Lol. I've had this chapter written for about three years. I'm not even kidding. I don't know why I keep refusing to post the chapters I have stockpiled at this point. That being said, I edited a COUPLE things here and there to "update" my writing style, but I definitely didn't change the entire thing. If I start picking it apart too much I will never post it, and a couple people told me they reread TtS in the summer, so I felt like being nice!

Chapter 28: Cosmic Energy

"I still can't believe you didn't catch that slugma," Brendan said, casting a look at May, who was busy hovering over Demi.

In order to make her training slightly more difficult, she'd taken to alternating one member of her party out to walk with her at all times. That pokemon was then to battle any challengers May received, regardless of type or skill matchups. It was currently Demi's turn, which had resulted in them having to slow their pace a bit. The marill kept darting around, excitedly sniffing berry trees or sticking her paws into sketchy holes in the cliff sides.

Brendan's comment about the slugma briefly distracted May from chasing after Demi. Instead, she was reminded of their recent time spent in the hellhole also known as the Fiery Path.

When Brendan had first explained to her how they'd be taking a path straight through an active volcano, May had officially thought he'd lost it. She just couldn't see how that could possibly be a safer option than the desert, which even she could tell was also a viable option to reach Fallarbor after scrolling through her map.

"Anything's better than that death trap," Brendan had insisted at once. "The Fiery Path's burning up, but at least people don't go missing in it every year."

As it turned out, burning up was an understatement. Once they'd located the small, cragged cavern in the side of the mountain, May's doubts didn't exactly evaporate. The air inside was all heavy, sweltering heat, and she had pools of sweat rolling down her back within minutes.

Hot clouds of steam constantly erupted from the ground, which left her on edge and thinking of the fact that lava could be running through the very walls of the cave. The steam sometimes mixed with more noxious gases (From both the volcano and the koffing lurking on the path, according to Brendan), making matters even worse. To avoid breathing in the fumes, May was forced to pull off her bandana and tie it across her nose, while Brendan resorted to holding his shirt collar over his face.

"Till bwedder van tha desart?" May asked at one point, but the effect of her sassy comment was ruined by the way the cloth of her bandana muffled her voice. She caught Brendan's amused eyes and glared at him, which of course then resulted in him smirking through his shirt. She couldn't see the smirk, but she knew.

And the universe was against her. She couldn't even find a fire type she liked; all she saw was one measly slugma, which regarded them apathetically before slithering away into the blistering depths.

I could've gone through the desert for my flygon instead, she thought, practically shaking with annoyance. Or an oncoming heatstroke. It could've been either one at that point.

After what felt like forever, a breeze had tickled May's skin, revealing the exit to be just up ahead. She'd picked up her pace exponentially, not even bothering to see if Brendan was following her lead. Her heart gave a thrilled little leap when she spotted the opening that would lead them to the dry grasses and evergreens of the outside world.

"Seriously, you've been going on and on about a fire type for weeks." Brendan's voice carried her back to the present, where he was staring at her, eyebrows raised.

"But I don't really want a slugma," May argued. They were fine, but she didn't think it would really be the right fit for her team. She knew Brendan didn't really think so either, and was just bringing it up for the sake of arguing.

Either way, she already had her hands full working on her current team, if their defeat against Vito was anything to go by.

Plus, with the prospect of a gible or a trapinch (if she could get past the fact that it reminded her of a bug) not too far away… She had a different pokemon in mind for her next team member, despite how badly she did want a fire type. She'd wait until they were finished in Fallarbor before breaking the news to Brendan.

"Maybe we can find something better on the way back," he suggested, shrugging. "A numel wouldn't be bad."

"Hopefully." Her fingers ran through her bangs as she thought over the matter, which only made her frown deepen. "Brendan, please tell me Fallarbor is close. I've never needed a shower so badly."

"It'll be a few more days before we get there. But you aren't wrong."

May froze, her hands still in her hair, to scowl at him. "You're one to talk! You could wring a gallon of sweat out of your stupid hat!"

"It's part of my manly appeal," he muttered, but his face twisted in disgust, as if he'd just realized how bad it truly was. May laughed; she could admit to herself that there were a lot of appealing things about Brendan's appearance, but sweat wasn't one of them.

