Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Pokémon. Depending on how the next Pokémon game is, I may need to get a Nintendo Switch. Not that I would have any time to play anything. Those days where I could spend endless hours with a controller in my hands are long over, guys. It kind of sucks.

Chapter 29: Establishing Dominance

The victory at Team Rocket's Mahogany Town hideout was a fairly hollow one for many reasons, chief of which was the intervention of Dragon Master Lance, who had delivered crushing news to one Uzumaki Naruto.

The relief that Naruto felt at having Red return his Aerodactyl to him didn't lend much in the way of relief as far as Jiraiya was concerned. The rest of his wayward sensei's Pokémon were safely with Professor Oak in Pallet Town, but that didn't mean anything good in regards to Jiraiya's whereabouts and the Elite Four.

From what Red told him, Jiraiya had gone missing on Mt. Silver, leaving his Pokémon behind, and somewhere between then he fell in with the Elite Four. If it was true, why? Was he undercover or something? And if it wasn't true, what had happened to him?

Naruto kept silent, staring at the ground after taking in everything that he had been told and had heard from Lance. Janine and Red stayed respectively silent for their friend, but eventually, they had to talk about what was to come next.

"So... what do we do now?" Red said, asking the question present in all of their minds, "...Like, do you want to go find your teacher? Do you want to try and pick off more of Team Rocket?"

Janine offered her opinion, "I'd like to think we threw a pretty good wrench in their plans with what we did here," She reached out to take hold of Naruto's hand out of support, "Babyface, if you want to go looking for Mister Jiraiya, we can do it."

They didn't own anyone anything. They weren't the Kanto/Johto trans-regional police. But Naruto had something of a hero complex, and he didn't like leaving fights unfinished. Janine just figured she would float the option in front of him.

Speaking of what they'd done there...

"Where's the Gym Leader?" Naruto thought to ask aloud, "All of this stuff happened. I mean, between the Lake of Rage thing and the giant explosion in the middle of town, you'd think the guy would show up at some point," He stopped and blinked thoughtfully, "...It is a guy, isn't it? Is it sexist that I have to ask that?"

"I mean, do you really care?" Red asked.

"Well… not really, no," Naruto admitted.

Janine frowned and pulled up her Poké Gear, "We can call Erika. I know she knows. Or we can just drop in on the Gym. We are still in town."

Naruto wasn't particularly enthused to have to deal with the person they had just done all of the heavy lifting for, "The guy/girl/whoever wasn't even there the other day when we tried to warn him about Team Rocket. If they're this late to the dance where whoever it is hasn't come to us already, what the fuck are they doing?"

In the grand scheme of things, it didn't matter. But Naruto felt the need to talk to someone about what had happened, what they'd discovered, and maybe apologize for the exorbitant amount of property damage the Mahogany Town area had endured thanks to Team Rocket and Naruto/Janine's efforts to combat them. If the person running the show wouldn't show their face, however, to hell with them.

It really seemed like they couldn't go anywhere without something or another blowing up.


(Cerise Island)

The trip to Johto had been a good opportunity for Lance to stretch his legs, so to speak. As well as a chance for him to get a lay of the land. He had gone to tear into Team Rocket for their selfish, callous actions against Pokémon, but had found his work more or less already done for him.

Upon his return to the Elite Four's main base of operations, he sought Jiraiya out, finding him being tended to by Agatha, "How is our newest colleague Jiraiya doing?" He asked.

Jiraiya sat on the floor, four Ghastly floating around his head. One more emerged from inside of him, quickly replaced by one of its brethren that had previously been floating.

The old woman seemed vexed by her task of keeping the extremely dangerous man in a stupor, "His will is damnably strong. It takes a constant rotation of ghosts possessing him to keep him influenced, but things are stable."

"Good," Lance said, all smiles. Jiraiya was powerful. He didn't need Pokémon to be considered a severe threat. With him on their side, rounding out the ranks of the Elite Four, there wasn't anyone that could stop them, "Leave us. We need to have a word."

Agatha did as requested, and Lance sat on the floor along with the foreign shinobi. It took Jiraiya a moment, but after a quick red flash in his eyes, he seemed to register the world around him again, "Well, hey there, dragon man. Good to see you've returned. How was the trip?"

Despite controlling him, Lance seemed relaxed, as though he were speaking with an actual friend, "Oh, you know how it is out there. People are people – all the same. More interestingly, I met your charge while I was in Mahogany Town. Naruto,"

Jiraiya winced knowingly upon the reference to his student, "Oh, boy. How much trouble did he give you? Do you need me to go straighten him out?"

"No. That won't be necessary," Lance laughed, "He was... interesting. Not as interesting as yourself, but I can see bits of your teaching in him. Unfortunately, I don't believe he has what it takes to associate with our organization."

