Judgment's Fall @thecartoonfanatic01
Prophecy

A/N: Hey, everyone! I hereby grace you all with a quick and timely update for this fic! We are finally getting in the swing of things, and I can guarantee there'll be a whole bunch of action, suspense, drama, and excitement ahead!

But before we begin, I would like to advise those of you who have reviewed you so far to NOT devote whatever reviews you have for it to "The Way We Will Be". Some of the reviews I've gotten were mostly concerned about that fic; you just don't see them in the review box because I've been deleting the anonymous ones. Now, look, I know a lot of people are excited about "The Way We Will Be", perhaps even moreso than this fic (which is understandable), but I promise, I WILL continue updating that fic concurrently with this one. So please, don't just talk about that fic and ask about it. I want you guys and gals to focus on the merits of THIS fic in particular, not THAT one.

I'm also keeping as many people in the loop as I can through constant updates to my profile. If any of you want to know how I'm doing, writing-wise, check out my profile. I update it as often as I can with snippets on how certain stories are coming along.

Also, in the wake of the Halloween bug that affected the visibility of new updates to fics and accounts, as well as newly-posted stories, I just wanted to remind you all that, if this site goes down for good, I will still remain active elsewhere, so there's no need to worry. For those of you who don't know, I have my alternate accounts listed at my profile, and their usernames are 100 percent accurate. It should NOT be hard to find me there. Go to my profile, and make sure you have the usernames and the websites memorized.

Alright, enough of this urgent rambling! On with the chapter. ENJOY!

P.S.: Due to the ever-worsening situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, I'm going to have to remind you all about the basic steps you should take if you want to stay healthy, courtesy of my university's reminder emails:

-Wash hands often with soap and water for 20-30 seconds at a time, and/or use hand sanitizer
-Avoid close contact with people who are sick
-Keep your hands away from nose, eyes, and mouth (I can't imagine how difficult this part is probably going to be)
-Eat well, get adequate rest, and exercise regularly
-Get a flu shot if you haven't already and are able to

And if you ARE sick (I hope you get better if you are), please be a good sport and save other folks the trouble of getting sick. You can do this by:

-Covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve, elbow, or a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough
-Not sharing food and drinks with others
-Avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes (Again, I understand this is probably going to be difficult)
-Avoiding close contact with others
-Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects
-Staying at home if you're unwell (PRIORITY NUMBER ONE!)
-Staying calm and keeping yourself well-informed (My personal advice)

If you already know this, then great! If you didn't know any of this beforehand, please keep that information in mind as we all go through this trying time. It's a realm of unknowns at this point, and I wish myself and all of humanity well.


TEAM ROSTER

-Team 1 (Galar): Ash, Goh, Chloe

-Team 2: TBA

-Team 3: TBA

-Team 4: TBA

-Team 5: TBA

-Team 6: TBA

-Team 7: TBA

-Team 8: TBA


Bolts of lightning streaked across the large, dark mass of storm-clouds, illuminating Ecruteak City as a terrible torrent of rain poured down upon the town. Absolutely anywhere one would look, there was a conspicuous absence of townspeople. Nearby, a column of thick, dark smoke was rising from the remnants of a tower, blending with the clouds, up to the point where one would assume the bank of clouds were actually originating from the smoke emanating from said tower.

Within the skeleton of this tower, the last flames from a ferocious fire were still flickering, very weakly so, as if they were little creatures, writhing pathetically as they struggled to live. At the center of a room on one of the tower's upper floors, two charred bodies lay, burned beyond any sort of recognition. One of the bodies seemed to be reaching towards a crib made of polished wood that was standing nearby; this crib was somehow untouched by the flames completely.

Inside the crib was an infant, a boy, who was sound asleep, unaware of the destruction and death that surrounded him. He stirred and turned over in his sleep, cooing softly as he clutched a stuffed Teddiursa toy protectively. Droplets of cold water from the rain dripped inside the room, but none of them touched his crib.

Finally, after a couple of hours passed and more of the flames were dying out, a droplet fell on the baby's nose, stirring him awake. He blinked as he looked up at the dripping beams of wood, confused as to why he was not looking up at the ceiling he had familiarized himself with. To make matters even more confusing, everything was strangely silent. He could not hear his parents talking, the townspeople talking and strolling around outside, the birds chirping... All he could hear was the pouring rain.

Suddenly, the baby became hungry, like he usually was. He started crying, hoping that his mother would hear his wails and attend to him. However, no one came along.

When minutes passed and no one responded to his needy cries, the baby felt something new emerge from inside him, overwhelming him. He didn't understand it at the time, but for the first time in the baby's life, he was feeling the primal emotion of fear. Very soon, hunger was no longer a concern for him. He now wanted someone to be there by his side, to show him that he wasn't alone in this world. His mother, his father, his caretakers...even the priest that scared him every time he spotted him.

Someone, anyone, anyone at all...

Then, the baby grew quiet. He heard a soft creak on the wooden floor... Someone was approaching!

Before he knew it, someone was looking down upon his crib. Someone he didn't recognize. Then again, there were a lot of people he met. He could only recognize his parents, caretakers, and that priest from any crowd. Anyone else, to him, would just be any random citizen of Ecruteak City, anyone who visited and adored him...

But then, he saw the emotion gleaming from the depths of the unknown visitor's eyes. They were being filled up by this emotion, like cups being filled. It was like those eyes were once vacant shells of themselves. It was an emotion that he knew all too well. It was something he always saw in his mother's eyes whenever she looked at him.

Upon seeing those eyes, those eyes of magnificent amber, the boy's own softened.

"It was built to promote understanding between humans and Pokémon, and my ancestors protected it for generations. Over the decades, the Tin Tower became a special place for another reason. It was the only place on earth where Ho-Oh, the legendary Pokémon, made contact with humans. Ho-Oh's visits were a sign of peace, but it would only appear to a chosen few. Only those guarding the tower. Then, one day, invaders came who sought to use the Ho-Oh's power for evil! In the ensuing battle, the Tin Tower was set afire! The Ho-Oh fled... It ceased to make contact with humans...and it has never returned. Some wanted to rebuild the tower, but my ancestors insisted that it be left as a witness for future generations of man's brutality, but they also decided to build a new Tin Tower. Their hope was that the Ho-Oh might return, to a new place of peace. So far...these hopes have been in vain... We've waited so long that some people say that Ho-Oh was a legend that never really existed."


"Tell me, Ash, what do you wanna grow up to be?"

"Well, I wanna grow up to be a Pokémon Master, Mom!"

With a gasp, the boy with the raven-black hair and zigzag-patterned cheeks jerked his eyelids open. For a brief moment, all that he could see was darkness. Then, as his eyesight adjusted to the absence of light, he realized he was staring at the dull-beige ceiling of the plane. Blinking in initial confusion, the boy then let out a heavy sigh and leaned back against his seat.

"Oh," he whispered to himself in assurance. "It was just a dream. Just a dream..."

He sighed and slowly closed his auburn eyes.

"Oh, isn't that right?"


Motostoke Stadium
GALAR REGION

A thunderous, deafening cheer swept across the stadium like a powerful tsunami, enrapturing everyone in its wake. Right in the middle of the expansive battlefield stood two men. One had black hair styled in a mohawk, tanned skin, and cyan eyes, who wore a black hoodie with a collar that resembles the teeth of an open mouth, along with shorts with multiple sponsor logos on it and an orange hairband. The other was older, with gray-and-white hair and beady dark eyes, and he wore predominantly red-and-white soccer-themed clothing. Both men faced each other, their gaze boring like drills, just before a Drone Rotom hovered beside them to make its standard pre-battle announcement.

"This will be a one-on-one World Coronation Series match between Raihan, Rank 7 and Leader of the Hammerlocke Gym, and Kabu, Rank 12 and Leader of the Motostoke Gym! Each participant will use three Pokémon each, and the first to defeat all three opposing Pokémon shall be declared winner of the match!"

The massive audience roared in jubilation again, filling the entire stadium with their unquenchable thirst for high-stakes, action-packed battles. But the two men did not even flinch from the sensory overload; instead, they still kept their eyes trained upon one another.

"Well, Raihan," the older man said, his lips wearing a youthful grin that betrayed his looks, "it appears history's repeating itself thus far. But I have a feeling fate will swerve my course down a different path, one that is brighter!"

KABU

"I admire your determination, Kabu," replied the younger man, who gave his soon-to-be opponent a confident and yet so friendly smile. "I can feel your fighting spirit has become stronger since the last time we fought! How long ago was that? Four, five months ago?"

RAIHAN

"Eight." Kabu's face grew slack as he held his arms out, relishing in the crowd's enthusiasm. "Must be unbearable, being under the cool, dark shadow of Leon for all this time. Hearing the press having field days with his constant victories for years, while you are left in his dust all the time... Heh. I can sympathize with that. However, I'm afraid it's gonna be MY dust that you'll eat this time!"

Raihan bared his teeth, his smile widening in a challenging grin. "Only those who worked hard and endured long periods of sweat and tears can be worthy of challenging Leon and emerging victorious. I've shed both after fighting Leon dozens of times. Now how many times have you managed to challenge Leon?!"

"Once." Despite this embarrassing admission, Kabu's expression didn't waver. "But rest assured, Kabu, I am fully intent on beating you to the goal-line!"

With some last respectful, sportsmanly nods, Raihan and Kabu started walking away from one another, their backs facing their opponents, while the Drone Rotom hovered higher into the air. Once the two men reached their designated spots on the battlefield, they continued facing away from one another, their faces lowered.

Their hands slowly snaked towards their pockets.

The entire audience grew quiet with anticipation.

The wind picked up slightly, causing Raihan's hoodie to flutter.

"Aaaaand...battle begin!" the Drone Rotom declared mightily.

RAIHAN VS. KABU

"DURALUDON, LET'S GO!"

"CENTISKORCH, BRING ON THE HEAT!"

Raihan's Duraludon emerged from the bright, brilliant flash of light, roaring triumphantly as Kabu's Centiskorch, fresh out of its Ultra Ball, already started slithering towards it. The audience roared and cheered again, their collective expression of enthusiasm serving as the two men's cue. They issued their first orders at the same time, and their Pokémon charged forward in an inevitable collision.


"Yeah, go Duraludon!"

"Pika!"

"Wow, look at Centiskorch go!"

"Cin!"

"Jeez, it's so loud..."

"Vee!"

Amidst the ocean of spectators, three certain Trainers and their partner Pokémon, a Pikachu, a Cinderace, an Eevee, and a Yamper were seated in one of the rows of seats closest to the battlefield. One of them, an auburn-eyed boy with raven-black hair and wearing a red-and-white cap bearing a Poké Ball insignia, almost shot out of his seat with excitement.

