Hello! Well as you can tell from the chapter name, this is probably the one where those that need to fight take the stage and those that have the supporting roles need to lay back and let the hidden guardian take the stage. But who is it?

Don't worry, I'm not going to merely introduce a random OC at this point. To be honest, what with the planned ongoingness nature of the story, I'd say that this is the almost final chapter of this small arc with a Legendary. But don't take my word for that. I have no idea if the arc will finish at this point so all I can do is wait to see how the entire story rolls along right?

At any rate, I'd like to thank everyone that has continued to read and review this story, following it despite the slow updates. I try and go for at least once per month but with the length and other stuff that needs to be done, I think that you guys can wait for that long. Right?

.Right?

In the end, it's been a little over 4 months. I'm a bad person…

But seriously, thanks very much to everyone that follows and continues to read this. While this is merely the expression of an AU from the point of view from an amateur writer, I think that you guys are what makes it count. So thanks for contributing in your own little way.

And I hope you enjoy this chapter.

And watch out for the lack of…

Action! Romance! Suspense! Horror! Maybe a bit of song and dance!

Thanks very much and thank you for supporting this project by reading this far.

Mr Question Mark.


Virizion, the Legendary Pokémon and the Guardian of the Pinwheel Forest had been stripped of that title within the past few minutes. The last thing that had happened had merely been something cruel towards the very existence of the Pokémon itself.

The power that had sustained it when it was injured had been the only thing that had been capable of truly damaging the Pokémon itself. Was that security? Where was Virizion safe if that was the case in regards to its own power? Did it merely have too much of it? Or was it a question of the Pokémon itself holding a weapon that they did not understand?

That weapon seemed to hang in the air, a silent guillotine of that Pokémon that was a wordless threat towards those that hung too close.

Yet even though, it was two people and one Pokémon that were not enthralled by the discovering of the Pokémon in front of them; seeing the only thing that existed being that of nothing more than the appearance of an extra threat that they did not want.

Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town in the Kanto region knew that the Pokémon in front of him was nothing more than a sight to behold. On a normal occasion, seeing a Pokémon in that state would have made him rush over in hopes of trying to save it. This Pokémon was surely an ally however even if it had been an enemy, Ash was sure that he would have paused, if only for an instant to bask in its glory.

But Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town knew that that sight was something that was not going to last long if he did not act.

He looked frantically around within the previous few moments that he had before everything would erupt and saw the only thing that had been nothing more than the source of the problem from the very beginning.

And he wasted no time calling out his command.

"Pikachu! Use Electro Ball on the machine!" He pointed toward the machine itself, thinking fast as he tried to find some sort of cover while the others around him were surprised that he had taken to action so quickly.

His eyes passed by Liberty Knox who was already on the move towards the side that the two boys had already left yet Ash had no time to see what it was that he was doing, throwing his arms around Iris as he tackled her to the ground, the both of them falling and he hoped that everyone else had decided to take their example.

"Pika pika pika pika chu-pi!" Pikachu leapt into the air and swung its tail, with the new attack that it had learnt firing towards the machine that had gathered all of the aura within the area. All of Virizion's aura.

The attack collided with the machine, the mass of the Electro Ball meaning that before the electricity surged through it, it left a dent the size of a Kangaskhan's skull. At that imprint merely allowed the full force of the Electro Ball to take effect.

The electricity surged through it however even though it was a small touch of that electricity that passed through the machine that contacted with Virizion's aura, it proceeded to create a devastating effect.

A non-aura attack from a Pokémon that had an Extremely High aura level due to compounding. The natural aura of a Legendary Pokémon that had lived in the Forest and been granted its aura.

Calling the results small was like calling a Wailord a midget.

The machine exploded and the explosion of air that erupted from the machine itself due the negation threw people around like dolls, knocking the wind out of them as soon as they collided with some form of object. There was a cracking of trees that were the closest towards them and the sound of something smashing against the ground as those trees collapsed from the force of the Forest being negated.

Ash felt his entire body seemed to be lifted off from Iris's as dust, people, Pokémon and even the Jeep that had housed the machine itself flew above his head, Ash catching Pikachu with an outstretched arm as the Pokémon was blown back from the attack that it had launched itself.

Iris let out a scream from beneath Ash even as the explosion of air died down to which Ash merely rolled off her, looking at the destruction that had occurred within the space that had once been where the machine was.

The crater that was there was fairly large with Jeeps upturned and groans coming from everywhere around the area where there was a voice to let them out. Ash merely looked around at the destruction before turning his gaze towards where Virizion was, the Pokémon's position having being disturbed because of the fact that it had been moved from the explosion.

Its breathing looked weak and Ash immediately wanted to rush over however he turned towards the person that he had managed to shield.

"Iris. Iris! You need to get up!" He hoped that she would do so sooner, not only for her case, but also for Axew's that had surely retracted into her hair when all of the chaos had started after it had been freed.

Iris blinked once before turning towards the boy.

"Ash? What are you doing!?" she hissed. "That-that was crazy!" She managed to stand up, despite the fact that she was blushing slightly from the way that Ash had protected her body, and used her fury towards the actions of the boy to try and hide the action itself.

"That doesn't matter! We need to get-"

"It doesn't matter!? Is this a game to you?! You need to think-" She started to erupt into a rage, the aura that was flowing around her body reflective of that fact however the sudden appearance of an Aura Shield and the sight of a small, metal object striking it made both her and Ash look towards the direction that it had come from and the item itself.

Its small size meant that there was only one thing that it could really be.

"Stop getting distracted!" A voice shouted over the two of them and the both turned towards the location that it had come from, Burgh standing there with his hands outstretched, Leavanny doing the same thing as they looked anxiously towards the both of them.

"Lea!"

"That's right! Focus on the objective and get Virizion!"

Ash nodded towards the Gym Leader, noting that Cilan was moving slightly behind him with a groan, perhaps because of the fact that he had not managed to create an Aura Shield at the precise moment. Ash felt true sympathy and wanted to make sure that he was alright however as Burgh said, he had to take priority right now and-

"You damn braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaats!"

The shout came from one of the men that had been further back when it came towards the blast that Ash had sent towards the machine. He stood up with shaky legs, using one hand to reach for a Pokéball on his belt and the other to throw an Aura Fist towards the Shield that Burgh had created at the last minute.

The Pokéball burst open in a flash of light and the red Pokémon that stood in the appearing light merely swung its 'hands' as if ready to slice them through its opponent.

"Scizor!" cried the man. "Use Aura Metal Claw and get those kids!"

The Scizor wasted no time in leaping forward towards the Shield that Burgh had set up, at the same time receiving the Aura Fist that the man had launched towards the Shield itself. The Scizor's claws seemed to gain a metallic shine with a hint of blue as it slammed its claws into the Shield.

There was the sound of cracking glass, something that continued as the Shield pushed back the Scizor however the Pokémon was persistent, pushing back against the force that was purely there to obstruct it from getting its goal.

Ash and Iris stumbled back at the scene that was happening in front of them. Both of their minds going into overdrive towards trying to figure out what it was that they could do in order to counter the one Pokémon that was heading towards them-

There was an additional shout, and then another and then another. Those fallen poachers managed to stand despite their injuries that they had sustained, clear hate and malice in their eyes as they stared towards those that had stood up against them, even though their prize was weak and up for grabs. Their aura that circled around them reflected that fact and everyone that met their gaze seemed to shiver in response as the poachers threw forward weapons with ammunition, Pokéballs and Aura towards the one Shield that had been set up.

Both of those people that were up closest knew what was going to happen to it before it even did, both Ash and Iris managing to scramble back to where Burgh was before the entire Shield gave way, the sound of cracking glass filling the air as the Shield shattered under the strain of the attacks that had struck it.

Burgh let out a cry and fell to one knee, Cilan responding quickly as he used his aura to create an Aura Platform that lifted him up as he and the rest threw themselves behind the cover that had been created by Ash in the form of a fallen Jeep.

They all scrambled behind the cover and Ash grabbed a Pokéball on his side without a second thought and held it in his hand as it burst open in a flash of light. At the same moment, the sight of two Pokémon heading right around the corner made Iris let out a yell in surprise at the sight.

The Ninjask's wings hummed dangerously in the air but even then, their small claws that were reaching out towards the group were perhaps what made the scene all the more intimidating for those that were unused to seeing Pokémon used for the sole purpose to bring harm.

Yet, Ash Ketchum had already thought that far ahead.

"Tepig!" he called out to the Pokémon that had been formed from the open Pokéball. "Use Ember!"

The Pokémon that had immediately been let out to battle did not even have the time to catch its breath as it quickly summed up the situation that it found itself in without a hitch. It launched the flames from its snout that engulfed the surprised Pokémon.

Whether it was because of the mere surprise of the situation or simply because the Ninjask were weak, the results were the same. The flames covered them and they let out cries of pain and Ash merely let out his next command to follow up and end the exchange.

"Flame Charge and cover the gap!" he shouted.

"Te te te te te te Tepig!" Tepig used its feet to smash into the ground, kicking up a small amount of dust that covered its body as it leaped forward, using its whole body to slam into one of the Ninjasks. The impact slammed the Pokémon into its counterpart, Tepig using the speed that it had created as a result to jump off the Ninjask's head and leap into the air, landing perfectly on the ground, skidding and covering the gap between the open area and the cover that was on the other side of where Ash was.

The next moment, the light of an Aura Hyper Beam shot through the air where Tepig had once been, striking the fallen Ninjask in the process. They fell to the ground with swirls in their eyes and it was clear what would have happened should Tepig have received that head on.

Gunfire filled the air and something slammed against the side of the fallen Jeep, both on Ash's side and Tepig's however even then neither person nor Pokémon wanted to look to see what it was that had struck the Jeep, slowly pushing it back.

Ash sweated as he scanned the area as he let his eyes try to peer over the edge however the sight of something striking the metal meant that he knew that it was a bad idea. He immediately pressed his back on the back of the Jeep and looked towards the Gym Leader that had protected them.

"Is Burgh going to be OK?" he asked Cilan.

Cilan let out a slow nod before carefully glancing back towards the edge of the Jeep where more sparks were being created.

"He'll be fine. But I think that he might have reached his Limit. I can't be sure but even then, I don't want him to use ANY aura at the current stage. I'm not a doctor but using any more and pushing his body further is something that will not serve well."

Ash gulped in response as he looked at the Gym Leader that was trying to sit up, with the help of the Leavanny however even then, Ash knew the consequences of using aura after having reached one's Limit.

"Wait a minute. Aren't we going to address the real issue!?" stated Iris as more sparks appeared overhead. "Those guys are going to reach here in a matter of seconds! What do we do!?" Whether it be subconsciously or on purpose, Iris moved one of her hands towards the back of her hair, protecting the small Pokémon that had managed to get back into the safest place it knew. Axew's scared face appeared in Ash's vision for a moment before it was lost among Iris's hair.

Ash tried to rack his brain to look for a solution. Both Krokorok and Sewaddle were unaccounted for, the latter having been on Ash's head but dropping off at some point. But even then, it was the absence of the other people that had been with them that made Ash anxious.

Aura Jetstream, her Lucario and Liberty Knox. They were all gone and it seemed that they had simply disappeared from the battlefield without a word. Where were they?!

Ash did not know however he was sure that relying on them was not the right thing to do in this situation. He needed to make sure that he could get out of this himself, despite the force that he was up against. They were surely getting closer, using aura and guns that Ash had limited experience in.

Wait….aura?

A crazy thought entered Ash's mind in that one moment as he looked towards the forces that he had at his disposal right now. He looked at Cilan's Pansage who was looking overhead the Jeep with interest before dropping back down and then touched his own Pokéballs. Yes, that could work. For sure.

They had time but that was about all that they would need in order to make it work.

"Cilan." Said Ash without a pause. "Can you ask Pansage to use a SolarBeam?"

Cilan frowned to Ash's request. "Not an-" his eyes went wide as he realised what Ash was getting at and Ash nodded, reaching for two more Pokéballs on his belt and releasing the Pokémon that were inside.

"Sni Vy!"

"Osha….."

While one of the Pokémon seemed adamant to fight, the other Pokémon seemed rather frightened and apprehensive to the thought of it.

