"Oh come on, Twilight, you know it was funny," Rainbow Dash snickered.
Twilight gritted her teeth and responded, "We will never speak of this again." She turned to face the others, who were sitting around a table at the Pokémon Center. "That goes for all of you, too."
"Okay, okay," Rainbow smirked, "we'll pretend it never happened."
"Good," Twilight smiled, "I'm just glad Rarity was able to help."
"Of course, darling," Rarity nodded, "it was my pleasure. Although I admit it was tricky making an outfit for your current form. After all, I've never designed clothes for a human before."
"Well, I guess there's a first time for everything, right?" Twilight responded with a nod.
"Exactly," Rarity replied, before turning to face the others, "now, on to more important matters, how are we going to find the Cutie Mark Crusaders? If the Pokétransfer really disguised them as humans, how will we be able to recognize them?"
"Well, the Pokétransfer is meant to make them retain such features as their mane and their eyes," Twilight answered. She placed a hand to her chin in thought, and then continued, "Also, they'll have wristbands, and Scootaloo will have wings on her shoes. Even if she's too young to fly, she still has wings, so the Pokétransfer will have given her winged shoes just like any other Pegasus."
"Well that's handy," Rainbow spoke up, "so I guess we know what they'll look like here, so let's just split up and look for them." She pushed her chair back and started to stand up.
"Wait a second, Rainbow," Twilight held up a hand to stop Rainbow, "I think first we should try to figure out where they would have wanted to go."
"Well," Applejack replied, "knowin' mah sister and her friends, they probably wanna try to catch the strongest Pokémon they can find, so if we can figure out what it is, we're sure to bump into them on the way there."
"Then it's settled," Pinkie cheered, "we'll split up and ask around about what the strongest Pokémon is."
"Almost," Twilight continued, "we should also ask to see if anybody's seen the Crusaders, and of course see if we can't just spot them in the crowds ourselves. Let's split up and look for clues. We'll meet back here at noon and pool together what we've found out."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Rainbow eagerly responded as she stood up.
Twilight raised an eyebrow at Rainbow and asked, "Rainbow, you know we're here to bring the Crusaders home, not to have a vacation, right?"
"I know," Rainbow nodded, "but that doesn't mean we can't have some fun while we're here, does it?"
"Well, no," Twilight sighed, "just don't forget that our first priority is finding the Crusaders."
"Sure thing, Twilight," Rainbow smiled. She reached for her belt, picked up a Pokéball, and gave it a light toss, "But first, come on out, Oshawott."
The Pokéball opened and released a burst of energy, which materialized in the form of Oshawott, who sleepily rubbed his eyes and looked up at Rainbow. "Oshawott?"
Rainbow smiled warmly and picked up Oshawott, placing him on her shoulder. "Sorry to wake you, but it's time to go find the Cutie Mark Crusaders. You remember what they look like, right?"
"Osha, Oshawott," Oshawott nodded.
"Good," Rainbow patted Oshawott on the head, "so, let's both keep our eyes peeled for them, and remember, they'll be disguised as humans."
"Oshawott," Oshawott saluted.
"Great," Rainbow smiled and looked back at the others, "well, see ya later." She promptly turned and ran out the door.
Twilight rolled her eyes and turned back to face the others. "So, is everypony else ready?" All of the others nodded in response, so Twilight continued, "Great, then let's get going." She and the others stood up and walked for the exit.
"Do you see them, Looney?" Pinkie called up to her Drifloon, who was floating high up in the air, looking around for the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
"Loon, loon," Looney shook its head in disappointment.
"Oh, okay," Pinkie looked down to the ground. "How about you, Gible?"
The ground began to rumble as Gible poked its head up out of the ground. "Gib, Gible," Gible shook its head.
"Well that's strange," Pinkie tapped her chin in thought, "I was sure we'd find them if we looked underground and in the air." Suddenly, she snapped her finders and cheered, "I've got it! If we can't find them on land of the air, they must be in the water!"
Looney floated down next to Gible and asked, "Loon? Drifloon?" He and Gible shared a confused glance, but they were interrupted by Pinkie.
