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At the headquarters of the resurrected Team Rocket in Johto, the TR Elite Trio, Ken, Ryu and Harry are chained up against the wall in a room as they get punished for their failed mission. Standing next to their Slowking and Magcargo, Shum and Cart mock that as if letting Suicune get away isn’t bad enough, the trio even lost the previous Clear Bell that could counter the legendary beast’s crystal wall seal.

Just then, a circular platform glides apart on the ground, and a masked man in long black robe materializes out from the opening with a Delibird. Shum and Cart quickly greet him as their leader, and Ken, Ryu and Harry realize that it is the elusive mastermind behind their resurrected Team Rocket whom they’ve never met before. Without a word, the masked man moves over to the trio, and instantly freezes Ryu up to his neck. Seeing the stunned expressions on the three, Shum and Cart smirk that the expertise of their leader is ice, which explains his name Mask of Ice.

Mask of Ice then turns to leave the room with Shum and Cart, and snickers how certain remnants of the previous Team Rocket are truly nothing but remnants. He remarks that it is perhaps time he meets all his followers in person, and thanks Shum and Cart for being his dependable coordinators all this time. He refers to the two as his elite trustees, and giggles that it is always better to raise underlings from a very young age. Walking towards a balcony that looks out to a roomful of TR grunts, Mask of Ice tells Shum and Cart not to bother about Suicune anymore, and wants them to get fully prepared instead for their upcoming big event.

As the three reach the balcony, Cart announces to the TR members that the time has come for the public to officially learn about Team Rocket’s resurrection. After months of secretly building up their battling force and financial assets, it is time to make a grand come back gesture to the residents of both Kanto and Johto. At the Pokémon League Tournament held at the Indigo Plateau tomorrow, their team is going to kick off their resurrection ceremony by putting on a big show to the world. The roomful of TR grunts immediately roar in excitement, and start cheering for Mask of Ice. Mask of Ice then turns to leave, and Shum wonders where he is going. In a devilish tone, the masked man giggles that the day has arrived for him to visit that place.

The next morning, at the Indigo Plateau, trainers from all over Kanto and Johto have arrived to take part in the Pokémon League Tournament. Outside the reception, supernerd William and boyscout Bozz are having a warmup match. William orders a faint attack from his Persian, but Bozz quickly has Haunter put it to sleep by hypnosis, and follows up with a nightmare. The two then hear their names called through an announcement, and quickly head over to the reception for registration. William drags his sleeping Persian along as he complains about Bozz taking their warmup match too seriously, and Bozz grins that a trainer has to be in top shape all the time.

After registering and depositing their entry Pokémon at the counter, William notices the long queue of people entering the section for preliminary block challenges, and can’t believe they will have to face so many trainers. Bozz giggles and wonders if he is chickening out, and William immediately snaps that he is full of confidence. The supernerd then recalls hearing about a new rule which allows trainers who have obtained all eight badges from either Kanto or Johto to enter the final match without the requirement to go through block battles, and Bozz states that he has learnt of it as well, though he isn’t surprised that no trainer has accomplished it this time as gymleaders are truly powerful battlers. Finding two empty seats to sit down, Williams remarks that the tournament seems to promise a lot of fun and excitement, and Bozz grins that he can’t wait to see the gymleaders’ exhibition match.

Just then, a spotlight his the center of the stadium battling stage, and the crowd roars in excitement as the Chairman of the Pokémon Association appears to inaugurate the league tournament which is held once every three years. In the announcer’s room, which has a huge banner of the Goldrenrod Radio Company draped under its glass window, DJ singer Mary begins her introduction, and thanks everyone for taking part and showing their support. She reveals that a total of 20,000 entries have been received for the tournament, and 700 of them have successfully made it to the preliminary selection block battles. After mentioning about their radio station’s exclusive four-hour coverage of the tournement, Mary proceeds to say that all league champions in the past have been trainers from Pallet Town of Kanto, and wonders if this longstanding record of the town will be broken this time.

The Chairman then commences the first part of their opening ceremony, and welcomes to the crowd the previous league champion, Red. However, the spotlight shines on an empty runway without anyone coming out, and a worker hurriedly runs up to inform him that Red doesn’t seem to have arrived yet. Embarrassed by the situation, the Chairman decides to show a video clip of the final match between Red and Green in the previous tournment on the giant overhead screen instead, and the crowd starts to boo and throw things at him. The Chairman quickly moves on to the second part of their opening ceremony, and announces the exhibition match between the 16 gymleaders of Kanto and Johto. The stadium battling stage then starts to split into two as the crowd watches in surprise and amazement.

Meanwhile, Mask of Ice has arrived at the Tin Tower of Ecruteak. Flying on his Delibird, he giggles that the true feast is yet to start, and the Ho-Oh statue inside the pagoda begins to give off an intense light. Although many have known that the glowing of the statue signifies the imminent return of the legendary phoenix, only Mask of Ice knows that its arrival will be this exact day, simply because the statue itself was carved by no other than the masked man himself.

Seeing a shimmering light exuded by a giant bird high up in the skies, Delibird continues to ascend and finally gains an altitude above the thick fur of clouds. Surprised by the sudden intruders, the legendary rainbow bird Ho-Oh halts its flight and flaps its giant seven-coloured wings. Mask of Ice remarks that it has been 9 whole years since they last saw of each other, and giggles that the time has come for them to join forces again and see to the fulfillment of his long-awaited wish. Infuriated by the man’s words, Ho-Oh swings itself forward as it prepares to attack…

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us

153: VS. Ho-oh!

Volume 12