Ash knew what he was asking might be a bit too much for some of the Pokémon that he had however even then, he had nothing but faith in the ability of the Pokémon that he had managed to raise and bring this far on his journey.

People might mock him for it being unfounded however it was that will and pure faith that Ash knew was something that could not be explained using aura or science or even logic. He cared for his Pokémon and he wanted to make sure that they escaped this too.

However in order for that to be the case, he needed their power that they had been given at the moment of their creation.

"Snivy. Oshawott. I need you guys to use your attacks in the next few seconds. We don't have time to make anything resembling a strategy or plan of escape. All I need for you to do is to trust me. I realise that you might not want to do so…and I want to make sure to tell you that that is fine. I will return you where it is safe and deal with it without you. But even so…I'm asking you. Please help save us."

Snivy did not respond but immediately looked towards the Water Type Pokémon that was next to it and the Pokémon felt as though Ash was speaking mainly to it rather than the female Pokémon next to it.

Its trainer was willing to take into consideration the Pokémon's feelings when it came to dealing with a situation that it was uncomfortable in. Despite the fact that its answer could literally be an issue of life and death, the trainer was willing to take the time to listen to the cries of the Pokémon that was in front of it right now.

The hostility in the air was real. The chance of dying was real. This was not some kind of fiction where only the protagonists survived. It was the type of reality where one wrong move created a situation where there would be no moves left to take.

Was the chance of risking that greater than the idea of living? When it came to 'living' verses 'dying' there was only one option to take.

There was a reason to live. There was no reason to die.

However even then, what the trainer in front of it was bargaining was that very reason to live. He was placing all the chips of the table and going all in without a thought in order to not only protect his reason to live but also that Pokémon's. Their opponents were poachers. Given the death of the trainer, what would happen to them?

One could not imagine that hell and Oshawott did not intend to.

Yet even then, it was that trainer that sought to protect that Pokémon's reason to live as well. Oshawott knew itself better than anyone else and it could tell that this type of thing was not what it was suited to at all.

But still, that trainer asked it.

But still, that trainer placed faith in it.

But still, that trainer wanted to make sure that Oshawott was going to be truly happy in its actions that it was taking and not going to be forced to do anything.

People might mock him for being idealistic or hopeful towards placing hope in the coward of a Pokémon however Ash could not care. He trusted his Pokémon and wanted to make sure that in the end, he was safe with his Pokémon, not merely because of them.

And to a trainer like that, to a trainer that truly wanted to make sure that the Pokémon was safe and truly protected from the expanse and threat of the world-

What other answer was there?

"Osha." Oshawott nodded and Ash felt a smile come to his lips to which he turned towards Snivy. She folded her arms and merely looked to the side however even then, the gleam in her eyes only suggested one thing towards those that were watching the exchange.

"Vy."

Ash turned his head towards the Pokémon that was behind one of the other Jeeps. Given the chaos that was happening, there was no way that the Pokémon could have heard what was going on but even then, the Pokémon gave a wag of its tail and snorted flames out of his snout.

"Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig!"

Ash responded by placing a hand on the edge of the Jeep that he was hiding behind and looked towards Pikachu that was by his side.

"Pika!" came the reply and Ash merely gave a response.

"Thanks guys."

His gaze that entered his eyes was something of true happiness given the situation, the appearance of a hope that was surely lost given the circumstances. But even then, that hope entered Ash's eyes and he directed it towards his Pokémon. There was surely fear in his body but being with his Pokémon as he was right now, there was no question about the purity that filled Ash's heart.

The other trainers were stunned for only a moment before Ash broke the moment, looking towards Cilan as he touched the brim on his cap.

"Ready?" he asked the trainer.

Cilan was silent for only a moment before replying.

"On your count Ash."

"Then let's go! Pikachu, Thunderbolt! Oshawott, Water Gun! Tepig, Ember! Snivy, Leaf Stoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorm!"

"Pansage, SolarBeam!" Cilan's own command came right after Ash's and he tensed, ready to move.

The only reason that Ash would have actually started to commence the attack was in order to get closer to the exit that surrounded them. Making sure that no one followed them would be the only sure fire way towards that and thus, was the reason for the attacks.

But even so, doubt filled Cilan's mind. In the chance to escape, he was the one that had to bear the burden of Burgh despite the fact that he was slowly recovering. If he was hindered by the Gym Leader, there was no telling what would happen should he actually manage to fall behind and get caught by those that were clearly out for blood.

But even so, he tensed his body as the Pokémon managed to come out from behind the Jeeps and readied their attacks; Iris's entire body tensing up as well as she prepared to move towards the escape route that had yet to be established.

"Chuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!"

"Oshaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

"Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig!"

"Vyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!"

"Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaage!"

The attacks from the five Pokémon flew through the air towards the attacks that were clearly coming towards them as soon as they made their own presence and hostility known.

Electricity, water, fire, leaves powered by pure willpower and a beam of energy shot through the air towards the attacks that were coming their way; something that was not only limited towards the attacks of their enemy and bullets but also the aura attacks of the poachers themselves.

The bullets ripped past the attacks with a speed that could not be recognised by the human eye but it was the collision between the different attacks of humans and Pokémon that truly created another result that had been done just before.

The explosion of air with all of the attacks from the Pokémon colliding with each other immediately hit everyone that was both prepared and unprepared for it. Even though they had all tensed, Ash felt the wind knocked out of him, gasping for air, only to inhale dust and rubble.

He coughed but even then, he knew that this was the only chance that he was given in order to escape and make sure that the poachers did not get what they wanted from the Forest itself. In a panic, he ran from behind the Jeep, his Pokémon and the others following him, Cilan managing to support Burgh as the man who had practically reached his Limit managed to limp after Ash.

Ash hoped in his very soul that Burgh had the energy to at least drive. He had seen Agent Jetstream trying to take a Jeep by herself when she was trying to act as bait all alone, so that meant that she at least had some experience with vehicles despite how young she looked but at the current moment, she was not here so there was nothing that could be done.

Ash noticed one of the Jeeps that did not look to be as beat up as the others on its side, turning as he ran towards it with a yell, slamming his entire body weight towards the bottom of the Jeep, in an effort to reposition it in a way that would allow them to escape.

"What are y-" started Iris however it was obvious, and she held out her sweaty hands as she looked around for any other threat that was coming towards her, using her Aura to create Aura Hands that pushed the Jeep with relative ease, the vehicle creaking as it hit the ground, creating a cloud of dust as a result.

The windshield was smashed, Ash not being a mechanic so he had no idea if it was still usable. He looked towards Burgh as the man seemed to understand the idea that was forming within the boy's mind and he looked towards Cilan.

"Cilan, I need to get me into the driver's seat. Leavanny, please assist."

"Lea!" came the response from the Pokémon as it gripped its trainers body with its 'hands', Cilan doing the same with his Aura as they lifted the man towards the driver's seat.

Ash went towards the back of the Jeep and waved his hands towards the Pokémon that had risked their very lives towards protecting him. For that he was grateful to the fullest extent; glad that he had chosen to not release Pidove or Scraggy; the former was a Flying Type and susceptible towards the bullets that would have come over the top of the Jeep while the latter simply had had too much happen to it in the past few days.

"Come on you guys!" he shouted towards the others and they all jumped into the back of the Jeep, Ash and Iris making room by removing the weapons that were in the back with glances of pure disgust and fear as they looked at the mere objects that could crush the life out of them within moments.

Iris climbed into the back of the Jeep however was not joined by Ash as he turned towards the centre tree, looking towards the fallen shape that was hidden within the very form of the massive flora.

"Ash! We need to hurry!" Iris turned towards what he was looking at and paled.

They had to escape. However at the same time, there was no telling what would happen should they escape and leave the Legendary Pokémon. Iris had wanted to meet Zekrom, the Legendary Pokémon. But if she had seen Zekrom in the same situation, would she simply abandon it?

Would she be able to look herself in the mirror and consider herself just if she did that?

But reality was the true enemy towards the situation. Virizion was simply too heavy and there was surely not enough room to fit the four trainers and all of the Pokémon that had been let out of their Pokéballs into the one Jeep, not given the Tetris like co-ordination that would be needed. Even if they all squeezed and left quickly, there was no possible way that they could fit everyone comfortably.

Someone would have to be left behind.

"Ash…." Said Iris towards the boy as Axew popped out of her head and realised the same thing that had been on her very mind. It was a truth that was inconvenient. It was a truth that was unacceptable.

It was a truth that was the only thing that one could look at honestly feel sick as one considered the reality of the situation.

"I…"

Ash opened his mouth as his arm instinctively moved towards the Jeep. His head was telling him to leave. His Pokémon had risked so much for him and there was no chance that he would be able to escape if he was caught. This was unlike Team Rocket and their machines. Pikachu would do more than just be captured in this case. There was a chance that Ash would hold his best friend in his arms as the life left his body.

He would be alone and there be no reason to continue the dream without the energy to do so.

"I…"

"Ash!"

Ash Ketchum looked towards Iris, his new travelling companion and gave a small smile.

"I can't simply leave Virizion."

Without a second thought, he turned towards the tree and ran towards it. He had no aura so there was no way that he would be able to lift Virizion up or make a difference whatsoever.

But even so, leaving the Pokémon without even trying to do anything was not the thing that made him a trainer.

Each Pokémon had its place. It might not be significant and it might not be as powerful as a Legendary however it was there.

Each Pokémon had its place and the connection between them and the humans that lived alongside them was something that was not so conveniently removed.

There were footsteps next to him and Ash turned to his side, seeing Pikachu running alongside him, not accompanied by any of his other Pokémon. He did not begrudge them for that, this was his own choice however the small Pokémon that followed him did not even give a second glance towards its trainer.

What other place did Pikachu have?

Ash could not read minds however the truth of the connection that drew together people and Pokémon was clear in that one action of understanding of a trainer via his Pokémon.

And that was what Ash was fighting for this one time.

The chance for Virizion to live and, perhaps, even experience that connection. But even if it did not, there was nothing wrong with that. The chance to merely live was the one thing that it should be granted.

Ash looked forward as he raced towards the Pokémon-

A sound from right next to him made him turn, seeing something move at lightning speed through the dust, only to appear right before him the moment that it was right in front of him.

The three beaks of the Dodrio were alight with a blue glow that seemed to twist and turn around itself.

"Pikapi!" cried Pikachu in surprise as Ash did not even have time to stop.

An Aura Drill Peck. Of that Ash was sure as the Dodrio used its speed in order to come closer towards the boy-

The ground beneath the Dodrio burst, a flash of light upon glass filling Ash's vision only once before Krokorok smashed through the ground with a clenched fist, dust kicking everywhere as it tried to hit the Pokémon however there was no chance that the Ground Type Pokémon and move would be able to intercept the Pokémon's own move in time.

However the Sewaddle that was perched on the head of said Pokémon was surely ready to attack with the full force behind it.

Using aura in its feet, it launched itself towards the Dodrio with an Aura Tackle, smashing it in it chin of the middle head, causing the Pokémon to fall backwards from the power of the attack and the element of surprise that had been behind it. It collapsed to the ground, Ash twisting his head towards the Pokémon that had helped him in his time of need.

"Thanks! Hurry and get to the Jeep that the others have!" he said quickly and made his way towards the tree, the shape of the fallen Legendary filling his gaze. However even then, there was something else that was right next to the Pokémon.

Was it a poacher? Or-

"Pika-chu!" said Pikachu, drawing Ash's attention towards the side, his right, at the sight of a Shiftry being smashed in the face from the Iron Tail that Pikachu had sent its way. The weakened Pokémon was flung to the ground as Pikachu landed onto the ground, looking towards its opponent to make sure that it had truly been knocked out.

Ash stopped but it was not in concern for his partner.

A thick grip tightened around his leg and he let out a yelp as he fell to the ground, using his hands to steady himself, turning his head only to see the enraged face of one of the poachers, his aura swirling around him like a dense mist that only served to confirm the rage that he was obviously feeling.

"You little-"

The poacher wasted no time, sending as much aura through his grip in order to strengthen it, attempting to completely crush Ash's ankle in the process. Completely thrown off guard, Ash sent his own foot towards the man's fingers however the lack of strength that he had in comparison to the man meant that he only gave a flinch but nothing more.

