Actions

Work Header

Take Hold (wash the stains away)

Work Text:

Miyuki Kazuya was the champion of Hoenn.

 

No, no.

 

Miyuki Kazuya is the champion of Hoenn.

 

-

 

When he flicks on the monitor to answer the call, his eyes first catch not on Mei’s stormy eyes or windswept hair, but of the view in the back, of skyscrapers and a calm blue sky. It is clear the Unovan is not at the Pokemon League.

 

“Masa-san told me to call,” Mei tells him immediately, frowning and flicking his eyes somewhere to his right, where Kazuya guesses the general is.

 

If they were not at the League, where were they? Some city, somewhere big. Castelia?

 

“If you’re not going to pay attention I’m going to hang up!” Mei snaps at him, centering his focus on porcelain skin, on a furrowed brow, on pulled back lips practically in a snarl at him.

 

Right.

 

“Sorry,” he huffs. A hand comes up to adjust his glasses. Unlike Mei, he was at Ever Grande, in a bland reception room with the lights dimmed, the curtains almost completely drawn. “What is it you need?”

 

Mei fumes, but before he could snap, another voice cuts him off in muted way Kazuya couldn’t pick up on, not with the speaker still pressed to Mei’s face. He doesn’t have much time to think over it, because Mei’s attention is to him once more.

 

“Masa-san told me to congratulate you, politely , on your new position,” he grounds out. Kazuya carefully keeps the smirk from his face. He supposes the Unovan champion is making an attempt. The least he can do is not fuck it up.

 

“Thank you.”

 

An afterthought surfaces, something drilled into his head by Shirasu from the past few days, and he inwardly frowns. Well, he supposes he could get it over with. “Are you-”

 

“We will not be attending the reception,” Mei cuts him off, but it’s fine, because now he doesn’t have to ask, and now it was done with. Now they could move on.

 

Except, Mei’s staring at him oddly now, daring him to retort. To argue. While not exactly rare, it does catch Kazuya’s attention. Though, not enough for him to bite. Lucky for him, huh, that the foreign champion is a rather impatient person.

 

“Are you not going to ask?”

 

He sighs aloud, hoping the conversation would wind down faster. He had more important things to do, like sleep and put off all his newfound responsibilities. “Why, Mei, is something important keeping you from gracing me with your presence?” He leans back, eyes wide, hand over his heart, and voice pitch rising higher in a way that could only be interpreted as him mocking the other.

 

Mei tch ’s, but his lips press against each other, and he glances once again to his right. He slowly blinks, and then drops the speaker from his face, stuffing it into a pants pocket. Kazuya reels back from the static, jerking his own speaker away from his ear. Still on the screen, Mei turns to face to his right, speaking. He glances at Kazuya once, expression disgruntled, before talking again, and then jerking the speaker from his pocket.

 

“Yeah,” Mei tells him, and Kazuya is extremely unsettled at the tone. And then, behind him, the Unovan general comes to stand in full line of sight.

 

Harada Masatoshi, in all his thick stature, is intimidating at mere best. Kazuya can feel his aura through the screen, even though they were thousands of miles apart. His gaze was stern, hardened, and his presence often noted as something significant. Though Kazuya knew he was present for the call, the fact that the general was standing before them now meant something else entirely.

 

Mei captures his attention once more, and his face is stone. “Who is with you.”

 

Kazuya stills. “No one,” he says slowly. “Mei, what’s-”

 

“I’m sharing this with you,” Mei cuts him off. “And only you.” He falls silent, eyes daring him to argue once again, but now Kazuya lets the fire die. He only nods, and Mei does the same in return. Kazuya lets his expression fall to Harada, but the general does not betray anything.

 

“Shit’s going down, Kazuya.” He can see Mei’s grip tighten around the speaker. “And we’re not winning.” His eyes, now, are ice. “We . .” He trails off, tensing. Harada is still a statue behind him. Kazuya waits.

 

“We might need your help.”

 

--

 

He thinks he may hear a door open, and his eyelids slowly raise, hand reaching out to grasp at his glasses. He barely has them when a kick is delivered to the back of the couch, sending it reeling forward, Kazuya tumbling from the cushions to the hard floor, and his glasses flying across the room.

 

He only has time to regain his breath before the figure has come around to stand before him. Doesn’t matter if his vision is blurred, Kazuya would recognize that voice anywhere.

 

“You lazy Jiguza! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

 

He blinks, still staring at hazy legs. “This hurts,” he chirps out, pointing at his eyes. It did, actually, despite the comment being more to annoy his sudden companion. His eyes were dry now, too. Great.

 

The figure before him breathes out a loud sigh before moving away. “You’re not getting on the couch again,” he snaps, picking up the frames and handing them to the Hoenn champion.

 

Kazuya takes them with a frown, popping them on and being careful to squint as he finally looks up at Kuramochi proper. He’s dressed in battling attire today, for some reason, long sleeveless vest hanging around a thick form. After meeting the glare in full, he doesn’t dare try and argue, instead using the table to stand.

 

“Okay, okay. What is it, though? I was enjoying my nap.”

 

He swears he can see the vein bulge in Mochi’s forehead.

 

Nabe called me, complained for half an hour about how hard it was to get you to do any real work, and then sent me here to kick your ass!”

 

Oof. So Nabe was the source. He didn’t know if that was better or worse than Shirasu.

 

“Right, well . . .” He trails off, realizing there was no counter argument quipped. He’d really needed that nap. Having it end early was throwing him off, making him slow to adjust.

 

Kuramochi fiercely shakes his head, hair whipping back and forth, and crosses his arms. “At least come let everyone know you’re alive. We’re all gathered in the main hall.”

 

Kazuya lets his shoulders drop, repressing a sigh. He supposed he could do that, at the least.

 

This wasn’t his room, and Kuramochi wasn’t keen on letting him out of his sight, so Kazuya was quickly marched across Ever Grande in nothing but sweats and a tank -because, well, it wasn’t the warmest place in the region, but it was still hot here. He wasn’t even wearing socks, just to further drive home that point.

 

By ‘all’, Kuramochi really meant . . all.

 

“Nice clothes, champ!” Zono calls out, laxing back further in his seat. Kazuya prayed he falls.

 

Kuramochi pushes him forward and into an open seat, where he’s quickly jeered at by the remaining forces. Toujou and Sanada tag team him about the heat, since they were all seated in an area with the blinds pulled on the floor-to-ceiling windows. Shirasu eyed his attire in quiet distaste. Koushuu was glaring, but that was the usual. Even Wakana yelled that it was nice to finally see his face.

 

Across from him, Nabe stares. Kazuya forces himself to look up and stare back in mild interest.

 

But, Nabe turns his head without a word, addressing the whole group instead. “Alright, now that we’re all gathered, there’s news.”

 

Everyone dies down accordingly, settling into place. Kuramochi finally takes a seat beside Kazuya, arms still crossed.

 

Nabe looks down to tap on the tablet before him. “Yuki Tetsuya informed us today he will be attending the reception.”

 

“Remind me when that is, Nabe.” Kuramochi props his feet up on the table. It’s clear he knows the answer, which means he’s said it to jibe Kazuya.

 

“Two weeks,” Nabe replies.

 

Ouch. That was . . sooner than he thought.

 

“With him will be his younger sibling, Yuki Masashi, and two of Sinnoh’s elite four, Fujiwara Takako and Isashiki Jun.”

 

That sounded like a handful, but since he hadn’t been bothered to ask if more people was a good thing, and he wasn’t going to start now, he just nods and leans back. “That’s fine.”

 

Nabe’s lips quirk up. “Well, regardless of your opinion, it’s settled.” He quiets everyone’s sudden teasing with a raised hand, waits for the room to settle. “Since you’re up, you should get dressed,” he tells Kazuya. “There are some people I want you to meet. Well, re-meet.”

 

He frowns but to his left Kuramochi is glaring at him. Again. “Fine,” he mumbles, standing.

 

“Oh, wait!” Heads swivel to Wakana. “Yui, from Hoenn TV? She wants an interview with the Ever Grande trainers this week.”

 

Nabe nods to each of them. “Figure out when your schedules converge - not you, Kazuya, I’ll handle that- and set it for then. Dismissed.”

 

Kuramochi follows him out, much to his chagrin. It gives him the chance to ask a question, though. “That was short.”

 

“It’s been going for a bit. Nabe wanted you to know about Yuki, that was all.”

 

They make their way across the expansive building, poking at each other the entire time. It’s only when they reach Kazuya’s door that he’s told something useful.

 

“You don’t have to dress in full champion attire, but at least make somewhat of an effort.”

 

He looks back to meet hazel orbs and hums in acknowledgement. Then, he shuts the door, laughing at Kuramochi’s failed attempt to halt it with his foot. “I’ll be out shortly,” he tells him, stepping further into the suite.

 

--

 

Ever Grande was somehow worse than living by the ocean, he was quick to discover. It hadn’t been long since he’d moved to the League, but he could deduce that much. Even indoors, the heat was near unbearable to him, and he was constantly to be found on the upper levels, in dark rooms and shaded corners. The room he’d claimed for himself didn’t match that criteria much, but the rooms he did frequent weren’t meant to be suitable living spaces, either.

 

Mochi finding him meant he’d have to relocate his nap room, again. He was thinking through where he could find another spot when he’s marched into the main hall, where Nabe stands with three oddly familiar faces.

 

“Ah, there you are,” Nabe greets him, turning to face the two. He nods behind, and the three with him straighten, but their expressions are lax. “I’d like to introduce -or, well, perhaps reintroduce- you to Kanemaru, Haruno, and Akira. They’re the gym leaders of Lavaridge, Mossdeep, and Mauville.”

 

Kazuya lets a smile mold his face, nodding to each. “Sorry, I guess it’s been a while. I haven’t taken the Hoenn challenge in . . some time now . . .”

 

Haruno’s the first to shake off the awkward air left by his words, holding out a hand that Kazuya takes. “You would have known my sister, probably. We look alike, so I’ll let it slide, but that’s about the only thing we have in common.”

 

He thinks on it, trying to remember. Mossdeep gym, Mossdeep gym . . he probably should know this. “Grass types?” he guesses.

 

Scary grass types,” Akira mutters, and Haruno’s nod of affirmation swings off course to gaze back at her fellow gym leader. Her eyes hold a twinkle in them.

 

“I don’t want to hear that from you , mister ghost trainer.”

 

“Ah, guilty, guilty,” Akira laughs. He nods again to Kazuya. “I’ve had too many challengers to remember faces, so I’m sorry as well. I won’t forget you now, though,” he winks.

 

“That leaves me,” Kanemaru grunts. He jerks a thumb to himself. “Kanemaru Shinji, fire-type trainer. Pleasure to re-meet you.”

 

“Likewise.”

 

They end up talking more with Kuramochi, but Nabe uses that chance to corral him off. “Thank you, for doing this. That’s all I had for you today,” he admits.

 

Kazuya shakes his head. “Yeah, no problem. Uh, tomorrow though . .” He waits til he has Nabe’s attention, then continues. “I’m thinking about heading over to Dewford, actually.”

 

Nabe shrugs. “That’s fine. The cave?” He nods in reply to Kazuya’s nod. “Okay. Just let someone know before you go. That interview with Hoenn TV is something we’ll exclude you from, so that’s off your plate.”

 

“Ah. Saving me til the reception . . ?”

 

“Yea, actually.” A sparkle erupts in Nabe’s eyes. “You’ll probably be glued to reporters the whole night, so be ready.”

 

Kazuya withholds a groan. “Right.”

 

--

 

The sound of the ocean waves long overtaken by the wind echoing through Granite Cave, Kazuya feels himself relax more. It’s cool and damp here, as he adjusts his sitting position in the innermost chamber.

 

This was probably the one spot in the entire region where he felt most comfortable. Though, his curiosity was never any less sated, upon leaving. He finds himself thinking this as his gaze flicks to the large mural on the back wall once again.

 

He’d spent countless hours in his life over Hoenn’s myths and legends, but seeing the cave mural was still the most daunting, one of the few things he’d never been able to get a grip on.

 

He knew it depicted the sea basin and continent pokemon locked in a battle. It had to have been the first disaster of Hoenn, but this third form always confused him.

 

Footsteps bounce off the walls, coming from the entrance, and Kazuya looks over. A few feet away, his Lairon rises with a growl, and he stands to mediate her, laughing it off. People were in the cave all the time to train, it wasn’t unusual-

 

“Miyuki Kazuya!” a loud voice calls out, echoing around him, and he turns to see a pair of yellow orbs almost glowing in the dim lighting, a finger jerked towards his person.

 

“And we’re not winning.” Mei’s words sound in his mind. Lairon growls lowly again, dropping to a stance, but Kazuya waves a hand to ward her off. He’s shaken, though, at the sudden implications. “Who’s asking,” he tells the trainer, closing his face off. How do you know my name.

 

Immediately, the trainer’s challenging expression dies down, replaced by a startled one. He drops his arms and backs off, instead gesturing towards the parcel tucked under his arm. “Uh, I’m Eijun. This is for you, it’s -it’s from the president of Devon.”

 

Kazuya feels himself blinking, the tension leaving him. “From . . my father?”

 

“He told me what you looked like, so that’s how I knew it was you. S-Sorry for yelling, I just got excited,” Eijun rambled, still taken aback by Kazuya’s cold greeting.

 

“No, that’s . .” He shakes his head, starts again. “Sorry. Thank you, for delivering the package.”

 

“Oh! Yeah, here you go.” Eijun steps forward, and Kazuya is surprised by the weight of the parcel. “Also, there was this letter, too.” Kazuya takes it and rebalances the parcel so he can open it.

 

It . . hm. Typical of him. He ignores the first part, skimming over the second. So these were submarine parts. That was interesting in of itself, but he didn’t see why it had to be him to deliver them to Slateport.

 

“Woah! What’s this pokemon?”

 

He turns at Eijun’s loud voice to see him peering over at-

 

“Oh. That’s my Lairon.” He drops the letter to his side. That was odd. Aron were pretty common around the cave, so-

 

“A Lairon, huh? Wow, it’s so cool!” Eijun’s eyes sparkle as he gets closer, the pokemon begrudgingly allowing him to do so. As the trainer walks around the steel-type, Kazuya observes him with a frown.

 

And then a pokeball opens from Eijun’s person, a flash of light subsiding to reveal an Eevee now at his side.

 

“Ah!” Eijun makes a grab for it, but the Eevee slips by. “No, come on! You-You can’t just keep coming out like that. Oh, hey, don’t bother the Lairon, please!”

 

A snicker leaves Kazuya’s mouth, and Eijun turns sharply to him.

 

“Sorry, she’s-she’s like this sometimes,” he tells him. “I think she’s just eager, since she’s trying to evolve soon.”

 

Oh? “Into what?” he asks, interest piqued.

 

“Uh, I’m not sure? But there’s this rock, it’s supposed to be in the woods near Petalburg, and we’re going to try there.”

 

The moss rock, then. He glances over at the Eevee. She’d probably make a good Leafeon. But the moss rock was common- Oh. Kazuya lets his mouth drop, gaze back on Eijun, who looks surprised.

 

“What?”

 

“You . . You’re not from Hoenn, are you?” Kazuya asks.

 

“Wha? Uh, no, I’m not.” Eijun shakes his head. “I’m actually just starting my journey here, so everything is still new.”

 

He almost couldn’t believe it. His father had sent some foreign trainer to deliver a package to him, one apparently so important he’d have to take up the task to take it to its owner?

 

How . . interesting.

 

“Well, then thank you, for taking the time to seek me out,” he tells Eijun, watching a mix of emotions come across the trainer’s face.

 

“It was no trouble. I actually came after my gym battle, so I’m glad you’re still here, hah. Plus, Miyuki-san is kind of intimidating, so uh . .” He shakes his head, straightening out. “But I was glad to do it!”

 

Right . . Kazuya drops it. He folds the letter back up and stuffs it in a pocket, then takes out Lairon’s pokeball. “It was nice to meet you. Good luck on your journey.”

 

Eijun nods, smiling to him. “Thank you! I really appreciate it.”

 

Later, he makes a point to stop by Zono’s gym while he’s on the island. As the gym leader complains about the boy with yellow eyes that had swept his team, Kazuya feels his interest grow.

 

--

 

“Thank you so much for giving me your time today!” Yui’s voice rings out in the empty Pokemon center. “For those just tuning in, I’m here today with the members of Hoenn’s elite four.”

 

Kazuya slumps further in his seat, not bringing himself to look away.

 

“Thank you, Yui,” Sanada speaks, nice and easy. “It’s a pleasure to be here, and I speak for all of us.” The nods of everyone around him confirm it.

 

The reporter looks so happy she was practically bouncing in her seat. “Yes, yes, so without further ado, let’s dive right in! You still have your same order, correct? That numbers to the strongest?”

 

They all glance at each other, amused looks taking over their faces. Toujou is the first to speak. “Well, our order is the same yes. But I wouldn’t say it ranks us quite like that.”

 

Kuramochi snorts, crossing his arms. “You’re just saying that because you’re second.”

 

“Well, not like you’re to brag, being third,” Sanada jumps in, a grin playing with his lips.

 

“I don’t wanna hear it from the guy who’s first!”

 

“Someone has to root out the beginning trainers, after all.”

 

Amidst their teasing, Yui laughs and nods toward the remaining trainer. “And what’s your opinion, Aotsuki-san?”

 

“Well . .” Wakana smiles. “It’s true I’m the final trainer to face before the champion, but I also think our prowess as battlers appears in different ways. I don’t think my Medicham could stand a chance today against Toujou’s Azumarill, but overall, I think I could squeeze away with the win.”

 

“Hmmm!” Yui nods. “Very well said!”

 

“Show stealer,” Kuramochi mutters, emitting another round of laughs from everyone.

 

“So! I’m sure everyone is very excited to know, what is your opinion on the new champion? Surely you’ve met, right?”

 

Wakana takes the lead for question, bobbing her head. “Opinion, well . . they’re certainly their own person.”

 

Kazuya winces, bringing up his arms to wrap around his form. Here it comes. They were going to publically murder him before he was even officially the champion.

 

“It’s not like they’re completely new, though,” Toujou adds. “They’ve been in our circle for a bit now.”

 

“Oh! So it is someone you know.”

 

“They’re suitable,” Kuramochi shrugs. “Not exactly the most dependable, but -oh, actually, I take that back . .” He looks sheepish, and Kazuya slaps his hands over his eyes, mindful of his glasses.

 

“I think the public will be pleasantly surprised by them,” Sanada follows, saving the other the trouble of recovering. “I don’t think it’s right to say they’re a central figure now, but I can say the majority will have heard of them.”

 

“‘Them’, huh?” Yui sighs. “Come on, now. You’re not even giving me a gender to work with!”

 

That was probably Nabe’s doing. Kazuya grins as he imagines him snapping at the four about revealing anything. He wouldn’t be surprised if a number of threats passed through their minds before responding to Yui’s comment.

 

“You’ll find out soon enough.” Toujou smiles. “Only twelve days until the reception, after all. Then they’ll officially be the champion, and they can be in your spotlight all you wish.”

 

Yui grins, leaning back. “I suppose.”

 

They continue, winding through a number of topics, before Kazuya finally loses interest. He stands and leaves, coming out to the fresh air of Verdanturf.

 

It was a small town, with clean air and a contest hall, a number of small cottages dotting its rolling hills, secluded by tall trees. He walks by one of the houses and pauses, lips pursing to a frown.

 

It had been a long time since he had lived here, and the thing he had come for was further on still. He clenches the flowers he had under his arms with bare hands, urging himself to move forward.

 

Eventually he comes to a halt before a tombstone, and carefully kneels before it.

 

He takes a deep breath, sets the flowers down, willing himself to relax.

 

“Hi, mom,” he begins.

 

--

 

He’s trudging back when a few shouts catch his attention, and a couple people run past, talking about a collapse at Rusturf Tunnel.

 

Before he knows what he’s doing, he’s speeding up and heading in that direction, feet knowing the path by memory.

 

Workers are coming from the lip of the tunnel, supporting each other, but he doesn’t stop to question, ducking inside. A pokemon’s cry catches his attention, and he maneuvers his body in that direction, coming to a halt when he’s faced with an Espeon lowering another worker to the ground.

 

“That should be the last -Oh! You, are you okay?”

 

Kazuya turns and is met with a younger trainer, a halo of pink hair falling around his face. It takes a moment to register he’s talking about him.

 

“I hadn’t noticed anyone else, but I guess that’s my bad. Are you injured?”

 

Kazuya shakes his head, lifting his hands up. “Oh, no, I came from outside, actually. I came to help.”

 

The boy visibly relaxes, nodding. “I’m Haruichi. I was passing through the tunnel when some people started attacking the workers here. You actually just missed them -they triggered a collapse of a section of the tunnel before making off.”

 

A couple workers come up, affirming Haruichi’s story. Kazuya wants to tell them it was okay, that he was here now, before realizing he couldn’t. He might be acting champion now, but without anything being official, his hands were tied.

 

Instead, he takes out his Meowstic’s pokeball and releases the pokemon. The unfamiliar sight catches everyone’s attention, but Kazuya gestures to the mountain of rubble close by. “I’m Kazuya,” he tells the workers and Haruichi. “Let’s get to work on clearing this. We have to be careful, though. A lot of Whismur make their home here, and they’re pretty sensitive to noise.”

 

“It might be possible a Loudred or even Exploud has been angered by the noise as well,” one of the workers tells them.

 

Kazuya looks down and Meowstic gives him a smirk, which he returns. “We can take care of that if need be. No problem.”

 

--

 

Oldale town was small. It was centered in a quiet area of Hoenn. He had intended to stop by sooner, but now that he was here, the nature of his task was suddenly very daunting.

 

He wandered to the edge of town and found solace in a shaded grass patch near a tree. People milled about, the same as always, their lives moving on while Kazuya felt his temporarily stop.

 

How can I even begin to follow in your footsteps.

 

He sighs and falls back, landing in the soft grass. Overhead, the sun is bright. He throws a hand over his face.

 

“People are depending on me . .” he begins, talking to the air. “To be a good champion. But . . .” If it had been up to them, would he still be their pick? “Why did you choose me?” he asks instead.

 

The only reply he receives is the wind stirring the leaves overhead. He sighs again, sitting up. Coming here was stupid. It didn’t make him feel closer to the former champion, either.

 

Can I even do a good job? Will I ever be as good as you were?

 

A ringing cuts through the air. He takes out his Pokenav, opening it. “Yes?”

 

“Kazuya? It’s Kanemaru. Are you busy?”

 

“Ah, no, I’m just in Oldale.”

 

A pause. “ . . Were you trying to speak to Chris?”

 

Yes. “No. What is it?” he asks.

 

“Oh, right. I have a . . situation, I think? There are suspicious people near Mount Chimney.”

 

Huh. He blinks, standing. “Right, I’ll be over soon. You can explain then.”

 

When he lands just outside the city, Kanemaru is there to greet him. “I got a call from the lift workers,” he tells him. “They said lots of people were gathered on the volcano, setting up some sort of device. And then fighting broke out, though whether it’s in-fighting or from another source is unknown.”