"You'd give him a bath for me, wouldn't you, Demi?" May teased. Demi's head shot up, and her ears twitched eagerly. Brendan paled.

"Neptune would love to give you one," he reminded her, and her grin faded.

"Maybe some other time, Demi- Hey, what in the world..."

Brendan wasn't the only one that had clearly lost it. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was just that she had been around him for too long, but May saw it.

It was a snowflake. A snowflake in ninety-degree weather.

To her relief, Demi saw it too. The marill perked up, her mouth stretching into a wide grin. She darted forward and tilted her face upwards so that the snowflake could land on her tongue.

The blissful expression melted off of Demi's face at once. She cringed, horrified, and gagged like she was dying.

"Demi!" May exclaimed, but Brendan let out a loud snort of laughter. She scowled at him. "What's wrong with you?"

"That's ash from the volcano," he said, in a "duh" tone of voice.

May's eyebrows scrunched up, and she gazed with new perspective at the pathway. Mt. Chimney loomed as high and imposing as ever to their left, and sure enough, the thick grasses ahead seemed to be sprinkled with the gray substance. The trees were strange, bushy conifers with spiked leaves that she hadn't seen anywhere else in Hoenn. They were probably among the only plants equipped to survive in the heavy ash.

"Does ash not mean this thing could erupt?" May asked, gazing up towards the volcano's distant peak with wary eyes.

"It means Fallarbor isn't as far as I was thinking. C'mon."

"I smell like a smoker," May complained, two miserable days later. She sniffed the strap on her tank top for effect and wrinkled her nose. "A smoker who sweats a lot and hasn't showered in six months."

She coughed into her elbow. Despite the fact that they'd been out of the falling ash for over an hour by that point, it seemed to be permanently lining her lungs.

Hopefully, Wally planned to stay far away from Route 113, because it would not mesh well at all with his asthma.

Wherever he is, she reminded herself glumly. She'd kind of hoped that he'd contact her again and let her know how he was, but maybe he was too busy trying to stay under the radar.

"Stop complaining and help me find this address," Brendan said, squinting down at a text message from his father. "Of course there's a contest being held here this weekend, of all weekends…"

"Stop complaining and be glad we're finally here," May echoed, trying and failing to deepen her voice to sound like Brendan's. He rolled his eyes, but she didn't miss the twitch of his lips.

He was so happy she'd come with him, whether he'd ever admit it or not (But who was May to judge? She was pretty happy, too).

Brendan kept his attention on his primary mission: finding the address of a man named Professor Cozmo. According to him, he'd never met him, although he'd heard his father mention him once or twice. Apparently, he was a professor who worked from home, completely dependent on his own income, unlike Professor Birch, who was so important that he was funded directly by the Hoenn League.

Although Brendan seemed slightly skeptical, May had faith that Professor Birch wouldn't have sent his son all the way out here to listen to some nut job. He had to have found something, surely.

While her companion muttered under his breath and counted down address numbers, May welcomed the distraction that was the sights and sounds of Fallarbor Town. Brendan might have visited it before, but she hadn't.

It was one of the smaller towns they'd been to, but unlike Verdanturf, where everything was all smiles and flowers, the citizens of Fallarbor seemed different. They were as polite as anyone else in Hoenn, but their accents held a peculiar lilt, and their clothing was painfully simple, and as often as not, crusted with dust. She supposed it had a lot to do with the vast fields of wheat and corn surrounding the town, as well as the fact that its geographic isolation had forced the people there to operate almost independently of the rest of the region for generations.

The ground was curiously bare of grass, instead covered with rock and clay that had only the occasional sprig of green sprouting out of its cracks. It quite amazed May that Fallarbor's citizens had adopted a farming lifestyle, here, of all places.

There was a gleaming contest hall that loomed over the rustic wooden houses that covered the rest of the town, standing out rather like a sore thumb. Needless to say, it was just as easy to differentiate the visiting contest competitors from the locals.

Watching how the building was bustling with activity, May had the sneaking suspicion that if it weren't for the contest hall and possibly Meteor Falls, Fallarbor wouldn't even have made it onto the map.

She was in the middle of intently observing as a young coordinator brushed her marill (Whose pelt somehow managed to make Demi's vibrant one seem dull in comparison) when something else caught her eye.

