Transformative Work

FANDOM: Pokémon

The Sovereign of Galar

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 1 - Mr. Rose

It was Mr. Linford Rose's preference to be adored, not feared.

Adoration was as vital as breath to a man of his position and personality. He was a businessman, the CEO of the largest conglomerate in the Galar region known as Macro Cosmos; his natural desire for celebrity was at its deepest a wish his business should prosper, and prosper it did. Although his corporation received net profits into the millions from various investment holdings, Mr. Rose was truly renowned as Pokémon League chairman.

In this world lived creatures called Pokémon, which were the animals of that planet; fiercely combative by nature, wielders of elemental power, and a source of companionship and profit alike to mankind. It was the latter that interested Rose most of all, of course, so he sought a way to maximize profits from the annual League challenge. In the event, skilled trainers would pit their prized pets against each other in standardized battles; so proud were Pokémon of their own power and stamina that, left to nature, they ended up fighting each other anyway if not given outlet for their competitive spirits.

Mr. Rose found himself frowning as he perused the documents on his desk that afternoon, all of which concerned the present issue of Macro Cosmos' profits and the League's losses. The Galarian division of the Pokémon League always had a spotlight on it, and assured taxpayer subsidy, but revenue from ticket sales had decreased in recent years.

"There has to be a way to make this trend reverse itself," said Rose, his piercing blue eyes glancing up from the paperwork to the visitor in his office.

Daniel Leon, Galar's League Champion, was probably the main factor keeping ticket sales afloat. He had little modesty, but Rose knew him as well-intentioned and faultlessly loyal. As Champion, Leon headed Galar's Elite Four, who were in turn the quartet of top Pokémon trainers faced at the height of the League challenge.

"Have you thought about battle facilities like they've got outside of Galar?" replied Leon.

"I don't see how that would help the League. It helps people train their Pokémon, but it doesn't promote ticket sales like a form of advertising."

"I just think it would be great to see Galarian trainers become the best in the world," Leon said in a sprightly way.

Rose realized annoyance was probably showing on his face. Leon always seemed to miss the whole point.

"One day I want to set up a Battle Tower of sorts," Leon continued, "like what they've constructed in the Johto region where trainers go floor to floor testing their mettle. Of course I'd need to have a really tall building for that...and free time to manage it, which is especially not available to me as the League Champion."

"I need you to remain as Champion," Rose immediately rejected the proposal, "right now people are buying tickets primarily to see the undefeated Leon and his powerful Charizard."

Leon did not dispute this in the slightest. In the many years Mr. Rose had sponsored him, he had never once lost a Pokémon battle. Even starting out, when he was still raising his fiery dragon Charizard from a young Charmander - even in those days, he had never lost a fight. He was an exceptionally skilled trainer who had earned the acclaim of all Galar.

"We need a change to the Pokémon League as a whole," insisted Rose, "something new and exciting. My goal is to find a way for trainers to dyna-max Pokémon at will."

"Dyna-max? You mean like the wild Pokémon out in the countryside that turn back and forth into giants?" asked Leon.

"We already use the natural radiation of our region to generate electricity. That's the same radiation causing the dyna-max phenomenon in wild Pokémon," explained Rose. "If my company could only harness that...and the League could put it to use... I've assigned a team of Macro Cosmos researchers to try to develop a way to do this."

"Harnessing dyna-max radiation for anything more than electricity production seems kind of improbable."

Leon spoke in this with understatement. The concept of creating something to dyna-max Pokémon at will had been a scientific fantasy mankind had not yet achieved. Rose however remained determined to have his company be the first to do it.

There was no time like the present, after all. The faster one acted, the faster one achieved great things, and the more the people adored him for it.

Only a few days after that conversation came astounding news to Mr. Rose. His researchers had done it; in five days, they had done the impossible.

Or more precisely, one person had done the impossible.

He was not deaf to what was whispered among his subordinates. He had not become successful without being attentive. Everyone murmured the invention had been devised by one particular researcher, a new recruit in his company, said to be intellectual yet utterly standoffish.

The invention was a band, worn like a bracelet on a trainer's wrist, which could draw upon natural radiation present in Galar's soil. Placed in each band was a small shard of a mysterious violet gemstone found only in that land called a Wishing Star. When activated and aimed at a Pokémon, the creature would grow to enormous size, and in the same manner could be reverted to its normal height.

Development of the bands went as planned. Mr. Rose signed the contract to put dyna-max battles into place as the new standard for the Pokémon League. As the League chairman, as well as CEO of the corporation that held a monopoly on dyna-max band production, setting into motion such a contract was self-serving but no one dared speak against it. He held too much influence for that. The contract was a legal way of enriching himself from Pokémon League funds, which received grants from the regional treasury.

This also meant new stadiums being built to accommodate giant Pokémon fights. Rose collected some favors owed him and the contract was given swiftly to Macro Cosmos Construction, a subsidiary of his conglomerate. Rose himself designed the new colosseums, and they were completed within a year.

Yet curiosity remained for him as to the intelligent yet aloof researcher who had apparently been instrumental in bringing this concept to fruition.

Whomever this person is, they did me a great favor, Mr. Rose thought. I'm going to find a way to meet them.

Chapter 2 - Diamond in the Rough

Late one afternoon, as closing time approached, Mr. Rose decided to discover the identity of the intellectual employee who had come across a solution to the enigma - an invention now propelling him to even greater wealth.

Rose walked to the laboratory area in his office building where a group of scientists worked tirelessly to produce the technology he demanded. He crossed paths with one of them as he walked into the computer area, who promptly recognized him.

"Hello, sir... Anything I can do for you?"

"Who is the scientist who came up with the dyna-maxing solution?" Rose asked.

"That would be Oleana Thornsdale, sir... She sits right over there," he explained, pointing her out to Mr. Rose.

"Thank you," he replied simply.

Mr. Rose stood silently at the back of the room observing her.

She was dressed in the white lab uniform as the others; her blonde hair was pulled up with a clip atop her head and she was wearing large rimmed eyeglasses. Despite her shabby appearance, she was quite beautiful.

She typed away somewhat oblivious to what was happening around her. One by one the other scientists left to go home for the evening, but she stayed at her post, her green eyes fixed on the screen and talking to her Trubbish, a small Pokémon that looked like a trash bag. The little creature listened patiently but answered nothing.

When everyone was gone, Mr. Rose walked up to stand by her side as she spoke aloud to herself.

"By neutralizing this enzyme we should enhance the potency of the effort," she was explaining happily.

"This is fantastic!" remarked Rose, looking up at the huge computer screen before them.

He turned to her, and she suddenly seemed to realize that she was not alone and looked back up at him.

"A diamond in the rough," he added.

She just stared at him.

"Your name is 'Oleana', is it not?"

"Yes... Mr. Chairman... Oleana Thornsdale."

"Oleana, what you have discovered is wonderful. You are indeed an asset to my corporation. I would like to offer you a position as my assistant."

"Thank you, sir... I... don't know what to say."

"Say yes," he smiled at her, and she felt her heart flutter. No one could deny he was a very handsome man. He was in his forties, with black hair combed to the side so that a single strand fell loosely, and wore a grey tailored suit accented with a red tie. He was a presence both impressive and charming.

"Yes," she conceded. "I accept. When do I report to your office area?"

"Well, there is one thing you must do first," Rose explained, "You are to report to the third floor where the tailoring department is... I will leave orders for them to provide you with a new wardrobe, hair, and cosmetic makeover... You, my dear, are a diamond in the rough and combined with that brilliant intellect of yours, will make you my perfect new assistant."

"Whatever you say, Mr. Rose."

She was polite, yet there remained an aspect of...something about her. It was not really aloofness so much as inexplicable sadness.

Rose decided he would not pry into the matter. Not yet.

Either way, Oleana complied, and within a month under her direction the entire company was functioning at a more orderly pace than ever before. Oleana was proving to be loyal to a fault, and Mr. Rose was thrilled.

The eponymous Rose Tower was the headquarters of Macro Cosmos. It was a stunning glass skyscraper; Mr. Rose's office was on the penthouse floor, with grand windows that took up an entire wall behind his desk and overlooked the large city of Wyndon.

Directly outside of his office, separated by two elegant wooden double doors, was Oleana's desk.

One day, Mr. Rose had an extremely busy morning and after he hung up the phone with one of his business associates, he thought to himself, Time to rest my eyes looking at something beautiful... Oleana. Perhaps invite her to coffee.

He stood up, walked over to the office doors and stepped out to find his assistant Oleana dutifully seated at her desk sorting some papers.

He took notice of the Pokémon beside her. It was the evolved form of the poison type Trubbish he had seen her with; in its new form, it retained the appearance of a trash bag but was larger.

"Is that the same Trubbish?"

"Yes. It evolved into a Garbodor yesterday."

"Congratulations!" Rose said, marvelling, "you must have trained it a lot. Doesn't that species evolve at a fairly high level?"

"Actually...I really don't battle at all," replied Oleana.

The admission surprised Rose greatly. "Your Pokémon must have a very strong bond with you then."

Somehow her melancholy doubled. Her eyes watered and she turned away to the windows to hide it, but he noticed.

"Oleana, are you all right?"

"Y..yes," she stammered.

He placed his hand gently on her chin, and turned her face towards his. Looking into her eyes he said, "I don't think so. Something's troubling you, and I'd like to know what it is."

She swallowed and then asked him, "Do you recall...during war time...the town that people referred to 'the city covered in ice'?"

"I remember it." Rose answered, "areas of the region were completely frozen over and it took several months for things to revert to normal."

"I lived there at the time."

Realization hit him. "Were you originally from Opelucid City?"

Her attempts to withhold personal information finally crumbled away, and truth and tears alike burst forth from her. Rose listened in mute comprehension as she recounted the tale.

The Plasma War in the Unova region had only ended a couple of years ago, so its darkness still lingered in current memory. Rose recalled news reports at the time of how Opelucid City was mercilessly attacked, frozen over by a deadly new weapon and returning war to a planet that had been at peace for centuries.

Oleana had fled, like so many, during the rise of the Team Plasma militia and the ensuing war. Her whole family was killed in the civil upheaval, her pet Eevee stolen by Team Plasma for use on the front lines, and her possessions lost as well. She had befriended Trubbish when she was bereft and managed to escape to Galar with it.

Among the possessions lost, it emerged, was a bracelet that had belonged to her family for generations. It was silver and emblazoned with a sword and a shield. She had spent a very long time trying to recover it before giving up. The Eevee she remained heartbroken over and was convinced it had died in the fighting.

"'s really piteous," Oleana finished her tale, "so many things happened to other people...far worse things...and yet all I can think about is little Eevee squealing for help as they dragged it away from me. It was the last of my Pokémon I ever saw... Eevee didn't have any experience for sporting matches, let alone a wartime fight to the death. It could barely defeat wild birds when it would scamper out to play..."

Her voice choked off as she gazed out a window at the skyline. Rose remained silent.

"Oleana..." she chided herself in a whisper, "you really are a hopeless woman."

At this the chairman took her hands, and she looked back at him.

"Nothing is ever hopeless," he assured her.

She gazed at him without any belief in the words, and pulled away without a response.

Chapter 3 - Exhibition Match

Traditionally, the Pokémon League chairman always announced the tournament opening and the final match. This was neither, but Linford Rose felt it merited the prestige of official trappings.

He called it an 'exhibition match' and marketed it accordingly. It would be a way to kick off Galar's new standard of Pokémon battles, a product launch masquerading as a sporting event, but what mattered either way was hyping up the public. Most people in Galar had never seen a dyna-maxed Pokémon, save for photography in textbooks, unless they were among those trainers who ventured deep into the wild-areas where the region's radiation was strongest. Interest grew around the idea and tickets sold out swiftly.

Part of the interest surrounded the fact Champion Daniel Leon himself would be taking part in the exhibition match, against his longtime rival Mr. Luke Raihan the gym leader of Hammerlocke City.

Rose glanced at his wristwatch. "Leon's late, as usual."

Oleana seemed quizzical. "Is he always late?"

"He has a problem following directions, but he's so good at what he does we just overlook it," dismissed Rose.

"I'd imagine punctuality would be more important to him, when his livelihood depends on being on time for battle matches."

"That's Leon for you. People can't get enough of him; he knows he's popular," Rose added.

Soon afterwards, Leon arrived. As his name was announced, he stepped onto the stadium floor to the thunderous applause of an eager audience. His opponent was announced and both of them proceeded to release their first Pokémon into battle.

Within a few short minutes both Pokémon had been dyna-maxed. One might have thought such large creatures would have been lumbering, yet they retained the nimbleness of their smaller forms. Their attacks washed over the battlefield. All the spectators, the sidelines, and even the trainers themselves were protected by a giant energy barrier. Charizard's Fire Blast turned the entire stadium into a huge wildfire before dissipating into sparkling embers, and the flames collided against it, dazzling upon its wall of glittering energy like some ethereal flare of a supernova.

Oleana's eyes turned from the field off to Mr. Rose, who stood watching the spectacle with assured contentment, his features alight in the fiery glow. Oleana found herself studying the contours of those features, roughened from past labor yet refined from present position; a handsome dichotomy, with a physique to match.

A sense of admiration overswept her, an indescribable longing. He was a man for whom the spheres of commerce and society alike were little more than his dominions. He tended the whole region of Galar as if it were his private garden. When he wanted something, he got it, and if it did not yet exist, he wrought it into being. There was nothing, it appeared, immune to his influence or wealth or charm. Not even her.

Yet she kept it to herself.

The match over, there was a booming announcement of performers straight from the contest halls of Hoenn, and cheerleaders began a dance on the field with trained Delcatty, Clefairy, and Cherrim; meanwhile Leon took the opportunity to come over to where Rose and Oleana were on the sidelines.

"Oleana," Rose introduced, "I believe you haven't met Mr. Leon."

"Galar's undefeated champion," Leon added with boastfulness as he shook her hand.

"Yes, I know," said Oleana, rather unimpressed.

He was roughly thirty in age with violet hair kept on the longer side; his Charizard, which did not look at all tired from the battle, stood like an imposing bodyguard behind him.

Mr. Rose's transceiver rang then and he answered it quickly. It was the manager of the power plant his company owned in Hammerlocke City. "How is the renovation going?" Rose asked him.

"That's exactly it," a gruff man's voice was overheard through the transceiver, "when we were tearing out the old plaster we found something. It looks like it's been attached there for a really long time but if I'd have to wager a guess, it's the cocoon of a bug Pokémon..."

"So a Kakuna or a Cascoon got into the walls before evolving," Rose dismissed. "It happens in old buildings all the time. Get rid of the discarded shell."

The man was insistent. "It's not any bug Pokémon I know of. This thing is huge...and it's not empty."

Mr Rose was silent for a moment, then said, "I'll be right over."

"Do you need my assistance, Mr. Rose?" asked Oleana as he put the transceiver in a pocket of his suit.

"No...Oleana, you stay here and keep an eye on things," replied Rose as he hurried to leave.

In the distant Kanto region, one viewer considered the event broadcast from Galar with quiet concern.

Giovanni Delavita was the gym leader of Viridian City. He was better known, however, as the wealthy businessman who owned Rocket Enterprises - a multimillion private company with major holdings in gambling and entertainment properties, as well as investments in everything from cruise lines to Pokémon training items. Behind the company's glittering façade was a darkly notorious secret: it was rumored to be a front for the crime syndicate known simply as Team Rocket.

Giovanni himself was distinguished yet incisive, with an almost immutable air of tranquil danger. He was middle-aged and had dark, slicked-back hair, along with matching dark-brown eyes often hard to read. As he stood watching the telecast of the Pokémon battle, he sipped from an amaretto drink and considered the situation. Beside him, a large tawny feline looked up and gave a meow.

He stroked the Pokémon in response. " you see the same threat too, Persian?" he addressed it mildly.

He turned back towards the screen as three lithe figures wove soundlessly into the room behind him.

Two were humans in their mid-twenties; a man of shaggy violet hair and green eyes, and a woman with long red hair and blue eyes. They wore the white uniforms of elite agents, bearing the red R insignia present in all Team Rocket attire, accented with gloves and boots of shining black patent leather. Poké Balls and coiled whips adorned their belts, also commonplace in their clandestine organization.

Accompanying them was a cream-furred cat Pokémon, the small golden horn on its forehead catching the light like a coin. It was the younger form of the Persian, and let out a soft purr as it lifted itself up from all fours to stand adroitly on its hind paws.

The trio stood at the entrance, attentive yet entirely at ease. "It's done," said the woman simply.

Giovanni glanced sideways at them and, placing his drink down on the desk, motioned them forward.

"James, Jessie, and you know, I want complete domination of the world's markets," Giovanni began. "Presently Team Rocket controls the regions of Kanto, Johto...we're moving into Unova, now that the war is over...and Hoenn..." He made an ambivalent gesture.

"But Galar," continued Giovanni, "is already owned by Linford Rose, the head of Macro Cosmos. His company directly or indirectly controls every legal industry in the region - the airlines, the rail system, the media, the Pokémon battles, the banks."

Ire singed at his words, though he remained icily calm.

"Not to mention illicit business, which has always been our stronghold. The latest is this dyna-max thing, which is proving lucrative for Mr. Rose. He invested a fortune into its development and marketing. And of course he's also Galar's Pokémon League chairman, so he provides the contract for its use to his own company and profits from the League's coffers too. An elegant maneuver."

The three comprehended his unspoken worry. "Do you think he's considering expansion?" James asked.

"I once met Mr. Rose at the Pokémon World Tournament, shortly before the Plasma War," was the terse response.

In his capacity as the Viridian gym leader, Giovanni's attendance to such interregional events was often requisite, though he enjoyed them as a distraction from the mundane too.

"He's ambitious," added Giovanni. "I think he might become too ambitious."

Chapter 4 - Candlelight Dinner

All through next week, Lindford Rose's mind was far from the office. He kept thinking about the strange Pokémon cocoon in Hammerlocke.

In fairness, Rose didn't feel he had anything else to worry about. Business was going smoothly and dyna-max battles had quickly become a public sensation.

It was an investment so successful that it was shocking for Rose when Oleana came to him with a discovery.

Dyna-max radiation was weakening across the region.

It was impossible to know why. The likeliest explanation was that it was simply a finite natural resource. But it meant all the dyna-max bands Macro Cosmos had manufactured would eventually cease to work and become little more than glorified trinkets.

He told her to keep the matter quiet, and the rest of the company was left in the dark about the looming corporate catastrophe. So much capital had been placed towards dyna-max development, not to mention the tax dollars that had gone towards stadium construction grants...

It will be a disaster, thought Rose grimly, when this comes out.

Yet his thoughts then turned once more to the mysterious cocoon in Hammerlocke, and it fleetingly, tantalizingly, occurred to him that there might be a solution for his company after all.

Late that day, Mr. Rose was perusing the financial reports as to Macro Cosmos and the Pokémon League's earnings in that quarter. It was a splendid increase in profit. Knowing what he knew about the dwindling radiation levels, the improvement seemed a mockery now.

I can't let it go, he thought. Not that easily. He could not bear to imagine. Billions of dollars, the new source of public prestige, and all the adoration that followed it...lost by nature's friviolity.

No, he couldn't let it go.