"Wooooow, look at that Flamethrower!" this boy cried over the hollering of the crowd, his eyes shimmering with childlike awe. "Duraludon won't be able to stand a chance against Centiskorch!"

"Pika!" the partner Pikachu cried in agreement.

ASH

"What're you even talking about, Ash?" replied the second Trainer, a tan-skinned, blue-eyed, almost effeminate boy with black-and-red-highlighted hair. He raised an index finger in the air, looking like an obnoxious know-it-all. "Duraludon may look like it's a Steel-type, but it's also a Dragon-type. This gives it a slightly better advantage to Bug moves, and thus it evens out the score a little."

"Cind!" the partner Cinderace muttered while keeping its eyes on the battle.

GOH

Beside the second Trainer, the third and final one, a girl with maroon hair tied into a long ponytail and green eyes, gave Goh an amused side-glance.

"Of course you two would nerd out over Pokémon battles..." she remarked.

"Ee-vui!" squeaked the partner Eevee in her arms.

"Bak!" the partner Yamper barked.

CHLOE

Ash's eyes softened with curiosity at the sound of the Pokémon's name. "Centiskorch, huh...?"

He promptly pulled out his Rotom Phone and aimed it at Kabu's Centiskorch, just as it dodged a Steel Beam delivered by Raihan's Duraludon. The device immediately activated itself and proceeded with reciting its Pokédex entry.

"Centiskorch, the Radiator Pokémon. When it heats up, its body temperature reaches about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It lashes its body like a whip and launches itself at enemies."

"Wow," Ash replied, impressed. "So Centiskorch is both a Fire-type and a Bug-type. I've never heard of that." He put the Rotom Phone away. "So I guess defeating it isn't gonna be an easy task for Leon if Kabu manages to win and then make it that far in the World Coronation Series."

"Well, this is Leon we're talking about here," remarked Goh. "No one's been able to beat him ever since he became the Series Monarch. And according to my research, that was about fifteen years ago."

"A fifteen-year winning streak..." Blinking, Ash gazed at Pikachu. "Now that's a winning streak, am I right, buddy?"

"Pika!" Pikachu squeaked in response.

"Huh," Chloe replied as she gazed towards the battlefield in slight concern. "I can't even begin to imagine being a winner for that long. It sounds like it'll get boring pretty quick-"

"Boring?" Ash interrupted, his eyes suddenly wide with horror as he took seeming offense at her words. "Boring?! Being unbeatable is what Pokémon battling's all about, Chloe! It is the absolute peak of your ability to bond with your Pokémon and train them to achieve their max potential! And you think that's boring?!"

"Okay, okay!" Chloe waved her palms as her eyes went wide with alarm. "Jeez, I got it! Being unbeatable means being a great Pokémon Trainer! I understand!"

Looking back and forth between his two close friends, Goh chuckled nervously at their interaction. Then, he remembered something, and he lightly tapped his palm with his other fist in realization.

"Yo, Ash," he piped up, catching the other boy's attention, "I'm gonna go find that refreshment seller and get us some of those hot dogs he was hollering out. You want a new soda to go with it?"

Ash flashed his friend a smile. "Oh yeah, o-of course! Get two sodas while you're at it!" Then, he started mulling over his chances. "Or maybe three. Or maybe four! Or maybe five! Or maybe-"

"Or maybe I'll just get two sodas..." Goh deadpanned, still taken aback by Ash's propensity for consuming unusually high amounts of junk.

Ash chuckled and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Y-Yeah, I guess you should..."

"Alright. Be back in a flash. Remember, when we return, we have to start discussing-"

"The kinds of questions we should ask Raihan about Gigantamaxing," Ash interrupted with a roll of his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I know."

"Just in case it slipped your mind. Because, you know, your mind likes to slip a lot."

Ash looked at his friend with a cocky grin. "Oh? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, nothing. Just stating the facts." With a grin of his own, Goh stood up from his seat and looked at the observant Cinderace. "Come on, Cinderace."

"Cind!"

Both the Trainer and his Striker Pokémon walked away to venture further into the stands. Chloe watched them go for no more than a few seconds when she impulsively stood up from her own seat.

"I'm gonna go with him," she said. "I could use another water bottle."

"Alright," Ash replied, slightly absentminded as he already focused on the battle again.

But Chloe's gaze softened towards him. "Hey, uh, Ash?"

The boy didn't look at her, his auburn eyes shining towards the battlefield. "Yeah?"

"You...You know I didn't mean that, r-right...?"

"Mean what?"

Chloe blinked thrice, before smiling in relief and shaking her head. "Never mind. I'm gonna go now. Come on, Yamper."

"Bak!"

She turned around on her heel and walked away, followed by Yamper while Eevee remained tucked in his arms. This, Ash and Pikachu were left to spectate the battle by themselves.


The Captain's Table, Hulbury

The soft ringing of the door-mounted bell echoed throughout the occupied restaurant as a young, beautiful woman with peach-colored hair, tied into a thick, lush ponytail decorated with small heart accessories, stepped inside. Looking around quietly, she could not see the person she was looking for anywhere. After all, what with the unusually high tourism rates in Galar and particularly in Hulbury, there were bound to be an abundance of people enjoying a meal inside.

Fortunately, the woman saw the person she was looking for in no time flat. She was sitting at one of the tables further in the restaurant, having a conversation with one of the waitresses, who seemed quite giddy. One would wonder what was so special about that person, but the woman knew there was no mistaking who was underneath the stylish cap.

She silently walked up towards the bar table, having to maneuver her way through all the customers that had gotten up from their tables and begun walking around for whatever reason. After several seconds, she reached the other person's table, just as the waitress departed with florid cheeks and a signed sheet of paper, and sat down on the other side. Then, she stared into the sea-blue eyes, surrounded by a gentle, liberal shade of exotic blue eyeliner.

"Good to see you again, Ness," the woman greeted. "It's been a while since we last talked."

SONIA

"Yeah, same here, Sonia," the other woman replied. "Sorry about canceling on you at the last minute. The schedule of a model is...not exactly the most flexible."

NESSA

"Eh, that's alright," Sonia said with a dismissive wave. "That was, like, a month ago. Plus, I am pretty sure if you hadn't canceled, I would've been the one to do so eventually. The schedule of a Pokémon researcher is pretty demanding too."

"Yeah, congrats on that, by the way." Nessa took her spoon and used it to scoop up the soup before her. "You know, I've always thought that you would never take up your grandma's mantle. For the longest time, you've been so undecided on what you'd do in life. Every time you take up something, be it Pokémon battling or performing or Musicals or what-have-you, you drop it the next day."

"Yeah." Sonia gave Nessa a soft smile. "I suppose I just wanted to get out of Grandma's shadow for quite a while, before fate decided to funnel me into that job anyway." Then, she shrugged. "But the job has its perks. I get to learn loads and loads of interesting things about Galar, its Pokémon, and their history together."

"It's good that you're having fun..." Nessa blew gently on the soup in her spoon before calmly sipping it into her mouth. Once she swallowed the viscous liquid, she continued, "But it's a shame, though."

"Whaddaya mean?" Sonia asked as she picked up the menu and began reading it.

"It means we won't be having as much get-togethers as we used to. We'll both have busy and packed schedules."

"We can always just teleconference."

"But it won't be the same thing as being physically there with you." Sonia could almost imagine the smirk crawling onto Nessa's face. "For one thing, I won't be able to keep track of your weight."

Sonia scowled playfully behind her menu. "Shut up. I lost a couple of pounds yesterday, so don't you dare prod me about gaining weight."

"A couple of pounds?" Nessa rolled her blue eyes. "Bravo. Now you can get yourself a boyfriend with that regiment."

Sonia lowered her menu and stared at the dark-skinned woman. "I will have you know that five different guys flirted with me while I was on my way here."

"Five? And this happened today? Ha. Ha ha ha. That's child's play, Sonia."

Sonia scoffed and resumed reading her menu. "Must be tiring, having guys constantly leer at you and send wolf-whistles your way. You wanna know what my grandma's always told me?"

"Do enlighten me."

"That less is more."

"Yes..." Nessa playfully bumped her sandal-clad foot against Sonia's shin. "Which is why you need to shed more of those pounds. Less weight, more beauty. Trust me." She gestured to herself in a show of faux-arrogance. "I am the top expert on beauty."

"In your dreams. Now then..." Sonia peered over her menu and at Nessa, her eyes slightly narrowed. "Can I please read my menu and figure out what to order in peace? I don't want your inflated head filling up my vision."

"By all means, go on ahead. Just make sure you read the calories."

"Har-dee-har-har."

Sonia continued reading the menu, but after a minute or so, a glimmer of light entered her peripheral vision, distracting her from the text and the appealing photos of seafood. Glancing towards the TV screen installed on a central column of the restaurant, Sonia noticed it was depicting a live broadcast of a World Coronation Series battle between Raihan and Kabu.

Upon seeing Raihan and his determination to defeat his opponent, Sonia was instantly reminded of something...

Or rather, someone...

The young Pokémon researcher pursed her lips slightly as she went back to reading the menu. As she did, the image of a fluttering cape briefly flashed through her mind.

"It's been a while since he's last been in the spotlight..." she thought somberly. "I wonder how you're doing right now..."


Motostoke Stadium

Ash and Pikachu gasped with awe as they continued to watch the battle erupting between Raihan and Kabu. The former's Duraludon and the latter's Centiskorch evaded one another's attacks with ease and retaliated with their own moves.

"Look at Raihan go, Pikachu!" Ash exclaimed. "See the way he likes to use Duraludon's Steel Beam once Centiskorch gets close? Man, he sure likes to use close-quarters combat."

"Pika..." Pikachu replied while nodding his head in agreement.

"We have to watch Raihan and Duraludon as much as we can, so we get a handle of all his favorite strategies by the time we face him..."

Ash's voice trailed off, and a sudden sensation of sinking coldness enveloped him. At first, he tried to shrug it off, but the sensation became stronger and more daunting.

His voice was more hesitant and unsure. "Hey, Pikachu?"

"Pika?" Pikachu's ears twitched, and the Mouse Pokémon looked at his longtime partner in concern. "Pikapi?"

"I...I think something's wrong..." Worriedly, Ash looked around, observing the audience for any behavioral anomalies. "I think... I think we're being watched..."

"Pika?!" Pikachu began looking around as well. "Pika-pika, pikachu..."

"I don't know who...or what it could be, though... It...It can't be Team Rocket. They're not dumb enough to try and take you in the middle of a battle like this-"

He was cut off by sudden movement at the corner of his left eye. Averting his gaze from Pikachu, the Pallet Town native shot up from his chair and stared at the stairway to the stands, where he spotted what appeared to be a flickering black flame, a flame that no one else seemed to notice, not even when they were in close proximity to it. But then, as his eyes zeroed in on the strange object and blocked out all of his surroundings, Ash realized it wasn't a flame at all.

