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As the moon gently casts its shadows onto the Battle Frontier island, the mythical Pokémon, Latios and Latias, slowly descend from the evening skies. Emerald puts on a big grin as he holds up the Pokéball of Sceptile which he stole from the Battle Factory, and Latias, addressing the boy as Rald, tells him to send it out and check on its level by the PokeNavi.

Standing less than a few feet from Emerald, Todd watches everything with wide eyes. Although he couldn't hear a single word mouthed by these two mysterious creatures which he has never seen before, from their facial expressions and Emerald's replies, he is certain that they are conversing with each other.

Emerald's PokeNavi soon lets out a beep as it finishes processing the data and Sceptile, and Emerald discovers from its status screen that it is at level 51. This revelation causes Todd to jump in surprise, and the reporter immediately hollers that it is impossible, since Emerald chose the level 50 challenge at the Battle Factory, and all rental Pokémon are not supposed to exceed that limit.

Emerald however, doesn't seem too surprised by the discovery at all. In fact, he has actually suspected it to be the case, and tells Todd to recall what happened when Noland's Glalie struck Sceptile with sheercold back at the Battle Factory.

In the last round of Emerald's battle against Noland, the Factory Head's Glalie scored a direct hit on Sceptile with its sheercold, but the grass Pokémon managed to regain its stance afterwards, which was essentially illogical since the attack is a one-hit KO move. Thinking things over, Todd realizes that the only possibility would be Sceptile was actually at a higher level than Glalie, enabling it to stay unharmed from one-hit KO moves which only affect opponents with lower levels compared with the attacker.

Emerald is glad that Todd has worked out the logic, and Todd quickly gets the impression that the boy has known of Sceptile's rule-breaching level beforehand, and thus picked it as a team member. But Emerald nonchalently shakes his head, and Todd, on a deeper thought, understands that it is very unlikely, since under Noland's watchful eyes, it would be hard for any challenger to cheat.

Knowing that the Factory Head wouldn't have intentionally placed a higher level Pokémon to Emerald's advantage, Todd wonders what could be the explanation. Emerald says he can only think of one at the moment, and proposes that Sceptile isn't an authentic rental Pokémon, but an outside Pokémon smuggled into the Battle Factory by someone other than Noland for whatever reason. The boy reveals that it is also why he stole the Pokémon away from the facility.

While Todd tries to digest and make sense of what he has just learnt, Latios and Latias suddenly sense someone approaching, and telepathically warn Emerald to stay alert. Todd also hears footsteps from a distance, and soon sees Pyramid King Brandon and Dome Ace Tucker with his Salamence materializing out from the dark.

From the direction they're heading, Todd is certain that the two men are coming for Emerald, and starts to panick about the stolen Sceptile. But Emerald tells the reporter not to worry, and signals to Latias. The red dragron then sends out a mistball, and the attack promptly shrouds over Sceptile, Latios and herself.

The two Frontier Brains soon come face to face with Emerald, and Tucker without warning picks the boy up by his collar, addressing him as the little dwarf. Emerald begins to protest that he isn't, but the wooden blocks under his platform shoes accidentally come off, and reveal that he has been faking his height all along.

Tucker immediately breaks into a maniacal laughter when he sees that the boy is even shorter than he appears, and Brandon, though telling Tucker not to be mean, struggles to hold back a giggle himself. Emerald grits his teeth in frustration as Tucker puts him back down and pats his head, yet could do nothing but once again curse at the poor craft work of the shoe store.

Brandon compliments on Emerald's performance at the Battle Factory, and says he does seem to master battling skills quite well, but Emerald apparently doesn't care much for acknowledgment from others, and brushes it off as nothing too spectacular. Tucker warns that the other facilities will be just as hard if not harder, and reminds Emerald not to underestimate them. However, Emerald remains nonchalant, and tells the two men to cut to the point quick and not to keep him from rest.

His arrogant attitude sends Brandon and Tucker over the edge, and the two men decide that it is pointless to play polite. They demand to know of Emerald's plan for the next day, and whether he will choose to challenge the Battle Dome or the Battle Pyramid.

Putting on a cocky smirk, Emerald remarks that although he does plan to conquer the entire Battle Frontier, he shall pick neither the Dome nor the Pyramid next, simply because he dislikes both Tucker and Brandon. With that, he shoots out his magic hand extensors without warning, and slams the two men's heads against each other before trotting off with a mischievous giggle.

Fury washes over Tucker and Brandon who feel their cheeks quickly swelling up from the impact. Jumping to their feet, they start chasing after Emerald, and soon find themselves playing a game of pursuit in the woods. Despite being in the dark, they manage to catch up with the boy after a while, and each lashes out a hand to grab hold of one of his long sleeves. The two men laugh that he has nowhere to run now, and demand him to stop moving about. However, Emerald seems extremely pissed at their yanking, and with an angry howl, hurls the two men around with his magic hand extensors.