"That's right, it is a great plan," Pinkie smiled. Looney and Gible turned to face her , and were surprised to see she was now wearing a goggle, snorkel, and an inner tube shaped just like Gummy. "Okay, Team Pinkie," she cheered, "lets go find the nearest river and catch up to the Crusaders!"
Looney looked down at Gible in confusion, but Gible just shrugged and replied "Gib, Gib." Before Looney could say anything else, it was surprised as both itself and Gible were scooped up in Pinkie's arms and she started skipping toward the forest.
"Well hello there, little guy," Fluttershy smiled as she reached down to pet a small, fluffy Pokémon that resembled a puppy.
"Pup, pup," the Pokémon replied with a smile, happily letting Fluttershy scratch it behind the ears.
"Oh, aren't you sweet?" Fluttershy asked as she continued to pet the Pokémon. "By the way, have you seen three little girls walking around somewhere?"
"Pup," the Pokémon shook its head.
"Oh, I see," Fluttershy frowned in disappointment. "I guess I'll need to ask some more Pokémon."
"Pup, pup," the Pokémon became concerned seeing Fluttershy frown, so it started gently licking her hands.
Fluttershy giggled slightly and patted the Pokémon on the head. "Thank you, little guy," she smiled warmly, "you're right, I need to keep my hopes up and keep trying."
"Pup, Lilipup," the Pokémon smiled.
"Bye," Fluttershy waved as she stood up and started to walk away, "I hope I can see you again later." As she turned a corner, the Pokémon scampered after her.
As Rarity walked through the streets of Mistralton City, she called out, "Sweetie Belle! Where are you, Sweetie Belle?" No matter how much she called out, though, she just couldn't seem to find her sister. She sighed and muttered to herself, "Where in the world could those three have gotten off to?" She continued to walk down the street when her eyes caught sight of a small orange feather lying on the ground. Bending down to examine the feather, she realized it looked very similar to one of Scootaloo's. "Hm," she thought to herself, "if the machine really worked and gave Scootaloo wings on her shoes, perhaps this is one of hers."
A low rustling from a nearby trashcan drew Rarity's attention and she stood up. Cautiously, she approached the source of the noise, covering her nose to keep out the smell. "Scootaloo?" She asked, thoroughly confused, "is that you?" As she peered into the trashcan, she found a pair of large red eyes staring back at her. "AH!" She screamed as she fell backward.
"Patrat!" Startled by the scream, the Pokémon that had been hiding in the trashcan jumped out of the can, causing it to topple over and nearly land on the still startled Rarity.
Rarity rubbed her head in both annoyance and pain as she sat up. "Well, that was thoroughly un-enjoyable," she muttered. As her gaze drifted back to the toppled trashcan, she groaned loudly as she saw the orange, feathery sweater lying among the garbage. Holding up the feather she had found earlier, she held it close to the jacket and sighed. "Perfect, not only am I at a dead end, but someone actually had the nerve to throw away a perfectly good sweater. She staggered to her feet and exited the alley, unaware of a pair of eyes watching her from the inside of the trashcan.
"Apple Bloom!" Applejack called out as she walked between the massive greenhouses of the Mistralton Garden. She saw a number of Pokémon roaming around, but there was no sign of Apple Bloom. "Shoot," she huffed, "I was sure she'd be here. Ah figured she'd feel right at home in a garden this big."
"Is somebody there?" an unfamiliar voice inquired from behind a nearby greenhouse.
"What?" Applejack turned abruptly toward the source of the voice. "Yeah, someone's here," she responded, "but don't you worry none, I was just leavin'."
Suddenly, a man carrying a watering can stepped out from behind the greenhouse. "Oh, there's no need to be in such a rush," he said with a good-natured smile, "this is a public garden. I was just doing my rounds and heard someone yelling, so I was coming to see if everything was alright."
"Oh," Applejack gave a small chuckle, "sorry ta worry you. I was just lookin' fer my little sister and her friends. They sneaked away somewhere an' me and my friends split up to find 'em. Ah figured since we live on a farm, a garden would be a great place to look, but there's no sign of them."