"Hey, isn't that it?"

"N- oh. You're actually right." Brendan squinted down at his wad of paper, as if he couldn't believe May had found the address before him.

May rolled her eyes and yanked on his shirtsleeve. "Yes, actually. You better hurry. Professor Cozzy is probably tired of waiting for you!"

"Cozmo," Brendan corrected, running his hand over his face in exasperation. "I swear to Latias, if you embarrass me in front of a professor, even this weird space one…."

"Calm down. I'm just messing with you, doofus."

He was still muttering something under his breath that sounded distinctly along the lines of "…tired of your childish little pranks…" when he raised his fist to knock on the professor's door. May ignored him, observing the house. The was extremely plain, void of any noticeable décor apart from an expensive looking telescope set off to the corner on the porch. It definitely didn't have any of the potted berry plants that seemed popular amongst the other citizens.

"Oh, hello." The door swung open, and a middle-aged woman with an enormous mane of frizzy, red hair stood before them. She blinked down at them owlishly with chocolate eyes. "Would you happen to be Professor Birch's assistants? Thank Rayquaza. My husband has been driving me bonkers, waiting for you!"

"Sorry." Brendan coughed. "I'm Brendan Birch. His son."

Unlike many people, the woman showed no visible reaction to Brendan's identity, which made May wonder if maybe the Cozmos didn't really follow Hoenn League politics. "Oh, good-"

"Sarah, is he here? He's really here!"

A scrawny, spectacled man elbowed his way past Sarah. His skin was pasty and stretched thin over his face, indicating that he probably didn't see much sunlight, and his hair looked like it hadn't been combed for weeks. Sarah sighed and inched out of the doorway, as if this was nothing unusual.

Brendan exchanged a glance with May out of the corner of his eye, and she could practically hear him saying, I told you he's a space weirdo.

He cleared his throat. "Professor Cozmo?"

"That's an affirmative," the professor said, adjusting his glasses. "We must set out for Meteor Falls immediately."

"Aren't you guys going to wait until tomorrow?" May asked, her eyebrows drawing up in mild concern as she surveyed Brendan's appearance. His dark eyes were alert enough, but she was exhausted after their long expedition from Mauville. She knew he had to be, too.

Professor Cozmo's attention was on her in a flash.

"The future of science doesn't wait until tomorrow," he barked, looking outraged. "And neither do sponsors!"

"I thought you worked alone," Brendan said.

"Well, typically I do…" Professor Cozmo trailed off, looking like he'd actually rather still be working alone if he could afford it. "But this project was huge. I campaigned for support for months, and just when I'd accepted that no one would believe me, a willing party appeared… But regardless, Meteor Falls awaits."

May half expected Brendan to say no, but he said, "Alright. Might as well get started."

She knew he was excited about the prospect of making a new discovery about mega evolution's ties to space, but at the moment, she couldn't help but think he was also ready to get it over with. He still seemed highly skeptical as to whether Professor Cozmo's supposed discovery would be credible or not.

"You coming?"

May blinked, looking up at Brendan's expectant expression. She'd almost forgotten how much she'd blabbered on and on about seeing Meteor Falls.

Professor Cozmo shuffled disapprovingly. "Is she also a researcher?"

"I'm a trainer," May said flatly. She gave Brendan a half smile. "Nah, I'll just wait. I'm tired, plus I wouldn't want to get in the way."

"Oh, thanks," Brendan muttered, not sounding very thankful at all. May bit her lip to hide her amusement as the professor ushered him away, rambling something about meteorites and intense energy waves that needed to be identified.

"Would you like to come in?"

"Huh?" May asked, shaking her head and turning back to Sarah. Brendan and Professor Cosmo had just disappeared beneath a mass of tall corn stalks several meters away from the house.

"I asked if you'd like to come in."

"Oh, um. Actually, I should probably go ahead and book us a room in the Pokemon Center…. Don't want to get stuck camping again, you know…" May trailed off awkwardly. Sarah seemed nice and all, but she'd much rather be getting her pokemon checked up on or training than be stuck uncomfortably alone with the professor's wife.

Sarah's expression morphed into one that suggested May was insane. "The Pokemon Center is completely booked with coordinators. Haven't you heard? There's a contest this weekend."

