The Redwood Saga - Chapter 68 - Sahqoreyth (2024)

Chapter Text

The Dragonspiral Tower - Unova Region

"So, you see…peace, is a Lie. There has always been what we Humans call War. The strong always prey upon the weak, and any breaks from that slaughter are temporary." Proditor said to the pair of impressionable Padawans. He was still disguised as one of them, and so far, had not been discovered. He'd left his Shadow infused teammates behind for this mission but had caught a new member he'd dubbed Balmut. He was a rather large and foul-tempered Hippopotas that he'd encountered on his path from Castelia City to the Dragonspiral Tower. By the time he'd arrived at the tower, Balmut had become a mighty Hippowdon that had yet to be beaten by Unova's road Trainers.

"That…doesn't sound like the Dragon's teachings…" The less promising Padawan murmured. She was a young teen, a redhead with pale skin and freckles. She was also annoyingly close to the most promising candidate Proditor had found so far, who now responded to her.

"It's part of Balance, Allie." The dark haired and dark eyed teen, Damon, replied. "There's periods of calm and periods of conflict. But the conflict always comes back. War is as inevitable as peace...but you're right, that doesn't mean peace is a lie." He met Proditor's gaze evenly. "Peace is worth striving for. Worth protecting. Worth keeping for as long as possible, for as many Humans and Pokémon as possible." Allie nodded at him, and Proditor had to resist rolling his eyes. He recognized the spark in her gaze, even if Damon seemingly missed it.

Proditor nodded his normal looking head in agreement. "My point," He growled, "Is that pretending 'peace' will never end, is nonsense." He looked to be a bit older than the pair, but there was no age limit on who could train as a Scale. Thus far, he'd been preoccupied with not giving away his nature during the strenuous training the Padawans were put through by Champion Hilbert. He was seemingly as chill as the Dragon Emperor, until it was time to train.

At that moment, one of their peers turned up the television in the common room they were chilling in. "…has been confirmed in all seven Kingdoms of Eous. The Thunder Warrior Legions have officially stopped their centuries long slaughter on their border with Eous. That's right folks, the Imperium and the Kingdoms of Eous are once again in a tentative peace. Just in time for Festivus."

Proditor and the others were watching now, along with the rest of the Padawans. "And who do we have to thank for this Festivus miracle, Rachel?" Her male co-host asked.

"Apparently, our very own Dragon Emperor, believe it or not. It seems he and Champion Jiyoshi of Indius are pretty good friends after that match they had. According to our sources, the two worked together to orchestrate the peace. Champion Jiyoshi contacted the Kingdoms, while it was Emperor Redwood who apparently had a face to face with the Imperator and convinced him to stand down. I…wait, one moment, folks…" Rachel said, holding her earpiece.

Her co-host picked up her dead air. "Apparently Mr. Redwood heard you, Rachel, because he's offering to join us on set. As in right now. Somebody grab a chair!" He shouted to the staff.

"He's not actually…" Proditor said in disbelief, before he realized he was speaking aloud. Nobody said anything, but there were a few smirks in response to his words. Sure enough, within a few minutes Alexander Redwood was sitting very casually in a hastily acquired chair.

"Ari. Rachel. Thanks for letting me on with such short notice." He started, smiling genuinely as he used his calm baritone.

Ari chuckled, but Rachel was in reporter mode. "It's a pleasure, Emperor Redwood. Any time you want to, erm, I believe 'bamf' is the term, to our set, feel free to do so." She crossed her fingers together then, and Alex seemed content to let her keep going. "We've been reporting on your exploits all month. I'm sure you know, but almost all of the houses you've created, by hand, have been brought to modern standards of comfort."

Alex gave a chill nod with a small smile. "Good. Very good. It looks like everyone will have a home this Festivus, and there's peace in our time." He let out a deep breath and seemed to relax and slump a bit. "My Granduncle said something like this wouldn't be possible. I'm glad we were able to prove him wrong."

Ari nodded then, chiming in. "I'm sure the late Professor Redwood would be proud, sir. What you've done for this nation is comparable to what your predecessor, the first Dragon Emperor achieved in his time."

Alex shrugged. "Most of what we are building was either already there, or used to be, millennia ago. I'm just fulfilling what I was taught were the basics a government should provide to its people." He sat a little straighter then, and his cloak was smoothed out by his stupidly large hands beneath it. "Housing is one such thing. Food, is another."

Rachel chimed in then, incredulity in her voice. "What? Don't tell me now that you're going to feed the whole Empire!"

Alex chuckled, though it was a bit awkward. "Well…yes, but also no. I'm going bigger." His trademark smirk appeared, as he took in the anchor's reactions. "See, I've been talking with leaders the world over, Tao and I, that is, and the plan is to feed everyone. For free. I haven't gotten word about the Imperium yet, but Japan, Rio, Galar, and the entirety of the Dragon Empire are all on board, last I checked."

She still looked incredulous, which made Alex chuckle. "How exactly are you going to feed half the planet, or more, for free!?"

Alex leaned forward now, clearly interested in telling her, her audience, and eventually the world. "Honestly the credit has to go to the group of Blueberry Academy graduates who created the Item Printer. My brother and his team collaborated with them once they got the idea to use Infinity Energy and Pokémon materials to create...pretty much anything, from items to food. The machines we'll be mass producing will, as I understand it, be capable of creating any food menu item, from a low number of almost any Pokémon material, and or berries. But there is one that we can synthesize with solely Infinity Energy. We're calling them Dragon Burgers. Plant based. Rather delicious. Capable of feeding the hungry, any time, anywhere there's a machine. For the low, low price of Nothing." Alex didn't brag often, but on this one, literally feeding the entire Earth, he was going to. A little.

The two reporters/newscasters shared a look. Ari spoke then, "That's…I mean…you do realize what this will do to the food industry right? An industry your family is a part of, no?"

Rachel chimed in as well. "You could…probably generate infinite money from this kind of invention, so why wouldn't you?" She seemed more confused, than anything.

Alex held up a hand, while Proditor and the others just watched, mostly in disbelief. He could tell from the Padawan's thoughts that he wasn't the only one who understood what the end of resource scarcity meant.

"The food industry will simply have to shift to something else. Berry farming, becoming a Pokémon sanctuary, it's up to them. They will adapt as the housing industry has, with our help every step of the way to reduce panic. Either way, our current methods of food production were finite. There's a limited amount of people we can feed with the current system. We were running out of land, and the land will only produce for so many years before it needs a few to recover. The new system will feed everyone. Forever. I'm sure there will be people who prefer 'authentic' cuisine, and that's their choice to spend their currency on. But for the families with hungry kids that don't have currency in obscene amounts, this will change their entire lives. It will also severely cut down on the number of Pokémon being hunted for food." Alex paused, only to take in more air, as he turned to Rachel, and answered her.

"I probably could make enough money to control everything, forever, with this kind of invention, you're right, but that's the primary difference between me, and the 'rich elites', Rachel." He said with literal air quotes, "Money is not my God. Greed is not my creed. I refuse to kneel at the root of all evil, the exact same way every single other Human leader has done for almost four hundred thousand years now, since we let them impose the yoke of Currency around our necks! Instead, I am choosing freedom, and life, for my people. I will tear this root out completely. I will give the people solid homes and free them from worrying about hunger ever again. That, is worth more than all the currency in existence, to me."

He turned towards the main camera broadcasting them live. "For those of you in the food industry, or invested in it, I need you to do me, and the Empire, a favor, and remain calm. The Empire has instituted hopefully temporary pricing limits on every other sector while we prepare to roll these machines out, to prevent anyone from giving in to their greed while we adjust to the radical changes that will no doubt come with such a large change. You should all be aware though..." He paused, letting it grow, as he delivered the real news. As big as eliminating hunger was, far, far more people, depressingly, cared about money. The idea of putting something with imaginary value over the value of human beings was simply asinine, to him. "The long-term goal of the Dragon Empire and every single one of our allies, is to remove the use of currency entirely. Hoarding it and getting stressed out about it is not necessary."

Alex stood up then, and the two newscasters shared another look, but didn't throw off their Emperor's groove. "We are entering a new age on this planet. Our technology has increased to the point where the impossible has come within our reach, and we can finally rid ourselves of all the horrors that currency has inflicted on our species. It was once a necessary evil. No longer. We are going to build a utopia the likes of which has only been dreamed about in science fiction, until now. There will be challenges, there will be those determined to keep the status quo and the illusion of privilege their currency gives them, and they will try to sabotage these changes. There will be attempts to kill me, and those who help me bring about this change. But we will overcome them. I came here today to promise my people, and the Human race, that by the time I and your leaders are through, not one of you will have to struggle to survive ever again. We will shift our focus to inventing, creating, and building upon what we have laid down now, so that those who inherit our hard work will have nowhere to go but up. And I do mean that literally." He smirked, and then sat back down, looking between the two shocked newscasters.

Ari just looked lost, as he tried to picture the kind of world that was about to exist, and the problems that would come with it. Thankfully, his co-caster remembered she was still live on the air. "That's…quite a declaration. But I imagine being able to feed one's family will be quite appealing to a lot of people."

Alex nodded in agreement. "Those struggling to live, will have more to spend elsewhere. And those with far, far too much excess currency will be able to spend it on food as they always have, by getting far too much and throwing away over seventy percent of it."

Rachel smirked at him. "I see someone saw my report on the Gladstone family's leftovers from their Festivus party."

Alex nodded. "Though, in my experience as their neighbor, those leftovers usually make meals for like, two weeks. Or longer. It's not exactly sitting in a trash bin. But I can confirm your report did spur my future mother-in-law to give a significant amount of it to those in our town who had…less impressive holiday dinners."

Rachel just shook her head, at which point Ari chimed in. "You mentioned that our descendants will have nowhere to go but up…literally…do you mean…?"

Alex nodded. "I can confirm that we do have a functional space craft. Last I checked everything is made, we're just welding it all together. You'll know when our new space program launches. It's going to be quite a sight."

Ari sat up a little straighter. "Space program? And a ship? Please tell me it has a name."

Alex chuckled. "Well, I actually found the skeleton of a prototype space-capable ship in the Arcean Church's Sacrean bunker. We moved it to Unova and have since improved upon and brought the original designs to life. Though, uhm…the designs aren't exactly… 'original' themselves." He continued chuckling.

"What do you mean?" The man asked, brow furrowing.

"They were calling it the Enterprise, and the original shape of the craft was…pretty much what you'd expect from Star Trek or Poké Trek. I like to think we've made the Enterprise into a proper ship, by this point. One that Chaan Luc Pikard would be proud of." Alex's smirk broke down then as he laughed again, and the other two joined him, slightly less enthusiastically. They were still subtly processing the imminent collapse of the food industry, and apparently currency in general.

The Redwood Saga - Chapter 68 - Sahqoreyth (1)

Eventually, Rachel looked up at something behind Alex, probably some sort of light signal showing they were out of time, and said, "Well that's our time for tonight, folks. Dragon Emperor. You've certainly left us with a lot to ponder tonight. I agree with you though...if these machines can do what you say, the time has come to move on from currency. Thank you for joining us."

Alex nodded, still as chill as ever. "Thank you for having me. I'm going to be much more…accessible, now. So, if there's ever anything of pressing concern you wish to speak to me directly about, just let the Tower know, and I'll make time for it. That offer extends to the other news networks as well."

The newscasters did their boilerplate outro then, but when they looked back at Alex's chair, he was gone. Back in the Dragonspiral Tower, word was spreading like mad. Proditor listened in carefully to the hushed conversations, willing to risk discovery if it meant gaining an idea of how the Scales viewed their leader and his actions.

Many assumed there was some kind of ploy here for him to grab more power with, but the counters to those arguments, namely that it was, from what the now publicly available machine designs showed, a device controlled both by a Rotom and a larger connected system, would prevent any one person from controlling it beyond its programming, which was to exchange Pokémon materials for food.

Not twenty minutes after the announcement, another murmur went through the Tower, as the Empire revealed they had machines capable of producing items, any items, from the same kinds of materials as well. Lumber, concrete, even gold. These machines were more complex, and thus would be given out slower to those the Empire trusted not to abuse them. With the oncoming machines was also a guide, by the new Professor Redwood, explaining how to safely gather Pokémon materials from over nine hundred species without significantly impacting their health.

Proditor, for his part, was rapidly reconsidering his plans to convert one of the young Scales to his cause. Redwood reminded him far too much of Galar's first Hero King, and the rumor was that he was only growing stronger. Apparently, he'd been sighted in multiple places at once, which meant he had either mastered or created a technique that allowed clones of himself to persist and get things done. With that kind of coverage, stealing some of his Padawans would likely draw him directly to Proditor, and his pawns in Subterra.

Proditor could also clone himself, but without an intact Mind Plate, and weapons for his clones, Redwood would likely outmatch him. He also had not tried it since reviving. Perhaps as an undead Shadow being, he couldn't create clones anymore.

Either way, his instinct told him to avoid Redwood until he had a more solid power base. He needed a region with modern technology, and a burgeoning but as yet untapped psychic population. He called up his ghost-cased Phone Rotom, and examined the modern regions of the world. Galar was firmly under the influence of it's League Chairman, Leon, who was famous for not losing battles. Kalos was part of the Dragon Empire, and their psychics were probably already being trained. Paldea seemed to be controlled by a pantheon of powerful and morally sound Trainers, but then he found Italia.

Their Champion did as she pleased and was quite strong, psychically, but often away. The government of Italia was, from what he could tell, a conduit for its people, but the real power in the region was controlled by the so called Five Families, each of which infamously had an evil team's worth of people at their beck and call. They also seemed to control most if not all of the important positions in the government. In short, it was the ideal place to hide, as Redwood's influence didn't seem to reach there. Yet.

With his course decided, Proditor prepared to abandon his efforts in the Original Dragon's lair. Far above him, in the small forest that had now grown at the top of the Dragonspiral Tower's terrace that had played host to Legendary battles and meetings of Governors, General Hilbert looked down upon the man who was, as far as he could tell, pretending to be something he wasn't.

"We should confront him, Tao." Hilbert said, calmly, and not for the first time.

Tao's massive white head and black throat filled his peripheral vision. His calming baritone thundered in Hilbert's skull in answer. "You could. But it will not change much."

Hilbert whirled on the Dragon of Unova, his usually chill demeanor eroded with the knowledge he'd had of this threat to his students for several days now. "And why not!? He may well be who Alex is looking for! We should at least question him."

Tao rumbled in his lengthy throat, and Hilbert watched quietly, as he knew the dragon was using his power. "The future is...clouded by Shadow. There is more of it gathering than ever before, and the Traitor is the focal point. Only Alex or Arthur could slay him as he is now. It is as though...something is pulling more Shadow Energy to our planet..."

"Well, I'm tired of waiting. I'm not just going to let the man who started the Dark Times walk out of here. Not without testing his skill for myself." Hilbert declared, before flying after the man, who was walking at a quick pace away from the restored tower.

Tao was smirking, but only for a moment. His halves had chosen their Tamers well. It was Hilbert's nature to seek out the truth of the situation, and Tao was okay with that. His actions would not disrupt their future's path, that much, he could see.

Hilbert tailed the man, who seemed to be traveling on foot for the moment, until he was into the wilds between Icirrus City, and the rest of civilization. An ideal place for a battle, and one that many Trainers met in, while traveling. Especially in modern times, since the Original Dragon returned. "Oi!" Hilbert shouted, as he stepped out from the trees. The plain faced man, still in the Gi of his students, stopped abruptly, his eyes widening as they took in who was approaching him. "Before you leave…Successor…I demand a Battle."

Proditor processed the man's words, and chuckled, as he looked downward. "I had a feeling the Dragon sensed my presence."

"From the moment your foul essence darkened our door." Hilbert answered. "But he isn't going to attack you while Alex isn't here. And so far, as far as we know anyways, you have not actively striven to break the laws of our civilization. You've sought out your partners and been a good Trainer to them. It is because of this, that Tao has decided against eradicating you. For now."

A smile cracked the man's face, and as it did, the facade faded away, revealing the dark robed form Proditor typically wore, since his revival. "Tao…so he did actually nickname the Original Dragon." Proditor chuckled, and then met Hilbert's eyes. "I am amenable to non-hostile relations. I can abide by the laws the majority of the world follows, as well. I am not unreasonable." His attractive face's smirk widened almost unnaturally then. "But I'm guessing you want a Battle, before you're sure you can just let me walk away."

