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On the ascended volcano of the historical city Sootopolis, the three ancient titans, Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza continue their deadly battle. Crouching in front of the Cave of Origin, Courtney takes another look at the silhouette standing atop the sky titan, and decides to tell Ruby the identiy of the person who brought the dragon from the Sky Pillar to the final battle ground there at Sootpolis.

However, before she could get to the point, Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza let out a simultaneously roar, and their deafening howls force Ruby and Courtney to hold their ears with their hands. Ruby tells Courtney to repeat what she said, but a tentacle suddenly appears out of nowhere to latch itself around Courtney's left leg, and swiftly yanks her into the Cave of Origin.

Ruby gasps in shock that there must be something inside the ancient shrine, and beckons Zuzu to give chase. Unfortunately, in that instant, Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza each deliver a hyperbeam to attack, and the three powerful blasts clash against one another at the city center, causing a big explosion which throws Ruby and Zuzu off their feet. The bang also crumbles the Cave of Origin, and buries Courtney inside.

Ruby quickly leaps to his feet and rushes over, and orders Zuzu to help move the heavy boulders away. But he soon hears Courtney's weak voice coming from inside, and the young woman tells him not to bother, since she wouldn't be able to hold on much longer anyway. She states that she is no longer able to move with her legs trapped under the fallen rubbles, and suggests the boy save his remaining strength to deal with the titans instead.

At that moment, Ruby sees something rolling out from the crumbled cement, and discovers that it is the Blue Orb. He realizes that Courtney has expelled the jewel out from her body under her own will, and is astounded at the power of her mind which took him and Sapphire a while to master during their training on the Mirage Island.

Ruby tries hard to look into the crevices between the rubbles, and manages to spot Courtney sitting in a small space inside. He calls out to the young woman in desperation and asks how she is doing, but the young woman wears a bitter grin, and tells the boy not to pity her. Leaning weakly against the collapsed wall behind her, she remarks that she has had her share of glory, and believes it is probably time for those who have reached their end to pass on the baton.

Ruby gets emotional upon hearing that, and urges her not to give up. He hollers that they will both make it through, and promises to participate in a Pokémon contest together with her once everything is over. The remark apparently tugs at Courtney's heart, and she sighs that Ruby seems to have found out she used to take part in contests afterall.

Back in the Rusturf Tunnel when Courtney and Ruby were facing off each other, Courtney at one point threw one of his ribbons in the fire. However, it turns out that the ribbon Courtney burnt was not Ruby's, but one of her own. When Ruby challenged the super rank contests at Fallarbor Town, he discovered that all his ribbons were intact, and thus knew that Courtney must have been a contest participant in the past, and most likely a skilled one even, otherwise she wouldn't have earned the ribbon.

Courtney grins that she seldom talks about it anymore because she feels embarrassed, about her fanatical contest childhood which she knows many people would laugh and make fun of. Nevertheless, such happy times existed. She remembers her good friend Daisy from Pallet Town of Kanto, who owns a Clefairy that always shone in contests with its follow-me. At that time, Courtney's Ninetales was still a Vulpix, and its signature appeal was the adorable tailwhip. She and Daisy treated each other as friendly rivals, and always practiced together. They even grew berries to raise the conditions of their Pokémon, and Courtney made sure that they were watered every day.

The young woman sighs that all of those are long gone now, and tells Ruby not to make too big a deal out of it. Suddenly, the ceiling above her begins to slowly give way, and Courtney knows that she must tell Ruby the message before it's too late. She starts shouting at the top of her voice, but the noise from the titans' fierce battle outside happens to muffle her words during that instant, and Ruby urges Courtney to repeat again.

Courtney grunts that they have wasted too much time talking about unnecessary things while what's crucial still hasn't been said, and thinks hard to come up with a way to pass on her message. She reckons that there is only one method left, and blows out a large bubble with her gum before spitting it out. She then reaches up to pull off the horn-like memory fire lighter from her hood, and sticks it under the bubblegum. Squeezing her left glove, she covers the bubble with a special mixture made from the extracts of the Lanset and Starf Berries, which greatly increases an item's buoyancy. When all is set, she lets go of the memory fire lighter, and hopes that the bubble will carry it safely to Ruby.

Outside, Rayquaza lets out an ear-piercing shriek, and swipes at Groudon and Kyogre with its giant tail, slamming them both against the Cave of Origin. Zuzu drags Ruby away just in time, but the impact completely reduces the ancient shrine into dust, and Ruby yells out for Courtney in horror. Staring at the levelled out ground in front of him, he trembles with disbelief, and his mind boggles at what has become of Courtney.

Just then, he spots something floating towards him in mid-air, and sees that it is Courtney's bubblegum. He hurries over to catch it, and the bubble instant bursts in his hands, leaving behind the young woman's memory fire lighter. Recognizing the device, Ruby quickly fumbles for a white paper in his bagpack, and begins creating an image by placing the lighter's fire beneath it. The outline of an object gradually shows, and Ruby soon sees that it is the Balance Badge, the badge in charge by the Petalburg gymleader, his very own father.

Ruby recalls Courtney trying to tell him about the identity of the person who brought Rayquaza to Sootopolis from the Sky Pillar, and realizes with a start that it is his father, Norman. He glances over to the sky dragon, and sees the silhouette of the man standing atop the ancient titan. Convinced that there is more that the memory fire lighter holds, he continues to read all that's stored inside.

Lying weakly under the rubbles of the crushed Cave of Origin, Courtney begins to slip into unconsciousness as her breath gets shallower and shallower. She hopes that her lighter has reached Ruby, and that the boy would finally learn the information she has uncovered at the Mossdeep Space Center, about how his father chased after the sky Pokémon Rayquaza at the expense of everything else, his family and his dream…

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us

262: The Last Great Battle III!

Volume 22