A/N: Howdy everyone! Frostbreaker here with chapter thirteen to this great story. As you all have seen, things are starting to head toward Rick's original plan, so everything's all good...right? Whatever you think, please R&R and let me know what you thought.

To Toxicobra - Yes, he will be facing the Elite Four.

To Omni-Foxvatar-117 - Maybe, maybe...

To Skullsplitter98 - Or, maybe Timothy can't procreate with his mates because Awakened aren't compatible as they currently are. I don't judge sexual orientation or gender, so if you feel like being a little weird, do it. "Fly your freak flag", as they say. As far as Arceus' choices on the two races, that is for a number of reasons. First of all, he caused the spark in history that separated the races, but can't undo his work; it would require wiping the entire planet clean to start with a "blank canvas". Awakened are the way that the two races can be rejoined naturally, without direct interference from the Alpha pokemon.

Chapter 13: Danger in the Shadows

Consciousness came slowly to me in the morning, and a delightful warmth lay against my side, accompanying the warm sunlight that filtered through the blinds on the window. From the scent wafting in my nostrils, I could easily piece together what had happened the night previous, and allowed myself a close-eyed smile at the memory. I'll admit things were quite strange for the two of us, with Ada being my first pokemon lover and me being her first ever, but we made it work. More than anything, I believe it was the fact that we loved each other so deeply that made things decent instead of bad. Besides, we had the rest of our lives to get better.

I finally opened my eyes and took stock of the room, noticing that sometime during the night, the others had all returned and slept as they usually did. The exception was Darcy, who was sleeping standing up in the corner beside me, arms crossed and chest gently rising and falling. I'll be honest and say that I felt a little bad at the fact that she had decided to avoid the bed, but I knew it was because she didn't want to feel as if she was intruding or anything. Mates or not, it seemed there were certain boundaries that weren't to be crossed for her. I promised myself I'd speak with her about it later at some point. I couldn't claim to be an expert on pokemon relationships, after all.

What I noticed next was a little more interesting though.

As I turned to look at Ada and kiss her good morning, it became clear that she had changed overnight. Her size as a whole had increased for one, and her facial structure had become more human-like, with a fully-developed nose and cheekbones. Also, if the sensations of my chest were anything to go by, she had grown much larger along her upper torso as well, which made me smirk a little ‒ that would be fun later. I ran my hands gently along the curves of her body, realizing that her lithe, delicate form had filled out quite a bit, and her hips were more pronounced along with warmer skin (normally, she was very cool). Lastly, from what I could outwardly see, her hands were much larger and better developed, having ten distinct digits, including thumbs. I suppose that from what I knew of my effects upon her, I should have expected this, but it was still a nice surprise. I mean, I'd always thought she was beautiful, but wow.

My touches, gentle as they were, had caused Ada to begin to stir against me, and I watched with a loving smile as her crimson eyes fluttered open, her new eyelashes making her look all the more beautiful as she did so. When her eyes rested on me she closed her eyes again and hugged me tightly, a bright smile crossing her lips.

"Mmm...good morning." she mumbled sleepily.

I chuckled softly and ran my fingers through her green bangs. "Good morning, beautiful."

As she hugged me, she suddenly scrunched her face up and opened her eyes, bringing a hand to her field of vision. With a gasp she looked up at me, then smiled and waggled her new fingers in my face. She then gasped again and whispered, "I have toes too!"

"And a nose, and eyelashes…" I added with a smug grin.

Using her new hands to check over the mentioned changes, her smile began to grow wider and wider until she finally flung the sheets off her naked body and levitated to the adjoined washroom, checking herself in the mirror. I stood from the bed as well, somehow not waking Darcy, and brought Ada's dress with me to the washroom. Coming up behind Ada, I draped the dress over her shoulders, resting my head atop hers as I wrapped my arms around her.

"I'm so pretty now." she whispered with a large smile adorning her face.

I smiled gently, holding her a little firmer. "You were always beautiful, Ada."

Ada focused her eyes on my reflection and giggled softly. "I look like a human girl now."

I brushed a finger against her heart shard. "Except for this." I then turned her away from the mirror to look at me. "But don't worry about how much or how little you look like a human. Had I wanted a human to be with me, I wouldn't have spent so much time around pokemon." If it's possible, her smile seemed to grow even more, and she stood on her tiptoes to kiss me. I relished the feeling of her lips against my own for a few moments before pulling away and pointing to the shower stall. "Come on, we need to wash up. We smell, and that's not too polite for our friends, now is it?"