"What do you mean it's completely booked?" May exclaimed, panic rising in her chest. No. No way. She needed a bed, and more importantly, she needed hot running water. She let out a loud groan. "You've gotta be kidding me."

"Don't worry about it," Sarah assured, giving her a pitying look. "Takao and I have a guest bedroom that you can stay in. Besides, now that his assistant's arrived, I'm sure he'll want to keep him close."

When Sarah finally managed to convince her that them staying would be no trouble, really (Which took less time than May was proud to admit), May couldn't help but picture how Brendan's face would twist with displeasure at the fact that he'd just been called Professor Cozmo's assistant. The thought made her grin to herself.

"It's a bit cramped…" Sarah said anxiously, as she guided May through their tiny home. It was clearly built for no more than two, and judging by the nervous line of Sarah's mouth, she got the feeling that the couple didn't receive many guests. "But it's just Takao, Nova, Solar, and I."

"Nova and Solar?"

"Oh, those are our pokemon. Solar's with my husband, but Nova should be hiding around here somewhere…. Here we are."

The spare bedroom was even more squished than those in the pokemon centers that May had stayed in, and it was decorated in faded shades of green. There was a slightly musty, unlived in scent lingering in the air, but not to the point that it seemed unsanitary.

Unfortunately, there was also only one teeny tiny twin sized bed crammed against the far wall.

Without meaning too, May's eyes widened, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by Sarah. "Oh! I'm so sorry! I guess one of you will have to sleep on the couch."

"Brendan will," May mumbled, blushing against her will as she tossed her backpack onto the bed. The mattress creaked with age.

Well, May thought. Anything beats camping again.

Hours later, May sat in the Cozmos' tiny dining room as her pokemon devoured their bowls of Pokechow. Her hair was pulled back into two Kalosian braids, still damp from her recent shower, and her belly was full with the warm vegetable soup that Sarah had prepared.

Brendan and the professor still hadn't returned from their outing, but Sarah was unconcerned, having long since reassured May that her husband was prone to staying out very late. Even if something were to happen, she knew that Brendan's team would be more than a match for any native pokemon, reluctance to battle or not.

May winced when Gunner belched loudly, sending a couple kibbles skittering across the kitchen tile.

"Gunner," May hissed. Soren snatched up the kibble with his clawed fingers and gave Gunner a withering golden glare. Ezra sighed, resigned to his fate of crazy team members.

"Trike, elec." Gunner popped his shoulder, his gaze landing on something at the entrance of the room.

Soren grumbled something to himself in disgust, and May couldn't helped but agree a bit when she saw what the cause of his distraction was. Sarah's spinda, Nova, was peering curiously at them, her large ears twitching. "Spin?"

"Tri, electrike, tri!"

May spied on Demi worriedly when she noticed that Gunner was going to make a show of chatting up Nova. He'd stopped flirting with Demi weeks ago, but she hoped her marill wouldn't be offended by his lack of consideration. Thankfully, Demi just grinned at Nova and continued chowing down in a happy bliss.

Despite her minor agitation over Gunner's showboating, May found herself watching Nova teeter around with a welling sense of longing. Her dad had a spinda…

"I hope Nova's not bugging you," Sarah said, appearing behind her pokemon. She had changed into a pair of footie pajamas with planets on them. "Wow, your team looks really powerful. You're an experienced trainer?"

"Not that experienced," May said, sitting up a bit straighter in her seat. After constantly hearing from Brendan (And more recently, Vito) about what a newbie she was, this was an entirely welcome change of pace. "And she's fine!"

She couldn't help but stare down at her team with pride. My team. They'd come such a long way, and they were definitely a special group to say the least.

She wouldn't trade them for the world.

The next thing she knew, something crashed ominously. May glanced around frantically, and to her horror, she spotted the fact that Demi's dish was now empty and the marill herself was nowhere to be found.

"Demi!" she cried, darting from her seat with dread. Oh dear Latios, please don't let it be expensive, please don't let it be expensive…

May found Demi on the other side of the room next to a table covered in various knick-knacks. She twiddled her paws, sheepishly glancing down at a deep sapphire figurine that she had no doubt knocked off the table.

