of light.

"Haxorus! Dragon Tail!" he ordered the Pokémon.

In one swish, the Pokémon knocked down many of its opponents, but some of the Liepard dodged and leapt at the Haxorus. The dragon type found itself outnumbered, and each time it tossed off one of its enemies, two more assailed it. This gave time for the minions to seize a struggling Drayden.

Zinzolin watched the battle unfold, when a defiant cry from behind made him turn.

"You're going to feel my rage!" shouted Hugh. Unfezant, fluttering beside him, let out a squawk of agreement.

"Oh no!" Zinzolin scowled, "You and your sister are a nuisance, always showing up when I am busy... and to make it worse, I now have to battle in this extreme cold temperature."

Rosa however, had recognized the Beheeyem beside Zinzolin, and she exclaimed, "That's Colress' Pokémon!"

Zinzolin glanced briefly at the Pokémon.

"So it is," he affirmed.

Rosa was distraught. "What have you done to him?!"

Zinzolin looked at her incredulously for a moment and then started laughing.

This infuriated Rosa. What terrible fate had befallen her friend, the mysterious scientist who had so often helped them? "Get him, Liepard!" she shouted, and the cat sprang at a surprised Zinzolin.

Weavile leapt to meet the feline, and the weasel and cat ended up clawing at each other on the icy battlefield.

"Give Unfezant a chance," Hugh protested.

"No way," Rosa was adamant. "The fight with Zinzolin is mine. You save Drayden!"

Hugh was a bit reluctant to leave his sister facing one of Team Plasma's high-ranking members alone, but he hurried past them to where Drayden was still tussling with the minions.

The fight between Zinzolin's Weavile and Rosa's Liepard was fierce. It ended with a Night Slash attack from the Liepard, and Weavile fainted.

"How can that Liepard be so strong?" Zinzolin stared at the cat, which faced him with an arched back and flat ears; pulling out another Poké Ball, he shouted, "Go, Cryogonal!"

The snowflake Pokémon spun forward to the attack.

Liepard seemed to sense her human's vendetta, and as if in solidarity, fought ferociously. It bounded out of the way of Cryogonal's icy whip, and with only two Night Slash attacks knocked the opposing creature to the ground.

Hugh meanwhile had ordered Unfezant to fight off the minions' Pokémon, and had succeeded in freeing a shaken but uninjured Drayden from his captors. These Team Plasma members retreated, but Zinzolin was left facing Rosa and her Liepard.

"Your cat is impossible to beat," said the Sage with a grimace.

"Surrender!" yelled Rosa.

"You are the one that will eventually surrender. In case you haven't noticed...the entire Unova region will soon be covered in ice!" Zinzolin sneered, "Imagine, what the planet will look like when Team Plasma is finished with it."

With this dire threat, he made a motion, and Beheeyem teleported him away to safety.

"Damn it!" Rosa cursed.

"He must have gone back up to the Frigate," Hugh said.

"It looks like we chased off Team Plasma," said Drayden. "I have you two to thank... you are heroes, you saved Opelucid!"

"Oh no, anyone would've come to your aid." Rosa insisted as she petted Liepard on the head. "If anything, you should thank our Pokémon."

Iris and her mother Allison came out of the building at that point and joined them, both carrying travelling bags.

"Dear," said the woman to her husband, "I fear staying here with all this rebellion. Maybe we should consider leaving."

"I am not sure about that, Allison," answered Drayden offhandedly, then turned to the others and commented, "Now we simply have to figure out how to melt all this ice," he sighed and added, "Look at all this destruction. Our city must come together, and..."

"I bet you can win votes with a few well-placed speeches," his daughter Iris cheerfully and obliviously said, "Isn't that why you always say disasters can be useful?"

"Hush," he hurriedly told her.

"Did you mean it when you said you didn't have the DNA Splicers?" Hugh asked.

"Not quite. I had hidden it," Drayden smiled, and motioned to Hugh and Rosa to follow him.

Night was fading and the sun was rising as they all walked over to the Pokémon gym. Drayden entered the building and moments later emerged with the coveted DNA Splicers.

"This is what they were after!" he gloated. "I had hidden it in the gym. Those Team Plasma people are rather stupid not to look there..."

Without warning, three Plasma guards leapt down from the roof and snatched it out of his hands. It was the Shadow Triad; Ghetsis' personal elite guards.

"Whatever," said one of them, "The DNA Splicers now belong to Lord Ghetsis."

There was a signal from the Shadow Triad member, and instantly a squadron of Team Plasma soldiers surrounded them.

The ensuing Pokémon battle created such thunderous noise, it was difficult to hear one another speak. Liepard and Unfezant had to contend with several opponents at once, and even with the aid of Drayden's dragon types it was visibly going to be a loss.

"I can't leave," Drayden protested loudly, "I have a duty as the gym leader to protect the city."

"Your Pokémon are knocked out," Hugh noticed, "There's nothing more you can do but run for help."

"Liepard, return!" called Rosa; the cat glanced at her inquiringly but returned to its Poké Ball as she wished.

Liepard had been the only Pokémon that had not been struggling to beat the army. Unfezant looked as if it were tiring, but it was still strong enough to fly them out of the area. Hugh ran to the bird. "Come on, Rosa, let's get out of here!"

"I insist we leave," Allison said, "We are all in danger, and there is nothing more you can do."

"You're right," her husband relented, "Let's go."

Allison had sent out a large, winged dragon type called a Druddigon, which had been fighting as well and was now almost exhausted. She called it to her side and the family got aboard the creature. Druddigon let out a roar and took flight.

The five people and their animals fled, and as they half-heartedly left Opelucid City to its fate, they saw a flag being raised above City Hall: the banner of Team Plasma's insignia.

The morning sunlight shone through the wide, arched window bouncing off everything it touched and creating a sense of peace. Ghetsis was seated before the window, sipping a cup of tea. There was a wood end table next to him on which rested the teapot, as well as a bouquet of purple and indigo pansies.

One of the Team Plasma guards came in and stood at attention. "Sir, the work has been completed."

"Very good," said Ghetsis, pouring himself another cup of tea. "Now freeze the town on the other side of the mountain."

"Undella Town?"

"Yes," answered Ghetsis, gazing a bit wistfully at the flowers.

Chapter 35 - Envoy

During the summertime, Undella Town drew many tourists for its shorelines and wealthy ambiance. Umbrellas and folding chairs spread out along the sand, and people with their Pokémon basked near sunlit seawater against the backdrop of music from more tropical regions; it was an absconding of the knowledge that here, too, reached the snow of the cold Unovan winter.

Hilda had come here for some Pokémon training. She sent out both her Pokémon – Vaporeon and Zekrom.

"All right everyone," said Hilda, "we've got a gym battle coming up and we also have to be ready to fight Team Plasma, so let's see if we can put in some training here. What do you say?"

Vaporeon gave a happy squeak; however, Zekrom seemed restless.

"Zekrom, are you okay?" she asked the Pokémon. "You've seemed worried for a while now."

The dragon replied with a roar, to which Hilda sighed sadly.

"N would have been able to tell me what you are trying to say," she murmured.

Zekrom seemed disinclined to battle, so Hilda let the legendary dragon remain on the coastline while she waded into the seawater with Vaporeon in search of wild Pokémon.

Their hunt was fruitful; she soon encountered a wild Jellicent, which she decided to try to capture. Balanced on one of the shoals, she directed Vaporeon in its aquatic sparring with the jellyfish.

Jellicent struck out with its tentacles, but Vaporeon was lithe and evaded the attack by diving into the water. It then leapt out to tackle the enemy, hurling Jellicent back.

"Good work, Vaporeon!" cried Hilda, as she opened a Poké Ball and tossed the capsule at the wild animal.

The Poké Ball struck against Jellicent, and with a flash of light opened and drew the creature inside. It bobbed atop the water, shaking.

"We have it," she said, too soon. The capsule suddenly broke open and the Jellicent emerged with a cry.

"Damn, it was so close too!" Hilda exclaimed.

Something seemed to catch the attention of the battling Pokémon and without indication, the Jellicent threw itself underwater in escape.

"It fled?" wondered Hilda.

Vaporeon swam over to Hilda. Unexpectedly, her Pokmon enveloped itself in a bubble, bit onto the edge of her vest and pulled her into the sea.

"Vaporeon!" she exclaimed, as the animal dragged her to the seafloor. "What..."

There was then a white flash, and the ocean was covered in darkness. She glanced up to see ice spread across the waves; thrust into an instant anomalous freeze, they retained their leaping pose on the surface of the water.

From the deck of the Plasma Frigate, Ghetsis looked out on the town where he had once dwelt, now encased in their icy siege. Beside Ghetsis was Zinzolin, who knew well the value of Undella for him, and they were shortly joined on the deck by the supreme leader's second-in-command Dr. Colress, who was elated about how much power he had succeeded in drawing from Kyurem.

Ghetsis spoke, with a solemn sort of triumph. "Undella is ours. Soon the whole Unova region will cower under our ice cannon. This should draw the other legendary dragons into the open before very long, if they do not come to Kyurem of their own accord."

"All indications are that Kyurem's ice ray could be yet stronger," the scientist pointed out, "but nonetheless. What city shall we freeze next?" Colress rubbed his hands together, eager about his achievement.

Zinzolin turned to Ghetsis. "The area has been secured, Lord Ghetsis. Do you wish to go ashore to inspect our new acquisition?"

"No," said Ghetsis simply.

At that moment a minion addressed Ghetsis with a salute, as well as information.

"Lord Ghetsis. The dragon Kyurem has collapsed."

Ghetsis answered quickly, "Give it a Revive."

"It's quite injured," the minion said.

Colress who had remained silent up until now, spoke up, "I wonder how much more the Pokémon can withstand," he asked, "If so we ought to desist in carrying out further raids till we find an alternate means of drawing out and amplifying Kyurem's ice energy; something less deleterious, to say nothing of more efficient. Kyurem is not responding with utmost capacity anyway – my research indicates that the Pokémon has yet more untapped power."

"That will be unnecessary, doctor. I am quite satisfied with the strength of the cannon already. It serves the purposes of Team Plasma."

"But if Kyurem is weakening..."

"Let Kyurem rest until tomorrow. If it doesn't respond then simply increase the electricity applied to the enclosure," Ghetsis callously ordered.

"Yes, Lord Ghetsis," replied Colress.

The scientist hurried to the enclosure where Kyurem was being kept. They had roused the dragon at last, but it seemed quite hurt. Kyurem growled weakly as he approached the glass partitions.

He studied the statistics on the device he held, the stumbling levels of energy from the imprisoned Pokémon.

"Kyurem..." he murmured, "There must be another way to bring out your power."

Kyurem gazed out desolately at him.

Colress decided to go ashore to examine the ice that had resulted from the attack, and with a last worried glance at the dragon, left the room.

Hilda and Vaporeon clambered out of the water onto the shoreline near the Seaside Cave.

She could see the Plasma Frigate, hovering over Undella some distance away...but her dragon Pokémon was not to be found. She felt worry fall over her.

"Zekrom!" Hilda called.

A reciprocating roar met her ears, and she glanced up to see the legendary Pokémon fly down to meet her.

"I'm glad you hid from them," said a relieved Hilda. "Now I this what you were concerned about? Did you sense them?"

Zekrom gave a noncommittal roar. There was more to it than that, it seemed, but at least they were all safe.

She and her Pokémon crept closer to Undella Town, keeping tentatively to the shrubbery and rocks as well as trying not to lose balance on the ice; they ducked when a line of soldiers marched past.

"Team Plasma members," she muttered.

She watched as they walked by the underbrush; it was plain that Colress was the commander, by the way they flanked him and deferred to his direction. "Looks like we're going to have that confrontation with Team Plasma sooner than I thought," said Hilda to her Pokémon. "Ready to drive them out of Undella Town?"

Both her Pokémon growled in anticipation; but before she could issue a command, a sudden cry of a Pokémon burst forth, with the exclamation of its trainer:

"Attack, Mightyena! Bite!"

A wolf-like Pokémon raced ferociously towards the Team Plasma battalion, directly towards Colress.

As Hilda watched, the scientist whipped out a remote-control device from his lab coat and, pressing a button, aimed this at the creature. Mightenya suddenly skidded to a halt with a perplexed whimper.

"Mightyena...relax," said Colress, to the dismay of the opponent trainer.

"You're my Pokémon, Mightyena, not his!" he called desperately, but the wolf was entranced.

"It's true then," Hilda whispered, "he does have a way of controlling the minds of Pokémon!"

The trainer was seized by Team Plasma guards, and at a motion from the scientist, roughly hauled away. Hilda watched as he struggled at first, only to be struck in the stomach, and was then pacific. Mightenya's Poké Ball was taken and handed to Colress, on whom the wolf was focused to the exclusion of all.

Colress was heading after the soldiers with Mightyena in tow when his amber eyes fell across the bushes, to halt on Hilda.

He had seen her, there was no question of it; so too, he had seen the legendary Pokémon Zekrom. They gazed at each other for a fleeting, nerve-racking moment, and then he turned away casually towards the clipboard he held.

He seemed to jot something down briefly and, crumpling up the paper, let it fall to the ground; he fixed his eyes on her once more as he walked after the Team Plasma battalion.

Hilda was left wondering why he had not given them to the Plasma forces.

Vaporeon padded out to retrieve the note. Hilda took it from the Pokémon and glanced at the writing.

I would like to speak with you. I will find a pretext of being along route 13 overmorrow - Dr. Colress

Hilda eyed the letter. "What is that scientist scheming?"

Chapter 36 - Lentimas

Across the way from Undella Town was a place known for art, called Lentimas Town. The townspeople of Lentimas were considered experts in porcelain artifacts, pottery, and tapestry that were widely acclaimed throughout the world.

Lentimas was located at the base of the dormant Reversal Mountain volcano, and quite remote from the rest of the Unova region were it not for a cave path through the mountain that led to Undella Town, and a small airplane runway. It was here that the little group from Opelucid City arrived, tired but safe.

Drayden looked sad. "I've let everybody down," he said to the others around him. "If I hadn't been so cowardly and run off, perhaps I could have prevented their conquest of Opelucid, somehow."

"There wasn't much you could do," his wife Allison replied.

"I'm the gym leader," he insisted feebly, "I'm supposed to be Opelucid's strongest trainer, and the person who would be looked towards in the midst of a civil disaster to protect the city. Besides that, they elected me the mayor."

"War isn't the same as an earthquake or a storm," she maintained. "Besides your Pokémon were out of strength and outnumbered. Team Plasma would have killed you if you had stayed."

"It was cheap, selfish surrender," said Drayden.

"Ghetsis is getting more powerful every day, and his army is increasing in size," added Hugh, "but we mustn't give up."

"I'm beginning to think he is so tough to beat, that we might not be able to," admitted Drayden.

Rosa and Iris remained silent. They didn't quite know what to add to the conversation, because indeed, the situation seemed hopeless at the moment. Rosa in particular found her thoughts occupied by Colress, and how Zinzolin had been commanding the scientist's Pokémon. If she had needed any further evidence of him being in dire peril, this was it to her; her worries only fueled her resolve to save him.

Drayden turned to address Hugh and Rosa. "We plan to spend the day and possibly night at the Pokémon Center's hotel. Maybe we will stay in this town until the war is over... at least we are safe for now."

"Rosa and I will stay in town for today, as well," answered Hugh, "but tomorrow morning we will stock up on food and supplies before leaving for Floccesy Town."

"Floccesy Town?" asked Drayden.

"Yes," Rosa jumped into the conversation, "My brother and I have been talking this over. We think Ghetsis won't stop invading surrounding territories and Floccesy Town is where the opposition forces are now headquartered."

"Very well," acknowledged Drayden, extending his hand for the duo to shake. "Good luck to you both," he added.

They had scarcely spent an hour resting in Lentimas when a flurry of activity struck the generally peaceful town, and Hugh hurried into the Pokémon Center lobby where Rosa was seated, talking with the Drayden family.

"Word just came. Team Plasma has frozen Undella Town," Hugh announced.

"They've frozen Undella?" Drayden was stunned. "That means they're poised to invade here."

"Not poised – on the way," said Hugh grimly, "A hiker saw Team Plasma members marching through the Reversal Mountain pass, heading for Lentimas."

"What about the regional military?" Drayden protested, "Why can't they counteract them?"

"From what I heard, they're no match for the Plasma army," Hugh replied.

"You mean they can't stop the invasions?" Drayden was appalled.

"That's not all," Hugh added, "When they saw the power of the Plasma Frigate, the people of Humilau were frightened and surrendered to Team Plasma."

The news was met with silence. The Team Plasma conquest, once scoffed at by the region's highest ranking citizens, had become a nightmare hewn into terrifying reality. The idea of a populace without Pokémon now loomed ominously. Hugh's sister Rosa was the one who at last spoke up.

"Unova was so beautiful," she said, her voice subdued.

They all went outside, where they could see dozens of people already gathering their belongings to flee; those without flying Pokémon were making a rush to the airplane runway. Never had any before seen such frantic turmoil in Unova. The mayor noticed a familiar person on the tarmac, beside the airplane she piloted. A white bird Pokémon called a Swanna stood next to her.

"Skyla!" Drayden called.

The Mistralton gym leader glanced up and waved at him. "Mayor Drayden," she exclaimed, "So you did escape! I heard that Opelucid was taken over by Team Plasma."

Little time could be spent conversing in the shadow of Team Plasma's invasion, so Drayden's family quickly boarded the airplane.

The mayor glanced over at Hugh and Rosa. "Will you still head to the opposition headquarters in Floccesy?"

"Definitely," insisted Hugh.

Skyla overheard and decided to speak up. "I'm part of the opposition fighting Team Plasma," she told them. "If you plan to join us, then come to Alder's house. That is where we hold our meetings."

Her gentle bearing and mild way of speaking, which she was well-known for, seemed a stark contrast to the notion of her actively involved in an opposition war effort against any faction; she was skilled in Pokémon battle, as all the gym leaders were, but Hugh postulated her contribution was probably with something that was not direct combat, such as telecommunications. Or perhaps, in a more daring feat, with her aircraft piloting knowledge and bird Pokémon she was planning to fly into some of the occupied townships and attempt to rescue civilians.

Skyla got into the airplane cockpit. Drayden walked some distance towards the airplane as well, then turned back to the brother and sister.

"With talented trainers like you two fighting against Ghetsis..." he considered optimistically, "maybe we will indeed win the war."

Rosa was more determined than ever. "We're going to do everything we can to stop Team Plasma and rescue our kidnapped friend – Dr. Colress!"

Drayden only now recalled that with Team Plasma's raid upon Opelucid, he had not gotten to tell them who the Dark Scientist was, and he shouted to them.

"Colress is..." but his voice was drowned out by the airplane propellers. The final words of his statement went unheard and unheeded.

"Fly, Unfezant!" ordered Hugh as he and his sister got aboard the bird Pokémon. "To Floccesy Town!"

Chapter 37 - Sunlight

Colress returned to the Plasma Frigate after touring Undella Town to be met by Ghetsis on the bridge.

"What do you think of Undella Town after reviewing it, Dr. Colress?"

"It is quite scenic, notwithstanding the ice, and if our raid upon Opelucid City has not frightened the regional forces enough, taking the region's most lucrative tourist destination surely will." Colress straightened his eyeglasses. "Unfortunately, there is a bit of a dissident problem. The soldiers are solving it for you."

Ghetsis looked fiendishly pleased. "Many of those in Undella are fools who have a propensity to disregard others facetiously! Now they will see what it brings upon them."

The scientist knew Ghetsis hailed from Undella, and this incensed remark by him hinted at some personal, untold tale, but he did not pursue it. Zinzolin walked onto the bridge at that point and saluted to them.

"Lord Ghetsis, we have taken Lentimas," announced Zinzolin, "and the small airfield that is there. This means the lone airport out of Unova that is accessible to our enemies is the one in Mistralton City, on the far side of the region."

"Good," said Ghetsis, "and we didn't even have to freeze the place."

"Perhaps we could proceed in that manner," Colress put forward, "At least until I learn if more benevolent treatment of Kyurem may garner the same increase its power while being less injurious towards it."

"As I said, Colress, it is unnecessary," Ghetsis waved it off.

Zinzolin broke into the conversation:

"It seems Colress is treating Pokémon as if they were people." A slight smirk crossed Zinzolin's face and he added, "I've often wondered what hurts worse... a physical wound or an emotional wound... what say you, Ghetsis?"

Colress raised an eyebrow at this statement; he observed Ghetsis' reaction and noticed him turn his back to hide a pained look on his face. It was then that the scientist answered the Sage's question:

"Emotional pain is greater, Zinzolin... because physical pain can always heal, unlike memories that can be ever-present."

Ghetsis walked away without saying anything and Zinzolin smiled and stood up straighter. The ever-observant Colress took out his notebook and jotted down a few items, and it was then that Zinzolin addressed him.

"You actually think treating Pokémon with kindness could be more effective at bringing out their power than coercion or training?" Zinzolin said.

"Yes." Colress smiled, "Eventually, the truth of my theory will be evident to all."

"Then you're acknowledging your cannon contrivance is lacking," grinned the Sage.

"It could be improved," Colress stated.

The admission was annoying to Zinzolin; yet he remained silent as the scientist continued speaking.

"Kyurem has untapped power that the present methodology seems incapable of drawing out. Besides this, it is not in the best interest of Team Plasma to inadvertently kill the dragon from overexertion," Colress stopped here, glanced up at the Sage and said point blank:

"Your comment seems to have hurt Ghetsis' feelings."

"So, what," was the curt reply.

"You have known Ghetsis for many years back, I am told."

Zinzolin scoffed. "An individual's feelings... To you, that's probably a matter of great importance. But from the perspective of other people, it is a trifling matter indeed."

"Trifling? Surely it isn't, if it concerns your childhood friend?"

Zinzolin laughed rather scornfully at this. "Friends are a cheap price to pay for power."

"So," Colress discerned, "you still desire the commandership of Team Plasma."

"Why have so many people joined this war, Dr. Colress?" Zinzolin responded airily, with a rhetorical question. "They all feel they can gain something. With you, it is the furtherance of your research. Those two trainers you keep company with – Rosa and her brother with the spiky Qwilfish hair, whatever his name is – they wish to reunite the stolen Pokémon with their trainers. Most of the gym leaders do not wish to lose their influence in the establishment. As for me I saw potential from the start, the potential to gain a post of prestige in a new world order. Ghetsis might fashion it with his wealth and his military-stratagems; he might have desired to place first N and then you as the figurehead king, but I will reign over the planet in the end, both in appearance and actuality."

Colress was silent for a long moment; then, with the slightest shrug of shoulders, he turned to leave, yet not without saying:

"The trust Ghetsis has in's too much of an unknown factor."

Reshiram flew fast, and they had returned to the Unova region that morning. They had seen some of the icy devastation from afar, and had crossed the area swiftly to avoid being seen by any army below. N was worried as he gazed at the scene.

There's no way a Pokémon alone could have such power to encase a city this expansive in ice, even a legendary dragon like Kyurem, he thought. Dr. Colress was researching a way to scientifically bring out a Pokémon's power...and if he's still with the Team Plasma army...then the one who has Kyurem is...

A fox's yap cut through his thoughts, and N petted Zorua on the head.

"Could you land here, please, Reshiram," N said.

Reshiram let out a roar.

"You're right; we must find Kyurem," N acknowledged the dragon, "but I would like to make a stop here first. I won't be long."

They landed in a grassy area outside of Victory Road, and N ducked into a cavern. Zorua shadowed her trainer, and although the entryway was narrow for the dragon, Reshiram could also follow. The cave opened out to an area where crumbling steps led into what was left of Team Plasma's castle, which had fallen to this subterranean level.

Following the corridor, N walked into what had been the throne room. Marble columns that had on one occasion supported a lofty ceiling now lay indiscriminate across the once-brilliant floor. Amid this disastrous scenario of fallen rocks and tattered banners, N found his somber thoughts far from any grandeur of regency that had, ostensibly, been his. He had never cared for leadership anyway; it was Hilda he missed.

Zorua let out a yap, and Reshiram also became alert. N turned to a sound and saw a small, candle-like Pokémon hop up onto the rubble and give a squeak.

"Litwick!" a voice was heard and N glanced towards it. He saw a young woman dressed in black with purple hair and red shoes. She was followed by a chandelier-like Pokémon.

"How surprising," N murmured, "I didn't expect to find anyone else here."

"I remember you," the lady said, "You're King N... Team Plasma's king."

"It's a bit of a farce, really," N commented, "You're one of the Elite Four, Shauntal."

"You probably know I specialize in ghost types. My Pokémon like the castle ruins, so I've taken to training them here." Shauntal explained, "I hope you don't find me brazen for coming here. I don't mean it as any disrespect to the place."

"What matters is that the Pokémon are happy." N replied, then sighed and added, "I suppose they're going to tear down these ruins, especially because they were built on Pokémon League land."

"Actually, a lot of people want to renovate it, especially Grimsley," informed Shauntal, "You've met him too; he's one of my colleagues. He says years from now, this war will be as historical as the ones that founded Unova and this palace would be a monument to this era."

"This dark era," N emphasized.

"He's the Elite Four's dark type specialist, come to that," Shauntal considered.

N didn't respond, and Shauntal continued speaking, "Right now, the Pokémon League doesn't have enough capital to do anything with the castle."

"How is that?" asked N, "You're one of the most profitable organizations in Unova."

"The Pokémon League spends most of its revenue on promotion," Shauntal explained. "The rest typically goes into upkeep of the League grounds and gyms across the region. Ever since the war started, they've increased their publicity costs as a way to counter Team Plasma's vilification of Pokémon battling. They insist, renovating the castle is too costly."

"Seems to me, they should revisit their priorities," he said.

"I agree with you," she answered.

N was watching Zorua and Litwick playing together. "Your Pokémon are happy with you."

"This Litwick is actually the offspring of my Chandelure," Shauntal said, with a glance at the chandelier Pokémon beside her.

They stood silent for a while, and then N said:

"The day the castle fell, a certain trainer and her Vaporeon taught me something about the bond between people and Pokémon. By being together, the world expands for both... She's gone now – one of the early victims of Unova's terrible war – and this building is crumbling away. Yet, somehow, I can still see this place the way it was that day...with the sunlight." N said wistfully.

"You loved her," observed Shauntal, then asked, "Would that be the girl who saved us from the execution squad?"

"Yes," replied N simply.

"She and her Vaporeon were at the Pokémon World Tournament, only a few days ago. Hilda, I think her name was... I was at the event, on the judging panel," Shauntal told him.

N turned to Shauntal, with eyes opened wide:

"Hilda's alive?"

Chapter 38 - The two that were left

The war had at last veritably begun, in a tumult that had been inconceivable to the opposition only a week earlier, as the frozen assail of Unova's municipalities if surrender did not come forthwith. No testament more of futility, nor the frailties of an unequipped army, could be found in their world than the regional response to the Plasma onslaught. Their defenses faltered, their men vanquished with swiftness – as prisoners in this style were considered an inconvenience by Ghetsis; occupied cities, as those overtaken by Team Plasma came to be called, grew by number daily as frightened people sought despairing refuge in the cities beyond Driftveil, and passage out of the Unova region on the airplanes at Mistralton.

Team Plasma's icy reign encroached on the terrain between Opelucid and Undella to seize this whole section of the region. Placed under the Plasma banner, the citizens who still remained here, by choice or ill-fortune, were now expected to submit to the supreme leader, Lord Ghetsis, and the 'sovereign' Master Colress; though the scientist thought even this designation too ostentatious as it were. The title may have been demanded of the conquered civilians by Ghetsis, who said it was necessary propriety, but aboard their vessel he was still Dr. Colress by his own insistence.

The capture of the Village Bridge and Lacunosa Town stood in way of uniting the two sections of occupied Unova. The bridge and its outlying township were most essential and Lacunosa, being a walled town, was stubborn; all efforts, feeble though they were, were being made by the regional forces to fend off the Plasma advancement in the outlying routes. Ghetsis was aware that siege of Lacunosa would be taxing, plus he wished the walls intact for Team Plasma's benefit, and he was willing to bide his time patiently rather than freeze them immediately with the ice cannon so as to ensure his victory there.

The other site Ghetsis planned to overtake was the Pokémon League, more wished for as a symbol than as a place with any military value. It was atop a mountain on the far side of the region, very far from major cities, but as Team Plasma had lost their grip on the League grounds when their castle collapsed in the ill-fated siege, it was important that Team Plasma retake it. The Pokémon League was also a treasured, celebrated site of the Unova region, especially of the opposition; a representation, perhaps foremost, of establishment thought, power, and policies, which by this alone made the location valuable to Team Plasma.

There were only two routes leading to the Pokémon League: route 10, or route 23. The former led straight from their stronghold of Opelucid, hence Ghetsis thought it best to attack from that road.

The regional army, with Team Plasma bearing upon them, had retreated up to the mountainside of Victory Road. Several Voltorb, spherical Pokémon that looked very much like large Poké Balls, had been positioned by Team Plasma members about the wood bridge that traversed route 10.

"Explosion!" cried a soldier.

The Voltorb shook, letting loose electric arcs that culminated in a fiery detonation. The bridge fell into the river, while the blast resonated fearfully across the mountainside, causing rocks to crumble down in a landslide. When the dust had settled, the stones had decimated the distinctive columned gateway up to Victory Road; a loss to Unovan architecture, perhaps, but a gain to the Plasma forces, for now their enemies had no escape. Their options were ineffective safeguarding of the Pokémon League plateau, or flight into the winding river gorge of route 23.

The Voltorb, knocked out by their own power, were called into their Poke Balls, while the Plasma Frigate sallied onward for the final strike on the Pokémon League itself. Ghetsis' devious plot, disregarded by everyone in the early stages of nonprofit work, was now exposed to their helpless adversaries, who had allowed their complacency with the level of societal injustices to pervade even their handling of military defense. No matter who did what anymore, the rise of Team Plasma was unstoppable and the conquest of the planet attainable.

It was indeed Ghetsis' perfect revenge, yet the full terrible scope of it was still to be realized.

Team Plasma's advancement on the Pokémon League was not witnessed by N or Shauntal, who were talking in the vestiges of the castle, unapprised to the events above ground; when a man ran into the throne room. He wore a smoking-jacket with red accents and was about his 30's; with dark blue hair, pale blue eyes, accompanied by an Umbreon.

"Grimsley," Shauntal greeted her colleague.

Grimsley had a worried expression. "Team Plasma is attacking the League."


"We've got to leave," Grimsley told them. "Caitlin used her psychic type Pokémon to teleport herself away along with Marshal. I came to find you." He took notice of N. "Aren't you...?"

"He's not with the Plasma army anymore," said Shauntal.

Before anyone could respond, there was a booming sound; gravel rained down on them from the remnants of the castle roof.

Reshiram gave a low roar.

"Kyurem is near?" N asked his Pokémon, who growled again.

No further sound could be perceived from the outside.

"It has become colder," Shauntal whispered, gazing up at the ceiling.

"Probably they've frozen above ground," Grimsley replied. "Shauntal, we narrowly escaped execution last time, but they will be more efficient if they take us captive again. We must flee."

"To where?" Shauntal asked.

The dragon, Reshiram, gave a cry. N glanced at it, then turned to the two Elite Four members. "We can fly you to safety," he offered.

They agreed, but soon discovered that the way they had entered Victory Road was ice-covered, sealing them into the decimated castle underneath the mountain ground.

"I am not aware of another way out of here," Shauntal said.

Reshiram outstretched its great wings; its feathers shone orange as a burst of warmth came from the dragon Pokémon. The ice began to thaw instantly.

"They say the ice is impossible to melt!" marveled Grimsley.

"Not for Reshiram," N told them, with pride.

They clambered onto the dragon's back and with a cry the creature threw itself into the winds, away from the perils of that area's combat.

Cold rain was showering down as they came presently to Mistralton City. "This is probably the best place for you to be," said N. "From the airport here, you can get anywhere else you wish, or leave the region."

"You could thaw all the frozen cities," Grimsley told N. "You could turn the tide of the war."

N shook his head; his solitary reply was, "I like to think of all Pokémon as my friends, which is my interest in Team Plasma's war. I must protect the very friend I have to stop. Besides, I like Unova and... there's a trainer who must be told how much I care about her."

He got back onto his dragon, Reshiram, and flew off.

Shauntal watched him depart, and as she did, she spoke contemplatively to herself:

"Eyes brimming with dark flame, this man rejected everything other than himself in order to bring about one singular justice..."

"Well, I see your writer's block is over. Is that the premise for your next novel?" Grimsley pried.

"An idea. Inspiration, maybe," Shauntal seemed pensive. "I believe it might be an apt description for someone – whether that is N, or his adoptive father. ...Isn't it striking how much they resemble one another?"

Hours later, the Plasma Frigate had been moored near the Seaside Cave, located close to Undella Town.

Ghetsis had gone to Colress' laboratory to see what progress had been made in the research; in fact, he had also gone to try out the Pokémon control invention, something that had become regular for him. This particular day, the scientist had news.

"I extracted DNA from some fossils," he said. "The bird Pokémon is an Archen, and the water type is a Tirtouga."

Archen was pecking at the glass. Tirtouga was less brave and was huddled to the back of the enclosure, although it seemed ready to defend itself from any perceived attack.