Ash realised quickly his plight, turning towards his partner, Pikachu ready to literally leap into action however was hit in the side with an Aura X-Scissor that had been sent by the Shiftry.

Pikachu let out a cry as it was hit, Shiftry climbing onto the Pokémon in order to pin it to the ground, moving both of its 'hands' in front of it, an energy gathering there that Ash knew would be nothing but disastrous should it hit Pikachu.

But once again, Ash's powerlessness meant that there was nothing he could do. The grip tightened and Ash changed his tactic. There was no way that he could hit the man in the area where his strength was being redirected.

If that was the case-

Ash kicked the man in the face, the man's nose changing shape as soon as Ash's foot made contact. He gave a roar and the move made the man's grip tighten even more as Ash struggled to keep the man off him.

Ash was not done. He had done nothing but sit and watch as Virizion had been harmed by these men and he was determined to make sure that Virizion was not taken away from these men and taken to safety. So there was no way that he was merely going to give into whatever this man had in store for him.

He was not bleeding so there was no weapon that was available at this current moment. Ash sweated as his ankle screamed in pain but even then, he was determined to keep his gaze fixed on the man as they both looked towards each other.

In the man's eyes there was nothing else registered than hate. But what was it directed towards? Ash had wanted to make sure that the man did not capture Virizion. There was nothing wrong with that.

But what made Ash tremble was the fact that there was something wrong in that action in the eyes of the poacher. What had made him choose to take this path, the path where it was OK to hurt harmless Pokémon that had done nothing wrong? In what place was this kind of violence justified and accepted?

Ash was young, he had yet to see the entirety of the world and perhaps the harshness of it that only experience could gather. But even so, he knew that there was a kind of injustice in that these kinds of people could perhaps roam free and continue to act.

There were people that were trying to fight against that very injustice. And Ash was one of them. So there was no way that he was going to merely let these kind of things pass when there was a way to stop the very nature of the battle itself.

His eyes never left the man, the stare down that there were engaging in merely meaning that both of their ideals and truths were clashing within the one instant of eye contact. The man's hate was evident. But even then, that hate changed as he looked at Ash. Its form and nature seemed to twist and reverse itself towards something else that Ash frowned at.

The poacher was looking at him with an expression of fear.

Why was that the case? Ash did not understand what it was that the man had seen in him but noticed that it was not Ash that he was looking at but a space behind him. Ash wanted to twist his head in order to look however something else came over his head, smashing into the face of the man with so much force that he let go with a yelp of pain.

Ash blinked in surprise at the sight of Agent Aura Jetstream, sweaty and panting with her blue hair messy in a number of places. The white shirt that she was wearing seemed even more worse for wear but she didn't care as she gripped the man by his collar, using her entire aura in order to lift the man, twisted him in mid-air as she flipped him with all her might, slamming his back onto the ground.

He gasped in pain but Jetstream wasn't done, not by a long shot. The man tried to use his aura in order to attack her but she swatted the hand out of the way as if it had been nothing more than a Sunkern. She held her own palm towards the man's chest as Ash didn't need to see the aura pulse through the arm only to hit the man in the chest.

He coughed, something red coming out in the process before his entire body went limp.

Jetstream stood up, breathing heavily as she looked at her work before turning and looking towards Ash.

"Are you OK?" she asked. Ash nodding in surprise and somewhat awe before he realised that there were other things that he had to worry about.

He turned his gaze towards Shiftry and Pikachu, just as the beam of energy, an Aura SolarBeam smashed into the ground. It inched mere millimetres from Pikachu's face but it had collided with something else.

The Aura Sphere that had seemed to be smaller than what Ash had normally seen smashed into the Aura SolarBeam, the sound of cracking sound filling the air as the Aura Sphere completely overpowered the Aura SolarBeam, redirecting it towards the ground instead of Pikachu. It continued its path, flying into the Forest, the sight of another Aura Sphere coming into view as it hit Shiftry in its 'hands'.

Shiftry's hands were blown into its chest where it was launched high into the air, lifting the pressure of Pikachu.

Taking the advantage from the situation then seemed the logical thing to do.

"Pikachu! Electro Ball!"

Pikachu did not even have the time to blink, nor did it want to. It twisted its body around, swinging its tail that seemed to glow with the new power that had gathered in the tip of its tail as it seemed to twisted its body on the ground.

"Pika pika pika pika chu-pi!" the Electro Ball flew into the distance, into the stunned Shiftry where it burst apart in an explosion of smoke and electricity. Shiftry fell to the ground, Ash turning towards where the Aura Spheres had come from in the first place, the very place where Virizion was laying injured.

Agent Jetstream's Lucario had grabbed it by the legs and was trying to lift it up while her trainer dealt with those other enemies that surrounded her.

"Hey! You need to get out of here Ash!" spat out Jetstream as she wiped a lock of hair from her face, glancing around for any other enemies that were perhaps still hidden.

"W-We've gotten a Jeep and ready to leave! But we need to make sure that we take Virizion with us! I'm not leaving without it!" Ash's words were sharp as he spoke towards Jetstream, her surprised expression only being masked by a curt nod as Ash raced, although he did so via a slight limp, towards the tree, towards where Lucario was trying to lift up the Pokémon.

Lucario looked up at the trainer with a shocked expression clear on its face and in its voice.

"What are you doing? This is no place for you."

"There's no place for Virizion here either." Replied Ash as he got the other leg that Lucario was trying to reach with its aura. "We have to make sure it's safe. I'm not leaving it behind."

"Pika cha!" said Pikachu towards the Pokémon as it supported what it could of the Pokémon, using its paws as it tried to lift up the Pokémon despite its small size. Lucario glanced towards the both of them and with a small smile seemed to nod as it looked towards the clearing where it was trying to reach.

Ash did the same, and almost gulped from the scene that was laid out in front of him.

Most of the dust had cleared but even then, the scene that was in front of him was hardly one that was peaceful. There was a crater in the middle of the clearing and the remains of the machine that had fired Virizion's aura back towards it. The remains of the Jeep that it had been placed on were imbedded in a number of trees and other Jeeps.

There were guns lying on the ground in a number of places as well as other weapons that Ash did not know what they were. Unconscious poachers were lying on the ground as well, their Pokémon and that of others accompanying them. Small flames flickered on and off on the ground but even then, the light smoke that came from them was not thick enough to cover the sight in front of him.

He could see the poacher that had attacked him before as well as the sight of Cilan and Iris in the Jeep at the end of the clearing, with worry on their faces. The path towards them was littered with the sight of the fallen Jeeps and figures and Ash felt as though the sight in front of him was something that he would have never expected to see when he entered the Forest for the first time.

Krokorok and Sewaddle were already at the Jeep, trying to scramble in but even then, Ash knew one thing as he looked towards the scene.

In its own way, this was a battlefield for monsters, created by monsters.

But even then, the person in the middle that stood among it all with a calm expression was perhaps even more frightening.

Aura Jetstream stood in the centre, stepping on some of the flames and making them go out and there no change in the expression on her face, it was unreadable and Ash wondered if that same expression was on his own face as he looked around. In his own way, he had created this very stage himself.

If someone from the AJD could stand in this place with so much working towards making them in the centre, then what he was, the person who had helped create it? Ever since he had started his journey, he felt as though the actions he had taken had continually made him ask this question.

With everything that he was doing, was what he was doing absolutely right?

Virizion was about to be protected, that much was right. But even so, the poachers that had created that situation were on the ground unconscious, some of them so because of the actions that Ash himself had made.

If what he was doing left to this, was he similar towards the people that were carving out this path?

Ash let his mind wander before shaking his head. This was no time to think of a question that he had no answer to. He was thinking things that were above him when then only thing he needed to do was make sure that Virizion reached safety first and foremost.

"We need to make sure that Virizion is safely across. Are you OK engaging in this task Master Ash?"

"Hah. I'm not your master." Said Ash with a slight smile. "But I am ready to help you make it across. OK? Ready? Three, two, one and l-"

He never got the words out as something clicked however it was not within his mind. It was the type of clicking that was followed by a constant ticking that filled the silent air. Jetstream in the middle of the clearing stopped and froze, looking towards where the ticking was coming from as did everyone else and they merely froze at the object that was hovering on an Aura Platform that was coming their way.

It was a small object and its greenish colour seemed darker than the light of the Forest but the sight of it made Ash pale and freeze to his very bone. He had seen one before, but it was Hollywood that had made it appear so much more mundane and less frightening that what it actually was.

Ash forgot the technical name for it but even then, the small cylinder that floated in the air came towards eye level. His entire body was entranced by the shape of the thing itself however it was the pounding in his head, something that ripped his consciousness from it and made him completely focus upon what it was that he needed to do.

"LOOK AWAY!"

Lucario's voice made Ash react instantly, shielding his eyes and that of Virizion's as the Pokémon seemed to react from the mental roar that had been sent its way.

The very next instance, the flash grenade exploded, sending painful light into the retinas of those that were unfortunate enough to actually be close enough to look straight into the sight of the grenade itself. There were exclaimed shouts from those men that were looking at the grenade, the poachers that had managed to regain some sense of consciousness.

Ash slowly opened one eye in order to try and get a good look at what in the world was happening on the outside yet it was the fact that there was no one in his sights that worried him. Had he been looking at the grenade when it had gone off?

Ash doubted it as his eyes did not burn with pain but it was the fact that Ash could not see Jetstream that worried him. He wasted no time thinking things through, looking towards Lucario and yelling towards the Pokémon that seemed to look for the person that had unleashed the flash grenade towards them.

"Come on! We have to hurry!"

"Master Ash! Wa-!" started Lucario as Ash started to take a first step towards the entrance of the tree however was brought back just as something blasted a small piece of dirt from the very spot that his foot was about to be. He paled and tried to spot where the gunshot had come from but could see nothing.

Ash gulped. There was nothing that he could do against standard bullets. He was not a protagonist from somewhere like those movies he had seen. He was not a Pokémon or a member of the AJD.

Aura Jetstream had managed to hide behind one of the upturned Jeeps but it was the fact that she was moving away from her Pokémon and Ash that meant that Ash had no way out; stuck between a Rock Type and a hard place.

His mind raced as he looked towards Lucario and the Pokémon seemed to try and think of a way out of the situation as well as the gunshots moving closer towards the two of them.

One man entered their vision, holding a machine gun, blood running down his arm and a pissed look on his face, filled with malice as he held up the item towards his eye and looked straight at Ash. There was no grin of triumph. There was no hate. This was truly business, dealing with a Bug type that had entered his vision.

Ash tensed his entire body, looking for the sight of the AJD operative that had managed to save him before but the screech of tyres filled his eyes and the man looked in the direction that they had come from, dropping the gun and holding up his hands in front of him, creating an Aura Shield in the same moment that another vehicle, not a Jeep but rather a large truck that had a spacious back slammed into him.

He was flung to the side, hitting another overturned Jeep with so much force that it collapsed, leaving the man unconscious, froth flowing from his mouth, a clear sign that he was alive. Hurt. But alive.

"Sorry!" came the surprised shout from behind the wheel and Ash looked towards who was driving, feeling somewhat shocked and relieved at the same time.

Liberty Knox manoeuvred the truck in front of the tree at a perpendicular angle, the back window and the windshield smashed as he looked towards both Ash and Lucario.

"Hurry! We don't have much time! I have no idea how many of these vehicles survived but if we're lucky, we won't be having anyone chasing us through the Forest!" His shouts were cut off as something slammed into the side of the truck, throwing him from his seat as aura attacks slammed into the truck form all sides.

The side window smashed and glass rained down towards him, Liberty shouting in surprise. Ash wasted no time despite the situation, taking to action. With Lucario's help, he and Pikachu lifted Virizion into the back of the truck which, to Ash's dismay, was filled with a number of weapons that had been the cause of the entire mess that they had found themselves in.

"Go!" shouted Ash as he made his way into the back, ducking his head and covering Pikachu and Virizion as much as he could as more attacks continued their onslaught, their effort concentrated on the thing that was about to take away the prize that they had fought for so long for.

There was no verbal response, only the sound of screeching wheels as Liberty pound on the accelerator, spinning the wheel as hard as he could to the left as he moved around the other fallen Jeeps and sped towards the entrance of the clearing.

