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    It was noon when the airplane landed on the airstrip of the Pallet Town Airport. The plane came to a full stop and soon after, the passengers began to unload from the plane. Hanako, Tatsu, Riviére, Seph, Atlas, and Eve got off the plane in single file and walked away. They walked past the checkpoint and exited the airport. 

    “I am sooo glad to be back in Kanto,” said Eve exhaustedly. “The Sevii Islands were fun until we met you three. That was a little bit too much adventure than I bargained for.”

    “I have to agree,” said Atlas, stretching his achy limbs as they set their luggage. “Dodging Team Rocket all over the Sevii Sea just to get back here was stressful.”

    “Remind us to never travel with you ever again, jes,” Seph said as he yawned and sat down on the pavement.

    Tatsu looked over at Hanako and Riviére before he rubbed the back of his head and replied, “Well, we did warn you after all.”

    “Being chased by Team Rocket all over the place wasn’t in the job description,” said Eve with a sigh. “But, what’s done is done. We made it back to Kanto in one piece, somehow.”

    “So, what are you going to do now?” asked Atlas.

    “We’re going to stay here in Pallet Town for a week or so,” replied Hanako. “We got our Viridian City Gym Battle confirmation just yesterday, and we got our battles scheduled ten days from now.”

    “Ten days?” Atlas raised a brow. “Ours are scheduled separately over three days, starting in two days. Are you all going to battle on the same day?”

    “I guess so. Giovanni must be a busy man,” said Riviére as Tatsu looked away. “The last time we saw him was in Viridian City almost a year ago. The Gym should be rebuilt by now. He must be busy facing trainers that earned seven badges.”

    “Are you guys going to be staying in Pallet for a while?” asked Hanako.

    “Nah. We’re going to start our journey back to Viridian City and prepare for our Gym Battles,” said Seph.

    “Besides, if we stayed with you three, bad things are likely to follow,” added Seph.

    “So mean…,” said Riviére with a pouty face.

    “Well, we better get going,” said Eve as she picked up her bag. “Good luck in your Gym Battles!”

    “Yeah, you too,” said Tatsu.

    The six friends exchanged goodbyes and Eve, Seph, and Atlas departed into the city. Hanako, Tatsu, and Riviére walked in the opposite direction, toward the coast and edge of the town. The further south they walked, the less houses they passed. Then, after they walked over a hill, they saw a familiar building; Professor Oak’s laboratory. The windmill blades rotated slowly as the wind brushed past. They ran down the hill and up towards Professor Oak’s lab with bright smiles on their faces, just as they did nearly a year ago. Hanako was the first to reach the door and she knocked it trice. They waited patiently as the front door creaked open slowly and Professor Oak peeked out.

    “Oh! What a pleasant surprise!” said Professor Oak happily as he opened the door wide. “I wasn’t expecting you three to stop by!”

    “We just came back from the Sevii Islands, and we thought we should stop by,” said Riviére as the three walked inside.

    “I’m glad you three stopped by,” he said as he escorted them inside. “Are you hungry? I was just about to prepare lunch.”

    “Yeah, we’re starving!”

    They sat down at the wooden table as Professor Oak made some extra noodles, rice, meat, and vegetables. While Hanako ate some chilled berries, the others ate the food Professor Oak prepared for them. After a quick lunch, Professor Oak and the others went outside to his Pokémon Sanctuary to feed his Pokémon. As he stretched his arms, he looked back at the young trainers and smiled.

    “So, how have your Pokémon been? It’s been quite some time since I saw Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. I have yet to meet the Pokémon you have acquired throughout your journey as well. How long do you intend to keep an old man waiting? I’m not young, you know!”

    Hanako, Tatsu, and Riviére reached into their bags and withdrew their Poké Balls. One by one, the nine Poké Balls were tossed into the air. Each Poké Ball snapped open and the Pokémon were released. First, their starter Pokémon; Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise. Then secondly, Leafeon, Flareon, and Vaporeon took form. Lastly, Exeggutor, Arcanine, and Gyarados materialized.  