"The kid still has a lot to learn," Jiraiya said, in line with Lance's remarks, "But I wouldn't just ignore him. Naruto has a habit of finding his way into things you don't want him to."

"Hm. I guess I shouldn't have told him you were with the Elite Four then."

"...Probably not."

It didn't matter though. Jiraiya's boy might have known that his master was with the Elite Four, but he didn't know how to find him. Johto and Kanto were vast, and Naruto didn't have a clue where to start. Now was the time to begin putting Jiraiya's expertise to use.

"I have a task for you, my friend," Lance said, reaching out to put a hand on Jiraiya's shoulder, "You're a man accustomed to the strange and exotic, much like your last pupil, Minato. From what I've told you about the Legendary Beasts, do you think you can procure any of them for us?"

"Hm," Jiraiya seemed intrigued by the task, "Any idea on where to find one?"

"As a matter of fact, Bruno was able to dredge up a place to start for one of them," Lance said, handing over a note, "...Do you think you can do it?"

Jiraiya read the details of what he was given and stood up with a laugh, "Please. I was made for dealing with things like this. I'll be back before you ever even realize I was gone."

Of that, Lance had no doubt, having seen the man's capabilities firsthand, "If there's anyone that can manage this quickly, I know it's you."


Silver's entire body hurt as he woke up. The last thing he remembered was being blown up by the Electrodes Team Rocket were using to power their hideout, then limping out of town where Green found him.

'Green,' He thought in alarm as he quickly sat up and found himself handcuffed to the headboard of the bed he was in, "What the-?" He tried to pull at the cuffs a few more times only to find no give in them or the bed frame.

Drawn by the racket in the room, Green entered where she heard Silver fiddling with his bonds, "The second we got to the room, you hit the bed and were out cold," She explained, leaning against the door frame, "Naruto beat the crap out of you. I had to get you fixed up."

Silver scoffed at hearing Green say that Naruto beat the crap out of him, "So, you handcuff me to the bed?" He said sarcastically.

An apologetic shrug was Green's response, "I needed to make sure you didn't go anywhere. I could have posted my Granbull guard, but then you would have just started a battle when you woke up."

That was right. He had Pokémon. Silver felt around on his person frantically for his Poké Balls only to see them on a nightstand next to the bed, "Huh. I'm surprised you didn't take my Poké Balls away entirely."

Green took a seat near the bed, crossing her leg over her knee, "I thought about it, but I figured if I did that, you'd throw a bitch fit instead of listening to anything I had to say."

And what she had to say would obviously be about his current objectives and his means of going about achieving them, "I know what, I'm doing, Green," Silver said with an exasperated sigh.

"Do you? Do you really?" Green replied with very little patience in her tone, "Falling back in with Will and Karen? Are you out of your mind?" She had to fight to keep from raising her voice.

"I haven't had to interact with them more than once," Silver said. At least the upper brass in Team Rocket knew better than to press their luck by keeping him around Mask of Ice's top apprentices more than they needed to, "I haven't seen him yet at all," He said, speaking of the aforementioned masked man.

"It's just a matter of time," Green warned him.

"Maybe I want to see him."

"You and I both know that's the last thing either of us wants."

She was right. Despite the fact that Mask of Ice was the very last individual Silver wanted to see ever again, he would take that risk if he had to, "I'll kill Naruto and be gone before it ever even registers that I was with them," It would just prove to be a little more difficult than he had previously anticipated. Brute force by itself clearly wouldn't be enough, judging from their last encounter, "I just need to work out a real plan."

Green frowned and crossed her arms, "Stop talking about killing my friends."

"I just want to kill Uzumaki, not anyone else," Silver said, as though that would assuage her in some way, "I don't care about the Fuchsia City Gym Leader, or Red, or whoever else he has with him," As long as they stayed out of the way, that would be that.

"That's still a fucking problem!" Green snapped, before trying to rein in her temper again, "Look, I know Giovanni was your dad, but he was trying to kill us. He was hurting people. He held an entire city hostage, and he almost took over Kanto. He was not a good person."

"We're not good people," Silver asserted bluntly, "We are what we were made to be. Mask of Ice turned you into a schemer and a thief..." Green winced at the factually blunt mock-up of her character. Silver didn't consider those traits a bad thing at all, though. Green's conniving nature was what had eventually earned their freedom, "...And you know what I am. We are what we are, and we do what we have to do."

Doing what they had to do was how they had always lived. It was how Green had lived after they'd escaped their previous lives and split up, with him heading to Johto and her to Kanto. But she had seen what she could be. She had experienced in part what it could be to be a better person. She wanted to leave the dark part of her past behind her, with the exception of one person that she wanted to bring forward with her.