 

“If it’s that many people, it’s possible a riot could come back here. I’ll go, but I need you here, in case anything happens. If I need help I’ll let you know.” Kazuya pulls out a pokeball, releasing his Swellow. “You said they were near the top?”

 

“That’s what I was told,” Kanemaru nods. “Be careful, though. The ash is thick today.”

 

“Noted.” He climbs on the flying pokemon, then hesitates. “Kanemaru,” he calls out. The gym leader turns to him.

 

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I know it can be frustrating, waiting here instead of joining in on the action. But thank you for calling me. I’m glad I can already be depended on like this.”

 

Kanemaru eyes him for a moment, then his posture relaxes. “If you think you can handle it on your own, then I trust you. All eight of us do.” Kazuya feels his heart tug. Eight, all the gym leaders. “Good luck.”

 

With a nod, he takes off.

 

He can’t fly far, settling close to the top. He’s descending when two figures confront him, both dressed in red. They accuse him of interfering before sending out pokemon, and Kazuya jumps into action, calling for an attack from Swellow.

 

“Geh. Not another one,” one of them spits after he defeats their pokemon. “Just. Just stay out of our way!” And then, they both run off, back towards the top.

 

Another . . ? Kazuya shakes his head. Maybe Kanemaru was right, and there was an opposing group here. But without a headcount, it made it difficult for him to act. And what were they even up to? Why would they act so hostile?

 

He returns Swellow and takes a different path, continuing to the summit. It wasn’t like Mt. Chimney wasn’t active -one wrong move and boom! Surely that wasn’t their goal though, right? Hopefully?

 

He’s so lost in thought he doesn’t notice the foot outstretched until it’s too late and he’s toppling to the ground. A body follows his, and before he can regain the breath knocked out of him a form is holding him down. He jerks his head up and sees-

 

“Uwah, Miyuki Kazuya!!”

 

He blinks. “Eijun?”

 

“Uh, sorry!” The trainer scrambles off of him and Kazuya sits up. “I thought you might be another Team Magma guy.”

 

Magma . . ? “The guys in red?” Kazuya guesses. At Eijun’s nod, he sighs, crossing his arms. “So you’ve gotten yourself involved . .”

 

“Well! I couldn’t just stand around and do nothing.”

 

“You were with Kanemaru,” Kazuya states. Eijun blushes and looks down, but nods. Great. “You know, better people would show restraint.” The blush deepens. “But . . I suppose it would be nice to have some help.”

 

Eijjun’s head jerks up, eyes wide.

 

Before the trainer could say anything, Kazuya asks another question. “Now, who’s Team Magma?”

 

“Uh, actually.” Eijun scratches his head. “I’m not sure? I’ve only met Team Aqua. The ones they’re fighting against now.”

 

“Aqua? No, forget it, I’ll ask later. Do you know what they’re after?”

 

Eijun shakes his head. “I don’t. All I know is they have some sort of meteor, and they were carrying parts to a machine. I think they’re using the energy from the volcano, but I don’t know for sure.”

 

Kazuya stands and offers a hand, helping Eijun up. “Okay. I guess we’ll have to see for ourselves. How are your pokemon?”

 

“Spiffy!” Eijun tells him, eyes sparkling. “Even my newest one -I healed them at the Pokemon center after my gym battle!”

 

Against Kanemaru, probably. “Perfect. Let’s go, then.”

 

They make it to the base of the crater without seeing anyone. There, Kazuya spots multiple battles going on against people like the ones he battled and trainers in blue. Team Aqua, then.

 

There’s a central figure closer to the center of the crater, where it drops to reveal magma far below. Eijun was right -the figure was meddling with some sort of machine. The meteorite must have been hooked up to it, because something was glowing.

 

Kazuya points. “There. That’s where we need to-”

 

A shout cuts him off, and he turns to see more Magma members rushing them. Quickly, he sends out Magnemite, and beside him, Eijun sends out a Corphish. They’re up against a Poochyena and a -ugh, a Slugma. Good thing Eijun had a water type.

 

They actually don’t make a bad team, Kazuya finds, as they battle another set of Magma members. He calls for a Thunder Wave, and when their opponents’ pokemon are paralyzed, Eijun finishes them with a Water Pulse.

 

But by the time they make it to the center, Eijun’s pokemon are on the brink, his Whismur only just standing.

 

The figure turns and they’re met with the same red uniform the other Magma members have been wearing. He lets out a noise of distress, and beside him, the meteorite’s glow begins to fade. “Fine then,” he barks, grabbing a pokeball. “If you want to interfere so badly, I’ll take you on!”

 

Eijun makes a move to counter, but Kazuya lifts an arm to block him, steps forward himself. He couldn’t ask the trainer to do this. If these people were a danger, if they were terrorizing Hoenn, then it was his job to take them on.

 

“I’m an admin of Team Magma,” their opponent reveals. “Don’t think I’ll be as easy as the rest.” True to his word, his pokemon is a Numel, and Kazuya hesitates, the hand resting on his pokeball stilling.

 

No. He knew his own weakness. Besides, he had a trick up his sleeve still.

 

He grasps the ball and sends out a Mawile, the steel type opening its jaws in anticipation of the battle.

 

But Numel is tough. And this admin is good. Though he tries not to, still curious as to its purpose, the machine ends up taking a few hits from stray attacks. The other doesn’t appear as distressed as Kazuya would have thought, which troubles him.

 

Mawile dodges around a Take Down attack, but gets slammed with a Flame Burst moments later, taking damage. He calls for a Crunch that sends the Numel reeling, then quickly takes out a small locket from his person. Mawile, sensing this, steps back toward her trainer.

 

Kazuya pops the locket open and holds the Key Stone embedded inside it out, concentrating. It’s just a moment before the Magma admin recognizes, and then gasps. “Mawile!” He calls out. “Mega evolve!”

 

Immediately a glow emanates from his Key Stone, matching the Mega Stone his pokemon wore, and then Mawile was engulfed in a blinding rainbow light.

 

When it shatters, she stands tall and proud, form different, and now with a set of hulking jaws. He calls for a Flash Cannon that lands perfectly on Numel, and then finishes the pokemon with an Iron Head attack.

 

As Mawile transforms back, the battle over, the admin returns his fainted pokemon and glares over at Kazuya. He gestures towards the damaged machine.

 

“We were trying to make a Mega Stone, with the meteorite,” he admits. “The energy here is like no other. But then Team Aqua interfered, and then you -” he stops at a snarl on that word, peering at Kazuya and then looking back at Mawile. “Miyuki Kazuya,” he suddenly says. “Our boss is interested in you.”

 

Behind them, Eijun perks up, glancing between the two.

 

Kazuya shifts, suddenly very wary. That was more than a little daunting. What kind of Mega Stone, too, he wonders. And from a meteorite? This was all very strange. But that someone could recognize him, someone he’d sworn he’d never met.

 

He sends out Lairon, letting the pokemon roar, but then the admin is holding his hands up.

 

“Our mission failed,” he calls out. “We’re leaving.” He gestures toward the meteorite. “Take it, it’s of no use anymore.”

 

Kazuya watches carefully, but lets the admin depart, along with the rest of the group. He no longer sees anyone in blue dotted among them.

 

Eijun whips around, fight still in his eyes. “Wai-” He’s cut off by a hand on his shoulder, and turns to see Kazuya shaking his head. He fumes, shaking the hand off. “So you’re just going to let them go?! That’s-”

 

“Eijun,” Kazuya snaps. Gaining the trainer’s attention, he nods toward his Whismur. “Take a look at your team”, he says, “Before you make a rash decision.”

 

Eijun pauses, sucking in a breath as he looks to see Whismur barely able to stand. In their pokeballs, Eevee and Corphish were also down for the count. He presses his lips together, a tremor running through his whole body.

 

“You’re right.” He bends down, petting Whismur. “I’m sorry,” he tells the pokemon, returning it. “Good work.”

 

Kazuya runs a hand through his hair, returning Mawile and Lairon as well. “We should head-”

 

“Hey.” Eijun’s looking at him. “Why would they have an interest in you? Is it . . is it because your the son of Devon’s president?”

 

Kazuya tenses, shoulders bunching up. He-No, he couldn’t tell him. It was probably because he was the champion-to-be. But . . at the same time, no one was supposed to know. And these people clearly weren’t up to anything philanthropic. They had a goal, and their boss knew Kazuya somehow . .

 

He shrugs, relaxing and releasing Swellow. “Dunno. We should head back, though. To Lavaridge.” He pats Swellow before gesturing to Eijun. “Get on.”

 

--

 

“Sawamura?”

 

“K-Kanemaru?!”

 

Kazuya stops, eyeing the two idiots balking at each other. “So you have met.”

 

“He just earned my gym badge today,” Kanemaru tells him, the first to regain some composure. Meanwhile, Eijun is still sputtering, head flipping between the two. “What’s he doing with you?”

 

“Well.” Kazuya grins. “Seems like the idiot had the bright idea to go to Mount Chimney to solve all your problems. Now I wonder how he found out about that.”

 

Kanemaru blanches just as Eijun colors.

 

“I-Idiot? What the hell, Miyuki Kazuya! I was a help!”

 

“You were,” he amends. “I still appreciate it. But going alone was still stupid.”

 

“I uh, guess I was in public when I called you,” Kanemaru tells him, rubbing his head sheepishly. He turns to face Eijun. “So you overheard, huh? Sorry. Should’ve figured you’re the kind that’s spurred into action easily. But Miyuki’s right, that was really rash.”

 

Eijun ducks his head. “S-Sorry for making you worry.”

 

A light feeling washes over Kazuya. He does his best to ignore it, blinking and facing the gym leader again. “This might be a long conversation. Can we move inside the gym?”

 

“Of course. You too, Wamura. Let’s go.”

 

Lucky for them, Kanemaru had a personal restore system inside the gym. It only held slots for six pokemon, but it was more than enough for Kazuya and Eijun both. With their pokemon healing, it was easier to shift into discussing what had happened.

 

“I ran into Team Aqua in Rustboro,” Eijun tells them. “They were actually after the package I gave you-” He nods to Kazuya. “But they didn’t make it very far. I was able to get it back with the help of a Devon scientist. But besides saying they were a part of Team Aqua, the would-be thief didn’t do much else. They ran off after that, but I wanted to help the scientist get back, so I didn’t go after them.” He shrugs. “Then I met Miyuki-san, and he asked me to deliver the parcel. I haven’t seen them again before today.”

 

“Team Magma were the ones you got the call about,” Kazuya explains to Kanemaru. “Team Aqua was there too, fighting with them. Besides knowing what they dress like, I guess that’s all we know for now.” He sighs. Magma already seemed distressing enough, but now there was another group, and they seemed to want the submarine for something. Or, he assumed. Surely they wouldn’t bother with a random package of parts otherwise?

 

“They said they were trying to turn the meteorite into a Mega Stone.” Eijun’s brows furrow as he leans back in his seat. “How, though?”

 

“Really?” Kanemaru asks. “That is odd. Did they say what kind?”

 

“No. But they did say they were trying to use the energy the volcano gave off.” Kazuya crosses his arms. “They had some absurd interest in it. I would . . be cautious, from now on. Keep a lookout for any activity near Mount Chimney.” He stands. “I have to get going now. Kanemaru, let me know if anything else happens.” With a nod from the gym leader, he makes to grab his pokeballs from the machine.

 

“Wait!” Kazuya turns back to see Eijun eyeing him. “What about me?”

 

He thinks. It’s not like the trainer hasn’t already been involved. Then again, he was obviously in Hoenn to collect badges. Having to deal with sinister groups on the side wouldn’t be in his best interests, and involving an outsider didn’t cope well with Kazuya either.

 

Then again . . he had been a big help. And a part of Kazuya couldn’t help but think he’d like to see the trainer again.

 

“Sure,” he decides. He rattles off his number, repeats it again once Eijun has his gear out, and then collects his things. He pauses upon feeling the parcel in his bag. He hadn’t dropped it off yet, still wary to listen to his father, but also not yet deciding what to do with it in general. A quick glance back to Eijun and an idea pops up in his mind. He slides the package out.

 

“You’ve been through Slateport, right?” He asks the trainer. Eijun glances over, bobbing his head.

 

“It was my first stop when I got here, and I’ve passed by another time. Why?” He’s answered when Kazuya holds the parcel out, taking it slowly. “This is . .”

 

“It goes to the captain of the shipyard in Slateport. I want you to deliver it.” He hesitates, then adds, “it’s important, so I need you to keep quiet about having it.”

 

Eijun stands, grip on the parcel hard. “If it’s so important, then why aren’t you delivering it?” he counters. “Why do I have to? What, are you too busy?”

 

Beside them, Kanemaru shifts awkwardly in his seat. If only the kid knew.

 

Kazuya tenses up, setting his shoulders and jerking his eyes from the package to the trainer. “Yeah. I am too busy. I don’t have time to waste on something president Miyuki asks me on a whim to do.” He jerks his thumb to the door, nodding to Kanemaru. “I’m leaving. Thanks again.”

 

He doesn’t even think of it as leaving a fuming Eijun behind. All he knows is he’s one-upped his old man, this time.

 

--

 

Wakana’s teeth are revealed pearly as she smiles, snapping her fingers before her. “Alright Grumpig, let’s use Psych Up!”

 

“That must mean Torment’s effects are done with,” Shirasu muses. “I can’t believe how one-sided this battle is going.” He huddles further into the bench they’re all gathered on on the sidelines of the battlefield. Across from Wakana, Kuramochi bawks as the psychic pokemon gets a free power up.

 

“She’s not playing to her real strengths, but the battle is showing just how versatile she can be,” Toujou agrees. “You think it’d be tough, with all damaging psychic moves having no effect. But she’s playing it off like it’s nothing.”

 

Nabe smiles as Kuramochi orders a Swagger from his Mightyena. “That’s why she’s ringleader of you four.”

 

“Oh?” Wakana calls. Before her, Grumpig paces a bit, steps out of order, as the confusion sets in. “Risking raising our stats again? Well thanks! Now, Grumpig, how about we show him real confusion.”

 

“Hyaha! Yeah right, did you forget psychic attacks have no effect on dark types?”

 

Wakana winks, a knowing smile playing on her lips. “Grumpig, snap out of it and use Teeter Dance!”

 

“Kominato Ryousuke is attending the reception,” Nabe tells the gathered trainers around the bench. His fingers hover over his tablet’s screen, eyes dancing to the battlefield once more. “Currently doesn’t have a plus one, though I’m willing to bet he will within the week.”

 

“Johto champion. Hm.” Sanada tips his head. “Ah, speaking of, I’ll have someone here for the event as well. Raichi Todoroki, my old disciple.”

 

“Oh?” Nabe tips his head. “Never heard of him. Why’s he so important to bring up now?”

 

“Well, his father, Raizou, was my mentor, after all.” Sanada grins back at him. “He’s the one that taught me everything I know about battling.”

 

The psychic pokemon, having regained its movement with its trainer’s words, began to rock back and forth, arms moving in a circular motion in front of its body. Across the field, now, Mightyena begins to mimic it, rocking at the same time.

 

Grumpig finishes with a pose, and Mightyena goes starry-eyed, now very heavy on its feet, tripping over itself. Kuramochi blanches, his nervousness showing.

 

“And now with those raised stats, let’s use Power Gem!” Wakana calls, clapping her hands together. She was truly loving this.

 

Grumpig raises its arms over its body, a glowing sphere appearing overhead. In another moment, a ray of light shoots out for the sphere, colliding with Mightyena and knocking the pokemon out.

 

“Merciless,” Toujou breathes. “She didn’t have a fight with Kuramochi today, did she?”

 

“Nah, she’s just that serious about training,” Sanada replies, standing up and applauding. “Great battle, Wakana!”

 

The psychic trainer goes to bow, Grumpig following suit. Across the field, Kuramochi fumes at not being acknowledged.

 

“Sanada, you bastard!”

 

“Nice try, Youichi-kun.”

 

“Why you! Ugh! Whatever. I was obviously going easy anyway.”

 

“Oh?” Wakana saunters forward, hands on her hips. “And why would you bother? It’s not like I have any fragile feelings you need to protect. Just admit you lost fair and square.”

 

Finally, the dark-type trainer lets his shoulders slump, everyone else laughing at his expense. “Yeah, okay, I give up,” he calls.

 

--

 

Kazuya is barely up when his pokenav starts ringing with an incoming call. Groaning, he snaps it up, answering before checking to see who it was. “Yes, hello?”

 

“Miyuki Kazuya!”

 

Oh. “Eijun, what a surprise.” He glances out the window, as if his eyes had betrayed him, but no. The early glow of the sun, light orange of the sky just beginning to fade to midday blue, and lack of a bite from heat show very clearly that it was still morning. “And just call me Kazuya. No one really . . adds ‘Miyuki’ anymore.”

 

“Okay. Then, K-Kazuya.” He hears Eijun swallow and his heart stammers. “I have a situation, I think.”

 

That grabs his attention. He rolls out of bed. “What is it?”

 

“Do you remember Team Aqua?”

 

“How could I forget?”

 

“Well, there’s a bunch of them gathered around the Oceanic Museum.” A pause, then, “I’m supposed to meet Captain Takashima there.”

 

Kazuya sighs, rubs a hand down his face. There were nine days until the reception. He was supposed to go over things with Nabe today. But, with the way things were turning out, it looked like a visit to Slateport was no longer avoidable.

 

“Give me an hour,” he tells the trainer. “Find a cafe or something and sit tight. I’ll be there soon.”

 

This time, he was aiming for an impression. He wasn’t dressed yet, and he wasn’t coming in from already about out in the region, wearing sweats and a compression shirt under a tee. This time, he makes sure to gather his pants, his top, button over his coat around his form. He pats down his hair today instead of throwing a cap over it. The only thing he’s missing to make a proper champion is a swath of white fabric over his shoulder -but that would come in due time.

 

His dislike of the seaside city is made known as soon as he lands, the humidity sticking to him. But seeing Eijun jog up to him makes him cast it aside, and he adopts a more serious expression.

 

“They went inside, almost all of them,” the trainer tells him, nodding to the museum entrance.

 

“Got it. Let’s go.”

 

The receptionist seems a little shocked, that the large crowd had pushed their way in. Kazuya faintly remembers there being a fee charge for entering, but he pushes Eijun ahead, having no time for it. He tells himself he’ll pay double the next time, or maybe make a small donation in the name of the league. Either way, it was a problem for another time.

 

They try and make their way further in, but the Aqua members get antsy, and on the lower levels he once again partners with Eijun to battle.

 

The trainer has a Volbeat now, the bug type very helpful in dealing with their opponents when his Magnemite couldn’t finish the job. His Eevee was still unevolved, which was faintly surprising. Kazuya wonders if it would be a Leafeon now, had he not sent Eijun here to deliver the parcel.

 

As they defeat the members of Team Aqua, they begin to head out, finding no point in sticking around. When the last ones were taken care of, Kazuya finds he’s uncomfortable with the ease. Surely that wasn’t it.

 

Loud footsteps make themselves known, and him and Eijun come face to face with a man in some sort of fancy wetsuit.

 

“You must be pretty strong, to take down all my grunts as you did,” the man gruffs. His lips sink into a deep frown. “I’ll let it go this time, but this is your one warning. Do not interfere again.”

 

He takes off and Kazuya is left unsettled. But there’s still something bothering him, even as Eijun growls at the man from beside him, slipping down his bag to replace his Loudred’s pokeball with his Volbeat’s. The parcel catches his eye from inside the bag, and then it hits him.

 

Captain Takashima was nowhere to be found.

 

--

 

Right outside the shipyard, a yell gets the attention of the two trainers. Kazuya turns the corner to see the yard owner in distress, cornered by an Aqua member and their Poochyena. He calls out Scizor and has the pokemon use Aerial Ace, knocking the Poochyena out.

 

The grunt scurries off, and they move to help the yard owner, but he brushes off Kazuya’s hand, gesturing towards the shipyard.

 

“You have to help the captain, I fear she might be in danger!”

 

It really doesn’t take much more than that for the both of them to head off, but right before they enter the building, Eijun hesitates.

 

“That was their boss, right? That we just met?” the trainer asks. Kazuya thinks he must be referring to the one in the museum, and then he remembers the words, the threat spoken to them, and turns fully to face Eijun.

 

“You don’t have to come,” he says, his words gentle for the first time that day. “You can choose to stay out of all this. It’s not your responsibility, after all.”

 

Whatever effect he thought his words might have, it sure wasn’t the pissed off expression Eijun now wore. “What, and somehow it’s yours?” he snaps. “No, I’m going!”

 

Kazuya’s lips twitch. He forces the smirk down. Now wasn’t the time. “Right. Let’s just be cautious.”

 

Inside, a ragged shout rings out, and they hurry forward to see the captain on the open ground before the concrete path to the submarine. She’s keeled over, uniform torn and pretty roughed up. Upon hearing their footsteps, she jerks her head up, and her eyes immediately land on Kazuya.

 

“Miyuki!” She calls. “Help! Help me!”

 

He remembers, now. He’s met her before, back when he was younger, with his father. “Rei-san,” he calls, pulling out Meowstic’s pokeball. Sending out the psychic type, he hurries over, snarling at the Aqua members in his way.

 

He’s so single-minded he doesn’t notice the admin closer to the submarine dock, or that the man catches sight not of Kazuya, but of Eijun, and the bag he has.

 

The trainer shivers as he’s met with the stare, subconsciously drawing his pack closer, the parcel safe inside.

 

What a mistake that was.

 

The admin grins, smile showing all his teeth, and jabs a finger in his direction. “You three!” he calls to the grunts spread out over the floor. “That boy has the missing parts to the submarine! Let’s take them, huh?”

 

Several things then happen at once.

 

Eijun quickly paws out the pokeballs to his Loudred, Eevee, and Volbeat, and sends his pokemon out. Three Aqua grunts approach him with their own pokemon, racing forward and calling out attacks.

 

The Aqua admin steps between Takashima and Kazuya, blocking the champion’s path with his Surskit and Golbat.

 

Kazuya sends out his Dewott along with Meowstic, trusting that Eijun could handle himself.

 

Before him, Rei-san completely thought the opposite, calling out loudly for Eijun to run with the parts, to get as far away as he could.

 

Eijun stands his ground, calling out for an Echoed Voice from his Loudred.

 

“Meowstic!” Kazuya yells. He throws a hand out before him, glaring at the Aqua admin. “Psyshock!”

 

The psychic type complies, sending bullets of psychic energy hurling at the foe Surskit, leaving the pokemon stumbling.

 

The admin growls. “Golbat, Dark Pulse!”

 

“Imprison!”

 

Kazuya watches as Golbat’s incoming attack shatters, catching his opponent off guard. “Let’s try our own. Meowstic, Dark Pulse!”

 

The Golbat is slammed back, but Kazuya wastes no time, ordering a Razor Shell from his Dewott to keep Surskit from countering.