It was in the middle of this that his secretary Oleana walked in.

"Chairman...we've received this letter from the Spikemuth Town gym leader," said Oleana.

Rose looked over the letter and scowled.

"Piers still won't cooperate, then," he said. "I'll have to discuss things in person."

"Would you like me to call him and arrange a meeting?"

"Later, Oleana," Rose replied, "Actually...there was something I wanted to give you."

She looked perplexed, and was even more so when he handed her a Poké Ball.

The red-and-white capsules were essentially carriers for Pokémon, made of hollowed tree nuts called apricorns and with special technology to temporarily miniaturize Pokémon for transport. She pressed a button on the Poké Ball to unlock it, and then tossed it onto the ground so that it opened and released the animal inside.

A Glaceon emerged in dazzling white light. It had pastel-blue fur, with a slender appearance somewhere between a cat and a fox; upon seeing Oleana it lifted its long ears in recognition and gave a cry. About its neck was a collar; a rusted silver inscribed with a sword and shield.

Oleana caught a gasp and, kneeling down next to the animal, stroked its head and examined the bracelet it wore as a collar. Then she gave it a thrilled hug and her eyes turned upwards to Rose, who was watching her in silence.

"How?" she whispered.

"It's a very unique piece. It wasn't so hard to locate...and neither was the Eevee, even though it's now evolved into a Glaceon. Many stolen Pokémon were recovered by the region after Team Plasma's defeat."

"I thought it was hopeless..." Her voice trailed away. "You didn't have to do this."

"I didn't have to...I wanted to," Rose responded.

Oleana's eyes watered. "I don't think I could ever express my gratitude to you fully, Mr. Rose."

"There is one thing," he said, "I'd be gratified if you had dinner with me this evening."

Oleana smiled; it was a small smile, but unmistakably genuine.

"That's the first time I've seen you smile," remarked Rose, and he smiled back.

Rose and Oleana spoke at length over a candlelight dinner in one of Wyndon's finest restaurants. They found kinship in their company, yet it had never occurred to Rose till then exactly how alone Oleana was. He was the only person who had sought to reach past her somber standoffishness, the only one who had extended any friendship towards her unless counting her pets, and with no family of her own she led a lonely existence.

"Thank you for the dinner invitation, Mr Rose..." Oleana spoke softly, "it's a beautiful restaurant."

The chairman smiled. "I'm glad you like it, Oleana," he answered, "but it is I who should thank you for your company."

She looked down at the table in silence and he noticed her shyness.

"All this time I've spent building up the corporation," he spoke trying to change subjects, "and now this problem with the think the endeavor was for naught, with the radiation weakening," Rose sighed.

Oleana looked up, "I'm sure you will come up with a good idea, Mr. Rose."

"Or you might come up with a solution for me," he countered, "by the way...there's no one else around... call me Linford, please."

"Alright...Linford. I hope you don't mind my asking, have you always lived in this region? As you know, I was born in Unova."

"I'm originally from the Orre region," recounted Rose, "I worked as a miner in Pyrite Town back when the place didn't have connotations of crime and dilapidation." he spoke frankly, "I was mining coal, but ended up unearthing diamonds, and made a fortune of it. That was Pyrite's heyday; we miners even had our own underground city - we called it the Under - all that went seedy when the mines closed. From Orre I moved to Galar, to the town of Hulbury, where my business grew by buying up and merging with other companies, becoming well-known through philanthropy and some clever public relations, until Macro Cosmos came to be the conglomerate it is today."

"I've never been to Orre, though Unova borders with it. Is it really such an arid land as they say?"

"Well, most of it is desert, though there are oases," he replied honestly, "Those oases, however, are some of the most beautiful townships I've ever seen anywhere. That said, I haven't returned to Orre. Maybe it's a bit of guilt. Perhaps I feel I should have done a bit more for the region where I got my start."

"Well, I've never gone back to" she seemed a bit wistful as if recalling some sad memory, then said, "There must be some fascinating historical anecdotes about the area of Orre."

"Orre is most famous for its colosseums," Rose explained. "The tradition in Orre is to fight double battles, so huge stadiums are necessary. That's where I drew inspiration for the ones in Galar; till they were constructed, the Orre stadiums had been the largest in the entire world. The most ancient and majestic is located in the center of that vast desert. It's hewn of stone, with five pointed spires encircling the stadium. No one knows what the ancient people meant to depict. Some think it resembles a hand clutching a Poké Ball. However, the colosseum dates back a very long time, before the first Poké Balls were ever devised in the far-off Johto region..."

"You're interested in world history," Oleana commented.

"Generally. I admit lately I'm a bit more interested in regional mythology," Rose smiled.

"Galar has its fair share of myth," replied Oleana.

"Wishing stars, in particular," Rose added, "My interest in them has grown for manifest reasons. I know there's a very old story about their origins..." his voice trailed, as if he was thinking over his words.

"I know that legend," said Oleana forthrightly.

"I've heard something about it," Rose conceded, tentatively. "Could you tell me what you've heard?"

Oleana tapped her fingers on the wine goblet thoughtfully; then she recounted the tale.

"They say a creature came from outer space, a Pokémon from some unknown galaxy. They called the creature Eternatus," explained Oleana. "It caused some sort of deadly disaster across Galar. The ancient texts refer to the destruction as 'the darkest day' ...though why they call it that is lost to history."

"I believe there's a mural in Stow-on-Side that depicts it," affirmed Rose.

"No one remembers what kind of a Pokémon Eternatus was like, either," Oleana said. "The two legendary wolves, Zacian and Zamazenta, came running from the woodland - or so they say - to help the ancient leader of Galar defeat it. What followed was a savage fight, ending with Eternatus' annihilation. The radiation that lingers from that battle is what allows Pokémon to dyna-max in Galar, and the so-called 'wishing stars' that we use within the dyna-max bands to direct it in battles are actually fragments of Eternatus."

Rose was pensive.

"Zacian and Zamazenta have extremely long lifespans," Oleana mused, "like most legendary Pokémon. They say the wolves will one day select a new trainer, someone with a natural aptitude in Pokémon battles who is the reincarnation of the ancient ruler...but other than that, the story is fading into history, along with the last traces of radiation left by Eternatus."

"There's one more Eternatus," Rose said suddenly.

Oleana fixed her eyes on him, and he elaborated.

"In a cavern below the Energy Plant I own in Hammerlocke," explained Rose, "I found a cocoon of some sort. Apparently, it's another hibernation."

"There were two of them?" she echoed.

"If it's a Pokémon, it can be caught and commanded," Rose figured. "An endless fountain of dyna-max energy, at the behest of its trainer."

Oleana thought over his words. "They say Eternatus is evil," she said quietly.

Rose considered this only briefly. "The radiation is waning already, as you've found. It will be disastrous for my corporation, Oleana, when it does. I've invested millions on the production of dyna-max devices for the Pokémon League and earn triple that in returns. If there's no way for Pokémon to dyna-max anymore, it would be a failed investment. Macro Cosmos will probably go bankrupt."

There was silence. "What are you planning to do?" inquired Oleana at last.

"I plan to awaken Eternatus," Rose declared. "I think it's time I brought about another 'darkest day'...and in so doing, replenish the energy of Galar."

Oleana was impassive in her reply. "If people learnt of the involvement of Macro Cosmos in causing a widespread disaster, of an unfathomable magnitude that might kill thousands...the result would be worse than bankruptcy."

"They mustn't learn of it," answered the chairman. "But keeping the company's involvement secret is simple. I've kept its involvement in many other things secret up until now."

"Why risk it?"

"Billions upon billions of revenue, my dear," he said, with the hint of a smile, as he took a sip of his drink. "There's no reward without risk, after all."

Oleana studied the wine in her goblet, swirling it about once or twice. She glanced up at him with a reciprocating smile, and honesty in her eyes.

"It's a good idea," Oleana answered.

"You are both intelligent and beautiful, Oleana," he said, "your presence is very gratifying to me."

"You've been nothing but kind to me," she replied, "I will do whatever I can to help you...Linford."

From that moment on, their bond was solid. Oleana became Mr Rose's confidante and was fervently loyal. She retained an aloof demeanor towards the public, but with him she was warm and gracious, and she allowed herself to smile on occasion.

Chapter 5 - Slumbering Weald

Mr. Rose and his assistant Oleana had been invited to lunch at Leon's place. Despite being his patron Rose had never visited Leon at home, and neither had Oleana. They arrived with the same punctuality as they conducted business.

Leon's residence was a wide sandstone villa in Postwick Town that overlooked the Galarian countryside. It had two stories, and a private training field for Pokémon that could double as an outdoor site for summer barbeques. His whole extended family lived in the mansion and there was still ample space left over for guests; it stretched across gentle hillocks and partly into the adjoining route.

After the meal, they sat to chat, in a large parlor with huge glass windows overlooking a forest. The conversation turned to business and, eventually, to his brother Hop.

"He wants to challenge the League this year," explained Leon, "I have yet to sign the endorsement but chances are he'd be competing against his girlfriend."

"And you, if he gets as far as the finals," Rose pointed out.

"Maybe," said Leon, and then added importantly, "With it all in the family, we're sure to have a champion time!"

It had been Leon's catchphrase ever since he had attained his current position as League champion, and his enthusiastic fans only encouraged it. Rose half-thought the whole thing had gone to his head, but it was true Leon was a skilled Pokémon trainer and in that regard worthy of commendation. In any case he was a cash cow.

At that point the telephone rang in another room. "If you'll excuse me Chairman Rose..." said Leon. He stepped away to take the call.

Oleana glanced at Mr Rose and with the same emotionless look as was usual for her, commented, "He is quite sure of himself, isn't he?"

"It behooves us to keep him that way," replied Rose, "It's necessary to have that positivity on the battlefield."

Leon soon returned, as jovial as ever.

"Good news?" asked Mr. Rose.

"Well, seems somebody from a local council wanted me to make a quick jaunt out to Ballonlea for a public service announcement and that sort of thing. Apparently they're worried about visiting trainers barging into the nearby forest and overhunting Sinistea."

"I didn't know anyone was worried about that," remarked Oleana.

"I know, right?" replied Leon. "First they're worried too many Sinistea would over-prey on other species, now they're worried about trainers overhunting the Sinistea. Who the hell knows anymore."

"Still... I hadn't heard anything about it," Oleana said quizzically.

"Take the train," Rose broke in, "less chance of getting lost."

"Actually I'd rather fly there," Leon changed the topic, "I want Charizard to stretch his wings. Good exercise for the battle tournaments."

Mr. Rose ignored his comment and said, "We need to get going back; keep in touch," he added as he arose from his seat and took Oleana by the arm.

Leon led them both to the front door, "Before you go, why don't you walk around the land for awhile? The forest area surrounding this place gives a tranquil ambience, not to mention a nice breeze flowing through."

"Sounds like a good idea," the chairman answered, "We'll do that."

They bid farewell, and strolled to the meadow that surrounded the mansion.

After they had walked some distance, Oleana remarked, "Linford, this is unusual."

She was studying a device she held, where peaks and valleys of waveforms danced across the screen. "It seems, in this area, there's something interfering with dyna-max energy."

The shock manifested across Rose's face. "Interfering?"

"...I can't describe it better. It's like two conflicting radio waves." Oleana looked up, searching a particular direction. "It's coming from nearby."

"My dear, we should follow it then," he replied.

She allowed the energy patterns to lead her and Mr. Rose all the way to a bend in the road and the entrance to a dense woodland. It was here they stopped.

"The readings lead into the Slumbering Weald," remarked Oleana, still studying the statistics. "Shall we continue to follow it?"

Rose hesitated uncertainly. "Aren't people forbidden from entering that forest? It's somehow sacred to Galarians."

"I'm Unovan." Oleana glanced up from the device towards him.

"...and I'm Orrean," he reciprocated, with a knowing smile.

Naturally they would never have said such truths in the public eye. But here they were alone, unheard, and entirely unseen as they proceeded into the foliage and the mystery that lay beyond. The Slumbering Weald, as the forest was called, was known for a dense haze that perpetually covered it; this presented itself to them almost instantly, wrapping itself about their legs while they walked.

The fog grew, surrounding them as Rose and Oleana pushed their way through the bracken. It swirled smoky patterns around the narrow trunks and sedges, like some misty ethereal otherworld, and made Rose fear they might step into a bog.

At some point Oleana noticed one of her Poké Balls shaking, so she unlocked it and sent out Trubbish. The poison type Pokémon gave a cry.

"Do you want to walk with us, Trubbish?" she asked. Her voice reverberated a little dreamlike in the foggy atmosphere.

Mr. Rose was gazing further into the mist, and when his eyes rested on something moving, he spoke urgently:


She turned, and froze when she also caught sight of what he saw there.

They had reached a clearing in the forest with a shrine of some sort that looked very old, of white marble long since overtaken by ivy vines. Standing here protectively were two large creatures – one of blue fur, the other of red. They were wolves.

The wolves gave a brief low growl upon seeing the two humans, yet neither moved from their posts.

Rose recognized the animals from having seen artwork depicting them in books. "The legendary Pokémon of Galar: Zacian and Zamazenta?"

"But this is strange...are the readings coming from them?" Oleana remarked.

The wolves fixed unblinking eyes on them; they were shining yellow eyes that seemed to look beyond them, or deep into them, as if reading their intentions. Trubbish, evidently seeing the wolves as a threat to his trainer, let loose its strongest poison attack.

Oleana leapt, startled. "Trubbish, no!" she ordered sharply, yet the wolves did not react at all to the attack.

Rose was astounded. It was as if the animals were impervious.

The wolves stared at them but did not advance. Rose could see they were strong animals of a very high level, by the mere way they held themselves and the tense muscles below their thick fur; if the wolves had not sprung to retaliate, it was likely because they were curious for some reason and observing something.

Whenever they did choose to attack, Rose doubted they could be fended off.

"Return, Trubbish." Oleana called her pet back into its Poké Ball.

Now, one of the wolves took a pawstep forward. As it did, the fog visibly thickened, and with it came a lightheadedness. Rose glanced at Oleana beside him, and he could see she was growing unsteady, yet her eyes were transfixed on the two legendary creatures before them.

"I'm... dizzy..." Saying this, her knees buckled and before she hit the ground, Rose had caught her in his arms.


The fog was encroaching, ever-denser; the wolves gave a low, united howl, that rose in pitch till it strangely echoed around them like the lingering timbre of a flute. As his visibility dimmed, he could discern the lithe figures of the wolves circling...and then darkness overcame the world.

When they awoke, the fog was gone, and so were the wolves. Sunlight streamed through the tree branches overhead, and birds twittered happily from their hidden perches.

Rose blinked his eyes open and found Oleana still unconscious on the grass beside him. "Oleana, wake up," he called, gathering her in his arms.

Oleana stirred, and opened her eyes at his voice. "...Linford?" She groggily took in her surroundings. "I...don't know for sure what happened...but I think I'm all right..."

"I was worried about you..."

They were still looking into each other's eyes, and then he kissed her gently on the lips. "I love you, Oleana," he murmured.

She put her hand on his neck and pulled him towards her. "I love you too Linford," she replied as she kissed him back.

He helped her get back on her feet and then wrapped his arms around her, kissing her with more vigor and passion. For that moment, there was no other world except the singular point that they inhabited.

Nothing else was said as they walked back to Postwick, arm in arm, till they reached the main path. Wooloo played in the hilly landscape nearby, and they lingered here to watch them from beyond the rock wall.

"I would be honored if you would be by my side at the opening tournament of the Pokémon League," Rose told Oleana. "It would mean a lot to me."

"I wouldn't miss it," she replied, her green eyes shining.

Chapter 6 - Love and Progress

The stroll through the Slumbering Weald forest, and the subsequent revelation of their personal feelings for each other, had intensified the bond between the chairman and his assistant.

One day soon after that excursion, Mr. Rose invited Oleana to his quarters after work for a glass of wine. Unbeknownst to Oleana, he had ordered his servants to have the apartment ready with roses adorning a centered coffee table, two crystal goblets, and two candelabra that gave off a subdued light, with a bottle of the finest cabernet imported from the Johto region.

When they walked in, Oleana gave a small gasp of surprise.

"Oh Linford! It's all so beautiful!"

"Not as beautiful and graceful as you, my dear," he replied.

He led her to the coffee table and as they stood there he filled the goblets of wine, handed her one, and taking a solitary rose from the bouquet presented it to her saying:

"I drink to you, my precious diamond, Oleana."

She took the rose and their cups clinked in the toast. They took one sip and Oleana stroked his cheek gently with the rose, gazing first in his eyes and then at his mouth.

The tension was enormous and Mr Rose did not hold back. He put his wine goblet on the table, took hers and set it down beside his. Taking her in his arms, he kissed her deeply and for a long while; eventually his mouth fell to her neck.

"You're mine, Oleana...mine," he murmured, "...and I am yours."

Oleana felt herself melt into his embrace as a warm shiver coursed through her body. She wanted him, just as much as he wanted her.

So people would talk; damn them all. She deserved her moment of happiness.

His hand moved up over her blouse, unbuttoned the top three, and gently caressed her breast. She felt her face flush with warmth and drew herself closer to him, and unbuttoned his shirt in return; her hand stroking the hair on his chest and intensifying the desire for intimacy that coursed through their bodies.

"You like me too, don't you Oleana," he whispered in her ear, as his lips traveled back down to her neck, where he kissed her ever so gently.

"Yes..." she sighed her reply, "Oh, Linford...take me to bed."

He picked her up, carried her to the bedroom, and placing her in his bed, shut the door.

Whereas Linford Rose held influence over Galar alone, Giovanni Delavita could say the same of many other regions around the world.

Rose knew Giovanni personally, having been in the same circles as he. Giovanni was also a businessman, so he could view things in a practical light. He hoped this new scheme was one such matter that Giovanni would consider pragmatically.

A meeting was arranged with the Team Rocket leader in the Unova region. Nacrene City was one of those few places in Unova that had not been affected by warfare. It was a quiet place, with brick warehouses that had been repurposed into designer apartments and boutique stores, and most importantly it was not controlled – if that was an adequate term – by either Rose's or Giovanni's organizations. It was neutral territory, the type of place where they could presumably discuss business without worry of ill-intent by the other party.

It was the first time since the war that Oleana had returned to the Unova region, and Rose noticed her brooding on the airplane voyage.

"Oleana?" he inquired.

"This Giovanni... is he a trustworthy business partner?" she replied.

"He's a good acquaintance to have. He's the head of Team Rocket."

She seemed pensive again.

"You've heard of them, haven't you?"

"Who hasn't," she mused. "I still wonder, though."

"Wonder what?"

"If he's trustworthy. There seems...I don't know. As if there might be something risky in doing business with Team Rocket."

"I hardly think so." Rose's assurance quelled all question till they landed in Unova and made their way to the hotel they would be staying at.

They met the Team Rocket party in a small Nacrene City store. They were ushered to the back by a Meowth, who Rose knew to be an exceptional animal that could speak in the human language. The Meowth said little though, except for telling them to follow, and they emerged into a back room with a wood desk where Giovanni waited for them.