Colress handed the Colress Machine to Ghetsis and said, "Since you've been coming to the laboratory to practice, I've been seeing improvement in your use of the gadget."

Ghetsis pointed the Colress Machine at the bird Pokémon and pressed the button on it.

Archen stopped pecking at the glass and focused its attention on Ghetsis and the device.

"Archen, relax!" he said.

The bird's gaze became blank and unblinking. It did not turn away from Ghetsis.

"Archen..." Ghetsis paused and then ordered, "Acrobatics."

The bird let out a caw and fluttered up; flipping and twisting in mid-air, it lashed out with its talons before giving a little bound to come to rest on the floor. The Tirtouga was staring at it incredulously.

"Now, Dragon Claw," he ordered, a small smile on his face.

Archen spread its wings, and with the small claws protruding from the tips swiped at the glass. A flare of energy flashed from them.

"You're learning quite fast how to keep the depth of the trance," Colress evaluated.

"It seems to come naturally to me," Ghetsis noticed.

The scientist wrote something down in his notes and then said, "Let's see if you can handle two subjects at once."

Ghetsis turned the device on the Tirtouga and focused his gaze on it, but as the water Pokémon began looking entranced Archen suddenly awoke and looked around in shock.

"That is more difficult," the scientist acknowledged, "but if you can manage one subject then learning how to control multiple simultaneously should follow soon."

At that moment, Zinzolin arrived. He stood at the door leading to the laboratory and knocked on it twice to signal his presence.

"Come in Zinzolin," ordered Ghetsis, "What news have you of our endeavors?"

"Fighting rages on to capture Lacunosa Town, as well as at Village Bridge." Zinzolin stated, getting straight to the point.

"Very well," said Ghetsis, "Just because a city has walls surrounding it doesn't mean it is impenetrable. Have you discovered what happened to the other Sages?"

Zinzolin took a deep breath and then put forth, "There are several issues regarding the Sages."

"Proceed," Ghetsis commanded.

"Yes, Lord Ghetsis," replied Zinzolin, then began his report. "Rood, as you know, is a traitor to Team Plasma; he has established headquarters in Driftveil City together with a group of betrayers. Gorm and Giallo have both defected to him."

"What about Bronius?" asked Ghetsis.

"Bronius was captured at Mistralton Airport while trying to flee to another region."

"Serves him for his cowardice," declared Ghetsis.

"Ryoku, meanwhile, felt the way we are bringing out Kyurem's power is inhumane and sought a more independent plan. He and his battalion set out to capture the Victini that makes its nest on the lighthouse off the coast of Castelia City.

"That is an excursion into territory we do not yet control." Ghetsis observed.

"He wanted to surprise you with the Pokémon... no doubt he thinks he might rise in the ranks, somewhat," said Zinzolin with a frown.

Colress adjusted his eyeglasses and spoke up, "Victini is said to increase the energy of those it surrounds, but despite what Ryoku has insisted about, the Pokémon cannot approach the statistical increases we have achieved with our technology."

Zinzolin interrupted, adding, "Mythology says the person who possesses a Victini will be victorious in battle."

This last statement by Zinzolin mildly piqued the interest of Ghetsis. "Has the myth any truth to it?"

"Methinks not. He and his whole battalion was captured while attempting to leave the island, with Victini." Zinzolin informed him.

"He was always an inefficient excuse for a general," scowled Ghetsis.

"Then, Lord Ghetsis," added Colress, "the solely remaining Seven Sages are you and Zinzolin."

There was silence for a moment, and it stretched into an entire minute while the three men thought about this point. Finally, Ghetsis broke the silence saying, "We do better without the inefficiency of those that stand in our way."

"Yes, Lord Ghetsis," said Zinzolin bowing. As he did so, Colress noticed a slight smirk on his face, and though he said nothing, it had not escaped Ghetsis.

"Something amuses you about that?" asked the Plasma leader looking at the Sage directly.

Zinzolin was caught unprepared for this question, indeed he had not intended for his satisfied expression to be noticed.

"No... Ghetsis... Of course not," he stammered, then added, "I was just... thinking about what intricate plan you would design to get revenge for their betrayal."

"That answer shows quick thinking," analyzed Colress seriously, "Interesting. I didn't think you held that skill," he added.

"Let me tell you what I think about you... scientist!" answered Zinzolin angrily, but before he could say more, Ghetsis intervened.

"Enough!" the Team Plasma leader shouted.

The two men stopped talking and Ghetsis took control of the conversation once again.

"I shall be in my office, planning our next move. Zinzolin, find something useful to do. Colress, as usual I leave you to your research."

Both men bowed and Zinzolin left the room. Ghetsis followed him out and Colress was left to ponder the events that had just occurred.

Chapter 39 - Capture of a walled town

The following day dawned with good weather yet still a military stalemate in the matter of Lacunosa Town. The two factions faced each other resolutely; Team Plasma outside the township's walls, the regional warriors within.

Ghetsis called Colress and Zinzolin to his office to strategize. The regional forces were quite inadequate in their warfare maneuvers, yet here they were formidable, for the town's walls kept them in possession of Lacunosa and Ghetsis was reluctant to freeze the town and invade from above just yet. In many ways he was toying with the enemy army like a Meowth pawing at a Rattata's hole, unnerving them ever so much while keeping just out of reach of being bitten himself.

"Zinzolin, you have ties to Lacunosa," said Ghetsis. "What useful thing can you tell me about it?"

"The townspeople of Lacunosa care little who rules them," explained Zinzolin, "so long as they can continue their clockwork, day-to-day lives. But the regional forces know that Lacunosa Town is one of the few population sites they can hold, being a walled fortress...not to mention they have opposition aid at the ready."

"From where?"

Colress answered this. "The neighboring town of Village Bridge. The residents are mostly against Team Plasma," he added, "We do have support there, but the political volatility is so much that Team Plasma supporters who dwell in Village Bridge try to keep their allegiance concealed."

"Many of the Team Plasma opposition from Village Bridge have joined the regional forces in driving our army away from Lacunosa," Zinzolin interjected, and addressing Ghetsis added, "They call you evil incarnate and say they won't be ruled by a sadist with no respect for just and established law, who craves power for power's sake."

Ghetsis' face was contorted with such ire at this, Zinzolin shrank back.

"Cut off their means for survival...Have them beg for mercy!" Ghetsis slammed his staff on the ground.

"I would appreciate it, Lord Ghetsis, if I might investigate myself behind enemy lines, to scout out the territory outlying Village Bridge and Lacunosa Town," said Colress, trying to defuse the situation.

"That is a hazardous incursion, Dr. Colress," Ghetsis remarked, "especially for the sovereign of the new Team Plasma."

"I'm quite capable of my defense. I have my Colress Machine," the scientist added with a smile.

"Very well, doctor," relented Ghetsis, "but take every precaution requirable. If I do not hear back from you by nightfall, the Unova region will not have a Village Bridge township by sunrise." The eagerness to bombard the place was plain.

Colress dipped his head and walked out of the office.

"Unfortunately, this leaves the helm of the Plasma Frigate in your questionable command, Zinzolin," Ghetsis turned to his top general with a scowl, yet Zinzolin's delight was unabated.

Hilda arrived at route 13 by afternoon. She had come to a field, with stones and boulders strewn about that were large enough to be pushed by a Pokémon; it seemed a structure of some kind had once stood here, as could be insinuated by what seemed to be the remnants of a floor, although it was swiftly being overtaken by the grass, and now hidden by the ice that had spread out from Undella. A garden had also once been here; the field was overgrown with a variety of Pansy flowers, which now somehow stubbornly survived amidst a landscape thrust into early winter.

"I wonder what happened here, long ago...?" Hilda speculated, picking a flower.

She didn't have to wait more than a few minutes before she saw Team Plasma's scientist walking towards her. He had his hands in the pockets of his lab coat, and seemed nonchalant.

"Good to see you again," Colress said to her.

Hilda wasn't sure whether he was sincere or sarcastic in this. The Plasma Frigate was nowhere to be seen, though, and it looked as if Colress had come alone. "Why did you want to see me?" she demanded.

"I would like to study Zekrom," he said, straightforwardly. "In return, I'll tell you where the Plasma Frigate is being moored."

Hilda hesitated. "You'd tell me the location of the Plasma Frigate?"

"Why not? If you try to stop Team Plasma, I can observe how your Pokémon fare in battle against their mistreated Pokémon. I can also see the responses of both sides, as trainers."

Hilda looked unconvinced, as she sought what could be the true intent behind the scientist's unusual proposition. Colress elaborated, "I don't care whether your methods, or Team Plasma's approach, for raising Pokémon is supposed to be right or wrong. What I'm interested in, is seeing which one brings out the overall potential of the Pokémon in the end."

"On no occasion did you strike me as being very political," she yielded, "even though I learned you had been appointed Ghetsis' deputy. It is entirely reasonable to me that Ghetsis would wish to have the new monarch be someone who did not hold any steadfast political beliefs, so that he could rule behind-the-scenes as he saw fit. That is what he wanted of N."

She studied the scientist before adding:

"Don't you cringe, just a little, at the thought of aiding Ghetsis? ...someone who ordered the execution of his own son?"

Colress did not answer this directly. He knew that N was alive, but it seemed to him that the revelation or concealment of this to Hilda might be more important to Ghetsis than any other information – it was a family concern – so he replied circumspectly, "I'll do whatever the furtherance of my scientific studies demand."

"I've heard some saying that Team Plasma's war might be the destruction of the planet," said Hilda with a sigh.

"The destruction of a way of living, perhaps," speculated Colress, not without some tinge of remorse, "Certainly of the innocence that centuries without war have bestowed upon humanity. Nonetheless this time in history, while unpropitious for society, is excellent for science."

"How can you say such a thing?!" Hilda exclaimed.

Colress was nonchalant. "If one looks at the contemporary situation in a detached manner, then one sees the potential it brings. Much advancement in science comes from discoveries made in wartime, from both warring parties; discoveries that otherwise would not have been financed."

"Maybe so, Dr. Colress, but many people will have to die for it."

"The cruel evitability of war," he acknowledged. "We might find hours of philosophy in this topic but time will not permit us now. I am more interested in your response to my proposition. May I have a look at your Pokémon?"

"Yes," accepted Hilda.

They wandered some distance from the meadow to hillsides overlooking the bay, where Hilda sent out the legendary dragon. It emerged from its Poké Ball with a roar.

"We're going to help Dr. Colress out with his research, Zekrom," said Hilda, and the dragon gave a cheerful growl of reply.

"I will not attempt to battle Zekrom," the scientist explained, "it is of a level that surpasses my pets. I'd like to measure its potential another way. Could you direct Zekrom to launch its strongest electrical attack towards the boulders?"

"Zekrom, Fusion Bolt," ordered Hilda.

They proceeded in this manner for about half-an-hour, with Colress measuring the legendary Pokémon's strength and diligently taking notes. When he was satisfied with the information he had learnt, he told Hilda where the ship was.

"The Plasma Frigate is being docked at two locales," Colress explained. "One is beside the Seaside Cave, where we can view the coastline. The other is at the Giant Chasm, which is more secluded and presumably away from the enemy...though not for long. You will probably forward this information."

"Which is probably what you and the rest of Team Plasma want, for some reason," Hilda said. "I should think you have a trap set for the opposition forces."

"Hardly," dismissed Colress. "Ghetsis has no knowledge of my meeting with you. That said, he is eagerly awaiting your attempt to strike."

The whole thing was mystifying to Hilda.

The scientist inquired, "You have met two friends of mine, haven't you? Rosa and Hugh."

Hilda contemplated this for a moment. "I met them at the Dreamyard. Hugh challenged me to a Pokémon battle there, though we did not finish the competition."

"I have not heard of them since the siege at Opelucid," Colress was unusually somber; Hilda could tell he cared about them, but she had no information to allay his worries.

"I'm sorry. The last I saw of them was at the Pokémon World Tournament, a day before Opelucid's freezing," Hilda said honestly.

"Rosa had a very strong Liepard," deliberated Colress, "So perhaps they are well."

"How is it that the war has made otherwise small pieces of information, such as the simplicity of knowing how one's friends are doing, hard-to-obtain commodities?" Hilda pondered.

"Hard to convey, as well," concurred Colress. "Where will you go now, Hilda?"

"I plan to remain for the time in Humilau City," replied Hilda, "Professor Juniper was here studying the Corsola that live in the seawater. She was outside when the regional forces and Team Plasma's opposition tried to recapture Humilau."

Colress was intrigued. "I know her from university. Is she all right?"

"She's hurt, but not severely. She is at the Humilau City hospital, recovering from her injuries," she said, then added in noticeable frustration, "All that and the city still is held by Team Plasma! What a terrible waste war can be. If I had gotten to Humilau earlier I could have joined the conflict," Hilda lamented, but Colress was dissuading.

"Perhaps it is best you did not. It is my hypothesis that Zekrom is being drawn to the Frigate."


"That is a military secret that I am certain Ghetsis would not wish divulged," said Colress, adjusting his eyeglasses.

The whereabouts of the Team Plasma warship seemed to Hilda to be a much more important secret, one that the scientist had no qualms about divulging, but she did not pursue the issue.

"Ghetsis wishes to seize Zekrom for Team Plasma's use," added the scientist, "If you approach the Frigate, be advised of that."

"Does it somehow concern the ice cannon?"

"I devised the weaponry, following Ghetsis' vision. But I do not feel I ought to say more, yet. I am a Team Plasma member; to disclose this information at the moment would be treacherous. I only insist there is something Team Plasma holds that attracts the legendary dragons to us."

Hilda finally could not resist her curiosity. "You claim you wish to preserve Team Plasma's military secrets, yet you easily make known the location of the Plasma Frigate. How are you determining what to tell me and what to consider as top-secret?"

"By whether it furthers my research," he said plainly.

Adjusting his eyeglasses again with a sneaky smile, the scientist walked away.

It was that evening when Lacunosa Town fell to Team Plasma.

Zinzolin had commanded the incursion, and now gleefully recounted to Ghetsis the results. "The people of Lacunosa themselves overtook the regional forces and submitted to Team Plasma's reign. The opposition fled back to Village Bridge, where we have them surrounded."

Ghetsis looked fascinated. "Sage Zinzolin, I am astonished at your sudden display of competency, but nonetheless happy at your accomplishment. How did you achieve this glorious triumph over our enemies?"

"I froze the reservoir that supplied them with water," he said proudly.

Ghetsis faced him with his violet, one-eyed stare in total silence, and something told Zinzolin he had made a mistake.

"Zinzolin... The reservoir supplied Lacunosa Town with water. But we collected water from there too."

Zinzolin was stammering and trying futilely to justify his ill-judged military move, when a Team Plasma minion walked into the office and saluted Ghetsis. He had a Pidgey sitting on his shoulder, and he presented the bird Pokémon to Ghetsis. The Pidgey bore a written note, which was deposited on the desk before the Team Plasma leader.

Ghetsis studied the note only briefly, then placed it in a drawer of his desk and dismissed the soldier and the Pidgey with a short wave.

"Zinzolin...I shall overlook your disobedience and insubordination. The success is indisputable and Lacunosa Town is a valuable acquisition strategically; indeed, perhaps the value of the reservoir." Ghetsis decided. "We'll simply raid another town and take over their water supply."

Zinzolin, who had been anticipating the worst, was gratifyingly surprised at the Team Plasma leader's swift acceptance and even exculpation of his actions.

"You however," added Ghetsis, more sternly, "will be the one who announces to the army that water is hereby rationed."

Zinzolin squirmed in mild worry, but bowed and left.

Ghetsis now retrieved the note he had placed in the drawer. He read the letter again, studiously, then looked at the door Zinzolin had gone out.

A slight smirk crossed Ghetsis' face and he returned the note to the desk drawer.

Chapter 40 - Behind enemy lines

Warm morning sunlight struck the waterfall on route 11, shimmering beautifully as the water tumbled down the cliffside. The route was partially ice-covered, yet the stream had been spared and the forest animals were thankful.

N flew by on Reshiram, and they landed gracefully atop the cascade. Zorua gave a cheery yap as she leapt down from the dragon's back and scampered over to the creek to lap up some of the icy-cold water.

N addressed the dragon. "Stay here, Reshiram. We'll head to the closest town to get some supplies."

The legendary Pokémon gave an affirming growl.

The town of Village Bridge was nearest, and it was not yet occupied by Team Plasma. The quaint houses atop the cobblestone bridge, supported by brown brick that had withstood countless years of wind and rain, looked idyllic to the traveler and in times of peace was viewed rightly as a place of welcome respite betwixt two long and hilly routes. The bridge with its little township was old enough to have stood at the time of the first war, the one that founded found it peculiar that a structure such as this should have lasted long enough to see war on their planet again.

N and Zorua wandered into a mart, where the shopkeeper was friendly but apologetic. "We don't have many supplies," he said. "Village Bridge is on the brink of being invaded by Team Plasma. Most provisions such as food or potions are sold out. Did you fly here on a Pokémon?"

"Yes," said N.

"Well," the shopkeeper replied, "The best advice I can give is to fly to any place beyond the Tubeline Bridge. I would have myself, but my sole Pokémon is Stoutland." He motioned to the dog, which hearing its name, padded over with a wagging tail. N petted it on the head and Stoutland gave a bark.

The shopkeeper added, "I have heard that Team Plasma allow people who join their ranks to keep their Pokémon, at least."

N left the mart, and while walking along a grassy location adjoining the bridge, Zorua was yapping. "I know, Zorua... such a tranquil place, scarcely seems like it would be caught amidst battle," replied N.

His blue eyes caught sight of a Sitrus berry tree, and Zorua gave a sharp yap. The tree was large with beautiful foliage, and N could see its branches were heavy with delicious, yellow speckled berries.

"Yes, at least we can gather some of the berries," N agreed, and Zorua licked her lips.

They approached only to notice there was a wounded Pokémon lying in the shade of the tree. It was a Braviary with an outstretched wing.

N started towards the eagle, but it screeched at them. "Don't come closer, or I'll fight!"

"I won't if you don't want me to, but you're hurt," N replied.

The Braviary seemed to be surprised by him. "You're human – yet you hear my voice?"

"I can hear the voices of all Pokémon," N explained.

Zorua chimed in. "My trainer doesn't want to battle you. We want to help."

"My nest was along route 11," the eagle explained, "but there was an explosion which destroyed it. That's how my wing got hurt. I was able to fly here, away from the fighting humans, but I'm too weak to go further."

"You're a wild Pokémon, then?" N asked.

The Braviary readily responded in the affirmative, and N seemed distressed by the notion.

"This is the terrible consequence of this war," he lamented. "Innocent Pokémon getting caught in the crossfire."

N examined the Braviary's wings and looked about for something that could help, finally spotting a smaller variety of berry tree a few paces away.

"The salve from those Rawst Berries can heal your burn," he said, and walked over to gather them.

The scrawny tree was growing tenaciously beside the bridge. As N collected the little green berries, he could hear people nearby discussing something of political issues. He peered under the bridge to find part of the brown brick which supported the historical span had actually deteriorated to open a crevice easily wide enough for a man to enter; this led into a grey chamber, sheltered from the elements. Three members of Team Plasma's opposition – soon to be the underground, when the town was taken – were meeting here.

"Team Plasma will scatter without a leader. There's already a rift in their organization because of who Ghetsis appointed for his deputy."

"If we strike down Ghetsis, then the might of the Plasma militia will fall without difficulty."

"We merely must determine where they have their warship moored..."

One of their Pokémon, a Zangoose, growled, and they were alerted to N. He was recognized swiftly. "He's Ghetsis' son; the person they wanted to appoint as king...!"

"Get him!"

N whipped around and ran, yet he and Zorua soon were cornered by the men at a fence. They were now confronted with a triple battle against Electabuzz, Zangoose, and Golduck.

"No! We don't want to fight anyone," N maintained desperately.

Zangoose pounced at him with its long claws; he narrowly ducked out of the way.

Zorua, with a leap, let loose a dazzling violet light that thrust the enemy Pokémon backwards. "Zorua!" N protested.

Zorua gave a bark. "If we don't fight, we will die!" She sprang at the electric type Electabuzz with a Fury Swipes attack. The large, opposing Pokémon was made to step back, but it held up sturdily against the fox's sharp claws.

"That's not working well," N insisted; without scarcely realizing when, he discovered he was directing her attacks, just as any other Pokémon trainer. "Try Night Daze again!"

With N's direction, the low-level Zorua began actually getting their adversaries on the defensive. They held their ground well in battle; Zorua dodging the attacks adroitly, striking with its own, a team of strength and strategy, of animal and human, known to mankind of that world since time immemorial. When he had battled with Reshiram at the castle, it had been through obligation, and accordingly he had gone through the motions with cognizance that it would be the last, or one of the last, of the battles that hurt Pokémon so; he had not paid heed to the subtleties, how Pokémon fought better under human guidance, how the creatures seemed to crave combat and wanted to do their best for their human companions. This must be what Hilda meant about Pokémon battles being a partnership, N thought.

Unfortunately, Zorua was under-leveled by lack of training, and its eagerness could not compensate for it; it had subsisted in the fight so long for its evasion.

"Electabuzz, Swift!" This was a sure-hit move; the little Pokémon yelped as it was struck. Zorua fell, knocked out.

"Zorua!" N exclaimed.

He collected the fox, which gave a weakened growl. The opposition group menacingly stepped towards him, and N turned to face them.

"You must know where the Plasma Frigate is."

"Ghetsis is my father," said N. "Besides that, I don't know where the ship is. I'm not a member of Team Plasma anymore."

"You are," countered an opposition member. "All that talk about you abdicating is nonsense."

"We'll force you to tell us where the Frigate is," sneered one of the others.

N tried to flee with the little fox Pokémon, but they were overtaken. "Zangoose, Slash!"

N gasped as he felt the creature's claws strike his back and he fell to the ground, dropping Zorua.

He was now surrounded by his enemies, and their Pokémon. One of the trainers ordered, "Golduck, Wonder Room!"

N was suddenly pinned by a force of energy, which held him as if he was physically bound. It recollected the nightmare he had some time ago, where he was strapped down to a table somewhere on the Frigate; this called forth the same foreboding feeling, that some horrendous thing was to be inflicted on him. He could not move.

"Discharge, Electabuzz!" one of the trainers ordered.

The Pokémon unleashed a volley of electric arcs. N could not hold back a scream of pain when they hit; it was searing, impaling agony, that raced down his back and caused him to clench his fists. When the pain receded, the aftereffects left him trembling.

"Where is the Plasma Frigate?" demanded one of them.

"Tell us!" insisted the other.

"I really do not know!" N entreated.

He broke off with a pained cry when the electricity coursed through him again.

Braviary, too weak to fight, would not sit by at this cruelty being done to its newfound friend; it was screeching at N's enemies. "Electabuzz...get that damn bird to stop that racket," snapped the electric type's trainer.

One of the electric attacks was shot towards the Braviary. The bird gave a caw and fainted.

N could not believe their callousness, and fury overcame fear. "You're little more than debris. I don't side with Team Plasma anymore...but I hope they get ahold of you."

"You will tell us where the Frigate is moored, for your own good...or else you'll fry!" his torturers laughed.

This laughter cut off when electricity shot forth to strike one of them; they turned to see who had dared interfere in the proceedings. The man was wearing a large cloak, his face hidden by the hood; the electric shock had been unleashed by his Pokémon, Klinklang, which floated beside its trainer. The newcomer addressed the party.

"The dissent says Team Plasma is the side committing atrocities. To see how you carry on, I disagree."

"Who might you be, hood-man? Some Plasma sympathizer, no doubt."

He pulled the cloak off; he was instantly recognizable to them, by means of their assiduous involvement with the opposition. The slim physique, calculating amber eyes framed by spectacles, blond hair with the blue streak combed back, wearing a lab coat loosely over a black, blue-accented suit...

"The Dark Scientist!"

"Golduck, get him! Wonder Room!"

"Autotomize, Klinklang." He leapt onto the creature, which spun upwards, narrowly evading their enemies' attack.

"There's no running from a trainer battle, you coward," one of them called.

"True," acknowledged Colress, "but people like you don't deserve to be called trainers. Nor is there anything worthwhile to be gained from battling you."

He pulled the Colress Machine out from his lab coat, and pointed this directly at the opponent Pokémon.

"Relax," he said calmly; the Pokémon stared at him.

The opposition members laughed. "They're our Pokémon – they'll never listen to you!"

"About-face!" He snapped his fingers. The creatures whipped around to face their owners, who were visibly frightened.

"Return!" they cried as the snarling creatures were brought into their Poké Balls.

Without Pokémon who would obey their commands, they were effectively disarmed; they faced total defeat against Colress, who floated above them atop Klinklang.

The scientist spoke, adjusting his eyeglasses. "You are fortunate it was not Lord Ghetsis who happened upon you, treating his son in such a way. He would think of an imaginative punishment, I'm sure."

"What do you intend to do?" challenged one of the opposition members.

"You must know where the head of the opposition is," Colress said, lifting his hand to issue another order to his Pokémon.

The opposition members ran off as fast as they could; terror in their eyes. He watched them leave, and then walked over to N.

"Are you hurt, much?" the scientist asked the young king.

"A bit...but I will recover," answered N. "I'm concerned about Zorua...Braviary..."

"They can be healed easily; their injuries do not surpass those of a regular Pokémon battle," noted Colress, "You are in worse condition, N."

Rustling in the grass made them glance up. It was Meowth.

"I saw the whole thing. Those humans really won't take no for an answer," meowed the cat Pokémon.

"Meowth," said the scientist. "I didn't expect to find you in this area of Unova. Are Jessie and James here too?"

"Yes," affirmed Meowth. "I guess you won't be going to the Frigate for medical treatment?"

Colress hesitated, then turned to N. "If we did, your father would likely wish to know where you have the legendary Pokémon hidden," he said.

N cast his eyes to the ground; he felt too injured to talk, let alone acknowledge this sad situation.

Meowth swished his tail. "If you stay out here, you'll be in danger! Come on, you'll be safe in our encampment." With that, Meowth led the way.

Chapter 41 - Equality

They were brought to a thicket on the opposing side of the bridge, where Team Rocket had made camp.

It was the first time Colress had seen James and Jessie in their uniforms; the trim white attire of Team Rocket's elite agents, paired with boots and gloves of black patent leather, and carrying coiled whips on their belts besides Poké Balls – presumably it was their very last line of defense, Colress considered. He had heard the lesser members wore black with grey accents.

A soft bed was arranged out of the moss and leaves; N was placed here. He lay down, wincing at the pain from his injuries.

"What happened?" James asked.

"They were hurt by Team Plasma's opposition," explained Meowth.

Jessie evaluated the situation swiftly. "We've got to get a medic to take a look at him."

While the scientist healed the animals, the two Team Rocket members left. They returned shortly with a nurse.

"Thank you," said N as she tended to his injuries.

"At your service, your majesty," she replied genuinely.

"I'm curious...are you a Team Plasma member?" he queried.

"I have a son in the Team Plasma army," she explained, with a smile. "He's stationed aboard the Frigate."

"Yet it was Jessie and James who fetched you," N noted.

She explained further, with another small smile. "I have a daughter who resides in the Kanto region. She's a Team Rocket agent."

As the nurse left, Meowth purred, "She lives here, on one of the houses along the bridge. Very nice lady. She always has a saucer of cream for us when we pass by."

"Thank you for helping us," Colress addressed the Team Rocket trio.

"Always happy to help a friend, Dr. Colress!" declared the cat Meowth.

"I'm glad that the three of you were in the area," said Colress. He considered this momentarily, adjusting his eyeglasses. "What are you doing here?"

"Team Rocket business," Meowth purred.

"Giovanni wanted us to see how life was in occupied Unova," James elucidated.

"Though this is disputed territory, on the point of being occupied," Colress mentioned, "You're in the center of the war."

"We'll stay far away from the Hyper Beams; don't worry about us," replied Jessie assuredly, without addressing the discrepancy.

Zorua scampered over to N; he smiled, petting the fox. "You're feeling better, too, Zorua?" he asked.

Zorua yapped in cheery response. Braviary, who had made a small nest on the side from what twigs it could find in the grass, raised its now-healed wings with a joyous cry.

N turned to the scientist and expressed his gratitude, "Thank you especially, Dr. Colress, for rescuing us. We might've been killed if it wasn't for you. Moreover... I'm sorry I was so offended by your research. You saved our lives without harming those Pokémon, who were really not at fault for what their humans ordered."

"That's quite all right, N. We heard that you had fled to the Johto region," said the scientist, nonjudgmentally. "Why did you return to Unova? The civil war is becoming more savage with each passing day."

N was quiet for a moment; finally, he asked straightforwardly:

"Does Team Plasma have Kyurem?"

When the scientist did not reply, N persisted.

"Reshiram told me of Kyurem. Colress, if you're using him for an experiment, you've got to let him go."

"It's the decision of Lord Ghetsis, your father, whether to free the legendary dragon. He feels the Pokémon is indispensable to Team Plasma's war stratagem."

"I saw that... when we flew over Opelucid," N's countenance betrayed his despondency.

The scientist sighed, appearing to take pity; whether this was for him, or the Pokémon, or both, N could not discern straightaway. Colress asked:

"Why do you say that Kyurem should be released?"

"He's suffering."

"We are at war, N. Pokémon and people alike are suffering."

"Needlessly," N sighed, adding, "The entire war, itself, is futile."

"I agree," said Colress, most unexpectedly to N.

Without saying more, the scientist strolled out of the thicket.

Meowth mewed at N. "You'd better get some rest."

When N felt stronger, he wandered outside. He found Meowth perched on a rock, grooming beside the river and looking out at the bridge.

"To think that all this place is going to end up either frozen or destroyed before long," mused the cat Pokémon.

"Unova will never be the same," N sighed.

"Sad but so," Meowth squinted his eyes as he philosophized over this. "Then again, the ancient peoples – of several regions – probably said something similar back in their day. The regions all recovered eventually."

Meowth seemed to have more wisdom than the Sages did, N deliberated to himself; the creature's opinions were not pretentious, nor politically manipulated. Perhaps it was something rare amongst humans, but commonplace amongst Pokémon. Pokémon were universally honest.

"Meowth?" N spoke. "May I ask you a question?

"Ask away," purred Meowth.

"Why do you speak human language? Pokémon language is most beautiful."

Meowth stared at him for a moment thoughtfully and finally he spoke:

"I'm from Unova, did you know?"

"I didn't," N rejoined with interest.

"Virbank City," purred Meowth. "I hatched in the Virbank Complex, the oil refinery that neighbors the city. It's by the riverside; by night the towers and tanks are lit up, so many people go there because they find the ambiance attractive. One day, they had placed a large cinema sheet up there to see a motion picture, recently made by Poké-star Studios, under the night sky. In the film, the lead character had a Meowth for a pet. I was taken by the glamour of what I saw. This was the fate of Pokémon who joined humans in the film industry: I knew Poké-star Studios was located opposite of Virbank, so I found my way to the place. I figured with a bit of diligent purring...some wide-eyed looks, maybe some human there would take me in. I'd have it made."

"I never imagined a Pokémon would want to be caught."

"Virbank is not for wild Pokémon. Hunting is bad; there aren't even berry trees; the best you can hope is making off with someone's leftovers or raiding the butcher shop. The butcher there has a high-level Growlithe, incidentally," Meowth flattened his ears.

N silently wondered if there were other wild animals like Meowth, who wished to live amongst humans for convenience; this viewpoint, like so much else, had been unheard to him.

Meowth lashed his tail from side to side. "Poké-star Studios had its share of Pokémon actors already, mostly those who knew attacks relevant to the film plot-lines. What happened instead was I fell in acquaintance with a girl Meowth."

Meowth's eyes still shone at the reminiscence.

"Her name was Meowzie. Sweet, beautiful Meowzie; with eyes that sparkled like a jewel."

N said, "You speak as if... you loved her."

The cat didn't answer this point directly; instead he went on with his story. "She wasn't impressed by a stray Meowth. She cared for nothing except finery, and in order to see her eyes sparkle so beautifully it was fairly certain the object of her attraction was some expensive material item. But she was impressed by humans; humans, who could bestow all these luxurious things on her. So, then and there, I decided I would do my best to win her heart by becoming as much like them as felinely possible. I would learn human language, learn to walk on my hind paws, learn the nuances and comportment of human society, all for Meowzie."

"What happened?"

"She hissed at me and called me a freak."

The words stung at N. He remembered the words being thrown at him also. Meowth snarled:

"I'd show her, I thought. I'd become the richest, most powerful freak she'd ever seen, and she'd come back wishing for my love. That's when I joined Team Rocket."

N gazed out at the soon-to-be shattered peace of Village Bridge before speaking, a bit sadly. "Do you think we are freaks?"

"I think everyone else is jealous," considered Meowth.

N thought about this as Meowth continued telling his personal anecdote.

"I found my way on a ship to the Kanto region, travelled all the way to Viridian from the Vermillion seaport... At first Giovanni didn't quite know what to do with me. I snuck into his office, and cajoled him into making me a Team Rocket agent. The most elite members of Team Rocket are paired up, with each duo assigned a Pokémon," Meowth added, "We get to act as part of his personal security half of the time."

N laughed. "What about Meowzie?"

Meowth shook his head saying, "She never wanted me... but it wasn't a total loss. I met my friends, James and Jessie."

"That's what matters in the end," N agreed, "People that really care about you."

