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Outside the Battle Dome, visitors and trainers from all across the land are still lining up to get into the stadium, hoping to witness the heated tournament battle inside. Pike Queen Lucy's Milotic and Seviper use their long bodies to guide the direction of flow of the queuing lines, while Area Tycoon Greta waves little flags and whistles to maintain the order, making sure that the crowd knows where they are going.

Lucy soon sulks that highly honored Frontier Brains like themselves have to act as road signs for the people, and Greta starts to thrash around like a little girl, agreeing that they should have found someone else to do it.

Pyramid King Brandon tries to comfort the two, and grins that they don't have another choice since it was Anabel's decision. Factory Head Noland remarks that they still have no idea how and when the armoured man will strike again, and it is the Frontier Brains' utmost responsibility to ensure the safety of their visitors.

Greta says she understands, but it really surprises her just how many people are flooding into the Battle Frontier. Brandon nods in agreement, but states that from another perspective, it shows how highly anticipated the Battle Frontier is, probably even more so than anyone of them ever expected.

Noland suggests they take a look inside the Battle Dome, and the four make their way to the Frontier Brains' private stand inside the facility which looks over the entire stadium. To their awe, the whole room of audience is roaring with excitement, some going crazy over the coolness of Tucker, some exclaiming at the well designed battle system of the facility.

Greta hears how trainers fervently vow to participate right away once the Frontier opens to the public, and couldn't help but feel her eyes watering up. Lucy is deeply moved by everyone's sentiments as well, and knows that the joy they are bringing to their visitors is worth every hardship they have gone through.

Brandon states that they shall work to ensure the official opening day arrives safely, and Noland suggests they stay for a while to give support to Tucker, since most of the crowd have already entered the stadium. Brandon then informs Greta and Lucy that he and Noland have had some substantial progress in their investigations, and Greta wants to know they have found. Noland puts on a grin, and states that they have already figured out a way to locate the wish Pokemon Jirachi before their enemy does.

Meanwhile, Dome Ace Tucker and Emerald stand face to face on the stage, and are ready to start the final match of the final set of the tournament. Behind Emerald, Ruby and Sapphire cheer for the boy enthusiastically, and Ruby's Castform, Popo, holds a slogan of victory as it hovers around. Emerald, however, is less than impressed and puts on a frown as the two noisy ones keep babbling.

Sapphire states that Emerald shall acquire the Tactics Symbol once he wins, and Ruby decides to think over Tucker's team lineup again to predict his most likely choice. Sapphire recalls that Tucker possesses a Charizard, Metagross and Salamence, and rationalizes that he will start with Salamence again.

Ruby's face goes flat as he thinks of Salamence, and Sapphire begins to shiver as well, recalling the horrid experience of facing the ferocious dragon in her semi-final match against Tucker, which she eventually lost to. It seems that a Salamence will forever be difficult for her to conquer, and Ruby agrees that they are both mentally vulnerable to the species.

Ruby's last statement catches Sapphire's attention, and she quickly asks if Ruby has finally come to terms with it. Ruby doesn't understand what Sapphire is talking about, and Sapphire gets annoyed that Ruby is always in pretense. However, Ruby is clueless as to why she is becoming upset, and the two begin to argue back and forth.

In that instant, Emerald could no longer stand the constant babbling between Ruby and Sapphire, and turns around to lash out in fury at the two. He hollers that he has no recollection of ever inviting them to be his supporters or cheerleaders, and questions if they really enjoy making him mad. Ruby sheepishly grins that he hopes Emerald doesn't mean they are not wanted, and Sapphire points her finger towards the side of the stage, remarking that Sceptile is getting along really well with Zuzu and Chaka.

Emerald spins around, and sees the three starters chatting away happily. Indeed, since Sceptile regained its memories of being the Treecko that hailed from Prof. Birch's lab, it has been inseparable with Ruby's Swampert and Sapphire's Blaziken, who used to be its close companions. Ruby observes that Sceptile seems especially elated about the reunion, and Sapphire congratulates Emerald for possessing such an adorable Pokemon, and guesses he will no doubt use it in his final match against Tucker.

However, Emerald only seems to get more upset by all this, and suddenly calls for a time out. He runs up to the judge, and requests that both Ruby and Sapphire be kicked out from the stadium. He also announces his wish to change his team, which causes everyone, especially Sceptile, to jump with surprise. The judge replies with a frown that any team changes is not allowed at this stage of the tournament, but Tucker says he doesn't mind, and grants Emerald the permission.

With that, Emerald calls back Sceptile into its Pokeball, and rushes into the backstage. He immediately establishes connection with Crystal with the visual phone system, and starts making choices for new team members. Ruby and Sapphire soon come running into the backstage as well, and wonders if Emerald really plans on changing teams at such an instant.

Without bothering a reply, Emerald sends out his two magic hand extensors, grabbing both Ruby and Sapphire by their faces, and lets out an angry roar as he hurls them out of the Battle Dome through the windows. He then places the Pokeballs of Sceptile, Sudowoodo and Dusclops on the table, and the three Pokemon look up at him with worried and quizzical eyes, confused as to what they have done wrong.