 

“So the museum,” he calls out. “Was that a front?”

 

The admin has the audacity to laugh, despite his predicament. “We had two goals today, huh, one being the submarine and the other being the special missing parts that Captain Takashima here was supposed to have. When we realized the captain wasn’t at the museum, we came back here. And when we found out she didn’t have the parts-” He cuts himself off to grin, lips curling back, and bellows out a laugh. “Well, a little physical persuasion never hurt anyone, huh?!”

 

Kazuya’s breath catches as he processes the words. Then -coming here had been a mistake. They’d been walking right into their hands. They shouldn’t have come here, with the parts. He should’ve thought it through better. He should’ve told Eijun to take the parts and go.

 

“Water gun,” he snarls, and the ensuing attack from Dewott sends the admin reeling, knocked back to the end of the ramp, down to where the submarine sits. The admin’s pokemon dart after their trainer, but Kazuya still tries to catch them as well, the Water Gun damaging the guardrails instead, knocking them inward.

 

He gestures for the captain to move, to head towards the exit, and she does just that. But then a loud scream distracts the both of them, and Kazuya turns to see Eijun’s form hurled across the floor, until he settles in a crumpled heap near Captain Takashima. His pants leg is torn, blood flowing from a nasty gash.

 

Eijun’s pokemon, seeing their trainer in distress, hurry over and away from the battle. But the grunts don’t follow, instead going for -Kazuya’s breath catches. Eijun’s bag had been separated from his person, and the grunts dive for it, lifting out the parcel with delighted squeals.

 

Behind him, the Aqua admin opens the submarine hatch. “Good, mates! Now head over here!”

 

Snarling, Kazuya positions himself between them, guarding the entrance to the ramp. He glances over at Eijun, but Takashima was ripping off a sleeve of her uniform and using it to tie around the trainer’s wound, so he wasn’t too concerned.

 

The grunts head his way and he takes them on, managing to hold the three of them off. He has the upper hand when a Water Pulse slams into him from behind, tossing him into the guardrails and knocking the breath from him. Shit! He grits his teeth, reaching out a hand to grip the top of the rails. He’d forgotten about the admin’s pokemon.

 

The grunts slip past, into the opening, but Kazuya manages to jerk out a hand and snatch at the end of the parcel. Before he could do much else, one of them calls out an Aqua Jet attack from their Carvanha, and the force slams into the parcel, ripping it apart.

 

Kazuya watches as the submarine part takes to the air, but before he can do anything, it lands in the possession of one of the Aqua’s pokemon further down the ramp. He grasps into the railing with his other hand, trying to stand. He could have Meowstic take it with Psychic-

 

His thoughts are cut short as a Scald attack flies toward him, and then Meowstic is redirecting it, sending the water blasting off to the side, careening off an invisible wall. Kazuya stutters out a breath, nodding to the pokemon in thanks.

 

He looks back to see the submarine hatch sliding to a close. In a panic, he gestures to Dewott. “Hydro Pump,” he calls, because if he can blast off the hatch, they won’t be able to take off.

 

“STOP!”

 

Kazuya whips his head back to see it had been Rei-san who had called out.

 

“I spent years on that ship! You can’t damage it!”

 

He turns his head from Rei to the sub in quick succession, trying to decide. But then there’s a click as the submarine breaks loose of its binding, and it submerges quickly, Team Aqua and the missing part inside.

 

No , NO,” he yells, dashing forward. But it’s too late. The ship is gone, and the water swells.

 

He rips at his hair, frustrated, and lets out another shout in frustration.

 

“Miyuki! He’s waking up!”

 

Who-That was right. Kazuya grits his teeth, making his way back to the two as Eijun’s eyes blink open.

 

“You idiot,” he protests, voice thick with emotion as he crouches beside the trainer.

 

“They were aiming for Captain Takashima,” Eijun says. His breathing is ragged, eyes alight with pain. “I didn’t think -I just jumped. I-I’m sorry about the parcel.”

 

“Don’t be stupid!” Takashima snaps. “You probably saved my life!”

 

“She’s right, Eijun.” Kazuya nods to him. “That was very brave. If anything, this is my fault. I let us rush in.” He lets his voice settle down with each word, doing his best to remain calm. “Come on, let’s get you up. Rei-san, will you help?”

 

Eijun tries to protest, but he can’t put much weight on gashed leg. Together, they help him stand and gather their pokemon before heading out of the shipyard. Slateport’s hospital was nearby, thankfully, and it doesn’t take long to get Eijun situated and binded up.

 

The nurse takes Kazuya aside. “It’s not deep, so he should be good to start walking tomorrow,” she lets him know. He thanks her, and she jots a note on a clipboard before leaving.

 

“I can stay,” Kazuya tells Takashima, gesturing towards Eijun, who was fast asleep on pain meds. “He should be released sometime tomorrow.”

 

Takashima shrugs, crossing her arms. “No, you’re far too busy. I live here. Let me do it.”

 

“I can do it.”

 

Kazuya is about to protest when a new voice sounds, and he turns to see Kominato in the doorway, small smile framed by that pink hair of his.

 

Haruichi steps further into the room and gestures to Eijun. “I’ve known Eijun-chan for a long time,” he reveals. “And I’ve no pressing matters at the moment, so I’m free to do it.”

 

“Uh, right.” Kazuya shakes his head. “Then I’ll leave him in your care -both of you.” He’d have to head back to Ever Grande eventually. Someone needed to know what went down that day. “Tell him I said to stay out of trouble, Rei-san,” he asks Takashima, who nods.

 

“Of course.”

 

--

 

He hadn’t quite been expecting the face that greets him when he answers the video call, and his voice relays such. “Tetsu . . ?”

 

“Hi, Kazuya.”

 

The Sinnoh champion smiles, his expression lax. Behind him, a commotion is happening, and suddenly Isashiki was running across the screen, shouting and narrowly avoiding being pelted in the face with what looked like an oversized Pecha berry by Umemiya, who’s running after him. Kazuya watches it all play out before turning back to Yuki.

 

“Was that Jun-san?”

 

“What?” Yuki turns, eyes the growing chaos with exasperation before turning back. “We’re having dinner,” he laments.

 

“Do all your dinners get this exciting?”

 

“When we’re all together, yes.” He smiles. “It’s not often everyone is around at the same time.”

 

Takako’s voice is in the background, shouting, and Umemiya slowly cuts back across the screen, only pausing briefly to wink at Kazuya.

 

“I suppose it’s the opposite for you,” Yuki muses. “Your team must be pretty close, until everything is official.”

 

Kazuya hums. “You have no idea. The only time I have to myself is when I’m asleep, and even that is scheduled.”

 

“Oh?” He chuckles, shaking his head. “I bet you forced it on yourself, though.”

 

His thoughts cut back to the many unsanctioned and sporadic naps of the past few weeks. “Maybe.”

 

“Anyway.” Yuki pauses as his name is called and looks away. With a warm smile he says something back that Kazuya can’t quite catch. Then he’s back on him. “I’m bringing someone extra to your reception.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“His name is Furuya Satoru. He’s a very promising trainer and,” he breaks off, winks. “Someone I’m mentoring, as well.”

 

“Sure, that’s not a problem.” Then a thought comes to mind. “He must be pretty special, for you to take him on.”

 

“Very.” He glances away again. “I’ve gotta go now. I’ll be seeing you soon, Kazuya.”

 

“Yeah. Bye, Tetsu.”

 

--

 

“This is troubling,” Sanada muses, chin resting on his hands. To his right, Wakana hums in agreement, and to her right Kuramochi gestures to Kazuya.

 

“What kind of Mega Stone?”

 

Kazuya shrugs. “They didn’t say. That was the last I saw of them, too, so I’ve no idea what their motives are.”

 

“What’s really troubling is the other. Team Aqua, right?” At Kazuya’s nod, Toujou furrows his brow. “Why go through all the trouble for a submarine? What’s so special or important about it? Have you talked to Captain Takashima since?”

 

“No.” He frowns. “I suppose I could do that.”

 

“She was okay, right?” Nabe asks. “After everything?”

 

“She was. It was Eijun that was in bad shape.”

 

“The trainer.” Wakana shakes her head. “I still don’t think it was smart to just give him the parcel. What if something had happened before he reached the city.”

 

“What troubles me more is that they resorted to such violent means. That sub must be very important,” Sanada grouses. “Have there been any sightings yet? Anything reported?”

 

“Not that I’m aware of,” Nabe tells them. “That we don’t know what they’re after is not pleasing as well. What happened at Slateport was messy, but it was isolated to the shipyard. The same for Mount Chimney. But if either goes for a populated spot next . .”

 

“We should issue an alert to all the gym leaders,” Zono speaks. “We’re spread out, and that way all of Hoenn can be covered if something happens.”

 

Nabe nods. “I’ll make it happen. Until then, since there’s been no activity, there’s not much else we can do.”

 

“I’m worried about the reception,” Shirasu voices. “It’s just over a week. If things get worse-”

 

“Don’t worry.” Kazuya lets everyone’s eyes fall to him. We’re not winning. “I have this feeling. It’ll all work out, I promise.” We might need your help. He grins. “A week is a long time, anyway. The reception will be fine. If we’re lucky, things will resolve before then.”

 

Before anyone could protest, he turns on another train of thought. “Tetsu called today, says he’s bringing some upstart trainer as well. Says he’s mentoring the kid, so he must be some big deal.”

 

“What’s his name.” Nabe doesn’t look up as he asks, but it’s not really a question, and Kazuya knows he doesn’t care much beyond filing purposes.

 

“Furuya.”

 

“Perfect. Speaking of which-”

 

They break away into lighter topics, helping to dissolve the tenseness in the air. Kazuya complies, but in the front of his mind, he’s focused on bright hair and blue eyes.

 

Mei. I hope everything is getting better with you, too.

 

--

 

Kazuya slips into a break room with little protest from Nabe, the latter thinking it was Kominato finally calling about his guest.

 

He flips on the screen and is met with Mei’s face immediately. He doesn’t even have the speakerphone yet, and rushes to grab it, pressing it to his ear. Behind the champion, the background is bland, kind of grubby.

 

“You don’t look in your element, wherever you are.”

 

Mei scrunches his nose, but hesitates, his planned words dying on his mouth. “I’m uh. Not at the league, still.”

 

“I see.”

 

He motions for Kazuya to sit down, so the Hoenn native complies.

 

“Things have worsened,” Mei starts off. Kazuya feels his teasing grin lift off his face. Right into the serious stuff, then. But, well, it wasn’t like he hadn’t been waiting to hear of it.

 

“The region, all the people , are still in denial of the situation.” Mei sighs, and the action makes him look ten years older. It startles Kazuya, to see how much it was affecting him. “I can’t do anything like this, so I’m stuck. I can’t ask for outside help yet, either.”

 

Kazuya stays silent, and Mei’s eyes catch his, examine him.

 

“Something’s bothering you, too. What is it.”

 

In the end, he doesn’t hesitate.

 

“There have been . . events, happening around the region,” Kazuya begins. “There are these two forces, and they keep doing these things that don’t make sense. Have-have you heard of trying to make a Mega Stone from a meteorite?”

 

Mei shakes his head. “Though, we don’t have meteors around here much. Thye do in Sinnoh? Have you talked to Yuki lately?”

 

“I can’t.” Kazuya grimaces. “He’s coming to the reception, it’s a week away. I don’t want anyone to worry. It’s too close.”

 

“Ah.” Mei’s grimacing, the expression not foreign to Kazuya, but not appealing to see, either. “You have to get through this, then-”

 

Commotion catches the Unovan’s attention, off to the side. Kazuya barely manages to hear, but he thinks he makes out Tadano’s voice.

 

“This is important. No. Well, then tell them to start,” Mei snips, face scrunched up. He turns back to Kazuya soon after, a shadow of regret passing. “Sorry, I’ve gotta go.”

 

Before he could even say goodbye, Mei had hung up. Kazuya sits there for a bit, in the dark. Thinking.

 

--

 

Later that day, Ryousuke actually does call, and Kazuya is less than surprised when he’s met with that careful smirk.

 

“I’m bringing my brother,” Ryousuke reveals. “Kominato Haruichi. He’s actually already in Hoenn.”

 

It doesn’t take but that for Kazuya to piece the name with the face. “Yeah. I’ve actually run into him a couple times now.”

 

“Oh?” The Johto champion shifts, expression shifting to one of interest. “Where?”

 

The memory of their last meeting flits through his mind, and suddenly he doesn’t want to spew about seeing the younger Kominato in a hospital. He’d be in Ryousuke’s presence very soon, and he wasn’t eager to lose any limbs at the wrong word.

 

Instead, he takes a different route, regarding Haruichi’s words. “I met him through another trainer. Sawamura-”

 

“Eijun,” Ryousuke finishes, smile returning. “I know him. He’s an exceptional battler. I trust he’s in Hoenn to collect badges?” At Kazuya’s mute nod, he continues. “If that’s the case, you’d best watch that you don’t lose the champion seat before it’s officially yours,” he jokes.

 

Kazuya smiles. “That so?”

 

--

 

He didn’t come to Lilycove on a whim, or a feeling,  but he didn’t come as anyone with a title, either, dressed casually. It’s by the ocean, but it’s not home, and he’s almost regretting coming when he catches flashes of blue bandanas from the next street over.

 

Stepping forward, Kazuya returns Swellow and sees a few figures dart towards the pier in outfits he quickly recognizes.

 

He makes to follow them when one separates off and moves to the department store Lilycove was so famed for, slipping inside with ease.

 

“Kazuya?”

 

The voice he hears behind him sounds unsure, yet decidedly for sure , and he turns already knowing who it was, gaze locking with amber orbs.

 

“It is,” Eijun sighs. “What are you doing here?”

 

“I uh-” He shakes his head. “Nothing. What’s up with you? You’re moving -that’s good.”

 

“Yeah.” The trainer shakes off the awkward air and steps forward more. “I actually- wait, hold on.” He fumbles in his bag for a moment, then pulls out a badge case. Kazuya smiles as it opens and Eijun points. “See, I got the Petalburg and Fortree badges!”

 

“Very impressive.” He motions with a hand. “Does that mean Eevee has evolved?”

 

“Oh yeah!” He stuffs the case back in his bag, nodding eagerly. “She’s a Leafeon now. And I have a Swablu now too!”

 

He’s nodding when he catches sight of a couple more Aqua members before they dip out of view. “Do you know anything about Team Aqua being here?”

 

“Oh, that.” Eijun shakes his head. “Not really. They’re everywhere, though! Honestly it’s kind of intimidating, but . .” He lets his gaze drop to his leg, the one that’d been injured. “But! They didn’t hold me back before, and I won’t let them get to me this time either.”

 

“I see.” Grand. There went his one chance for a proper lead. At the same time, he’s grateful Eijun hadn’t been pulled in again.

 

“Actually . .” Kazuya’s attention is grabbed when Eijun speaks again. “Uh, before I got here. Right at the entrance to the city, I overhead a couple of them talking about plans. Said something about a Mount Pyre?”

 

Ah. Just when he had hoped. “That’s . . troubling,” he reveals. When Eijun’s look turns questioning, he explains. “Mount Pyre is a resting ground for Hoenn’s pokemon. It’s southwest of here, surrounded by the water between routes one twenty-one and one twenty-three.”

 

The air goes quiet between them after that. Kazuya tips his head in question as Eijun’s gaze turns steely, but then a hand is wrapped around his wrist, and he’s being dragged into the pokemon center close by. Before he can protest must, he’s released as the trainer runs to the counter.

 

“Sawamura!” The Nurse Joy on hand exclaims. “Perfect, just who I wanted to see. All your pokemon are all healed up.” She gestures to a tray off to the side.

 

“Great,” Eijun sighs, collecting them. “Thanks again, I appreciate it!” He hurries back to Kazuya’s side, and before the champion can speak, he’s cut off. “I’m coming with you.”

 

He thinks about arguing, but there’s a certain look in Eijun’s eyes that wards him off from it directly. “It’s surrounded by water,” he tried instead.

 

“Corphish knows surf,” Eijun counters. “And Swablu knows fly.” Kazuya must stay quiet a moment more than he can take, because the trainer huffs and shuffles the both of them out of the building. “Come oooon, Kazuya,” he whines.

 

“Okay,” he gives in. If there’s a small smile on his face, well, he can’t help it. “Okay. Let’s go, then.”

 

--

 

He’s returning Dewott to a pokeball when shouting gains his attention, and with an ease he hadn’t expected, manages to snag Eijun’s sleeve and drag him under the shadows of a Persim tree, gesturing for the both of them to stay quiet. The trainer nods mutely in response, but soon his gaze is away, watching as figures dressed in a familiar red costume step out from one of the carved out paths leading up the mountain.

 

They’re talking in low voices, Kazuya not able to make out the words. Quickly, the grunts make their way to the shore and release a trio of flying type pokemon, taking off on them soon after. Kazuya waits until they’re well past the wetlands of Route 120 before stepping out.

 

He leads Eijun up a path at random, telling him they all led to the same place, and the only difference happened to be how far each snaked around the mountain first. They spot more members of Team Magma, and take care to stay well out of sight, eventually stepping off the path they’d chosen altogether.

 

“The mountain is hollow,” Kazuya explains. “Inside is where Hoenn’s pokemon are buried. There are a bunch of ghost pokemon wandering the mountainside, said to be the spirits of those passed on.” He shrugs. “That’s what people say, anyway.”

 

Eijun perks up at this. “So like the pokemon tower in Kanto.”

 

Oh. “Yeah,” Kazuya nods. “Like that.” He hadn’t thought to ask of where the trainer was from, but he guessed now he knew. In turn, Eijun sends him a similar confused look, and Kazuya elaborates. “It’s been a while, but I traveled through Kanto once.” Eijun’s eyes light up at this, but before they could get sidetracked, he veers back on topic. “But still, besides being a pretty big landmark, I don’t know what Team Aqua would want here . .”

 

“Or Team Magma,” Eijun adds. “There are so many of them, but I haven’t seen Team Aqua at all, actually.”

 

“Right.” Either way, it was his duty as champion to clear out the sacred mountain, conflict or not.

 

The fog is thick, and as Kazuya leads them up the mountainside, he finds himself gripping the fabric of Eijun’s top to pull him along more than once. Especially as the Magma members appear to grow thicker in their hoards. Were they playing lookout? Or, were they searching for something . . ?

 

Finally, they made it to the top. It was sculpted into a plateau, and tiled off near the back edge, old stones cracked and weathered from age. Kazuya’s breath caught in his throat as he made out pillars, one empty while the other held up a blue orb, the sun’s light glimmering off its smooth surface. Before his eyes, a figure grasps the orb and takes it from its stand, and grunts of protest make his eyes flit to the back, where a pair of elderly stand nervously, eyes flickering from the orb to the shadowy figure. Guardians, he realizes with dismay.

 

His eyes flash back to the mural in Granite Cave. That was not the only thing he’d studied on the legends of Hoenn. Still, he’d thought the legendary artifacts were supposed to be housed in Sootopolis -in the Cave of Origin. They weren’t supposed to be here, he hadn’t read about the red and blue orbs being on Mt. Pyre of all places, all out in the open, with a pair of guardians that could only stand hapless as the last of the orbs was swiped.

 

The figure turns and steps out, and Kazuya feels his breath catch in his throat.

 

Because Animal Takigawa is not supposed to be here. But there he is, holding the blue orb close, dressed in Magma’s robes, and staring right back at him. He watches carefully, and then warily, as lips pull back into a snarl, and then settle into a tempered line. Beside him, Eijun stiffens. Kazuya can’t blame him. The atmosphere has turned stifling.

 

“Miyuki Kazuya,” Animal drawls. “What an honor to see you again.” He sighs and shakes his head, reaching to slip the orb from his side to out in front of his form. “It is unfortunate, but Team Aqua has already departed with the red orb. I, as well, now have the blue orb.” Said orb gets slipped into the confines of his robes, hidden from sight. Kazuya tries to follow it, tries to ignore the mocking tone to Animal’s voice, tries to reason that there’s no way he could know yet he had to have known what position Kazuya now held. All the words he could say are stuck in his throat as he stares at the man.

 

“Unfortunately, I don’t have time to waste on you,” Animal tells him. His words are now cold, tone harsh. To follow, he strides forward, robes billowing from his form, and makes his way past the duo.

 

Kazuya can’t find it in himself to move until Eijun attempts to double back, and then he’s snapping his hand out, catching the trainer’s wrist. Eijun turns to glare at him, a retort on his lips, but suddenly Kazuya’s voice makes its way back to him, and he speaks first.

 

“It’s a battle we can’t win, Eijun.” It’s barely out before he winces, hating the hoarse tone, the volume not rising above a murmur. By a miracle, it’s quiet at the summit of the mountain. All there is is the fog, blanketing their surroundings, disguising the retreat of Team Magma as their leader descends with one of the legendary relics.

 

But his mind is churning.

 

It was his obligation to fight back. There were five days until he’d officially be the champion. But he’d frozen. If he were lucky, if he ran with all his might, maybe he could catch up. But his feet wouldn’t move. He was stuck, eyes not even able to meet Eijun’s as the boy slipped from his grasp to stand a bit more comfortably before him. His expression had settled into one of understanding, albeit a little frustratingly so. But he’d seen Kazuya fight enough to know how strong he was. If it was so clear to his companion that winning was not possible, who was he to argue?

 

“Miyuki Kazuya, hm?”

 

He jerks sharply at that, turning to face the elderly duo, the women of the two stepping out into the faint sunlight. Her outfit is old and worn, but it is indeed the ceremonial garb Kazuya had read described in old tablets and inscriptions. A guardian to Hoenn’s artifacts. A protector of the orbs and the ancients.

 

“Then you must stop this.” Now it’s her companion that speaks, coming to stand beside her. Their words resonate somewhere deep inside of Kazuya, and he finally breaks from his trance to nod at them. The elderly man reaches down and picks up an item from the stone, then gestures for Kazuya to come forward. He does, more easily that he would’ve thought, and reaches out to accept the golden emblem the man hands him.

 

“He must’ve dropped it in his rush,” the man explains. “It may be important yet; you should hold on to it.”

 

“Ochiai of Aqua was boasting about returning to Lilycove,” the woman speaks up. “Though that emblem seems to bear the sigma of Magma. Still, Ochiai was the one to take the red orb.” She sighs, long and drawn out, and the sound makes Kazuya stiffen. “Both orbs are gone,” she says gravely. “Whatever they’re planning -well, it isn’t good.”

 

“Kazuya.”

 

He looks over his shoulder as Eijun approaches, the trainer’s eyes flicking from him to the guardians. Finally, that amber gaze settles upon his own, curiosity evident in their depths.

 

“Who are you, really?” Eijun asks, and he feels the world split open at his feet.

 

He can’t hold Eijun’s gaze as he replies. “It’s not important.”

 

After thanking the pair of guardians once more, Kazuya leads them back down the mountain. They settle for trekking down a longer path. He already has a feeling their time here would be drawn out.

