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Old February 12th, 2012 (11:58 AM). Edited February 12th, 2012 by Nine-Sixteenth.
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Gender: Male
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Posts: 53
Hey everyone~!!! Came on by to this lovely big forum you've got running here to share my completed fanfic.
It's a bit long, but I dearly hope you'll find it enjoyable~

Now... let me introduce my master project...

Title: Arceus Drops - Remembering
Rating: Mostly for violence and sexual suggestions
Theme: Drama, Action, Comedy, Romance


Main Characters: Ash, Anabel, Angie, Bianca (movie), Bianca (series), Bill, Casey, Dawn, Dice*, Espeon, Domino, Gary, May, Maylene, Misty, Latias, Liza, Lucario, Pikachu, Ritchie, Sabrina, Solana, Todd, Tracey, & (Secret).
Side Characters: Brock, Cilan, Clair, Delia Ketchum, Drew, Duplica, Falkner, Greta, Giovanni, Iris, Khoury, Lance, Lucy, Lyra, Officer Jenny, Rebecca (Kanto), Team Rocket (Jessie, James, Meowth), & (Remaining Pokémon)
Customs: Auburn City (location), Brace, Copper, Dana, *Dice, Fist of Kanto Tournament (event), Kate, Pokétab (object), Tsunami Fest (event), (Tsunami Fest Trainers), Tsunami Ball (object), & (Saffron City Psychic Guards)



Table of Contents

Spoiler:
Chapter 1 Black
Chapter 2 Training
Chapter 3 Feeling
Chapter 4 Change
Chapter 5 Renown
Chapter 6 Gifts
Chapter 7 Freedom
Chapter 8 Identity
Chapter 9 Pride
Chapter 10 Clashes
Chapter 11 Sanctuary
Chapter 12 Escape
Chapter 13 Lies
Chapter 14 Perspectives
Chapter 15 Pieces
Chapter 16 Duality
Chapter 17 Distractions
Chapter 18 Support
Chapter 19 Guidance
Chapter 20 Alternatives
Chapter 21 Communication
Chapter 22 The Purpose
Chapter 23 Discoveries
Chapter 24 Connections
Chapter 25 Burdens
Chapter 26 Worth
Chapter 27 Consideration
Chapter 28 Others
Chapter 29 Goodbye
Chapter 30 Commitment
Chapter 31 Kismet
Chapter 32 Collision
Chapter 33 Accountability
Chapter 34 Lament
Chapter 35 Loss
Chapter 36 Everyone
Chapter 37 Nothing
Chapter 38 Reflections
Chapter 39 Affliction
Chapter 40 Trials
Chapter 41 Women
Chapter 42 The Bond
Chapter 43 The Servant
Chapter 44 The Protector
Chapter 45 The Bride
Chapter 46 The Shadow
Chapter 47 Where We Left Off



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I hope y'all enjoy it!
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Old February 12th, 2012 (11:59 AM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 1: Black

Spoiler:
The wound was too much, the pain far too strong, and her body finally too weak to fight back death. In her last glances of light, she looked up to the man that held her in his arms.

This man… she thought to herself. This man, that I had just met… a man I had spent no more than two months with… he became everything that ever mattered to me… everything that I had desired in this world… he became my world… and I’m sorry… I did this for you…

Her world started to fade, and she could no longer recall what existence truly felt like.

Memories were vanishing, emotions were dulling, but he remained… whatever his name was… she couldn’t remember… but he was still there…

No please… please don’t go…” the man whispered with a shaking voice. Tears ran down his face as he gazed into her jaded eyes. He never saw her like this. She used to be so full of life, so full of care, so full of love… but now she was leaving this life… leaving him alone… to finish a job he never wanted to do without her.

She touched his face one last time. “If we had only met sooner… we could have…”



No…

Her body had stopped.

There was nothing left of her. No breath, no pulse, no movement – no life. He didn’t want to believe it, he didn’t want to accept it, he didn’t want to realize what had happened. He wanted to forget, he wanted it all to stop and tell him it was a lie. But there were no evidences for him to hold onto. His denials and wishes would be his only comfort from now on…

“…don’t go… don’t go please! DON’T GO!!

“Can you just get this over with?” whined an older man. Tied up and incapacitated on the floor, the only thing he could do was speak his thoughts and ideas – and he took advantage of those freedoms.

You heartless piece of trash! You shut your mouth!” A woman of fierce temper launched a strong kick against the callous man’s head, knocking him unconscious.

Slowly letting his down his loved one’s body onto the cold floor, the man stood. Broken, but determined. “I’m ready…”

The man’s intentions were made clear.

Sensing these thoughts, a woman of strange power turned away from her responsibilities. “What are you… are you crazy?! Stop!” She grabbed onto the ladder beside her and climbed down as fast as she could.

“Huh?” The hot-headed woman looked up at her in curiosity. “What’s going on??”

You have to stop him!!” She jumped from the ladder and began running across the platform to reach the man. “He’s not going to use Arceus to reverse what has been done!! He’s going to–

The man had been whispering, his voice too low for anyone else to hear. Inaudible to anyone but the god pokémon.

Eyes burning in energies of all elements, Arceus faced the one it had promised its service to.

“So it shall be…” its voice echoed throughout the minds of everyone within its vicinity.

The ground shook; breaking and shattering all creations of man.

The room burned in white light; devouring all emotion and thought.

And reality began to dematerialize; threatening the fate of the universe.

No! How could you do this?!” Before the realm of their existence could be covered in the cloud of Arceus’ power, the woman cried out into the spreading blank nothingness. “After everything we’ve fought for! WHY?!

And in the emptiness, the man answered…

…because we could all have done better…



_________________________________________________________



“Where do you think you’re going?!” Determined eyes belonging to a furious boy followed an escaping trio of villains.

“Dis twerp just doesn’t know when to give up!” an exhausted feline pokémon hissed.

“One could say the same about us.” a blue-haired male of the group added.

“Seviper! Do something!” a woman with fiery hair demanded as she tossed one of her poké balls onto the metal platform.

This was a familiar sight for the boy; he had been chasing them all day in this building. ‘Building’ being a literal description, as the structure had not been finished, with several portions of every floor missing walls and bases. Many of the higher sections were missing all pieces together, only supported by large rods of steel and accessible only by staircases and ramps.

Floor after floor the boy would catch up with them, only to have the red-haired woman bring out her seviper to knock him back down to a previous unfinished floor.

On any given day he would have sent the seviper and the trio flying off into the sky easily, but this just was not one of those days. Without his pokémon he definitely couldn’t stand a chance.

He thought several times as he climbed up each floor that he should’ve gone back and gotten his friends for help… or to make a quick run to the Pokémon Center to retrieve his poké balls… but now they arrived at the final floor, and it was too late to make any decision that was infinitely smarter than what would happen next.

A red blur of light interrupted the sunlight that beat down on them. Crimson light swirled, expanded, and broke away into the shape of a large snake pokémon. “Seviper!” the dark green pokémon hissed in pleasure to be out of its poké ball once more.

The boy flinched back, afraid he would be knocked back to the previous floor again.

No! It’s now or never. If I don’t stop them now, they’ll get away with Pikachu! the boy yelled in his mind with resolve.

Seeing the child, the pokémon vibrated with delight, happy to be able to send him flying back down just one more time. It was a delicious feeling… this boy had been a thorn on their side for as long as the pokémon could remember.

And this- this one’s for making my life miserable! the Seviper laughed in its thoughts as it lunged towards the pest.

“Now!” the boy shouted to the air as he dove over the large snake. The trio of criminals’ eyes widened as they slowly realized that the boy was now rocketing towards them.

“AHHHH! What’s he tink he’s doin?!” the cat pokémon panicked.

“He’s going to knock us all off!” now the blue-haired man panicked.

“Seviper! Behind! Use your tail!” the red-headed woman commanded venomously.

The large green pokémon swung its tail mid-lunge.

A large whip-like tail had connected with the boy’s ribs. An odd thump.

Pain shot throughout his body as he felt one of them snap- though that wasn’t his biggest worry, an ever-extending landscape of ridiculous measurements below him definitely had his attention. The strike from the Seviper had caused him to launch off the non-walled top floor of the building.

This was going to hurt. Bad.

“AHHHHHHHHHH!” the boy screamed as he saw the forest below magnify faster and faster.

The trio looked over the ledge in surprise.

“Ya tink we overdid it?” the feline tilted his head.

“That certainly is a long way down.” the man whistled.

“Oh shut up!” the woman shot back, “We’ve survived worse. Now get in the blimp before the other twerps get here!”

“Aye aye!” the two exclaimed.



_________________________________________________________



Hurt.

Lots of pain.

What happened?

Several thoughts and sensations swirled in the injured boy’s mind.

Where am I? What’s blocking my eyes?

The boy cleaned off his eyes and blinked.

What?! Why’s it so dark?! Where am I?!

Using his hands, he tried feeling his surroundings.

Grass. Dirt. Rock, I think. This is a tree. W-Wait a minute! PIKACHU!!! the boy had finally realized what had happened to him. Fearing that the trio had gotten away with his best friend, he jumped up and ran forward – only to collide with a tree.

“Owwwww!!!” the boy grabbed his head. A pain sliced through the rest of his body. “AAHH!” his tensing body had reminded him of the broken rib. He fell to the ground, a numb feeling spreading through him.

Breathing heavily, the boy still tried to drag himself across the ground. “P-Pikachu… I’m comin’ buddy…” and with a sudden release of breath, he fainted.



_________________________________________________________



A sound pierced his consciousness, though it was indiscernible to his thoughts.

Again. That noise. What is that?

“sh!”

What was that?

“ASH!!!”

Huh?! Someone’s calling my name!

I-I’m right here!” he struggled to say, unsure if someone was trying to find him.

“I know, I’ve got you.”

Ash shook his head, a headache pressing into his conscious from adjusting to the voice’s immediate response. He flinched, suddenly surprised at his position. Someone was holding him off the ground, and they were walking.

Wh-Where am I? And why is it so dark?”

“Ash? Oh my God… What happened to you?”

“I was fighting Team Rocket, and… I think I fell off a building?” he slowly groaned as he tried to gather bits of pieces of the recent events. He kept his thoughts moving, avoiding his body’s pains from weakening him.

“Lift your head, let me see…”

“How can you see when it’s so dark?” the boy raised his head.

A gasp.



“Hey, what happened?”

They refused to answer.

Whoever was holding him had started shaking.

“Is something wrong?”

A gentle hand touched his face. Wait a minute. Who is this?

Um… who are you?”

Oh Ash… you poor thing…

Wh-What! What happened?!” Ash panicked, fearing the worst – though what the worst could be, he had no idea. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know, and now he regretted asking.

Your eyes…

“My eyes? What about the—“ the realization had hit him hard. “I-I’m blind?!

No answer, though he was sure the person nodded.



What do I do now…?

Pikachu!We have to save Pikachu!” the boy exclaimed.

“No we don’t! We’re getting you to a hospital right now!”

“What?! Why?! And who do you think you are?!”

“It’s me, Ash. Anabel.” the voice had suddenly become gentle.

A-Anabel?? Where’s Dawn? Brock?”

“I’m not sure… but we have to get you to a hospital right now.”

A hospital?! They only have one in this region! That’s going to take forever!”

“I know… but we need to, you’re badly hurt.”

He tried struggling off the girl holding him, “I-I’m fine! We need to find Pi-” the pain from his rib emerged and quickly made him light-headed. He lost consciousness.



_________________________________________________________



…the sound… of a helicopter?

“It’s okay, we’re almost there…”

Anabel …?

Ash blanked out again. Feeling nothing, thinking nothing.





_________________________________________________________





…someone’s there. Above me…

He’s- “He’s regaining consciousness.” the voice blurred oddly between thought and sound.

Who was… that? Sounded… like an old man.

“Oh thank goodness! Ash! Are you okay?!”

That’s not Anabel… is that Dawn? No…?

“It’s me! Angie!”

…Angie? …Did Angie save me? …I thought that was Anabel.

Moaning through his closed mouth, Ash slowly remembered how to move his lips… “Ann… An-Angie? Where’s Ana..bel?

A small gasp “She went after Team Rocket after she handed you over to me.” The girl’s voice trembled, “Oh Ash…

Ash still felt unconscious. The darkness that surrounded his sight gave him a strange sensation. The only thing that felt normal was sound… though even that confused him. As Angie’s voice reached him, he noticed its difference from Anabel’s. It would be the only way he could differentiate people from now on. An idea that slightly scared him. Angie’s voice is more… like a boy’s. Anabel sounded a lot more mature. Is that how they always sounded like? I wonder what Dawn and Brock sound like.

He played with his thoughts for a few minutes before asking what had really been on his mind, “…so when do I get my sight back?”

“I’m sorry, but we can’t fix your eyesight without going through surgery.” the older man’s voice now responded. It was cold, stiff, and distant. Whoever this man was, he certainly didn’t care about what happened to me, Ash considered. Or maybe he’s just too used to this job?

“So why can’t I have the surgery?”

“Young man, I don’t mean to offend, but I doubt you could afford such an expensive procedure. Especially to risk it on something with such little success rate.” he responded bluntly.

Little?? But you’re a doctor! You should be able to fix this, right?!” Ash felt a fragment of bitterness run through him.

“Young man, I wish I could say that I could. I wish I could say that we doctors could fix everything. But in a world of pokémon, we just don’t have the amount of research and manpower to care for humans.” the older man’s voice returned Ash’s bitterness. “For now, we don’t. Not for some years. And without it, I’m afraid we have too little medical knowledge to guarantee any proper procedure to cure your blindness.”



“How much would it be?”

“The same price to start a new Gym.” Simple. Quick. Indifferent. “Perhaps more, little chance to be less.”

A compassionate hand lay softly on his arm… must be Angie.

“So what am I supposed to do now?” defeat ringing silently in his throat.

A silence filled the air… followed by the rustle of papers with the response of the older man… though Ash could tell he was looking away by how his voice sounded hollowed out, “We do have a therapy here that would help you learn how to interact with things while blind, you could purchase a guide pokémon, or you can depend on others as guides.”

“Let me take care of you, Ash.” That’s Angie’s voice again. But it sounds different…

Ash thought hard. There was something he had to make sure of.

“What about Pokémon Battles? Would I still be able to compete in them?” He turned in the direction of the doctor’s voice.



An odd feeling in the air. “…there are no rules that state that handicap Trainers cannot compete – blind or otherwise.” the doctor said with a hint of amusement in his voice. These people and their Pokémon, honestly. the doctor thought to himself.

A grin ran across Ash’s face. The muscles flinching to press a smile on his face felt a tad foreign. The darkness making every action of his feel far more empty… yet more special… more… specific.

But Ash…” a hint of concern flashed in Angie’s voice.

“Hm?”

He felt her hand running up and down his arm… “How are you going to against anyone blind?”

“You saying I can’t beat them just because I can’t see them?!” Ash growled his pride.

A sigh. Concern? Embarrassment? Exhaustion?

Ash… think about it. If you can’t see your opponent’s pokémon…” she paused to let it sink in, “…how will you be able to command your pokémon to fight them? How will you know where they are? What they’re doing? Where they’re going? What they’re planning next?”

She was right. This realization hit him hard.

He glimpsed at the idea of giving up, of letting her win, but that glimpse led to awful days sitting in silence at home… No, there’s gotta’ be a way… some way… somehow… something…

“There’s gotta’ be a way…” he echoed his thoughts and continued trying to think. He wouldn’t even know where to start with the thought. He was just hoping something would come up, or for someone to suggest something… This is usually when Brock comes up with something. Or when I come up with something. Or someone calls… or something… Angie’s quietness and pause in movements had only shown that she was thinking the same.

“For now,” the doctor interrupted their thoughts, “you’re free to return home.” The doctor shuffled in steps, the voice trailing off to another corner of the room. “Take it slowly for the first few days, and remember about that rib.”

“What rib?” Ash questioned curiously as he sat up. A dulling pain spread and he was forced back down to the bed. “Ow…” a small grunt escaped his lips… THAT rib…

“Take it slow, lie down often, and don’t move around too much.” the doctor suggested with a monotone emotion, as if he were reading from a script, “and if he has any further problems with the pain, please give him this medication.”

The sound of pills pressing against one another was heard.

It sounded like a small bag. Why I don’t get any pills in a bottle? Is that too expensive too?

“Of course.” Angie responded to the doctor, as she was handed the medicine.

Her soft hand slipped underneath his neck as it wrapped around his shoulder. As he was lifted from the bed, he felt her other hand wrap his arm around her shoulder. She felt warmer suddenly.

“You okay, Angie?”

Y-yeah… Let’s get you home.” Her arms struggled, yet their balance felt strong – stiff, in a manner.

I sure hope she isn’t sick... I’d have a cold WITH my broken rib and blindness. Wouldn’t that be a day… The thought invited another smile from his mouth, with the movement of his cheeks and lips becoming noticeable again. I wonder if there’s medication for that.

With a bit of a struggle, the two summer friends exited the hospital and rode a homeward taxi.



_________________________________________________________



“Breakfast’s ready!” a voice announced through the house.

“Coming!” Ash jumped off his bed with a spring and ran down the steps. Alright! Didn’t trip once yet!

It had been three weeks since he woke from that hospital. Three whole weeks since that accident. Or maybe a few days more than three weeks… Ash wasn’t sure if he had regained consciousness on the same day he had fainted from the accident. For all he knew, he was out for a month. Whatever the case was, nobody thought it was important enough to tell him.

His return home was welcome, but his condition wasn’t… his mother didn’t take his accident well… What mom would? She had spent an entire day crying as she babied him for anything he wanted- needed- and things he neither wanted nor needed. It was a rough first day to say the least, but Ash’s mother seemed to have cheered up slowly with each passing day.

Throughout the three weeks in the house his friends came to visit him.

Dawn and Brock were the first to arrive.

The two’s guilt was awkward and heavy. They had blamed themselves for not being able to help him in that disaster, but Ash assured them that it was fine – that it was his fault that he ran off carelessly like that. Normally he wouldn’t have been so quick to admit to his mistakes, but he was in no position to say otherwise. He did get himself blind and broken because of all the trouble.

As with any true friend’s concern; forgiveness and relief from responsibility is never taken lightly. To say they wouldn’t let him take the blame was an understatement – but a stressed yell from Dawn quickly ended the conversation, with admittance that he was too hasty – and that they were too slow.

The conversation led to other concerns, other topics, other stories… it then led to something more current, something more important, something that the entire meeting was depending on: “… what now?”

It took convincing. It took a lot of convincing. And it took more time and care than for a pokémon egg to hatch, but Ash managed to push Dawn into continuing her journey as a Coordinator, and for Brock to accompany her. Journeys in the Pokémon World were tough, and support was a precious commodity – but most important to Ash: it gets lonely, and friends keep you from turning back and running home.

Dawn would need the help more than he needed it now. For now, his journey was over. A handicapped Trainer stuck in bed all day. Any sense of self-pity was overwritten by his yearning for Dawn to complete her goal. He wouldn’t want to hold her back from that; she has a lot to offer to the Coordinator world.

With a new destiny set and a determination renewed, it was time for the two to leave.
Goodbyes were exchanged and loose promises were left in the wind.

For some time, Ash knew Dawn had stayed long after Brock had left the room. He wasn’t sure why, but she had stood in silence near his bed. With a quick rub on his shoulder with her lengthy fingers, she gave a sigh and left the room.

Misty was the next to arrive. And just as he had expected, she had stormed in with all the fury of a massive wave. Spits of insults and unintelligible complaints were fired from her mouth. He was surprised that she couldn’t literally breathe fire with her temperament. The visit was spent with yells for stupidity and recklessness. At times he tried to fight back, but was shot down every time. It was like battling an incoming tsunami; a person could make it splash and could even stop some of it, but it was impossible for one to prevent the waves from damaging everything in its path. And in that moment, Ash’s pride was its target.

To give a small sense of relief, Misty’s voice would sometimes crack to give away a real sense of concern, but it would never last long enough.

Misty’s time was short; she had spent too much time away from her Gym just trying to get to Ash’s house. She obviously had no time for the visit, a point which she made abundantly clear, but she had – and she blamed him for it. She had left the following day –still angry, still Misty.

On the second week, May had vid-called him.

The conversation was awkward and often had a deafening silence. Ash took his time during the call to notice how different a voice was on a call, how it was hard to notice certain changes through the silent static. It was the only thing he could do to ignore the uncomfortable quiet.

“I gotta’ go…” was the last thing she had to say.

Tracey and Gary visited at the same time by midweek, one showing kind concern – and the other showing harsh concern. Their treatment was similar to a good cop - bad cop routine, except they were closer to a strange couple. Yech! That was not a thought Ash wanted to hold onto.

The two were trying to help him cope with his blindness, but both in two very different manners; one showing how things weren’t too different even when blind, the other showing that blindness was just a wall that he had to break through. There may have been some useful lessons in their words… if the two teachers weren’t so contradicting. Though Tracey had mentioned they were complimentary. Gary, however, insisted that Tracey’s explanations were just confusing Ash. Gary was right, but the same could have been said about his lecture as well.

They left eventually, leaving the young boy both grateful and even more confused.

However, Tracey, much like Dawn, didn’t leave immediately. He stayed, taking his time with whatever he busied himself with. Though unlike Dawn’s stay, Ash knew what Tracey was doing. The scritch-scratch of paper was enough to tell him that he had been drawing. Drawing what, he wasn’t sure

“You look like a completely different person when you’re not judging everything you see, you know that?” Tracey simply stated. And with a pat on Ash’s head, the sketch-artist left.

Oddest of the visits, was the girl named Duplica. A girl Ash had no real relationship with other than acquaintance and “part-time friend”. That title felt a bit cold, but it was the only way he could honestly describe her. They never spent exclusive time with one another in the past – her visit may have been their first time alone in a room together as far as he knew.

Whatever the case was, Ash enjoyed her visit the most. She had spent most of her visit with him trying to perfect her voice mimicry to fool him. Ash found it quite funny that he couldn’t be fooled by her as easily anymore, which only angered the girl. He could have admitted that he was fooled once or twice, but to give her that credit might have ruined the fun.

The lengths she’d go to trick him was a bit much; leaving and re-entering the room with a new voice, making distant voices outside his window as she hung on the top of his roof, mimicking a conversation between two to three people. It was entertaining, if anything. And he certainly was grateful for the light-hearted treatment she was giving him. All the other heavy-feeling visits had become far too depressing for his tastes.

As Ash was treated with her company, he realized that he wasn’t entirely sure what the purpose of her visit was… she hardly tried to cheer him up or tease him about his lack of eyesight… in fact, she never mentioned it. She had never voiced any concern or curiosity. She just spent the rest of her time with him talking and joking. As if nothing was wrong at all.

Whatever the reason may have been, she left as nonchalantly as she came. A simple “Bye!” and she was gone.

And just two days ago, Anabel arrived.

Opposite of what would happen each time a friend came to visit; it was Ash that ran up to Anabel with a hundred questions. She ignored his panicked interrogation and answered all of them at once by placing a tired pikachu on his head.

His happiness at its highest, Ash hugged Anabel with all his strength. He noted that doing so made her very stiff, and she felt very warm – possibly even hot. It would have been something he would have been affected by – if it weren’t for the fact that at that moment all he cared about was that someone brought his best friend back to him.

He admitted that his time reunited with his best friend was the best medicine he could have ever received. Pikachu always knew him the best, and their ability to communicate with foreign words the other fully understood without translation helped in their ability to converse with one other despite his new weakness.

Pikachu showed honest concern for Ash’s lack of eyesight, but never seemed to think it would really stop his best friend and trainer from doing what he wanted to do. This treatment had encouraged Ash, more than anything else, to never feel hopeless in even the most pathetic situations during his blindness.

“Hey Pikachu! Breakfast!” Ash called out as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

He felt his best friend land roughly on his head as he walked into the kitchen.

“Morning Pikachu.” Ash grinned as he scratched the back of Pikachu’s ear.

“Pika pika.” Pikachu responded happily.

Before the boy could reach the table, Ash felt his yellow pokémon grab at his hair suddenly. “Pika!”

Ash instinctively hopped forward. “Missed me!” he exclaimed with an obvious air of pride.

“You’re lucky Pikachu’s with you now. You were easy prey before that.” a familiar voice said to his right.

“Just give it up, Angie. It’s getting easier to avoid your tripping these days. Especially with how loud you breathe.” Ash teased.

Angie….

Angie had stayed with him this entire time.

No matter how depressed he was, how angry he was, or how stubborn he was, she stuck with him during this rough patch in his life. She had been helping him do his daily activities around the house – from things as simple as walking, to even the embarrassing, such as helping him find his clothes when his mother wasn’t around.

Ash was grateful for all her help and her company. Without her, he admitted he would have slowly drowned into a miserable slump. He also admitted that may have been more than just grateful if it weren’t for all her “helpful pranks”.

“Now now you two…” Ash’s mother intervened from the other side of the kitchen. “Sit down have some breakfast. And Angie, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t trip my son on the tiles. I just cleaned them.”

Angie gave a giggle and helped Ash into his seat.

“Hey, I can do this.” Ash grunted in rebellion.

“Whatever, I just don’t want you to destroy breakfast again.”

“That was one time.”

“That was also yesterday.” Angie moved Ash’s hands over the table, allowing him to feel where his plate and utensils were, “So what do you want on your plate?”

Mmmm… some of that bacon! It smells great.”

“That’s sausage.”

“Oh, right. Sausages, and maybe some of that toast.”

“That’s hash browns.”

“Fine, whatever, just give me a bit of everything! I’m starving!”

Despite Ash’s hearing becoming far more sensitive at judging and discerning distance, people, and objects, his sense of smell left much to be desired.

“Not until you say the magic words.” Angie giggled.

Pleeeease!

As Angie scraped and scooped the food onto the plate, Ash’s mother remarked with a pleasing tone, “My my, teaching my little Ash some manners! You’ll make a great wife for him someday.”

Wh-WHAT?!” Angie nearly dropped the food in her hands.

“Mom quit teasing Angie.” Ash defended, mostly to protect his food from falling to the ground.

“I’m pretty sure I’m encouraging, not teasing.” Ash’s mother had giggled in delight at her son’s defense for his loyal ‘girlfriend’. “Don’t you think she’d make a great wife, Ash?”

Ash couldn’t find anything to respond to the comment. Not that he’d ever want to respond to any of his mom’s entrapping comments. His only response was a hot sensation that spread across his face.

He heard a clanging of plate and utensils in front of him. “H-here’s your food.” Angie’s voice stuttered as she readied her own food.

Th-Thanks.”

“Awwwww, you two will make a perfect couple! I can’t wait for grandkids!”



Breakfast was eaten in awkward silence.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:00 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Somewhere
Gender: Male
Nature: Calm
Posts: 53
Chapter 2: Training

Spoiler:
“Morning Ash!”

“Huh?”

Um, hello?”

Oh! Anabel.” That was weird, that didn’t sound like Anabel for a moment. Ash thought to himself in reaction to her higher-pitch. “Something cheer you up today?”

“Nothing in particular. Just a good morning.”

Good morning? She slept outside on our lawn…

Unlike Angie who had been given a room by Ms. Ketchum, Anabel wasn’t so lucky. With only one small guest room, Anabel couldn’t be offered much for staying over. She had refused sleeping in the living room or sharing a room, and instead pushed the idea to have her be able to sleep on the lawn.

Ms. Ketchum demanded sternly against the choice, but Anabel was completely determined to sleep in the backyard lawn… for unknown reasons. To say Ms. Ketchum agreed wouldn’t have been accurate. Ash’s mother had simply given up on the subject, releasing any responsibility and hinting at future “I told you so”s if Anabel were to ever find herself miserable or uncomfortable.

“Come on, I want to show you something!” Anabel squeaked into a higher pitch.

Ash tilted his head in confusion. There she goes again with that voice.

Before he could give a response, he felt Anabel’s soft fingers latch onto his. “Well, not show-show, but you’ll see what I mean. Well not see, but – Ah! I just keep messing up. Er… just come on!” Anabel had lowered her voice into its more recognizable tone, though still having a more child-like air to it.

I wonder where she’s taking m--- whoah.

Suddenly the familiar sounds of Ash’s yard went hollow, as if something had buffed them out.

“Huh?” Ash tilted his head around and reached out with his hands. It felt different. It sounded different. But what it was, he had no idea. “What is this? I don’t remember anything in my backyard.”

“I made it last night!” exclaimed Anabel with a frightfully girlish tone of pride. “Think of it as your own personal training area!”

Personal… training? What is all this?” Ash’s fingers would touch air mostly, but would feel poles and fabric whenever he reached too far in certain directions. The cold of the steel poles and difference of fabric was almost like static to his touch – he’d pull away the instant he had made contact with them. It wasn’t the feeling that shocked him, but the fact that they shouldn’t be there. Nothing was ever in the Ketchum backyard. Nothing.

“It’s like a tunnel.” Anabel described simply. “I made it so that you can hear the sounds in here clearly, as well as…“ She grunted as she seemed to be pulling on something heavy. Suddenly, sounds from other areas within and outside the yard trickled in. “…a switch that can adjust how much sound gets in from the outside!”

Uh… wow… but what is it supposed to do?” The boy trainer stood bewildered.

A sound of a lever turned, and the sound of the outside was buffered once again. Ash heard three steps in the grass.

“Where am I standing Ash?”

“What?”

Anabel’s voice calmed and slowed, as if she were trying to explain something complicated to a child, “Where – am – I – standing?”

“To… my left?”

Five steps.

“How about now?”

“Maybe a little to the right? Kind of further. That’s nice and all, Anabel, but wha—“

A snapping sound.

“What did I just do?”

“What?”

“I said… what did I just do?” her voice copied her earlier almost-offensively slow tone.

“I’m not sure, snap your finger?”

“To my left or my right?”

“How would I know that?”

“Just guess.”

“…left?”

“Good. How about…”

CRIIIIIIIIIK. The noise of the lever turning again.

Sound started flooding in, even louder now.

A few steps. How many steps was that? Probably four. Ash did his best to listen to every movement around him – afraid he’d be tested on it.

“Where am I now?”

“To… my left?”

Anabel giggled.

CRIIIK. Sound buffered out once again.

Anabel was now suddenly right in front of him. “So..?”

So… what?

A slight sigh came from Anabel’s mouth. Smells like blueberries? …or soda… I can’t tell.

“You were wrong when the sound barrier wasn’t there.”

Ash scratched his head, dumbfounded.

He tried thinking. What to think of, he wasn’t sure. All this seemed a bit sill– suddenly, he understood.

OH! Will this help me learn how to handle sound better? Like for walking?”

Anabel’s smooth fingertip was on Ash’s nose. Why’s she more friendly now?

No. You can learn that from just walking around. This little tunnel we’ve got...” She was uncomfortably close. “…is special.

Ash gulped.

A familiar click, a sound of air being vacuumed out, followed by an all-too-memorable snap.

A poké ball!

Eee!” came a sound from below.

“Hey Espeon!” Ash recognized her. He attempted smiling in her direction. “Want to play with Pikachu? He’s inside the house right now.”

Anabel’s Espeon had spent most of her time in Ash’s residence keeping Pikachu company. A fact that he had been grateful for, as his blindness did not offer much in fun. …well, other than in Angie humiliating me on a daily basis.

“I’m afraid we don’t have time to play, Ash.” Anabel’s voice suddenly became serious.

Click. Vacuum. “Catch!”

“Huh???” Ash reached out his hands in the direction of an object being tossed in the air – which he found much easier to hear in the sound tunnel. With more luck than skill, he was able to catch it.

“Go ahead, let out your friend.”

Um… okay! Come out, whoever this one is!” Ash cheered as he gleefully threw the poké ball. It had been his first in a long time.

Snap. “CORPHISH!” a sound on Ash’s left.

HEY! Corphish! How’ve you been buddy?” Ash asked happily at the sound of a familiar pokémon.

Cor?” a hint of uncertainty flowed through the Pokémon’s voice.

It took a while for Ash to realize that he must have been staring in the wrong direction of the sound.

He scratched his hair in embarrassment as he turned in a different direction. “Oh yeah, you don’t know about me going blind yet… Well, thing is –”

“No time for memory lane, Ash.” Anabel interrupted, “It’s time we have a pokémon battle.”

What?! I’m blind! That’s not fair!”

“Then you’ve got two choices. Listen carefully to the battlefield,” her finger pushed against his chest, forcing him back a step, “or give up now and go back to Angie tripping you all day.” Anabel spat to get Ash’s competitive spirit flowing.

“Alright then! A battle it is!” a smirk ran across his face.

That’s the Ash I know. Maybe this exercise might just allow you to sense what your pokémon are feeling better… Anabel thought happily. Don’t worry… I’ll keep things easy for you. I’ll use voice commands for now.

“Espeon! Quick attack!”

“Corphish! Dig!”

… thank you, Anabel…



_________________________________________________________



AAAAAAAAAASH!” Angie stuck her head out of the door, “I swear, where is that boy?”

The tomboy girl stepped out slowly, looking in several directions to find the blind trainer.

A sound of laughter in the distance.

“Huh?” Angie followed after it. Coming from the backyard…

Whoah! When did that get here?!” Angie stared in surprise at a large construction that mysteriously appeared in the once empty lawn.

Oh hey Angie.” Ash’s voice hummed from below her view.

Angie looked down to find Ash and Anabel lying on their backs, both extremely exhausted. And what have these two been up to?

“Ash, don’t you want to come in for lunch?”

“Nah, Anabel made some awesome sandwiches for us. I’m stuffed.”

Angie shot a glare in Anabel’s direction.

What did I do? Anabel blinked in surprised at Angie’s sudden change of behavior. Ohhh… I see how it is. She shot the glare back with a smirk.

“Don’t worry Angie, Ash and I were merely just training.” Anabel emphasized the last word to sting.

“T-Training?”

“Oh yeah! Angie, Anabel’s teaching me how to battle with pokémon without needing to see!” Ash exclaimed excitedly, “I still need more practice, but I’m definitely feeling it out!”

Feeling… Anabel’s face lit up with satisfaction from that word. Her mind snapped back into reality and used the new feeling of fulfillment to strike Angie again. “Ash has been improving a lot. And who knows…” She closed her eyes as a smile ran across her face. “He might be able to compete in tournaments soon… after a few more training sessions with me, that is.”

OW!” Ash felt a tugging on his ears as he was roughly lifted and dragged into the direction of the house.

“Just get in the house and eat your lunch, your mom worked hard on it.” Angie said with a growled tone running through every word.

Her grip tightened as she shot another glare back at Anabel…

You honestly think you have a chance with him? Anabel released her mocking emotions in the tomboy’s direction, smirking in arrogant challenge.



_________________________________________________________



Warmth.

The sun’s warmth woke Ash to another sightless morning.

He began his morning as he always did… with a daily judgment of whether he missed his eyesight or not. I dunno, the mornings still feel the same. It’s not so bad.

He smiled as he dropped his feet to the floor.

“PIIIIKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” a surge of electricity flowed through the still waking boy’s body.

“AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! IIIII’M SSSOOORRRRRYYYY PIKAAACHUUUUUUU!!!!!”

Ash fell to the floor, the electricity stopping immediately after. His body twitched constantly as his muscles slowly began to relax.

The smell of burnt clothes and hair ran across Ash’s nose.

O-Ow… now I definitely need a shower.”

Chu…” Pikachu sighed in annoyance as he trotted out of the room.

Ash are you okay?!

Angie’s concerned voice suddenly felt louder than normal to the still-somewhat tired boy.

Y-Yeah yeah.” the electrified trainer stuttered as he tried to remove a ringing from his ears, “I just accidentally stepped on Pikachu this morning.”

Oh okay…” a relieved sigh escaped her lips, “So need any help today?”

“Help?”

“Yeah, with your shower. I heard you say you needed one.”

W-what d-do you mean help???” Ash suddenly felt blood rush to his face.

N-not that way! I mean do you want me to help you find where the soap and shampoo is before you get undressed!” Angie explained somewhat angrily at the boy’s forgetfulness. Geez Ash, we do this every time and you still forget…

“Oh right! Um… no thanks! I’m sure I can do it myself this time.”

“You sure?”

“Of course! I’ve been training with Anabel, remember?” Ash voiced confidently.

Riiiiight, forgive me.” She left the room and headed downstairs.

Hm? Sarcasm? Ash caught her last tone easily. I bet she’s planning to trip me again!

As he stretched and walked towards the bathroom, he slowed to a relax state. Letting his toes grip onto the carpet and pulling at it with each step, Ash enjoyed the soft textures against the soles of his feet. I never knew how nice this carpet was before.

Once he reached the entrance of the bathroom, however, his attitude changed. A change of stance, a held breath, and a heightened sense of focus occurred all at once. You won’t get me this time…



Hm?

No odd sound, no breathing, no weird silent spot, nothing. If Angie was somewhere in the bathroom, she was completely invisible to him.

“I know you’re here somewhere, Angie.” Ash boasted a bluff.

What?” Angie’s voice came from downstairs.

“Oh! Uhm… nothing!

Guess I’m just being paranoid. the boy thought as he walked onto the cold tiles of the bathroom floor.

Downstairs, Angie continued to help Mr. Mime with the dishes.

“Was Ash calling me?” Ash’s mom Delia questioned curiously from the dining table.

“No, he was talking to me.” Angie answered calmly.

“Aren’t you going to see what he wanted?”

“Nah, I already know what he was expecting.”

Delia tilted her head in curiosity.



A sudden loud BANG hit the floor upstairs, followed by several other objects crashing onto a tiled floor.

OWWWWWWWWWW!!!” a stressed voice echoed.

Angie giggled. “Train that.” she whispered under her breath while she dried off her hands. “I’ll check on him!” she exclaimed to Ash’s mother as she ran up the stairs.



Knock Knock Knock

Owww… who is it?”

“You okay, Ash?”

“Yeah, I think so. There was a bar of soap on the floor of the bathtub.”

“A little present from me.”

“What?”

“Nothing! …Just hurry up with your shower, I’m starving.”



_________________________________________________________



“Hey Ash, you want to train today?”

Huh? Angie?” Ash double-checked his thoughts to make sure he heard it right. “Actually I was planning to train with Anabel today.” Or at least, I hope she wants to.