Giovanni, despite wearing the same sorts of tailored suits and having the same careful manners, somehow always appeared stricter, more watchful, and less casual than Rose. Beside him was a Persian with a bored expression. Rose could not recall ever having seen it in its Poké Ball.

Giovanni's guard numbered two: Jessie and James. The Meowth joined them at their heels; however, neither of them joined the conversation, and they stood observantly to the side like Oleana did while Giovanni and Rose talked business.

Rose explained how he had found a dormant Pokémon and needed to funnel energy to it to awaken it, but needed people to do this – people who were tactful and could be relied upon for their discretion. It was honesty that he had scarcely shown anyone about the topic, save for Oleana, and during the whole explanation Giovanni was quiet and said nothing.

It was when Rose finished that he spoke.

"How much manpower would you need?"

"About twenty agents," Rose said promptly.

"Twenty?" Giovanni echoed, his brown eyes thoughtful.

"Mr. Delavita, I'm sure this would be profitable for both of us."

Giovanni studied him astutely. "Why not use your own people?"

Rose measured his words. "If someone lives in Galar...then it stands to reason he will not wish to imperil his home, unless given some surety of his safety and that of his family. It would be more cost effective if they were not attached to the fate of this region."

"This is so," accepted Giovanni, "but if there was to be some sort of calamity, even outsiders would still need assurance they would not be in harm's way. Furthermore, would the... let's call it a natural disaster... reach across regional borders."

"I'm certain it wouldn't," responded Rose diplomatically, "It's a Pokémon after all like any other; it shouldn't pose much difficulty to catch."

"Mr. Rose, I believe Team Rocket will be able to work with you on this. Provided that we receive something in return..."

Rose's tension waned. "What amount?"

"Not in cash."

The response surprised Rose, and the following elucidation from Giovanni returned his tension visibly.

"I would like a portion of the wishing stars unearthed."

"What use could they have outside Galar?" questioned Rose.

"What use Team Rocket has for them is not relevant," countered Giovanni.

Rose did not back down. "The wishing stars can dyna-max Pokémon only by interacting with the energy found in Galar."

"They hold low levels of energy by themselves too," was the quick reply.

Rose hesitated, and Oleana had a scrutinizing look in her eyes. Giovanni added:

"Team Rocket has no interest in expanding its own enterprise into Galar at present. I can assure you of that, Mr. Rose."

"Very well," replied Rose. He was in no situation to be selective. "How many would you like?"

"Fifteen percent. Is it a deal, Mr. Rose?"

"Fifteen percent of the wishing stars, in exchange for your assistance. It's a deal," Rose affirmed, shaking Giovanni's hand.

As he and Oleana left the meeting place and walked down the street to the café nearby, Rose remarked, "That went fairly well! Much better than I had thought, in fact."

"I am rather surprised he accepted so readily," Oleana replied thoughtfully.

"Team Rocket is trustworthy," Rose answered as he held the café door open for Oleana.

Meanwhile, the Team Rocket group had returned to their limousine. None had spoken till they were sure they were out of hearing range of Rose and Oleana. Now, Giovanni turned to his guards.

"He is acting without thinking – a great flaw for a businessman," he said bluntly. "James, Jessie, Meowth... I would like you to oversee the agents sent to Galar. Team Rocket must protect its interests."

"Consider it done, sir," replied James.

Chapter 7 - Allies and Enemies

Team Rocket agents arrived in Galar over the next week. They were stoic men and women who all wore standardized black uniforms with the red R insignia. Jessie and James were their superiors and even Meowth, who always seemed to be present wherever the latter two went, walked with certain unquestioned authority around them.

Rose and Oleana led the Team Rocket group to the Eternatus cocoon beneath the Hammerlocke power plant. It was a perfectly round sphere, like a giant black pearl, with the same beautiful properties in how the light caught it. Rose wondered what the creature itself might look like once it hatched.

"Alright," said Rose, when they had all gathered there, "we need to move this out to Wyndon City. Oleana and I have organized a private area of Rose Tower with all the necessary contrivances to draw power to Eternatus. Get started on this right away, because I don't want to waste time."

A few of the agents smirked slightly, but they did not budge. Meowth let out an amused purr as Rose turned quizzically back to the higher-ranking trio.

"Remember these are Team Rocket agents, not Macro Cosmos employees," James explained.

With a snap of Jessie's fingers, they instantly spread out to their posts. Rose silently marvelled at the precision, like Pokémon that answered only to their master, an almost military training that his own minions could only aspire to.

Rose decided to quell his curiosity. "May I speak frankly with you? I mean no offense by this," he was quick to add, "It's commonly rumored Giovanni sees you as the most inefficient of his elite agents, which is why he only rarely sends you out on field work."

"Our reputation precedes us," shrugged James indifferently.

"Yet everything I've seen of you personally, you're more than efficient," continued Rose. "You're disciplined and astute. You'd be a credit to any organization."

"Which goes to show you Team Rocket's high standards of efficiency," smiled Jessie.

Rose was considering this when his transceiver sounded; he glanced at the caller identification and realized it was Leon.

"If you'll excuse me," he said, stepping away to take the call. "Hello Leon...What? you're where? Hammerlocke? ...lobby?"

Rose left the basement level for the lobby, where he found Leon milling about looking at some of the tapestries that lined the walls.

"Leon," greeted the chairman, "what brings you to the energy plant?"

Leon smiled awkwardly. "Actually I was trying to find my way to the Pokémon Center. I just ended up here."

"The Pokémon Center is a block down," explained Rose. "You take a left at the..."

"Is that your left or my left?" asked Leon with befuddlement.

"I'm not finished speaking yet," said Rose with an unblinking glare, "You like my patronage?"

Leon stared at him, partly out of shock because of the directness of the statement, and partly because he was used to being worshipped by the public; defiance in any way, for lack of a better term, was jarring.

"Of course," was his simple answer.

Before anything else could be said, they heard the sound of the elevator and both glanced over to see James, Jessie and Meowth stepping lightly out of it.

Leon called out to them. "So... Team Rocket's already here in Galar? That was fast."

"Oh, you recognize us. Good to know our branding is on point," James noticed.

"Daniel Leon, I'd like to introduce..." Rose faltered and turned towards the trio. "I'm sorry, I don't believe I know your surnames."

"I'm Jessie," she said simply.

"And I'm James," he added with equal brevity.

The Meowth gave a loud meow but did not speak otherwise.

Leon sized them up. "Are you supposed to be high-rank Team Rocket agents?"

James answered with boredom. "Are you supposed to be the region's League Champion?"

"Touché," laughed Leon, "It's just for all people talk about the scary Team Rocket, you guys look harmless."

"You grossly underestimate us," Jessie replied mildly.

Leon turned around and walked away shouting over his shoulder, "We'll talk again later."

Rose turned apologetically towards the Team Rocket trio when he had gone. "Leon's an idiot but at least he's a loyal idiot."

"Those are hard to come by," purred Meowth.

"He knows that Giovanni and I have a business arrangement," continued Rose, "though he doesn't know what it is. I've led him to believe I'm in negotiations to purchase that shipping line from Rocket Enterprises. However, as you say...reputation precedes you, even for your organization as a whole."

"So long as he's not talkative," James said.

"He's loyal; don't worry," Rose reiterated his assurance. "I sponsored him for his initial run in the League tournament, and he's kept his title as champion throughout my tenure as chairman."

As he spoke, Oleana approached them.

"Chairman Rose," she addressed him, "I have your schedule ready and I would like to go over it with you."

"Yes," Rose replied and turned back to the Team Rocket trio.

"Why don't you come to the Tournament opening?" Rose invited. "It will be held this year in Motostoke, which is only a train ride away from here."

"We might take you up on that," responded Jessie, adding coyly, "Not to mention we plan to do some sightseeing ourselves."

"Just take precautions in the routes and forests. We have some strange Pokémon in these parts. Just yesterday Oleana and I myself nearly got attacked by two wolves," scowled Rose.

"Mightyena?" presumed James.

Rose shook his head. "These were far rarer and more powerful Pokémon than Mightyena."

The way their eyes glittered at the idea of two rare and powerful Pokémon did not escape Rose. However, he had little interest in whether they wanted to risk their lives hunting Galar's legendary beasts or not, and if the wolves were somehow related to the decline in dyna-max radiation – it was too early to tell – then getting those Pokémon captured and possibly transported to another region was so much the better for him. After that frightening incident in the Slumbering Weald, he had no desire to send any of his own people on such a wild goose chase, or wild wolf chase as it were.

As soon as James, Jessie and Meowth had left, Oleana sat down close to Mr. Rose and asked:

"Anything you want to add to the schedule?"

"What is the name of the associate I gave that special chore to? The stone gathering?"

"John Bede," replied Oleana.

"Oh yes, that's right. Bede."

Bede's job was straightforward; he was to collect wishing stars from across Galar, from those places off-limits or otherwise restricted by law. There were many such locations to find them in the wild-areas, which more so than the routes were entirely undeveloped, protected habitats for Pokémon that stretched expansively for acres. Bede agreed readily for the simple price of endorsement to enter the Pokémon League tournament, an endorsement Rose was happy to give.

"Bede plans to head out on his mission for us right after the League opening ceremony," explained Oleana.

"Good. With all those trainers getting lost en route to their next gym battle, he'll have an excuse to be wandering around where he shouldn't," said Rose with contentment. "Let's head back to the office."

Oleana followed Mr. Rose to an awaiting limousine and the two traveled back to his tower in Wyndon City. As soon as he arrived, he picked up the phone and called the gym leader of Spikemuth: Piers Wilkinson.

"Piers, I would like you to come to my office for a meeting to discuss something."

On the other end of the line a voice replied, "Ok. What time?"

"Evening. After my employees leave for the day... We don't need everyone involved in a business conversation," Rose answered.

"Fine." The reply was curt, and the phone was heard hanging up.

Rose also hung up the phone, looked at Oleana and said, "We shall see how smart Piers is."

Chapter 8 - Piers

Piers arrived at Rose Tower punctually for the meeting, which had been scheduled for after-hours when the place was fairly desolate and only a consortium of security guards with their Pokémon remained in the building. It had been timetabled so late on account of the busy, overbooked itinerary of Chairman Rose, or so explained Oleana, but Piers was nonchalant about it and said that his Pokémon were nocturnal anyway. He took the elevator up to the penthouse office, where Rose and Oleana were waiting.

Piers had long hair, streaked black and white, and a rough-and-tumble look about him. He was known in his locality as a rock musician, and had a small following of ragtag trainers as well. His looks stood in contrast to the formal dress of Rose and Oleana, but he was known to be skilled in Pokémon fights. He even had the tendency of boasting of his strategies in battle, then executing these strategies before his challengers could devise countermeasures.

"I'll get to the point," Rose said, sitting at his desk. "Your gym is the only one in Galar that does not dyna-max Pokémon in battle."

Piers spoke. "Yes, I know your emphasis on dyna-maxing, but as I've stated before I prefer to have natural Pokémon battles."

"Personal preference should take a backseat to the commercial matter at stake," Rose underscored. "Contemporary Pokémon League fans in Galar relish dyna-max battles; the sight of two behemoths struggling for the glory of victory. Without that, your gym frankly looks like a relic."

"It's quite satisfactory compared to the other regions of our planet," Piers protested, but the chairman interjected.

"Not for Galar. I think we could relocate the gym to a larger venue to accommodate dyna-maxing," Rose dismissed.

This did not convince the gym leader, who explained:

"Dyna-maxing takes the strategy out of Pokémon battles. There are skills necessary to command dyna-maxed Pokémon, but it takes more thought to battle with natural Pokémon. To plan how a small Pokémon can take down a larger one, by speed or by ingenuity, instead of just having two oversized animals wrestling it out."

Piers spoke fervently in favor for his opinions, though Rose looked irritated.

"I feel our battles at the Spikemuth gym are real battles – the kind you'd find two average trainers having out in the countryside, not the pomp and spectacle that the Galar competitive field is nowadays."

"You've been recalcitrant," noted Rose, menacingly. "You can see what it has done already to Spikemuth. Your tourism is dwindling, your population is declining...the city of Spikemuth is the Galarian Pyrite Town... Your short-sighted views towards the modern Pokémon industry could be quite detrimental. I wouldn't be very surprised if your gym were shut down on account of it. The Pokémon League already has more gyms than we find necessary. It's not advantageous to have a gym that doesn't dyna-max."

"Not advantageous to you," Piers snapped.

The forthrightness of this remark made Rose hesitate and even Oleana glance briefly at him. Piers, after a suitable silence, elaborated.

"Mr. Rose," said Piers, "You own the largest, most profitable conglomerate in the Galar region. The reason it's the largest and most profitable is that you also happen to be the chairman of the regional Pokémon League, and you mandate that all high-level League battles be between dyna-maxed Pokémon. The only way to bring about Pokémon dyna-maxing is through the use of dyna-max bands, which your company happens to be the only producer of."

The chairman studied Piers silently; the gym leader was incensed and had only begun speaking his mind:

"You now expect to mandate that all the gyms of Galar use dyna-maxing. line your pockets some more? I apologize, certainly anything that adds to the assets of Macro Cosmos – Galar's most philanthropic and revered firm – must surely be for the benefit of our region." While Piers spoke, Rose tapped something on the keyboard before him, then stood and walked over to the wide windows. He was wholly composed in his bearing. "As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Rose, you and your business ventures have no place in Spikemuth – or the Pokémon League. Good evening."

Piers got up brusquely and walked to the office exit.

Oleana frowned, yet Rose – who had been gazing out at the nighttime vista of Wyndon – now turned to address the gym leader as he was reaching the door.

"Piers," said Rose, "It might interest you to know that all the doors leading out of the Tower are locked. The glass of the windows is impervious to Pokémon attacks. The only way out, is with a single key found at the reception desk downstairs."

Piers faltered at the office doorway for a moment; sudden fear flitted through his eyes as he faced Rose, who watched him mildly.

"But I'm sure your Pokémon can get you there," Rose added casually.

Piers turned sharply without answering and hurried out of the office.

Rose strode back to his desk and brought up security camera footage of the tower's many floors, that displayed Piers hurrying down the hallway. He pressed a button on the intercom.

"Get him," he ordered, succinctly.

Oleana was watching without prejudice nor sympathy; she gave only one comment. "This seems a rather menial game to play."

"He was a rather menial gym leader," was the unconcerned, and revealing, reply.

Piers ran down the corridor, only to be assailed by a Hyper Beam attack that made him leap behind a corner. Unleashing his own Pokémon, a fox known as a Thievul, he fought past several of Rose's guards and their vicious Pokémon until Thievul fell.

"You're out of usable Pokémon," Rose, who was watching the events play out, said evenly over the intercom. Piers cringed.

It was now a matter of fleetness; with no defenses left, his life depended on how fast he could run from his pursuers. Piers leapt down the stairwell, snatched the key up from the reception desk and raced for the door. A creature's snarl reached his ears, with the order "Hyper Beam," given by the guards; he could hear energy charging for the attack, just as he twisted the key and, unlocking the door, bolted outside into the plaza.

"Let him go," called Rose over the intercom to the guards, "He got out of the building."

He now turned to Oleana, who was leaning against the desk, and smiled at her:

"No one would take the word of a half-rate gym leader against the Galar region's leading citizen."

Chapter 9 - Marnie

Piers, unsurprisingly, was not at the tournament opening.

He was the only gym leader absent in eight, but it seemed all of the Galarian public had turned out to fill the stadium, and Rose knew there were even more watching via telecast.

The Macro Cosmos logo was everywhere. It was perhaps too transparent of how much influence Mr. Rose had; then again, he had enough of that influence to get away with it. He had acquired that quality of a charismatic dictator, praised by the people and able to silence those who dissented without fanfare. Yet Rose did not actually hold political office, although there were those who encouraged him to seek it, and he would certainly have been able to win or buy an election for himself had he wished. Better to reign this way, through the dollar, where even those ostensibly in power would accommodate him.

By his side, as he had requested, was Oleana. She stood to his right, a picture of elegance and poise, as he introduced the gym leaders and elite four to spectators who already knew them and called onto the field trainers whose names were yet to be known: those taking part in the challenge this year.

These were the fortunate candidates who had managed to procure endorsement from some League official or one of the gym leaders. They numbered about one-hundred and held unanimous awe at being in such vaunted surroundings. Rose could only imagine how many more there would have been, had he not instituted the endorsement rule. He knew Bede was standing among them, his sole endorsement this year, and had been told that Champion Leon had endorsed two.

The event was the greatest turnout for a Pokémon League opening ceremony Rose had ever seen. Piers' objections seemed more miniscule than ever amidst this grand spectacle.

There's no one, decided Rose, as he waved to the elated crowd, absolutely no one, in the entire Galar region, who can successfully oppose us.

Marnie Wilkinson was Piers' younger sister, and one could see the resemblance in their features. She was about 19, with black hair styled with shiny ribbons into two ponytails, and wore a leather jacket over a pink dress. Cradled in her arms was a little hamster Pokémon called a Morpeko, happily eating an Oran Berry.

"Hop, the sooner we get to Hulbury, the sooner we can challenge the gym," Marnie was saying, glancing towards the other trainer walking alongside her. "The gym leader there specializes in water types, doesn't she?"

"Yeah, but with your electric type Pokémon, that gym match should be a pushover." Hop was watching her pet gnaw on its snack. "Whenever I see your Morpeko, it's always either carrying around or eating a berry."

"Morpeko should never be hungry," smiled Marnie, petting the hamster on the head. It gave a cheery squeak. "Have you ever seen a hungry Morpeko?"

"No, I can't say I have," admitted Hop.

"Consider yourself lucky," Marnie said, her expression serious. "They get vicious."

"Oh, I find that hard to believe, Marnie. Look how cute they are. I know Morpeko are distantly related to Pikachu."

"Morpeko are not Pikachu," said Marnie simply.

The neigh of a horse reached their ears and they pulled back as the tawny fire type suddenly galloped up, halting abruptly to bar their path.

Bede was about their age, with curly blond hair and violet eyes that seemed to hold a perpetual smugness. They had met him when they were at the opening ceremony in Motostoke and he had self-appointed himself their rival. He rode his Rapidash across Galar, and even though he would frequently deviate from the main road for indeterminate reasons, he tended to reach their destination before they did.

Humility was not an apt description for him. He trumpeted his victories and merit to whomever would permit him. "I was endorsed by the chairman himself. In other words, among all those elite enough to get an endorsement, I'm the most elite of all," Bede grinned.

"Is that why I won against you last time?" posited Marnie, "You're too elite to practice?"

Bede eyed her sideways. "I decided I should let you win. You did show at least a little effort."

"Get down from that Rapidash and I'll really show you a fight!" Marnie challenged.

"It's not like either of you would ever make it through the Gym Challenge," Bede dismissed. "I'm sure to easily defeat you if and when we face each other in an official match...considering how pathetic you are and how strong I am. Anyway, I have a meeting with the chairman, so I must excuse myself."

"Running from a trainer battle?" Hop could not resist.

Bede turned to him sneeringly. "I'm not in the mood to deal with weaklings right now. You may be the champion's little brother but with the inept way you battle, you're dragging his good name through the mud."

Hop seemed to wince at this, yet Marnie was getting more and more irritated. "So, you think we're weak," she prompted, "is that it?"