"I'm so sorry," May said, reaching down to pick the object up. To her slight surprise, it was carved into a primitive shape out of smooth, cool wood, and it wasn't damaged. The longer she stared at it, the more familiar the curving lines and vague flipper shapes seemed to become. "Wait, is this-"

"Kyogre." Sarah nodded. "The Lord of the Seas."

Gently, Sarah took the little Kyogre carving and placed it next to a red one that May recognized as Groudon. Above them, there was a larger portrait of a great, serpentine shape soaring amongst the clouds.

She stared, her jaw falling limp, into the fierce, slit-like eyes of the creatures. "Does Professor Cozmo study legendaries, too?"

"Oh, no. These are mine."

Sarah shuffled under May's curious gaze. "My people—well, my great-grandmother's tribe—worship the Great Sky Dragon. You probably know him as Rayquaza. This is just my little tribute to them. They used to rule with the mightiest empire in Hoenn's history, you know. Meteor Falls was one of their sacred places."

May's memories flashed back to a deep, dark cavern in Dewford, where she'd fought for her life. Groudon and Kyogre had left an impact there, as well; both on the ancient inhabitants of the island, and unfortunately, on her. She'd never forget how Team Magma had dragged her with them to prevent her from getting in their way of finding that painting, suddenly turning something that had been nothing more than a childhood legend into a nightmare.

She didn't feel the same fear whirling in her gut when she looked at Rayquaza. It was more like… respect, along with a relentless desire to know more.

"Do you think he's really up there?

"The Draconids believe he's the savior of Hoenn," Sarah said. May didn't miss the fact that the woman avoided her question. It was almost as if she hadn't quite made up her mind on the matter. "According to their teachings, not only did he destroy a meteor hurtling towards the planet when called by the lore keeper, but he was also the only one able to quell the great clash between Kyogre and Groudon. Without him, Hoenn would've been left in ruins."

May remained frozen until she felt a soft hand grip her fingers. She started, only to find that Ezra had reached out to her. His face was etched in concern, and his bowl of Pokechow sat across the room, empty.

She shook her head and managed a reassuring smile in his direction.

The Draconids were a great, ancient people, but there was a reason her history teachers had told her they were nearly extinct. They were extremely eccentric, and impossibly rooted in their old ways. Most of them still insisted on living in caves, and in the prime of their great empire, they'd been said to make human sacrifices in Rayquaza's honor.

Their beliefs were just that. Stories.

"Hmph. This still doesn't appear to be the one picking up on my scanner…"

Professor Cozmo rolled a fist-sized rock around in his palm, frowning down at it. It was incredibly smooth, with strange, wave-like indentions in its midnight surface. Unfortunately, the scanner in his hand didn't show any reaction to it, instead continuing with the same persistent, steady beeping that it had maintained every day for the past two weeks.

They were always close, but not close enough.

If his equipment really works, Brendan couldn't help but think.

Clearly echoing her trainer's negative train of thoughts, Iris let out a snarl of displeasure from her place at his heels. Brendan ran a reassuring hand across her sturdy shell, and she quieted for the time being.

Iris was the only pokemon he'd been bringing with him on his expeditions to Meteor Falls. After the first day, he'd realized it unfair to keep all of his pokemon cooped up all day (For he surely couldn't let all of them loose during their research), and he'd since taken to leaving them with May to watch while she trained. They'd promised him that they wouldn't cause her trouble. So far, there had been no incidents, but he suspected that to be strongly due to Acumi's watchful eye (And the fact that he'd kept Iris, the only one who really disliked May, out of the bunch).

"No harm in having another meteorite to study, though," Cozmo said, slipping the small rock into the pocket of his lab coat. His stood, his eagerness at finding the true prize returning.

Brendan tugged on his beanie in frustration. Unlike Professor Cozmo, his impatience couldn't be sated by insignificant space rocks.

"Are you sure it's in this cavern? What if it's reading from the other side of the wall?"

Cozmo frowned down at his device. "It can't be… I've surveyed every crevice in this cave for the past decade. There's no other cavern there."

Brendan narrowed his eyes, glancing carefully around at his surroundings. From the strange, silvery dusting on the ground to the glittery stalactites hanging above them, Meteor Falls was an enigma, but one thing was for certain: there was no clear opening to another cavern near enough for the scanner to be getting such a high energy reading. It was nearly off the charts as it was. Any higher, and it would be impossible.