    “Oh my!” said Professor Oak as the final Pokémon materialized. Riviére’s Gyarados towered over them and their Pokémon. “I have never seen a Gyarados this large before!” she said excitedly as Riviére stepped forward. “So the rumors were true about you having a massive Gyarados,” he said to Riviére.

    “I got him as a Magikarp at the Mt. Moon Festival,” said Riviére as she walked over to the Gyarados. Gyarados leaned forward so she could pet him. “He was just as feisty then as he is now. He was a pretty big Magikarp back then too.”

    “I see,” he said as he turned his attention from the Gyarados and to his old Pokémon. “My, my, you three grew up fast,” said Oak as he walked over toward Charizard, Venusaur, and Blastoise. As he approached, he noticed their armor and the three Mega Stones and Emera engraved into them.

    “Huh? What are these?” he asked as he examined Charizard’s breastplate.

    “Those are Mega Stones,” explained Tatsu. “We managed to find three that were compatible with our Pokémon. They allow our Pokémon to Mega Evolve.”

    “Mega Evolution?” Professor Oak blinked and scratched his head. “Hm...Mega Evolution…I think I recall a Professor from the Kalos Region bring up Mega Evolution once.”

    “Oh, you know Professor Sycamore?” asked Riviére.

    “Yes, that’s the very one. You know him?”

    “I met him once a few years ago when my family visited Lumiose City. He was the new Professor of the region.”

    “I see. Yes, that would make sense,” said Professor Oak as he pet the heads of Venusaur and Blastoise. “You’ll have to show me Mega Evolution one of these days. I assume you’ll be fighting in the Tojoh Tournament next year?”

    “That’s the plan,” replied Tatsu.

    “Good. I can’t think of a better time to witness Mega Evolution for the first time there,” said Professor Oak. “Until then, how about you three help me feed the Pokémon I have here?”

    “Of course!” said Hanako happily.

    The rest of the day was spent helping Professor Oak feed the large amount of Pokémon kept at his lab. There were many species of Pokémon kept at his lab; well over one hundred different kind of Pokémon took residence there as their trainers continued their journey. After a long day, Professor Oak cooked them dinner and allowed them to retire at his home for the night. It was near midnight as Hanako sat down in the armchair with a cup of tea. Tatsu and Riviére had fallen asleep sitting up on the couch. Tatsu had leaned against her, his head resting on Riviére’s shoulder and her cheek against the top of his head. Hanako smiled before she took a sip of the tea. She set the cup of tea down and turned on the lamp before she took an old book out of her purse and began to read it.

    “Hanako? You’re still up?” asked Professor Oak as he walked by his living room. He wore a baby blue pajama set with Pikachu head patterns.

    Hanako looked up at Professor Oak. “Oh, sorry. I wanted to read a little bit before I went to sleep,” said Hanako as she closed the book.

    “It’s quite all right,” he said as he took a seat in the vacant armchair beside her. He looked at Tatsu and Riviére as they slept for a moment before he leaned forward and grabbed a sketchbook and pencil from off the table. “This would make for a good sketch,” he said as he opened the sketchbook and found an empty page.

    Hanako watched Professor Oak as he sketched Tatsu and Riviére sleeping on the couch. As he sketched, he paused for a moment and looked at Hanako. “Oh yes, I forgot to mention to you earlier during dinner; I got ahold of Professor Elm in New Bark Town. He requested that after you three win your eighth Gym Badge, he would like you to stop by in New Bark Town before you begin your journey in Johto.”

    “Oh, okay. Did he mention why?” asked Hanako.

    “He did not,” said Professor Oak as he continued to sketch. “I assume he would like to give you three a birthday present. Your birthdays are coming up, aren’t they?”

    “Hm? Oh…Oh yeah, they are,” she said as she looked back at Tatsu and Riviére. “We’ll be sixteen in a few weeks.”