"Oh dear," the gardener crossed his arms in thought, "I'm sorry to hear that, and I'm afraid I haven't seen anyone else in the garden today, except the Pokémon, of course."
"Shoot," Applejack sighed, "well, thank ya for yer time, but I guess I should go see if'n I can't find 'em elsewhere." With that, she turned and started walking to the exit of the garden.
"Good luck," the gardener called with a wave.
"Mistralton City Airport and Gym?" Rainbow Dash scratched her head in confusion as she read the sign at the edge of the air strip. "What's a gym doing at an airport?" Shrugging, she mused, "Guess they ran out of space for stuff. Still," she turned to face the entrance, "it couldn't hurt to check it out."
"Oshawott, Osha," Oshawott nodded.
"Then let's check it out," Rainbow responded as she walked up to the front door and entered the gym. Looking around, she was surprised to see that the gym was completely vacant of workout equipment. The room resembled an aircraft hangar, except for a few key features. On one of the side walls there was a raised platform with rows of seating, there were a couple green rings hovering in the air in the middle of the room, and the ground had been decorated with a large rectangular pattern with a Pokéball shape in the middle. Rainbow looked down at Oshawott and asked, "What kind of a gym is this?"
"It's MY kind of gym!" came a female voice from the other end of the room.
Rainbow quickly turned toward the source of the voice, but there was nobody in sight. "Who's there?!" she demanded.
"I could ask you the same question," the voice responded. Suddenly a pair of floor panels began to slide apart, releasing a small cloud of smoke. As the smoke cleared, a large, white, square machine rose from the ground. Rainbow watched in confusion as the machine tilted forward, revealing the mouth of a cannon, aiming toward the rings floating in the room.
"What the hay?!?" Rainbow backed up at the sight of the cannon.
The cannon fired, but instead of a cannonball, a woman in a blue flight suit shot out of it. She spread her arms, revealing a sheet of rubbery fabric between the arms and torso of the suit. Using this flight suit, she turned her arms to steer through the rings, not even touching the edges as she effortlessly flew through them. She landed in front of Rainbow and removed her crash helmet. "Welcome to the Mistralton gym," she announced, "my name is Skyla, the official pilot and gym leader of Mistralton City."
"Gym leader?" Rainbow blinked a few times, "What's a gym leader?"
Skyla was dumbfounded by the question. "What?! You don't know what a gym leader is?!?"
Rainbow backed up, startled by the outburst. "Whoa, what's the big deal? So I don't know what a gym leader is, big deal. I've been to plenty of gyms without gym leaders. Sure they had tough coaches, but not leaders."
"This isn't that kind of gym," Skyla sighed, "it's a Pokémon gym. You really don't know what a Pokémon gym is?"
"Nope, not a clue," Rainbow shrugged.
"But that's your Oshawott, right?" Skyla asked, pointing curiously at Oshawott.
"Yeah, he's my Oshawott," Rainbow replied, petting Oshawott, "I got him from Professor Juniper herself. Why do you ask?"
"Because I don't get how a trainer can not know what a Pokémon gym is."
"Well, if you're so smart, why don't you tell me what's so important about this gym thing?" Rainbow asked, now thoroughly annoyed.
"Gladly," Skyla smirked, "a Pokémon gym is where trainers come to earn gym badges. There are numerous gyms throughout the region, each run by a powerful trainer called the gym leader. If the trainer beats the gym leader, they get a gym badge, and any trainer who can earn eight different gym badges from around the Unova region can compete in the Unova League."
"The Unova League?" Rainbow asked in confusion.
Skyla closed her eyes and shook her head in disbelief, "Wow, you must be from Almia or something if you really don't know all this. Every region with gyms has its own league. The League is a big tournament held once a year, where all the trainers who have collected eight badges from the region compete to see who's the strongest of all. Since all the trainers there are skilled enough to have eight badges, it's the ultimate test for a trainer."
Rainbow's eyes widened in both wonder and excitement. "Whoa, that sounds awesome!" She declared.
"Osha, Oshawott!" Oshawott cheered.