There was still a question nagging at N, and Meowth could tell. The cat finally prompted him:

"There's something else you want to know."

N relented. "Don't you feel awkward about being the Pokémon assigned to them?"

"How do you mean?"

"Well, you're the sidekick."

"Hardly! We're equals," the cat purred.

With a good-natured swish of his tail, the Pokémon sauntered off, leaving N with a smile on his face alongside renewed consideration of what parity between Pokémon and humans meant.

Colress returned to the Plasma Frigate in time to see Zinzolin giving a speech on the deck to the army.

"Water supplies must be rationed further, by the order of Lord Ghetsis Harmonia..."

There was a murmur amongst the minions. This was a tighter mandate than what had been levied prior; as Colress listened, it emerged that in his absence drinking water had been restricted, and now this was cut down even more to only one glass a day.

"We must all express our thanks to the supreme leader," Zinzolin finished his speech.

"For rationing the water?" someone queried.

"For still allowing us water," was Zinzolin's pointed retort.

The minions still looked unconvinced.

"For the revolution, compatriots," Zinzolin said staunchly, "We must all sacrifice."

"Even yourself, Sage Zinzolin?" a minion in the back piped up.

"Remember the four," the Sage snapped, which instantly quieted any expressions of doubt or dissent.

Colress spoke. "Rallying the troops, Sage Zinzolin?"

Zinzolin seemed to notice the scientist then as he glanced over. "You're back, I see," was his unadorned and frosty greeting.

"This," decided Colress, "validates the information I came into possession of during my travels about the besieged routes, which was that Team Plasma had captured Lacunosa Town by freezing the reservoir that provided them with water. I had initially thought the rumor farcical, as this is the same reservoir supplying us with water, but then I concluded it must have been Zinzolin's doing. Frankly Sage Zinzolin, I was surprised to see you had not been placed to firing squad for such an ill-conceived action," the scientist added casually.

"All hail Master Colress!" one minion shouted suddenly. "Plasmaaa!"

The cheer was taken up by the whole army. Zinzolin was seething mad but said nothing else as the scientist walked away.

Colress left the ship's deck after this and headed directly to the office of Lord Ghetsis, where he found him feeding the Hydreigon. The three-headed Pokémon gave a cry as he approached, and Ghetsis glanced over at the doorway.

"Ghetsis, I warned you about Zinzolin," Colress noted, good-naturedly.

"You have heard of his thoughtless strike, I see, as well as the ensuing consequences for us," Ghetsis scowled. "I was going to put a well-deserved end to Sage Zinzolin once and for all before our army but then I decided on a harsher punishment... one much more fitting, that I shall see dealt to him very soon."

The Team Plasma commander had a slight smirk on his face as he turned back to the Hydreigon. Colress waited only a moment for Ghetsis' elaboration, but it did not come forthwith.

"Dr. Colress, have you learnt anything of use to us while behind enemy lines?" Ghetsis inquired instead.

"I encountered your son, N, around Village Bridge," the scientist said.

Ghetsis faced him silently for a moment, yet when he spoke the civilities of inquiring into N's well-being were neglected; he only said, "Did he have the dragon with him?"

"No," answered Colress.

Chapter 42 - Gamble

It was not the first time Hugh and Rosa had come to Floccesy Town; their hometown of Aspertia was the next town over, at walking distance via route 19. Floccesy was a small municipality, mostly known to be a farming community, whose lone tourist attractions were its historical clock tower, located in the center of the town and hewn of red brick, and Pledge Grove, an outlying forest clearing with a great boulder bearing a gash said to have been made by legendary Pokémon.

The meeting of the opposition was to take place in Alder's residence. The Pokémon League Champion had become the opposition leader – unexpected to many as he fancied the relationship between people and Pokémon as being more of an open matter for each man to decide himself, yet he personally still held himself responsible for Team Plasma's rise and the ensuing atrocity of warfare in his absence from his League post. As the Champion, who was officially and prominently considered the strongest trainer in the Unova region, his leadership in the opposition was accepted readily by all those people of stature involved in the fight against Team Plasma. He was to them the perfect symbol of established values combined with humility, but he kept his location in Unova hidden, for if Team Plasma knew where it was, Floccesy would be prime for military strike. They knew the opposition's center of military operations was an enigma to Team Plasma's high echelon and, so long as Alder was hidden, they felt it was one of the few advantages that could be held to as they were weakening fast in all other respects of the war. This secluded place, far from the war-ravaged terrain and despite being Alder's hometown, was probably the least likely place that the enemy should envision.

Alder had, prior to becoming the League Champion, managed a trainer's school here in Floccesy, and the outside courtyard of his house still harkened to this. It was a dusty Pokémon training field, with battle lines demarcated on the ground, and wood benches on the sides near the fence for a small number of spectators.

The two siblings were lingering here until the meeting. Most of those who had come were already inside, but the weather held a soft breeze that tempered the warmth of summer, a nearby tree was laden with Oran berries to eat, and Liepard seemed inclined to play in the sunlight, so both Hugh and Rosa decided the day was too beautiful not to wait outside.

Hugh caught sight of Grimsley coming up the path, with his Umbreon trotting along beside him. The Elite Four member had also noticed them, and seemed to take interest in Liepard sprinting happily in the sunshine.

"Your Liepard is very fast," Grimsley mentioned. "It's a beautiful example of the species."

"Thank you. That's quite some praise," Rosa said, "from such a respected trainer of dark types."

Liepard seemed happy to be the center of attention and purred loudly.

"Mr. Grimsley Murgrove," Hugh gave a little dip of his head respectfully. "I would greatly appreciate it if you could give me some advice on how to make my Pokémon stronger."

"Hugh! You're imposing," Rosa protested.

Her brother was unrelenting, even though the request had surprised Grimsley.

"Grimsley – you're one of the Unova region's Elite Four! You must have a secret to winning Pokémon battles."

" about this," Grimsley decided. "I used to work as a casino dealer in Goldenrod City, off in the Johto region. Suppose we make sort of a game out of this. I'll tell you my secret...if you can defeat me in a Pokémon battle. But if I defeat you - you must relinquish something too. Something just as valuable as my secret to Pokémon battling."

Hugh wasted no time. "How about our map of the region? Maps are hard to come by nowadays, with the war ongoing, and they're indispensable to trainers like me looking for the best route to get to the next gym..."

Rosa was skeptical. "Hugh, you just said, he's one of the Elite Four and your Unfezant isn't as strong as you'd like... and you're going to give him our map?"

Liepard gave a hiss of support for Rosa's point.

Grimsley spoke up again. "It won't be as difficult as the Pokémon League finals. I won't use my full team of six Pokémon. I'll only use one – my Umbreon. That said, I agree the region's map would be vital, not just to a journeying Pokémon trainer but anyone in wartime, so I'll accept it as your wager."

"Deal," said Hugh.

Rosa shook her head disapprovingly, but she wandered over a distance with Liepard.

The battle was over much faster than Hugh had thought possible, to his embarrassment. It was noticeable that Grimsley was part of the Elite Four; he seemed to command a great skill in Pokémon battling technique, somehow anticipating where the strikes would fall from purely by Unfezant's flight and directing Umbreon accordingly.

Umbreon dodged every attack before leaping into the air and pinning down Unfezant with its forepaws. The bird squawked but could not rise.

Hugh handed over the map, which Grimsley opened, looked over once, and then handed back.

"I never intended to keep your map. I just was interested to see if you were someone of your word," Grimsley confessed. "In any case, I have no secret trick to winning Pokémon battles. I've always simply tried to treat my Pokémon as friends, and train as much as I can. It's something I feel I ought to do more often," he added, "I've been very busy lately and haven't had much time to interact with my animals other than feeding them. I've been trying to make up for that, and spend more time practicing with them...much like your sister."

Hugh glanced over; Rosa was tossing a toy for Liepard to chase.

"She's playing with Liepard," said Hugh.

"That might be so, but the play is also training. Liepard is practicing battle moves."

Grimsley bid farewell, and Hugh considered Liepard's movements closer. The cat leapt into the air, writhing about to seize the toy, then tossed it back up into the air and swatted it towards Rosa with its paws. Those movements, executed in battle, would be swift and powerful; Liepard also seemed to be enjoying itself playing with Rosa. Colress' research studies came to Hugh's mind: whether the bond between a trainer and their Pokémon had any effect upon the creature's power.

Grimsley strolled into Alder's residence to find that many people were milling about waiting for the meeting. Umbreon, which stood at his heels, looked up at him and gave a cry.

"Well, Umbreon, if I had to wager a guess at who lady luck favors most, I'd say it's the current Unovan regime," he murmured to his pet, "So we may as well cast our lot in with them."

His Pokémon flicked an ear in response.

The general feeling amongst the gathering was one of distaste, the sort of political rancor that finds vent in petty complaint and banter amongst the likeminded when their attempt to promote an ideology or a cause have fallen short. Despite Grimsley's wager, Ghetsis' military strategy left them in awe, and their military forces floundered helpless like a splashing Magikarp.

One conversation in the room piqued Grimsley's interest and he wandered towards it.

"I do not appreciate stubborn people." The speaker was Elesa, an acclaimed fashion designer and model who was also the gym leader of Nimbasa City – a specialist in electric type Pokémon. She was tall and lean, with long black hair that fell straightly and was styled into two thin ponytails. She wore a close-fitting yellow dress with stripes; one of the many fashions she herself had designed, and that had been inspired by her pet Zebstrika. She railed against Team Plasma's occupations, yet the sudden ice-bombardments deriving from their warfare was not too negative towards her business, though she would not admit it, as she had recently been designing a new line of winter coats and the threat of unexpected cold meant an early, increased market for them.

Elesa continued speaking, "These are precisely what the Team Plasma forces are – stubborn, cruel people with no virtue. Look how they relentlessly attack our cities." She was talking with two other people, one of whom was Alder, and Grimsley quickly recognized his Elite Four colleague Marshal as the other. Marshal had been Alder's apprentice, and a specialist in the fighting type; he was black with hair that was streaked brown with red, and known as a very powerful member of the Elite Four, though he was modest and always claimed that the others were stronger than he.

"I don't blame Caitlin for flight," Elesa added, "I heard the Team Plasma occupiers confiscated her villa in Undella Town."

"This is so," affirmed Marshal seriously. "I spoke to Caitlin over the telephone yesterday. She and her sister Cynthia have returned to Sinnoh, where they hail from. They have property in that region, so they are not suffering hardship there."

"Team Plasma has practically decimated Undella with their ice cannon volleys," lamented Elesa. "Such caring, gracious people who live in that town, too."

"I fear our planet will never recover," said Alder, who had been listening till now, "No matter whether it comes from fear or even admiration of Team Plasma, the world cannot help but change."

"Then let them fear us, the way Team Plasma inspires fear in the hearts of peaceful Unovans," said Marshal, "If we had some great weapon like their ice cannon, we could return their attacks threefold, and make examples of their towns! We cannot turn away from their savagery, even if the military incursion would be a complex one."

"Ignoring Team Plasma... That would be a terrible thing for us to do." Elesa agreed. "We should confront the complexity. A properly dramatic victory requires a dash of danger and a pinch of peril."

Grimsley broke into the conversation. "A beautiful loss is still a loss, and an ugly win is still a win."

They looked up at this as Grimsley walked over to join the little circle where they stood. He added mildly, "It's more important to master the cards you're holding than to complain about the ones your opponents were dealt. There are bad ways to win – and good ways to lose. What's interesting and troubling is that it's not always clear which is which."

Elesa was not swayed. "That might be so, but when our opponent is Team Plasma, I don't think there is a bad way to win," she said, "We are fighting against a sadistic, would-be dictator."

Alder refrained from offering his opinion of the debate and instead greeted, "Grimsley. I'm glad to see you escaped the Pokémon League without being taken captive by Team Plasma. Where is Shauntal? ...and what brings you here?"

"Shauntal fled to another region, far from the war. I decided to remain in Unova for the time and see if my Pokémon and I can be of any help," replied Grimsley.

"I am surprised to hear that from you, Grimsley," scowled Marshal, "You have some notoriety for thinking primarily of your own interests, instead of the grander citizenry, when it comes to this conflict."

Elesa queried, "I thought all the Elite Four members had issued a public statement that they opposed Team Plasma."

"Yes, he's against them, but for different reasons," Marshal looked resentful.

"So perhaps it's considered heresy, in these times," Grimsley's smile bordered on a sneer, "You see, if Team Plasma wins, it's my job – and my neck. The same pragmatism, perhaps, that many others besides myself who are fighting Team Plasma feel... yet are too pompous to admit it."

Marshal would not let the insinuation go. "Pompous maybe, but at least we're not conceivable mercenaries."

"Does it matter why we're fighting," queried Grimsley, "so long as we're on the same side? ...or are we just like Team Plasma now? 'If you don't think exactly the proper way, you are an enemy to the cause and should not exist.' That's their mantra, correct?"

Alder interjected into the dispute of the two Elite Four members with a shake of his head. "Marshal, we must keep an open mind! All help is welcome, especially that of our colleagues. Considering the military strength of Team Plasma, we certainly need as much help as possible."

"Yes," agreed Elesa, "If we accepted the aid of the ex-Team Plasma members, led by Rood, it would be counterintuitive to reject it of respectable people."

"We are just like Team Plasma," Grimsley scowled.

Chapter 43 - Virtues of those opposing villainy

The meeting started soon after that; it was short and upon adjourning, the attendees either left or dispersed into little groups milling about in discussion. One of the more loquacious of these was a young man who began talking with a small cluster of people, among which were Hugh and Rosa.

He was about their age, with lavender hair and blue eyes. He had a large trainer's bag, but professed to have no Pokémon with him.

"I'm from the Hoenn region," he said, "on a visit to Unova, but my Pokémon was taken by Team Plasma while I was here and I won't rest until I get him back."

The tale elicited outpourings of sympathy for him and outrage against the scourge of Team Plasma; Hugh, joining in, recounted their own anecdote. "My sister's Purrloin had been stolen from her too."

"We got it back thanks to a good friend of ours," added Rosa, "who is now a hostage of the Plasma forces."

"I didn't know they were taking hostages." This seemed to genuinely surprise the man. "From what I know, Lord Ghetsis avoids taking prisoners."

He hesitated when he noticed the cat sitting beside Rosa.

"Was it this Liepard that had been stolen from you?"

He reached over to pet the cat, but Liepard had been eying him with flat ears and now let out a hiss and tackled him. He fell back with surprise, and the cat dashed off.

"Liepard!" Rosa cried, but her Pokémon did not pay heed. Rosa was wondering about it, yet she allowed Liepard to flee.

They turned back to the man, who had stood up, only mildly scathed. His face bore dislike, mixed with what appeared to be worry.

"She's usually friendly," Rosa excused, but said nothing more.

"Maybe she feels ill," the man noted. "Or needs more training."

This last goading statement went unanswered.

When he walked off, Hugh remarked, "Doesn't he look familiar? I don't know from where, though."

"I'm not certain either," said his sister, "but I've never seen Liepard act that way towards someone. She must have a reason."

They waded through the crowd and eventually encountered Skyla, the Mistralton City gym leader and flying type specialist, who they had last met at the airport in Lentimas. She was speaking with someone but immediately acknowledged them when they approached her.

"Hugh and Rosa! How have you been?" Skyla smiled amiably. "I'm glad to see you did come to our meeting, after all. I was discussing a rather concerning topic with Burgh. You know Burgh, don't you?"

"I'm the Castelia City gym leader," Burgh shook hands with them. "My main occupation though is as an artist, which leads me to what I was discussing with Skyla. The Floccesy Ranch is nearby – they farm Mareep for their wool, and they asked me to draw an advertisement for them with their two Herdier sheepdogs. When I got there, they were missing one of their two Herdier. The farmers at Floccesy Ranch say someone stole the Pokémon."

"Team Plasma no doubt!" Hugh exclaimed.

"I met the ranchers once when I came by here," Skyla said, "and the Herdier that were accompanying them. The Pokémon are so friendly that they wander up to anyone they meet with their tails wagging."

"They say it was stolen when it was inside its Poké Ball," related Burgh. "It's a rather special capsule; one of those promotional Premier Balls that are silver-colored with red accents, which the Mart gives out when you buy in bulk."

A muffled meow caused Rosa to turn to look beside her.

Liepard had returned. The cat Pokémon held a card in its mouth. "What do you have there, Liepard?"

Liepard gave her the card and let out a pointed meow. The card was that of a Team Plasma member, and bore his photograph. It was the man from the Hoenn region.

They glanced up at the man, who was rifling his pockets anxiously for something. Not seeming to find it, he tried to dismiss the search casually to those he was presently speaking with.

"I knew he looked familiar," muttered Hugh.

"Did your Pokémon get that card from him?" whispered Burgh.

"It seems that she did," said Rosa. "My Liepard knows the move Thief from when she was a Purrloin. Sometimes she sneaks off with things for fun."

They watched him with discretion.

"A Team Plasma soldier amidst our meeting," stated Burgh.

"He must be a spy," Skyla realized in shock.

"He only started showing up to our meetings recently, about the same time the Herdier vanished from Floccesy Ranch," Burgh added. "He might have the Pokémon that was stolen."

"Damn Team Plasma thieves! We've got to find a way to rescue the Pokémon and get it back to its trainers," Hugh said adamantly.

Skyla had a bleaker observation:

"We were discussing our plans for attack earlier. He must have been sent here to return information of them to Ghetsis."

She exchanged a glance with Burgh; he gave an ambivalent shrug, and wandered away. Skyla sighed and turned to Hugh and Rosa.

"Rosa," she said pensively, "Do you think your Liepard could snatch his bag with the Poké Balls?"

"Yes," said Rosa. She turned to her cat Pokémon, who was excitedly lashing its tail at the prospect of a battle, to give the command. "Liepard..."

"Not here," Skyla interjected, her eyes wide with worry. "If he realizes he's been discovered as a spy, he might try to take hostages...or worse. Team Plasma has been unimaginably ruthless in the war."

"Well, but..." Hugh started to say, but Skyla interjected.

"I'll think of a safe way to rescue the Pokémon," she decided. "Wait nearby; I'll call for you."

She hurried off.

Hugh and his sister Rosa went outside to the sandy courtyard where lines for Pokémon battle training had been marked out on the ground. The day was breezy and the trill of happy Taillow could be heard from the trees.

"Hugh..." wondered Rosa, "do you think we're doing right in joining up with Team Plasma's opposition?"

"There's strength in numbers," pointed out Hugh. "It's the best way to bring Team Plasma down."

"Yes, but there's something hypocritical about them, somehow. I can't figure out what it could be."

"At least the opposing side has decency," her brother said. "They'd never execute an enemy on a whim like Ghetsis does."

Rosa was considering this as Hugh continued to speak:

"I do feel rather intimidated by all those powerful trainers in there. It seems like my Unfezant wins battles on a fifty-fifty ratio. He still can't beat your Liepard, either – and you rarely do serious battle training with the cat."

Skyla came by shortly thereafter, accompanied by the incognito Team Plasma member. She had a look of concern on her face as she related, "There's an injured Pokémon atop the Floccesy clock tower. We're going to see if we can help it."

"We suspect Team Plasma might have something to do with this," added the young man. He said it with an incensed attitude that might formerly have been likened to Hugh's own conviction, but was now plain to them as feigned.

"Would you come along?" Skyla spoke smoothly. "My Pokémon are strong but they're all flying types. Your Liepard might be a good backup defense, just in case."

Did she conjure up the matter of an injured Pokémon as a pretense to lure the spy away from the others, so that they could confront him? Either way, the clock tower seemed a difficult place to have a Pokémon battle, if it came to that; Hugh and Rosa both silently wondered why she had not selected the open clearings of one of the outlying routes to face him and try to save the stolen Pokémon.

They scaled the clock tower via a flight of steps that led to its rooftop. It was a great height; from here they could see all the way to neighboring Aspertia City, where Hugh and Rosa hailed from, and faraway Twist Mountain to the opposing side. Skyla had sent out her Swanna, a large flying-and-water type bird, which flew alongside the Mistralton gym leader as she hurried ahead.

The place was deserted, piquing the suspicion of the Team Plasma spy somewhat late. "There's no hurt Pokémon here," the man observed tersely.

"Liepard, Thief!" cried Rosa; the cat leapt to tackle the astonished Team Plasma operative. In one movement, Liepard swiped his bag and swiftly deposited it before her trainer.

"What are you..." he began furiously.

They had already pulled a Premier Ball out of the bag, and sent out the Pokémon kept inside. A dog Pokémon emerged with a bark. It was a friendly, brown, terrier-like creature wearing a little scarf tied about its neck; the scarf bore the embroidered insignia of the Floccesy Ranch.

"This is the stolen Herdier," announced Hugh, accusatorily turning to the outed Team Plasma member.

"Why would you steal a Pokémon if your point of being in Floccesy was to gather information for Ghetsis?" Skyla wondered.

The man stared at her, then replied arrogantly:

"How could a gym leader, someone who profits from the exploitation of Pokémon, hope to comprehend the great cause of Team Plasma?"

The clock began its mid-day gong, overpowering in sound by its proximity; Skyla, without turning from the man, glanced sideways at the sibling trainers.

"You'd better get that Pokémon back to the Floccesy Ranch," she said to them. "I can only imagine how worried its trainers are. Do you know where the ranch is? It's right outside of town, mid-way through route 20."

"Sure," said Hugh, "If you need us at a trial..."

"You won't be required to," Skyla interrupted, with surprising assurance. "We need all our strongest battlers on the front lines."

Hugh seemed perplexed, but he beckoned to the dog to follow him and they started away. Liepard's tail was swishing from side to side though, and they had only walked a few steps down when the cat turned sharply and padded back. Rosa noticed this and followed her Pokémon in hushed curiosity, as did Hugh, in time to see an unexpected scene play out.

Skyla was speaking to the Team Plasma spy.

"I'm sorry," she said, with affected repentance, "but if we weren't at war, and you weren't an enemy soldier...I wouldn't have had to do this."

Skyla gave a sudden motion to her bird Pokémon; the Swanna instantly swooped at him, beating with its wings, and thrust him off the ledge.

Somehow, it was a shock to Hugh and Rosa. Perhaps from any other of the gym leaders, these actions would not have been unanticipated considering the civil hostilities across Unova; yet soft-spoken Skyla, with her reputation as kind and benevolent, seemed the unlikeliest person to be involved in the pitiless reality of the war. Her eyes were as cold as an Articuno as she gazed down at the ground.

At last Skyla swung her face away and, recalling her bird Pokémon, left briskly.

By this time, Hugh and Rosa had hurried along their way.

The incident plagued on Rosa's mind, even after they had returned the stolen Herdier to its trainers. As they traversed route 20 towards Virbank City, Hugh studying the map, she voiced her thoughts.

"It seems as if terrible things are being effected by both sides of the conflict. That's how war is, I suppose, but..."

"Team Plasma is still the worst of the lot," Hugh interjected. "They are the faction that began the war, and they have no right to be stealing Pokémon away from caring trainers."

"In any event, we must rescue Colress," Rosa had a great conviction in this. "He's a scientist; his affair was not politics, yet he got caught up in this war and I feel we might be partly to blame for it."

Her voice trailed and she added gloomily:

"I hope he hasn't been harmed."

Hugh did not know what he could possibly say to allay her worries, which were quite justified in their savage times, so he tried to steer the conversation back to its origin.

"The opposition might be becoming as cruel as Team Plasma, but Ghetsis' forces are cleverer and more logical in their strategy..." Hugh's voice trailed with sudden realization, as his words and the map's layout unexpectedly converged into a new comprehension of the war's development.

"That's it," he murmured.

"Did you figure something out, Hugh?" asked Rosa.

"Yeah," he said, urgently. "I know where they're going to attack next."

When word arrived to Ghetsis that Team Plasma had control of the Village Bridge, he was in a good mood.

Colress and Zinzolin were with him as he watched from a balcony, the squadron marching back in victory and cheering happily:


"I am very satisfied with this victory... the bridge is strategically important to win the war," stated Ghetsis, "So much so, that the chant now seems good." He turned from the window and faced his two assistants. "Let's go take a look at the map."

They walked down the hallway and entered another room that had a large oak table with a map spread out. Ghetsis analyzed the charts.

"We struck Opelucid first," he declared. "Besides the practical matter of possessing the DNA Splicers, the city is in the central stretch of the region so our enemies would be unable to determine with certainty our next target. Undella Town was entirely unexpected."

"Well, not for those who know your past," murmured Zinzolin.

The Team Plasma leader heard him but ignored the remark and continued his explanation, "Undella is primarily a resort town. It may have little in way of provisions or armaments, but it is an intersection and the lifeline of this entire part of the region. The immediate surrender of Humilau City was astute by them and saved them from suffering an icy raid. I have ordered all the flying types of Humilau be sent to defend route 9, which has been under attack by ground types."

"That leaves Humilau undefended by air," Zinzolin interjected.

"We have electric types in Humilau to strike down air assault, as well as Pokémon that rival the type-strengths of birds. Our flying types are more useful in route 9." Ghetsis said this so decidedly that Zinzolin did not pursue it. "By controlling Opelucid and Undella, then, we have encircled Lacunosa Town, to say nothing of the Pokémon League. Both fell to our army. That made taking the Village Bridge an obvious move, but nonetheless vital... leaving only two unoccupied bridges into this area of Unova," Ghetsis gestured to the map, and added, "Marvelous Bridge and Skyarrow Bridge."

"So far, the inhabitants of these cities have surrendered pacifically. The region's own defenses have also been powerless to halt Team Plasma's takeover," said Zinzolin.

"No, they're simply inefficient, which places them in disarray," Colress stated.

"Correct as usual, Colress," Ghetsis said, "They haven't seen something like this in ages. They don't remember how to halt it."

"There are no direct paths to Undella through Skyarrow Bridge, Lord Ghetsis," observed Zinzolin.

"Precisely," the Team Plasma leader agreed, "Which means our next target will be the metropolis beside Marvelous Bridge." He struck the location on the map with his staff.

"The so-called Black City with the White Forest... Contratus City," Ghetsis smirked.

Chapter 44 - Ghetsis the conqueror

Contratus City had been nicknamed 'The Black City with a White Forest'. It was a city of contrasts; tall skyscrapers blended with abundant foliage, the marriage of human development and nature's wildness. The label came from its appearance: many of the trees had bark of a very pale coloration, while the sleek buildings mostly had shaded, dark glass windows. The Pokémon Center was beside a wide, modernistic structure with a curved roof that was a well-known marketplace. Many of the shops here spilled outside into wood kiosks under the canopy of trees.

Hugh and Rosa had come here, on Hugh's deduction that Team Plasma would head here. He explained to his sister:

"Team Plasma may be a bunch of thieves, but their warfare strategy has more thought in it than the Unova region's defensive one, if they have a defensive strategy. Team Plasma's forces already took the Village Bridge, and if they have both Opelucid City and Undella Town, then they have this half of the region cordoned off. But there are still two bridges that Team Plasma does not control, and only one of those – Marvelous Bridge – leads to Undella Town. That means the most likely bridge they'll want to take is Marvelous Bridge, which is outside of this city."

"So, you think that this will be the next city Team Plasma targets," Rosa reasoned.

"Yes, but for the townspeople's sake, I sure hope not," Hugh said, "This city is famous for being in the middle of the woodland. A frost now in summertime would probably mean they'd have to replant most of their trees. It would destroy their tourism."

"Humilau City surrendered without getting frozen," Rosa considered.

"They just let them march their army in," said Hugh with disgust. "What do you expect from a town whose gym leader is a Team Plasma sympathizer?"

"Well, as long as we're here, I'd like to do some shopping," Rosa said, "I heard they sell all sorts of Pokémon evolution stones and items here."

They made their way to the market area, but they had no time to begin looking at the wares before turmoil swept over the populace. The Frigate had come into view of the city and was looming over the trees, like a predatory Pokémon about to pounce on its prey.

A lady, holding a Sunkern, sounded terrified. "They're going to freeze the city like they did to Opelucid!"

One man turned to the crowd. "Are we going to submit to their tyrannous rule like a flock of Mareep?" he said, as he threw a Poké Ball into the air. A Charizard emerged with a roar.

There was consensus in this sentiment, heard in how the citizenry shouted their will to fight. Light burst from Poké Balls as flying types were brought out and their trainers, riding them, flew up to meet the Plasma Frigate.

Suddenly the world exploded into battle. From the ground, one could see the dance of birds and dragons as they alternately swooped down and darted off; while the guards on the deck, taken aback by this display of defiance, commanded their Pokémon to strike their long-distance opponents with various energy beam attacks.

People without flying types would not sit by and let their fate be decided by the aerial battle. Climbing up to the tops of some of the medium-height buildings, they sent out their own Pokémon and tried to counter Team Plasma's energy attacks with their own.

The peril was in the crossfire. When the energy beams missed their targets, they invariably struck the buildings. Those on the ground raced for cover as they were showered with falling stone, glass, and debris. One ray shot from the Frigate deck collided with a dragon-like Druddigon and its rider; it thrust the two against the side of one of the skyscrapers with a terrible crash, and they both fell.

Hugh sent out Unfezant, which flapped its wings with a brave shriek.

"Hang on!" Hugh said to his sister, and his bird Pokémon took wing; flying towards the Frigate with both Hugh and Rosa riding it.

When they approached, they instantly became a target. Rays and spheres of energy were launched towards them from Team Plasma Pokémon on the ship.

Unfezant flew up into the air, then spun down in a divebombing flight, racing near the deck of the ship while sending forth its Hyper Beam attack. Their attackers, both Pokémon and humans, had to jump for cover.

When a Fire Blast from a Charizard struck the Frigate, it caused the ship to rock severely to one side and placed Team Plasma on the defensive. Their Pokémon, whether well- or ill-treated, were loyal to their trainers and tried to use moves like Vine Whip to keep them from falling from the ship. Not all were successful.

In its enclosure, Kyurem seemed to detect the combat outside and began struggling to break free. Colress could see it from the monitor display before him as he tried to launch the Frigate's notorious ice attack.

Just as he was twisting the dial to increase power before launching the ice ray, a thunderbolt crashed through the windows, shattering the glass and striking the control panel. The blast nearly threw the scientist from the platform. He caught himself from falling, but the dashboard sparked and the monitors went dark.

Colress poked at the buttons, but the panel was inoperative. He ran to the ice ray's manual controls to try to activate the weapon from there.

Meanwhile, on the deck, Zinzolin had been commanding the guards and his own two Pokémon when he noticed Hugh and Rosa riding the Unfezant. The bird Pokémon avoided an attack and ended up fluttering above him.

"The brother and sister duo," Zinzolin recognized them.

"We're going to stop you and the rest of Team Plasma!" declared Hugh.

"You don't have the sense to know when to quit, it seems," Zinzolin snapped. "It's an act of mercy on my part to bring this to an end now."

He turned to his two Pokémon, Cryogonal and Weavile.

"Ice Beam! Knock them out of the sky!" Zinzolin ordered.

Cryogonal and Weavile both shot their icy attack at the bird Pokémon and its two passengers. Unfezant spun into the air, narrowly dodging both beams, and then fluttered its wings to unleash a gale of wind.

The attack knocked out both Cryogonal and Weavile, but it had been launched at such a long distance it also caused one of the sail masts to collapse onto the deck.

Zinzolin recalled his Pokémon when the Frigate was struck again. As the ship swung sideways, Zinzolin tripped and seized hold of the fallen sail mast to keep from tumbling off the ship. He ended up clutched desperately to it as the post dangled off the side of the vessel.

Colress saw this through the window. "Beheeyem!" the scientist called to his Pokémon, and pointed him in the direction of the Sage, and just as Zinzolin lost hold, Beheeyem caught him in an energy field and teleported him to safety. Zinzolin fell shakily onto the floor before Colress and the ice cannon's controls.

"You saved my life," a surprised Zinzolin said as he looked up at the scientist. "Why?"

"I'm not quite sure. I must analyze," Colress replied.

Zinzolin stood up and stared out the large windows at the violence and disorder. Some of the buildings and trees were in flames; the noise of many crisscrossing and colliding energy ray attacks mingled with the sounds of shouted orders, Pokémon battle cries, shrieks of fear and pain, and the explosions of unintended targets. A world of peace had become a world of chaos.

"This is war like it was in the ancient times," Zinzolin realized. "I'd read of it, but never seen it up until now. I don't think anyone on the planet has in the modern era."

"The ice cannon doors are jammed," Colress did not address the remark. "That electric attack must have short-circuited them."

Many of the Pokémon on the deck had run out of strength for their energy attacks and were now resorting to leaping into the air to attack their flying opponents with claws and fangs. Others were trying to dodge the onslaught that ceaselessly came from the buildings below.

This was a distraction for the guards, and Unfezant was able to land on the ship deck. Hugh called the bird Pokémon back into its Poké Ball and he and Rosa ducked into the ship.

Ghetsis, accompanied by the Shadow Triad, walked into the room where Colress was still struggling with the cannon's controls. "Dr. Colress," the leader demanded.

Colress looked up from the controls. "Our strongest weapon is inoperable right now, we're losing men on the deck and the Pokémon are getting weak."

"Retreat," said Ghetsis.

Colress complied immediately, but a shocked Zinzolin questioned the move. "You're retreating?" he asked.

Ghetsis smirked. "Obviously my strategy escapes you."