Hilbert's eyes narrowed. "Of course. I know you've only got one partner right now, so we'll make this one on one. No items." He raised a plain, very old looking Pokéball then, and Proditor brought out his comparatively newer and much more modern Ultra Ball. They threw at the same time, and a majestic Serperior, Caesar, appeared alongside a rather large Hippowdon, who went by Balmut. Hilbert's face tightened, as he realized that the Hippowdon was not the same level as when he'd last seen it. Before it was just strong enough to be able to endure Hyper Training. Now, it had to be, in terms of level, in the eighties or nineties. Caesar saw this as well, and his fronds extended and sharpened. Neither had expected an actual challenge, handicapped as the Successor was by not using a Shadow infusion.

Balmut, for his part, had been the lucky receptacle for the rather large amount of Exp. Candy that Proditor had stolen from his fellow Padawans. He'd wanted the foul-tempered earth hippo to be strong enough for whatever they faced on the road, but he had not foreseen a Champion battling them. He could tell the Serperior was at the height of its power, too, all but guaranteeing they would lose. Unless they were clever.

There was a brief, tense silence before Proditor shouted, "Dig, Balmut!"

"Razor Leaf."

Balmut was under the ground as sharp leaves filled the air, but Hilbert and Caesar had a plan. They were taking no chances against a Trainer like the Successor. The sharp leaves remained whirling about the space, and the ground gave away nothing in terms of Balmut's location. Despite their size and mass, Hippowdon could move with ease through the ground thanks to how their bodies worked.

"Fire Fang." Proditor said, after a moment. Within seconds, the ground rumbled all over the area, and a massive form broke the surface, wreathed in flames as the Hippowdon's mighty jaw tried to make contact with the regal grass snake.

"Frenzy Plant." Hilbert countered. From where each of the Razor Leaves had landed, massive vines erupted rapidly from the earth, surrounding the fiery earth hippo, and then arcing directly towards his massive body. Having natural instincts for battle, Balmut shifted his attack from Caesar, to said vines, chomping through them with his massive teeth, and spinning within his place in the earth, making a sandy fire tornado briefly.

The vines stopped momentarily, but he was still caged by the massive, unnaturally thick growths. Then, Hilbert spoke again. "Finish it." Pushing through his oncoming exhaustion from using his most powerful move, Caesar urged the frenzied plants to strike again, and they did so. Balmut tried biting through them again, but this time, he simply wasn't fast enough.

Proditor grimaced, as he figured his partner was down, but then realized, he wasn't. They weren't done yet. "Earthquake!" He shouted, knowing that it would be impossible to dodge at such close range. The ground under Caesar shattered, and tired as he was, he found himself buried by the powerful stones. Proditor knew there was no way he was unconscious yet, though, and followed up on his attack. "Use Earth Power to bury it in magma!"

Hilbert frowned. Earth Power's damage was typically calculated from how hard the exploding ground struck its opponents. Very rarely, could Pokémon using it summon actual lava alongside the move, but Balmut seemed to have no issue about creating such a large hole in the planet's crust for a battle. The General winced as the earth beneath his stunned Serperior exploded, but he was quick to counter, as the magma began to bubble up from the gaping wound in the planet. "Scenario Terra."

Caesar nodded, and used his own power to dig into the shattered earth, away from the forming lava pool. Then, there was a bright flash of green energy, and the entire area shook as the same vines from Frenzy Plant appeared again, spearing through the broken chunks of earth from the Earthquake to form massive, writhing vine-based shish kebabs of stone. They rose above Balmut, and then began ferociously hammering him into the ground, which was slowly caving in from the destruction the battle was creating. Once at the bottom of the new depression, more vines erupted from all around it, entangling the mighty earth hippo and fainting it.

Proditor sensed his partner faint and sighed. "That's about what I expected, from a Champion's starter. Did you learn what you wanted, General Hilbert?" He asked, as his tone turned to one of mockery.

Without another word to him, Hilbert raised a green shard, mega evolved his Serperior, and then had it fly off on its Mega Form's leafy wings. As Hilbert left and Proditor watched him go, he felt Shahir contact him through their team's mental web. "We have found them. One is potentially sleeping beneath Twist Mountain. The other is in Paldea. His armor resides somewhere within Mesagoza." Proditor grinned, as he fed his Hippowdon a Max Revive. Shellraiser, Shahir, Rapax, and Toraigon were all part of his original team. Immanis, his Scolipede, was still alive, and Blues, his Ceruledge, could likely be coaxed into possessing his armor once more. That only left Optimus to find, with Balmut, Mordred, and Morgana's Grendel filling out the rest of his team. He knew Malum had no intention of returning to him, as the Malamar was more focused on his own schemes since his Trainer had died. Proditor intended to retrieve him anyway.

Losing only two of his original ten permanently was quite lucky, and he knew once Balmut reached the peak of his power and embraced the Shadow, he'd be as monstrous as his predecessor, who'd also gone by the same name.

Within a few hours, Proditor had reached Twist Mountain, and given that it wasn't Scolipede's usual habitat, Proditor figured his poisonous megapede was likely hibernating deep under the mountain. Ice types liked to make the upper levels their home, but further down one could find Heatmor and their prey, Durant.

Proditor used the Durant tunnels and his malleable body to move deeper into the mountain. The further he went into the earth, the more unique the minerals composing the mountain became. There was a power to them that he did not recognize, but he continued on.

This deep into the planet's crust, the main species he found were Carbink, but eventually, he followed his psychic bond to his ancient partner to a large cavern. Even with all he'd seen in his long life, Proditor found himself in awe. A massive crystalline tree filled the center of the cavern, and all around the area he saw strangely glowing plants. Herbs of some kind, as he looked closer at them. He gathered large amounts of each color, before he approached the head of the gargantuan Scolipede that was hibernating around the base of the tree.

Judging by the cavern, Proditor assumed the mystical herbs and the power of the tree had somehow kept his partner alive over the long millennia. He'd been quite surprised when he learned Immanis was still around, after being revived. Looking around, Proditor eventually saw the crystalline green and purple sphere he'd used to contain the violent megapede in ages past.

With one more of his handmade crystals intact and in his possession once again, Proditor called his partner's name. "Immanis!"

Like a magic word opening a doorway, the massive Scolipede's titanic yellow eyeballs snapped open, and looked around. They narrowed, as they saw their stash of delicious herbs had been pilfered. Slowly, the Titan Scolipede rolled onto its four legs, and looked around, remembering the noise. A familiar noise. A noise it knew came from a human and had some meaning to them. Its thoughts were still fuzzy. They had been ever since he'd first eaten the herbs and they had cleansed his shadowed mind. Finally, the titan found the human, and its sleepy eyes widened.

Proditor grinned up at his little Venipede, just glad he was still alive. Somehow, the Shadow had left him, which had no doubt contributed to his massive increase in size, lifespan, and level. Eventually, Proditor figured out what must have cleansed his partner. "It's me, Immanis. It's Cassius. I have the rest of the team, too. Mostly." Slowly, the fog of memory cleared after eons of running on instinct, and genuine happiness at seeing his human, and his brothers, took over.

Proditor summoned the rest of the team, then, and before their Shadow infusions could cause them to attack each other, the only sound they respected filled their ears. "My friends! We find ourselves in a new, modern age. One where the convenient healing devices can detect Shadow Infusions. Some of you have already been cleansed, but most of you have not. And since I will need you as we travel, for now, I am going to free you of the Shadow."

Shellraiser's thick blue brows crashed together, but the Blastoise did not otherwise react. He disliked losing the power the Shadow gave, but if it meant he could be used in combat, he would gladly go without. For now. Balmut seemed ambivalent, and was eyeing the massive Scolipede, clearly itching to test his might against a Titan. Grendel, who had been retrieved by Morgana after his failure to defeat Arthur, Lancelus, and the other Gallade, and then passed to Proditor's care when she was crushed to death, seemed to have the same reaction as Shellraiser, but seemed obedient.

"Toraigon and Rapax will remain infused. Cleansing you would be pointless, as your levels are already at their max, so if the Muk hits the Fan Rotom, you two will be the ones on deck to handle it. If you get captured, do not worry. I will retrieve you. Now come. It's long past time that we all enjoyed a meal together."

Being in the Dragon Empire, he had access to their typical food, which seemed to be burgers, tubular shaped meat referred to as 'hot dogs' and other things that one could grill on the portable camping set that modern Trainers used to feed their teams. He learned that quite a few ingredients simply did not keep well in his infinite void Shadow storage, but he did manage to pull together a passable amount of food. He'd used a herb of every color from his stash on the burgers, which had seemed to agitate Immanis, but the Scolipede calmed once he got some of the food.

Proditor watched his team and their status carefully as they ate his culinary creation and nodded as he saw the Shadow fade from them. Then, he saw their stats start to increase. The bored-looking Rotom in his phone woke up as tracking their sudden and rapid shift back to homeostasis took a lot of computing power. By the time the numbers stopped rising, every single member who'd been infused had grown by at least three feet. They had become prime examples of their species, ancient paragons of the power that Pokémon could grow to wield. Proditor grinned. Not one of Italia's five families would be able to stand against him, with a team like this. And the International Rangers and the local Policia wouldn't flag him for having Shadow infusions either.

As they finished, Shahir spoke to him, mentally. "Blues should be here. And Optimus. I would like a meal where we can all enjoy and benefit from those herbs."

Proditor nodded in agreement. "They might actually somehow make Rapax and Toraigon stronger. Once we find Blues and Optimus, we'll eat a proper feast together, Shahir, worry not."

Then, Shahir said something in his booming mental voice that made Proditor flinch. "How are you feeling, after the meal?" The raised human looked down at his body, and noted his aura was much more subdued. His cloak and garments seemed normal, not flaring with fiery waves of evil.

Proditor shrugged. "Amazing, actually…but I can tell the Shadow's influence has waned. For now, I will keep it this way. Back into your spheres, my friends. First, we will retrieve Malum and Blues, and then, onto our next target. The Italia Region."

Some Time Later… - Naranuva Academy, Paldea Region

Festivus had come and gone without Cassius Proditor even noticing. He'd retrieved Malum on Festivus Eve and made the Kalos Police look like absolute fools as he did so, thanks to Shahir's portals. He had only able to find one of Morgana's partners, Morgrem, when he'd done the same thing in Rio, but the Morgrem was apparently the only one they hadn't managed to cleanse, for some reason. To Proditor, it was like the Shadow was somehow imbued into his energy network, and not just his body and mind. His status said he was clean after the meal, but Proditor sensed it within his energy network, just waiting to burst out. He hoped that wouldn't get them caught, and opted to keep the Grimmsnarl contained, for now. Very quickly, any trail he might have left went cold before the Scales even heard about the incidents, thanks to Shahir. A day later, a new policy that included at least one Scale for each Shadow Pokémon was implemented across the Empire's prisons, with the goal of rehabilitation and release, or adding said Pokémon to someone's team. Many of those used by the Crusaders were popular battling species, so finding them a willing Trainer wouldn't be difficult, and many people were desperate for a quick and easy powerhouse to add to their team before the World Tournament's rankings solidified into the final thirty-two.

From Kalos, Proditor had gone on foot to Paldea, arriving at Naranuva Academy in the final hours of Festivus Day. He disguised himself as a generic looking returning ten-year-old in a standard outfit that blended orange and purple. They were two colors that should've really never been put together, but oddly enough, the color scheme kind of worked. Once inside the academy, Proditor had no trouble finding suits of long faded Ceruledge lining the storied halls. The trick was finding his Ceruledge.

It took all night, and thankfully, not too long after the sun rose, there was some sort of loud building shaking distraction that kept everyone busy, while Proditor scoured every single ancient nook and cranny of the massive, ancient school in his tiny disguise, and carefully examined each faded Ceruledge he found for the telltale marks on his armor that Proditor had inscribed himself. Distracted as everyone working at the academy seemed to be, not one person noticed him.

Eventually, he did find his Ceruledge's armor, in the deepest, dankest corner of the academy, in levels so old and low scientists had no idea what they'd actually once been used for. Blue's aged form crumbled when he touched it, all save for the unique band he'd created in the past to bind the shards of defeated Polteageists together. He still sensed his partner though, and then realized why. His friend had reincarnated, and somewhat recently, too. He almost decided to just find another Charcadet, but he knew how Shahir and the others would react and resigned himself to the new spark. He would no longer be Blues, he'd have a new flame and a new name, but at his core, he'd still be their brother.

With unnatural speed from jumping from shadow to shadow, Proditor headed out of Mesagoza's eastern gate, and quickly came upon his target. He was sprinting, at full speed, towards Mesagoza, eyes locked on the giant academy's Pokéball in the distance. "Oi!" Proditor shouted, causing the Charcadet to stop sprinting. Its eyes narrowed, and it fired a large Ember at him. Proditor's form swirled and shifted back to his usual appearance, and he psychically dissipated the attack with a snap of his fingers. The Charcadet's eyes widened as it charged forward again, then saw his face. Proditor knelt down, meeting his fierce eyes as the tiny burning warrior slowed, and stopped. "Do you know who I am?" He asked quietly.

The Charcadet shook his head. From what Proditor sensed, he was eager, desperate even, to find his younger brother. A Trainer had captured him earlier in the day, and the Charcadet wasn't going to just let him vanish. He was too precious and special to belong to some human who already had plenty of partners. "But I look familiar to you." Proditor continued. Slowly, the Charcadet nodded. "You and I were friends, in another life. When you wore the armor of a Ceruledge." The Charcadet's eyes widened, and it nodded. It seemed to remember something of its previous incarnation, at least. It had to, given how long Blue's flame had to have burned for, before capitulating to entropy, and the cycle of life. "I can get you that armor again."

The Charcadet seemed to pause, and then shook his head. He needed to find his brother. Proditor sighed, as in all likelihood, his brother was long gone. Paldean Trainers had a tendency to hop regions thanks to their robust transfer programs and universal credit system. He'd learned a lot when scouring the school's computers, which was where he found a detailed guide to every known set of faded Ceruledge armor that lined the school's halls. "I will help you search for your brother. But when we don't find him, come and train with me. You'll have a much easier time searching for him once you evolve. I can help you do that." He offered the night-colored crystalline sphere that seemed to glow with a ghostly fire from within. The Charcadet stared at it, then back at Proditor. It was unnerving how familiar he and this sphere were. But he did want to enter it. He nodded his head, entered the capture sphere, and it pulsed, as it cemented its occupant.

"You need a name, my friend." Proditor said, as the Charcadet was brought out again. "In your last life you chose the name of a heroic figure, known for his shield, and sometimes his sword. You were able to turn your dominant arm into both. This time…we will call you Sparda, and you will be a force akin to a Demon in Battle. The greatest Dark Knight to ever live." He smirked at the reference only he was ancient enough to appreciate, but the Charcadet mulled the name over in his head, and then nodded. He liked it.

South Province, Area Three - Paldea Region

Alex hopped off of Shruikan, as they reached their destination. He'd left home, and Jess, just after his interview, and their parents had, predictably, been furious. Every single one of the younger Redwoods had congratulated him and Eric though, for the younger brother had not escaped his father's wrath either. The fact that these paradigm shifting machines that eradicated his business and devalued his precious currency had been created right next to his house had set him off, and the old man had not been calm when Alex decided to bounce. His mother wasn't thrilled about using Pokémon materials instead of currency, as she erroneously believed them to be dirty creatures, but she at least understood the obvious good that her sons had managed to create. Alex assured her that Tao was also on board, and for her, that had been enough. Her being proud of him was all Alex had really wanted from his parents by this point. His father, as far as he cared, could go pound Palossand. His whinging would be exactly as effective against the changes that were coming, and despite his furious protests, Alex had assured his mother, and Jessica's, that they'd both have a proper unchecked Item Printer, once they were able to safely create materials, as well as food.

For obvious reasons, he and Tao had not distributed machines the world over that could spawn the components for, say, explosives, from Infinity Energy. But the Food Replicators were managed by a Rotom, and were safe and easy to use. They also couldn't be hacked to create anything other than food, as unlike the Item Printers, they lacked an infinitesimal shard of a Plate of every type. He looked out over Area Three of the southern Paldean province and breathed in the fresh air, glad to be back. Marinette and Adrien were still at her parent's place apparently, but he was in no rush to cut her vacation short. With how fast and how far she'd advanced with her partner in justice, they had earned a break.