Skyla couldn't help giggling at the trainer and Pokémon's enthusiasm. "Yeah, it's really exciting, but it's also very hard to get into. Speaking of which, while you're here, want to see if you can beat me and get your first gym badge?"
"Aw yeah!" Rainbow grinned, "bring it on."
"Alright," Skyla nodded, but why were you here in the first place if you weren't going to challenge me?"
"huh?" Rainbow thought for a moment, and gave a startled gasp as she remembered why she was there. "Oh geez, I'm supposed to be looking for some friends who went missing! Sorry, but I can't battle right now. I've gotta get back to the Pokémon Center! Sorry, I'll battle you some other time!" She quickly picked up Oshawott and ran out the door.
"Really? You really saw them?" Twilight asked excitedly.
"Why yes," the old woman nodded, "if they look anything like you described, I saw them speaking to Professor Juniper earlier."
Twilight's eyes widened in surprise. "Professor Juniper? But isn't her lab all the way in Nuvema Town? What's she doing all the way over here?"
The woman gave a small laugh and replied, "Not that Professor Juniper. I'm talking about her father, Cedric. He has his lab right here in town so he can conduct research on the Pokemon in Chargestone Cave."
"Chargestone Cave?" Twilight asked, "where's that?"
"Oh, it's just south of the city. There are many Steel and Electric-type Pokémon living there, many of whom are very useful for research, so old Cedric and his assistants take regular visits to gather information."
"Okay," Twilight nodded, "so if I want to find this Professor Juniper, should I try the lab or the cave?"
"Well, the only time when you're guaranteed to catch him at the lab is in the evening. The rest of the day, he tends to go wherever he feels like. For a researcher, he doesn't worry too much about a research schedule."
"Oh," Twilight nodded in understanding, "I guess I'll tell my friends and we'll go see him in his lab tonight. Thank you for your help," she said with a smile.
"You're welcome, dearie," the old woman smiled back, "good luck finding your friends."
"Thanks," Twilight said as she gave a small wave and turned to walk away.
Rainbow Dash walked into the Pokémon center, panting heavily. Seeing the others were already sitting around a table waiting for her, she rushed to the table. "Sorry I'm late, guys," she panted, "I got distracted by something."
"It's fine, Rainbow," Twilight responded, "turns out we won't be able to find out where the Crusaders are until this evening."
"Huh? Why?" Rainbow stared in confusion.
"Because our only lead is Cedric Juniper, Professor Juniper's father, and because the evening is the only tme we'll be sure to find him at his lab."
"Professor Juniper's father?" Rainbow asked. "Wow, I guess professors really don't ever retire."
"Be that as it may," Rarity interrupted, "I think we should see if we can find him at his lab now. After all, you said he wasn't guaranteed to be there, but you did not say he certainly wouldn't."
"I suppose that's true," Twilight nodded, "the worst thing that can happen is that we have to wait for him." She looked around at the others before continuing, "So, what do you think? Should we go ahead and try now?"
"Ah say we go for it," Applejack replied, "after all, the longer we wait, the harder it's gonna be to find the Crusaders."
"Yeah," Pinkie smiled, "and I wanna see if Professor Juniper's dad is as nice as Professor Juniper is. Maybe he'll give me a starter Pokemon like Dashie's Oshawott."
"Oh, I'd like that very much," Fluttershy commented.
"Alright then," Rainbow grinned, "looks like it's settled."
"Oshawott," Oshawott cheered.
"Then let's go," Twilight stood up and walked to the exit, followed shortly by the others.
Twilight calmly knocked on the door to the laboratory as her friends waited. "Oh, I hope he's here," she said, a worried tone evident in her voice.
"Don't worry, Twilight," Rainbow said, giving Twilight a reassuring pat on the back, "even if he's gone now, we can just hang out here and battle or something to pass the time."
"True, but I'd still rather get this over with," Twilight replied. She opened her mouth to continue, but was interrupted when she heard the door open.
Cedric Juniper stood in the doorway and gave a chuckle. "My, I've been getting an awful lot of visitors today."
