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And so Ruby and Sapphire begin their final training under the guidance of the three gymleaders, Juan, Tate and Liza. Their special training ground, known as the Mirage Island, is a mysterious place where time flows differently from the rest of the world. While Ruby and Sapphire have only lost consciousness for 3 days on the island, 21 days have actually passed in the world outside.

However, just like the rise and fall of tides, the pace of time changes continuously on the Mirage Island. Right now, Ruby and Sapphire have been training for seven days on the island, but in fact, not even a single day has passed in the outside world, which is the exact opposite situation compared with the period when the two were unconscious. With its pace of time changing alternatively between extremely slow and extremely fast, it is no wonder that access to the island is only possible when its time pace matches exactly with that of the outside world during the short transition. At other times, the Mirage Island is completely detached from the rest of the world, and is invisible to the eye.

Ruby and Sapphire find it hard to believe this truth, and only come to accept it after a few days. But something else surprised them during their training on the island.

With Tate and Liza's two Spoinks as their opponents, Ruby and Sapphire adeptly jump out of the way to evade the psychic Pokémon' attacks, and call forward Plusle and Minun. Ruby orders a faketears from Plusle, and Sapphires states that the move should lower the special defense of the enemy. She then follows up with a shockwave from Minun, and the powerful electric attack which hits both opponents knocks the Spoinks off their feet, fainting them instantly.

Tate compliments on Ruby and Sapphire's teamwork, with one party downing the status of the foe while the other inflicts damage, and Liza agrees that it was a good combination of moves, grinning that the two seem to be learning the essence of double battles quite well.

Sapphire congratulates Plusle and Minun for their great work, and feels both surprised and grateful that they have the chance to meet again after their fight together on the abandoned ship. After Plusle and Minun were washed off the abandoned ship by Kyogre's rampage earlier, they somehow stumbled across the elusive Mirage Island, and found themselves lost on the mysterious island. Sapphire grins that it must all be fate, and says Plusle and Minun are certainly the best partners to learn double battles with.

Tate points out that the knowledge and skills of 2 on 2 battles are especially crucial to Ruby and Sapphire, because their opponents are going to be the two ancient titans, Groudon and Kyogre. Liza then decides to give them a short break, and beckons Plusle and Minun to follow.

While Sapphire stretches herself out, she notices that Ruby isn't resting, but is using his Pokédex to figure out possible double battle strategies instead. Ruby states that battling with Plusle and Minun have given them the basic idea and pattern of combination moves, but they must now work on the cooperation between his Swampert, Zuzu, and her Blaziken, Chaka.

In their fight against Archie and Maxie back at the Seafloor Cavern, Zuzu unleashed its muddywaters while Chaka distracted their foes with its agile footwork. However, assuming that Chaka learns the move skyuppercut, they could actually make the combination more effective by having Chaka direct its hit upwards, while Zuzu covers the ground from below.

Sapphire is slightly taken aback by the devotion Ruby is showing, and remembers that while they are receiving their training on the Mirage Island, the catastrophe threatening Hoenn is still taking place outside, and Steven, Wallace, and the Elite 4 are all trying their hardest to hold back the destruction caused by Groudon and Kyogre's fury. She realizes that she must not let herself slack either, and decides to teach and train Chaka on learning skyuppercut.

Standing on a cliff which looks over the training ground of Ruby and Sapphire, Juan watches their practice, and wants to know how the two of doing. Tate and Liza says they have actually covered more than they expect to teach since Ruby and Sapphire required little rest during the training. Liza adds that the two young trainers' Pokémon have levelled up considerably, and just then, they notice that Sapphire's Ronono is evolving into Aggron, its final form.

Juan laughts that Ruby and Sapphire make good battle partners, and knows that Wallace really meant it when he said he saw talent in his student. Watching the two exchange information between their Pokédexes, Juan muses to himself how Ruby and Sapphire shall both bear the future of Hoenn on their shoulders, and take on the destiny to fight down Groudon and Kyogre.

However, while their training is going well, they still must hurry up as time is running out. Juan holds up his sand timer which is decorated with two Sandshrews, and says the sand has started to fall quicker again, indicating the time pace on the Mirage Island will soon change from extremely slow to extremely fast. Yet, Juan still has something important to teach Ruby and Sapphire.

Back on the training ground, Sapphire lets out a roar, and Chaka finally manages to pull off the move skyuppercut. The girl puts on a grin as she pants, and says while she is confident in her battling, she owes to Ruby's guidance for helping her put her skills to good use. Hearing the compliment, something seems to tug at Ruby's mind, and the boy appears lost in thought for a moment.

Just then, Juan comes down to join them with his two Luvdiscs, and announces that it is time to start on the second topic of their training. He motions them to follow, and takes them to a vast lake surrounded by dense trees and bushes. Juan states that their next training involves the mind, and wants Ruby and Sapphire, together with all their Pokémon, focus their thoughts on the clear spring water in the lake.

He explains that following the intense double battle training which kept their body and mind very active, they must now learn to calm themselves, let their emotions quiet down, just like the soft ripples on the surface of the waters. Juan then extends his two closed fists, and wants Ruby to guess which one holds a coin simply by his instincts. Ruby guesses left, but unfortunately misses. Juan gives him several more chances, and Ruby only manages to guess it correctly in two out of six times.

Juan next tests Sapphire, but the girl easily guesses the right side every time. Juan concludes that Sapphire has apparently stronger intuition, and says it is exactly what he wants to train them in this topic. He explains that during a battle, there are many occasions where one must count on impulse, which is highly affected in the presence of emotions or panicky feelings. That is why for the current training, he wishes to strengthen their heart and mind, to be free of thoughts and be crystal clear all the time.

Yet, Juan's speech seems to be boring Sapphire, and the girl begins to doze off. Juan lets out a cough, and Sapphire bolts awake with an embarrassed look, apologizing for not paying attention. Juan laughs that it is alright as the spring water in the lake has the effect of relaxing the mind, and suggests she take a rest for a while.

Later, while Sapphire is slumbering on a tree nearby, Ruby approaches Juan who is standing on the edge of the lake. Ruby compliments Juan as a very persuasive person, and says he is really thankful for the training they received from him, Tate and Liza. He also knows that as his great teacher, he must give his unconditional respect to Juan. However, there is one thing on his mind that he must voice out.

Juan squints his eyes and wonders what Ruby wants to say, and the boy slowly peels off the glove on his left hand. He states that he has no idea why, but it is beyond doubt that the mystical Red and Blue Orbs, which they have knocked out from the bodies of Maxie and Archie, are now inside him and Sapphire, and Juan has known it all along but is keeping the secret from them.

Ruby holds up his left fist, trying to hold back his anger, and the symbol of Groudon lets out an ominous glow on the back of the hand while that of Kyogre glows on the back of Sapphire's right hand...

Thanks To Coronis For Writing this for us

256: VS. Spoink II!

Volume 21