    “Well, Tatsu and Riviére will be,” said Professor Oak. He paused for a moment before he resumed sketching and said, “I imagine it would be a little trickier to determine your true age, I assume. Do you go by the age you were as a human, or the age of your homunculus body at present?”

    Hanako’s eyes widened in surprise. “How…?”

    “How do I know?” asked Professor Oak. “I was informed by Professor Fuji after you three left Lavender Town. I must admit, I was very surprised when he told me your story. I don’t know if I quite believe it myself. Professor Fuji is a very old friend of mine, and I don’t think he would lie to me about something so serious,” he said as he looked at her. “So. Is it true?”

    Hanako looked away from his gaze, her expression torn. “It…It’s true,” she said after a long pause. “I don’t want many people to know what I am.”

    “I understand your predicament. I cannot understand the burden that is put on your shoulders,” he paused for a moment and looked over at Tatsu and Riviére as they slumbered. “Do they know?”

    Hanako nodded. “Yes. They found out several months ago when I was put into a situation where I couldn’t hide it any longer.”

    “It’s good that they know,” said Professor Oak as he resumed sketching them. “You should keep your friends close in these dangerous times. Those times are nearing us once again,” said Oak sadly. “The country may be calm on the outside, but the tension is thick between Kanto and Johto governments. Team Rocket have continued to aggravate the two regions. The governments accuse each other for hiring Team Rocket as a rogue army to attack each other. The citizens feel that way as well; they feel another war is about to erupt between the two regions once more.”

    “I feel it too,” said Hanako as she cupped her hands. “Team Rocket plans to unleash a Pokémon Clone Army to attack the regions in hopes that they attack each other in a new war. I suspect that toward the end of this new war, Team Rocket would strike in attempt to overthrow both regions and rule it.”

    “I see…,” Professor Oak set the sketch book down on his lap and crossed his arms. “Yes, that would be an effective strategy. Both regions would attack each other and after their armies kill each other, then Team Rocket can attack the regions in their weakened state.”

    “Team Rocket has a strong presence in the Sevii Islands,” said Hanako. “The people haven’t noticed too much, but the reality is that Team Rocket controls the islands. Strategically, it’s the best place for them to launch an attack. It’s right in the heart of the Tojoh Sea and the center of the fallen empire. Team Rocket could launch a strike against not just Kanto and Johto, but Oblivia, Sinnoh, and Hoenn as well. From there, they could attack Fiore and Almia after they conquered Oblivia. Orre wouldn’t stand much longer after the other regions fall. With the Johto and Kanto fighting with each other, and the other regions lacking a strong army to repel Team Rocket for long.”

    “The only army that can repel Team Rocket would be Johto or Kanto,” said Professor Oak with a soft sigh. “I doubt telling President Kanto or President Johto would do much good. Those brothers fight every time they are forced into the same room. I doubt either of them would listen to me if I brought this information to them. I don’t know if they would even listen to Satoshi. Tch. Neither of them deserve to take up the mantle of Emperor. Their fighting is what broke this country.”

    Hanako sighed softly. “I wish one of the other siblings were in line first. The others seem much more level headed.”

    Professor Oak chuckled. “You’re not wrong. It’s a shame that they couldn’t stop the older brothers fighting,” Professor Oak sighed softly and picked up his sketchbook. He touched up the sketch a bit and showed it to Hanako. “Well? What do you think?”

    Hanako looked at it and smiled. It was a perfect sketch of Riviére and Tatsu sleeping on his couch. “It looks really good!”

    “I’m glad,” he said happily as he tore the page out and handed her the sketch. “Here, you keep it.”

    “Are you sure?” she asked as she took the sketch.

    “I’m sure. You’ll enjoy it much more than I.”

    “Thanks, Professor Oak,” she said with a smile.

    “You’re very welcome,” he said with a stifled yawn. “It is very late. I should retire for the night.”

    “Me too,” said Hanako as she rubbed her eyes.