"You're not weak," said Bede, "you just lack talent."

With that he urged on his horse, which cantered off.

"I ought to let Morpeko bite him," snapped Marnie.

"That wouldn't be sportsmanlike," soothed Hop, "Even if he's got a bigger ego than a Prinplup. We'll show him at the championship tournament."

Marnie knew the gym challenge meant a lot to Hop. He was Leon's younger brother – the Champion Leon's younger brother – and shared not only his looks but his enthusiasm for Pokémon battles. Hop was close with his brother, and had always wanted a chance to prove himself in the spotlight as a trainer of equal talent. His dream was to one day compete against Leon in the championship finals.

It was this year Leon had endorsed him, and her. Hop had clamored incessantly that Marnie should join him with such prestigious backing and Leon obliged, though not without a good-natured quip that having a friend to compete with would make them both even more skilled as trainers.

Morpeko had finished its Oran berry, and was now looking around for another. When its eyes caught sight of a berry tree along the road, it bounded out of Marnie's arms to the bottom of the tree trunk, where it began squeaking as it looked up at its desired snack.

"I'll catch up to you, Hop," said Marnie as she briefly detoured.

Hop proceeded down the path till he came to a stone bridge reaching over a wide river. As he approached, he noticed some people loitering. They were wearing gaudy face-paint and dark, distressed clothes in a punk style, with bright League banners and noisemakers, and accompanied by tough looking Pokémon.

When Hop came closer, they stepped in his way. "Road's closed."

"Closed? Why?" asked Hop.

"Because we say so," one answered smugly.

"I have to get through," countered Hop. "I've got to get to the gym in Hulbury."

"Too bad for you," huffed the other trainer.

"You want a fight?" Hop grabbed a Poké Ball.

"You're on," the guy retorted and the accompanying Pokémon began to snarl menacingly in anticipation.

At this moment Marnie walked up, disbelief across her face.

"What the... Joe? Lara? Pete?" She just stared at them. "What are you guys doing here? And why the hell are you dressed like that?"

"Marnie!" exclaimed one.

"We're blocking the road," admitted another with a happy grin. "The less endorsed trainers get through, the less competition you'll have at the tournament finals and the more hassle the damn League chairman will have to deal with!"

"Does Piers know you're doing this shit?" demanded Marnie.

"Piers sent us," answered the third proudly.

"I can't believe...oh whatever. Look just let me and Hop through alright?"

They stepped aside obediently.

Hop waited till they were a good distance down the road before he turned to his travelling companion quizzically. " mind enlightening me?"

"Those are some of my brother's gym apprentices from back in Spikemuth," said Marnie. "We'll probably see them again in Hulbury."

They continued walking in silence; then Hop remarked, "I know the story about what happened to Piers, but...some part of me finds it hard to believe Chairman Rose would do something like that. Not that I don't believe it; I do. It's just if he's willing to threaten somebody for not playing along, what else is he willing to do?"

"He feels he can do anything he wants because of who he is," replied Marnie.

"My brother is endorsed and sponsored by the chairman," added Hop. "Mr. Rose is as important to this region as the League itself. He's even been to our place in Postwick, and always struck me as friendly. I guess not with those who fall afoul of him."

Marnie gave a single, thoughtful nod of her head.

"That's indirectly why I'm on this journey," she said. "And it's a good motivator."

During the same time, Mr. Rose called Giovanni Delavita, and was able to confirm his receipt of the wishing stars Macro Cosmos had shipped to Kanto.

The request for payment in wishing stars as opposed to cash had perplexed Rose for a time, but he had set out surreptitiously to inquire into Team Rocket's other interests. For him there was no cause for concern, and he trusted them as fair business partners, but some small part of Oleana's guardedness in interpersonal relations reflected upon him to the point that he gradually felt he ought to know, in any case, what Giovanni meant to do with the stones. He began to envision all the ways Rocket Enterprises could use them to compete against Macro Cosmos. Yet no sooner did he learn of Giovanni's pet project did all that concern fly out the window.

"Don't think I'm unaware of your other investments," said Rose with a smile. "I know precisely what you are doing, Mr. Delavita."

"Do you, now?"

"The wishing stars are being put to use for some kind of genetic study Team Rocket is financing."

"Very astute, Mr. Rose." To Rose's surprise Giovanni did not seem at all concerned. "Yes, that is in fact why I wanted a portion of the wishing stars."

"Now I can't imagine why you should want that kept secret. Or why, to that end, you should even be interested in the genetic traits of powerful Pokémon."

"The same reasons you find interest and preserve secrecy in Eternatus."

"Do you expect it to bear a sizable profit?" asked Rose, who was privately wondering if he should invest in such a study once the whole energy crisis was over.

"My current business maneuvers, Mr. Rose, are what I know will bear profit," responded Giovanni, and that ended the dialogue on that front. "By the way, would you happen to know what James and Jessie are getting up to over there?"

It was a peculiar question from Giovanni, but it was asked amiably and he went on sounding skeptical:

"They said they planned to surprise me with something. Knowing them, whenever they say that I never know what to expect."

"I really don't know. They can be kind of secretive, those two." Rose did have at least one idea what it might be, and if Team Rocket's two elites were successful in catching Zacian and Zamazenta they would be doing an indirect favor.

Chapter 10 - The Wild-Areas

The wild-areas, as they were simplistically called, were vast stretches of land outside of Hammerlocke and Motostoke. Farther reaching than even the forest routes and home to unusually powerful Pokémon, they were held almost as exclusive hunting grounds for the most skilled trainers because Galar's radiation reached its peak here, being able to disperse unimpeded like a broadcast signal in this open terrain. It made wild Pokémon prone to dyna-maxing spontaneously.

This did not keep some people from picnicking on the outer edges of the wild-areas nearest the cities. The land was so beautiful it held almost magnetic attraction, especially to tourists. Swathes of green amidst sunlit lakes were dotted with berry trees and flowers, and the faraway stone rises of ancient, crumbling walls traversed low and crooked paths through the meadowland. In summer weather, a cooling breeze wove across the grass, often bringing with it the faint breath of Galar's seashore.

It was towards the seashore Marnie headed, with a mind to get to Hulbury before nightfall. She skirted tall grass and kept away from distant wild Pokémon where possible, not wanting to get into a battle right now even though her little Morpeko was more than capable of holding its ground.

She also had her dyna-max band on as she walked through the meadow, should a giant wild Pokémon come forth to attack them regardless. Her brother Piers was against dyna-maxing on principle, but Marnie herself was indifferent to it; in order to compete in the League tournaments against gym leaders' dyna-maxed Pokémon, she was forced to often do the same with Morpeko.

Morpeko did not care either way. A fight was a fight, which the hamster loved. Perhaps it also found certain charm in being able to tower over its trainer too during dyna-max battles, but if so it was a secret known only to the Pokémon.

"I don't know why Hop just had to go racing off like that," she scowled, talking to her pet as they walked, "I know he wanted to catch that Cramorant he saw flying near the lake, but..."

Morpeko squeaked in response. Marnie wondered what it said.

"I do like Hop," she continued, "It's just sometimes we have very different ideas. I wonder if we're really a good match for each other."

Inexplicably Morpeko, with a twitch of its whiskers, scampered off in one direction.

"Morpeko, where are you going?" asked Marnie, following her pet.

She was led to a large Oran tree, with wide foliage and laden with berries. Morpeko halted here and squeaked adamantly.

"You want some of the berries?" said Marnie.

Reaching up, she picked one of the ripest; Marnie bent down to feed the happy little Pokémon when she caught sight of two other trainers at a distance.

They looked upset, and were in the middle of a heated discussion. Both of them wore striking white outfits, and Marnie instantly recognized the insignia of Team Rocket. Lying on the grass, apparently fainted, was a Meowth.

"I told you this was a bad idea," Jessie was saying. "Let's catch the legendary wolf for the boss, you said. Legendary wolf, my ass. Instead we get ambushed by a damn ferret."

"It's not my fault we forgot to stock up on items," countered James.

Marnie ventured to come closer, and spoke up. "Is your Pokémon all right?"

They both turned as if only now realizing her presence, and for a moment they were all silent.

James was first to speak. "We're out of revives and the nearest Pokémon Center is miles from here."

"Don't admit it!" Jessie snapped.

"I have revives," Marnie offered.

Now they both seemed truly surprised. Marnie retrieved the small yellow capsules from her bag, snapped one open and held it before Meowth. The cat stirred upon smelling the fumes, groggily lifting its head and meowing, "What happened...?"

Marnie caught a gasp of astonishment. "You can talk?"

"Yes," interjected Jessie dismissively, "he's something of a chatterbox. Excuse me, you are...?"

"My name's Marnie," she introduced herself, "and this is my Pokémon, Morpeko."

The hamster gave a muffled squeak of acknowledgement as it continued gnawing on the Oran berry.

"Do you know who we are?" James now asked tentatively.

"I imagine you're part of Team Rocket, with those uniforms," Marnie answered truthfully, though with a hint of hesitation, "I saw a photograph once on the news, about the Kanto region."

Both James and Jessie considered her with undeniable fascination that she should be so forthright and helpful. The Meowth stretched and stood alertly up on its hind paws.

"My name is Jessie and this is James," said Jessie.

The cat Pokémon chimed in, "...and don't forget about Meowth!"

"Hello to all of you," said Marnie, giving a small handful of the revives to them, "here are some more just in case. This part of the region can be dangerous if you don't have healing supplies for your Pokémon."

"Thank you," responded Jessie, not even hiding curiosity at this point.

"Good luck," said Marnie as she walked away.

"Jessie, she said her name was Marnie...did she not?" asked James.

"I believe so, dear James," replied Jessie.

James was pensive. "Isn't she related to the gym leader in Spikemuth?"

"Meowrrrr," added the cat.

Not far away, Rose and Oleana had ventured into the wild-areas themselves on a picnic. Ostensibly that was the reason; however Oleana had tracked another sharp decline in dyna-max radiation to a location outside of Hammerlocke, which merited investigation. Even so, the sunny weather was right for a picnic date and out here there were few if any prying eyes to disturb them.

They found a semi-thicketed slope that still provided view of the meadow landscape stretching to the horizon. Here they spread out their blanket on the grass. Between eating and pleasant conversation, Oleana intently reviewed wavelengths and data projections displayed on a small device. They were an enigma to Rose, but something there evidently concerned her.

"These readings seem to be exactly like what we detected in the Slumbering Weald," explained Oleana, "some kind of an opposing wavelength interfering with the radiation."

"My beautiful Oleana," said Mr. Rose, "perhaps it's the land itself."

"But something has to be causing it," maintained Oleana, "It's as if this opposing wave just turned on."

Her green eyes narrowed, the same intensity he admired whenever something captured her attention in research. "Whatever it is seems to be getting closer..." Oleana observed.

As she spoke there was a soft tremble of bracken, and turning to look towards an overgrowth of nearby berry bushes Oleana's emerald gaze was met by an unblinking yellow one.

Soundlessly, the supple creature emerged from the bushes and both Rose and Oleana nearly froze as they recognized it. The Pokémon had its eyes fixed on them, just as in their last encounter, a stare not aggressive but appraising.

"It's the wolves," murmured Oleana.

She stepped tentatively closer to the animal; as she did, she could see its companion also hiding in the underbrush, its red fur blending in with the berries. When she outstretched a hand towards them, she heard Rose draw in a sharp breath.

"Be careful, Oleana...!" he whispered.

There was suddenly a rustle from behind her. Both Pokémon drew their heads up alertly, and with swiftness unlike any other creatures either Rose or Oleana knew whipped around and dashed away.

Oleana turned with annoyance in her eyes and fixed a harsh gaze on the culprit. "Leon."

"What are you doing here, Leon?" asked Mr. Rose with indignation.

Leon shifted a bit, evidently out of embarrassment. "Well, I heard the train tracks leading to Motostoke were blocked by a wayward herd of Wooloo, so I came out here to see if Charizard and I could help. Unfortunately I lost my way and..."

"Ended up here," Oleana finished flatly.

"Train tracks?" Rose looked worried. "That would have to be my rail line heading from Wedgehurst..."

At that instant his transceiver rang, and as Rose now conversed with the train station manager about unruly Wooloo, Oleana looked at Leon and pointed towards a direction.

"Guess I'm getting a bit worse lately at finding my way," Leon admitted, and sprinted away.

Rose hung up the transceiver after the conversation, frustrated. "Honestly I don't see why they can't drive them off the track...!"

Oleana settled back down next to Rose on the picnic blanket. "I wonder about Leon."

"My dear Oleana, you distrust most people." Rose leant over and kissed her. "I'm more worried about those wild Pokémon that seem to have wandered from the Slumbering Weald. If they get too close to the city..."

"They don't look like malicious Pokémon," said Oleana.

"Maybe so," replied Rose, "but if they emit energy that interferes with dyna-max radiation, I don't want them anywhere near League stadiums. It's bad enough the radiation is naturally going down, but to have the issue compounded by those wolves!"

It was a concern that pestered Mr. Rose all that next morning, even as they had returned to their Wyndon office and the monotony of the workday. Oleana seemed to have a separate worry however, and she took advantage of a moment when they were alone in his office to tell him of it.

"There's a new development in our energy project," said Oleana.

"Nothing good, evidently," Rose realized.

"The radiation is weakening faster than we calculated," she explained, "At this rate of declension there may not be enough of it to dyna-max Pokémon by tournament day."

The chairman leant back in his chair, suddenly feeling very worn out. "We can't cancel the tournament, there would be too many questions...but we can't proceed as planned; it would look like a product failure."

Oleana was as unruffled as ever. "Fortunately, the ancient Galarians were so fearful of the energy contained within the shards, they sealed them away in designated locations. I've located the largest mass of wishing stars in the Galar region."


"Behind the mural at Stow-on-Side."

Rose thought about this, and a grin crossed his lips. "So, it would seem that Galar might soon lose a great historical monument."

"But surely it's an unfortunate happenstance," Oleana emphasized, with slight hints of a smile, "after all, such a rock formation eroded slowly by the elements could crumble any day now by the cruel whim of nature."

"Oleana, my dear, you're as crafty as a Zorua," Rose laughed, "I think Bede can speed up nature's cruel whim for us."

Chapter 11 - Captain's Table

Quaintness was an apt description for Hulbury; it was a seaside town with a thriving fishing trade, and a small market along the shoreline selling incense and herbs.

Rose was no stranger to Hulbury. He had lived there for a time when he had newly relocated to Galar from Orre. He and Oleana had come to Hulbury that day because Bede was here, having challenged the gym; they intended to speak with him about the wishing stars hidden behind the Stow-on-Side mural, but so long as they were in town they had taken it as a pleasant holiday.

Mr. Rose was attired far more casually than usual, in a baggy long-sleeved shirt with Bermuda shorts and a trainer's cap. Although Oleana typically kept her fashion style as office attire, she emulated Mr. Rose on this day, by wearing a casual, sleeveless summer dress in pastel yellow colour with tiny embroidered butterflies and daisies across the collar area.

"My dear, you look stunning... even in a simple outfit your beauty shines through," Rose commented.

"Thank you, Linford," she simply replied.

They were soon surrounded by a small group of fans clamoring for attention. Oleana dismissed them with a wave.

"Our sincerest apologies! The chairman is quite busy at the moment... Everyone, please disperse! Please leave now!"

"No need to rush off! I can still do more autographs," Rose protested.

When the group had disbanded, he turned towards her with mock disapproval. "Chasing them off like that... aren't you being a bit too harsh, Oleana?"

Her features twitched into a slight smile. "Always looking out for your best interests, Linford."

At that moment they spied a familiar face standing at a distance. The minute Bede saw them, he waved and called out loudly:

"Mr. Chairman! Ms. Oleana! I've been collecting both wishing stars and gym badges as fast as I can!"

Discretion eluded Bede, evidently. It was a challenge for Rose not to outwardly wince, or even better to shout back at Bede for his carelessness.

Oleana watched their subordinate with toleration; Rose admired her icy calm in the face of such ineptitude. "Good work, Bede. I'm glad you haven't forgotten that it was the chairman who endorsed you."

"If I gather enough wishing stars, that'll help solve the problem that's been bothering you, right, Mr. Chairman?" added Bede.

"Oh, it's not just about me," said Rose cagily.

Oleana motioned to Bede to follow her off to the side. "Bede, there is something I wish to discuss with you. Do you have a moment?"

She had no sooner done this that Rose turned around and saw Marnie walking up the path with her Morpeko.

How much had she heard? The chairman had to know. "I hope you were listening, Marnie," Rose posed gingerly.

"I really didn't hear anything," Marnie replied with nonchalance.

This was of course a lie. She had heard; she had heard everything, in fact. The way Bede spoke was very easy to overhear. However Marnie was astute enough to realize when admitting knowledge held potential peril, versus when she had the advantage instead.

Her claim succeeded in allaying the chairman's fears though. "We were discussing your talent in raising Pokémon," he lied. "Bede says you're quite a skilled trainer."

"Really? I was under the impression he thought little of me," she replied, giving away nothing.

Oleana walked back over as Rose was speaking. "You know... you might be Piers' sister, but you were endorsed by the Champion, and I admit I'm a bit curious about Leon's reasons for endorsing you." He then brightened up. "Ah! I just had a good idea, like I tend to do! If something needs to get done, there's no time like the present, after all. Besides, I'd like to get to know you a little better. After your gym battle, come to the Captain's Table. It's a restaurant here in town. If you've won, it'll be a celebration," he added.

"Well, any invitation from the Pokémon League chairman is undeniably a privilege," said Marnie, "Yes, I'll be there."

As Rose walked away, Oleana gazed standoffishly at Marnie. "Win the gym badge and join the chairman at once. Do not keep him waiting."

When they were a suitable distance from Marnie, Rose made his vexation manifest. "That confounded Marnie! ...and Bede, full of himself. I'm surrounded by incompetents. Except for you, Oleana. You're the only person who makes sense in my life. What did Bede say when you gave him his instructions?"

"He'll be heading to Stow-on-Side straightaway in the morning," said Oleana, "He was unsure Rapidash would be strong enough to topple the stone face. I gave Bede your Copperajah as you said."

"Good," replied Rose, "my Pokémon knows Rock Smash, so Bede should have no trouble demolishing the mural there."

The Hulbury gym was decorated in aquamarine shades and had a maritime ambience to it. As Marnie approached the gym, she saw two figures standing outside with a Pokémon.

She almost had not recognized them in their civilian attire. "James and Jessie...and Meowth."

"Well, look who's here, prrrr," purred the cat.

"We seem to be crossing paths, missy," added James.

"I'm challenging the Pokémon League," Marnie explained.

"For fame and fortune?" asked Jessie, "Or just for adventure?"

"Actually," Marnie answered, with honesty, "it's to try to revive my hometown of Spikemuth. The place has become rundown and in dire need of funds ever since dyna-maxing became popular, or should I say pushed upon the gyms..."

She held back elaboration, suddenly feeling she had said too much.

"You've got more on your mind, I can sense it," revealed Meowth.

Marnie sighed and admitted, "It's all about the League chairman, Mr. Rose. He's also the CEO of Macro Cosmos, which makes the dyna-max bands. He's lining his pockets with this. It's bold-faced corruption."