Ada blushed a bit but nodded, pulling me toward the shower with her. With a coy smile she said, "You wash me and I'll wash you, deal?"

I smirked, removing my shorts as I did so. "Deal."

After washing up (and "playing" a little) we arrived clean and dry back in the room to see the rest of the group waking up. As always Zane was a little reluctant, but the rest of them seemed well-rested and ready to go. However, with me finally having my eighth badge, that left the question as to where we were to go next. Sure, I could rush off to battle the Elite Four, but I wanted to allow myself and my partners a little downtime. We all needed a bit of a rest, and Darcy was still healing besides.

"So, where to?" Gracia asked aloud, no doubt speaking the same question the others were thinking.

I thought for a moment as I voiced my options. "Well, we could go straight off to the League…"

"Pass." Darcy grumbled, holding her burned arm protectively. "I'm still healing, and I want to be able to fight the Elite Four."

I nodded. "Good point. So, where to then?"

For a long few moments, no one said anything.

"How about we head back to see your home?" Ada suggested from beside me. When I looked to meet her eyes, she smiled and added, "We could all meet your father."

I rubbed my chin thoughtfully. "Hmm…well, I did promise I'd visit him." After a moment's consideration, I clapped my hands together and nodded. "New Bark Town it is, then." I focused for a moment and changed my shorts to a simple pair of cargo shorts and a tee shirt, then formed a pair of hiking boots to go with it. "Well, I'm set if you all are. Let's eat a quick breakfast and be off, shall we?"

They all agreed, so I went about digging out the Pokechow and another granola bar for myself. We ate in relative silence (unless you count the loud smacking of Osiris) and enjoyed the warmth of the room. Winter was going to be coming soon, which meant travel outside was going to get a little tedious. Darcy wouldn't mind of course, but I wasn't about to snuggle up to Osiris just to stay warm; to do so would break quite a few guy codes. Whatever...we could wait until spring to travel again.

I cleared my throat before announcing, "Just so you lot know, we're waiting until spring to start traveling again. I'll not risk us freezing to death out in the wilderness."

Ada nodded appreciatively. "I think I speak for all of us when I agree. Besides, time off during the holidays would be nice." The rest of the group mumbled words of agreement, and I smiled as Ada looked back to me. "So, home for the winter?"

I nodded as well. "Sounds good. Well, let us head to Timothy's place to say hello before we head home, and then we'll set a course for New Bark."

After an hour or so of relaxed eating and a quick call to my father, the seven of us were walking to the edge of the city so that Gracia could fly us to Cianwood. It was a sunny autumn day for us, so I opted to let us all get some sun and fresh air before we left, as the journey to New Bark town would take an hour, even at the speeds Gracia could fly. Besides, after last night, I found a strong desire to spend more time with Ada and Darcy.

"So…" Darcy began, motioning to Ada with a clawed hand.

Ada smiled and twirled as she levitated through the air, her resized dress billowing as she spun around. "It's a change, but I can easily get used to it. Although," she began, pointing to the white strapped sandals she was wearing, "wearing shoes will take some getting used to." As soon as the question entered my mind, Ada added, "I mean I guess I didn't really have feet before, at least not in the traditional sense. These are softer, and more flexible." She then landed and began to walk, increasing her speed until she was sprinting. After a moment she ran back to us, with a bright smile on her face. "But I can run now!"

I grinned and commented, "And you could do so much else as well. You could learn to play instruments, you could paint art, and you could even learn gymnastics." Ada raised her eyebrow at me, and I just shrugged. "Hey, they're just options."

She smirked and replied, "You just want to see me in a skintight leotard."

I turned my eyes heavenward for a second as I visualized the image, and smiled. "Well I wasn't thinking about that before, but I am now." A playful shove from Darcy caused me to chuckle and stumble as we continued our jaunt through the city.

Just as we were about to leave, a shout from behind me caused us to stop and turn, ready for either a salutation or a fight; whichever would happen. Thankfully, the event seemed to be the former as I recognized an officer's uniform and aqua-colored hair, along with an Arcanine ally.

