The Petalburg City gym was buzzing with excitement. Seventeen year old May Maple was returning home today, after successfully winning the Hoenn Grand Festival. Her father had called up all her old friends and invited them to throw May a massive surprise party. For the ordinary person the number of famous faces was astonishing.
The former Cerulean city gym leader and newest addition to the Kanto elite four Misty Waterflower was there. At the young age of nineteen she was regarded as one of the greatest water Pokémon trainers in the world. The red head wore a yellow blouse and three quarter denim shorts.
Brock Stone, the Pewter city gym leader, was currently doing rounds flirting with every girl he met. The twenty-one year old never learnt his lesson. He wore a green vest over an orange short-sleeved shirt, along with brown pants and blue sneakers. This was an outfit he made famous and used all the
Max Maple, May’s younger brother, was known to everyone in Petalburg as the heir to the gym. The fifteen year old boy trained everyday with his father. He was dressed in a green t-shirt and blue jeans. The teen had out grown his glasses and now used contact lens.
Dawn Berlitz despite being a year younger than May was May’s closest rival and best friend. The blue haired girl was the current Kanto Grand festival winner. Wanting to look her best she wore a blue summer dress and almost all eyes were on her.
One of the most nervous guests was a green haired boy from LaRousse City. Drew Saiga was eighteen and was May’s first rival. It was obvious to almost everyone except May that the boy was in love with her. Drew wore an extremely posh black tuxedo. In his trembling hands he held a bouquet of roses.
The remainder of the guest consisted of people from Petalburg who wanted to congratulate May. There were about fifty people present because of the size of the gym.
The doors to the gym opened and the reason everyone was there walked in. May received a massive shock when the gym erupted with everyone cheering for her. The brunette wore a red shirt and knee length pink skirt. Her hair was left free, without her normal bandana covering it.
The sound of chatter filled the gym as people began to celebrate. People took turns to congratulate the surprised brunette. Finally after she thanked everyone for coming she met up with her friends.
“I’m glad you finally won the whole thing. Now we’re back on equal standings as rivals.” Dawn smirked giving May a thumbs up.
“You really pulled through in a difficult situation. I’m proud of you.” Misty hugged May.
“It was an acceptable victory.” Max acted uninterested not wanting to show how excited he truly
“I was kind of wondering if you would introduce me to that girl you beat in the finals.” Brock laughed.
“Here!” Drew held out the roses for May.
May was overwhelmed by everyone coming at her at the same time.
“Thanks everyone. It means a lot to me that you all came so far for me.” May smiled with tears in eyes.
The party went on for the next few hours and it was time for everyone to leave. Norman had passed on the duty of cleaning up the gym to Max. May, Misty, Dawn, Brock and Drew all stayed to help the young trainer.
“How does it feel?” Dawn asked.
“It’s indescribable. It was like a huge weight was lifted off my back.” May giggled.
“Winning your first grand festival is just the beginning. Now you have to work harder to stay at this level.” Misty warned.
“I know. Getting to the top is easy, staying there is hard.” May came back down to earth.
“I can’t wait to see the three of you compete in the same grand festival.” Max looked at the three coordinators.
“That’s right. The three of you have never been in the same competition.” Brock noted.
“We’re friends so we don’t want to fight each other.” Drew chuckled nervously.
The friends continued to laugh and joke as they cleaned up. With everyone in a good mood, Max’s gloomy face stuck out like a sore thumb. The young trainer had something heavy hanging on his mind. His sister was the first person to speak up about it.
“What’s wrong Max? You look like a Cubone.” May tried to make a joke.
“It’s just that I thought he would show up to congratulate you. It’s been two years since anyone of us has seen him.” Max spoke.
“That’s not our fault Max. He made that choice himself. He decided to go down that path when he knew there would be no way to return.” May grabbed her brother by his shoulders and looked into his eyes.
“We didn’t even try to help him. We should have done more.” Max argued.
“No, I’m sorry Max. He made that choice all by himself. He wanted to know the truth no matter the cost and it destroyed him.” Misty added.
“I know he was your mentor and all but in the end he became everything he fought against. He let his selfish ambition blind him to the point where he hurt May and Dawn.” Drew didn’t hide the distaste in his voice.
“I’ll never forget that day, the look in his eyes. The fact he turned his back on all of us, his mother, the world and even Pikachu.” Dawn almost broke down into tears.
“I think we should change the topic before we all start crying.” Brock tried to laugh.