Aside from intending to catch a Beldum, the Charcadet line had also caught his eye. He knew Arthur would want to train with a Ceruledge, and while Jess had tried to hide it from him, he'd noted her new partner, Rouge. The name was a bit on the nose, but it suited her flame's color perfectly. As he thought of Arthur, his Gallade appeared beside him, smirking at his expression of surprise. "Gwen is with Jess now, and things are…calmer…back home. Nothing Erek and my staff can't handle. So. Here I am. Ready to become a World Champion…if you guys will still have me."

Alex smirked at his Gallade. "I don't know, lads, should we take him back? Canis, thoughts?" As expected, his Lucario leapt forth from his ball with a snarl at his older brother.

"If you want my spot, Your Highness, you will have to claim it." His aura burned to life around him, covering him in fighting energy.

Arthur just sighed, in almost the exact same way his Trainer did. "So, it's like that, then."

"It is." Alex said, looking between them. Two clones of himself split off, and stood by his fighting types, who'd now locked eyes. "This will be good practice against myself…and a lesson, for both of you. Come. Up on that…large, flat mountain in the distance. That should be remote enough not to catch anyone in your Battle."

After a moment to translocate, both Canis and Arthur Teleported to the spot with their clones. After a short session training with Alex, the aura hound had easily grasped the basics of Teleport, not too surprising, given how many psychic moves he could, and had, learned. Moments later, loud clashes began thundering from atop the peak, but Alex prime focused back on his goal. He shot into the air, and began scanning the red rock canyons, so very similar to the Majestic Canyon back in the Empire, for the telltale red flame of a Charcadet.

After about an hour of soaring around, and surprising quite a lot of ground bound Trainers in Naranuva Academy uniforms, he found one with the right nature. A naturally adamant Ceruledge would, he assumed, become as powerful as a naturally adamant Gallade had. Plenty of Gallade loved fighting, but Alex was convinced it was Arthur's nature that had caused him to train tirelessly, hard enough to propel him to the level of the Victory League's Elite Four, and a mint just wasn't going to be able to, in his opinion, fundamentally change a Pokémon enough to be that driven. His Lucario, for example, had eaten a Modest Mint, and yet his personality still remained mild, most of the time his stats may have reflected that nature, but his personality had not changed. Arthur was always able to get him riled up. The proud aura hound did not like how skewed their personal win to loss ratio was.

Alex landed by the Charcadet, who seemed to be struggling to reach a berry. He built up an ember, but it went astray, probably thanks in no small part to his special moves being hot garbage. "Hello there!" Alex said, as he landed behind the tiny fire warrior.

The Charcadet's eyes went wide, and it meeped, before whirling on him, eyes aflame. Alex held out a juicy Figy Berry, and the young Pokémon's eyes went wide, as drool ran from his mouth, dousing his Ember. He was rather hungry, and Alex had his favorite berry dangling before him. He set it down, and the Charcadet looked up at him. "Go ahead." Alex said. "It's all yours, if you'll talk to me, for a bit. Don't worry, I can understand your words."

"Thank you…" He hissed in his fiery voice, before he dug into the meal, grunting softly as the perfect Figy taste rolled over his fiery little tongue. His head flame burned hotter, turning blue around the edges, and Alex smirked. That, was a sure sign that a Charcadet was rather powerful, or ready for evolution. Given how young this guy seemed, he guessed it was a sign of latent power, as yet untapped since he probably didn't have a physical fire move yet.

"I'm putting a team together." Alex started. "We're aiming to be World Champions. The strongest Battlers in the entire world." He gestured to the world around him, and the Charcadet chewed slower, as he realized he understood the human perfectly. Like he understood other Pokémon. "I'd like a Ceruledge on my team, if you're willing to join me. I can make you very strong. The strongest in the world."

The Charcadet looked at him, and then chuckled. "Heh. You're serious." He let out a hum as he swallowed more Figy deliciousness. "I am already strong, Human. How much stronger could you really make me?"

Alex chuckled. He had to admire that disgusting amount of confidence in a Pokémon so young. "Blaze." He said, and the leader of his fire types appeared in a flash of red. He leaned down, as Alex tossed him a large Wiki Berry. He had long since increased his own personal berry farms, and now his clones could tend, gather, and re-plant them whenever they were ready. His stores had quickly grown into the hundreds, though he hadn't grown one of each type to such numbers yet. Figy and Wiki berries were the ones he wanted to max out first, since a rather large number of his partners were naturally adamant or modest or had varying attack or special attack typed natures. Many of them were so defense heavy naturally that he didn't need to raise it further. Blaze eyed the Charcadet, and then looked at Alex as he munched, and swallowed. "Really? This one?"

Alex nodded, and smirked. Despite knowing better, his Charizard still sometimes judged by size. Especially fire types. He smacked his lizard lips, and then locked eyes with the Charcadet. He didn't roar, but a low growl filled the entire area, as the acoustics worked to his Charizard's favor. His tail flame surged, to blue, and then to a white so bright it hurt to look at. Alex immediately started sweating with the rapid rise in temperature. Some Charizard had naturally blue tail flames, but they also tended to set their surroundings on fire quite often. If they were trained, they often ended up staying in their ball or the PC, where their flames wouldn't light anything up. Blaze had long since learned that trick, and mastered how hot he could get going at all times. He could maintain the brilliant white flames for well over an hour.

"What makes you think you can join us, little soldier?" He taunted from his superior height. The longer the brilliant flame burned, the more it seemed to hurt or somehow bother the Charcadet.

Fire leapt back into the little one's eyes, despite how uncomfortable he was finding the Charizard's heat, he stood his ground. He was fire. He would not be cowed by it. "I'm more than good enough for your team." He said flatly, "Although…I have to admit…you are both strong. I can tell." He looked down for a moment, finished off his berry, and then nodded. "Alright." He said, looking at Alex. "Make me as strong as the lizard, and I will fight for you."

Blaze's eyes narrowed, and perhaps because his tail was going so hot, he struck before he even realized he'd formed the Dragon Pulse. It boomed loudly through the canyons, exploding nearly point blank on the Charcadet, and fainted it instantly. "Blaze!" Alex shouted, glaring at him.

"Dragon." He snarled, and only once the semi-conscious whelp had let out a pained acknowledgement, did he return to his ball with a prideful snort. Alex fed the small, fainted fire warrior a Max Revive, and just like that, almost miraculously, an injury that would've likely taken days to completely recover from in the wild became a memory, like it had never happened. Most wild Pokémon knew humans had miraculous healing items, but the young Charcadet had now experienced them firsthand. He could tell it was some sort of potent berry mixed with…something human-made probably, but it definitely worked. He was also glad the Charizard had been holding back. He'd had Pokémon try to eat him before, and he had no illusions that, if the desire to end his life had been there, Blaze could've literally blown him off the face of the earth.

Alex offered him a blurpleish Luxury Ball, but the Charcadet paused. He knew how to enter it; he'd seen enough Pokémon get captured in this area right next to the human's largest nest. "My brother…I should probably tell him where I'm going." Alex nodded, and pressed the ball to him, and while it shook a bit, it eventually dinged. He opened it again, then, and the Charcadet popped back out without really getting to experience the interior of his new home.

"We can leave him a message at the place you two rest. Lead me there. Then, we really do have to get going…but the walk will give us time for a nickname." Alex said, letting the Charcadet lead. "What do you see yourself as, once you evolve?"

The Charcadet pondered. He did sometimes have…strange dreams. Dreams that he was a powerful Ceruledge, one who could change his swords into a shield, and even a very very long sword not unlike a lance, if he pushed his limits. He closed his eyes as they walked, picturing it. "A…a knight. A powerful, dual wielding warrior."

Alex made a 'hmm' noise as they walked, and eventually reached what seemed to be the Pokémon's nest. He set to work leaving a message of flame and scorching that only a Charcadet would be able to fully understand. For his part, Alex was going through his mental list of popular, dual wielding knights that used two swords, and while his nerd brain did immediately settle on one, it was a bit too obvious, though as he went through the list of actual dual wielders, he realized it was actually pitifully short. For Jedi and for Sith. "How about…Tano?"

The Charcadet's flame lessened, and his eyes seemed…disappointed. "I don't know…"

"Okay…" Alex said, sighing. There really was only one logical choice, he just hoped he wasn't dooming his little fiery friend to a hard life by giving him the name. "There is one legendary, powerful warrior in particular famous for wielding dual swords. A master of both the Light and the Dark." The Charcadet's eyes widened, and his flame burned back to what Alex determined was excitement, maybe. "His name was Revan."

The small fire warrior literally shuddered, and then nodded eagerly, as the flame on his head surged. "Oh, I like that one. Rrrevan. Revan. Yes. I shall live up to that name!" He declared, looking up at his new Trainer.

Alex chuckled. Arthur had certainly, and literally, lived up to his. He just hoped this Revan had an easier time of things than his namesake. "Alright, Revan. We'll get some Polteageist shards once I'm done at the Academy." He said, pointing at the massive building visible in the distance. "Then you should evolve once you have your armor…and after that, you'll be ready to train." He gave the small fiery warrior some more Figy berries, and then recalled him, chuckling. Most people these days weren't old enough to have played the Knights of the Old Republic, a game based on the ancient history of the Pokémon Wars Saga, so the name wouldn't be too immediately obvious, except to fellow nerds. With Revan secure and sated, he leapt into the air and hurtled towards the peak that Canis and Arthur were apparently waiting for him to join them on.

As he landed, Canis barked at him, "Finally! We need to Mega Evolve, to settle this!"

"Hold on, Canis." Arthur said, much more calmly. He seemed to have mastered the art of perpetual chill, like his Trainer, and then, Alex realized, Gwen had probably had something to do with that. Arthur had always spent his considerable fighting type endurance on training, but there were other outlets. Alex didn't psychically pry into the details, though, mostly because, ew, but also because he knew his Gallade had been as courteous and honorable as he always was. There were, as his granduncle had often said while inebriated, 'some mysteries of Pokémon best left unanswered'. Alex was more…proud? His little Ralts was officially all grown up. He seemed to have finally taken a rest, too, once Albion was safe. His mind seemed calmer, and less intensely driven and focused on achieving power. He wasn't out of shape by any means, he'd just devoted his time to something other than constant training for a while and seemed to be living his best life. Alex was glad he was back, though. Sensing what he wanted, he called out Revan, who looked up at his new human, and then took in Canis and Arthur.

His eyes widened as he looked between them, though his burning orbs of adoration were inevitably drawn to the Gallade's sword arms, which were ready for battle. "Revan, right?" Arthur said, kneeling down and smirking. "You're about as tall as I was when I met Alex. Stronger, though. I'm Arthur. That's Canis. We'll likely be the ones teaching you the finer points of our style."

The Charcadet's eyes widened, and he looked between all three of them. "You have a style of combat!?"

Canis nodded, taking over. As impressed as Revan was with Arthur and his Excalibur, the aura hound was a more obvious example of a top-level battler. Revan had seen Lucario around before, but those scavenging mutts had been nothing like Canis. He stood tall, proud, fierce, and Revan knew he was probably a very powerful warrior. Arthur was too, but he seemed…better at hiding it? The Charcadet knew who had more experience battling, just by looking, but in terms of age, the Lucario seemed older. Or that was the vibe he got from their new, strange psychic mental link, anyway.

"The Dragon Style." Canis growled. "You will learn it as well, and you will be as fierce as the rest of us."

Arthur winked at him, and Alex smirked. "There's a few…other styles I've been expanding and attempting to master, in my recent free time. I'll show you those, too, once you have your swords. For now…watch and learn, little brother."

Alex chuckled as the eager Charcadet decided that his broad shoulder and height would be the ideal spot to watch from, and once he was comfortable, Alex nodded at the pair. They'd already started, of course, but they'd found their base forms too equal to properly let loose. And Alex prime had all the Plates. Doing some training of his own, Alex levitated two of his rarely used spare Plates to his clones, as Arthur and Canis took their spots again. Activating just two at a time wasn't too difficult, though he had to reach out to the Plates one at a time, once he had, he could activate them simultaneously, but only if he channeled the energy of his bodily network through the clones, and into them. That energy had a much shorter range, before it was just overpowered by the flow of psychic typed energy. It wasn't dragon type, so he assumed it must be normal type energy, or Spiral Power, as his granduncle had called it.

Canis and Arthur were close enough for it to reach them, and resonate with their own bodily networks, propelling both of them to their Mega Forms. Revan's eyes somehow got even wider. "Can…I do that too?" He murmured to Alex, and Alex just smirked. El Primero had famously made good use of Mega Ceruledge since using Plates for Mega Evolution had become a thing. He'd even combined it with Terastallization once, but that had made the Mega Form harder to sustain. As open as the Leagues were to giving Trainers free reign with their battle power ups, they limited it to one at a time in matches, for the safety of the Pokémon. Combining them was only for dire situations, and presumably only the strongest Pokémon, like El Primero's Ceruledge, would be able to maintain it long enough to matter in a battle.

As Canis and Arthur's psychic auras met and began sparking in the air between them, they disappeared in simultaneous flashes, and Revan squinted, only barely following them when Arthur made contact with the steel type. Alex shared his vision, glanced at Revan, who was still looking forward, then focused back on the fight. His psychic gaze could keep up with them, and he noted they hadn't actually used many moves yet. Canis had his aura bone out, but Arthur was simply holding a charged Sacred Sword, and blocking it. He wasn't even wasting Sacred Sword's power to do so. Not with every hit, at least.

Frustrated with his lack of damage, Canis's claws became wreathed in ghost energy that dissipated his aura weapon. Arthur simply raised his Shadow Punches, and kept blocking, but the Mega Lucario did not let up. Alex frowned, as he knew Canis should be aware of Arthur's plan, but he just kept using Shadow Claw. It was at least damaging Arthur this time. A little.

Canis tightened up his attacks, spinning and swirling into them, and using the claws on his feet as well, but Arthur easily did the same thing, and Alex was glad to see he'd been able to perfect Shadow Kick. That was the kind of technique one could make a TM out of. And he wasn't even a ghost type. Furious at how well the Gallade manipulated energy, Canis launched away from their clash of kicks, and then spread his arms wide. Alex winced, as he burned through Shadow Ball's power to conjure multiple spheres at once, dense, as always, but small and fast. They hurtled towards Arthur as Canis, all in the space of five seconds, followed with a massive Shadow Ball that consumed the rest of his power. He was spending his ghost move's energy far too fast, but Arthur was about to show him that. "Watch closely, Revan." Alex murmured, guiding their combined gaze. Time seemed to slow, for them. "This is the difference between level, and experience."

Arthur was moving at about the average jogger's pace to their eyes, even in this slowed view of reality. He danced past the Shadow Ball barrage easily, dropped and rolled under the massive one, and then twisted his malleable body into a crouch, right before Canis, and under his guard. Alex sighed, as his aura hound reacted too slowly. By the time his eyes locked onto Arthur's new position, the King of Albion was already rising like a phoenix, flames effortlessly covering his sword fist as he struck upwards, and let the flames carry him past Canis as he delivered a burning uppercut to his jaw. Canis hadn't taken too much damage so far, but he had taken enough for Fire Punch to knock him out. It didn't help that Arthur also hammered a weak point.

Alex recalled the aura hound to his ball, and fed him a Max Revive, as Arthur walked over, still perpetually calm. "You've gotten better." Alex said, approvingly.

Arthur inclined his head. "It wasn't all fun and frolicking in Albion. C'mon. We should get moving."

Alex nodded, recalled the two backs to their balls, and then flew towards Naranuva Academy in the distance.

(For this next part, events will be happening concurrently with what Proditor has been up to.)

Mesagoza - Paldea Region

Alex and Khan strode up the infamous staircase to the Naranuva Academy, with the bulky Torracat from Eous getting looks as they did so. Festivus Day had been a good break, but Khan preferred traveling with his team, training, eating together, and relaxing, like they had just done in one of Mesagoza's park areas. He did like some of his so-called sisters, but they'd been shy around the horde of new male faces, and he hadn't spoken to them much during Festivus. He stuck close to his Trainer, and mrowled as he noted that, once on the school's grounds past the gate, the students around them had immediately noticed their presence. They didn't seem hostile, yet, but Khan was cautious by nature, around this many unfamiliar humans.