It was a Pokémon, but not like any he had ever seen before. Much of its features were barely visible through the wispy, fire-like substance that engulfed it. The only things Ash could make out were its reddish-orange eyes and what appeared to be two curled horns. But what really caught the Trainer's undying attention was the ground upon which this Pokémon stood: instead of a solid surface upon which its shadow could be projected, it appeared to be dark, viscous, and murky, almost like thick mud or a swamp...

"Hey, Pikachu?" Ash asked, breaking his gaze away from the strange Pokémon so he could look at his partner Pokémon. "D-Do you see that?"

Pikachu looked at Ash, having been looking the other way earlier. "Pika?"

"That!" Ash pointed towards the stairway. "That Pokémon, right-"

His heart stopped beating for a second. The Pokémon was no longer there. No shadowy form, no muddy ground, no dark flame...nothing.

"There..."

Ash vaguely felt Pikachu scurry up to his shoulder. "Pika? Pika-pika, pikachu, Pikapi."

The boy blinked slowly, and with uncertainty. "I...I thought I saw something there..."

Ash continued looking at that same spot with confusion, prompting Pikachu looked at his Trainer with concern.

"Pikapi?" he asked.

After a couple of seconds spent in awkward silence, the raven-haired boy rubbed his eyes and sighed.

"I'm sorry, buddy," he replied. "I...I guess I was seeing things-"

"Hey, buddy," a voice snarled. Ash looked to his side and saw a small group of older boys glaring daggers at him.

"Now that you've got your little matter settled," one of the boys said, "can you please sit down, for the love of Arceus?"

"We're trying to watch the frigging match here!" another boy snapped.

"Oh!" Ash's eyes widened with stunned embarrassment. "S-So-Sorry..."

He quickly sat back down in his chair, prompting another one of the boys to reply condescendingly, "Thank you."

"Pika?" Pikachu asked. The Mouse Pokémon continued to look up at his Trainer with confusion.

"It's...It's nothing, Pikachu..." Ash replied as he tried to refocus on the battle.

"Pika..."

But before Ash and Pikachu can continue their planned analysis of Raihan's tactics, they vaguely heard a familiar ringing noise materializing beside them, followed by a series of loud gasps and stunned cries. They both looked to their left, and their lower jaws dropped open when they saw a huge ring of shining gold facing them, growing in size while the space in the center started to glow, the light becoming brighter and brighter by the second.

"Wh-Whoa!" Ash exclaimed with wide eyes. "You're...You're seeing this too, right Pikachu?"

"Pikachu!" Pikachu squeaked in affirmation.

"Holy crap!"

The older boys who had just admonished Ash were now scrambling away from their seats, for the still-growing gold ring was about to occupy their space.

"Dude, back up, back up, back up!" cried one of the boys.

"Hey, hey, watch it!" shouted another.

"H-Hold up, I forgot my popcorn!" a third boy squeaked fearfully.

"Forget the Arceus-damn popcorn, Blake!" a fourth snapped with a mixture of exasperation and fear.

In contrast, Ash and Pikachu stood on the spot, watching as the ring continued to grow bigger and glow brighter. Around them, more and more of the audience's attention was being diverted away from the duel between Raihan and Kabu. Very soon, the large screens on either side of the stadium stopped depicting the battle and switched their focus on the golden ring, and even Raihan and Kabu took notice of the change in mood.

"Whoa," Ash said again as he examined the ring. "I...I think we've seen this ring before, Pikachu..."

"Pika..."

A second later, two people stepped out from the shining light at the center of the ring, drawing shocked gasps and even a few terrified screams from the other spectators. But Ash and Pikachu, who by that point were the only ones present in their block of seats, did not react at all, instead scanning the newcomers from head to toe. One of them was a pregnant woman with sandy-brown hair and sea-blue eyes, while the other was a man with black, bushy hair and dark-brown eyes and dressed more for a desert than the Motostoke Stadium.

The two newcomers set their sights on Ash and Pikachu almost immediately, ignoring the commotion of the confused and panicked spectators. The woman smiled softly and stepped forward, her blue eyes shining with relief.

"Hello, Ash," she greeted. "It's been a long time."

Ash's eyes immediately widened in remembrance. "I remember you! Sheena!"

"Pika!" Pikachu squeaked.

Sheena nodded. "It's good to see you haven't forgotten, Ash."

Then, Ash and Pikachu glanced towards the man, who was now scanning his surroundings. He looked slightly alarmed by the panic that he and Sheena inadvertently started.

"Baraz!" Ash exclaimed.

Baraz looked back at Ash and smiled. "It's good to see you again, Ash." Then, his smile vanished in an instant. "Although I wish it wasn't under these circumstances..."

"What're you two doing here?" Then, Ash glanced at the gold ring that functioned as Sheena and Baraz's transportation. "And is that Hoopa's?!"

"Yes, it is indeed Hoopa's," Sheena replied. Then, she held out a gloved hand towards Ash. "Listen, we need you to come with us right away. It's urgent."

"R-Right away?" Ash glanced towards the battlefield, where he could see Raihan and Kabu staring at the ring, awestruck. "It can't wait?"

"I'm afraid it can't," Baraz said. "We deeply apologize for the interruption, but we must leave now-"

"Now?!" The boy's eyes widened, and he turned his back on the two. "Hold on, I need to get Goh and Chloe!"

"Goh?" Sheena asked.

"Chloe?" added Baraz.

"They're my friends, and I'd rather not leave them here!"

Before Sheena and Baraz could stop him, Ash had already started running the other direction, with Pikachu remaining on his shoulder. Spectators parted for him, allowing the Pallet Town native to begin scouring the stands for Goh and Chloe.

"Ash!" Sheena called. "Wait a minute, Ash!"

But Baraz sighed and shook his bead with amusement. "Well, there he goes. I almost forgot about how unstoppable this kid can be. Like a force of nature." He looked at his companion. "What's the plan, Sheena?"

Sheena unconsciously rubbed her bulging stomach while replying, "We go after him. Never let him out of sight."

With that, the woman began walking as fast as she could, her movements slightly hindered by the baby in her belly. As for Baraz, he watched her go for a moment before looking back at the glowing ring.

"Hoopa!" he called. "Keep the ring open! We have a little setback here! Pit, Kevie, Lucianne, if anyone comes through the portal and it's not me, Sheena, or Ash, kick them back out!"

"Got it, Baraz!" three voices replied, echoing from the void in unison.

Nodding in affirmation, Baraz turned and ran after Ash and Sheena.


Further up in the stands, a certain trio in disguise used binoculars to observe Ash as he ran away from Hoopa's ring, with Sheena and Baraz both in hot pursuit.

"Dere goes da twoip," Meowth said.

"Yes, oh yes..." James replied, a sinister sneer appearing on his face. "He may be all happy-go-lucky right now, but little does he know..."

"Dat taday is da day we capture Pikachu! Heh heh heh..."

However, Jessie lowered her binoculars; the Team Rocket member was wearing an expression of disappointment.

"Are you two being absolutely serious right now?!" she snapped angrily, startling her comrades-in-arms. "You're thinking of capturing Pikachu, today of all days?!"

"W-We-Well...yeah..." James said hesitantly.

"I-I mean," added Meowth, "d-dat's da plot fer every episode, isn't dat right?" Then, the disguised Scratch Cat Pokémon blinked and scratched his chin in wonder. "Hmmm, I feel a sense of déjà vu 'ere. Maybe da author's recycling old scenes from otha stories-?"

"Oh, hush up now, Meowth!" Jessie snapped. "Didja forget what just went down? That ring appearing out of nowhere and zapping in those two badly-dressed folks?!"

"Badly dressed?" James repeated incredulously. "I happen to think they dress up quite nicely-"

"That's beside the point! You guys know the drill! Where there's strange phenomenon..."

Her voice trailed off, leaving the trio in the midst of an awkward silence. The only noise in the air was the slight humming of Hoopa's levitating ring. After a few seconds of this, Jessie growled and ruffled her hair in exasperation.

"There's never-before-seen Pokémon, you dimwits!" she snarled.

"Ohhhhh..." James and Meowth replied simultaneously.

However, Meowth's expression was one of disinterest. "Ta be honest, Jess, we 'aven't had luck wit da never-before-seen Pokémon in da longest time. Every episode we're in, we wind up being da cannon fodda for da new Pokémon, and don't get me started on da movies!"

"I gotta agree with Meowth on this one, Jessie," James added. "Never-before-seen Pokémon haven't been our strongest suits for a while. I no longer see the appeal-"

"Have you two forgotten what the Boss set us out to do in the first place?!" Jessie interrupted, her eyelid twitching.

"Ta be honest," replied Meowth, "we've blasted off so many times dat it's had an effect on my memory-"

"Ohhh, for the love of!" Jessie quickly recomposed herself. "The Boss entrusted us with the task of bringing him Pokémon from all over the world! Valuable Pokémon, powerful Pokémon, and most of all..."

Once again, her voice trailed off, leaving the trio in awkward silence for a moment. Then, James and Meowth's eyes lit up simultaneously.

"Oh!" they both cried, the lightbulbs literally visible above their heads. "Valuable Pokémon!"

....

"GAH!"

Jessie ruffled her hair so furiously and violently that she accidentally knocked off the hat she had been wearing as a part of her disguise. This caused her magenta-pink hair to unfurl into its natural long, curly shape.

"I cannot BELIEVE you two idiots!" she screamed, startling not only her comrades, but everyone else within earshot. "If we don't get our head out of the gutters more often, then we're gonna be laughingstocks in the Boss's eyes once again, and that accursed Matori will take over my role as the most treasured female member of Team Rocket, and-"

"Wait, what was that last part...?" James interrupted, his voice hesitant.

Before Jessie could respond, however, she felt something vibrating in her pocket. "Hm? What's this...?"

She reached into her pocket and pulled out her black Rotom Phone, which was vibrating intensely and repeating over and over again, "You have a call from the Boss, Giovanni."

"Da Boss is callin'?" Meowth asked with awe.

"I don't recall our Team Rocket fees being overdue today..." James remarked.

"Hush up!" Jessie whispered.

Once her teammates fell silent, Jessie answered the incoming call. The trio instinctively took on rigid, formal poses upon seeing the stern face of their employer.

"Jessie, James, and Meowth," he said. "I hope I'm not interrupting."

"Greetings, Boss!" James cried.

"Oh, you're not interrupting anything at all, Boss!" added Jessie. "We're always ready and willing to serve at your every whim!"

"And wat whim do ya need servin' tahday, Boss?!" Meowth asked.

"You will find out soon. You three are at the Motostoke Stadium, correct?"