Upon seeing the Frigate back away, there was a unified cry of triumph from the people and their Pokémon who had been fighting off Team Plasma.

They were celebrating too early.

"The energy cannon on the ship's bow is repaired," informed the scientist.

"Excellent," said the Plasma leader.

He observed their oblivious enemies from the wide bridge windows; the opposition trainers astride winged Pokémon were flying above the city in a cluster, exultant at the apparent retreat of Team Plasma.

Colress calmly poised over the button. "Lord Ghetsis, may I now press the button?"

Ghetsis raised his staff in the air, clutched tightly in his fist. "Kill!"

When Colress poked the button, a flash of freezing light was shot forward from the Frigate, at an angle at their target, and when the condensation drifted away a moment later the city was glistening ice, the trees shimmering like crystal in the sunlight. The fires had been put out, overcome by the blast of cold wind; the famous dark buildings now white from frost. The trainers and their Pokémon that had been in the sky were in disarray; some, it seemed, had been struck directly with the beam, and those remaining were now dispersing haphazardly.

Colress turned away and announced matter-of-factly:

"Done. Supreme leader, your order has been fulfilled."

Ghetsis was content with the outcome. "Bring in the scribe. I wish a new map drawn up, minus Contratus City."

Zinzolin was hesitant. "Lord Ghetsis, shouldn't we send some troops down to see if there are survivors who need rescuing...?"

Ghetsis whirled around towards the other Sage, snapping, "This is a war, damn it! We don't rescue people!"

Zinzolin stayed quiet, somewhat self-conscious and uneasy, and Ghetsis motioned to him and the scientist. "Follow me to my office."

As they walked down the corridor, Ghetsis gave follow up orders:

"March our army into the city, take route 15 and Marvelous Bridge. The terrain of route 15 is craggy. Be mindful of an ambush from the cliffs; even though our opposition is too stupid to have thought out such a smart maneuver."

"All the destruction..." whispered Zinzolin, "so much suffering."

"War is war," said Ghetsis indifferently, as they reached his office and he sat down at his desk.

"Ghetsis," Zinzolin pointed out, "You're doing to others what was done to you and Felicity."

"Yes, that's right. Now let them suffer the way Felicity, Nathaniel and I suffered," said Ghetsis adding, "By the way, since when do you care so much?"

Zinzolin didn't answer.

Ghetsis noticed it and said, "No quick response? Perhaps you are having second thoughts about our revolution... I suggest you decide quickly, because I shall soon begin the process of purging out traitors. That reminds me..." He retrieved a paper from his desk and handed it to the Sage. "This message came from Humilau City, via carrier Pidgey."

Zinzolin took the paper and opened it. It read:

To the Supreme Commander of Team Plasma,

Lord Ghetsis Harmonia:

Commander Ghetsis, I trust this message finds you in good spirits after our victory recapturing the Pokémon League.

Honorable Leader, it has come to my attention that an unforeseen attack by the opposition has fallen upon the area known as Humilau and there are a number of casualties and injuries. Among those injured are two relations of Sage Zinzolin, namely his wife and daughter. I beseech you to inform him of this, as the medics have informed us that they are in grave condition and their fate is quite unknown.

Without further imposition, I bid you good-day.

Coronel Adis of Opelucid Fort.

Zinzolin looked up and asked, "When did this arrive?"

"One or two days ago."

"One or two days?"

"Zinzolin," Ghetsis was calm, "you ought to get involved in something. Get your mind off of what happened. After all, that's the same advice you gave me almost twenty years ago, wasn't it?"

Zinzolin stared at Ghetsis in shock for a brief moment; Ghetsis met his gaze unwaveringly.

Finally, Zinzolin spoke. His voice was subdued. "Ghetsis. I have to see them."

"Go now. I am busy." Ghetsis pointed to the doorway and then looked down at the maps spread out on his desk. Zinzolin spun around and left the office in haste.

Ghetsis turned and faced Colress. The scientist had an expressionless face and saying nothing, adjusted his eyeglasses.

"Follow me," Ghetsis said, "I want to show you something." He walked away with the scientist close behind.

When they reached the leader's living quarters, Ghetsis closed the door and signaled towards an armchair. Colress sat down.

"I want to tell you," Ghetsis began, "I haven't spoken of this to anyone since the tragedy, long ago. My sisters have briefly mentioned the subject but they know that it hurts me too much to want to address the issue, so they avoid it. I believe that you will understand my point of view."

"I will do my best, as usual," Colress replied.

Ghetsis sighed, which Colress found quite interesting because it showed weariness, and Ghetsis prided himself in hiding the fact that, like any other person, he oftentimes tired.

"Many years ago," began Ghetsis, "I was very happy."

Ghetsis handed Colress some pictures of his wife Felicity and infant son Nathaniel, that he always kept hidden inside some books in his office, and he told Colress the entire story of the tragedy that had taken their lives and had caused his physical impairments.

Throughout, the scientist listened carefully without giving opinion or interrupting; finally, Ghetsis stopped talking and asked him, "Colress. Between you and me... Is it not instinctual to want revenge?"

The scientist straightened his posture in the chair and answered, "At the risk of sounding simply scientific, your reaction given the traumatic events described, make perfect sense although rather extreme. I am truly sorry for all of your loss, Ghetsis."

"That's more," Ghetsis murmured, "than many have said and meant."

"Since you have been so forthcoming with me," said Colress, "I must confess, on that first day you spoke with me about the job prospect in Castelia City, Klink pushed the envelope where you had the construction documents for this frigate off of your desk, and one of the pictures showing your wife and infant fell out. I put it back, and decided it was not my place to ask about it."

Ghetsis was looking at the bouquet of pansy flowers on the end table.

"It's alright," he said, "I trust you more now than I did then. Perhaps I would have considered it an affront to my privacy. Nevertheless, my priority is revenge for what happened to my life."

"If you wish to avenge your family, I do think the manner you have pursued it is ill-fated," added the scientist.

"If you're speaking about N, I could not have anticipated his ingratitude," Ghetsis was sour.

"N does not seem to me to be ungrateful," said Colress, "he merely has developed his own views, something natural at his age. I was considering Kyurem."

"Kyurem is empty," interjected Ghetsis, "The conduit through which I will realize my ambitions, and my revenge on an unjust world."

The scientist studied Ghetsis. "You hired me to help with research. The theory that Kyurem is an empty creature is lacking. All Pokémon seem to respond best to kind treatment. My hypothesis is the best way to bring out full Pokémon power may not be through coercion at all. There was one further test I wanted to conduct to study this."

Ghetsis was dismissive. "I was interested in you developing the weaponry and to find a simple method of increasing their power, not a long-term one."

"However," insisted Colress, "If you intend for your reign to be long-term, then the scientific basis for Kyurem's treatment must be taken into consideration. Sooner or later, you'll find someone stronger than you who will want to challenge you for power; and if my hypothesis is accurate, Kyurem has a large probability of losing. In a civil revolt, that could have lethal consequences for the imposed ruler."

"Who would challenge me? You?"

"I have no desire for power." Colress waved off the accusation. "I'm telling you as a... friend."

Ghetsis did not address this remark. He put away the pictures he had showed the scientist and said:

"Colress, I have things to do... thank you for listening."

Colress stood up and responded, "Thank you, Ghetsis, for confiding in me. I give you my word that I will not repeat this to anyone."

"I believe I trust you, Colress. Have a good evening."

"The same to you, Lord Ghetsis."

Having said this, Colress turned and left the leader's quarters and returned to his own.

Chapter 45 - Empathy of the cold-hearted

Perhaps Humilau City had felt that by surrendering it could avoid the icy assail that had befallen Undella Town, and hence preserve its tourism income, but they had not realized that as a Team Plasma stronghold and with their location on Unova's outer coast, they were now a target for opposition forces by sea. Humilau City was located on a small island off of Unova's shores, known for its floriferous scenery and cozy residences situated atop the water, but in two or three days after their surrender there were patches of destruction across what had formerly been Unova's second tourist hideaway.

It was a busy day in Humilau City Hospital, since the area had seen battling on this day. It was located on the outskirts of the city and many casualties and injuries had been reported there. Many doctors and nurses had been summoned to forego any time off they had and come to help.

As a large group of them arrived, they noticed a vehicle stop abruptly in front of the hospital, and two Plasma guards emerge and salute as Sage Zinzolin got out of the back seat.

"Isn't that Sage Zinzolin of Team Plasma?" they whispered amongst themselves.

"I heard his wife and daughter were hurt... victims in the battle for control of Humilau."

Zinzolin ignored them all and rushed past them into the building. He was desperate, and went straight to the information desk and asked the clerk where he could find his wife and daughter and the doctor who was treating them.

"Third floor, sir. Room 2213."

He practically ran into the elevator and as soon as he walked out of it, he ran into a doctor.

"Excuse me..." Zinzolin said while trying to walk away.

"One moment please," the doctor stopped him, "Aren't you Sage Zinzolin? My name is Dr. Braid... I'm treating your wife and daughter."

"Doctor. How are they?" the Sage asked.

"The news is not too good," the doctor replied, "They are quite hurt and I have no way of guaranteeing that they will both survive. I am sorry but we don't have enough supplies necessary to treat them properly."

"The Plasma Frigate has supplies," answered Zinzolin quickly.

"Do you have a flying Pokémon?" the doctor asked.

"No..." said Zinzolin, his voice faltering. He had travelled with a Team Plasma scout who had a bird Pokémon, but being necessitated elsewhere they were now far from Humilau. In a sort of irony that would receive appreciation from their enemies, Zinzolin recalled all flying Pokémon of the city had been assigned or taken to be used towards Team Plasma war efforts in distant route 9; having left the Frigate in such haste and worry, he might have realized it sooner. It struck him this military move, which he had questioned at the time but Ghetsis had been resolute in, was devised vengefully with his present plight in mind.

"If you'd like to see them, go to room 2213. They are asleep now, but I will be back there in a few minutes, after I see the results of some tests we took." Doctor Braid informed him.

The two men shook hands and Zinzolin walked away quickly to the room. He saw two beds, one on each side of the room, his wife in one and his daughter in the other. Both were asleep.

Zinzolin sat down and cried. The grief was overwhelming. He thought about the last time he had spoken to each of them, and he thought of all the times they had spent together as a family. Then he stood up and walked to an open window and looked out to the landscape; and for the first time he understood why Ghetsis was so bitter.

"How could I have been so insensitive?" he spoke to himself, "Ghetsis lost his wife and son, because of some idiots that were careless with their Pokémon battles and to make matters worse, he himself was injured to the point of becoming partly disabled."

He stood there for a long time, thinking. Then he lifted his eyes towards the doorway, and saw a familiar face. It was Hilda.

"Hilda?" he asked surprised, "What are you doing here?"

"I was here to see a friend of mine that is a patient in the hospital and I heard that your family was also injured in the war attack. How are they doing?" she asked.

"Not too well." Zinzolin answered solemnly, "The doctor says there aren't enough supplies of the medicine that they need to help my wife and child. I've been told that we would have to get them from another area and there's not much possibility of getting adequate transportation."

"I might be able to help you," replied Hilda.

Zinzolin opened his eyes wide in surprise and straightened up in his chair. "You would help me?"

"Of course," was Hilda's quick response, "Your wife and child have no fault in this tragic war and I want to help them."

"Forgive me my doubt, but you wouldn't be doing this to find out the location of the Frigate... would you."

"No." Hilda answered, "I know where the ship is moored. It's in the Giant Chasm."

Zinzolin thought for a moment. "Alright. Thank you," he answered, "As you might have guessed, we have all the medical supplies needed on the Plasma Frigate."

"I figured as much, since all the other medical centers are needy," Hilda replied.

"I'll let that slide by... considering my situation," said Zinzolin sarcastically, "Let's call this a temporary truce."

Before long, arrangements were made with the doctor to transport the patients via Hilda's dragon, Zekrom, to the Frigate. Doctor Braid gave an update of the patient's condition to Doctor Julius, who was the medical doctor on the Frigate.

Back on the Plasma Frigate, everyone was busy. Ghetsis was contemplating the maps of the territories, Colress was in his laboratory and the minions were running around trying to fix whatever their leaders demanded be repaired in preparation for the next battle. An attack was imminent and the location of it was a well-guarded secret known only to Lord Ghetsis and Master Colress.

It was at this point in time that the Shadow Triad ran into Ghetsis' office and saluting him earnestly, spoke in unison:

"Mighty Lord Ghetsis! Zekrom the dragon approaches our battleship. Order and we shall obey!"

"Excellent!" said a happy Ghetsis, "Is it coming on its own free will, or was it captured by our forces?"

"It's being flown in by King N's consort, the lady Hilda... Sage Zinzolin is with them and so are his wife and daughter, lying in hospital stretchers."

Ghetsis was silent. He was shocked at the news, but it did not last very long. "I want them to be met immediately. Take the injured to the medical station and bring Zinzolin and Hilda to me."

Meanwhile, as the dragon prepared to land on the Frigate deck, Zinzolin turned to Hilda. "Thank you," he said, "I was not sure that you would really help us, but now I want to repay the enormous favor, with some bit of information that might make you happy."

"Okay," she answered simply, "I don't really think that there is any information that might bring me joy... other than seeing Team Plasma meet its end."

Zinzolin was quiet for a brief moment and then said:

"N lives."

Hilda looked at him with a surprised look on her face, saying, "Are you mocking my grief?"

"Never. Not after what I have endured and still face." Zinzolin answered, "N is alive and well... but he thinks you are dead."

As Zekrom landed on the deck, Hilda was still recovering from the shock of learning about N's survival.

When Zinzolin dismounted from the dragon's back, he was seized on either side by Team Plasma soldiers.

"What is this?" said Zinzolin looking around in disbelief.

"Let's fly, Zekrom," said Hilda, but as the legendary Pokémon stretched its wings members of Team Plasma that were commanding grass and bug types jumped to their ambush.

"Wrap!" shouted the minions to their Pokémon, "By order of mighty Lord Ghetsis, Zekrom mustn't get away!"

"Vine Whip!"

"String Shot!"

Instantly vines swung about Zekrom, pinning it to the ship deck and preventing it from fleeing. One of them, belonging to a Pansage, caught Hilda by her wrist.

Zekrom was assailed by enemies but with Hilda still on it the Pokémon was reluctant to let loose an electric attack that would shock its trainer inadvertently. It bared its fangs and from its mouth unleashed a DragonBreath attack. The energy blast threw some of its opponents, and a couple of soldiers, against the far side of the ship but those restraining it merely leapt away from its head.

"Disable, Ariados!" called one minion, and the arachnid Pokémon's eyes gleamed. Zekrom seemed to falter as it tried to unleash a second DragonBreath attack and an Ivysaur wrapped its vines about the dragon's mouth, gagging it.

Hilda struggled futilely. A Houndoom leapt and bit onto the strap of her handbag to pull it away from her; however, it was not able to do so before she retrieved Zekrom's Poké Ball from the bag.

"Zekrom, return!" she shouted. "Stay in your Poké Ball!"

The dragon complied and she fell to the deck as Zekrom was drawn back into the Poké Ball. The vines that had encircled Zekrom now caught hold of her, softening her landing but giving the Team Plasma guards a chance to wrench the Poké Ball carrying the legendary dragon away from her hand.

"Don't come out, Zekrom!" she called to her Pokémon.

They took her struggling the entire way to Ghetsis office, with Zinzolin in tow walking peaceably.

The high commander of Team Plasma was waiting for them with many questions. "Zinzolin... I begin with you. I presume you hijacked the dragon to save your family?"

"No, Ghetsis," the Sage answered with rare sincerity, "I was lamenting the fact that my family was dying and I had no way to help them... when Hilda appeared at the hospital and offered to bring them to the Frigate where medical supplies are abundant. Of course, I accepted. That the dragon was the means of transportation was mere serendipity."

"Naturally, I would not assume that you had the courage to take the dragon by force. I should have thrown you out of my army a long time ago. You are an incompetent fool!" said Ghetsis.

Colress walked in at this moment and surveyed the room and everyone in it. Ghetsis turned to him and welcomed him.

"Come in, Colress. You are one of the few intelligent people on my team."

Colress said nothing, but bowed in recognition of the praise.

Ghetsis then focused on Hilda, and said, "So, the girl who thought she would be queen... What made you bestow such a merciful act of kindness on one of your declared enemies? I never thought you were so stupid."

"I won't waste my time explaining mercy or kindness to you, Ghetsis... I will get to the point that interests me... Why didn't you send word to me that N was alive?"

Ghetsis face grew red with anger and he looked directly at Zinzolin.

"You dared to give away information?!" he told him, "without my express orders?!"

"I felt indebted to her. She has saved my wife and daughter from certain death..." Zinzolin's voice trailed and he coughed saying nothing more.

Ghetsis had heard enough. "Silence!"

He then turned his attention to Colress, and his disgust towards Zinzolin faded to bare a rare smile on his face. "So now we have two dragons."

"We have Kyurem," Colress happily explained, with a small glance towards Hilda, "the ice dragon that represents emptiness. Thanks to my genius and the technology we have developed, we are able to procure control of Kyurem and enhance its special attack power."

"Perhaps lacking in modesty, but as always faultlessly accurate," Ghetsis agreed.

"So that's how you're freezing cities across the Unova region," interrupted Hilda, "A third dragon is your goal...which you're hoping to coerce into helping you."

"What do you care?" answered Ghetsis, "Soon, you will adapt to the new world or die. It is your choice."

"Whatever happened to a humane world for Pokémon? Don't you even uphold the pretense anymore?" she insisted.

Ghetsis ignored her statement and turned to Colress again, "What else do we know about the skills of this new Pokémon?" he asked him.

"Extra firepower is always welcome," the scientist replied, "especially a legendary Pokémon. Zekrom can shatter Kyurem's ice."

Ghetsis gave the Poké Ball a small toss and it bounced on the ship's floor. A flash of light came from it, only to turn reddish and retreat into the capsule. The Poké Ball shut itself. "It would appear Zekrom is quite obedient to you," Ghetsis addressed Hilda, and then turned to his top scientist. "Dr. Colress and his innovative Colress Machine can easily turn that allegiance to Team Plasma's will... isn't that true, doctor?"

"Certainly, Lord Ghetsis," said Colress. "However, doing so would require extricating Zekrom from its Ball, something quite difficult to do if a Pokémon is actively resisting emerging. Poké Balls were designed to keep wild Pokémon from getting out after all."

"Your plot is not going to be easily established," said Hilda, "I am glad that I bonded well with my Pokémon."

"That is far from my worries." Ghetsis said, "Your Pokémon has to emerge eventually, if only to drink water and eat."

"You will lose in the end." Hilda said, "It's only a matter of time before the opposition forces get a few steps ahead of you."

"Quite impossible," insisted Ghetsis, "Since I have the dragons in my possession, and I intend to..."

She suddenly felt lightheaded and swayed a bit; Ghetsis noticed it, but before he could finish his statement, Hilda collapsed into the arms of the Shadow Triad guards.

"She's fainted, Lord Ghetsis," informed Xavier, the youngest of the guards.

"If it wasn't that she was looking ill already, I would consider it a delay tactic," Ghetsis relented.

Colress intervened saying, "Ghetsis, she looks pale. Methinks she needs medical attention... We should not take chances till we see how the dragon will respond without her presence."

"Good observation." Ghetsis declared. He then turned to give orders to the Shadow Triad, "Take her to the infirmary... and take Zinzolin to our detention center, until further notice."

The prisoners were taken away swiftly to fulfill the supreme leader's orders and it was then that Ghetsis said to Colress, "Keep me up to date on what else you come across in your research."

"Yes, Ghetsis," said the scientist as he bowed and left the office with the Poké Ball.

Ghetsis turned casually towards the monitors, to notice two people hurrying down the Frigate halls. They were not wearing Team Plasma uniforms.

"Intruders," he mused.

Chapter 46 - The Dark Scientist's research

Hugh and Rosa raced hastily down the corridors of the Plasma Frigate, the urgency of their mission permitting neither respite for planning, nor the temporizing of irresolution.

It was, on its face, a daring and surely implausible scheme. They planned to find out where their friend Colress was being held and together escape the Frigate; knowing that the stolen Pokémon were being kept aboard as well, these would be saved too – though exactly how to flee the warship with such a large cargo of Poké Balls was indeterminate. The best plan seemed to be to send all of the animals out at once when the Frigate was moored, for at least if they were running wild it would be difficult for Team Plasma to round them up again, some might escape ashore, and it would buy time for Hugh, Rosa and Colress to get off the ship themselves.

"Where do you think they would have Colress captive?" Rosa asked her brother.

"I don't know," Hugh speculated, "He would be an important prisoner, if they indeed have him for his scientific knowledge..."

The sound of Team Plasma members reached them, and the sibling trainers ensconced themselves in a side room as a cluster of minions marched by.

"If only King N had not betrayed the cause," one was saying.

"Perhaps he will rejoin Team Plasma when we have taken all of Unova," the second replied. They all murmured agreement, as if these sentiments had become part of their officially sanctioned political mantra and were to be undisputed or else.

"Is there not a military strike soon to be ordered? If we are triumphant, maybe his majesty will see it and reconsider," another said, adding gleefully, "Wherever we strike will surely tremble under the icy barrage of our Kyurem Cannon!"

When the minions wandered away, Hugh and Rosa emerged from their hiding spot.

"Well, that affirms they do have Kyurem, the ice dragon," Hugh said, "so if they have the DNA Splicers as well, they must hope to capture the other two dragons."

"Maybe, though who knows what Ghetsis is planning," Rosa murmured. "Especially with this matter about another imminent military strike."

"Rood was right," added Hugh, "the reason Team Plasma kidnapped Dr. Colress must be because he knows something about the legendary dragon Pokémon – something valuable to win the war. Maybe this upcoming battle concerns it."

Rosa's blue eyes were wide. "Hugh, I'm worried about what they might have done to him. What if..." her voice trailed.

"We'll find him, don't worry," Hugh reassured.

Hugh and Rosa walked along a steep dip in the floor, where an array of wide, crisscrossing pipelines seemed to funnel fuel or energy to the weaponry or flight mechanisms, while steps led down to the floor beside the pipes. The brother and sister skirted all this and went to the furthermost edge of the hall.

They came presently to a tall electric energy gate; blue-tinged beams sizzled visibly in mid-air, stretching from one side of the opening to the other, barring access to those unauthorized.

"Barriers, huh..." Hugh mused.

"It seems that a card key is necessary to get past the gate," Rosa noted.

"Just great," replied Hugh with a scowl. "We'll probably have to ambush someone to get their ID badge. Hey – some more people are coming!"

Hugh and Rosa crouched down below the pipes, and went unnoticed by the guards above.

"Maybe Unfezant can..." Hugh seized the Poké Ball.

Rosa grabbed his arm. "No, Hugh! They'll see the glow from it opening!" she whispered.

The two could perceive the conversation of the guards as they passed by. "I've heard Sage Zinzolin is being held, suspected of treason."

"This is bad. Bad for Team Plasma. Plas-bad, for short," the other minion said importantly.

"Remember the four?" added another cryptically, and they all became solemn.

The Team Plasma members walked by, unapprised to Hugh or Rosa; the two trainers breathed a sigh of relief only to jump at the sound of something striking the metal pipes behind them.

They turned hesitantly but saw no one.

"What was that?" whispered Rosa.

"Lot of sounds aboard a ship," Hugh dismissed, somewhat hesitantly. "We've got to figure out how to get past that gate without being spied. There's no way we can take a whole army in battle with just our two Pokémon."

Hugh turned away, but Rosa was still observing the pipeline. There was a reddish gleam; a horizontal, jagged stripe that seemed to flutter upon it. As she watched, the full creature – a chameleon Pokémon known as a Kecleon – shed its camouflage.

"Hugh, look out!" she shrieked, just as the Kecleon shot forth a Psybeam attack. The iridescent ray narrowly missed her brother, who dodged.

They were faced with two Team Plasma soldiers, a male and female. "Intruders!" said the man. "Don't let them escape, Kecleon!"

"Run for it!" shouted Hugh, and he and his sister fled, with the Kecleon, and the minions in pursuit above them on the pipelines.

"Delcatty, get them!" shouted the woman, who threw a Poké Ball out. The Pokémon that emerged to block their path was a tawny feline, with longer violet fur around its shoulders, ears and tail tuft. It arched its back and taking a pace forward, growled menacingly.

"Looks like we're trapped into a fight," said Hugh.

"Liepard!" Rosa called, and the two cats ended up wrestling in a screeching, clawing ball of fur.

"Unfezant, attack that Kecleon!" ordered Hugh, throwing a Poké Ball into the air.

Unfezant dove at the Kecleon, which tried to flee but was seized in the bird's talons and thrown against one of the pipes.

Liepard successfully defeated the Delcatty and now, with both of their Pokémon knocked out, the minions were defenseless. The man ran off, but Liepard leapt at the woman guard and cornered her. The feline snarled, and swiped at her every time the minion tried to get past.

"Call your damn cat off!" she yelled.

"Where'd the other Team Plasma member go?" Rosa asked Hugh.

"Gone to get reinforcements," Hugh tartly said. "Half the Frigate's probably heard our battle anyway. We ought to get moving."

Rosa turned back to the female guard. "Where's Doctor Colress?" she asked.

"Colress?" This surprised the minion. "What interest could you have in him?"

"None of your business, now tell me where he is!"

"Past the energy barrier," replied the minion, "on the ship's bridge."

"You must have the card that opens the electronic lock," Rosa demanded. "Give it to us."

Liepard hissed.

"Here, take it!" she practically shoved the card key at Rosa. "Not like it'll be any good for you once you get in. Our supreme leaders aren't pushover trainers, stupid."

Rosa took the card key and, leaving the minion behind, she and her brother ran back to the gate. Liepard dashed ahead of them, and upon reaching the barrier turned with a meow towards her trainer. They swiped the card through the electronic lock, and the energy barrier dissipated.

Hugh and Rosa ran down the corridor unopposed, up a flight of stairs; then they thrust open the door that led onto the bridge.

They found themselves in the grandiose room with the ice cannon controls. Sunlight streamed in through the windows that circled the platform, making the array of switches and buttons on the control panel gleam. There was no one here, except for a familiar scientist.

Colress stood on the platform near the chair and control panel, reading a book. He looked up and closed the book.

"Rosa and Hugh!" His amber eyes seemed to brighten.

"Colress!" exclaimed a relieved Rosa, "You're all right!"

The scientist was quizzical at this. "Certainly."

They grabbed Colress by the arm and pulled him, despite his mild protests, towards the doorway.

"This is really unnecessary...!" said Colress.

Rosa was undaunted. "We're saving you from Team Plasma!"

"But I'm not in danger," he said.

"Not yet, maybe," countered Hugh.

Rosa added, "We've got to get out of here before the guards find us! ...and then we've got to find out where the stolen Pokémon are!"

"I work for Team Plasma," said Colress bluntly.

This was enough to cause both Rosa and Hugh to do a double-take and ask in unison, "What?"

The scientist adjusted his eyeglasses calmly; he had now commanded their attention.

"I was a member of Team Plasma even when you first met me in Castelia City, although I may have neglected to tell you at the time and afterwards, I never found the right moment." Colress admitted. "Actually, I'm quite surprised you haven't already heard of my affiliation... although admittedly most of the opposition to Team Plasma refer to me by the rather sinister-sounding alias 'The Dark Scientist'."

"Now that you mention it," Rosa considered, "Drayden did say something about Ghetsis having a second-in-command called 'The Dark Scientist'."

Hugh, however, was livid. "Hold on, so you're saying you're not just part of Team Plasma; you're also deputy to their supreme leader?!"

"Yes, but only to make Ghetsis happy."

This reply was not satisfactory to Hugh. "You helped us corner Zinzolin in Driftveil City! You even gave us an item to teach our Pokémon Hyper Beam! How do you reconcile that with your position in Team Plasma?"

"Fascinating tests," Colress affirmed. "Invaluable to my research."

"What about when you returned Purrloin?" persisted Hugh.

"Ghetsis had no option but to allow me to return your Pokémon," explained Colress, "when I called N into my laboratory to translate what Purrloin was saying. N learned Purrloin was unhappy without you, so Ghetsis had to maintain the image that Team Plasma truly sought the happiness of Pokémon by returning it."

"You said you disagreed with Team Plasma!" Hugh demanded, so angry he was flustered. "Why in the world would you be a member?"

"Ghetsis has been funding my research," Colress said, "I used to be a professor at Castelia University until they pulled the grant backing my research study. Everyone thought the concept of increasing a Pokémon's power was a farce – everyone but Ghetsis. This was my only chance to find out if my theories are valid."

Hugh was unsympathetic towards the scientist's plight. "Even if it takes siding with a bunch of extremists willing to commit atrocities to crown a dictator?" he persisted.

"Science is Science," answered Colress calmly.

The response seemed to stun Hugh, at least for the moment. Rosa had an appraising look on her face, neither approving nor judgmental, quite similar in fact to Colress himself in many instances. When no one spoke, Colress felt obliged to break the silence.

"For me it's science," Colress tried to explain. "You are quite aware I have been researching the best way to bring out the power of Pokémon. If your kind methods turn out to be best, then so be it. If Team Plasma's ruthless methods turn out to be best, then so be it. And if half of the world ends up being destroyed in order to find out, then..."

Rosa didn't let him finish. "Then so be it, right?"

Colress was delighted. "You see, you do understand!"

"How can you possibly justify this?" said an irate Hugh.

"Wait a minute, Hugh," Rosa interrupted. "Remember I studied science as well, and in my field, we also do research and sometimes get results that are not what we expect. However, we have to accept the results nonetheless. It's science."

Colress smiled and said, "Rosa, it's always a pleasure talking to you."

She smiled back, though Hugh was still frowning.

"So, if you're a Team Plasma member, then I suppose you intend to stand in our way," Hugh stated.

"If you mean, do I wish to have a Pokémon battle, yes," affirmed the scientist, "However, I have no interest in standing in your way. Incidentally, the one I wish to battle with is Rosa."

"Say that again?"

"I want to see just how well you've brought out Liepard's power," Colress explained, "Win or lose, I'll see that you gain access to Ghetsis' office here on the Frigate. The code to unlock where the stolen Pokémon are kept is there."

"That's very generous of you, Colress," said Rosa.

"You'll probably have to battle the Shadow Triad, Ghetsis' personal guards. Which will make for an even more fascinating experiment!" a happy Colress declared. "They were the ones who had been given Liepard, then a Purrloin, when it had been stolen from you. I'd like to observe how Liepard does against them - after I see how it holds up against Klinklang."

"Wait," a perplexed Hugh interjected, "if what you want is a Pokémon battle, why specifically Liepard? Unfezant is a higher level."

"Unfezant has been raised well, Hugh, but averagely; through standard methodology of training alone." The scientist was polite but blunt. "Liepard still evinces the same assurance and energy that it did both as a kitten and when it evolved. Somehow, Rosa, you have succeeded in bringing out your Pokémon's power, and I would like to challenge it now that it is a fully evolved Liepard. For my research, that is."

Rosa glanced at Liepard, and asked the cat, "Well, Liepard? What do you say?"

Liepard gave a happy meow.

Colress tossed a Poké Ball up into the air, and Klinklang emerged with a squeak. "If you're ready, come at me!" the scientist said.

"Liepard, Night Slash!" cried Rosa to the cat, which raced ahead.

"Klinklang, Discharge!" countered the scientist.

The two Pokémon leapt at each other and the fight began.

Watching in shock from the monitors in his office was the leader of Team Plasma.

Chapter 47 - The imminent storm

Ghetsis could only stare at the scene with affront to not only see the conduct of his second-in-command, his close confidante, when faced with opposition intruders aboard the Frigate, but also hear recounted so unaffectedly, so casually, how he had engaged with them prior. Ghetsis had switched the audio on for the conversation Colress had with the two trainers, and had left it on for the battle. Their commands to their Pokémon could be heard quite distinctly on the speakers, as well as the sounds of the attacks.

One of the Shadow Triad asked, "Lord Ghetsis, should we stop the battle?"

"Stop it? I intend to see how much farther this treason will go!" answered Ghetsis.

Treason was the only thing Ghetsis could describe it as – surely, it was nothing but? This was a friendly battle, not one with animosity; certainly not that of a military leader against an invading enemy. The indignation, however, was that Colress had been helping these opposition all along. He had conspired to return one of the liberated Pokémon to them, aided the enemy in capturing of one of Team Plasma's generals along with his guards – regardless if it was Zinzolin, and no great loss – he had even given these people the means to teach their Pokémon one of the strongest moves known to man, to indisputably be used against Team Plasma. Here was Colress now, on the bridge of the ship, play-fighting with these infiltrators for his research. It was incredible, in the true sense to Ghetsis.

The culmination of the Pokémon battle came when Liepard attacked Klinklang with Night Slash. It was a critical hit and the opponent Pokémon was knocked out.

"Well done, Liepard!" called Rosa, giving the cat a hug.

Liepard purred.

"You're a very strong trainer indeed!" exclaimed Colress. "So, let me ask you this! Would you say the best way to bring out a Pokémon's power is with respect and love?"

"Yes," replied Rosa, with conviction; Liepard purred even louder.

"That's what I thought," Colress agreed. "I've spent years researching that, and I think my theory has been proven. A Pokémon's true power can only be brought out through a strong friendship with a kind trainer, and that energy can easily surpass power derived through more coercive means. Which further means," Colress followed the logic, "that the way Team Plasma has been treating Kyurem is quite inadequate."