The only problem was that he didn't seem to be keen on coming with her.

"You don't have to fight Naruto," Green said quietly, 'God, that probably sounds like pleading. How lame.'

Silver didn't dismiss her outright. "For all I know, Giovanni probably was a piece of shit. I wouldn't know all that he got up to after I was taken. But all I remember are the good times," As little time as they'd had together before he had been taken away, "He was my dad, Green. And through all the hell that happened with Mask of Ice, thinking about life with my dad helped me hold on to something good."

And then, when he finally got free and started searching for the man, he found that he was dead. Killed at the hands of some foreigner from a place no one knew anything about. Everything that Silver had held onto, the only thing he could realistically think of as something better, and it was taken away just as he had gotten free. So, no, he didn't have to fight Naruto. Green was right about that. But with everything that had happened, he really wanted to.

Silver had gone for years doing what was told of him by Mask of Ice. Now, this was Silver' decision. Silver's choice. The first important choice he'd been able to make in as long as he could remember.

He was going to see it through to the end, consequences be damned.


(With Naruto – Route 42)

Much the same as before, to no surprise to Naruto and Janine, the Mahogany Town Gym Leader was nowhere to be found. There was nothing else any of them could do in town, so they left to head back west. With Kamisori back in Naruto's possession, that gave him and Janine a quicker method of travel, but they still took it slow. There was no rush, and they needed to know where they stood.

Between Team Rocket and now the Elite Four, there was plenty to deal with. They took the time to float down the river as they made their return to Ecruteak City.

"Does all of this really have to be happening now?" Janine asked as she sat with Naruto on the back of his Cloyster. Red rode alongside them on his Snorlax, "I mean, Team Rocket being jerks, the Elite Four running amok, Legendary Beasts, and psychic disturbances, and... ugh," She grew exasperated naming every bad thing taking place, "...We just came here for the tournament. This was supposed to be a vacation."

"Don't talk to me about getting sidetracked," Naruto said, sitting up front as Hogohei traversed the river, "This is happening in the middle of my training trip on a different continent. This 'vacation' that's been interrupted, I shouldn't even really be on it, because I should be training."

Janine threw her arms around Naruto's neck, pushing her face against his, "Babyface, we train every morning, not counting all of the battles we get into."

Naruto momentarily stammered, still unaccustomed to such affection, "S-Stop messing up my point with all of your facts!"

Red raised an eyebrow at the closeness of the two, "Did something change between you two?" Naruto and Janine had always had an interesting rapport, but they definitely seemed closer, "It just feels like something's different about you guys since the last time I saw you."

Janine blinked owlishly at Red recognizing their byplay before grinning widely, tightening her grip on Naruto, "Oh, you noticed? I gots me a man now!" She said proudly, though her face was still red. It had been the first time she'd openly acknowledged the new relationship to anyone, "In the end, Babyface just couldn't resist me. Can't blame him, really."

Naruto, also still red in the face at the 'public' display, rolled his eyes. He didn't, however, try to pry the girl off, "Yeah, who could resist a recovering kleptomaniac?" He joked.

"Hey, I resent that, mister," Janine said, playfully faking an angry expression, "I'm not recovering from anything. I just have better impulse control now. It comes with maturity."

Naruto was quick to rebut, "Yeah, and back when you didn't, you took something that got someone to try and blow us off of Sprout Tower and loot our corpses."

Red smiled at the two of them, completely lost as to what they were talking about, "Well, it seems like I'm a little out of the loop these days."

"Fu-fu-fu," Janine laughed eerily, "Many, many things have happened since Saffron City, Red."

"Speaking of Saffron City-," Red said, now feeling more apprehensive about sharing. He knew at least one of them wouldn't like what was coming next, "When we get to Ecruteak, you might see someone there that you don't have the fondest memories of."

There was only one name associated with Saffron City that Naruto knew of or cared about, and indeed, he didn't have the best track record personally with that particular individual.

Naruto had a grave look on his face, "No. Don't tell me Sabrina's here," Red just laughed nervously, and Naruto threw a fit in response, "Red! Come on! Why is she here? Why isn't she locked down in her gym under house arrest, or something? Actually, why is she still a Gym Leader?"

Janine shook her head and gave Naruto sympathetic pats on the chest, "I told you, there's almost nothing you can do that will get them to revoke Gym Leader status from you," Gym Leaders were remarkably hard to replace. Capable trainers who were that talented were a commodity that couldn't be measured. They had all seen why multiple times.

It still didn't sit well with Naruto that Sabrina was free to run around Johto. Even if she hadn't been a member of Team Rocket, even if she hadn't had a hand in the destruction of Cinnabar Island, she had gone into his head and nearly unleashed the Kyuubi.

