Finale: The Next Generation

-James' POV-

"Can't catch me!"

I panted as the little imp once again slipped straight through my reaching arms. Putting my hands on my knees, I tried catching my breath. Mom and Dad always say she's perfectly behaved. Are they lying, or does she just let loose with me? We were playing outside in the shallow snow of the driveway.

"Come on Uncle James! I'm right over here." I saw purple hair as the little five-year-old poked her head from around the corner and grinned cheekily.

I stood up again and said, "I'm your brother; shouldn't you just call me 'James'?"

She stuck her tongue out and said, "You're too old to be my brother!" I sulked at being unable to shake the nickname that my little sister gave me. While she giggled, she yelped as she was picked up from behind.

Carrie came out from behind the corner, holding little Madeline, and said, "Don't let your guard down from behind, little sis. I know James is far too easy to poke fun at, but you shouldn't get distracted during tag."

Madeline started to squirm, "Let me go!"

I chuckled at the scene before me, two of the people I most care about playing together. It had been, you guessed it, a little over five years since my last vision. Carrie and I married after three years of dating. Putting together our savings, we managed to make the down payment on a house in the city, and we still owe a bunch two years later. But we've been getting along well in paying what remains. I was promoted to a foreman a while back, so that helped. Three times a year, including around now on Christmas, I take a week or two off to visit my parents and my little sister Madeline. Carrie always comes along as well, coyly referring to it as practice for when we have our own kids.

Jessie is still a locally famous reporter, covering almost everything within the city and occasionally being sent to cover something outside of the city. Recently, she's had her eye on the anchor position ever since she caught wind of the current one being transferred in a couple of months. One time, Carrie asked if she ever planned on dating since she was fairly popular in the city. Jessie had claimed that she didn't need a man holding her back. Then again, she's only 27. Perhaps, given enough time, she'll find someone too.

My reminiscing was cut short as a snowball hit me in the face. Shaking it off, I looked at the two girls and Carrie pointed to Madeline, "She did it."

Madeline shook her head, "Nuh-uh! It was Auntie Carrie!" She pointed at the ground near Carrie's feet and there was a fresh grove from the snow being scooped out.

Carrie mock gasped and said, "Oh, I've been found out!"

Smiling, I scooped up my own snow into a snowball and started chasing Carrie, trying to aim. Right as I was winding up, a snowball hit me in the back of the head and I whipped around. Madeline had fresh snow on her gloves and said, "That one was me."

A free-for-all snowball fight broke out and we all laughed as we played in the snow.

-3rd Person POV-

"This is not a good idea."

"You already said that."

"Yeah, well, I'm saying it again. You might get off scot-free, since your dad's at least a little easygoing. But if my dad finds out, you know how he gets when he's worried."

Both of the young Pokémon shuddered as they recalled said father's "smiling threat" face. One of them shook it off and said, "Well, he won't find out. We'll be in and out of this dungeon before anybody even notices we're gone."

The Meditite was snapped out of his panic as he crossed his arms, "Barring the fact that both of my parents can literally read my mind, you know that several of our dads' team members could track us with very little effort. Don't even get me started on Uncle Vlad."

He stared down his friend as he tried to talk her out of her latest scheme. Sadly for him, his reasoning fell on deaf ears as the Skitty was already turning towards the dungeon entrance, adjusting a small bag tied to her side, "I did my research, Marshall; all of them are busy with missions today. Even the Team Renegade trio had to be called in from freelance exploring to take down a particularly nasty set of outlaws. Your mom was off exploring a newly discovered area with her team, all that left was my mom. I told her that we were going out to play. We're covered for at least two hours."

Growling in frustration, Marshall ran ahead and stepped in front of her path, "We. Are. Not. Even. A registered team! What makes you think going into a mystery dungeon is all right?! What if we get lost? How do you think our parents would react if they had to rescue us, Ruth?"

Ruth tilted her head, seeming a little insulted, "What, do you think I'm some sort of airhead?" She gestured with her head towards the bag at her side, "You think I'm hauling this bag around for fun?" Tugging at the knot of the drawstring, Ruth opened the bag and there were Apples, Oran Berries, a couple of Max Elixirs, a few seeds, and an Escape Orb.

Marshall looked at the bag in surprise as the Skitty huffed, "My dad is the lead strategist of one of, if not the most famous of exploration teams. He's tutored me on how use items since I could first battle. You might have strength, but I have strategy. Together, we make a pair like our fathers before us. But we'll never get stronger if we don't take some risks."

Marshall was trying to grasp for something to argue against Ruth's sound logic, but she pressed her advantage, "Besides, don't you remember Damus talking about this dungeon last week? He said it had 'horribly disappointing' enemies. We'll be fine, and I've prepared for the worst in case we won't be. Worst we'll get is a few scratches, which can easily be passed as a session of play-battling."