"Stop!" the officer shouted, though it was clear from her tone that it was a request instead of an order. The Arcanine arrived with only two powerful bounds, with its master following a short time afterwards.

As the officer rested her palms on her knees and panted for a few moments, I wordlessly raised my eyebrow at the Arcanine by her side. It shrugged its shoulders before turning its eyes to the officer, who pushed herself to a full standing position and thrust her hand out in front of her.

She offered me a large smile and said, "My name's Jenny, and I'm captain of the Blackthorn branch of League Enforcement. I'd like to personally thank you for stopping the Rocket agents the other day, though I'm unsure exactly how you did it."

I reached out and took the hand offered, giving it a firm shake before replying with, "I just kicked the piss out of them, that's all. There's nothing particularly strange about that, is there?"

The officer released my hand, but raised her eyebrow skeptically. "Five against one? That's unthinkable odds for anyone, let alone someone caught unawares with the first strike."

I chuckled and shook my head. "He hit like a child, if even that hard."

Officer Jenny slowly smiled. "That nurse just might have been right about you. Only one way to find out for sure, though…" She then motioned to the Arcanine beside her and asked, "Feeling up to a battle, Flare?"

I looked between the two of them. "What does a battle prove exactly?"

"You against Flare, one on one." Officer Jenny replied with a grin. "No pokemon; just you and Flare."

I again glanced over the officer and Arcanine before shaking my head. "I don't fight without reason, Officer Jenny."

She nodded. "I can understand that; call this a test, then. I have a request in mind, but I need to be sure you can handle it."

I rubbed my chin in thought. "What sort of request, exactly?"

She shook her head. "Can't tell you unless you win, Mr. Childs. Suffice to say it's important, and the safety of a lot of pokemon depend on it."

The veiled mention of pokemon in danger made me respond without hesitation. "I'll do it." Officer Jenny grinned again and backed away, while I motioned to my team to do the same. With a confident smirk I replied, "I hope Flare's the strongest you have, otherwise your Arcanine is going to get hurt."

Without a word Officer Jenny pointed to me and made a sequence of hand gestures, and I had only a moment to throw up a Reflect shell as a Fire Blast shot toward me, and then I was forced to dodge as the Arcanine Flare followed up with a Flame Charge. Without pause it charged me again, only to feint and attempt to land a Fire Fang on my side. A Protect just barely saved me from a burn and huge amounts of pain, but now I was ready. It seemed this Arcanine in particular had trained to attack and recover with unnatural speed, overwhelming most opponents with sheer power and speed. I was no normal opponent though, as both the pokemon and trainer were about to find out.

I turned to see that Flare had already retreated to a great distance, but only to approach me at a dead sprint with what I recognized as a preparation for Giga Impact. With a smirk I raised a hand in the air as the Arcanine leapt, and caught it in the air with a Confusion. Spinning it around for a second and then throwing it, I was surprised to see the pokemon land on its feet, again approaching me at a sprint. This time it began to be wreathed in bright orange flames before shooting them at me as a massive ball of swirling flame, followed by three more of the same size.

Utilizing a Reflect and a well-placed Psywave, I deflected each attack, and then before the Arcanine could charge again, I caught it in the air with a Psychic. With a bit of a sadistic smirk, I flicked my wrist and slammed it into a tree, then the ground, and then blasted it away through another tree.

Not waiting for my opponent to recover, I leapt through the air toward where it had flown, finding it standing and glaring at me. With a mighty leap it met me in the air, catching me on my leg with a Fire Fang.

I hissed in pain. "Fuck me, that hurt!" With a growl I landed and dashed off toward where the Arcanine landed, and unleashed a Close Combat combination on it, pummeling it with a barrage of punches, kicks, and even a headbutt (just for good measure). It wobbled back, dazed for a moment, so I decided to end the battle.

Gathering my latent energy within, I unleashed my own Giga Impact as a jumping uppercut, catching the Arcanine under its chin and throwing it a good distance into the air.

This time, my opponent did not land on its feet, and nor did it stir again.

Officer Jenny walked over to her partner and broke open a capsule before wafting it under his nose, which I recognized as a Revive. She then sprayed him down with a Hyper Potion before turning to me with a smirk.

"You seemed to be having a bit of trouble there Mr. Childs, but you still won. Well done." she praised.