"Yes, that's indeed correct, Boss," Jessie replied.

To the trio's surprise, Giovanni's lips curled into a malevolent smirk. "Then I need you three to stay put and wait. I apologize for the impromptu assignment, but Team Rocket has a massive operation about to go underway at your location, and I want you three to be ready when the time comes."

"A massive operation?" James repeated. "What about?"

Giovanni's smirk only widened. "You'll see. And rest assured, the reward will be tremendous. Giovanni, out."

The live feed quickly cut out. Once Giovanni's face disappeared from the screen, the trio looked amongst one another.

"Reward?" Jessie and James asked at the same time.

"For what?" James continued. "For waiting patiently?"

"Well, we can't just question da Boss!" Meowth exclaimed, catching his teammates' attention. "And just tink of what dat reward could be! Da highest of promotions!"

Jessie and James started to understand what Meowth was getting at, for they put on majestic poses while an imaginary background of bright colors materialized behind them. Everyone who was within earshot spotted the trio and awkwardly moved away from their position.

"It could be fame and prominence!" Jessie gushed.

"Or riches beyond belief!" cried James in exultation.

Meowth shot his paws upward in jubilation. "We'll be feared throughout ta woyld and all of Team Rocket!"

POP!

"WOOOOOBBUFFET!"

Jessie's eyes shimmered again. "Oooooh, I do like the sound of all that..."

....

Suddenly, Meowth blinked and scratched his chin in wonder again. "Hmmm, again wit da déjà vu 'ere... Maybe da writer is runnin' outta ideas fer dialogue fer us!"


In every corner of the stands in Motostoke Stadium, the audience was seeing Hoopa's ring, whether it was in person or via the stadium's massive television screens. Not unexpectedly, the reaction was mostly one of confusion and shock. But unlike everyone else, one spectator, a young, tan-skinned girl wearing sports-themed clothing, stood still and analyzed the ring with calm, collected precision. Her face was cool and completely devoid of any natural reaction to the unnatural occurrence.

It was only when she saw Ash in the screens that she exhibited any sort of emotion, in this case intrigue.


"So, uhhhh, what's this supposed to be about, guys?" Ash asked as he scanned the aisles for Goh and Chloe. Behind him were Sheena and Baraz, both of whom were surveying their surroundings with apprehension.

"We have good reason to believe a great evil has its sights set on you," replied Sheena, her blue eyes narrowing. "An evil unlike no other. We can't take our chances here, so we're taking you all to our sanctuary in Michina Town."

"Michina Town, huh?" Ash's auburn eyes beamed with nostalgia. "Man, I have forgotten all about that place. It's been so long since I've been there. How is it over there these days?"

"It's...It's doing pretty great." The corners of Sheena's lips twitched into a proud smile. "I've recently been supervising a restoration project with my assistant Kevin. You've met him."

"Yeah, I remember." Then, Ash focused on Sheena's bulging belly. "Oh, and congratulations on your baby!"

"Pika-pika!" Pikachu squeaked, equally enamored with the sign of new life coming from the Michina Town guardian.

"Thank you, Ash. It's actually Kevin's."

"Kevin, huh? Can't say I'm surprised. I can only imagine Brock's tears, though." Ash chuckled for a quick moment at the thought of his old friend and traveling companion, as he resumed scanning the stadium for Goh and Chloe. "Is it a boy or a girl?"

"A boy..." Sheena's smile widened as she stroked her stomach. "We're thinking of naming him Damos, after my ancestor. A strong and fitting name for a strong and healthy boy such as himself."

"Oh, that's so awesome!" Without looking, Ash asked next, "And what about you, Baraz? How are you, Meray, and Hoopa doing these days? Ooh, are you or Meray expecting any kids too?! It has been a while since I last saw you guys too-"

Baraz narrowed his eyes and coughed, in spite of how his soul rejoiced at hearing the Trainer's ever-youthful enthusiasm after a couple of years. "I'd love to catch up with you, Ash, but I'm afraid now's not the time for that."

Sheena's smile faltered, and she added, "Y-Yes, that's correct." Her expression hardened once again. "Ash, this is truly a situation of the utmost urgency, and we need your presence at Michina Town right away.

"Yeah, about that..." Ash stopped and looked up at Sheena and Baraz, his eyebrows raised. "You guys mentioned an evil unlike no other. What kind of evil are you talking about?"

Sheena and Baraz looked at each other for a moment, as if seeking out the other's approval for the appropriate response to give to their guest. Then, Sheena glanced back at Ash, her expression slowly turning grave.

"Disturb not the harmony of fire, ice, or lightning," she recited, "lest these titans wreak destruction upon the world in which they clash. Though the water's great guardian shall arise to quell the fighting, alone its song will fail, lest the earth shall turn to ash. O Chosen One, into thine hands bring together all three. Their treasures combined tame the Beast of the Sea." She blinked, slightly taken with emotion. "Do you remember those words, Ash?"

"Disturb not the harmony of fire, ice, or lightning..." Ash repeated. Then, a certain peaceful melody filled all four corners of his mind, like water being poured into a cup, and his eyes grew wide with surprise. "Yeah, I do!" He looked at Pikachu. "Remember, buddy? Th-That's the Shamouti Prophecy that we solved when we were in the Orange Islands!"

"Pika-pika, pikachu!" Pikachu replied, eagerly nodding with remembrance.

"As it turns out, Ash," Baraz said, "that prophecy was part of a larger text."

Ash looked back at Baraz and Sheena with confusion. "Part of a larger text?"

"Yes. The portion as you remember it is what the complete text calls the Trial of the Soul."

"The Trial...of the Soul?"

"And the rest of the text describes a second trial, along with some sort of message," continued Sheena. "The rest is as follows: quell not the discord of death, darkness, and violence, lest its weak state expose its true nature upon the world in which it resides. Though the sky's great guardian shall arise to restore the balance, alone its power will fail, and thus the earth shall turn to ash once again. O Chosen One, into thine heart accept your ultimate fate. Your brought sacrifice tame the world. Thus concludes the Trial of the Heart.

"O Chosen One, look deep into your heart and soul, seek what lies underneath, discover the true spirit that constitutes you. Perils await, and all must be dealt with due process. Do not hesitate, do not doubt, do not regret. Do not dwell in the past, merely look forward to tomorrow, and always remember, for the power of one is..."

Sheena sighed before completing, "The text ends there."

"That's it?" Ash asked incredulously.

"Yes. Unfortunately, the text was recovered incomplete.

"The power of one is... The power of one is what?"

"We don't know. But, given your crucial involvement in the cataclysm that nearly ended the world years ago, what we do know is that you are once again at the center of something big, Ash. Something life-changing."

"Something life-changing..." Ash momentarily looked down at the floor, lost in thought. Then, he looked back up at Baraz and Sheena. "Why wasn't I told of this before?"

"We're telling you now, Ash-" Baraz began.

"No, why didn't I learn this part of the prophecy years ago, back when I was in the Orange Islands? There's another trial that I never got to do back at Shamouti Island?!" For some reason, Ash began to feel worry and dread well up within him like a deluge. "I could've done it! I could've had loads and loads of time to prepare for this! Maybe if I did, the-the world wouldn't be in danger, a-and we wouldn't be worrying about this situation right now!"

"Pika!" Pikachu cried in agreement.

"We do wish we could've told you sooner, Ash," replied Baraz, "but please understand us, we had no way of knowing the Shamouti Prophecy would be involved any sooner. We found the complete text weeks ago, within the ruins of an Alpha Temple located near Dahara City, and the translation was completed just hours ago."

"An...Alpha Temple...?" Ash asked, momentarily confused.

"Pika?"

"A temple used by the peoples of ancient times to worship Arceus," Sheena explained. "The ancient ruins that I oversee at Michina Town are prime examples of such, so I speak from experience when I say texts like these are difficult to find, let alone decipher. There are very few remaining Alpha Temples located across the world." The woman narrowed her sea-blue eyes gravely. "So Ash, if Arceus and the myths of old are involved in some way, then we can only assume whatever is about to take place will be truly catastrophic."

"Which is why we need you to come with us," Baraz added, his tone one of urgency. "Now, are you sure you cannot just call or text your friends, tell them why you had to leave?"

"I'm sure they'll understand completely-" began Sheena.

"No!" Ash blurted out, the dread within him rising. "Wherever I go, Goh and Chloe go! So we gotta go find them, fast!"

With that, the raven-haired boy continued walking and scanning the aisles for his two friends. Sheena and Baraz looked at one another with concern before following him.


"Hey, I thought you said you'd be getting one soda refill for Ash..."

"Well, the thing about Ash is...even if he wants only one refill, he'll soon be asking for more. I might as well save up the time."

Goh, Chloe, Cinderace, Yamper, and Eevee were venturing back to the stands. Hot dogs and sodas were clutched within the hands of the former three, while Yamper and Eevee strolled leisurely beside Chloe's ankles, keeping up with her step by step and maintaining a close distance to her out of loyalty. Chloe frowned disapprovingly at the unhealthy amount of plastic soda cups tucked in Goh's arms, being almost cradled tightly in his grasp like a newborn baby.

"I hope you're not overdoing the sodas too, Goh," Chloe commented with slight disappointment. "I'd hate to see you gain weight a few months down the road because you couldn't resist a sugar rush."

"Hey, don't worry about me, Chloe!" Goh replied with an upbeat smile, even as he focused ahead of him. "Ash and I do a lotta walking and running, so it evens things out."

Chloe's mind became filled with memories of her lagging behind the two boys as they explored every nook and cranny of Motostoke upon arrival. Ash had been so insistent on walking through the city and seeing what it had to offer, and if Goh was in a position to argue against it, he never seized the opportunity to do so. At that moment, Chloe could feel the last of the aches prickle at her ankles, spurred on by those unfortunate memories.

"I see..." she said.

At that moment, Goh glanced at her, his smile still intact. "I know this whole research fellowship slash adventuring thing is new for you, Chloe, but don't worry. You'll get used to it soon enough." He jabbed a thumb at himself. "I sure am! Sort of."

"Well, I hope so..." Chloe sighed softly and gave her childhood friend a weak, almost halfhearted chuckle. "But right now, I can't wait to get back to the Pokémon Center and dip my feet into some warm bathtub water. My ankles are still killing me."

Goh chuckled energetically. "Hey, d'you know what you just reminded me of?"

Chloe blinked in interest. "What?"

"The time when we were kids, and we had to run for our lives from Mr. Murtle's Arcanine. What was his name? Crusher?"

Chloe scowled playfully as she crossed her arms. "Yeah, I still have a bone to pick with you on that. Every kid and their mom knew that Arcanine was super-cranky, and yet you still wanted to figure out if Arcanine could actually run that fast. So what'd you do? You used ourselves as test subjects."