"It's alright, Khan." His Trainer said, as they approached the ancient mahogany doors, one engraved with grapes, and the other with an orange, just like the pillars by the gate had been. "I think someone mentioned we'd be visiting. You might want to stay in your ball, for this. It'll probably get loud." Khan nodded, more than content to return to his absurdly comfortable pocket plane. He vanished in a flash of black-limned crimson right as Alex entered the academy's foyer. He stared in shock at the decorations. Everything that had once been evenly split between scarlet and violet, was now black and white. Even the floors, which made Alex suspect a powerful psychic had altered them.

Banners with the Dragon Empire's symbol, Tao's symbol, the Taijitu sphere embodying Balance, hung from the balconies leading up to the higher floors of the school's main entrance. Then, he took in the crowd. After endeavoring to get to know his fanbase more, he realized he had two large centers of fans. Those in Unova, who were typically older, had battled him once or twice before he became a Hero of Unova, and those in the expanding global network of schools that connected many States in the Empire, Japan, Galar, Italia, Indius, Rio, and of course, Paldea. Being arguably the oldest academy on the planet, it was Paldea who had begun this global endeavor at solid, fact-based education on everything from Pokémon battling to science, higher mathematics, and the other core subjects that most employers looked for in qualified workers. It was in this interconnected grouping of youngsters that the majority of his fans seemed to reside, though there was no limit on who could enroll based on age in Paldea, he was led to understand that many of the underclassmen were fans of how he battled. Most of the older students were fans of El Primero, who had a much, much larger majority among the student population compared to Alex's.

Alex actually spied El Primero in the crowd, briefly, as they shouted their greeting to him. He forced a smirk on his face and waved awkwardly. Seeing his true skill with crowds, Director Clavell came to his aid. Age had caused his famously impressive posture to stoop and require a cane, but the fiery passion in his eyes had not dimmed to the advancing of his mortal coil. "Emperor Redwood. Welcome. Your Empress said you would visit, and since then, many of our students have been…eager to greet you. I understand you wish to take our Terastal Course, for a Tera Orb, correct?"

Alex nodded, focusing on the old man's friendly eyes as he composed himself. "Aye. Though I could be persuaded to answer a question or two, if that's what the kiddos want."

It seemed he'd spoken just loud enough for them to hear him, because many of them simultaneously shouted 'YES!' as soon as the words left his mouth. Clavell smiled at him. "My very next request was to have you do so. Excellent. Because you're a no doubt busy World Leader, we've decided to expedite your test, as we did with your better half. In light of your status as a Champion, if you agree to face one of the Paldea League's Elite Four, we will grant you a Tera Orb, provided you can safely control it during the Battle."

"Can I pick who I'm facing?" Alex asked, hopefully.

"Obviously not." Came a raspy but feminine voice. Its owner was a rather lovely woman, though she dressed more like a businessman, her outfit was sharper than most men who wore outfits similar to hers, and frankly, she wore it better. He recognized her as Rika of the Paldea League's Elite Four, and wondered if the ancient academy would be able to withstand a clash between two fairly well-known ground type users. Rika smirked at him. "I know that look. But alas, I am not your opponent today. When we discussed who you'd face, our resident Dragon Master very loudly insisted that he be the one to test the 'so-called Dragon Emperor'." She said, using air quotes and a deep mocking voice, seemingly quoting Hassel directly. "He's waiting up in the school's yard, if you'll follow me."

Alex would've picked Hassel anyways, were the choice left to him. The head of the Drachenfel Dragon Masters who resided in Germania had been among those who reportedly did not care for him, though not because of policy or anything like that. By claiming the title of Dragon Emperor, the clan claimed he had somehow stolen it from the first Dragon Emperor's lineage, and he was a man who many Draconid clans claimed blood ties to. They considered Alex an unworthy usurper, as his own lineage was not, by their account, tied to the Harmonia line in any measurable way, and in their culture, only the Harmonia line was worthy of holding that title, and wielding Tao's power. Rika handed him a Tera Orb as they entered the school's elevator, and Alex inhaled sharply as a brand-new kind of energy made contact with his essence.

"Since you were the one to figure out Plates and how to use their shards for Mega Evolution, I'm sure you can figure out how to reach out to a Tera Orb." Rika said, watching him with sharp, but interested eyes.

"It's…this power is…" Alex trailed off, as he gazed into the orb. He felt his vision swirl, as a pair of eyes met his through the crystal and brought him to their owner. He was somewhere sunny and comfortable, on what looked like a beach though as Alex found himself looking at what he knew to be Terapagos, the fur covered crystal turtle met his eyes, and then lifted a paw in friendly greeting. Alex smirked, murmured, "Hello there…" and then pocketed the Tera Orb.

Rika just stared, a smirk covering her countenance as well. "You just saw him, didn't you." Alex nodded. "Fascinating…we theorized they were directly connected to Terapagos, but you basically just confirmed that…did he seem to know what was going on?" She asked, as the elevator dinged.

Alex shrugged. "I think he can guess. He didn't seem averse to me using his power, though." Rika just nodded, and strode out onto the yard, hands in her pockets. Alex followed; eyes wide as he realized just how large the academy school yard was. The stands hidden below the track were already raised, and there was an entrance through them that Rika was leading him to.

She stopped before it and gestured. "Good luck, Redwood. You're going to need it. I haven't seen Hassel this fired up in a long time."

Alex thanked her, and then ducked as he made his way through the opening that was not made for people with his height. He stood and covered his eyes as he emerged right into the glare of the sun from outside the school yard, to the sound of many excited cheers. They were rather high up above Mesagoza, and it was just about noon, by Alex's guess, as he emerged. He looked around, and headed to what he assumed was his side of the field. Then, he turned and faced his opponent.

Hassel Drachenfel stood in the opposing Trainer box, arms crossed, his large, intense golden eyes glaring his way. His blonde hair was now more of a platinum blonde, thanks to age and gray hairs, and his teaching outfit now incorporated a proper emerald green cape that signified his status as a Dragon Master, and the head of his clan. Alex nodded to himself, as even across the battlefield, he could tell the man possessed a fire capable of taming dragon types. It was just like the aura he'd felt from the elder and his people when he'd gotten Maromnis from the Draconid clan residing in the Oath Woods. "USURPER!" Hassel suddenly shouted, quieting the crowd of mostly students with his voice as they heard how serious it was. To many, this was the first time they'd seen their gentle, good natured art teacher so…fierce. He raised an Ultra Ball at Alex. "Today…I redeem the Clans! And all those that have accepted your usurpation without issue, despite your unworthiness! When I'm done with you, you'll be leaving without a Tera Orb and without that stolen title that belongs to MY people!"

Alex heard the crowd murmuring, somewhat concerned. Apparently, their teacher wasn't usually like this. Many had seemed to think this would be a standard friendly contest between two Trainers with a surplus of dragons at their command. But it was clear to all that the old man was furious. Alex stood tall, draped in the leathery black cloak of Alduin's flesh that served as his own proof of Dragon Mastery. His Voice reached all of them, as he calmly responded. "I have earned the title of Dragon Emperor. I passed the Trial of Eight Paths, and I do actually have Draconid blood in my veins, though I admit I never met my great great grandmother to ask her about its source. I accept your terms, Hassel Drachenfel! For a Tera Orb and the title of Dragon Emperor…let us Battle! Six on six, World Tournament rules." As he said that, a Drone Rotom appeared, and displayed their stats. As expected, Hassel was also in the Ultra Class, quite a bit higher up than Alex was in fact, and he made no objection to making this a World Tournament match.

Hassel threw his ball then, shouting, "Archon! Dragon Pulse this Usurper! Blow him away!" Alex's eyes widened, as he threw his own pick. Kalagon emerged on the field, much higher level after the training to elevate his attack power. A clone of Alex was, at that very moment, helping the special attackers raise their own stats on Casseroya Lake, but Kalagon was ready. He should have evolved by now after Earthquaking so many Bisharp and Pawniard, but Alex had a feeling the large Gabite needed the right push to reach his final form. Archon would be that push.

Alex knew of the Archaludon, who was famously regarded as a sacred and ancient dragon type among the Draconid clans. He had, according to their legends, served the first Dragon Emperor, and all those who came after, passed down from descendant to descendant. At some point, the Drachenfel clan had claimed him in Germania, and in Germania he had stayed for quite some time now. The ancient steel titan regarded his opponents for a moment, and then gathered the swirling blurple energy required for a Dragon Pulse. It wasn't condensed, but it did take the form of a draconic head, signifying Archon's mastery of the move, as it hurtled towards Kalagon in the space of seconds.

"Dig!" Alex ordered, but Kalagon just snorted. Alex raised an eyebrow as his partner raised a claw, for a Dragon Claw. Then, that claw started to shine with a familiar light, and Alex understood what he was doing. The claw came down on the Dragon Pulse, dispersing its energy, which then swirled up and around Kalagon as he roared, and used the painful but powerful dragon energy to ascend to his final form. Apparently, all he'd been waiting for was a worthy opponent. The entire school seemed to shake with his roar as the light faded, and the massive Garchomp announced his presence in the world. "You alright, Kal?" Alex asked, as the evolution faded. Sometimes, Garchomp could go a little berserk after evolving. His eyes were on fire, and he was breathing heavily as new and powerful hormones flooded his brain and body, but he nodded at his Trainer, and then dove into the earth, as ordered.

Archon's defense rose sharply as Hassel ordered it to improve its defenses with more iron, but it only blunted the attack that Kalagon delivered as he leapt from the earth with another roar. The damage was still significant, but Archon was nowhere near done, and his defenses rose another stage after the attack, as a blue aura surged up around him. Up close, Kalagon realized just how ancient his opponent truly was. "Blow the runt away!" Hassel shouted, and another Dragon Pulse formed to do just that. Archon didn't show it physically, but his ancient eyes were just as angry as his Trainer's.

"Dodge, Kalagon! Then Brick Break! It can't turn easily, attack from its blind spot!" Alex ordered, but the land shark heard him from across the field. He glided through the air easily to the unwieldy bridge dragon's blind spot, but Archon kept powering the Dragon Pulse regardless. The Brick Break landed, but like Dig, only made its defense rise to a combined total of four stages, now. The damage was significant but lessened by quite a lot at this point. The Dragon Pulse fired, and arced behind Archon in the air as the ancient Pokémon effortlessly controlled the trajectory of his attack. "Get out of there, Kalagon! Back to me!"

Kalagon was already in the ground, as he sensed what his Trainer intended. The Dragon Pulse exploded uselessly as its size was too thick to enter the hole left by Dig. Usually, it was a bad idea to Mega Evolve a freshly evolved dragon type, especially the likes of Garchomp and Salamence, but against an Archaludon with Stamina as its ability, it was very necessary. As Kalagon popped up by his Trainer, panting but still largely unharmed, the slightly damaged bridge dragon prepared another, larger, Dragon Pulse as Hassel's command.

Alex spoke into Kalagon's mind, and his calming Words helped the fresh Garchomp focus. "Peace, Kalagon. You will have a moment to unleash your rage in this Battle. Save it, for now. Archon will eventually counter you, but all we need you to do is weaken it enough for Shruikan to finish." Kalagon wanted to finish the titanic Archon himself, but Alex knew his dodging ability would, eventually, lose to the ancient special attacker's uncanny aim. Still, he was a sucker for his partners. "You really want to finish him, huh?" Alex asked, and he saw the Garchomp grin with malice. He wanted the strength beating such a strong dragon would give him, and Alex nodded. "Alright. We can certainly try. In that case…" He verbalized his next words for all to hear, "Dragon Dance!"

Kalagon raised his fins parallel to each other, and then vigorously brought them down in a vertical motion. Draconic energy surged around the field, and Archon's eyes narrowed, as it watched the stationary Garchomp. Kalagon shifted into a stance not unlike the Dragon Style's then, one fin raised, one fin low, with his center in between them. His legs were similarly simultaneously raised and lowered. He swirled gracefully then and struck the empty air with his left fin. His body shifted, as he struck with the right, and then he brought them both down in a diagonal slash. Power surged around him, and he roared, as Archon finally fired the Dragon Pulse. It had shifted to a deep crimson coloring, once more taking on the form of a roaring draconic head and wings that, at this level of power, reminded Alex very much of Tao's countenance.

"Into the air! Outrun it, and then come around its blind spot!" Alex shouted, as he subtly materialized the armor on his right fist, keeping it hidden under his cloak for now. The Draco Plate fused to the dragonbone began to resonate. Kalagon proved just a hair faster than the drake-seeking pulse that seemed to have a mind of its own, as it was determined to strike its target.

Time slowed for Kalagon and his Trainer, as he came around Archon's rather large blind spot. "Dragon Ace!" Alex called the move, and despite not being on the ground, Kalagon found that flight, and the ridiculous speed it gave him, actually made using his draconic version of Aerial Ace much easier. As he built up the power, his body grew, as Alex raised his Salamence headed fist. Dragon energy surged again as Kalagon struck with his Mega Form's rather damaging scythes, with a critical strike that made Archon's eyes widen in pain, even through four tiers of raised defense.

Unfortunately for Kalagon, Archon had also critically struck, and his violent Dragon Pulse rocked the younger dragon with the power of ages, sending him hurtling into the energy barriers of the field. He hit the ground hard, but was still conscious, as once more his iron will to battle, fueled by his evolution mostly, kept him on the edge of consciousness. He roared at Archon as the massive dragon became limned in fighting energy, prepared to smash him with five tiers of raised defense, but then Kalagon vanished, as Alex recalled him. The ball struggled in his grip, but Alex growled at it. "Calm down. You need a Potion to keep going, and right now, Shruikan can take Archon, and most of Hassel's team. Patience, Kalagon. You're not done yet." The catchphrase seemed to placate his shark dragon, but unfortunately for Shruikan, he would not be able to Mega Evolve while Kalagon retained his power. That was fine though, as the proud Salamence was more than okay with being the first to wield Terapagos's power.

A white and black flash brought out the black Salamence, and Archon whirled as he heard the powerful roar of a worthy rival. The draconic ace of the first Dragon Emperor stared down the draconic ace of the current one, and the energy around the field shifted from dragon, to electric. Archon let out a deep, rumbling snarl through its metallic body, one that Shruikan answered in kind. Alex didn't interpret it as words, but he grasped its meaning. Alex knew Shruikan was not amused with how the Drachenfel clan saw them, and it was disappointing that Archon apparently felt the same way they did. Electricity began to spark over both of them, and their respective auras electrified the field as well, as they clashed in the field's center. The air became heavy as the two top level dragons prepared for combat, and Alex noted Hassel applying his single Potion for the battle cheekily as this occurred. Alex sighed but knew it wouldn't matter. Archon was up five stages of physical defense. His species' special defense was infamously terrible. All that power came at a price. In terms of numbers his special defenses may well have been in the low two hundreds, a rather high number thanks to Archon's level, but Shruikan's attack power was now probably double that, as last Alex had checked after their training by Fury Falls, he was sitting at a terrifying, but unsurprising, four hundred and twenty attack power. In his base form. Because of how Plasma Bomb worked, it would make full use of that strength. That massive attack power came at a cost to speed and other stats, but Shruikan wasn't worried. His vitamin rich diet and his training made up for that loss as much as they could.

Hassel and Alex had the same idea, as both men raised their Tera Orbs. Alex genuinely didn't know what type Shruikan would retain, dragon or electric, but he was willing to bet on electric. Shruikan had always been good at commanding storms, but since whatever he'd gone through in his kind's secret homeland, lightning had answered him easier than before, and he'd gained a few new tricks from it. The first was Plasma Bomb, which was a special attack that used his attack power for its damage, provided it was fired correctly at a high enough speed. The second only happened when he was hit by electric attacks, and Alex knew Hassel wouldn't resist the chance for a Tera powered Charge Shot.