I cast a Heal Pulse on myself to mend the wound I had sustained before turning to her with a frown. "I was trying to incapacitate, not kill; you're welcome." I shook my head with a sigh. "I would never go so mad in a simple battle as to actually hurt anyone. It goes against who I am, and what I stand for." I then made my way over to the Arcanine and offered a hand to help it stand. "Are you alright?"

It nodded, a grin on its face. "Just fine, sir. Good battle."

I was a little surprised to find a squeaky feminine voice coming forth from such an intimidating pokemon, but I kept from laughing and instead shook her extended paw firmly. "You as well, Flare." I then turned my eyes to Officer Jenny and asked, "So what's this job? If it involves ensuring safety to those who need it, I'm willing to give it a go."

She nodded. "Very well. You seemed in a bit of a hurry though; is there something urgent you were about to do?"

I shook my head. "I was just going to head home for the holidays, but a quick job won't upset that. I'll just call my dad and let him know I'll be a little later than I initially thought, and all should be fine." She nodded and waited as I flipped open my PokeGear and found my father's contact number, sending the call. After a moment or so the screen flipped on to show my dad with a smile on his face. "Hi Dad."

"Hello Rick. Everything alright?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

I shrugged. "Something's come up, and I think I'm going to be a little later than I expected; maybe by a few hours, or even a day. I just wanted to call you and let you know."

His face showed concern now. "Nothing serious, I hope."

I shook my head and turned the camera toward Officer Jenny. "Just helping the League out with something." I then turned the camera back to me and explained, "A lot have things have happened since I left; I'll explain everything when I arrive, but for now, I ask that you just trust me when I say that everything is alright."

For a few seconds my dad just stared at me. Finally, he sighed and shook his head. "I'll expect a full explanation, you know. However, you've never given me cause to think you're thick, so I'll trust you for now. Good luck, son."

I nodded. "Thanks, dad. I'll see you soon." I closed my PokeGear and looked to Officer Jenny, a smile on my face. "I'm ready. What's the situation and what do I need to do?"

Officer Jenny tore open a small square package, and instantly the smell of alcohol assaulted my nose. She then took my hand and rubbed my wrist with the swab, cleaning and disinfecting it. With a glance at me she pressed a small rectangle of paper to my cleaned wrist, pulling it away a few seconds later to reveal a temporary tattoo, though much higher quality than the cheap sort found in the twenty-five dollar toy machines.

"You're going to be entering an underground battle ring, where pokemon have been stolen from their trainers or abducted from the wild and forced to battle for amusement." she explained, inspecting the tattoo to be sure it looked as it should. "This mark will get you in." She then looked up to me with sorrow clear in her eyes. "I'll offer you no delusions about what you'll find there, Mr. Childs; some of the pokemon you find might be grievously injured, or even dead."

The mere mention of pokemon being forced to fight until they were permanently disfigured or dead set my blood boiling, and I fought to keep from snarling in anger.

"Your mission," she continued, bringing me back to reality, "is as follows: locate and subdue the leader of the battle ring, and bring him in for questioning. Second, find and save any pokemon you can. Lethal force is not authorized though, so I ask that you restrain from killing any humans you might find down there; instead, incapacitate them so that we can sweep through after you're done and arrest them."

Beyond the League-approved moves that I could use as an Awakened, I had more than enough power to send everyone there to sleep, or have them cowering with paralyzing terror as I brought their worst fears to life as hallucinations. I supposed the real challenge would be controlling myself to keep from killing everyone there, and finding the leader before I went ballistic.

"However," she continued again, pointing to Ada, "I would recommend taking her with you."

I raised my eyebrow, my rage bleeding away to stark confusion. "Wouldn't that make me stick out? I mean I would love to, but she's unique."

Officer Jenny nodded. "Exactly. The kinds of people you'll find there are those who flaunt the trophies and unique things they have, as well as the power they control. You can expect to see a great many shiny pokemon there accompanying their masters, as well as a lot of gaudy jewelry and ridiculously expensive clothing. So, in trying to stay under the radar by appearing normal, you'll actually become more visible."