Goh chuckled and instinctively scratched his left cheek out of embarrassment. The corner of Chloe's lips twitched at the sight; he definitely picked up that habit from Ash.

"Yeah, that was pretty stupid of me in hindsight. But hey, I was just a kid back then! I wanted to know everything about Pokémon, no matter the cost!"

"And the cost in that case was our ankles nearly falling off after all that running we did," deadpanned Chloe.

"Heh heh heh..." Sighing, Goh caught sight of the stairs leading up to the stands and took them, followed closely by the others. "Yeah, those were the days..."

"They sure were..."

Chloe too sighed nostalgically. Then, her mood soured slightly, and she narrowed her eyes.

"Just in case it slipped your mind. Because, you know, your mind likes to slip a lot."

"Oh? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, nothing. Just stating the facts."

Chloe stopped walking, which prompted her Yamper and Eevee to stop as well and look up with tilted heads.

"Vui?"

"Grou?"

Goh and Cinderace overheard Yamper's and Eevee's confused voices and turned around. Upon seeing Chloe frozen on the stairs, lost in thought, Goh turned so his body could face hers.

"Chloe?" he asked. "You...You alright?"

"Hm?"

The maroon-haired girl looked up and finally registered Goh looking down at her from the top of the stairs. Acting almost immediately, she gave her childhood friend a shaky but innocent smile.

"Y-Yeah, I'm fine," she replied. "I was just...I was trying to remember what Mom and Parker wanted me to buy here as a souvenir."

Goh gave her a wide, beaming smile, another thing he evidently inherited from Ash. "Hey, don't worry about it. I thought I saw a souvenir shop on our way into the stadium. You could go check it out while we're asking Raihan the questions."

"Thanks, Goh." Chloe tried to widen her smile at him, but it was futile. "I appreciate the help."

A small part of her desperately wanted to add something else to her response. Unfortunately, her instincts held her back, much to her own disappointment, and she let out a low, almost inaudible grunt of irritation instead. Goh did not hear it, for he and Cinderace instead overheard the stunned gasps of the audience above him.

"Huh," he remarked while turning his head. "I wonder what all the commotion is...?"

"Ace?" Cinderace asked.

Chloe overheard the collective gasping as well, and she, Yamper, and Eevee followed Goh and Cinderace back onto the stands. As soon as they did, the quartet noticed the other spectators turning their heads away from Raihan and Kabu's battle, which had apparently come to a quiet standstill. They followed their gazes and instantly spotted the live feeds on the Motostoke Stadium's screens.

Upon seeing what was being shown, their jaws dropped open in shock.

"Whoa!" Goh exclaimed. "What in the world is that?!"

"Cinder, cinder!" Cinderace cried in response.

"It...It looks like some sort of wormhole!" Chloe squeaked in slight fear.

"Ee-vui!" Eevee cried.

"Bak, bak, bak!" Yamper barked before baring its teeth at the screen's direction and growling angrily.

"Goh!" a familiar voice called. "Chloe!"

"Pika!"

"Huh?"

Goh, Chloe, Cinderace, Yamper, and Eevee averted their gazes from the screens and spotted Ash and Pikachu running up to them as fast as they could. They were followed closely by two peculiarly-dressed people that none of them recognized.

"Ash?" Goh asked. "Hey, what's going on? What's that-?"

"Don't worry about it, guys," Ash interrupted. "That's Hoopa's ring."

"Hoopa?" asked Chloe.

"We'll explain later," interrupted one of the strangers, a pregnant woman with sandy-brown hair and sea-blue eyes. "You must be Goh and Chloe."

"Y-Yeah, that's us..." Goh glanced at Ash strangely. "Ash? Who're these people?"

"Oh, don't worry about 'em. They're people that I met during my journey." The raven-haired boy pointed at the pregnant woman. "That's Sheena..." He then pointed at the other person, a man wearing a red turban. "And that's Baraz. They're friends...and they're saying we need to go with them."

"Yeah, and now," Baraz said, stepping forward and grabbing Ash's wrist. "Ash, you've got who you were looking for. Now, we must make our leave! It's not safe for you to be here."

With that, he began half-dragging Ash away, with Sheena, Goh, Chloe, Cinderace, Yamper, and Eevee right at their heels.

"Wait, why?" Goh asked suspiciously. "We are in a stadium filled with thousands of people!"

Before Sheena could respond, another voice called out, "HEY!"

The group looked over the railing, just in time to see Raihan flying on a Flygon. The Hammerlocke Gym Leader glared at Sheena and Baraz with an air of authority and suspicion.

"Just who are you people?" he asked. "And what brings you to Motostoke, unannounced?"

"We apologize for interrupting your battle in such a rude manner," Baraz replied. He let go of Ash and held out his arms in a beseeching manner. "We really do, but this is an emergency."

"Huh. So it seems, what with your theatrical entrance and all." Raihan shot a fleeing glance of familiarity at Ash and Goh, while Flygon chittered ominously at Sheena and Baraz. "What do you want with these three children?"

"They are the emergency, sir," Sheena responded next, bowing her head politely at the Hammerlocke Gym Leader. "Look, there is no time to explain, but I can assure you we're anything but hostile."

"She's right, Raihan!" Ash interjected. "They're friends of ours!"

"Pika-pika, pikachu!" Pikachu squeaked in agreement.

Raihan's cyan eyes narrowed with suspicion at Sheena and Baraz. But before he could speak any further, a scream filled the air, followed by several more...

And then, followed by a terrible shadow looming over Motostoke Stadium, enveloping more and more of it like an eclipse.

Ash, Goh, Chloe, Sheena, Baraz, and Raihan looked up and quickly saw the source of the shadow: a great aerial vehicle, which resembled a classic sailing vessel with a half-dozen masts and sails, but its body was made out of gunmetal-gray metal, and it sported long, jagged, almost draconic wings that protruded from its sides. The long bow of the vessel was encased entirely in silver metal, and it had a single, long horn at the end, giving it a semblance to an Aggron. Gigantic clouds of smoke trailed from the vessel, likely from exhaust pipes, but they were already sparkling and crackling brightly with electricity; they were so large that they were creating their own weather systems.

Within a matter of seconds, the giant, airborne vessel was hovering directly over Motostoke Stadium, totally covering its area in shadow. At that point, the audience began to disperse in panic and terror, crowding the stairways, leaping over rows and rows of seats, and even trampling over each other in desperate but unsuccessful bids to escape. But Ash, Goh, Chloe, Sheena, Baraz, Raihan, and their Pokémon remained still, continuing to eye the vessel as its wide berth loomed over them.

"Is this the great evil you guys were talking about?" Ash asked.

"We're...We're not really sure," Baraz replied, his eyes refusing to break away from the vessel.

Just then, the live feeds of the stadium's massive TV screens, which had begun to focus on the vessel's arrival, started to become distorted. Ash, Goh, Chloe, Sheena, Baraz, and Raihan's attentions were diverted to them; and they watched as the live feed was replaced with another depicting the mischievous face of a purple-haired, purple-eyed man sitting in a room of metal.

"Gooood mornin', citizens of Motostoke!" the man bellowed, his voice traveling from the screens and echoing across the stadium. It was loud and commanding enough to stop the fleeing audience in its tracks. "My name is Petrel, and I am a lieutenant affiliated with Team Rocket. I apologize for interrupting your daily viewing pleasure."

Confused murmurs and conversations broke out amongst the citizens.

"Petrel?"

"Team Rocket? What's that?"

"Are we under attack or what?"

"However," Petrel continued, silencing the wave of murmurs sweeping through the audience, "you have amongst you a certain boy that Team Rocket is, shall I say, interested in retrieving."

"A certain boy?" Raihan asked in a whisper. Then, he gazed at Ash, Goh, and Chloe curiously.

"This is not some grand robbery or takeover, rest assured. The only thing that I expect from you, ladies and gentlemen, is your undying cooperation...while we take this boy."

Petrel snapped his fingers, just as a large hatch opened up on the vessel's undercarriage. Ash, Goh, Sheena, Baraz, and Raihan watched as about a dozen missiles emerged and automatically barreled towards Motostoke Stadium at unusually slow speeds. But just as they neared their position, the quintet realized those weren't missiles, but rather Team Rocket grunts equipped with jetpacks.

And leading the small group was a duo that Ash and Pikachu vaguely recognized, to their horror.

"A shrieking whine!" exclaimed one half of the duo, a stunning woman with gold-blonde hair. "A blast from the past!"

"Spinning like a Gyro Ball and moving fast!" proclaimed the other half of the duo, a man with light-green hair arranged in a peculiar bowl-cut.

"To the moon..."

"...And beyond..."

"...What a blast!" both hollered at the same time.

Ash heard a familiar female voice shouting from a short distance, "You gotta be KIDDIN' me!"

"Administering justice with lightning speed!" continued the blonde woman.

"Bashing the bad guys, should we feel the need," recited the green-haired man.

Ash then heard a familiar masculine growling, followed by the voice snarling, "Still uncreative, as always..."

"So here's a newsflash from across the wire..." the woman began.

"The real Team Rocket is now on fire!" the man completed.

"Cassidy!"

"And it's Butch!"

"Teaching the losers a thing or two..."

"...The true Team Rocket..."

The two Team Rocket agents pointed off at a certain direction...but not at Ash, Goh, Sheena, Baraz, and Raihan.

"Us!" they declared simultaneously. "Not you!"

"Oh, for the love of!" the same familiar female voice shouted.

Finally, Ash, Goh, Sheena, Baraz, Raihan, and even the nearest spectators were compelled to glance at a certain corner at a certain stairway. There stood a trio of what appeared to be tourists, though their choice of clothing looked too stylish and distinguishable, while one of the tourists looked suspiciously like a Meowth.

"When the Boss said there'd be a massive operation underway here," snarled one of the tourists, a woman with magenta hair, "I was expecting something big, but I never would've guessed you would be involved, Cassidy! Not even in a million years!"

"It's good to see you again, Jessie," Cassidy replied haughtily. "How long has it been since we last saw one another? Two, three years? I must say, those years have been quite tough on you, though-"

"EXC...EXCUSE ME?!" The woman ripped off her clothes, revealing a white Team Rocket uniform underneath and indeed confirming her true identity. "I could say the same for you, Cassidy! And what in Arceus's name is with that motto?!"

"Yeah!" James added as he too tore off his disguise with gusto. "You're still using that uncreative motto from way back in Sinnoh! Did you really exhaust your creative reserves so much that you're sticking to old shtick, Hutch?!"