Red tried to calm Naruto down. The last thing Ecruteak City needed was the two of them to fight again, "Janine was just talking about the psychic disturbances. Sabrina could feel them from Kanto, so she's here to check on them," Naruto didn't seem convinced, "Look, can you please just try not to kill her on-sight?"

"...I'll try," Naruto said unconvincingly.

Red noticed specifically that all Naruto guaranteed was that he would do his best – not that he wouldn't altogether.


(Later That Day – Ecruteak City)

Sabrina had gone long enough, traversing Ecruteak City with her 'tour guide', "Stop babysitting me," She demanded of Morty.

Aside from the standard Kanto vs. Johto feud that existed between Gym Leaders, there also existed the natural enmity psychics and ghosts had for each other. Like cats and dogs, they were.

Morty held Sabrina in no higher regard than she held him in, which was the main reason he stuck around so much, "I'm not about to let a known criminal have free reign over my city. Until I can pawn you off on a proper chaperone, you don't get to leave my sight."

Sabrina grumbled, wishing so much that she could melt Morty's brain and be done with it. Other than the fact that if she caused that much trouble, Erika would bring down the hammer on her, Morty's interactions with his ghosts gave him quite a bit of resistance against her psychic abilities.

Another reason to hate the man. Although, it looked like she wouldn't be saddled with him for long.

"Well-well," Sabrina said with a smirk as she saw Red approach, "It looks like you don't have to worry about watching me anymore, ghost-boy. Over here, champ!"

Red frowned as he headed her way, Janine and Naruto moving in step behind him. It was then that Sabrina noticed the tagalong duo. It had been a few months since she'd seen Janine, but Naruto... their paths hadn't crossed since he'd smashed her into the ground.

She thought about it a lot. There were times where she still felt the injuries she'd suffered in that battle. Sabrina wondered if she rented any space in Naruto's mind as well.

"Hello, Naruto," Sabrina purred smugly, feeling a rush when she saw him fix her with a baleful glare, "It's been quite some time, hasn't it? I've seen Janine here more recently than I've seen you. How have you been?"

Naruto was quick to respond with the most barbed statement he could manage, "I was good until a few hours ago when I found out I was probably gonna see you again."

"Mmm..." Sabrina hummed, looking at Naruto with a half-lidded smile, "Really made your day, did I?"

Naruto flat-out squinted at her, arms crossed over his chest, "Out of all of the Team Rocket bosses, why did you have to survive? I kinda liked Giovanni."

Sabrina laughed to herself and used her telekinesis to float off of the ground and over to the Kanto contingent, "I would say it's either because you're a bleeding-heart wimp, or you're carrying a torch for me," She landed right in front of Naruto, "Either one works for my needs."

Janine stepped between Naruto and Sabrina and swiped a hand in Sabrina's face to get her to step back, "Hey, keep your psychic brain-tendrils away from my man."

"Your man?" Sabrina reacted with surprise until noticing that Janine and Naruto were holding one another's hand, "Aww, isn't that adorable? Good for you!"

"Thank you!" Janine beamed.

"Still hate you," Naruto deadpanned, "Well, we didn't come back here for you," He moved past Sabrina and over to Morty who had been watching the entire time, "I need to talk to you. You're the only one I know who can tell me about something that happened."

It was at that moment that both Sabrina and Morty picked up on a powerful presence that had been surrounding Naruto's person. Sabrina had originally written it off as the odd power he'd used against her when they'd fought. But that wasn't it. It felt different. In fact, she could pinpoint it to one of the Poké Balls he had on his person.

"What do you have with you?" Sabrina asked, only to be ignored.

Naruto grabbed the Poké Ball containing his most recent capture and held it up, "You know those three Pokémon that were in the basement of Burned Tower?" Morty reached out to touch it, only for a jolt of electricity to catch his hand, "I... might have caught one."

Morty looked from the Poké Ball to Naruto as if he were gazing upon an alien in the flesh, "...You caught Raikou?" He said in disbelief.

Naruto scratched his own head sheepishly, "Uh, is that the electric one?"

The more time Morty had for what he was being told to sink in, the harder it was to believe it. The Legendary Beasts appearing before Naruto was one thing. For him to battle and capture one was something else entirely, "When!? Where!? How!?"

Naruto took a step back from the seemingly hysterical Gym Leader. Janine took it upon herself to provide the streamlined explanation, "It was a few days ago in Mt. Mortar. And as to the how, well... Babyface just kinda beat it," It was the best explanation she had.

Morty kept trying to wrap his head around the idea that one of his region's greatest myths was contained in a ball in front of his face, "I don't believe it."