I nodded a few times, taking the information in. "So basically I should act and look like I belong there, hm?" Officer Jenny nodded, so I closed my eyes for a moment and focused on the clothing I was wearing. I opted to wear a double-breasted suit with leather shoes. Instead of wearing the standard navy that I liked so much though, I changed the color to white with green accents ‒ something that would turn heads, as well as match my companion for the night. I finished with a green pocket square and red tie, just to stand out a little more. If what Officer Jenny said was true, I was going to fit in just fine.

I opened my eyes to see the officer staring dumbly at me for a moment before composing herself and reaching out to run her fingers over the yoke of my jacket. "Very nice. I'd heard rumors that you were able to change your clothes like that, but it's something entirely different to see it in person." When I raised my eyebrow in a silent question toward the word "rumors", Officer Jenny shrugged. "Timothy Maxwell. He's a friend."

I nodded in understanding. "Well now you know. So, how do I look?"

Officer Jenny ran a critical eye over me before nodding. "Very good; this should suit you quite nicely and allow you to seem like one of the crowd. Just try your best to move through the crowd and remember: don't make your move until you have located and subdued the primary target. The League would help, but every time we've gotten close, they've sniffed us out somehow. We believe someone within our ranks works for them."

I nodded again. "I understand."

The officer handed me an envelope and explained, "The location and time of the meetup is inside; open it somewhere private, and tell no one else. We'll move in on the building at oh-four-hundred, so be done before then. Our agents will then sweep the area and provide medical attention to any pokemon who are too injured to move. Until then, do your best to keep them comfortable and calm, and we'll do the rest." Officer Jenny then clapped her hand on my shoulder and added, "We're counting on you, Mr. Childs. Don't let us down." She then sighed. "I know this all seems rather sudden, but we can't wait any longer and have been told by Mr. Maxwell that you would be perfect for this. Good luck."

I nodded once again before walking back toward the Pokemon Center, six concerned pokemon in tow.

In the privacy of my rented room, I opened the envelope to find that the target location was within a shaded grove in the mountains, which was only accessible by air. This alone was genius, as those present could easily keep track of who arrived, and who was leaving. The meetup was also at eleven at night, which meant it would be dark and impossible to find except for those who already knew where it was. Thousands of tons of rock and dense forests would mute any noise made, which created the perfect spot for illicit activities. The League were infiltrated, so they couldn't stealthily approach, and civilians were highly unlikely to stumble across it.

Unfortunately, they would have me to deal with this time.

"So what's the plan?" Darcy asked as she reclined on the bed, watching me Ada and I as we made sure all was within order.

I turned to her and pointed to Gracia. "Gracia will fly us in, but other than Ada the rest of you will be confined to your pokeballs. I'll work as quick as possible to find the leader and hide him somewhere out of the way, and then the rest of you will lead the pokemon who can move away from the site. I don't expect complications, but I don't want any of them around when the League agents show up. We'll wait until around 1:00 a.m. to make our move, so it'll give us plenty of time to take care of things before we're supposed to be done."

Darcy growled quietly. "I don't like the idea of leaving just the two of you to deal with things."

I shook my head. "I don't like it either, but while the rest of you are moving the pokemon out, we need to stick around to keep up appearances. I don't want to give away our anonymity unless we have to, so I prefer to keep our cover for as long as possible. We'll be alright; I'm not worried about us. I just don't want any of the pokemon around when things get bad."

"Without a doubt, they'll be guarded." Osiris pointed out.

I nodded. "Yeah, that's a safe assumption. To be honest, I'd be surprised if they weren't. So, I'll stage a diversion of some sort; maybe I'll cause a single trainer to start violently hallucinating, causing a ruckus. That should gather the attention of some of the guards, and then Zane can knock the rest out with a Sleep Powder."

Lynn nodded from her perch upon Zane's back. "I like it. It offers little chance of friendly fire, and doesn't hurt the humans."

I nodded, grimacing. "Yes, but that's assuming things go well. If they don't, we'll have to improvise. It goes without saying that I want to prevent injuries to humans or pokemon, but don't hesitate to use force if you have to." I then closed my hand into a fist and added, "We're there to win though, not fight fair. That means fight dirty if you have to ‒ we can hate ourselves after the pokemon are safe and the humans are in custody."