Terastal energy emanated from the thrown Tera Orbs, and it coalesced around both dragon types, as they became the singular type they were at their core. A crystalline shield of aura covered both of them, and a lightbulb containing the lightning bolt symbol of electric types appeared over both of them, before it shattered, and empowered their crystalline shields with electric yellow colored energy. Large tendrils of burning plasma sparked over their respective forms. Alex just stared, grinning, as he saw the 'new' form of Terastallizing. According to his granduncle, the Terastal phenomenon had once caused large, goofy looking crystalline crowns to appear over the Pokémon who wielded that power. However, in the years since a certain Champion of Champions had caught, Tamed, and empowered the Terapagos responsible for Paldea's unique battle phenomenon, it had changed to the current form. The power boost Terastallizing gave had apparently increased, and the silly looking crowns were gone. Alex considered that a win, as he'd seen videos of the old form of Terastallization, and always found those old battles comical to watch.

Any Pokémon would have issues moving around and fighting with such an obnoxiously large piece of headwear, but Shruikan would not suffer from the air drag a massive lightbulb would have undoubtedly caused. Alex let Hassel go first and avoided calling his move at the same time as the elderly Dragon Master. "Electro Shot! Blow them away!"

Alex and Shruikan just smirked, as they knew what came next. "Into the air, Shruikan. Make him work for it." Alex wanted him moving around, slightly weakening Archon's attack. He had faith in Shruikan's trick but taking a full power electric Terastal typed Archaludon's Charge Shot head on seemed like a bad idea, with how high its base power was, and how old their opponent seemed to be. Seconds later, the Electro Shot fired like a railgun, as the electrified terrain had the same effect on the move as rain did. Alex called their counter, then. "Tutaminis!"

Hassel's eyes widened along with his partners, as they watched Shruikan's mastery over his typing in action. He barrel rolled around the Electro Shot, and with great concentration and focus, redirected its energy to coalesce in his mouth. Thunder boomed, as he countered hard, and sent the gathered special attack right back at its source with the same amount of power. Archon immediately recognized the technique, and while he was also capable of it, the force and speed with which Shruikan countered didn't give him nearly enough time to calm his mind and tighten his focus enough to once more redirect the energy. The twice empowered electric attack, at that point more comparable to an electric typed Tera Blast, smashed into Archon, and he growled in irritation, as the overload of electric energy left him paralyzed.

He closed his eyes, as Hassel shouted commands at him, for once ignoring the Dragon Master. Shruikan capitalized on the moment, as he recognized that Archon was preparing to break the paralysis with a surge of his own energy, like most electric types could. Alex called the move, as the rather quick black Salamence hurtled towards Archon. "Earthquake!" The only sign of the move to regular human eyes was the telltale black blur hitting the ground, and of course, the rising wave of solid earth that slammed heavily into Archon, with super effective damage that was nullified by five stages of raised defense. Despite those stats being boosted to a full six, it looked like the Earthquake might finish him.

As Hassel saw his strongest dragon's vitality rapidly draining, he shouted, "Use Rest!" And the titanic bridge dragon stayed conscious, but asleep, as his vitality, in terms of bars and numbers, returned to full.

Alex's eyes narrowed in annoyance, along with Shruikan's. "Dragon Pulse until you're tired. Then finish it with Draco Meteor!" Shruikan moved like the lightning he was encased in, hammering Archon with a Dragon Pulse, and then a line of four of them in a row on his next pass. That, had enough power to knock his sturdy, titanic frame over, but he stayed asleep despite Hassel's calls trying to wake him early. Shruikan wasted no time and fired off the Draco Meteor. His special attack power would be too low to be useful now, but he probably wouldn't need it against the rest of Hassel's team. The purplish-blue sphere of energy went high in the sky, then exploded into multiple energy missiles, all locked onto Archon. They landed with force akin to bombs, one after the other, each one shaking the field, and the school, as they hammered their target.

Shruikan landed, mouth open, wings raised and charged another Dragon Pulse within his sparking maw in case Archon was still up, but as the dust cleared, it was obvious that the titanic dragon bridge had been unable to awaken before he'd taken enough damage to faint. Shruikan fired off the Dragon Pulse anyway, making it explode in the air, as he put a claw atop Archon's fainted form, and roared at the crowd. There was a pause, and then, the students went wild. Shruikan looked quite pleased with himself as he basked in the cheers, and he jumped and glided back to his spot, as Hassel recalled his team's strongest powerhouse. Alex was just glad they'd brought it down before it was able to use Body Press. If it had woken up after that Earthquake, he was fairly certain six stages of defense would've made the fighting move a single hit KO.

Enhanced and Terastallized as he was, Shruikan easily swept the next four members of Hassel's team. His Noivern had simply stood no chance against the Terastal empowered Plasma Bomb that had hammered it. His Haxorus had blocked one Dragon Claw, but after a Dragon Dance, the next one OHKO'd him. His Dragalge had put up more of a fight with its varied move pool and access to poison techniques. It was able to Thunderbolt Shruikan's Plasma Bombs before they landed, and getting close with Dragon Claw was a bad idea. Dragon Pulse and Sludge Bomb kept Shruikan on his claws, but he did eventually close to strike with Dragon Claw, at which point he took a Sludge Bomb to the face and was poisoned. He'd knocked Dragalge out though, leaving him weakened against Hassel's Dragonite.

In a masterful display, Shruikan, despite being poisoned, managed to hammer the thicc dragon with multiple Plasma Bombs. It kept using Extremespeed or Dragon Rush to drive Shruikan to the ground, whereupon it attempted to land Earthquake and Stone Edge. Shruikan was well aware of how to dodge Earthquake, and while a Stone Edge did connect at point blank range, it came at the cost of Dragonite taking a Dragon Claw directly to its chest and fainting from the sheer power the black Salamence had reached. Shruikan was utterly spent as the mighty dragon knight finally went down, still poisoned, and on his last legs in terms of health. Thus, Alex switched him out.

Hassel had grown quiet after Archon was beaten, but his stern, aged face betrayed nothing, and he battled with the ferocity one would expect of a Dragon Master. The fire in his fierce eyes never dimmed, despite watching his team of dragons getting defeated by only one of Alex's. Alex recalled Shruikan as the Dragonite fell and smirked at his ball. "You were masterful, Shruikan. I hope that was a good workout." He felt the ball shake, as his dragon affirmed that it had been. Had Shruikan not been at the peak of his power and speed, Hassel's team would've been quite difficult. As it was, Shruikan barely had any power left for his moves, and Elixirs and Ethers weren't allowed in matches following World Tournament rules.

He brought out Kalagon again, as Hassel retrieved his last ball, and frowned at his choice. He knew he had no chance of beating Redwood at this point, but Alex could tell he had no intention of him and his ace losing to a freshly evolved Mega Garchomp. His mistake was in assuming Kalagon was as weak as a fresh Garchomp. His level had risen quite high, before he'd finally been able to evolve. His muscles were well defined, too. He was slimmer than the females of his species, but the hard hours he'd put into strengthening his body showed now that he was an adult.

"You have a quadruple weakness. Dodge Stance." Alex informed Kalagon. The Mega Garchomp simply tensed up, as Hassel's Baxcalibur, probably the strongest known living example of the species, took the field. It was similarly intimidating in presence, like Archon had been, and the air got colder as it opened its eyes and glared at Kalagon. Alex wasn't having any of that, though, and he took the initiative. "Sandstorm! Keep your distance, stay hidden, and smash it with Earthquake!"

"Snowstorm!" Hassel countered, "Find it, and use Icicle Crash! No mercy!" As the snow and sand competed for dominance over the field, Alex had to watch the Drone Rotom. Their screens allowed viewers to see the combatant's body heat through field effects, and Alex intended to make use of the nearby floating screen. He saw Hassel try to do the same, but it seemed age had afflicted his vision, as he squinted at the screen through the sand and snow and frowned. Hassel was essentially blind now, which was good. Now all they had to do was take down that monster of an ice dragon before the sand and snow dissipated.

"Dig." Alex said, watching the screen as Baxcalibur homed in on Kalagon. His Garchomp dove gracefully into the ground like it was water. Moments later, the ferocious Dig attack connected, and Kalagon roared at Baxcalibur as the larger dragon glowed with ominous ice typing. "Fly up and out of there!" Alex shouted, knowing what Icicle Crash would do, if it landed.

Hassel saw his opportunity and claimed the momentum as their attack missed again. "Freeze the Sandstorm in place!" Baxcalibur roared, and its Snowscape, which boosted its defense, latched on to the conjured Sandstorm. Alex felt his spine tingle, as he realized Kalagon was visible. The Trainers shouted commands simultaneously.

"Ice Beam!"

"Dodge! Dragon Dance!"

Alex was glad for Hassel's choice, despite the danger it posed. Had he used Glaive Rush, Kalagon might have been knocked out, since its sheer power, combined with a fall from that height, would have likely fainted Kalagon even if he continued his streak of hanging on by a single hit point after a devastatingly powerful move from a much higher-level opponent. Ice Beam though, he could handle. As Kalagon tucked in his wings and spun in the air rapidly rotating, the draconic energy he released naturally wanted to avoid the freezing beam of ice that lanced forward from the titanic dragon below, and all Kalagon had to do to dodge was follow the energy's aversion to the freezing cold beams. This was a trick Dragonite typically used, clever as they were, to dodge the ridiculously common move from the water types that lived in the oceans of the world. Being an ocean adjacent species, typically, Dragonite had adapted their moves to avoid their natural quadruple weakness. Shruikan had copied them, remembering well the way the Dragonite on Draconis Mons had moved, when they dared to, and now Kalagon made use of the trick as well.

"Restart the Sandstorm!" Alex ordered, and with a mighty roar, the sandstorm returned in force as his Mega Garchomp's control over the damaging particles overpowered Baxcalibur's waning control over his snow. "Excellent! Now, unleash your wrath! Outrage!"

The sand roared louder, as Kalagon finally drew on the complicated mix of adrenaline, anger, frustration at being recalled against Archon, and taking so long to evolve, all at once. Sand and blurple flame covered the entire battlefield, and Hassel grimaced. Newly evolved, and already fighting like Cynthia. By the time Redwood reached the Superior Sixteen, and he would be at least in the top thirty-two once he managed to take down his Baxcalibur, this Garchomp promised to be a real contender. But it still wouldn't defeat his starter. "Stop it in its tracks!" Hassel roared in a commanding tone that cut through the howling sand whipped up by a Mega Garchomp, "Blizzard!"

Alex swore. Kalagon would be too angry or confused to Dig. "Don't let it charge up, Kalagon! Attack!" There was a savage roar of acknowledgement through the haze of draconic rage, and Alex nodded as he saw the icy blue light within the storm get smothered as sand and blurple flame surged. Judging by the Rotom's screen, the two dragons had devolved into a brawl, and were trading powerful blows. Thanks to his Mega Evolution and his rage though, Kalagon was winning. Garchomp had perfect instincts for constant attack moves. Alex watched Kalagon carefully, and as he began to tire, shouted, "Good! Now Dig deep and get your head straight!"

Kalagon drove Baxcalibur back on the screen, smashing him across the head with his tail before leaping into the ground again. Baxcalibur roared with genuine fury, as it seemed the Outrage had finally stirred its blood. The field shifted from sand to snow once more as the Blizzard it never managed to use was fired off, turning the battlefield into an environment akin to its home. Thanks to their typing, Baxcalibur tended to be territorial kings of the Mediterra mountains and were able to survive and thrive in those freezing, massive altitudes. Unfortunately, Garchomp infamously handled such environments poorly, but Alex wasn't too worried. The hits Kalagon had taken had not been actual moves, and while damaging, he was still very much in the fight.

"Position yourself!" Alex called out, "Then Draco Meteor!"

"Bury the field in ice, Baxcalibur!" Hassel ordered, knowing how Garchomp did in the cold. Another Blizzard completely covered the field, making it a winter wonderland. Alex wasn't worried, though. Suddenly, from one of the holes left by Dig now hidden in the snow, a Draco Meteor shot upwards, exploded, and then arced towards Baxcalibur. "Ice Beam the meteors!" Hassel ordered, never losing his cool.

Once more the school shook as the Mega Garchomp's powerful attack did what Alex and Kalagon wanted. Several meteors seemed to randomly hit the field, while most went for Baxcalibur. Unfortunately, a special attacker he was not, and in terms of special defense, the icy dragon titan was lacking. Several orbs of potent dragon energy struck home, and then came the Garchomp. Too late did Hassel notice, the explosive force from the Draco Meteors had cleared the field of snow. Alex didn't waste their chance on another Sandstorm, they needed to attack before Baxcalibur's defenses rose any higher. By his best guess, he was up three stages thanks to all the snow, but the sand had also been steadily damaging him for some time now.

"Draco Impact!" Alex shouted, as Kalagon began charging towards his target. He leapt into the air, flying and gaining speed as dragon energy wreathed his body. He was essentially using Dragon Rush, but without the inaccuracy rushing caused, and combining it with the force of a Giga Impact. Hassel realized that this was the moment. A hit from a move that strong would likely take down his icy titan, but one Icicle Crash or Ice Beam would be enough to stop the Garchomp. It was a lower level, and a single hit on the glass cannon would shatter him. He'd forgotten how annoyingly fast the shark dragons were.

"Icicle Crash!" He shouted, but unfortunately, Hassel had missed something rather important. While Kalagon had hidden and cleared his head of confusion, he hadn't been idle under the icy field as the Blizzard raged. He'd been dancing. By the time Baxcalibur raised its fists covered in ice energy, Kalagon was already at his throat. The enraged Mega Garchomp lived up to his species name and went for the neck. Dragon energy flared. Ice energy hammered him a moment later, and the two mighty dragons were engulfed in an explosion of snow, sand, and ice.

While Hassel expected a double knockout and welcomed a draw against such an obviously well-trained pair of dragons, he stared in shock as the smoke cleared. Kalagon was panting, hard, his entire right side covered in ice, but he was still very much up, while Baxcalibur was very much not. The victorious shark dragon roared viciously, with enough force to shake the very air, and shatter the ice on him, before his Mega Form faded, and he slumped to a sitting position. There was a brief pause, and then, once more, the students went wild. Kalagon weakly raised a fin towards them, but then returned to panting, his consciousness fading as the freezing cold finally began affecting his body.

Alex bamfed him away from the fainted ice dragon, and with some timely firebending, kept his friend from fainting or shutting down internally. "You always fight so hard for me, Kalagon…thank you." He murmured. His Garchomp gave a happy growl and spoke after the Max Potion took effect. He seemed thrilled to not be weakened anymore.

"You wanted me to be the Best. We are." He stated, as he stood back up to his new full height. For the first time, Alex appreciated just how tall Kalagon was. He knew Rick also had a max sized Garchomp, the aptly named Goliath, and Kalagon was already a match for him, in terms of size, if not level. Eager to get to Selva Muerta, Alex went over the list of the fifty or so lads he was training, which was about how many clones he could make at once and have meaningful training sessions, without his brain shorting out. At a certain point, even his Harmonia enhanced mind reached a limit on how much sensory input it could process and control in a timely manner. Once his newer members evolved, all they'd be waiting on was Revan's armor, which he either had to forge himself, or find someone who knew how.

Alex strode along with his massive Garchomp looming behind him, towards Hassel, and his freezing titan. Hassel recalled him as Baxcalibur stood, and growled at Kalagon, before the older man faced Alex, his wrinkled brow furrowing. "I cannot deny your mastery of Dragons…" Hassel started, "But I cannot condone giving away a title that rightfully belongs to our people."

"Your people don't seem to have a problem, Elite Four Hassel." Alex said, using his own title, as this was, technically, supposed to have been a Tera Orb Certification match, and not a draconic grudge match. The old man flinched, as he seemed to remember that. "The only ones with a problem are all in Castle Drachenfels. Perhaps you've been ingesting too much Imperium propaganda. I earned that title. The Original Dragon chose Me to be Dragon Emperor, because I was the one who literally fused him back together. I don't give a single Muk what your Clan thinks. The Dragon approved of me. I passed the trials. He claims I am doing well in my post. Until that changes, I will not relinquish the title over nonsensical claims of ownership from a clan that aren't even Unovans."

Hassel's face showed he was fighting down an anger filled response to what he perceived as arrogance, but then, he laughed. "At least you have the right temperament. And the right skills." He held out a hand, and the ferocity was replaced by a genuinely kind smile. "I can admit when my judgment has erred. You are worthy of wielding a Tera Orb, Victory League Champion. Congratulations."