"I'm not even skeptical," Sabrina said in a huff, "These kids fought the Legendary Birds in Kanto. They're stronger now than they were then, so I don't see why they couldn't go toe-to-toe with your beasts."

Morty took a breath to try and compose himself, "Sorry about that," He said in apology. He took comfort in feeling that he handled it better than Eusine would have had he been present, "Can you let it out? It's not every day someone tells you they caught Raikou."

He might have had a heart attack if he actually got to stand in front of it.

Naruto frowned, "That's the thing. I don't think I can control it if I let it go," He was surprised that he could even hold the Poké Ball without being shocked. That was a recent change, "I came to talk to you to see if you could help us figure something out."

Morty raised a skeptical eyebrow, "You think I know anything about controlling a Legendary Pokémon?"

Sabrina took the opportunity to chime in, "I know a thing or two about that."

"-Without using some weird mind-controlling device," Janine insisted. Aside from being entirely unethical, it backfired on Team Rocket spectacularly, "...Trying to keep it clean here so Raikou doesn't decide to zap Babyface the moment it gets the chance."

"Well, what other advice do you expect me to give you then?"

"No one asked you," Naruto said before focusing back on Morty, "If I can't guarantee that it won't try to kill me, I can't use it in a battle, and I can't even let it go."

Morty thought through his options before deciding on something that could have made a difference, "I can't help... but I know someone who might be able to. You're probably going to have a bad time though."


"Because he doesn't like that you saw Suicune, and he definitely won't like that you caught Raikou."


(Goldenrod City)

Silver left Green before she could realize he was gone. Fully recovered, he was not. Nor were his Pokémon. But if he stayed any longer, he wouldn't want to leave. He couldn't afford to get bogged down by sentiment now. There was still so much work to do.

Even with the new, powerful addition to his team, Silver still couldn't win against his enemy. Even using Team Rocket as a means to an end, he still couldn't defeat Uzumaki Naruto.

"Damn it..." Silver growled to himself as he limped through the streets of Goldenrod City. At least Green had taken him somewhere he could easily lose her. The city was so vast, he could have given her the slip with nothing more than a ten-second head start.

Whether it was because of his demeanor, or because no one wanted to know what he'd done to be left in the physical state he was in, people left him alone and kept their distance. Eventually, the parting crowds gave way to one woman who didn't move aside.

It was the last woman Silver wanted to see at the moment - Karen. He tensed up and prepared for a battle. In return, Karen just stood in place, smirking at him, "Silver... you don't want to fight right now."

"You wanna bet on that?" Silver seethed, slowly reaching for one of his Poke Balls. His Sneasel and his Murkrow were still healthy enough to fight.

Karen scoffed at the young redhead's defiance, "What good would fighting me do? You've been beaten. You're hurt. Your Pokémon are hurt. What do you think you can accomplish lashing out at me like this?" She chuckled at the sight of his condition, "A toothless Houndour has more bite than you do right now."

Silver didn't need her to tell him that. The stress of a battle would likely have him keel over, "I'm going to kill you, Karen..."

Karen rolled her eyes and walked around Silver in a circle, "Just like you're going to kill Uzumaki Naruto?" At the reminder of his second defeat, Silver lashed out with a punch that Karen caught in the palm of her hand, "I'm not your enemy. I actually came to help. Take this."

She forced Silver's hand open and placed a Poké Ball in it, "What is this supposed to be?"

"Something that will lead you to something stronger," Karen started cryptically, "It's an Unown. A herald for the Three Legendary Beasts. It can help you find them. If you get one of them for yourself... well, I'm sure you recognize what that could do for you."

Silver was skeptical that all of this assistance was coming out of the goodness of his fellow kidnapping victim's heart, "Why don't you just get it for yourself then? Seems like it's right up Team Rocket's alley. I'm sure Mask of Ice would love getting his hands on any of them."

Karen didn't bother denying that her cohorts could indeed use such firepower, "True. We could spend resources going after them, or we could simply outsource, seeing as how we know what you're going to do with it first," She said, leering at him knowingly, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend... friend."

They wanted Naruto dead as well. It had to have been for something that had happened before the Lake of Rage and Mahogany Town incidents, because they'd encouraged his pursuit of revenge.

"Why do you want me to kill Naruto?" Silver asked.

Karen scowled at the query, "Because he's a meddling little shit with a big mouth. Because the girl close to him has something we want and we don't feel like fighting two Gym Leaders to get it. Why? What does it matter to you?"

She was right. In the end, whatever Team Rocket's reasons for wanting to get rid of Naruto were, they meant nothing to him. If they were using him as the trigger man to go after someone he was going to go after anyway, they could use each other. Even if he loathed the rest of them just as much. In the end, their time would come as well.