From what I knew about pokemon culture as a whole, they placed quite a bit of importance on honor and fairness. My group's grimaces and frowns made it clear that they didn't like the idea of taking cheap shots, but nods all around confirmed they understood they might not have a choice. I didn't like asking my partners to do it, but I had made it clear from the beginning that they didn't have to come if they didn't want to. My answer to that was a resounding no; they were coming.

I looked up at the clock and sighed. "Well, we've got another seven hours until we leave, which means we should find something to do until then." I brought my hand to my chin and scratched absently for a moment before announcing, "I think we've earned another time to eat out today, seeing as how Osiris, Lynn, and Darcy fought so well in the gym. I saw a nice little shop while I was running yesterday that should do quite well, I think." I then smiled. "Plus, I don't think the people of Blackthorn would oppose me treating you all as most people would treat a human, unlike Mahogany Town."

Ada nodded before grabbing the back of my head and bringing me in for a passionate kiss, causing me to drop the envelope and chuckle a little in happiness. As soon as she moved away, Darcy claimed my mouth next, and I spent a good ten seconds exploring the cool interior of the Sneasel's mouth.

After Darcy and I separated, Ada stated, "Which means we can do that in public without everyone giving us the stink eye." I nodded a bit drunkenly as Darcy pulled me to a standing position and began to lead me to the door.

"C'mon Rick," Darcy urged, "I'm hungry for some tasty human food."

I chuckled and followed Darcy out into the hallway, with the rest of the group close behind.

After ordering our respective meals, I was feeling a little frustrated by the server; not that it was her fault, but rather it was the fact that she ‒ nor anyone else, for that matter ‒ could fathom why I would want two slices of toast with a plate of chips. When I told her, she stared at me as if I had gone mad.

"What the hell kind of person doesn't know what a chip butty is?" I fumed, crossing my arms and releasing a frustrated huff. "I never thought I'd have to order all the pieces separately just so I can make it myself."

Ada giggled and placed an arm around my shoulders as we sat at the outdoor table. "Not everyone knows how food is done in the Kalos region, Rick."

Darcy perked up, lifting her head off of her claw. "Kalos?"

I brought my hand to my face. "I forgot, none of you know where I'm originally from." I looked over the six gathered and explained, "Far across the sea is a massive star-shaped island known as the Kalos region, where pokemon none of you have ever seen live and thrive. I don't remember much and can only tell you what my father's told me, but it has quite a few major landmarks that are the target of scientific research. For example: I lived in Anistar City, which has some weird sundial that no one has any idea why it's there or what it's meant for."

Osiris frowned. "But I met you in New Bark Town, Rick."

I nodded. "That you did, but I didn't move to Johto until I was five…" I swallowed hard and muttered, "right after my mother left." I then shook my head. "But that's a sad story for another time. Anyhow the point is, food in Kalos was very different, and even though I've grown up here, my dad still cooked all my favorite dishes for us while I was little ‒ a chip butty being one of them."

Osiris nodded before looking between Ada and I. "Wait, then how does Ada know where you're really from?" I pointed a finger to my head, then to hers, causing him to form an "oh" shape with his mouth and nod.

"A psychic bond has its perks." I replied with a grin. "Although, it makes some things more difficult; like surprise parties, and shopping for birthday gifts…" I sipped my lemonade and smirked. "However, it also allowed me to know what to do last night when-"

"THAT'S enough of that." Ada interrupted, jabbing me in the ribs with her elbow.

We all laughed aloud at Ada's embarrassment, while I reached under the table and rested my hand on her leg, keeping it acceptable for public by using her dress as a buffer. Ada looked to me with a warm smile before laying her head on my shoulder. Darcy occupied my other side by slinging her arm across the backrest of my chair, which left us all quite content as we chatted idly.

"You may be fooling the rest of them, but I know you can't stop thinking about tonight." Ada projected to me.

I offered no outward response, but sent back, "Just trying to be strong for them, Ada. They need to know that their trainer and friend trusts them enough not to worry." I mentally sighed. "And I do...but I don't know if I trust myself."

Ada brought her hand under the table and squeezed mine firmly. "Why don't you trust yourself?"

I softly cleared my throat in a way that would be ignored. "Because I don't know if I'll be able to stop myself from killing the bastard that owns the ring. It's why I need you there, love: to make sure I don't do something I'll regret."