Twilight gave a small laugh and replied, "Yeah, I know how it feels having research interrupted by impromptu parties." As she said this, she shot a small smirk at Pinkie. "Sorry to bother you, sir, but we're wondering if you've seen our friends."
"Well, that depends," Cedric responded, "are your friends three young girls and a Riolu?"
"I don't know about the Riolu," Twilight answered, "but I'm pretty sure those are our friends. An old woman told me she saw you talking to them, so unless you've seen two trios of young trainers today, that was probably them."
"In that case, yes, it was them," Cedric nodded.
"Great," Applejack grinned, "so, where are they? We're here to bring them home."
"I don't know where they are now," Cedric replied.
"What?!?" Applejack gasped, "but then what in the world were you and them talking about?!?"
"Oh, they wanted to know about the strongest Pokémon in Unova, and as a researcher I thought it would be a shame to ignore three youngsters' quest for knowledge, so I told them the legend of Kyurem and they left."
"Kyurem?" Rainbow asked, "What in the world is Kyurem?"
Cedric laughed and answered, "Kyurem is the most powerful Pokémon in Unova, of course. You see, long ago there was a mighty Dragon-type Pokémon who reigned alongside the king of the Unova region. The dragon represented truth and ideals, and wielded the powers of fire, lightning, and ice. Eventually, the great king's two sons had a fight with each other, one arguing that truths were more important, and the other arguing that ideals were more important. The conflict between them caused the great dragon to split, creating the legendary dragons Zekrom and Reshiram, one holding truths and the other holding ideals. After Zekrom and Reshiram split up, the empty husk of the original dragon's body became cold and void, taking life as the Pokémon Kyurem. Kyurem can freely wield the powers of Zekrom or Reshiram in addition to its own power."
"Are you serious?!?" Applejack yelled, "So my sister and her friends told you they wanted to catch the toughest Pokémon around, so you told them to go looking for a giant all powerful ice dragon monster?!?"
Cedric gasped in surprise, "Catch it? They never told me they wanted to catch Kyurem; they only asked what it was!"
"Well, where is Kyurem?" Twilight asked. "If we start going that way too, we're sure to catch up to them!"
"Right," Cedric nodded. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a rolled-up scroll. Handing it to Twilight, he continued, "take this with you." Twilight unraveled the scroll and saw it was a map. Cedric pointed to one of the cities on the map and explained, "This is Mistralton City right here. Now," he moved his finger along the map to a cave on the other side of Unova, "that's the Giant Chasm, where Kyurem lives."
Twilight examined the map and noticed that there were two different paths, one leading North from Mistralton City and one leading South. "Um, Professor," she started, "which of these paths did our friends take?"
"I don't know," Cedric responded.
"Huh?!?" Twilight gasped, "How do you not know?"
"Well I told you," Cedric explained, "I didn't know they were planning to go there."
"Great, now what?" Rainbow sighed.
Twilight frowned and responded, "I'm afraid the only thing we can do is take a guess and hope it's the path they took."
"If I may make a suggestion," Cedric interrupted, "the path to the South through Chargestone Cave is full of unique and powerful Pokémon, so if your friends were looking for strong Pokémon, they probably went that way."
"Hm, what do you think, Twi?" Applejack asked Twilight.
"It's all we have to go on right now," Twilight sighed, "so I guess we're heading to Chargestone Cave."
"Be careful in there," Cedric pitched in, "the rocks in that cave have unusual properties, and some of the Pokémon can be very hostile at times."
"Don't worry," Twilight replied, "we'll be careful. Thanks for the help." She turned to face the others and continued, "So, are we ready?"
"Just a minute, Twi," Applejack responded, "if the Pokémon in that there cave are as tough as he said, we'd better be ready. Ah say we go buy some more Pokéballs, just in case."
"Good idea, Applejack," Twilight nodded, "first we'll stock up on Pokéballs, then we'll head for Chargestone Cave." The others nodded in unison and turned to head for the Pokémart. As they were walking, Twilight mumbled, "I just hope we can get to the Giant Chasm before the Crusaders."
Little did the group know that as they spoke, a tall blue creature was watching them from the nearby forest.