From behind them, suddenly, came a familiar whirring sound, that had become quite positively associated, for Alex's brain anyway. The sound of World Tournament rankings shifting upwards or downwards. He briefly wondered just how much Dragon Masters were worth, and then turned to see his progress. He'd been sitting at sixty-six for a while, but after thrashing Hassel, an Elite Four member, Dragon Master, and technically also a Professor, his combined score moved Alex up to a smaller pair of digits. A much smaller pair. Alex grinned as a big one and zero sat next to his name, and he gave Kalagon a high fin as the land shark roared excitedly. "Holy Muk… We're in the top ten, boys."

He felt the team celebrating, though he knew their rank would shift, once they started their Ultra Training. He had until the end of February to keep a spot in the Superior Sixteen, which was actually the thirty-two highest ranked Trainers, and as the deadline approached, only battling other higher ranked Trainers in the top sixteen would elevate one's rank. The downside was that a Trainer could reveal their strategies and battle styles in such a match, just to chase clout and a higher spot in the number rankings. Ash of course, was solidly sitting at number one, and he too was on an unbroken winning streak. Alex knew they'd likely get bumped out of the top sixteen while they went off grid to train in Selva Muerta, but he'd timed things so that he'd have a solid seven days to find opponents, train some more, and claw his way back into the top sixteen once they were done.

It boggled his mind to see his name ranked tenth in the world, for now at least, and he felt Lux take a picture as he floated out of his pocket. A strong, but feminine hand suddenly grabbed his shoulder, and he turned in surprise to see an attractive, and very fit woman, who couldn't have been too much older than he was. Recalling the battle he'd watched Ash have here, he recognized the Battle Studies Professor, Nemona. She held up a microphone to him, and he nodded slightly, guessing this was the payment part of him getting a Tera Orb. "That Battle was…Epic, uh, sir." Nemona started, but Alex interjected.

"Just call me Alex. It's fine." He smiled, and the woman continued. He had a feeling this was slightly out of her comfort zone, but it seemed her zeal for battle was pulling her through the inherent awkwardness of shoving a microphone in a world leader's face.

"Right, uh, Alex. Y'know…those of us who've been training since we were just kids…we heard about how you had to grow up. How long it was before you finally started." Alex's face went passive, but Nemona continued. "How your desire to be a Trainer never wavered even when the Arcean Church basically all but had the League blacklist you. I can't even imagine it…" Nemona said, seeming genuinely empathetic. Alex just nodded. "And now here you are. Alex Redwood, ranked number ten in the entire world. The only names above you are Legends in their own right, people I'm sure you know of, or maybe even have met already. Would you say your childhood dream has just been achieved?"

Alex chuckled. "My dream was achieved when I properly caught Terra. Everything since then…even the war and death and close calls…it's been more fun than my kid self could've possibly imagined. I guess it still hasn't uhh…quite sunk in yet. Tenth in the world. Wow."

Nemona chuckled at his chill reaction, and then gestured to the stands full of wide, eager eyes. Alex spied several kiddos with microphones, but he was more than okay with answering their questions. "I'm going to turn it over to the students, now, if that's okay. Some of them have burning questions for you."

Alex nodded. First up was a first year, which seemed to be a trend for the academy and ordering who asked questions first. In fact, he was pretty sure she was the same kiddo that had gone first in asking Ash questions, too. Which meant she was either really lucky, or really quick with whatever application process dictated who went first. "The World Champion told me to build up my team to get stronger, and I have…but then I see Battles like his, and like yours, and how strong our teachers are…I just don't know if we'll ever be that…powerful."

Alex could tell a recent loss when he saw one. "You've been following everything Ash told you? Because I remember what you asked him." There were chuckles, and Alex walked towards the girl, gesturing to the field. "Let's see that team of yours, then!" She initially seemed to shake her head, but her peers urged her onto the field and cheered as she stood awkwardly next to the much taller Dragon Emperor. He gestured again, and she tossed all of her Pokémon out at once. A female Floragato seemed to be her starter. She also had a Marill, Flaafy, Gible, Riolu, and Charcadet, most of whom were also female. She explained what was going on to their confused faces, and Alex looked over them, with Kalagon still looming over him. He locked eyes with the Gible when they came to him, but it seemed the rather young dragon didn't have the fire in him to challenge such an obviously superior specimen of their species. Kalagon growled, irritated at the baby dragon's meekness.

"This…" Alex said, pausing entirely for suspense, "Is a great team. You have serious potential here. Champion potential. In fact…once they evolve, with their combined move pools, you'll…yea, you'll have pretty much every type accounted for, in terms of damaging attacks or blocking. That means if you ever get approved for ten Pokémon, the next four are just going to increase your power even more. I'd suggest a Psychic Type, when that day comes. But the rest…that's up to you, and whatever fits the Battle style you eventually choose." The girl nodded, paying attention to every word. "Well fed…clean…and fond of you. It seems you did exactly as Ash instructed. Well done. Let's give the lady some applause, folks. Some of these species are hard to find." He smirked, recalling his own earlier attempts at searching for a Charcadet, and he knew how rare Gible could be to see in the wild, let alone get them to stay in a Pokéball. The kiddo shyly kicked the dirt through her applause.

It faded, as Alex closed his eyes, and crossed his arms, pondering if he should make another semi-widely known power up available to anyone with Pokénet access. Then, internally, he said, "Muk it."

"You want to know the secret to training powerful Pokémon?" The young girl nodded, eyes wide, as she sensed she was about to get a hint into a Champion's training method. Alex smirked, and his stupidly long arms spread wide, as he spun and turned to the rest of the kiddos. "How about all of you? Do you want to know too?"

The cheers were deafening, a mix of 'We do!' and 'Yes! Please!' and other cheers he couldn't make out bombarded his ears. He raised a hand, after a solid fifteen seconds. "The secret to raising a powerful Pokémon…is…" He smirked, as he saw the younger kiddos literally on the edges of their seats. "Battling!"

He laughed, and the more experienced Trainers joined in, as they got the joke. Nemona, who was off to the side now, also laughed, as she, perhaps more than anyone else at the academy, understood what he meant. As the giggles died down, Alex continued. "But really. The more intense your opponents, the stronger you will become. Much has been said about how my team and I rose so far so fast. I say, look at our opponents. That black Charizard atop Draconis Mons. Blaze faced it as a freshly evolved Mega Charizard, and we won!" There were whoops, as that was by far still the most popular clash when it came to Charizard. There had been others since, of course, some Alex and Blaze had also been involved in, but none had been in low orbit, or featured a naturally evolving Mega Form.

"We trained hard all across Unova and beat every single Gym Leader's strongest team. I was lucky enough to face the Striaton Trio, and Brycen himself, before he retired. Arthur, my Gallade, barely ever stopped training, because he wanted to be the Best, and he was able to almost solo the Elite Four of the hardest League in the world. Caleb Pravus kept the entire Victory League away from the Original Dragon while I was away training. But eventually, I went home to face him. And Arthur and I won. Ghetsis, newly escaped from our old Prison system, again, threw the Forces of Nature at Jess and me. I took on Landorus, their leader, with Hydrus. I believed he could win, and he did!" He had the crowd's attention now, but he wasn't quite done yet. "I Battled many of the Champions from across the States down in the Swamp when I went off training. Their teams whooped mine quite a few times, before we were able to hold our own. But those losses made us all stronger. And I don't mean in Exp. points, or any of that nonsense. It's literal experiences, accumulating over time. Facing down massively powerful foes and being strong enough to hold our ground. Pokémon can gain those, even after reaching what we Humans call level one hundred. They can always get stronger. You just have to keep Battling."

Seemingly satisfied with her answer, the kiddo declared, "Imma Battle everyone I see from here to Glaseado Peak!" Her team shared her enthusiasm, and Alex chuckled as she ran straight out of the school yard stadium. The next student was a little older, also female going by her appearance and outfit choices. He could tell she was a nerd, and probably not a Trainer, and he had a feeling there were quite a few like her, in say, business courses, who might have a question or two for him, after his recent announcements. Apparently, Tao was keeping everyone calm, but as expected, the old rich people were complaining the loudest. Instead of guaranteeing the worth of currency, the Empire was guaranteeing that compensation would still be available, and the transition away from currency would take years, if it ever fully went away at all. All Alex and the others had really done was free the masses from hunger and potentially losing their homes over a lack of currency. The sky didn't fall, Tepigs hadn't flown. The people across the world were being fed, and yet the wheels of capitalism continued to grind on.

"Emperor Redwood…your people's latest invention is…a marvel, no one can deny, and the erm…Dragon Burgers? Delicious. And nutritious. And free. All good things, with minimal impact on the environment. Apparently, even local criminal street gangs are ensuring nobody messes with the food machines. You've genuinely altered society at every level…my question is for the farmers and the workers in the food industry, though. What happens to them, exactly?"

Alex smiled, and answered just as evenly, matching her tone. "They can do whatever the Muk they want. I imagine most restaurants will eventually close or shift to having specialized Replication Machines keyed to their brand, but that just frees up all those servers and waitresses to go be whatever they want. You can apply for a house rather easily, as I understand it, though it may not be near your family. Food is as easy to gather as a few large bags and a trip to the nearest Replicator. The majority of their life hours are now theirs, and theirs alone. I imagine they'll want a break, first. But after that...? That's their choice. Who knows, maybe they'll take up Pokémon training." He gave her a knowing smirk, and the student rolled her eyes, but she was smiling slightly.

"As far as farms go…I would advise that any ranches or Pokémon farms simply continue as they've been doing, but with a shift to farming berries and Pokémon materials." His smirk turned slightly devious, and he could almost feel his father's rage from across the ocean as he said, "I know some Ranchers who just completely ignore their Pokémon materials. Treat'em like trash and toss them, or give them to someone who has a use for them. Now, I guess they have more value than a Pokédollar." That, he knew, would set off his old man. He'd put his entire life into getting enough currency to survive, and keeping their family business alive, and now his son had essentially just severely devalued currencies the world over, and all but killed the food industry. The things Alex used to be forced to shovel, in return for lackluster amounts of currency, were now worth more to people than his own life savings. And yet the sky remained blue, and the rain was still water, not Poliwags.

She thanked him, her question answered, and next up came someone who was apparently tired of waiting to speak, as he ran down the stairs and somewhat competently leapt onto the field. Everyone in the school knew who Arven was, but Alex did not. A quick scan of the man's gear informed him of his profession, though. "Yea, I gotta question for you, Dragon Foreigner." He spat into the mic. "What about Chefs? Who's going to want our food if nobody needs to cook anymore? Paldean culture has a huge basis on food! You'll destroy our way of life!"

The crowd's reaction was mixed, and Alex arched an eyebrow, at the severity of the reaction. Paldeans liked their sandwiches, surprising no one. He held up a hand as the boos for Arven got louder, then faded. "Now now, he has a point. But I would point out that a lot of people, at least right now, have limited access to only certain kinds of Pokémon materials. And as yummy as Dragon Burgers are…they're meant for those who have no food at all. For convenience, and a healthy, filling snack. We're working on making it a whole meal, with sugarless soda, plant-based fries, but for now, Burgers. Anyway. These machines are great for Chefs. They're welcome to petition for one in their kitchens, and I have a feeling they will." Alex said, baiting the man.

Arven was no idiot, as he recognized the bait, but he took it anyway. "I certainly won't. These machines will destroy the industry I've wanted to enter my entire life."

Alex shook his head. "I'm afraid you've been listening to propaganda, and people with an agenda. You're simply wrong. Most relatively common materials, Rattata fur for example, or Lechonk bits, can be converted into pretty much any item you and our creative cooking friends can shove on a sandwich. That means no more two-hour shopping trips to keep the food stocked in the kitchens. Hell, you won't even need freezers. Imagine how much space that frees up. And a Trainer on the road can exchange their extra materials for basic sandwich ingredients, too. I've helped revolutionize your industry, Mr. Chef. Cooking won't die out from this. If anything, I expect a rise in the number of meal preppers, now that everyone can get ingredients with absurd ease."

"The names Arven Turo." He said finally, looking back up at Alex, whose eyes widened as he recognized the name. "You make some good points, Dragon guy. I…guess I was uninformed about the full potential of your Replicators. Huh. Well, uh…good luck with your Tournament thing."

Alex chuckled. "And good luck with your cooking. You're about to have a lot of competition, I think." He gestured for the next kiddo to speak. "I'll take one more, before I need to get going." That, caused murmurs throughout the stands. Voices started to rise, and Alex's brow furrowed slightly. Arguments broke out, and Alex raised his hands again, but by that point, some arguments had turned heated. He saw Director Clavell facepalm, and then he looked up at Kalagon. The dragon nodded, and then roared impressively loud, right in his ear. So loud he had to put up a small psychic barrier just to not pop his eardrum. Kalagon smacked his lips as it ended, and then he looked back at his Trainer with a grin on his large toothy maw.

"Thanks, Kal." He said, giving his large, slightly softer leathery under chin scritches. The large dragon's foot twitched, and then started stomping the ground, before Alex kept speaking. He chuckled, and some of the students did as well, before he finally let up, and turned his gaze to them. "I do only have time for one question, but, I can give each of you that one question." Confused murmurs rose from the students, and he smirked, crossing his four pointer and middle fingers. Some eyebrows raised in recognition as he did so, which spurred him to shout, "Multi Clones!"

His eyes rapidly scanned the entirety of the stands, and his third eye counted the minds. Just over five hundred, which was apparently what the smaller-than-average stadium could seat at max. Five hundred was a lot, but it would be a good test, especially if he wanted almost twice that in eventual Pokémon partners. Exactly five hundred identical copies of his chill smirk, black and white attire, and tall frame filled the entirety of the battlefield, and he heard the kiddos gasp in awe. Some, those who had recognized his finger sign, had looks of pure amazement and joy, that such a technique was even possible for psychic humans. Others had differing looks, some bordering on worry, but most seemed confused.

Alex prime floated above all of them, and meditated, legs crossed, eyes closed, fists together as the clones all creepily spoke in unison. "This is…a lot, but I think…I can…do it. I'll have to talk to you slowly, and I may get your questions mixed up, so correct your clone if you think there's an error with my answer." His speech grew more confident as he sorted the clones by groups of twenty, which in his head, made them more manageable. "Looks like…we'll be going twenty at a time. If any of you don't have a question for me, just tell one of my clones. Please, join me on the field and find one."

He paused, and as he heard murmuring about financial sectors and the price of goods from certain students he said, "Let's just keep this focused on questions about Pokémon Training for now. This is…quite hard, actually." It seemed he'd found a sort of soft limit, but five hundred was still impressive, even in anime terms. If he kept working and using the move, he assumed it would become easier, like Teleport had. It seemed psychic power, or the act of using it specifically in what his people typically classified as moves, was not unlike a muscle. It had to be used and stressed to grow stronger. He certainly felt the stress from channeling so much energy and processing so many inputs, but actually creating and maintaining his copies was something his humming Mind Plate was handling quite well. As it had been fused with his helmet, he had donned it once again, but only his true self had it on.

The first twenty questions took about a minute for the clones to process. Alex tried to make them act natural, like part of a regular conversation. He took a long breath, cooling down from the battle he'd just had seemed to help. In mental terms, it was as if he was sitting atop a calm water surface, much like Oogway had, with twenty viewpoints before him, all with different students of different ages speaking pretty much at once. The problem was playing them back, within his mind. Speaking took time, and even if he sped up their words, he didn't want to risk missing certain tones or misinterpreting what was being asked.

The questions were simple but telling as to where their weaknesses as Trainers lay. Some really did just need advice. What vitamins enhanced which stats. The pros and cons of making or catching physical or special attackers. Others wanted him to build their whole team for them, a perfectly balanced one of course, and one obtainable in Paldea. He knew how kiddos got with building teams. He'd enjoyed it himself, once, until he'd tried to decide what combination of six would make him Champion worthy, strong enough to face the likes of Unova's Heroes. To them, his answer was simple. "Trust the universe to guide you to who you need to meet. In my experience, focusing on what type you want to find while you're all eating and waking up is a good way to run into what you're looking for. Pick a type, pick one or two or however many interest you, and head to where you can find them. Or trade for them on the Trading Network."