Ash had been preparing for this time in the day. The training Anabel had held for him every day since that morning had become a highlight of his. He couldn’t wait, he couldn’t be bothered, and he certainly couldn’t wait. No wait, I thought that already…

“Oh, well, that’s fine. Tell me how it goes.”

The door closed behind the green haired girl as she went back inside.

She turned and stared at the door knowingly.



A few moments later, she heard a knock.

With a grin, Angie opened the door.

“Hey Angie, can you read this for me?” Ash handed her a slip of paper.

‘To Ms. Ketchum or Angie,

Please tell Ash I’ll be right back. I have to get my Espeon to the Pokémon Center, I think she ate something bad.

-Anabel’

“What’s it say? I just found it on a rock she said she’d meet me at.”

“Oh, it says that she won’t be back for a while. Probably some appointment.” Angie snickered, thinking of the month-old food she fed to the unsuspecting psychic pokémon this morning.

“I was really looking forward to training with her today.” Ash whined. “Ah well. I guess I ca-”

“You could always train with me, Ash.” Angie stated simply.

“Really?” Ash asked excitedly, “Let’s hurry up and get out there!”

A giggle came from Angie’s voice, “Sure thing, just let me get my stuff.”

Angie sounds a lot nicer now. I guess she really wanted to train with me.

“Okay! Ready!”

“Well that was fast.”

“Come on come on come on!”

Ash felt Angie’s rough yet slender fingers grip around his sleeve. I hope she doesn’t drag me through the bushes. was all he could think before being yanked out the door.

She began running, towing him quickly out of the immediate area.

His foot tripped against something. Feeling himself falling, Ash reached out to regain his balance.

The green-haired tomboy was hit with a sudden blush when an arm wrapped around her waist. Ash…

S-Slow down, Angie! I don’t know where we’re going if you’re running this fast!”

Right, sorry.”

The shift down of speeds almost made Ash crash into Angie. He caught himself in time.

Angie shook off an idea. She felt ridiculous for being disappointed that he hadn’t crashed into her. That’s such a stupid thing to wish for…

The two continued their walk down a small pathway, his hand still unknowingly around her waist. She didn’t bother moving it away or complaining. She liked it there, as embarrassing as it was for her to admit.

To keep the thoughts from moving to unknown territory, Angie busied herself by watching the scenery around her. Today is beautiful though… the sky, the flowers, the trees, the river, everything about this little town is so perfect. “No wonder Ash turned out so innocent…”

“No wonder what?”

Angie covered her mouth immediately. Did I just say that out loud?! I gotta’ be careful.

What does she mean innocent?? Does she mean I’m gullible? The accidental blurt from Angie was enough to get Ash suspicious.

“Alright, where are you taking me?” With a tug, Ash planted his feet to the ground.

Angie turned, staring at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“I’m not stupid. Anabel doesn’t have any appointments – does she?”



She didn’t answer.

“So where are you planning on taking me? Get me lost in the woods? Toss me in the river? Make me run into walls all day?”

The girl’s tone rose in temperature, “Why in the world would I do that?!

“Well, why else would you want to drag me all the way out here? We could’ve trained in the backyard. Admit it, you’re just trying to pull another pra—“

Ash was quickly yanked from his spot and dragged hastily through grass and dirt.

WAAAAAAAHHHHHH WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!!Not through the bushes not through the bushes please!

Angie was running as fast as she could, dragging the poor boy without much care. Panic ran through her thoughts as she continued her sprint – retreating from a sight that threatened her entire plan. Shoot! Was that Anabel?! How did she get back so fast?! I have to get the spot before she sees us!!

Looking back at the path they were originally on, Angie caught a glance of a lilac-haired girl staring curiously into the woods.

Crap! Please don’t see us! Please don’t see us! Please don’t let her see us!

ANGIE!!! SLOW DOW-

Angie covered Ash’s mouth tightly and wrapped her other arm around his waist.

Crap he’s heavy! With all her strength, the young woman lifted Ash over her shoulder and started running faster. Come on! Come on! Come on! We’re almost there!

Ash managed to snuggle his mouth out of her smothering hand. “Anabel???

Angie stopped in her tracks. With one smooth combination she threw Ash to the ground, grabbed her poké ball, turned and scanned the area.

Huh? No one’s here.

HA! I knew it! You ARE trying to hide me from Anabel!” Ash laughed in victory.

Wh-Wha-?? You mean she ISN’T here???”

“I’m blind. How would I see her??” Ash continued to laugh, but was interrupted when he was abruptly picked up and thrown through the air. The quiet moment in mid-air felt blissful to him. I feel like I’m flying, too bad it ends with a- CRASH.

Gripping his head and hip, the blind trainer slowly crawled into a sitting position. “Owowowowww… what the heck was that for?”

“We’re here.” Angie’s voice had gotten lighter.

“Here where?”

“Take out your pokémon, we’re going to battle.”

Ummm…



“Let me guess…”

“Yup. Don’t have any pokémon on me.”

Angie slapped her palm to her face. “Why the heck would you go out to train with pokémon with no pokémon???

“That’s the thing, Anabel usually carries my poké balls. She said she’d allow me to carry my poké ball belt again if I could beat her just once.”

“So wait, you HAVEN’T beaten her yet?”

Ash waved frantically in front of his eyes, “I’m friggin’ blind! I’m still not that good at the whole ‘blind-battling’ thing.”

A heavy sigh escaped Anabel. Twelve steps. Ash felt her firm grip on his shoulders as he was lifted to his feet.

“Alright then, let’s train without them.”

“Now look who’s sounding crazy. How do you train with pokémon without pokémon?” Ash mocked with a hint of laughter.

“We don’t. We train you.”

Train me? If we’re going to do the whole walking thing again with the ha –”

Blank. A dull feeling went throughout his body as air escaped from his lungs.

Did she just punch me in the stomach?!

Wh-What was that for?!

“Quit whining, Ash! If you can take a direct hit from Pikachu every day, I’d think you could handle a punch from a girl!”

Why you!!!” Ash grit his teeth and dug his feet into the ground.





“Well?”

“Well what?”

“Aren’t you going to fight back?”

What?! I can’t hit a girl!”

Such a gentleman, but I’m –“ her firm hand on his chest, her breath to his side, a tap of her shoe on the back of his foot, “NOT JUST SOME GIRL!” In one strong action, Ash was pushed back and lost complete control of his balance. He hit the ground hard, another exhalation of surprise coming from his lips.

Ow… you really like beating up on blind kids, don’t you?”

“Only whiny ones who keep making up excuses for how weak they are.”

Oh so that’s how you want to play? He frowned.

“H-Hey… can I hav little help? I can’t really feel my left arm…

Oh no… ASH ARE YOU OKAY?!” Angie ran to his side and started lifting him off the grass in worried panic.

Ash’s arms quickly wrapped around her elbow. Before she could blush, Ash yelled out, “Gotcha!” With a twist of his body, Angie found herself flying off the ground and landing on her back with a loud thud.

“A little trick I learned from the Arena Tycoon of the Battle Arena!” he boasted.

Angie grunted in defiance. She patted dirt off her sleeves before she readied into her next stance… “Well here’s a little trick I learned from training with a Hitmonlee!”

“You’ve trained with a Hitmo – UGH!!” Ash shoved his hands between his legs. He curled up in utter pain, tears nearly flowing from his eyes. “N-not cool.” he squeaked with a higher than normal pitch.

“Gotta’ be ready for anything.” Angie giggled. “Now get up, let’s see how you can handle me in a fair fight… without all that whining of yours.”

Grrrr! You’re on!



_________________________________________________________



The door opened slowly.

A cup and plate fell to the floor with a clang.

Delia gasped at the sight of the girl and boy walking into her home. Several cuts and bruises marked their skin, and grass stains decorated their ruined clothes.

“What happened to you two?!”

Angie giggled.

Ash chuckled.

They burst into laughter, much to the confusion and concern of Delia and Anabel.



_________________________________________________________



“Are you sure about this?”

“Of course! I’ve got this!”

Well… alright. Only if you’re really sure…” Anabel bit her lip nervously, “Espeon, use Iron Tail on Ash! Metagross, use Psychic on Pikachu!”

“Come on Pikachu! Use Agility and get around Metagross!”

Running towards the lavender psychic pokémon, Ash crossed his arms to take the incoming blow.

SMASH.

A hot and dull pain spread throughout his forearms as he felt himself being shot off the ground from the impact. “GAHH!!!”

ASH!” Anabel called out in alarm.

D-Don’t worry! I got this.” Ash smirked as he leaned against a tree. “Pikachu! Jump off Metagross and send a Thunderbolt at Espeon!”

“Espeon! Dodge it and counter with Zap Cannon!” Anabel’s attention returned to the battlefield with cool calculation. “Metagross Psychic again on Pikachu!”

EEE!” the Espeon yelped, a tremor of panic in its tone.

W-What?!” Anabel turned towards her beloved pokémon friend in surprise.

“You shouldn’t have forgotten about me!” Ash had snatched up the psychic pokémon by the tail. “Pikachu! Turn and Volt Tackle Metagross!”

Pika!

Before the half-Steel Pokémon’s psychic blast could hit the yellow Mouse Pokémon, it dodged at the last minute – striking down like lightning at the giant creature. KSSHH. The ground shook at the sheer power let loose by the comparatively tiny pokémon.

“GWUUUUHHHHHHHH!!!”

“Metagross!”

“Good job, Pikachu!” Ash nodded in his partner’s direction as he released Espeon by throwing her into the air.

“Espeon! Quick Attack Pikachu!”

I keep telling you!” Ash exclaimed loudly. “Don’t – forget – about – me!

The Sun Pokémon yapped in panic, as it was caught completely off guard. Its tail had been grabbed again, this time during its dashing attack.

“Espeon!”

Using the momentum from its attack, Ash planted his feet to the ground and swung Espeon towards Pikachu. “Now Pikachu!”

Anabel’s eyes widened. Not from Ash’s ability to catch Espeon in mid-air despite his blindness, though that itself was inhumanly impressive. Not from his ability to throw her pokémon towards the exact location of his currently quiet Pikachu, though that itself was definitely worthy of a trophy. But from…

Pikachu swung its tail as it shined bright. Its energy connected to Espeon’s launched body like flint stones striking one another.

“Piiika!”

“Eee!”

Aaaannd, finishing move!” Ash had appeared on the far end of the field, body-slamming the thrown-about pokémon into the ground.

Ash… I heard your command. Anabel softly pressed her hand against her chest. Are you…?

Her eyes watered as she watched as Ash’s movements. His face was following Pikachu as the yellow pokémon dashed towards him. He caught and hugged his best friend. All without sight.

But was it really without sound?

“Ash.” Anabel stared directly at Ash, her eyes and tone completely serious.

“Yeah?”

That was a pretty neat combination.

“Haha! I know! I just made it up as I went, really.”

Anabel’s eyes widened completely as tears flowed down her cheeks.

Anabel? What’s wrong?”

“Ash… I didn’t say anything.

“What do you mean you didn’t say anything?”

Ash felt a rush of happiness showering him.

Wh-What?? D-Did I say something?” he questioned densely.

Ash, I didn’t say anything then either.

“But I heard it. You said you were happy.”

A few steps in the grass. The wind blew. A soft, light feeling filled the atmosphere.

The feet gripped the ground beneath it, it started running.

Ash knew what was coming, but had no idea why…

Her arms wrapped completely around him. Though in reality, she hadn’t reached him yet. She planted her lips against his. Though in reality, she hadn’t ever touched him.

He wasn’t sure why he felt all this, imagined all these things. But whatever the case was, Anabel had finally reached him, her arms wrapping around him.

Her lips so close… ready to enact the previous premonition….

SMASH.

Anabel fell to the ground confused. A pain in her stomach. She noticed a messy shoeprint on her once-pristine shirt.

“Alright, that’s close enough, purple head.” Angie stood defiantly between them, her leg lowering from its stiff stance. “Ash beat you fair and square. Now give him his poké balls back.”

Anger. Now logic filling its space. Smiling. Ash was feeling every one of Anabel’s emotional thoughts… though he still couldn’t fathom why.

It doesn’t matter what you do now, tomboy. I’ve already won Ash. A smirk ran across Anabel’s face.

Angie raised her brow at the Frontier Brain’s reaction. What’s she so darn happy about?

She turned towards Ash. Her eyes narrowed… noticing that he now looked different… felt different.

“Wh-What do you mean different?” he tilted his head in confusion.

Angie’s eyes widened. Catching quickly onto what had happened…

“Empathy…”
__________________
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  #4    
Old February 12th, 2012 (12:01 PM). Edited February 12th, 2012 by Nine-Sixteenth.
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Somewhere
Gender: Male
Nature: Calm
Posts: 53
Chapter 3: Feeling

Spoiler:
“So my son’s a Psychic now?!” Delia asked in curious excitement.

No, no, no. Psychic’s read thoughts. Ash can’t really read exact thoughts.” Anabel informed happily. “It’s Empathy. It allows him to read emotions.”

Oh, so now he’s more sensitive!” Ash’s mother chuckled at the adorable idea.

“You know…” Ash interrupted. His head buried against the couch cushions, trying to block out feelings as if they were sound. “You’d think this would be really cool and all… but all I can ever get from it is Pikachu whining about wanting ketchup.”

Laughter filled the room.

Sooooo…” His mother was uncomfortably close to him. “What am I thinking?”

“You want me to find out what you’re thinking.” he groaned.

Delia held her son and sobbed onto his shoulder. “Now my son finally knows how his mother feels!!

Ash sighed and patted his mother’s back with an emotion of despair. He didn’t know if he liked this Empathy business at all. “Does this thing ever turn off?” he faced in Anabel’s direction.

Why would you want it to, my love?

Ash shivered. “W-Why do you keep calling me that?

He felt a wink hit his heart, blushing immediately.

The Empathy trainer giggled. “No, it doesn’t turn off. But you get used to it. Emotions eventually become quieter and you can even learn how to tune it out.”

“You gotta’ teach me how to do that.”

Why.” stated, rather than questioned, Angie. “You already got taught something you didn’t want to learn from her.” She took another bite of her sandwich angrily before she continued, “Why would you want to learn anything else from her.”

Er… It’s not like I wanted to learn all this!” Ash felt the need to intervene with the tomboy’s boiling emotions before she erupted. “I just… Well… Some more control would be nice.”

“Exactly, Angie, no need to be so –” jealous.

Anabel had been silenced by Ash’s begging emotions.

No need to be so WHAT exactly?” Angie fumed.

“Now now.” Delia had finally let go of her son and wiped her tears. “No fighting, you two. You have to date with my son first before you start fighting over him as a boyfriend.”

Both Angie and Anabel blushed.

Angie turned away with in irritation. Denying emotions filling her.

Anabel sighed as her thoughts moved elsewhere. Dreamy emotions filling her.

Ash sat blank-faced, extremely uncomfortable. He has no idea how he got here. One minute he was battling with Pikachu, now he had thispower… or whatever you’d call this. Curse, maybe. Whatever it was, it helped him as much as it hindered him. The idea of hearing people’s emotions seemed useful enough… but the repercussions were problematic.

Like right now. He sighed.

“So Ash…” Anabel fiddled with her fingers, blushing harder than she ever had.

Her emotions suddenly changed. Before this, the Frontier Brain had been very direct about her feelings towards him. Yet now she shied away from him. Ash wondered if she was just being playful before… or if she was somehow being playful now.

Now he was worried that this was actually becoming serious. Too fast. he felt. Too sudden.

He never had to deal with these emotions and ideas before. Sure, the odd thought would pop every now and again, but he’d simply stomp it out before it led anywhere. Where would the ideas lead to? Stomp Stomp Stomp. Ash had repeated his ritual before that particular thought could even breathe.

This was uncomfortable, this was strange. He’s a pokémon trainer, a challenger, a future champion! Not… this. Whatever this was. This was too complicated. Too distracting. It was never about this stuff, it shouldn’t ever be about this stuff. …should it…?

STOMP STOMP STOMP

Before Anabel could complete her request for Ash –

Before Angie could jump over the table and pop Anabel’s lip to shut her up –

The phone rang.

Phew.

I-I’ll get it!” Ash stumbled off the couch and walked towards the vid-phone.

The two young females glared at each other… raging fire burning in one’s eyes, cool lightning sparking the other’s.

“Oh hey May! What’s up?”

Their staring contest broke.

“You’re in town?! Really?!” Ash asked with excitement. “That’s a long trip! Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?!”

Bad news. the two shared the same feeling.

Delia clapped her hands together in delight. Oh my boy is so popular these days!

Ash stumbled. “Mom!! I heard that!”

“It’s the truth, dear.” She giggled, taking a sip of her tea.



_________________________________________________________



“You know… you don’t have to keep holding onto me like that.” Ash tried to pull away. “As long as we’re following the roads I know where I am around here.”

I kn-know! I mean…well, I guess I didn’t know.” Pulling away, the girl adjusted her bandana to look busy. “S-Sorry.”

Of course, looking busy didn’t mean much to Ash… considering his present condition.

May coughed awkwardly at the silence.

The Coordinator May had arrived at the Ketchum residence exhausted and sweating profusely. Wherever she had come from, however she got there, she had gotten there quickly – and paid for it with heavy fatigue.

Sadly, as if it were some kind of harsh joke, Ash wasn’t home, but was already out on the road. For whatever reason it may have been, Ash had wanted to leave early. A good decision on his part, as his presence tended to put the two bickering young women at odds with one another.

Though to May, not knowing of any internal politics within the home, she had just found the entire situation inconvenient, and had returned into a jogging pace to find the missing Ash.

It wasn’t long before she found him walking quite some distance down the road from his residence. To her surprise, her sudden shout-out of his name hadn’t shocked or scared him like she thought it would. He even knew which way to face, almost seeming as if he knew she was coming. An odd perspective of the usually unprepared Ash she was familiar with, she considered.

“So uhm… how’s your mom doing?” she asked, trying to smooth things into a better conversation.

“She’s okay.” He paused, feeling out what she was trying to say. “Oh, and why did you come to visit?”

May flinched, slightly surprised.

Well that was sudden. she thought to herself. I guess I don’t have to hint at it anymore…

Uhm… well, I felt a little guilty.”

“Guilty?”

“Thing is… the rest of the gang had been visiting you, and I was just… I dunno. Far away, you know?” she fumbled with her words.

“I know you cared.” He had read the rest of her thought. “You really didn’t have to come. The phone call was nice enough.”

She smiled in relief. Ash feels… easier to talk to… I mean, he’s always been easy! But this is just going smoother than I thought it would be.

“Oh right, about that…

“About what?” she looked at him curiously, unsure what he was referring to.

“The smoother-talking thing.”

May stiffened. “Wh-What?! H-how d-did –

“Hasn’t Ash told you yet?” A well-dressed girl appeared by Ash’s side, clinging onto his arm.

Ash blushed at the sudden intrusion. How did she sneak up on us?

I know how to hide myself rather well, Ash.

Wh-why are you here?

Just watching out for y–

Anabel was suddenly shoved aside by a casually-dressed tomboy. “Hey May.”

How did she sneak up here too?

That little tomboy’s getting on my nerves.

But… Anabel… You snuck up here too.

The bandana-wearing girl stared blankly as the two girls fought over their place by Ash’s side. “Uhm… told me what?”

Y-yeah, about that.” Ash inched away from the fighting girls. “I… uh… sorta’ learned Empathy while I was recovering…” He scratched his head in embarrassment, realizing how ridiculous the statement sounded when said casually.

To say he ‘learned’ would have given Ash too much of a compliment. I stumbled on it, really. he admitted to himself. It’s not like I would’ve learned on it my own, anyways.

“Empathy?” The girl thought for a minute, her head tilting to the side.



Her jaw dropped immediately. An old memory was recalled. “Empathy?! Ash learned Empathy?!” her face showing more than just disbelief.

Y-Yeah… Remember when Anabel tried to teach us that?” Ash nervously voiced her memory, “I kind of accidentally learned it while I was training.

Accidentally?” The green-haired girl interrupted. “Anabel has been trying to teach him that since she got here!” she growled in annoyance.

An attack meant to reveal dishonest intentions of Anabel’s stay, only offered the Empathic bragging rights at this point, as she had been successful in her intentions.

“And I have you to thank, Angie.” Anabel hummed proudly. “Without the crazy ideas you put into Ash’s head, he probably would have never reached that point of awareness.”

Crazy ideas?” May asked quietly to herself, still in shock at the turn of events.

Y-yeah, I guess it was pretty crazy if actually think about it…” Ash laughed nervously. “Thing is, Angie got me to train without pokémon.”

Training without pokémon is normal. Fighting AGAINST pokémon without pokémon wasn’t my idea.” Angie spit out a toothpick she had been chewing on.

I know, I know, I just wanted to try it out.”

W-Wait a minute!” May’s jaw locked in place from the completely unbelievable turn of stories. “You fought AGAINST a pokémon?! Blind?!!

“A-”

WHAT?! I mean - WHAT?!

“…A two-on-two battle, to be exact. Him and Pikachu against Espeon and Metagross.” Anabel informed.

Wh-Wh-Wh–” her face obscured by her hair as she stared at the ground, May’s shoulders began to shake.



May?” Ash poked.

She swung her hair up as she laughed uncontrollably. Angie took several steps back, frightened by the young woman’s reaction.

M-May are you okay??” Ash felt May’s emotions bursting into several colors and notes. In almost every way, he knew she was okay – as her emotions were nothing but positive… though what kind of ‘okay’, is what Ash worried about.

With a cover of the mouth, May struggled to calm herself down.

She wiped a few laughed tears away before responding, “It’s just… wow, Ash. I thought you’d be in your room all day, depressed. I guess I just figured you’d be helpless and really needed support.”

“Well, he kind of was in the beginning.” Angie pointed out.

“Hey! I wasn’t helpless!”

“But wow. You’re still Ash. Not only did you continue trying to train with pokémon, but you fought one! And you’re blind! BLIND, ASH! I mean, WHAT?!” May jumped and wrapped her arms around Ash, much to everyone’s alarm. “And not only that, but you even – whoah!

The excited girl was roughly pulled off Ash, by a rather annoyed Angie.

Sorry, I just got really happy.” She tried to hide her blush as if Ash could see it. “But anyways! You even learned Empathy. Empathy! Wow Ash, you’re like a Psychic now!

It’s not psychic! It’s Empathy!” Anabel shouted, getting quite annoyed of that comparison.

“It’s close enough.” grumbled Angie.

Oh! Oh! Try it on me! What am I feeling right now?” May shook excitedly.

Um… happy.” Ash could barely tell anything beyond that with how erratic her emotions had gotten.

“I guess that was pretty obvious, huh?” She scratched the back of her head, a nervous behavior she learned from Ash. “Well… how abooout now?”



“You’re on!!” Ash shouted excitedly, getting into a stance.

Are you serious? Another battle?” Angie groaned. “How many battles are we going to have today???”

“Ash, be careful, you’re still strained from the last fight…” Anabel placed her hand gently on Ash’s shoulder.

“Quit flirting with your girlfriends and show me what you’ve got, Ash!” May pulled out a poké ball and tossed it into the air. “GO VENUSAUR!!!

CRASH. CRASH. Venusaur’s great size pressed its feet deep into the ground.

“VEENUSS!!!!” it roared.

Ash took a step back. “Uh… oh… this is definitely going to be rough… but let’s do it!!



Ash…?” Anabel had sensed something…



ASH!” Anabel figured it out…

Ash finished checking his laces and removed his vest.

“ASH WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU THINKING?! PULL OUT A POKÉ BALL!” Anabel had shouted loudly.

“Here I go!!!!” Ash leapt towards the Venusaur.

This is all so stupid.” Angie slapped her palm onto her face.



_________________________________________________________



Haha, YEAH! I can’t believe that worked!” Ash cheered into the air.

“Well took you long enough! It’s almost dinnertime!” Angie threw a towel in his direction. “Now clean yourself off, showoff.”

What in the world is your problem?! Are you crazy?! Could you imagine what would have happened if that Solar Beam actually hit him?!” Anabel was furious, yelling her lungs out into May’s ear.

May wasn’t paying attention. Her face was still in shock. No emotion other than disbelief running through her heart and mind.

“Awesome, I’m starving!” Ash patted his stomach and ran off. “Race ya’ there!”

Angie started running. “You’re on, blindy!”

“Just a second! I’ll be right there!!” Anabel called out as she frantically tried to pick up all the items they had left behind.



May still stood there in shock.



_________________________________________________________



“Do you like May, Ash?”

Wh-Why do you keep asking that?? Can’t we talk about something else??”

Do you like May, Ash?

“That’s the same as asking!”

“Well, why don’t you ever answer?”

“She’s just a friend.”

Am I just a friend?

“That’s a trap question. You know it.”

“Why don’t you want to answer?”

“Anabel, that’s not fair.” Ash adjusted in his seat uncomfortably as he flipped through the television channels, trying to find a channel that was interesting to listen to. Anything to get him away from this topic. “I mean… we haven’t even gone on a date.” He added respectfully, showing he wouldn’t lock her out completely.

Well… why… don’t we?

I… uh…

Too fast?

Y-Yeah…

When can we try?

I, I don’t know! I mean, we haven’t even gotten to travel together. I mean, I know you’re always here, but…

Anabel giggled. “It’s okay if you’re not used to this. I haven’t been on a date yet either. It’ll be new to the both of us.”

Her voice was lighter, her expression gave out a soft touch, and her feelings wandered to curious ideas.

H-hey now, don’t get started! We haven’t been on a date yet!”

“It’s healthy to be a bit curious. I should be scolding you on prying on my feelings.”

Hey, I can’t help it yet, remember?”

The shy and smooth air that surrounded them was abruptly split in half by a strong and friendly energy.

Ash sighed in relief, he was never comfortable being in that previous atmosphere. “Hey Angie! What’s up?”

“Why are you watching TV, blindy?”

“I’m listening to the TV, tomboy.”

Got a problem with me being a tomboy?” her voice suddenly turned aggressive.

“N-No, it’s not that.” Ash defended himself, “It just rubbed off on me. Anabel always calls you that.”

“She never says it to my face, apparently.”

“Don’t need to state the obvious.” Anabel remarked with little interest.

Got a problem with dependable girls, princess?” Angie growled.

“Dependable girls? Not at all…” She smirked. “Just have a problem with gorillas.”

GORILLAS?!

Uh oh. Ash thought. He scanned his surroundings with his ears, trying to see if he could find any distraction at all. No mother, no Mr. Mime, no Pikachu, no one to stop the two from finally getting to each other’s throats.

How did I get into this situation? He thought to himself in despair. I remember when all I had to worry about was earning badges and having food the next day… I think I’d definitely rather be starving than this. Ash desperately yearned to leave. He knew it was only a matter of time befor–

THAT’S IT! Alright cross-dresser, let’s take it outside!” Angie was fuming.

C-Cross-dresser?!” Anabel stood, “This outfit is far more tasteful than anything you’ve got in that shoddy clothes basket!” Anabel’s attitude changed completely, a side Ash had never seen before. Menacing, towering, venomous, and utterly frightening.

“I said let’s take it outside! Unless you’re scared!”

Scared? Your pokémon would hardly cause any problems for me.” Anabel’s previous emotions formed into something more controlledarrogance.

“No! No pokémon! Just you and me, let’s go!”

A barbarian to the end.” She waved her off. “I’m not going to waste my time fighting in such an uncivilized manner with you.”

“You hear that, Ash? She thinks you’re uncivilized.”

What?! I never said that!”

Oh, but Ash here can enjoy a good fight. No pokémon necessary. He even fought your pokémon that way if you don’t remember.”

“Yes, but Ash –”

Come on Ash, let’s leave the princess with her tea. Us peasants must be ruining her high society atmosphere.”

Ash felt Anabel’s emotions ready to explode. He wanted to calm her down, but suddenly felt Angie’s emotions watching him like a hawk – ready to strike if he tried to choose Anabel’s side. He wasn’t sure what to do.

Too late anyways. He sighed.

“FINE! FINE! You want to fight?! We’ll fight!!

“Just what I wanted to hear! Outside! Let’s go!

Um…” Ash stuttered.

“STAY OUT OF THIS!” the two girls shouted in unison.



_________________________________________________________



What should have been a simple catfight, exploded into a full-blown street fight, which turned into a pokémon battle, which eventually led into a massive war throughout the entire town.

The small town of Pallet was now a broken mess. Holes in walls, smoke and steam coming from unknown areas, and a wounded Trainer was crawling pathetically back into their house.

Ch-chnk. The handcuffs wrapped uncomfortably against Angie’s struggling wrists.

“You have a right to remain silent, anything you sa-” the Officer Jenny was reciting with an exhausted breath. Her hair was in a mess, her makeup ruined, and one of her high heels had broken, all because of the ordeal. Needless to say, she was quite tired of all the trouble these two girls had given her.

“I didn’t do nothing! She started it!” Angie was growling as her head was pressed against the car.

Off to the side, Anabel was still laughing hysterically, the insane collection of events finally dropping from its peak and making her realize the position she was finally in.

“Oh shut up, princess!”

Anabel’s laugh stopped quickly, her eyes darted towards Angie. “You shut it! I would’ve won if you didn’t get the cops involved!”

Would’ve wo- WOULD’VE WON?! YOU CHEATED! YOU CHEATED YOU CHEATED YOU CHEATED!!!

CHEATED?!

YEAH! CHEATED!

YOU’RE THE ONE THAT THREW A BRICK AT MY ESPEON DURING THE POKÉMON BATTLE!!!

WE WEREN’T EVEN SUPPOSED TO HAVE A POKÉMON BATTLE!!! YOU WERE BEING A SORE LOSER!!!”

I SWEAR I’LLOw!” Anabel was picked up by the hair and led to the backseat.

“That’s enough you two. You’re going to be spending the night in the prison. Separate cells, of course.” Officer Jenny growled.

Before the door shut on her, Anabel stuck her head out and shouted to the boy across the street, “Wait for me, Ash! I’ll be out soon!”

Angie kicked the door out of anger. “He ain’t yours, princess!

Anabel stuck her tongue out in response.

That’s it! I’ll kill yow!” It was Angie’s turn to be pulled by the hair, being led to a different car.

“Get in there, hothead.” The female officer tossed the young tomboy into the car and slammed the door before she could say anything.

Angie pressed her head against the window, making puppy eyes at Ash… though he wouldn’t be able to tell.



Ash listened to the police cars drive off.

He let out an exhausted sigh.

Finally… a break.



_________________________________________________________



“Another week?! What did the two of you do??”

“Well, mostly it has to do with all the incoming complaints from businesses.” Anabel’s voice came through the phone in an odd fuzz, making it hard for Ash to catch any emotional tones in her voice. “The bail would have let us out for good until the trial, but I guess they’re keeping us in here until they’ve gotten everything settled. Could be worse though, we’re still expected to only to be let off with community service after the trial. No major damage to any of the properties… well, seriously damaged… no one really got hurt… er… except for that one guy, but I don’t think he’s pressing charges… and really nothing serious to keep us in here for. …I hope.”



“Hey Ash?”

“Yeah?”

“Really sorry about all this... We did get a bit carried away. And…” she took a deep breath, “…if you don’t want to date me, that’s completely understandable.”

“Anny–”

Anabel’s heart skipped a beat. Did he just give me a pet name? Oh Ash…

Though for Ash, he didn’t realize he called her by that name – even if it did work well in keeping her from becoming depressed, which was his intention for what he had to say next.

“–it’s… it’s not that I don’t want to d-date you… It’s just all too fast for me. I mean, we barely had enough time to get to know each other before all this crazy stuff started happening.”

“So… do I still have a chance?”

“For a date? I- I guess maybe later. But not right now.”

“Not anytime soon either.” An unexpected voice chimed out of the phone.

A-Angie???” Ash almost dropped his phone in response.

“What in the world?! Angie how are you on this line?” Anabel’s voice panicked.

“I had an uncle that taught me a thing or two about phone lines.”

“Angie! Get off the line! We’re both going to get into deep trouble if they find out!”

“Whatever. Just stop forcing yourself on Ash. If he wants to date you, he’ll ask you.” Angie’s voice was monotone, uncaring, giving no hints as to what she was implying. “Seriously, give the guy a break. He just got over being a blindy.”

Click. Angie was off the line.



“Angie’s right.” Anabel sighed. “Really sorry I’ve been so forceful.”

“Anabe–”

“I’ll… earn you myself in my own time, Ash. I won’t have to force you or beg you. For now, let’s just go back to being good friends, okay?”

“Anabel…”

“Nothing wrong with being friends, is there?”

“Not at all!”

“Then we’re friends then.” A sigh. “I’ll be looking forward to hang out with you after all this, Ash.”



“Alright, that actually sounds pretty fun.” Ash said quietly. Slightly relieved. Slightly disappointed. About what, he wasn’t sure himself. Though he’d admit, this was a nice change… “I’m looking forward to it too.”

“I’ll see you around, Ash. Bring me a book sometime. There isn’t much to do here.”

The request somewhat caught Ash off-guard. He honestly wasn’t sure what to offer, considering his current condition. “W-What kind of book?”

“A novel if you’ve got any.”

His mental search for a suggestion was answered. “OH! I’ve got a good one. It’s called Commander of Wartortles.”

Anabel had heard of that series. Sadly, she had heard it was a boy’s book. Mostly bravado, guts, and glory. She sighed from disappointment and amusement.

“Er… really? Is that the only book you have?”

“Well, I don’t really read much books. And besides, it’s a really good book.”

“Yeah, Anny. It really is a good book.” A familiar voice returned.

“Angie! I thought you got off the line!” Anabel growled.

“Shush now. Hey Ash, send me Blastoid Radius. I haven’t read that one yet.”

Uh, sure thing.”

“Get off the phone, Angie!”

“Fine fine. Just seriously, send the book, Ash. And really consider reading Commander of Wartortles, Anabel. It’s a lot better than you think.”

Click. Supposedly Angie was off the line now.

“Well, I guess I’ll be taking that book then.”

“Great. I’ll send you my hardcover copy then.”

“Alright then. I’m looking forward to your visit. See you, Ash.”

“See you, Anabel.”

“Oh, and Ash?”

“Yeah?”

“It was nice talking to you like this… as a friend, that is.”

“Yeah… it was nice.”

Click. “Same here.”

“Angie! Get off the phone!”

“We’ll see you around, Ash! Bring me a snack!”

“See you two later then? Bye.”

“Bye, Ash.”

“Remember: Snack!”

“Angie!”

Click.



_________________________________________________________



“…and these are for a girl named Angie.” Ash handed the other bag over.

“Arcanine, check the snack.” Officer Jenny tossed the bag towards her large pokémon as she opened, flipped through, squeezed the corners of, and weighed the book in her hands.

“You really think they’ll enjoy these books?” she asked without lifting her eyes towards the blind boy.

“Well, I enjoyed them.”

She eyed him suspiciously.

“When I wasn’t blind, that is.” he finished his remark.

She grunted in acknowledgment. Grabbing the bag from her Arcanine, the officer went through the cage to hand over the items.

Angie waved her hands wildly in Ash’s direction.

He couldn’t see it, but he could definitely feel her excited greeting. He waved back happily.

Angie quickly devoured her snack and ran back to her cell with the book.

Anabel stared at Ash for a few more moments before nodding and heading back to her cell with her new book.

Ash turned and headed out the door. His hand brushing against the Arcanine’s head, feeling the pokémon’s yearning for attention.

Bow!” its bark much louder than Ash had expected.

“Please don’t touch the Arcanine. He’s on duty.” Officer Jenny’s voice echoed against the thick walls.



Outside the station, Ash released a heavy sigh, glad that his morning’s only responsibility was finished. Now he had a free day for himself.

He smiled at the idea. An entire day. Maybe even a week if mom doesn’t ask anything from me. An entire week to do what, he wasn’t sure. He didn’t think he’d be so relieved to get away from friends. He didn’t think he’d even be running from women. He didn’t even think any girl could be attracted to him. Well, except for maybe… Ash shook his head. stomp stomp stomp… No reason to continue that thought, he blocked it out. That’s more of Gary’s area of ‘expertise’…

No need to worry, just… enjoy the day… He stretched with a loud yawn, grinning widely after.

“What are you so happy about?” came a voice to his left.

May??” Ash’s mind snapped back to reality, “I thought you went back to Hoenn.”

“What gave you that idea?”

Well… we didn’t see you after that battle for a few days. And you were competing as a Coordinator in that region this season, weren’t you?”

One, yes I am still competing there, but it’s not like I can’t take a vacation. Two, I just went out shopping in the nearby cities.”

Oh, well, it was nice seeing you again!”

“Wait!”



“…yes?” Ash had a bad feeling about this.

“Can we hang out? Like old times? No Anabels or Angies, if that’s okay with you.”

“They’re in prison right now…” Ash gestured towards the door behind him. “So…

Wh-What?!” May’s jaw dropped. She shook her head, laughing quietly to herself. “No no, you don’t have to tell me now. Knowing you, it’s a long and ridiculous story. You can tell me along the way.”

Along the way? I never said ‘yes’ to her offer. Ash sighed. Oh well, there goes my free day.

As they walked down the dirt path, Ash could feel May inching closer towards him.

A strange feeling crawled around his chest area. Stomp. This was strange… Normally, he never really felt this way around May… Stomp. They weren’t normally alone like this. And when they were, it was always about the goal in front of them, not just… ‘hanging out’Stomp. Or maybe, he considered, they have hung out like this before. That perhaps all the talks about dating were just making him think these things… He wondered if he had ever thought of May in that way. Stomp stomp stomp!!!

Her hands slightly wrapped around his elbow, attempting to help guide him.

“Really, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“I know these roads like the back of my hand. I could walk them blindfolded when I was a kid. Which… I did do that as a dare. And it really helped… now that I think about it. Wasn’t that fun then, though.

May giggled in response as she moved a small step away.



I mean… I don’t think I would be okay if I hadn’t done that. …that dare… Then maybe I would’ve needed your help…”

May responded with a smaller giggle. She stared off into a different direction. Avoiding.



Ash cleared his throat. Hoping to rid of the tension.



“So what’s it like?”