 

He’s not wrong, as not even a minute into their trek Eijun reaches out to yank at his sleeve, bring him to a stop. When he looks back, the trainer’s face is lowered. “Tell me,” he grounds out. “It’s important to me , to know. Please.” He looks up at that last word, catching Kazuya’s gaze with those big amber orbs, and Kazuya feels his breath catch.

 

“I . .” He tries to shake off the other’s grip. Swallows. Takes another step forward, never able to break eye contact through it all. It’s taking all his willpower, but,

 

“I can’t ,” he says, teeth gritted. FInally, he turns away, jerks his head for Eijun to follow.

 

But apparently he’s not getting out of it like that. Eijun is in front of him once more, expression firm, arms crossed over his chest. “It’s only fair, you know. Since you know who I am.” Kazuya moves past him, each step feeling heavy, like his shoes were filled with lead.

 

Eijun sighs but manages to stay right behind him. “Sawamura Eijun,” he murmurs, and if Kazuya falters in his step, well, let’s hope he just imagined it. “A competitive trainer. I’m from Kanto.”

 

The silence that follows is heavy. The fog that surrounds them is thick. Kazuya thinks they may be near the edge of the mountainside, because suddenly he can hear the ocean below.

 

“Haven’t you put your trust in me enough times by now?”

 

His breath hitches, and this time he does stumble to a stop. It was true, though. He’d involved Eijun too much in this conflict, and at this point there would be no denying he’d end up a target for either team if things got serious. He flashes back to the shipyard, to heaving the trainer’s body up, blood still carving multiple paths down his torn up leg, seeping through the tourniquet.

 

“I know him,” Ryou had said.

 

“He’s exceptional, ” Ryou had said.

 

Kazuya makes up his mind. He turns around, faces Eijun and forces himself to look the other in the eye. As he makes to voice another protest, Kazuya puts up a hand to stop him. He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, tells himself if Ryousuke Kominato could say those things, then he could trust Eijun with this.

 

“I’m the new champion of Hoenn.”

 

--

 

Four days before the reception, Kazuya wakes early and gathers his team at one of Ever Grande’s chambers. It’s a lobby of sorts, with tall windows that reveal a cloudy sky, a few tables, a few couches, some presentation tools, and enough space to fit the extra guests who had arrived only the night before, and had decided to include themselves upon hearing the commotion.

 

Eijun is there too. He sits next to Kazuya, bunched between him and Toujou. He’d been taking everything rather well, for someone blindly thrust into the whole situation. Kazuya was a bit impressed.

 

The Magma emblem sits before the champion, and Toujou’s gaze had flicked to it several times before revealing Kanemaru had told him of team activity near the base of Mt. Chimney. The gym leader hadn’t been able to isolate it, but if he had to guess, he’d say it was the Jagged Pass, a side of the mountain that had been formed from flowing lava long ago, and contained multiple entrances to the volcano’s inner chambers.

 

He’d sent Wakana out, but the psychic trainer had returned just recently, confirming there was activity near a cove northeast of Lilycove, branching away from the mainland. That penned the guardian’s words as true, and Kazuya was willing to take it, even if she couldn’t get close enough to confirm in the end.

 

Tetsuya and Ryousuke sat side-by-side on a couch adjacent to the table they were seated, gazes wandering but always coming back to settle on Kazuya’s team. To the Sinnoh champion’s left sat Furuya Satoru, who Kauzya had been introduced to briefly the night before. When asked about Haruichi, Ryousuke had simply shrugged, telling him he’d be there eventually.

 

Well. He had more important things to worry about.

 

“I want to raid the hideout at Jagged Pass,” he voices, and instantaneously, everyone erupts.

 

“How could this happen now-

 

“Still confused why Animal is involved-”

 

“But Ochiai Hiromatsu? Surely not-”

 

“The reception is in four days,” Nabe says, and everyone’s voices die down. He looks tense, very much on edge, and Kazuya can’t help but pick up on how his eyes move to Eijun too often, as if questioning his presence. “Whatever we do, we have to do now. We’re running out of time.”

 

“Having the orbs means their plans are connected to the legends, now.”

 

Everyone turns as Okumura speaks up for the first time that morning. He doesn’t falter under the sudden attention.

 

“I spoke with Hinai and Takiya already,” he nods to Kazuya. “The two on Mount Pyre. I’m positive that’s what it is.”

 

“I’m not saying I don’t believe you,” Wakana speaks, “but that seems flimsy. Actually, I’m willing to bet the motives are a little more clear cut.”

 

“I wasn’t talking about motives,” Okumura replies. It’s not until then that Kazuya realizes what the gym leader was wearing. It was the robes he’d seen on the duo on Mt. Pyre. “I’m talking about achieving their objectives, whatever they may be.”

 

Before anyone can reply, he stands and casts a look at Kazuya. “I can’t stay,” he says. “I’m going back to the Cave of Origin.”

 

Like some sort of ethereal spirit, he slips out of the room, protests dying on the lips of everyone. They all knew what Koushuu’s responsibilities entailed, and if somehow the plans of teams Aqua and Magma did align with Hoenn’s legendaries, the guardian would be busier than them all.

 

Feeling the tension in the air, Kazuya stands as well. “Let’s take a break,” he mumbles, stepping away from the table.

 

Sanada and Shirasu enter deep discussion, huddling in a corner of the table and speaking in low voices. Everyone else breaks, moving across the room. Someone says something about getting food, and another leaves with them to help. Kazuya can’t blame them. It was early, and he’d dragged them all here as soon as possible.

 

“-zuya.”

 

He turns his head to the side, blinking, and there was Eijun. “Sorry, what was that?”

 

The trainer huffs, crosses his arms. “I’ll be back,” he tells him. Kazuya nods and watches him go, somehow slipping out with Furuya tailing him. He didn’t think the two were acquainted, so that painted an . . interesting picture.

 

Before he could think more about it, Nabe is at his side, and he sighs loud and deep, mentally preparing for the conversation about to happen.

 

--

 

“Seven badges,” Furuya drones, and Eijun feels a vein split in his head. He’d just been boasting about having six, and had asked the Sinnoh trainer for his count, for sure he couldn’t be topped.

 

“Actually, I would have eight, but I had to come here,” the trainer muses. Beside him, Eijun’s movements turn jerky.

 

“Right, right.”

 

Ahead of them, a new voice echoes down the hall. Eijun pauses, because it sounded familiar. It’s not until they round the corner that he realizes why.

 

“H-Harucchi!” he shouts, jerking up a finger to point at the Johto trainer standing a few yards away.

 

Said trainer jumps at the loud proclamation, but manages to calm down enough to turn towards Eijun, letting a smile fill his face before he’s jumped, the Kanto trainer’s arms wrapped tightly around his form.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

“Ryou,” Haruichi answers. “Apparently he arrived early, and so I made my way over here. But, why are you-” he cuts himself off as Eijun steps back, eyes catching on the other trainer lingering, but as their eyes lock, steps forward as well. “F-Furuya?!”

 

“Wh-” Eijun flips his gaze between the two. “You two know each other?”

 

“Hi, Haru-chan,” Furuya says.

 

Haruichi steps away from Eijun to hug the Sinnoh trainer as well. “It’s so good to see you. But wait -why are you here?”

 

“Yuki’s here.” Furuya’s voice is quiet, but Eijun can still hear it perfectly. He was still kind of miffed. Who shows up as a random guest of the Sinnoh champion, after all? And Kazuya had explained Furuya was being mentored by the champion as well, which totally rubbed Eijun the wrong way.

 

He’d zoned out, apparently, because only the calling of his name jerks him from his thoughts. Haruichi is staring at him.

 

“S-Sorry. What?”

 

“What’s going on?” Haruichi asks.

 

Oh. That. Eijun nods to the hall, and the trio slowly make their way back to the chamber the two had occupied previously. He attempts to explain about the other day, but he’s not very good at rehashing events. He doesn’t miss the gleam in Haruichi’s eyes when he brings up Team Magma, though.

 

“I ran into them, once,” he admits. “At Rusturf Tunnel. They scared some of the workers and then collapsed an entire section. It was Kazuya who helped to clear the debris.” He shakes his head. “But still, I’d never imagined he’d be . . well.”

 

“I just found out yesterday.” Eijun sighs. “I know how you feel.”

 

“I’m so restless,” Furuya suddenly said, and Eijun finds himself agreeing. Then, something clicks, a scattered piece of the conversation earlier coming back that he’d failed to monopolize on.

 

“Harucchi,” he begins, slowly. “Do you remember Team Aqua?”

 

--

 

There were nine of them, with Kanemaru added. Kazuya wouldn’t leave the gym leader out again, if the raid was taking place so close to Lavaridge. He realized with dismay that Eijun was missing from the count, but the trainer hadn’t come back, and he couldn’t find a way to bring it up as the conversation kept moving rapidly.

 

If they left at midday, that gave them several hours to organize and prepare. In his palm, the Magma emblem sits, heavy. If was probably a key of some sort, he dimly realizes. They’d find out soon.

 

Four days.

 

The cave mural flashes in his mind.

 

“Kazuya!”

 

He jerks upright, gaze settling on the door that had been opened suddenly, and Eijun coming through with the two foreign trainers. Eijun wastes no time, once he’s managed to capture everyone’s attention with his outburst, in laying everything out.

 

“We want to raid the Aqua hideout,” he says, gesturing behind him where Furuya and Haruichi stand.

 

It’s deathly silent. Kazuya lets his eyes flick from molten amber to the Sinnoh and Johto trainers. Then they come back.

 

“No,” he says.

 

But Eijun doesn’t deflate like he’d thought. Instead, he shakes his head, pushes forward.

 

“You’re all focused on Magma,” he says. “That’s fine, it’s good that you’re taking action, but Aqua has the submarine. We don’t know when they’ll use it.” His eyes flick over Kazuya’s face, but the champion holds out, even as he thinks the trainer had a point. If they focused all their attention on one team, the other could slip away.

 

“I’m not afraid,” Eijun grounds out, and Kazuya understands. The shipyard confrontation had been a disaster, but he’d recovered. He was a fighter, through and through. And . .

 

Well. Hadn’t Kazuya promised to trust him?

 

He holds that gaze for a few more tense, silent moments. Then he relents. “Okay.”

 

“We’re going too,” Haruichi tells him, stepping up. On the other side of the room, Kazuya sees the elder Kominato shift in his seat from the corner of his eye. Furuya steps up as well, nodding.

 

Nabe stands at that, protests forming already, but from near Ryousuke, Yuki’s sudden voice catches everyone off guard.

 

“Let them go, Miyuki.”

 

He turns his gaze to the Sinnoh native. Smoldering eyes look back, and he’s suddenly reminded that he’d been discussing a raid on a dangerous group in front of two foreign champions without ever acknowledging them. His ears burn.

 

“If you won’t allow us to help in Hoenn’s problems,” Yuki continues, “directly, I understand. But let them go.”

 

He flicks his gaze to Nabe, but he’s still, silent. Then he remembers Yuki’s words from before, about Furuya’s strong battle prowess. And he’d seen firsthand what the younger Kominato was capable of.

 

“I suppose one person can’t do it alone,” he finally says, and the trio still near the doors sigh in relief.

 

--

 

There were nine of them.

 

That meant Kazuya had ended up alone, shaking off protests because a three-man team wasn’t efficient.

 

As he returns Swellow to his pokeball, he starts to think that had been a stupid idea.

 

It’s sweltering, and a loud roar makes him trip on his feet. A quick hand to the cave’s walls saves him from collapsing, but another roar echoes around him, and the vibrations that follow leave him barely able to stand.

 

He doesn’t know how many levels down he’s gone, but he knows he’s deep underground. There are containment boxes around, and he’d even seen a couple drills scattered through his descent. It was clear this operation hadn’t begun in a couple weeks, or even a month.

 

He finds himself thinking if, maybe, it had been going on before the previous champion’s death.

 

But that would be preposterous, considering.

 

He shakes off his exhaustion with a practiced ease and makes for the next exit, coming finally into one of the inner chambers.

 

His breath catches.

 

A hulking mass of a pokemon stood in the cave’s deep lava pit, seething. It let out another roar, and Kazuya hunkers down on the steps, wincing as the noise infiltrates every part of his body, making even his bones shake.

 

When he looks down again, he sees Animal before the pit, staring up at the pokemon with awe in his eyes. He makes his way down the steps, anxious to be on more solid ground should something happen. His hand rests on Lairon’s pokeball, the other in front of his face, shielding him from the heat until he veers away from the lava pit as the steps curve.

 

The cave mural flashes to his mind, and he now has no doubts. This was Groudon. The continent pokemon. One of the legendaries of Hoenn.

 

He can do nothing as Groudon suddenly turns, and marches deeper into the lava pit, sinking with every step until all that remains is a bubbling froth where the beast once was.

 

Animal rages, and Kazuya realizes he was holding the blue orb, cursing at the object why it wouldn’t work, why Groudon had fled instead of bowing down to him. He speaks before he realizes it.

 

“You need the red orb to control Groudon,” he calls out. “Not the blue.”

 

Animal pauses, two tense moments where his limbs jerk and freeze, and Kazuya is left standing in anticipation, hand still curled around a pokeball. Then, the Magma leader roars, the sound suddenly much more intimidating than anything Groudon had emitted. His blood freezes as he’s met with that intense gaze, and before he knows it, a Camerupt has appeared before them.

 

“It’s your fault!” Animal screams. Then Kazuya feels the world shake.

 

He’s quick, releasing Lairon and having the pokemon cut off the Earthquake attack that had sent him spiraling into the rock wall with a Metal Burst. Camerupt lunges back, letting out a cry as it’s hit.

 

He’s aware, faintly, that he stumbles back to his feet. His head hurts. He puts a hand to it and it comes away red.

 

An Eruption attack from Camerupt leaves him reeling, stumbling back once more, Lairon’s Protect only doing so much to help.

 

He’d said before, to Eijun, that battling with Animal was something they couldn’t win. But now, Kazuya has no choice. Even at a disadvantage, he has to try. He’s here as Hoenn’s protector, after all. He’s here with people counting on him.

 

A Lava Plume shoots out, and he finds himself gasping as the heat wave emitted from the attack catches him. His head is still bleeding. Something feels heavy on his side.

 

Lairon uses Heavy Slam to counter, but Camerupt is still a fire type first and foremost, and the attacks, though powerful, are having little effect.

 

It’s an Earth Power that ultimately does Lairon in, and with the loss of some sort of shield, Kazuya as well.

 

He barely has time to breath before he’s swept off his feet, and when he lands, it’s rough. His side burns.

 

He doesn’t even have the chance to return Lairon to her pokeball. He just collapses, right then and there, the ground still shaking and his head still swimming.

 

The world goes black in an instant.

 

--

 

Eijun runs faster, steps pumping on the steel floors, and skids to a stop just as he reaches the final door. He throws it open, not waiting as Haruichi calls for him to slow down, and bounds forward with Arcanine on his heels.

 

It’s like a cargo hold, this deep, and big, and the churning of water makes his gaze fall immediately to the water that sits in the center, to the submarine sinking deep and fast beneath its ebb and flow.

 

His breath catches, but he pushes on, calling for a Flamethrower from Arcanine. It only hits the water as the hull finally disappears beneath the blue, and a burst of steam erupts from the surface, the noise like a gunshot from so close.

 

Haruichi is beside him then, gesturing at Espeon, and Eijun watches as the water churns, the psychic type doing its best to disperse it, but it’s not enough.

 

Soon, Furuya puts a hand on the Johto trainer’s shoulder, halting Espeon’s movements in turn. His Floatzel wanders up and dives down, but surfaces soon after, shaking its head.

 

Eijun feels hollow.

 

They had failed.

 

--

 

At Ever Grande, everyone is huddled in the same room as that morning. They all looked worn and beaten, still wiping the ash and soot that littered their skin. Eijun’s eyes quickly rove the room, but he can’t find the one person he’s looking for. His gut suddenly drops.

 

Kuramochi steps up, looking at then sternly. Then, his expression breaks, and he can’t look at them as he explains that the raid was unsuccessful, in the end. He’s even more terse when he tells them of Kazuya’s condition.

 

At the words, Eijun’s head jerks up, and with little protest, the elite four member rattles off a number and a loose set of directions. WIth his heart hammering in his throat, Eijun takes off.

 

Haruichi steps forward. “Us, too,” he murmurs. “We couldn’t reach in time. The submarine had already left.” To his right, Furuya tenses, and Haruichi can feel the frustration radiating off of him.

 

Kuramochi shakes his head. He comes forward, and suddenly his hands are on either trainer’s shoulders, his eyes staring into theirs.

 

“You can’t be blamed,” he rasps out. “It was just the three of you. Thank you, for trying.”

 

It doesn’t help, though. The weight of failure was too heavy.

 

--

 

The moon is out and shining, pouring light into the open window to his left, spilling white onto the crumpled sheets of the makeshift bed, onto the wooden floors creaky from age, and onto the unvarnished and plain walls that made up the small medical room.

 

Kazuya turns his head to cast a cursory glance out the window. Clouds are moving past at a pace his eyes could pick up on, moving in front of the moon and making the light cast into the room fizzle to dull every so often. There’s a jetline in the sky, old, and the way it’s positioned seems like it’s splitting the stars in the sky, tearing a hole in the atmosphere. Shivers run down his body just thinking of it like that.

 

A bump to his side makes his glance fall down, and suddenly he’s dimly aware of the chair that had been pushed up to the bedside, of the figure in it lying forward so that his nose was pressed to Kazuya’s hip, dark brown hair spilling out around a tanned face.

 

He pinks, cheeks heating up with a warm glow so fast that he’s reaching up to make sure it’s real. That’s when he notices the iv in his wrist, thin tube curling across the sheets until it ascends to connect to a bag of some sort of fluid.

 

Then he’s assessing himself, feeling for bandages, and grimaces when he finds thick ones on his side, and others around his temple. There’s not much pain, and he’s guessing the drip is the cause of that.

 

He casts a cursory glance to Eijun as well, scanning for any notable injuries as he recalls the trainer’s own mission. But he thankfully can’t see any out of sort, and the trainer breathes soundly, fast asleep at Kazuya’s side.

 

The heat calms down. Was this . . okay? It had taken him by surprise, but as his heart rate lowers to a normal steady beep to echo in the small room, he finds he’s not exactly uncomfortable with the situation.

 

He feels weary, and with a quiet sigh, leans back into the pillows, shuffling around until he’s comfortable. He’s just closing his eyes when he feels a hand take his own, hold it loosely, and opens them to just catch the smile on Eijun’s face before sleep wipes it away.

 

Yeah. Maybe he was okay with it.

 

--

 

He wakes to a substantially brighter room next, the moonshine replaced by a dim summer glow. Noise makes him turn to his left, and he looks over to see Eijun staring back at him, a fruit tart close to his lips as he nibbles on it. Those bright eyes are lidded, and he’s slow as he nods a greeting to Kazuya.

 

“G-mornin’,” Eijun drones, and Kazuya does his best to keep the heat from his face as he stumbles for a reply.

 

“Blurry,” he finally mumbles. His glasses weren’t on. He thinks he remembers them being on when he woke last time.

 

The trainer reaches out to the bedside table and then something settles on Kazuya’s stomach, gently. He reaches out and feels the familiar frames of his eyewear, sighing in relief as he pushes them onto his face. “Thanks.” The he pauses, thinking for a moment before facing Eijun again. “How long have you been here?

 

“Uh . .” He stops munching on the tart, letting it hang in front of his face. “A while?”

 

“Like the whole time?”

 

“M-Maybe!” EIjun jerks up, a little heat returning to his eyes, as if challenging if there was anything wrong with that. Kazuya waves him off, already curious about another thing.

 

“How did it go?”

 

“Oh. Um.” Eijun presses his lips together, eyes darting around and never fully settling on kazuya again, even as he answers. “ . . We failed, in the end.”

 

It’s a little surprising to him by how not-daunting the statement turns out to be. Like he’d expected it, in the end. Like there would be any luck on the other end when he . . “Yeah,” he murmurs. “Us too.”

 

The silence is stony, the air thick. Eijun’s looking at his tart as he drops his hand away from his face more, refusing to meet Kazuya’s gaze. In contrast, the champion is searching Eijun’s features again, trying to make out some sort of injury that would’ve replaced the victory they’d been seeking. But he’s bare, free of harm, and he’s left with the sinking realization that in the end, he’d been the one to colossally screw up and end here, bedridden.

 

He’s not brave enough to break the silence. But Eijun is, asking wearily about his pain.

 

“Yeah, how is your pain?”

 

He turns his head to the other side of the room, where Kuramochi has stepped forward, words fading to another bout of silence. Nabe stands beside him, and while Kuramochi’s expression is hardened, his is cast with concern.

 

He considers. It wasn’t unbearable, but it wasn’t like earlier, where he’d just felt stiff. “Bad,” he finally admits, settling for what could make sense. Nabe ducks out to grab a ward, and Kuramochi leans against the wall next to the door. He’s still staring at Kazuya oddly, and the champion can’t meet his gaze, either, so he stares at the ceiling instead.

 

His morphine bag gets changed out, running cold in the iv, in his wrist. He lets it slowly take effect, numbing the pain in his side, and then carefully sits up, lets Eijun prop the pillows so he could lean back and meet the others’ gazes comfortably. He tugs the thin sheet over his wrist, but it doesn’t do much to help with the cold.

 

“You might as well have a seat,” he tells the other two in the room, nodding to the chair on the right side of the room. “I suspect this will take a while.” By the terse looks that appear on their faces, he can’t see himself being wrong.

 

“Shirasu found you first,” Nabe says, breaking the silence. “Alone, but unconscious with-” He breaks off, glancing at his side before pointedly turning away.

 

“You have  . .” Kuramochi trails off, then shakes his head, continuing. “Burns. Not enough for s-skin grafting?” He turns to Nabe, who nods. “That. But enough to cause a lot of bleeding. I’m actually surprised you’re not still out. It hasn’t even been a day since it all happened.”

 

“Concussion, too.” Nabe taps the side of his head, and Kazuya’s left arm comes up to feel the bandages. He faintly remembers listing into the cave wall a couple times. “Lairon was in better shape, marginally. She’s all good now, though. All your team is.”

 

“That’s good.” He breathes a sigh of relief, dropping his gaze from the two for a moment. “I was . . alone?”

 

“Shirasu didn’t see anyone,” Kuramochi says quietly. “Whoever you fought with didn’t stick around after- Uh.”

 

“Doing me in?” A tight smile pulls at his lips. “It’s okay. I lost. I can accept that.” He sighs, rubs his free hand down his face, careful of his glasses. “It was Animal. He was . . strong.”

 

It’s a few moments before the silence is broken again. “He did train Chris,” Nabe murmurs. As if realizing what he’d said, he’s quick to add on. “And their set-up looked pretty long-term. They had the terrain advantage, at the very least.”

 

“You were the only one injured.” Kuramochi, again. “And once the majority of us reached the chamber, none of the Magmas seemed very interested in sticking around. We had . . to prioritize.” He smile is wry. “So we left. Brought you back here.”