Silver stared at the Poké Ball, containing the creature that would lead him to one of the legends of the region. His decision had been made - power over anything else. He could rebuild his morals once he had all of his obstacles removed, "...I know you have to realize... once I'm finished with Uzumaki, I'm coming for Mask of Ice. If the rest of you get in the way, I'll deal with you too."

Karen didn't seem very concerned with the guarantee of future violence against her, "I guess, when that time comes, we'll take whichever one of the beasts you capture off of your cooling corpse," She shot back, giving Silver a hard pat on the back that forced him to wince in pain, "Good talk! And tell Green I said hello!"

Those parting words prompted Silver to turn around in an attempt to find Karen in the crowd she went to vanish into.

If Karen, Will, or any of the other kids Mask of Ice kidnapped to be his toadies thought they were going to drag Green into anything and keep their heads, they were sorely mistaken. If any of them had the guts to approach her, he would be happy to show them what those guts looked like.

They were, after all, giving him every opportunity to improve and make that possibility more likely.


(With Naruto – Ecruteak City – Outside of Barrier Station to Bellchime Trail)

While Ecruteak City was a historic destination, the iconic attraction that most visitors wanted to see was kept off-limits. Tin Tower, otherwise known as Bell Tower was the last standing of the dual towers of the past. Now, only qualified individuals were allowed to so much as walk down the path leading there.

This was all recanted to the visiting Kanto trainers, and Naruto, by Morty as he led them to the person he thought Naruto needed to see.

"Then why are we going there if we can't even get in?" Naruto asked.

Morty chuckled before clarifying for Naruto's sake, "Oh, Eusine's not on the trail. He just likes the atmosphere outside. See?"

There was a classical, rustic charm that the lake surrounding three sides of the station building only enhanced. It was a very peaceful place. For someone like Sabrina, she could see why a person would naturally be drawn there. A lot of power resided in just the area surrounding the water.

True enough, it was where they found the magician-looking man Eusine, staring out at the water in deep thought. Whatever the subject of his contemplation was, it was interrupted when he noticed his friend calling out to him, "Oh, Morty," He noticed the Gym Leader wasn't alone, "And you've brought others."

"Eusine!" Morty said brightly, shaking hands with him upon getting within reach. He took the opportunity to introduce the others, "This is Red, the Pokémon League Champion from Kanto. And these are Gym Leaders from Kanto. Sabrina from Saffron City, Janine from Fuchsia City, and Naruto-."

Upon hearing Naruto's name, Eusine didn't even wait to hear the rest of the introduction, "I know. We've met before, back when I first overheard that you'd stumbled upon Suicune," He looked him up and down, "...I still don't get it."

The attention left Naruto slightly embarrassed, "I mean, I kinda saw all three of 'em," He semi-boasted with a wide grin, misreading the room, so to speak.

Eusine clenched his fists at his side. Time to think about what he'd learned back then only made it eat at him more. Just from appearances, he didn't seem to be special enough to warrant any kind of fateful meeting with ANY of the Legendary Beasts, let alone the one of the three that Eusine obsessed over. He hadn't been able to accept it from the moment he'd been told.

"I just don't understand how Suicune could have revealed itself to you," Eusine seethed, trying to keep his composure, "After 150 years, a boy who knows nothing of Johto's legends stumbled upon the Legendary Beasts."

By now, Naruto had obviously noticed that Eusine wasn't pleased, but didn't know quite how to massage the situation, "Trust me, I dunno either. Blame the Elite Four, I guess," Naruto said, remembering the attack on Ecruteak City that preceded everything, "Janine and Jasmine were there too, why aren't you pissed at them?"

Eusine spared a glance Janine's way before his stare locked back onto Naruto, "Because at least they're from here."

A distasteful look crossed Morty's face, "Xenophobia, Eusine? Really?"

"No. That's not it," Eusine muttered, not straying away from his point, "...It's just so vexing that someone who doesn't even understand the magnitude of what he's involved in is at the center of it," He said, "It was my dream to find Suicune. I've spent the last ten years of my life searching."

And just like that, before Naruto could even get angry about Eusine's attitude, he understood. In just a matter of weeks after stumbling into Johto blind, Naruto managed to find it without even meaning to. Of course Eusine was resentful. Who wouldn't be? Something he'd been working toward his entire life had been done by someone who'd put nowhere near the same time and effort into it.

"I'm sorry," Naruto said, surprising everyone around him, "There's something I want to do too. Something I'm gonna spend most of my life trying to reach. If someone else beat me to it, someone I knew didn't care about it, someone who I didn't think was as qualified, I'd feel the way you do."

Eusine met Naruto's eyes, trying to search for any mistruths or attempts to patronize him. He found none. Naruto had spoken from the heart. He'd meant every word.