Something fired towards Ash's left, something that he knew was not going to end well should it hit the truck that Ash was hiding in. There was nothing to base his hunch no however it was instinct, pure human instinct that fuelled Ash towards unleashing his next command.

"EMBER!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, hoping towards those Pokémon that were looking down on the scenes in front of them that Tepig would hear him. There was again no verbal response however the action that occurred right afterwards was enough of a thing to make Ash grin in response.

His eyes looked towards his left, seeing the rocket powered grenade fly through the air, only to explode in mid-air as the Ember from Tepig hit it directly in the sound, the remains of the warhead flying in all directions, causing the truck to sway on two wheels to the right.

Ash let out a yell and Liberty's head and tie flew out the window, the boy scrambling with the wheel as fast as he could in order to try and redirect the centre of gravity of the truck, successful in the movement as the two wheels that were in the air smashed onto the ground, moving as they continued to drive the truck forward.

More forceful efforts towards making sure that they did not get away with their prize were unleashed however the truck had already left the clearing, meaning that it continued through the Forest.

They had made it. They had managed to escape, with the one thing that everyone had been fighting over.

And even though Ash was sure that nothing was over yet, there was one thing in the back of his mind.

This victory was nothing to be ashamed of. And as a result, this one win that they had managed to get…

He wanted to make it last.

Looking towards the fallen Legendary, Ash stroked the Pokémon upon its green horns, the Pokémon moving as a result.

"Don't worry." He said towards the Pokémon. "Well make sure that everything is fine. So don't you worry."


Ash panted slowly in the backseat, looking towards Pikachu among the sweat that he had. He managed a smile towards the Pokémon that was in his arms.

"L-Looks like we made it buddy."

"P-Pika….." came the reply to which Ash merely gave a big grin, looking towards the back of the head that was driving the truck with a movement that was far from professional.

"I didn't know you could drive." Remarked Ash, wondering what other skills Liberty had under his figurative belt.

"Huh?" asked Liberty as he turned his head towards Ash through the broken back window. "Of course I can!"

He was cut off by the fact that he had angled the wheel too far to the right, causing him to hit the natural 'wall' that had been set up the soil to which both he and Ash gave squeals as he tried to recover and return to the road, spinning the wheel frantically to the left.

"You can?" asked Lucario with a sceptical tone.

"Yes. Albeit badly, but I can drive." The bump that he hit in the road that caused the entire group to be thrown upwards seemed to solidify that fact leaving Ash somewhat frightened from all of the weapons that were in the back of the truck, one of which he was sitting on.

He looked at them with a scared look however more towards Virizion, at the weak state of the Pokémon that they had managed to escape with. Despite what he had said, there was no way to know if there was anything that he could do however he had no intention of taking back his words.

Ahead of them, the group could see the Jeep in front, Burgh driving with Cilan next to him and the girls with the rest of the Pokémon in the back. Ash was sure that it was uncomfortable, especially with Snivy, Oshawott, Tepig, Krokorok and Sewaddle in the back among the girls. In the truck that he was in, only Lucario, himself and Pikachu and Virizion were in the back, with Liberty driving in the front.

"What happens now?" asked Ash towards Lucario. The Pokémon closed its eyes for only an instant, Ash wondering what it was that was happening, wondering if he should use his Aura Perception in order to determine what it was that was happening however Lucario immediately replied with her own words.

"We reach the edge of the Forest. My Mistress says that we need to find out what is wrong with Virizion. We have no idea what truly happened. Master Ash, you said that that machine was using Virizion's aura against it? Could you be a bit more specific in what you learnt?"

Ash frowned, crossing his arms as he spoke.

"There's no way that we know for sure but given what happened, that machine was absorbing the aura that Virizion itself was leaking out in order to make the Forest better. It built up so much and when it needed to, boom, it released it all into that beam that broke through the Forest's barrier and struck Virizion here. There was some left so when I had Pikachu use Electro Ball, it did what it needed to."

Lucario gave slow nods throughout Ash's short explanation, closing her eyes once again. This time Ash using his Aura Perception in order to see what it was that the Pokémon was doing.

He saw it at once.

The faint line of aura drifted through the air, connecting Lucario's mind with something, like a string attached to the bottom of tin that allowed children to speak to each other as long as they had the tins that were connected through the string. Ash followed it with his gaze, only to see the Pokémon's trainer on the receiving end. The 'line' was brighter in one place as it passed through with incredible speed towards Jetstream before disappearing.

Jetstream opened her eyes and began speaking to the others to which there were nods and she closed her eyes once again. This time, the light that connected the line seemed to emerge from Jetstream's mind, linking the two together as it travelled along the line, reaching Lucario to which she opened her eyes and Ash stopped focusing his eyes.

"My Mistress as well as Mistress Iris and Master Cilan seem to agree with your hypothesis. But at that stage, what is it that we can do in this regard? With Virizion merely weakened, we would need an immense amount of aura to rejuvenate it to the correct levels. The cycles that were taking place in the Forest itself required Virizion to receive the aura from the Forest itself and there is nothing we have that can match those levels."

Lucario spoke those words into Ash's mind and he wondered if he were to use Aura Perception right now, there would be that same 'line' appearing.

Still he frowned. There was something wrong with the scene in front of him. Hadn't Sabrina said that psychic powers and aura powers were separate? Hadn't that been the basis behind the Aura Overload of Accumula Town? That when one was focused upon their psychic powers, their aura powers were latent?

"How did you do that?" Ash asked in response towards the Pokémon. The frown that was generated in response made Ash point to his head.

"What you just did. You used aura to transfer your thoughts didn't you? But isn't that a psychic ability? I remember that someone told me that they are separate things. You can't have both. Can you?" The last question was directed more towards Liberty, the person that was older and would probably have an answer to the question.

Lucario seemed speechless at the fact that the only thing that would allow Ash to sense such a thing would be a massive sense for aura or Aura Perception. Liberty on the other hand was silent for a moment before answering, the speed of the truck meaning that he had to turn sharply and this stop talking for a moment every time he had to turn.

"True. But the aura is the life force Ash. Even our thoughts have a life of their own, theoretically speaking. Independent thought comes from that, how we think and feel. Psychics can transfer that towards other people and thus influence their surroundings using something other than aura, but that's a separate science. But what Lucario is doing…it's different."

Liberty paused as he took a sharp turn but Ash felt that there was something else behind the pause that he did not want to delve into.

"Lucario is sending the nature of the thought towards its target. It's separating…part of its life instead of a thought itself like psychics do, from itself in order to transplant that same 'life' into someone else, and then maintains that link to receive its life back, except that 'life' that comes back is in the form of another thought. Psychic in the sense of the thought but it's not someone else's thought that comes back. It's Lucario's thought but simply moulded in the shape of a message."

"It's not that bad." Replied Lucario immediately towards Ash in response. "Although right now, I am speaking through telepathy, it's merely a side effect of how I got the ability to transfer 'life' through thoughts."

Ash was about to say something however it was the sound of something slamming against the wheel that made Ash turn towards the boy driving.

"The hell it isn't. It's your life Lucario. You transfer it and mould it into a different shape each time and it comes back with a little bit of someone else each time. Forcing that down in order to make sure that you are the same…no one should be made to do that. You're forcing yourself to look into people's souls and their lives. You don't need to do that. I…" He trailed off, Ash looking between the two.

Was there some kind of connection between them? There seemed to be however Ash did not have time to judge on their relation. Did that also mean that Liberty knew Agent Jetstream? He had spoken of someone calling him about the Legendary…had that been Jetstream?

"There's nothing to regret. Only the end of the journey." Was Lucario's simple, short response.

She turned back towards Ash.

"Back to the issue at hand, there is nothing that we have that can allow Virizion to meet its former levels of aura. We need to escape from the Forest and make sure that Virizion gets all the help that it possibly can in order to restore its aura. That is the plan so far."

"Pikaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…" replied Pikachu towards the idea that Iris, Cilan and Jetstream had come up with in mere moments. It was the best thing that they had so far and there was nothing else that could go wrong in the moments that led up to it.

Ash looked behind them in order to see the trail behind them and to make sure that no one was following them. There was no one so far however Ash's eyes caught sight of something else that was coming from the bottom of the truck that they were on that was going through the Forest.

"But there's still this gel. It's coming from the bottom of this truck Liberty. What do we-"

"IT'S WHAT!?" Liberty shouted and swerved violently, causing Ash to cry out suddenly as he reached for something to hold onto.

"What, what!? Is that bad!?" yelled Ash. He had wondered what the gel was from the beginning however there had been so much going on that it had entered the back of his mind.

"It's worse. There may not be a Forest to leave if we continue out of sight like this." Liberty gulped and turned his head to look out the back, tapping the wheel in a fast motion before looking towards Lucario.

The Pokémon tensed immediately at the gaze.

"What is your reason for not agreeing to the plan? This gel? What is it?"

Liberty gave a gulp and gaze Lucario a look that Ash had never seen before. It was serious however at the same time, there was a sense of danger behind it, the kind of danger that Ash had just been made to encounter within the last few hours. He braced himself for something that was just as bad.

And Liberty let out one word.

"Napalm."

His heart dropped into his stomach at the word. Even though a child, it was one word that Ash had heard before, the kind of word that one did not want to hear in this situation. Ash looked down towards his shoe, the gel like substance being the first thing to stick to when he had walked into it.

No…he had walked on it. He had stepped onto it.

Napalm.

He gave a shout and started to scrape his shoe against the side of the truck, Lucario's face somewhat pale as it closed its eyes and relayed a thought through the use of its aura, something that Liberty was clearly uncomfortable with but had no desire to stop in this one moment.

The response from the other Jeep came immediately.

"Are you SERIOUS!?"

Agent Jetstream's face was white as it looked as though she was struggling to breath. Iris turned towards her with a worried expression and Ash saw her lips move once but even then it was all that it took in order to make her entire body freeze as she looked along the track at the white gel that had been laid across this path for so long. Cilan's face was the same and Jetstream slammed her fist down onto the back of the seat of the Jeep she was sitting on, her anger showing itself in the dense cloud of aura that was circling around her.

"H-Hang on." Stuttered Ash as he looked towards Liberty. "It might smell like gas but that doesn't mean that it's napalm!" He had a vague idea of what it was but even then, it was the effects of it that made him shiver.

"Napalm is gas." Spat out Liberty. "It's just mixed in with other chemicals in order to assume this type of sticky gel. That's why it's so effective. Until it's actually ignited, which it usually is immediately, the gel sticks to anything it touches. We were thinking that either this gel was something that the poachers took no notice of or didn't know about. It looks like we know the answer now!" he gave a mocking laugh. "Do you see now why we can't escape this Forest that easily?"

Ash's mind was trying to register everything that had happened however it clicked. It was a terrible click as he followed logically the path that one would normally take when considering the facts of today.

"If we have Virizion, they'll think that we're trying to escape. If they're chasing us, when they think we're close enough to the entrance, they'll ignite it. Th-They're going to burn down the entire Forest!?" Ash's words were full of fright as he looked around at the lush green that was merely going to be a victim of the events of today. "Do you really think that they'll do it!? Surely we can escape!"

"Pika Pikachu!" Pikachu's words were desperate as its trainer as it looked towards the grim face of Lucario. She shook her head in response.

"There's no way. Even if we did escape, the entire Forest would be a casualty towards the poachers and their weapons. It's a miracle that it hasn't ignited as of yet." Her mental tone was tired and it showed on her face.

"So what do we do!? We can't escape because then the Forest will burn. We have to escape so we can save Virizion. We can't make that choice between the two!" stated Ash. "This is Virizion's home! We can't let those guys get to it just like that!"

There was a small silence as Lucario looked towards its trainer, the people in the Jeep in front of the group talking amongst each other as they tried to pool their minds and thoughts together in order to try and reach a solution where both the Forest and Virizion would manage to escape together and unhurt.

Was there a kind of solution like that? Was there a kind of solution like that where it was possible for everyone to merely escape and pretend that there was nothing wrong with the situation? Was that kind of fairy tale ending possible?

Even Ash had fought for things that he had wanted, but somehow the struggle had led them somewhere. There was no way that he was going to give up that easily however if it was him and the entire Forest and a Legendary as a casualty of the poachers, there was nothing that he could do.