"FOR THE LAST FRIGGING TIME!" Butch snapped, his left eyelid twitching nastily. "IT'S BUTCH, NOT HUTCH!" Then, he calmed down and cleared his throat. "And for your information, Cassidy and I have been quite happy with our motto for years now. ...Why?" He wagged his eyebrow craftily. "Are you three changing your motto every other day? If there's one thing worse than exhausting creative reserves, it's being sooooo desperate for relevancy that-"

"Yer one ta talk 'bout relevancy!" Meowth interrupted, being the last of the three to tear off his costume. "Ya punks are yesterday's news! In fact, yer more dan yesterday's news, yer last year's news!"

There was a familiar popping noise, and a Wobbuffet hopped out from behind Jessie.

"WOOOOOBBUFFET!" he cried while saluting.

"EXCUSE ME?!" screeched Cassidy, startling everyone else, friend and foe alike. "JESSIE, YOU NEED TO KEEP A LEASH ON YOUR PATHETIC LITTLE KITTY!"

"Pathetic little-?!" Jessie spluttered. Then, her lips curled into a derisive sneer. "You know, I noticed you didn't have your stinky weak rat with you for your motto."

"Yeah!" added James. "Or your lame turtle!"

"KEEP RATICATE AND SHUCKLE OUTTA THIS!" Cassidy and Butch hollered at the same time.

"Uhhhhhhhh..." Goh said, looking back and forth between the two bickering duos with utter perplexity. "What's going on here...?"

"Ah, nothing," Ash replied while nostalgically observing the argument. "Just Team Rocket's usual routine."

"Pika pika," Pikachu squeaked in agreement.

"That's considered usual...?" Chloe asked with stunned astonishment.

"It doesn't matter what's happening here," Baraz whispered. "We can use their distraction to our advan-"

"Ahem!"

Petrel's voice echoed through the stadium, nearly blowing out the large, elaborate speaker systems in the process. All of those in the stadium, Team Rocket agents included, yelled and almost covered their ears from the earsplitting noise.

"Jessie and James, Cassidy and Mulch-"

"IT'S BUTCH, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!"

"I appreciate this...lovely reunion between old rivals..." the Team Rocket lieutenant said sardonically, "but need I remind you there is an operation underway as we speak?"

"Yes, Petrel sir!" Cassidy and Butch cried while saluting.

"W-We apologize, Petrel sir!" Jessie, James, and Meowth shouted while taking on stiff, straight poses.

"Goooood. I love it when we all come to a mutual agreement. Now then, unless you have more insults to get off your chests..." The Team Rocket lieutenant pointed in the direction of Ash, Goh, Sheena, Baraz, and Raihan. "Seize the target! He's one of the keys we need to acquire the guardians!"

"On it, sir!" Cassidy and Butch replied loyally.

"No!" Jessie, James, and Meowth snapped at the same time. "WE'RE on it!"

Cassidy and Butch promptly produced Poké Balls from their pockets and threw them into the air. The devices opened up, summoning a Raticate, Houndoom, and Shuckle with flashes of light. This action was mirrored by the grunts under their supervision, all of whom threw their own Poké Balls and called out a variety of Pokémon, ranging in the dozens. As soon as they did, Cassidy reached into her other pocket and pulled out a metallic bracelet that bore some sort of marble-like object.

"Eat your heart out, Jessie," the blonde woman hissed triumphantly.

Cassidy quickly put on the bracelet and raised it high in the air, allowing the sunlight to reflect off the marble-like object's surface. In that moment, Ash realized it wasn't any sort of marble, but rather, a Key Stone. Then, the Pallet Town native focused on the Houndoom Cassidy summoned and saw it had a Mega Stone attached to the blood-red, metallic collar it was wearing around its neck.

"HOUNDOOM!" Cassidy hollered at the top of her lungs. "MEGA EVOLVE!"

The Dark Pokémon was instantly enveloped in a sphere of light, and everyone watched with shock as its outline grew and changed in shape. In just a few seconds, the light disappeared in a flash that resembled a double-helix symbol, revealing Houndoom in its Mega Evolved form. Mega Houndoom narrowed its feral, scarlet eyes at its opponents and let out a loud, bloodcurdling howl.

"HEY!" Jessie cried with disbelief. "Where'd you get THAT?!"

"Let's just say it's a new part of my work perks," Cassidy replied with a mocking wink.

Before Jessie could go on a hateful tirade, she, James, and Meowth overheard a familiar squawk. Looking up, they saw a Pelipper flying towards them from the direction of the vessel, all while carrying a familiar contraption in its stubby feet.

"Ah, the Rocket Prize Master!" Jessie cried.

"And on record time too!" added James.

"Over here, Pelipper!" called Meowth, waving frantically at the approaching Water Bird Pokémon.

With a second squawk of acknowledgment, Pelipper dropped the capsule toy vending machine in front of Jessie, James, and Meowth. Acting quickly, Meowth removed his charm coin and inserted it into the machine, while James grabbed the crank and turned it as quickly as he could. To the trio's surprise, the Rocket Prize Master shot five different Poké Balls at Jessie, and then another five at James.

"Whoa, whoa, what's this?!" James exclaimed, staring at the Rocket Prize Master with incredulity. "D-Did I turn that thing too hard?!"

"Oh, who cares, James?!" Jessie snapped. "The darn toy's already spoken, so let's do it!"

With that, the two Team Rocket agents threw the ten Poké Balls into the air with a collective "GO!" A mere split-second later, they and Meowth were surprised by the Pokémon that emerged from them: from Jessie's Poké Balls came Seviper, Yanmega, Woobat, Frillish, and Gourgeist; while Mime Jr., Carnivine, Yamask, Amoonguss, and Inkay came from James's.

"Whaaaaat?!" Meowth exclaimed with delight.

"My baaaaabiiiiies!" Jessie cried shrilly.

"WOOOOOBBUFFET!" Wobbuffet greeted while saluting happily.

"Ohhhhh, come over here, my children!" James shouted with his arms wide open. "Come to Daddy!"

CRUNCH!

Whereas Mime Jr., Yamask, Amoonguss, and Inkay flew right into James's arms, nearly knocking him over, Carnivine had wrapped its vine-like arms around its Trainer's torso...and chomped down on his head with its massive mouth filled with spiky teeth.

"GAAAAAH!" screamed James. "CARNIVINE, I LOVE YOU TOO, BUT LET GO! LET GO! WE'VE GOT WORK TO DO!"

Once James pried the Bug Catcher Pokémon off his head, Jessie and James's former Pokémon joined Meowth, Wobbuffet, and the rest of Team Rocket's Pokémon. Together, they faced Ash, Goh, Chloe, Sheena, Baraz, and Raihan, all of whom quickly took defensive poses.

"I don't think so!" Raihan shouted while his Flygon howled threateningly. The Hammerlocke Gym Leader pulled out three other Poké Balls and threw them. "Come on out, everyone!"

The Poké Balls opened up, unleashing Duraludon and two other Pokémon: a Gigalith and a Sandaconda. Ash's and Goh's eyes widened simultaneously at the astounding sight of Raihan's full Pokémon team.

"Whoa, who're those Pokémon?" Ash whispered to himself. He first aimed the Rotom Phone at Sandaconda, whereupon the device activated itself.

"Sandaconda, the Sand Snake Pokémon, and the evolved form of Silicobra. When it contracts its body, over 220 pounds of sand sprays from its nose. If it ever runs out of sand, it becomes disheartened."

Meanwhile, Goh had focused his Rotom Phone on Gigalith. "Gigalith, the Compressed Pokémon, the evolved form of Boldore, and the final evolved form of Roggenrola. Although their energy blasts can blow away a dump truck, they have a limitation—they can only be fired when the sun is out."

"HA HA HA HA!" Cassidy cackled, catching the boys' attention. "Ahhhhhhh, do you really think your Pokémon are enough to dissuade us?! Team Rocket never backs down from its goal!"

"Step aside, chump," snarled Butch, glaring daggers at Raihan and his Flygon, "or be prepared for real trouble!" Then, he sneered at the Hammerlocke Gym Leader. "Or are ya daring enough to face our might alone?"

"He's not alone!" Baraz hollered while procuring three Poké Balls. "GO!"

He threw the Poké Balls, unleashing a Braviary, a Solrock, and an Aurorus that Ash was unable to recognize. These three Pokémon joined Raihan's team and faced down Team Rocket's own Pokémon.

However, Jessie sneered mockingly at Raihan's and Baraz's numbers. "Oh, really? Six Pokémon against our two dozen or so?"

"Not to mention the technology of our Rocket Frigate?" Cassidy interjected while pointing a finger to the sky.

Ash, Goh, Chloe, Sheena, Baraz, and Raihan looked up; and within moments, they all saw dozens and dozens of cannons emerging from the vessel's undercarriage. Each individual barrel aimed itself directly at Ash's group, prompting the other civilians loitering in the stands to start screaming and fleeing again.

"I suggest you surrender now," Petrel said with a triumphant smirk. "Just hand over the boy, and no one in this stadium gets hurt-"

"Oh, I don't think so!" Raihan interrupted valiantly. "I am not surrendering anyone to the likes of you! And just because you've got all this manpower and firepower, it doesn't mean you've got the upper hand! After all..."

At Raihan's words, Motostoke Stadium started to rumble louder and louder. Ash, Goh, Sheena, Baraz, and Team Rocket had to steady themselves so they wouldn't fall over. Then, Ash was the first to see it.

Kabu's Centiskorch growing to a tremendous size, eventually becoming so long and so tall that its draconic body nearly occupied the entire space of the battlefield. Down below, Kabu was observing the entire exchange with a hardened face.

"Why have numbers and weapons when you've got spirit and resolve?!" Raihan completed.

The Gigantamaxed Centiskorch let out a loud, bloodcurdling screech that rocked all of Motostoke Stadium, mere seconds before the cannons opened fire on it. At that cue, Team Rocket's horde of Pokémon charged at Ash's group, a move that was returned in kind.

Ash, Goh, and Chloe watched, completely dumbstruck as the two opposing forces collided and engaged one another in a heated, chaotic battle. As for Kabu's Gigantamaxed Centiskorch, it gave another roar as it bravely took on the raining fire from the so-called Rocket Frigate. It also tried to retaliate with Fire-type attacks, but they all wound up being harmlessly absorbed by a force-field enveloping the futuristic vessel.

Upon seeing how fiercely Raihan and Baraz battled Team Rocket, Ash stepped forward, with Pikachu's cheeks sparkling in preparation.

"We'll help too!" he cried with determination.

"Pika!" Pikachu cried.

But just as Ash was about to reach for one of his Poké Balls, Baraz stopped him with a raised hand.

"NO!" The turban-wearing man glanced at the worried Sheena. "Sheena, you've gotta take Ash, Goh, and Chloe over to the portal!"