"In the end, I suppose I can't hold it against you," Eusine said. He still wasn't happy, but in the end, it wasn't as though Naruto had slighted him, "It's not like you decided to look for them, and then found them within days."

Janine smirked, "He literally fell into a hole in Burned Tower and they were in a cave system under the building. He couldn't have 'not meant to find them' anymore than he already did."

"Not making me look good here," He remarked with a growl. His new girlfriend just grinned cheekily at him. "Anyway, I came because I need your advice on what to do about, you know, how to handle one of the legendaries. Morty says I caught Raikou, if that means anything to you."

It did mean something. It meant a lot, "You CAUGHT one!? He CAUGHT one!?" Eusine screeched, looking toward Morty, who simply nodded. Eusine's posture slumped in resignation, "Well... at least it wasn't Suicune."

Janine let out a sigh of relief for Naruto's sake, "Oh, thank God. I thought you were going to make him battle you to prove he was worthy or something," Naruto's mouth fell open for her giving Eusine the idea.

Eusine, to his credit, simply seemed confused, "Why would I think I could beat you? You're the Vermilion City Gym Leader and you just caught Raikou," He said, before taking a moment to consider the idea, "...I mean, do you think that would work though?"

"Eusine!" Morty said, admonishing the man.

"Right! Not important!" Eusine said, momentarily shaking off his obsession to give actual advice, "Ahem. I think at this point, all you have to do is go for it, Naruto. If it doesn't listen and it attacks... you beat it once before, didn't you?"

It made sense. None of them had any perfect answers, but logic dictated that Eusine's suggestion had merit, "I don't want to fight it again, though..." Naruto complained before deciding to bite the bullet, "Fine. Alright, but everyone better get back, 'cuz I'm not sure how this is gonna go."

By the time Naruto had reached for the corresponding Poké Ball at his belt, Sabrina had already moved to a safe distance, "You don't have to tell me twice," If she got front row seats to watch Naruto fry, she would call that a good day.

Eusine and Morty followed, with Red doing the same. Only Janine remained in place by Naruto's side. She gave his shoulder a squeeze of encouragement and a small smile. If Raikou was surly enough to want to battle again, she wasn't going anywhere.

That meant Naruto would have just as much support as the first time he fought Raikou. Janine was all the backup Naruto needed, "Alright, Raikou. Time to say hi!" He shouted, throwing the Poké Ball.

Instead of a flash of light, Raikou emerged in a shower of electric sparks. It towered nearly an entire foot over Naruto, which meant it was that much larger than Janine as well. Unlike Naruto, Janine had never gotten close enough to Raikou to see just how utterly massive it was.

Standing right behind Naruto, Janine's eyes went wide as she stared up at the legendary Pokémon, "Holy crap... and I thought Ranbouen was a big puppy..." She whispered, "Raikou's just as huge!"

Raikou stared down at the ninja pair with an intense gaze, a growl rumbling in its throat as the sun gleamed off of its two massive canine teeth.

Naruto cleared his throat and started speaking, "So, uh, like I said, hi. I'm Naruto, the guy who caught you," No reaction. He wondered how much Pokémon really understood humans, "I just wanted to make sure that we were cool, you know, seeing as how I beat you fair-and-square."

At that, Raikou growled louder and started giving off electricity.

Janine peered over Naruto's shoulder from behind him, wincing at the angry sounds, "Reminding it that you beat it up probably isn't the best idea to get on its good side."

"Well that's too damn bad. I won," Naruto said to her, only for Raikou to stick it's face directly into Naruto's as a challenge. Naruto temporarily forgot that he was dealing with a powerful creature, instead focusing on his achievement being discredited by the same being, "Hey! I did! You took a Rasengan to the face and went down. Then you wound up in my Poké Ball, and now you swing from my belt. That's my win!" He said, pushing his head up against Raikou's.

The others could only stand back and watch in amazement, "He's going to die," Sabrina said in pleased awe, "A legendary Pokémon is going to kill my worst enemy right in front of me," This was her favorite day in a long time.

Red shook his head in disbelief, "This is exactly how Lt. Surge went out."

Naruto and Raikou continued to butt heads until the Pokémon huffed in Naruto's face and backed away without conflict. No biting anyone's head off, no electrocuting anyone, nothing. Every spectator breathed a sigh of relief, other than Sabrina. She instead let out audible boos.

"So, we're cool?" Naruto asked Raikou, getting a snort and nod in return, 'Alright. I can work with that, I think. Not sure if I can get it to battle for me, but we'll see about that.'

Morty found himself along a similar path of thought, "If he can work with Raikou... I think I'll try to avoid drawing him during the Gym Leader Tournament," In the end, someone had to do it, but there were seven other Johto Gym Leaders who could take Naruto on instead, "...Has anyone else realized how ironic it is that the guy replacing Vermilion City's Gym Leader got the electric legendary?"