 

Kazuya’s eyes blink shut. He’s not ready for this, but- “What went wrong?”

 

“Their numbers swelled beyond expectations,” Nabe admits. “Even with the strength of the force we brought, advancing was tough. There were a couple with the ability to mega evolve as well. Sanada and Wakana fought with them.”

 

“There were tremors later on that scattered us.” Kazuya’s gaze turns to Kuramochi as he continues. “Sections of rock collapsed from the force and sealed off areas for a bit. I don’t know if you were-”

 

“I felt them,” he interrupts. “They were from Groudon.” The two flinch back in response, and he drives forward. “Animal was there. I think -he must have used the blue orb to awaken it, somehow.”

 

“Orb?” Kuramochi questions. Kazuya nods.

 

“The ones from Mount Pyre. He had the wrong one, though. So Groudon fled. And then . .” He bites down on his lower lip, brows furrowed as the memories attempt to resurface. Even with the drip, his head starts to hurt. “I guess he could turn his full attention to me. It was a pretty one-sided fight.”

 

“Don’t beat yourself up.” Kuramochi stands from his chair. “Animal’s a fire user, just like Chris was. You had the disadvantage.”

 

“In regards to their intentions . .” Nabe shakes his head. “Any ideas?”

 

“Actually, I’m pretty positive now that they’re after Groudon and Kyogre,” Kazuya says. Again, the two reel at the mention of the legendaries.

 

“So Okumura was . . ?”

 

“He was right, in a sense. I don’t suppose anyone you two fought mentioned their plans?” At their negatives, he frowns. “Right. So, we don’t know what for, still. But that’s my assumption.”

 

Nabe gestures for Kuramochi to take a seat again. “Explain more. Like, what do the orbs from Mount Pyre have to do with it?”

 

“The orbs are physical manifestations of Hoenn’s natural energy. You can use them to summon Kyogre or Groudon, and to control them, if you have the correct one. Animal had the blue orb, which allows control over Kyogre, but the ancient energy allows the summoning of either.” He sinks further into the pillows, suddenly weary. “It’s not some perfect power, though. The control is fickle, and if you’re not careful, the energy in the orbs can manifest into the legends’ will and possess your mind.” He watches as their expressions morph to ones of distress, still chewing his lip. “If Animal summoned Groudon at Mount Chimney, then Aqua probably needs the submarine to access where Kyogre can be summoned from the sea.”

 

He can see the recognition flash in Nabe’s eyes, as if he’s reminded Kazuya studies this stuff. “Do you have more information, around?” he asks, and Kazuya can see the gears turning in that brilliant mind.

 

He can only shake his head, wincing a bit from the effort. “Not here. I haven’t had the chance to move everything over. But back in Mossdeep, that’s where all my files should be.”

 

“I know that look,” Kuramochi pipes up. “You’re not going. You’re not even fit to stand, yet.”

 

You’re not going either, then,” Nabe interjects. “No one is, right now.”

 

“Then . .” Their eyes return to his. “What about a day? That’s not too bad, right?”

 

“You might be able to hobble around,” Nabe muses.

 

“On crutches, maybe.” Kuramochi snorts, crossing his arms. “It’s not like we have time to waste, though . .”

 

Nabe sighs deeply, lifting a hand to press to his temple. “Don’t remind me. Fine. We can leave tomorrow.”

 

“Bring Toujou,” Kazuya adds, as the two stand. Nabe nods to him, then gives an excuse about checking on things for the reception, stepping out before Kuramochi.

 

“I’ll let the other three know,” he tells Kazuya. Then he’s gone, leaving Kazuya to shuffle into a better position on the bed, the morphine kicking in to a substantial degree. At least, his head is no longer spinning, when he turns it.

 

“Are you hungry, at all?”

 

He chuckles, letting his eyes fall closed. “That’s what you have to say, after hearing all that?” The trainer huffs and he’s quickly met with a glare. Realizing he’d only been trying to be helpful, Kazuya lets out a thin sigh. “Maybe a little bit.”

 

As Eijun shuffles out to grab something, Kazuya removes his glasses and rubs at his temples. The ensuing silence leaves him to his thoughts, and he recalls Animal’s words to him with little difficulty, ‘ it’s your fault’ ringing again and again in his head.

 

He can’t help thinking that he’d been talking about more than just Groudon.

 

On the other side, though, the name Ochiai Hiromatsu sounded so dreadfully familiar, yet he couldn’t place anything to the name, the face he’d seen once, at a museum in Slateport.

 

His thoughts turn elsewhere. Maybe it had been a bad idea, to send Eijun after Aqua. They hadn’t succeeded either, after all, and he can’t help but think of how it might have had to do with the encounters in the past, for the trainer.

 

He needed to do something for him. He’d involved the trainer too much in an internal problem not to. Kazuya recalls a hand loosely curled around his own, to waking to calm amber eyes.

 

Eijun chooses that moment to burst back into the room with food. Kazuya thanks him, and then an idea bursts to the front of his mind.

 

“Say, you wouldn’t happen to have Mossdeep’s gym badge yet, would you?” he asks around a bite of a Pomeg berry on the thin plate, the bitter taste giving way to satisfaction as Eijun catches on, grins.

 

“No, I’m still missing that one.”

 

Kazuya grins as well. “You’d best come along tomorrow, then.”

 

--

 

Shirasu is the first of the gym leaders to shuffle in. Kazuya and Eijun are speaking in low voices, but cut off as Shirasu comes into the room, his eyes catching on Eijun first.

 

“You’re . . Sawamura, right?” he asks, slightly taken aback.

 

“Ah!” Eijun jerks back -a bit too dramatically, really- and points a finger at the gym leader. “I met you at Fortree!”

 

“Right.” Shirasu blinks again, swinging his gaze finally to Kazuya, and then back. “I didn’t realize you two were so close.”

 

Eijun colors slightly and Kazuya coughs into his hand. “Was there something you needed, Shirasu?”

 

Shirasu nods, steps further into the room. His eyes linger on Kazuya’s headwrap, on the iv stretched across the sheets. He sighs and takes a seat in the chair Nabe had occupied earlier, scooting it a little closer to the window. “Sorry,” he says, bowing his head. He leaves it like this as he speaks again. “All of us share responsibility for the way the raid turned out. But . . you shouldn’t have been alone. I realize that now. I’m sorry I didn’t speak against it.”

 

Kazuya waves him off, letting out a fond sigh as Shirasu’s head straightens. “Don’t beat yourself up. Nabe says you found me?” Shirasu nods and his eyes linger on Kazuya’s bandages. Kazuya lifts a hand to touch them. “I’m alright. Banged up, but I’m alive, and that’s in part to you.”

 

“You were pretty bad,” Shirasu mumbles. Kazuya laughs a little.

 

“Yeah. Apparently I’ve got some serious burns here.” He gestures to his midsection, “and a hell of a concussion. But I’ll be fine.”

 

“How’s your pain?”

 

He hums. “Not great.” His eyes flick to the iv drip. “I could use more morphine, actually.”

 

Shirasu stands. “Right, I’ll go ask.”

 

It’s quiet for a moment before Kazuya turns to Eijun again. “I meant to ask. Are you okay? No injuries?”

 

“Nope, all three of us are fine,” Eijun answers. “We didn’t have the epic showdown that you apparently did. By the time we got to the submarine, it was almost submerged.”

 

Kazuya hums again, but is cut off by a knocking on the open door. He looks up and finds Wakana peering at him carefully. She lowers her arm from the door.

 

“Doc says no more morphine, but I got you the goods.” She comes closer and opens her hand, revealing a couple small pills in her palm.

 

“Sweet,” Kazuya replies, grinning. He takes them and reaches for the water glass on the other side of the bed, but Eijun is one step ahead of him, so he takes the glass from the trainer’s hands instead, nodding his thanks.

 

By the time he’s swallowed the pills down, Wakana has pulled a chair up to the bed’s other side and is leaning her arms against it, her chin resting in a hand. She’s eyeing Eijun with amusement, lips quirked up in a smile. “I don’t believe we got fully acquainted before the day’s events,” she tells him. “I’m Aotsuki Wakana, one of Hoenn’s elite four.”

 

Eijun blinks, setting the glass back on the nightstand. “Sawamura Eijun! I’m collecting badges in Hoenn, so I’m positive I’ll battle you one day!”

 

“Oh?” Her smile turns into a smirk. “You’ll have to make it past my three colleagues, first.”

 

Eijun’s lips curve as well, matching her challenge. “That’s definitely something I can manage. Don’t count me out yet, Aotsuki-chan!”

 

She laughs. “Please, call me Wakana. It’s nice to finally meet the trainer Kazuya has been running into as of late.” Her gaze turns to the champion-to-be, and then her expression grows somber. “I’m not sure how much of a procession you’ve had already, but I’m basically here to say the same thing. Sorry things turned out the way they did.”

 

Kazuya waves her off as he did Shirasu, careful of his iv. “You did your best, I’m sure.”

 

She purses her lips. “Right. I ran into someone that used mega evolution. It was . . . definitely the toughest battle I’ve had in some time. We can’t take these people lightly.”

 

“And we’re not,” Kazuya responds. “I’m heading to Mossdeep tomorrow with Toujou. We’re looking into things.”

 

She raises a brow. “Going home, eh? Well, if that’s what the situation calls for.” She picks herself up from the chair. “And you,” she says, nodding to Eijun. “Do you have Mossdeep’s gym badge yet?”

 

“By tomorrow I will!”

 

“I see.” She smiles again, casting Kazuya a quick look. “Haruno’s grass types are scary things. Don’t take her lightly.”

 

She leaves after that, and throughout the afternoon, all the others manage to shuffle in with the same reiteration: Sorry about the failure, hope you get better. It’s honestly a little exhausting after a bit, and Kazuya lets his head fall back against the pillows after Maezono exits, worn out. Thankfully the conversation had vastly taken place between the rock-type specialist and Eijun, who he remembered from a gym match. Also, he was the last one, which meant all the regrets and well wishes were finally over.

 

Eijun leans over and crosses his arms on the bed, resting his head on them. “Hey, I have a question.”

 

Kazuya’s eyes slip shut. “Sure.”

 

“Your outfit was different yesterday.” His brows furrow. “That day at Slateport, too. How come?”

 

“Oh.” Slowly his eyes open, gaze directed at the spotted ceiling. “Well, I’d much rather wear casual clothes all the time. They’re lighter, and if you haven’t noticed by now, it’s very hot in Hoenn. But if I’m going anywhere as the champion, even if I don’t officially have that title yet, it’s better to dress more official.”

 

“I guess that makes sense,” Eijun mumbles. A stomach growl punctuates his words, and he blushes as Kazuya tilts his head to eye him, lips quirking up.

 

“Hungry?”

 

“Yeah yeah,” he grumbles, sitting up. “You should eat, too. It’s a little late, but a late lunch never hurt anyone.”

 

“Pass.”

 

Eijun’s brows furrow. “Miyuki Kazuya! You’re bedridden, and you’re just gonna skip a whole meal?”

 

He shrugs. “Tired. Don’t feel like eating.”

 

“You won’t get any better with that attitude.”

 

“Sure, sure.” He sinks further down in the bed, pulling the sheets up. “Goodnight.”

 

“The sun is still out!”

 

Enjoy your meal!”

 

Eijun huffs, standing. “Fine. I’ll go grab Harucchi and Furuya instead.” He reaches forward and snatches Kazuya’s glasses from his face, the action making the champion blink open his eyes in surprise. Eijun folds them and places them on the nightstand. “Sleep well, and all that.”

 

“Yeah.” He swallows. “Thanks.”

 

-

 

The view of the setting sun is perfect from Ever Grande’s height. Kazuya’s head is tilted towards the window on his left, watching from an angle as the sun dips further into the ocean’s horizon line, dying the water near it a fiery red.

 

It’s a shame, that the universe can’t let him enjoy it.

 

“This Animal guy, the one leading Team Magma,” Eijun mumbles. “How does he know you?”

 

Kazuya’s eyes snap to the trainer, watching him for several moments. He breaks away with a sigh. “He uh. He was my mentor, of sorts. Taught me all about pokemon battles.”

 

“And Chris?”

 

He closes his eyes. This time, it takes longer to form a response, and even longer to force it out. “The former champion of Hoenn. The one before me. He . . . he’s dead, now.”

 

The air is still for a long time. Kazuya doesn’t open his eyes. He’s acutely aware of Eijun’s breathing, and how it stops, right before he asks his next question.

 

“How did he die?”

 

Kazuya’s eyes open. He bites down on his lower lip, thoughts churning. Finally, he shakes his head. “I don’t want to talk about it, today.”

 

“Okay,” Eijun says, voice quiet. Kazuya turns his gaze to meet the trainer’s, a little surprised the subject was dropped so easily, without even a little arguing. Eijun’s gaze is steady, a bright yellow that reflects the light of the setting sun.

 

“Are you gonna sleep here again?” he asks suddenly. Eijun’s face immediately pinks, and he turns away, blinking.

 

“So you knew about that,” he mutters.

 

“Well?” His eyes flick to the windows. It was dark out now, the moon beginning to rise. “It’s a little late, and you haven’t left yet, so . .”

 

“I hadn’t planned on leaving, if that was okay,” Eijun mumbles, eyes on the floor.

 

“Yeah,” Kazuya replies. “Yeah, that’s perfectly okay.”

 

They fall into a bout of silence, the moonlight calmly floating into the room through the open window. Slowly, Kazuya picks at his iv, moving the tube to hang over the bed’s side. He checks that the morphine drip is good, and then scoots over to the right side of the bed. Eijun looks up and Kazuya gestures for him to climb up, making a little more space.

 

Eijun blinks, eyeing him for a moment. Then, he slips off his shoes, crawls onto the bed.

 

It’s Kuramochi and Wakana that find the two tangled together, later on in the night. They look on in amusement, catching the way Eijun’s hands avoided Kazuya’s bad side, and how the champion’s legs were tossed over the other’s.

 

“I think he’s alright,” Wakana whispers. Kuramochi nods, and they both turn to leave, slipping the door shut.

 

-

 

Nabe had been right. Kazuya could literally only hobble around, and that was with crutches.

 

“Heh.” He stops after a couple steps, smirking at his audience. “See? I can move around. No problem.”

 

Toujou laughs, crossing his arms. Kuramochi snorts. “You obviously can’t, you damn Jiguza!”

 

“But I’m walking.”

 

“Barely!”

 

“But I still am.”

 

Kuramochi throws his hands up. “Forget it. I’m leaving.” He nods to Nabe on his way out. “Good luck.”

 

“Well then.” Nabe stands as Kuramochi exits. “Shall we go?”

 

-

 

Mossdeep is fairly close by so it’s not a long flight by any means. They land on lush green grass and Kazuya sighs as he breathes in the air. It had been a while since he was last here. He had missed it.

 

Eijun’s attention is caught on the space station and Kazuya takes a moment to watch him. His hand curled around a pokeball, and Kazuya wonders who it belonged to.

 

“If you go north, you’ll run into the gym,” Toujou tells Eijun, smiling at the trainer’s enthusiasm. “It’s west of the space station, and it’s on flat ground, so be careful not to go on any inclines along your way, or you’ll end up in the wrong spot.”

 

Eijun nods. “Right! Thank you!”

 

Kazuya smirks, taking a step forward so he’s beside Eijun. “My house is on the eastern edge, near the cliffs. You should drop by after your match.” He winks.

 

Eijun’s brows furrow, but Kazuya doesn’t miss the way his cheeks pink. “Bakayuki, that was the plan this whole time!”

 

“Oh, how forward!”

 

Eijun growls as Kazuya snickers. To their left, Nabe rolls his eyes.

 

“Good luck,” Kazuya tells him, dropping a hand on his shoulder.

 

Eijun huffs, squeezing down on the pokeball in his hand. “Don’t you worry! Arcanine and Altaria are raring to go, so the battle should be no problem.”

 

Toujou hums, catching their attention. He bobs his head, lips curling into a mocking smile. “I wouldn’t take light of Haruno.” He slices a finger across his neck. “Do that, and she’ll cream you.”

 

Eijun blanches. “W-Well, having confidence isn’t a bad thing!” he stammers, trying to recover.

 

“That’s true,” Toujou says. “Good luck!”

 

Eijun leaves, clearly more nervous than before. Toujou catches Kazuya’s eye and winks as they’re making their way east, and Kazuya reaches out to snap at his shin with the end of his crutch, making the water-type trainer yelp.

 

Kazuya’s home is small, a two-room building with a low roof and small windows that let in the smell of the sea. It was properly shaded, despite Mossdeep being the most controlled in terms of climate in the region. One of the reasons he chose the place, actually: It was never too hot.

 

He pauses after unlocking the door and hobbling into the room, gaze sweeping around. The mattress was still pushed into the corner, low table in the center collecting dust. He moves forward and sweeps a hand across the island counter, then turns around and washes off the dirt that had accumulated through the open window above the sink.

 

After a minute he gestures to his companions and enters into another room. Inside, the wall opposite of the window is lined with bookshelves and absolutely crammed with supplemental material. Where there wasn’t a book with a degrading spine, there were stacks of papers, folded maps, and bunches of photographs grouped together. Kazuya grunts at the scattered papers he steps on upon entering, and bends down to snatch them up, throwing them on the long table in the center of the room. It’s already littered with documents and scattered, open books. Different pens sit atop papers with scribbled notes all over a desk on the far side of the room, and he makes his way over to it.

 

Nabe walks in and blanches, but Toujou just sighs in fondness, settling his hands on his hips. “Some things never change, huh.”

 

Nabe turns to look at him. “You’ve been here?”

 

Toujou shrugs. “I’ve been friends with Kazuya since long before I became his subordinate.”

 

“Don’t say subordinate,” Kazuya tells him, looking up from his papers and over to the pair. “It sounds weird.”

 

“Yeah, sure.” Toujou walks to one of the bookshelves and scans the spines until he finds what he needs. He takes a couple books over to Kazuya, who takes a seat at the desk proper, brows furrowed as he skims through some documents.

 

After a bit, he grabs the crutches where he’d leaned them against the side of the desk and moves to the table, where Toujou and Nabe had cleared a small space before where each of them sat. He hands the material to Toujou and takes a seat, then gestures for it back.

 

“The true forms of the red and blue orbs are a ruby and sapphire,” he begins, flipping through a couple papers. “There was an instance where the orbs were shattered, but they regenerated back into orbs from shards. Simply put, they’re indestructible.” He looks up. “They’re also directly connected to the legendaries. The blue orb to Kyogre, and the red orb to Groudon. It talks about here that should they ever come into contact with the correct orbs, some incredible power will be bestowed on them. Because of this, the orbs are always attracted to them. Since they can’t move by themselves, being inanimate objects, they rely on mind possession for transport.”

 

“Mind . . possession?” Toujou questions.

 

Kazuya nods. “The orb merges with a living body, be it human or pokemon, and takes it over, then uses it to move to either Kyogre or Groudon.”

 

“What happens if the wrong orb is used?” Nabe asks.

 

“Since the orbs possess the same energy, either one will awaken the legendary pokemon. However, the incorrect orb won’t allow control over them. Animal had the blue orb, which was why Groudon was awakened, but just wandered off afterwards.” He pauses, recalling his words in the cavern. “I . . may have let him know this.”

 

Nabe hums. “So if he gets in contact with Ochiai, it’s possible they could trade orbs.”

 

“That’s if he does. Or if Ochiai believes him,” Toujou adds on. “Let’s not consider that a hypothetical just yet.”

 

Nabs nods. “Right, okay. What else?”

 

Kazuya flips open a book to a marked page. “The Regis play an important role here. Each of them knows a special move, Superpower, and that move can be used to contain damage caused by Kyogre and Groudon colliding, and even suppress the power of the two.” He pauses on that, lips pursed. After pondering for a moment, he looks up. “It would be a good idea to awaken them, should anything happen.”

 

“They’ve been sealed away for a long time,” Nabe counters, voice hesitant. “Do you even-”

 

“Yeah.” He picks up a few papers and leafs through them, settling on one and stabbing it with a finger a couple times. “I have the locations right here. Regirock is route one-eleven. Regice is route one-oh-five, and Registeel route one-twenty. They’re all in different caves, and I have base coordinates for each listed.”

 

Toujou whistles. “Anything else?”

 

Kazuya shakes his head. “No. I’m sure there is more, I just don’t have it now.”

 

Toujou stands up at this, nodding. “Looks like it’s time to get to work.” He gestures for Nabe, and  while the elite four member roots through the bookshelves, Nabe combs through the papers on the table with Kazuya, looking for any relevant information.

 

They each individually go through more documents, pondering over data and books of old and photographs of relics and ruins. All of them eventually acknowledge everything about their current situation was about the legends of Hoenn.

 

“Here’s something,” Toujou says, speaking up and earning the attention of the other two. “This says ‘The Seafloor Cavern is the proper resting place of Groudon and Kyogre’. That means Groudon could have gone there, right?”

 

Kazuya nods. “I’ll bet Kyogre is there, as well. Which means it’s a target to both teams Aqua and Magma.”

 

“So what do you want to do?” Toujou asks. Before Kazuya can reply, Nabe voices his own opinion.

 

“The reception is in two days.” His lips are pursed. “And neither team has made a move since the raids. Everything’s been quiet.”

 

Kazuya breathes out an irritated sigh. “You’re saying I can’t act.”

 

“It wouldn’t be wise.” He quirks a brow. “I’m not forcing you to do anything.”

 

“You kinda are,” Kazuya mutters. Then, louder, “No, fine, I have you for a reason. I’ll hold off.”

 

“Is there a way we can monitor the Cavern?” Toujou asks.

 

Kazuya shakes his head. “No, too deep underwater. I only have a general idea of where it’s located, too, and even then it’s from a very long time ago. It’s possible the geography has shifted since.”

 

“So we’ll solve it when we get to it.” Nabe crosses his arms. “If we need it. I’m hoping we don’t.”

 

“Yeah.” Kazuya bites down on his lip. “Me too.”

 

-

 

Eijun turns up to the house later, the sun still hanging in the sky, and flashes a badge to Kazuya, who’s sitting on the steps, crutches leaned against the door. Compared to Eijun, who’s all grins, Kazuya’s soft smile is much more subtle.

 

“I knew you could do it,” he says, words tender in the air.

 

-

 

Later, back in one of the bigger rooms at Ever Grande, Kazuya leans more heavily against one crutch as he takes his hand off to cough into a fist, gathering everyone’s attention. He’s stood up, and his gaze lands on Eijun, who perks up upon being acknowledged.

 

“Sawamura Eijun,” he begins, and now he has everyone’s undivided attention. “I’d like to officially invite you to the champion’s reception being held two days from now.”

 

Those amber eyes are glowing. “Then, this Sawamura Eijun humbly accepts!”

 

From his seat, Nabe’s lips curve into a knowing smile, tapping away on his tablet.

 

-

 

Eijun’s on one side of the hall, across the table from Furuya, and tapping his foot against the floor. To say he was restless was an understatement. The reception was tomorrow, all these strong people were gathered, and he only needed one more gym badge!