Baraz looked somberly at Hoopa's ring, which was now several yards away and being obstructed by Team Rocket. Then, he scanned the entire circle surrounding the battlefield, and he quickly got an idea.

"We're not gonna get through them now, not with the kind of Pokémon that they have, so you have to take the long way around!" He looked at Ash, Goh, and Chloe again, his expression one of urgency. "Go, now! Raihan and I will cover you!"

"But Baraz!" protested Ash.

"Pika!" Pikachu squeaked with concern.

"I said go! You're needed elsewhere, Ash! Go, go!"

Sheena nodded and took Ash's hand so she could guide him away. As for Goh, he instinctively took Chloe's hand, the girl faintly blushing on instinct as they followed Ash and Sheena's heels. As the quartet moved along, Ash and Pikachu could only look back and watch helplessly as Raihan's and Baraz's Pokémon engaged Team Rocket's horde in battle, with highly mixed results. Upon seeing their bounty fleeing from their grasp, Team Rocket and their horde of Pokémon attempted to break through Raihan and Baraz's defensive wall, but with little success.

"Sheena!" Ash cried as he ran alongside the woman. "We can't just run away from this! We should help them!"

"But you heard that Baraz guy!" Goh replied, looking at his friend with concern. "You're needed elsewhere! Besides, isn't Raihan supposed to be one of the strongest Trainers out there?! I'm pretty sure he can handle those goons just fine!"

"Cinder, cinderace!" Cinderace added in agreement.

"But-"

"Ash!" Chloe interrupted forcefully. "They have a Mega Evolved Pokémon, and we don't! This looks like a fight we should be running away from!"

But Ash suddenly did not feel as confident in Raihan's chances as Goh and Chlo were. Nevertheless, the Pallet Town boy continued running along the circumference of the rail overlooking the Motostoke Stadium battlefield with his friends and Sheena. As he passed one of the stadium screens, the Pallet Town native looked up, just in time to see Petrel's agitated face as he monitored their movements closely.

"Ohhh, you're not getting away that easily!" the Team Rocket lieutenant snapped.

With that, the cannons underneath the Rocket Frigate aimed themselves at the fleeing trio and fired a barrage of electric lasers. But they were about a mile away from reaching their intended targets when Centiskorch intercepted them with a Gigantamax-powered Flamethrower, which reduced them into nothingness. The cannons fired again, but Centiskorch did the same thing, incinerating the lasers with Fire Blast this time.

Upon seeing this, Petrel yowled indecipherably and grabbed huge tufts of his purple hair in distress. "Jessie and James! Cassidy and Crutch! Go after that kid, or the Boss will have all our heads!"

"Roger, Petrel sir!" Jessie, James, Meowth, and Cassidy replied at the same time.

"For the last frigging time!" Butch howled. "It's BUTCH!"

Cassidy and Butch rocketed towards the fleeing Ash, Goh, Chloe, and Sheena, with Raticate and Shuckle hopping aboard their jetpacks. As for Jessie, James, and Meowth, they went after their targets on foot, followed by all of their Pokémon, along with Cassidy's Mega Houndoom.

"STOP!" Baraz hollered, being the first to notice. "Braviary, use-!"

But he didn't have time to shout a command, for a grunt's Muk pounced on time of him. It then tried crawling over him, threatening to smother him underneath its body of sludge, forcing Braviary to intervene with a barrage of Drill Pecks.

Meanwhile, as they continued sprinting, Ash, Goh, and Chloe looked over their shoulders as soon as they heard Butch's shouting. They immediately saw the Team Rocket agents pursuing them, their Pokémon ready to strike.

"Sheena!" Ash cried.

Sheena winced, struggling to go as fast as she could with her bulging belly. Then, she mustered the strength to look over her own shoulder, whereupon she saw Jessie, James, Cassidy, and Butch coming as well. The Michina Town native looked towards Kabu's Centiskorch next, only to find it preoccupied with the Rocket Frigate's cannon fire. Finally, she glanced at Hoopa's ring, but she saw that it was still a long ways to go before the trio could even reach it.

"Seviper!" Jessie hollered. "Use Poison Tail!"

"Raticate!" Cassidy called. "Use Super Fang!"

With a loud hiss, Seviper hurled itself at Ash, Goh, Chloe, and Sheena at an alarming speed, the dagger-like tip of its tail glowing a sickly purple. As for Raticate, it leaped off of Cassidy's jetpack with its mouth wide open and its two front teeth bared; the teeth promptly started glowing and growing longer. Both Pokémon were about to reach their intended targets within split-seconds-

"Grapploct, use Liquidation."

Two tentacles, enveloped in veils of bright-blue water, slammed into the approaching Seviper and Raticate, knocking both Pokémon over the railing. Seviper quickly saved itself by wrapping its tail around one of the railing's poles, but Raticate was forced to sink its teeth into its colleague's scaly hide, earning an agonizing shriek from the Fang Snake Pokémon.

"SEVIPER, NO!" Jessie wailed.

"RATICATE!" cried Cassidy.

As for James, Butch, Meowth, and the rest of their Pokémon, they stopped and looked around.

"Who did that?!" James hollered.

"Who dares challenge the might of Butch and Cassidy?!" Butch growled savagely.

Then, a voice commanded coolly, "Hitmontop, use Gyro Ball. Hawlucha, use Flying Press. Pangoro, use Hammer Arm."

A Hitmontop spun down the nearest stairs on its head, striking Wobbuffet, Carnivine, and Amoonguss. A Hawlucha dove in from above, its outline glowing a whitish-orange color, and slashed through Yanmega, Woobat, Gourgeist, Yamask, and Inkay. And finally, a Pangoro stampeded through the Motostoke Stadium seats, and powerfully punched Frillish, Mime Jr., Shuckle, and Houndoom with a massive, glowing arm.

"MY BELOVEEEEED!" James shrieked as he dove forward to catch the airborne Mime Jr.

"HEY!" barked Butch. "Sneak attacks are totally unfair!"

"Yeah!" Meowth added, his claws now elongated and gleaming from the stadium lights. "Dat's usually our job!"

Upon overhearing this sudden development, Ash stopped, turned, and looked around for his savior. It didn't take long for him to find her, especially since Hitmontop, Hawlucha, and Pangoro were returning to her.

Standing rows of seats away from Team Rocket was a girl his age, with gray hair, cool gray eyes, and tan skin. She was barefoot and wore black-and-white sports-themed clothing with the orange insignia of a clenched fist on her chest, along with a recognizable black-and-orange bow on her head. Despite the gravity of the situation, her expression was calm and collected, robotic even.

BEA

"Bea!" Ash cried with delight.

"Pika!" Pikachu squeaked.

Goh, Chloe, Cinderace, Yamper, Eevee, and Sheena all stopped and turned at the sound of Ash's voice. Goh's and Chloe's eyes widened with surprise at the sight of Bea defending them, while Sheena kept her worried eyes on Ash.

"Ash, come on!" she yelled. "We mustn't stop!"

However, Ash kept staring incredulously at Bea, who remained focused on the task at hand. She calmly pointed at Team Rocket, and her Grapploct, Hitmontop, Hawlucha, and Pangoro hurled themselves at the enemy Pokémon again. Then, as soon as she was sure her opponents were occupied, the tan-skinned girl turned her head toward Ash's direction.

"Don't stand there like an idiot," she said, her calm, blunt voice reaching Ash through the chaotic noises of the clashing. "They're here for you, aren't they? Well, run. I'll distract them."

Ash felt compelled to refuse, to stay and help her, but his thoughts were interrupted by a hand clasping itself around his wrist. He turned his head and was met with Goh's blue eyes.

"Come ON, Ash!" he pleaded. "We can't just stay here!"

But Ash couldn't take it anymore. He tore away from Goh's grasp and started running towards Team Rocket, all the while ignoring Goh's, Chloe's, and Sheena's cries for him to stop. Time slowed to a crawl as the Pallet Town native procured his own Poké Balls and threw them into the air.

"COME ON OUT, EVERYONE!" he hollered at the top of his lungs.

There were five simultaneous flashes of brilliant light, and before long, Dragonite, Gengar, Lucario, Galarian Farfetch'd, and Dracovish were standing in front of him, each settling into their own defensive postures. Finally, Pikachu hopped off of Ash's shoulder and joined his friends on the fray, his red cheeks sparkling with electricity. Cassidy and Butch saw this, smirked maliciously, and trained their sights on Ash and his Pokémon; while Jessie, James, Meowth, and their Pokémon kept Bea and her team occupied.

"Sooooo," Cassidy remarked, "it looks like the famous Ash Ketchum has finally decided to fight back."

"Glad to see you're no longer running away like a coward, Ash," added Butch.

Ash gritted his teeth with affirmation. "So...you guys are after me, aren't you?"

"Who'd ya think we were after, kiddo?! That lame hat of yours?!" Butch cackled for a moment. "You're wasting your time, jumping in at the last minute like a frigging hero."

"If you surrender peacefully," Cassidy continued, "then I can assure you that Team Rocket will not lay a finger on any of your friends."

"In all the years that I've known you guys," Ash snarled while clenching his fists, "you and your organization have spelled nothing but trouble for people and Pokémon!" Memories of all his encounters with the Team Rocket organization at large flashed through his mind, eliciting anger from deep within his heart. "Even if it's me you want, I know you don't have the best intentions in mind! So, I am not gonna run away from you guys any longer! Not when I still have an opportunity to protect Pokémon!"

"And in all the times that we've come across you, you and your friends have been nothing but thorns in our side!" Then, Cassidy shrugged callously. "But, if you insist on fighting, then a fight's what you're gonna get, kid." She pointed at Ash's Pokémon. "Show them no mercy, Houndoom! Use Inferno!"

The Mega Evolved Houndoom fired a gigantic, powerful stream of light-blue fire from its mouth. It headed for Ash's team at high speeds, singeing the closest seats and heating up the adjacent metal railing quite considerably.

"Dodge it, you guys!" Ash ordered.

He and all six of his Pokémon dove out of the way and landed on the nearby staircase. The Inferno hit the ground they had just been standing on, causing it to explode in flames. Wiping off a film of dust caking his cheek, Ash looked up and saw Houndoom leaping over the burning inferno and towards him, its teeth now engulfed in flames-

"Cinderace!" a familiar voice cried. "Use Blaze Kick!"

Goh's Cinderace appeared, spinning in midair, and kicked Houndoom away with great force with its large, fiery feet. The Dark Pokémon crashed into some seats but leaped back up on its feet, completely unaffected by the surprise move. As for Cinderace, he landed in front of Ash and Pikachu, while Goh, Chloe, Cinderace, Yamper, Eevee, and Sheena ran up to them.

"You wanna get to him?!" Goh shouted. "Then you're gonna have to get through me first!"

"A-And me too!" Chloe added.