Not to mention the fact that there was an even greater power ahead of him that was surely going to prevent them from all escaping. He looked up, not seeing anything from the tree line however even then, he was sure that the ever cautious and malicious eye of Hunter J was looking down on them.

He racked his brain, the silence from the people and Pokémon on both vehicles replaced by the sound of the vehicles as they moved through the Forest at top speed. While they were doing so to escape, if they reached to close to the exit, there was no question to what would happen towards the napalm that was strewing from the back of the van.

There was no point in cutting it loose. The poachers had been spreading this throughout the entire Forest.

But the more time they spent away from the vision and grasp of the poachers was another moment that they felt it would be necessary to ignite the napalm.

Unless they remained in sight of the poachers, they would have no incentive to light the napalm. They would have the possibility of getting Virizion back after all. But if they spent too far away, they would make sure that no one got their prize.

Not to mention that their fighting force was something that was hardly worthy to take on everyone. They were weak and their enemy was strong. They had made it this far however there was no telling how far they would be able to survive.

There was a turn coming up, Ash knew it when Burgh had passed by it when they were heading towards the centre of the Forest. If they took the left path, it would be a way out of the Forest. The right merely went further into it, the path that had taken from the lake where their first battle had started.

"Hey." Said Ash as he looked towards Lucario with some kind of hope in his eyes. "Surely you have enough aura to make Virizion better right?!"

Lucario shook her head. "Even if I did, it would only be enough to make Virizion slightly better. There would have to be the right kind of power to make it battle worthy. Virizion, according to legend, was empowered by the Forest. The Pinwheel Forest has been around for generations, before you and I, Mistress Aura, Mistress Iris and everyone else was born. The amount of natural aura that is here is unnatural and enormous. We simply don't have enough without someone reaching their Limit. And having more casualties when none are necessary will not serve anyone any good."

"But-!" started Ash however even then, he knew that it would be no use. There was no one willing to sacrifice themselves towards the poachers in order to create a getaway. There would be no point, they would truly get captured and then those that escaped would be burnt down in the resulting inferno.

He turned towards those that were in the vehicle in front. Cilan was sweating heavily, his hands at his temples as he tried to devise some kind of solution that would serve as a way out of the situation that they found themselves in, Iris biting her lip so hard that a tiny bit of blood came out.

Ash clenched both of his fists, looking down helplessly at them. His position as an Aura Zero had to mean something right!? It had to allow him to stand somewhere, somehow that allowed him to make a judgment about the position that he found himself in! It had to!

But…

But…

But…!

"Say."

There was one word from the front of the van, from the person driving it as Liberty turned his head with a grin on his face, something that did not fit the scenario at all, as he looked towards Ash.

"You wanna play the hero that I can never be? The Hidden Guardian, Ash? You think you're up for the job?"

"I-I want to protect Virizion and its home. But we have no-"

"That's good enough of an answer for me. You're my best bet right now Ash. You betta make it count. Lucario." He turned his gaze towards the Pokémon and it straightened its position immediately. "Listen."

Liberty's word was short but there was no hesitation in Lucario's actions as she closed her eyes and took in every sound. She opened her eyes almost immediately and turned towards the boy.

"They are closing in." she reported grimly. Ash could not hear the sound of the engines of whatever engines that the poachers had managed to gather but the chill that went down his spine was merely overridden by the fact that there was something worse at the end both ends of the Forest.

"Right. Which means that they don't know that we've escaped. Now, question. Do you have enough aura to lift both Ash and Virizion? Pikachu included of course."

"Of course."

"Right! 'Cause we're taking a short cut!"

Liberty rammed on the accelerator as the path straightened out, something entering Ash's gaze in the distance. It was the fork. It was the route that divided the path and made sure that one would be able to see the vehicles should they turn left, to escape, or right, deeper into the Forest.

Ash had no idea how fast the vehicles behind them were travelling however it would have to be fast enough that they would be able to see the cars whichever turn they made.

The only thing that he knew was that Liberty Knox was perhaps the worst driver he had ever known.

He let out a yell as the van went off the path, running onto the dirt at an angle, the grass and soil flying in all directions as the wheels hit it. The passengers in the car in front looked in shock towards the action that Liberty was taking as he sped in front of their car and swerved violently back onto the path, onto the fork that separated the road…

Taking the right path.

He drove deeper into the Forest, Burgh twisting the wheel as he motioned towards following the others down the path that they were going to take, Ash catching the glimpse of another car in the distance just as it came out of view.

"I just saw someone!" he shouted to which Liberty never let his foot off the accelerator.

"That's good! They know we haven't escaped!"

"But that's bad!" replied Ash.

"Pika Pikachu! Pika pika!" cried Pikachu towards the boy in the driver's seat.

"I completely agree." Replied Lucario to whatever it was that Pikachu had said.

"Shut up, both of you! OK, Ash, question time! Where do you think the strongest source of aura is in this very Forest? Right now, after the machine that was absorbing all of Virizion's aura let it loose?"

Ash frowned towards his question as he held onto his hat as they sped down into the Forest. Where was the next best place of aura? Surely it would have been that tree where Virizion was sheltered however the machine had used Virizion's aura against it in order to rip through that very aura. So no, it wasn't there.

But where had that aura gone?

It took only a moment for Ash to figure it out.

"It went back into the Forest! After the…thing that was protecting Virizion was destroyed, the remaining aura entered the ground right!?"

"50 points! That's only a half mark you know~!" Liberty's words were cheerful and Ash gave it another thought.

The ground? Was there more to it than that? The soil? He was right, that was where it had gone at the end of the day but where had it gone after that?

Did it go somewhere else after entering the soil? The plants that were using the soil as a source of food took in everything that was in the soil itself. But that same soil had things in it that came from elsewhere.

Ash's eyes widened. Was it possible? Was it possible that when the aura had re-entered the soil, it had gone back towards the location where those same nutrients and minerals had come from!? If that was the case then all of the aura that had been suddenly put into the ground after Virizion was attacked was-

"The LAKE!?" Ash practically squealed out the word.

"100 points!" came the reply. "If that's the case, then the only way to get Virizion back to full health would be to make sure that it was fed all of that aura once again wouldn't you say? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand. If that is the case-!"

"We need to put Virizion in the lake in order to make sure that its aura is put back into its body!" shouted Ash. "So are we heading there?!"

Liberty merely shook his head. "Remember what I said Ash? I think it's time to cause some trouble for some of these guys. Hand me something from back there. Anything." Liberty reached for the back of his pants and pulled out the weapon that he had not used for this entire time. Ash looked cautiously at it, keeping an eye on it as he grabbed at something by the base, lifting the heavy object and showing it through the window to which Liberty turned his head to look at it-

"Holy Arceus, father of creation-! Ash, you do NOT just give me something like this!" The van served and Lucario used its aura to straighten the wheel as Pikachu and Ash looked towards Liberty in surprise, the small movement of Virizion's eyes the only indication that it was actually conscious of what was going on in the van that it was riding in.

"What!? You asked me toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" Ash started to let out a shout as he realised what it was that he was holding.

"Pikapiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!" Pikachu let out that same reply as it backed away slowly from the weapon that Ash had randomly picked.

The RPG launcher in his hands was handled carelessly and it was clear what would happen if an amateur like Ash was going to handle it without a care like he was doing right now.

"What do you think you're doing? I want to survive this too!" Liberty started to climb through the back window with his gun in hand as he tried to grab the object that Ash was holding onto.

"Wait! You aren't going to fire this are you!?" asked Ash frightfully. "What about all the napalm!? It's spread all over the Forest and the sticky substance if going to burst into flames remember because of the gas inside it!? If you fire this-!" He tried to pull it towards him, the tip of the weapon pointing into the sky.

"I'm not going to fire it you idiot!" Liberty pulled it towards himself.

"You're the idiot!" Ash pulled it back.

"You want to do this NOW!?"

Lucario watched the two of them trying to rip the weapon from the grip of the other, Pikachu intervening and grabbing the weapon at a lower point than Ash was, pulling it towards its trainer.

There was a hiss and the warhead launched into the sky as Pikachu touched the trigger, through the tree line, both of the boys watching it go, the others in the Jeep behind them almost having cardiac arrests at their stupidity.

"Well look now what y-" Liberty was about to say however the sound of the warhead exploding filled their ears. He looked at Ash and he looked back.

The explosion.

It had happened too soon.

There was no way that it would have exploded early. The poachers were too careful for that, even the amateurs not taking this kind of weaponry on this kind of mission or job or whatever. In fact, there was only thing that would have had to happen should the warhead explode given that there was no other explanation for the events that had just occurred.

It had hit something.

But what had it hit?

Wasn't there someone or something, a silent villain that hovered arrogantly above all in order to make sure that she got her prize?

"Oh…" Liberty started.

"…boy." Ash finished.

Both of the boys looked up through the tree line, only through the small gap that the warhead had flown through, hoping to some higher power that the flames they were seeing hovering in the sky with seemingly no source was merely a mirage that only they could see.


"B-Boss! Our left most laser! It's been hit and suffering major structural damage!"

Red lights and a whining sound sounded through the ship and the commander, leaned over one of the armrests of the seat that she had plunged into Lake Valor into.

Hunter J's eyes seemed to cut into the soul as she turned towards the left side of the ship, eyeing the damage with her expert eyes, a faint line of aura circling around her for an instance before disappearing.

Only some of her crew saw it but even then, they were sure.

Hunter J had shown rage.

Her silver hair was strewn all over her face, the only part of her that was disturbed in the explosion that had rocked the left part of the ship. Her clothes were as professional as ever, the only source of strength and solidity within her soul that seemed to show itself on the outside. She was a professional and although things might take different roads and turns, things had not changed.

She was still a professional.

However even then, the betrayal in her eyes that Team Galactic had served her only allowed that small part of her humanity to surface.

She had been attacked by Future Sight in Lake Valor and sent to the very bottom of that water source. She had managed to escape, although without some of her crew, having to undergo surgery in order to get back into the field and get her revenge.

Yet even that was pointless. Everyone was arrested and J had no sense to go into jail voluntarily. Although many people spoke of her escapades with a spit of the tongue and hatred in their tones, there was nothing that made someone overconfident should they not know their own limits.

J had escaped. She had taken surgery in order to survive, removing the piece of shrapnel that had imbedded itself into her abdomen as a result of the crash into the bottom of Lake Valor.

Her very core had been shaken up and her positon as a normal woman had been lost. Her womb had been punctured, leaving nothing more than a shell in some eyes of the community regarding a normal life. The only thing that she could do in the eyes of society was live, however depending on who you asked, that would be to die.

Hunter J had moved from being 'normal'. She was an aspect of nothingness, a shadow that merely took jobs and held a reputation of being able to come back from anything. Although she cursed her accident, it seemed as though others only held it in the regard that it made her more monstrous.

No one had seen her use her aura in her job and the fact that she did not do so was the mark of a hardened veteran who sought only the completion of a job. She was a born leader, set to lead those who were desperate enough to follow her into the fray and lead them towards the victory that their pitiful lives sought.

But that façade, even for an instance had broken.

She had shown rage and there was nothing that she could do about it.

Whether or not she realised it herself, she maintained her composure, wiping her hair out of her face, standing up and gripping both of her armrests as tight as she could.

"Report! Is there any other damage to the ship? Are we capable of maintaining altitude?"

"O-Only the left most laser boss!" replied one of her goons as they tapped at a control panel, bringing up a screen in front of her as she analysed it within a second. This was her ship and there was no captain worth his or her salt that did not know the workings of their vessel. "We've contained the fire however the only thing to do to prevent any further damage is-"

"Drop the laser." J's words were nothing more than the voice of someone that was simply stating the most effective way to deal with a problem. There was no hesitation and she turned to the right, away from the goon who had spoken first and towards another one, a leaner man that seemed younger. One of her new recruits.

"That warhead that struck us. It came from the centre of the Forest. If we are being sought out purposefully, the ability of those that struck us must be greater than we first anticipated. We need a visual of those that fired it."

"Y-Yes!" cried out the man and he began tapping the screen in front of him as a click entered the air, J looking over towards the left, looking at the flaming laser that had been struck head on by the expertly fired weapon that could have only been fired by a professional like herself.