He met Iris's cold yellow gaze, and something clicked. Tracking her down in this cave had been one of the trickiest things he'd ever done. He'd had to scale waterfalls to find her.

His attention zeroed in on a dark pool of water dripping innocently a few yards away. What if… up isn't the only way the water leads?

Iris growled something at his feet, and Brendan knew she was aware of his idea. Judging by the positive lilt of her voice, she agreed that it was possible.

He yanked out his Pokenav, leaving Cozmo to forage around yet another pile of rocks all by himself. His fingers tapped on May's name.

Hey. Can you drop Neptune off with Sarah? I need him.

Thankfully, her reply was swift.

Sure. Any luck?

Not yet, he typed. May still hadn't made it out to Meteor Falls with them, instead opting to focus on preparing for her upcoming gym battle. She never said anything, but he could tell she was still down and out about her battle against Vito Winstrate.

Brendan kind of wanted to tell her that she really shouldn't be. In a few months, he had no doubt she'd be able to crush Vito, at the rate she was going. On second thought, he deleted his original line and replaced it with a hopeful, Maybe.

He debated how long it would be before she was able to crush him, hypothetically. If he were ever to actually battle her.

Good! she replied, and he rolled his eyes. He could practically hear the excitement in her voice. A few moments later, she sent a second message. Training ideas?

Brendan wondered when he should let her know that honestly, she didn't need him to coach her. She probably never had, but if he told her that, where would he be? Sitting back on the sidelines, with nothing to focus on other than how much his pokemon missed battling themselves. How much he missed battling.

He'd never admit it, but giving May tips had made him feel closer to himself than he'd felt in such a long time.

Going back to the basics is always good, he said. Taking a step back would be good for her confidence after battling Vito, and it would also give both her and her pokemon a breather. She'd been working incredibly hard, trying to advance their moves and teach them new things more than ever before. See you tonight.

Brendan flipped off his Pokenav. "Hey, Professor Cozmo? I've gotta go pick up one of my pokemon. I have an idea."

May took Brendan's advice about "going back to the basics" very much to heart.

"I think you're wasting too much time by spinning like that," she explained to Gunner a few hours after she'd delivered Neptune to Sarah, as per Brendan's request.

Much to her pokemon's moaning and groaning, she was having them all touch up on the best ways to fall after a heavy blow. Of course, she'd much prefer that they didn't get hit period, but if they were going to, they might as well make sure they took the least damage possible by hitting the best angles and getting up as swiftly as possible.

Grumbling, Gunner picked himself up and shook out his fur. It was streaked with dirt from being repeatedly dragged through the soil as he hit the ground. To his credit, he showed little signs of the sore muscles she knew he had to have by this point.

"Let's do it one more time," May decided.

"Elec, electrike…" Gunner complained.

Reluctantly, he stomped over to Orion, who cracked his claws gleefully (He still hadn't quite forgiven Gunner for stealing his pokepuff all those weeks ago). The rest of May's team along with Acumi and Knox watched with amusement from the sidelines. Soren, she noticed, possessed a particularly wide smirk—he'd performed the best in this exercise, just barely managing to beat out Ezra for the top spot.

Before Gunner had the chance to brace himself, Orion had surged forward with a rapid kick straight to the side. Gunner flew several feet through the air, his face contorted with discomfort even as he expertly maneuvered his body while in the air.

This time, he actually managed to move so that he landed flat on his feet, paws digging into the ground. He let out a proud puff of air, his fur sparkling with static as he did so.

May grinned, and she couldn't resist giving an excited little jump. "Yes! That's even better!"

They'd all been training extremely hard since arriving in Fallarbor, making up for some of the slack they'd had while she was busy just trying to make it through Route 111. Many of the locals had challenged her, some of them more than once, during her stay. None of them were looking to pursue training as a career, like she was, yet their pokemon were hardened and tough from working the fields with their trainers.

Two contests had been held in town since their arrival (The second of which was going to take place later that very day), and several of the competing coordinators had also eagerly accepted her offers to battle. Their style was flashy and more elegant than what she was used to, but she figured her team would benefit from experiencing as wide a range of opponents as possible.