"So?" Jessie questioned.

The response truly surprised Marnie, but she stayed silent as they laid out their view.

"The Pokémon League is, itself, a business," pointed out James. "In fact, most ventures can be boiled down to a profit margin. Whether it's publicized or not, and especially when someone claims there to be none."

"What we mean is... there are some people it behooves one to get along with," added Jessie.

"Like Mr. Rose?" Marnie could not help but scowl. "He uses others to help himself."

"Do the people he uses benefit in any way?"

For a moment, Marnie considered it objectively; the prosperity of those cities that had acceded to Rose's whims, and Leon's fame as League Champion. "I suppose they do," she relented.

"One must think things through," Jessie said adding, "Well, anyway, you helped us, and we remember people who helped us. Good luck in your match."

"Thanks," she replied.

The two Team Rocket agents walked away with Meowth following. Marnie watched them and then the thought of her brother Piers crossed her mind. She hurried to a public phone available to anyone traversing the gym and called him.

Piers answered swiftly. "Hello?"

"Piers! It's me, Marnie!" she said.

"Oh, hi Marnie. How's everything?"

"Ok I guess... Piers... Mr. Rose extended a dinner invitation."

"Was his assistant Oleana present?"

"Yes, why?"

"Word going around that they're lovers so you don't want to mess with that situation."

"Piers...the dinner invitation appears to be business related, although I honestly don't see the possibility. I told him I would go, however."

"Good idea Marnie," answered her brother, "you can let me know what he might be up to."

The Captain's Table was a famous restaurant in Hulbury frequented by the well-to-do; it followed naturally that it was one of Mr. Rose's preferred establishments in the area, and those who worked there all knew him.

"Would you like your usual table, Mr. Rose?" asked the maître d' as they walked in.

At a nod of assent from Rose, they were ushered to a table beside a large window, overlooking a veranda and part of the sea.

"Bring the drinks first; we are waiting for a third party. ...Is something on your mind, dear?" he asked Oleana when the waiter had gone, "You seem quite pensive."

"Yes, Linford," she admitted, "Do you think she'll see through our plan?"

"No, I doubt she's that astute," he replied.

Marnie was running a bit late, held up probably by some battle somewhere as was apt to happen to young trainers, so it gave time for Rose and Oleana to enjoy both the ambiance and their company. Gentle orchestral music floated from the nearby dance floor, where couples followed the melody in twirling steps.

He took her by the hand, and they stepped onto the dance floor just as the one melody was ending and a waltz was beginning. It was a soft tune, even sad, harkening of a medieval era and a time lost to the shadows of history. Everyone present could see how they gazed at each other, how he held her in his arms, how they danced close together with harmony, but no one dared voice aloud the unspoken romance between the most powerful man of the Galar region and his beautiful assistant. It was treated as non sequitur, even in all its manifestation; for to all those there, fear overcame the predisposition of gossip.

As the waltz concluded, Rose and Oleana found themselves lost in each other's eyes, unaware of the watchful new arrival: Marnie Wilkinson.

To Marnie, the fact Rose and Oleana were evidently a couple was less a salacious symphony and more a sour note. She could picture them conspiring together, as they veritably were, to some devious end. She stepped over to them as they walked back to their table together.

When Rose saw her, he greeted her warmly. "Marnie, congratulations. I heard you won the gym badge on the first try."

In that he was genuine. He had an idea for Marnie, regardless of the fact he found her annoying, but it required her cooperation to work. He also had a few things he wanted to discuss. Before long they were all seated round the table and food had been sent for.

"Hulbury is a seafood town," said Rose. "Naturally, if one is going to eat here, the obvious choice is the local cuisine! Everything on the menu is delicious. By the way, how is Piers getting on?"

"He's fine, considering." She left this open. Rose did not pursue the comment to where he knew it would lead.

"It's evident you both have the same skill with Pokémon battling. You've acquired quite a fan base," he remarked instead, "Team Yell, I believe they call themselves."

Marnie looked a bit self-conscious. "They call themselves Team Yell because they say they're going to yell loud enough to cheer me to victory."

"They've been doing more than cheering," said the chairman, with a sip of his drink, "They've been rather disruptive of Pokémon League events."

"I don't have much control over them, any more than you do your own fans."

Marnie motioned to the window, where a small group of people outside were vying for Rose's attention. He obliged them for just a moment, waving at them, then turned back to Marnie with a small smile. "Yes, I try to come here incognito but somehow they always find out. I used to live in Hulbury for a time when I was starting my business. I suppose your brother Piers has a similar following wherever he goes in Spikemuth. Presuming there are still people living in Spikemuth," he added.

Marnie was noticeably irritated, which contented Rose, but she kept her composure. "Part of the reason I entered the gym challenge was to breathe life back into my hometown. I really have no interest in fame for myself."

Rose considered this briefly, then said, "I will get right to the point. I would like to offer you a chance to play on my team."

"Whatever do you mean, Mr. Rose?" asked Marnie.

"I would like to sponsor you," he replied.

Marnie petted Morpeko thoughtfully. "You have all the best trainers in the League, Mr. Rose; why do you want me?"

"You're a strong trainer, Marnie. You could win for Macro Cosmos. That could be a benefit for both of us."

"Don't be a fool," Oleana said with annoyance. "Mr. Rose is offering you a tremendous opportunity and you are considering it? You ought to leap at the chance."

"That is true," Marnie replied pensively, then added, "alright Mr. Rose... I accept your offer."

"Excellent!" said Rose, "By the way, congratulations, Marnie, on a well-fought victory."

"Thank you," she replied.

"Have you decided where you shall be heading next?"


How convenient, Rose thought. "That's a long way from here," he said.

Marnie was indifferent. "A friend of mine has a bird Pokémon. I plan to challenge the gym there."

"So long as you don't meddle in things that don't concern you, you should remain unharmed," Rose stated.

Marnie hesitated.

Rose lifted his goblet, his eyes fixed upon her. "A your victory."

Marnie responded by lifting hers as well. "To Macro Cosmos."

When Marnie had left, Oleana turned to Rose and asked, "Do you think she'll be a problem?"

"No," replied Rose, "merely a momentary distraction...easily handled, and quickly forgotten. Shall we dance some more, my dear?"

Within minutes they were back on the dance floor.

The idea of being sponsored by Chairman Rose both amused and puzzled Marnie. If he thought he was helping her, he definitely intended to get something out of it. It was a ploy, it had to be a ploy, for why else would he extend such favor to the sister of an enemy? She knew it was nothing more; he might be prolific in matters of business but he had Oleana, and his secretary had even been present at the meeting.

She was debating her next move as she walked down the route when she saw a familiar trainer duck into the entrance of a nearby mine.

Bede? A notion occurred to her, and maybe even temptation of getting even with his incessant vainglory somehow, and she followed him into the mine.

The cavern was fairly quiet at this hour; all the workers had gone home for the day, though wild Zubat flitted aimlessly about and every so often a receding dust cloud on the ground indicated the presence of a Diglett. She searched for any sight of her rival. Beside her, Morpeko swallowed the last of the berry it had been eating and scampered forward as if anticipating a fight.

When Marnie found Bede gathering gemlike shards from the ground, she could not resist speaking up. "So this where you're getting wishing stars for Mr. Rose? From the chairman's own mine?"

His eyes jolted up to her, and shock was replaced by derision. "What do you know about what I'm doing? What do you care?" He fell back to his usual self-aggrandizement. "I was endorsed by Chairman Rose; I can be here."

Marnie decided to indulge in a little boasting herself. "I was endorsed by Champion Leon," she countered, "and sponsored by Chairman Rose."

She could see Bede tense.

"So we're supposed to be on the same side now?" Bede questioned, a bit resentfully. "How does that work? Are you heading to Stow-on-Side too?"

"Yes," she answered vaguely.

A new sort of tension crept upon him, as if she had laid down a challenge.

"Well don't get ahead of yourself, Marnie," sneered Bede, "because I'm getting those wishing stars behind the mural like Oleana ordered before you do."

He pushed past her, out of the mine, without saying any more.

Chapter 12 - Stow-on-Side

In many ways Stow-on-Side shared similarities with Lentimas Town in the Unova region. Both towns were fairly small, with houses hewn from clay, and centers of art and culture. Woven tapestries and painted pottery were but some of the wares sold as souvenirs to tourists, yet the greatest pride of Stow-on-Side and its most famous tourism attraction was the large, ancient mural on the rock face to the side of town.

They'll have to find a new source of revenue pretty soon, thought Chairman Rose, with a malicious amusement he felt slightly guilty for. He contented himself with the idea of how much Macro Cosmos' revenue would benefit by this ploy, provided Bede could retrieve all those wishing stars hidden behind the mural.

Rose and Oleana had come to Stow-on-Side that morning on a whim. As they walked aimlessly through the open-air market set up along the main street, they spoke about their plan. The closer they got to achieving their goal of awakening Eternatus, the more nerve-racking it all somehow became.

"Have you been able to find out anything new about those wolves?" Rose asked.

"They seem to be steel types," explained Oleana, "According to legend they can't dyna-max, but they have ample strength to knock down a dyna-maxed enemy in battle."

"Makes sense, if they siphon away dyna-max radiation," figured Rose.

"I'm still not certain they are to blame for that, even partly," opined Oleana.

"What else could it be?" Rose queried, "Every time we've tracked a sharp decline in radiation, those damned wolves show up."

"I would still feel better if I could make a further study of them," responded Oleana noncommittally.

As they spoke, there was a sudden explosive sound from the distance, the sound of a Pokémon's cry, and a hullabaloo of people talking all at once. "That sounded like it was coming from the direction of the mural," Oleana realized.

Rose felt himself cringe. "No... Bede couldn't be so stupid, could he? To do that in broad daylight? He can't have been that dumb."

Inquisitiveness that Rose knew he would soon regret led him and Oleana towards the site of the mural, where who should they find in the process of a messy demolition with the loaned Copperajah but John Bede. A number of gawking bystanders was already gathering, aghast at the destruction – and making keen-eyed observations.

"That looks like Mr. Rose's Pokémon," said one.

"Wasn't he endorsed by the chairman too?" noted another.

All eyes turned in expectance to Chairman Rose and his secretary, who stood speechlessly at the edge of the crowd.

Oleana spoke first. "Challenger Bede! I wondered what you were up to when you asked to borrow Chairman Rose's Copperajah... I can't believe you'd try to use the chairman's Pokémon to destroy a historical site!"

To this, Bede turned around and scowled at her. "What? ...Did you stand in the path of a Pokémon's Simple Beam or something?"

The gathered townspeople were still watching the chairman and his secretary with hushed anticipation. By now Rose had formulated words, and delivered them with suitably affected regret. "Bede... It pains me to have to say this, but... I am truly disappointed. I saw talent in you. You reminded me a little bit of myself, back when I was young. But trying to destroy the mural – part of Galar's history! You show no love toward our region. You are clearly not a worthy competitor for the Gym Challenge."

Bede was staring at him, eyes wide with shock. Rose allowed the final blow to fall.

"I hereby revoke your endorsement for the Pokémon League challenge."

Bede found his voice. " must be joking, right? There are a hundred different ways we could sort this out... Why are you choosing the worst possible option?"

Rose paid little heed; he turned and walked off. The slight was too great for Bede.

"You ordered this!" he blurted out.

The townspeople all turned to him, aghast that he should even imply it, while the chairman halted and casually glanced back over his shoulder.

"Such a lie, too," Rose said musingly.

Oleana faced Bede, her arms akimbo. "I will be taking those wishing stars that you have gathered. An irresponsible trainer like you should not possess such powerful items. Macro Cosmos can put these wishing stars to better use, for the benefit of all of Galar."

"I'm sure you can!" Bede muttered.

People had begun to mill about the strewn boulders that were the only remnants of the historical mural, and Rose took the opportunity to separate himself from the crowd. This endeavor only brought him face-to-face with who else but Marnie Wilkinson, her little pet Morpeko beside her gnawing on a berry. Rose maintained his sorrowful visage as he addressed her.

"Ah, Marnie! Terrible shame, all this. I never wish to see us lose challengers for this sort of reason, yet we do what we must do to keep things fair and sportsmanlike."

"But he was acting under orders," said Marnie.

"Whose orders?" Rose prompted with feigned innocence.

"Yours," she said forthrightly, "through your lover Oleana."

His eyes grew harsh, but before he could retort Oleana called to him. "Chairman."

Leaving Marnie, which he was all too happy to do, Rose pushed back through the crowd to see the object of their awe.

The crumbled stone had revealed ancient statues of two wolves; one carried a sword in its jaws, the other a shield. Below, on the pedestal where they stood, was an inscription of hieroglyphics.

"There appears to be something written on it," Rose noted, and turned to the crowd. "Is there anyone here who can understand ancient scripts?"

To his surprise, Oleana said, "I can."

Rose hurried to her side excitedly. "What does it say, Oleana? Can you translate it here we need to take it to our laboratories to determine precisely what it says?"

"Chairman," replied Oleana, who quickly read his ploy, "the writing is a bit convoluted to be deciphered forthwith. It would be better served if we could transport it to our laboratories."

"So be it," Rose proclaimed.

Marnie watched dubiously as Oleana got on her cell phone and called employees from Macro Cosmos. Before long they had arrived, and the statues were gingerly lifted onto aerial transport to be taken to a company site far from public view.

With the gathering finally dispersing, Marnie decided to go look for Bede. She saw him entering the Pokémon Center and decided to follow.

Word was travelling fast around town, and locals in the Pokémon Center were murmuring and casting glares in his direction; meanwhile travellers who held no stake in the matter watched Bede with gossipy curiosity. Marnie made straight for him as he was at the counter.

The moment Bede saw her, his face contorted into a scowl. "Come to gawk at me now that I've had my Gym Challenger status revoked? Can you really afford to waste time like this?"

Marnie did not deign to answer this. "Bede, must know what Mr. Rose is planning."

"Why would you care?"

"Why should you be loyal to him?" she countered. "He wanted you to gather those wishing stars for a reason. Tell me what he's up to."

"Get the hell out of Galar," Bede said.

She thought it was another half-baked attempt at offense. Yet his eyes betrayed a genuine fear she had never seen from him prior; these words were a genuine warning.

"I don't know the details. Details weren't part of the bargain. But if you value your life, get the hell out of Galar."

Without saying anything else, Bede walked away and left the Pokémon Center. Marnie watched him go, her thoughts more questions than answers.

The wolf statues had been brought to Wyndon, to the basement level of Rose Tower, and placed in a room not far from where the Eternatus cocoon was.

Chairman Rose walked into the room to find Oleana studying the writing. "Well, my dear," he inquired, "what does the inscription say?"

Oleana read her translation aloud:

"The sovereign, one born with unparalleled talent in combat, comes forth as the five spires yield the black storm. With the region being left as dust in the shadow of giants, the sovereign seeks the aid of the sword and shield. Armed with both as well as skill shall the sovereign defend this land, for solely one who has not fallen in battle can rise on the darkest day...and so overpower Eternatus."

They gazed, mystified, at the ancient words; then Rose spoke. "Perhaps if we recruit Leon with my venture," he decided.

"He is the undefeated champion," Oleana agreed, "if anyone could subdue Eternatus, it would be him, provided he'll help without too many questions."

Rose laughed. "He's a bumbling ignoramus with two less wits than a Slowpoke," the chairman said, adding, "He'll be easy to get to help with this."

Chapter 13 - League Semifinals

It was finally the day of the Pokémon League semifinals, and across the Galar region everyone watched the competition with riveted enthusiasm.

A long week of top trainers battling here in Wyndon Stadium had pushed the destruction of Stow-on-Side's mural, and the resultant discovery there, to a memory in the public consciousness; of course it helped that Rose owned most of the television networks in that region, and could hence push the story into obscurity. However, the ancient statues remained on his mind and that of Oleana as they watched Champion Daniel Leon play to a clamoring crowd.

They all stood on the sidelines to observe the match from on the battlefield. The two trainers who had made it this far were none other than Marnie Wilkinson and Hop Leon.

It was so evident prior matches had been rigged, to an extent. They were both the candidates with the most clout in this privileged tournament. But neither Marnie nor Hop knew that, nor would know it if Chairman Rose had his way, and it was also true they were each fine trainers in their own right who could have won a more honest League challenge outside of Galar.

As far as Rose's business was going, it was booming. Never before had their profits seen such an increase as now with the renewed popularity of the League, and this extended to all trainer products. Poké Balls, one of Macro Cosmos' main manufactured goods, were selling faster than ever before. Profits are up thanks to dyna-maxing, reflected Rose, and to think...the radiation my business uses to enable it, is faltering and flickering like a Litwick's flame.

If anything could affirm even more Rose's commitment to follow his plan through, it was this certainty.

Music blared through the colosseum as Rose walked over to Leon. The champion's Charizard was out of its Poké Ball, and it gave a huff of smoke as he approached.

"Leon I'd like to meet with you later. Is 8:30 convenient?"

"We agree that time is money, but yes, I'll be there," Leon replied and quickly walked away.

Rose was still trying to figure out what Leon meant when two people approached, and he recognized James and Jessie of Team Rocket as well as their ever-present Meowth. They were dressed in civilian attire and Meowth padded beside them on all fours. James was snacking on popcorn, and every so often he tossed one of the kernels to Meowth when the cat pawed at him.

"Chairman Rose," Jessie greeted him.

"Jessie and James, glad you could come to see the event," said Rose, and then a quizzical look crossed his face. " did you two get on the battlefield?"

Jessie looked at her companion with feigned confusion. "James, how did we get on the battlefield?"

"I thought you knew, Jessie," replied James, who was having as much fun with the question as she.

The Meowth gave several long meows and a purr, their meaning unknown.

Ignoring the original question, Jessie said:

"We wanted to inform you in person; the cocoon is about to hatch. It's already showing signs of activity. We estimate this night."

"Excellent!" said Rose with visible glee.

James raised an eyebrow with reservations. "I sure hope you have a way to catch that Pokémon."

"That will be my concern," responded Rose. "I owe Team Rocket for the help."

"You don't owe us yet," replied Jessie vaguely, as they left him.

Oleana watched the trio step away. "There's something untrustworthy about them."

"My beautiful Oleana," said Rose with an affectionate smile, "you don't trust Team Rocket, you don't trust don't trust Marnie but then again neither do there anyone you do trust?"

"I trust you," she whispered, and kissed him.

There was something impressive in itself about standing in such a large battlefield, and it was magnified by the mighty cheer that burst forth from eager spectators to see the two trainers walk forth. If Galar was a region renowned for energy, no other place could it be felt more strongly than in the center of that great colosseum in Wyndon.

Marnie glanced at Morpeko, which seemed hyped up with the atmosphere too. She knew it was ready to fight and win for her, but she had already made up her own private decision.

She and Hop had two different reasons for coming this far in the League challenge. As she reflected on this, she could see Hop across the field, unlocking a Poké Ball for the anticipated battle against Morpeko. The mere fact they had both gotten this far was in itself a feat.

It might have been a grander feat, she thought, if there had been more competitors. The whole endorsement rule Chairman Rose put into place no doubt excluded many fine trainers.

