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Having faced off Team Aqua in both the Petalburg Woods and on Mt. Chimney, Sapphire has decided to give herself the extra mission to protect Hoenn from the evil team alongside with her current goal to gain all eight gym badges. After departing from Lavaridge, Sapphire has trained her Pokémon in a number of intense battles and is currenly flying on her Tororo towards Fortree, the city where the headquarters of the Hoenn gymleaders is located.

Sapphire looks down at the interesting design of the city, and sees that every single house is really made out of giant trees. She suddenly spots a picnicker trying to retrieve her Zigzagoon on a tree branch, and gasps in shock as the young girl begins to slip and fall. Sapphire quickly fastens a rope onto a tree, and swings herself down towards the picnicker while ordering a magical leaf from Tororo. The attack snaps off the tree branch which the young girl is clinging to, and Sapphire lands on the ground just in time to catch her and the Zigzagoon.

The picnicker thanks Sapphire and introduces herself as Kylee. She remarks that her Zigzagoon loves to climb trees, but says it seems wobbly in its steps that day and thinks it might be ill. She decides to head to the PokémonCenter to check it out, but Sapphire doesn't seem to know what she's talking about and asks what the place is for. Kylee jumps with surprise that Sapphire hasn't heard of the PokémonCenter, and explains that it is where trainers heal their Pokémon at. Sapphire laughs that it is the first time she learns about it, and says she has always healed her Pokémon by her own ways. She takes Zigzagoon from Kylee, and begins to sniff the bottom of the Pokémon. Kylee hollers in shock and wonders what she's doing, and Sapphire explains that the smell coming out from a Pokémon's bottom can tell its health status. She tells Kylee not to worry, and begins to pull out a few berries from her bagpack. She finds the one that heals Zigzagoon's current status, and quickly feeds it to the little Pokémon.

To Kylee's surprise, Zigzagoon regains its health and starts to wiggle its tail happily. The picnicker suddenly remembers being told about a young trainer called Sapphire who is very in tune with nature, and realizes that she's standing right in front of her. Kylee frantically turns around to yell for Winona, but the woman has actually been watching, and she shows herself and tells the young girl to calm down. Winona remarks that she has been waiting for Sapphire, and says she's glad that they could meet before Kyogre awakens. Sapphire hops in front of Winona and wonders who she is, but the woman embarrassedly tells the girl to wipe off the Zigzagoon droppings on her nose before asking anything else.

Winona introduces herself as the gymleader of Fortree, and says she has been waiting to test Sapphire's strength. She decides to have their battle there in the open, and offers to grant Sapphire the Feather Badge if she wins, which the girl gladly accepts. Kylee hurriedly tosses Winona her flying suit, and the woman calls out her Altaria while putting on her special outfit. Sapphire releases Chaka to fight, and Winona quickly hops onto Altaria.

Altaria unleashes a dragonbreath, and Sapphire and Chaka swing themselves between the trees to dodge. Winona grins that the thing she loves about outdoor battles is that there is no area limit, and continues to give chase as the girl and the Combusken dash among the tree houses. Chaka creates double team to surround Altaria, and the blue cotton bird immediately fires another dragonbreath, but it can't seem to locate the real Chaka and keeps attacking thin air. Chaka delivers a kick on Altaria's neck, and Winona compliments on Sapphire for counteracting Combusken's type disadvantage with her skillful tactics. The girl grins that she has been training hard, and says she has always wanted to experience how it feels to have a Pokémon evolve in a battle.

Winona gasps in shock when she realizes what Sapphire has planned. Chaka starts to glow, and evolves into Blaziken in a flash of light. The fully evolved fire Pokémon delivers a blazekick, and sends Altaria flying into the clouds. Sapphire cheers when she sees that the attack has successfully burnt Altaria, and compliments on Chaka for its good work. But then she looks around and discovers that Winona and Altaria have disappeared. She quickly pulls out her Pokedex, and learns that Altaria loves to camouflage itself among the white clouds in the sky. Just then, the blue cotton bird comes charging down with a sky attack, and dives straight for Chaka. The Blaziken gets knocked off its feet, and Sapphire hollers in shock as it falls off the high cliff.

A while later, Sapphire and Chaka spread themselves on a grassland, and the girl sighs with a deep breath that she has lost. Winona takes off her flying helmet, and says she's impressed by Sapphire's tactics of burning the opponent right after an evolution. She explains that the strategy didn't work on Altaria because it can remova its burnt condition by the refresh skill, and that its characteristic nature cure also helps to restore any status effects while leaving the battle field. Winona reveals that Altaria has increased its speed and attack with a dragondance before the sky attack, and thus could bring down Chaka in one hit.

Sapphire completely surrenders to Winona's veteran skills, and Winona offers to coach her for a few days, which the girl gladly accepts. The Fortree Gymleader then wants to know how Sapphire feels about the other gymleaders she has fought so far, and the girl thinks for a moment before saying that they are all superb people. Winona laughs, and turns around to call out the four gymleaders who have been secretly watching the battle. A window curtain gets pulled up in one of the tree houses, and Sapphire gasps in surprise when she sees Brawly, Roxanne, Wattson and Flannnery grinning at her. Brawly remarks that it has been an exciting match, and Roxanne states that the girl could have devised better strategies. Wattson makes a joke about Winona's name, and Flannery sweatdrops at the old man's silly words.

Sapphire wonders why they are there, and Winona explains that they have just had an emergent gymleaders' meeting about the recent events which they now believe will lead to the imminent awakening of Kyogre. Sapphire wonders what Kyogre is, and Winona says it is a legendary ancient Pokémon that will arise in response to the disruption of the energy balance between land and sea in Hoenn. She remarks that a gigantic battle will be inevitable, and that the reason why she desperately wanted to test Sapphire's skills is that they might need her help. Sapphire blushes in embarrassment, but Winona carries on to say that the suggestion came from Flannery, and that they will all decide later on whether or not Sapphire is qualified to join their forces. She requests Sapphire to remain in Fortree for the next few days, and says she should probably meet the other gymleaders who are on their way to the city as well.

Just then, Wallace's air-car appears in the sky and begins to land. Winona hears a young boy's voice and wonders who Wallace brought along with him. Ruby sticks his head out of the car window to admire the beautiful tree houses just when Sapphire looks up at the high-tech vehicle from below. The two immediately holler in shock as they see each other's face...

Countdown to our heroes' rival showdown: 30 days!

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us

226: VS. Altaria!

Volume 18

Sapphire challenges Winona to battle
Chaka evolves into Blaziken
Sapphire loses to Winona
Sapphire learns about Kyogre