May had kept her eyes peeled for a familiar shock of perfect aqua hair, but unfortunately, Lisia wasn't among the coordinators competing.

"Hmmm." She paused, thinking over what she wanted to work on next. Think of something simple… An idea struck her surprisingly quickly. It had helped her win her second gym badge, and she knew of two very powerful gym leaders who lived by it.

"Alright, guys. I need help finding a balance beam," May announced. It wouldn't be as good as surfing, but it was something they hadn't focused on much since leaving Dewford. Gunner, the last to join the team, had only worked with it a few times in passing.

She received only a couple of odd looks before the pokemon, even Brendan's, scampered off to assist with her request. A smile rose to her lips at the fact that his team was so willing to help.

They were starting to respect her more… They were really starting to see her as a capable trainer! May was extremely thrilled with that idea, considering who their trainer was.

She'd turned down two rock walls for being too thick (One found by Demi, the other by Acumi) when Soren beckoned them over to a fallen tree.

It was relatively thin, being only a few inches wide, but it seemed sturdy enough. Soren stood on it experimentally, and it didn't budge. He was the heaviest of her pokemon, so she knew there wouldn't be a problem.

"Perfect! You're going to all take turns going across this as fast as you can without wobbling or tripping at all." May nodded at her pokemon, who by now had all gathered around the tree with her. She noticed Gunner giving Soren the stink eye from across the trunk, and an idea hit her. "Whoever improves the most in an hour wins!"

By the time it hit four in the afternoon, Ezra had proven himself the superior pokemon on the balance beam (Much to Soren and Gunner's chagrin), and all of them were completely exhausted. May decided to take them for a healing session in the Pokemon Center before calling it a day.

There were only a couple of trainers lingering around the lobby when she got there, which didn't surprise May. The contest was set to begin in an hour or two, so all of the coordinators had flocked into the contest hall. Unfortunately, the center nurse also seemed to be absent, for the counter was vacated.

"Um…" May looked around, her forehead wrinkled in confusion.

After a moment, she spotted a group of Fallarbor residents, the center's nurse included, piled onto the lobby couch. The large TV screen was tuned into the contest's pre-event matchups and predictions, but they seemed to be distracted by the intense conversation they were having.

"—Barged right in here and demanded to know where the Cozmos lived," one old man was saying loudly. "I seen it with my own eyes!"

The nurse leaned in with worried blue eyes. "You don't think they're dangerous, do you? I've heard things about them on the news…"

"No!" Another lady shook her head vehemently. "They're not. They're environmental activists. That looney Professor Cozmo has probably been disturbing pokemon in the falls or something."

"A bunch of crazy punks, if you ask me," the first old man grumbled, baring all three of his teeth. He looked to the nurse. "You'd best not get involved with 'em, miss."

The nurse opened her mouth to say something else, but then her eyes met May's over the arm of the couch. She stood at once. "Oh! I'm so sorry. I'll be right with you."

"Just a healing session, please," May said, as she handed over her pokeballs to the nurse, leaving Brendan's safely tucked away in her backpack. A sinking feeling clung to her stomach. What she'd just heard sounded… Terribly familiar. "Um… I'm a friend of the Cozmos. Is everything okay?"

The woman blinked in surprise, and a blush blossomed across her cheeks, probably due to the fact that she had been caught gossiping. "Oh, I'm sure! It's just that an environmental group—Team Aqua, I think they're called—came by here a few minutes ago and said they needed to see the Cozmos immediately."

May's heartbeat picked up. They're looking for me, she realized, terrified. Sarah's there all by herself and they're going to hurt her because of me.

"I'm sure it's nothing," the nurse continued, oblivious to the fact that May's hands were trembling as she took back her pokeballs. "I just hope they don't scare Sarah. She's a sweet lady. A little odd though—Oh, we hope to see you again!"

The door clattered shut behind May, halfway drowning out the last of the nurse's sentence as she ran from the center.

AN: Sorry about the cliffhanger. My favorite way to end a chapter, clearly.

Just a heads up: If you've reviewed and I haven't replied to you like I used to, I still see you and I appreciate you!

No sneak peek for the next chapter this time, but I might post some eventually on my tumblr if y'all ask nicely.