Again Ada offered a soft squeeze to my hand. "If ever I would write a vow to you in our pairing, the bottom line would state, 'I'll be strong when you are weak.' Just as you would protect me from anything that would hurt me, I will protect you from your own anger if I have to; it's what I promised to you when I first realized I loved you, and that will never change."

I smiled softly and laced my fingers in hers. "I know you'll always deny it, but you really are too good for me."

Ada said nothing more, and instead sighed happily as she continued leaning on me.

"Alright now," the server announced, along with two others as they brought our orders to us, "I think we have everything here." She and the other two went about setting out everyone's orders before she turned to me, handing a plate which had thick-cut chips, two toasted slices of bread, and a small cup of brown sauce on it. "I asked the cook to prepare everything to your specifications," she then reached in her apron pocket and pulled out a bottle of malt vinegar, "so I hope everything is alright."

I looked over what was gathered before me and smiled. "Everything looks to be in order. Thank you very much, I appreciate it."

"No problem!" the server woman announced before turning on her heel and heading back to the restaurant.

I uncapped the vinegar and doused the chips in it before meticulously lining them up on one of the slices of toast. After one layer, I poured the brown sauce over it, then stacked another layer on top. Finally, I topped it with the other slice of toast and pressed it down so that the chips wouldn't fall out.

"Chip butty, hm?" Darcy asked as she munched on a chicken drumstick.

I nodded, picking up the sandwich. "Yes, a chip butty. My father actually used to add an egg to it sometimes, if he made them for breakfast." I took a big bite and hummed happily as the familiar taste washed over my tongue. After chewing for a bit and swallowing I said, "It's actually quite good, considering the people here had no idea what I was talking about." I shrugged. "It's a cheap meal that's quick to make, and does wonders to keep you warm and give you energy."

Darcy took another bite of her sirloin steak and retorted, "I'll stick with something a little more meaty, thanks."

I watched as my sandwich was caught in a pale blue aura and levitated to Ada's mouth. She took a bite and chewed for a moment before taking another, larger bite with a grin. Deciding to return the favor, I brandished my fork and stole a few strips of chicken from her salad, popping them into my mouth with a smirk.

"Play nice now, children." Gracia chided with a grin as she tore into her food like...well, like a hungry bird.

"Getting along quite well, I see." commented a familiar voice from behind me.

I whipped my head around to see the air shimmer a little, revealing a Mewtwo and his Mew companion.

My eyes widened and I stood, nearly knocking my chair over as I scrambled to shake the Mewtwo's hand. "Amory, Taika? Wow, it seems like ages since I've seen you two." Amory readily returned my handshake, while Taika decided to perch herself on my shoulders in the way a child would, with her legs dangling over my shoulders as she pressed herself against the back of my head in an interesting take on a hug.

Amory smiled warmly. "It's been quite a while, hasn't it? And look at you; come into your own, just like we hoped you would." The Mewtwo then looked over the pokemon assembled, smiling at them as well. "It is good to see all of you are healthy and happy. I feared that with Rick's penchant for impulsiveness, you all might be in the hospital by now."

I huffed in indignation. "Hey, I have Ada now to be sure I don't go too mad out in the world."

Amory looked like he wanted to keep acting like a twat, but a look from Taika seemed to cause him to gravitate back toward business. "Anyhow, as nice as it is to see old friends, we are not here to catch up. We heard rumor of an Awakened in Blackthorn preparing to move in on an underground pokemon fighting ring, and we want to help."

Remembering what Officer Jenny had told me about blending in with my target crowd, I nodded with a smile. "I think that would be a good idea, actually. Having two Sacred Ones by my side would actually work in my favor by getting me noticed sooner by whoever is leading this operation." I then added, "However, I don't know how this thing is going to go. We have a plan, but I can't expect everything to follow that plan. We may end up injured on the way out of this, and we might have to hurt other humans or pokemon in the process. If you're willing to do that in order to save the innocent pokemon that are prisoners, you're more than welcome to come along."

Taika released my head and floated over to Amory, whispering in his ear for a moment as they had a hushed conversation. After a few seconds, Taika nodded to me. "We'll help. It's 'for the greater good', right?"