 

He looks over again to Todoroki, who had been ditched in a seat by Sanada, the latter going across the room to speak with Kazuya. He was still picking at the tablecloth, completely enveloped in himself. Someone had offered him a drink earlier, and he had shied away from any further conversation beyond necessary.  

 

It was unlike Furuya, though, who was quiet simply because he had nothing to say. And-

 

His ears prick, caught on the conversation Sanada was now carrying.

 

“And his Tyranitar is wicked strong, now, too! I’m telling you, Raichi is a trainer to beat-”

 

Eijun balks, swinging his gaze back to Todoroki. The Kanto trainer looks up at this, and then Eijun is grinning, slamming both hands on the table in an act that makes Todoroki jump. “Raichi! Have a battle with me!”

 

It’s fun, to watch the energy shift around the trainer as he’s challenged. Raichi’s grin soon matches Eijun’s own, and he leans far over the table to nod. “Yeah, you’re on! I won’t lose, though!”

 

“That’s my line! This will be perfect training for my eighth gym battle!”

 

“Geh! You have s-seven badges? Well! I bet my Tyranitar is bigger than any of your pokemon!”

 

“Hmmph! I bet mine are faster-”

 

“I bet mine are stronger-”

 

“Strength doesn’t matter if you can’t land an attack-”

 

Haruichi glances over and smirks as he eyes Furuya. “Your aura is showing,” he notes. The Sinnoh trainer bristles at this, but doesn’t turn away from the two Kanto natives. “You want to battle too, huh?”

 

Eijun and Raichi, hearing those words, quickly spin their heads to face Furuya. “Ya wanna go?” they both call out, and the aura around Furuya flares even more.

 

“Sure is lively in here,” Kazuya sighs, turning away from the younger trainers. Sanada chuckles and bends forward, covering the side of his mouth.

 

“Koushuu left earlier in fear Eijun would find out who he was. Didn’t wanna run the risk.”

 

Kazuya smirks. “Yeah? Sounds just like him.”

 

It doesn’t take but a couple more moments for Eijun to be on him, looking to Kazuya with big eyes. “Kazuya! Tell me about the eighth gym leader! What are they like? What kind of pokemon do they train? Who are they? Are they here? Would they battle now?”

 

Kazuya looks away, shrugging. “I dunno. Never met the guy.”

 

Eijun pouts. “You do too! Come on!”

 

Shirasu speaks up from the corner of the room. “You’re off your crutches.”

 

Kazuya nods back to him. “I feel better today. A lot better. I could do without people leaning on me-” He breaks off to glare at Eijun, but it’s not sharp by any means. Still, it gets the trainer to back up a bit. “But I can walk around now.”

 

Kuramochi hums as he acknowledges the Johto champion’s words, turning to face Haruichi. “So all your pokemon are pink?”

 

Haruichi nods. “Yeah. I can show you.” He pulls out two pokeballs and releases an Espeon and a Wigglytuff. Espeon moves to sit beside her trainer’s feet, while Wigglytuff gazes up at Kuramochi, who openly gawks at it.

 

“Ooh! They look strong!” he says. Wigglytuff puffs up at this, haughty off the statement. Kuramochi laughs, watching it, but cuts himself off in annoyance as Furuya and Raichi move to circle Haruichi, glaring at him, asking to battle without actually asking. Right. He forgot he was in the room with a handful of meatheads.

 

“All of my pokemon are pink too!” Ryousuke speaks up, pulling out a couple pokeballs.

 

“Yeah? Oh yeah?” Kuramochi turns away from the trio, the sparkles back in his eyes. “Let me see!”

 

Behind him, Haruichi blanches. “Wait-”

 

“Sure, sure,” Ryousuke says, the smile on his face quickly becoming obviously artificial, if you weren’t the oblivious Kuramochi. He sends out a Skitty first that the elite four member gawks over, noting the uncanny resemblance to its trainer. Then he sends out . . a Banette.

 

It’s not pink, and it pulls a face at Kuramochi immediately.

 

He nearly faints.

 

Haruichi sighs and facepalms, and in front of him, Raichi laughs, holding his stomach from the effort.

 

Across the room, Eijun is crouched down in front of Wakana’s Kirlia, admiring the pokemon. “You’re so pretty!” He gawks, and Kirlia brings her palms to her face, blushing. “I’ve never seen a Kirlia before.”

 

Wakana hums, bringing out another pokeball. “This one should be new, too.” She releases her Chimecho, who chimes upon entry, and Eijun stands up to examine the new pokemon, nodding.

 

“Yeah, I like this one too!” His expression changes, an idea dawning on him. “Oh, right! I’ll show off this one.” He releases his Leafeon, who doesn’t take long to scamper to Wakana’s pokemon, still retaining its hyperactive energy from when it was an Eevee. Eijun makes a face at this, but Wakana laughs it off.

 

“Ah, Leafeon is a good one. Not as good as this, though.” Sanada steps forward and releases his Jolteon, which has Eijun gasping. Kuramochi joins them soon after, still holding his heart from the shock, and his Umbreon joins the group.

 

“Wow!” Eijun gasps, looking at them both. “They’re both so amazing. Which one’s the best, huh? The strongest?”

 

Kuramochi and Sanada share a look, and they both turn back to Eijun at the same time. “You’ll have to wait for that answer,” Sanada tells him. “You can see when you battle us, right?”

 

At once, Eijun’s expression becomes determined, and he nods a few times, rapid-fire. Kazuya sniggers from further away, and then he’s stepping toward the group, Toujou in tow.

 

“So, this is my elite four,” he says, gesturing to the trainers. “Wakana deals with psychics, Sanada with electric, Mochi with dark, and Toujou with water. Start preparing now, because they won’t be easy to deal with.” All four trainers puff with pride at the statement. Eijun looks on with sparkles in his eyes.

 

“Right! As soon as I get my eighth badge, I’m coming for you! Just you wait!”

 

-

 

Later on in the day, Kazuya sits around a table in an empty room with Nabe, Okumura, Shirasu, and the elite four. Toujou is seated beside him, and he directs most of the conversation, sharing their findings from Mossdeep. They brought along a few of the documents, and they’re scattered on the table, or in the hands of a person.

 

“I know where the Seafloor Cavern is,” Okumura tells the group, and Kazuya catches Nabe sighing in relief.

 

“Okay. I’ll count on you as a guide should we need to know the location,” Kazuya says. Okumura nods, then falls silent again, leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed. His expression is more terse than usual, and Kazuya wonders if it had anything to do with his guardian position.

 

Oh.

 

“The Cave of Origin,” he speaks up, interrupting Toujou. He captures Okumura’s attention with the words, the blonde snapping his gaze to him. “What does it have to do with this?”

 

Okumura’s expression becomes more guarded. He curves his shoulder more inward, closing himself off. It’s a few tense moments before he answers. “The Cave is a hotbed of natural energy. It’s possible that Groudon could be drawn to it, since it’s awake.”

 

Kazuya furrows his brow. “So there are two locations to watch for movement.” He moves his gaze to Nabe. “Can you send-”

 

“I can guard it,” Okumura grits out. Kazuya pauses, turns back to face the gym leader. “I’m enough. I’m the guardian of the Cave, and I can take care of it.”

 

Kazuya holds his icy gaze for a moment. It stretches to two, three, and then he’s nodding. “Alright. I trust you.”

 

-

 

Kazuya has lunch with Eijun, Furuya, and Haruichi. The trio is interesting together, and Kazuya finds he quite likes their dynamic. He likes to think he slots in rather well, but he doesn’t quite understand their quirks sometimes.

 

Recalling Tetsu’s words, he jokingly asks Furuya if he thought he could take Kazuya in battle. Instead of being fired up about it, though, Furuya frowns, seriously pondering the question.

 

“I’m not a good matchup with steel types,” he finally says.

 

Kazuya blinks, startling. “You know about-”

 

“What?” Eijun exclaims, loudly. “I didn’t know you were a steel-type trainer!”

 

“Oh?” He smirks over at Eijun, leering for good measure. “Haven’t we battled enough together? I thought you would’ve known, by now.”

 

Eijun clicks his tongue, then picks up his fork and jabs it in the champion’s direction. “Stop teasing me, Miyuki Kazuya!”

 

“I saw it on TV earlier,” Furuya answers, bringing the attention back on him. “They were reporting on it. They were reporting on lots of things about you, actually, since the crowning is so soon.”

 

He winces. “Please don’t say crowning. I’m not some king.”

 

“Uh, right.” Furuya’s brows furrow. “My bad, I guess.”

 

-

 

“How’d your battle with Furuya go?”

 

Eijun groans. “I lost! Can you believe it?”

 

Kazuya hums. “And if I could?”

 

Eijun sits up, jabbing him in the chest. “Then you’re mean , and your doubt is not appreciated.” He pauses, looking to Kazuya’s face properly. “Are you nervous? About tomorrow?”

 

Kazuya thinks on it. “Honestly . . I’m more worried about all the attention. There’s uh. A lot of negative stimuli that can arise from it. I don’t know that I’m prepared . . . to handle it.” That was an understatement. The champion Chris had handpicked. The one replacing him. The son of the Devon president. There was . . a lot, that could go wrong, public opinion-wise.

 

Eijun taking his hand snaps him out of it. He turns his gaze back to the trainer, who’s looking back, a little more shy this time. “I’ll be there,” he says, and Kazuya softens. “So . . it’ll be okay.”

 

Kazuya thinks he likes the sound of that. But . . He hesitates in a reply, smile dimming. Eijun only had one more badge to collect. It was all he could talk about, all day long. How much longer would he really be around? How much longer would he stay in Hoenn, where Kazuya was duty-bound to be?

 

“I have a backup plan,” he says suddenly. Eijun quirks a brow, and he continues. “If Kyogre does awaken, and does brawl with Groudon, like in the stories, I have a countermeasure. Nabe and Toujou have what I need.” The structure to summon the Regis was odd, but he was lucky to have his companions. It would work. If it became necessary, it had to-

 

Eijun grabs his other hand, squeezes tight. “Everything’s gonna turn out for the better,” he reassures Kazuya. “Don’t think about it. Focus on the reception instead. Focus on . .” He smiles. “On finally officially being the champion.”

 

“Will you be in the region much longer?” Kazuya mutters, then tenses. He didn’t mean to say that out loud.

 

But Eijun’s smile grows, pulling to the ends of his cheeks. “I don’t know,” he answers. “I haven’t explored all Hoenn has to offer. Like . . I haven’t been to Meteor Falls, yet.”

 

“That’s a crime,” Kazuya chimes in, and Eijun laughs in response.

 

“You’ll have to take me sometime, then.” He looks over to the window in the room, eyeing the moon high in the sky. “It’s late-”

 

“You don’t have to leave,” Kazuya starts, cutting him off. His words are quiet, but Eijun pauses, turns to look, to listen. “If you don’t want to. You can stay.”

 

“Okay.” Eijun nods, squeezing on his hand. “Okay. I’ll stay.”

 

Things are easier, after that. It was late, and as soon as Eijun yawns, Kazuya throws back the sheets, and they slip under, the light off and their limbs tangled. Sleep comes easily, like this.

 

-

 

Kazuya is very nervous.

 

He’s in a reception room further in the depths of Ever Grande, pacing across its length. Nabe was directing people around the room, his tablet in hand. He’s rushing around and getting on nerves, but that was his job, to make sure everything was in order.

 

Takako and Jun arrive from Sinnoh with Yuki Masashi in tow, and Kazuya moves to greet them to give himself something to do. The Sinnoh elite four members poke at him for a minute, and though it helps in the moment, it doesn’t lessen Kazuya’s nervousness once they move away.

 

He’s pacing again when he hears someone call from across the room. “The president of Devon Corp is showing up.”

 

“You mean Mr. Miyuki?”

 

“Who else?”

 

Kazuya clamps down on his teeth, now full-blown nervous. He should’ve expected it. He should’ve. His mind still goes into overdrive. His father was going to be there. Would he have to speak to him? Would he-

 

“Kazuya, you have a video call.”

 

He doesn’t know who says it, and he doesn’t care, rushing out of the room gratefully. He hurries down a hallway and ducks into an abandoned room, the lights off. There’s a video transponder there, and he hurries to flick it on, pick up the receiver.

 

It’s Mei.

 

“How is everything?” Kazuya immediately asks, both overly curious and eager to run from his own problems.

 

Mei’s expression goes tense, and he shakes the question off. “I don’t have much time to spare.” He pauses, peers at Kazuya’s face. “And . . you very much look distracted anyway.” He shrugs. “Just calling to wish you luck in your coronation-” He’s cut off as a voice roughly calls his name, startling the Unova champion. “It’s nothing,” he assures Kazuya, catching his expression. With a frown and not even a goodbye, he hangs up, and Kazuya’s left staring at a dark screen.

 

It didn’t seem like nothing. It seemed like things weren’t any better, and he didn’t like being left in the dark. Especially if he was supposed to be counted on to help, should things take a turn for the worse.

 

But, well . . his own problems seemed dwarfed when compared to Mei’s. That thought calms him down. He could deal with a ceremony, with a reception. When the time was right, Mei would tell him. Until then, he had other things to worry about.

 

-

 

Eijun complains about not having anything to wear, and Kazuya digs a suit out of his closet for the trainer. They were near the same height, so he wasn’t worried about the fit. Eijun takes it, but he’s frowning.

 

“What are you going to wear?”

 

“My champion attire. Relax, you can have the suit.”

 

It does fit, it even looks good on him. Kazuya helps Eijun adjust it, and then steps back, nodding.

 

The day is a little less daunting, after that.

 

-

 

Yui from Hoenn TV pulls him aside before he’s due to start. Kazuya’s nervous about a statement, but Yui doesn’t have any gear on her. She leans close and whispers when she talks, and the notion relaxes him.

 

“Good luck. You’re a hot topic now, you know. Every reporter in Hoenn wants to be here tonight.”

 

“Ah.” He tries to laugh. “Thanks. I appreciate it.”

 

-

 

Kazuya takes a deep breath once Nabe steps back, cape fastened to his person, and raises his head.

 

He’s met with a thundering applause. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that the champion’s cape he wears is ripped at the bottom, or worn at the sides. It doesn’t matter if it looks beat up, because it’s the significance that does matter. It’s been used, and it’s been worn well. The marks are battle scars, are testaments to both strength and courage.

 

He feels proud, to be wearing it now.

 

So he holds his head high, and on cue, he grabs at the side of the cape with one hand and flares it out, dipping into a bow.

 

When he straightens again, a smile now on his face, the applause is even louder. He tries not to think about how this is being broadcast on every television in the region, and possible some in other regions, as well.

 

After the ceremony, everyone settles down for a pleasant evening. Like Nabe had said, Kazuya is already glued to a reporter. He’s just finishing up a small interview and once he’s waved the woman off, turns to seek out Nabe in a corner of the room, waiting to be told what was next.

 

He’s cut off before he reaches him.

 

-

 

A weather alert sets off all the pokenavs of the Hoenn natives. Haruichi’s gear buzzes as well, the trainer having subscribed to the alert while he was traveling in the region. Eijun frowns in confusion, and Haruichi frowns at him. “Eijun-kun! You should’ve done the same thing. You’ve been here how much longer than me?”

 

Eijun scoots closer, looking down at his friend’s screen. “Yeah, sorry, I’ll do it soon, now what-” He cuts himself off, eyes widening.

 

The weather alert was for a dual monsoon and heat wave phenomenon. It spread across the entirety of Hoenn. Around them, the crowd buzzed, everyone talking about the sudden alert. Eijun’s attention turns toward a reporter with a live feed, as they point out how Kazuya was no longer at the reception.

 

The fact catches on, further striking commotion in the room. That meant the phenomenon could be something serious, then, something more.

 

Eijun frowns and stands up, moving further into the room, trying to spot Kazuya, or at least a doorway he could’ve slipped through, if he really wasn’t here anymore. He doesn’t get far when a hand lands on his shoulder, and he turns to see Furuya gazing down at him, Haruichi at his side. Furuya nods to Eijun, gestures to an exit, and they all three slip from the room.

 

-

 

Kazuya hangs up the phone with a snarl. “It’s Sootopolis. Kyogre and Groudon are both there, clashing. The shockwaves are tearing everything apart.”

 

“So their presence is what triggered the weather phenomena,” Wakana muses.

 

“I’m putting the Regi plan into action. Now .” Kazuya nods to Sanada, Toujou, and Wakana. “Routes one-eleven, one-twenty, and one-oh-five. Exactly where I told you.”

 

Sanada salutes him. “We know where to go.”

 

“Then go. Report back as soon as you have them.”

 

They hurry off and he turns toward the remaining person, Kuramochi. “Kyogre must have emerged from the Seafloor Cavern. I’m guessing Groudon did as well.” He exhales harshly, scrubbing his hands through his hair. “They must still be there, Aqua and Magma, controlling the legends. But-”

 

Eijun turns the corner, barely avoiding being yanked back by his companions. “I’ll go!” He shouts, and Kazuya and Kuramochi jerk their heads to face him. Haruichi and Furuya stumble out, finding no use in hiding anymore. “We’ll go too,” Haruichi says, Furuya nodding in agreement.

 

Kuramochi’s eyes widened as he’s caught off-guard. Kazuya doesn’t let it show any, but he’s a bit bewildered as well. They should’ve all been back in the reception room. How’d they end up . . ?

 

“Wait, no, that’s far too dangerous,” Kuramochi begins.

 

“Okay,” Kazuya cuts him off, agreeing with the trio. Kuramochi turns to glare at him and Kazuya shakes his head. “We have to deal with the damage above ground, not to mention hold off the legends before those three come back with the Regis. We don’t have a choice. Eijun can do it. Go get Nabe.” Kuramochi nods tersely, heads off, and Kazuya turns to Haruichi and Furuya, ready to dismiss them, but is cut off.

 

“In this situation, Furuya and Haruichi are proxies.”

 

Kazuya moves his gaze up, catching Yuki as he comes in.

 

“Specifically, they’re proxies of the Sinnoh and Johto champions.” Yuki crosses his arms. “By not allowing them to help, you would be dismissing the help of said champions. If word were to get out we were here, yet did nothing to help, it would tarnish our reputations.”

 

Kazuya’s lips purse. That was . . a good point. He looks again to Furuya and Haruichi, then back to Yuki.

 

“Proxies,” he says aloud. Yuki nods, and Kazuya nods back. “Fine.” He nods to the two foreign trainers. “I’ll send you as well.”

 

Kuramochi comes back with Nabe, who blanches slightly at Yuki’s presence, but is quick to recover. “Toujou left me Wailord and Relicanth, and we have dive suits here, just enough for three.”

 

Kazuya’s eyes narrow. “Dive suits? From where?”

 

“Right. They were made by Devon Corp.”

 

The air grows a bit tense. Nabe chews on his lip, prepared for Kazuya to disagree and for him to argue for it. But Kazuya surprises him.

 

“They’ll be good suits, then,” he says. He gestures to the three trainers. “Go with Nabe. He’ll get you in the suits.” He grabs for Eijun before the trainer can depart. “I’m trusting you with this,” he tells him, voice quieter.

 

Eijun grins in response. “Don’t worry, then. Focus on what I said last night, okay? You’re . . doing everything you can, as the champion , right? Focus on that.”

 

Reminded, Kazuya nods, lets him go. He watches as Eijun darts down the hall after the others, and then takes out the champion’s cape, putting it back on. He turns to the other end of the hall and flares it out, nodding to Kuramochi. “Let’s get ready. We’re heading to Sootopolis.”

 

-

 

The Hoenn gym leaders gather quickly, all seven of them. He herds Shirasu off first, rattling off a number than the gym leader enters into his pokenav. “Koushuu’s,” he tells him, and Shirasu’s expression morphs into one of understanding. “I’m sending Eijun, Haruichi, and Furuya to the Seafloor Cavern. Team Aqua and Team Magma should still be there. I need you to take them to the drop zone. It’s on route one-twenty-eight, west of here.” He nods to the pokenav still in Shirasu’s hands. “Okumura will tell you where exactly, he’s the only one that knows.”

 

“I’ll fly them in,” Shirasu promises, heading off.

 

Kazuya moves back to address the remaining gym leaders. “Nao, Kanemaru, Zono. I need you out to deal with damage control. There’s already reports of flooding coming from the south side of the region. Head to Pacifidlog and evacuate everyone there to Mauville, then help out in Slateport.” He waits for their nods of affirment before addressing the rest. “Haruno, Akira, Miyauchi. I need you to head to Sootopolis immediately and evacuate the city.  Shirasu will join you in a bit. Be careful, but swift. It’s where Kyogre and Groudon are.”

 

The entire group is taken aback at those final words. With hesitance, Haruno speaks up. “Koushuu . . . he already set off. A long time ago, actually.”

 

“That’s okay.” Kazuya nods. “I know exactly where he went.” There was only one place the lorekeeper would be, during all of this. Especially if the legendaries were brawling in his home turf.

 

After that, everyone heads off quickly. Kazuya and Kuramochi head to meet with Nabe, and together the three depart for Sootopolis. The league is straight east of Sootopolis, so then can see the walls of the city as soon as they set out. The shockwaves hit about halfway there, and looking down, they can see the toll they have on the ocean, churning the waves, making sandbars from piled up minerals, throwing pokemon into the air. Looking ahead, the tremors that emanate from the city have done damage to the walls as well, already sections of the top cracking off into the ocean below.

 

Sanada’s report comes in just as they pass over the final rock formation before reaching the walls of Sootopolis. It’s on an open communication channel, coming through a wrist communicator, so Kazuya doesn’t even need to open his pokenav.

 

The three reach the lisp of the city’s walls and Kazuya has Swellow stop. He brings his wrist up. “Is everyone in position?”

 

“Toujou, affirmative. At the Ancient Tomb on route one-twenty.”

 

“Sanada, can confirm. The Desert Ruins are hot with this heat wave rolling in.

 

“Wakana, roger. Sorry I’m late, it took me longer. I’m at the Island Cave now, south of Petalburg’s docks.”

 

“Kuramochi, eastern side of Sootopolis, champ and Watanabe with me.”

 

Kazuya lets the words roll over his ears, turning to Nabe. “Release them.”

 

Nabe nods, gathering his three pokeballs, and tossing Kazuya his extra two as he releases his three Beldum. They hover in the air, and Nabe has them form a line.

 

Kazuya takes in a deep breath, then releases Toujou’s Wailord in front of the three, and his Relicanth behind them, all forming a perfect line.

 

“Will this actually work?” Kuramochi questions. “I mean, I trust you, but this seems like some trick left by the ancients, y’know? Like-” He cuts himself off as the line of pokemon begin to glow, eyes widening. Quickly, the glow grows into something blinding, and then shoots off into three directions, all ahead of them.

 

“Well, shit,” Kuramochi breathes.

 

“Wakana here, the tremors have started.”

 

“Sanada, heading in.”

 

“Toujou, confirming, the Regis are awakening.”