But she was aware of League rules too; regulations and petty legalities that she could bend and maneuver around as well as Rose and Oleana did. She was also cognizant of the spotlight upon her in the semifinals, and the knowledge that if she wanted to accomplish something big for her hometown of Spikemuth, now was the best time.

"Hey Hop," she projected her voice across the battlefield, "are you up for a real challenge?"

"Like what?" Hop called back.

"One Pokémon each, no dyna-maxing... Up for it, Hop?"

"I accept!" cried Hop.

Marnie turned to the audience and outstretched her arms in a gesture. "We're going to show you how a Pokémon battle can be awesome even without dyna-maxing!" she exclaimed.

It resulted in a unified cheer from her Team Yell cohorts in the front row that was quickly taken up by the rest of the spectators, rippling through the stadium like a flood.

Oleana glanced at Rose and saw his frustration. "Can't they be disqualified for this?" she inquired.

"It's a hold-over League regulation," Rose scowled, "If both trainers agree to a restriction on the match before it begins, then the battle is still considered official. Remind me, Oleana, to change that regulation."

Oleana dutifully jotted it down.

The two Pokémon, Marnie's Morpeko and Hop's Wooloo, darted at each other and unleashed energy attacks that flashed across the battlefield. It surprised Rose how much stamina the sheep had despite being unevolved. Still, Morpeko had the noticeable upper-hand in the fight. He watched the bars measuring the animals' battling strength on a great screen to the side, where they gradually lowered to the yellow mid-point for Morpeko and a red sliver for Wooloo.

It seemed Morpeko would be the winner, so it astonished everybody when Morpeko suddenly fell to its side in the center of the field, as if it had fainted. It resulted in confusion among the referees, and uncertainty for a moment as to who had won the match.

"She's out of strength," declared Marnie.

"The gauge says she can still fight," pointed out Hop, looking at the display screen.

"The hit-point detection must be malfunctioning," Marnie insisted, scooping her little pet up from the grass.

The winner was hence declared to be Hop. As the crowd cheered and announcers proclaimed the name of the trainer who would go on to challenge the Champion – it would be a historic contest between brothers – Hop and Marnie shook hands.

"I've never seen your Morpeko get knocked out." Hop whispered to her, unheard by everyone amidst the din.

"She didn't," Marnie murmured back, with a little smile.

The emotion reflected in Hop's eyes was first one of shock and protest, but then he relented, only smiling back gratefully and turning to the audience with a wave.

From afar, Rose remarked to Oleana, "I never expected that outcome for the fight. Marnie looked certain to win."

"She threw the battle," Oleana stated.

Rose glanced at her with surprise, and she proceeded to explain.

"I saw it... you can see it too, if you look at the video playback; she gave a signal to Morpeko and the Pokémon flopped over. It's a technique common to dark types to lure their opponent forward so they can strike unaware. Marnie simply used it to surrender the battle to Hop without admitting what she was doing."

"You're quite perceptive as well as observant, my dear, considering you have never participated in a Pokémon battle before," commented Rose, "I think it has escaped notice of all the veteran trainers in this stadium."

"I think Leon knows it, though," Oleana said, glancing at the League champion.

Rose looked over at him too, a bit disdainfully. "That makes sense, considering he's the ruler of the legend who can capture Eternatus for me. Though I'm aghast that someone who can't even walk to the corner Poké Mart without getting lost was once a king. I'm surprised Galar wasn't invaded."

"The prophecy does say one who has not fallen in battle..." Oleana remarked, "Someone who has never lost a Pokémon fight."

"It has to be Leon," agreed Rose.

Marnie and Hop healed their Pokémon after the battle and strode into the stadium lobby to be met by Leon. An admiring crowd of fans had congregated around in a wide circle, elated merely to be in the famed champion's presence.

"Marnie Wilkinson." Leon gave a broad smile as he shook her hand. "From what Hop tells me, this would be the first time you'd ever lost."

"Well, everyone loses a battle eventually," Marnie returned the smile graciously. Morpeko squeaked.

"I guess Hop here is counting on that for me," Leon added, tongue-in-cheek, "if he plans to usurp me as Champion."

Hop laughed. "Just you wait...the time is coming."

Leon glanced from his brother to Marnie and back. "Why don't we all go get some dinner together? I've got a meeting with Chairman Rose later tonight, but we'll have a champion time nonetheless," he added cheerfully.

"Sounds good!" Hop replied, taking Marnie by the hand as they followed him.

The Rose of the Rondelands hotel restaurant was well-known in Wyndon. When they got to the restaurant, there was a group of people waiting their turn to be seated. Leon turned to Hop and Marnie and said:

"It might be a while before our turn comes up... I'm going to see what Rose wants and I'll come back."

"That's my brother, always on the move," remarked Hop as Leon strolled away. "You know he's been bouncing all around Galar lately ever since they started with dyna-maxing and that exhibition match."

"I guess as League Champion he has lots of official engagements," Marnie considered.

Hop shrugged. "I don't even think half of it is official business. I think he just enjoys being out and about."

Within minutes of Leon leaving, Piers arrived.

"Hey Marnie, Hop... that was a good battle!"

"Hey-hey, big brother," countered Marnie, "Were you even there?"

"Sure I was! I sat in the audience and saw the whole thing...from my perspective I could swear you threw that game off to Hop's favor."

Hop glanced at Marnie, who now had a sheepish look on her face.

"Well, yes," she admitted, "was it so obvious?"

Piers smiled at her saying, "To a well trained eye...yes...but I don't think most people realized it."

"Let's change the subject," suggested Hop.

The friendly conversation went on as the group waited for Leon to return.

An hour later, at the Rose of the Rondelands hotel, the little party was still waiting for Leon. Hop paced apprehensively back and forth. "This is absurd...Where is he?"

"Leon is bad with directions, Hop..." Marnie pointed out.

"Even he's never this late."

"You know, last I heard Leon and that Charizard of his have never lost a battle," Piers chimed in, "I think if anyone tried to mess with him, they'd be the ones in trouble."

"Oh, pack it in, Piers," said Hop, unusually bad-tempered. "I'm seriously worried! I know what they did to you at Rose Tower. What if they tried something like that with my brother?"

"Well, I guess even the region's undefeatable legend of a champion can use backup just in case. Maybe we ought to crash the meeting and provide some." Piers grinned. "So, I think I'll invite Team Yell along and we'll all have a blast! Shall we?"

Hop gave a delighted leap into the air. "Brilliant! You're the best, Piers! Let's go kick some ass!"

Marnie hesitated. "Hold on, I don't like that conniving CEO and his mistress any more than the two of you...but breaking into their office?"

Her concerns were dismissed facetiously by Hop. "Oh, we won't get into legal trouble. I'm the champion's little brother."

"Rose's logic backwards," scowled Marnie, and then turned to face her own brother. "Piers, what are you doing?"

"Getting back at that scum," was the response, "What better time to do it than right before the championship tournament?"

"Well if it's all the same, I'll stay here. Who knows, maybe Leon does arrive late," she added.

Morpeko gave a squeak of solidarity.

Chapter 14 - Rose Tower

It was about nine-thirty, a whole hour late, when Oleana ushered Leon into Rose's office. The League champion met him with a smile both amiable and apologetic.

"Sorry I'm usual. Took a wrong turn down at the wharf, but someone pointed me in the right direction."

Rose would not voice the question of how Leon could lose his bearing when trying to get to the tallest and most distinctive skyscraper in all Wyndon City, reminded himself as swiftly that at least he was never late to any League match, and then gave up trying to understand this dichotomy of Leon's punctuality. Oleana lifted an eyebrow but otherwise evinced no reaction.

"Once I get in the building, however, I never get lost," Leon added. He always gazed with genuine awe at his benefactor's luxurious penthouse office, almost with a quality of reverence. "You know I never cease to marvel at how magnificent Rose Tower is. You truly made and own a Galarian icon."

"If you'll excuse me, Chairman Rose..." Oleana dipped her head in formality, and with her usual unperturbed carriage exited the office.

Rose smiled as she left. "My ever-efficient assistant Oleana – as beautiful and industrious as always."

"Yes, though she really lets me hear it when I'm late!" Leon replied. "Anyway... what did you want to see me about?"

Rose led him aside, where a set of intricately crystalline glassware and imported brandy was set out. "First things first... I'd like to send my congratulations to your brother on his win."

"He's come a long way since he started his journey," said Leon appreciatively, "His opponent handled her Pokémon well too."

"Yes, he was travelling with her, wasn't he? Marnie Wilkinson, the sister of that Spikemuth gym leader Piers." Rose poured out a drink as he spoke. "Why did you ever endorse her, anyway? She's a real annoyance."

"She's a very talented trainer," Leon said, and then added with somewhat more frankness, "Also...Hop likes her a lot."

"Well...who am I to stand in the way of young romances. So long as she doesn't stand in my way."

Rose handed him a drink as well, and proceeded to explain, albeit tentatively, the plan he had to waken Eternatus; Leon listened dutifully, though occasionally with perplexity, even as Rose emphasized the urgency of it, and that Leon could be of service.

"The radiation will wane any day now. If we're lucky we have half a week. If not, we might barely have enough of it in the atmosphere for the tournament tomorrow," mentioned the chairman at last.

"So?" Leon inquired.

Rose found himself wondering how Leon was so dense.

"Very soon," Rose paused for effect, "we won't be able to dyna-max."

"Well, lots of regions host their tournaments without dyna-maxing. We can do it too."

"It will upset the accounting department here at Macro Cosmos a bit," Rose ventured, "considering we supply the dyna-max equipment," he added blatantly.

"Yeah...that's true," considered the champion, "That's bad for you guys. I guess it's one of those things, right?"

Rose approached by another angle. "Leon, we also use that energy source for everyday electric power in the Galar region."

"Other regions use other sources of power just fine, as well," Leon observed.

Rose decided to follow Leon's thinking – or as he saw it, lack thereof – and see where it might lead him.

"We have a unique energy source the other regions don't... something renewable, if we act now," prodded the chairman, "It will take obscene amounts to invest in a new power plant to generate electricity from some other fuel."

"But generating electricity takes less radiation than dyna-maxing, doesn't it?" Leon questioned.


"When will it run out of electricity?"

"In a thousand years," relented Rose, realizing this could be easily looked up in a textbook should Leon suddenly get ambitious, "but we should act as soon as we can. It's for the future of the Galar region," he emphasized, with an earnestness that even seemed to persuade himself.

"No problem, then. We've still got plenty of time. I'll handle it tomorrow after the tournament."

Rose launched into an impassioned speech, stretching his arm out in a majestic gesture towards the expansive city outside.

"Look around us, Leon! Look at the Galar region stretched out before us, and know that the energy required to keep this brilliant, glittering world alive will be exhausted a millennium from now! The future is more important than just one day! We must take action as quickly as we possibly can, so that all can look forward to a better future!"

It was such a great discourse, Rose thought, that he lamented not being able to give it publicly; the unwitting masses would surely be incited to action, and they themselves would cry for him to wake Eternatus. The eloquence, however, was lost on Leon.

"Yeah...look, I'm running late for dinner."

Rose could stand it no longer. "How can you possibly not comprehend the urgency of all this?" he exclaimed.

"So, you really think I don't understand what's happening?" Leon leant forward, his expression suddenly – unexpectedly – growing dark.

"Macro Cosmos and the Pokémon League make money from the people who go see dyna-max battles. What good are dyna-max battles if the people who would go see them are dead, Mr. Rose?"

Rose studied him in silent shock. Leon is not so dimwitted after all, it seems.

"So this is Rose Tower! Just how tall do you think it is? I can't even see the top, up there in the clouds," exclaimed Hop.

From where they stood at its base, the skyscraper loomed majestically like the roost of a legendary bird Pokémon. "Mr. Rose's office is up there at the penthouse," said Piers, "Last chance to turn back."

"Are you kidding?" Hop grinned, and took the lead.

The little group strode imperiously into the luxurious office building and were met immediately by a subset of Macro Cosmos employees.

"You're not authorized past this point," declared a guard.

"We make our own authorization," countered Piers.

They sent out their Pokémon, to which Team Yell unleashed their own, turning the wide lobby into a battlefield of snarling animals. Hop stood back, and with the melee raging Piers motioned to the elevator.

Hop knew his cue. He bounded into the elevator, pressing the button for the skyscraper's penthouse floor; the door shut and the lift ascended.

The elevator was hexagon-shaped and easily the size of a large office itself. It was wide, with an unusually tall ceiling and one side wall made of blue-tinted glass that overlooked the city. Long lights were placed on the angles of the room, stretching partly up from the ceiling to the floor, so as to illuminate the whole space.

Hop rode the elevator up for some time before it suddenly jolted to a halt.

"We're not at the penthouse... Why have we stopped?" he whispered to himself.

Oleana's voice suddenly spoke evenly over the intercom. "I decide when and where you shall stop."

"What?" Hop glanced up, startled. "You can halt the elevator from afar at any time?"

"Remote control devices are quite ancient," she responded with her quintessential flatness of voice. "I'm intrigued that you find it surprising."

"What I'm surprised at is that Mr. Rose would have a remote-controlled elevator – whatever for?" he inquired.

Oleana did not reply to this directly. "Rose Tower is almost a thousand feet tall. You are now about five hundred feet above the ground at the floor corresponding to Macro Cosmos Insurance."

There was silence, before she added:

"Do you have a life insurance policy?"

Hop went momentarily into shock by the implication; he was scarcely prepared for when the elevator door flung open and two Macro Cosmos guards bolted inside, flinging Poké Balls onto the floor. Two great steel types emerged: a Steelix and an Aggron, both of which towered above him.

"Iron Tail," ordered one of the guards.

The Steelix roared and swung its powerful tail at Hop, who narrowly sprang away from the impact. He realized it would easily have hurled him against the glass wall and out of the skyscraper. "Wooloo, Cramorant!" he called, releasing his own two Pokémon to the fight.

His animals were smaller, but stronger. The sheep's tackles easily toppled its opponents, enough for the blue-feathered seabird to swoop down and finish them off with energy attacks.

In a few turns Steelix and Aggron were overcome, the guards backed away, and the elevator doors shut. Hop nearly lost his footing as the lift ascended again, without warning, rising swiftly and unimpeded till it reached its destination.

When the doors slid open, Hop hesitated as if expecting another trap; however, when no one came forth he motioned to his Pokémon and they all stepped out into the carpeted office hallway of the penthouse.

He walked to Oleana who was at her desk. She had her typical, unflustered look, as if his intrusion were but another day at the office for her. "So," she noted, "you got through the staff I had ordered to stop you. I would expect nothing less of any relation to Champion Leon."

"Where's my brother?"

"Mr. Rose is with him in a very, very important meeting..."

"I'll pop right in, then, and see," interjected Hop.

Oleana's eyes narrowed. "There is no way I will let anyone interfere."

"Oh sure," Hop blustered, "You're going to keep me out? I'd like to know why you sent two goons to push me out the elevator window, but you're not worth my time right now. The only thing you're good at is pushing papers. No, maybe that's wrong... Word has it you're good at entertaining the chairman, too."

Oleana, to his surprise, did not retort. She leant back and fixed her green eyes coldly upon him.

"I will not allow anyone to disturb the great chairman Rose," said Oleana sinisterly.

"To hell with you and the chairman!" countered Hop. "I'm going in there to find my brother!"

Oleana rose from the desk clutching a Poké Ball, her cold eyes suddenly ablaze with fury. "If I beat you to pieces, then the champion will have no one to battle and thus lose heart. In that state, he will do whatever the chairman asks of him. That's why I was going to have you thrown out the window."

Hop ignored her statement and headed straight for the double doors beyond which was the grand office of the chairman. Oleana would have none of it; she threw the Poké Ball. " the path."

"Wooloo, Cramorant, get that Garbodor out of the way!" called Hop.

His Pokémon leapt to attack and Garbodor, though outnumbered, tried to fend them off. This only infuriated Oleana more.

"My, how cheeky... To do such a thing as to hurt my partner," she practically snarled, sending out her other Pokémon Glaceon.

She quickly got him on the defensive. He, the finalist for the Pokémon League tournament, the lauded younger brother of the undefeated Champion, a trainer who was spoken highly of for his battle prowess in his own right – and yet he was now faltering fast. Oleana's Pokémon fought fiercely with their attacks, darting in to strike and away to safety at her command.

"Cramorant, Fly!" he cried, "Wooloo, Take Down!"

The Cramorant flew steeply up, while Wooloo raced forward in a headlong tackle.

"Garbodor, dodge and Acid Spray," Oleana ordered.

The poison type Pokémon stepped nimbly to the side and shot its liquid attack at the sheep. Wooloo stumbled and collided with Oleana's desk, sending papers cascading onto the floor.

Meanwhile, Cramorant was circling above Glaceon, preparing to swoop down. The bird leant left, but somehow Oleana could tell from the way it flew that this was a ruse; it would strike towards the right, so if her Pokémon were to race in this direction in an effort to escape it would fall precisely within the line of attack. "Glaceon, dodge towards left and Freeze Dry!"

The Glaceon sprang upon the Cramorant, which squawked in surprise and beat its wings helplessly as the two were enveloped in a cloud of icy condensation.

Hop was astounded. "You must be a really experienced trainer, to have known that one."

"You're my overture," snapped Oleana.

It was then that Hop knew he was in trouble.

"Glaceon, Protect! Garbodor, Dark Pulse!" Oleana exclaimed.

Glaceon swung its head, shielding itself with a glittering barrier of light, as Garbodor growled and unleashed a wavelike pulse of violet energy. The violet blast struck against both Wooloo and the already near-fainted Cramorant. Both were knocked out instantly.

Hop stared at the sight, speechless. She was a novice? Yet she knew about combination strikes in double-battles, the most difficult of all techniques to master?

The hesitation was his misstep, for Oleana swiftly directed her Pokémon to attack. "Immobilize him!" she cried.

Hop tried to run, to no avail. Garbodor pinned Hop down with its right arm and poised its left above him, ready to unleash its Acid Spray upon Oleana's command.

From inside the office, Rose and Leon continued their discussion, although the latter was getting repeatedly distracted. The expansive office kept sounds from outside at bay, but not everything. Leon seemed to realize something was amiss.

"Leon, the energy depletion is a disaster," Rose insisted. "My corporation could go bankrupt if it goes on."

"Damned if you do and damned if you don't." He frowned thoughtfully. "Honestly...there's only one solution."

Tedium overlaid Rose's features. "What is the solution, in your opinion?"

"Sell Macro Cosmos."

Rose bit back a retort. What an especially stupid thing for Leon to say. As if I would relinquish a company I've worked so hard to make into greatness!

"What's going on out there anyway?" Leon switched the topic, turning his attention yet again to the double doors.

He walked out of the office before Rose could say anything, to encounter his brother Hop trapped and cornered by Oleana's ferocious pets.

"Call your Pokémon off or else!" exclaimed Leon, as the chairman appeared behind him.

Oleana sneered at him. "What a beautiful display of sibling love! However, it is entirely unnecessary."

Leon reached for Charizard's Poké Ball yet Rose, who had quickly evaluated the situation, instantly spoke up with perfect calm:

"Leon, you may be Galar's undefeated champion, but can you throw that Poké Ball faster than Oleana can order her Pokémon to strike?"