I nodded. "It is. I can't imagine that any of the pokemon involved in the fights were given a choice in the matter, and it's likely they're routinely abused as well. Officer Jenny advised me we can expect to find seriously injured or even dead pokemon in there, so prepare yourselves." I sighed ruefully. "It's undesirable to say the least, so I'm going to try and keep us anonymous until we make our move." I pointed to the two Sacred Ones. "Amory and Taika, you two are going to escort me when we're inside looking for the boss. Once we find and subdue him, we need to stage some sort of diversion so that Osiris and the others can get the prisoners to safety. Officer Jenny and other League agents are going to arrive at four in the morning, so we'll have until then to get things under control."

Amory crossed his arms as he furrowed his brow in thought. "The humans shouldn't be a problem; we can just incapacitate them by knocking them all unconscious at the same time. The pokemon will be a little more difficult to deal with, should they decide to fight back."

I nodded again. "Yes, I'm worried about that as well. We'll have to improvise if it comes to that." I then sat down and used a flick of my wrist to levitate another chair over. "For now, take a seat and relax; we don't need to be there until later tonight. Are either of you hungry?" Both psychic pokemon nodded, so I held up my hand to flag down the server again.

The young woman made her way back over to us but froze when she saw the two Sacred Ones sitting with me. I gestured her over to me with a smile of approval, which caused her to regain her professional demeanor.

"Well now, it's not every day we have such esteemed guests." she greeted with a bright smile. Taking out a pad and pen she asked, "What can I get the two of you?"

Amory looked with Taika over the menu for a moment before he psychically answered, "We will share a large plate of fries with plenty of creamed Leppa berry dressing on the side. For drinks, I would like some of your iced tea, and my companion will have a tall glass of oran berry juice."

It took a moment for the shock of being directly addressed to wear off, but the server quickly jotted down the orders before nodding with a smile. "Understood; I'll have your drinks out to you in just a moment."

As the server girl walked away, I turned to Amory and smiled. "See, isn't it nice to be able to just relax out in the open every once in awhile?"

Amory nodded, reaching behind his head to stroke between Taika's ears. "It is indeed. I only wish we could walk around alone without every trainer and their mother trying to capture us."

I shrugged helplessly. "As long as you're near me, you two will be alright. The people of this city are now well aware of how little patience I have for strangers harassing my partners. True that neither of you have been captured by a ball, but the trainers don't know that. For all they know, you two belong to me, and I don't see reason to correct them." I reached to my plate and took another bite of my chip butty, chewing the flavorful bite before swallowing. "So for now, let's get have some relaxation in preparation for tonight."

The server then returned with two glasses of drink for Amory and Taika, but seemed to hesitate before walking away.

Amory tensed a little and brought his eyes to her. "Yes?"

The girl fidgeted a little before reaching in her pocket and pulling out a smartphone. "Could I by chance have my picture taken with the two of you?"

Amory raised his eyebrow and looked to me, so I shrugged. "You wanted to be treated no different from a human; well, this is how humans treat celebrities." I then motioned him and Taika on with my hand. "Go on then, you two. A photo won't hurt."

Amory looked between me and the server for a few moments before nodding and standing, making his way to stand beside her as Taika sat playfully on the girl's free shoulder. I took the smartphone and stood to snap the photo, taking a few different angles and perspectives before handing the phone back.

The girl looked ecstatic and smiled widely. "Thank you so much! Oh, my brother is never going to believe this!" She left us to ourselves again, nearly tripping over herself as she made her way back inside the restaurant, and I bit my lip to keep from laughing.

"I think more instances like that would help pokemon/human relationships." Ada commented with a smile. "As wrong as it seems, some humans still have trouble seeing pokemon as sapient beings, so something so simple as that photo shows that though we look different, we're still very similar."

Amory hadn't taken his eyes off the doorway the girl had left through, and slowly, a smile crept onto his face. "I think you're right, Ada. I dream that one day man and pokemon can walk side by side, and no one will treat them any different."

I leaned past Ada and gently patted the Mewtwo's shoulder with a smile. "That's a dream worth fighting for, and one I would be more than willing to help you achieve."

For a second Amory's normally-stoic demeanor completely fell away, and a bright, genuine smile stretched across his face. "And I believe it is possible if we all work for it." He then turned his eyes back to me, his smile diminishing but not disappearing. "Thank you, Rick."

Our two guests' food was brought out a few moments later, and we ate in relative silence as we mentally and emotionally prepared ourselves for what was to come that night.