    “Good night Hanako.”

    “Good night, Professor Oak.”

    Hanako turned off the lamp and placed the sketch on the night stand before she leaned back into the armchair to sleep. As the room went dark, Natsu’s Key Stone on the sword propped against the couch began to glow. Within Natsu’s Key Stone, Natsu sat on the ground, legs folded as he meditated. Tatsu stood behind Natsu and looked down at him.

    “Natsu…” he said, his voice strained.

    “Why are you here, Tatsu?” asked Natsu as he opened his eyes and stood up. “What troubles you?”

    “We’ll be fighting my dad soon,” said Tatsu as he rubbed his elbow. “I know it’s a trap. Hanako and Riviére don’t know what they are walking into.”

    “You are right,” said Natsu. “You’ve neglected to tell them the truth. Is it out of fear or shame do you not reveal your secret to them?”

    “Both,” said Tatsu after a long pause.

    Natsu narrowed his eyes. “Hm…Yes. That much is obvious,” he said as he turned his back to Tatsu. “So what brings you here to me now? Do you intend to request I tell them on your behalf?”

    Tatsu shook his head. “No…Nothing like that.”

    Natsu turned back to Tatsu and furrowed his brow. “Then why are you here?”
Chapter 73: Return to Pallet Town

© 2016 Pokémon. © 1995–2016 Nintendo/Creatures Inc./GAME FREAK inc. Pokémon, Pokémon character names, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Wii, and Wiiware are trademarks of Nintendo. 

PokéBall Z the Series is Written by J.J. Knight

Stay tuned for the next chapter of PokéBall Z; The Earth Badge
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:icondarkone4587:
The end of this half of their journey is fast approaching and on the eve of their eighth Gym Battle they decide to rest at the home of an old friend. With tension mounting and a major threat on the horizon, it's best to rest now and await he challenges that are to come on the morrow. But enough purple prose, how did this chapter hold up?

First as always the bad:
Not a lot of bad here, as a break chapter it serves it's purpose and it's always good to see Pr. Oak after so long.
If I had to nit pick it's that Riviere dosen't get much focus, Tatsu and Hanako are given plenty of individual focus in this chapter and she barely has any.

And now the good:
It's good to see the group taking a rest after everything that's happened, it'd be hard to believe they could jump right into another fight after all of that.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
2 out of 2 deviants thought this was fair.

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:iconcolorninjags:
ColorNinjaGS Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Have you ever considered making a rough map sketch of where the different regions are in relation to each other? Maybe just points on a blank piece of paper with names of the regions? It'd help with understanding the geographic significance of team rocket's location.
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:iconpokeballztheseries:
PokeBallZtheSeries Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
I actually used the Serebii world map because I can't draw worth shit.

www.serebii.net/pokearth/

As for the names of the islands, here's what I used (Because Island One is a very lame name of an island). If you click on the island, it'll show you which one it's named (Island Seven is Quest Island, for example).

bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wik…
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:iconcolorninjags:
ColorNinjaGS Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Oh, that's a pretty good source for this.

As for drawing, I can relate. I can make rough diagrams for stuff, but beyond that... DX
Reply
:iconpokeballztheseries:
PokeBallZtheSeries Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
I can't even draw stick figures. That's how bad I am.
Reply
:iconcolorninjags:
ColorNinjaGS Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Oh dear...

Betcha could be taught tho.
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:iconpokeballztheseries:
PokeBallZtheSeries Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
I'm sure I could if I tried.
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:iconsapphiredragon6:
SapphireDragon6 Featured By Owner May 30, 2016  Student Writer
This may have been a filler segment, but it was well done and quite necessary considering the next two chapters. And it was nice to have the three meet up with Oak again.

and oh my gosh, it just now hit me that Tatsu and Riviere were cuddling together...//chanting// steamship steamship steamship
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:iconpokeballztheseries:
PokeBallZtheSeries Featured By Owner May 30, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I can't believe you missed that. #steamyshipping 
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