The League champion seemed to falter, but he said nothing. Rose strode over casually to stand beside him and continued speaking. "I endorsed you, you endorsed your brother, yet in the end neither endorsement amounted to much. It's piteous, really," the chairman added, "There are times when we just can't seem to have an honest discussion with one another. Sometimes our pride gets in the way."

"Let my brother go," said Leon, trying to hide his apprehension.

"I'm sorry it's come to this," replied Rose, "But it's you who forced my hand, Leon. You refused to listen."

Leon gave a resigned sigh.

"All right Rose," he relented. "When do you want me to get started on your new project?"

Chapter 15 - Rescuing Hop

Marnie walked at a pace so brisk it was nearly running, Morpeko clinging to her shoulder. She encountered her brother Piers and his Team Yell cohorts a distance outside of Rose Tower, looking somewhat disheveled as they made their way towards the Pokémon Center.

"Piers?" Worry seized her. "What happened? Where's Hop?"

"Still in Rose Tower," Piers explained. "Those bastards. But we gave them a good fight. We made off when we knew we were beaten."

Marnie's worry laced itself with frustration. "Piers, you're my brother and I love you, but that was not a smart thing to do. You shouldn't have gone in the first place. If Hop isn't back out yet, and neither is didn't see the champion when you went there?"

"Not at all."

Marnie tensed herself. "Now I'm going in. You ready, Morpeko?"

Morpeko gave an affirming squeak. Piers looked at her with amused affection.

"You just said going was not smart," he pointed out.

"Leon can take care of himself. But Hop..."

"Got to the semifinals of the Pokémon League. He's as good a trainer as his brother."

"That still doesn't explain why now we've got two missing people." Marnie pushed adamantly in the direction of Rose Tower, leaving behind her brother and his minions.

"You want us to stop her?" asked one of the Team Yell men.

Piers shook his head.

"No...when Marnie gets it in her head to do something, you'll be damned to find a way to stop her," he said.

As they watched her run off he added, "That Morpeko she has is a strong companion, when she was younger and we were training together, she never lost against me. Not once."

Marnie walked through Rose Tower's unlocked doors to find the place seemingly abandoned. Papers and furniture were strewn amidst the lobby, the remnants of the Pokémon battle, but there were no signs of anyone here. She stepped further in, feeling her worries rise to the forefront again.

Morpeko hopped down from her shoulder and began sniffing amidst the debris as if searching forest undergrowth for berries. Marnie still searched the murky lobby for some sign of life.

There should at least be a guard here, she thought.

It was then she caught sight of two lithe, shadowy figures approaching her from the darkness. When she heard a greeting meow from the cat Pokémon accompanying them, she realized who they were.

"Jessie! James!" Marnie exclaimed.

If it were anyone else, she might have asked them what they were doing there. But Marnie respected the tales she had heard of Team Rocket too much, and she had a greater concern anyway.

"Have you seen Hop?" she asked instead.

"That twerp who was travelling with you? I think they took him downstairs." Jessie answered.

"I was afraid of that." She went past them to the labeled basement door off to the side and tried to open it.

"Locked – damn it," Marnie cursed.

Jessie and James exchanged a sly smile, but did not leave. Marnie looked from one to the other expectantly.

James spoke first. "Do you know about Eternatus?" he asked.

"Eternatus." She repeated the word, enunciating it as if it could draw forth meaning. "It was the legendary Pokémon said to have created the Darkest Day...wasn't it?"

"Mr. Rose found another one," Jessie divulged. "He's been gathering wishing stars to try to awaken it."

Meowth chimed in with a yowl, "And when he does, it'll be a real catastrophe!"

Then that's what Bede meant, when he said to get out of Galar! Marnie felt a shiver of dread.

"Why would he do such a thing? He lives in Galar too!"

"It's profitable for him. What can I say?" replied Jessie. "Anyway that creature's about to hatch, so unless you plan to try catching it yourself it's safer to get far away from this place."

"I'm not leaving without Hop."

"Suit yourself," shrugged James, and tossed her a key.

Marnie turned towards the door and putting the key in, opened it. She turned briefly around and noticed the trio was gone.

Marnie walked down the narrow foyer, the path sloped downward; she followed this incline to an industrial elevator and took it the rest of the way down. The dim lighting gradually grew brighter till she emerged in a wide, circular room with a ceiling at least two stories high. Disconnected cables lay around a center platform, before which stood a singular person.

"Chairman Rose," she called.

He looked over at her with visible surprise, yet he allowed her to walk over. Morpeko tagged after at her side.

"Marnie Wilkinson. What a surprise." It was his usual, pleasant charm, which hid away all irritation even as he went on, "A great surprise indeed, to find you not just in Rose Tower but here specifically. This place is restricted access only."

"I know about Eternatus," she said bluntly.

Rose's demeanor instantly became colder.

"You really think you can recreate that disaster and get away with it? There's always someone bigger out there. One day Mr. Rose, you'll learn what it's like to be the little one getting trampled," Marnie continued.

Rose gave her a rather pained look. "Don't you think that's unfair?"

"It seems a fair assessment to me," Marnie retorted.

"Must I explain myself? From your perspective, I suppose it must seem that I am doing something terrible. I don't expect you to understand. But I must provide the Galar region with limitless energy to ensure everlasting prosperity."

"For whom, Chairman Rose?"

He only smiled slightly.

"Where is Hop?" she demanded.

"He's alive," Rose said tranquilly, "I need him so, or Leon will not do his duty." He considered her for just a moment. "And what do you plan on doing, gym challenger?"

"Stopping the Darkest Day," she announced.

Rose held back a chuckle. "There's nothing to stop now. We're already bringing about the Darkest Day, or should I say the ultimate Pokémon Eternatus! As we speak Marnie, we are funneling energy from the wishing stars to Eternatus...enough energy to awaken it."

"I won't let you," she said, with conviction. "That creature could destroy all Galar, and you know it."

Rose sighed a bit tiredly and glanced down at a Poké Ball he held. "So it will be a battle then," he mused, unlocking the capsule. "Our two dyna-maxed Poké Copperajah against your Morpeko."

Marnie reached for the dyna-max band on her wrist, but Morpeko chattered adamantly and scampered ahead to the battlefield. Marnie seemed to consider her Pokémon's view, and then proceeded to remove the band, allowing it to fall to the floor.

"We don't need dyna-maxing to defeat you," Marnie declared.

Rose gazed at her with sympathy. "What a tremendous expression of bravery...though then again, most would say only an irresponsible trainer would allow their Pokémon to be killed in a battle."

Marnie was aghast, and even Morpeko seemed to be rethinking its stance, as the chairman threw the capsule into the air to unleash the elephant Pokémon. The dyna-maxed Copperajah loomed over the tiny Morpeko, and raised its trunk in a fearsome trumpet.

"Hit Morpeko so hard its trainer will be left speechless," Rose ordered darkly.

Copperajah slammed its trunk down just as Morpeko darted forward, narrowly dodging the strike. Morpeko weaved perilously and desperately amidst attacks, in and out between the Copperajah's massive feet and trunk; the tiny hamster looked even more puny against the gigantic creature trying pitilessly to crush it.

It could only be dodged for so long; when the Copperajah's trunk collided with Morpeko, the little animal was sent hurtling against a wall with a pained squeal.

"Morpeko!" screamed Marnie.

Rose did not remove his stern eyes from her. "Now, Copperajah..."

Before he could give the order, an unexpected guttural growl came from Morpeko. It sounded more akin to a Houndoom than belonging to a fluffy, miniature relative of the Pikachu. Rose turned away from Marnie to look at the tiny animal and then noticed with surprise how its eyes were growing red, its fur now tipped with violet.

Marnie was sifting through her bag; realization slowly came over her, and she glanced up.

"I haven't fed her yet," she stated.

Morpeko gave a loud screech and leapt at Copperajah, latching onto its leg and biting viciously. The elephant was stunned, and tried to swat the hamster away; when this was unsuccessful, Copperajah ended up slamming itself to the ground in an attempt to remove its enemy. Morpeko sprang away easily, then sprang back to fasten onto Copperajah's ear.

Rose watched the sight with surprise. Copperajah was weakening to the point it shrank down to its typical size, and before long was knocked out by its smaller opponent. Morpeko then scampered back to Marnie, who offered it a berry. The hamster Pokémon took this from her, and its form returned to usual as it quickly began gnawing on it.

Rose clapped slowly, but with genuine commendation. "Most impressive, Marnie. I wouldn't expect any less from a challenger endorsed by the strongest Champion ever to grace our beloved Galar region."

He recalled Copperajah, and continued talking:

"It's too bad, but it can't be helped. We are going to waken Eternatus; your little win against my Copperajah is meaningless to that end. It will be my greatest achievement and you are too late to prevent it. It is my purpose, my duty, my destiny!"

"You've lost already," interjected Marnie, "and you're going to stop feeding energy to Eternatus, so quit the oratory."

"I do tend to ramble on, I know. I love to make speeches. But I think I can stop talking now," he said with another faint smile.

The vicious cry of an animal startled Marnie as it reached her ears, and she froze. She turned around slowly to see a Leafeon standing atop a nearby staircase, its tail lashing, ready to pounce.

When had this second Pokémon been sent out? Or had it always been there, watching and waiting for the order to strike from its master, Linford Rose?

At a signal, Leafeon let loose a Razor Leaf attack that struck Morpeko squarely, knocking out the hamster in one astounding blow.

Leafeon then turned to Marnie and before she could react, unleashed a glow of green energy. It washed over her, and she instantly collapsed unconscious on the ground.

Rose motioned to Leafeon, and the animal padded over to him. He stroked it on the head. "Good work, Leafeon."

Leafeon, happy to receive recognition from its owner, gave a cry of joy.

Chapter 16 - Eternatus

Oleana arrived in time to see Mr. Rose dragging an unconscious Marnie towards a storage room.

"Linford, I was starting to get worried about you," she said.

"I was making sure they transferred the Eternatus cocoon up from the basement. Unfortunately I got detained by Marnie," Rose explained sourly. "It seems she intended to be more of a problem than I anticipated."

"Does she know what we're doing?" asked Oleana.

He responded with a simple, sharp nod of his head. "Leafeon knocked her unconscious and I'm throwing her in with Hop. It should keep her out of the way...for now."

Oleana spoke up, "Jessie and James came to my office and I had them take Leon up to the rooftop."

"Good. My dear Oleana, you are most efficient."

Marnie meanwhile had started to stir, opening her eyes blearily; realizing what was going on she began to struggle, only for Mr. Rose to push her roughly into the room. She fell on the floor beside none other than Hop.

"Marnie!" Hop exclaimed.

Her eyes flew open wide. "Hop! ...are you ok?"

"More or less," he replied, with a glare at his captors. His wrists were bound with rope, and Marnie found herself tied in the same way. She followed Hop's line of sight and looked over at Rose, who stood at the entrance with Oleana, his Leafeon still on guard at their heels and growling menacingly.

"Well Marnie," smiled Rose, his usual charm now blatant boastfulness, "did you really think you could thwart my plan? Now we have both of you."

Oleana stared at him for a moment and in her taciturn way said, "Linford?"

"Yes, dear?" Mr. Rose glanced towards her.

"Why don't you just kill her?"

"I'm savoring the moment, darling."

At that point, the phone rang and Oleana answered it.

"...Linford, it's Giovanni. He asks to speak with you."

"Tell him I'm busy with two prisoners."

Oleana dutifully relayed the message, to which Giovanni replied, "He has prisoners? What do we need from them?"

"One of them is insurance," explained Oleana. "The other one just heard too much."

"If they were mine I'd kill them immediately. This type of situation can get messy...better to get rid of witnesses."

"He told me he's savoring the moment," Oleana answered.

"Well, it's his call to make," replied Giovanni, in a tone reminiscent of a Persian's disapproving ffftt. "Have him call me when he gets a chance."

Giovanni hung up and Oleana turned back to Mr. Rose.

He was still gloating at Marnie and Hop. "We can dispose of you properly after Eternatus is caught. People will presume you died in the cataclysm. Actually it's just as well your Morpeko wasn't crushed in our fight...a Pokémon that powerful can fetch a high price."

"...and Leon?" prompted Oleana.

"Leon we need at the moment," said Rose simply.

"Fuck you," snapped Marnie.

Mr. Rose shut the door to the storage room and he and Oleana walked towards the elevator in silence.

"Hold on, I need to get something from my office. Leafeon, come back," Rose said, recalling his Pokémon.

He hurried back to his desk and opened a lower drawer, searching for something in particular. He found what he was looking for hidden underneath an assortment of manila folders and paperwork.

Rose quickly placed the handgun in the inside pocket of his suit jacket and closed the desk drawer before returning to where Oleana waited for him. He was having to figure out the plan as they went along; they had gone too far already for setbacks. His familiar ambition was steadily taking on a darker tone, and any qualms either Rose or Oleana may have had once upon a time were fever dreams of the past.

Up on the roof, Leon was held prisoner by the Team Rocket trio of Jessie, James, and Meowth; their other two Pokémon, the cobra-like Arbok and the floating Weezing, lingered around them ready for any command to strike should he attempt an escape. Leon looked restless.

"Can't you look the other way?" Leon was asking them quietly.

Before any one of them could say another word, the elevator doors opened and Mr. Rose and Oleana emerged onto the roof of the building. Tall lighting illuminated the entire heliport in a manner too bright for nighttime, and lashing wind, which would be a mild breeze were they not so high up, sporadically howled out ominous threats.

The large, spherical cocoon was placed in the center of the heliport. It was quivering at intervals.

"Any moment now," said Rose in a hushed voice.

Out of the dark skies appeared the silhouette of a black helicopter, and as it got closer Rose could see Team Rocket's red insignia painted on the side. "Well, our job here is done," said Jessie, as she and James recalled their Pokémon.

"Give my appreciation of thanks to Giovanni," responded Rose, retrieving the handgun and pointing it at Leon.

"Duly noted," answered James, as he, Jessie, and Meowth boarded the aircraft.

As they flew off, Leon turned to the chairman and ventured, "I should send out my Charizard."

"We will wait until the creature hatches," responded Rose succinctly. "Remember I've got this aimed at you."

As they all watched, a line splintered across the iridescent shell; a violet form stirred inside, and slowly reached out to emerge into the open.

It was about the same size as the Charizard, but looked like an insect, with a spindly look and spikes that faced forward like stingers of some kind. It had a wide head, though it was hard to tell if it had eyes.

Oleana shivered at the sight of it. There was something ominous about Eternatus, though she couldn't determine what. Perhaps it was purely the old tales frightening her.

Leon now sent out his Charizard, which emerged dutifully in a flare of light, yet Rose had another scheme. The chairman pulled a violet Poké Ball out of his suit jacket. It glistened brilliantly under the lights atop the tower. "Use this," he ordered, tossing the capsule to Leon.

Leon caught it easily, but took one look at it and glanced at Rose with perplexity. "Why don't you throw it at the Pokémon? A Master Ball is a sure capture," pointed out Leon.

"Because, you dimwit, it might not listen to me afterwards as I'm not the one in the legend," Rose snapped. "You are – now throw the damn ball."

Leon seemed shocked at this notion, but he wordlessly unlocked the Master Ball and hurled it at the creature. Eternatus was drawn inside instantly; the Master Ball landed on the ground, shaking.

Rose triumphantly cast a smile at Oleana. "That solves that. Now my dear, lets head to the office. I have a bottle of fine wine imported from Sinnoh that I've saved for a special occasion such as this!"

Leon turned to the chairman, holding out a hand for him to wait. The capsule's indicator light, instead of flashing as was typical for Pokémon capture, shone an unremitting red.

Suddenly an explosion thrust them all to the floor; Eternatus emerged, in a fiery vortex. The Master Ball had been completely shattered.

The creature let out a horrifying roar, writhing into the air and pulling stones upward with it. The sky was alight now with an eerie glow, as Eternatus at once split apart and grew into a massive, coiling shape that hung over them. The insect's eyes could be seen now: five of them, atop tentacle-like antennae that framed evenly around a core and leant towards the little group with menace.

Was this a Pokémon? It was hideous. Too late, Rose realized that he had made a mistake.

He pushed his secretary towards the exit. "Oleana, run!"

Oleana hurried a distance, yet she turned back, unwilling to leave him. "Linford..."

"Fire Blast, Charizard!" ordered Leon.

Charizard was seemingly paralyzed. Eternatus, however, unleashed a volley of energy attacks that struck Charizard squarely; the fiery dragon roared and fainted immediately.

In one move, this beast had defeated the undefeatable Champion of Galar.

Mr. Rose now pointed his revolver at the creature and shot at it. He emptied his gun in futile desperation; the bullets merely bounced off the creature's rock-like covering.

Eternatus now unleashed a second wave of attacks, against the pillars that surrounded them. They came crashing down, one of them upon Charizard's trainer. Leon fell to the ground with an exclamation of pain. Oleana could just catch a glimpse of Rose, trying futilely to shield himself from the blast, before boulders rained down and she was separated from him.

"Linford!" she shrieked.

The monster now swiveled its eyes towards her, charging yet another energy attack, and Oleana bolted for the stairwell. She slammed the door to block the attack, yet the force of the energy against the door pushed her backwards down the stairs.

The world shook as if in an earthquake, and as she tried to race down the steps she tripped in the building's shudder, catching herself with the stairway railing.

I can't just leave him! Desperation mounted in Oleana as she pressed her back against the concrete wall. The stairs wound around the skyscraper, and from a glass wall to her left she could see turmoil rearing itself below.

Everything was in chaos. Streaks of fire and unknown energy lit up in the distance from large animals now running amok. The electric lighting flickered off – she could see it happen like a wave across the city outside – and as the land shook violently debris crumbled away from buildings far less sturdy than Rose Tower.

No...I won't leave him, she decided, and with this conviction sent out her pets. Garbodor and Glaceon appeared in glistening white light.

"Garbodor, Glaceon..." Oleana said, "Rose is trapped on the roof by a vicious Pokémon. We've got to get back up there and save him."

Instead, the animals growled at her, and without warning began to grow in size. There was a wild confusion in their eyes, and quickly Oleana realized all the Pokémon were being affected somehow by Eternatus.

She tried futilely to call them back to their Poké Balls, only to find the capsules unresponsive. Garbodor meanwhile swung around and tackled the supposedly impervious windows.

Against this strike the glass shattered, and the dyna-maxing Pokémon leapt out of the skyscraper. The giant creatures landed perfectly on their paws as another tremor shook the building.

With a cry, Oleana lost her balance.

Swiping in instinct for a hold on anything, she saved herself from falling only by virtue of grasping the damaged metal stairway railing now extended from the building's façade. It left her dangling in midair.

Rose Tower is almost a thousand feet tall. Her own words echoed back with irony in her mind. She tried not to look down at the asphalt death below her, yet the thought alone brought sweat over her palms; nature's treachery in a moment of peril.

She felt her slick skin losing its grip on the bar, nerves stabbing through perspiration, effort upon tiring effort. The last she thought was how wrong it had all been, before her hold finally gave way and she fell.

There was a rush of wind that collided with her in a leap, powerful jaws that seized her with unusual lightness, and she landed softly on the ground. Oleana looked up, her breath still coming short, to be met with the bright yellow eyes of the legendary wolves.