(Some Time Later)

Despite having a front-row seat to most of the weirdness going on in Johto, Naruto's mind wasn't with it. Lance's words from back at the Team Rocket hideout kept burrowing deeper and deeper into his mind. Knowing that there was something afoot that someone needed to deal with, he couldn't focus. Eventually, he just came out with it.

"I've... I've gotta go find my sensei," Naruto eventually decided after leaving Morty and Eusine behind, "What Lance said, that he's with the Elite Four. Just, no way. There's no way Ero-sennin would ever join them."

The question had been posed back in Mahogany Town on whether he would search for his teacher or continue with what he'd been doing – aka, the vacation that wasn't. Jiraiya said he would come and find Naruto when he felt like it, so he didn't want to step on Jiraiya's toes by fumbling around searching for him when he was in the middle of something, even if it was something asinine. But Jiraiya would understand when Naruto explained it to him. He just needed to find him.

"I found your Pokémon and his at Mt. Silver," Red said, "If you had to start somewhere, that's where I think you should go."

Naruto grunted in acknowledgment, "Yeah, you told me that. I have no idea where that is."

"East of us," Janine explained, "It's the mountain range that separates Johto and Kanto. Super-dangerous. It's off-limits to regular trainers."

Upon hearing that it was off-limits to the general population, Naruto's shoulders slumped, "Oh."

"I said off-limits to regular trainers," Janine said, bumping her hip with Naruto's to get him to perk back up, "The Champion and Gym Leaders are allowed to go. Gym Leaders like you."

Naruto's countenance quickly brightened, "Oh! Alright! Let's go then!"

"You have fun with that," Sabrina said sarcastically, getting everyone else's attention, "I don't care about your teacher. I came to find the source of all of the psychic disturbances in Johto."

"And then what?" Red asked out of honest curiosity.

Sabrina wasn't prepared for someone to question her intentions, "Huh?"

Red didn't let up, "You told me you were here for that. I remember that. But you never said anything about what you were going to do when you found it."

"D-Does it really matter?" Sabrina asked, trying to deflect.

Naruto and Janine looked at each other before the latter spoke up, "With a Johto branch of Team Rocket running around, and the Elite Four doing whatever the hell they're doing? Yeah, it does."

"What exactly do you think I'm going to do?" Sabrina asked.

Naruto shrugged, "I dunno. Last time you were left to do your own thing, you tried taking over Kanto."

Tired of receiving the third-degree from her former enemies, Sabrina snapped at them, "Look, I can feel this bullshit all the way from Saffron City. Every time something else happens, my head feels like it's going to split. I'm looking into it for my own peace of goddamn mind!"

Everyone went silent for a moment after Sabrina's explanation. It wasn't until Red had a moment to consider his options that anyone else spoke again, "Okay, looks like I'm with you then," He said.

"What?" Naruto and Janine said together as one confused unit.

Even Sabrina hadn't anticipated Red's declaration, "What?"

Red grinned at the reactions he received, "Yeah! I was getting kinda bored after winning the Pokémon League, you know? This seems way more interesting than just training by myself."

Sabrina didn't trust him, but having the Champion watching her back if the Elite Four, Johto's Team Rocket, and volatile legendary Pokémon were running around seemed like a decent idea, "Fine. Do whatever you want. But no matter what happens, I have to be back in Kanto for the Gym Leader Tournament."

Janine let out a laugh, "I'm sure if you don't start heading towards Indigo Plateau when Erika sends out the call to gather, she'll find a way to drag you there herself."

While the girls spoke, Naruto walked over and gave Red a pat on the back, "Make sure you be careful," "I know that battle in Saffron City was a while ago, but still."

Despite deciding to travel with a criminal who had a dangerous track record, Red seemed very easygoing about it, "Don't worry about me. I wasn't the one who beat her, so I don't think she has much of a problem with me," Unlike Naruto. Sabrina really seemed to be holding a grudge against him. If nothing else, the feeling was at least mutual, "Just worry about finding your teacher," Red continued, "Lance could be full of crap."

"I hope so," Naruto said, "...He has to be."

That's right, son! Go find your sensei! And ignore anything weird that he says or does when you do. That's... completely normal. He was like that when you left him. Yep. Totally normal.

Anyhow, been a while, eh?

Naruto and Raikou seem to have reached enough of an understanding where the latter won't try to channel a fatal amount of electricity through his body, and the former won't hit him with another big, honking Rasengan. That's an important step in any positive relationship.

Good. Naruto will need all of the firepower he can get for what's to come.

That's all I've got for you this time. I hope you enjoyed.

Kenchi out.