"How is that?" asked Rosa.

"Well," Colress straightened his glasses, "Ghetsis has been using Kyurem to power the ice cannon, the Plasma Frigate's strongest weapon, which you witnessed in Opelucid City. I developed it at Ghetsis' request; it amplifies a Pokémon's energy ray attack to affect a large radius. In order to accomplish this, Kyurem's special attack energy must be artificially and rapidly increased to a point that makes the dragon unleash its strongest ice attack, Glaciate. A process induced by applying high levels of electric charge, which regrettably can be quite painful."

Hugh was unimpressed. "You're zapping it."

Colress ignored him and continued talking. "I must speak to Ghetsis about the detriments of this approach. I have brought it up prior, but he considers treating Pokémon benevolently to increase the creatures' energy as a time-consuming method, though it be more efficient."

"Then, once we save the stolen Pokémon from Team Plasma's clutches, we ought to rescue Kyurem," decided Hugh.

"The enclosure has a lock mechanism," said the scientist, "the code of which you can find in Ghetsis' office too. Even the strongest moves are quite ineffective against the glass partitions, so breaking them to release Kyurem will be unfeasible. The room is heavily guarded."

"Being Team Plasma's second-in-command, you could tell us the codes, instead of sending us into the perilous situation of infiltrating Ghetsis' office," Hugh pointed out.

"Perhaps, but it would not be quite so useful to my research," reasoned the scientist.

Hugh scowled but said nothing.

"You'll find Ghetsis' office down the hall," Colress said. "Let me heal Liepard before you go. He's probably expecting you two by now."

He gestured to ceiling cameras inconspicuously placed on far corners of the bridge. Hugh and Rosa were a bit uneasy to see this, but Colress unconcernedly proceeded to heal Liepard with a Full Restore he retrieved from his lab coat.

"Won't you be in trouble now though, for helping us?" Rosa asked him with worry.

"Oh, certainly not. It's essential to the experiment," he replied.

"I hope Ghetsis is that sympathetic," said Rosa.

As Rosa and Hugh were leaving for Ghetsis' office, Colress was jotting down some notes when he suddenly seemed to have an afterthought.

"Rosa," he called.

She turned at the doorway.

The scientist seemed to be searching for the right words; at last, he said:

"Good luck."

Rosa gave a small smile, and nodded.

When Rosa left, a feline voice purred, "You and her would make a great team together."

Colress turned to see a Pokémon standing at the window. "Meowth, from Team Rocket."

"Unfortunately, this isn't a social call," Meowth hopped down from the window. "It's about one of your turncoat Seven Sages, Rood."

Colress considered this. "He's living in Driftveil City now, isn't he?"

Meowth nodded and said, "Rood is planning an attack on the Plasma Frigate. He's gathered a band of former Team Plasma members who want to see N on the throne, not Ghetsis."

"N has no interest in power."

"N doesn't know about these rebels. Rood is the one leading them. In any case, they don't want Ghetsis on the throne. They say he doesn't feel for the Pokémon liberation cause, he just wants power at any cost. They're particularly peeved that you, a scientist with an expertise in Pokémon mind control, was selected as Team Plasma's deputy – and consequently, to be the 'official' leader whenever Ghetsis takes over Unova." Meowth hissed. "Rood is planning to attack sometime today. It's going to be an all-out onslaught on the Frigate while its docked on land. They know the ship is stationed here at the Giant Chasm; one of their scouts, riding a bird Pokémon, spotted it."

"How soon?"

"It might be imminent. It might be hours from now. But it's today. They want to totally destroy Ghetsis and Team Plasma, and since the Frigate already requires repairs from the last battle, they've decided to strike before it's at full power."

Colress was listening to Meowth, analyzing the cat Pokémon's words. "Rood doesn't have the resources to subsidize warfare."

Meowth lashed his tail, but when no one spoke, he relented and explained.

"Giovanni is financing them. He doesn't like the idea of Pokémon liberation; it cuts into his business. Seeing the advancement of the Plasma army has gotten him on edge. He wants the war in Unova stopped, pronto, before it becomes a war in Kanto or any of the other Team Rocket monopolies."

"Giovanni?" This was a surprise to Colress.

Meowth was adamant. "Giovanni wants you to join Team Rocket. But Rood sees your research as an affront, and would sooner have both you and Ghetsis out of the way. Giovanni can't control what Rood or his army does when they attack, and he's decided it's better for Team Rocket to see Team Plasma defeated, regardless."

"Then you're risking your life, too, by warning me."

Meowth cast his gaze towards one of his forepaws; he studied the claws. "The three of us are," he finally meowed, his voice soft.

Colress bent down and took the cat's paw in his hand. "Meowth, you're truly a friend. You, and your companions. Thank you."

"My advice is, get out of the Giant Chasm while you have a chance," Meowth insisted. "They aren't going to spare any of Team Plasma's leadership."

"I must warn Ghetsis," the scientist said.

"The longer you prowl around here the more you're in danger," the cat hissed.

"Ghetsis is also a friend of mine," Colress told him. "He helped finance my research when no one else cared. Yet, no one cares about him, or the reason he's so bitter at the world."

"Jessie and James are waiting for me in the forest nearby." Meowth turned to leave; then, seeming to have an afterthought, meowed, "Personally, I would like to have you on our team, because you're one of the few people I believe is trustworthy."

Without another word, the cat Pokémon left.

In the infirmary, Hilda was awakening. A nurse was watching over her and spoke to the doctor who was looking over some test results.

"Doctor, she is waking up."

The doctor glanced up from his clipboard and walked over to the bedside at the moment that Hilda was opening her eyes. Everything seemed blurry to her, but she could hear all the voices around her and she momentarily closed her eyes and reopened them to find she had regained her clear vision.

The doctor was about his mid-thirties to forties, with dark violet hair and brown eyes. Beside him was his Pokémon, a grass-bug type called a Leavanny that stood rather attentively but nonthreateningly.

"Greetings," the doctor said, "My name is Doctor Julius. You gave us quite a scare, but you will be alright as long as you get some needed rest. Donna, the nurse, will be here all night to make sure that you are well taken care of."

The nurse was a bit younger than the doctor, with blonde hair; she smiled and said, "Let me know as soon as you are hungry and I will bring in some dinner."

Hilda looked around and then spoke up. "Considering I am a captive of Lord Ghetsis, I suppose I might as well get fed."

"We have no say in the matter of your captivity," the doctor pointed out.

"We will try to keep you comfortable," added the nurse, "You and your little one will be kept safe here."

"Very well," sighed Hilda. "I guess I will find out soon enough what Ghetsis wants from me." She paused, looked straight at the nurse and asked, "What do you mean 'my little one'?"

Both the doctor and the nurse looked at each other in surprise, and then the doctor asked her, "You don't know?"

"Apparently there is something that I have not been informed about," replied Hilda.

"You're expecting a baby," Doctor Julius said.

"Pregnant?" asked Hilda in surprise, then after a pause whispered, with a smile:

"N's child."

Chapter 48 - Leitmotif of high treason

Hugh was voicing his views about Colress as he and his sister walked away from the ship's bridge.

"He's the second highest-ranking member of the Team Plasma army, below Lord Ghetsis himself. Colress is also the one charged with firing off the Plasma Frigate's ice cannon. That means he's partly responsible for the deaths that have resulted from it."

Rosa was adamant in her reply. "Is there anyone fighting for either army who is innocent in this war?"

The Liepard walking alongside her gave a chirpy meow in agreement.

"What about the tales recounted of how Team Plasma treats their prisoners, or the experiments he's been said to conduct on Pokémon?" Hugh persisted. "He's already admitted to nearly electrocuting that ice dragon Kyurem. What's to say he isn't doing worse?"

"Propaganda from the regional forces and Pokémon League. Even if it were true – again, the Unovan army likely does the same. War is inherently cruel; there is no way around being party to that when the political climate gets as bad as it has, thrusting everyone by choice or coercion into taking a side. It's where black and white becomes a grey world." Rosa was staunch.

"Now you're beginning to sound like a Team Plasma supporter," remarked Hugh disapprovingly.

"We've met Colress so many times. He's acted like a friend." Rosa halted momentarily in the hallway and faced her brother. "Hugh... I love him."

The tension in his shoulders seemed to diminish, and the opposition across his face waned. "Does he love you back?"

She was thoughtful. "I don't know yet."

Ghetsis was furious, even as he watched Hugh and Rosa making their way down the corridor to his office. When the siblings walked in, the leader was still voicing his outrage to the air:

"That blasted Colress! How dare he put his personal intellectual curiosity before our ultimate mission of conquering Unova!"

He turned from the monitors, and was met with the two Pokémon trainers, Rosa and Hugh, standing at the office door. Liepard stood beside Rosa, ears flat in preparation for battle.

"You're fortunate," Ghetsis said, smugly. "Few get to be the sole audience members for one of my speeches."

"Thank you for the privilege, Lord Ghetsis," replied Hugh, looking at his sister with a sideways glance.

"I'll indulge you with my plans. The other two dragons are drawn to our location," Ghetsis exulted. "We have Kyurem, as well as Zekrom; Reshiram will follow suit shortly. I have been told N is in Unova. He will bring me the final dragon despite himself."

"But isn't Reshiram your son's pet?" Rosa queried.

"A waste of strength by an anomaly who can't use Pokémon correctly," snapped Ghetsis. "The sole purpose of awakening that dragon was to give my Team Plasma more power!"

"I suppose then, with three legendary Pokémon you'll play type-matching on the battlefield," Hugh postulated.

"I do not intend to," Ghetsis admitted, surprising the two trainers. "The management of three Pokémon in war is cumbersome, nor does it manifest the true force of the legendary dragons. They can be combined – absofused, if you will – with this." He produced the DNA Splicers from a drawer of the desk, placed the item before them.

"That's what you stole from Mayor Drayden," Rosa noted.

"True. With it, the perfection of my plans will attain their fruition. Team Plasma will command a Pokémon unlike any our world has known, a beast wielding the full strength of fire, electricity, ice. With such a dragon I will launch my most savage strike against the heart of Unova..."

Saying this, he turned to the map on one of the monitors, gesturing with his staff to the intended target.

"...and the region will fall to its knees," he ended with a smirk.

"Castelia City," Rosa realized.

"You can't!" Hugh exclaimed, "That's the most populous city in Unova. Thousands of innocent people reside in Castelia. It would be a massacre. The region would never forgive you."

"The region, forgive me?" Ghetsis struck the desk with his staff, startling Rosa into a small jump. "You with the rest of Unova have a very keen sense of morality, when it affects your own loved ones. Amusing, if it were not so repulsive."

The statement flustered both of them, who could not see the motive underlying the war for its plainness. Rosa spoke. "Suppose the final dragon doesn't come," she questioned.

"It's inconsequential," was Ghetsis' undaunted response. "I'm going to turn all of Unova into an icy wasteland until the people bow to Team Plasma's – no – to my will!"

The standoff was intervened by Colress, who walked into the office suddenly. "Lord Ghetsis, I have word that..."

"Take him!" Ghetsis exclaimed, and Colress was immediately seized by the Shadow Triad, who sprang from obscurity.

The chief Team Plasma scientist seemed bemused at this; he narrowed his amber eyes, though, as Ghetsis came up and took the Pokémon control device from his lab coat.

"The ungrateful Dr. Colress. After all my funding of your research," Ghetsis lamented. "I should have known you were far too interested in your scientific studies."

He glanced at Rosa, then back at Colress.

"Or perhaps it was more than that, which led you to aid the enemy?"

"I do not deny Rosa is an attractive lady, both in physical and spiritual beauty," answered Colress. "But I helped them for science."

"I dare say you're more devoted to academia than any of the Sages were," said Ghetsis, though whether this was meant as a compliment, observation, or offense was indistinct.

Colress did not address it. "Sage Rood is planning a raid on the Plasma Frigate. The enemy plans to attack today, before our forces have regained full strength..."

"Trying to find distractions now? Even as a betrayer, that's beneath you," responded Ghetsis crossly. "That's more corresponding to Zinzolin."

"I have not betrayed you, Lord Ghetsis," insisted Colress with sincerity, "I had a duty to my research, to your Team Plasma, as well. The cruel way we are treating Kyurem will lead to defeat. The best method to bring out the power of Pokémon is through affection and kindness, not through coercion. A Pokémon does its best for a trainer it loves."

Ghetsis remained silent for a moment as if contemplating what the scientist had said, and then remarked:

"No matter, Doctor. You could have been of use to me, but your device still is."

Suddenly, there was the sound of an explosion outside. It took everyone by surprise, except for Colress. Ghetsis whirled round to face the monitors, which made manifest the Pokémon battle that was tearing serenity from the Giant Chasm's wooded landscape.

It was the clash of formerly united armies. Rood, together with a battalion of his followers, had charged to where the Frigate was moored. They were met on the grass surrounding the lake with Team Plasma militia guarding the ship. In contrast to the black-outfitted Team Plasma warriors, Rood's army was wearing the grey attire that had under Ghetsis' command formerly been reserved for events.

"Pin Missile!" Rood ordered his Pokémon.

Jolteon's fur stood on end, and shot forth like needles onto a Liepard, which gave a screech but stayed on its paws.

"Payback, Liepard!" called the cat's trainer.

"Listen to reason!" Rood shouted at them. "Ghetsis wants power for himself. You're being used!"

"We're going to crush you along with your band of traitors!" retorted the guard.

One of Rood's minions was astride a Rapidash, which he urged onward. The horse Pokémon jumped forward and ran to the battle. "Fire Spin!"

Rapidash let loose a fire attack that swirled around the opponent Pokémon in a twister, knocking them out and gusting them of the way. The rider then turned the animal's strength on the astounded trainers.


Rapidash reared up with a whinny and its hooves fell down viciously.

On the Frigate deck, the Plasma army was attacking from above to drive off Rood's forces, but one guard suddenly raced forth from the interior of the battleship to the gangway. Another minion saw this, and realized this was a spy trying to let their enemies aboard.

"Infiltrates!" he exclaimed, and wasted no time in ordering his Pokémon, "Watchog, Hyper Beam!"

The weasel-like Pokémon shot the ray at the turncoat minion, striking his back. He let out a cry, but not before lowering the gangplank for the opposing army to invade. With a shout of triumph they raced aboard, led by Rood and his Jolteon and followed closely by the guard riding the Rapidash.

At this, Pokémon and people lunged at each other as the clash to take Team Plasma's base of operations, the Plasma Frigate, began.

From the canyon border of the Giant Chasm, a new roar reached the Frigate; that of the regional forces, which had under the leadership of none other than Mayor Drayden, who saw this as amends for his battle loss at Opelucid, fought through route 23 to the present location. They now joined with Rood's army against their enemy, and threw themselves into the fight to support them. Birds flew past the ship's banner like arrows, divebombing with energy attacks as a precursor to the increased ground onslaught.

Meanwhile, Zinzolin was being escorted as a prisoner by two guards and a Flareon. When the sounds of war reached them from the deck, Zinzolin realized his chance and struck one of the Plasma guards.

"Flareon, Fire Blast!" shouted the minion, and the creature sent forth a fiery attack. Zinzolin ducked behind the corner narrowly escaping the flames.

The Pokémon raced after him, with the guards in pursuit of their prisoner.

Zinzolin saw a small mountain of supply boxes that were piled up near a corner of the frigate; and without hesitation hid behind them. The guards ran up, but he was nowhere in sight.

"What can he do?" sneered one of them, "He doesn't have his Pokémon with him."

The minions retreated, but the trueness of this statement was inescapable for Zinzolin. Without his Pokémon, confiscated from him as a matter of protocol upon his being taken prisoner, he was defenseless.

In the infirmary, everyone was oblivious of the brutal conflict outside. Hilda was conversing with the two Team Plasma medics.

"I had guessed the possibility of pregnancy," Hilda said. "Thank you for confirming it. Does Ghetsis know about this?"

"No," answered the doctor.

"Well..." said Hilda haltingly, "considering it's King N's child and Lord Ghetsis' grandchild, I would like to tell him myself. I would appreciate that you not inform him until I have a chance to speak with him."

"As you wish," said the doctor. "We'll send word to Lord Ghetsis that you have awoken."

He stepped away towards a telephone on the wall, but before he could do more, the sounds of Pokémon battle could be heard and at that moment, one of the guards came up breathlessly to the doorway.

"Doctor Julius! Our forces have invaded the Frigate!"

" 'Our' forces?" echoed Hilda in surprise.

The nurse, Donna, now whirled around in shock to face Doctor Julius, who had turned to her with sudden hostility.

"Leavanny, String Shot!" ordered Julius as Donna reached for a Poké Ball, and she was instantly tied up by the opposing Pokémon's attack. She fell to the ground with a gasp.

The doctor hurried over to the nurse and picking her up, laid her on a nearby empty bed.

"You are now a prisoner of Rood's forces," Julius told Donna.

The guard that had entered asked, "Shall I stand guard over her, Doctor?"

"Yes," Julius replied. "Do not harm her... most of our opposition forces will come over to our side on victory day anyway. There's no point in eliminating most of them the way Ghetsis does."

The nurse remained silent, but Hilda spoke up.

"You're against Team Plasma?" she asked the doctor.

"Since you are already aware of the secret, I might as well admit it. Yes. I am with the forces of Rood," he replied.

Before Hilda could answer him, the guard held out two Poké Balls to her.

"Here are your Pokémon, Lady Hilda," said the guard, as she took hold of the Poké Balls, "They were recovered from the Dark Scientist's laboratory. We have joined with the regional military against our common enemy of Team Plasma."

Hilda wasted no time in sending out Vaporeon; the creature emerged sitting before her with a little cry. "Where is Kyurem's cage?" she inquired.

"Down the hallway," said Julius, "if you turn left you will come to where the dragon is being held, but you will require this to open the doors." The doctor handed her a card key.

"Long live his majesty, King N!" cried the guard.

Chapter 49 - Zinzolin's decision

From Ghetsis' office, the scene outside was being viewed on the monitors. Rood was noticeable at the head of the invading militia, his Jolteon swiftly bounding across the ship's deck to assail the Plasma forces with its electric attack.

Ghetsis addressed the scientist. "Well, your neutrality is apparent, though anything less than allegiance to Team Plasma is hardly laudable."

"Rood's army will not halt at anything less than the obliteration of Team Plasma," continued Colress, "Ghetsis, we're losing the war. Perhaps not instantly, but sooner or later..."

"They are fools," Ghetsis decided.

"They're overwhelming Team Plasma's forces on the deck," noted Colress.

"Let them!" came Ghetsis' astounding declaration, "Let them destroy the Frigate, even! It will scarcely matter when I unleash the full might of the legendary Pokémon on them. My plans are unstoppable perfection! They will be powerless to defy my world of justice."

"Your world of justice?" Rosa interjected, "Who are you to decide what is just?"

Ghetsis paid no heed to Rosa. "It's finally here! The wonderful era in which I am the absolute ruler of Unova has finally arrived! ...I'll let you take care of this!" Ghetsis told the Shadow Triad with a gesture to Colress, Rosa, and Hugh, and walked out of the office.

"Ghetsis – this is a mistake!" the scientist called after him.

The Shadow Triad sent out their Pokémon, the three Bisharp, which sprang at them savagely. Liepard, Unfezant, and Klinklang leapt to the defense, and the Pokémon ended up in a three-way combat under the shouted orders of their trainers. It was reminiscent of the triple battle Colress, Rosa, and Hugh had once teamed together for in Chargestone Cave, but that had been in good-natured sport with a fellow trainer on a journey; this time, the stakes were grander.

The confines of Ghetsis' office aboard the Frigate were too small to permit such a battle without damage to the place. One of Klinklang's electric attacks flew out to the monitors, the entire wall of which short-circuited into grey static; while one of the Bisharp, struck with Liepard's claws, slammed into the desk. The maps and paperwork that had been left here were flung into the air as the creature tumbled headlong onto the floor, to be finished off by the beating wings and sharp talons of Unfezant.

The Shadow Triad's Pokémon had all been knocked out. They were now faced with the victors – Dr. Colress, Rosa, and Hugh; alongside their Pokémon, which were still fit for battle.

The younger Triad member scoffed at Liepard. "That can't be the same Purrloin that couldn't even beat N's Zorua."

Liepard lashed its tail with a growl.

The eldest Triad member was smug. "No matter... Even if we lose, Lord Ghetsis simply has to win."

With that, the Shadow Triad made their exit, leaving the three other trainers and their animals to decide their next course of action.

"I must find Ghetsis," Colress declared.

"Are you serious?" exclaimed Hugh, "We've got to get the stolen Pokémon and get the hell out of here!"

"The invading army will rescue the Pokémon," Colress insisted, "but who will rescue Ghetsis from what he's wrought?"

Without awaiting a response, Colress motioned to Klinklang to follow him and hurried towards the doorway. Rosa sprinted after him. "Colress – wait!"

The Liepard sprang in front of him to bar his way, long enough for Rosa to reach his side.

She laid a hand on his arm. "We're coming with you," she said, and turned to her brother who reluctantly agreed.

"It took us this long to find you," Hugh added, "We won't let you run off into trouble without reinforcements."

Colress smiled gratefully at them.

Hilda and her Vaporeon meanwhile had evaded the battles that were occurring throughout the ship to reach two large imposing doors that were labelled "Authorized Personnel Only" and were sealed with an electronic lock. She used the card key she had been given to unlock the doors, which drew back to reveal the enclosure of Kyurem.

The legendary Pokémon seemed to realize she was a newcomer and lifted its head with interest. The temperature in the room seemed to get drastically colder, merely by being in proximity to the ice type, as she walked up to the enclosure.

"Kyurem, the legendary dragon of ice," Hilda murmured.

The dragon said nothing; it solely observed her and the Vaporeon that stood diligently beside her awaiting orders.

"Try to see if your Surf attack can crash through," Hilda instructed her Pokémon.

Vaporeon leapt towards the container, and the wave of water was thrown against it; but the attack washed down the glass like a strong torrent of rainwater. Kyurem let out a weary growl.

"It's indestructible. You will never be able to release Kyurem."

Hilda and her Vaporeon turned to see Zinzolin standing at the entrance. The Sage glanced from them, to the legendary dragon, and back.

Was he going to battle them?

She was happily surprised – and relieved – when Zinzolin went to the electronic lock beside the enclosure and typed in some numbers.

As the glass panels receded, Kyurem stretched its wings; then suddenly, its gaze seemed to become blank, and it stared past them.

Hilda and Zinzolin both turned to see Ghetsis standing at the doorway, pointing the Colress Machine at the ice dragon.

"Kyurem, come!" he ordered.

The legendary Pokémon flew over to land beside him. Ghetsis did not give it a second look; he glanced quickly from Hilda to Zinzolin and back.

"The dissident teamed up with the traitor. I'll soon put an end to this," declared Ghetsis matter-of-factly. "Hilda, it seems you have reclaimed your Pokémon, as well. Your obstinacy in opposing me has become annoying. But I intend to show my respect to you...for making it this far," he added sinisterly.

"What do you have in mind?" Hilda quickly replied.

"Meet me in the cavern at the edge of the Giant Chasm," Ghetsis added. "It is the place where Kyurem's true power will resonate."

He motioned for her to leave, then fixed his one-eyed gaze on Zinzolin sternly.

"Go on, Hilda," murmured Zinzolin, without taking his eyes off Ghetsis.

She thought for a moment. "I'll wait for you up ahead," Hilda said at last to the Sage.

She sprinted away, followed by her Vaporeon, and this left Zinzolin alone with Ghetsis and the dragon.

The Team Plasma leader lifted his staff as if about to command Kyurem and Zinzolin saw his chance to quickly speak.

"Ghetsis, wait!" he shouted.

"I have nothing more to wait for," Ghetsis responded, "All your lies will not change anything. You acted just like the others... thinking that it was easy for me to forget my Felicity...Nathaniel..."

There was a quiver in Ghetsis' voice, which got suddenly hoarse as he continued speaking.

"I will never forget them as long as I live."

Zinzolin persisted, "I want to tell you that I finally understand what motivates you to do this war against society... the society that destroyed your family."

"Understand?" Ghetsis laughed; a chilling laugh that made Zinzolin shudder. "You insult me. How can you possibly understand?"

Hilda had not gone very far, when her Pokémon gave a squeak.

"What is it, Vaporeon?"

Vaporeon was gazing pensively in the direction they had come, and in a sudden reflection, Hilda decided to return to where the two Sages were.

"I shouldn't have left Zinzolin alone," she reasoned.

As she walked back, she could hear the men talking in the distance but could not decipher what was being said.

Zinzolin was explaining something to Ghetsis.

"When my wife and daughter were injured in the battle at Humilau, I thought my world had was then that I realized what you must have gone through, and are still going through. When I was told they would survive, I felt a sense of relief but then I considered you now... and how you would never sense that relief I did."

"Now?! Now, you consider me?!" Ghetsis was angry.

At this moment, Hilda turned a corner of the frigate, saw the two men and stopped to listen.

"I am sorry, Ghetsis. I have not acted as a friend," replied Zinzolin.

"You have finally said something that makes sense, Sage Zinzolin," interrupted Ghetsis, "You have not been a friend and I suspect you never have truly been a friend. Your apology now is a last cowardly appeal to save yourself from your deserved fate."

Before Zinzolin could protest, he turned to Kyurem.

"Dragon Pulse!" Ghetsis ordered, and the dragon shot an energy blast at the Sage.

Hilda gasped when she saw it strike Zinzolin and – instantly, without even an outcry – he fell to the floor.

When the Sage did not stir, Hilda emerged from hiding and turned to Ghetsis. "I can't believe you did away with your top general!"

"I can't believe you underestimate me still," Ghetsis smiled maliciously.

She turned to her Pokémon and issued an order, "Vaporeon, attack!"

Vaporeon leapt at Ghetsis, but the Team Plasma leader swatted the Pokémon back with his staff. It fell to the ground with a yelp, landing on its paws, and growled.

"Rood's army is invading, together with regional military. Your Team Plasma is finished!" said Hilda with exasperation.

Ghetsis shouted back, "No matter what they try, no one will be able to stop me!"

The quizzical look on Hilda's face amused him. "Why do you hate this world so much?" she asked, perhaps rhetorically, but Ghetsis answered the question with another question.

"The hero of ideals really wishes to learn the truth?"

He turned to the legendary Pokémon. Kyurem bowed its head, allowing Ghetsis to get aboard its back; then, at a motion by Ghetsis, the dragon lifted its icy wings and flew off down the corridor.

Ghetsis rode the dragon swiftly to the outside of the ship, where he poised momentarily on the stern and surveyed the violence on deck.

One of the minions aligned with Rood saw him, and exclaimed, "There is Ghetsis! Atop the dragon!"

Before any of them could strike, Ghetsis struck first. With a wave of his staff, Kyurem roared and thrust their closest enemies back in a sudden snowy blast. Ghetsis then directed the dragon across the forest, and it flew off accordingly. The coldness of its breath froze the lake water, and it sent forth a gale of wind that toppled icy trees like white matchsticks as it flew towards its former den.

Ghetsis had gone some distance from the Plasma Frigate when he halted Kyurem near a stretch of tall grass. The legendary dragon bowed down, but Ghetsis did not descend from its back. Instead, he opened a Poké Ball, and in the blaze of sparkling white light there emerged another Pokémon: the Hydreigon.

Ghetsis addressed it. "The war is going to be over, and victory is mine. I have no use for you anymore. I grant you your freedom."

The Hydreigon's three heads stared at him; the animal seemed stunned.

"Pokémon are but tools," Ghetsis added, "You were this to Dartham, as you have been to me. Whether this is or is not one of society's injustices, this is its truth. As such you are not to blame for what happened."

So saying, he motioned to Kyurem, and the ice dragon flew off anew. The Hydreigon stayed fluttering for a moment, then swooped away into the woodland.

Hilda had pursued Ghetsis out onto the ship's deck. She was instantly surrounded by three hostile grass Pokémon belonging to Team Plasma members. Vaporeon snarled at the enemy creatures, which shared a type advantage over it.

Before Hilda could react, the grass types were thrust away by a Fire Spin. This flaming move had come from the Rapidash, the trainer of which pulled on the reins of the animal just as it galloped over to bring it to a halt before her. He was soon joined by his commander Rood, who dipped his head in a greeting. "Hilda, the beloved of our king."

"Sage Rood!" said Hilda. "I'm very glad to see you now. Where did Ghetsis go?"

"He flew off in that direction," Rood informed. "We were unable to..."

At that instant, a powerful blast of water shot out, striking the Rapidash, which reared up with a whinny before collapsing on its side. The soldier riding the creature fell to the ground; calling it back to its Poké Ball, he sent out an electric type Emolga that joined with Rood's Jolteon in countering.

"Emolga, Discharge!"

"Jolteon, Thunder!"

The opposing Pokémon, a Wartortle, was knocked out instantly under the barrage of electric moves.

With the enemy Team Plasma trainer now disarmed, he hastily tried to flee. The Rood loyalist exclaimed, "Emolga, strike him down!"

"This way, Hilda!" Rood led her to the railing of the Frigate, Jolteon running in unison with Vaporeon. A swath of ice had been cascaded across the lake, driving a frozen path through the forest alongside frosted trees that had been somehow pulled by their roots to be flattened to the ground. "The strength of the legendary Pokémon," gestured Rood, "Kyurem caused that destruction as it flew."

"Ghetsis wishes to make it easy to follow him," Hilda stated.

Rood turned to her and said, "At times like these, those whose hearts weaken, those whose determination falters, can accomplish nothing! Hilda, no common Pokémon can defeat one of the legendary dragons; I think it rests upon Zekrom, and you, the hero of ideals."

Hilda shook Rood's hand briskly, and then she turned to her Pokémon, "Come on, Vaporeon!"

The path led to the furthermost side of the canyon. Hilda resolutely followed it, leaving the shouts of battle and screeches of energy attacks far behind her, to dissipate into a murmur across the stillness of white trees; a summer that had turned into winter.

Aboard the Plasma Frigate, the little group of Colress, Rosa, and Hugh ran down the corridors of the warship. Their Pokémon raced alongside, alert and ready to fight. The Team Plasma minions scarcely took heed of any of them, however, with the concern of all being the invasion up on deck.

They arrived at the room where Kyurem had once been held, to find the enclosure had been opened and the legendary Pokémon was no longer there. Instead, a figure was lying motionlessly on the floor, his eyes closed and body limp. "That's Sage Zinzolin," Rosa discerned, with some shock.

Colress bent down to examine him. "He's still breathing."

The scientist produced a Revive from one of the pockets of his lab coat; he snapped open the item easily and held it before the unconscious Sage for him to inhale the fumes.

Zinzolin weakly stirred. "Colress?"

Colress stood up and said, "Yes. Your vision will become clearer and the dizziness will subside soon... apparently you fainted; obviously from some attack."

"Kyurem's Dragon Pulse, under the command of Ghetsis using that Pokémon control device of yours," Zinzolin said, adding, "Rood's army is invading our ship..."

"I know, Zinzolin," Colress interrupted, "Rosa and her brother Hugh are here now – they came aboard sometime earlier – and I suspect the Team Plasma soldiers would not be very happy about that."

A scowl crossed Zinzolin's face, "Not those pesky trainers again. I know you keep company with them for your research, but this is insufferable; I can barely deal with you, let alone all three of you at once."

"To hell with you. The fact that we haven't been caught should tell you that we can fend for ourselves," countered Hugh.

Zinzolin glanced from one sibling to the other and then admitted, "Well, it does seem that you are smarter than I expected... but if you've got that much sense, why did you do something as dangerous as sneak aboard our base?"

"We were trying to rescue our friend," explained Rosa, with a glance at the scientist, "little knowing of his rank in the Plasma army."

Colress gave a small, acknowledging, smile to the remark.

Zinzolin, however, seemed impressed by Rosa and Hugh. "Still, I am surprised you got so far into the Frigate to find him without being taken prisoner first. You are my enemies, but your accomplishments and skill make you worthwhile enemies," declared the Sage.

"Thanks...I guess," was Hugh's wary reply.

Colress prodded, "Where is Ghetsis?"

"He went to the cave where I caught Kyurem," Zinzolin said, standing shakily.

"Do you feel well enough to come?" inquired Colress.

"Staying around here will mean death or worse by the invading army," Zinzolin replied darkly, "I don't seem to have much of a choice."

"Let's be quick about it then," advised the scientist.

Together, they left the interior of the ship. They started by helping Zinzolin along, but he insisted his strength was gradually returning to him and he could walk unsupported. In truth he did very well in hiding his pain.

They raced onto the deck of the Frigate, where they were surrounded by the turmoil of unrestrained battle, the civility and standards of Pokémon trainer conflict lost in the savagery of warfare. No longer were the marks of allegiance anymore delineated; by being in the company of Colress and Zinzolin, were Hugh and Rosa sympathizers of Team Plasma? ...or by having the acquaintanceship of the sibling trainers, were the two high-ranking Team Plasma members treasonous to the cause?

Liepard leapt to defend her trainer Rosa, intercepting an energy attack from a Dusclops. With a hiss, the cat lashed at the enemy Pokémon, and the creature fell back, fainted.