The young Meditite slumped as he could find nothing to say. He sighed, resigned to the fact that his friend could persuade anyone on paper. The best he could do was to go along with it to reduce the chances of her getting hurt. At least he'd be able to put the abilities from his parents' sparring practices, both physical and mental, to the test.

Nodding and turning around to face Star Cave, he said, "Fine, but I would've preferred the Beach Cave."

The pair went into the cave and soon, they were met with an Anorith and a Poliwag. Marshall was nervous about a Bug-type, but he used Confusion on the Poliwag while Ruth kept the Anorith busy, dodging his scratches and taunting him as she used Tail Whip.

Pushing through a Bubble attack, he finished off the Poliwag as Ruth took down the Anorith with a Tackle attack, since his defense had been lowered. As they left the unconscious Pokémon, Ruth said, "See? Nothing to worry about; we didn't even need to use any items."

That was how the rest of the trek through Star Cave went. The two friends marveled at the sight of the crystals on the wall as they reached the lower levels. When they encountered a Bronzong, they were forced to retreat as they fought. Neither had really good moves for taking down the Steel/Psychic-type. Eventually, with a Blast Seed, a Bide attack, and an Oran Berry afterwards, they were able to take it down.

Marshall panted as he tried to get his energy back from the Bide attack with the Oran Berry, "Still think this was a good idea?"

Ruth seemed to be thinking, "Hmm, maybe I miscalculated with Damus' typing and the power difference. Oh well, we're already this low, let's keep going to Jirachi's original resting place, then we can turn back."

Once the two friends reached the last set of stairs, they heard voices as they went down. They looked at each other. Jirachi had said that nobody should be here since he'd left. Was he back and seeing someone about a wish? Didn't sound like it.

Ruth just slid her paw over her mouth in a "zip it" motion and pointed forward twice. Marshall nodded and they both tip-toed to the mouth of the room.

A female voice said, "I'm telling you; we're not safe here! The police can track us, and now we're just in a large dead-end."

A male voice spoke back, "And I'm telling you that it'll be fine. Nobody's come here for years since Jirachi left. The police will never suspect that we'd hide out here. Heck, maybe we'll be able to mug some guys that haven't heard Jirachi's gone, and they'll be here for a wish."

Peeking in, Ruth saw a Nincada and a male Nidoran milling about in the center of the room. She turned back to Marshall and whispered, "We need to stop them. If other Pokémon really do come by, they'll be in danger!"

"Are you kidding me?!" Marshall whispered back, "I was fine with this, to an extent, when it was just exploring, but these are outlaws. This isn't something that we can deal with; we have to call the police or tell our parents."

"They might be long gone before anybody can get here, we have to stop them now," Ruth argued. "Listen, there's a Nincada and a Nidoran. We can take them; you get the Nidoran, and I'll take the Nincada." Before Marshall could say anything, Ruth said, "Ready? Good; now go!"

She shouted the last part and charged into the room, catching the two outlaws by surprise. Ruth used Fake Out on the Nincada first, but the surprise wore off and Nidoran started using Double Kick, but Marshall growled in frustration as he ran into the room and used Confusion to knock the Pokémon off course.

Marshall arrived at Ruth's side as the enemy Pokémon started getting up, "I swear; one day, you'll be the death of me."

The Nincada fumed, "You've got a lot of nerve, girl, blindsiding me like that!"

The Nidoran got back up and shook off his fatigue, "Let's take 'em down!"

Each of the opponents tried going for the ones they had advantage over, but Ruth rolled across the ground and Marshall jumped over her, reversing their positions and meeting the opponents in battle.

As Ruth did battle with the Nincada, trying to use Sing, Marshall did his best to stay one step ahead of his opponent. He tried to finish off the Nidoran while he was using Focus Energy, but he failed, and his horn glowed as he readied Peck.

Marshall panicked for a moment, but then a sudden rush of clarity came to him, and, unseen by the Meditite, his eyes started glowing green.

Receiving a vision of where, exactly, the Nidoran would attack with Peck, he moved aside and used Confusion to finish off his opponent.

At the same time that Marshall's battle was wrapping up, the two female combatants were wearing each other down, the Nincada from injury and Ruth from exhaustion. Taking an Oran Berry, Ruth was suddenly under attack with a Fury Swipes from the Nincada. She tried dodging back, but two of them got her.

But after the attack was over, she smiled impishly, "Nice move; think I'll borrow it."

Her body glowed with a white aura, and she rushed forward using Fury Swipes with the help of Copycat. The assault finished off the Nincada and the two enemy Pokémon dropped at the same time.

The two friends looked at each other and Marshall threw his hands up in celebration, "We did it!"

"Yeah, ya did."

Both of them froze at the sound of the voice, and the ground at the back of the room broke apart, revealing a hole. A Persian climbed out, shaking the dirt off of his fur.