“What’s what like?” Ash asked in relief, glad a new subject came up.

“The Empathy ability?”

Her question and feelings towards it were vague to say the least. Ash would have no idea where to start. Afterall, did he even really understand Empathy? Did he even know what it meant? In almost every subject of the matter, Ash had no idea how to respond.

…maybe if she asks an easier question I can make something up…

“An easier question?”

Like… do you feel how others feel? Or do you see it as a thought?”

It’s…” Ash found it surprising that he could describe this… somewhat… Somewhat is better than nothing. “…like a little bit of both. As if the feelings are as clear as thoughts. Or… er… like you can see the feelings as obvious as a fact. As if you always could. Naturally. Nothing blocking between you and the other person’s heart… er… I guess.”

That sounds…” May’s voice softened to an unfamiliar level. “…very beautiful.



She cleared her throat, suddenly uncomfortable with herself.

Ash laughed nervously. “Er… Hearing a pokémon constantly beg for a treat at all hours of a day is beautiful?”

May laughed awkwardly with him. “Yeah… I guess not.”



Ash could hear May run ahead of him, understanding the strange sounds as herwalking backwards in front of him.

“What am I feeling now?” the Coordinator asked playfully.

“Excited. Curious. Nostalgic.” He responded surprisingly fast, surprising even himself. Something about the uncomfortable moment had made it easier for him to read her emotions.

“Wow! Even I didn’t know I was getting nostalgic until you mentioned it.”

“So how’s Drew?”

May slowed down a bit.

“…you dated him, right?”

H-how did you know that?!

“Your memories got a little too loud to ignore, you know.” Ash scratched the back of his head. He wasn’t sure if he was heading into dangerous waters with the topic. Then again, he was never really sure what was dangerous in these subjects until it was too late.

May blushed, facing away.

Yeah… I dated him. I thought it would lead somewhere. But…

“But?”

“Nevermind that.”

May’s emotions suddenly blocked out Ash’s curious ability.

As much as it was shocking, it was relieving. Ash hadn’t ever figured out how to block out listening to loud emotions, it was nice that she knew how to block him out instead.

“So why are Angie and Anabel in prison?”

“Oh that. Long story.”

“We’ve got time.”

Er… well…” He shrugged, seeing no real harm in telling her. “It started when…”



_________________________________________________________



And at that point, Alakazam started panicking!” Ash breathed out, having a hard time talking between laughs. “He couldn’t find his spoons anywhere! And- and- and the owner of the restaurant kept trying to chase him out, but he just wouldn’t leave! Every time he got pushed out, he just teleported back in!

May could barely keep herself together. She’d admit that this specific story was hardly as funny as the previous ones told about that day, but at this point: everything was funny.

“Oh, Ash! Is Angie and Anabel out of prison already?” Delia called out curiously as she heard the laughter of a young girl coming from the entrance of the house.

May laughed even harder, slamming her fist against the wall several times as she fell to the ground.

Ash followed her soon after, finding her laughter irresistibly contagious.

“Well, you two girls behave. Nurse Joy came here complaining about how you were throwing injured pokémon at each other.” Ms. Ketchum warned.

May dragged herself desperately towards the restroom, laughing hysterically. “I’m gonna’ pee myself if I don’t –” her laughter broke her words as she luckily managed to get herself into the restroom, slamming the door shut.

Ash crawled onto the couch, laughing harder than he’s laughed in a long time.

Calming his laughs, he exhaled loudly… resting his body and snickers.



He felt good.

He felt right.

No more worrying about girls tearing at each other’s throats. No more worrying about trying something new for the day. No more trying to please two very different kinds of women. And no more worrying about the consequences for not paying enough attention to just one of them. Thankfully.

With May, he could just be… just Ash. The Ash everyone knew. And not the Ash others wanted him to be. Not the Ash that had to keep changing opinions just to keep things normal around the house…

He already knew how to talk to and act around May. She was his friend, a very close friend. They’ve been together through thick and thin. And even if they didn’t agree on everything, they had an understanding that had grown from time and experience with one another. He could count on her as a friend, and for her to be her.

That’s all Ash wanted from Anabel and Angie, he considered. He just wanted to get to know them first. He just wanted to be friends first before all these confusing emotions started getting in the way. This was easier. He could… see himself with May? Stomp. No reason to ruin that relationship. No reason to run into that. This was fine. This was perfect. Everything else above this was just too complicated… It would make me think too much, wonder too much. This… isn’t hard at all.

He sighed in complete relief. A few small chuckles still escaping his lips every time a memory from that day popped up… this was fine. Anabel and Angie may not have been easy to handle or put up with when they got into a fight, but they certainly were entertaining to watch.

The restroom door closed. And May’s bright and sunny personality flowed back into the room.

She was still holding back laughter, trying to calm down as she wiped tears from her eyes.

Ash felt the couch shift as she sat next to him.

He felt her head press against his shoulder as she nuzzled up against him. It was a gesture that would have made him extremely uncomfortable… if it weren’t for the fact that her emotions were showing that this was a completely just-friendly action.

I like you Ash…

“I like you, too.”

She sighed and relaxed her shoulders.

You really can feel what I feel, can’t you?

“Yeah…”

That’s… nice…

Her emotions started to sink, as her entire being felt like it was shutting off. Within just a few seconds, May had fallen completely asleep.

A smile left on her face and on her heart.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:02 PM). Edited February 18th, 2012 by Nine-Sixteenth.
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 4: Change
Spoiler:
‘Our home is in our hearts. And we shall never give them up.’

Anabel closed the book.

A heavy feeling was in her heart. Strong, silent, yet compassionate.

Commander of Wartortles. A book Anabel had scoffed at when she looked at the overdramatic cover that desperately tried to depict a raging battle. A book she had made fun of at each turn of the page. And a book she found herself completely entranced by the time she reached the third chapter.

For the following three days since she had received the book, she had read it non-stop. Only stopping when she needed to shower.

She felt slightly ashamed when she had found herself wrong about the book. Originally she had been taught by her upbringing that these genres of books were far too barbaric and immature. Yet the hours she had spent reading it showed her not only subjects of bravery, but also camaraderie, inner-strength, passion, romance, and trust. Subjects that she didn’t expect to find… Subjects she hadn’t expected to be so deeply discussed for the audiences this genre attracted.

Was she wrong about thinking of Ash as a naïve boy? If this was a favorite book of his, he must understand what love is… Had she been going about it all wrong? Had Ash simply wanted a partner he could put all his trust on?

Maybe Angie was right. Maybe I am a bit too much of a… princess. Maybe if I just show Ash how dependable I am…

Dependable… A memory flashed before her eyes.

‘Got a problem with dependable girls, princess?’ she remembered Angie spitting at her…

Does Ash like tomboys?

Maybe not so much tomboys, but someone who could do the same he can…

I guess I can give it a shot.

Her memory sparked again, and her attention was suddenly moved to the cell beside hers.

“Hey, um… Angie?”

“Whut.” The green-haired girl was chewing on something. Since the two had been locked up in here, Anabel had noticed that Angie always needed to chew on something while she was in her cell. A nervous habit?

“Are you done with that book?”

Angie sat up, staring up at Anabel with a knowing smirk. “I told you that you’d like the book.”

“The book you have is the sequel, right?”

“Yup. And it’s just as awesome as the first.” She tapped on the book’s cover, waving it around as a prize.

“Can I borrow it?”

“If you answer me something…”

“Sure.”

“Favorite crew member in the Shell?”

“Davian, of course!”

Angie spit a strange substance out of her mouth and made a gagging sound. “Ewwwww! You like the pansy???

“Why not? He’s kind. Compassionate. He takes care of the rest of the crew and even sacrificed his life to save the Wartortles!”

I guess, but he’s way too whiny for me.”

“It’s not whining. He’s just sensitive. You wouldn’t understand.”

“Whatever.” Angie threw the book through the cell onto Anabel’s bed.

“Let me guess, your favorite’s Russ.” Anabel scoffed.

Ew no!” Angie stuck her tongue out in disgust.

What? I thought you like tough guys.”

“If I liked tough guys like that, you’d think I’d be going for Ash? He’s scrawny!”

“He’s not too bad… I mean, if you…” Anabel trailed off.

Angie on the other hand, seemed very curious for her to continue.

Anabel shook her head and went back to the topic, “Well, who do you like?”

“The Commander…” Angie’s eyes softened into a dream-like state.

“Hey! That’s not fair! You said a crew member of the Shell!”

“He IS a crew member!”

“No he isn’t! He’s the Commander!”

Angie thought for a minute.

Quoting from her mind, she replied, “The Shell has no captain, no commander, no leader, no champion, and no master… we are all its crew, and we are all family in here.”

“That was a metaphor for their relationship! I thought you were asking for a literal crew member!”

“What is metaphor if we all intend what we speak?”

Anabel wanted to fight back, but she was far too impressed by her memory. “How many times did you read this book?”

“Probably ten times. I grew up on that book.”

I wonder if Ash also grew up on this book… Anabel pondered curiously. “Well, if you get to pick the Commander. I choose the Commander too.”

“He’s literally the only choice you can go for once you get to know him.”

“Yeah…” Anabel sighed. He kind of reminds me of Ash…

Her thoughts went back into reality. “Anyways, thanks for the book. I owe you.”

“Yeah no prob. Water in.”

Water out.” Anabel giggled at herself for responding with the ‘Inner Shell’ greeting.

She walked over to her bed and laid down, holding the new book above her head.

Angie’s not a bad girl. Anabel thought to herself. Just a little confused with her reality and books.

She held the book tightly to her chest.

Because in this reality, the Commander’s mine.

With an eager giggle, she opened the book and dove into the story.



_________________________________________________________



Siiiip.

Mmmm…” May grinned with satisfaction.

Mm-hmm!” Ash responded happily.

“So what flavor is that one?” the Coordinator asked as she took another suck from her straw.

“Chocolate with Cake Batter!”

“That sounds weird.”

“You should try it! It tastes like a chocolate cake in a drink.”

“Alright, but you HAVE to try mine then.”

“What flavor is that one?”

“Mint with white chocolate chunks.”

“That sounds like it’s too light!” He stuck his tongue out, showing his distaste for the flavor combination.

“And yours sounds like it’d taste too dark.” May giggled.

“Then we’ll trade.”

May grabbed both shakes and rotated them across the table.

Both grabbed and sipped from the straws.

Mmm!” both replied at the same time.

It really compliments the one I just had. May thought as she took another sip.

“I agree!” Ash smiled.

A purple-haired woman popped up from behind the counter, staring at them with dreamy eyes. “You two are so cute together. You’re very lucky. I wish I could get a boyfriend like that.”

The two pokémon enthusiasts blushed heavily.

“Well, I’ll leave you two lovebirds alone. Enjoy your shakes~!” And with a wink, the woman dove back behind the counter, playing around with the signal of her radio.



After what seemed like an hour, May rotated the drinks back to their former owners and began sipping nervously from her straw.

Ash was trying to figure out what to say, unsure how to respond. He looked towards May’s emotions to find an answer.

He’s more of my mentor if anything. Not saying he’s a bad choice…

Ash blushed, even more at a loss for words than he had been before he checked.

Thankfully, May broke the ice.

“So where is Pikachu? I never see him around you these days.”

Oh! Pikachu.” He laughed nervously, glad for the topic change. “N-No, he’s still around. He’s just hanging around with Anabel’s Espeon these days.”

Anabel… May wasn’t sure why, but the mention of her suddenly made her feel bitter.

Oh no. Ash felt May’s reaction to the name. Why her??? … But… then again… I don’t think I would really mind if she felt that way towards me, would I? … I… STOMP STOMP STOMP!

He shook off the idea completely, trying to continue the conversation, “H-He’s just using this vacation to get a break from me. Glad he doesn’t have to battle everywhere he goes, you know?”

“Yeah, especially now that Team Rocket doesn’t magically appear everywhere you go nowadays.”

I know! It’s nice to get a break from those goons too!”

“Oh, have you heard?!” May’s voice suddenly turned urgent.

“Heard what?”

They actually got away with a heist recently!

Ash stood up and gripped the sides of the table. “WHAT?!

Yeah!” May continued, completely understanding his response. Almost too understanding – as if she was preparing for this. “They stole a lucario from a trainer and escaped from the police! It was all over the news!”

Ash’s grip tightened. A fury building up inside.



“Let’s stop them.” May whispered.

“Huh???”

“I said let’s stop them.”

This response was completely unexpected from the Coordinator. But for some reason, it felt right. She had felt different these days, and this felt like the response she should have given as the new May. Ash wasn’t sure why, it didn’t make too much sense, but his Empathy told him he shouldn’t be surprised.

“Well, okay, but…

Why?” May smiled as she stood. Her hand slapped Ash’s arm and she responded with a tone of hopeful nostalgia, “I miss the old days… Those adventures we had and all the pokémon we helped. The people, the events, everything. I miss it all!

She swung her arms wide to express the size of their experiences together. “We didn’t just get badges and ribbons, we saved and affected people’s lives!” Her arms swung in and held to her chest. “And face it, if we’re not there to stop Team Rocket, who will?”

“The… authorities?”

BAP.

Ash held the side of his head. “Ow…”

“That’s not the Ash I know. Quit hiding under that rock and tell me ‘If we’re not there to stop Team Rocket, who will?’

No one?”

BAP.

“Can’t hear you!”

“Now you’re acting like Misty.”

BAP.

“And YOU’RE acting like Brock after getting dumped!”

BAP.

Alright! Alright! No one!

“No one what!”

If we’re not there to stop Team Rocket, no one will!

May squealed as she wrapped her arms around Ash. “THAT’S the Ash I know! Let’s go get ‘em!”

Yeah! Let’s get ‘em!” Ash responded and returned May’s hug.



You two are just so adorable together.” admired the woman from behind the counter.

The two blushed.



_________________________________________________________



The boy and girl stood outside, feeling the breeze hit their face as the warm sun hung in the sky. Bird and Bug Pokémon of all kinds chirped, hissed, and called their names into quiet air. Quiet traffic of joggers and cyclists passed, each passerby with their own schedules and ideas floating in their emotions. Time slowly passed, as the moment seemed to last forever.

It was a beautiful day.

So…

Ash adjusted his hair underneath his baseball cap and kicked at the ground beneath him.

So what? May thought in response.

“So how are we going to get there? We don’t exactly have a blimp like they do.”

“I’ve got it covered.”

A growl in the distance. Growing in sound.

A… car?

The growl suddenly turned into a soft purr as the car slowed to a stop in front of them.

“Hey guys. Need a ride?” came a familiar voice.

“Tracey?”

Got it on the first guess! I’m impressed, Ash. You’re getting better with your ears.” the Pokémon sketch-artist complimented as he exited the car.

“What are you doing here, Tracey?? I thought you went to the conference with Professor Oak.”

I wish.” Sigh. “I was stuck with monitor duty.”

“Well that explains why you’re still in Pallet town…” Ash tilted his head. “But what are you doing out here if you’re supposed to be watching the lab?”

“Oh, the lab? Gary’s watching it now. He’ll keep it covered until I get back.”

“Okay, but… what are you doing out here?”

Oh! Right right. Well, May called me earlier and told me what you guys were planning to do. And I’m all for it!

“I didn’t think you were the type to stick your head into trouble.”

“Actually, I’m just coming along because I heard Team Rocket stole a lucario. I’d love to get some new sketches of one in a battle.” Tracey opened the backdoors of his car. “It will be nice to finally have some studies of one in an uncontrolled environment… kinda’ like the old days.”

“Same old Tracey…” Ash laughed as he felt for the entrance of the backseats.

Oh wait!” Ash stopped halfway from sitting down. “How long will this take? Anabel and Angi–”

“Probably only two days, one there and one back.” May answered quickly.

“So wait, they’re near here?!

“Why do you think I even suggested it, Ash?” May calmly sat in the seat next to Ash, “You really think I was planning to take a month-long trip just to chase down Team Rocket?”

May buckled herself in. “I’ve got tournaments to compete in. No way I would have even mentioned it if they weren’t close.”

And here I thought you were all just itching to go on another trip with me.” Ash mentioned semi-sadly as he buckled himself in.

Closing the doors, Tracey walked around and entered the driver’s seat. “Wait. Ash? Did you remember to bring any pokémon?”

“Oh, that’s right!” With a clunk of the handle, Ash opened the door and let out a loud whistle.

May covered her ears. “Ow! Since when could you whistle like that, Ash?”

“Angie taught me.” Ash mentioned dismissively as he half-stepped out of the car. Whistle.

“Piiiikaaa!” his best friend’s voice echoed down the road.

“C’mon Pikachu! We’ve got a pokémon to save!”

“Pika!” Pikachu leapt onto Ash’s shoulder and patted his human friend’s head to affirm that he was ready.

“Let’s stop by Professor Oak’s lab, I need to pick up a few more pokémon.” Ash crashed back into his seat.

“Buckle up.” Tracey reminded as he shifted gears.

“One question, guys.” Ash buckled himself back in and adjusted his cap. “How do you know where they are?”



_________________________________________________________



“What do you mean Ash is competing in a tournament?!”

“Well Anabel dear, May told me that Ash was competing in a tournament in Cerulean City. The Tsunami Festival, I think it was.” Delia adjusted the phone against her ear. “I thought it was crazy too, but you know how my boy is.”

Click. “No way Ash would have signed up to a tournament this soon!”

“Why hello Angie! I didn’t know you were on the phone as well.”

“Angie! Get off the line!” Anabel hissed.

“Shush it!” Angie growled back. “Ms. Ketchum, are you sure Ash knows about this tournament?”

“Well, I wouldn’t see why not.” Delia now seemed concerned with the suspicion given by the girls. “Why wouldn’t he know of a tournament he’s signed up to?”

“I bet it was May’s idea to put him in there. He wouldn’t just leave us here while he goe–”

“Ms. Ketchum.” Anabel sternly interrupted. “Do you know any specific reason why May would sign Ash up to a tournament?”

“I don’t really know.” She tapped her lip in thought. “Maybe just to get my boy back into Pokémon Battles?”

“That or to get attention…” the tomboy trainer pouted through the static of the line.

Attention… The female Empathic’s eyes widened.



“That’s it!” Anabel broke the silence. “They’re trying to get attention through Ash!”

“Well now, Anabel dear, I don’t think May is the type to use people for attention.” Delia lectured.

“You never know…” Angie growled.

“No, I don’t mean that kind of attention.” Anabel countered. “I think they’re after Team Rocket!”

“Now that explanation is just plain stupid.” Angie returned. “How does that make sense?”

“Haven’t you read the news?” the Empathic’s voice lowered. “Team Rocket has been successful with several heists as of late. I… I haven’t told Ash. He must have found out somehow.” May… Anabel hissed in her mind. “…I didn’t want him to know because I knew he’d try to do something stupid like this.”

“So why in the world would he go through all the trouble of competing in a tournament just to get their attention?” Angie seemed irritated at not knowing how any of this made sense. “Why not just go after them?”

“Because no one knows where Team Rocket is now, Angie. Unless he was going to spend weeks wandering blindly,” Angie stressed her last word before moving on, “throughout the regions, there’s no way Ash could catch them, let alone find them.”

“So… he’s entering a tournament as a handicap contestant to get Team Rocket’s attention?” Angie gave a low whistle. “That’s a smart move, especially for Ash.”

“Ash didn’t plan this…” May… Anabel hissed again to herself. “No offense Ms. Ketchum, but your boy isn’t exactly the sharpest scyther in a day care.”

“None taken, dear. He was never good with his homework.”

“So…” Angie sighed. “If Ash didn’t come up with this, then who did?”



_________________________________________________________



“You ready to beat ‘em, Ash?” May giggled as she pushed the confused boy through the gate.

Wh-What do you mean I’m in this tournament?! I never agreed to this!” Ash panicked, trying to stop himself from falling over.

“Too late.” Tracey laughed as he handed the tickets to a nearby vendor. “We booked you yesterday for this tournament. And the news spread quite quick!”

The female vendor glanced at the tickets and stared in shock at the blind boy. “Is this THE Ash Ketchum?!” She quickly tore the tickets for them and grinned widely. “Oh Mr. Ketchum! We’re all cheering for you!”

Ash blushed and scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. “Oh th-thank you?? Do I know you?”

Oh how I wish! I’m Jill.” The woman suddenly sounded younger as she giggled. “We all know you, though! The famous Ash Ketchum that travelled and competed in every tournament in almost every region! Kanto’s number one Trainer of choice! You’ve even got a fan club!” with every exclamation, she struck a different pose to accent her words.

“W-What?! Fan club?? Number one Trainer??! How come I don’t know about any of this?!

“Because we knew it’d get to your already big head.” May mumbled as she continued to drag him towards the contestants seating area.

“And now you’re competing in this tournament blind?! Oh you just keep getting cooler and cooler, Mr. Ketchum!” the vendor squealed in delight.

Th-Thank you… I won’t disappoint you guys!” Ash stood straight as he marched happily towards the seats, making May falter in her efforts of coaxing him.

“Well NOW he wants to compete. Geez. What a show-off.” May huffed in irritation.

“Same old Ash.” Tracey chuckled as he followed closely behind.

Yeah… same old Ash…

Ash stopped in his tracks and smiled in May’s direction.

Oops. I forgot he could still hear me. May blushed in reaction. H-Hi, Ash! Eheh…



_________________________________________________________



“OUT OF THE WAY!!!” Misty had shoved an intimate couple apart, rushing past them. Her feet moving faster than ever with her rage filling up to a boiling point.

“What does he think he’s doing competing in this tournament?!” she roared at the top of her lungs as she dashed down the long passageway. She was yelling at nothing, at herself, and at everything that decided to get in her way.

Please excuse our delay, it seems that our guest judge has stepped out for the moment.” the loudspeakers echoed through the hall.

“Oh give it a rest, Kate! Just stall this tournament as long as you can.” Misty hissed in response.

But without further ado…

“No...” The Cerulean Gym leader’s eyes widened.

Let’s start the Tsunami Festival!!!” Cheering voices followed this announcement.

“No! No! Darn it, Kate! I said stall it!” Her pace sped up considerably.

On the white corner, we have Connie! A resident of our beautiful city, and a Trainer for three years!” Cheers and whistles followed.

Misty reached the end of the hall and slammed the double-doors wide open. Loud screams and cheers flooding her atmosphere.

And on the blue corner…”

The cheers grew louder.

Misty grabbed onto the railing of the stairs and slid down it.

The Lightning Master! Kanto region’s number one Trainer of Choice! The Legend from Pallet Town!”

To Misty’s right, a group of girls wearing Ash’s old trademark black shirt, blue white-sleeved jacket, green fingerless gloves, and blue jeans combination stood and squeal-screamed his name.

To her left, a group of children wearing knock-off versions of his special League baseball cap waved around their arms in an attempt to get their idol’s attention.

And on the far end of the stadium, she could see a large group of pikachu enthusiasts waving large banners with Pikachu’s face expertly copied onto them.

The one! The only! Ash Ketchum!!!

Despite the sudden increase of volume with the speakers, the announcement was almost completely drowned out as a near-deafening roar of applause and screams came from all around.

Misty jumped off the railing, ready to climb over a safety fence to get onto the field… when she was suddenly stopped by the sight of her dearest friend walking through the gate.

His eyes unfocused, yet still determined. His smile, innocent and confident. He walks in here… like has nothing changed at all. He still has that same look… thinking he’s ready for anything. That idiot…

Even from this distance, she could see him waving around to the crowd, turning and looking as if he could see them.

“Ash…” she whispered out to him.

As the cheers died down, the loudspeakers echoed once again. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not sure if you know this yet… but if you haven’t heard it yet, get ready for a real shocker.

Misty snapped out of her trance and proceeded to leap over the safety fence.

But our favorite boy from Pallet had recently been in an accident!

A few pity-groans came from the crowd.

And just to make it worse, Ash Ketchum was left blind from the incident!

Concerned and confused murmurs roamed the stadium seats.

Yes, you heard it right. Blind. In spite of this, Ash Ketchum refuses to let this stop him from achieving his goals… as he is now the first blind Pokémon Trainer to enter any tournament in the world!

The crowd became uncomfortably quiet.

“Sure, tell everyone.” Misty growled under her breath as she started running through the competitor sections.

“YOU CAN DO IT ASH!!!” several fangirls’ cheers broke through the silence. A wave of encouraging cheers flowed sound back into the audience. Even Ash’s opponent cheered from one side of the field.

Ash was scratching the back of his head as a flush of red covered his face.

That’s what we like to hear folks! And with that, let’s get this tournament started!

“WAIT!” Misty broke into the field, dodging the security that tried poorly to stop her.

Ash turned her way.

“I said wait…” Misty’s voice turned tired as exhausted breaths escaped her lips.

“Misty, what are you –” Ash’s question was silenced when her hand connected with his face.

SLAP.

The crowd gasped.

“What the heck do you think you’re doing competing?!”



_________________________________________________________



“What the heck do you think you’re doing competing?!” Misty yelled with a furious tone.

“I–”

NO! Don’t make any excuses, Ash! You’re not supposed to be here!

Says who?!” Ash growled at her bitterly.

“Says me. Guest Judge. I have a right to kick you out of this tournament!” Misty folded her arms and leaned over him.

Why?! What did I do wrong?!

Wh– We – I –” Misty stumbled for words. She gripped her hands into fists when she decided to stop thinking for words. “You’re blind, Ash! BLIND! If you compete here, you’re just going to make a darn fool out of yourself! You really want your last tournament to be a pathetic excuse for a battle?!

You haven’t even seen me in action! Besides, I can handle myself.” Ash wasn’t going to back down. If this would be his final tournament, he certainly wasn’t going to be bullied out of it.

I don’t need to see –

Misty’s lecture was cut short as an EXPLOSION erupted from the center of the field.

Smoke surrounded the stadium. Coughs from contestants and audiences alike followed one after the other.

“Prepare for trouble. And we’ll surely bring it to you.” a woman’s voice called out from the smoke.

“And make it double. This time we’ll really nab Pikachu.” responded a familiar man’s voice.

“To denounce the evil of truth and love.”

“To extend our reach to the stars above.”

The smoke cleared, revealing a familiar trio standing dramatically in front of a large crater in the center of the arena.

“Jessie.” The female with shocking-red hair looked up confidently.

“James.” The male with cool-blue hair sniffed a rose from his hand.

“Team Rocket, blast off at the speed of light!”

“Surrender now or prepare to fight!”

“Meowth, that’s right!” the talking cat pokémon chimed in as he appeared in the center of their pose.

“Wobbuffet!”

“Mime, mime, mime!”

As if on cue, the two spotlight-stealing pokémon appeared to finish the speech.

“Team Rocket!” Misty and Ash yelled in unison.

“Halt!” An Officer Jenny ran onto the field, originally there to stop Misty, now more concerned with the intruding trio.

“Oh, we don’t think so.” Jessie smirked as she snapped her fingers.

On signal, a blue ball of energy shot out of the crater and floated softly to the ground.

The energy dissipated, revealing a blue and black pokémon… A strange mechanical device was attached to its head. It twitched and turned, showing an obvious internal struggle.

“Officer, meet our new lucario. Lucario, show her how we greet authorities.”

A red ‘R’ emblem light faded in brightly on the center of the device. In an instant, the lucario’s body flashed a blue aura.

“Get out of the way!” Ash yelled.

“Ahh!” The female officer was lifted off the ground and thrown against a wall.

“Officer!”

Before he could run towards her, something was waving in front of Ash’s face. He stopped in his tracks. He wasn’t sure what it was until he focused his Empathy.

James was waving his hand in front Ash’s eyes.

Hmmm. I guess the twerp really is blind.”

Jessie walked passed Misty and faced Ash. “Well this will be easier than stealing candy from a baby.”

“More like a pikachu from a twerp!” the cat pokémon responded.

“Hey! Don’t you ignore me!” A poké ball appeared in Misty’s hand, she was readying to battle.

“Lucario, handle her for me.” Jessie snapped her fingers again.

Uh-whu… Whoah!” Misty was lifted off the ground by the blue energy and thrown across the arena. “Ahhh!”

“Misty!”

“Don’t worry about her, twerp.” Jessie said from behind him, “Now where’s your Pikachu?”

Ash growled. “You think I’d tell you?”

Pikachu’s tired head popped out from the backpack, peaking to see what was making all that noise that had disturbed his sleep.

“Well that solves the mystery.” James approached the waking pokémon, only to be electrified. “Eeeee!”

“Lucario! Grab Pikachu!”

The irritated lightning mouse was suddenly awake and aware as he found himself floating off the ground.

Meowth pulled a strange device out from a bag. “And now wit’ dis, the twerp’s pikachu will be all ours!”

“And we’ll get a real promotion!” James excitedly cheered.

“Once the boss sees how much pokémon we’ve nabbed, he’ll have no choice but to give us promotions.” Jessie daydreamed happily.

“YAAAA!” With one quick dive, Ash managed to snatch the device from Meowth’s hands and rolled back into a stand.

“So you control pokémon with these now?!” Ash threw the device to the ground and stomped on it several times.

“HEY! THAT’S EXPENSIVE!” roared Jessie.

“That cost me last week’s lunch!” James cried out.

Meowth stood confused and surprised.

Uh… guys?” the cat pokémon tried to get the attention of the duo.

What?!” Jessie asked aggravated.

“How’d a blind twerp grab dat out of my hands?”

“Because you got careless and clumsy!” she answered angrily.

“No wait. Meowth’s right.” James now realizing what was implied. “How did –”

Jessie growled. “It doesn’t matter! Lucario! Take out the blind twerp!

The ‘R’ shined bright red, the lucario’s body twitching to follow its commands.

“GLACEON! ICE BEAM!!!”

The slaved lucario turned just in time for only its arm to get frozen by a chilling beam of light.

“Don’t forget about me!” May jumped off the safety fence beside her glaceon.

“How many of the twerps are here??” James frantically looked around, fearing to find more familiar faces.

“So the twerpettes want to play?” Jessie smiled.

“May! Watch out!” Ash snatched Meowth by the tail and threw him towards May.

W-W-What da?!! AHHHHHHH!!!” Meowth panicked as he flew through the air.

Jessie continued her assault. “Lucario! Dark Pulse!

Ash turned quickly and grabbed Pikachu before running behind James.

Hm?” James cocked his head in curiosity to the boy trainer’s strange actions.

Lucario twitched as a black burst of energy spread throughout the field.

Um… Jessie?

What is it James?” She refused to face him. “Can’t you see I’m a bit busy here?!

Well yes, but… shouldn’t we be moving out of the way?”

Hm?” Jessie’s eyes widened in realization of the growing orb of blackness… expanding their way.

“L-Lucario! Don’t hit us too!” Jessie begged as she took two steps back.

The undirected Dark Pulse continued to expand.

Meowth crashed onto May’s feet. The Coordinator looked at Meowth curiously.

“MAY!” Ash shouted above the groans of the growing blast. “USE MEOWTH AS A SHIELD!”

Wh-What?! Why you doity lil’huh?!” Meowth was picked up by the young coordinator as she ran in front of Glaceon.

“Sorry about this!” May lifted the meowth above her head. “Well, not really.” She winked as she threw the cat pokémon towards the blast.

“Shield?!” James panicked as he realized that he was Ash’s.

“Lucario! Stop!” Jessie pleaded desperately.

The Dark Pulse exploded, hitting everyone who was unlucky enough to be in its immediate vicinity.

DARKNESS. For a moment the world around Ash turned absolutely quiet. The dark energy absorbing all the sounds and emotions that used to soak up the atmosphere.



Like being vacuumed back to reality, noise and sensation returned with a sonic boom.

Audiences gasping and mumbling, some with premature cheers.

Security officers debating with each other when it was safe to interfere.

The loudspeaker crackling and revealing background conversations within the judge’s booth.

Someone fell over. A strange man’s voice creaking in pain. James.

A female’s voice barely laughing at the bad luck of it all. Jessie.

A groaning grumble from a pokémon who’s done this way too many times. Meowth.

Two pokémon playing in the distance, with barely a care in the world. Wobbuffet. Mime Jr.

A sigh of relief. May.

A tiny hand tapped his cheek twice. Pikachu.

Right… Ash thought as he slowly stood up. “Ready Pikachu?”

“Pika!”

“Pikachu! Aim for the device on Lucario’s head! Volt Tackle!”

“Oh no you don’t!” Jessie hissed as she pulled out a poké ball.

Poison… Ash felt Jessie’s intentions. He tried feeling for Pikachu’s emotions. … He’s too focused! He won’t be able to react fast enough!

“Go Sceptile!” Ash threw out the poké ball in Jessie’s direction as Jessie threw hers in Pikachu’s direction. “Seviper! Go!”

The two pokémon faced their targets in front of them.

“Seviper! Poison Tail!”

“Sceptile! Stop Seviper! Quick Attack!”

Seviper blocked Pikachu’s way, ready to strike – only to be knocked away by the charging sceptile.

“Pika!” Pikachu thanked Sceptile as he passed him. Electric sparks surrounding his body as he got closer towards the floating lucario.

Lucario… Counter… Ash knew Jessie’s next move.

“Lucario!” Jessie demanded. “Counter!”

“Sceptile! Quick Attack Lucario!”

“What?!” Jessie watched in shock as Lucario countered the fast-moving sceptile’s attack, leaving him open for the next attack. “Lucario! Do Cou –“

Before the command was complete, Pikachu’s overcharged tackle slammed into the device on the lucario’s head. With a pop and crackle, the device shorted and exploded.

The damaged pieces hit the floor in a rain of expensive electronics, sparks of electricity accenting the view for any spectators. As time passed, smoke slowly faded away from the blast zone.



A blue fury of emotions exploded from within the last remaining smoke clouds.

Looks like he’s not under their control anymore. Ash smiled.

The lucario shook his head before glaring at Jessie.

“Uh oh.” Jessie backed away. “Now now, Lucario.”

The lucario’s anger burst at the sound his name being used by the kidnapper. A bright fiery aura surrounding his body.

Um… look at the time! Looks like we have to get out of here.” Jessie said nervously as she quickly snatched Meowth and tried dragging James to his feet.

“Hrrrrryah!” With a cool, controlled fury, Lucario launched a ball of aura towards the trio.

“Wobbuffet! Seviper!” Jessie called.

“Mime Jr.!” James called.

The three pokémon stood in front of their trainers, ready to follow the next order.

“Sceptile! Stop ‘em!” Ash called out, knowing Team Rocket’s next move. Sceptile nodded immediately and charged towards the three.

“Wobbuffet! Counter. Seviper, Wrap!”

“Mime Jr., Mimic!”

Before the trio of pokémon could take advantage of their commands, Ash’s voice rung out, “Quick Attack then Agility!” Sceptile smashed into all of them with a flurry of Quick Attacks and immediately dodged out of the way with Agility.

The disruption had caused Seviper to miss its target and Wrap around Wobbuffet, causing him to strike back at the Seviper with Counter, while Mime Jr. mimicked the Quick Attack right into Wobbuffet.

“Looks like we’re doomed.” Jessie groaned with dread in her voice, as she witnessed the chaos unfold in front of the incoming Aura Sphere.

“And we did so well this time.” cried James.

“I told ya’ we shoulda’ given dat lucario to da’ boss first.” Meowth sighed in defeat.

The Aura Sphere hit the ground in the center of the six villains. An explosion was the familiar signal of their defeat as they flew into the sky.

“Looks like Team Rocket’s blasting off agaiiiiiiiin~!”

“Wooobuuuffet~!”

A shimmer in the clouds confirmed their disappearance.

Hmph.” Lucario smirked at his vengeance being fulfilled.

“Way to go, Lucario!” Ash called out.

The stadium boomed with thunderous cheers.

And there we have it, folks! The famous Ash Ketchum defeating the elusive Team Rocket trio right in front of our very eyes! Any doubts you had of his condition when it comes to battling, get rid of them now, because you’ve just been made a believer!”

“You did pretty good, kid.” Ash turned to the direction of Officer Jenny’s voice.

Heh… it was nothing really.” He blushed as he scratched the back of his head.

“No need to be modest. You’re famous here, especially after that show.” She patted his shoulder in congratulations. “Oh, and don’t worry about this lucario, we’ll contact his owner immediately. He’ll be more than happy to know his lucario is safe and sound.”

“Thanks, Officer Jenny. I’m just glad that he’ll be reunited with his trainer. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my pikachu to those goons.”

“Pika pika.” Pikachu slightly rubbed himself on Ash’s leg as agreement to the comment.

“Good luck in the tournament, kid. I’ll be rooting for you.” Officer Jenny turned and faced the incoming security team in order to give out instructions of how to deal with Lucario.



“I guess I should have been rooting for you too, huh?”

It took Ash a few seconds to figure out whose voice that belonged to.

“Misty?”

Misty didn’t feel right. Or rather, she didn’t feel like her usual self. Ash could barely recognize the girl in front of him.

“Here I thought I was doing you a favor by trying to stop you. But…”

Her voice trailed off, uncertain emotions coming to bear. She wished to say something, but wasn’t sure if that’s what she truly felt.

Misty’s… confused? Ash thought to himself.

“Hey Misty! Long time no see!” May’s sunny personality distracted Ash’s thoughts.

A wall of security shrouded Misty’s sensitive emotions, making it impossible for Ash to read it anymore.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:05 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 5: Renown

Spoiler:
“Will all other personnel not competing in the first round please leave the arena.” The loudspeakers echoed back into life before the two female friends could catch up.

“Oh right, silly us.” Misty stuck out her tongue in reaction to her forgetfulness. “Come on May, we can watch the battle at the Judge’s Booth.”

“Alright! Good luck in your match, Ash!” May waved as she followed Misty to the exit.

“Thanks! Have fun!” Ash called back, completely unaware of the wave.

“Wow!” an unfamiliar voice exploded right next to Ash. “Can I just say, Mr. Ketchum, that I’m deeply honored that I’ll be your first opponent? And I know that I’ll be no match to you, but I’m so glad I’m losing to you! It’ll be like an autograph or something!”

Um…” Ash thought hard to remember his opponent’s name. “Connie, was it?”

The girl squealed with delight. “Omigosh! YES?! I mean, yes? Yes?!”

Ash grinned nervously at her reaction. “Don’t give up so easily. You can still beat me.”