That would have ended the fight in eras of peace, but in this war-torn setting there would be more violent finality. The opposing trainer, a member of Rood's army, saw only their alliance with the Dark Scientist and one of the Sages; they were the enemy. He seized a flaming shard that had fallen from the sail mast, and was about to strike Rosa when Hugh, instinctually acting to protect his sister, shouted to Unfezant:

"Hyper Beam!"

The bird Pokémon let loose its strongest attack, without consideration to the duration or strength of the beam, and their adversary was no more.

Hugh now realized the magnitude of what had happened, the coarseness of war. The loyal Unfezant glanced back at him, awaiting another order, while Rosa raced to embrace her brother.

"We must hurry to where Ghetsis is," said Dr. Colress.

Chapter 50 - When one loses all hope

Here, in the depths of the Giant Chasm cave, was the den of Kyurem; the place where, legend said, disaster surely struck those who ventured.

Ice-encrusted stalagmites rose from the ground and frost shimmered in the air, in the thin rays of light that filtered in from outside, through the cavern's ceiling. Ghetsis had Kyurem land here, and he stepped down from the Pokémon's back.

The chill in the air was such that Ghetsis could see his breath before him; cold seeped through the cloak he wore, and he shivered slightly. He turned toward the entrance to the cavern.

There was not much of a wait before Hilda appeared, together with her loyal Vaporeon. "Ghetsis," she said simply.

"Hilda," replied Ghetsis, adding, "People don't know I have a memory that continues to haunt me - just one."

"What would that be? When I stopped you at the Pokémon League, maybe?" challenged Hilda.

Before Ghetsis could address this, his Shadow Triad warriors hurried in and stood at attention awaiting orders. Ghetsis glanced at them and looking back at Hilda, said solely, "Come now. Battle to protect Unova! I've prepared the finest stage, and it's wasted on a bit player like you."

"Surf!" directed Hilda, and Vaporeon bounded into the air. A wave of water was hurled towards Kyurem.

Ghetsis glanced wordlessly at the ice dragon. Kyurem shook its head once, and a blast of freezing wind dispersed the wave into snowfall. It fluttered harmlessly to the ground.

"I was expecting exactly that kind of move," Ghetsis said.

Hilda tried another strategy. "Bite!"

Vaporeon raced towards Kyurem with a snarl, and took a flying leap.

"Dragon Pulse," snapped Ghetsis.

Kyurem let loose a blast of energy, which collided in mid-air with Vaporeon. The smaller Pokémon yelped as it was thrown backwards and onto the ground with a thud.

"Vaporeon!" Hilda ran to her Pokémon's side; Vaporeon let out a weak growl, and she recalled it. She turned to Ghetsis with a glare.

"Unless you've caught something else since we last met, you have one Pokémon left," Ghetsis stated. "It's a more fitting challenge for Kyurem."

Hilda reached for the Poké Ball, then halted. She stared at Ghetsis, who gazed back at her impassively.

"You want me to send out Zekrom, so you can combine it with Kyurem," she realized. "You want to unleash something more devastating than ice across Unova. It's the only way you can establish a dictatorship after all – not just by freezing crops and disrupting daily life, but by total annihilation of all who oppose you."

"As perceptive as you were on that day at Dragonspiral Tower," Ghetsis smiled. "I commend you for that."

Hilda hesitated only for a moment, and then raced for the exit.

"Glaciate!" Ghetsis ordered.

Kyurem let out a roar, and a violent snowy wind swept around Hilda like a whirlpool; she gasped and held onto her hat, but the force of the wind, like a blizzard, forced her to the ground. Hail seemed to form amidst the snow, the ice lashing at Hilda as the twister spun faster and fiercer around her.

Ghetsis watched her struggle helplessly against the wind, his violet gaze as cold as the ice. In her he saw the embodiment of all those dissenters determined to uphold an unjust system, the constant failure of his well-devised schemes and war strategies, the reasons why the Unova region had not already fallen to him. His retribution on the world had been merely delayed – it was the inevitable that he would triumph, he was convinced – but the setbacks were primarily because of her.

Ghetsis mercilessly declared, "I'm finally going to see that moment when you lose all hope...You're going to freeze solid."

A bird-like cry burst through the cavern, and a fiery blast melted the ice into steam. Everyone looked up to see a feathered white dragon swoop into the clearing, and someone they recognized...

"N," Ghetsis stated blandly.

Kyurem suddenly woke and looked around, fairly surprised. N got off his dragon Reshiram and faced his father, but no one spoke for a moment, and then N said:

"Reshiram told me Kyurem was suffering. He said he could sense the trouble Kyurem was in, and although Reshiram didn't know who or how, he knew humans were the cause. I couldn't allow selfish humans to make Pokémon suffer. When I heard what was happening across Unova, I had hoped it wouldn't be..." His voice trailed off, a little sadly.

"A moving expression of your resolve," Ghetsis' reaction was an indefinable mix; amusement or annoyance, it could have passed for either. "At least the education I provided to make you king of Unova wasn't a complete waste."

"Father, please let Kyurem go," N pleaded.

"If you had simply become king, using Reshiram to force our will on the populace, I wouldn't have had to resort to an alternate course of establishing rule."

"We couldn't separate all those Pokémon..." N protested, but Ghetsis would have none of it.

"After I took you in and cared for you, in the end you disrupted my plans." Ghetsis was unsympathetic. "You were supposed to help me rule Unova."

During this time, Hilda had been seated rather dazed on the ground, listening to the quarrel. As she stood up, N glanced over at her.

"Are you all right, Hilda?" he asked.

"Yes...I'm fine," she said.

"Unfortunately," Ghetsis snapped. "You've got more lives than a Meowth."

Hilda narrowed her eyes at the Team Plasma leader but turned back to N. "I have something to tell you," she stated.

Others had arrived at the cavern; Colress, Rosa, Hugh, and Zinzolin all stood at the entrance. Liepard stood next to Rosa, its back arched, awaiting a battle. Colress stood aboard Klinklang.

Hilda said, "N, you are going to be a father... I am expecting a baby."

N appeared shocked. He just looked at her without saying a word; till Ghetsis spoke up saying:

"Excellent! A young prince or princess to be heir to my fortune and power!" His good eye gleamed.

"A father..." said N thoughtfully and ignoring Ghetsis' statement, brightened up. "That's wonderful news, Hilda... how sure are you of this?"

"Very sure," she answered, "It's been confirmed by a doctor."

"Too bad you didn't pick a wife amongst all who are in our Plasma army," said Ghetsis dismissively, "but the child has no fault in who its parents are."

Hilda jumped at these words.

"What do you mean by that remark?!" she said with visible annoyance.

Ghetsis answered, "Hilda, I've treated you hastily. You have earned your life, as well as the privilege of watching my glorious ascent to power."

Kyurem and Reshiram meanwhile, were disregarding the humans' conversation; they looked cheerful at seeing one another. At that moment, without Hilda ordering it, Zekrom sprang from its Poké Ball in a blaze of white light.

The other two dragon Pokémon turned towards it, and recognition lit in their eyes. Delighted, Kyurem, Reshiram and Zekrom each let out a joyful roar and began flying in circles around each other like a dance.

This distracted the conversation from the new addition to the Harmonia family.

"They look really happy," Rosa observed.

Hugh wondered, "Are they that eager to merge?"

N shook his head. "They're brothers," he explained. "From what Reshiram told me, they all hatched out of the same egg. Reshiram and Zekrom hadn't seen Kyurem in years, so now that the three of them have finally reunited, they're happy again."

As Ghetsis watched the little family of dragons his expression seemed to soften a bit, but the bitterness soon returned.

"Nonsense," he said, "Pokémon can't feel emotions. If they could, they wouldn't take orders so blindly."

"You're wrong, Father!" shouted N. "Pokémon think and feel just like all of us."

Ghetsis ignored him and once again pointed the Colress Machine at Kyurem, making the ice dragon's expression turn blank. The other two dragons seemed concerned.

"Now!" he ordered, and one of his Shadow Triad guards whipped out the DNA Splicers. The triangular-shaped device shot out a violet beam, which struck Kyurem. The Pokémon roared as the ice covering its wings shattered; the energy beam split outward from its wings, shooting towards the other dragons.

Reshiram and Zekrom flew in separate directions to escape, but the beam sought them out, following their weaving flight until it struck both of them. The energy seemed to bind around them, engulfing them in a violet glow.

"Reshiram... No!" N exclaimed.

"Return, Zekrom," called Hilda, and tried to draw her Pokémon back into its Poké Ball, but the energy collided with that from the DNA Splicers' beam and bounced off Zekrom.

The two dragon Pokémon roared in mingled anger and shock as they were forced back into their dormant forms: Reshiram into a pearl-white orb, Zekrom into a jet-black one. N and Hilda could merely watch, horrified, as the orbs were drawn to Kyurem and absorbed into a flash of energy.

Kyurem vanished within a glow; the 'absofusion' as it were, was a grey dragon that bore attributes of all three, with violet energy that surged from it and a powerful cry that sounded like the three legendary Pokémon combined. Its face was streaked, black and white, with Kyurem's solitary gold horn. This was ostensibly the world's most statistically powerful Pokémon then, a hybrid behemoth that faced them, awaiting Ghetsis' command.

"The magnificent form of Kyurem, Reshiram, and Zekrom," Ghetsis praised. "A Pokémon so powerful that it became three, and now one again, my tool in the conquest of Unova." He glanced from the dragon towards the awed spectators. "Perhaps it's unfortunate that most of the witnesses to this historic moment must be eliminated for my plans to proceed."

N was studying the creature, "It's faint, but I can hear my friend. I can hear Reshiram's voice. It says they can be separated again!"

His hopefulness was downright frustrating to Ghetsis, but even this could not overshadow imminent, ineluctable triumph.

"I'll give you a chance. Let's see you stop this Kyurem," Ghetsis was gleeful. "Lose and go down in flames!"

Zinzolin tried to retreat, but Ghetsis would not have it.

"Ice Burn!" called Ghetsis; the creature sent forth a ball of energy, which it hurled at the exit. Their path of escape was barred by the move, which appeared an unseemly mix: fire with ice.

"We're the only ones here with Pokémon left, so it's time to go all out," declared Hugh, "Unfezant...Hyper Beam!"

He was joined by his sister, Rosa. "Liepard, Night Slash!"

The brother and sister's Pokémon leapt into battle, alternately dodging around Kyurem's attacks and striking with their own. The combined dragon, though, appeared too powerful to knock down.

"Freeze Shock!" commanded Ghetsis; with a roar and one swipe of Kyurem's claws, Hugh's Unfezant was struck down in a blaze of electricity and icy condensation. It fell to the ground with a caw, knocked out.

"Unfezant!" exclaimed Hugh in astonishment.

"When your final Pokémon falls, the lot of you will be next...and then the planet!" declared Ghetsis. "Kyurem, keep attacking!"

Colress was the lone one, besides Hugh or Rosa, who still had Pokémon fit for battle; though he had not been inclined to the conflict. He had been observing the events from the sidelines, measuring the statistics of the creatures on a tablet, but the inescapable was increasingly plain. Should Ghetsis win this battle or no, his victory would not benefit Pokémon or people, nor would it be unchallenged – nor was Kyurem indeed the strongest.

It was science.

Colress decided he had enough. He ran over to his Pokémon, which was waiting to the side. "Klinklang, Autotomize!"

Hugh was astounded. "Colress, what are you doing?!" He leapt onto Klinklang to stand alongside the scientist. "Don't try it!"

"This is all because they're using my device," Colress countered, and pushed Hugh off the Pokémon. Klinklang rose swiftly in the air.

Ghetsis whipped around to see Colress, standing atop Klinklang, facing him.

"Beheeyem," Colress threw a Poké Ball into the air, "get the Colress Machine away from him!"

The psychic Pokémon emerged in a flash of light, and released a wave of energy. It was blocked by one of the Shadow Triad's Bisharp, which were immune to psychic attacks.

"Really, Colress...?" Ghetsis looked more annoyed than surprised. "After all this time, now is when you decide to pick a side? ...and not even the winners? I expected more from an otherwise brilliant scientist."

Ghetsis turned around and pointed the device at Beheeyem. The Pokémon went blank, and in the instant Colress was planning his next move, Ghetsis turned the device on Klinklang.

"Throw him down here, Klinklang!" Ghetsis ordered the Pokémon.

Colress was taken off-balance as his Pokémon tipped to the side, tossing him in front of Ghetsis. He was quickly seized by the Shadow Triad.

"Now," Ghetsis told them, "Let's see what his Colress Machine can really do."

He pointed the Colress Machine at Klinklang and Beheeyem, which were standing to the side.

"Beheeyem, Wonder Room!" Ghetsis said. "Klinklang...Discharge!"

The Shadow Triad released Colress, but Beheeyem's energy attack restrained him. The scientist gasped as he was struck with Klinklang's electric shock attack.

"Again, Klinklang!" ordered Ghetsis pitilessly.

Kyurem, meanwhile, had cornered what was its lone remaining opponent. The dragon now loomed over Liepard, who bravely arched its back and hissed at its overpowered adversary. Rosa cringed; it reminded her of how the Pokémon, as a Purrloin kitten, had so faced Dartham and Imelda before it had been defeated.

"Liepard!" she called out. The cat Pokémon angled an ear towards her.

Throughout all this, Colress was becoming weak. In one last effort, he looked up at his Pokémon, now under the control of Ghetsis.

"Klinklang, Beheeyem...listen to my voice!"

The Pokémon didn't seem to respond.

"Your Pokémon can't hear you," Ghetsis laughed. "Discharge!"

The scientist's fists clenched from the electricity's effects as Klinklang shocked him again. Colress continued, more in desperation than anything else.

"Klinklang, I raised you. We met in Chargestone were only a Klink then... and Beheeyem, I got you as an egg..." His voice faltered. "You're my friends. You helped me whenever I was conducting my experiments..."

"Discharge again, Klinklang!" Ghetsis demanded.

There was a moment where the two Pokémon just paused. Colress insisted, "Klinklang...Beheeyem..." He coughed.

"Can you believe that?" the murmur of one of the Triad guards made Ghetsis turn towards the ongoing battle between the absofused Kyurem with Liepard.

It was a sure win; the little cat could not match statistically with the dragon, so it astounded Ghetsis – even more than his security trio – to see what had been developing in their conflict.

Liepard had gotten Kyurem on the defensive; the powerful legendary dragon backing up in an effort to dodge a flurry of swiping claws.

Rosa was directing her Pokémon, the two working as a team. "That's it, Liepard! I know you can! ...Now! Night Slash!"

There was a dazzling gleam of violet light that flashed from Liepard's unsheathed claws; the cat Pokémon leapt at the dragon with a hiss. Kyurem roared yet fell backwards with the collision.

"How...?" Ghetsis wondered as he faced Colress again.

"My theory is true," was all the scientist said.

Ghetsis was furious. He turned his attention back to Colress' two entranced Pokémon. "Discharge, damn it!" When they still did not respond, he ordered emphatically, "...I said, attack him!"

Klinklang and Beheeyem turned towards Ghetsis, and he could see the device no longer had an effect on them.

Ghetsis was incredulous. "No. It's impossible!"

"Klinklang," Colress said and, hesitating for but a moment, gave a steady order:

"Discharge! Destroy the Colress Machine!"

The gear-like Pokémon rose in the air, and released an electric arc. Ghetsis dropped the smoldering device with a gasp.

At that instant, the merged Kyurem seemed to become alert to its surroundings. It glowed with a strange energy, and suddenly it split again into three Pokémon: Kyurem, Reshiram, and Zekrom.

Hilda ran over to her Pokémon. "Zekrom!"

"Reshiram, are you alright?" N asked.

Kyurem roared in distress and flew off.

Ghetsis stared at the sight in complete shock. "It can't be," he insisted.

"Let's get out of here, Lord Ghetsis," one of the Shadow Triad urged.

" plan can't fail!" Ghetsis maintained. The memories were raw again; those reminiscences of twenty years ago, when winter's first snowfall drifted down amidst last moments spent together...and how he had stood alone at the courtroom steps, his misery a source of laughter for the two who had caused it...

There was no sense in this defeat. How could there be, in the demise of justice's last stand? Certainly, what he sought was justice, and victory was inexorably his?

"It just can't be! I can't have lost with such a strong Pokémon!" Ghetsis was pacing. "I am the perfect ruler of a perfect new world! What about my careful plans, my strategy? I was going to change the world... I can't accept this! Not after what happened to..." His voice trailed off.

"Please, Father," N stepped forward. "Try to understand... Pokémon are our partners."

Ghetsis spun to face him. "Enough! You were just a tool, like these Pokémon! You've disappointed me once too many!" He slammed the ground with his staff. "You have no right to look and act so much like Felicity! You can't! It's not possible! You're not Nathaniel!"

N gazed at him with wide blue eyes; Felicity's eyes, and ignoring the statement said, "That's just it; Pokémon are more than tools. Humans and Pokémon, together, take each other to greater heights. We are like family and to separate us would create..."

"Silence! Don't talk to me like a person! No real person can talk to a Pokémon!"

N seemed taken aback, but he fell silent.

The opposing armies were starting to arrive, and Team Plasma was no more. Ghetsis said nothing after that exchange with N, not even as he and the Shadow Triad were surrounded and taken prisoner by the regional soldiers. They were led unceremoniously out of the cavern, Ghetsis leaning wearily on the staff he carried.

Hilda glanced questioningly at N. "Felicity? Nathaniel? What was he talking about?"

N said nothing, and he walked away sadly.

Zinzolin looked despondent, as if he partially blamed himself for what they had just witnessed; he was the one who replied, simply:

"The unjust world."

Hilda just stared at Zinzolin briefly and then ran to catch up to N.

Colress, who had been sitting next to his Pokémon, now felt recovered enough to try to get up. He walked over to where the smoldering remnants of his device were.

As he looked down at it forlornly, Rosa and her brother Hugh walked over to him. The Liepard followed and sat beside her trainer.

"Are you alright?" asked Rosa with a worried look on her face.

"I'll recover in time," sighed Colress, sadly gazing at what was left of his infamous contraption. "My device was a failure. I need to analyze if current events merit me making another one."

Rosa put her hand on his arm. "Don't worry."

"All that research was for naught," he said with sadness in his voice. "I must now face my fate."

"Everything will be fine, you will see," answered Rosa optimistically. "Now you can remake the Colress Machine for the benefit of all Pokémon, and people."

He smiled at her and said, "Thank you, Rosa, for your understanding."

She smiled back.

Chapter 51 - Soliloquy of Ghetsis Harmonia

The war ended as quickly as it had begun. Ghetsis and his associates were taken to Prisoner Confinement to await audience with a judge. The minions were so many that they were separated into groups of ten and placed in jail cells situated next to each other; Ghetsis, however, was put into a cell that was isolated and far from them. He spent the night feeling intense sorrow and finally fell asleep in the early morning hours.

When Ghetsis was brought before the magistrate the next morning, he had accepted the realization of having failed in his scheme, but it had left him depressed and he spoke few words when spoken to.

Along with him were brought the other high-ranking members of Team Plasma, irrespective of their alliance. All of the Sages, including Zinzolin and Rood, were seated in a line awaiting trial. Colress was also here, although with his crucial role in having ended the war, everyone expected leniency for him. N was nowhere to be found, having left the region with Hilda immediately after the war's culmination.

The judge who was at turn that day was the same one who had presided over that fateful event in Ghetsis' life, two decades earlier.

"Will the accused, Mr. Ghetsis Harmonia, rise and step forward."

Ghetsis got up and walked to the center of the floor, to stand before the judge's seat. Without the staff, nor the ostentatious Sage attire he wore to Team Plasma events, it was quite easy to notice the limp from his right leg.

"Mr. Harmonia," began Judge Demster, "You have been accused of inciting rebellion, theft, creating warfare, and numerous other things... it's a very long list and I will refrain from going through it unless you deem it necessary."

Ghetsis replied quickly, "It is quite unnecessary Demster. I am aware of the fact that for many, many years the world has been against me. You know the injustices that I have been through. You were the judge at the trial concerning the death of my beloved wife."

"I understood then, and I understand now, the sorrow you must have endured," said the judge, "since I myself had lost my wife several years before you lost yours..."

"I would have been the perfect ruler," interrupted Ghetsis, "I would have created a world ruled with justice."

The judge frowned, and Anthea and Concordia stood from their seats and spoke. "Your honor..." began Concordia, "You have known our brother for a long time. My sister and I ask for mercy."

"He has suffered greatly," added Anthea, "and nothing will ever be able to make him completely heal."

"Your statement is noted," said the judge, as the sisters sat back down; and the judge continued speaking.

"There is only one precedent," he said, "that of the founding of our region. In those days, this land was devastated with war, as the ancient people fought savagely over differences in politics and ideology. They were finally united under one banner, and Unova became a land of peace... but none, neither the victors nor the conquered, could bring back the dead or heal the wounded. There is a legend which says that the legendary dragons were once one Pokémon, but a clash of opposing views tore it in two – Reshiram and Zekrom – with Kyurem remaining as the shell of the original dragon. Many have heard this legend, without stopping to consider it was intended as symbolism. A region, torn in two by partisanism, united in name alone; the nation only a shell of what it was. This happened in ancient times, and it has befallen our land again."

Some of the Sages, philosophers at heart, were actually starting to look a bit repentant of their actions; others were visibly anxious, except for Ghetsis who stood still and without showing emotion. Colress, as was usual for him, seemed to be silently analyzing the judge.

"The only solution the ancient Unovans came up with, was to unite under a common agreement of wanting peace. By virtue of this precedent, the court hereby pardons Mr. Ghetsis Harmonia, all who battled with him, and all opposing warriors. The war has ended. Let peace reign in our land, once again." Judge Demster hit the gavel on the wooden desk.

There was a murmur, and a sense of relief and gratitude – except on the part of Ghetsis. For the second time in a courtroom, he was left in utter shock over the verdict, and as the guards released the ties that bound his wrists together, he shouted:

"This is exactly what I mean! There is no justice for the injured or the dead!"

The judge replied, "Waging war is not the correct way to change the laws. There is a system."

Ghetsis was wryly scornful. "The same system that is unjust, and refused to somehow punish the people that destroyed my life... people who did not even regret or at the very least apologize for their actions?"

"You mobilized an entire militia," argued the judge, "Certainly, you could have persuaded many to petition the government for the legal changes you wished."

"I doubt that," Ghetsis replied.

Before Judge Demster could reply, the leader of Team Plasma spoke again. "Humanity is selfish, and as I learned late, treacherous. That's exactly why Pokémon liberation caught on. It fed their selfishness. They wanted to save Pokémon because they didn't want to feel complicit. Pokémon are essential to human progress on our planet and much of daily life would crumble without them. People couldn't escape that. They never cared about their interaction with Pokémon until Team Plasma's marketing campaign, and in truth they never came to care afterwards. What they couldn't bear was the guilt. They had to wonder, every time they sent out their own Pokémon or were aided somehow by another's, whether the docile creatures were acting as willing partners or slaves. You can pull out a few pictures of a sad-eyed Squirtle or Lillipup and get half an army ready to destroy all of civilized society." Ghetsis faced the judge, his violet gaze tired and utterly defeated:

"Tell me, how many people would really have been moved to sign a petition over the suffering and loss of one lone human being?"

If there was an answer to this, it went unsaid; a somber hush had fallen across the courtroom.

Judge Demster rose from his seat.

"You're free to go, Mr. Ghetsis Harmonia. I hope you will find peace, eventually."

The judge exited the courtroom. Ghetsis' sisters approached their brother and hugged him; he responded with a feeble embrace.

"Icirrus City is home," Anthea stated, "Time to head there."

"We must find a way to send word to N," Concordia commented, "that he no longer needs to be a fugitive since everyone has been absolved of war crimes."

Ghetsis remained silent but as they headed outdoors and were getting into a limousine, Ghetsis' three personal bodyguards, the Shadow Triad, approached him.

"Majestic leader, our services are always at your disposal. What must we do now?" said one of the guards.

"The war is over. You may as well leave, like the rest. Find joy with your life if possible," replied Ghetsis.

"We would be honored to keep serving you, Lord Ghetsis," said the second guard.

"We – the Shadow Triad – were, are, and will be your royal servants to our end," added the third guard.

Ghetsis responded cynically, "Are you really so loyal, or are you simply looking for a place to live?"

The Shadow Triad glanced at each other; then the first said, "Lord Ghetsis, do you question our loyalty, after all the time we have been by your side? We would never betray you, for we remember when we were in dire need and you came to our aid."

Ghetsis sighed and, looking straight at them, said, "You are welcome to follow us to Icirrus City, where we reside. You will each have living quarters there. You may stay in my service for as long as you wish."

Colress hurried out of the courthouse, narrowly in time to see Ghetsis' limousine drive off. He watched, a little downcast, while the vehicle faded into the traffic.

"Hey, why so glum?" a man spoke. "The two of us would be elated if we'd got off with not even a slap on the wrist."

"Presuming we were ever unlucky enough to be caught, that is," a female voice chimed in.

Colress turned to see the two speakers, who stood off to his right. They were a man and a woman who had been inside the courtroom, wearing formal yet unostentatious business attire and observing the proceedings; he had scarcely paid attention to any of the spectators at the time, favoring more to watch and analyze the judge, hence it was now that he recognized James and Jessie of Team Rocket. Meowth sat on the ledge aligning the courtroom steps, watching Colress with squinted eyes.

The scientist sighed. "I had hoped I might speak with Ghetsis before he left. He thinks I betrayed him."

Meowth stretched, extending its claws, and hopped down from its perch; the feline Pokémon stood on its hind paws and faced the scientist.

"Our boss Giovanni wanted to talk with you," said the cat, without addressing the prior statement.

"He's still in Unova?" inquired Colress.

James explained, "He wanted to make sure firsthand that the rebellion had been defeated before he returned to the Kanto region."

Colress followed Jessie, James and Meowth over to a limousine parked a short distance down the sidewalk. Giovanni was seated in it, tending to a mini bar to the left of his seat; where he was preparing himself a drink. The Persian on his lap gave a meow as he approached, and Giovanni gave the scientist a sideways look.

"Dr. Colress," he acknowledged. "I understand the court exonerated you and the rest of Team Plasma. I am glad for that, as well as that you escaped the raid on the Plasma Frigate unharmed."

Colress decided to prod. "I learnt you had financed that raid."

Giovanni glanced up from his drink sharply. "How did you learn of Team Rocket's internal affairs?"

"I have my ways," Colress replied.

It was the same response Jessie had given the scientist once, and was accepted unquestioningly by Giovanni. Neither Jessie, James, nor Meowth, the conduit of the information, flinched once during the exchange.

"I would expect nothing less," Giovanni said, and turned his attention to another matter. "I will get straight to the point... the reason I wanted to speak with you is that the war has ended and Team Plasma has been disbanded. I think you would be a valuable recruit for my enterprise."

He stopped speaking for a brief moment to judge the reaction the scientist might give. Colress was analyzing Giovanni also, and gave him a simple and honest reply:

"I am listening."

This gave Giovanni encouragement, so he continued speaking. "You are a man of science," he said, taking a sip of his drink. "There are many things you do in the name of science. I am a businessman. There are many things I do, and have done, in the name of business."

The Persian purred and coiled its tail.

"Powerful Pokémon are lucrative," Giovanni explained. "You are aware I own a line of gambling properties. People say it is the skill of a trainer that determines who wins a battle. Betting odds reflect this. There's another factor that can influence the winner though: who has the stronger Pokémon."

"True... and knowing the outcome of a battle could be advantageous in your occupation," Colress affirmed.

"I have a – I'll call it an investment," Giovanni placed his drink down. "A research study into the effects of genetics on Pokémon power. I think your knowledge of the field would prove useful in furthering my investment."

"It does sound intriguing," considered the scientist. "However, the strongest of all the Pokémon, is the one with the strongest bond with its trainer."

"That is your scientific theory," Giovanni observed.

"My theorem." Colress specified. "At present I have the support of the territorial government. They now believe that my research shows great promise."

"As you wish." Giovanni answered. "Contact me if you ever decide that you need the funds and backing of another benefactor... other than the government."

"Thank you. I will keep the offer in mind," Colress replied genuinely. "I must leave now."

Colress turned to glance back at the courthouse steps, where Rosa was standing. She waved at him, and he smiled. It did not escape notice of Giovanni, who gave a small smile, and remained cordial.

"My offer stands. Good luck to you, Dr. Ethan Colress."

"Good luck to you too, Mr. Giovanni Delavita."

The limousine drove off and Colress walked back to the courthouse and Rosa.

She spoke first. "What will you do now, Dr. Colress?"

"Continue my research," the scientist said, "and move on like so many of the former members of Team Plasma. I hypothesize there is a resonance that will persist after this war. Even exoneration will not quell it, I'm afraid. There can only be lingering political animosity after what the region has endured."

"I suppose we shan't see each other anymore," replied Rosa sadly, an emotion that was unintentionally noticeable.

"I would be truly happy if you came to work alongside me," Colress confessed, "Having you by my side, I feel as if I can see what I should do from now on. I love you, Rosa."

It was the first time he had been so open, allowed the warmth into his amber eyes, and she knew at last the love was mutual.

Chapter 52 - Arpeggio

Six months passed since the declared end of the Plasma War.

N had married Hilda; they had left Unova for the Johto region, and the marriage ceremony had been held in Ecruteak City, though when they learned of the exoneration of Team Plasma both expressed a desire to return to Unova after the honeymoon.

They came sooner than expected, and the new Mr. and Mrs. Natural Harmonia took to helping with the rebuilding of the Unova region. Unlike with others who had been involved with the war, both N and Hilda were treated positively by both political sides, and generally welcomed wherever they went. They spent time in the Black City with the White Forest, Contratus City, as it had been most decimated; N and the dragons helped physically with the construction – and the aid of such powerful dragons, who could easily fly up with beams of wood or stone, was greatly useful – while the expectant Hilda helped out making tea for everyone, Vaporeon joined with some other water types to add water for concrete, and Zorua, who would not be left out, ran around delegating to everyone with a series of yaps. N also had a project of his own to deal with, and he would make trips to Castelia City periodically to that end.

Zinzolin, meanwhile, had become the Unova region's new ice type gym leader. The Icirrus City gym leader, Brycen, had been planning for some time to resign his post to attend more to his primary occupation of acting, so it had fallen on a Pokémon League commission to select someone to replace him. The candidate sought would be a specialist in ice types, someone with battling proficiency, and who had already attained eight badges in any region that were necessary to qualify for the challenge.

As it were, Zinzolin had attained the badges when he was younger, as part of the routine rite of passage of challenging the Pokémon League – though he had not successfully defeated the Elite Four then – and he had achieved some reputation, being the general at the head of many Team Plasma incursions, as a skilled Pokémon trainer during the war. There was perhaps also a political reason for the appointment; it would showcase to the populace that there was once more unity in the region and past allegiances were dissolved, that a former Team Plasma official should now be a gym leader, however much of a pretense that was as people throughout society still glared at each other over political beliefs anyway. In any event, Zinzolin accepted the post with its glamour and influence readily, and attended a ceremony in front of the Icirrus gym together with Brycen for the unveiling of the new sign. It read:

Icirrus City Pokémon Gym

Leader – Zinzolin Gray, the wintry historian

Zinzolin said however that he would not begin his official duties accepting challengers until after a necessary leave of absence, and this was accepted unquestioningly by the commission. He hence vanished from public view with the plan to return no later than mid-winter.

Hugh had decided to continue on his journey to challenge the Pokémon League, and headed off with Unfezant for the next badge in Humilau. From time to time he would telephone his sister Rosa, with plenty of anecdotes about whatever place he was visiting and the Pokémon and people he was meeting, but Rosa had plenty to occupy herself with too.

Colress had invited Rosa to become his lab assistant, which had led their budding romance to flourish, and they married.

They took a honeymoon to Castelia City. On the second day of their trip they visited the famous ice cream shop in town.

The line for Casteliacones was always long. They were Castelia City's famed ice cream, after all; tourists did not wish to leave without having tasted one, the residents just liked them, and the stand did not open outside of summertime, so the queue of customers invariably stretched down the sidewalk.

Dr. Colress and Rosa were among those waiting that day. The weather was warm but dry, and as they waited Rosa's Liepard paced restlessly beside them meowing complaints.

"We're almost there, Liepard," Rosa petted the cat affectionately on the head, "be patient!"

The Liepard flattened its ears.

"She loves ice cream," remarked Rosa to Colress.

"I have a hypothesis that the more you feed your Pokémon treats, the closer it becomes to you – supplementing the natural rapport you two have established – and consequently the stronger its powers emerge," explained Colress, straightening his eyeglasses. "If there were only some way to quantify bonds!"

It was the main topic of research Colress and Rosa had been concerning themselves with, ever since they had started working together. All the events of the past months corroborated Colress' findings; Pokémon did their best for a trainer they cared about.

Food, in the scientist's tentative analysis, was the proverbial Cheri Berry on the top. He had observed a general disdain in most Pokémon for herbal medicines common in the Johto region, and a tendency for some to remain sour towards their trainers after being fed it. So he postulated the reverse should be true, and Pokémon given foods they liked were more apt to become friendlier towards their trainers. Friendly Pokémon were powerful Pokémon, or so went his analysis.

The queue inched forward, and as they reached the second spot so that they almost stood below the stand's famous pastel awning the cashier put out a sign: Sold Out.

"Sold out?" Rosa noticed.

Liepard gave a disgruntled little hiss.