She frowned at the sight of it as it lowered once, before completely dropping from the ship itself, the small explosive inside detonating to prevent any of the technology that she had hand made from falling into the hands of the incompetent forces of justice that sought to capture her and her kind.

She had almost made that mistake before however she had learned from her time in Sinnoh. To an extent, those failures that were there were the things that made her better. There was no better friend than adversary after all.

Bits of the laser blew apart in all directions, becoming small flaming meteors that flew towards the Pinwheel Forest that either disappeared in mid-air or merely struck the Forest itself, some of the tree catching a light at the mere touch of those flames on their fair skin of the natural beauty that was slowly being eroded away.

She looked straight forward towards the visual that appeared on her screen in front of her, the right most screen being the van that the warhead had come from as it was tracked through the Forest. There was another one behind it however she had no interest in it. There had only been a gap in the trees every few instances however using freeze frame software and compiling all of the images together where they got them, she was able to have an idea of who was on the van as they fired the warhead.

Those people…and their faces.

Her expression turned the exact same as it was theirs, the faces as they scrolled along the screen as the van moved with their target inside it.

Her eyes took in everything.

There were things that were different. For example, one of the boy's clothes. No longer was he wearing his old cap, swapping it for a lighter coloured one. His clothes had changed as well, the expression on his face as well. No more was it the enraged face of the trainer that had the upper hand as he looked towards his actions. It was the surprised and petrified expression of one who had seen the most feared being in the chain of events that had occurred.

And there were things that were the same.

The boy's Pikachu and position in her way once again stood fast. Not only that but the taller one that had also been a thorn in her side for many an occasion stood with the same suit that he wore, the surprised expression on both of their faces bringing only a fraction of amusement towards her.

But it was that amusement that evaporated as she looked towards what it was that they were standing over.

Virizion.

It was her target. And it was easy pickings.

But she, more than anyone else, knew the trouble that both of those boys would create simply by being present and knew that they would not allow her to merely take it from them when they were standing in the way of her target.

As when they were together…

She cancelled the screen, looking straight around her, talking however to whom she was doing so was unclear as everyone watched her every move.

"We have a new objective! In order to secure the target for our client, we need to eliminate every individual that seeks to oppose us! Our client does not want to get their hands dirty however even then, it is up to us to do so when it comes to those that seek to get in the way of what it is we seek. As a result, there are no shortcomings towards tackling those who stand in our way."

She let her words hang in the air despite the chaos that had erupted.

"Prepare the right laser. I want that van destroyed and everything on it obliterated from existence within the next 2 minutes."

She had become crueller.

There was no better friend than adversary.

And what better friend did no more than provide inspiration and endless assistance towards the capabilities of oneself?

One might look at the situation and determine that Hunter J was a professional with no thoughts of personal feelings behind her actions.

However-

She couldn't deny the fact that there was the hint of a smile at the thought of both of those boys not getting in her way any longer.


As the left lasers dropped from the ship and exploded through the air, both Ash Ketchum and Liberty Knox knew that there were more pressing matters to deal with.

Not only had some of those fragments caused some of the Forest to catch alight, they had been seen. And given their past histories with J and her ruthlessness, they both knew that their precious moments of survival right about now were not going to last very long.

"Wh-what do we do!?" exclaimed Ash. "It's a straight path to the lake!"

"How long do we think it will take us to get there!?"

"I-I don't know! A minute!? Maybe more."

Liberty let out a yell, brushing his hands through his hair at a rapid pace, sweat covering his face and in any other situation it would have looked rather humorous however Ash felt as though he was probably looking the exact same as well.

"Lucario! Up ahead, please tell me there's a fork in the road, one path leading to the lake and other deeper into the Forest!"

"There is!" cried Lucario through the minds of both Ash and Liberty. Lucario had taken the wheel, using its aura in order to drive, something that Ash was quite amazed at. He would have commented however the want to live overcame any thought to distract the Pokémon from the wheel. "It's coming up in approximately 20 seconds!"

"Less than a minute?! We're travelling faster than I thought! Go down the path that leads away from the lake!" shouted Liberty as he held up the gun, finger pressing on the trigger and off again as he looked back towards the Jeep that was behind him.

The other figures of Burgh driving, Iris and Cilan looking upwards towards the trees that had started to catch fire, Jetstream as she threw her aura towards the cars that were in pursuit as well as Oshawott, Snivy, Krokorok and Sewaddle as they did the same via their attacks. Tepig was forced to sit out and looked none too pleased about it however the napalm on the Forest floor created too much of a risk should it alight. Axew in Iris's hair was looking all around at the chaos and its eyes met with Ash's, the trainer feeling genuinely sorry for the young Pokémon that had gotten caught in all of this. His hand subconsciously went towards Scraggy's Pokéball as he was glad that he hadn't let it or Pidove into the battle right about now.

"Pikapikachu!" cried Pikachu as the fork came up and Lucario used its aura in order to take the left most path, Burgh starting to turn the wheel-

Liberty raised his gun and fired, the sound of the gunshot near Ash's head making him almost recoil and fall off the back of the van. His heart practically stopped as he watched the action of the older boy, Pikachu stopping as well at the action. The sudden jerk of the van itself meant that Lucario had likely jumped but stayed on the path.

Burgh immediately cried out from the car, the bullets smashing into the headlights however tried to stay behind the boy's van, Liberty not stopping the onslaught of lead. More bullets slammed into each of the Jeep's framework and in order to prevent the onslaught, Burgh turned the wheel, heading down the right most path towards the lake.

"Pika-!" shouted Pikachu towards Liberty however he had already started moving as the rest of the cars went into pursuit of Ash's van as it contained its prize.

"Lucario! Use your aura to get you, Virizion, Ash and Pikachu into Burgh's car! You said you had enough so do it!"

Liberty jumped into the side of the driver's seat, grabbing the wheel, trying to wrestle control of it from Lucario however it was both the inaction of Lucario letting go of the wheel and Ash grabbing his shoulder that made him glance towards them both.

"Wait…" Ash's voice was low as he realised what it was that the other boy was suggesting. "Are you saying that you're going to be bait!? EVERYONE is after this van! J has already found it and is going to-"

"Which is why you need to go!" Liberty turned and looked Ash straight in the eye. "You need to do something that only you can do Ash. Inability means nothing when you have a choice. And you already made yours in the action to not run away when you could have so many times! You need to be the hero of this story Ash! Do something I never could!"

Liberty didn't even get to hear Ash's response and his grip tightened on the wheel.

"Lucario. You're the only one that can do that. Please. The longer you wait, the further the Jeep gets away from where you think it's going to be."

Despite the fact that there was probably no room in the Jeep itself, Lucario looked towards the boy.

"Do you think you will survive?"

"With J and everyone? Probably not. I'll leave it up to you to determine whether you think I'm lying or not." Liberty flicked Lucario's forehead playfully with a grinand pulled Lucario's paws from the wheel, shoving Lucario back as the van slowed down momentarily before it picked up speed as Liberty punched the accelerator.

"Now go. I'm counting on you Ash. I'll buy as much time as I can!"

"Wait! This wasn't the type of idea I was thinking you would have! If it were me would you-"

"Of course I wouldn't agree to it!"

"Then-!"

"But. That doesn't matter. We've already taken action." Liberty turned his head, giving a small salute. "Make sure you save Virizion Ash."

"Pika-" Pikachu started to say something in response however the light of blue beneath the feet of the trainer and the Pokémon filled their eyes and before they could even protest, the Aura Platform lifted the four of them, Lucario, Virizion, Pikachu and Ash into the air, heading towards the tree line where low hanging branches kicked against their faces and bodies, Ash looking back towards the reclining van in the distance.

The faces of the pursuing poachers were turned to rage as they realised that they had run after the wrong car, the narrow path making it practically impossible to turn around. Ash grit his teeth as the sight of what it was that they left behind, Lucario dipping down in its trajectory as it used the Aura Platform to fly through the Forest as it saw the Jeep that was its destination.

Ash gripped his hat tighter onto his head as the angle that they were diving meant that there was a danger of it flying off, grabbing Pikachu and holding Virizion at the same time with his other hand.

Still, Ash watched the van that was driving further into the Forest, making sure with his very eyes that there was an absolute assurance that there was no harm to be had as long as he was watching-

There was sound through the air that Ash felt as though would simply tear his eardrums from his body and leave them to die. The very core of his body seemed to shake his eyes seemed to burn, his very retinas almost blinded by the mere presence of sudden light. He had almost been looking straight at it and was sure that if he had been doing so directly, he would be permanently blind.

His vision blurred in and out however even then, there was a flash of red and orange in his eyesight, only one thing rising into the air with a blackness that seemed as empty as the night itself.

It was the sight of an explosion occurring in front of his eyes.

It was the sight of that very van that Liberty had been trying to escape in exploding as the right most laser of the invisible ship of Hunter J fired through it as it had been butter.

The explosion and the sight of the van shattering into dust from the explosion made Ash pale as the napalm trail that it had been leaving behind it seemed to ignite without mercy, moving both up and down through the Forest because of the path that had been left behind by the poachers as they had moved through the Forest.

It moved both up and down the path that had the group had been travelling on, shouts of the poachers that had not been blinded by the laser entering through Ash's ears vaguely as they clambered out of their vans and Jeeps, only for the trail of napalm that had been going down the path set alight the small canisters of the substance that they had been leaving behind as well.

They all ignited, sending those vehicles upwards in a blazing inferno but even then, Ash could do nothing more than watch pale faced at the van that had contained the bait that had tried to give them enough time to escape.

He wanted to try and rub his eyes in order to make sure that everything had been nothing more an illusion however the sight of the flames rising into the air only cemented the fact within his mind. He had thought that there would have been some protection from him given his age and the fact that he had not seen such an action before however the fact of the matter was that his naivety towards the truth was not the case.

Ash Ketchum, as far as he knew, had just seen someone die.

There wasn't a scream. There wasn't a shout or whimper of something clichéd like "I don't want to die". Liberty had known exactly what it was that he had gotten himself into however in order to drive Ash's own actions towards achieving victory, he had placed the entire burden of the role of bait onto himself.

And once again, Ash Ketchum found himself alone.

As an Aura Zero, he had felt as though something had changed. Something small as though he had found acceptance in the eyes of someone that could truly understand him.

He had friends of course. Misty, Tracey, Brock, Max, May and Dawn. Pikachu most of all however there was an inkling of longing. He wanted something more. He was 10 and he knew that it was absolutely selfish of him to want it however he wanted something more than the words of "I understand". He wanted something more.

And just like a small fire, it had lit up and been extinguished in a small moment in time that people would describe in less than a second.

And with it, Ash Ketchum's selfishness disappeared along with it.

"Ah-" He wanted to say something as his eyes burned. He wanted someone to stand next to him and deny what it was that he was seeing.

But it was not coming. And Ash knew that more than anything.

No scream came out. Nothing did and it was like his very heart had broken and been scattered into the air. More so than the fact that he had lost someone that he had thought was that small connection towards the world that had treated him so cruelly, it cemented another fact within his mind, one that merely stunned him as he considered it over and over again.

These people were truly willing to kill in order to get what they wanted.

Stating threats and actually undertaking them were two different things. Despite the fact that he had taken on villains before, their threats had never been met as he had always managed to stay on top of them and make sure that they were never carried out. Ash had recognised the threat and made sure that it never came to pass.

But now that it had, his soul trembled.

No one was safe.

He had brought people into this conflict, Iris and Cilan and his Pokémon, that had no place here and they had managed to leave a mark so that they were going to see this until the end. They wanted to make a stand in a conflict where it was impossible for heroes to make a stand. They wanted to leave a mark where people would always wipe the slate clean and mock the accomplishments of the weak and the wise.

He had brought them into this.

They were so close to the end but even so, there was one thing, one enemy that Ash knew would stand in his way like none before had ever done.

Fear.

He felt his hands trembling, clenching his fists harder as he tried to stop them however they wouldn't. Ash felt his breathing quicken, his heart rate fasten and blood pumped through his brain so fast that he could feel it do so. He felt as though he could take apart his entire anatomy and identify each and every part of his entire body that worked.