Emerald puts on a slightly sad look as he glances at Sceptile, and remarks that it has lost that gaze of determination in its eyes, which is crucial to winning in battles. The fact is, no matter how loyal his Pokemon are and how acquainted he has become with them, he will never pick members who have low chances of emerging victorious, which is why he has no choice but to call for a team change.

Emerald then notices that Crystal has yet to make a reply to his message since their connection was established, and tries to speak via the visual phone system instead. Just then, the Pokeballs containing the three Pokemon he requested arrive at the receiver port, but there is still no verbal response from Crystal's side. Emerald starts to wonder if something is wrong since Crystal usually says a few words to him during such transfers, and it seems really odd that the Pokemon alone arrived this time. However, he has no time to ponder over it, and rushes back to resume the tournament match.

The whole stadium roars with excitement as the announcer commences the battle, and Anabel and Scott have also come to join Brandon, Lucy, Greta and Noland at the Frontier Brains' private stand. Tucker sends out Charizard as his first Pokemon, and Emerald calls forward his Alakazam, the same one which helped him conquer the first 9 cycles of the Battle Pyramid challenge two days ago.

Alakazam swiftly charges in to thrust its fist into Charizard's belly, and Scott, who hovers among the press people in his flying saucer on the spectator stand, gasps that it is the powerful Thunder Punch. Emerald grins that among the three elemental punches Alakazam knows of, thunder, fire and ice, thunder is the most efficient in dealing with flying types. Indeed, the super effective move causes the fire dragon to convulse in agony, but it quickly recovers, and unleashes an Earthquake.

A deadly tremor rumbles across the entire stage, and Emerald is surprised that Charizard managed to endure the attack and retaliate with its own. He prays that Alakazam will stand its grown just like its opponent did and get to deliver another Thunder Punch, but his hope is quickly shattered when the psychic Pokemon topples over and faints from the damage it received.

Scott remarks that the mode of battle at the Battle Dome makes use of 2 out of 3 Pokemon only, and thus once the first Pokemon of either side is knocked out, the rest of the match usually wouldn't last long.

Emerald then sends out his second Pokemon of choice, a Metagross, and Scott immediately puts on a frown. Metagross's steel type puts Emerald at a disadvantage to Charizard's fire type, and its slow speed makes it even more vulnerable. Scott is sure that Emerald has considered Tucker's lineup when he made his picks, but starts to wonder if the boy has had a miscalculation.

Fortunately, Emerald has actually taken measures to supplement Metagross's speed by giving it the Quick Claw, which allows a Pokemon to attack first. The boy commands a Rock Tomb, and Metagross instantly fires a barrage of boulders towards Charizard. To Emerald's horror, Charizard once again manages to withstand the hit, and Tucker grins that it is his turn. The flame on Charizard's tail erupts into a ferocious blaze, and the fire dragon lets out a roar as it delivers the powerful Overheat.

Metagross winces in pain as the flames burn at its metal body, and Emerald desperately calls for a Protect. The steel Pokemon holds up its two front legs to safeguard itself from its surrounding inferno, but as time wears on, the defensive move protect just doesn't seem to work that well anymore.

Outside the Battle Dome, Sapphire has her back stuck on the floor with her legs up in the air, her exact landing position when Emerald threw her out, while Ruby has his head jammed in the ground and his legs facing the sky as well. Sapphire remarks that Emerald really meant it when he said he wanted them kicked out, and Ruby agrees with a difficult nod as he crosses his arms. He states that getting Emerald to collaborate with them seems much harder than they expected after all, and Sapphire wonders what they should do now.

As the two pull themselves out from the ground, Ruby takes out a handkerchief to clean his face, and says their attempt to befriend the boy by being battling peers at the Dome tournament is apparently a complete failure, which Popo nods with a sigh. He remarks that there doesn't seem any other methods he could think of, and since there are only 2 days left, the best thing they can do is patrol around the Frontier and prepare for whatever that may happen.

Ruby and Sapphire start walking around on the island, and soon come across a building that has numerous pillars supporting it. Sapphire wonders what it is, and Ruby checks from his map that it is the Battle Palace, the facility which Emerald will challenge the following day.

Suddenly, Sapphire senses the presence of someone, and notices an old man with a staff and a Crobat appearing at the entrance of the Palace. Ruby believes that it is just the Palace's Frontier Brain Spenser, and Sapphire finds it odd that the man is staying there on his own while everyone else is assembled at the Battle Dome. Ruby tells her not to bother about unnecessary things, and resumes walking again.

Yet, Spenser all of a sudden squints his eyes and stares at the two, and Sapphire immediately puts on her guard. The Palace Maven slowly walks down the stairs from the building's entrance, and without warning, holds his staff forward to lift up Sapphire's chin...

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us

323: VS Charizard I

Volume 28