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On the Mirage Island, amid the strong winds and heavy rain, Sapphire suddenly puts on a serious look, and says there is one thing she wishes to tell Ruby before they leave. She looks straight into Ruby's eyes, and with a slight tremble in her voice, confesses that she loves Ruby. Astounded by what he hears, Ruby doesn't know how to react, and the two stand staring at each other in silence.

Just then, at the center of the island, Juan sees from the Sandshrew timer that their time pace has completely synchronized with that of the outside world, and quickly orders his Kingdra to fire off a signal. Back on the verge of the island, Ruby and Sapphire notice a firework created by water blasts, and give each another a nod before hopping onto Sapphire's Tropius, Tororo, together with Plusle and Minun.

Tororo swifty takes off, and braces itself against the powerful winds threatening to blow them down. Ruby's Pokégear begins to beep, and he answers to find Juan calling. The man informs them that they have departed from the island well, but urges them to stay alert as they could easily get caught within the swirling voids of time separating the Mirage Island from the outside world.

He states that he shall inform them of any impending danger on their way, as he could monitor them from the island to certain extent, and Ruby is surprised that Juan isn't leaving the island. Juan explains that the most important thing at the moment is to make sure he and Sapphire reach the outside world safely, and Tate, Liza and himself will remain on the island to navigate them until they arrive at Sootopolis. He reiterates that the fate of Hoenn lies in their hands, and Ruby assures him that they will do their best.

After Ruby hangs up the call, Sapphire apologizes for saying something like that at such critical times, but she fears that she would not have the chance to say it later. Earlier, back at Fortree, Ruby has mentioned that he will return to Johto after he conquers all contests in Hoenn, which means Ruby will leave soon after their current battle is over. Somehow, the thought of that pains her, and it was only then that she realizes she has developed feelings for Ruby.

When they first met, Sapphire thought of Ruby as nothing but a disgusting boy, with no manners, no credibility, annoying arrogant, lies and bluffs all the time, essentially someone who only speaks but never acts. However, as she spent more time and battled along with him, she discovered the good side to him, that he actually possesses the strength he claims to have, and that his skills are real.

The truth is, as Sapphire has told Ruby at Fortree, she also wants to be with the one she likes, and there actually is someone whom she thinks of all the time since she was very young. Many years ago, she had the chance to spend several days with a boy whose face and name she no longer recalls, but she clearly remembers the way the boy protected her from a Salamence, and as a result, got a deep cut on the right side of his forehead.

All these years, she has thought of the boy every day, and it was actually that boy who influenced her to take up battling and challenge it to its extreme. She remembers telling the boy something she heard from her father, that a powerful young trainer in Kanto managed to claim championship at the Pokémon League at the age of eleven. She and the boy agreed to outshine that trainer someday, and work towards making the same achievement before they hit eleven.

Alas, in the years that followed, Sapphire spent most of her time studying Pokémon with her father, and her eleventh birthday drew near before she realized it. On the day she encountered Ruby in the cave near Route 101, it was exactly 80 days before her birthday. Thinking of her promise with the boy, she figured that the least she could do was earn the qualification to enter the Pokémon League by conquering all gyms before she reached eleven.

Ruby finally understands why Sapphire set the limit of their pact to 80 days, and Sapphire remarks that she is actually glad that she made the bet, because it gave her to chance to see the good in Ruby. She confesses that she loves the boy in Ruby who battles with Pokémon, the boy in him who grooms Pokémon, the true kindness in him which he hides under his pretense, and also the determination in him to brace through everything once he has made up his mind. In fact, all the qualities he possesses, everything in him.

Sapphire grins that she finds it weird how more and more, Ruby seems to have replaced the boy in her heart. Right now, the only person that fills her mind is Ruby. Sapphire feels grateful that she has finally confessed her feelings, but says she has only one wish, and that is for Ruby to stay. After the battle is over, she truly hopes that Ruby will not leave, so he could experience Hoenn once again, and let her show him all its natural greatness. Putting on a smile, she tells Ruby to return to Littleroot together with her, and wants to know what he thinks.

Meanwhile, at the center of Mirage Island, Tate and Liza notice the odd speed at which the sand is falling inside the Sandshrew timer, and remark that the synchrony between the island's time pace and that of the outside world seems rather unstable. Juan agrees to their observation, and recalls the same thing happening when he took Ruby and Sapphire to the island, which is why he has decided to stay behind and monitor their navigation.

Making a call to Ruby again, he warns him not to fall into the voids of time, or they will not be able to reach Sootopolis. Just then, a swirl of wind knocks Sapphire off Tororo, and Ruby quickly grabs her by the hand. As he pulls her up, he assures Juan that they will get out from the voids of time safely, and an opening soon appears in front of them. He tells Sapphire that they have found the exit, and they both look forward to see the stormy cauldron in the skies above Sootopolis caused by the energy explosions between Groudon and Kyogre.

In a flash of light, the swirling voids of time around them disappear, and Ruby and Sapphire find themselves back in Sootopolis. They look down to see Steven and Wallace controlling Registeel from below, and Wallace is surprised to see the two young trainers suddenly materialize out of nowhere.

Turning around, Ruby takes a look at the ongoing struggle between the two ancient titans, and wants Sapphire to expel the Blue Orb out from her body. Not sure what Ruby has in mind, Sapphire complies, and focuses her mind to send the jewel out from her palm. Ruby then requests that Wallace lend him the air-car for a while, and says he remembers the password to access its remote control mode since he saw his teacher use it once before.

Keying in the code, Ruby opens up the shield of the air-car, and motions Sapphire to hand him the Blue Orb. Sapphire wonders what Ruby plans to do, and Ruby, after taking the orb, without warning pushes the girl off Tororo, alongside with Plusle and Minun.

The three fall into the air-car, and Ruby immediately closes its shield, trapping them in while Sapphire bangs on the glass desperately, astonished by what is going on. She demands to know what Ruby is doing, and Ruby confesses that he too, is grateful that he has made the 80 day bet with her.

Memories begin to flood Ruby's mind. He recalls the first time he saw Sapphire and mistook her as a beast, and how hostility built up between them right away. He remembers their second encounter at Dewford, during which she actually rushed to his rescue at the Granite Cave once, only to get humiliated by him at the end. The first time they worked together on the abandoned ship, the third time they met in Fortree which led to a big quarrel, and finally their collaboration at the Seafloor Cavern and the training on the Mirage Island, all clear as day in his mind.

He thanks Sapphire for all the good times they've had, but apologizes that he could not bring her to the final battle, the reason being that he has heard her confession. He takes off his hat to reveal a big scar on the right side of his forehead, and confesses that he also loves her, and has thought of her every day since he was young, which is why he cannot forsake her safety and will not let her join the fight against the ancient titans.

Sapphire gasps with shock when she sees the scar on Ruby's forehead, and realizes with a start that he is the boy who saved her from Salamence in her childhood, the same boy whom she has loved all these years.

Just then, a silhouette appears behind Ruby, and inquires if all is set. Ruby replies that he is more than ready, and the silhouette reveals itself to be Team Magma's Courtney, riding on her Swellow. Clutching tight to both the Red and Blue Orbs, Ruby commands Tororo to head forward with Courtney flying next to them, and dive straight towards where Groudon and Kyogre are.

Meanwhile, up in the clouds on the south, Rayquaza is speeding towards Sootopolis. Standing on the head of this third ancient titan, Norman prays that Ruby would not do something foolish…

Countdown to our heroes' rival showdown: 3 days!

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us




259: VS. Rayquaza II!


Volume 21