"Cind!" Cinderace growled.

"Ee-vui, ee-vui!" barked Eevee.

"BAK BAK BAK!" Yamper barked even louder.

"If you insist!" Cassidy called in a singsong voice. "Raticate?"

Raticate leaped out from the seats, having apparently climbed back onto the stadium while everyone else wasn't looking. Its body was surrounded by golden streaks, and its head appeared to be straining against the sound barrier.

"Lucario, use Aura Sphere!" Ash ordered quickly.

Lucario jumped into the air and put its palms together, creating a glowing, light-blue sphere of energy in-between them. After a couple of seconds, it roared and launched the sphere at the incoming Raticate, striking it and knocking it away.

"Shuckle!" Butch hollered. "Get on it! Use Sludge Bomb!"

"Use Inferno again, Houndoom!" commanded Cassidy.

Gritting his teeth, Goh took out five Poké Balls and stood beside Ash. "If you're gonna be a reckless idiot as usual, Ash," he said, his lips curling into a joking smirk, "then I might as well be a reckless idiot with you! Everyone, let's go!"

He threw his Poké Balls into the air, summoning Sobble, Pinsir, Darmanitan, Golurk, and Farfetch'd. Darmanitan used its Overheat attack to intercept Houndoom's Inferno, keeping it at bay long enough until the Dark Pokémon tired out. As for Shuckle, Golurk simply got between its Sludge Bomb and Goh, allowing the Poison-type move to harmlessly splash itself all over its metal hide.

Then, Goh's Pokémon, along with Chloe's Yamper and Eevee, all joined Pikachu, Cinderace, Dragonite, Gengar, Lucario, Dracovish, and Ash's own Farfetch'd. Together, the fourteen faced Cassidy's Raticate and Mega Houndoom, and Butch's Shuckle. At the same time, Bea and her own Pokémon collectively backed themselves towards Ash, Goh, their Pokémon, and Sheena, matching Jessie and James's Pokémon with ease.

"You didn't run for it?" Bea calmly asked as soon as her back bumped into Ash's.

"How could I, Bea?" Ash replied while keeping his auburn eyes trained on Cassidy and Butch. "I just couldn't stand by in a situation like this. Especially since I'm the person they want."

"So you would feel responsible if you departed Motostoke Stadium and Raihan and I were defeated right afterwards." Bea slowly blinked in acknowledgment. "How predictable of you."

Ash narrowed his eyes at the approaching Jessie, James, Cassidy, and Butch. "Look, I'm not backing down from this. I'm fighting, and no one's gonna stop me."

"Well, if you're fighting," Goh replied, "then I might as well fight with you! Gotta keep you from doing something stupid, anyway!"

Chloe looked at Goh incredulously for a split-second before stammering, "S-Sa-Same here! Y-Yo-You two are my re-resp-responsibility, anyway!"

Ash looked at Sheena. "Sheena-"

"If you're going to fight them, Ash," interrupted the Michina Town native, "then I will not stop you. In fact..." She pulled out a Poké Ball and threw it, summoning a Sigilyph. "I will do everything within my power to ensure your success!"

"You pathetic kids are signing your own death warrants!" Cassidy snapped as she procured an extra Poké Ball and threw it, summoning a Sableye that joined her Houndoom's side.

"Team Rocket ain't EVER gonna stand down to the likes of you!" added Butch. He too produced an extra Poké Ball of his own and threw it, summoning a Hitmonlee.

"You think you can stop the might of Team Rocket?!" Petrel's voice boomed. "Jessie, James, Cassidy, Dutch, do us proud!"

"Roger, sir!" Jessie, James, and Cassidy hollered.

"IT'S FRIGGING BUTCH!" Butch screamed, his voice cracking in the process.

The quartet's Pokémon charged, with Meowth in the lead, his Fury Swipes ready. Ash, Goh, Chloe, Bea, and Sheena all braced themselves for the collision.

"Give them everything you've got, everyone!" Ash yelled.

"Everyone, let's GOOOOO!" Goh cried.

"Stick close to Goh's Pokémon, Yamper, Eevee!" advised a hesitant Chloe.

"Don't hold back," Bea said calmly, her cold eyes narrowed.

"Sigilyph, use Psychic!" ordered Sheena, her finger pointed at the incoming Seviper.

Ash's, Goh's, Chloe's, Bea's, and Sheena's Pokémon charged at once, their signature attacks ready to go. Team Rocket's Pokémon did the same, and both teams quickly closed in on one another, ready for the fight of their lives...


The Captain's Table, Hulbury

All across Galar, news of the strange ship's abrupt arrival over Motostoke and Team Rocket's takeover of the stadium had reached all of the region's news stations. The live broadcast, once following a formal battle between Raihan and Kabu for a renowned competition, continued streaming the events as they unfolded and cascaded into something even more dire, while tens of millions watched, dumbstruck.

The Captain's Table seafood restaurant in Hulbury was not exempt from this development. Inside, the customers had all stopped eating, the waiters and waitresses had stopped taking orders, and even the kitchen was at a standstill, leaving some food to be overcooked and water to boil over the abandoned pots. Everyone's eyes were glued to the TV screen on the central column, or otherwise their Rotom Phones and other electronic devices. A grave, almost haunting silence had quickly fallen upon the interior of the once-vibrant restaurant.

Then, the silence was suddenly broken by the loud grinding of a chair's legs. Everyone's eyes tore away from the screen on instinct and focused on Sonia, who had shot up from her chair with an expression of resolve.

"S-Sonia...?" Nessa asked hesitantly. "Wh-What's up...?"

"Those boys," Sonia hissed quietly, her eyes still glued to the screen like attracted magnets. "I...I know them..."

"Those boys?" Nessa glanced at the TV set and then back at her friend. "Y-You mean the boys standing up to those Team Frocket guys or whatever they were called?"

"Who else?!" With that, Sonia quickly gathered her purse and put her coat on. "I'm sorry, Ness, but I gotta go."

Nessa shot up from her chair too. "Wait, what?! Don't tell me you're gonna go over there and join in that chaos!"

"Motostoke's not far from Hulbury. If I can catch a Flying Taxi, then I should be there in fifteen minutes tops."

"H-Hold on, wh-whhat're you even gonna do once you get there?!"

Sonia froze. "I...I don't really know. But I gotta do something, 'cause it's obvious Officer Jenny and the Motostoke Police Department are completely outmatched and outgunned, and Ash and Goh aren't gonna last long against those goons..." Resolving herself to her decision, the woman began walking out of the restaurant. "And I am not gonna let that happen. Not like last time."

"Like last time...?"

At that moment, Nessa felt a vibration in her pocket. Reaching inside, she realized it was her phone, and she pulled it out to check her messages. After a few seconds, her blue eyes widened slightly, before she pursed her lips tightly, gathered her own belongings, and rushed after Sonia, just as her friend managed to leave the Captain's Table.

"Well," Nessa said, "if you're gonna take those Team Moppet goons on, then you're gonna need backup."

Sonia didn't stop or turn around, but there was no mistaking the smile that appeared on her face. "Lemme guess, World Coronation Series?"

"Yep. It's all hands on deck at Motostoke Stadium." Nessa smiled as well. "Guess we're both gonna be busy today."

Sonia stopped and looked around the streets of Hulbury. Fortunately, it didn't take long for her to make out a Flying Taxi station, with a single Corviknight, flier, and taxicab waiting.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," the researcher replied.


Chapter 1:
PROPHECY

Yanma, the Clear Wing Pokémon. If it flaps its wings really fast, it can generate shock waves that will shatter windows in the area. Its large eyes can scan 360 degrees. It looks in all directions to seek out insects as its prey.

lvklgumuvfqqek,vamfrodafrnriqumuvzrimcfzgltfjeaicf.


Next Time:

Charlotte: The moment we all feared has arrived.

Meowth: I tink I'll be singin' a different tune DIS year!

Goh: CINDERACE!

Baraz: So what's the plan?!

Raihan: Well, well, well! You're early!

James: Well, guys, what's our dialogue for this script again?

Petrel: NOOOOO! THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING! NOT NOW!

Ash: I...I can't believe I got us into this mess...

BATTLE


A/N: And thus concludes this first official chapter to what I'm sure is going to be an exciting story! As you can see, s**t has hit the fan pretty hard and pretty fast, and it's no longer a question of whether Ash and his friends can defeat Team Rocket or not, but IF they can escape from Team Rocket's clutches. Whatever will happen to our heroes next? Find out in the next chapter!

And as for the purpose this so-called "Team Roster" section at the beginning of the chapter, well...use your imagination for now. ;D

Now, I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:

-Amourshipper35:

1) Indeed, this brand-new organization is a stand-in of Team Rainbow Rocket. But obviously, I'm not going to call them that, given how seriously I'm going to take the rest of this story. XP

2) Thanks! That prophecy was actually taken directly from another one of my stories, "Return of the Hero". I think it will be useful in this context as it was in the context of that other fic. ;)

-Kagayaki-sama:

1) Yes, it was. Quite a surprise, eh?

2) Well, it's a T-rated story. Plus the cursing is coming from the adult characters in the story, not the underage ones, so I'd say it's a bit appropriate in this case. Also, be advised, this story IS gonna get pretty dark as we go along. You seem to think this will be sparkles and rainbows for the most part, which it won't be.

3) Yep, for all intents and purposes, Team Rainbow Rocket has risen. As for Maxie and Archie's absences, well, those will be addressed later in the story, just in case you're not caught up on your anime lore and canon.

4) Yes, everyone is going to be in this story. And I mean EVERYONE. It'll be an Infinity War/Endgame-style bonanza.

5) There'll be lots of shippings. I'll just leave it at that. ;)

-ValorFennekin: No. "Judgment's Fall" is going to be in another universe of its own, totally separate from "The Way We Will Be".

-DarkVoid687:

1) Thanks! I'm glad you find this chapter to be a compelling hook for readers, new and old.

2) I already responded to that via PM.

-Maeph93: Thank you! But do you have anything specific that you wanted to comment on? Anything you liked about the chapter and the story so far? Anything you disliked? Any questions or comments that are nagging your mind? I need as much feedback as I can get for this project, please! :D

-KHfan98:

1) You'll see. ;)

2) Yes, as you can see here. But not all of them will be playing big roles.

-AF251298: One can only hope and pray. XP

-Guest reviewer: I have a predetermined updating schedule for this story, so don't you worry about it. Just keep your fingers crossed for the next update!

-ShalourTrainer: Thanks! I'm glad you're so hyped! But do you have anything specific that you wanted to comment on? Anything you liked about the chapter and the story so far? Anything you disliked? Any questions or comments that are nagging your mind? I need as much feedback as I can get for this project, please! :D

Well, hope you enjoyed this chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!

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