“Me?! Beat the famous Ash Ketchum?! No way! I’m not saying I’m a bad trainer, I just know you’re a hundred times better than I’ll ever be, Mr. Ketchum!”

“Just promise me you’ll give it your all. And if you find yourself losing, try something you’ve never done before.”

Hm?” The young girl cocked her head in confusion.

“Hey, I’ve beaten trainers that were a thousand times better than me. Even when I saw myself losing, I never gave up. I kept trying, and I would try something others thought was crazy. But hey, if crazy makes me win, call me crazy.” He laughed.

Ash gave a thumbs-up in her direction. “Just give it everything you’ve got. And once you’ve given everything, give it some more. Don’t think you’ll lose, focus on how you can win. Okay?”

Mm!” The young girl blushed and nodded. “Then… Mr. Ketchum?”

“Call me Ash.”

A-Ash?

“Yeah?”

Prepare to lose!” She turned and ran excitedly to her side of the field.

“Trainers! Get your pokémon ready!”

Ash lifted his jacket to reveal his poké balls.

“This will be a three pokémon match.” The loudspeaker’s voice was now Misty’s. “No substitutions. No time limits. No restriction to type or ability. Any pokémon that is found outside the boundary markers on both ground and sky flags will automatically lose.”

The speaker returned to the original judge. “Trainers! Send out your first pokémon!”

“It’s your turn! Jack!” Connie called out as she released a pokémon onto the field.

“And trainer Connie has chosen an impressive-looking blaziken as her first pokémon!”

“A blaziken, huh? Alright Sceptile, you ready for a rematch?”

“Sceptile!” The grass pokémon nodded in confidence as he jumped from the sidelines onto the field, eyeing his opponent.

“And trainer Ash has chosen his sceptile to battle! What could he be planning?”

“Hey Ash!” Connie called out from the far-end of the field. “You don’t have to go easy on me!”

“I never said I was!” Ash responded. “Type-advantages aren’t everything!”

Misty’s voice chimed back in, “A little trivia about Ash’s bouts for you people. Ash’s sceptile has faced a blaziken in a past tournament. The result of the match ended in a tie.”

“Is Trainer Ash looking to settle a score?”

“Connie’s blaziken versus Ash’s sceptile! Round one, BEGIN!”

“Alright Jack! Let’s show Ash we’re no push-overs! Fire Punch!”

“Sceptile! Use Agility to dodge and use Pound!”

Ash felt nervous. The arena was enormous, making it hard to focus his hearing. His Empathy ability allowed him to better find where the pokémon on the field were, but in the heat of battle they would only seem like blurs. The disadvantages would make him obviously handicapped for the match.

I won’t be able to fight this unless I can connect with Sceptile… Ash balled his hands into fists.

“Jack! Block that hit! Use Fire Punch again!”

“Sceptile!” Ash’s thoughts panicked trying to find a way to bond with Sceptile during the match. “Agility to dodge! Fire Bullet Seed and retreat towards me!”

“Scept…” The pokémon’s emotions showed it was insulted with the command.

“Trust me!”

The pokémon grunted and did as instructed.

How can I do this? It was easy to beat Team Rocket because of how close we were in that fight. But this? She’s so far away I can barely make out what she’s feeling. Ash thought hard. It’s easy to connect with Pikachu since we’ve been together for so long… but… Sceptile…

“Jack! Sand Attack!”

“Scept!”

Rage, confusion, self-pity… Sceptile’s blind!

“Alright Jack! Bulk Up and ready for our finisher!”

“Blaziken!”

Come on Ash… you’ve got to connect somehow… wait… Sceptile’s blind. Sceptile’s blind!

“Sceptile. Listen to me. You can find your opponent even if blind. Just calm down first…”

Rebellious… unwilling…

“Do you want to lose this, Sceptile?!”

“Sceptile…” A hint of rage that suddenly turned cool… calm…

“That’s it, Sceptile. Now listen. Focus on just the sounds… just the one in front of you.”

Scept…

“Blaaaaaze…” Jack breathed out, its muscles growing bigger by the second.

“Now loosen that focus until you hear everything around you.” Ash continued, “Loosen it until everything around you is just sound.”

The grass pokémon let loose a hum to affirm the action.

“Now focus again, but now only to my words. My tone. My tone.” Ash repeated softly. My tone.

Sceptile felt a faint link coming from Ash as he did this.

There, you can feel it. I’ll be your eyes in this fight.” Ash smiled. “Just listen to me, keep feeling that, and we’ll win this fight. …Got it?”

With a nod of the head, Sceptile got into a fight-ready stance.

Can you feel this, Sceptile?

Sceptile cocked its head slightly at the odd feeling but agreed emotionally.

“Jack! Blaze Kick!”

“BLAZE!!”

Sceptile… Leaf Storm into the attack. Agility right. Quick Attack behind.

Vaguely understanding the commands, Ash’s sceptile began its attacks. Firing the Leaf Storm directly at the blaziken caused a flurry of leaves to catch fire as it made contact with the burning kick.

The blaziken’s amusement at the futile attack suddenly turned to confusion as the burning leaves disappeared from his sight – revealing the sceptile’s disappearance.

“Blaze?!”

“Jack! Behind you!”

The blaziken halted his attack, only to feel several strikes hit his back.

Sceptile duck. Jack kicking backwards.

Sceptile ducked just in time to dodge the blaziken’s retaliating kick.

Pound. Pound. Agility behind. Quick Attack. Pound. Slam.

Ash’s intentions started becoming easier to feel, like a rhythm he could finally hear out.

“Sceptile!” the pokémon smiled at this feeling. It was as if he could see his own body from the outside. He could trust Ash on this…

With two strong Pounds against the opponent’s chest, Sceptile disappeared with another movement of Agility. It reappeared behind the opponent, striking quickly with a Quick Attack followed by one more Pound.

“Blazike–!” the blaze pokémon’s breath was knocked out by the sudden onslaught of attacks.

Sceptile smirked in pure glee. Commands are much faster this way… he thought to himself. I don’t know how I could ever go back to voice commands after this.

Wrapping one of his arms around the blaziken and placing his other hand on the side of its head, Sceptile pushed Jack down sideways, a powerful Slam for a finish.



Jack was knocked out completely, not even able to give a verbal response to the harsh assault.

“Oh no! Jack!”

“And Connie’s blaziken has been knocked out! Ash’s sceptile wins this round!”

A sense of pride filled Sceptile, strong enough to fill Ash with pride as well.

The two shared a genuine moment of admiration.

“Trainers! Ready your second pokémon!”

We’re not done yet, Sceptile.



_________________________________________________________



“Anabel!”



“Anabel!!”



“HEY ANABEL!!!”

Anabel woke to the loud shouting coming from the other cell. “Mm… Huh?! What? What! What’s going on?!” She rolled out of her blankets in a panic.

Finally! You want to watch the semi-finals or what?” Angie was staring through the bars, impatience causing her to chew whatever was in her mouth faster.

“What? How???”

Angie stood aside, revealing a small television on the floor.

Where did you get that?!” Anabel feared what Angie had done now.

“Hey. I got it fair and square. I won it off Officer Jenny during a game of poker.”

“You shouldn’t be gambling at your age… Wait. What were you using for a bet?!” Anabel shook her head quickly as she realized a more important question, “How did you play poker with Officer Jenny?! You’re always in your cell!”

“Hey, officers get bored too. So you wanna’ watch or what?”

“That doesn’t answer any of my questions!”

“So you don’t want to watch? Alright. More for me.”

“…watch what?”

“The Tsunami Festival Tournament, duh. Ash is already in the semi-finals.”

He is?! Move the TV closer! Hurry!

“Oh NOW you’re interested. You completely missed the awesome fight he had with an exploud.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?!”

“I did! But you said you wanted to sleep. So I let you sleep.” Angie moved the small TV closer towards the bars.

“Unbelievable folks! Ash’s Heracross has just dodged another DragonBreath from Sansen’s Steelix!” The television’s static blurred the screen as the camera zoomed in for a close-up of Ash’s face. “And as you can see on the widescreen, Ash is still giving no commands at all! Could our Legend from Pallet Town have learned some form of psychic abilities?”

That’s not psychic!” Anabel gripped onto the bars in pure excitement. “Ash is mastering his Empathy!”

“Yeah, he’s been doing this throughout the entire tournament.” Angie sat back and adjusted herself until she became comfortable. “At first I thought he was just showing off, but I think it really makes his commands faster than using his voice.”

“Even I wasn’t able to expand my Empathy abilities that quickly. It took me years just to be able to give commands in mid-battle…” Anabel felt a tinge of envy fill her. “Ash is mastering it faster than I am.”

“And here I thought you were the best. Looks like Ash will beat you pretty soon.” Angie teased.

“No… I’m hardly the best. Though I think I am the most open about my ability. Most Empathy Trainers don’t reveal their powers to others.”

“Why’s that?” Angie turned her head slightly to show her interest.

“People are afraid of it, I guess.” Anabel frowned slightly.

“Why? People aren’t afraid of Psychic trainers.”

“Says you. A lot of people are afraid of Psychic trainers.” Anabel loosened her grip on the bars. “But Empathy trainers, I think, are feared more because they can tell when someone’s lying.”

“So can Psychics.”

“Not really. They can read thoughts, not intentions. One can lie to themselves, but those with Empathy can read past those lies.”

“So… you’re like a super-Psychic?” Angie giggled at that idea.

“No. We’re pretty limited to only those who express themselves openly. Psychics can read thoughts no matter what. Empathics can only read the emotions if the other is willing.”

“Ash’s Heracross fired off its Hyper Beam! The steelix isn’t going to be able to dodge that! Looks like Trainer Sansen is in deep trouble.”

“Garrison! Rock Tomb ‘im!!!” the frustrated opponent’s voice could be heard from across the field.

“This Trainer stands no chance.” Angie frowned. Secretly she had wanted to see a real struggle of a match. “Even without his Empathy, Ash is the better trainer.”

“You can tell all that from just watching this? You never know, the trainer might surprise you.”

“Not his type. This guy has been winning every one of his other matches almost perfectly, but he’s never faced someone like Ash before. Ash isn’t a conventional fighter, and this one’s far too conventional to put up a real fight.”

“And Sansen has lost the match! Trainer Ash Ketchum is moving to the Finals!”

Maybe this tournament was good for Ash…” Anabel sat on the floor, sighing in relief. The battle’s result being the first positive note she’s heard in a while.

“I know what you mean… Ash really looks like his old self now. It doesn’t look like he ever lost his sight in the first place.” Angie agreed.

Anabel smiled softly… then remembered something. “Oh! Do you know if Team Rocket showed up?”

“Yeah they did. But they didn’t start up the cameras until after that entire fiasco.”

“What happened?”

“What do you think? Ash beat them.”

Anabel placed her hand onto her chest and exhaled. “That’s good to hear. Now I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

“You shouldn’t have worried in the first place.” Angie lowered the volume of the TV and faced Anabel. “So how was the book?”

Hm?

“The book. The one you stayed up all of last night to finish the last chapters.”

Oh right! Sorry, my brain was a little distracted.” Anabel ran to her bed and pulled the book from underneath the pillow. She returned to the edge of her cell, handing the book over to Angie. “I really liked this one! I’m not sure, but it may be better than the first.”

“Nah, it’s just as good as the first, it just feels like it’s better because it’s continuing the story you love.”

I know! I mean, the one with Apollo and Sarah??”

Angie sat up excitedly. “Me too! I didn’t think they were going to finish that one!”

“And the part with the Mew Spires!”

“When the Captain of Two appeared?! Yes! Best part!”

Anabel looked away with slight discomfort. “I mean, I don’t know about you, but isn’t –

“Captain of Two attractive?! YES!

The two girls squealed in unison.

Anabel shook her head a bit. “I mean, not like the Commander.”

“Nothing LIKE the Commander.”

Y-yeah…

“Captain of Two is someone you have a summer fling with, but the Commander is the guy you keep.”

Anabel laughed nervously. “I guess that’s true.”



Anabel had a sudden thought. “Wait… Angie?”

“Yeah?”

“You’ve never… you know… summer fling?

Wh-What?! N-No!

The Empathic felt out Angie’s emotions…

“You’re lying!” she gasped.

I-It’s not what you think! I mean I’m still a virgin.”

Anabel tilted her head curiously.

Angie sighed and continued. “Okay… so… Ash was kind of my summer fling. I mean, we never did anything, I just fell for him. My summer crush.”

“Why be embarrassed of that? That seems a bit obvious.”

“Because I had a boyfriend before I met Ash.”

“YOU WHAT?!” Anabel didn’t want to seem insulting, but her shock and excited interest got the best of her. She lowered to a whisper. “So… you broke up with your boyfriend?”

Yeah… but hey, the two of us never really clicked... so it wasn’t that bad. I just liked him because I could depend on him. Childhood friend and all.”

Anabel held her hand to her heart. “The poor boy. Not to be rude, but that boy must have been heartbroken!”

N-No, not really. He was seeing other girls while he was with me.”

“What?!” Anabel suddenly felt a deep pity for Angie. “That jerk! Why would he do that?!”

Well… I just never let him do all those kind of… things with me. I mean, not even kisses.”

Anabel had curled into a comfortable position on the floor. “Not to pry, but any reason why?”

“When I first got with him, I honestly didn’t know what “love” really felt like outside of crushes.” Angie added the quotations with her fingers. “I just thought having a boyfriend was just to have a boy you could trust hang out with you all the time.”

“You must’ve known that boyfriends and girlfriends kiss though, right?”

Yeah… but I thought that was just certain couples. I didn’t think we were that type of couple.”

“So the breakup was mutual?”

Kind of…

Anabel wanted to look into her emotions, but as she noticed how sensitive Angie was at the moment… she backed away and decided to try to work with words instead.

Kind of?”

“I mean, he got with another girl shortly after. And I was just left… alone, you know? Ash didn’t exactly share the same feelings back. And he was already off on his own adventures…”

He’s willing to if you just ask.’ was what Anabel wanted to say, but she decided against it. Ash is closer to Angie than he is with me… If I told her that, I’d give her more of an advantage than she needs.

The tomboy stared at the Empathy trainer, knowing she was deep in thought. “Don’t feel pity for me or anything. I’ll still win Ash over my way.”

“Why should I pity a girl who’s got a better chance than I do?” Anabel said blankly. Her eyes widened when she realized what she just said. Oh no! Why did I say that?!

“Hey now, don’t sell yourself short. You’ve got that Empathy thing. You can connect deeper with Ash than I can.” Angie stopped herself from frowning. “Besides, it’s not me you should worry about.”

Anabel blinked in interest.

Angie blinked back in surprise. “Remember? Ash is at the tournament… May’s with him right now.”

Anabel let out a small gasp in remembrance. “And so is Misty…

Right…” Angie sighed. Compared to Ms. Cerulean, I don’t stand a chance…



_________________________________________________________



“Ladies and gentleman, hurry back to your seats because the True-Champion-Final is going to begin!” Kate spoke into the microphone passionately.

“Coming out into the field is the returning champion of the previous Tsunami Festival Tournament, Philip from Celadon City.” Misty calmly announced.

“If you don’t remember folks, Tsunami Champion Philip has held his title in this tournament three years in a row, him and his gardevoir being undefeated in every match they’ve been in.”

“And coming onto the white field is Trainer Ash Ketchum. His unique style of strategy has made him rise through the ranks of this tournament with lightning speed. But will that shock and awe be enough to topple the undefeated champion of the Tsunami Festival?”

“The winner of the True-Champion-Final will receive the bonus championship prize money, the Tsunami Champion title, and a custom-made Tsunami ball.”

“Remember folks, the Tsunami ball is not only a stylized poké ball, it also has the ability to capture water pokémon with greater ease than any Ultra Ball.”

“Rules of the True-Champion-Final are as follows…” Misty held out a list and shared it with Kate.

“This is a one-on-one pokémon battle.”

“There will be no use of items during this battle.”

“There is no time limit.”

“There is no type restriction.”

“There is no ability restriction.”

“And no boundary restriction.”

The two spoke into the microphones in unison. “Trainers ready your champion pokémon!”



Misty let out a heavy sigh and leaned back on her chair.

“You really think this Philip will be any match for Ash?” May asked from behind the Guest Judge.

“I think the question is, ‘will Ash be any match for the Tsunami Champion?’” Kate answered for Misty.

“Have you not been watching the tournament??” May found herself irritated. “Ash has been beating every single person that’s faced him. No loss whatsoever!”

“Kate’s right, May.”

May looked at Misty in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Philip may not have been to as much tournaments as Ash, but that’s because he doesn’t aim to be a Pokémon Master. If he did though, he very well could have been.” Misty was saddened by her own doubt. “Philip’s a powerful trainer, and Ash will no doubt find that he’s tougher than most gym leaders he’s ever faced.”

May stared into the field, watching the tall trainer in the green robes release his gardevoir onto the field. Her glance moved to Ash, who simply nodded to the pikachu on his shoulder. “Come on, Ash… show them what you’re made of.



_________________________________________________________



“Let the True-Champion-Final begin!!!” two voices occupied the loudspeakers.

The roar of the crowds was almost too much for Ash. Floods of sound and excitement nearly swept him away. A nervous shake began in his arm and leg, as his heart continued to beat faster and faster with adrenaline. He focused his attention to Pikachu, feeling his partner’s exhilaration.

Come on Pikachu, we can do this…



“You’re not a Psychic!” an accusing call came from the other side of the field, it was his opponent Philip.

“I never claimed to be!” Ash called back, dismissing whatever intention Philip had in that statement.

Ash’s head felt odd.

No, I suppose you didn’t…

Wh-what?! Ash’s thoughts fought back against an intruding presence.

I’ve been watching your fights, Mr. Ketchum… from the way you fought, I thought you were a Psychic like me… The thoughts swirled, as if judging his intelligence from different angles. I guess I was wrong… It poked and prodded at Ash’s mind… picking up certain ideas and dropping them, as if searching for something.

Y-You’re a Psychic?

The intruding mind laughed in response. Yes, yes I am… but not you… what could you be?

Get out of my head and let’s fight. Ash’s emotions stirred.

An Empathic? Interesting… I’ve never fought one before. This will be interesting. A laugh echoed as the trespasser slowly left his mind.

Ash’s frazzled brain snapped back to reality when he heard the incoming gardevoir.

Pikachu Agility! Don’t get too close to it and make sure you’re not directly in front of it! Ash felt out to his best friend.

Yes. was its emotional response.

Within a second, he could hear Pikachu’s feet slicing the ground as he sped across the field.

However, the gardevoir stood completely still, its emotions calm – focused elsewhere.

He’s talking to it psychically.

“PIKAA!!!” Pikachu’s voice shattered into Ash’s thoughts.

“Pikachu! What happened?!”

That’s weird… I didn’t hear anything… just a sudden pressure… but Pikachu’s already off his feet. What’s going on??

He could feel a slight mental laughter scratching at his thoughts.

Shut up! Get out of my head!

It disappeared immediately. The gardevoir’s body turned, following invisible commands.

“PII!!!” Pikachu was tossed to the side by some unknown force.

That doesn’t sound like Psychic at all… It’s just coming out of nowhere! Wait… the gardevoir…

Ash felt out the gardevoir, feeling it intend attacks, yet not moving at all.



“PIKAAA!!!”

That’s it! Ash’s mind flared in realization.

Pikachu! The gardevoir’s using Future Sight! Attack it before it does it again!

So now you’re getting it. The presence returned.

I said get out of my head!

Heh… your mind is so honest it’s telling me everything I need to know…

Shut up!

Like for instance, you’re telling your Pikachu to use Quick Attack.

“Pika?!” Pikachu’s emotions suddenly turned into an extreme confusion.

Where the sound of the gardevoir’s silent standing was, was now replaced with the sound of open air.

What the –?!

The voice laughed. The problem with that move, is that it doesn’t work so well if I already knew it was coming.

“Pikachu! Where did gardevoir go?!” Ash called out, desperate.

“Pika pikaa.” ‘I don’t know’ was his response.

“Philip’s gardevoir is teleporting around the field! Making it impossible for Ash’s pikachu to even touch it!” Misty’s voice came alive in the loudspeakers.

“Teleport… thanks Misty.” Ash’s confusion turned to relief.

Darn Guest Judge, ruining my fun.

Quit reading my thoughts!

I’ll quit it if you quit using Empathy. The voice laughed.

H-how do I keep him from reading my thoughts? Ash thought when he felt Philip’s presence disappear.

The Pallet Town native’s attention moved to the gardevoir. It’s so calm. Its head is kept cool…

He felt its emotional attention changing again. Philip’s giving more psychic commands…

Wait… I can’t read its emotional intentions when it’s trying to focus on Philip’s commands! Can I do the same with my thoughts? I’ve got to try!



_________________________________________________________



Gardevoir… Future Sight. Teleport. And fire off a Psychic while you’re at it. Philip smirked as he gave the mental instructions.

Yes, master. The Embrace Pokémon acknowledged quietly.

Heheh. I don’t care how famous this Ash Ketchum is, he doesn’t stand a chance against me.

Philip turned and gazed at the bonus championship prize money basket in front of the Judge’s Booth. That should afford some new tune-ups for the car. Maybe a new paint job, too.

His attention returned to the battle at hand. Now let’s see what that Ketchum kid is planning next.

Focusing his senses, Philip entered Ash’s mental territory. He found little to no thought. Giving up alread–

The Tsunami Champion’s judgment was cut short by a psychic lance of pain coming from his pokémon.

“GARDEVOIR!!” it screamed as it was launched into a wall, electric sparks still flowing out of her.

“What?! How did he –?!” Philip clenched his fist and shot a psionic pulse towards Ash.



_________________________________________________________



Something hit Ash’s head hard. Dull, yet sharp. Whatever it was, it got his attention.

Owww! What the heck was that?!

You tell me. How did you command Pikachu without me noticing?

It’d ruin the surprise if I told you. Ash smiled in Philip’s direction.

Think you’re so smart. I know what you’re doing. Concentrating fully on emotions. Smart move, but it still won’t save you.

You sound scared, Phil. Afraid you’ll lose without your little trick?

WHY YOU!!! Another shot of mental pain hit Ash. I don’t need to read your thoughts to win. You’re just a cocky kid who gets lucky in his fights!

If you really think that, then fight fair and square.

You’re on!!!

“Gardevoir! Teleport! Double Team!”

“Pikachu! Agility! Volt Tackle!”

Gasps could be heard from the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Do my eyes deceive me or is Philip giving verbal commands?!”the loud speakers rang in excitement, the voice obviously way too close to the microphone.

“This marks the first time in TsuFest’s history that Celadon City’s Philip has ever given a verbal command to his pokémon. It seems the Lightning Master’s attack was super-effective against the Tsunami Champion.” Misty joked on the loudspeaker.

“Gardevoir! Teleport! Get behind Pikachu and use Psychic!”

“Pikachu, make Gardevoir regret that decision! Counter Shield!”

The white and green pokémon appeared behind Pikachu just in time to be hit by the Counter Shield. “GARD!!!”

“Gardevoir! Get up! Teleport away and fire off a Future Sight!”

G-Gar…” The pokémon couldn’t follow its master’s commands, as its body refused to move.

“It seems Gardevoir has been paralyzed by a technique I’ve never seen before!”

A shuffle of sounds came from the loudspeakers before turning into a new voice. “Counter Shield is an Ash Ketchum exclusive!” May’s voice sounded natural on the loudspeakers. “Developed within his time in the Sinnoh region, Counter Shield creates a protective shield that parries most attacks and also damages the attacking pokémon.”

The microphone screeched, deafening the crowd as the announcer quickly switched. “Well, yes, thank you. As I was saying… Philip’s gardevoir is paralyzed! How will Philip counter this unfortunate turn of events?”

“Come on Gardevoir! Try Teleport one more time!”

“G-Garde…”

“Pikachu! Volt Tackle!”

“Pika-Pika-Pika-Pika-Piiikaaa!!!”

SLAM.

Pikachu had managed to hit thin air and crashed into the wall instead.

“Wh-what the-?!”

A successful teleport at the last second saved Gardevoir from certain defeat.

“Great job Gardevoir! Now Rest while his pikachu’s down!”

“Piiii~kaaaa~” Pikachu slowly climbed out of the rubble, eyes in a daze.

Ash laughed embarrassingly. “Y-You okay there, buddy?”

Pikachu slumped to the floor and dragged himself slowly across the field.

He finally reached the sleeping gardevoir, slowly trying to stand.

“Alright Pikachu! Thunderbolt!

“Come on Gardevoir! Wake up!

The pokémon’s red eyes opened immediately. “Gardevoir.”

“Perfect! Hurry! Imprison!”

“Gardevoir!” Its eyes shined completely white.

“PIKACHUUU!!!” Sparks shot out of Pikachu’s body, but none of it formed an attack. No flash, no bolt.



“Pika?”

“What happened?!” Ash grit his teeth.

“Gardevoir! Show them how it’s done! Thunderbolt!

“Gardevoir.” Lightning sparked around the Psychic Type and fired into a bolt at the confused pikachu.

“PIKA!!!” Electric energy shocked the rodent in place.

Pikachu!!! Get out of there! Agility!

The small mouse pokémon disappeared in an instant, blurring back into vision on Ash’s side of the field.

Philip smirked. “Alright Gardevoir, let’s finish this like how we always do! Double Team and Calm Mind!”

Gardevoir…” Several illusions of the Embrace Pokémon appeared on the field, each one closing their eyes, readying for their next attack.

“Don’t think that’ll work on us!” Ash knew exactly where the original gardevoir was located, unaffected by visual distractions. “Pikachu! Find the real one, it’s the one at the corner!”

“And here I thought we were having a fair fight. Gardevoir! NOW! FOCUS BLAST!

An energy ball formed in the center of each of the Psychic Pokémon’s palms. “Gardevoir…” It released the blast towards the incoming Pikachu.

Pikachu’s too close to dodge it! Come on, Ash think of something… think of something!!

Pikachu stopped mid-run and froze in front of the incoming blast. Its eyes widening in fear.

“PIKACHUUUU!!!” Ash called out with his heart.

In a single moment, time slowed to a crawl… Ash’s connection with Pikachu shined bright, the two seeming as if one. In a flash of white, the bond turned physical, fueling Pikachu into charging forward with pure confidence and trust.

The electric mouse dashed towards the blast, shocking the crowd and judges.

“Heh. Game over.” Philip smiled at his imminent victory.

Pikachu and the blast collided.

An explosion of light blinded the onlookers. The Focus Blast had shattering on impact.

Through the shards of light, Pikachu broke through.

“WHAT?!” Philip stepped back in complete disbelief.

“PIIIIKAAAAAAA!!!!!” Blazing with energy, Pikachu tackled into the stunned gardevoir.

“GA!!!!” Gardevoir’s eyes widened as the collision from Pikachu dug deep into her stomach, the strange energy that formed around the mouse pokémon releasing deep into her will.

I’m… sorry… master… Gardevoir’s last conscious thought before fainting… reached Philip’s mind.

“GARDEVOIR!!!” Philip reached out to the thought in desperation.

The world around Gardevoir turned black, her body falling limply to the floor as her mind and heart swirled with the released energy from Pikachu. …memories of friendship, camaraderie, loyalty, and trust filled Gardevoir. But it wasn’t her own memories… it was Ash’s and Pikachu’s.



Silence.



A loud static blurting from the loudspeakers destroyed the stillness. “GARDEVOIR HAS FAINTED!”

Cheers exploded from the crowd, crashing and smothering the loudspeaker’s announcements.

“Pikachu has won! Ash has won the True-Champion-Final! The new Tsunami Champion of this year is the Lightning Master himself, Ash Ketchum! The Lightning Tsunami!!”

Screams of pure adulation continued roaring out. Howls, squeals, shouts, and applause added to the explosion of noise. A slow chant began to build, “ASH! ASH! ASH! ASH! ASH! ASH!”

For Ash, this was almost too much. The booming sounds thrashed and swirled around him. He had never experienced such adoration before. It tingled in his nerves, ran through his veins and up his spine. He felt like he could be drowned by it.

In that moment, he wished he could have seen it. To have seen the faces, the standing ovations, the jumps for joy, the excited tossing of items, the confetti that was hitting his face… it would have been an overdose to the senses.

But nothing prepared him for this new feeling. What he couldn’t see, he could… see… in a different manner. Feel. …colors of every shade, temperatures of every kind, spiking and rising, tiring and dipping, roaring and growling with the sounds, humming and echoing outside of it. He could “see” it all, all around him. The feeling was unreal. Like a dream bursting out of your mind, how color sees the world, or energy breathing. He could feel everyone. Not as individuals, but as a massive, singular entity of vibration and emotion. It was awesome. Truly awe-some.

“Ash! Great job!!” the loudspeakers rang with Misty’s voice, breaking Ash’s moment.

“I knew you could do it! I never doubted ya’!!” May’s voice took over.

Ash waved his hand in the air, unsure which direction the Judge’s Booth was.

Finding the right emotions and sounds he was looking for, Ash had walked onto the field and picked up the fatigued pikachu. “Hey buddy, great job out there.” He said softly as he cradled Pikachu in his arms.

“Pikapii…” His best friend smiled back weakly.

“Let’s get those prizes and get out of here… I’m starved.”

“Hey you.” A stern voice said behind. It was Philip.

“Yeah? What d’ya want?” Ash grit his teeth, ready for another fight.

“Calm down. I just wanted to say… congratulations.”

“H-Huh?”

“You did a good job out there. Sorry I ever doubted your skill. Guess I was too used to big-mouthed kids. But you’re no big-mouth. You’re the real deal.”

Uh… thanks?”

“Don’t mention it. And hey, nice Return. I’ve never seen one in a battle before.” The former champ admitted. “Heck, I doubt I’d see one as good as that one ever again.”

“Return?” Ash tilted his head.

You mean you didn’t know???” Philip laughed to himself. “You sure are full of surprises. You even surprise yourself, it seems.” He stared off in one direction, recalling a thought, “…Return is a technique that uses the close bonds between a pokémon and its trainer as a form of energy to attack. That move is rarely seen by anyone… since no one really knows how to teach it. But hey, if anyone could use it – I’m not too surprised that an Empathic trainer such as you would be one of them.”

Ash grinned and stroked Pikachu’s head. “You hear that buddy? We just learned a new move.”

Philip held out his hand. Ash felt the gesture and shook it.

“If you’re ever by Celadon, look me up, I could learn a few new tricks from you.”

“Bet on it.”

“Oh, and…” Philip took out a piece of paper and pen from his pockets. “Can you give me an autograph?”

Wh-What?

“Not to me, give it out to Cindy.”

“Cindy?”

“She’s my gal, and happens to be a big fan of you too. …you can still write, right?”

“Yeah, just don’t expect it to between any lines.” He laughed in embarrassment.

Taking the pen and paper, he signed clumsily for his opponent’s favor.

Philip took the objects back and nodded. “Thanks, Ketchum. You’ll go far.”

“Thanks to you too, Philip. You’ll go far too!”

“I’m already where I want to be.” Philip spread his arms to describe his place in the world. “Just living life how it should be. Moving how I should, and experiencing as I should.” He sighed happily, “Glad you came though. You’ve inspired me to grow a closer connection with Gardevoir.”

“You should, she’s one tough girl.” Ash acknowledged.

“She sure is. Anyways. Be seeing you, Lightning Tsunami.” The former Tsunami Champion waved slightly and ran towards the audience. In the distance, Ash could hear the girl named ‘Cindy’ cheering excitement for her returning Philip.

It wasn’t a win, yet he always had her. A victory he always had; a trophy worth more than anything.

…I wonder if I’d ever have that…

A curious smile appeared on his face.

Ash pet Pikachu’s head and walked towards the arena exit. “Lightning Tsunami… That sounds pretty cool. Don’tcha’ think, Pikachu?”

Pika pii.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:08 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Somewhere
Gender: Male
Nature: Calm
Posts: 53
Chapter 6: Gifts

Spoiler:
Night had fallen, and the light of the moon shined brightly on the back entrance of the stadium. Leaning patiently against a small red car, a Pokémon sketch-artist observed the stars in the sky… waiting for his friends to arrive.

“So how’s it feel, Tsunami Champion?” Tracey remarked as he saw Ash appear around the corner.

“Tracey! Where have you been??” Ash felt like Tracey had been gone for a year. The events of the tournament and post-ceremony celebration made it feel like he had spent a complete lifetime in an entirely different region. It would take a while to shake off the feeling.

The sketch-artist smiled humorously at Ash’s reaction. “I was in the in the VIP section, obviously.”

“Why didn’t you help when Team Rocket got there??”

“I did tell you I needed to get some sketches of a lucario in battle. And…” Tracey showed his sketchbook and flipped through it. “See? I’ve got pages worth of sketches!”

Um… Tracey? I can’t see.”

The Pokémon sketch-artist immediately closed his sketchbook and sweated heavily from embarrassment. “Oh! Right! Yeah… well…” he gave off a nervous laugh. “Well, I got lots of sketches.”

“I’m glad you got your doodles finished while some of our lives were in danger.” May commented sharply from around the corner, holding a large bag in her arms. “It’s okay, we’re fine now.”

“Hey now, I knew you guys could handle it.” Tracey defended himself weakly. “Besides… If you guys couldn’t stop Team Rocket, the place was an entire stadium of pokémon enthusiasts! There’s no way Team Rocket would’ve stood a chance in the end.”

“I’m just teasing, Trace. Can you just help me with this bag?? It’s getting heavy.

Tracey rushed over and grabbed the bag from May, almost falling over. “What’s in this thing?!

“Money.” May said.

“Money.” Ash repeated.

This is all money?! The prize cash didn’t look that big!”

“It wasn’t, but Ash wanted change.” May rolled her eyes.

“Hey, soda machines don’t accept hundreds.” Ash sipped his soda happily.

So what are we doing with the prize money?” Tracey struggled with the bag, trying to find a comfortable way to hold it.

“Half of it we can spend, I guess.” Ash suggested.

Shopping spree!” May squealed to herself.

What happens to the rest?” Tracey found it most comfortable to place the bag over his shoulder.

“We’re donating it.” The boy answered plainly as he sipped again.

Wow Ash! That’s really mature of you!!” Tracey said as he wobbled over to his car.

Yeah I know! It surprised me too!” May mentioned. She played with the Tsunami ball in her hands, finding the design to be hypnotizing and calming. “I thought he got replaced by a ditto or something.”

Ash felt for the car’s doorway, letting Pikachu enter first. “Can we head straight to the place to donate the money? I don’t really want to be carrying it the entire time.”

“Sure thing! Just name the place and we’ll go straight there.”

“Wait! Wait!” A voice called out behind the car as its engine rumbled to life.

The engine shut off and Tracey’s head popped out. “Misty! Long time no see!”

Can– I– join you– guys?” She huffed as she tried catching her breath.

“Sure! Hop in!”



_________________________________________________________



CLANG. CLANG. CLANG.

A baton hit the bars of Angie’s cell, forcing her out of her sleep. Her head hit the wall as she sat up in the wrong direction. She groaned as she realized that whatever she had been dreaming was gone. Her fading memory told her it was a good dream, though she’d never be able to tell at this point. Only one portion remained and it was… nope, I just lost it.

With a sigh, she turned and sat upright on the edge of the bed. “Wh-What is it?” she groggily asked whoever woke her from her sleep.

“Hey cheat, you’ve… got a call.” Officer Jenny slurred slowly, showing that she had been stirred from her slumber as well.

The officer struggled with the keys, taking almost an entire minute to open the jail cell.

“You know the procedure. Cuffs.”

Yeah, yeah.” Angie held out her wrists, allowing herself to be handcuffed.

Moving out of the way, Officer Jenny allowed the tomboy to exit her cell. “You’re done with the television, right?” She ignored the girl and entered the unit to grab the small television.

“Yeah. You can have it back.”

The police woman sat onto the floor and turned on the television.



Angie stared at her oddly.

Officer Jenny glanced her way and blinked. “What? You know where the phone is. Go on.”

Angie mumbled a complaint that contained the word ‘irresponsible’ and walked down the cold hallway with an uncomfortable shuffle.

As she continued down the hall, she noticed the large arcanine standing at attention in the next room. She petted the arcanine’s mane and smiled. “You do all the work here, don’t you boy!?” The massive pokémon tilted its head in curiosity to her words.

Reaching for the phone, a realization hit her. Oh no… what if mom found out? Even worse, dad?! Oh man… I’m so dead if they found out their girl’s in prison!

She hesitated longer, staring at the blinking red light at the edge of the device.

With a sigh, she wrapped her fingers around the phone. “Well, if they know now… it’s too late to pretend I’m not here.”

The phone’s cold touch against her cheek made her flinch. “H-Hello?”

“Hey Angie!” A boy’s voice was on the other side.

The tomboy sank to her knees in relief and in happiness. “Ash! Oh thank goodness it’s you!

“Wh-Why?? What happened?!” his voice panicked.

“No, no. I just thought you were my parents.”

Ash laughed. “Nah. I just called to ask you for some directions.”

“Hm? What is it?” Angie pressed the phone closer to her ear.



_________________________________________________________



“We can’t accept this.”

“But it will help a lot of people!”

“With all respect, young man, we simply cannot accept this money.”

“If it will help others, what’s wrong with accepting it?”



“Please, accept it.” Ash bowed as he held out the bag once again.

“Wouldn’t you rather give it to some Pokémon Rescue group? Or a Pokémon Reservation Park?” The doctor adjusted his glasses, showing no sign of changing his mind.

“No.” Ash almost hesitated, but decided to be firm. “They don’t need as much help as your patients do.”

The doctor exhaled slowly and sat quietly. Whatever was in his mind or heart wasn’t clear. Whether obvious or hidden, it seemed that an older man’s emotions seemed far more complicated despite its simplicity. Time and scars had affected it, maturity and experienced had forged it, and knowledge controlled it. “Tell me, young man, why are you doing this?”

Well… to be honest…” Ash tried to find the right words. “I thought about all the adventures I had with my friends… all the gym battles I’ve been in… and all the troubles I used to get myself into.” He paused, giving himself another second of thought before deciding what to say next. “And honestly? The hardest obstacle I ever had to face was knowing that I’d always be blind.”