"Zacian and Zamazenta," she murmured.

The wolves merely gazed at her.

They had come into the city? And rescued her? How, or why? Oleana did not care at this point. Her thoughts returned to the myth, and she began to speak hoping the two animals would listen.

"You must help me!" she pleaded, "Linford... Mr. Rose... He's trapped up there! At the mercy of that creature...and... if all the Pokémon dyna-max and go on a rampage, the tower might collapse..."

The moonlit sky went black, in instantaneous thunder like the boom of a drum. One of the wolves glanced up to the tower summit.

Oleana felt her heart cringe.

"Oh no...Eternatus is...Oh, Linford..." Her voice trailed off.

Zacian suddenly threw its head back and let out a howl. Zamazenta joined it in chorus; two wolves in song.

To hear them a thrill ran through Oleana, the sudden, eternal hope that sprang back to her like a Spearow returning to its nest. Why this should be was mysterious, especially now. There was incongruity to it; amidst the imminent destruction of their region and – possibly? – the world, why should she feel somehow that all this was meant to occur, and so too that the wolves were hers?

Oleana turned her gaze up to the tower's peak with the dark storm swirling above it, an indomitable fire alight in her eyes as that of a Flareon's last gutsy leap against an Onix. The bracelet had acquired fire too; the silver now shone a brilliant gold, in a visible glow that reflected upon the fur of the wolves. She held it out to them in a gesture of instinct, and as if the wind was in accord, it burst into gold dust that surrounded the wolves in a swirl; the two Pokémon shimmered in light until Zacian bore in its jaws a sharp, shining sword, and Zamazenta's fur swept out and hardened to take on the look of a mighty shield.

"Let's go," she said simply.

Some things could not be anticipated, and then there were other things that could have been anticipated but were neatly overlooked. Marnie knew their present predicament fell within the latter category. It was very easy to find oneself dazzled by the belief of invincibility when one routinely blazed easily through battles. However, a Pokémon could always be overpowered by another, or their trainer outwitted.

Or both, Marnie reflected, with painful guilt.

She worried about Morpeko more than herself. If she had not been so hasty, neither she nor her Pokémon would be in this situation. The idea of her little pet smuggled out of the Galar region and sold on the thieves' black market...

Actually, you know what? It's really Hop's fault. He's the one who started being hasty. I just followed him here when he didn't return, Marnie thought, turning towards him a little resentfully.

"Those bastards," Hop was cursing.

Marnie sighed. "We'll have to find a way out of here ourselves."

"First thing is... We gotta get these ropes off of us," noticed Hop.

They both looked around the room trying to find a solution to their predicament, when Marnie realized, "Hop! The edge of the table seems sharp enough to cut through the ropes."

"It might work," he answered, "Let's give it a try."

They stumbled over to the table and each clumsily began sawing away at the ropes that tied them. It was not an easy task given the fact that their hands were bound behind them, but soon the ropes fell off and they were free.

Suddenly the building began to shake. Supplies crashed to the floor, and Marnie would have stumbled had Hop not caught hold of her.

"What is this, an earthquake!?" Marnie shouted as the light flashed and shut off, casting them into darkness.

When the tremor receded, Hop and Marnie were clinging tightly to each other in the pitch-black room.

"They probably let it loose already," Hop realized. "They wanted my brother to help them capture some sort of an ancient Pokémon called Eternatus."

"That's not a typical Pokémon," outlined Marnie, her expression dour. "It's supposed to be a strange, ferocious beast. Legend says it nearly destroyed Galar in olden days."

"I know." Now Hop appeared truly worried, and desperate. "We have to get out of here and help him."

"Without our Pokémon, what can we do?" Marnie wondered.

"I don't know, but we have to do something!"

Another earthquake assailed the world. In a miraculous turn of events, the door was shaken from its hinges, and came crashing sideways and outwards.

"Freedom!" cried Hop, kicking it down the last of the way as he and Marnie bolted from the room.

Chairman Rose was certain he was going to die.

Up to a certain point, he felt he had no one to blame but himself. He had expected something different; some kind of natural disaster yes, but one easily quelled by the right trainer. Now Leon lay unconscious under debris, Rose's own Pokémon would not even emerge from their Poké Balls as if the capsules no longer worked, and he alone was left to contend with this frightful monster that saw him as puny prey.

When another energy blast resonated across the rooftop, the chairman gasped as he fell to the ground. The five fiendish eyestalks seemed to leer at him and as the huge creature was readying itself for its final strike, he turned away.

Suddenly a blinding light illuminated everything; a golden gleam so strong Rose tried to shield his eyes. As it receded he looked up again and saw two Pokémon standing mere paces away, and one solitary figure bathed in the light who glanced over her shoulder at him.


The wolves looked towards her as if waiting for a command. Oleana merely pointed towards the creature and they leapt into the air. Their movements were like wind, each attacking Eternatus with all their might. The monster tried to retaliate but it was futile; none of Eternatus' attacks could strike them.

Rose stared at the sight: the two legendary Pokémon of Galar, facing this colossal opponent, at the command not of the undefeated Champion, nor a member of another region's Elite Four, or even of an experienced League challenger... but of Oleana. She directed the two wolves with a skill that neither Rose nor she herself knew from where it came, a natural aptitude that transcended time.

Eternatus fought ineffectively under the assault of the wolves until at last, felled in a flare of light by one unified strike by Zacian and Zamazenta, it burst into shimmering pieces.

The chairman watched in awe, his secretary standing amidst the shower of iridescent shards - new wishing stars, as it were - while Zacian and Zamazenta threw up their heads into howls of triumphant wolf-song.

She walked over to him, and they embraced.

"The queen of Galar," Rose whispered, "I always knew you were a diamond, more precious than any I ever unearthed in Orre."

Oleana smiled briefly, then said:

"Five spires yield the black storm...and the region was left as dust."

Rose observed her with curiosity, and she elaborated.

"Eternatus was going territory by territory," Oleana explained, "It first landed in Orre and decimated the land into desert. It was finally halted when it moved on to Galar, because its attacks were ineffective against the leader's prized wolves. The people of Orre, wishing that the world not forget, designed their finest colosseum after Eternatus, and favored double-battles in commemoration of Zacian and Zamazenta's fight a region away that saved the planet."

"Oleana, how can you be sure?"

"I don't know. Maybe it's similar to how the wolves respond to me. I'm certain that's what happened."

They were both quiet for a moment, weary but together, as they gazed up at the last few shards that still rained down like violet streaks of light over the city of Wyndon. The wolves settled beside them, tongues out happily like two great dogs.

"We saved the company, but at what cost?" Rose realized, "What's left but disgrace and disrepute? Eternatus was directly over Rose Tower and so visible across the city... There's no way to hide that I did this."

"We did this," she corrected with emphasis, but he shook his head.

"You don't have to, Oleana...and I won't let you throw your life away." He held her hands gently in his, yet wrenched his gaze out towards the skyline. "If I turn myself in, maybe they'd be lenient.'s hopeless."

Yet Oleana had a determined gleam in her eyes, the spark of a scheme, as she replied:

"Nothing is ever hopeless."

Chapter 17 - Profit and Loss

Insofar as everyone thought, Linford Rose and Oleana Thornsdale had both died in the disaster. Leon, as it turned out, was not badly injured and was recovering, while Marnie and Hop were telling the story of Rose and Oleana's relationship and involvement in releasing Eternatus.

Oleana's Pokemon, Garbodor and Glaceon, had reverted back to normal size and found their way back to her. She had them stashed away in Poké Balls along with the two wolves, Zacian and Zamazenta.

Dwindling hopes led Rose and Oleana to Team Rocket. Like their first meeting with Giovanni, they were ushered into a back office by the Meowth, where the head of the syndicate was seated at a table with his two elite guards awaiting them.

Somehow Rose felt small in the presence of Team Rocket, in a way he had never felt before, or maybe it was the knowledge of being a wanted man if the world ever discovered he had survived. It was something he found utterly foreign that his fame should now be notoriety, one of his most prized assets turned liability, and if not for Oleana's continued loyalty he would have felt very lost indeed.

Giovanni had apparently learnt what happened straight from the account of his personal guards James and Jessie, and had not been surprised at all to see Rose or Oleana. He had a solution ready, too.

"Team Rocket can grant you safe passage to the Orre region," Giovanni offered. "Orre has no extradition treaties in effect with the rest of the planetary council."

"Orre?" The idea of returning to that desert region did not appeal to Rose; however, he realized it was the best of the few options available to them, and he gave a small nod of acceptance. Beside him, Oleana watched and listened to everything silently, as usual; there was appraisal in the way she regarded Giovanni, as if she detected a hidden purpose, brought into the open by his next words.

"This stated, it is a business arrangement," continued Giovanni, "Every business arrangement must have a benefit for both parties."

"What would you wish in return?" asked Rose.

"I have here several documents pending solely your signature," explained Giovanni, as he produced them, "which would turn Macro Cosmos' ownership and assets over to Rocket Enterprises. Backdated, would have signed them shortly before..."

"It's blackmail," Rose interrupted flatly.

"For as far as the world is concerned, Mr. Linford Rose and Miss Oleana Thornsdale are dead." Giovanni said gently. "That doesn't have to become fact."

His guards had become tense, and even the Meowth looked ready to spring; their eyes had that fixedly bloodthirsty gleam of hunters who had cornered weakened prey. Rose was not going to give them the satisfaction.

"Give me the contracts," he relented.

All I did and attempted to do to save this company, only to have it be lost so easily. It's beyond blackmail; it's farcical, thought Rose, yet he signed the documents without fanfare.

Meanwhile Giovanni spoke, as if it could mollify the situation. "There's profit and loss alike in business. Consider it as what it was: a failed investment. You can't possibly claim your property anyway at this point."

"Maybe you can tell me where I could have made my mistake," Rose answered, resignedly handing the completed paperwork back to him. "Everyone was right about you, Mr. Delavita. You're a very shrewd businessman."

Shrewder, indeed, than Rose could have ever imagined. Giovanni looked over the signed contracts and, with a small smile, put them away and stroked the purring Persian beside him.

"Your mistake Mr. Rose was simply recklessness," said Giovanni. "One can never be reckless in business. If you had thought coldly instead of acted in the heat of the moment, you would have realized the radiation your company profited from was never diminishing at all."

These words made Rose, and Oleana, just stare at him. Giovanni's brown eyes glittered with dark relish.

"Yes, your entire plan of awakening that beast Eternatus was unnecessary. When I saw your new invention could make Macro Cosmos viable competition for Rocket Enterprises, I had my associate place specially designed transponders around Galar, which would interfere with readings and make the region's natural radiation appear to decline. This would send Macro Cosmos into bankruptcy, one way or another, allowing my syndicate to take over the Galarian market. I knew you, Mr. Rose; in business you always acted fast. Too fast to be wise."

Heat had settled in Rose's face; the heat of anger and realization. The whole thing had been a setup. Team Rocket had set him up so they could seize his territory. Damn the profit and loss and Giovanni's guards waiting to pounce. He clenched his hand into a fist – but Oleana's soft tug on his shoulder brought him back to his senses.

"Linford, let's just go," she whispered urgently to him.

This was the smartest thing to do, acknowledged Rose, but creeping worries now grappled with this impulse of flight.

"What guarantee," Rose said instead, "do we have that we will, in fact, be allowed to reside peacefully in Orre?"

"You have my word," replied Giovanni. "I have no personal slight against you, Mr. Rose. It's purely a business matter."

If there was one thing Rose knew for sure about Team Rocket, it was that when their word was given – the rare times they gave their word – they kept it.

When Rose and Oleana had left, Giovanni dialed the telephone, and when the other line was picked up he began speaking immediately:

"It will please you to know I have the signed contracts. ...No, you needn't fear anyone finding out your involvement. Team Rocket protects its interests – and loyal associates."

Giovanni leant back in his seat, still petting the Persian as it regarded him with squinted, contented eyes.

"We could easily keep Rose Tower for ourselves. But my organization recalls your aid in planting the transponders around Galar, and also your stated desire. Consider my generosity, then, in gifting you the property, in return for your continued loyalty to Team Rocket."

There was a pause, and then the head of Team Rocket smiled almost to himself.

"...Very good. I'll have two of my agents call on you tonight to transfer the real estate into your name. Till then, nice doing business with you," Giovanni added pleasantly, "Mr. Leon."

He hung up the telephone, and glanced tacitly at Jessie, James, and Meowth. They slipped out of the office with understood intent.

Chapter 18 - The Orre Region

Wyndon City was bustling with activity, even at night, but the stadium was quiet. All preparations had been made for the League finals tomorrow, between brothers Leon and Hop in the eagerly awaited match of the decade. The grandest of all Galar's stadiums would come to life as always in a ring of glistening lights and cheering onlookers.

Its shining form could be seen from the imposing splendor that was nearby Rose Tower, from the penthouse office that had once been Mr. Rose's.

Standing as his patron had often done, behind the mahogany desk gazing at the horizon, was the soon-to-be new owner of this office: Mr. Daniel Leon. Moonlight sent its feeble glow through the wide windows, which provided view of the shimmering city that had once been Rose's dominion. Casting his amber eyes out towards the nighttime landscape, Leon watched the speckled light and activity of Wyndon below, a small reflection of a region blind to the subtle maneuvers of influence.

He fidgeted with impatience and tried to stop himself from yet again checking the wall clock; he had done so reflexively already four times since arriving here. When he heard near-silent steps coming up the hall, he turned apprehensively to the entrance. It was in time to see first the cream-furred cat Pokémon walk in on all fours, and then two trainers in the white uniforms of Team Rocket elite agents with Poké Balls and coiled whips on their belts alike. Leon relaxed somewhat, recognizing Jessie and James.

"Good – you're not late," he said, "I came to Rose Tower trying to take care of the mess the chairman left behind."

"I assume he left a lot undone," responded Jessie indifferently. Both she and James looked entirely at ease. "Are we alone here?"

"Totally alone," Leon assured. "I don't want anyone finding out about our deal either. The League Champion with Team Rocket...? Trust me, I even made sure the posted guards were sent away till morning."

"We can never be too careful," she replied casually.

Leon stepped to the desk, unable to hide a small limp; he winced almost more of self-consciousness than pain. "My leg's still acting up from the crossfire of that Eternatus fight. Probably it won't be fully healed for a week but at least I'm not the one physically battling. Charizard's fit and ready to go."

James held a red rose, and he seemed to regard the petals like one might a jewel. "Such a powerful Pokémon like that must be a great asset."

"I raised him from a Charmander; he's my partner," Leon replied. He sounded a bit in a hurry, though, as he added, "Well, shall we get down to business?"

At this, James glanced away from the flower, his green eyes glinting. "You're quite eager."

"I've wanted Rose Tower for years," said Leon, "I'll finally get my wish. My plan is to throw the match tomorrow. That gives my little brother the Championship, and I'll retire to manage Galar's new Battle Tower."

"Plans for the future," noted Jessie, "but no preparations for trouble."

"Especially for the kind that doubles up," added James.

There was a loud meow, followed by a purring voice chiming in, "That's right!"

Meowth's talking completely surprised Leon; he turned in shock right as the cat leapt up, snatching Charizard's Poké Ball off his belt.

Leon jumped for Meowth, but was halted instantly when a sound snapped through the air, the slash of a whip cut across his cheek, and he pulled back. It was Jessie.

"A traitor is a traitor," she said coldly. "The boss' policy is to not maintain ties with anyone who could one day betray Team Rocket. It's bad for business."

"I wouldn't betray Giovanni!" Leon protested.

"You betrayed Mr. Rose," James pointed out.

Leon fought for retort, but his words stumbled, unable to find justification. He was aware of the two circling around the desk to him like a pair of hungry Liepard, and the Meowth that stood on its hind paws holding Charizard's Poké Ball – salvation narrowly out of reach.

When another crack of the whip expertly struck Leon's injured leg, he fell with a gasp on his back against the marble floor. His mind's tumult settled illogically on an emboldened statement, something with the tone of a plea and the verbiage of an offense:

" can't be serious. Everyone knows Giovanni doesn't trust you to handle important things!"

"How droll, that you would consider yourself important," remarked Jessie.

This response took the League champion totally aback. His eyes kept darting towards Meowth and the stolen Poké Ball. The cat had padded nearer, at arms length to almost seem a taunt, lashing his tail as Leon spoke again.

"You wouldn't dare," he said with defiance.

"You must not know the real Team Rocket, then," Jessie replied.

He made a final desperate bolt for Meowth, just as the lash looped tight around his throat and yanked him backwards; his eyes caught the glint of a gold letter opener being seized from the desk, and if Leon had not known Team Rocket, it was the last thing he learnt.

James tossed the rose in symbolism to the figure lying lifeless on the office floor and he, Jessie, and Meowth left, as entirely at ease as they had been upon arrival.

Hop was inconsolable the next morning, and all of the Galar region mourned with him.

When he heard about the rose left at the scene of the murder, his first instinct had been to curse Mr. Rose's allies as having played a sick joke. It was only when he was informed by the authorities that it was the calling card of the criminal syndicate known as Team Rocket, and specifically of a hit done by their most elite agents, and what was more that the entirety of Macro Cosmos' holdings had apparently been sold by the late Linford Rose to Giovanni Delavita – the wealthy businessman and gym leader of faraway Viridian City who was allegedly the mob boss – it was only then, did the focus of Hop's ire switch and cement itself.

Marnie tried to comfort him in his loss but she never encouraged his craving for vengeance, nor did she tell him why. She cared dearly about Hop, but with her brother Piers and his loyalists set to receive a large sum of money from Giovanni on condition of allegiance, and her hometown of Spikemuth assured of the same, she would not go against Team Rocket.

There were certain people it behooved one to get along with.

The Orre region was as desolate and forbidding as Mr. Linford Rose recalled it; a harsh landscape with desert stretching in every direction and patches of civilization amidst its wildness.

Phenac was a small oasis in that landscape, a beautiful city with weaving, manmade waterways and irrigation. There was a Pokémon Center too, albeit much smaller than what they were used to in Galar, besides a grocery mart and a bank.

Oleana walked hand in hand with Linford Rose until they came to the hotel in the center of town.

"We begin by getting a room for the night," he said.

Oleana looked surprised, "How can we pay for it?"

"Don't worry my dear," was the simple answer.

When they were in the room, Oleana sat by the window and solemnly glanced out.

"We're alive, but bereft...We only have our Pokémon left," she said, studying the Poké Balls in her purse, and then adding as she looked up at him, "and each other."

He kissed her gently. "That's all we need," he murmured to her. "You do trust me, don't you?"

"You know I do, Linford."

After freshening up at the hotel, Rose and Oleana made their way to the bank.

"I never told Giovanni," he explained, "I kept my shares in the Orre diamond mine as separate business holdings from Macro Cosmos, and maintained a couple of offshore bank accounts here... Enough for us to start anew...together."

"Oh, Linford!" Oleana exclaimed, "How wonderful!"

"We can rebuild our lives in Orre," he continued, "We'll transform the region like a diamond in the rough. And then..." Mr. Rose's voice trailed, and grew bitter:

"Then even Team Rocket will fear us."


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