Ruth laughed nervously, "Hehehe… Hi, dad…"

"We are so, so dead…" Marshall muttered darkly.

Meowth looked at them and said, "Relax, you're not in trouble. I planned this. See, I wanted the two of yous ta be an exploration team someday, but ta do dat, ya gotta be ready. So, I set up dis little thing ta test ya."

Ruth stuttered, "But- But you couldn't have possibly known that we'd pick this place."

Sitting down, Meowth chuckled and put a hand on his chest, "Ya think I don't know my own daughter? I just had da recruits talkin' 'bout particular things at particular times, an' I knew ya'd put it all together ta do an exploration. I knew ya wouldn't do anythin' 'less ya had a plan. You bein' able ta take da pieces an' put 'em together was part o' your test, Ruth."

Marshall said, "So… everybody was in on this…?"

"It makes sense," Ruth said as she shook her head, "I can't believe I didn't suspect anything when everybody on Team Righteous was suddenly busy with missions today. But… the outlaws…?"

Meowth waved his paw, "They were just two new recruits dat I asked for a favor. The only way ya woulda been in danger is if ya didn't fight as a team or got careless."

Marshall slumped as he said, "Everybody was in on this…"

Meowth said, "Ya kiddin'? Everybody wanted ta hear if da next generation could measure up ta da leaders." He looked up to the ceiling and pointed, "Hardest part was gettin' him ta agree ta dis."

Ruth looked up as Marshall just froze in place and started sweating as he figured out exactly who "he" was.

Far above, from the stalactites, a figure dropped down to the ground, landing on the ground next to Meowth. Rio rolled his shoulders from hanging up there since he sensed the two's aura coming.

Marshall shook like a leaf. He wasn't afraid of his father per se. Rio was simply very protective of his family and did not take kindly to them putting themselves in danger. Usually a swift grounding was enforced whenever Marshall was out too late. Marshall tried to calm himself; rationally, since all of this was planned, he shouldn't get in trouble for it.

Rio got to one knee and put a hand on his son's shoulder, "I was watching your fight, you've gotten a lot stronger, and you even learned Detect. That's amazing! Perhaps you and Ruth are ready to start your own exploration team."

Marshall sighed in relief.

"Of course…"

Marshall's sigh of relief immediately crawled back to die in his throat.

Rio smiled, "Now that you can dodge attacks with Detect, your mother and I will be training you to sync up your visions with what's really happening. I'm sure real attacks will help to make the training more authentic."

Marshall's head dropped to look at the ground, dread pooling in his stomach. What had he been thinking with "rationally"? This was his father he was talking about.

Meowth said, "Rio, lay off the poor kid. He looks like he's writing his will."

"I'm just discussing training," Rio replied innocently. He stood up again, "In any case, you've earned my approval, Marshall. You and Ruth may go to Wigglytuff's Guild to join as apprentices any time you wish."

Ruth spoke up, "How about tomorrow?"

Marshall nodded; if he was going to go through training hell, then he might as well join the guild. If anything, his parents' training would make the guild's training seem like nothing.

"But tonight," Meowth said, "we go ta Spinda Café!"

Rio nodded and picked up the two unconscious recruits and held up his badge along with Meowth's as the six Pokémon were warped out of the dungeon.

It's finally over. After fifty-one chapters, it's over. I would like to thank everyone who reviewed my story, those that stayed patient with me during unexpected dry spells (whether from workload or lack of inspiration), and I want to let everyone know that this isn't the last you'll hear from me. I already have two more fanfictions in mind, and my brain has been buzzing with ideas for them. I'm going to put up a poll, and I would like to know what you would like for me to write first. Please understand that I am terrible at multitasking and prefer to focus on one story at a time unless I'm writing a one-shot on the side, such as Mask of Valor. That way, I can concentrate on brainstorming for one story, and one story alone.

Story 1:

For the Mission, a Pokémon fanfic

It is another AU story based off of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers, but I plan to make it more focused on the main story, I don't plan to write any of the post-game, and there will be one key difference. The difference being that the Pokémon from the future will have his memories of the future. How will this affect the events of the story?

Story 2:

The Sum of His Parts, a Mario fanfic

It was a very special day, until Bowser made his appearance with several old faces from the Mario Bros. past. As the bros make their way to safety with Peach, Luigi is attacked and someone else takes over. Someone that he's tried to keep suppressed ever since he woke up after the adventure on Pi'ilio Island. With Mr. L awake, on top of everything else, what will become of the Mushroom Kingdom?

Special thanks for Antex-the Legendary Zoroark, Seas and Shadows, PsychicEevee0103, Anthony627AA, handymanshipper, and Kiri Kaitou Clover for sticking with me as reviewers from the last story.

*Edit* The poll is now closed and these are the results:

For the Mission: 5

The Sum of His Parts: 0



Really? Fine, whatever, I guess it's unanimous. The first chapter will be posted later today.

-AJ 203