The late middle-aged doctor leaned back on his seat, adjusting his glasses again. It showed to be a habit of his. What that habit associated to, no one could really say.

Ash continued. “I felt scared. Angry. Sad. And just… powerless. It felt like everything was over for me. And nothing that you said made sense to me.” He thought harder, memories and ideas being recollected and studied. His hands gripped. “I mean, if we’re so far in Pokémon Technology and Medicine, how could we know so little about humans??”

Lowering the bag, the boy’s voice became serious. “Sure… I lost my sight, and I fought through it. But what if any of my friends got sick and you couldn’t cure them? … I wouldn’t know what to do… I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all.

Ash was about to say more, feeling his heart wrenching from his thoughts, but the doctor stopped him.

“My daughter passed away.”



It was… almost ironic. Her little pidgey was dying from a leech seed that embedded itself into its inner organs. Yet all they had to do was take it out and shine a strange device on the pidgey. And it was cured.”

The doctor placed his glasses onto the table. “…my daughter had a terminal disease… but it shouldn’t have been terminal… we should’ve known how to cure it. With all that we knew, with all the discoveries we had made, we should have known. But we knew next to nothing about the virus! No magical device could instantly cure her like it did her pidgey…”

Tilting his head downwards, the doctor’s voice turned melancholy, “We tried holding a charity fund to find a cure before she died. …However… only three people donated.”

His fists gripped tightly. “Everyone was into those… those… pokémon! Those simple, babied pokémon! They didn’t have time for my daughter. They didn’t care… …my daughter died a year later.” The man’s voice struggled to keep from breaking. “An entire year for people to care, and no one wanted to…

Tears ran down Ash’s face, unable to ignore the fury of cold pain coming from the man’s heart. He put his hand on the doctor’s arm. “Sir… if it’s alright… I’d like to know your daughter’s name.”

“Star…” The man’s face faltered and tears flowed down his eyes. “…because she was my little piece of heaven…



“May I donate this money to the Star Charity?”

…yes, of course. I will accept it.

Ash left the bag on the floor and decided to leave the man with his thoughts.

“Boy…”

He turned. “Yes?”

The doctor stood up and moved across the room, opening a file cabinet and rummaging through it.

“Please take this.” A ball fell into Ash’s hands.

Ash felt it out. “A poké ball?”

A Master Ball.

“I can’t –“

Yes, you can accept it. …my daughter loved pokémon as much as you did. She loved them… One of her favorite stories was about a Dragonite that visited dreams. I promised her that when she grew up, I’d help her catch one… so she could share her dreams with it.” The doctor’s voice fought back to gain its composure. “I… was supposed to give this to her on her sixteenth birthday.”

Ash breathed out slowly and nodded. “I’ll make sure to capture a Dragonite for your daughter, sir.”

“Thank you…”

Ash exited the office and closed the door behind him.



As he walked down the hallway, he felt someone wrap their arms around him from behind.

“Misty?”

She was sobbing softly. “Thank you, Ash.”

“…thank you for wh–?“

Misty turned the boy towards her and held him close. “Just shut up and take the compliment.”



_________________________________________________________



Misty stared at her choices carefully, reading every description and detail. She couldn’t make a hasty decision. What she would settle on would affect everything from this point on. Don’t panic. Keep calm. Predict what would happen next and plan accordingly. You can do this. She’d repeat to herself over and over again.

This one! She tugged at the object confidently. And with all the plans in her mind, she whispered its secrets into Ash’s left ear.

This wasn’t Misty’s first time so close to him today. He was slowly getting used to the distance… a distance that would’ve left his younger self in stiff shyness. His former discomfort was now turning into eagerness. Whatever she had to say, he needed to hear. He had to know what was happening, what was coming next, and what plans she had in her comparatively genius mind.

In striking contrast, Ash was growing less comfortable with the tension building up in May.

Just make your move already!” May pressed her back against the door, her body screaming for more room.

Alright… I send out Natu!” Ash placed a playing card down with a picture of a round and green bird pokémon with strange eyes. He pulled another card from his hand and slipped it underneath the Pokémon Card. “And I use Telekinesis. I get to choose any of your pokémon to attack, and I’ll choose the Houndoom on your bench. It does ten damage to him, and since he already has sixty damage, this ten will finish him off.”

May laughed. “Ha! My Houndoom is resistant to psychic attacks!”

Misty excitedly picked up the Natu card and held it in May’s face. “Read it and weep. ‘This attack’s damage isn’t affected by Weakness or Resistance.’

“And that means, Houndoom loses, and I get my last prize card.” Ash grinned. “I win.

The female coordinator threw the cards in her hand at Misty’s face. “You guys cheated!

“You wish. You’re just mad because you can’t build a good deck.” The Cerulean Gym Leader threw the cards back to its owner.

“I have a good deck!” May grabbed her cards and organized them back to her deck. “You guys are just cheaters. Two against one isn’t very sportsmanlike.”

“It’s the only way Ash can play, dummy. These cards don’t have sound instructions on them.”



Ash laughed. “Wow May, that’s rough.

“What?” Misty moved her head closer to Ash’s. “What did she say about me?!

May placed her deck back into its bag and turned away in her seat. “I have no idea what you two are talking about.”

Ash’s face turned into shock. “May! Watch the language.”

Misty’s face turned red with anger. “What’s she saying about me?!” She grabbed Ash by the shoulders and shook him. “You better tell me!”

“Alright kids!” Tracey interrupted. “We’re home. Quit your fighting.”

The car pulled to a halt on a patch of grass, as the small town of Pallet had little use for driveways. Showing its age, the engine responded terribly slowly to being turned off.

To the side faced the Ketchum Residence, in all its plain yet comforting glory.

A man with brown hair walked over to the parked car and opened the backseat door. May fell out with a yelp.

Ow…” she whined. “Thanks a lot Gary.”

Gary laughed. “No prob. Say, is Ash in there with you guys?”

Ash scooted towards the door and felt for the exit. “Hey Gary, how’s the lab doing?” he asked in an attempt to distract Gary from noticing his awkward search for where to place his feet.

The former rival grabbed him by the forearm and helped him out of the car. “It’s okay, nothing new. But enough about that boring old place…”

A hand slapped Ash’s back. “What about you?!” Gary proceeded to wrap his arm around the blind Trainer’s shoulder. “That was an amazing tournament! I mean, those trainers could’ve used a bit more practice, but you did pretty well for a blind kid!”

Uh… thanks?”

“I had heard you learned Empathy, but I had no idea you could use it like that! I mean, that Return at the end of the match was amazing, Ashy boy!”

“Am I the only one who didn’t know about that move?” Ash asked in irritation, though he seemed to be more irritated by Gary’s use of the old nickname.

And am I the last one Ash told about this whole Empathy business?!” Misty hissed loudly.

“I said I was sorry, Misty! Besides, you could’ve visited more often.” Ash tried to defend himself.

“Well I’m sorrrrrry! But some of us actually have a job!” she hit him across the shoulder.

Tracey walked around the car and struggled to pull the bag of cash out of the trunk. “Oh yeah… uff! Misty, how long are you staying here, anyways?”

“Why?” Misty walked over and helped carry the prize bag. “Am I getting in your guys’ way?”

“No no, not that. It’s just – oof! – like you said, you are the Gym Leader of Cerulean City. So…” Tracey turned his head. “Hey um, Ash? Can you move a bit?”

Oh… yeah. Sorry about that.” Ash side-stepped.

“Anyways… not to be rude, Misty, but shouldn’t you be heading back by now to the Gym?”

“Oh that.” Misty struggled with her end of the bag as she hopped over a bump on the dirt road. “No, I called my sisters. Told them I needed a break. So they’ve got the gym for a while.”

“And you decided to take your break with us?” Tracey laughed. “You could’ve gone anywhere for a vacation. I heard the Orange Isles hotels are cheap this season.”

“She probably just wants to use up some of the prize money.” May grumbled.

Hmph!” Misty glared at May. “I’ll tell you–“

“She’s just here for Ash.” Gary interrupted nonchalantly.

Misty nearly fell over.

“Quit teasing, Gary.” Ash appeared by Tracey and Misty, holding up one side of the bag before it overtook Misty. “And shouldn’t you be helping with the bag?”

“Learn to ask, and you might just receive.” Gary pulled out a poké ball and released the creature inside.

Blastoise!” roared the tortoise-like pokémon.

With a snap of his fingers, the blastoise picked up the bag easily and walked down the road.

“I meant you yourself, Gary.” Ash complained as he continued walking.

“Knowing one’s own weakness is important too, Ash.” Gary replied coolly as he followed his blastoise.

May walked ahead of them and knocked on the door.

A Mr. Mime opened the door. He stepped aside for the incoming visitors. “Mime mime!” he greeted with a smile.

Mom!” Ash called out. “We’re home!

“Oh my Ash!” Delia ran over and hugged her boy. “Are you okay?! Did you get hurt?!” Ash’s mother checked to see if there were any tears in his clothing.

“Yeah yeah, I’m fine. I was just gone for a couple days, mom.”

Delia suddenly had a serious look on her face as she stomped towards May. “And you! May, dear. We need to have a serious discussion of you putting my boy in danger.”

Tracey was about to walk into the house. Noticing May’s predicament, he quickly whispered to Ash, “Been fun, see you later.” Tracey ran off before he could be punished as the responsible adult. May noticed the sudden absence of her partner in crime and felt cornered.

The blastoise stood uncomfortably in front of the door…

Noticing his anxious feelings, Ash turned and smiled. “It’s fine, you can just leave the bag at the doorstep.”

“Blast…” the blastoise sighed in relief, glad he didn’t have to try to fit through such a small entrance.

The impact of the bag made a large thud that caught Delia’s attention.

Hm? What is that?”

“The prize money.” May quickly said, hoping that it would distract the mother’s fury.

Delia opened the bag and grinned widely. “Oh Ash! You wouldn’t mind if your mother borrows some of this for shopping, would you?” The question obviously rhetorical.

Uh… sure, of course.”

May sighed in defeat, “There goes my shopping money…”



_________________________________________________________



Her foot slowly pressed against the floor. A long and low creak followed the pressure, forcing her to switch her stance as she hurried her footsteps. Crik. Crik Crik. Crik. These floors never stay quiet no matter how you walk on them! she complained in her head as she sped down the hallway.

She found herself in front of the door. The hand she wanted to use to knock was suddenly shaking, her consciousness becoming fully aware of what was happening and going to happen. She made a shuffle step back. Crik.

…What am I doing?

Several thoughts ran across her head, making her increasingly indecisive by the second. Could she really do this? What was she even planning on doing? This was so stupid. Just go back. Just turn around and head back. Right. None of this had to happen. None of this had to matter.

“Whoever it is, the door’s open.” Ash called from inside the room.

Oh no, he’s awake! No wait, what would I have done if he was asleep? What did I even come here for?! The girl turned around and fled quickly back up the hallway.

“Misty?” the voice echoed, forcing her to halt from turning the corner.

“Oh Ash! Heheh. Silly me! Looks like the restroom was this way.” Misty backed up and squirmed around the corner.

“Actually the restroom’s right over there.” The boy in his pajamas pointed absently at the door next to the fleeing girl.

“Oh well, it’s okay, I don’t need to go anymore.” she giggled and readied to escape down the steps.

“Did you want to talk to me about something?”



Guess it’s too late now.Fine fine, you caught me.” Misty sighed. “Can we…”

She hesitated… changing her casual voice into a whisper, “…go in your room, though?

“Sure.” Ash moved and bowed jokingly.

“Such a gentleman.” Misty responded with a posh accent. She walked into the room with faked sense of elegance.

Ash closed the door behind him quietly and faced Misty’s direction.

So… Why are you awake so late?” Ash began the conversation.

“I should be asking you the same thing.” Misty retaliated, mostly out of curiosity.

“To tell the truth, I’m actually still excited about winning that tournament.” A grin formed on his face. “I mean, the crowd went WILD for me! They were chanting my name! It felt amazing!

Misty giggled at his overexcitement. “You are quite a celebrity these days.”

Ash scratched the back of his head. “Yeah, I guess so. So why are you awake so late?”

The Gym Leader stared at the floor, unsure what to say.

“You just wanted to talk?” Ash tried to read her.

He’s right. But it’s not exactly that simple of an answer…

Well… it doesn’t have to be simple…. If you wanted to talk, we can talk. Doesn’t have to be about anything special.” Ash shrugged.

“It’s rude to use your Empathy on a woman.” She pouted.

S-Sorry, I don’t really have full control on it yet.”



Actually…” Misty sat on the floor and rested her back against Ash’s bed, petting the sleeping pikachu next to her. “…that’s kind of what I wanted to talk about. You’re Empathy, that is.”

“What about it exactly?”

“For starters, how does it feel?”

Everyone always asks me this… I suppose it’s better than asking how being blind is.

Ash thought for a minute. Thinking that the question was too vague once again, he searched out her emotions to find out more of what she was trying to ask. “It’s… almost like a thought, and you can swear you hear it in your head like a thought, but really it’s coming from in here.” Ash thumped his hand against his chest.

“It’s kind of confusing.” he continued. “It’s like… I dunno… recently it’s like… a fire? Or maybe like lights? The colors and heat changes for each feeling, and for some reason I just know who’s feeling it. Like each of you have your own flavor. Or something like that. Sometimes I can focus it and really know what they’re feeling. Like a metal detector for emotions or something.”

“So can you read what I’m feeling?”

“Do you want me to?”

“Sure, why not.” Misty sat up in interest.

Ash sat down in front of her and closed his eyes.



“You’re wondering if I really can do this or if I’m just a lucky guesser. You’re wondering if I’m really blind. You think my pajamas are cute. You’re now wondering if I knew that Pikachu has been hiding ketchup bottles underneath my bed. And now you’re feeling surprised and shock. Now awkward? Now… you just blocked yourself up. Blank. I can’t read it.” Ash opened his eyes, hoping he’d be able to see something, at least one little physical light. Nothing. “…How was that?”

“Good. But what color and heat was I?”

“For a while you were a kind of light blue. Then you turned a dark blue. Then a bit pink. Then I think orange? Then pale yellow. Then I think it was either green or brown. And then black when you blocked yourself... or not black exactly… it feels like a loss of color. Darker than black?” Ash was scratching his chin, thinking himself a detective. “As for heat… I’d say you were mostly warm, a few cold spots, and then just turned absolutely freezing.”

Misty smiled, satisfied with his answer. She began to stare at him inquisitively, studying him.

His eyes stared back at her blankly; they were almost lifeless, like the gateway to his soul was blocked. He couldn’t see her; he might never see her again. But there he was. Judging everything about her. Looking into her and understanding her as if he always knew how. It frightened her in a way, but at the same time she felt pity for him. Not because he was blind. But because he was Ash.

He was still Ash Ketchum. …she travelled everywhere with him, survived so many trials with him… yet he was always so stubborn, so impatient, so immature. He might have changed slightly, but he was still Ash to her. Even if he looked different, she still felt the same around him as she always did. Ash was always thick-headed, he’d never know something was up even if hit slapped him across the facehe still wouldn’t get that she…

Misty adjusted her seating and laid open her hands. What she was about to ask for next… she was absolutely unsure of, but her curiosity got the best of her.

So Ash… what color and heat am I now?



Uhm… uh…” Ash’s face turned red. “I– I can’t really tell. It’s just really close and…. And…. Er… really warm… um..

In her heart, Misty had moved closer to Ash. Her face so close to his. Her hand moving his hand to her heart. …can you…?

…c-can I…?” Ash stuttered as his heart pumped faster than it ever should have…

Should I? Misty thought out…

Ash wasn’t sure if he should answer. Ash wasn’t sure if there was an answer. Gulp being his only hint.

She smiled childishly and closed her hands. “You’re pretty good. I guess that’s how you did so well in that tournament.” A blush ran across her face.

...

Misty admired his face. Whenever we’re alone, we’re very different aren’t we?

Th-Thanks.” Ash responded to the previous conversation quickly, avoiding her emotional question. He did his best to regain his composure.

Crawling onto the bed, Ash sat up and changed the subject as fast as he could, “Um. You want to help me build a new deck to fight against May tomorrow?”

Oh Ash. “Sure thing, show me where your cards are.” Misty looked underneath the bed.

“It should be in a big box somewhere down there.”

As she pushed aside empty ketchup bottles and shoeboxes, she found a wallet that looked like it had been lost underneath the bed for months. She took a peek inside.

No money… hm? What’s this?

A small photo fell out of its worn out pocket. It was a picture of her and Ash. They were splashing fountain water at each other. I remember that day… Did Brock take this picture? Why does Ash have it? A soft smile filled her face.



“Misty?”

Oh right! Cards!” She slipped the photo into her pocket and continued searching. He won’t miss this, will he? …after all, he can’t see it.

Nah. Go ahead and take whatever photos you find down there.”

“What did I just say about using Empathy on a woman?”

“You were stealing my stuff.”

“It’s not like you need it.”

“And you do?”

Misty blushed, forcing Ash to blush.



Hey, um, Ash?”

“Y-Yeah?”

Can we do something else other than cards?

“…S-Sure, what did you have in mind?”

Misty crawled out from underneath the bed and sat up. She shook her head to fling off any dust that stuck to her hair. “I um… was thinking… you think you could teach me?”

“Teach you?”

“Empathy.”

“Empathy?”

“Well, can you?”

Ash’s heart skipped a beat. The previous feelings he had avoided already coming back to haunt him. ‘Can you…?’

STOMP. Ash blocked out the memory immediately. “I don’t… I don’t-! Blah!” Ash was doing his best to clear his tongue and thought. Misty laughed at his clumsy response.

He coughed to start over the sentence. “I don’t know really. I don’t know how to teach it.”

“Well, how do your pokémon do it?”

“Actually, they can’t do Empathy. They can only hear my Empathy.”

“Then can you teach me that?”

I um… thing is… you see… me and my pokémon were really close, so…

You don’t think…” Misty blushed hard. “…we’re close?

Misty, why do you keep doing this?! STOMP STOMP!

He shook out all his thoughts and decided the only way out of this awkward situation was to try to resolve it… “Alright. I’ll try.”

Misty looked up instantly and grabbed onto the bed in excitement. “Really?

“Yeah, sure. Just… let’s see…” Ash sat up straight and thought hard. He wasn’t sure how to approach a lesson like this. This was more of Anabel’s thing, he considered… but now that he was in this situation, it felt like there was no exit. No turning back.



“…First, close your eyes.”



_________________________________________________________



“Ash! Ash!” May yelled excitedly from across the street. Can I buy these earrings??

“Such beautiful earrings.” A voice hummed behind May. “Of course you could buy those for me.” It was Delia, glaring down at the girl who dragged her child into trouble.

May fell down to her knees in defeat. “That’s not fair! When I can buy something for myself???

“May, dear. I believe it was my son that won that cash prize, not you.” Ash’s mother smiled sweetly.

Not fair!!!

“Looks like they’re at it again.” Gary sighed. “So Ashy, when are we going to battle?”



“Ash?”

Huh? Oh sorry, was a little distracted.”

“You’ve been distracted all day. I said when are we going to battle?”

Anyways, so my next scene would look like this…

Ash felt waves crashing against water, the image of two Pokémon Trainers facing each other on their revenge match floating above the image of the rocky beach.

I’m not so sure Sally would be wearing her that kind of hat. Ash responded.

Why not? Ten years has passed. She would’ve changed styles. Besides, it looks great on her new outfit.

Ten years can change a person, but I don’t think a girl like Sally would change that much. Not change that kind of way, at least. She’s a tough girl. I don’t think she’d change her standards like that. And… I don’t think she’s the type to be that concerned with fashion.

“ASH!” Gary was shouting in his ear.

“WAAAHHHH!!!!” Ash fell over. “Owww! What was that for???”

You know, Ash… I don’t think I’d want to battle you when you’re this distracted.” Pulling him by the arm, Gary lifted Ash to his feet and patted him on the back. “Just contact me tomorrow, when you’re feeling better.”

Gary walked away, pulling out his pokédev to make a call.

Oh… Did I interrupt a conversation?” Misty walked out of the store Ash was waiting outside of, carrying several bags of new clothes. She looked around in confusion.

“Yeah, but I think Gary just rescheduled our battle for tomorrow.”

“Good, because you still owe me a fight tonight.” Misty smirked and handed him a few of her bags.

Ash grabbed the bags and weighed them thoughtfully. “Have you seen Pikachu?”

“I saw him running towards the hot dog stand.”

Ash sighed. “Not again.”

Misty leaned against the wall of the shop and closed her eyes. Anyways, so you seriously think Sally would still wear that hat?

“You do realize we’re standing right next to each other, right? You don’t need to do that.” Ash replied to her thought.

“It’s fun. Besides, you didn’t answer my question.”

Fine fine. No, that’s not what I meant–”

“Empathy please, I don’t want anyone hearing the story out loud.” Misty broke his sentence.

He shrugged his shoulders and focused his emotions. That’s not what I meant. I meant that she could have a different hat, just not a different kind of hat. You know, maybe different colors and patterns.

Really? What makes you say that?

Well… I still wear the same kind of hats even though they’re different colors and patterns.

She’s a woman, you realize that, right?

So your guy characters can act like women but your women can’t act like men? That’s fair.

Well –

“Why are you two making weird faces at each other?” May appeared, startling the both of them.

Oh May! How long have you been standing there?!” Ash laughed nervously.

She tilted her head in confusion. “I’ve been here. Why? Am I interrupting something?”

Yes. Yes you are.

She can’t hear you.

I know that! But you can. It’s like a secret code. Just have fun with it.

Ash sighed.

Alright, alright. I get the hint. I’ll leave you two alone.” The Coordinator briskly walked away.

Huh? No wait! May! I didn’t mean to sigh at you!”

Got a thing for May, Ash? Misty nudged his arm.

Why does everyone keep asking me that?!” Ash cried out in frustration.

Misty coughed irritatingly. Use Empathy please.

Sigh.



_________________________________________________________



‘To Anabel. I thought you’d like this.’ was scribbled with poor handwriting on the slip of the package.

The package itself wasn’t something to marvel at either, it was shoddily wrapped and the ribbon was slightly off-center. In some way, its clumsiness made it much more beautiful to her than any well-wrapped package. More personal, rather than one perfected for display.

Anabel smiled. Instead of depending on others, Ash had decided to wrap this himself. She took a moment to wonder if he didn’t want anyone else to find out about this present.

Across from her, she saw Angie ripping open her own package with her teeth.

Anj!” Anabel had given her prison mate a nickname during their time together. “Calm down. The present’s not going anywhere.”

“I’m not being impatient or anything! Ash just wrapped this up weirdly… I can’t get it open!” Angie continued gnawing on the corner of the package.

Anabel looked down at her package and found a loose opening on the side. Inserting her finger, she tugged against the wrapping. Within seconds, the package opened up by itself, revealing a single, large tube capsule.

There’s something inside… Anabel was surprised at her own thought, as she had not chosen to think it. Though she knew there was an item inside the capsule, there was something else. Something almost communicating with her. It feels alive?

With an inhale of hesitation, Anabel twisted open the capsule and peeked inside.

Inside, a rolled-up paper took up most of the space. Though there was also a smaller object hidden at the bottom.

She tilted the capsule towards her. A beautiful necklace slipped onto her lap… its centerpiece gem began to shine. A different sort of shine. There was no harsh light within the cell to cause it to sparkle visually. Instead, it sparkled with feeling.

A crumpled up piece of paper fell as well. She opened and flattened the paper against the cold floor. In Ash’s blind writing, the paper read as followed:

‘Hey Anabel! I thought you might like this.’

‘For some reason, I could see this necklace in a store I went to today! It was weird.’

‘I asked the store owner what it was, and he said it was a Soul Heart. Some kind of gem that’s said to only shine its true light to those with Empathy.’

‘I have no idea what that means, but I thought it was pretty cool and thought you’d like it.’

‘Oh! And did you see the sketch Tracey made? He says it’s of me during the tournament. Thought you’d want one.’

‘-Hope you’re okay in there, Ash’

Anabel pressed the necklace against her heart, cherishing it with her soul. She felt the gem react to her hold, as if it hugged back. She smiled.

“Oh man! Look at what I got!” Angie’s loud yell disturbed her soft thoughts.

Anabel turned and saw the tomboy holding up a large blastoise toy.

“You a fan of blastoise?” Anabel asked, holding back a laugh at her immaturity.

Angie growled. “It’s not JUST a blastoise. Watch this!” She pressed a hidden button on the back. The blastoise’s eyes lit up and let out a small roar. The cannons on its back aimed forward. “Prepare to fire the hydro cannon!” an electronic voice echoed from the toy’s speakers.

Anabel gasped. “Is that –?!”

You’re darn right it is!” Angie grinned arrogantly. “It’s the Shell Tank from Commander of Wartortles!”

“I didn’t know they had a toy line.”

Angie held the Shell Tank close to herself as if protecting it. “It’s NOT a toy. It’s a COLLECTIBLE.”

Anabel giggled. “Alright. I didn’t know they had collectibles.”

“They sure do! They even have clothes of the crew!’

Really?” Anabel tried imagining herself in some of the crew outfits. …dancing with the Commander… under a starlit night… Ash would be the Commander…

Oh! And I also got this!” Angie disturbed Anabel’s thoughts again. She held out a curled paper with a sketching on it. The sketch was of Ash standing beside his infernape, the two looked ready for battle.

“Hm? Who drew that?”

“Tracey, duh.”

“Tracey?” Anabel blinked in confusion.

“Oh right.” Angie had just realized that Anabel was more out of touch of Ash’s friends and travels than she was. “It’s another one of Ash’s friends. He’s Professor Oak’s assistant. He does a lot of sketches. I think he might’ve been with Ash and May during the tournament.” She turned the paper around to admire it. “You should’ve been awake for that battle! It was amazing!

Anabel instantly remembered the rolled-up paper that was still in the cylinder package. She crawled over to the tube-casing and pulled it out.
Unrolling it, she was surprised by the illustration’s beautiful details. It was of Ash and Pikachu. Confetti was raining down on them, arms raised to greet the cheering crowd. There was an energized emotion in the drawing, which brought the event to life for Anabel.

Ash must’ve felt beyond excited to win that tournament. I wish I could’ve been there…

“Oh! Did you get a drawing too? Let me see!” Angie was hanging onto the prison bars just to see what the Empathic was looking at. “And what else did you get?”

Anabel showed her the drawing first.

Angie grinned. “That one’s really awesome! You wanna’ trade?”

“No way.” The Frontier Brain shook her head and hid the page from view. She then picked up the necklace and showed it against her neck.

“Oh. It’s just jewelry. That’s nice.” Angie turned away in disinterest.

Anabel narrowed her eyes, feeling Angie out. She’s not even jealous?? Hmph! Tomboys can’t appreciate true beauty.

She was too deep in her thoughts to notice the tomboy picking at her own cell’s lock.

With a creek of metal, the door swung open and Angie started walking towards the exit.

Wh-Wha-What?!” Anabel snapped out of her thoughts and clung onto the bars. “ANJ! Where do you think you’re going?! Get back in your cell! You’re going to get us in trouble!

Angie waved her off like a pest. “Calm down. I do this every night. I’m not going to run off, I’m just going to ask Officer Jenny if I could make a phone call.”

“She knows about this?!”

“Who do you think taught me how to pick the lock?”

“WHAT?!”

“Be right back. I’ll bring you a juice or something.” Angie closed the prison door behind her.



Anabel stood awestruck, unsure who to be angry at.



_________________________________________________________



“Oh hey Angie!” Ash adjusted the phone against his ear as he ducked.

A gush of water flew above his head, barely scraping his hair.

“I’m doing great. Just fine.” Ash dodged another geyser.

“PIIIIIKAAAA-PIKA-AAA-PIKAAAAA!!!!” Pikachu was laughing uncontrollably.

Hm? Oh that’s just Pikachu.” With a quick step, he avoided a tackle from a starmie.

“MIME! MIME!!!” Mr. Mime scolded as he cleaned up the soaked floor.

“Yeah, that’s Mr. Mime. Hey Mr. Mime! Hey Pikachu! Angie says ‘Hi!’” Ash kicked the star-shaped pokémon aside as it came back around for another tackle.

“HUAH!” the pokémon yelled in pain.

Huh? Oh. That. That’s Misty’s starmie.”

Get off the phone and get back in the fight!

Stop tickling Pikachu and fight fairly! Ash complained back.

Hm? Turn on the vid? Why? I can’t see.” He dodged another incoming tackle from Starmie.

Misty stopped tickling Pikachu and walked over to vidphone. Pushing Ash’s head aside, she clicked on the camera button.

The screen blinked to life, and Angie’s curious face turned into confusion at the sight of Ash’s predicament.

A starmie was flying across the house, firing water at Ash every chance it got. Pikachu was on the floor, trying to catch its breath from laughing too hard and too long. Mr. Mime was too busy trying to dry off several items to try to interfere. Misty had an annoyed look on her face, with a black eye. And Ash was completely soaked.

“WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON IN THERE?!” The vidphone’s speaker screeched at Angie’s loud demand.

Everything stopped at once and all individuals stared at the tomboy’s image on the screen.



Pikachu burst out laughing shortly after.

Ash scratched the back of his head. “Eheh… Misty and I were having a battle and SHE decided it would be a good idea to bring the battle into the house.”

No!” Misty jabbed Ash in the stomach. “I brought the fight in here because you had to keep giving commands to Pikachu even though you said ‘Time Out’!”

Ash grabbed his stomach in pain and laughed weakly.

Angie stared at Misty. “What happened to your eye?!”

The Cerulean Gym Leader touched her eye and flinched back in pain. “Oh. This? Pikachu tackled me in the face.”

“Ash! How could you?!”

The blind trainer stood straight and waved his hand in defense. “Y-You’re looking at it all wrong! She’s the one who wanted a Trainer-and-Pokémon Battle!”

Misty nodded. “Yeah, don’t worry about it. I’m the one who asked for it.”

What the heck happened in he–UWAHHHHHH!!!!

Angie watched a slipping May slide across the room and crash off-screen.





The tomboy burst out laughing at the entire scene.

Her laughter was far too contagious for Ash and he soon joined along, only for it to be cut short as Misty punched him across the face.

That’s for using Pikachu in this fight!” Misty kicked him while he was down.

Angie laughed harder and tried her best to compose herself. “A-Anyways! Ash!”

Ash popped up from the ground. “Yeah?”

“Just wanted to say that both Anabel and I loved our gifts!”

“What?!” May popped out from the side, wet. “Even Anabel and Angie got gifts?! Why didn’t you buy me anything, Ash?!”

“Because my mom would just take it from you anyways.”

It’s not fair!” May cried before she found herself slipping again. “Whoah!

Ash smiled towards the screen. “I’m glad you two liked it. How are you guys holding up in there, anyways?”

“We’re doing okay. It gets kind of boring in here at times, but we’re still sane.” Angie adjusted the phone against her ear. “And don’t forget! Tomorrow’s the day we’re out of here. So come on over to pick us up, okay?”

Misty walked off-screen, annoyed about something.

Ash seemed to be staring at her walking away. He turned back towards the screen. “Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. Want me to get there with Tracey’s car or would you rather walk?”

“Ugh. A walk, please! I’m tired of confined spaces.”

“You got it. See you tomorrow, okay Angie?”

“You better.” The phone clicked off.

As soon as Ash put down the phone, he was double-teamed by a tackle from both Misty and Starmie.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:09 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 7: Freedom

Spoiler:
HAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!! IT’S SOOOO GOOD TO BE OUT!!!” Angie screamed out into the open air.

“I know!” Anabel released a stressed sigh. “It’s nice to feel the sun again.”

Ash smiled. “So is that it? You two are just free now?”

Angie frowned. “Nooooo. The stupid court wants us to do community service.”

“Well, considering the damage we’ve done, I think we’re being let off easy.” Anabel said optimistically.

“Well yeah, but we can’t get back our pokémon until then!”

“It’s a good thing I left Espeon at home.” the Empathic smiled.

“Way to rub it in, Anne.”

“No problem, Anj.”

“Anne? Anj?” Ash snickered. “I like the nicknames. You two must’ve gotten pretty close in there.”

“Yeah, Anne ain’t that bad if you get to know her.” Angie smiled as she played with her Shell Tank.

“Thanks, Anj. You’re not that bad either.” Anabel adjusted the books she was carrying.

You’re not too bad yourself, Ash. Anabel winked.

Nice to talk to you Empathically again too, Anabel. He smiled nervously.

What’s she saying? Anothervoice appeared.

Hm? Who’s that? Anabel blinked around curiously.

M-Misty?! Where are you? Ash panicked.

In the bushes. To your left… no wait, your right… no… wait… yeah, your left. Anyways, what did she say?

Anabel felt jealousy sting her. Misty’s an Empathic too?!!

Wh-what? No. No no. Ash returned his attention to Anabel, trying to calm her. Misty can only hear my Empathy and talk back, she’s not really an Empathic.

Oh! Can she hear me? Hi Anabel!

So she’s kind of like your pokémon. Anabel felt slightly relieved.

Misty? A pokémon? Ash imagined the thought of capturing Misty humorously.

“Who are you calling a pokémon?!” Misty popped out of the bushes, glowering at the female Empathic.

Passers-by hurried past, disturbed at the sight of a black-eyed female randomly popping out of the bushes and screaming ‘who are you calling a pokémon’.

Angie jumped aside, frightened by her sudden appearance. “Whoah! Misty?! Where’d you come from?!

The female Empathic gave an arrogant smile and smoothly commented, “You shouldn’t be interrupting conversations… and you shouldn’t pose as an Empathic either.”

Misty growled. Why… you… WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!

Angie looked even more confused. “Wait… Misty? An Empathic?

“No fighting girls.” Officer Jenny called from behind them. “Don’t make me lock you up again!”

Anabel turned away, scared at the thought of being tossed back in the prison.

Did she call me a pokémon?! Misty stabbed at Ash.

K-kinda’… Ash laughed nervously.

The tomboy watched the other three with curiosity. Her curiosity turned to frustration. “How many Empathics are there?!”

“She’s not an Empathic.” Anabel coolly responded. “She can just respond to Ash’s Empathy.”

Ohhhh. So like a pokémon?”

Quit calling me a pokémon!” Misty roared. “That’s it! I challenge the both of you to a Pokémon Battle!”

Officer Jenny stood behind Misty ominously. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you…”

Misty flinched at the realization of the tall shadow behind her. “Oh. M-mornin’ Officer.

“Listen here, girl. These two are not to have any Pokémon Battles until the court says so.” The officer adjusted her hat. “If you try to even challenge them again, I’ll make sure you’re put behind bars as well.”

Misty shrunk. “Y-Yes, Officer.

“Good.” And with that, the Officer walked away.

“Hope you’re not restricted from any battles, Ashy boy.” Gary rounded around the corner. “You promised me a battle today.”

“Gary! Don’t worry. I didn’t forget. When and where?” Ash smiled in determination.

“Back by the river, after lunch. I’ll be treating.”

Angie jumped for joy. “Food! Oh how I miss having real food! Thank you Gary!!!

“No problem, cutey. Let’s go.”

Ash growled… feeling slight jealousy at Gary’s treatment of Angie.

Misty’s eye twitched… angry of Ash’s concern over Angie.

Anabel frowned… becoming protective over Ash as she felt Misty claiming him emotionally.

Angie smiled… just happy for food.



_________________________________________________________



An empty plate now lay in front of him.

He wasn’t sure if he liked the food he ate. With each bite, he wondered if the taste was strange or unique. Whatever it was, Gary was the one that ordered for all of them. Anabel assured him that it’s an acquired taste; Misty stated Ash would never get used to it; Angie was too hungry to tell if it had a flavor; and Gary guaranteed that it was the best the restaurant had to offer.

Ash had never been to this restaurant. Too fancy for his tastes. He just wanted hamburgers. That’s all he was thinking right now. He just wanted hamburgers.

“Ready to go, Ash?” Gary returned from paying the bill.

“Definitely! Let’s do this!” In all honesty, Ash wasn’t sure if he was ready to battle… his stomach felt weird from the strange food. The strange food that wasn’t hamburgers.

Are you okay? Do you need to go to the hospital?

I’m fine. It isn’t that bad, Anabel. I just wanted something better.

Well you better focus on the battle, Ash. Misty pushed with her feelings. Looks like Gary’s taking a liking to Angie. You wouldn’t want to lose to him.

Why is he, though?? Angie’s not even Gary’s type! Ash felt jealousy rise up again.

Though this was intended by Misty’s tease, it irritated her.

What’s wrong with Anj? She has her charms. Anabel stared at Gary boasting to Angie.

Nothing’s wrong with Anj. She’s just not Gary’s type. Gary goes for girls obsessed with themselves. Nice hair, big eyes, and uh… big… chests.

Maybe Angie just reminds him of a certain someone. But it’s a forbidden love, so he has to find the closest thing to it. Misty joked. Though she couldn’t hear Anabel’s side of the conversation, she could gather bits and pieces from what Ash was feeling.

That would be so cute and romantic! Anabel’s thoughts floated off to daydreams.

What are you even talking abou– Ash suddenly realized what Misty was referring to. Ew! No! Misty, what’s wrong with you?! Uck! Ew! Now I can’t get it out of my head!

STOMP STOMP STOMP!

Misty laughed out loud, making Gary and Angie stare at her oddly. Their stares made her silent.

Great, this whole Empathy thing is making me look crazy to people. Misty pouted to herself.

Especially with that hair of yours. Ash teased.

What’s wrong with my hair?! Accidentally, Misty felt a small emotion shortly after… Do you not like my hair? How do you like my hair? The questions were genuinely curious and concerned.

Ash felt surprised. Are you asking for my approval???

Misty’s emotions shut on him like a safe. “What?! No! Why would I need the approval of someone who doesn’t even have a sense of fashion?!” She stomped out of the restaurant.

Gary and Angie blinked at Ash and Anabel.

“What just happened?” Gary asked with confusion in his voice.

“I kind of made fun of Misty’s hair.” Ash admitted.



Ash and Angie laughed loudly together. Anabel and Gary stared oddly.

Angie noticed their confused faces and composed herself. “Get it? Ash can’t see her hair. How would he know?”