But even so, as they descended into the Forest, with that pillar of smoke that had once been the van that he had been travelling on, Ash trembled in fear. His knees were shaking, often pressing into Virizion's side where the Pokémon stirred and Ash tried to make it stop however there was nothing that he could do.

He looked towards Lucario, the Pokémon that had surely been in such conflicts before however noticed one thing.

The Pokémon wasn't even looking at him, clenching its teeth so hard that it looked as though it would bite a mark into its mouth that would never side.

Even that battle hardened veteran was powerless to stop the conflict. Even that Pokémon could not save everyone.

A chocking sound came out Ash's mouth and his hands felt sweaty.

No, he had to calm down, he had to make sure that everyone was OK. He needed to focus to the objective that they had placed upon themselves and make sure that-

Something wet touched against his arm and he looked at it with fearful eyes.

Pikachu returned the look as it pressed its face against the cold arm that Ash had wrapped around it, licking it in comfort as it stared at its trainer. Ash did the same, seeing that Pikachu's tail was quivering slightly.

They were both in this situation right now, trying to survive and they obviously were feeling the same thing.

Even if the conditions were the worst that they could possibly be, even if the conditions towards making such a rare occurrence happen were those that brought about nothing but tragedy that one could truly be said about that trainer and Pokémon.

Their hearts, minds, souls and even emotions were linked so purely that there was nothing more beautiful in that hell that could be found. Even if it was simply the fact that they were both scared with nothing to do about it, both trainer and Pokémon sought to protect others from those that sought to hurt them.

They had done so when they were scared. They had done so despite others telling them to stop. They had done so when they had nothing else to do in the situation. They had done so simply because they could not stand and leave a Pokémon or person alone when it was something that they could prevent.

Weren't the others fighting for something similar?

Hadn't the others that tried to serve themselves as bait tried to make sure that conditions were available that allowed them to do just that?

The Pinwheel Forest was burning and there was nothing that anyone could do about that.

But even so, that did not change what they had to do with the one thing that they could save. Their objective had not changed in the very end. They were going to do something that they had sought to do from the very beginning and make sure they did regardless of what happened to them.

It wasn't that they were unbelievably selfless. It wasn't that they truly felt that there was nothing better to do than help those that needed it.

It was because everyone had a place in the world and merely allowing them that place and acceptance was something that had to be done.

Ash had faced that rejection and wanted that place where he could play with everyone taken from him when he was young. He had never had that so why should he reject those that wanted it from others? The young and old wanted it. People and Pokémon wanted it. So why could he not merely lend a hand when it came towards helping those that wanted what everyone sought?

Doing so was wrong. Preventing them from having that was the mark of someone he did not want to be.

He didn't care what people called him when he did it. He didn't care what others thought of him as he stood to help people and Pokémon live between and with together.

He did so because there was always the want to be with someone and have someone to accept them.

Ash had those, even without Liberty and he was sure that there would always be them. He knew that his selfishness was dark and perhaps even pitiful in the eyes of those that had what he did not but right now, Ash was looking through those same eyes.

He looked at Virizion who was weak, lying without moving and now without a home to protect it.

It was now merely a stranger wandering this land of people and Pokémon with no place to go. And soon it would not even be able to do that.

"Yeah." Ash said towards Pikachu as they silently looked towards each other and nodded, Ash pressing his arm closer towards the Pokémon that was lying weakly on the Aura Platform that Lucario had made as they saw the Jeep in their sights and moved towards it.

"Liberty wanted the same thing. So let's do our best to make sure that we save Virizion Pikachu. For him. And for us. "

"Pika."

And with new found determination that one would only find in those silent heroes, those two bonded souls moved together to achieve the goal that they had decided from the very start.

Because there was nothing wrong with protecting the weak and looking for acceptance.

Nothing wrong at all.


"Make room!"

Lucario's voice appeared within Ash's head as he saw everyone look up towards the group that was descending. Those in the backseat looked relived however they desperately tried to make some room for the Pokémon that was placed awkwardly on the back seat with its legs sprawled into the seats at strange angles. However even so, the Pokémon did not complain or whine, only breathing lightly as it tried to maintain its very life.

"Ash! Pikachu!" cried Iris as she looked towards the boy that descended, landing on the edge of the Jeep in an awkward sitting position as he looked towards her.

"Iris! Are you and Axew OK?!" he asked her.

"Y-Yeah. But what about you? You look like-" Iris didn't finish as she looked towards Ash with a surprised expression. Even Ash did not know what he looked like right now and he felt as though looking at himself as he was would give the same expression that Iris was. He was tired, felt like he had been dragged through a desert for a month and was both physically and emotionally exhausted.

However Pikachu was definitely the same and there would be no rest for those that had taken up their position.

"That doesn't matter. Cilan, are you and Pansage OK? What about you, Burgh and Leavanny?"

There were nods in response however the response that Ash got that was verbal did not come from either of them.

"Oshaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" The small Water type Pokémon let out that childish wail as it dove into Ash's chest, almost knocking him outside the Jeep and sent him sprawling onto the road. Ash let out a little chuckle as he patted the Pokémon on the head as it looked at him with almost tears in its eyes.

"Ok OK OK. Don't worry, I'm OK." Ash said the words slowly as he let their soothing effect come over him. He looked towards the other Pokémon, Tepig looking shocked towards the inferno that was ripping through the Forest, slowly surrounding them as the napalm set everything in sight alight.

There was nothing chasing them, well nothing alive at the very least. But even so, the pure tension in the air as the fire chased after them was something that made everyone in the Jeep silently acknowledge the threat.

It was not alive so it would not listen to the cries of those that were dying. It had no sympathy for those that wanted to live and it did not discriminate in who it ripped into and stole the life out of. It was to an extent the only being in the incident taking place in the Pinwheel Forest that could truly kill without remorse and let those that were lucky enough so scarred that they would never look at the weapon and terminology that came with it in the same way again.

There was a crack to the side and Ash immediately looked up from where he was patting Oshawott, only to see that one of the trees had cracked under the pressure of its weight and the burning stump that it had possessed.

Ash had no time to react or think about what it was that he was trying to do however the words came out of his mouth as soon as he saw the tree that was about to fall into the path of the truck as the others tried to form Aura Shields around the Jeep itself.

"Oshawott! Launch Snivy using Water Gun! Snivy, spin and use Leaf Blade!"

Oshawott immediately turned its head from Ash's chest, pointing it towards the Grass type Pokémon, launching it towards the tree that was slowly angling itself towards the road that Burgh was driving the Jeep towards.

Snivy was launched through the air, spinning its entire body as it used the Water Gun as a propellant so that it was covered with the water that surrounded it, its tail glowing green in the process as it continued to spin through the air, reaching the tree within a second before slamming its tail down onto where the tree was weakest in structure, the Pokémon using its sharp eyes in order to determine such.

The tree, already weakened by the flames that had been climbing up it slowly, was like butter towards Snivy's Leaf Blade. It cut through the flames easily, the water that was covering its body meaning that it extinguished the flames that it came into contact with rather than suffering damage from them itself. It kicked off the tree that was still hovering the air slightly, kicking towards the Jeep in a fast motion, the tip of the tree that it had cut falling away to the opposite side of the road in the process.

Snivy landed in the Jeep gracefully just as the entire Jeep was covered with Aura Shields. Burgh wasted no time slamming his foot on the accelerator as he rushed forward in the Jeep, managing to curve around the side of the road where a gap had appeared in the falling tree thanks to Snivy's actions.

It whizzed through, the tree slamming onto both sides of the Jeep in the process, kicking up dust everywhere, the impact meaning that Burgh's handling of the wheel was disrupted even slightly. He immediately straightened out, following the path with pinpoint accuracy as they made it back on the road, still surrounded by the burning trees.

Cilan turned towards Ash who was breathing heavily as he considered what it was that he had just asked Snivy to do and just how successful it had been.

"Ash…that was some excellent quick thinking. I think you just saved all of our lives."

"Thank Snivy and Oshawott." Came the quick reply. "I didn't do much."

Cilan blinked at the rather fast reply that Ash gave despite the situation before looking towards Burgh who was focusing hard on driving given that the extra weight that had filled the Jeep unexpectedly was sure to make them slowly, something that they did not need right now in the situation.

"Burgh. We need to reach the lake that we reached before. Do you think that we can get there as fast as we can?"

"The lake?" asked Agent Jetstream with a frown on her face. "Why the lake? And come to think of it, where's Liberty? Wasn't he in-"

"Mistress."

Lucario's voice cut through her words as she looked towards Lucario, the Pokémon closing her eyes as her trainer did the same, the thoughts being transferred by Lucario to the trainer that was receiving that small part of Lucario's life force.

Without a hitch, she immediately pulled back as if she had just touched the spikes of a Cacturne. She was silent if only for a moment, her face pale as she gulped once. She closed her eyes once, pausing before taking a long breath in before opening her eyes.

Yet even though it was the case, it did not prevent the fine circle of aura that was surrounding her to tell that the news that she had just heard was something that had definitely left an impression on her.

"Understood. He knew what it was that he was getting into. I…..We all knew what it was. There's nothing that we can do." She tightened her fist ever so slightly at the words that she was speaking towards the others, however even then to an extent, they could be directed towards herself.

"Right. Burgh, in order to make sure that Virizion's aura is returned to it, we need to head towards the lake. We can't do anything about the Forest, the napalm has been spread too far and for too long. We need to make sure that Virizion gets its health back as soon as possible. You know what that means right?" Her tone was sharp but wavering slightly, the sign that she was a professional in a field that did not suit her.

But then again, in that Jeep who was the one that fit in the situation the most? None of them were really truly prepared for the events that had taken place today so there was no question what someone, even if they said they were used to it, would feel when overcome and faced with violence and the irrational behaviour of those trying to seek selfish desires at the end of the day.

"Huh? But didn't Virizion's aura get dispersed after that machine fired at it?" asked Iris. "There's no way that it could have gotten to the lake in that amount of time!"

"That's true. Unless…." Cilan was the one to speak, putting a hand to his chin as he thought hard about what Jetstream had spoken about. "Unless the nutrients in the soil that are fed by the lake seemed to feed back into it. Like Axew's Dragon Rage!"

Iris titled her head and her Pokémon appeared slowly out of her hair at the mention of its name, Ash turning towards the older boy as he gave a more rational explanation of what he had already managed to figure out.

"The nutrients are fed by the lake. Not only that but the entire Forest is fed by its aura. But with Virizion's defences suddenly ripped from it, there was nowhere for the residual aura to go except back into the ground where it had come from, where it was then transferred to the lake, where every bit of soil is irrefutably connected. Like Axew's Dragon Rage, the power didn't expel itself like normal aura, but-"

"Went back into the Forest itself!?" blurted Iris, growing excited at the sound of the news, a new hope that seemed to be the only light given the nature of the situation that they found themselves in. "So if we manage to return Virizion to the lake, then it gets all its power back!?"

"That's the plan." Said Lucario silently.

"What are you talking about!? This is great! Since Virizion is powered the Forest, can't it just keep on doing what it was that it was before and rejuvenate the Forest again?" asked Iris, Lucario's tone something that she did not like.

Another crack filled the air and the group spun their heads back towards where they had just been, the sight of another tree felling because of the fire that ripped through its very nature had caused it to weaken.

Flying Pokémon filled the air and there were scatters of smaller Pokémon fleeing the area, either hopping onto the backs of the larger Flying Pokémon or seeking shelter from the Water Pokémon however even then, as they raced through the road that had been set out, there was nothing that could be said in positivity towards the endless burning that was taking place.

Ash merely looked back towards the Forest, his gaze seeming to drop slightly towards Pikachu on his lap as he considered what it was that they were trying to return to normal.

"We can't do that. Because the Forest has been hurt too much. Everyone took and took and there was nothing left to give back Mistress Iris. Nothing. We can only heal Virizion. But we can't give it back its home." Her voice was solemn as she spoke the reality that surrounded them all.

Iris went silent as she looked around, wondering why it was that the naïve idea of returning Virizion's home had even occurred to her. Looking around, what was there even to return to? Was there any reason to try and return Virizion towards this place that clearly no one wanted to return to?

The Pinwheel Forest was burning.

And there was nothing that anyone could do to change that.