 

“Well shit!” Kuramochi shouts now, turning to Kazuya with a grin. “This is actually working. Forget about what I said about the ancients, I was wrong. I can’t believe this!”

 

Kazuya nods, him and Nabe returning the pokemon. Kazuya returns the pokeballs and releases his Meowstic. “Nabe, I’m leaving Swellow with you. I’ll head over to the north side with Meowstic, behind the Cave of Origin.”

 

Kuramochi releases his Honchkrow, jumping onto the dark type. “I’m heading to the west side then, I think I see Akira there. I’ll help out with damage control.”

 

“That leaves me with the east side,” Nabe mutters, steadying himself on Swellow. “I’ll help whoever’s down there.” He brings up Lombre’s pokeball. “Guess we’re all on damage control.”

 

Kazuya steps off Swellow, letting Meowstic use psychic to levitate him. “Be mindful of the legends,” he tells them, and then he’s off, zooming with Meowstic over to the northern side of the city.

 

Haruno has her Shiftry and Grovyle out to deflect attacks from the line of people behind her. She’s organized them well, orderly, nothing less than what he’d expected. He has Meowstic drop down, and then a huge chunk of rock chips off from the wall above the crowd, and Kazuya gasps as he sees it fall. It’s not long before the crowd notices it, too, and begin to yell.

 

Kazuya has Meowstic drop him and he tumbles down the last few feet, rolling once he hits the ground. The psychic type diverts its energy into halting the rubble from falling, holding it above the crowd.

 

Haruno wastes no time in regrouping and gesturing them forward. One by one, those passing begin to notice Kazuya, and they call out their thanks. He nods to them when he can, rushing forward and slipping through the throng of people to meet Haruno.

 

Meowstic lowers the rubble carefully to a clear area and once it’s set down, Haruno moves her gaze from it to acknowledge Kazuya. “Thank you,” she says, nodding.

 

“You seem to have it covered. I’m just here to-” He cuts himself off as he spies Toujou coming over the lip of the walls, the form of Registeel clear in the sky. Haruno turns to follow his gaze and takes out another pokeball, releasing her Breloom.

 

“I can handle it. Go.”

 

He nods to her and gestures for Meowstic, lifting himself into the air once more and rushing to meet Toujou.

 

Kuramochi and Nabe join him, all four gathered near the center of the city. Or, above it, since the center was occupied by Kyogre and Groudon, lashing out at each other. Kyogre roars as Kazuya reaches the trio and Meowstic trembles, flattening its ears.

 

“I can’t believe you got a Regi under control,” Kuramochi tells Toujou, shouting to be heard over the wind pressure. In response, the water-type trainer laughs.

 

“I can’t either! That was one insane battle!”

 

Sanada appears before too long with Regirock, and Kazuya begins to organize them. He lands on Registeel and returns Meowstic, gesturing for Kuramochi to join him. Sanada and Nabe partner up on Regirock, Swellow returning to its pokeball as well.

 

“We can’t wait on Wakana, she’s too far away!” Kazuya shouts. He pats Registeel’s head. “Me and Mochi will take Registeel, head back east. Toujou, you go with Sanada, Nabe, and Regirock to the west side of the city until Wakana arrives. Radio her, let her know to pick you up before heading to the south side.” He gestures to the southern wall. “The damage is the worst there, so we’ll form a triangle with that as a point. Once Wakana comes, Sanada, me and you will move north, so the distance between the three of us is split. Got it?” He waits for their nods. “Good. Head out!”

 

He was lucky no one questioned, because he didn’t have a viable excuse as to why Toujou couldn’t come with him and Kuramochi. He didn’t want to explain that he didn’t want him getting used to a third person, because Kazuya was going to take most of the control of the three Regis onto himself. If he gave Kuramochi a fighting chance, he would notice, and Kazuya couldn’t have that.

 

With Regirock and Registeel, they split and remove themselves to the outer walls of the city. Kazuya calls for Registeel to use Superpower, and immediately, a containment is blown up, walls almost visible. Kazuya settles himself on Registeel’s body, honing his focus. In contrast, Kuramochi turns to look behind them, outside of the containment, his eyes widening in shock.

 

Outside, everything has been reduced drastically. Energy-wise, the pressure isn’t as much, the wind no longer whipping about. The waves are significantly calmer, no longer frantic or beating against the walls to the city. Kuramochi looks back to Kazuya, with the champion’s cape whipping around in the wind, and can’t help but think that he looks like a real champion, now, and acting like one as well. This was someone he could follow.

 

He settles into position at the thought, bearing some of the weight. It wasn’t as much as he thought it would be, though, to keep a legendary pokemon under control.

 

Wakana arrives eventually, Toujou climbing atop Regice, and they remove themselves to the southern end. Everyone shifts, dividing their distance into equal thirds and covering the entirety of Sootopolis is a containment barrier, sealing off everything inside the walls to the outside, forming a dome. Effort begins to show on everyone, sweat running down Kuramochi’s neck, Nabe moving to a kneel beside Sanada, who’s panting from exertion. Toujou is keeping up, but Wakana looks worse, having had to keep Regice under control across the entire region.

 

Kazuya works hard not to let his strain show too much, even as he bears the strain of Regice’s will on top of the two other Regis.

 

-

 

They’ve been holding for some time now.

 

Kazuya gets everyone to take turns assessing the scene below in small breaks of concentration. He works hard to steady his breathing, focusing on the words coming through his wrist communicator.

 

“The evacuation is nearly complete,” Toujou reports. “Akira is gathering the rest of the citizens.”

 

“Everything outside the barrier is still stable.” Sanada.

 

“Koushuu is heading inside the Cave of Origin now.” Wakana. “He’s no longer lingering just outside.”

 

He glances down at this, frowning at the entry point he knew led to the Cave. That couldn’t mean anything good. Unless he was just being overly cautious. Somehow he doubted that was the sole reason.

 

“Kyogre and Groudon don’t appear to be tiring out at all,” Nabe voices. There’s a slew of muffled grunts through the communicator, the comment worsening the mood.

 

They didn’t. Nabe was right, the legends seemed fine, continuing their high-pace brawl. It was unfortunate that they couldn’t control the barrier from outside of it, instead being exposed to the elements the battle caused, and the stress that came from dealing with it.

 

“You’re all doing great,” he assures everyone. “Everything is exactly as planned. We’re just here to lessen the damage and the shockwaves.”

 

Haruno reports in, saying all the citizens had been evacuated, and Kazuya breathes out a thin sigh of relief. One worry out of the way.

 

He’s distracted enough by her words that he doesn’t notice Kuramochi cocking his head to look at the champion, noting his excessive panting. His brows furrow as he comes to the only conclusion he can: That Kazuya hadn’t completely recovered from his injuries.

 

Then, of course the strain of bearing the will of a Regi would be greater, almost too much.

 

“Haruno, Akira, Miyauchi -I need you to watch Lilycove and Slateport. Those are the two I’m worried about flooding, with all this rain. Pacifidlog should be evacuated by now, and Mossdeep is on high enough ground that I’m not concerned.” He pauses to breathe, and they respond with affirmatives. “Help with damage control there. Shirasu, I need you here, in the air. Keep tabs on Groudon and Kyogre for me.”

 

Everyone heads off, and Kazuya adjusts his position atop Registeel, not even able to watch as Shirasu takes to the sky on Flygon. He does hear the report, though, that like he had suspected, the legends were at a standstill, one side no more powerful than the other.

 

That changes. There’s a sudden shift, and that standstill becomes a clearly visible tidal wave that slams down into Groudon as Kyogre takes control, movements becoming more rampant. All six of the team controlling the Regis double over from the effort, and Kazuya grits his teeth, his vision growing fuzzy.

 

“Don’t, hah, force yourself,” Kuramochi tells him, in between staggered breaths. “If you’re, hah , still injured.”

 

Kazuya blinks, taking in the words. “I’m fine, all healed.” He does his best to grin over at his partner. “Don’t worry about it.”

 

But Kuramochi worries.

 

It doesn’t take long for Groudon’s movements to become erratic as well, and the power balance between the two is restored. What’s not restored is the earlier strain from the Regis, as the effort doubles to keep the damage contained. It’s easy enough to figure out the situation under the sea, though. Eijun and co must have taken back the orbs.

 

“They’re so agitated,” Sanada voices. “Why?”

 

“We learned about two awakenings of the legends,” Nabe answers. “One was their bodies, and the other was their minds.” He hesitates, briefly. “The only possible away to awaken their minds is inside the Cave of Origin.

 

“Now that they’re free of the orbs’ control, they’re fighting to see who can get inside the Cave of Origin, since it’ll only hold space for one of them, ” Toujou continues. Kazuya closes his eyes at this. So Okumura . . hadn’t exactly been telling the truth. It wasn’t that the legends would simply be drawn to the natural energy, but that it was their next step in their power crusade.

 

At the same time, Kazuya couldn’t blame him. He-

 

He gasps out suddenly, and then doubles over, still barely retaining his hold on the Regis. From beside him, he can hear Kuramochi’s exclaim, but his ears are ringing too much to make it out clearly. He attempts to straighten back out, but he can’t, the effort too much. Dark spots accumulate in his vision, and his head swims. “No!” he breathes out.

 

Kuramochi can’t even crouch down to comfort him, the strain of Registeel too much. Still, he realizes now what was going on, as the vision of this perfect champion begins to blur.

 

It’s only confirmed when Kazuya rips his gaze down below, to Groudon and Kyogre. “I can’t die here! ” he says through gritted teeth, effort strained.

 

Kuramochi purses his lips and quickly makes up his mind. With a deep breath, he lifts a leg and slams it into Kazuya, knocking him back from the edge of registeel and off his feet completely. Kazuya gasps, then collapses on his back, breathing deeply.

 

Kuramochi grits his teeth as he bears the weight of controlling Registeel by himself. “You’re a fucking idiot!” he shouts over at Kazuya. “Why would you even try and control all of them yourself, huh? Stupid! You bastard! You fucking Jiguza!” Kazuya attempts to say something and Kuramochi snarls. “No! Call Shirasu here, now!

 

Kazuya is too shocked to do anything else. He manages to lift his wrist enough to get his mouth near the communicator. “Shirasu,” he mumbles. He waits for the flying-type trainer to respond before continuing. “I’m out of the game. I need you to come take my place.” Damn, he was still breathing too heavily. He really was pathetic. Couldn’t even last until the end.

 

He’d lost so much life force, from that stunt.

 

He’s still not in his right mind when he’s taken down to the Cave of Origin by Shirasu’s Flygon, the pokemon returning to its trainer soon after. Kazuya stumbles on his feet, and then tries to properly collapse, but Okumura saves him from that fate, taking ahold of him.

 

“You shouldn’t have done that,” he murmurs, voice gruff. “We don’t need another dead champion the very same day he was put into office.”

 

Kazuya lets out a weak chuckle. “I’m such an idiot.”

 

“Yeah, you sure are.”

 

His gaze moves to Kyogre and Groudon, now having a front row seat to their fighting. “They haven’t calmed down at all.”

 

“Yes.” Okumura’s face twists into an odd expression. He helps lower Kazuya to the ground. “Now that the orbs aren’t controlling them, we need a new element in the plan.”

 

“New? And what would that be?”

 

His lips downturn. “Rayquaza.”

 

“R-” He squints. “Who?”

 

“The third pokemon of the weather trio. The counterbalance to Groudon and Kyogre.” Okumura sighs, pointedly looking at Kazuya now. “You like looking at the mural inside Granite Cave, right? Haven’t you ever wondered what the third figure was?”

 

Kazuya can’t help his jaw from dropping. He stays like that for a moment, dumbfounded, and then wrings his head, even as the effort makes his vision swim. Of course. Of course! Why hadn’t he thought about that? “So Rayquaza is . .”

 

“Not of sea or land, but of sky.” Okumura looks up. “It’s the only one that can stop them, now.”

 

“How, then?” Kazuya breathes.

 

“We need someone’s help,” Okumura muses. “I can’t leave, and you’re in no condition to.”

 

It doesn’t take Kazuya long to think of who. “I hope he’s not underwater without a signal,” he mutters, a brief pray to the gods that has Okumura’s eyes on him. He reaches for his pokenav and dials a familiar number.

 

Miraculously, after a single ring, Eijun picks up. “Kazuya? Is that you?”

 

“Yeah,” he replies. “Where are you?”

 

“Uhh . . Above water?”

 

“Head to Sootopolis immediately.” He glances to Okumura. “I have something for you to do.”

 

-

 

They corner the Aqua admin before the cave splits, branching off into two separate inner chambers. Their leader and Team Magma’s leader did switch their orbs, the admin says. They even rode down in the submarine together, in exchange for doing so. The trio wastes no time in tying the admin up, and then they each head out to confront the teams in their chambers.

 

Eijun goes solo, heading deep underground -underwater? The line was fuzzy, here- until crystals of red begin to appear, embedded in the walls of the cavern. The air begins to swelter, and he furrows his brow at the implication. This heat, this far underwater? It seemed impossible, but the path branches, curling further down, and as the crystals grow in size and numbers, the heat wave picks up, until he’s stepping into a chamber with a lava pit far, far below.

 

Animal Takigawa stands over the pit, red orb in hand. Eijun has barely stepped foot inside the chamber when he whips around, glowering. “You’re not who I expected,” he muses.

 

Eijun pulls out Altaria’s pokeball. “I’m still here to stop you.”

 

Animal growls, quickly sending out his Camerupt. “You annoying child !” he spits. “What do you know?”

 

“That this is wrong!” Eijun counters. “Why are you even doing this? What’s the point?” He sends out Altaria as he says this, knowing speaking wouldn’t resolve anything.

 

Animal’s next words chill the trainer to the core. “A world without Chris is a world no one deserves to live in.”

 

He orders Camerupt to release a Rock Slide attack, and Eijun quickly counters with Cotton Guard. The move doesn’t completely shield Altaria, though, and she comes away with formidable damage.

 

The rest of the battle continues like that. Animal dishing out damage, Eijun being forced to tank it. It’s not until Altaria’s second Dragon Dance do they get the chance to attack proper. The battle drags out, and the heat wears on Eijun. He notices how it doesn’t seem to bother Animal at all, and wonders if the glow of the red orb is to blame for that.

 

Eijun barely wins, but they do win, finishing with a Sky Attack that leaves Altaria on the ground, unable to take flight again. They’re lucky that was the end for Camerupt, the burly pokemon lying unconscious. Animal growls as he returns the fire type, and Eijun staggers to an upright position. They glare at each other for a moment.

 

Then Animal pulls out a weapon, snarls, and heads straight for Eijun in a mad dash. Eijun stumbles back, shocked and panicked, but before Animal can reach him, an Ice Punch from a Cubchoo pushes him back.

 

Eijun whips around to see Furuya entering into the chamber. Behind him is a Snorlax that he beckons forward, and all it takes to restrain Animal is a Sing attack and a hug from the pokemon, holding him still. Snorlax makes its way back over to the pair of trainers, and Eijun returns Altaria, nodding his thanks to the Sinnoh native.

 

“Snorlax knows Sing?” he questions.

 

“Metronome,” Furuya says. “Lapras knows Sing.”

 

“Ah.”

 

“Haruichi is taking care of Ochiai,” Furuya reveals. “His . .” His eyes narrow. “Intentions. He wanted to set the world back to zero. He didn’t explain further.”

 

Eijun shivers, the idea equally as disturbing as Animal’s had been.

 

“We have the blue orb.” He gestures to the edge of the chamber, where the red orb had rolled away. “Go take the red orb.”

 

“Right.” Eijun rushes over to retrieve it. He frowns upon picking it up, feeling a strange pull, a tug in his mind.

 

Together, all three of them hijack the submarine and make to the surface, bringing along the team leaders as captives. Furuya and Haruichi watch over them, waiting for their consciousness to regain. When they break the water, Eijun wastes no time in opening the hatch, climbing out to get a look at the seas.

 

It’s then that he gets a call.

 

“Kazuya?” he gasps. “Is that you?”

 

“Yeah. Where are you?”

 

“Uhh . .” He looks down the hatch. “Harucchi! Where are we?”

 

“Don’t ask me!”

 

“Above water,” he tells Kazuya.

 

“Head to Sootopolis immediately,” Kazuya tells him. “I have something for you to do.”

 

The call disconnects, and Eijun frowns as he pockets his pokegear. He climbs back down the hatch, jumping down the last few rungs. “Kazuya wants me at Sootopolis,” he explains to Furuya and Haruichi. “I’m heading there now. It seemed urgent.”

 

“Take these,” Furuya says, holding out the blue orb. Haruichi holds out the red, and Eijun grasps both of them, again a little disconcerted by the pull at his mind.

 

“Okay.” He releases Altaria, once again ascending the hatch. “I’ll send someone for you, so make sure those two don’t try anything.”

 

“Right. We’re good here, Eijun-kun.” Haruichi nods. “Good luck.”

 

-

 

“Eijun?” Okumura questions, shortly after Kazuya disconnects the call.

 

“I wholeheartedly trust Sawamura Eijun,” Kazuya tells him. “He’s definitely the right person to take on this task.”

 

Okumura frowns, mulling over the decision. He comes to a stand, finally nodding down at Kazuya. “There’s not time to test his worth to enter the Cave. I’m trusting your decision.” His eyes are hardened steel. “I’m trusting in his worthiness.” He moves back, nodding to the Cave entrance. “I’m heading inside, there’s something I need to grab. Have him meet me at the lowest portion.”

 

He rushes off, and Kazuya leans back, works on trying to steady his breathing while he waits. His energy is still depleted, nothing regained even with his substantial break from controlling the Regis. He frowns at the thought.

 

Eijun arrives shortly, profusely thanking his rather beat-up Altaria for the ride, and then returning her to her pokeball.

 

“Koushuu’s waiting at the bottom of the Cave of Origin,” Kazuya relays to Eijun. “Head inside.”

 

Eijun nods, but hesitates, turning his gaze from the entrance back to Kazuya. “What . . kind of place is it?”

 

“Remember Mount Pyre?” Eijun nods. “In counterpart to that, the Cave of Origin is where life began.”

 

Eijun hums, and then he’s crouching down beside Kazuya, looking him over. “You don’t look so good.”

 

He closes his eyes. “I’m alright. I’m alive, at least.” He nods to the trainer. “Hurry inside. There’s not much time.” His eyes move to the sky, where he knows the Regis are stationed. Now that they were each splitting the full brunt of their wills, they weren’t due to last much longer.

 

Eijun stands once more and Kazuya catches a glimpse of color, turning to see the two orbs in his hands. He lets out a startled sound. “The . . the orbs . . ?”

 

Eijun nods, holds them closer.

 

Kazuya motions to the Cave. “Hurry in. You shouldn’t -they shouldn’t-” He looks to Kyogre and Groudon, purses his lips. “Go. Now.”

 

-

 

In the deepest part of the cavern, crystals of blue and red shine on the walls, and Eijun meets Okumura Koushuu, Sootopolis gym leader and guardian of the Cave of Origin, for the first time.

 

“You have the orbs,” Okumura states, and Eijun nods. Okumura steps forward, eyeing them.

 

“The orbs were originally housed here, in this chamber,” Okumura reveals. “After the first clash of the legends, centuries ago, they were moved to Mount Pyre.” He takes the orbs from Eijun’s hands, and immediately, the weight on his mind disappears. Okumura regards him carefully before speaking next.

 

“Miyuki made the right choice, choosing you. You are worthy to be here.”

 

Eijun watches as Okumura steps away, telling him to wait. He ventures further into the large chamber, to where Eijun can barely make out his form. Upon returning, he watches as Okumura stuffs something into his pocket, the orbs now out of sight.

 

“Thousands of years ago, when the world was overflowing with a type of natural energy, Groudon and Kyogre fought over the energy source in many clashes. Their power was great, and the people could do nothing. Only a third pokemon, Rayquaza, could overwhelm their power and halt their fighting. We don’t know the exact time from now, but a thousand years after stopping the first conflict, a deep space meteorite crashed into Hoenn. The cracks and fissures it caused to the ground released an unimaginable amount of natural energy, and Kyogre and Groudon once again collided. Again, Rayquaza had to intervene, using its power to save all of Hoenn.”

 

“So Rayquaza is the key,” Eijun voices. Okumura nods.

 

“Long ago, an altar known as Sky Pillar was built for the pokemon. It had two purposes: One was to house the murals the ancients depicted of Rayquaza’s exploits, which is how we know the history today. The other . . is to provide a place for mega evolution.”

 

“The meteorite that struck the second time was big. Actually, it’s the reason Sootopolis is located in a crater. It’s what carved out that crater to begin with, and why the city is a hotbed of natural energy, even to this day. In response to the legends colliding, the people of Sootopolis prayed to Rayquaza for it to descend and stop them once more. The murals depict that, in response to Rayquaza’s will, the meteorite began to glow in a thousand colors, like a Key Stone. Using that power, Rayquaza was able to mega evolve and use that power to defeat Kyogre and Groudon.”

 

“The Sky Pillar was built to house this giant Key Stone. It’s fifty floors tall and, as the name implies, ascends to the skies. Rayquaza supposedly resides in the ozone layer, so the tower was built in order to be as close as possible to the pokemon, should it be needed again.”

 

Okumura settles his hands on Eijun’s shoulders. “Your task is to ascend the Sky Pillar and, using the meteorite there, call down Rayquaza. Only Rayquaza’s power can stop those two now, and only by undergoing mega evolution can it have the power needed to do so. Are you willing?”

 

Eijun nods. “I can do it. I will do it.”

 

Okumura releases him. “Then let’s go.”

 

They make their way out of the cave quickly, and upon exiting, Okumura takes care to bar the entrance once more. Eijun steps toward Kazuya, still in rough condition, and crouches down beside him.

 

“Koushuu tell you the plan?” he asks. Eijun nods. “Good. I want you to head to Sky Pillar.” His lips tremble. “I’m sorry I can’t go. I shouldn’t have to leave this up to you, I know. I’m sorry I can’t do everything by myse-”

 

Eijun leans forward and Kazuya is cut off, soft lips pressing into his own. He thinks he forgets to breathe, for a moment. Eijun pulls back, his expression soft but serious.

 

“No one’s ever asked you to take everything on.”

 

Kazuya stares. He was right. Maybe those were the words he needed to hear.

 

He fumbles with his clothes after a moment, pulling out a Key Stone from his pocket. “You’ll need this,” he mumbles, pressing it into Eijun’s hand, curling his own around it. “Keep it safe, it’s . .”

 

Eijun stares down at the locket, only nodding mutely. There was significance. He could understand that much.

 

“Eijun,” Kazuya calls out, before him and Okumura ascend on the latter’s Salamence. “Good luck.”

 

Eijun nods. “You can count on me. Keep yourself safe.”

 

Right. He watches as they depart. He could do that.

 

-

 

By this point, a span of hours have passed since the reception. It was now the day after, and both Eijun and Okumura could feel the weight of lack of energy pressing down upon them.