Anabel giggled. Gary just scratched his chin.

“Anyways, let’s get going. We’re scaring the customers.” Gary picked up his bag and headed out the door.



_________________________________________________________



The sun shined on a plain field next to a river.

A place inbetween Pallet and wherever that fancy restaurant was. Ash had no idea where they were right now, but it felt comfortable enough.

The area reminded him of his earlier travels, when battling was just about finding a random, wandering pokémon or Pokémon Trainer and challenging them right on the field. No weird gimmicks or deals. Nothing really on the line other than pride and honor.

This place suited that. The sound of the river splashing softly, the breeze sweeping against the grass, the pidgey switching between chirps and soft calls that resembled their name, and the warm sun warming the area to a comfortable degree. Simple, basic, no interference, and no distractions. It was perfect.

“Alright, we need a referee. … How about you, sweet cheeks?” Gary winked at Angie.

The tomboy looked at him strangely and walked to the center of the field. “Alright then…

Adjusting her clothes and shoes as if she were the one competing, Angie made herself comfortable. To her, there was no rush. She was full, awake, and just glad to be out in the open air.

She cleared her throat. “Today’s match is between Trai–”

A surge of water roared behind Angie as the river came alive with activity.

Rising from the river in a red light, a gyarados was summoned out of its poké ball, a whirlpool of water left swirling at its wake.

RWUUUHHHHHRRRR!!!!!” Its roar caused everyone to flinch in panic.

“Where the heck did that come from?!” Ash’s senses panicked. The emotions and the energy around him spiked to the point where it was difficult for him to feel or hear anything clearly.

Something had ran up the back of the gyarados and climbed onto its head.

“Today’s match…” The figure called out from atop the gyarados. “Is between Pokémon Trainer Ash Ketchum and Pokémon Researcher Gary Oak!”

“Misty?!” Ash faced up to the lone outline above the swirl of emotions. “Where did you come from?!”

“Gyarados! Flamethrower!”

The gyarados spat flames at Ash, roasting him to silence.

“This is a two versus two battle!” Misty continued. “No substitutions allowed! No time limit! No items! No boundary! Special rules are in effect! Raging Gyarados Rules!”

“What the heck is Raging Gyarados Rules???” Gary raised his brow.

“Flamethrower!”

Gary was burnt into silence as well.

“Rules are, neither of you are allowed to directly attack Gyarados, but it doesn’t work the other way around!” Misty slammed her foot down heavily against the gyarados’ head.

“RWWWWUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHH!!!!” The gyarados’ roar shook the bones of all who heard it.

The referee had jumped off her gyarados and into the river. A few seconds later, she popped out of the water and crawled onto the grass. Shaking herself dry, she exclaimed, “Trainers! Send out your pokémon!”

Ash and Gary snapped out of their burning daze and faced each other confidently.

“Buizel! Sceptile! Come out!” Ash yelled out.

“Let’s see if you can still fight through type disadvantages! Electivire! Magmar!” Gary countered.

The four pokémon appeared on the field, sizing each other up.

Misty raised her arm into the air. “Trainers! …

“Begin the Battle!” She swung her arm downwards.

Just as the match begun, her gyarados launched a Hyper Beam into the center of the field.

The explosion caused debris and dirt to fill the air.

Gary found himself coughing and wiping his eyes.

This won’t stop him… Gary spit the last specs of dust out of his throat. He began to call out his orders, “Electivire! Protect! Magmar, be ready for anything.”

Electivire raised his arms in defense and closed his eyes. Magmar, unaffected by the debris, stood firmly and searched his surroundings carefully.

The two pokémon stood back-to-back, following the command ‘be ready for anything’ with perfect focus.





A flurry of leaves flew exploded through the dust cloud and pierced into Electivire, his Protect giving him a warning in time to dodge the attack completely.

“Electivire. Protect again.”

“Elect!” the pokémon hissed into its stance.

“Magmar! Flamethrower into where those leaves came from!”

“Magmaaaaa–” The spitfire pokémon shot a stream of flame into the dust clearing.

Come on, Ash… show yourself…

The magmar continued its fiery onslaught. Its fire burning brighter and hotter with every passing second.

“BUIIIII!!” The smoke to the right Magmar suddenly cleared as a SonicBoom burst through and smashed into the magmar. The surprise attack was almost enough to knock the Fire Type Pokémon onto his side. Focusing, it rebalanced itself without much effort.

You’re going to have to do better than that, Ash... Magmar! Return the favor with Fire Blast!”

“Mag! … Mar!” A symbol of fire shot out and flew towards the smoke’s opening, with Ash’s buizel, still recovering from launching its attack from the river, directly in its path of destruction.

Dust broke on the other side of the field. Sceptile shifted into view next to Electivire and stuck it with a quick jab. The attack was easily dodged. Before Electivire had time to process what had happened, the Forest Pokémon jumped back and disappeared into the smoke.

He’s trying to make my Protect weaker… Smart move, Ash. But you’re only winning because we’re playing your game right now. Gary looked towards where Ash’s buizel was… it disappeared, with the fire blast being absorbed by the river. He’s using the smoke to his advantage…

“Magmar! Overheat!”

Magmar opened its mouth wide and fired a giant pillar of flame into the air, its intense heat forcing the surrounding air to blow away the last trace of dirt clouds that covered the field.

Gary could now see Ash and his sceptile. Where’s Buizel?

“Electivire! Protect! Magmar! Will-O-Wisp!”

Sceptile dashed towards Electivire again and launched another Quick Attack. Just like before, Electivire dodged. Magmar’s Will-O-Wisp fired. Its target was Sceptile. The Grass Type avoided it with ease.

“Think that would work on me?” Gary smirked. “Magmar! Redirect it! Electivire! Thunder!”

The Forest Pokémon glanced quickly around him. His face became alert as he noticed the incoming lightning coming from the sky and the blue flames making a return flight towards him.

Ash grinned as a powerful shot of water distinguished the blue flames before it could reach its target. Sceptile found his opening and dashed out of the way of the Thunder.

“ELECTIVIRE!!!” the pokémon yelled. Gyarados’ tail smashed him across the field.

Tch, that darn gyarados… Like I need any other disadvantages in this fight.” Gary frowned. His eyes caught Buizel dive back underwater next to the gyarados.

“Magmar! Blow a Smoke Screen up there!” Gary pointed at gyarados’ head.

“Gary Oak! Do you want me to disqualify you from this match?!” Misty raised her arm into the air, ready to declare Ash winner by default.

“Doesn’t work that way, ref. I never told my Magmar to directly attack your gyarados. Your gyarados just happened to be in the way.”

Magmar blew smoke into gyarados’ eyes, causing the dragon-type pokémon to fire Flamethrower attacks in random directions.

That deals with him… now… “Electivire! Use Thunder on the river!”

“Now you’re pushing it!” Misty raised her arm in the air again as a warning.

“Not aiming for your gyarados, ref!”

Before the lightning could hit the water, Buizel leapt out.

Ha! You shouldn’t have gone so far into the river...”

The Sea Weasel Pokémon showed panic, as the electricity continued to bounce back and forth on the water’s surface.

“Water, water everywhere… and not a spot to land.” Gary hummed.

“Buizel!” The buizel punched the water, taking some electricity with numbing pain. Its face gained confidence as ice formed around its arm and spread throughout a large portion of the river.

“Smart move. But I think you forgot about one thing.”

“BUIII!!!” Buizel panicked as the ice around him suddenly cracked and crushed.

“GWUUUUUHHHH!!!!” The raging gyarados thrashed around, its irritation exploding as both lightning and ice had struck him.

Ash’s face turned serious.

Sceptile reappeared by Electivire and slashed at it with its Leaf Blades.

“Electi!!!” it roared in pain as it took a few steps back.

Buizel launched itself from its position with Aqua Jet as it aimed straight for Magmar.

“Don’t think so!” Gary gripped his hand into a fist. “Magmar! Flamethrower on Sceptile! Electivire! Thunderpunch Buizel!”

The Spitfire Pokémon blasted a stream of superheated flame towards Sceptile. As with every attack, the sceptile dodged the Flamethrower… but the wall of flame prevented him from stopping Electivire’s attack on Buizel.

Ash clenched his teeth.

Buizel shot his freezing fist forward, freezing and solidifying the Aqua Jet’s water. A barrier of ice had surrounded his body completely, as he continued launching towards its intended target.

Electivire blocked Buizel’s path and his electric punch connected. The attack broke the ice barrier completely, but its electric potential being entirely dampened by the ice.

“What?!” Gary’s eyes widened.

The flame from Magmar’s mouth finally shrank. An opening… Sceptile reappeared by Electivire and Pounded its tail against the electric-type’s back again and again.

“Electivire! Thunderpunch back!”

The Thunderbolt Pokémon turned, blocked the grass pokémon’s assault and rammed its sparking fist towards its vulnerable stomach.

The Forest Pokémon let out a small grunt as it swung its arm inward, blocking the incoming attack with its shining Leaf Blade.

CHIIIK. The two energies from each attack sparked against one another.

Electivire and Sceptile growled at each other as the opposing forces from each attack slowly drained each other’s health.

“GWWUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”

Both Ash and Gary flinched in surprise as the gyarados fired off another Hyper Beam towards the field.

Electivire’s and Sceptile’s eyes widened as the blast headed towards them.

BOOOM



A gust of wind blew the drifting smoke aside, revealing Gary’s electivire knocked out on the ground. Ash’s sceptile had dodged just in time.

Sceptile smiled with arrogance.

“Getting distracted?” Gary smirked.

The Grass Type realized too late that he had backed up into something. Magmar wrapped his powerful arms around the quick pokémon. Ash’s sceptile struggled to break free.

“Magmar. Turn up the heat.”

Maaag…” Magmar flexed, its extremely high temperature suddenly turning impossibly hot. Fire exploded around its body, incinerating everything in its path.

Sc-SC-SCEPTIIIILE!!!!” The Forest Pokémon screamed out.

“Sceptile!!!!” Ash’s first word since the start of the match.

Magmar released Sceptile, letting him fall to the ground completely defeated.

“Electivire and Sceptile are no longer able to battle!” Misty called out from the side. “Magmar and Buizel remain!”

“Buiiii! Zel!” Buizel fired off a large shot of water at Gary’s magmar.

“Magmar! Faint Attack!”

Magmar inhaled, disappearing completely. The shot of water exploding into mist as it had smashed against the ground the Spitfire Pokémon had been standing on.

A near-invisible punch landed across Buizel’s face, sending the sea weasel rolling across the grass. With a deep exhale, the Fire Type Pokémon re-appeared a few feet away. The stunned Buizel twitched. Magmar smirked and slowly walked towards the wounded pokémon.

BUI-!” Buizel’s scream cut short as its air was being squeezed out of him, Magmar’s foot adding more and more weight against his back.

“Looks like I’ll be the one showing you that type advantages don’t win every time.” Gary raised his hand in the air to signify the last move of the match. “Magmar! Fire Spin!”

“Mag!” Magmar loosened its weight on Buizel as it began to inhale.

“Buizel!” Ash shouted. “NOW!!”

The Water Type Pokémon twisted its body and shot a Water Gun at Magmar’s feet. Its target’s foot became slick and slippery. Buizel shot itself out with Aqua Jet towards the river.

Fire exploded out of Magmar only a matter of seconds after, incinerating the floor around him.

As Buizel skidded across the water, it dodged an incoming Bite from Gyarados and used the Atrocious Pokémon’s body as a launch point. It landed its weight against Gyarados’ hard-scale skin, turned, and fired itself back at Magmar with another Aqua Jet.

“Even water boils, Ash! Magmar! Maximum Overheat!

MAGMAAAAAAAAA–” A gigantic burst of flame rushed towards the water-protected pokémon.

“BUI! BUI! BUI! BUI!” Buizel fired off several rounds of Water Pulse towards the flame, each one weakening the fire by a level.

“That won’t be enough, Ash! You’re finished!”

“BUIZEL!” Buizel froze the water around him again with an Ice Punch. The flames engulfed the ice, quickly melting it by the second. “BUIIII!!!!” With a quick swing of his tails, a SonicBoom knocked away the ice that had protected Buizel and cut a solid chunk of Magmar’s flame attack.

You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?” Gary smiled, realizing that there was no time to react for his pokémon.

The Water Type landed softly on the ground. “Ma-!” Magmar’s eyes widened as he found the weasel pokémon completely unharmed.

“BUIIIIII!!!!” Buizel gave him no time to recover; he charged at the Fire Type as quickly as he could and planted a freezing fist into Magmar’s hot belly.

Maaa–gma–r!” Ice crawled up its body. Each inch being rendered useless as the air and moisture around it began to solidify. Within seconds, Magmar was completely frozen. Its shocked pose fully captured in its ice-covered state.

…bui.” The water pokémon exhaled.



“Gyarados! Return!” Misty called back the giant of a pokémon into its tiny ball. “Magmar is unable to battle! Buizel is the winner! Trainer Ash has defeated Researcher Gary.

Alright! I beat Gary!” Ash ran onto the field and picked up Buizel excitedly. “We did it pal!” He ran over to his beat-up sceptile and helped him to his feet. “We all did it! You guys did awesome!”

“Pretty good, Ashy.” Gary recalled both his pokémon into their poké balls. “I really think this whole Empathy business really made you into a better trainer.”

Th-Thanks.” Ash blushed at the compliment.

“Awesome battle, Ash!” Angie had punched Ash’s arm with the comment.

Cough. Cough. “Yeah. Very good battle. Congratulations.” Anabel had seen better days, her clothes and hair having scorch marks from several of Magmar’s and Gyarados’ missed attacks.

“Congrats, Ash.” Misty smiled. “And I guess I should apologize. I didn’t realize your earlier comment was a… joke until just a few minutes ago.” She laughed with embarrassment.

Hm?” Ash tilted his head.

“You know… the whole hair thing.”

Ash and Angie laughed together at the joke only they seemed to think was hilarious.

Ash felt a hand placed onto his shoulder. It was Gary’s.

“Glad I got a taste of what Empathy can really do before I left.”

Huh?? You’re leaving??” Ash questioned with a tone of concern. “Already?!”

“Well of course. You really think I’d stick here this whole time? I still have to research pokémon all across the globe!” Gary said with a sense of obviousness. “If anything, this battle proves I SHOULD go. There’s still much to know about pokémon. Staying here would only hinder my studies.”

“Where you heading to next?” Misty asked.

“I heard there’s some interesting, new pokémon in the Unova region. I’ll be spending a few months over there.” Gary looked through his pokédev, ready to make another call. “So I’ll be seeing you all in a few months then?”

Angie hugged Gary tightly. “Thank you for the food, Gary!”

Gary patted her head endearingly and looked up at Ash. “You take care of this girl, kay?”

“Huh??”

With a laugh, Gary walked off and put his pokédev up to his ear. He waved one last goodbye and yelled out, “Keep in contact! You know my number!”



Ash stood silent until something bugged him…. “Do any of you know his number?”

All three girls shook their heads.

“Should I run up to him to ask?”

Eh.” Misty shrugged.

“I just want to go home!” whined Angie.

Me too.” Ash agreed. “Let’s go.”



_________________________________________________________



“What?? You’re leaving already??”

“What? You thought I was going to stay here forever?”

Ash had walked into his house expecting a time of celebration and comfort from all the activities he had done in the past few days. Instead, he met the floor face-to-face after tripping on a baggage that sat awkwardly in front of the door. It was Ash’s first hint that someone was leaving – and it was Angie’s new reason to laugh for the day.

After being lifted to his feet, an apologetic May had exclaimed it was her bags. Bags being plural, as Ash soon realized after tripping over another one.

Despite the double embarrassment, Ash still had enough heart to help May with her packing – more out of trying to get an answer from her than genuine helpfulness.

“Where are you heading?” Ash continued with his questions.

“You know I’ve got Contests to attend.” May stated as she placed another shirt into her bag carefully.

Misty organized some essentials into a small pack. “You take care of yourself. And be sure to call.”

“Yes mom.” May giggled. She walked over to Misty and helped close the pack. “Thanks.”

“No prob. Be sure to write too.”

“Write to who?” May looked offended.

Misty blinked at her, confused. Her face mimicked May’s soon afterwards. “No! Not to Ash! Me! Dummy.”

The young Coordinator stuck her tongue out and scratched the back of her head. “Oh, right right.” she responded shyly.

“Wait, why can’t she write to me?” Ash faced blankly in their direction.



Oh wait. Right right.” He laughed nervously.

The two girls laughed in unison.

“What’s going on in here?” Ash’s mother had come into the room. Her reaction was similar to a cat returning home only to find a new item within it.

Delia Ketchum was known to disappear from the house at certain times of the day. If unlucky, one may never catch her in the house and assume she moved out. Where his mother had been, Ash had no idea. Where his mother always goes, he never knows. He had always assumed it was always for groceries or buying something for the house. But with Mr. Mime now a part of their lives, he noticed that Mr. Mime had more chores in the house whenever she came home with new items.

Such wasn’t the case this time, as she had brought nothing home. Such wasn’t the case many times. Ash hadn’t thought of it until now. Though whatever answer he’d find for that, more than likely had little reward in its answer. She probably goes out to watch movies or something… he thought to himself.

“I’m heading out today, Ms. Ketchum.” May had responded politely with a hint of childishness.

“Leaving already?? But dear, you just got here!” Whatever anger Ash’s mother held against May had disappeared completely by now. Her tone was sincere and full of curiosity.

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I still have a lot of tourneys to attend, and the next major one will be starting soon. I have to leave today if I want to have enough time to register and train for them.”

Ahh… I see.” Delia smiled softly. “You come back anytime you want, okay dear?”

“Definitely, Ms. Ketchum!”

“Ash just loves your company.”

“I love Ash, to-” May realized what she had just blurted. Her face burned red. “E-EXCUSE ME!” She ran out of the room quickly.

Ms. Ketchum gave a very smug smile towards Ash. Her son may not have seen it, but he certainly felt it. His face had turned red itself. Stomp Stomp Stomp! He was going to try his best to ignore that the situation had ever occurred.

With an awkward posture, he quickly shuffled out of the guest room.

Misty, on the other hand, had kept herself quite busy moving bags to the door. Though after this event, she had done it with much less careful carrying and much more ‘kicking them across the floor’.



“Well!” Delia clapped her hands pleasantly together. “You kids are busy, so I’ll just prepare a dinner. Maybe we can all have one big farewell feast for May? Oh it’ll be fun.” With that, Delia had walked away with a satisfied hum.

A minute later, Misty had walked into Ash’s room, an emotion of irritation surrounding her. She sat on the floor with a thump and pulled out the box of cards from underneath Ash’s bed.

Er…” Ash hesitated.

Misty had begun searching through each deck and organizing them into their own groups.

M-Misty?

What.

What are you doing in here?” Ash had asked cautiously. Realizing that he had asked an extremely blunt question, he flinched – expecting to be smacked across the face.

Why. Am I not allowed in here.” None of Misty’s words had a hint of query or interest. They were simple, straight, and to the point – almost in an accusatory tone.

It’s just… well…

Misty sighed. “Empathy, please. I really am not in the mood to talk.”

I was just saying… Ash felt more comfortable talkingthis way, but he still had to choose his words carefully. Feeling the wrong thing at the wrong moment often had worse consequences than saying the wrong thing. …well, you haven’t hung around my room since that night.

And? Misty’s emotions were cold, yet open for conversation.

You usually hang out in my mom’s room… you know, since your sleeping bag is in there.

Misty, unlike the other girls, was not opposed to sharing the master bedroom with Delia while staying at the Ketchum house. However, she had bought her own sleeping bag to stay in there – not wishing to take any spot that Ash’s mother or Mr. Mime had claimed as their own. To have her in his room at the moment was definitely perplexing for Ash – as she had normally felt uncomfortable being alone with him while others were awake.

May’s in there.



“I said May’s in there.” Misty voiced herself.

“I – I heard.” Ash responded quickly. I just didn’t really know what to say. Er… why’s she in there?

Dunno. But she better not be on my stuff.

Misty had stacked a new deck to the side and started shuffling it.

So… what do you want to do today?

I already am doing what I want. Misty’s tone was still cold, still firm in showing nothing else but answers to his questions.

…you want to play with me?

One: No. Two: I wouldn’t be able to. You need someone to look through your cards for you, remember?

Right… So… you just want to organize things?

I may be a woman of fashion, but I’m also one of function, Ash. I don’t just sit down and organize your cards just for looks. It’s not like you can see it.

Then why are you organizing it?

Because I want to play.

Ash had no idea how to approach Misty’s basic answers. He feared that she would snap if he asked too many questions.

Do me a favor?

Ash stopped thinking. Huh?

Do me a favor. Misty clarified herself.

Okay, what is it?

Go talk to May.

Wh-What?? Ash’s thoughts and emotions shot in every direction.

“Calm down.” Misty said with a small tap on his leg with her elbow. “I just want her out of my stuff. You can do that, can’t you?”

But…

“But what?”

What happened earlier…” Ash said with tension, as he tried to avoid recalling what he just blocked out.

“Why.” Misty stated with a far colder tone with her emotions, “Did something happen?”

Ash got the message crystal clear. “N-Nope. I’ll… go talk to her.”

“Thank you.”
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:11 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Somewhere
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Posts: 53
Chapter 8: Identity

Spoiler:
Knock Knock Knock.

“Wh-Who is it?” a voice nervously muffled through the door.

Um… me, Ash.”

“A-Ash?! UM! I’m busyyy!”

“I just came to check on Misty’s stuff.”



Click.

The door slowly creaked open.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

“C-Come in!”

Ash slipped into the room.

He felt around, physically and with his Empathy.

The room had remained the same since his last visit there, other than for the additional things stacked against one side of the wall, which more than likely was Misty’s items. As for May’s whereabouts, he wasn’t fully sure. Until he noticed a strange energy coming from…

“Are… Are you in the closet, May??”

“N-no…” Gah, I’m so stupid! Why’d I say that?!

Um… I think Misty kinda’ wants you out. I think she wants some private time with her things.” Ash had no idea if he was lying or just guessing what Misty had wanted.



Thud.





“…Ash?”

“…yeah?”



“… I’m stuck.”

Ash couldn’t help but laugh.

“S-Stop laughing! I’m serious!”

Ash held his laughing with a few remaining snickers. “Okay, okay, let me see if I could –”

“NO!” May interrupted. “I- I mean, no. Call someone else to do it.”

“What’s wrong??” Ash grabbed onto one side of the sliding vanity closet. As he started yanking, he started feeling a burst of shame and fear coming from inside it.

“NO ASH!” May yelled again. “You can’t see me like this!”

Ash yanked harder. “May, I can’t see!” he said in an irritated manner. More irritated at the door than her forgetfulness.

“I-I KNOW! B-BUT-!”

The sliding door un-jammed and slid open faster than he expected it to.

May had come crashing out of the closet. Falling hard on top of Ash.

Ash would have blushed, Ash would’ve gotten mute, Ash would’ve done his best to remove this memory from ever happening… if it weren’t for the fact that something was seriously wrong.

“…you’re not May...”

“What do you mean I’m not May? Of course I’m May!”

Ash pushed the girl off his body and stood.

“No… May doesn’t smell like that.”

In truth, Ash’s sense of smell hadn’t gotten any better since he first went blind – and in truth, he was somewhat ashamed that he knew what May smelled like up close. Despite those truths, he knew very well that was not how May smelled. Not just that, but now that this girl was out in the open, he noticed she definitely did not feel like May. May wasn’t so… adjusted.

His eyes narrowed. “…Duplica?”

H-How did-?! N-No! I’m May! See? Laaa laaa laaaaa~” her voice was trying hard to achieve the perfect pitch. “I’m Mayyyy~!”

“Duplica, what are you doing here?” Ash had enough of these games. It was stressing enough for him to get the courage to knock on the door, even more stressing to enter it, but now confusion was put into play. What would Duplica be doing in the room? What would Duplica be doing in Pallet Town?? Ash had felt like he had enough trouble with women as of now – one more was not welcome.

Er… I uhm…

“And what in the world do we have here…” Misty’s presence was suddenly noticed.

Hm? Oh Misty –” Ash was about to explain.

H-Hey M-Misty…” Duplica said with a rather convincing May voice.

“May, get out.” Misty stated coldly.

“Y-Yes, ma’am!” Duplica scrambled to her feet and ran out of the room.

M-May?? Misty, that wasn’t May!” Ash was shocked at the turn of events. How could she…? That wasn’t…

Right. So it wasn’t May just lying on the floor in front of you.”

Wh-What?!” Ash wasn’t sure if he wanted to know what that would have looked like.

“And it wasn’t you and May in this room making a lot of commotion that the entire house could hear.”

WH-WHAT?!” Ash’s face had turned crimson. “B-But!”

“Whatever. Just get out of the r–”

MISTY!



Ash had focused all of his emotions into that single Empathic shout. He wasn’t sure how that would affect a human, but normally using that on his pokémon would get them to react faster to his emotions. Whatever it did to Misty, it had made her drop her guard. He could feel her again. Her inner feelings – not just the cold treatment she had been forcing on him lately.

S-Sorry… I was trying to say… that WASN’T May.

Ash felt Misty wanting to lash back at him, to continue disbelieving him and to insult him for thinking she was a fool. … but she didn’t. The empathic lash he stunned her with apparently made her willing to give him a chance. One chance. That’s all he got.

“It was Duplica…”

And that chance was lost.

“Duplica.” Misty said with a tone so cold it would’ve put a charizard in intensive care. “That’s the best you’ve got.”

I’M NOT LYI–

“Hey guys, what’s going on?” an unexpected yet extremely welcome voice popped into the room.

“May, I told you to go.” Misty stated with the smallest hint of irritation.

“What are you talking about? I’ve been outside this entire time.”

The Cerulean Gym Leader analyzed her position.



So you think you two can play with me? Think that a double-team would really work on me? Misty’s emotions were no longer cold. They weren’t hot either. They were… hurt.

What? No! We’re not lying to you! I’m not lying to you!” Ash was getting desperate. “Tell her, May! You weren’t in this room this en–” he cut himself short, realizing what would happen if she agreed.

May looked between Ash and Misty. “…what?

“Oh May! Are you leaving already? You haven’t had anything to eat yet.” Delia’s voice echoed from the kitchen.

Thank you! Ash cried to fate.

Misty’s eyes widened.

May’s head tilted.

Before any of them could react, the Cerulean Gym Leader was dashing down the stairs.

“So… what just happened?” May stared at Ash oddly.

“Oh, h-hey Misty! I was just about to l-lea–”a near-perfect copy of May’s voice was silenced.

The real May looked even more confused after hearing the chilling mimic.

She grabbed Ash by the sleeve and hid behind him. “Do… do you… think it’s a doppelganger?!” May had showed genuine concern in her tone.

Ash laughed. “A- A what?? N-No! That’s just Duplica.”

“Duplica…? What’s a duplica?” The news seemed to confuse her more.

Ash grabbed May by the arm and started running for the stairs. “An extinct species if we don’t get there in time.”



_________________________________________________________



“So a girl can’t just visit when she wants?”

Duplica had been cornered, and was in the process of being interrogated. The house’s judge and jury were present.

She eyed each of the girls with a tinge of spite. “With the… certain gathering here, you’d think I’d be more welcome.”

“Now, Duplica dear,” Delia had started, “you can come and go as you please. But you have to ask permission, and you certainly don’t come in dressed as one of the guests. It’s quite unsettling.”

May stared at her curiously; she found it similar to looking at a mirror. Except, this mirror had something ‘off’ about it. Duplica returned her gaze and gave a mocking smile. Rather than be offended, May had shown fear and stepped behind Ash. ‘Unsettling’ is right. she thought to herself.

“And you certainly don’t go through their things.” Misty added with a growl.

Ms. Ketchum stepped in front of Misty to prevent her from attacking Duplica… like she had just a few minutes ago. “Duplica?” she stared directly into her eyes.

Duplica turned away. “Yeah?”

“Why did you come here? And why are you dressed like May?”

“Honestly, I thought May was leaving today.” Duplica admitted.

You were replacing me???” May’s eyes widened in horror. She IS a doppelganger!

Ash calmed May down by pulling her close. …and though that did calm her, it also put the two of them in a very unfamiliar position. Ash tried his best to ignore it, but May’s suddenly stiff body was getting warmer by the second.

“That still doesn’t answer anything.” Misty hissed behind Delia.



“Just let me go. I won’t bother you anymore, promise.” Duplica bargained.

Duplica…” Delia sighed.

“Move aside!” a rough voice rang out as each of the girls were being shoved to the side. “If talking ain’t getting anything done, maybe a kick to the face will!” Angie seemed almost too eager to play the bad cop.

Duplica sneered. “I’ve worn hair pins that hurt more than anything you can do, kid.”

“K-Kid?!” Angie’s eye twitched. The roleof bad cop would no longer be pretend in a few more seconds.

With a silent nudge, Anabel had moved herself to the front and slid the tomboy out of the way. “Here. Let me try.”

Wh-What are you–” Duplica’s face turned into uneasiness. There was something about Anabel frightened her.

Anabel placed one hand on her own chest, and the other on Duplica’s. She stared directly into the copycat’s eyes.

Duplica twitched as if she wanted to look away, but her limbs would only flinch. Her eyes were completely locked on Anabel’s.





“She wanted to find out about Empathy…” Anabel let go of Duplica and stepped back.

Wh-What… What did she-?” The copycat’s tough act fell and became vulnerable in reaction to the Empathy trainer’s actions.

She wasn’t the only one shocked by the Empathic’s power; each person within the room shared equal surprise, but none were more impressed than Ash.

How… How did you do that? He sent to Anabel.

Remember that I’ve been an Empathic longer than you have. I may not have been able to learn Empathy as fast as you have, but I certainly still have more experience with it than you do. Anabel smiled with shy pride. Being able to read someone’s inner emotions without connection is just one of the many skills you can learn after mastering Empathy.

Ash was more than impressed, though he wondered if such a skill was comfortable. He wasn’t sure if he would ever want to know a person’s innermost feelings if he hadn’t made a connection with them first.

“So what does that have to do with any of this?” Misty broke the silence. “Why not just ask?”

“Because she didn’t think she could.” Anabel turned towards Misty and continued, “She honestly thought asking about Empathy would have gotten her alienated from the group. She didn’t seem to want to ruin any friendships by asking.”

“What gave her that idea?” Angie curiously threw in her question.

“It might be her experience with Psychics. They don’t tend to share their knowledge of psychic powers with strangers.” Anabel had her eyes closed, recalling everything she had felt during her moment with Duplica. “More than likely she thought we’d treat her similarly.”

“But why all this?” Misty pressed the real question again.

“She–”

“I can talk, too, y’know.” Duplica had interrupted Anabel from continuing her deductions.



“…go on, dear.” Delia motioned her to continue.

With a sigh, the copycat trainer spoke, “Look. I can copy, I can act, I can mimic, and I can pretend. But no matter what I do, I can’t be the person I want to act.

“No matter how much I train; I can’t figure out what the person would really think or really feel. I can make assumptions, I can make educated guesses, but I can’t ever be sure.” Duplica adjusted in her seat to make herself comfortable before explaining more, “And when you’re in the theater business, especially an interactive theater business… that can get problematic, especially if you happen to insult a patron.”

“Then why –”

“Let me finish. I tried asking Psychics before, but all that did was get me kicked out and locked out – with a few missing patches in my memories. And trust me… sneaking around a Psychic’s house would only get you into worse situations.

“Honestly, I don’t know what all this ‘empathy’ business is. I just saw Ash pulling off some psychic skills during that Tsunami tournament, and I wanted in. I already knew Ash and you guys well enough – and those I didn’t, I’d just stalk them until I figured them out.” Duplica let out a laugh that sent chills down May’s spine.

“I figured, hey, if I could get close enough to the gang, maybe I’d figure out how Ash got his Psychic powers. Because I KNOW he didn’t have those before…” She had suddenly felt unsure about her statement. “…right?

“I’m not a Psychic.” Ash stated plainly.

Duplica stood up. “Taurosflakes you’re not! I saw you! Thousands of people saw you! You were commanding your pokémon without even saying a single word!”

She looked around as if to get a testimony from a fellow witness. “I know something’s going on. Something after Ash went blind made him get all that psychic wave stuff, right?”

“Is that why you visited my son when he went blind?” Delia seemed offended.

What?? No! I didn’t even know he turned Psychic then. Was he? … I was just… well, worried. I like Ash, he’s a good friend.”

There are way too many good friends these days. Misty tossed at Ash.

Ash ignored it and walked towards Duplica. “I’m not a Psychic, Duplica. I’m an Empathic.”

“A what now?”

“An Empathic,” Anabel reentered the conversation, “is one who reads emotions, not minds.”

Even better!” Duplica exclaimed. “I can get the feel of people right! Get their real attitudes and quirks! And if I teach it to my dittos, we’d definitely create an unforgettable performance!” She was staring off into her own imagination.

“You can’t become an Empathic.” Anabel crushed her dreams with a factual statement.

“Let me guess… ‘it’s too great of a responsibility for an amateur to bear.’” Duplica had made a mocking accent and facial expression to emphasize the ‘importance’ of the phrase. “Hey, I promise I won’t abuse it, it’s just for my acts!”

“No,” Anabel stated factually again, “you, personally, cannot become an Empathic.”

“What do I need to do to prove myself?”

“You don’t prove anything. You’re just not… right in your heart to ever become Empathic.”

Duplica looked hurt. “What’s wrong with my heart?! Who are you to judge?!”

“Nothing is wrong, it’s just not right. Ash learned to become an Empathic due to his close relationship with his pokémon – and not just the closeness, but the kind of closeness.

“Ash would die for his pokémon if he had to. Ash would be willing to hurt himself if it were to save a pokémon. As long as he breathed, he’d love pokémon. As long as he breathed, he’d do his best for them. He had the right heart. Even May here had the right heart.”

May blinked in surprise. Ash seemed as bewildered as she was.

“Not everyone can be an Empathic.” Anabel continued, “It takes a certain heart – a certain emotion. A sort of innocence of the spirit, to become an Empathic. It isn’t that you were destined to never become one, but you yourself would never want to change who you are to become one.”

Anabel gave a deep sigh. “Tell me – would you lose who you are just for your job?”

Well…” Duplica considered it.

“Even if it meant you couldn’t be you anymore? Even if it meant that how you treated your pokémon, how you spent your money, how you viewed others, and how you spent your free time changed? All just to improve your performance?” the Empathy trainer pushed each question in front of Duplica like a challenge.



“…no. No, I wouldn’t.” The impressionist surrendered.

“To be an Empathic. You have to be someone, not just pretend to be them.” Anabel explained, “If you changed yourself to become an Empathic, you’d change yourself. Much in the same way if you changed yourself to be a Psychic. They look at the world differently because of their powers. Much like Ash and myself do.”

Then… why does he have it now? Why didn’t he have it before?”

“Even being the person isn’t enough. You have to give yourself to others to become an Empathic. It takes a certain kind of training to become one – much like how Psychics train.”

Duplica seemed satisfied. “Ah, well, forget it then… sorry to have bothered you al–”

No no no, you’re not getting away that easy!” Misty stomped towards her and stared her down.

A few hours ago she might have shown defiance, but at her susceptible state Duplica felt the full effect of Misty’s glare. She shook in fear.

So Duplica… What were you doing with my stuff?

W-Well…” Duplica stuttered. “Y-You write a-about Ash every night in your diary, so I thought I could find what happened to him in th-there…

Misty’s angered face shifted into shock. Her face turned pink. She had no idea what to say, do, or if she should even move from her position. She was far too embarrassed to even break eye contact with Duplica.

Duplica’s hands were shaking as she reached behind her back and produced a pink diary. She gestured it towards Misty. “H-Here… s-sorry for taking it.

With a quick snatch, Misty took her diary and stomped back upstairs. She let out a weak cough as if to seem distracted by something in her throat rather than what had happened.



Everyone seemed to be at a loss for words.

…can I go now?” Duplica squeaked.

“C-Can you...” May moved closer towards her. “…um… you know.” She motioned at her head.

Oh, right! Sorry about that.” The copycat removed her wig and accessories, revealing thick eyebrows and bushy blue hair.

May sighed in relief. Glad that the doppelganger was gone.

“So I can go now, right?” Duplica asked again.

“Go ahead, dear.” Delia added. “But you’re free to stay for dinner if you want.”

The other girls seemed uneasy about the offer. Duplica took notice and shook her head. “No thanks, Ms. Ketchum. I’ve been gone for too long from my dittos. I have to head back for them.”

“Well alright, dear. Take care now.” Ms. Ketchum opened the door for her and smiled.

“Thanks Ms. K!” Duplica made a quick exit, hoping to free herself from the awkward situation as soon as possible.

She had almost reached her bike when a voice stopped her in her tracks. “WAIT!”

Oh what now… Duplica’s shoulders slumped.

“Wait.” It was Ash. “I have to ask you something.”

“Go ahead, shoot.”

“Why go through all that trouble?” Ash asked.

“I thought I already explained that.”

“No, I mean…” his voice had become soft. “You’re already a great actress. You fooled everyone with your costume, and you almost fooled me with your voice this time around. You’re very talented, Duplica. Why risk yourself on something so… fake, when you’re are a hundred times better without them?”

Duplica tried holding back a blush and kicked Ash in the knee.

“OW!”

“And you should quit risking your friendships by being so sweet!”

Duplica sighed, shook her head, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I do it for my work. I love my work. I would risk life and limb for my work and talents. I guess I’m good, but I want to be better. I guess I’m great, but I want to be the best. You’d do the same to be a Pokémon Champion, right?”

“Well yeah…”

“Same here. And like you, I wouldn’t risk changing who I am for that. It wouldn’t be worth it. Nothing’s worth losing who you truly are. So I guess I’ll quit chasing after those things. …besides, it’ll be better for my health and popularity. Those Psychics…” Duplica shrugged. “…they never forget. Haha.”

“Take care of yourself, Duplica.”

“You too, Ash.”

The two approached the other and hugged. The hug lasted longer than the two thought it would, but it would be a while since they’d see each other again.

After exchanged pats on the shoulder and repeated goodbyes, Duplica finally rode away from Pallet Town.