"You're wrong." Ash spoke up even though there was nothing but destruction all around them. There was a massive burst of wind that came out of nowhere to the left, the sounds of trees falling and smashing onto the ground filling the air but even then, Ash made that one remark to counter Lucario's comment without a pause.

"How so?" asked Cilan. He looked as they passed the entire Forest, looking at the destruction that was there and would always be there even when they were gone. The burnt fraction, no, the entire burnt Forest itself would be a reminder that something had happened here that had caused such destruction in and of itself. "Look around. We might have won…but in the end, we lost Ash."

Ash frowned at his words, looking around towards the others, their faces either silent as they looked towards the Forest or averting their gaze from his as they watched on.

"How did we lose Cilan?" asked Ash. "Sure the Pinwheel Forest is burning. This is Virizion's home and there is nothing that we can do bring that back. But even so, how have we lost when we still have Virizion? A battle isn't over until all of the Pokémon are unable to battle. Even if there is a breath of life or determination in either the trainer or the Pokémon, there is no reason to give up. Even Liberty felt that when he offered himself as bait. And even in the end, all he did was make sure that we saved Virizion. So we haven't lost. Not yet."

Ash looked around towards everyone that looked back at him and he turned away, looking towards the burning Forest, the only thing that was left in their wake.

"Not yet."

"Pikachu."

Both trainer and Pokémon said those words silently as they looked at the Forest, the Jeep slowly turning as they came towards a corner, the tyres screeching as Burgh came to a stop. Everyone lurched forward as a result, the gazes turning back towards the front as they looked towards the thing that had caused Burgh to stop.

They saw it.

The dirt had been all disturbed from the last time that they were here but even then, it seemed as though this was the only place in the entire Forest that was not burning. Smoke and ash rose from around them but even then, the shine of the lake's surface amongst the danger seemed to have not even been disturbed. The unconscious figures of the poachers and their Pokémon were still here despite all that the others had done since they had come here before.

"…..We're here." Burgh's voice broke the silence as they sat silently in the Jeep, looking at the lake itself. He didn't move whatsoever, only electing to look at the Jeep, as if waiting for someone to make the first move in order to follow their lead.

"Right."

There was the sound of feet hitting the ground however even then; everyone knew who it was that had made it out of the Jeep first.

"I haven't given up trying to save Virizion. I may have lost the Forest Cilan but that does not mean that it gives the right to turn my back on Virizion who is still here. Liberty wanted me to save it. He gave me one chance to do so so there's no way I'm going to let him down."

Pikachu jumped up onto Ash's shoulder, the only place where it felt it belonged and the only place in this chaos where it could sit and truly feel as though it was the safest place in the world.

A boy and his Pokémon.

In the end, what else did he need?

"So whether or not you think we've lost doesn't matter right now Cilan. Or Lucario. Or even you Iris. Because I want to save Virizion so it can truly look at the Forest and then think about what has to be done. So once again I ask you guys….Can you help me do that?"

Ash placed his hand on the back of the Jeep awaiting his answer, movement from within the Jeep providing an answer as well.

Snivy, Tepig and Oshawott all hopped out of the Jeep and stood right next to Ash. Their faces, well some of them, were calm, looking warily towards the trainers as if sizing them up by simply looking at their actions. There were those that looked proud to have such a trainer on its side and be in ownership of such a pure soul. On the other hand, there were others that it was clear they were trying to keep a clam face despite everything that had been occurring around them in the past few days.

But even so, those Pokémon stood by the trainer that they had chosen to travel with.

There was the sound of something breaking out of a Pokéball, two in fact as white light appeared right next to Ash to reveal the shapes of Pidove and Scraggy as they hovered and stood right next to their trainer. Their faces were calm but even so it was clear to all of the trainers there that the Pokémon that that one boy had managed to gain and travel with were not merely companions.

They were lifelong best friends that would not merely fade away with the passing of time.

More movement from within the Jeep attracted the attention of the group, both Sewaddle and Krokorok moving from the Jeep and standing next to Ash.

They had no connection to the boy apart from merely meeting once or deciding that a battle would be the best experience to gain from such a connection. But even so, they had truly grown strong. It was not a question of looking at what was happening and stating that they were not scared. Only a fool would not be.

Instead it was the fact that they were willing to stand by the side of that boy and fight for what was right. It wasn't a matter of a failure. The Pinwheel Forest was burning but it was no merely Virizion that was affected by such. There were other Pokémon here and they were suffering as well.

What they needed now was the one Pokémon that had enough power to completely allow the Forest to rejuvenate overtime but that was not any of the Pokémon that they had.

It was the weakened one that they had to save.

And those Pokémon would stand by the boy that had been tasked, of his own desire, to save that one Pokémon.

"Are you with me?"

"…."

"…."

"…."

"…."

"…."

There was no immediate response however it was Jetstream's voice that broke the silence.

"I'm glad you joined us in this Ash. You have a strength that I've only seen in one other person and I'm sure you have too. But even so, it makes you shine brighter than the rest of us right now. Personally, in order to truly make sure that he didn't die in vain….I have to see this through. I'm in."

Jetstream jumped out of the Jeep, Lucario following her on the opposite side, leaving only the Gym Leader, his Pokémon and those that had joined Ash in this quest that he had chosen of his own will.

"Ash, to be honest, there's nothing more pure than your heart in this moment. I look forward to challenging you at the Castelia Gym when it comes down to it. I'm practically at my Limit so there's not much that I think that I can do however I will make sure to not be a burden to you whatsoever."

Burgh leaped out of the driver's seat, Leavanny joining him and all eyes went towards those that were left behind.

Iris and Cilan looked at each other then back at the boy that had taken them this far.

"Ash…you think that we can make a difference? Axew hasn't even been this far and I don't want to place it in danger anymore. So can you promise me that we will get out of this? Alive? I want your word." Iris knew that what she was asking was completely selfish and that there was no way that Ash could truly promise at the bottom of his heart what it was that Iris was looking for however at the same time, she wanted to hear the words out of his mouth.

Even if it was a lie, she wanted him to truly give her the reassurance and the drive to jump out of that Jeep and follow him into the very depths of the mess that they had all walked into.

"I promise. I'll do my best to protect you Iris. You and Axew. Even Cilan and Pansage. I'll make sure that everyone is OK at the end of this. We all want to return back to our journey right? And there's nothing that can stop us when we're together."

Iris's face flushed at his words and she truly felt that he believed at the bottom of his heart. Somehow, he did have a light that even she did not understand in this moment however that truth that Ash spoke to her right now was perhaps the only thing that she needed to know in this moment.

Ash rose his hand and offered it to her. She looked at it, considering everything that had led to this moment. She had fought poachers in this one place before. She had jumped from a moving vehicle before it had exploded, she had fought a poacher in mid-air before getting shot, she had been captured and escaped before she had landed herself in a burning Forest filled with those that she travelled with.

And right now, she had a choice to accept to move forward or to linger back and refuse to help.

There was movement by her side, a cool wind that touched her leg. She knew immediately what it was, the wounded Pokémon that they had all been moving to protect and its breath against her leg.

Within that one moment of clarity, her option came to her. What other was there? She turned her head towards Cilan and whether or not it be because she was looking towards him or because he saw her determination in her eyes, he gave one simple motion of his head.

"Of course we're with you Ash. Let's save Virizion and do our best to protect its home."

She took his hand and he led her down, Cilan and Pansage leaping off the Jeep as they all looked towards the wounded Pokémon.

"OK guys. This is the last stretch. We have to make sure we get Virizion to the lake so that it can regain its aura. That's all we have to do so let's save Virizion."

There was only agreement as people and Pokémon alike used their aura and their bare hands to lift the Pokémon into the air as they departed from the Jeep, slowly carrying the heavy Pokémon towards the lake from where they parked. Unconscious forms that were slowly breathing as they lay against fallen cars and Pokémon were evident to the side but they had already been dealt with.

Liberty had acted as bait and drawn away the rest of the poachers so the only thing that they had to do was make sure that they reached the lake's edge at the very least in order to make sure that they could save the Pokémon that had yet to act and protect its home where it lived and was sure to want to save itself.

Each step was a strain, especially on Ash's body from the weight as everyone was using less aura than they should have due to the fatigue taking a toll on their mental strain but even so, he did not complain.

He turned his head as he looked towards the slowly breathing face of Virizion right next to him, to which he gave a small smile as he looked towards the Pokémon itself.

"Don't worry. I'll keep my promise. We're going to-"

He never finished as the corner of his retina immediately exploded with light. He let out a cry and fell to one knee however even though he felt as though he was the only person that had sustained a sudden injury, it was not the case. Yells from all around him and the sudden pressure of the full weight of the Pokémon coming down onto him suddenly sent him to the ground but even so, the sound of the exploding Jeep behind him was the one thing that caught his attention.

He tried to look through his eyes however they were blurry and a sudden rush of wind came from in front of him, kicking up dust and throwing his vision once more out of control as the powerful wind kicked off the pressure of the Pokémon that was on top of him even though it had a heavy weight. He did not know exactly how much Virizion weighed however the pressure of the Pokémon that was lifted off him allowed him to breath as he looked up in order to see the new threat that had been directed his way.

And to an extent, he felt as though he should have never have looked up.

The gigantic form of the airship that he had seen too many times came in front of him. Its bland colour seemed to only add towards its intimidation, the emptiness that it reflected only matched by the emptiness in the heart of its owner.

J's airship sent dust and figures flying everywhere as it landed kicking up water as it landed right in front of the lake where it was that Ash was trying to get to. He immediately felt his heart race even faster than what it had beforehand and the airship landed just in front of the bank, the wind from the landing meaning that the flames in the area that were surrounding him were immediately extinguished, the trees that had been burning falling to the ground with a smash.

Ash looked behind him, only to thankfully see that no one had managed to get as far as the area where the trees had fallen, everyone managing to be kept in the clearing where the airship had landed. He was the closest, along with Pikachu but it was Virizion that was quite a ways away that served to add pressure to Ash's heart. He needed to make sure that Virizion reached the lake at any cost.

And if that meant what he thought it did then he was going to be prepared for that in any case.

There was a hiss of gas like her vehicle and the bottom of the airship dropped open, Ash standing up as the wind brushed against his face, causing his clothes to ruffle in the wind as he looked straight towards the next enemy that he knew that was coming.

In the end, what had he expected?

There had only been one true villain that he knew was coming.

And if his role of the 'Hidden Guardian' was to come true then there needed to be a conflict that allowed him that title to be so fitting towards.

Conflict never ended.

It merely went about full circle in a chain that always ended up with those people that were perceived as 'good' pitting themselves against those that were 'bad'.

One footstep clacked against the cold metal of the airship and the air that had been brought up meant that her cloak fluttered in the wind. Her visor/goggles were against her forehead, meaning that she was looking straight at the boy and he was looking straight back at her.

"Boy."

"Hunter J."

Both of those players spat out the words of their enemy and stood merely watching the other.

This was the final stage.

And it was time for the battle to start.


This was fairly long. With no singing or dancing, which was something of a disappointment. At the same time, while this was something that was both an explanation chapter and also somewhat of a fighting chapter with a lot of revelations in regards to the larger story, in truth, I think that this chapter only sets the stage for the finale.

So I hope that you guys stay for the climax!

Given that we know who the main players are as of now, I think it's pretty obvious who is going to be the focus After all, this entire chapter is really actually only taken from one person's point of view.

But at the same time, I did something that I don't think has ever happened in Pokémon, period. I killed someone. As I was writing it, I was thinking that it kind of didn't fit into the storyline of the child's TV show that I remember so I guess to some extent, Liberty MIGHT have survived. Sorry to disappoint those that cheered when he died.

But I'll write the next one both with and without him and see which one is better with more action.

As this is the lead up to the final chapter, there is really nothing more that I can say in regards to something that I think should be said. For those that looked at the chapter and said to yourself "You can't do that! XXXXX doesn't work like that!" then I apologise. After all, Bulbapedia and Wikipedia are the only sources I use in abundance. That's the information age for you.

Thank you once again for coming this far in the story then. I am in your debt and I hope whatever comes next is something that you enjoy fully.

And as always,
Review if you please

And I'll see you when I see you and I won't if I don't.

In the end, there is only one thing that I can really say if I want to start out this chapter with the next one you know?

To Be Continued…