Since Trainers could set up trades in different regions, it allowed them to go out and catch what the other person wanted. His Abra had been one such trade, as his partner had desperately wanted a Swanna. Seeing it was from a Champion, and a world leader, had made the young girl determined to find a typically elusive and very hard to catch Pokémon, but she'd done it. Other questions, by majority, asked about how to be or become a Champion ranked Trainer. To those, he answered similarly along the lines of, "Champions are those who have the willpower to train hard, and the love to bond their teams together. You saw Kalagon fight for me. It's because we're friends, brothers, even. The closer you grow, the further you'll go. It's up to you and your partners how far that ends up being."

These kinds of questions made up the majority of the remaining groups of twenty. There were, however, quite a lot of questions about el romance, and after a long pause to those kiddos, Alex finally relented, and gave what advice he could. Ninety percent of it was, "Keep regular eye contact, stay calm, and talk to them like a friend. In fact, they should be your friend first, but you also need to be a bit obvious about your crush on them. Otherwise, a friend you will remain, probably forever." The boys were somewhat lucky, as most girls did notice that sort of thing if it wasn't creepy or too forward. To the girls though, he advised to be so obvious, even the lads obsessed with battle and Pokémon wouldn't be able to miss it. At least three walked away determined to make literal signs, but he admired that they had the courage to so boldly proclaim their feelings. He would've never done that himself, and just the thought made his very being cringe uncomfortably. He tried to maintain a balance, but he still leaned more towards being an introvert. He paused then, wondering if he would do such a thing now, for Jess. That's essentially what a wedding was, after all. A very loud declaration of love, and since he was who he was, it'd probably get a lot of attention. He decided to roll with it and let her do whatever she wanted.

Answering their questions took about twenty minutes in total, but eventually, the low hum over his baritone replicated five hundred times faded, as the kiddos thanked him, dismissed their clone, and went back to their studies. Director Clavell approached him then, and Alex gave him a nod of respect. "An excellent Battle, Dragon Emperor. And rather decent advice, as well. I'm sure you have places to be, but I would recommend speaking with El Primero, now that you have a Tera Orb." He smiled. "He's currently over at the Blueberry Academy, in their Terarium, training for the World Tournament. He hops between Regions rather quickly, that one."

Alex's face stayed neutral, as he nodded and absorbed the older man's words. As a proud Unova University alum, he'd avoid BBA for obvious reasons, but their Trainers were strong, their education facilities and classes were on par with UU's senior level courses, and their usual battles were all doubles, or lately, as he'd heard it, triples. Nick, as one of the Elite Four, had zero qualms about using the Terarium to train, or to find new partners. He'd told Alex several times now to visit, that doing so would be well worth it, but Alex had stubbornly kept his pride in Unova University and their classic methods of educating. He hadn't been on the battling team there or anything, but it was the principle of loyalty that he wanted to uphold. The more he thought it over though, the more he realized it would look bad if the region's leader was seen favoring one school over the others. He'd also heard good things about the Nova League, and Bostonia University was apparently working on their own Terarium. Even with BBA flourishing as it was, most Unovan Trainers still lacked a Tera Orb. Visiting BBA now would give him an excuse to visit BU's take on a Terarium too.

Finally, he said, "I've been meaning to visit the Terarium. I'll head over there soon."

Director Clavell inclined his old head, still remarkably full of hair, despite his age. Though, as Alex looked closer, he realized the man was probably wearing a wig. "Very good. I'll let them know you're stopping by." Alex cringed internally, as he knew there'd probably be another, larger, reception, but he nodded, and Clavell went on his way. Alex briefly considered bamfing over and flying to the academy before Clavell could hobble his way back to his office to make the call, but he resisted. He still had things to do in Paldea, namely, evolving his team.

He bamfed himself outside the academy's school yard and floated in the air above the academy grounds as he brought up the almost fifty names and profiles of his partners. "Goku, Coryn, Maromnis, Kage, Blast, James, Khan and Revan. And Fulguron, and Psi need to evolve twice." A bit water heavy in Dewott, Frogadier, Wartortle, and Drizzile for a proper battling team of ten, but those were the ones who needed experience. Revan also needed his armor, as once they had it, he could start honing his abilities as a Ceruledge. Much like Arthur, the sooner he started that, the better off they'd be. He also wanted to try finding the Tera Dens he'd heard about. Similar to Galar's, except containing Terastallized opponents, there were many theories about how the Pokémon within appeared. Over the years, El Primero had apparently been able to get Champion tier Pokémon from them and catching them was as easy as throwing a ball, once you broke their Tera Shield and caused a faint.

Now that he had a Tera Orb, Lux was able to access the Trainer boards for active dens looking for participants. Very quickly, he realized finding a Beldum, or one of its evolutions this way would be…tedious, if not impossible. It also wouldn't be white and gold. But it would give him Exp. Candy, and after reading up a bit on the basics of how the boards worked, he decided to use his main ten for them. The stronger the Terastal energy inside the den, the stronger the Pokémon, the more rewards they'd have when defeated. The ones battling didn't actually get Exp. points though, just the experience of a tough opponent, which he knew some members of his team needed more than others.

Canis was burning to get over his humiliating loss, but he wasn't alone in being frustrated at the gap between him, and the A Team. Alex selected him for the first den, and then Teleported himself to the closest waypoint he had to the den in question. The three other students looked shocked when they saw him descend from the sky, but after greetings and a few autographs, they were ready to face their opponent. A steel Tera typed Espathra. Alex was unfamiliar with the psychic ostrich, aside from its Dex entries, which said it was vicious. The cold, unflinching steel type was apparently the energy type most in line with its personality. It shrieked as the four Trainers approached it and sent out their partners.

The other three Trainers seemed almost disappointed by his rather normal looking Lucario, and they had no time to look closer and appreciate how much obvious effort had gone into his training, before they'd so much as blinked, the crystalline shell had appeared around their opponent, and then turned a hard steel gray color. It still shone, but only its unnerving eyes made it through the steely Terastal Shield. Then, the psychic ostrich started attacking, and dodging, with its insane speed. Very quickly, Alex realized their team would fall too fast if he didn't do something. His partners had a Machoke, a Paldean Tauros of the fire variety, and a Crabominable.

In terms of moves, Canis by far had the best move pool, and he made use of it, hanging back and using Life Dew as his teammates cheered their Pokémon on, raising their attack and defensive stats. Canis also fired off a cheeky Aura Sphere when he could, and it didn't take long for the Espathra to target him as the psychic figured out who the healer and highest-level Pokémon on their side was.

Canis matched its Psybeam by blocking it with a barrier formed by his Psychic attack, which hilariously was actually stronger and more useful than the move Barrier. While he blocked, the others landed their hits, and despite raising its Tera Shield early, it finally broke, revealing the still crystalline body beneath. It was still coated in crystals, gray and polished looking, like a steel type, but it was on its last legs. Canis hammered it with another Aura Sphere, and down it went.

None of them opted to catch the creature, and Alex watched with interest as, once they decided not to, it just vanished in a cloud of sparkles. Like it had never been there. In its place, were a plethora of items, and Alex went to gather his last, only to find that every one of them had gotten the same amount of the same stuff. When he tried to grab more, his hand had passed through the items on the crystalline pedestal. Like an empty chest in an old video game. "Does uhh…does it always give everyone the same loot?" He asked the one Trainer who was still here and not on to their next den. He gave Alex a nod, thanked him for his timely Life Dews, and then off he went as well. Alex frowned slightly.

Sure, they'd come together against a powerful Pokémon, but there was…no camaraderie. No bonding. He hadn't really gotten their names, either. No real strategy had even been needed, apparently, for a den of this rank. He'd thought six stars was a high rating, but apparently, they could go much higher. For whatever reason, they were only able to use their chosen pick inside Tera Dens, and once it was over and everyone had their loot, they'd all just…run off. Without more than a few sentences spoken to each other. It just felt a bit…hollow. And the way the Espathra had vanished…bothered him. One second, he had sensed its formidable mind, and then the next…poof. It was gone. Completely. He'd extended his senses trying to follow it, but there had been no trace of the powerful psychic with a steely heart, and he was fairly sure it hadn't Teleported.

Alex called out Psi once he left the den, which also proceeded to vanish into nothingness, as if it had never been there, once he left. The Abra yawned, and then smiled at him, in his weird way. Psi wasn't awake too often, but he had enjoyed Festivus. For about four hours, before he'd fallen asleep again. "Ready to evolve, my friend?" Alex asked. The Abra nodded. He'd gained enough experience through the Exp. Share. Now he just needed a little boost.

Alex gave him one of the extra-large Exp. Candies he'd gathered, and the Abra gasped as he tasted it, and munched it down quicker than Alex had seen him eat. His body surged with Infinity Energy, shining bright white as he became a Kadabra, and also larger than he'd been before. Alex had measured his size as perfectly normal, but now, his PokéDex was saying Psi was a large specimen. Then, he saw his level, and balked. "From ONE candy!?" He didn't believe the numbers his device was recording. "Lux…is this thing defective? It's saying…it's saying he's strong enough for Hyper Training. He was barely high enough level to evolve a few seconds ago."

"It's…all functional." Lux said, with a yawn. Training all the new Replicator Rotoms had left him tired lately. "That must be some potent candy." He said sleepily, before fading back to unconsciousness with a slight smirk on his mouth. Humans were so easily surprised, and it amused him. Power was power, and the power that had given his humans those cubes of energy had simply transferred it to the Pokémon eating the item. But their science would tell Alex that eventually, so to sleep the Rotom went.

Alex stared at his loot. He'd gotten twelve of them, the extra-large ones, and around five large candies from the raid. He had also picked up two pale gray sparkly herbs, but he had no earthly idea what to do with them, so into the bag they went. Apparently, quite a lot of high-level Tera Raids ended in failure, which made some sense. If Paldea's Trainers got loot like this from every den and every den was a success, they'd be monstrously powerful. Then, he considered El Primero. He'd reportedly won hundreds of very difficult Tera Den raids. Over the course of several years. Not only were the Pokémon within stronger than usual, he'd seen their stats posted from those that were caught by other Trainers, but the amount of strength that could be gained with a bit of strategy and barely any teamwork…

Many of the new Trainers in this World Tournament were from Paldea, and he had a feeling they'd be rising to the top soon. With this absurdly easy access to power, they'd be able to rival the likes of Red. Well, he thought, maybe not Red. But definitely Gary Oak. Skilled Trainers who'd gotten that way over years. This kind of power boost wouldn't make up for lacking The Power of Friendship or battle experience, but it would probably put quite a few young Trainers very high in the global rankings. "We're going to need to train harder…" He muttered, before calling out the rest of those who needed to evolve. Psi watched intently, interested, but quiet. Alex was giving him time to adjust to his new brain and new body capable of having it function without needing constant sleep.

He called out his Monferno, Dartrix, Dewott, Frogadier, Wartortle, Torracat, and Drizzile. They all greeted him, except for James, who huffed, and flipped his fin 'hair' with one of his fingerless hands. Coryn copied him, flipping his own hair with a wing, and chuffed lightly as he gently mocked the water lizard. "Alright lads…" Alex started, not thrilled about how awkward this all felt. "I have…some items here that will probably catapult you to your final forms. But I wanted to make sure you're all on board, before eating them. You'll never go back to the way you are now, once you eat them. If you don't want to, we can always train you up the old-fashioned way." He held out a stupidly large palm with six extra-large, square, pale blue candies on it. "You have the choice to-" He paused, as James swiped one, with impressive speed.

"I can't stand this body!" He groaned. Alex sympathized. Drizzile's hormones made it akin to an emotional human teenager. But it lived like that constantly. Eating berries and playing the video games he'd somehow hooked up within his ball was fun, as they were first person shooters, naturally, but James desperately wanted to be an Inteleon. Shortcut or not, he intended to take it. Fingers would make him much better at video games, too. He popped the candy into his toothless maw and then munched on it, nodding. Suddenly, his eyes widened, and he too began shining impossibly bright. As the light faded, James Pond struck an iconic pose, with his literal finger gun held up before him as he channeled the human actors who had portrayed James Bond. He tested his new signature move out on a nearby boulder, though it seemed…weaker, than it should've been for his level. Which was now also high enough for Hyper Training. Goku frowned, took a block, sniffed it, then put it back. Alex nodded, as he knew the fire monkey preferred the rush from getting stronger. Old school training was his favorite thing to do.

Coryn thought it over, and then shrugged, and grabbed one with his beak. He wanted to get better with his feather arrows as soon as possible, and a Dartrix's body simply didn't fight like a Decidueye. He examined his new hood and wings as the light of his evolution faded, and then nodded, smiling at his Trainer, and content with his form. He drew a feather arrow, which instantly regrew, and examined it. As he test fired at the same rock as James had, nailing the tiny impact crater with unerring accuracy thanks to his absurd sight and the short distance, Alex turned to Maromnis. The Dewott thought for a moment, then shook his head. His fighting style wouldn't change much as a Samurott, and he was already close to evolving anyway.

Kage and Blast shared a look, nodded, and then glowed in unison. Like Psi and James, their bodies had grown larger than they'd been. Kage was lithe, but his body wasn't nearly as rigid as Gren's. Comparing him to his father, Alex began to see the drawback to using the candy. With time, he was sure, they'd grow into their form's power, but as fresh evolutions from the use of weirdly obtained items, they didn't have the 'oomph' that usually came with evolving like Kalagon had, in battle. Blast's cannons seemed large, for example, but his Water Pulse didn't leave much more of a mark on their chosen boulder than James had with his attack. Granted, he had been trained as a physical attacker. Khan also declined the candy, and Alex nodded in agreement with his choice.

He had Kalagon fly them to the Asado Desert, where in short order, Maromnis ruthlessly slashed his way through an entire herd of Krokorok, led by a Krookodile. As he stood amid the downed and shrinking ground types, the otter samurai began shining, and ascended to his own final form, a stern looking Samurott. He tested his Scalblades, once more on a boulder, and grinned as he slashed it in two.

Goku, not to be outdone, attempted the exact same feat, though the battle was harsher for him. And more brutal. Being a desert biome with not a lot of berry growing potential, that meant the local wildlife typically either ate each other, humans, or whatever they could catch from the coast, if they could fly or use vines. The Krokorok all managed to land some serious hits on the Flame Charging Monferno, but after a potion and more speed, he was eventually able to take them down with Brick Break, even their Krookodile leader, a much larger matriarch than Maromnis had faced. That didn't evolve him though. Goku finally ascended after wrastling with an Orthworm, and winning. He beat his chest proudly over his foe, but to his chagrin, the local desert Pokémon had no Muks to give about his evolution. They were in survival mode, and little else mattered.

Despite the numerous ground types around, Khan had also wanted to battle. With Trailblaze, something his species could apparently learn, he used the trick from Noir to great success, since Flame Charging through sand typically did the opposite of speed one up. Melted silica was painful, and easily stuck to fur. Alex had him mainly fighting the local Rabsca, as his fire moves worked on them, they gave more experience as an evolved species, and they were everywhere for some reason. After Goku evolved, the ten of them had broken for lunch, while everyone else got their food in their balls. Alex did bring out his grass types as well, but they just absorbed the intense sun of the desert, while the others enjoyed Alex's attempt at culinary creation. He'd taken his own advice and used his horde of Pokémon materials to get some cooking ingredients, and a very helpful man in one of Mesagoza's restaurants had given him a rather impressive list of recipes for Paldean cuisine.

Alex had remarked on its size, and the man had given him a look, saying he, of all people, should understand why he gave out such thorough lists of ingredients, recipes so simple that ten-year-olds could make them. Or attempt to, anyway. Alex had nodded at that, seeing his point. Wasn't much point to giving everyone access to ingredients if they had no idea how to cook.

Alex ignored the list for this, however, as he'd added two herbed sausages, four packages worth of noodles, two slabs of butter, and then for some reason beyond his ken, Wasabi on top. The team seemed to enjoy it, but he was suddenly glad they had so many water types on hand. Then, as he'd descended from the large rock formation, leaving his grass types to bask, he'd balked at the sheer number of Rabsca below and around him. Khan had started picking them off one by one, though often they would just charge at Alex, and he let them. It seemed the other Rabsca wouldn't swarm him if he was defending himself with a battle.