I can’t spend my time with “What if”s on you , Mr. Ketchum. You’d be bad for my business…



_________________________________________________________



The party was winding down. Food, conversation, and excitement was had and enjoyed.

It would be a few months before May would be able to visit again, the very fact that kept her from leaving the Ketchum Residence immediately.

And despite the party slowing, there were still pockets of entertainment to be had in various portions of the house…

In the dining room, Delia Ketchum was sharing favorite soap operas with Anabel, who had been writing down each title with excited glee.

In the living room, Angie was yelling in anger at the television as Mr. Mime had pulled off a last minute aerial counter to ruin her winning streak.

In Ash’s room, a playful Espeon carefully watched a confused Pikachu search underneath piles of clothes in a long-lasting match of hide-and-seek.

And on the staircase, a victor and loser were found. Misty’s newest deck had completely destroyed any fight left in May. Her excited gloating had incited the game-exhausted Angie to challenge her to a match.

Misty had obviously accepted, and a new battle was on its way.

May, on the other hand, was horribly disappointed at her loss – as this would be her last card battle in a long time, as the game wasn’t popular in Hoenn. …not that she was the type to challenge random strangers to something as silly as a card game.

She excused herself from the girls’ competition and walked out the front door. Needing fresh air and lone time to get lost in her thoughts, May took a deep breath and jogged into the open night air. Her feet shuffled to a stop as she noticed a strange figure huddled in the middle of the dirt path.

It was Ash.

“Hey Ash, what are you doing out here?” she asked with feelings of curiosity and concern.

The boy didn’t turn her way. His fingers played with the rocks and grass around him as his mind seemed to be somewhere else entirely. “Oh, hey…” was all that came from his mouth.

May walked up to her friend and sat next to him. “Something wrong?”

“Nah, just thinking…”

“Thinking? About what?” May’s own thoughts suddenly felt insignificant in the face of Ash’s. Ash was never a thinker, and to see him so lost in thought would give anyone the news that something terrible had happened.

“It isn’t as bad as you think.” He did a quick tilt of his head towards her as if to signify that he was pointing at her own thoughts. “Just a lot of things to think about.”

“…like what, exactly?”

Well…





“…Ash?”

What are you thinking?

Hm? I asked you first.” May seemed taken aback.

“Well, what I’m thinking about has something to do with what you came out here for.” Ash plainly stated. “And I just wanted to know what you really thought about it. Because I really have no idea what to think about any of this.”

May was surprised. At times she forgot that Ash could feel her out with Empathy. In a way, that ability still seemed like a myth. To May, only certain people had those kinds of abilities. Special people. People who lived with it all their lives. And to her, Ash didn’t feel like those people. …even if it did feel natural for him in his blindness.

Um…” she started. “I just…” She thought long and hard what to say next. “I’ll miss you.”

“You really want it to end like that?” a statement May never expected to come out of Ash’s mouth.

Wh-What?

“You’re leaving. For months you’ll be gone.” Ash’s voice seemed to become abnormally serious, “And if you come back and I’m not here? If I moved on? I’ll be gone too. And we won’t see each other for years.”

She had never thought about it like that. May always thought she would always see Ash again… but the amount of time never seemed like a problem to her. When she’d start missing him, he’d just suddenly appear again, like some kind of miracle to answer her prayer. Then just as quickly as they met, they’d split again.

But that was always okay with her, because they’d meet again. …right?

May took one long look at Ash. Despite it feeling like they never aged, they did. The times they spent together were almost as if they had frozen in time, but so much happened. And outside of those moments, time would move again and they’d find each other changing. Ash had changed. May had changed.

To everyone, Ash would always be a ‘boy’. Just a ‘boy’. But he wasn’t. He was just as old as Gary, but Gary was a ‘young man’ already in everyone’s eyes. Yet… Ash was the same age… he just seemed to always stay the same no matter how many years passed.

Her thoughts were fixated on him. This ‘Ash Ketchum’.

Now that she truly looked at him, she realized Ash felt… different. Actually different. Something she would have never noticed because of how much she had gotten used to him.

Ash was blind; he had a strange scar around his eyes – something she rarely noticed whenever she looked at him. He looked older. More mature. For the first time in their years together, she noticed Ash really did look like a ‘young man’. But his behavior always made him seem eternally young.

Within that moment, May could no longer deny that Ash was aging. And with him, so would she.

Years is a long time. And they may not see each other for another five years… maybe ten years… maybe never… Time continued moving forward. And with every moment they split from one another, the more time seemed to fill before they’d see each other again.

They were growing up. And they would soon grow apart. A thought that had concerned her once or twice that day, but one she had never fully put full focus on. …and it may have been the thought that Ash had buried himself in.

Eventually, they’d have more important things to do other than just hanging out. There’d be no more time for that one day… They’d have other responsibilities, other journeys, other… relationships…

May’s eyes watered. She remembered that she had dated Drew.

Why did I?? I remember when it was just Ash, me, and the others... it was never about dating or relationships or anything like that. Love could wait. There was too much to do. Love was too distracting…

…but I did date Drew… that jerk…

Her emotions sank into a dark corner of her heart and mind. An area that she blocked off and had forgotten whenever she had spent time with Ash or stood confidently in the Contest stages…

The corner was filled with insecurities, fear, self-loathing, and depression… a deep pit that was only formed after what Drew had done to her…

… I HATE HIM! May slammed her fist into the ground. Her body began to shake.

Ash’s arms quickly wrapped around her. Her thoughts vanished in an instant. “Ash?

He answered with a tighter grip.

May blushed softly and relaxed her body.

She felt safe in Ash’s arms. As if nothing would change as long as she was with him.

In her mind, Ash was just another boy. She could date him if she wanted.

In her heart, Ash wasn’t just any boy. She wasn’t sure if she could ever be with Ash in that way. He was a friend. Her foundation when everything else shattered. Because no matter how much the world would change, Ash never would. Ash, her always friend.

She laid her eyes on his face. But he does look different. He just… never really feels different. Ash would always be Ash. No matter how much we change, no matter how much we do, where we go and what we accomplish, he’d still be Ash…

“…even with your sight gone…” May whispered. “…even with your Empathy, you’re still Ash…”

“And you’re still May.” he answered.

Her breath was taken away. The world she had built in the time she had spent away from him had come crumbling down. Despite all she had done and made of herself, despite all that’s happened to her, despite all of the barriers she had built up, despite all of the walls she had torn down… Ash still saw her as May. The same May he had travelled with, the same May he had struggled with, the same May. The May that was… fine.

You really see me, don’t you…?

I do…

I thought I changed. I thought I got so much better. So much stronger. But just one look at you makes me feel like I’m back at square one. A tear ran down May’s cheek. With you still holding my hand as I learn the basics.

You have changed. You’ve changed a lot, May… but you’re still you.

Ash went silent. His mind and thought somewhere else entirely.

For a moment, she had thought she could feel him searching inside her. His emotions flowing and exploring her every crack and passage… for the moment she had imagined it, she had felt perfectly safe… as if he knew how to fix her.

“…what Drew did to you was horrible. He should have never done that.”

May broke. She turned and clawed at his vest. She started screaming and sobbing, beating into Ash’s chest as hot tears rained from her eyes. “I – I HATE HIM!!! I HATE HIM SO MUCH!!!!”

Her cries paused. Her hands firmly gripped his shoulders, strong shoulders.

Stopping any thought from continuing, May found her lips on Ash’s.





May pulled away. Her eyes and mind in a fuzz. The moment had frozen her every thought, and she could have sworn that she had stopped breathing and that her heart had stopped beating.

But now that she had broken away from it… she felt like she had broken an unbreakable law. Like she had destroyed a barrier she had never thought existed. She had done the impossible… something she should have never done…

She… kissed Ash.

…Ash…

…May…

… I’m… sorry.” She leaned her head against his chest. “I just…

His hands slowly ran through her hair. Ash…

I don’t want to change, Ash… I don’t want to be away from all this.

I want to always be May. The May you see…

I don’t like the May out there… she feels alone, she feels scared… she lies to herself and others just to stay sane. She keeps winning just to keep people happy, just to prove she exists.

But here… I know I exist here.” Her hand held Ash’s. “You can see me.

“May…”

You don’t have to say anything… we don’t have to change… not yet… not now… We can just be us. We can just be us for now. I want to remember us like this.

May sat straight up and smiled. “We’ll hold everything off for next time, Mr. Ketchum.”

She grabbed his wrist and wrapped her fingers around his. “There will be a next time. I know it. I’ll be back. We’ll meet again. You’ll still be Ash. And I’ll still be May. …but for now, we have to do what we promised ourselves we would do, right?”

Ash smiled at her. “Right.

With a pat on his shoulder, May stood and helped Ash up. “Can you help me with the bags when the taxi gets here?”

“Sure thing.” Ash cracked his back and loosened his legs, trying to rid of the dull pain that was running through them. “And… May?

Her heart skipped a beat. “Yeah?

“You can do it.”

May admired Ash’s face one more time before answering. “You can too, Ash.”

The two walked into the house in silence and were greeted with invitations to the last songs of a karaoke game.

Ash and May sang, played, and competed throughout the rest of the night. Not as a boy and girl that had a moment, but as Ash and May – friends that had more than just a moment in time together.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:12 PM).
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Chapter 9: Pride

Spoiler:
Ash, Ash, Ashthat’s all anyone ever talks about these days.” Angie commented nonchalantly to the branches above.

“So what happened that night doesn’t concern you whatsoever?” Anabel gave an irritated look at her disinterested friend.

It had been four days since May’s leaving, and it was the last day Anabel could keep what she had seen that night to herself. Angie and Anabel were walking down a quiet path that led to dead end after dead end. Where they were going mattered little to them. ‘Away from the rest’ was the only destination Anabel was aiming for.

Of course I care!” Angie pulled out a toothpick from her pocket and began chewing it. “But what the heck am I supposed to do about it? Yell at Ash over a kiss that you saw while spying on him?”

“Ash kissed May! Doesn’t that upset you at all?” Anabel had known Angie was upset, but at who was her question.

No, as I recall, you said May forced that kiss on him.”

“He may as well have! He had been intimate in their time alone!” The Empathic seemed confused at the tomboy’s reluctance of being disappointed in Ash. “If those points don’t make it se–”

Angie raised her hand in front of Anabel’s face to stun her. The hand turned to a grip and a single finger pointed directly at her chest. “Hey hey hey, just because Ash wants to comfort some girl who had a stupid boyfriend and a stupid break up – doesn’t make him some flirt.”

“You really believe that?” Anabel raised a brow. “This isn’t just ‘some girl’, this is May we’re talking about. They spent years on the road together.”

I know who we’re talking about!” She stepped in front of Anabel and crossed her arms. Her face was serious. “What I think is going on is that you’re being crazy and blame Ash for what May did because you’re upset and don’t know what to do with yourself.”

Anabel wanted to strike her for her insolence. But that emotion only revealed to her that the tomboy was right.

Except…

“So you’re not upset? Whatsoever? That Ash’s possibly first kiss was taken by her?”

Angie shook in anger and punched the nearest tree, branches and leaves falling in bundles. Anabel had taken a step back in shock, having no idea that the scrawny tomboy had that kind of strength in her. Even when they were tearing each other’s hairs out, Angie had never shown anything close to this kind of muscle.

“OF COURSE I’M UPSET!” Angie had cried out as she landed another punch into the tree. “WHY WOULDN’T I BE?!”

The green haired girl turned swiftly and glared at Anabel with a death stare. “If I had known what that hussy did to him before she left, I would’ve STRANGLED HER!”

Despite this being the response that Anabel had been waiting for, it had far outclassed her own emotions. To say she was absolutely frightened of Angie at this moment would have been an understatement.

Angie fell to her knees and blew at her knuckles repeatedly, letting out a howl of agony as her senses fully registered the pain she should have felt from her first punch.

“…you okay?” Anabel carefully asked.

After rubbing away a tear, the tomboy stood and straightened her back. “Yeah, yeah.” She cracked her neck and rolled her shoulders. “It doesn’t matter anyway. May’s gone. She might be gone for a year or more, depending on how big those Contests get this year.

“Besides, she was probably just acting out her emotions. Some of you dainty girls would kiss the nearest guy if you felt a bit of heartbreak running through you.”

Anabel wasn’t sure if she should have felt insulted from that… unsure if it was an ignorant stereotype or a self-comforting joke. She blinked the offense away and responded, “And Ash?”

“What about him?”

…I dunno… doesn’t knowing this make him feel… less special?” Anabel had been struggling with this question for the past few days.

Folding her hands behind her head and walking with an air of carelessness, Angie growled back, “You really that shallow?”

“Shallow?!”

“Yeah, shallow.” She gave an uninterested look towards Anabel. “If all it takes for you to lose interest in Ash is some girl getting a first kiss on him, then you’re shallow. Way I see it, some people can be called shallow for being too crazy for looks, and other people can be called shallow for being too crazy for ‘fate’ and ‘purity’ and stuff like that. The person you love is the person you love, no matter who or what does what or why to them. Why get so concerned over those little details when you’re just missing out on what really matters?”

The Empathic showed complete confusion. While she was insulted, she couldn’t help but feel that Angie was correct yet again. Though she didn’t want to give her credit – as she knew there had to be some flaw in the argument.

“I think Ash is worth fighting for.” Angie continued. “If you think the war’s over just because someone raised their flag over one town, then you’re pathetic.”

“Pathetic?!”

“Yeah, pathetic. We going to keep playing this definition game or do you know what pathetic means?”

Anabel stomped her foot hard into the ground beneath her. “I am not pathetic! I never said I was giving up on Ash! I just…”

“– wanted to blame him for letting another girl kiss him even though you’re not even dating him yet.” Angie finished for her.

“I…”



Anabel sighed in defeat. “You’re right. I am just being immature about this. It doesn’t change anything.”

“Oh, it changes something all right.”

Hm?”

“It changes the fact that if I ever see May again: I’m going to pop that lip of hers!”

Anabel laughed.

Despite Angie being a rival in this little war, she was the only friend that she could confide in about her feelings for Ash. While she was well aware that she could have whispered these aggressions to her pokémon, it was far better to get an opinion from someone who had something invested in all this. Angie never had to answer, she never had to even allow her to talk about this, but she still did because of their friendship. And she was grateful for that.

“Hey Angie?”

Mm?” She had found another toothpick to chew on.

“Thank you. You didn’t have to… you know… any of this.”

“Darn right I didn’t. But hey, at least I know what I’m up against. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

“Wise saying.”

“But I’d probably team up with May too, to go against you.”

“…gee, thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

As they turned to return home, Angie had said something that Anabel would never forget…

“Remember that this is all about what’s best for Ash. We really shouldn’t be fighting just because we want him for ourselves… we should be doing this because we think we’re the best for him. As far as I can tell, the only thing you girls would offer Ash is a headache. Until he gets someone he really deserves, I’m keeping all of you off him.”



“Same here.” Anabel agreed quietly.



_________________________________________________________



“Where are those two going?” Misty asked as she saw Anabel and Angie heading out the door.

Ash shrugged.

You know something, don’t you? Misty sent an emotion towards Ash.

Ash just sent a shrug in emotion in return.

“You DO know something!” Misty pointed at him in accusation and jumped onto the couch cushion next to him.

Ash remained emotionless and shook his head.

A feeling of panic ran through his body as Misty’s fingers jabbed themselves into his armpits. “Nng!” Ash blocked a laugh from releasing.

“Tell me.” Misty dug her fingers in deeper.

MM-MM!” He started kicking at her direction.

Telll meee.” Misty started moving her fingers in different directions. “Tell me and this will all be over.”

A burst of laughter rung out. Ash struggled pathetically to get Misty’s hands away from him.

In response, she had jumped on top of him and started striking her fingers in different parts of his body. He defended himself by rolling over and curling up.

But it only a few more seconds to make him break. “STOP! STOP! STOP! I’LL TELL YOU! I’LL TELL YOU!”

She let go and gave him room to breathe.

He had taken that opportunity to roll off the couch and make a run for it.

Misty immediately dived and grabbed his ankle.

“AH! NO!!”

She pulled his foot closer and started tickling it ruthlessly. “Start talking!”

ANABEL KNOWS SOMETHING!!! Ash shouted with his emotions due to his body rejecting to exhale anything other than a laugh.

Misty stopped and twisted Ash’s leg into a lock. “Oh? And what does she know?”

I… I don’t know.” Ash was gulping breaths of air.

The break was short, as Misty continued to tickle the boy into frantic bouts oflaughter and shouts.

I PROMISE! I DON’T KNOW! I DON’T KNOW!!!

“Even if you didn’t know, this is just too fun to sto–” A foot in the face had prevented Misty from completing her sentence.

She grabbed her face in reaction.

Misty??” Ash had sat up and grabbed her shoulders after realizing what he had done. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you!” He was well aware that the two have caused quite the number of bruises and scrapes on one another in their time together in recent events, but neither of them had done so without intention.

Misty blinked a few tears away. She was about ready to yell and insult him.

A touch on the face stopped her in her tracks. Ash was carefully running his fingers across her skin to feel if there were any marks or misshapes. Misty’s face turned red.

Oh.” Ash pulled back his hands in response to her emotions.

They sat quietly facing each other.

So…” Ash decided to avoid a prolonged silence. “…what are you planning to do today?”

“I dunno.” Misty shrugged. “Am I supposed to do something today?”

No… no. I was just wondering if you were busy.”

“Asking me out on a date?” Misty winked at him. He didn’t see it, but certainly felt it.

N-N-No… I was wondering if you’d want to help me get somewhere.”

“Get somewhere?”

“Yeah, there’s an unofficial Pokémon Tournament happening a few miles out of town.”

Misty was suddenly interested. “Do you want to compete?”

Ash stood and sat on the ledge of a table. “Nah, I’m already too late to sign up. I just want to watch.”

“…watch?”

“Oh, well, I guess… feel is more specific.” Ash clarified. “I just heard about this tournament on the news, and wanted to see if I could train my Empathy.”

“You can train by just watching?”

“I’d think so. I actually haven’t watched too many matches between pokémon with my Empathy.”

“Do you know where it is exactly?” Misty asked as she stood up and started searching for her purse.

“Not really, I just know its name. I was hoping you could look it up on the computer.”

She was about to head up the stairs before she realized something. “What about Anabel and Angie?”

“Actually, the tournament’s at least halfway done at this point, so there’s not much time left…” Ash’s voice trailed off, as if he had more to say.

“…and?”

“…and I think whatever Anabel knew, she didn’t want me to find out. So I don’t think she’ll want to come along – and I doubt she’d want us to ask Angie since she’s talking to her.”

I wonder what they knew… Misty thought to herself.

I wish I knew too. Ash agreed.

They shrugged in unison.

Misty ran up the stairs to print out directions.

“By the way!” she called from the second floor. “You never told me what the name of the tournament was!”

Ash had panicked when he thought he had forgotten. Thankfully a sleepy pikachu passing by remembered. “…pika pika…”



“It’s the Fist of Kanto Tournament!”



_________________________________________________________



The crowd was large. Larger than anticipated for a small, unofficial tournament. People of all types and kinds were here. Some were even mothers and officers. They all shared in something in common: They all loved Fighting Pokémon.

This was what Ash saw as Misty pulled him through the masses to find a clearing. The energies that spiked and flared, the feelings that were tough and solid, the emotions that were strong and resolute – they resembled a valley of canyons and mountains. In addition to that, there were Fighting Type Pokémon of all sorts and breeds standing beside their trainers. Many were eager to see where the matches would lead, many were hungry to learn a new attack from watching the fights, and many more believed they deserved to be in the ring.

Ash had no idea how he would be able to see any matches in this powerful environment.

“Relax Ash. There’s a big opening up ahead, you’ll see everything just fine.” Misty responded to his confused emotions.

Even in an open area Ash doubted he’d be able to focus on a fight with all thes– RAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

SMASH

Any doubt he had in seeing the fight was gone. The Fighting Pokémon in the ring were fierce and enormous in energy. Their will and confidence stood dominant above every other emotion in the area. Their roar even bursting through their emotions.

“WRAAAAAAAAAAATH!!!!”

“MAAAAA!!!!”

Two massive pokémon had locked grips, their fury sending chills down Ash’s spine.

“You can do it!!!”

“Take down that Machoke!”

“Poliwrath, you got this!!”

“Don’t lose it! Don’t lose your balance!!”

There were no announcers, no speakers of any kind, and no narration of the match. The only thing heard were the shouts and howls coming from the audience.

This isn’t a tournament… this is a brawl… Misty seemed uncomfortable.

I guess that’s the way Fighting Pokémon enthusiasts like it. Ash replied.

I guess, but… it stinks. Don’t these people take showers?

Ash laughed, though he definitely smelled what she smelled. He took a deep breath to avoid the stench.

Let’s just find a nice spot to stand, Misty.

The two of them squeezed between and bumped into several people in their journey to the last remaining open area in the tournament. Smells of every kind of sweat was starting to suffocate the air from the duo. Before Ash had to gasp for one more breath of air, he had grabbed Misty by the arms and used her as a shield to ram through the last remaining people blocking them from their destination.

They had broken out and rolled into the opening. Both were gasping for air.

“If I wasn’t glad for the fresh air, I’d kill you, Ash!” Misty coughedthe words out.

“Yeah, well–” Hm?

Ash focused on the creature standing in front of him.

Something about it seemed familiar. Extremely familiar. But he couldn’t tell what.

The creature seemed curious of him as well. It had bent down and sniffed him heavily with its large nostrils. “…prime?”

Ash’s ears twitched.

“…Primeape?”

PRIME!!!!” The pokémon had immediately recognized its former master’s voice and lifted him up for a colossal hug. “PRIMEAPE!!! PRIME!!!”

GAAHHH!!! OKAY! OKAY!!!” Ash tried fruitlessly to free himself from the furry fighter. “I CAN’T BREATHE!

“It’s you!” a strangely unfamiliar voice exclaimed.

Primeape had released the boy and stepped aside.

As Ash gasped for air for a second time, he tried to analyze the person who had recognized him.



No idea…

“You’re Ash Ketchum, correct?” the voice being feminine Ash finally pointed out.

“Y-Yeah. Um… Who are you?” he asked embarrassingly.

Misty elbowed him in the rib. ASH!

What?? I DON’T know who she is!

Don’t you remember?!

I can’t see her! Do YOU know who she is??

Yes! She’s… uh… uhm…



Ha! You don’t remember either! Ash laughed to himself.

“Oh yes, it has been a long time since we last met. I’m Rebecca.” The woman replied simply, with a soft giggle to give an accent of friendliness.

“…Rebecca?”

“My father’s name is Anthony. The one who trained your primeape.”

Ash stood up straight and smiled. “Right! Where is your father?”

“In the Johto region. He and Hitmonchan are competing in several tournaments there while Primeape and I watch over his training gym.”

“Nice to meet you again, Rebecca!” Misty chimed in happily.

Don’t pretend like you didn’t know her. Ash nudged his elbow at Misty.

I didn’t forget who she was. I just didn’t remember her name. She nudged back.

I can’t see, so it isn’t fair!

Can’t you feel out her name or something?

What?? That’s like trying to find a squirtle in a volcano!

How is that even a proper example??

The red-haired woman stared at them curiously as the two exchanged strange facial expressions.

“Nice to meet you again…” she hesitated. “…um… I… I apologize, I forgot your name.”

Misty fell over in reaction.

She slowly wobbled back to a standing position. “Oh that’s okay. My name’s Misty. The Cerulean City Gym Leader.”

“Oh right.” Rebecca laughed nervously. “I’ll admit I don’t know much about Gyms other than the ones that have Fighting Pokémon in them.”

Then how did she remember your name? Misty expressed jealousy.

“To be honest…” Rebecca explained. “I only remembered Mr. Ketchum’s name because of his face being all over the news recently.”

…did she just hear me? Misty poked Ash’s shoe with her own.

Nah, coincidence.

How can you tell?

Empathics feel different. She’s definitely not one.

Rebecca witnessed the two exchanging more facial expressions. “…are… are you two okay?”

Misty realized how odd the two of them must have looked and gave a nervous laugh.

“So are you here to watch the tournament, Rebecca?” Ash changed the subject.

“Me? No. We’re here to compete.” she answered with pleasure.

The Empathic crouched down and ran his fingers through Primeape’s fur. “You here to win, buddy?”

“PRIME!” it responded in a sure tone.

“I don’t mean to be rude, Rebecca…” Misty politely stated. “But why are you competing here? This hardly seems like the kind of place your dad would normally compete in.”

“Well actually, we’re just here to advertise.” she clarified. “For every win we get, my dad’s gym gets more popular. And honestly, I want to surprise my dad by how big his gym will be once he gets back.”

“That’s pretty cool.” Ash complimented.

“You’ll make your dad proud.” Misty admired.

“Thanks!” Rebecca bowed. “Honestly I’m just glad I got this far in the tournament.”

“Hm?” Misty’s head tilted. “What place are you in?”

“WILL THE FINALISTS PLEASE ENTER THE RING.” a referee had shouted.

“Looks like that’s me. It was nice meeting the two of you again!”

Rebecca had turned and ran towards one corner.

Primeape puffed out his chest and marched towards the ring.

“You can do it Primeape!” Ash cheered.

“PRIME!!!”



_________________________________________________________



“IN THE RED CORNER,” the referee shouted above the cheers and jeers with no need of a device. “WE HAVE REBECCA FROM THE FIGHTING SPIRIT GYM! AND HER POKÉMON PRIMEAPE! THE FIST OF FURY!!!”

“Wooo! Rebecca!!!! Do it, baby!!!”

“Show that foreigner how we do it in Kanto!!!!”

“Primeape! Primeape! Primeape! Primeape!”

“Take that freak out!!!”

“You can do it, Rebecca!!”

Rebecca blushed as she stood in her corner and waved to the crowd.

“IN THE BLUE CORNER, WE HAVE MAYLENE! A GYM LEADER ALL THE WAY FROM THE SINNOH REGION!!”

“Wha-?!!” Ash quickly leaned towards the ring at the announcement.

I guess that boy has met this girl before. Rebecca thought to herself. Then I better be extra careful.

“WITH HER POKÉMON LUCARIO! THE BLUE LEGEND!!!” the referee finished.

“Get out of Kanto!!!”

“BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

“Look at how scrawny that chick is! Do they breed you like that where you come from?!”

“You’re going down, blue freak!!”

“REBECCA TAKE HER DOWN!!!”

The pink haired girl shyly walked into her corner. Despite having come to the tournament with a strong, confident disposition, her personality had slowly dwindled with the constant barrage of insults. Her pokémon seemed to also be affected by this, as he hopped into his corner with a defensive growl towards the crowd.

“The poor girl…” Rebecca had pitied Maylene throughout the entire tournament. Though the young woman had faired greatly in every match she was placed in, the Kanto citizens seemed to absolutely revile her due to her foreign origins.

“YOU CAN DO IT, MAYLENE!!!” a voice shouted above the rest.

The somber girl suddenly perked up and looked around the crowd to find the single, cheering voice. Her face brightened up the instant she saw Ash balancing on top of a trashcan, waving. She and her pokémon waved back ecstatically before facing the center of the arena with renewed vigor.

Well that’s a pleasant change. Rebecca smiled towards her opponent.

Her brows turned serious as she prepared herself for the battle to come. Alright Rebecca, you can do this. Just do it like how daddy taught you. Keep them off-balance. Don’t let them get a chance to return the favor. Remember the basics and never forget to focus.

“Let’s do this, Primeape!” She spurred her pokémon into battle-ready behavior.

“LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!!!”

DING. The battle bell rang.

“Primeape! Low Kick!”

Rebecca’s first command instantly clicked Primeape into attack mode. The ball of fury charged towards the opponent with rage in its eyes. A quick step to halt his momentum and a thrust downwards with its kick, the Primeape launched its first assault.

“Lucario! Dodge it!” the trainer in the blue corner yelled out.

The blue jackal went aerial and landed behind the Pig Monkey Pokémon.

Primeape snorted in anger and turned to face the dodging enemy.

“Lucario! Bone Rush!”

Lucario formed a glowing blue light into the shape of a bone and swung it towards Primeape.

“Primeape! Take the hit!”

Arms flung inward as Primeape blocked the attack right before it hit home.

“Keep at it Lucario!”

Strike after strike exploded against Primeape’s arms, pushing its fury into greater heights with every hit. Its anger had shown visibly as its fur started glowing red and fumes leaving its every open pore.

Just what Rebecca was looking for. “Primeape! NOW! REVENGE!!!

Maylene was surprised by the command – just as the red haired woman wanted. Rebecca had been hiding this attack just for the last round. She’d have this match over in one blow.

Primeape’s eye glinted. “PRIIIIIIIMEEE!!!!” It swung its arm back in a quick snap, and swung forward at an impossible speed.

“Lucario!!! Block it!!!” Maylene shouted in a panic.

“Too late.” Rebecca whispered to herself.

The shining bone grew in size as Lucario held it firmly in front of himself.

CRACK. The bone gave way and shattered into pieces. The furious monkey’s fist torpedoed through and smashed against the lucario’s jaw. Even with all his strength and defiance fueling his consciousness, he had lost it only seconds after the attack’s contact.

Several onlookers had panicked as they saw the incoming pokémon being launched towards them. All within the way of its trajectory had scrambled frantically in different directions. Lucario had flown out of the ring and smashed through several makeshift audience seats and benches, finally grinding to a halt against the hard dirt’s rocks. It was knocked out immediately, a pair of spirals replacing its once serious eyes.

“One of my dad’s best lessons…” Rebecca stated proudly across the arena. “Always keep your opponent guessing.”

Cheers and roars rang all around.

“WITH A TOTAL OF 10 KO’S AND ZERO LOSSES IN THIS TOURNAMENT – AND VICTOR OF THE LAST MATCH WITH ONLY TWO ATTACKS – PRIMEAPE AND REBECCA!!!!!”

Waves of excited spectators rushed towards the ring and picked Rebecca off her feet.

Whoah now!” She nearly toppled over in surprise.

REBECCA! REBECCA! REBECCA! REBECCA! REBECCA! her carriers chanted loudly.

KANTO! KANTO! KANTO! KANTO! KANTO! KANTO! followers chanted along proudly.

PRIMEAPE! PRIMEAPE! PRIMEAPE! PRIMEAPE! PRIMEAPE! a larger crowd had lifted Primeape off the arena floor and tossed it upwards along with their rants.

Rebecca scanned the area and found Ash kneeling next to the knocked out lucario.

“ASH!” she called out as she was being bounced away by a wave of hands and forearms. “I’LL RETURN YOUR PRIMEAPE AFTER MY FATHER COMES BACK FROM HIS JOURNEY!!!”

“Don’t worry about it!!” she barely heard as a response.

She had smiled back and waved.

It was at that moment she remembered why she was there in the first place. She raised her arms and yelled out, “AND REMEMBER FOLKS!! THE FIGHTING SPIRIT GYM TRAINS CHAMPIONS!!!

This should be good enough for advertising. Dad will be in for a surprise. She giggled to herself.



_________________________________________________________



“At least he’s still alive.” Ash concluded after the downed lucario had groaned in pain.

“Pretty surprising considering the hit your primeape gave him.” Misty mentioned as she helped it sit up.

Paf Paf Paf Paf Paf Paf Paf. A pair of bare feet was heard quickly running over to them.

Ash turned towards the sound and was about to respond.

HeyAsh! Excusemethankyou!” Maylene ran in and grabbed Lucario’s back to help it on its feet. “You okay, Lucario?”

Lucario grunted and shifted its weight.

“Here, rest up.” She leaned her pokémon against a broken bench and gave it a small snack to chew on.

Maylene sighed in disappointment and relief.



“We did our best.” She smiled.

“Wish I was here to see your other matches.” Ash said with regret in his tone.

“Oh yeah…” Maylene turned and faced the two. “When did you get here, Ash? And who’s your friend?” she nudged her head towards Misty.

Ash smiled and introduced Misty, “This is Misty, Gym Leader of Cerulean City.”

Ah! A fellow Gym Leader!” She held out her hand. “Nice to meet you. Maylene of Veilstone City.”

“Nice to meet you too.” Misty shook her hand. Her eye twitched in pain as she realized Maylene’s grip was a lot stronger than she expected from such a thin girl.

“I got here right before your match with Rebecca.” Ash answered a previous question.

“Just in time for you to see Lucario and I get completely blown away I see.” Maylene’s laugh was of embarrassment and shame.

“What are you doing all the way out here, anyway?” he asked curiously. It had been a question that had been bugging him since she was first announced by the referee.

“Competing, of course!” she answered as if that was the only answer.

“That’s not what I meant. I mean, here in Kanto.” Is she hiding something?

“Oh that. Well… wait a minute… what are YOU doing here in Kanto???”

“I’m from here.”

Ahh. Visiting home?”

“S-Something like that…” Ash laughed awkwardly.

Maylene leaned back in surprise and placed her hands on her waist. “Whoah Ash! When did you get colored eye contacts?”

“Um–”

“They look weird. You might want to go for a different color.”

Ms. Maylene…” Misty interrupted, unable to allow the awkward comments to continue. “Those aren’t eye contacts. Ash is blind.” she stated the last part in a hushed tone.

“WHAT?!” Maylene suddenly felt ashamed and shocked. “I – I’m sorry! When did this happen?!



_________________________________________________________



“Wow…” Maylene and her lucario were sitting atfull attention, both with complete interest in their eyes. “…you guys went through a lot lately!”

Ash scratched at his hair, embarrassed. “Yeah, definitely.”

One thing I don’t get…” Maylene tilted her head in confusion. “…if Ash was in Sinnoh during the accident, how did he end up in Kanto?”

“Well the thing is… no wait…” Ash’s eyes widened when he realized he was at a loss of words. “Wait… how did I end up in Kanto??”

Misty sighed. “You were transferred from hospitals by helicopter. You said it in your story yourself.”

OHHH! That’s what the helicopter was all about!” Ash laughed.

Misty sighedagain. “What else would it be?”

“I guess I just thought Anabel was rich.” He shrugged.

“How would you figure that?”

Well… she was a Frontier Brain… I figured that Gym Leaders, Frontier Brains, and other officials in the Pokémon League were rich?”

Misty was about to scold Ash for a completely unfounded assumption, considering she herself wasn’t ‘rich’, when she was cut off by Maylene’s extremely loud laughter.

“AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!”

Ash was stunned by the reaction, especially with his Empathy, as he felt a burst of laughter and cries coming from the young gym leader.

Is… Is something funny?” Ash nervously asked.

Maylene patted her stomach. “This small stomach isn’t from a tough training diet. I’m actually quite poor.” Maylene laughed again, and Ash could now obviously feel the depressed tone in it. Her lucario seemed quite ashamed of their financial situation.

Hold on, if you’re poor… how did you get to Kanto?” Misty questioned cautiously.

“I walked.”

“You walked??”

“I walked.” Maylene giggledwith a hint of pride.

“That’s weeks’, maybe months’, worth of walking!!!” Misty was completely floored by Maylene’s answer.

“It wasn’t easy. And the odd job here and there definitely kept me in some towns longer than I wanted to be.” she admitted. “But you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do.”

Ash had been feeling out the Fighting Gym Leader’s emotions and had noticed one that was larger than the rest. It had been noticeable since he had finished his story, and it was only growing louder. “Er… Maylene?”

Hm?” she blinked curiously.

“…Would you like to come over to my house for dinner?”

Maylene’s eyes widened and sparkled. “REALLY???

Ash was swallowed by a pit of unending thankfulness.

Help me… he reached out with his emotions to Misty as he felt utterly overwhelmed.

She blinked at him oddly and immediately ignored him. “Of course!” she smiled to the fellow Gym Leader.

Both Lucario and Maylene bowed deeply on their knees. “OH THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! WE’LL PAY YOU BACK IN FULL! Right, Lucario?”

Lucario nodded with a very pleased smile.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:12 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 10: Clashes

Spoiler:
Another girl? Really? Anabel calmly sipped her soup with an irritated emotion directed at Ash.

She was hungry. Ash responded as he chewed on his bread nervously.

You know what they say: You feed them once and they’ll follow you home. Misty drank her coffee quietly.

Anabel almost laughed, but disguised it as a cough.

Maylene was having the time of her life. Plate after plate of thick meats, soft breads, steaming vegetables, and melting desserts surrounded her side of the table. Foods of all kinds mixed and swallowed with little care for complimentary and clashing flavors.

“Mmmrphuff!!!” Maylene had repeated again. It was the tenth unintelligible exclamation she had made as she stuffed her face. Those who sat at the dining table assumed it had to do something about the food… though they’d never be able to tell.

Despite both Anabel and Angie feeling quite annoyed at the new guest, Ash seemed to be the most affected. Maylene’s extremely loud personality was flooding the room with emotions of jubilation, love, and happiness. Ash was increasingly getting fatigued by being surrounded by it. Anabel was successful at shutting it out, an ability Ash seriously wished that he had at the moment.

My my,” Delia cheerfully said as she and Mr. Mime placed more food on the table, “your friend certainly likes to eat, Ash!”

Ash was too dizzied at this point to respond.

Maylene grabbed her large mug of juice and gulped down everything in her mouth. “THIS FOOD IS DELICIOUS!!!” she cheered loudly, crushing Ash underneath more weight of emotion.

“I’m so glad you like it!” Delia squealed in delight as she watched the girl devour more food.

“So Maylene…” Anabel said with an almost poisonous accent of her name. “What brings you here to Kanto?”

I came here to train!” she answered loudly before she took another bite of brownie.

“I thought you said you were a Gym Leader.” Angie tilted her head in confusion. “Why train? And why here?”

Maylene pounded her chest to force it to swallow another clump of bread. She exhaled with satisfaction before explaining, “Us gym leaders need to constantly train in order to keep ahead of the trainers that keep challenging us. Right, Misty?”

Misty nodded as she tasted her coffee with interest. She seemed less concerned about the frustration and excitement the pink-haired Gym Leader gave to the dining table, and more concerned at figuring out the flavor of the coffee she was drinking. Her only other interest was of Ash’s suffering, which she found amusing at times.

“So yeah, I came here to train!”

“But why so far from your home?” Anabel questioned what they had all been curious of.