“Don’t go doing that just yet.” A voice came from the door.
Dawn clenched her fist at the sound. Standing at the entrance of the gym dressed in faded blue jeans and a ragged black shirt with a worn out red jacket was a purple haired trainer the group was all too familiar with.
“Paul, what are you doing here?” May asked nervously.
“Shouldn’t you be in some sleazy biker bar trying to nail anything that moves?” Dawn shouted.
“I’m sensing some hostility.” Paul chuckled as he walked towards the group.
“Seriously, what are you doing here?” Brock asked walking in front of the girls.
“I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by to congratulate Miss Maple.” Paul shrugged his shoulders.
“Neighborhood, you live in the Sinnoh region.” Dawn tried to get to Paul but May held her back.
“Hey, I’m a Pokémon ranger. The entire world is my neighborhood.” Paul dusted of his jacket.
“The Pokémon rangers must be going downhill if they allow trash like you to join.” Dawn spat.
“So the rumors are true.” Brock gritted his teeth.
“What rumors?” Max questioned.
“I must say I’m impressed Paul. You made the cut.” Misty marveled.
“What are you talking about?” Drew asked.
“The number of criminal organization that uses Pokémon has increased since the fall of Team Rocket two years. The Pokémon Rangers in their hour of desperation opened their ranks to anyone who they deemed to be of champion level regardless of their love or lack of love for Pokémon.” Paul explained.
“I see, that explains it.” Max mumbled.
“That still doesn’t explain why you’re here.” Dawn scowled.
“I don’t know if you heard but there’s this new event called the Pokémon Master Cup, only the best of the best can enter, competitors haven’t been chosen as yet.” Paul answered. “I came here to scout potential competition.”
“So you came here to scout me out as a potential opponent?” Max smirked.
“Keep dreaming pipsqueak, he must have recognized my talent.” Drew boasted.
“Don’t tell me it’s me.” May shuddered.
“I’m flattered.” Brock laughed.
“It makes sense for you to fear me, I am an elite four.” Misty smiled.
Paul kept silent while everyone talked, he was focused on the killing intent Dawn was putting off in his direction. He tried smiling at her but it just made her angrier.
“You guys are so full of it. I wouldn’t waste my time scouting you loser. I came here because I was hoping that punk Ketchum would be here.” Paul sneered.
The mood became sullen and heavy. A name that had not been mentioned for over a year was finally spoken.
“We don’t know where he is.” May said flat out.
“Still not willing to say Ash.” Paul sighed.
“We don’t know where that jerk is. Just get out of here now Paul.” Drew shouted.
“I think you should leave.” Brock pointed to the door.
Paul didn’t move and looked disinterested.
“You really are a mood killer.” Misty moaned.
“Why do you have to be such an ******* Paul?” Dawn cried.
“I don’t see how one incident could turn you guys against him. I thought you were supposed to be his friends. So much for friendship. To be honest I quite liked the new hardcore ‘rocket’ Ash, it was amazing.” Paul laughed.
“Two years ago, that wasn’t him.” May said with tears running down her face.
“Are you happy? Is this what you came here to do?” Misty shouted as she comforted May.
“I came here because all of you think you’re so high and mighty. Your closest friend turned into a self-hating and reclusive youth while falling into a spiral of depression. You let him sink into despair to the point where he started hating the world. When he needed you people the most you all abandoned him.” Paul yelled.
“We gave him what he wanted. We gave him the space he needed. None of us could have helped through that. How do you comfort someone when they find out their father was the worst criminal the world had ever known.” May retorted.
“When Ash came back he changed into something completely different, he had become Giovanni.” Misty added. "The things he did... The people he hurt..."
“Every child strives to be like their dad, more so if their fathers are dead. It’s even worse for some like Ash who killed his father.” Paul explained. “I can’t fault him on that; he killed Giovanni before he found out who he was.”
“It was an accident. He had no way of stopping it.” Dawn screamed as she ran grabbed Paul’s jacket. “
“I know.” Paul tried to kiss Dawn.
The sound of Dawn’s hand striking across Paul’s cheek echoed through the gym.
“I will never forgive you for what you did.” Dawn screamed.
“I’ll take that as my cue to leave.” Paul walked out of the gym nursing his cheek.
Authors Note: First story that I’ve written in a while. I hope you enjoyed this. Please and tell me if you did or tell me what you didn’t enjoy. Constructive criticism welcome and wanted.