As they ran around the desert, with Alex finding a truly absurd amount of Soft Sand and Stardust as they did, he noticed quite a lot of Flittle and Espathra as well. The local Trainers proved to be pretty easy to deal with, as Alex made his way to Cascaraffa City. He finally climbed over the largest dune between him and his destination and sighed at how far he still had to go. His stupidly large feet did not make walking in the dunes easier, in fact he'd stepped on probably twenty innocent Pokémon by that point in the day. Cascaraffa was beautiful, in its trademark blue and white. The city was tiered, but refreshingly, this didn't seem to be a wealth-based tier system. He spied a Veracidad on the upper tier, but the rest of the city wasn't as…clearly divided as some parts of Unova and Rio had been.

Their Gym Leader was, Alex could tell just by seeing the city, a pillar of strength. An older man, getting close to retirement, he reportedly had lost none of his youthful attitude and vigor even in his advancing age. Eating healthy, nutrient rich Veluza steaks all the time probably helped. Leader Kofu was also considered, globally, to be a Water Type Master, a title he had received recently from the League, but apparently took pride in. He felt Terra's ball shudder on his hip, and smirked. "Kinda reminds of Marlon, huh, bud." He muttered, as he realized he was, technically, in a new region, and hadn't battled any Gyms yet. And right after beating an Elite Four member, too. His brows furrowed at all the similarities to the start of his journey, Kofu was a water type user, probably the strongest Gym Leader in Paldea these days, when he was serious, but before Alex could think more on it, Khan mrowled at him, and Alex gave him scritches, utterly losing his train of thought.

With a sigh, he headed towards the city, and smirked. If history was repeating, there was probably a reason for it. "Muk it." He muttered. "Let's go earn some World Tournament points. We can get higher than ten."

As he crossed the small bridge that led into the seemingly cooler area of Cascaraffa, a feminine voice that sounded kind of familiar rang out from behind him. "Not so fast, Dragon Emperor! I Challenge you!" He turned, and smirked, as he saw his cousin Aria, standing next to her rather large Meganium. As expected, her journey had made her grow quickly, and her eyes were on fire now. "Hey cuz." She said, losing her commanding tone. Alex blinked, as beside her, he saw Isamu, the Tamer of Zygarde, with his main core, a green one, on his shoulder. He was dressed in a Naranuva Academy uniform. He gave an awkward wave.

Alex and Khan watched the pair with mirrored smirks. "Aria. And Isamu? Good to see you again. I have time for a one on one, cousin…and I'll be using Khan here, since he's the last one who needs to evolve. I think a Battle will help push him to his final form."

Aria frowned and looked at her partner. "I guess that means you're out, Meg. Sorry." Her Meganium, Meg, apparently, balked and made a noise of disbelief, but Aria shook her head. "That's a Torracat from Eous that's about to evolve and I need you to not be injured when we face Kofu." Meg made a sad, but understanding noise, sniffled, and then returned to her ball. Seeing Alex's frown, Aria chuckled. "Don't worry, she's just acting. She's been training all day, and she needs a break before tomorrow. Let's see…" She eyed Khan with a look Alex recognized, and her brows furrowed. "I don't think I have anyone who could match this guy enough for a Battle…"

"Let's see your team." Alex said, smirking. He could tell she was put off by Khan, which was normal, since he was getting rather fierce and tiger-like after not evolving for so many levels. Aria brought out five of her six balls, revealing Leif, his former Leafeon, along with Meg again, who still seemed sad, there was also a female Jellicent, Taria, the Altaria she'd caught as a very small Swablu when they were younger, and an Audino, who seemed new, but happy to be with her team. "And who's in that one?" Alex asked, gesturing to her last ball. He sensed an Onix, and if he could help her with it, she'd have serious potential in the rest of Paldea's circuit.

"Oh, that's…Dia…she's…new…and angry. Very angry. I usually keep her in her ball…" Aria said, frowning. "Isamu helped me catch her, but she's uh…been rated too violent for cities, by the League. I shouldn't let her out here…"

"Perhaps keeping her cooped up is what's angering her." Alex said, wisely. "It's alright, I'm a Champion, and I can move the Onix myself if necessary. Onix like to have hundreds of miles of territory in which to travel. A Pokéball can't replicate that. Bring her out, and if she gets too wild, Meg and I can hold her down." The Meganium's head perked up, hearing her name, and she smiled at Alex, then ran over to nuzzle him. "I believe in you, kiddo. Think you can restrain an Onix?" She gave a confident, affirmative cry, but Aria shook her head.

"She's too tired, she-" Alex cut her off. "She's been in the desert sun all day, Aria. Grass Types do absurdly well under harsh sunlight. They get powerful enough to rival dragons. It's almost unfair." If they didn't have so many weaknesses, he knew grass types would be very, very powerful. But most Trainers had ice or fire moves on hand, as they were very common. Flying types were also pretty common.

Aria sighed. "Alright, fine. You're the Champion. Come on out, Dia! Meet my family." The ferocious female Onix roared loud enough to shake the air at her Trainer, and Aria just nodded, still frowning. Isamu chuckled, awkwardly. "Yea, that's about her standard reaction. Now she'll attack…"

Alex gave the pair a confident smirk and a wink. "Just watch the Redwood Method in action, kiddos." He tried not to laugh as Isamu pulled out a notebook and prepared to write and observe. He stepped up beside Meg, and while Dia growled at him warningly, Meg growled back, and Dia wisely resisted the urge to strike. As expected, she respected Meg's strength. She Coiled instead, raising her defense, but watched them both intently. "Hello there." He saw her head tilt, as Dia registered his words perfectly. "That's right, I speak as you do. Come closer. So long as you don't attack us, my friend Meg here won't attack you, alright?"

The Onix cautiously nodded and leaned her head forward. Meg greeted her cheerfully, and Dia blinked at her. That was as close to a 'hi' as she was likely to get from the giant rock snake. "I hear you've been having some trouble with my cousin Aria. Why don't you tell me what's wrong, so I can help?"

"What's wrong? I don't want to belong to a Human!" She roared at the heavens, before meeting his gaze again, her sharp, angular snout inches from his body. Alex didn't move, though, and Meg frowned, but held back from attacking, as Alex put an open hand towards her, the universal signal to wait.

"I understand that, but hear me out, Dia." Alex said. She growled at the name but blinked. Letting him go ahead and speak. That was good, she was proud, but reasonable. "Aria can make you very powerful. She's strong, like me, and she has potential."

Dia glanced at Aria, then back to him. "You…smell of Dragons. Your aura is strong, I will admit. But that one…" She growled at Aria, "Is much weaker. You should train me. Then I would believe your words."

"Unfortunately," Alex said, smirking again, "I already have Adamanteus." At the intonation of his name, the eager titanic steel snake launched from his ball, rising high above all of them with his impressive size. He gave Dia a low growl, which Alex's ears translated as 'Sup'. If Dia was impressed or interested, she didn't show it, but then, she was a rock type. Reading their moods was very hard, and Adamanteus had evolved before Alex learned to read him as an Onix. "But you see my words are true. I am not lying. I promise you, if you listen to Aria, if you help her while she travels, you will become every bit as strong as my Steelix. Eventually. But if you still want to be released…we can do that, too. So long as you agree not to attack any Humans or their cities. Unless attacked first, of course."

Dia paused for a long moment, thinking slowly, like most rock types. Her eyes darted from Alex to Adamanteus, who was still giving her an eager smirk and seemed far more interested in her than she did in him. Then again, with Pokémon, they could seem to dislike each other and still produce as many eggs as any other pairing. Finally, she spoke. "I will believe you…and accept the price of power. But tell the Human she must let me free more! I cannot stay in that…sphere…forever. I won't."

"Fair enough." Alex said, walking back towards Aria and Isamu, who seemed awestruck by how casually the man had chatted with the Onix. Dia followed him, and he recalled Adamanteus before his posturing turned more insistent. "Dia has agreed to work with you, provided you let her out more. Once I find a Metal Coat, I can send it over…"

"No need." Aria said, producing one from her bag. Alex resisted smirking, and Khan went very still. Against a rock and ground type, he may well lose, but if she made Dia into a steel type, the power to evolve would be in reach. She offered it to Dia. "If you listen to me, I'll let you out when I can, in areas where you won't hurt anyone. Deal?" Dia rumbled her agreement, her eyes alight with the chance for evolution, and as she touched the Metal Coat with her snout, it quickly moved to cover her body, as it began shining a brilliant white.

Dia roared again, as her evolution finished, and then eyed Alex and Khan. Aria got out a brush with impressive speed, and quickly gave her Steelix's new steel coat a cleaning. She shone bright in the fading sun of the desert. "Alright cuz, we're ready to…Battle you…aw, Muk. I should've waited to evolve her."

Alex and Khan laughed at their face's expressions, and Isamu chuckled as well. "You should have." Alex said, smirking, "But what's done is done. Come, we'll use Cascaraffa's field. It should have barriers. We'll need them, especially if Khan evolves." Once they were in place, Alex gestured to his cousin. "Newbies go first, I am a Champion, after all." He said loud enough to draw some looks. As expected, word spread like wildfire. Paldeans loved battles almost as much as sandwiches.

Aria didn't hesitate. "Dia! Earthquake!" The much larger Steelix smirked at Khan, who growled, irritated. Being on the team he was on; he'd learned how to handle Earthquake. It just always hurt, since Trailblaze could only be so strong when used by a fire type. Alex called the move, and he skated through the crashing earth, wincing but quickly realizing that compared to Terra, Dia's mastery was clumsy at best. Wild Pokémon didn't really need finesse like battlers did, so their control tended to be vague but overwhelming, to most species. "Don't let up!" Aria shouted, "Earthquake 'till it hits!"

Alex nodded, as the Steelix slammed her titanic frame down again, but Khan was still Trailblazing. He'd have to stop to use a fire move though, so he and his Trainer watched for an opening as Dia began repeatedly rumbling the field. The crowd went wild, as they typically enjoyed moves of that level of power. The energy barriers kept the worst of the attacks from escaping and damaging their city. "Khan! Slide backwards, now!"

The fiery adolescent tiger cub did so, having long since learned that his Trainer often saw things he could not. He always guided him to a decent opening for an attack, which made Khan fonder of him. The training was a bit intense, and learning so many moves was a pain, but Alex's team was large and usually had someone who could explain something vague, like making grass grow on command, or summoning the power of bugs of all things. Bug energy personally creeped him out, but Leech Life had proven quite useful. He was glad he had the Trainer he had. He was starting to believe he really could be the best.

As he skated back, he understood. Dia had, in her anger, raised two large Earthquake mounds of ground energy to crush him between them, but she'd left just enough of a gap to avoid the attack. No, Khan realized slowly, as he looked up, and saw what Alex had. He now had a ramp straight to Dia's head. Once again, his Trainer had guided him to a prime opening. He started running, as Alex called the move. "Fire Claw! Don't let up!"

Fire Claw was what made Eousian Litten so sought after, as it was one of the first moves they learned, its base power was very high for a physical fire attack, and very few Pokémon could endure being clawed by a burning tiger. Granted, Steelix was definitely one such Pokémon, but Khan intended to try anyway. He ran up the raised Earthquake mounds and leapt, using all four of his limbs and their burning claws to land on her face, and then, he let his instincts take over, as he just flailed and roared wildly, dealing massive damage.

Dia tried to shake Khan off, and seeing she was struggling, Aria raised something that Alex was too focused on the battle to immediately notice. "Dia!" She shouted, as the fiery tiger cub mauled her. "Mega Evolve!"

"Oh, Muk…" Alex muttered, as he saw Dia's eye flick to her Trainer, and gave a slow nod, despite the ongoing mauling. Her body began shining, as her energy harmonized with her Trainer, and though their bond was new, the lines of Spiral Power and Infinity Energy connected flawlessly. Alex smirked. He'd always known he was not the only Redwood of his generation with a knack for battles. A wave of electromagnetic force pushed Noir off of Dia as she roared and glared at him. Alex started sweating slightly, as he and his heat emanating fire tiger faced down the Steelix who, to his eye, was looking very tempted to start rampaging.

"I'm not losing like this…" Khan snarled, and then roared, as fire erupted around his form, which began glowing bright white as well. Dia watched, her body slowly rotating in anticipation, as she let Khan finish. Once he was done, he looked magnificent with his burning mane, glowing fiery claws, and bits of flame fluttering in the air. He roared so loud, Dia wavered in the air, but Alex recognized a Hyper Voice when he saw one. The Mega Steelix's eyes narrowed, and a Rock Throw came for the fiery tiger, though its speed made it less of a throw and more of a rock-based machine gun. As a fan of earthbending himself, Alex took note of how she shattered it and then fired the pieces rapidly, but one at a time.

For his part, Khan's eyes were wide, and his mouth was exhaling fire. He glanced up quickly as he saw the rocky bullets shooting towards him, and with cat-like reflexes, slammed his paws in the ground. A genuinely powerful Earthquake, especially for a first-time attempt, rose and completely buried the stone bullets, before the wave of earth and sand fell back into the ruined battlefield. Dia blinked, as Khan Flame Charged, even further raising his newly heighted speed to a higher stage. Thanks to her evolution, she could see the burning tiger coming at her like a comet, but her body was reacting too slowly. All the Trailblazing had made Khan too fast.

"Protect!" Aria shouted, but by the time she had, Khan was already too close for the Mega Steelix to summon the nullifying barrier.

Seeing their chance, Alex finished it. Khan had already been stronger than Dia in terms of level, and now his evolution helped with that. All the newly grown Pokémon saw firsthand with Kalagon and now Khan, how evolving in battle worked out better. "Flame Charge, dodge the counter, and then Fire Claw!"

The Redwood Saga - Chapter 68 - Sahqoreyth (2)

"Rock Slide!" Aria ordered confidently. Dia struck Khan with the speed and power of her form, but through the explosion of rock dust, the burning tiger came in hot, literally, and slashed across her jaw, leaving a rather bad rent in the steel there. Thanks to his speed, the Rock Slide had only grazed him. He was 'in the red' as they say, but still standing, and still capable of striking. Dia's form broke, as the pain made her faint, and as Khan landed, and saw his claws were still very much burning, he buried them in the ruined earth, but that just started to smoke.

Alex bamfed over to Dia, with a Max Potion. The wound was deep in one part, but less in the others, and Alex realized Khan must have noticed in the moment how hot he was burning, and how much damage he was doing to Dia, before drawing his deadly weapons back. Dia rumbled back to consciousness and growled as she felt Alex fiddling with her wound. "Oh hush. You'll be fine…Khan just burned a bit too hot…" Hot enough to melt a Mega Steelix by accident. He looked over at his fiery tiger, starting to see what all the hype was about, when he noticed that Khan still hadn't cooled down.

Alex walked over, as he kept burying his burning claws in the dirt, but they refused to go out. "You alright, bud?"

"I can't…put them out…" Khan snarled. The air grew hotter with his frustration, as did his claws. He looked up at his Trainer, eyes wide. They didn't have fear, he was too brave to feel such a thing, but he was concerned. He wouldn't be able to go indoors or have delicious human foods if he was always burning everything up.

"Khan." Alex said, locking their eyes. "It's your power. You control it. So, all you need to do, is keep calm. It's okay if you let it flare up in here. Sometimes you need to let the energy flow, before it'll fade away. You did evolve in a heated battle after all. Just breathe."

Khan nodded and closed his eyes. He recognized Tao's teachings, and he had great respect for the Legendary dragon. There were several tales of him in Eous and seeing him in reality had only confirmed the truth at the heart of those legends. Slowly, he took in the cool air of Cascaraffa, and exhaled the heat he used for battle, all while keeping his claws buried. They flared up, but then began to cool, as Alex had said, and eventually, they went out entirely. Relieved, Khan exhaled a deep breath, and purred against his Trainer. "Well done, bud. We'll work on controlling that heat…I didn't think you'd get hot enough to cut into a Steelix, but if you can do what even Diamonds can't, you're going to have to master controlling that if you want to Battle again. We don't need serious injuries. Your species are apex predators, like Salamence. Shruikan can help you control your base instincts."

Khan nodded, and Alex rand a hand through his warm, luscious mane. "We're finally ready for Selva Muerta. Right after…" He trailed off, as he saw a figure standing on the tier above the battling field, arms crossed, a wide grin on his weathered face. Blue and white obviously dyed hair framed Leader Kofu's somewhat comical features, but there was power in those eyes that reminded Alex of the ocean.

"Step right up now, an' tell me…" The Gym Leader boomed, "which one'uh you Redwoods am I beatin' first?"

The Redwood Saga - Chapter 68 - Sahqoreyth (2024)


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