"Ah well," sighed Colress, "It's one of the unfortunate variables in the experiment."

They strolled down the street till they arrived at Castelia's central plaza. It was fairly empty at this hour, as most of the people who had been on lunch break from the nearby office skyscrapers were now returning to their posts. To one side of the plaza were two or three vending machines in a row, and the couple gravitated towards them.

"We can get some lemonade at least," Rosa said with a smile. "What do you think, Liepard?"

Liepard was purring and wrapping around their legs.

Colress pushed coins into the vending machine and poked the button for the lemonade. The first can dropped down, and Liepard started pawing futilely at the slot to get it out.

Rosa reached for the can to help the cat just as Colress did. Their eyes met and they smiled at each other.

Colress noted, "We do seem to be of the same mind, don't we?"

Liepard was purring louder than ever.

Rosa laughed, "I wonder, is she happy because she's getting lemonade... or is she happy to see us happy?"

"Might be worth annotation in the research," agreed Colress. "Regardless, I'm happy simply that you're here with me. You're a kindred spirit, my darling Rosa."

He pulled her towards him in an embrace, and they kissed.

They settled down in Rosa's hometown of Aspertia City, where Colress pursued his research with the help of his wife. Together they successfully redeveloped the Colress Machine, and with the governmental grants that had been bestowed upon Colress' research more scientific discoveries were constantly being made. In time the war seemed distant, like a bad dream; it was presumed that everyone had found their niche in post-war Unova and not more was thought of it.

The Unovan government had established a ministry dedicated to the reunification of stolen Pokémon with their original trainers, so besides helping with her husband's research Rosa would also volunteer her time at the local Pokémon Center to aid in this. If the original owners were not found or for some reason were unable to care for the Pokémon any longer, then new homes were sought for the animals. The liberated Pokémon were varied in their backgrounds – most had been stolen from Unovans, but a great number had been taken from travelling trainers who resided in regions as distant as Johto and Kanto. Reuniting all the Pokémon promised to be a challenge, but not an impossible one.

One winter day, Colress and Rosa were at their research lab working on a new gadget, when they heard a noise.

"Did you hear that?" asked Rosa.

"Yes indeed. I wonder what...?" Colress began speaking, but before he could finish his sentence the room was invaded by the Shadow Triad, the personal bodyguards of Ghetsis.

Colress faced the Triad and said, "Greetings. It has been quite a while since we last met. How is Ghetsis?"

"Not well, we are sorry to say," answered one of the guards. "Ghetsis won't do anything, to be more precise, he can't do anything anymore."

"That's why we won't forgive you," another said.

Colress studied the three Shadow Triad guards; their faces were stern. "What has happened to him?" he asked.

"He is greatly depressed, and has been indisposed for some time now," replied the second guard.

"The fact he is unhappy, makes us unhappy," said the third. "We wish to find a way to regain his lost heart."

Colress looked at each one of them and then made an observation. "You are obviously truly loyal to Ghetsis, and that should make him feel better... knowing that he has his faithful guards to look out for his best interests."

"True," said the first warrior, "but the fact that we are here is not to socialize with you. We are here to take you back to Ghetsis."

"What?" questioned Rosa, "Why?"

The trio surrounded them and announced, "Because you were the cause of our mighty Lord Ghetsis' defeat, you will be taken to his presence, for him to render just judgement."

"That's ridiculous," protested Rosa, seizing Liepard's Poké Ball to unleash the cat.

"Just a moment darling," interrupted Colress, "I think we ought not fight this... let's go see what Ghetsis has in mind. He might really need our help."

It was just after noon-time when the Shadow Triad and their hostages, Colress and Rosa, arrived at the Harmonia Estates in Icirrus City.

They walked up to Ghetsis' personal quarters and found the former Team Plasma leader looking forlornly out of a window in silent contemplation. The room was on an upper floor of the mansion, with an elegantly carved wood table and chair – where Ghetsis presently was – beside a comfortable-looking bed, a very small refrigerator off to the side, windows overlooking the garden below, and a door that led out onto a small balcony. One of the ubiquitous pansy flower bouquets was atop the table.

Sparse snowflakes drifted down outside, the first snowfall of this winter; they seemed to hold a significance to Ghetsis, for he watched them in rapt silence, as if absorbed in a memory, and did not even acknowledge his visitors.

"We have brought you the ones that caused your global mission to fail, Lord Ghetsis," announced one of the Triad.

Ghetsis turned away from the window, gazed momentarily at the two captives, and then looked at the Shadow Triad. "Why?"

This surprised the Triad. "...why?"

"I didn't ask you to bring them," Ghetsis stated. He coughed a couple of times, and the Shadow Triad guards exchanged an uncertain look.

One of the guards insisted, "Colress is responsible for foiling your plans."

"So?" Ghetsis was starting to look a bit annoyed. "You could have easily brought me Zinzolin or any one of the Sages for that matter. Why didn't you bring N? He's the worst of the lot."

The guard's face lit up. "Do you want us to?"

"No. I don't want to see anybody." Ghetsis turned back to the window.

The Shadow Triad released Colress and Rosa, albeit with obvious anger.

"So, you didn't order our capture, then?" Rosa asked Ghetsis directly.

"I don't care much about anything anymore," he replied, "My life is useless..."

"No, it's not," Colress interrupted. "You have a magnificent ability to inspire people with your eloquent speeches, not to mention that I will not forget that you were the only one who believed in my research ability and funded it when no one else would."

Ghetsis thought about this, but said nothing prompting Rosa to pursue the topic.

"True," she added, "Many good things can come out of Ethan's research and it would not have been possible had you not given him the means to follow through. I believe in the bottom of your heart, you are not the epitome of evil that some have said you are."

"I thought I could correct what happened, in some way, but I couldn't," was all that Ghetsis answered as he stared out the window.

No one said anything else for a while and then Ghetsis stood up from where he had been seated, removed the cloak and draped it over the back of the chair. It was one of the rare times Colress had seen him without the cloak. He had his right arm held up in a sling, and it seemed strange to see the once-proud military commander so noticeably weak, and so dispirited he cared not whether he should be perceived as such.

"Stay or leave; makes no difference to me." he said as he lay down on the bed in the corner of the room. He reached over to cover himself with a blanket and one of the Triad guards noticed he was struggling to get it over his legs; and trying to be helpful said:

"Sir, would you like some aid?"

"Pfft," was the response, "All of you, security attendants... Leave. I will summon you when needed."

Bowing in respect, the guards replied, "At your service, master."

The Shadow Triad left in their characteristically swift, soundless way.

"If it is all the same, we would like to stay," said Colress. "I shall speak with Anthea and Concordia."

Ghetsis did not respond. Rosa tried to lighten the somber mood, inquiring, "Whatever happened with the Plasma Frigate? The last I heard it had been partially destroyed during the war, but there was also talk about fixing it...?"

"I have the ship docked near the P2 laboratory," Ghetsis said weariedly. "I have not decided what should be done with it, nor do I care. Some people would like it restored and opened to public view like a sort of museum vessel. A monument to disgrace."

"Oh, I don't think so," replied Rosa, "It is a part of Unovan history. You did make history, Ghetsis."

"Made history," whispered Ghetsis, "but not change."

Ghetsis fell asleep, and before long was having a nightmare.

Rosa noticed he was tossing and turning, and walked over to awaken him. Just before she did, he started shouting a name; desperation ringing in his voice.


He was having such a vivid dream; it had turned into hallucinations.

"Wake up, Lord Ghetsis, wake up!" said Rosa earnestly, as Colress joined her to try and take Ghetsis out of his sleep.

Ghetsis woke startled to find Colress and Rosa still in the room. He was safe in the mansion, but his body ached and he felt chills.

Rosa proceeded to soak a towel in cool water and, placing it on his forehead, said, "You have a very high fever."

Ghetsis looked at them blearily. "What are you two doing here?" he asked in a hoarse voice.

"We never left," Colress replied. "We spoke with your sisters and they said you have been sick for a few days and were refusing medicine. We got concerned."

Rosa added, "Why won't you have medicine? Ethan has developed a new concoction that will help bring the fever down quickly."

"I'm afraid it might be bitter," Colress explained, handing him a demitasse cup containing a liquid medicine, "but it should help reduce the fever."

Ghetsis took the cup and gazing at the contents, spoke quietly, "I know for a fact that there are many people eager to read my obituary. It's poison, isn't it?"

The accusation made Colress and Rosa glance at each other in surprise. Ghetsis poised the small cup at his lips for a second and swallowed its contents.

"It's just as well. I'm a failure anyway," he said afterwards.

"You're not a failure," Rosa assured him. "You must have had a reason to do all that you did."

Ghetsis looked at her intently and then asked, "How long do I have to wait for it to take effect?"

"It is medicine," insisted Rosa with a serious face.

Colress, adjusting his eyeglasses, analyzed, "Quite frankly, if we were going to kill you, we would have done it already."

"Thank you for your sincerity, Ethan," said Ghetsis with a sideways glance.

"Would you like some water?" Rosa asked Ghetsis.

"Perhaps a bit," he said.

Rosa walked over to a small refrigerator to the side of the room; he could see her pour the contents of a pitcher into a drinking glass. She returned and handed him the glass of icy water. It was rather heavy and Ghetsis struggled to grasp it, spilling a bit.

"Let me help you with that," she said as she took hold of the glass and held it up to his lips. Ghetsis drank the water and handing back the glass, studied Colress and Rosa, and commented:

"Why do you care what happens to me?"

"We are friends," said Colress.

The grand leader looked straight at him, as if trying to read his intentions but saw nothing more than sincerity.

"Strange," he said after a while, "I've never really trusted that phrase after my Felicity died."

Feeling some relief, he reclined back into his bed and fell asleep once again.

When Ghetsis woke up, he found that not only were Colress and Rosa still in the room accompanying him, but they were now joined by his sisters Concordia and Anthea.

Anthea placed a hand on his forehead. "Well, the fever's broken," she said.

"How long have I been asleep?" Ghetsis asked.

"About two hours," she replied, "Are you hungry?"

"Yes, actually," he answered.

Her eyes brightened. "That's a good sign. I will go to the kitchen and tell the cook."

She left the room with Concordia, and Ghetsis focused his attention on Colress and Rosa. Liepard was seated beside them, and the Pokémon wandered over to his bedside.

"Rosa," Ghetsis asked, "is this your Liepard?"

"Yes," said Rosa.

He studied the cat, which stared back at him with watchful feline eyes.

"The commonplace Pokémon that could defeat the legendary dragons," Ghetsis contemplated, "I spent twenty long years seeking a way to turn a nightmare into a dream of hope somehow, and all I had to do was go out into the tall grass, catch six Purrloin and train them until they evolved."

"It's not so simple," said Colress.

"It seems nothing is," scowled Ghetsis, "Much like your interest in whether I live or die. You claim to be my friend, yet you helped defeat me at the Giant Chasm."

"You were going to be destroyed, and I didn't want to see that. Despite whether you believe it or not, I am your friend."

"I would rather have died with my dream than live in defeat."

Ghetsis seemed melancholic; the scientist tried to explain his view:

"If Pokémon display their full power when treated with kindness, then even if you were to take over Unova with Kyurem, the regime would be ill-fated from the start. Maybe it wouldn't be in Unova, maybe it would be in another region that you set out to conquer; but sooner or later you would have been faced with a trainer like Rosa, unwilling to surrender, who had a strong friendship with their Pokémon. Kyurem would have fallen in that battle, and if ancient history can serve as example, the next to fall would be the ruler...often quite violently. Your rage grew in twenty years. So too would that of a conquered people, and neither they, nor the scourge of a history written by them of your loss would offer you even the vestige of dignity... It was a matter of time, Ghetsis. Though you may not agree with my reasoning, I hope at least you will analyze it."

Ghetsis thought about this, and finally relented, "You're right, usual."

His sisters returned with the meal, and Ghetsis found the food savory. He ate with a good appetite, without saying anything, and it was solely when he had nearly finished eating that he resumed talking with his guests. They had stayed in the room attentively all this time.

"If the power of Pokémon truly has some connection with the bond with their trainers, N has a strong friendship with Reshiram," Ghetsis said to Colress and Rosa, "If he had helped..."

Anthea interjected, "Brother, haven't you been rather harsh on N? He was an innocent party in all of this."

Ghetsis did not reply to her; Rosa spoke up.

"N aside...taking over the world couldn't be the solution."

"There was no solution," said Ghetsis, "I saw that late."

He placed the utensils on the plate, and Concordia and Anthea took these things and left the room again. Though the meal seemed to have helped Ghetsis' health, he still felt dismal and it was noticeable. Colress however had something else to say:

"Ghetsis, there may not be a solution to the inequity of the Unova region's current legal system; however, I believe that there might be a way to alleviate some of the incumbrances you find have been placed upon your life."

Ghetsis appeared bitterly amused. "Such as?"

"I would like to try healing your old injuries."

This was fairly astonishing to Ghetsis, who stared straight at him; the scientist was earnest and returned his gaze forthrightly. At last, Ghetsis found his voice.

"There are more worthwhile things for you to do, Dr. Colress."

"I hardly think so," came the scientist's unpretentious reply.

"Modern medicine has not found a way to heal these injuries. As you are quite aware," Ghetsis added, "from when I recounted my history to you, I was told I would have to live the rest of my life with them."

"I succeeded – with your backing – in inventing all sorts of scientific technology, many of which the government feels have applications outside of warfare. All of these achievements were initially dismissed by my university colleagues as a fanciful dream. It is likely the cure for your injuries has not been found yet for the same reason."

"Perhaps my nursing skills would come in handy," offered Rosa.

"That would indeed be a great assistance," the scientist agreed, then turned back to a still-surprised Ghetsis.

"In any event, I would like to help you. I maintain – you are my friend."

"I never thought there was so much good left in humanity, until I met you two," said Ghetsis.

Colress smiled slyly and pushed up his glasses. "Besides," he added, "it is a good experiment."

For the first time in many years, a small, genuine smile crossed the lips of the great leader of Team Plasma.

His sisters, who were standing outside the bedroom observing the turn of events, gasped with tears of joy.

"We have our real brother back," said Concordia.

"Yes," added Anthea.

Chapter 53 - The final battle

Ghetsis was feeling a little better the following morning, and it was an unusually warm day for wintertime, so he said he would likely get some sun outside in the garden. Colress had expressed some concern as to whether Ghetsis was yet well enough to be out of bed, but the former Team Plasma leader dismissed these hesitations as facetious. Time in the fresh air and sunlight would do him good, Ghetsis said, adding in surprising candor that it would give him occasion as well to meditate more fully upon the events that brought the Unova region's unprecedented modern-day war to its conclusion.

Overwhelmed by curiosity, Rosa asked, "Do you regret the war? ...or everything that happened from it?"

Ghetsis turned sharply to her, his violet gaze once more blazing with the old defiant ferocity.

"No. I regret that I lost."

Why should he regret it? Did humanity regret how sorely it had treated him and his plight? No – they had mocked him, and when vengeance fell upon them, they cried that it was unjust. He still clung to the glorious envisage of what might have been, a world where he reigned not in name but in practice, ever-watchful to ensure the melodious equilibrium of black and white would not be upset, and where wrong would always be met by retribution, unmarred by the cacophony of injustice.

Snow-cover was patchy across the grass, and melting away so that the ice was certain to be gone by sunset. However, new snow was forecast for that night; the present warmth was deceptive, perhaps as much as the sight of victory had been, considered Ghetsis crossly. He knew the marsh-lands of Icirrus, usually a glittering icy wonderland renowned across the region, had not yet frozen over in their entirety, as if nature itself wished to defy Ghetsis' misplaced winter that had assailed Unova during summer warfare. The result was a swampy terrain full of Pokémon like Shelmet. It was a boon for those who were interested in catching these species however the proliferation of marsh wildlife was tedious trekking for any pedestrian who merely wished to reach Opelucid.

The Shadow Triad guards spread into a semicircle about the garden, where they stood watch upon Ghetsis as he conversed with Colress and Rosa.

The scientist was very chatty about his research plans to heal Ghetsis' injuries. Ghetsis listened, appreciatively, even if he personally saw only the hopelessness of the endeavor. When Colress finished his exposition, Ghetsis gave a sideways smile.

"You will not succeed, doctor. I am still grateful for the sentiment."

"I have already determined several leads in the established literature..."

"You're mistaking ideals for truth," Ghetsis added. "Didn't we all?"

Colress was about to reply when they all heard the cry of a Pokémon. They glanced over to see a familiar three-headed dragon type swoop down from the trees and halt directly in front of Ghetsis.

"The Hydreigon," Ghetsis murmured thoughtfully.

The dragon fluttered before him, screeching adamantly.

"Why has this Pokémon returned?" Ghetsis pondered.

"It appears to still view you as its trainer," said Rosa.

"Nonsense. I released it; nor did I ever tend to it in much more than a cursory fashion. I am not its original master, either."

"That may be but the Hydreigon appears to recognize you as its trainer," Colress noted.

"Should we try to find its original trainer?" Rosa inquired.

"The search would turn out fruitless," was Ghetsis' simple reply.

"Oh," said Rosa flatly, and the matter was left at that.

"It is a powerful Pokémon, Ghetsis," said Colress. "Most trainers would be elated to have such a creature at their command. Why not keep it?"

Ghetsis was ambivalent. "There's no use for a tool that serves no purpose. If it elects to view me as its master still – well, I don't care."

The Hydreigon tugged at Ghetsis' cloak.

"Is it trying to tell us something?" Rosa wondered.

"You read too much into animal behavior," Ghetsis said.

"What about the bond it seems to have with you, or wishes to form in any case?" Rosa insisted.

"Bonds between Pokémon and people," Ghetsis was disparaging. "Humans and Pokémon aren't even the same category of living creature. There's no way we could expect to understand each other."

"Well," said Rosa, not wishing to enter into further dispute over the matter, "Ethan and I have some items to purchase at Shopping Mall Nine. We shall be back soon."

"Is there anything you would care for?" Colress inquired.

"Not particularly," replied Ghetsis, "If you like, one of my chauffeurs will drive the two of you. The marsh-lands leading up to the Tubeline Bridge are a pain to traverse."

"If you see fit, Lord Ghetsis," accepted Colress.

Ghetsis informed the servants that his friends would be provided use of one of the vehicles. Then, as the Hydreigon still lingered obstinately, he turned to the youngest of the Shadow Triad guards.

"Xavier, could you retrieve Hydreigon's Poké Ball? I believe it is on the side table in the foyer," Ghetsis added.

The warrior bowed and went into the mansion for the capsule, returning shortly with it as Rosa and Colress were bidding farewell of Ghetsis and leaving the garden.

The limousine had been driven up to the portico. The Team Plasma insignias had not been removed from the doors, lending regalia somehow unusual in the present, as if everything of the war era stubbornly refused to admit their defeat. The chauffeur gave a little, polite bow to Colress and Rosa as they approached.

"Where to, Doctor?" the man inquired.

"Route 9, please," replied Colress.

The man opened the door, yet before either of them could get in, a group of people suddenly surrounded the vehicle. From whence they came was uncertain. They had no distinguishing unforms or otherwise to set apart from average civilians; they appeared to have been lying in wait in the bracken, and their Pokémon were outside of their capsules, ready to fight.

One in particular, a Vileplume, swung out its vines and entangled the chauffeur instantly, at once gagging and binding him helpless. When Rosa and Colress reached for their Poké Balls, the attention turned to them.

"SleepPowder, Vileplume!" the Pokémon's trainer called.

The grass type responded readily; Rosa was enveloped in the sparkling blue powder and she collapsed before she could even send out Liepard.

This left Colress facing the group of assailants, his two Pokémon pitted against their four. He was barred from reaching his wife by a fifth animal, a rock type called a Boldore.

"What a prize!" exclaimed one of the assailants gleefully, "We come for the leader and find his deputy as well!"

The realization struck the scientist like a Seviper.

In the garden there were others, enough to endeavor a military-style invasion upon the Harmonia Estates. Ghetsis' sisters and the servants had been trapped within the house, kept at bay from the doors and windows by snarling Pokémon.

The Shadow Triad were easily outnumbered. Whilst the Bisharp contended with a bevy of fire and bug types – both their weaknesses – Ghetsis found himself confronted with a group of trainers accompanied by Pokémon that looked to be of high levels.

"Remember the four?" scowled one, "My sister was among them."

"My husband was caught in the crossfire when the Plasma Frigate raided Contratus City," said a lady with a Venomoth fluttering beside her.

"I still have the scars from what Team Plasma did on account of my being a dissident," added a third; the Mightyena that stood next to him growled supportively.

"The government might let all of you Team Plasma villains off with impunity, but we will see ourselves that justice is done," chimed in yet another trainer.

Ghetsis gazed at them, fairly bemused, then started laughing. They looked at him in astonishment.

"If my actions are as evil as you claim, then you are as wretched as I am," the former Team Plasma leader grinned.

Their Pokémon snarled, yet the Hydreigon suddenly swooped in front of Ghetsis to face them.

Ghetsis stared at the creature disbelievingly. It's going to fight on my behalf? Why?

"Much has been said of your Hydreigon, Lord Ghetsis," derided one, "They say that during the war it once knocked out three enemies in one strike. Let's see if it can deal with ten."

"Good thing it doesn't know Earthquake, it would sweep the field," jeered the next.

They knew of the tragedy, then. It should not have surprised him – the whole region knew it by now – yet the disregard of humanity...!

Hydreigon was immediately overwhelmed by opponents and before long was out of strength, writhing desperately under the assault. It was now beyond the point where any trainer with ethics would declare the battle had been won and call off their animals as the victors, lest their opponent be hurt severely, but these people had no sportsmanship, let alone compassion.

Ghetsis was stoically still as he watched the scene, without emotion. It was not the callousness he had come to be known for during wartime. He was purely stunned to see this dreadfulness again. It was recollection of two he had seen, many years ago, caring little about the death of a fellow living creature and delighting without reason in the suffering of another. These people were like those two. It might even have been introspection; contemplation, if he ever come to feel this way in kind?

Then in a sudden act that might have been a display of pity, Ghetsis recalled the Pokémon to its capsule.

Victorious, his enemies stepped forward. Ghetsis gripped the staff tighter and held it up, ready to strike any of them who drew near. It only resulted in their laughter.

"Do you really think a cripple can fight us off without Pokémon?"

Ghetsis' sight drifted to the outskirts of the garden, where the last few Pansy flowers could be seen sprouting raggedly in the snow. There was something peaceful about the way the sun lay its warm light across them, incongruous with the ice; how their petals swung softly in the chilly breeze, something that seemed to engender both futility and weariness within the present confrontation.

When Ghetsis spoke, his voice was quiet. "No."

A Staraptor gave a caw and swooped at him in an attack. He tried to swat the bird Pokémon away, only for the Mightyena to leap and seize the staff in its jaws. Amidst the struggle, the other Pokémon fell upon him and pinned him down.

Ghetsis, held immovable by the enemy Pokémon, now looked up at his assailants. The very will to fight, the very last of it, had left him; the leader of the Team Plasma army at last accepting his final defeat.

"Mightyena, end this with Hyper Beam," sneered the wolf's trainer.

The wolf dropped the staff at its paws and drew itself back, charging its power for the final blow, when a great shadow washed over the area. Mightyena let out a yelp of surprise, its attack faltering.

Everyone looked up - even Ghetsis - to see the Pokémon that had produced the shadow as it fluttered over the grass. It was Reshiram, with N and Zorua riding it.

"If it isn't his majesty, the king of Unova," said one of the trainers mockingly.

"Leave my father alone," N practically snarled.

Ghetsis was in shock. "What are you doing, N?"

N didn't reply to this, only gesturing towards the group of assailants surrounding Ghetsis in an implicit order to his pet. "Zorua!"

Zorua leapt with a growl and attacked with Fury Swipes. The Pokémon succeeded in getting the infuriated trainers away from Ghetsis, but one of them seized the little fox by the scruff of the neck. Zorua writhed around, trying unsuccessfully to bite.

"Zorua, Night Daze!" called N.

A dazzling flare of violet light shone from Zorua, and instantly two adversary trainers were knocked off their feet. The fox landed on the grass on its paws.

"Leave the damn fox," shouted one, "Get that dragon! Linoone, now!"

Out of all the Pokémon battling, Linoone looked like it was ill enough to have been taken to the Pokémon Center, but had been sent out for the conflict nonetheless. The creature now, with the speed its species was famed for, raced headlong towards Reshiram; its eyes glinted as a flash of light sprang from it, but the dragon swooped evasively to the side and the attack meant for Reshiram struck N instead.

N began coughing and fell from Reshiram's back. The dragon, seeing what had happened to his human, let out an angry cry. Linoone inexplicably seemed to recover its health; the creature stood up on its hind paws, awaiting direction by its trainer.

N stood up, disoriented. "Reshiram...!" he ordered.

This was enough of a signal to the dragon. Reshiram flapped its wings and unleashed its fiery attack. The whirlwind of flame threw the flying Pokémon to the ground, knocked out, and tossed Mightyena and Linoone a distance. They regained their footing, and lunged at Reshiram, but the legendary Pokémon was too swift: it flew up and let loose another fire attack. Both of its opponents fainted.

They had run out of usable Pokémon, and now wore terrified looks as they faced the angry dragon. N confronted them.

"If you don't leave right now, I'll let my friend roast you," said N emphatically.

Reshiram let out a roar, as if to confirm it.

They fled in fear. Their companions about the mansion grounds, seeing the tide had turned as none of them had any possible way to win combat against a legendary Pokémon, abandoned their fight and ran off as well.

When N saw that all their enemies had left the estate premises, he sighed wearily.

N picked up Ghetsis' staff and walked over to him. Ghetsis seemed so surprised that N should save him, he remained wordless, even as his adoptive son lifted him up from the grass and helped him onto the dragon's back. N climbed up too, and Reshiram flew to the balcony that was outside of Ghetsis' room; the door was pushed open, and they both collapsed on the floor inside.

Ghetsis managed to pull himself up, but N astonishingly seemed in worse health; he was shivering, and did not seem to have the strength to stand or even sit up.

Ghetsis called to him. "N, are you all right?"

"Father," N said, to see the worry present in Ghetsis' gaze. Ghetsis realized in surprising epiphany that yes, he did care about him; he might have adopted him for vengeance, raised him with manipulation and deceit towards that end, but how could he not have acquired some level of paternal affection towards N, the little boy who could talk to animals and who had acquiesced to what he had been made to believe was his predetermined role in society. If N was so much like Felicity, could he have involuntarily conveyed this to him? Or was it that N and Felicity were similar in spirit? This was no reason to hate him.

N spoke, weakly, "The war is over...and yet...there's still animosity in the region... I guess there was never any way for the world to regain harmony..."

His blue eyes closed, and his body went limp.

To Ghetsis, this was too jarring; too horribly, excruciatingly familiar. "N! Wake up! You can't..."

His voice trailed.

Chapter 54 - Nathaniel

Shock was written over Ghetsis' face as he bent over N, hardly noticing the others had hurried into the room – his sisters, Colress carrying Rosa, as well as the little fox Zorua. The Shadow Triad stood guard at the doorway while the scientist placed Rosa on the bed.

"Colress, what happened to Rosa?" Anthea was saying.

"It's only SleepPowder. She'll be okay..."

Concordia's concerned cry interrupted his conversation. "Oh no... N! Is he all right?"

Ghetsis did not look up at them. Colress knelt beside him, and checked N's pulse.

"...He's fainted," determined Colress. "This looks like he was struck with a poison type move."

Fainted? Then he was alive. Ghetsis allowed himself to exhale a quiet breath of relief. "There was a Venomoth on the battlefield," Ghetsis confirmed, glancing at Colress.

"How much of a PoisonPowder attack was he exposed to? He seems very ill. Do you have an Antidote?" Colress added, turning towards Ghetsis' sisters.

"We might be able to hurry down to the mart for one," said Anthea.

Zorua meanwhile, sniffed at her master. Something made the Pokémon flatten her ears; with a yap, she sent forth a reddish flare of light. It washed over N, then dissipated.

Anguish lit in Anthea's eyes. "Zorua, why did you do that to him?!"

Zorua gave an adamant yap.

"That was a move called Embargo," Anthea insisted. "Embargo prevents the use of items."

Concordia lamented, "Now even if we had an Antidote, it would be ineffective."

Zorua was yapping insistently.

Ghetsis spoke. "Zorua has a reason."

It superficially appeared odd, coming from a man who had insisted Pokémon were thoughtless creatures, but he had deduced what was happening. "The attack Linoone used, which N intercepted, was Bestow," Ghetsis stated.

This meant little to the onlookers, except for the scientist Dr. Colress, who affirmed, "If the target is not holding an item, the user forces its own upon them. So, you suspect an item was planted on N that has made him fall ill?"

N was regaining consciousness, the pallor fading from his countenance. "N, how are you feeling?" asked Concordia.

"I have a headache," he said. He retrieved something from a pocket. "Where did this come from?"

It was a violet marble, big enough to fit in the palm of one's hand, laced with some substance that glowed with a sinister light. Colress, with one glance, instantly recognized the item.

"A Toxic Orb. It's a foul item, sometimes found in the habitats of poison types. The venom it's covered with is so noxious, it inflicts a potentially lethal poisoning on whomever bears one. You're not affected by it now; Zorua's Embargo negated the poison."

"Antidotes can't counter that; if we had wasted time with them, it might have been too late," Anthea said. "Why, Zorua saved your life, N."

The fox yapped happily.

"What horrendous people, those attackers," said Concordia, "They forced their poor Pokémon to hold this so it could be planted on someone in the raid."

"In fairness, sometimes Linoone pick up items they find lying about on the ground; it is the habit of that species of Pokémon," Colress explained, "However, they are smart enough to know what is harmful. I've never heard of one deliberately picking up a Toxic Orb."

"I didn't know status moves could be used so effectively on people," marveled Anthea. "I knew standard, offensive attacks could, certainly, but it had never occurred to me that the same could be for all of a Pokémon's moves."

"Well, Chansey's Heal Pulse has been documented to be effective in healing minor injuries in humans..." Colress hesitated, analyzing this.

Their conversations were distant, irrelevant, to both the Team Plasma leader and his adopted son, the once-to-be-appointed king. Ghetsis faced N.

"You should never have come back, or rescued me."

N seemed sad; he glanced down at the floor sorrowfully but did not respond.

Ghetsis, however, was not finished. "Why did you?"

N looked back up at Ghetsis, with the same luminous blue eyes that reminded him so painfully of Felicity.

"I don't care about whatever you said to me or whatever our blood says... To me you'll always be my father."

Ghetsis' eyes watered and he turned his head away momentarily to prevent anyone from seeing it, and spoke:

"N. I've been cruel, and the way I've treated you is wrong. You're not a freak...there was no excuse for saying those horrible things to you. You really do have a gift, and if I ever said you didn't have a human heart...maybe it's because, compared to the rest of humanity, the only person I've ever known who was so kindhearted was Felicity..."

"Father, you don't have to say these things." N interrupted.

"Let me finish...please. There was no justification either way. There couldn't be. Nor was there for having kept you locked indoors. I destroyed your childhood," insisted Ghetsis.

"No, you didn't," N protested. "Growing up, I had everything I could have wanted."

"All you ever wanted, was to go outside. I am so sorry."

Ghetsis lowered his head in contrition and N couldn't hold himself back any longer; he walked up to Ghetsis and embraced him. Ghetsis hugged him back and a silence fell over the room.

"I never said I wasn't willing to help you, just that I couldn't separate the Pokémon from their humans."

"It doesn't matter anymore, but it's the same," Ghetsis sighed, a bit sadly. "How could you keep power otherwise?"

"By being a just ruler," answered N.

This response surprised Ghetsis. N elaborated:

"People and Pokémon have something in common: they both want to live in peace. Taking away people's beloved companions is not just. It would turn people against the regime that mandated it. However, if a ruler is kind and understanding of the people's wishes, they would want to keep him in power for as long as they could; both him and his descendants. It's a bit like a math formula, I guess."

"Injustice equals inconformity," Ghetsis considered N's words.

Rosa was stirring, and it was no overstatement to say she was as surprised and happy as the others to see the reconciliation of a relationship that had been one of the earliest and most tragic casualties of the Plasma War.

N would call on Ghetsis frequently after that, and gradually they regained the familial rapport lost during the war. It appeared to have a favorable effect upon Ghetsis, whose health and spirits could be seen to improve every day his son dropped by. There was further reason for N to visit too, as after that incident of the opposition assailants it was apparent the presence of a powerful Pokémon such as the dragon Reshiram was indispensable for the security of the estate, but the main reason for his going to see Ghetsis was unquestionably personal. N elucidated Hydreigon's actions; the Pokémon had returned to warn Ghetsis of the attackers, for however dismissive he had been of the dragon, Dartham had been a worse trainer.

One of those days N's wife, Hilda came along. She was already well along in her pregnancy and the child was expected in a couple of months. She had been inclined to remain outside, not wishing to antagonize Ghetsis, and gave the diplomatic pretext that she wished to tend to the dragons. Ghetsis recognized it as tactfulness and said it made little difference; he knew she was outside, besides she was N's wife, it would be discourteous for her to be denied entry, so she might as well come in.

"Because the sooner she visits, the sooner she'll have to leave," he remarked sarcastically.