 

Sky Pillar is southwest of Sootopolis, between it and the evacuated Pacifidlog. Although the damage from the shockwaves was contained to Sootopolis, the weather phenomena was still affecting the region, and the monsoon they fly off into is treacherous. The area they descend into is foggy, but through it, as they get closer, Eijun can make out a tower stretching through the clouds. He can’t see the top.

 

Upon arriving at the base, Okumura unlocks the entrance to the tower. He pulls out a scroll from his pocket, an item Eijun realized he had slipped in earlier, back in the Cave of Origin.

 

“I’ve kept this safeguarded in the Cave of Origin for a long time.” Okumura passes it to Eijun. “As have my ancestors. It’s very important. Hold on to it.” He doesn’t explain the contents, instead climbing back on to Salamence. “I have to go back to the Cave. Good luck.”

 

Then Eijun is alone, gazing up at the crumbled stone, at the tower that stretches to the heavens.

 

-

 

Rayquaza is a monster before him.

 

The pokemon is easily more than four times Eijun’s height, and to say he was daunted was a severe understatement. It roars again, the sound grating on the trainer’s ears, and he curls his hand around the borrowed Key Stone.

 

He takes the scroll and unfurls it, glancing at its contents. A . . a move? He could barely read the writing.

 

Rayquaza lowers its form, taking interest in the scroll. Eijun catches on and unrolls it completely, holding it forward for the pokemon to see. Rayquaza eyes it carefully, as if relearning the move. Dragon Ascent. A move only capable by the sky high pokemon.

 

Rayquaza straightens out to full height and roars again, and then perks its head, moving its gaze to where Eijun knows Sootopolis was located. So it finally sensed the disturbance. He folds the scroll back up, stuffs it in a spare pocket, and grasps the Key Stone. Rayquaza turns back to him quizzically, and then it moves to curl around the giant meteorite in the center of the tower’s apex.

 

It nods to Eijun, and the trainer’s eyes widen as he takes in the implications. He steps forward, one step, two, three, until he’s in front of the meteorite as well, and then holds out the small Key Stone. His lips fumble, and he stutters over his words, then realizes he doesn’t need any. All it takes it a nod, and a swift motion, and Rayquaza is bathed in light.

 

-

 

Okumura returns alone. He comes forward before Kazuya can question.

 

“I’ve done all I can. It’s up to him, now.” Before Kazuya can reply, Okumura is stepping towards the Cave entrance. “I’m heading inside, barring the doors. Don’t let anyone in.”

 

Kazuya understands, at that moment. To Koushuu, he was the absolute last line of defense. Should either legendary break through, he would be there to greet them, to hold them off from reaching the energy coiled at the bottom.

 

He lifts his wrist. “Check in. How is everyone doing?”

 

“You’d better be alright yourself before worrying about us,” Kuramochi jabs, responding way too quickly. “You know, you were actually dying before I kicked you out of it.

 

“We’re pushing our limits, ” Wakana reveals quietly. Her words are terse. She doesn’t say it to the champion directly, but between the five, all of them were . . silently grateful, that Kazuya had taken most of the control onto himself in the beginning. Otherwise, there was no way they would have lasted this long.

 

There’s not a response to follow her statement. Kazuya mulls over the words, looking up to the sky. “I’m sorry,” he finally says. “You have to hold on a little longer. We have a new plan, but it’s gonna take some time.”

 

They couldn’t let the barrier disperse. It was bad enough inside, the city nearly in ruins. The air was thinned out significantly, and Kazuya can’t even imagine how much worse it was up higher. Still lacking strength, he can barely push himself to his feet, using the stone of the city as an aide.

 

It was impossible to tell how much time had passed, but things suddenly take a turn for the worse. Everything falls apart when Sanada collapses, and Nabe stumbles on a cry, trying to bear the weight of Regirock alone. Their section of the barrier flickers, and immediately, a large fissure forms in the wall of Sootopolis, the crack caused by the shockwaves penetrating it.

 

There are a myriad of shouts coming over the communicator, but Kazuya is focused on the increasing damage to the city. The water level has hiked up, enough that he was standing in a deep puddle, and it was rising still to the Cave entrance. From above, though it was late at night, the sun shone with a blinding intensity, wilting all the plant life inside the city.

 

Kazuya bites his lip, trying to get a handle on the situation again. Everything was falling apart properly now. They might have to relinquish their hold on the Regis. His first priority was getting everyone out alive.

 

Sanada’s voice stumbles back onto the channel, telling everyone he was okay. The barrier under Regirock stables, but Kazuya knows it won’t last much longer. He watches as a particularly bad wind gust hits Regice, and Toujou is nearly blown out, only saved by Wakana’s strained handhold on his collar.

 

Just as Kazuya opens his mouth to give orders, the sky splits open.

 

He thinks it might be Rayquaza descending, but he can’t be sure. A long, serpentine body cuts through the clouds, but it’s different from what he had seen on the mural in Granite Cave. The head of the pokemon is delta shaped, and golden streamers fall around its elongated body. He squints, but he can’t make out anyone riding it.

 

Gasps ring out over the comm channel, the rest seeing the form in the sky. Then, there’s a blinding green light.

 

An air current whips up, and Kazuya shields his eyes, ducks his head. Shouts ring out from his wrist, everyone atop the Regis hunkering down. The wind moves in a frenzy, blowing all the debris around, and then in a blinding flash the heat wave and monsoon both die down rapidly. The sunlight fades, the water level recedes. The harsh rain that had kept up since they had arrived begins to lift.

 

It’s Eijun , he thinks, just as the light disappears and reveals what is undoubtedly now Rayquaza. The pokemon glides down over Kyogre and Groudon, who have ceased their fighting, and lets out an ear-splitting roar that has Kazuya reeling back.

 

When he looks again, he sees Kyogre and Groudon have ceased even their movement. But that was it. They were standing stock-still, but their presence still gathered shockwaves, and above, the barrier begins to flicker.

 

In response to their frozen state, Rayquaza begins to glow. Maybe it was because of the air currents, but he swears, he can hear Eijun’s voice, shouting like he always did, calling out a . . a move?

 

And then Rayquaza is enveloped in a green energy and diving straight for the two legends, who by far aren’t fast enough to dodge, getting slammed into head-on. They roar out in pain, and Rayquaza circles up overhead, lashing out with its tail.

 

Kyogre and Groudon respond by letting out roars of their own, and then, in amazement, Kazuya watches as they depart, each sinking below the water’s surface to the east and west, in opposite directions to the Cave of Origin.

 

The sky breaks, and the rain finally stops. The heat reduces to bearable, Hoenn standards. He comes to a stand once more, having been knocked down by the wind. He thinks he hears something from his comm, but he’s not focused, instead watching as Rayquaza twirls and spins in the air.

 

It makes him nervous. He doesn’t like it.

 

Rayquaza roars again, and just as he sees Eijun’s body come loose from the legendary, he calls out Dewott and dives into the ocean.

 

With Dewott’s help, they make it out far enough at a fast pace, and Kazuya flings himself the last few feet with all his effort, stretching out his arms to catch Eijun. The force of him colliding with Kazuya sends them both under the waves, and Kazuya gasps, water filling his throat. He forces himself to move upward, and Dewott dives down to help. As soon as he breaks surface, he’s coughing, leaning heavily on his pokemon. A short distance away, Eijun comes up as well, gasping, sputtering, and then throwing his arms around Kazuya in a hug.

 

It quickly turns into treading water with Dewott’s help, because Kazuya’s still too weak to even manage to do that alone. He doesn’t care, though, letting himself be held, turning to move Eijun’s face close.

 

“You did it,” he whispers.

 

“I did it,” Eijun whispers back, just as frantically, over and over and over, because he can’t believe it himself.

 

Above them, Rayquaza roars once more, and the Regis depart, returning to their resting places. In the air, the trainers that had been controlling them gather, then settle on the walls of the city in a giant heap, effectively drained.

 

Eijun helps Dewott in moving Kazuya back to land, near the gym, oblique to the Cave of Origin. It rested on a small island of its own, detached from the main land of the city. It was also the closest to them, and Kazuya was grateful it had been chosen.

 

“Thank you,” Kazuya breathes, still panting. That was odd. He was still this out of breath? Surely-

 

He looks down.

 

Oh.

 

He’s red, his side painted in the color, staining the white of his clothes. His wound had reopened.

 

He looks up to tell Eijun this, but before he can, a Water Gun hits the trainer square in the chest, its power blasting Eijun off the land. Kazuya sits up rapidly, looking in the direction of the attack.

 

It was Ochiai. Him and Animal both. Ochiai’s Sharpedo was in the water, having been the one to fire off the attack.

 

Behind him, Eijun erupts from the water, looking over in their direction with a glare than quickly leaves to make room for concern, his face paling. “Harucchi and Furuya had them,” he tells Kazuya. “Something must’ve happened.” His gaze moves to the submarine nearby. That was odd. And they were- “They’re-” His brows furrow. “They’re-”

 

“Hmm, yes. We are working together,” Ochiai confirms. “Since our goals are so similar, we figured, why not?”

 

“Together, we’re taking back the orbs you stole,” Animal says, glaring at Eijun. He points to the sky, where Rayquaza still circles overhead. “We might as well take Rayquaza as well, but first , we have to eliminate all our obstacles.”

 

“Since things go rather well when we work together, we will be eliminating these obstacles together as well,” Ochiai finishes, stepping forward.

 

Kazuya lets out a noise of distress and rolls into the ocean to avoid a Flamethrower attack from the opposite shore. He thrashes, and then his gaze lands on the lurking Sharpedo, and with a sharp gasp he attempts to hike himself back onto land. But with a cry, he slumps back into the water, one hand going to grasp at his side, the water growing red from his reopened wound.

 

Eijun’s gaze lands on the red water at the same moment the Sharpedo darts forward, and he quickly hauls both himself and Kazuya back onto land, wasting no time in calling out Leafeon. Kazuya calls out for Dewott to deflect the next Flamethrower from its position in the water, still curled up on his injured side. From beside him, Eijun orders Leafeon to fire off a Solarbeam, the attack releasing quickly due to the sun’s shine overhead, and it rockets into Sharpedo, sending the water type flying.

 

Kazuya’s vision reels, and he can barely grasp he’s being centered onto an Altaria. Eijun’s, he faintly realizes, and then they’re in the air. A moment later, the air shimmers by Kazuya’s head, and he ducks to avoid an incoming attack. They land shortly after that, on the patch of land in front of the Cave of Origin, and Kazuya crumples on the pokemon’s back.

 

Okumura is out of the Cave, having sensed the calming, but he’s hung back against the door, eyeing the growing conflict, troubled and unmoving.

 

Kazuya, in a moment of sheer willpower, wrenches Mawile’s pokeball from his person and calls out the steel type. His glasses had fallen off somewhere in the panic, and he can’t see very well, squinting in effort. Still, he orders a Metal Sound attack despite not knowing what was going on, the pulse in his ears now rampant.

 

He bends forward and coughs, and with his blurred vision, he completely misses the way Mawile’s attack halts both incoming attacks from Sharpedo and Camerupt. Eijun’s given time to dismount from Altaria, and he sends out both Corphish and Volbeat to cover as he reaches up for Kazuya.

 

Kazuya feels himself being lowered, trusts that it’s Eijun, trusts that it’s Eijun’s voice he was hearing, and tries to focus on his breathing. He’s lying on the ground now, and a hand is pressing against the wound on his side, and he gasps out, letting out a choked sound and nearly screaming from the pain.

 

The pressure subsides and then Eijun is right beside him as his pokemon fend off the incoming attacks. He bends forward, right by Kazuya’s ears. “Stay put here,” he murmurs. “I’ll take care of this.”

 

Something slides onto Kazuya’s face and he pops his eyes open at the unfamiliar sensation, focusing in on Eijun relatively quickly-

 

He could see.

 

He squints in confusion. The weight is unfamiliar. “Wha . . ? You wear glasses?”

 

“Contacts, actually.” He grins down at Kazuya. “Those are for emergencies. If anything, this is an emergency, right?”

 

It wasn’t perfect, the prescription off, but it was close enough, and Kazuya is finally able to breathe again with his sight back.

 

And then Eijun moves away, hopping back onto Altaria and taking flight, and Kazuya is left lying on the ground, holding his side, and Mawile in front defending them from their opponents.

 

He can only assume Dewott is helping Eijun, and prays that nothing bad has happened to his pokemon. Slowly, he moves himself to his knees, still bent over, and the hand not resting against his side is on the ground, holding him upright. Mawile whines in concern and he shakes his head, gesturing forward. Footsteps make him look up proper, and Ochiai is on the opposite stretch of land, near the giant tree between the ocean and the Cave of Origin. Kazuya presses his lips together and works to move his body into a kneel, not quite ready to stand.

 

Mawile battles with Sharpedo, but the water type has the upper edge, and it’s a tough fight. Kazuya grits his teeth as he sees Mawile struggling, and finally moves himself to a proper stand, stumbling but managing to remain upright. Maybe he’s not in his right mind, but he has to do something , and Eijun is busy dealing with Animal across the way, so it’s up to him to take care of the Aqua leader.

 

He reaches a hand out, palm extended as if to catch something, as if he can extend his energy to Mawile. Somehow, he has to find a way to mega evolve her without a Key Stone. He concentrates, gathering his will, his intentions.

 

Something slams into his palm and he tightens his grip immediately, stumbling back. His eyes open as a shockwave travels through his body, and looks down to see he’s holding his Key Stone, the one he’d given to Eijun. He looks back up and over to see -wait. Was that a pitching position? Because somehow the trainer threw it perfectly into Kazuya’s hand.

 

He doesn’t have much time to think over it, because Mawile is enveloped in a rainbow glow as their intense emotions coincide, overlap, and then she’s mega evolved before him, intent in facing off against Sharpedo.

 

And when Kazuya looks back up, to the look of surprise on his opponent’s face, he finally remembers why the name Ochiai Hiromatsu is so damn familiar.

 

Mawile makes short work of Sharpedo, and the pokemon slams back into its trainer, leaving them both sprawling against the trunk to the tree. Kazuya staggers and hunches down onto his knees once more, out of breath. He watches as a stream of ice jets out and envelopes Ochiai, and then Animal across the way. Him and Eijun turn to see Okumura having come away from the door he’d been glued to, his hand outstretched and his Glalie before him.

 

“They might escape again, if we don’t hold them like this,” he calls over to Kazuya. “That okay with you, champion?”

 

“Works for me,” Kazuya mumbles. He thinks he might’ve laughed, but he can’t remember. He’s out cold the next moment.

 

-

 

Kazuya wakes and Eijun’s arms are immediately around him, pulling him close. He breathes in deep, curling his form around the trainer, gripping back with all the strength he can manage.

 

He’s not in any pain, but that was probably due to the high morphine level. Eijun pulls back and Kazuya finds himself back in the medical room he was in before. His team was around the bed as well, gazing down at him with relieved smiles.

 

“Everything is back to normal,” Wakana tells him.

 

“And your pokemon are fine,” Sanada adds.

 

“There are a whole bunch of reporters outside the league.” Nabe quirks his lips. “They’re waiting to know if you’ll make it. Scary!”

 

“Your injury isn’t any more serious,” Shirasu tacks on. “You just have to avoid tumbling into churning water. Oh! And lifting people up that weigh more than you. Definitely avoid that.” He glances at Eijun as he says this, and the trainer laughs awkwardly.

 

“Are you heavier than me?” Kazuya asks.

 

Eijun shrugs. “Probably?”

 

“Hey, champ!” Kuramochi steps forward, hands on his hips. “Congratulations on averting your first major crisis, and all.” A small applause sounds around the room, everyone joining in. Kazuya’s lips quirk up. “On the day of your inauguration, no less,” Kuramochi sputters, and Nabe jabs him in the ribs.

 

“You alright?” Sanada questions, and Kazuya nods back.

 

“I’m okay.”

 

Everyone leaves after that, letting him rest, and only Toujou is left.

 

“Everyone from outside the region has returned home by now. It’s been another full day, since everthing ended. They all send their well wishes, though.” He ducks out after saying this, and Kazuya and Eijun are left alone.

 

Eijun bends forward and hugs him again, and Kazuya hums in content. “Are you okay?” he asks.

 

Eijun nods, wiggling up onto the bed now, wrapping properly around Kazuya. “All good. Your glasses are still gone, though. Those are still my spares you have on.”

 

“Maybe I can help with that.”

 

Kazuya looks up as a throat clears, the words coming from a person he knows all too well.

 

He tries to sit up upon catching sight, but his breath hitches as he attempts. There’s not any pain, but he’s still not moving well.

 

The man steps further into the room. “Don’t make it hard on yourself.”

 

Kazuya waits, a beat of silence enveloping the room. His eyes are narrowed. “Eijun. This is my father.”

 

Another beat of silence, then, “Yes, I have met the president of Devon.”

 

Right . . He had. Kazuya closes his eyes in frustration. His mind wasn’t. Well. He snaps them back open in frustration. “What do you need,” he says tersely to his father.

 

President Miyuki holds out a pair of glasses, but they linger in the air, Kazuya making no move to grab them. After a moment, Eijun sits up proper and takes them himself, turning to face Kazuya and slipping his own glasses off and the new ones on. Kazuya’s expression softens as he stares back into bright eyes. “Thank you,” he mumbles, and Eijun nods.

 

A few more moments of silence linger before Miyuki speaks again. “You know, this would have all been averted had you come to Rustboro to deliver the machine parts yourse-”

 

“I am an adult!” Kazuya snaps, cutting him off. “I don’t need to be berated for every little thing I do wrong.”

 

Miyuki’s jaws snap closed, and the air turns tense. Eijun swallows in the silence, not threatening to even more. It’s another tense moment before Miyuki speaks again.

 

“Ochiai is in jail. I’m sure no one has told you that.”

 

“I don’t give a damn about Ochiai,” Kazuya snaps.

 

“Well that’s funny because he killed your mother.”

 

“Why do you think I don’t care about him?”

 

“Woah woah wait!”

 

The last words are from Eijun, who flips his gaze back and forth from father to son, who have both turned to stare at him. “Ochiai, the upstart of Team Aqua, killed Mrs. Miyuki?”

 

Kazuya relaxes, leaning slightly back against the pillows. “It was a long time ago,” he mutters. “I’ll explain later, maybe.”

 

“It could be worse,” Miyuki grumbles. “Look at Animal. He wanted to end the world over the death of his son, the very same son who couldn’t even-”

 

“If you’re going to berate Chris, then leave,” Kazuya snarls, sitting up and only slightly wincing from the strain. “I’m not going to sit here and tolerate that like I might anything else!”

 

Miyuki stares his son down for a long time. Then, he turns on his heels and leaves.

 

Kazuya collapses back fully now, exhausted, and still confused by not feeling any pain and yet not having any energy.

 

“Sorry,” he mutters, unable to face Eijun.

 

Eijun shrugs it off, but he’s still a bit bewildered.

 

They’re quiet for a long time, after that.

 

-

 

Five days after Kazuya is crowned the champion, he gives an interview to Yui from Hoenn TV. He does his best to explain that had occured the night of his reception, leaving out details like nearly killing himself by controling all three Regis, or leaving the retrieval of Rayquaza up to a random foreign trainer. He bows his head at the end, thanking his gym leaders, elite four, and other staff for their assistance.

 

On the same day, Eijun challenges Koushuu to a gym battle for his eighth badge. The Sootopolis gym leader is a master of ice types, and both his Spheal and Glalie are tough to deal with, even with Arcanine as vanguard, and his newly-evolved Exploud assisting.

 

They meet at Mossdeep afterwards, grass bathed by the glow of the setting sun, outside of a small house on the edge of the eastern side of the city.

 

Kazuya quirks his brow as Eijun approaches, and with a blinding grin, the trainer holds up his eighth and final gym badge. Kazuya feels his own face split open, and he rushes to meet Eijun halfway, pulling him close.

 

“I knew you could do it,” he mumbles into Eijun’s hair. Eijun laughs for a moment, delighted, and then pulls back, a sparkle in his eyes.

 

“So? You said you had a gift, right?”

 

“Ohh?” His smile grows lopsided. “Did I?”

 

Eijun punches his shoulder, pouting. “Don’t be an asshole. Show me already? Please? Pleeeease?”

 

“Fine, okay!” Kazuya laughs, gestures to the house. “It’s inside. Come on in.”

 

Eijun settles against the island, leaned against the granite, while Kazuya rummages through the items on the low table before pulling out a pokeball. He moves forward and hands it to Eijun, who takes it, cocking a brow.

 

“A pokemon?”

 

“A special one.” Kazuya’s smile is hesitant. “An important one, to me.”

 

Eijun nods and wastes no time in releasing the pokemon, and when the light fades, a small Beldum is before them, gazing up at its new trainer. Eijun’s mouth falls open.

 

And then he’s laughing, and pulling Kazuya close again, and then wrapping his arms around his new steel type pokemon.

 

-

 

A week after the reception, Kazuya receives a video call at a very odd hour.

 

When he answers it, flicking on the screen in a dark, empty room, he’s surprised to see Mei’s face, very pale and very afraid.

 

“What’s wrong?” he immediately questions, holding the receiver close. Mei shushes him immediately, and then moves closer to the screen. He can barely see the Unovan champion, the backdrop an inky dark, and then something slides over the screen, and he can’t see Mei’s face at all. “Mei?”

 

“It’s okay, just a blanket.” His voice still comes clear through the receiver. He parts it a little to reveal his face again. “It’s just covering the lights. Are things okay in Hoenn?”

 

That was odd. The event was major in the news, even outside of the region. It should be public knowledge, how it all turned out. “Fine. We’re fine-”

 

He’s cut off again, Mei’s voice low, hushed. “Kazuya. I can’t wait any longer.”

 

Kazuya’s expression grows pinched. “What do you mean?”

 

“I’m back at the league.” His voice is rushed. “But it’s being monitored, still, so returning now might as well be committing suicide.”

 

Kazuya’s blood runs cold.

 

“I can’t wait any longer,” Mei says again. “I need you to gather everyone you can, and head for Unova, please -”

 

He’s cut off, breath hitched as an electrical current jerks through his body, and the receiver falls to the floor as his form crashes to the ground. Strange voices come through the abandoned speaker, and Kazuya lurches forward to sit right below the screen to keep from being seen. The speaker is still pressed to his ear, but he moves the mouthpiece away from his lips so it doesn’t pick up his breathing, and alert whoever was on the other end to his presence.

 

Two voice become distinctively clearer, one telling the other to search the area. Kazuya glances up to see the other peeking at the screen, but it was dark in the room, and with the blanket hiding the lights, the machine must’ve appeared off. The person doesn’t mess with it, instead turning back to hoist a very unconscious Mei up from the ground.

 

The other comes back and gives the all clear, and the first person nods, saying they had the champion, so they could execute the final part of the plan. They both head out, footsteps fading from the receiver.

 

Kazuya waits until he hears a door shut and then comes to rise on his feet, his mind reeling, the speaker slipping from his hand and clattering to the ground.

 

Unova. He had to get to Unova. He had to contact everyone, and Yuki, and Ryou, and everyone .

 

He had to help Mei.