Brandon and Tucker each gets thrown against a stalactite-like pillar, and the springs attached to Emerald's hand extensors swiftly coil around them like chains, rendering them immobile. While doing so, Emerald has also suspended himself between the two pillars with his feet off the ground, but he is apparently less than concerned about it. In fact, he gaps his mouth wide for a yawn, and begins to fall asleep.

Unable to see their surroundings in total darkness, Brandon yells for the boy to wake up, and Tucker demands them to be freed, but Emerald grunts that it was them who told him to stop moving about. He then says he must get some rest before the next day's challenge, and drifts off to sleep amid the two men's protests and complaints.

The next morning, as the sun rises above the horizon, Todd wanders around on the Battle Frontier island while holding the Pokéball of Sceptile in hand. After Emerald ran off with Brandon and Tucker the previous night, Latios and Latias have returned into the skies, and left him alone with the grass Pokémon. He wonders where Emerald has gone to, and hopes that Brandon and Tucker have not managed to seize him.

As the young reporter heads east from the Battle Factory, the Battle Pike, which is built in the fashion of a giant Seviper, soon comes into sight. Todd right away notices something peculiar about the Pike, and on a closer look, realizes with a start that Brandon and Tucker, who both wear exhausted looks on their faces, are chained against Seviper's two stalactite-like fangs at the entrance, while a slumbering Emerald is suspended between them.

Todd hurries over to see what is going on, and Pike Queen Lucy happens to be walking out from the facility at the same time. She notices her three unexpected visitors high up in the air, and swiftly has Seviper free them with a poisontail, causing them to crash onto the ground.

Towering over Brandon and Tucker, Lucy frowns and demands to know what they are doing. She then takes a look at Emerald who has just woken up, and finds it amusing that the boy has stumbled across her place in the dark. She grins that it must be luck, and wonders what he thinks about taking on the Battle Pike as his second challenge, a facility that must be conquered by luck.

Emerald agrees without hesitation, and Lucy proceeds to introduce herself as the Pike Queen, person in charge of the Battle Pike. Todd quickly fumbles for his Battle Frontier guidebook to look for information, and discovers that unlike the Battle Factory, challengers of the Battle Pike must bring along three Pokémon of their own.

The facility itself, which is constructed to mimic a Seviper's elongated appearance, consists of a series of big rooms and small rooms. Every big room has three optional doors, each leading to a different small room, where eight possible events may take place, including battles, status inflictions, and health restoration along with others, depending on the luck of the challenger.

An alternative arrangement of six big rooms and seven small rooms constitutes one cycle. In the very last small room of the tenth cycle, which is the 140th room cumulatively, the challenger will battle the Frontier Brain Lucy. However, just like the Battle Factory, if the challenger's whole team of Pokémon are knocked out before he or she reaches Lucy, the challenge must be restarted from the very beginning.

Soon, the other reporters begin to arrive at the Battle Pike. Lucy gives Emerald time to prepare for himself, and tells him to come find her anytime he is ready. The boy grins that it won't take too long, and hurries off with Todd trailing closely after him. The reporter states that Emerald will need three Pokémon for the challenge this time, and wants to know if he plans to have Latios, Latias, and the Sceptile as his team. Emerald grins that he will be using other ones, and Todd is clearly taken aback from the statement, since the boy has once said that he possesses no Pokémon.

Emerald explains that although he has none, the person who sent him off to the Battle Frontier owns every single species, and he is allowed to borrow any Pokémon at any time he wishes. This revelation further surprises Todd, who is astonished that Emerald was actually dispatched by someone to the Battle Frontier. The two soon arrive at the PokemonCenter on the island, and Emerald quickly launches the computer to access its communication feature.

At the Hoenn third division of the Pokemon Science Lab, a message pops up on the computer screen. A girl with star-shaped earrings dressed in a lab coat reads that it is from Emerald, and promptly sends over the three Pokémon the boy requests. Behind her, an enormous cupboard with multiple rows and columns spans across the entire room, holding all the Pokémon she has captured across the land so far.

A moment later, Emerald returns to the entrance of the Battle Pike, and Lucy says he is earlier than she expects. She wants to know the level of challenge Emerald chooses, and the boy decides to take on the level 50 one. Lucy proceeds to lead him into the first big room where three neatly arranged scarlet red curtains are drawn across three doors. The Pike Queen tells Emerald to make his first pick, and the boy without hesitation charges into the one on the left.

Upon entry, he quickly finds himself face to face with a Dusclops and Kirlia in a 2 on 2 battle, owned by two Pokéfans, one of each gender. Meanwhile, in a theatre room specially designed for the press, Todd watches Emerald's progress with Lucy and the other reporters through a monitor screen in front. He gasps that the Pokémon in that room are prone to inflict status effects as part of their strategies, and hopes that Emerald will be careful…

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us

308: VS Kirlia

Volume 26