Hilda stepped in with Vaporeon at her heels, and was met by Ghetsis in the entrance to the parlor. They eyed each other guardedly, and conversed in a casual way, perhaps with antagonism more feigned than genuine. Ghetsis was the first who spoke.

"What an unfortunate turn of events. I tried incessantly to kill you during the war and you end up becoming my daughter-in-law."

"...and I've got the in-law from hell," scowled Hilda.

"I suppose we'll each have to live with it," Ghetsis conceded.

Vaporeon gave a squeak and scampered into the mansion. N started laughing and both Ghetsis and Hilda looked from the Pokémon to him.

"What did Vaporeon say?" asked Hilda.

"Nothing," grinned N, though his continued snickering was ever more intriguing.

The mini-spat continued as they walked into the parlor. "So, what has the irredeemable Lord Ghetsis been occupying himself with?" Hilda asked tongue-in-cheek.

"Plotting again how to get my revenge on the region," Ghetsis retorted. "I shall reign supreme eventually. In the meantime, I am delighting in the idea of soon being a grandparent."

"It's a girl," Hilda replied, with a smile.

Ghetsis gestured with his staff to the sofa. "Won't you sit? Let it never be said Ghetsis Harmonia is discourteous - they can continue believing I'm evil, for all I care, but not discourteous. Would you care for anything?" he added as she sat down.

"Oh, that's quite all right, but thank you anyway," she said, honestly.

Ghetsis sat down as well. "In all frankness, I myself only feel inclined for plain, fresh water..."

Vaporeon overheard this and with a cry, padded over to the small refrigerator in the other room and tugged at the door until it opened. The Pokémon retrieved a bottle of water and, clutching it in its jaws, brought it over. It stood next to the sofa with it and stared at Ghetsis.

N translated. "Vaporeon says it wants to be friends. Pokémon don't fight out of hatred; they battle either as a friendly competition, for their survival, or to appease their masters. Sometimes these overlap. For Vaporeon, he had no opinion about you one way or the other."

"N," said Ghetsis, eyeing the water type animal sideways, "Pokémon don't have opinions."

"They do, father," N insisted good-naturedly.

"I maintain, N, Pokémon are merely tools to achieve an end." Ghetsis declared.

Vaporeon hopped onto the sofa.

"'s just that some of them are rather endearing," he added unexpectedly, petting the Pokémon on the head.

Vaporeon gave a happy cry.

Suddenly a flash of black fur hurtled past them towards the door.

"What was that?" Hilda asked.

"I think it was Zorua," said N.

"She ran so fast I thought for a second it was a ghost Pokémon."

"Something tells me one of our antique vases must now be in a million pieces, courtesy that fox," Ghetsis observed dryly. "At least we have them all insured."

N called, "Zorua? What are you up to?"

Zorua did not reply, and curiosity gathered up so much that Ghetsis, Hilda, and N decided to follow the small Pokémon. They found Zorua in the garden near Reshiram, and another larger fox beside the dragon among the flowers. The large fox lifted its ears and raced directly to Ghetsis and N.

Neither Ghetsis, nor N, could believe it; upon seeing this Pokémon, their exclamation was in unison:


Zoroark let out a happy bark.

Father and son stared at each other in surprise.

"How do you know this Pokémon?" inquired Ghetsis.

"She raised me in the forest," elucidated N.

"This was Felicity's Zoroark," said Ghetsis.

Zoroark gave a series of barks and a yap. N translated them.

"She heard from bird Pokémon we were in this area, but she is surprised to find us both at once. She says she is happy father and son have reunited. She was worried that when I was an infant, I might not find you again."

It was as if a hush had fallen over the whole world. Ghetsis stared at the fox in shock.

"The building collapsed," was all he could bring himself to say. Yet still came the plaguing question, no traces had been found. Neither had Zoroark been seen again; the family pet had been entirely forgotten amidst the tragedy.

N was astounded as well, but he continued to relate what Zoroark was now barking with insistence.

"Zoroark says Felicity handed her the child shortly before the building collapsed," translated N, "that she knew this was a great responsibility that was being bequeathed to her; when they found me in the forest she felt that was best, as a human being I should belong with my kind, but she told Zorua to stay with me as my companion..."

"You do have her eyes." It was only for a moment, that Ghetsis entertained this with some seriousness, but he shook his head desperately. "No, it can't be."

"Zoroark says..." N began.

"It can't...and Pokémon can't really talk. You're my son, yes, but not..." he trailed off, a bit plaintively. "It was always my imagination of a resemblance, my old pained memories."

The notion was too astounding, possibly at once too joyous and terrible for Ghetsis. It would have been too good to be true, but it would be a travesty, to think he had him grow up before him, for twenty years in plain view and not to be able to appreciate it fully. His voice got dry.

"You can't possibly be Nathaniel."

Chapter 55 - I choose you

The likelihood of Zoroark's claims would be welcomed with gladness but was surely impossible, Ghetsis insisted, yet true doubt now flickered uneasily for him, like the blue flame of a Litwick. Colress was interested to see if Zoroark's account was the case – he admitted he had always thought the resemblance of Ghetsis and N was mystifying – and volunteered to do the genetic comparison to allay all uncertainties. Within a short time, the DNA test came back: positive. N was indeed Ghetsis' biological son.

Once the shock had abated, it was a delight. Ghetsis could not believe this good fortune, that Nathaniel had not died and in fact had been present all along. N, too, could now view the photographs of Ghetsis and Felicity with new comprehension. It also meant that the offspring of N and Hilda were Ghetsis' biological grandchildren. However, the appellation N had stuck, and though everyone now knew he was Nathaniel people still referred to him commonly by his nickname.

Betwixt all this, Dr. Colress was up to something. He generally was, so it was not much interest to Ghetsis, but at some point the scientist explained what it was.

"I have been considering Zorua's use of Embargo upon N," Colress said, "as well as comparing it to other status moves and their efficacy upon man. Those with curative and regenerative properties have been a special point of particular the attack Heal Pulse, which restores the target to health. The move, you see, was studied in early development of the energy-healing method now commonplace at Pokémon Centers worldwide. It is known by very few species of Pokémon; most notably by those of the Chansey and Audino family..."

"Succinctly, Dr. Colress," said Ghetsis.

"Very well," he relented. "I believe I may be able to use the Colress Machine's effects to amplify the Heal Pulse move to a point where it could regenerate otherwise irreparably damaged tissue."

"I see you still entertain the thought that there is some way to remove my handicaps, though I do not," said Ghetsis. "Very well, do as you wish."

Chansey and Audino were of the same taxonomy, but native to different locations of the globe. Both were bred for use in the Pokémon Centers as nursing aides, where their natural tendency to be healers was a great assistance. Of the two species, Audino were found in the grasslands of Unova, and known perhaps unfairly as an easy training target for trainers who wished to increase their Pokémon's level rapidly but without the use of hard-to-come-by items. The creatures were highly perceptive and sociable, but not good fighters without training, so confronted wild Audino would often heal their opponents – to their detriment. It had been one of the minor scourges that Team Plasma had pointed out of Pokémon training, though not made much of as the greater, more advantageous issue was that of outlawing Pokémon ownership to begin with.

Chansey was found mostly in the Kanto region, but they were notoriously hard to catch in the wild. This was how they had acquired their name: a saying in Kanto went that 'catching a Chansey is all up to chance.' They would flee quickly; if they were prevented from doing so, they would use evasive attacks to elude being struck while pounding their opponents to a faint. If the Audino were poor fighters, the Chansey prevailed in strategy.

"However, catching either Pokémon in the wild should be unnecessary," explained Colress, "Pokémon that have been trained by humans generally have the greater statistical power to begin with – and we will require a Pokémon with a large special attack to begin with that can be increased sizably with the E-M waves. I should think we can prevail upon one of the Pokémon Centers to aid us. It is, after all, a matter of science."

"You know your business, Colress," said Ghetsis, who was not too convinced of the whole plan, "though I doubt the simplicity of the matter."

Unfortunately, they found a roadblock: most of the Pokémon Centers did not wish to help them. The concept of submitting one of their prized Chansey to the Dark Scientist's experiments was repulsive to them, and they said so – and notwithstanding that, they would certainly not do it to aid the reviled former leader of Team Plasma, the villainous Lord Ghetsis Harmonia.

"What is becoming of our world?" lamented Rosa, "there was a time when humanity out of kindness would seek to help their fellow living beings, whomever they were, where they could."

"That was before the war, my dear," said Colress, rather jadedly, "Man has lost the sympathy that took years to cultivate."

Interestingly enough, it was the humans who felt this way, not the Pokémon. N, who was curious, came along with them to the Nimbasa Pokémon Center and after they had left, translated what many of the Chansey and Audino that had been listening to their petition were saying. Though obedient to their trainers, they disagreed with not assisting in the endeavor; being healing Pokémon, they wished to place their abilities in this service where they could.

"This is why Pokémon are better than people," ended N, with conviction.

"Perhaps we could send for a Chansey, from one of the other regions," Rosa considered.

N had a more surprising but scientifically feasible approach. "It is a mathematical calculation, after all. Couldn't the combined statistics of several wild Pokémon equal the special attack of one trained of that same species?"

"Indeed, they could," noted Colress, with interest, "I have used the Colress Machine with success on several Pokémon at once too."

N explained the situation to some wild Audino on the outskirts of route 16, and the Pokémon all expressed the desire to help. They were even able to recruit a Chansey that had been set free by some guilt-tormented trainer during the war.

They returned to the mansion with their small delegation of Audino and the Chansey.

Ghetsis gave them a sideways look from his good eye. "What did you bring, the Unovan army's entire medical division?"

"They're wild Pokémon," explained Rosa, "but perhaps if they work together, they can achieve the necessary strength."

Ghetsis knew all too well why, and said wryly, "You opted for wild animals, seeing that no one else would deign to help the evil Lord Ghetsis."

It was awkward; no one quite wished to admit it. Colress was the unconcerned one. "No, many of them didn't want to help me either," he dismissed. "Such simple-minded people; they have no respect for science and its ways."

Ghetsis nodded and then glanced at the others who were present besides Colress and Rosa. "Now, I don't think this medical treatment concerns anyone, and it certainly is not an exposition," he added grumpily. "Shoo."

N and Hilda dutifully left, as well as Anthea and Concordia, but Zorua did not budge. Ghetsis eyed the fox and said, "That goes for the little spy, too."

Zorua flattened her ears but scampered off after N.

They were now alone – solely Ghetsis, Colress, Rosa and the group of healing Pokémon. Ghetsis allowed his characteristically fierce and haughty manner to ebb, and he observed them somewhat vulnerably.

"I don't suppose they could make it much worse," he said as he removed the eye patch, and then the glove from his right hand.

Disfigurement had been hidden quite well. His entire right eye had a dark, blotched scar on the skin about it, and it was plain the eye was sightless. His right arm was also scarred, with large marks that nearly darkened the whole of it.

"I don't know," conceded the scientist, "This is, after all, experimental. It may not have any effect. Still, it is worth a try."

Ghetsis reclined on the bed, but he watched the little group of Pokémon with uncertainty. Colress switched on the control device and then, in a tranquil voice, directed:

"Chansey, Audino... Heal Pulse."

The wild animals let loose the energy wave yet it had only once gone over Ghetsis that he recoiled and held back a sharp gasp, evidently pained, and Colress called off the creatures.

Rosa commented with surprise, "Heal Pulse typically does not hurt."

"Perhaps the increase in power," analyzed Dr. Colress, "We must also factor in the number of Pokémon. The same things that would aid here are also mildly injurious..."

"It damn hurts," snapped Lord Ghetsis.

Rosa was worried. "I don't know if we have anything that might work as anaesthesia..."

"Anaesthesia," Ghetsis scoffed, "As if it were a major operation of some sort."

"Actually, Lord Ghetsis..." posited Colress.

Ghetsis interjected with dismissal possibly more bravery than indifference.

"Order the Pokémon already and be done with it."

"There is no necessity for the display of courage, Lord Ghetsis. You are not commanding an army anymore."

"It is scarcely a display of courage. It is a display of being fed up. Get on with this. The whole thing is giving me a headache."

The scientist focused his amber eyes steadily upon Ghetsis.

"Try to relax, Ghetsis... You have no pain."

Ghetsis gazed back at him, and as he did an inexplicable feeling of relaxation overcame him. With it, even the slight headache waned. He forced himself to blink.

"Dr. Colress... you have the same ability with humans that you do with Pokémon. You can harness the mind."

Colress wavered in surprise at his influence being so identified; for a moment Ghetsis wondered if the scientist would deny it, but he did not. "Humans and Poké is all the same," admitted Colress.

"I had suspicions of it before," Ghetsis said. "Zinzolin told me an anecdote that once happened aboard the Plasma Frigate, wherein he found himself answering honestly whatever question you put to him. He says subsequently his aversion to cold was lessened, and has never again been as strong as it was."

"I may have directed his attention to the point that the cold has been beneficial to him, at times," Colress confessed.

Ghetsis smirked slyly. "If you had told me your hypnotic talent was as powerful with humans as it was within the animal kingdom, I might have requested your aid at some of my political speeches."

The scientist's response was lackluster. "It would not have furthered my research. That is why I did not offer you the information then."

"A pity," said Ghetsis.

"Trust me," Colress insisted. "You have no pain."

Ghetsis relented, and allowed himself to relax. Colress waited until he could see stillness settling over the former Team Plasma leader, the pace of his breath calming, his eyes closing lightly, before the scientist again directed the Chansey and Audino to use Heal Pulse.

The energy wave struck Ghetsis, yet this time he did not flinch or even react. It rained over him at least ten times, and the pigmentation of the scars on his face and arm appeared to dilute.

Colress awakened both Ghetsis and the Pokémon from the trance at once with a snap of his fingers.

The scientist was observing studiously. "Remarkable. The scars have faded entirely," he murmured.

"I can't see," declared Ghetsis.

"Your eyes are closed," said Colress.

Ghetsis opened them blearily. He stared straight ahead at them, then stated:

"I still can't see."

Colress and Rosa exchanged a glance in astonishment.

There was total silence for what seemed like a long time, before the scientist spoke, his voice as nonchalant as ever.

"This is an unexpected result," observed Colress. "Quite intriguing; I wonder what may have occurred."

"...but Ethan," Ghetsis protested, "at least before I had one good eye."

"Blindness might be a temporary condition," Colress posited, "Let's give it a few minutes, and then we'll try something new."

They sat in silence and after a few minutes, Ghetsis spoke. "I'm starting to see a glow," he told them.

Little by little, Colress' theory was proven true. Ghetsis began improving and when an hour had gone by, his entire body was as if he had never been injured. Even the limp of his gait had been eradicated.

"Though," remarked Ghetsis, "this staff might still be good to keep as a final line of self-defense. Whoever is stupid enough to try getting past N's dragon deserves to be hit over the head."

"The intruder would likely be roasted before you can get to him," Rosa said.

"How is it that there is not even a stiffness in the muscles?" Ghetsis marveled, outstretching his once-wounded arm and flexing the fingers of the hand.

"Complete regeneration of tissue," Colress smiled. "This is a fascinating discovery; I believe this might even aid many of those hurt in the war."

"That's true, Ethan," agreed Rosa.

The Chansey and Audino all squeaked happily. As healing Pokémon, they were glad their powers could have been of service.

Ghetsis turned to his friend, sincerity and gratitude in his eyes. "Dr. Colress, I owe you a great debt. I have no way to repay it... I only wish there was a way to heal emotional wounds so easily."

There was silence until Rosa spoke up. "Is it true that you were an accomplished pianist?"

"Yes," he answered. "My wife Felicity and I would often play duets."

Ghetsis stood up and walked over to a piano that was in a corner of the room. He sat down on its bench, looking at the keys, but then he turned towards them without saying anything else.

"Ghetsis, could you play something for us?" Rosa asked him.

He was quiet for a moment; at last, he gingerly reached over to the ivory keys and gently, ever so slowly, began to elicit the notes, and the familiar soft melody emerged from the piano.

It was as to hear Taillow sing after a long winter, to play the piano anew, and once again fill the halls of Harmonia Estates with the symphony that harkened to memories of long ago, the song without lyrics, the tune with a tinge of sadness.

His sisters and the rest of the group came running in at the sound of the music. They all listened in silence as Ghetsis closed his eyes and played the music to its end. When he finished, he opened his eyes and stared at the piano keys for a while without saying a word, and then looked up suddenly as if he had forgotten that he was not alone.

"That was very good!" exclaimed Rosa.

"Our brother was a master at playing the piano," Concordia broke in.

"Yes... he would play often," added Anthea.

Ghetsis did not answer right away but took a moment to brush his newly healed arm, and then said wistfully, "Felicity sometimes played along with her harp..." his voice broke off and no one was sure of what to say, till the Zorua began yapping at something outside of the window.

Colress peered out and then said, "Well, if legends have any veracity to them, this should prove interesting...isn't that a Ho-Oh, fluttering near a tree branch outside? If so, that is supposed to forecast the coming of good fortune."

The rest of the group, Ghetsis included, approached the window and saw the bird at the moment it flew off high into the sky. It was a large Pokémon, with iridescent golden plumage and long, flowing tail feathers.

"I guess we shall see," Colress concluded.

When people heard how Ghetsis' injuries were healed, it was widely spoken about and Colress put his Heal Pulse method to practice in hospitals throughout the region, helping many with wounds once considered crippling. Others who had his talent with the Pokémon control device also tried their hand at the procedure, and soon the medical breakthrough was worldwide. No one mentioned how they had shunned the Dark Scientist's research prior.

Some days after this, Grimsley Murgrove called upon the Harmonia Estates. Ghetsis thought it would be awkward for he himself to initially receive the Elite Four member – considering that during the war Ghetsis had commanded a firing squad to try to execute him – hence it was N who met Grimsley at the portico.

"I'm not going to spend long. I merely wished to tell you firsthand," explained Grimsley, "The Pokémon League has finally decided that they will finance the rebuilding of the Team Plasma castle to maintain it as a historical monument."

"That's good to hear!" said N, "How did you ever get them to agree? I thought they said it was too costly."

Umbreon gave a cheerful cry. N glanced at the Pokémon, then to its trainer.

"Umbreon says you outwitted them?" N inquired with interest.

Grimsley laughed, and looked at his pet. "Umbreon...I didn't really outwit them...I merely beat them in a game of chance."

"Oh?" N wondered.

"The Pokémon League commission were tired of hearing me say the castle should be preserved," Grimsley recounted. "So, I told them I would flip a coin and to guess how it would land. If they were right, I would forget about all this and talk no more of it. I wagered that whatever their selection, they would lose."

"How could you be certain?"

Grimsley had a slight smile. "A flipped coin doesn't always land heads or tails. Sometimes it may never land at all."

The momentary perplexity was dispelled by Umbreon's happy squeaks. "Umbreon's laughing!" said N.

"I had him snatch the coin out of the air," Grimsley admitted. "By the way, I hear Dr. Colress visits frequently?"

"Yes," said N.

"Congratulate him for me," Grimsley said as he left, "everyone is lauding his discoveries but they are all loathe to concede it was he who discovered them. He has done a great service, for humanity and Pokémon too."

Having learnt of the plans laid out for the castle, Ghetsis decided after all to set aside the P2 laboratory and the Team Plasma warship moored there as an additional historical site for people to see. A ferry would leave from route 1 outside Accumula, cutting through the fierce currents to reach the dock site at the P2 laboratory, which now kept relics from the war and some of Colress' prototype Pokémon control devices on display. People could then step aboard the Plasma Frigate and see everywhere from the bridge to the galley to even Ghetsis' old office.

The castle at the Pokémon League, having been restored to its glittering glory, was as marveling to visitors. The lone testament to its former destruction was the gash on the wall behind the gold throne, preserved as where the two dragons and heroes of legend had once fled the collapsing edifice. Later on, the palace would also be a site visited with elaborate ceremony on a special day set aside to honor those lost in the Plasma War. It was sure to be recalled by men for years, if not through monument, then through literature. Shauntal, the Elite Four's ghost type specialist and acclaimed novelist, had written a book based on the events, and this tome came to be her most bestselling work yet.

Ghetsis never returned to see the castle; the recollections of the war were still unsatisfying to him. Today he, N, Colress, Rosa, Hilda, Anthea and Concordia sat in the mansion's parlor area to eat ice cream. Liepard, Vaporeon, Hydreigon, Zorua and Zoroark were clustered around awaiting their portion of the treat.

Rosa placed a bowl with vanilla ice cream on the floor for the happy Liepard, which immediately began lapping it up. The cat gave a thanking meow as her trainer proceeded to feed all the other animals.

"My research has been proven correct. Your feline is happiest with you, but it gets even happier when it is given ice cream," Colress noticed with a smile.

The little fox Zorua gave a few short yaps. N listened and then turned to Hilda in expectance.

Hilda spoke. "Zorua says... she likes ice cream, too."

"Correct!" said N.

"Now there's two of you interpreting Poké-speak," Ghetsis said with feigned irritation.

N smiled. "I've been teaching Hilda how to understand the voices of Pokémon. She's learning quite swiftly, I might add!"

Colress chimed in, "I admit I've always been interested in finding a way to communicate with Pokémon, as a way to bring out their power. I had once tried to design a device to do so. It fell short, however."

"I think only certain people can learn," commented Rosa.

The Shadow Triad then presented themselves, saying there was someone at the door. "It is the disgraced Sage, Zinzolin Gray."

"Oh, disgraced? That's unnecessary, considering the war is over," Hilda protested in a mild way.

"He was still a traitor to the Plasma army," declared the eldest of the Triad staunchly.

Concordia rose to attend to the visitor, but Ghetsis was quicker and walked over briskly.

The former leader of Team Plasma encountered his one-time general waiting at the portico to be either received or rebuked.

"Zinzolin," Ghetsis stated.

"Hello Ghetsis," Zinzolin ventured, "I'm happy to see you have recovered. There's much talk of it."

Ghetsis gave a very small shake of his head. "My recovery is only physical. There are hidden wounds I don't believe I shall ever recover from."

Zinzolin nodded; he faltered somewhat, as if he was at a loss for words, but at last he decided straightforwardness was best.

"Let me get to the point," said Zinzolin, and retrieved a violet capsule from his coat pocket – a Master Ball, which he held out to Ghetsis. "I recaptured Kyurem."

Ghetsis was silent, and Zinzolin proceeded to explain:

"I know it won't listen to anyone, but it was caught with your Poké Ball, so it belongs to you. I only realized at the end of the war what Team Plasma truly meant, and then it was too late. To me it was a reverie of power and fame and wealth, at a cost I was more than willing to pay of betraying longtime friends. It is the same for anyone... as long as you are dreaming, the dream will never reveal itself to you. I can only hope that this, my own small way to atone for my sins, may at least be acknowledged."

Ghetsis thought about this for a long moment. When his former friend murmured a farewell and turned to leave, he spoke.

"Why don't you come in, Zinzolin." Ghetsis said it less as a question and more as a statement; his violet eyes without rancor, rather with forgiveness.

Zinzolin accepted the invitation appreciatively, though as he greeted the others and took a bowl of ice cream, he explained, "I'm afraid I shall not be able to stay long. They expect me back at the gym to take on my first challengers."

"I was wondering about it," replied Ghetsis, "I heard the Icirrus gym was under new management but the gym leader had no sooner taken the post that he had, inexplicably, gone off on some excursion. Many believed he was training on Twist Mountain."

"The Giant Chasm really," Zinzolin elaborated. "The ancient writings told that Kyurem would return to its den. I thought it best to remain in the woodland vicinity till it did."

"Well... if you are the new gym leader of Icirrus then I'll be one of your first challengers," said Hilda jovially, "You know we never actually met in battle during the war, so I'd like to see how we fare!"

"Yes, that's true," answered Zinzolin, "It should be an interesting match, but don't think your notoriety will make me go easy on that Vaporeon of yours."

"The Pokémon League appointed you a gym leader?" remarked Colress, with affected shock.

"It's not so implausible," countered Zinzolin, "You know, one of the lieutenants of the Unovan regional army has accepted a post as electric type gym leader of Vermillion, in the faraway Kanto region. However, the position may have been offered to him out of spite. Sage Rood was from Vermillion; they may not want the ignominy of saying one of their residents was involved in the war on the losing side of Team Plasma."

"Is their new gym leader a certain Lt. Surge?" Hilda inquired knowledgably. "They say he fought courageously with his powerful Raichu. In fact, he credits his electric Pokémon with saving his life, as well as those of his men."

"He did keep us at bay from Nimbasa," Zinzolin conceded. "Which reminds me..."

He produced a small case of gym badges, and proceeded to hand one to Colress.

The scientist protested. "I haven't challenged the gym, Zinzolin. Indeed, I have no plan to."

"As the Icirrus City gym leader, I am entitled to bestow these on any trainer who I feel has earned it. You defeated me and my ice types fairly aboard the Plasma Frigate and I don't wish to be on the receiving end of that Klinklang's Discharge attack again. You may not have any plans to challenge the Pokémon League now but if you decide it will help your research, I can see you making the rounds of the gyms. Your Pokémon certainly have the stamina for it."

"Well, if you insist," said Colress.

Rosa's transceiver rang, and she glanced at it. "It's my brother Hugh... He says he found a strange berry and he's wondering if you know the name of it," she added, turning to Colress.

"Where is he?" inquired the scientist.

"He's nearby... on route 8. I'd better let him know we might be here a while."

"Well, half of Unova is already here," said Ghetsis. "He's welcome to drop by, if he wants."

Hugh came to the mansion shortly thereafter with the item. It was a lopsided shape, much like an Aspear Berry, but white with black swirls. The scientist readily provided the species.

"This is an Enigma Berry," explained Colress. "It's not native to our region. Perhaps a bird Pokémon dropped it."

While they talked about this, Ghetsis was considering the Master Ball that contained the third dragon. N was observing without speaking, until Ghetsis asked him:

"What do you think, N?"

"Kyurem will never be happy in captivity," said N. "From what Reshiram told me, the dragons are indeed very particular about who they select as their trainer."

Ghetsis was pondering this when Zinzolin spoke, and drew his attention away from Kyurem.

"N! I forgot to congratulate you. I just learned of the outcome when I got out from the forest routes," Zinzolin said. "I must say, you accomplished a lot with those little visits to Castelia City, to speak before the regional council at Unity Tower. Ghetsis, you must be really content."

Ghetsis glanced perplexedly from Zinzolin to N, the latter of whom was fidgety.

"You haven't heard? They have a new measure before the council and N was the one who advanced it...about battling near private property," Zinzolin added happily, "It's going to close the loophole. No one can battle within a certain perimeter of a residence, unless they're in a gym or building specially designed for the purpose...irrespective of whether they're on a route..."

"N," Ghetsis' violet eyes opened wide, "You...succeeded in changing the laws?"

N was modest, "No... well... it wasn't only me. In any event it still has to be passed by the council, though every indication is that it will; everyone seems to acknowledge that the current laws leave innocent bystanders in peril."

Hilda chimed in, "Not to mention, consensus that if this legal loophole was the root of the Plasma war, it must be dealt with somehow. No one wants to see war in their lifetime again."

Zorua gave a happy yap. Hilda translated.

"Zorua says that's not the only thing N has been up to," she said, "Right...N?"

N nodded, but again seemed demurring. "Yes, your translation is correct... but that's of scant consequence."

"What else have you been up to, N?" prompted Ghetsis with curiosity.

His son relented. "They wanted to tear down the Ferris Wheel in Nimbasa. Can you believe it?"

"Are they going to?"

N looked a bit embarrassed.

"Well, I sort of used everything you taught me, father, about rallying people and such. I got everyone so incensed that now they're not only planning to keep the Ferris Wheel but expand the carnival."

When N wandered away, his wife Hilda spoke.

"There's been talk of N running to be a regional councilman. On both political sides, too... Alder, who was head of the opposition, has been encouraging somewhat, and at least two of the Elite Four – Shauntal and Grimsley – say they'd support his standing; we also know of many former Team Plasma members who still would like to see N in power."

"That would place him as a member of the planetary council," realized Ghetsis.

"I do think it's a good idea. N has been considering it," added Hilda.

"Maybe the prophecy wasn't so off in that regard," Zinzolin ventured thoughtfully. "Maybe N was supposed to be a king, not in the old-fashioned sense of a ruler but in the modern one."

"Councilman Harmonia," considered Ghetsis, with a little smirk returning to him.

The next day N and Hilda accompanied Ghetsis to the Giant Chasm, which still bore signs of the great battle that had taken place there. Leafless trees even now lay strewn where they had been toppled prior, and the marks of fighting were still scored across the earth, though the grass had begun to encroach readily upon it. They followed the forest path to the cavern's far entrance, and went to its depths, to emerge in the icy clearing where the outcome of the war had so fatefully turned.

Zoroark and Zorua had gone with them. The two foxes stood together with N and Hilda, as Ghetsis walked forward to place himself in the very center of the cavern.

Ghetsis opened the Master Ball and sent out the legendary Pokémon without remark. Kyurem emerged in glittering white light, and looked at the three humans with its bland yellow eyes.

"You're free, Kyurem," Ghetsis stated.

He turned to leave, and had gone but a few paces to the exit of the cave when the dragon gave a roar, and Ghetsis looked back.

He was presently face-to-face with the icy beast, which gazed directly at him for a protracted moment before finally letting out a roar and resting its massive head on his shoulder. The gesture surprised Ghetsis, who glanced at his son for elucidation.

N translated:

"Kyurem says you have an emptiness that can never be filled, and though he knows it will never lessen your grief, he chooses you as his trainer."

Perhaps Pokémon are, in fact, not only sentient creatures, Ghetsis thought, they are kinder and more perceptive than I had imagined they could be. How, after all this, the dragon wishes to stay with us? With me, in particular?

"He merely wants to be in the same family as his brothers," decided Ghetsis.

"Then you acknowledge Pokémon have their own thought and feeling," Hilda pointed out.

"I acknowledge nothing of the sort!" Ghetsis snapped, but he really did; the slight smile he wore bore testament to it. Zorua and Zoroark both squinted knowingly.

N was indeed elected to the position of regional councilman, and as Unova's representative on the planetary council came to be known throughout the world as a very popular and wise ruler.

His wife, Hilda, eventually did go on to collect the remaining badges in her Pokémon League challenge, and achieved her dream at last when she defeated the Elite Four and became the Champion. She had many pressing duties however, as the wife of one of the eminent members of the planetary council, so she eventually stepped down – the first Champion to do so undefeated – and turned over her League duties to an up-and-coming trainer, though this appointment had been offered through clout. The trainer was none other than young Iris Drayden, now about the age she might have otherwise headed out for her own Pokémon journey, who as anticipated sprang at the concept of holding the glamourous post even if it were for one term till defeat. Surprisingly Iris showed herself to be a clever battler, and actually kept her rank as the appointed Champion until she was defeated three years later.

Colress not only had achieved wide recognition for his discoveries during the war, but he went on to make several other advances in science alongside his wife Rosa, and his inventions were so many he numbered them. He was forever an eminent scientist whose name was written of in textbooks and spoken of as a pioneer in his field. He maintained a close friendship with Ghetsis, and rumor had it – though he was never officially a member of the organization – that Colress had faint ties with Team Rocket. The mysteriousness of having been 'The Dark Scientist' of Team Plasma would be his label forever, still spoken about in hushed voices in certain circles, but with respect.

Zinzolin, in his post of Icirrus gym leader, took on many challengers and established a reputation of being one of the more difficult obstacles to surmount in a trainer's journey towards the Pokémon League championship.

Hugh never won the Pokémon League challenge, but he made a good effort to that end, losing after he and his Unfezant had defeated three out of the Elite Four. He joined Rood and some of the former members of Team Plasma helping at a Pokémon rehabilitation center they had opened for wild animals, and frequently would echo Colress' finding that treating Pokémon with kindness was the key to their power.

All of these people, whose lives had crossed fatefully in wartime, had much to occupy themselves with in peacetime, yet they found time in their busy routines to gather occasionally.

They did so one particular day in springtime, when the flowers had already blossomed and their scents wafted on the cool breeze that seemed to flutter gracefully off Twist Mountain, down to where they were in Icirrus City. Ghetsis had invited all of them to Harmonia Estates for a garden party, and it was then that the child born to N and Hilda was presented to everyone. Ghetsis proudly announced that his first grandchild had been named Felicity Harmonia White.

She was now one year old but the resemblance was unmistakable; she was the image of a little Felicity. She had blonde hair and N's mild blue eyes.

As they watched the three dragons dancing happily in the air, N remarked, "Mythology portrays the legendary dragons as polar opposites, in eternal conflict with each other. Yet they have close fraternal ties. People could learn a lot from Pokémon. It's not by rejecting, but by accepting different ideas that our society creates a chemical reaction. This truly is the formula for changing the world – wouldn't you agree?"

He glanced over and his blue eyes observed what Ghetsis and Hilda were both watching: little Felicity, near a Pansy flower patch toddling around amidst the blossoms.

The little girl picked a Pansy flower and presented it to Ghetsis.

There was sweetness in the gesture that brought forth the old melancholy, of a dream lost long ago, yet it was together with happiness that warmed his heart in a gentle way Ghetsis thought it could never again be thawed. His eyes filled with tears and he picked her up and embraced her. Neither inconsolable sadness nor unbridled joy, not black nor white, yet it scarcely mattered. For that fleeting moment in the era in which he lived, truth and ideals had compromised, and the world was in harmony.


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