Hm?” Maylene looked around her, realizing they were all attentive to this specific answer. …except for Ash, who looked as if he was ailing from a stomach ache. “I… just needed to get away from that place for a while. Kind of a personal reason.

“But don’t you have duties to your Gym? Wouldn’t being all the way out here become problematic to your region’s Pokémon League?” Misty asked.

Oh, that’s the convenient part. They’re trying something new for a season in the Sinnoh region with the main Gyms. So…” She chomped off another slab of meat and swallowed hard. “…my gym’s under construction. I should be good for another month before I go back.”

Oh God no… please leave… Anabel sighed to herself as she massaged her forehead.

She was ready to dive deep into Maylene’s emotions to find out her real reason for leaving Sinnoh, but Ash had sensed it and stopped her in her tracks.

The male Trainer was drained, exhausted, irritated, and weak… but he had enough focus to block off anything Anabel wanted to pry into.

Hm? What? she asked Ash.

That’s rude. he replied simply.

I just don’t want her staying here.

She’s a guest.

You going to invite the whole world in here? Anabel pushed, with a strange accent that Ash could’ve sworn that she had learned from Angie.

She’ll be gone after this meal.

She better be. Anabel pouted.

Misty slowly became more amused at the irritation growing between the two girls. She herself had no problem with Maylene. In her eyes, she seemed like a nice enough girl. And even without Empathy she could tell she had no interest whatsoever in Ash.

Good enough for me. She smirked.


_________________________________________________________


Knock knock knockknockknock knock.

Oh no… Ash wrapped a pillow around his head.

Knockknockknockknockknockknock.



Knock knock knock knock knockknocknocknocknocknocknocknock.

He grit his teeth in frustration and sat up.

“I don’t think he’s in there.” a voice from outside echoed off his door.

“Knock harder. He’s just a little deaf.” another voice that seemed extremely humored by this situation echoed further away.

“Are you sure? I thought he was blind.”

“No, no, just knock harder.”

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. “Ash?”

Ash knew perfectly well who it was. He couldn’t ignore her loud personality.

And he certainly knew who was encouraging her to do this. Misty. She thinks it’s hilarious. Ha. Ha.

With a groan he stood up and shuffled to the door in surrender.

He opened the door, only to have Maylene stumble into his chest. She had been leaning her ear on the door.

“Whoops!” She backed away immediately.

“I’m not deaf, Misty!” Ash shouted around Maylene.

“Oh silly me.” Mistygiggledand walked back downstairs.

“Hey Ash!” Maylene smiled with a burst of unneeded happiness.

Hey Maylene…” Ash rubbed his forehead. “I thought you left to find more tournaments.”

“Well yes.” she agreed. “Well actually.” She decided to retract her comment. “I stayed for a while to talk with Misty first. It’s always fun to talk to other Gym Leaders.”

“The light purple-haired girl, she’s Anabel.” Ash pointed out. “She’s the Frontier Brain I talked about. You can talk to her too.” he mentioned, hoping to bait Maylene to go somewhere else. Then a thought hit his head…

…wait, now that I think about it, what is Anabel still here for? Doesn’t she have duties back at Hoenn? I need to remember to ask her.

Oh… well… I don’t know what a Frontier Brain is.” Maylene shrugged. “Is that like a Gym Leader?”

“Yeah, kind of.” Ash had no idea if he wanted to explain more, as any further discussion might involve more questions from her.





“…did you come here for something?” Ash asked after realizing Maylene’s attention had been absorbed at her fascination with items in his room.

“Oh right! Well, I was talking with Misty. Just to get all the small details about your journey up to this point.” she was rambling almost too fast for him to understand.

Must have been all the sweets she ate. Ash assumed. The Maylene he knew was far more calm and mature. After a thought, he realized that her comment of being poor might have had a large impact on her diet… which may have explained why she had become so energetic after the meal.

“First off, you’re awesome, cool stories. Next off, and more importantlyyyyy–” Maylene was now drumming her fingers on his chest. Ash had no idea why she was drumming her fingers on his chest.

With a quick slap on his chest as the final tap of her imagined drums, she continued, “I heard the play by play of your matches without pokémon! WithOUT pokémon and you still won! You’re crazy! I’ve fought pokémon before, of course you know that, but I’ve never done it as a real challenge!”

“…wait wait… how does Misty know about those fights?”

“She heard the details from May, who heard of the other battle’s details from Angie, who was there in your match against Anabel.”



…is that it?” Ash scratched his cheek. He gave up trying to block out her emotions. He didn’t know how, and he more than likely wasn’t going to find out anytime soon.

“Oh right. Welllllll–” She began drumming her fingers again on his chest.

Reminder… don’t overfeed Maylene. Ash noted.

“I wanted you to have a match with me!” she stated excitedly.

Normally Ash would’ve loved a Pokémon Match, but his headache had made him rather uncaring for the challenge at the particular moment.

With a quick sidestep that made him appear to be shifting his balance, Ash had kicked his poké ball belt behind the door. He did a quick feel around and noticed Pikachu’s essence sleeping on the roof.

Oh no, I don’t have any pokémon with me. I must’ve left them somewhere…” Ash lied poorly.

Maylene didn’t seem to notice. “Actually, I wanted a match with you. Not your pokémon.”

A… match with me?”

“Yeah. You know, fisticuffs, martial arts, brawling, beat downs, martial dancing, painful politics, dueling, rough housing, combat, battle, knuckle war, head-butting–”

“I get it.”

…fighting.

“… I’m not much of a fighter.”

“You knocked out a Venusaur.” she stated with excited interest.

“I got lucky.”

“You knocked it off balance by using its Vine Whip’s momentum!”

“Only because I knew what she was intending to do… with my Empathy.”

“I’ll let you do it to me.”

WHAT ARE YOU TWO TALKING ABOUT UP THERE?! Misty had heard only the last line.

She wants me to fight her. He grumbled to her.

Oh, that’s fine. Her emotions closed off in disinterest.

Ash sighed. “Okay.

OK!! You’re going dooooowwwWWWNNNNNNNNNNNNNN–” Maylene held the line as she slowly backed away.



She popped her head back around the corner and continued, “–NNNN….. ASSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH–” and disappeared from sight.

Sigh.


_________________________________________________________


After a quick shower and dressing into fresh clothes, Ash walked outside and searched for his opponent.

Nowhere. There was only her lucario, who was staring at him with interest.

He sighed. I get ready for her and she’s late…

This was one fight he wasn’t looking forward to, and the idea that he had to actually wait for hit made him slightly irritated. Normally, Ash was up for any new challenges – but the headache he had earned from his Empathy had only made him unnaturally fatigued. He had never felt so drained and weary in his life, and not even the shower and fresh clothes helped his situation much… a slight migraine still formed at the side of his head.

If anymore situations like this occurred, he concluded that he would grow to hate his Empathy more than like it.

“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” a battle cry snapped his attention back to reality.

With an instinctive roll, Ash barely avoided the unseen and unfelt attack.

His sudden dodge had surprised even himself. A strange feeling filled him… though he quickly ignored it as he brought his focus back to the battle at hand.

He centered his senses to his hearing, trying to scout for where the attacker had disappeared to.

Two ridiculously light thumps landed softly on the grass north of him.

“That’s a horrible stance.” Maylene’s voice came in loud and clear, with an odd feeling surrounding it.

“I told you I’m not a fighter.” he replied, hoping she’d answer so he could feel out the odd feeling again.

“Even if you’re not, you definitely have great reaction time.”

There it was again. The odd feeling. What is tha–



Nothing.

Maylene wasn’t there. Her sound stopped, her feeling stopped.

Her feeling stopped?

Ash tilted his head in confusion. As far as he was aware of, no one can make their emotions stop… they could only block them off… yet there it was, no feeling whatsoever! She was completely invisible to him.

The the odd feeling… She’s masking herself somehow…

The fight suddenly had him interested.

“What are you looking at?” a voice whispered right into his ear.

He panicked and stumbled out of the way. She laughed at his reaction.

She was suddenly visible. A soft hue of pink surrounding her direction. “You’re not the first Empathic fighter I’ve faced, Ash.” Her feet adjusted against the grass, her stance shifting.

“You are, however, the first one I’ve known to fight pokémon seriously.” Her feet left the ground, but to where, he couldn’t tell. The wind had stalled, preventing any obvious sounds of air movement from reaching his ears.

She’s to your left.

Ash struck out to his left, feeling a forearm come into contact with his fist.

He heard a quick gasp that backed away immediately. “How did you do that?” Maylene seemed genuinely worried.

Misty? Ash recognized the one who gave him the heads-up. What are you doing?

Helping you, obviously.

Why?

She’s going to strike you from behind.

Ash turned his body and faced the sneaking opponent.

A body that was about to collide with his suddenly backed away again.

How is he… Ash sensed Maylene’s emotions for a second.

…so why are you helping me, Mist?

You’re not a fighter, are you?

No…

She knows how to fight against Empathics. You don’t know how to fight. This hardly seems fair. I’m making it fair. – Duck.

Ash ducked just in time for a punch to fly above his head.

Her foot’s in front of your left foot.

He reached down and grabbed an ankle. The body it belonged to suddenly felt its balance being threatened and proceeded to kick him in the face. “ACK!”

Misty laughed.

What’s so funny?? He slowly crawled to his feet after being toppled over.

This just throws it right back in Angie and Anabel’s face.

What?

They called me a pokémon. But really, you’re my pokémon right now.

He sighed. You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?

Of course. Misty giggled to herself.

Maylene pinpointed the sound of laughter and found Misty sitting on a tree branch in the distance.

Ohhhh… I get it. Very sneaky, Ash.” Maylene’s voice suddenly seemed normal. Her personality was far easier to find, albeit not as loud as it used to be.

“I didn’t ask her to.” Ash admitted. “I can’t really ignore emotions… then again, I’m not very good with my other senses either, so it’s not a complete advantage.”

“Well I guess I was being a bit unfair then. How about we fight fair?” Maylene’s guard was down. Testing, testing! Can you hear this? she pushed with her emotions.

“Loud and clear.” He replied.

OK! Let’s do this!”

Paf paf paf paf pif paf paf. She was charging in fast.

Ash had no idea how to fight a real fighter. The most experience he had ever gotten physically was protecting his friends from ridiculous things like robots, nets, grappling claws, and containment devices.

Then just treat it like those things. Misty’s voice came in again.

Hey quiet, I can handle her n–

SMASH

A punch connected with his face and he found himself tumbling across the grass.

I let you handle that. Misty giggled.

Ow…

I’m just giving advice, Ash. Not telling you what to do.

Ash slowly got on his feet and listened carefully to the wind.

Just treat her like Team Rocket’s machines. You’ve done more than most trainers or fighters out there… she shouldn’t be this hard for you.

“Just treat her like Team Rocket’s machines…” he whispered to himself.

Paf. Behind.

A swoosh and flap in the wind gave away the fact that it was a kick coming his way.

He dove over the kick. But what he would do after that, he wasn’t sure.

Pretend like one of her legs is Pikachu.

What??

Just do it.

Another kick came his way; the sound it made was different from the other. This one’s Pikachu. he thought to himself.

Adjusting his body for the blow to hit him flat on the chest, Ash imagined Pikachu being knocked out from an arena and he was using his body to catch him.

The hit was too hard, too direct to be anything like Pikachu, and the pain he felt was the price for it.

“OOF!!”

He toppled and rolled across the grass. “…ow…”

Okay, so that didn’t work.

Yeah, thanks for the advice. he growled.

You don’t have to take my advice. Misty sighed. Look, stop treating it like a fight. Just get into it.

Really? That’s it? Ash mocked.

Yeah, really. You tend to do your best when you make things up.



Ignoring his body’s pleadings to surrender, Ash hopped onto his feet and prepared himself.

“Ready for more?” Maylene was calm again. All the sugar had drained from her system, and now she sounded far more like the calm and mature Maylene he first met.

“Ready when you are.”

“Hyaaaaaa!!!!” A jump kick.

“Here goes noTHIIINNGGG!!!” Ash charged the attack head on.

ASH WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Misty panicked.

I HAVE NO IDEA! He panicked with her.

By pure luck, Ash had moved his head slightly, causing Maylene’s foot to only scrape his cheek. Her counter to this would have been to bend and lock the knee immediately in order to pinch and capture his neck for a mid-air grapple. The technique was meant to place him into a headlock with her legs and cause him to lose balance, giving her the complete advantage. Such an attack may have been extremely effective… if his head hadn’t smashed right into a spot it should have never hit.

Pain spread throughout Maylene’s legs and hips, sending a strained ache up the top portion of her body and making her stomach feel sick. Ash had completely toppled backwards, unsure what he had hit at all.

He felt a kick nudge his head slightly. Maylene was rolling over, in complete pain and shock.

She had been curled up into a ball with her hands between her legs, seething in agony.

Lucario started laughing.

“M-Maylene?” Ash asked with a bit of concern.

ASH! Misty screamed at him.

What?

Why’d you hit her there?!

Hit her where?

“I- I- I’m okay.” Maylene struggled to get up.

“Y-You sure?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m good.” She didn’t sound good.

Ash walked towards her to give her a hand. He got a punch to the side of the head as a response.

“We’re still fighting, Ash!” Maylene hissed with a wince of pain. “So give it all you got!

“But–”

Not willing to wait for Ash to change his mood, Maylene limp-dashed towards him and struck four hard hits in his stomach.

He had seen it coming, but couldn’t react fast enough. He wasn’t even sure if he should react considering what he did to her. What he did to her, he wasn’t fully sure. Neither Misty nor Maylene wanted to even hint what it was.

Ash crumpled from the blows.

To prevent him from getting up, Maylene swung her foot forward and swung it back like a pendulum, meant to strike him hard against his head with the side of her heel.

Ash definitely felt this one coming and grabbed the incoming blow. His fingers wrapped around the ball of her heel, completely controlling the momentum of the attack. The fighter girl found herself wobbling from the grab and decided to press down her weight, effectively crushing his fingers if they remained where they were. Ash responded by rolling onto his feet and lifting her leg completely off the ground.

In defiance, Maylene quickly jumped with her other leg and swung it towards his head. The action was like a thing of beauty to all who saw, as she seemed to defy gravity. Ash, however, could only see through what he felt. Her weight had adjusted completely, and he felt her thrust heading straight for him.

He let go of the leg right before the impact, forcing the fighting girl to fall sideways to the ground. She softened the landing with a quick turn and roll, leading to a tripping kick, a move Ash only half-avoided.

He fell with a thud right on top of her. She struck two quick blows with her fist into his head and followed it with a forearm press that forced him onto his back.

She pressed her arm down onto his neck, effectively choking him. “Surrender.”

He tossed and turned, trying to find a way to escape the choke. He kicked upwards, striking a spot that had already crippled her earlier in the match.

She gasped in disbelief and weakened.

Realizing that it was that spot that he had hit earlier with his face, he was completely ashamed of himself.

But with Maylene’s head lowered from his last attack, there was little time for shame. Ash took that opportunity to swing his head upwards and smash it against Maylene’s forehead.

She backed away in pain and toppled over.

Ash was about to check if she was okay after he had stood, but his standing only prompted in Maylene’s sudden aggression. She had wrapped her thighs around his left foot and pulled his right foot towards her.

He no longer had control of his center of balance. Quickly tilting incorrectly, he fell back on top of her. With a roll and a shove, she pinned him back down and hammered punch after punch into his face. He answered fiercely with a bite on her knuckles and punching her back.

Angered, Maylene slammed her head into his. He slammed back. The two regretted this action and both fell to their side.

...





“Ow.” Ash was the first to say.

Maylene was breathing hard… she had never had that kind of fight in her life.

She loved it.

Ignoring the pain of several incoming bruises, she started laughing and reached weakly over to pat Ash’s head. She couldn’t say anything; she couldn’t really focus enough to feel anything specific, so she patted him instead. The laugh and pat was her odd sign of affection for this specific moment.

Ash laughed in response and laid his hand on her hair, unable to get his body to pat it.

Her laugh losing strength, Maylene lifted her arm and pointed it skyward. “…tie.

“…yes.” Ash weakly cheered.



Lucario was clapping.


_________________________________________________________


“Hold still.”

“But it hurts!”

“It’ll stop hurting once I’m done, so stay still!” Misty patted the wet cotton swab on the open wound on Ash’s head. He stiffened in silent agony. “Quit being such a baby. It’s your fault you got hurt this bad.”

“How is it my fault???”

“You should’ve just given up when she told you to surrender.”

Ash seemed unrepentant of his actions.

A calm and agreeable feeling entered the room. It resembled a mature woman, yet its stature was frail in shape – but built tough as stone. Maylene had walked in and sat on the cushion next to Ash.

“So Ash…” she began. “Where’s Dawn?”

“She’s still up at Sinnoh.” Ash answered with a wince as Misty pressed another band-aid against one of his cuts.

“Actually,” Misty corrected, “She’s up at Hoenn right now.”

Hm? How do you know that?” The boy poked at her emotions in curiosity.

She slapped his poke away like a child reaching for a cookie before dinner. “She told me herself.”

What? When did you talk to her? Ash was now really curious.

“She calls sometimes.” Misty answered with a tone to tell Ash that it was rude to have an Empathic conversation when other people want answers too. “She moved over to Hoenn to compete as a Coordinator for the season.”

Ash wanted to ask several questions at once, but started with, “So she’ll be competing against May again?”

“More than likely.”

“Wish I could see it.”

“Well they do film the matches… I know which channels to turn to when they’re on.” Maylene added helpfully.

The two travel friends waved their hands in unison in front of their eyes to signify Ash’s blindness.

“Oh oops!” Maylene blushed in embarrassment.

Ash continued with his questions, “How come she called you and not me?”

Misty tied another bandage around Ash’s ankle. “Because you’re boring to talk to.”

“Hey!” Ash was offended, though he wasn’t sure if he really had a right to be offended. I don’t really know what to say on the phone, anyways.

It’s actually because you never call anyone. Misty shoved at him. She just assumed you didn’t like calls.

Oh… …HEY! I call people!

Yeah, Professor Oak and your mother.

…who else am I supposed to call?

She tightened a bandage to a painful degree.

“OW!” What was that for??

You never send me any calls, you jerk.

What do you want me to call you for??

“Oh I don’t know! How about calling me to tell me you ended up in an accident that made you lose your sight?!” Misty yelled at Ash’s face.

Maybe I didn’t want to worry anyone about it!!

So you call May, but not me?!

She called me! You never called me once!

The two were growling at each other. Acoughbroke their attention.

Um guys?” Maylene waved nervously at them. “…I don’t have Empathy…

Misty bowed. “Oh sorry.”

Don’t pretend like you have Empathy. Ash pinned on Misty.

I never said I did. she responded, showing she was ready for another fight.

But you never said you didn’t when she said that we both had it.

She didn’t say that, she said she didn’t have Empathy.

Same thing.

And it’s the same thing that you never called me but you’re so eager to answer May’s calls!

That doesn’t make any sense!

“Who’s May?” Maylene asked nervously.

Ash tilted his head in her direction. “The one who owned the venusaur that I fought.”

“Oh right!”

“I travelled with her for a year… or was it two years? Three? …er… well anyways! You could say she was my student!” Ash boasted. “I taught her the basics when it came to pokémon.”

And what am I?? A Magikarp?!

You weren’t my student. Ash defended.

But I travelled with you for years, too! You’re just going to leave that out?!

Why is this some kind of competition for you??

An aura of hurt floated around Misty’s chest. She loosened the too-tight bandage and yanked it to test its hold-strength.

Misty…

“Was Dawn your girlfriend?” Maylene’s innocent question destroyed the somber mood… by dropping a heavy weight of tension on top of it.

Ash shattered at the thought. Misty burned in silent fire.

Jailbait.

Ash was afraid to ask what Misty meant but was far too curious to leave it alone. Wh-What do you mean by that??

Dawn. She hissed the name.

What do you mean? What’s wrong with her??

A girl that young shouldn’t be dressing like that.

What are you talking about?? Dawn’s isn’t that young!

She’s four years younger than us!!

“She is?!” Ash blurted out loud.

“You met her when she was ten.” Misty no longer cared about keeping the topic quiet. Dawn can be exposed for the girl that she was. She was a nice girl, Misty admitted, but her constant concern over Ash on the phone calls and nonstop blabbing about how she kept seeing him in her dreams and blah blah blah BLAH BLAH. Misty’s anger boiled. “It had been at least four and a half years since we met when you first met her. It could have been five and a half, and if she had an odd birthday it could certainly have been six! So Dawn’s definitely way too young for you.”

Ash’s jaw stiffened and mind panicked at her insinuation.

So…” Maylene watched the back-and-forth argument held by Ash and Misty. “…she is your girlfriend?”

“NO!” The two yelled at once.

“Are you two dating?”

“N-No.” The two stumbled after the other.

“So Ash is free?”

Misty’s eyes widened and locked on. Maylene was a very nice girl, and she was turning out to be a fun friend to have around, but wherever she was leading with this would not end well for her.

Maylene recognized her fiery glare instantly and flinched. A bead of sweat dripped down the side of her face. “N-Nevermind. He might be too young for me anyways.”

Ash faced Maylene and tilted his head curiously. “How old are you?”

Maylene seemed taken aback by that question. “Why?”

He shrugged. “I thought you were the same age as me.”

“Well how old are you?” Maylene asked back.

“End of conversation, you two.” Misty’s eyebrows twitched. “You should probably patch up that bruise on your leg, Maylene.” She stood and walked towards the stairs.

“What brui–”

Misty jabbed her foot hard against Maylene’s leg and pretended to trip.

“OW!”

The water pokémon trainer faked a stumble and hissed, “Whoops. Clumsy me.”

Maylene looked up at her in concern. Misty glared at her with an obvious message. The Fighting Gym Leader backed down and showed vulnerability.

That’s what I thought. Misty turned and walked upstairs.





“Is she normally like that?” Maylene whispered to Ash once Misty hadclosed a door.

“On a normal day.” Ash laughed.

Maylene giggled. “What’s an abnormal day?”

“When she’s alone with me, apparently.” He shrugged.

Ohhh… so you two…”

What?? No. No. Nothing like that!” Ash waved his hands frantically. “She’s just nicer when no one else is around.”

“Ah okay.”

Ash played with his bandages a bit and poked at some covered bruises.

Maylene had done the same in silence.



“Your leg okay?” Ash asked.

Hm? Oh yeah. It’ll be fine. That kick you gave me hurt a lot more.”

The young trainer’s face turned absolutely crimson. “I am so sorry. So very sorry.”

Maylene laughed. “Nah, you didn’t mean it. I just have to… sit awkwardly for a while.” She stuck her tongue out in a childish manner.

He was far too embarrassed to respond.

…so…” Maylene went back to a whisper. “…how old are you?”

“Sixteen.”

Really?? I would’ve thought you were fourteen at most!”

BU-DUM. An object dropped heavily on the floor above.

Maylene reduced her volume immediately, “I’m seventeen.”

“So you are older than me.” Ash lowered his voice but still put up a surprised tone.

“Yeah, people think I’m eleven or twelve sometimes… it’s my flat chest, really.”

Ash wasn’t comfortable talking about chest sizes, but nodded as to not seem rude.

She continued, “It comes from my poor diet. Don’t eat well and you don’t grow well.”

“For a girl who doesn’t eat well, you sure are in great shape! Your fighting moves are awesome!” Ash had let his voice rise back up.

Maylene followed his volume, “Thanks! I do my best. Fighting’s my passion!”

“I could tell.”

“And that fight we had?” she butted in. “Amazing! The kind of fight you look forward to for all your life!”

Ash tilted his head. “Really? I thought I fought awful!”

“You fought with heart! You fought how you could fight! How you should fight!” Maylene stood and clenched her fists. “Every fight I’ve been in was always filled with rules that stopped you from going all out. But that fight we had?”

Her extremely loud energy was coming back, except on a far more focused scale, pumping through her entire body instead of shooting out. Her tiny body looked like it couldn’t hold in all that pent up energy. She ran in place and held a large grin, looking like a child waiting for a present on Christmas Day.

Stomping into a stance, she made the tiniest howl Ash had ever heard. She obviously was trying to avoid getting Misty’s attention. Ash smiled amusingly at her. She was the happiest thing in the world at the moment – a girl who seemed nowhere near her age.

Her stance changed and she exhaled a large amount of energy.



“I mean, WHAT a fight!” She squealed.

Ash could hear her heart pounding hard in her tiny frame.

“Yeah, it was pretty fun.” he responded with a chuckle.

She shoved her face just inches from his, noses almost touching. Her eyes were wide and sparkling with youth. “Wasn’t it???”

With a hop upwards her energy came flowing back. “Why can’t every fight be like that?? It was amazing! I never felt so alive in my entire life!!” She bent over and grabbed Ash’s hands in a firm grip. “Promise me we’ll fight again!”

“Huh?”

Promise me we’ll fight again!” Her tone was cheerful, yet serious. “I want to get stronger. I want to get faster. I want to get tougher! I want to fight pokémon like you did! And when I get back, I want to face you again!!”

“…get back?”

“Well I’m going to do what I said I would do.” Maylene let go of Ash and scratched her chin. “Go around Kanto and train with my Lucario and just get better… but before I go back to my Gym, I’m definitely stopping by here again.”

She paused. “… you will be here again, right?”

“I’m not su–”

“Well I’ll find you.” Maylene shamelessly interrupted. “OK?”

Ash smiled. “OK!”

OK!!!” Maylene grabbed her single bag and ran out the door.

“Lucario!!! We’re heading out!!!” her voice echoed outside.

Her pink haired head popped back into the house. “Don’t forget! We have to fight again!”

“OK.” Ash had noticed that ‘OK’ was her personal phrase, one that she seldom used – probably due to odd looks and strange treatments. She definitely was more than happy that Ash was using it.

OK!!” She grinned and let out one last burst of that ridiculously happy emotion before slamming the front door shut.

The door slam echoed throughout the house and left a strangeringing in Ash’s ears. He did his best to clear it.



“Did she finally leave?” came a voice from below.

“A-Angie?!” Ash scrambled off the couch in surprise.

Squirming out of the couch like a caterpie, the gold-eyed tomboy gruntedand grumbled as she got every inch of her body back into the open. She rolled, crouched, then stood. Cracking her back and legs into a comfortable state. Angie gave one last stretch before jumping into a sitting position on the couch.

“What were you doing underneath the couch??” Ash was still in surprise.

“Well first, I was hiding from Anabel. She was getting all ‘personal’ again and needed to use me like a yes-woman.” In one casual swoop, she snatched up the remote and turned on the television. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with that, so I hid. Then you guys came in and sat on me. I couldn’t exactly leave without freaking out the Gym Leader… so I waited there until they left.”

She exhaled, finishing her explanation, “Aaand here I am.”



Ash shrugged. Good enough for me.

He sat on the cushion beside Angie. “What’s on?”

“Dunno. Flipping through ‘em.”

“Sounds good to me.”
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:13 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 11: Sanctuary

Spoiler:
Angie changed the channel again. “Does your rattata complain about its–” Nothing.

She pressed the button again. “–onchan does not yet seem to be aware of the incoming pack of hitmonlees aiming to steal its well-earned dinner.” Nothing.

Again. “Oh Charles, I DO love you. But… I’m… a blissey!” Nothing.

One last time. “–rew the rules! I have green hair!!” Click. Angie turned off the television.

A thick sigh shot out of her mouth. Her emotions seemed to exaggerate the moment with emotions of despair.

“GUHHHHHHHHHH!!” she roared out as she fell to one side of the couch. “There’s nothing on!!!”

“Then let’s do something else.”

Angie flinched, suddenly becoming aware of her summer friend’s existence. Her constant flipping of channels for the past two hours had caused her to become completely ignorant of her surroundings. A Legendary Pokémon could have been dancing next to her and she would have never noticed.

She sat up and leaned against a pillow, staring at Ash with distant curiosity.

“Hey.” Angie finally said something to Ash.

“Hm?”

“Wanna’ hang?”

Angie’s current form of communicating with Ash was completely different from the tones and manners he was used to for the past few days. I haven’t really spent any time with Angie lately, now that I think about it.

Ash adjusted his way of thinking in order to be casual with her. Or rather… to be himself.

To him, Angie was different from the other girls in a very strange way. Each of them was either a friend that traveled with him for long periods of time, or was a short-met acquaintance that had grown a deep connection with him due to special events. But Angie was Ash’s summer friend. Separate from the rest of the world.

The ways he treated her and hung out with her were completely foreign when compared alongside how he spent time with the others. When Ash was around her, he felt… different.

“Sure.” Ash nodded. “Where to?”

“Ugh. I dunno.” She sighed. “You know this place better than I do, you pick.”

He thought long and hard.

A smirk ran across his face. “I know just the place!”

“Finall– Huh? Wait up!”

Ash had ran out the door and was already sprinting down a path.

Angie ran after him and closed the door behind her.



_________________________________________________________



“Where are we going, Ash??” Angie picked off a nearby leaf from a tree and started chewing on it.

I seriously hope we’re not lost. She had been following Ash deep into the woods. As far as she knew, Ash had never travelled to this part of Pallet Town while blind. If they were still in Pallet Town… The trees were getting thicker and thicker, with branches hitting her more consistently.

How he’s able to find his way around here is beyond me. She ducked another branch and continued following.

“Yes! It’s still here!” Ash exclaimed ahead.

“What’s still here? How do you even know where here i–” Angie was silenced at what she saw.

Just passed a row of trees with strange carvings embedded into them, a round clearing appeared. Branches carrying leaves of all colors hung above, reflecting warm colors of sunlight like a natural kaleidoscope onto the soft grass below. A tire swing swayed with the wind above a field of flowers, with two small paths of dirt showing where only dragging feet kept their mark. Covered in vines, a lone toolbox rusted by time sat with patience; waiting for the day when someone would unlock its secrets. And in the center, stood a single white stump. Whatever tree grew here was different in color from the rest, with an almost perfect skin that gave it a surreal aura.

What the tree had been must have been special. To see it destroyed by the hands of an anonymous stranger… was saddening, yet gave it a mysterious history. Why only this tree? What did it represent?

Despite its dead loneliness, it had also been the foundation for much life. This area was a child’s secret playland. A place safe from the rest of the world. And this solitary stump provided everything that haven needed. A chair. A table. A platform. A step. A cliff. A wall. A friend.

Angie wandered into this fairytale land, her eyes taking it all in – like breathing in swirls of painted winds, like sinking into a sea of stories and secrets, like absorbing a moment frozen in time.

“Ash…” Her eyes focused on the light coming from above. “This place… it’s beautiful.”

“I’m glad you like it.”

Like it…? That’s a joke.” She dropped on her knees to get a closer look of the pure white stump. “This is place deserves more thanjust a like.”

Cllllink.

Angie turned to see Ash opening the toolbox. From her distance, she could see trinkets and papers of all kinds. Most of them seemed damaged or absolutely useless. Sentimental value, she thought.

He picked out a single item and closed the toolbox. It was a photo, one that didn’t seem too old, but definitely worn from being inside the rusted box for a long period of time.

Ash couldn’t see the picture, yet he still smiled as he ran his fingers across its surface. Just touching it made him remember all the times he held it in the past. He must’ve looked at it a lot, Angie assumed. He looks pretty nostalgic.

“Remember this picture?” Ash said with a lower tone. A tone she hadn’t heard since the nights they’d spend hanging out under the night sky that wonderful summer.

She remembered that he admitted to never using it around his friends, as they always saw him as just a kid. He never wanted his friends to feel uncomfortable around him. She argued that if they were real friends that they would accept him for whoever he was. ‘It’s just a voice. It’s not that big of a deal.’ He ended the argument with.

Ash approached her and handed her the photo.

Tears almost escaped her eyes when she realized what the photo was. In it Ash and Angie were both leaning against a tree, shoulder to shoulder, Pikachu on Ash’s head, and Shinx on her shoulder. Ash’s eyes were closed due to his hat falling off right when the photo was taken.

She had been the one who had taken the picture… it was with a disposable camera that the students were passing between each other. Angie remembered this was the only picture she successfully taken a picture of with Ash in it. He had avoided the student camera like a sickness, saying he didn’t want to get in trouble in case the instructors found it.

Thinking back, she remembered how often she checked her mail to see if the photo came. The student in charge of keeping the camera was supposed to send the photos to each of their proper owners once they were developed. She questioned constantly if she had written her address correctly for them. Eventually she had completely forgotten about the mail and moved on.

Yet here it was.

Ash… where did you get this?

“I crossed out your name and address and put mine on the list.” He laughed.

She punched one of his bandaged bruises.

“Ow!”

“Why’d you do that??” She was ready to hit him again if he didn’t answer.

He smiled at her and said, “Don’t you remember? I told you that if you ever took a picture of me with that thing that I’d make sure you never get it.”

“You…” She kicked him in the shin.

“Ouch!” He backed away with a playful smirk.

“You jerk!” She chased him around in circles.

Angie finally was able to trip him and wrestled him into a lock.

“Ow ow ow!” He shouted while still laughing.

“Say you’re sorry!” She commanded as she twisted his leg.

Ash shifted his weight and knocked her down. He pinned her to the ground. “No way. I got that thing fair and square.”

The two laughed as they struggled against each other – with Angie struggling to get out of the hold and Ash struggling to keep her in place.

A sigh of satisfaction came from Ash. He was looking at her with a genuine smile.

He couldn’t see her, as his blank eyes showed… but he knew she was there. His grip suddenly felt lighter, almost as if his fingers were feeling her own. His breathing becoming softer, as if he was investigating her scent. And a strange silence filled the air as if he was intently listening to her every twitch.

Don’t look at me that way, Ash… She blushed. You can’t admire me like that. I’m not that kind of girl…

With little effort, Angie pulled her wrists free and pushed him off.

Hmph.” She huffed with an air of irritation. She shoved the photo into her pocket. “I’ll just take this.”

She sat on the ground next to the stump and started looking at its near-perfect skin again.

Ash crawled over and sat on the stump.

So…” he started. “What do you think of this place?”

She blinked up at him. “It’s amazing, but… what is this place?

“This is my little sanctuary.” Ash said with a big grin. “I found this place when I was little and I never forgot about it. …It’s a place I go to whenever I needed to be alone… I visit it every time I arrive back in Pallet Town… when no one’s was watching, that is.”

“Why did you bring me here?” she questioned with a curious stare.



Ash went quiet.

“You can tell me. You owe me that much.”

“Owe you for what?” Ash took off his cap.

Angie stared at him for a while. I like him without that silly hat.

“…You owe me for dragging me along into this crazy adventure.”

“You didn’t have to follow me here. You could’ve just stayed at the house.”

“No, not that. I meant all…” She twirled her finger in the air. “…this. Your blindness, your Empathy training, the prison, all that stuff.”

“Well the answer’s the same for that… You didn’t have to follow me.”

“You asked me to.”

What do you mean??” Ash raised his brow, completely confused.

“You don’t remember?”

“Remember what?”

Angie studied his face carefully before sighing. “Okay… let me start from the beginning…”

She leaned back and adjusted her position. “So I first saw you at the hospital, but before this, I had just started on my own Pokémon Journey… I was able to convince my parents to let me go off on my own. I wanted to see the world and see what I could make of myself. Before I could leave though, my mom had asked me to visit my uncle in the hospital. And seeing that it was the least I could do for them, I did.”

The tomboy stretched, letting off a small yawn before continuing, “After visiting him, I went downstairs and saw some girl panicking at the front desk, demanding for a doctor. I was going to go up to her and yell at her to be respectful… until I noticed there was a badly injured boy sitting on the floor next to her.

“Then I was just going to let her be… but then I noticed there was something too familiar about the boy. To my surprise, it was you! I was shocked, to say the least. I ran to you calling out your name. The girl, who was obviously Anabel – but I didn’t know her name yet, was surprised that I knew you. She begged me to stay with you and to get a doctor.

“Of course I said yes, no duh. She gave me her contact info and she ran out of the hospital with a poké ball in her hand.” Angie paused to think, ensuring she told the story correctly up to this point. “So anyways, I got you a doctor. I wasn’t sure if I should stay with you, or if I should have just gone. I mean, I was worried, but I had my own journey to do, you know?”

Ash nodded to show that he understood.

And well… I actually was going to leave you. I thought you were in good hands already. I was about to give Anabel’s information to the doctor, when you suddenly called out… my name.” Her eyes became distant as she experienced that memory all over again as she told it. “I wasn’t sure if you really did say it, but then you said it again. You were reaching at me… and you asked me to not leave you… and that you missed me…”





“Really?” Ash was scratching his chin, heavy in thought. “I don’t remember any of that. That’s pretty crazy…”

“You even woke up for a while in the helicopter.” Angie pointed out. “You were reaching out to me then, too… though I think you called me by a different name then.”

…wait… you were in the helicopter with me??” Ash seemed extremely confused at this point. “I thought Anabel was the one with me in the helicopter!”

“Anabel?? You called me ‘Amy’! That a nickname for her?? Well whatever…” Angie stuck her tongue out. “No, it was me in there with you.”

“…huhh… that’s so weird that I don’t remember any of that.”

“I wouldn’t think an unconscious kid would remember what he wasn’t awake for.” she added.

Ash looked guilty. “…Then that means I really stalled your journey, didn’t I?”

Angie shrugged. “Pretty much.”

Ouch… I’m so–”

Ah-ah-ah!” She put one finger on his lips and wagged another in the air. “You owe me an explanation of why you brought me here, not an apology.”

He sighed.

Fine…” Ash surrendered. “I guess… I guess I just knew you’d be the only one that wouldn’t treat me differently after seeing this place. If anyone else came here and saw this, they’d treat me like a completely different person. They might even treat me all… special.”

“Oh like they don’t already treat you special.” Angie joked.

Ash pointed his hand lightly in her direction. “See? That’s what I’m talking about. No one else would come in here and take me casually.”

Angie smiled.



She then scratched her chin. “Hm… Move out of the way, I want to sit on that thing now.” With a quick push, she shoved Ash off the stump. Crossing her legs and adjusting her posture, she sat silently and gazed into her summer friend…





“What makes you think they’ll treat you like that?” she finally asked.

“That’s always how it always happens. Gary used to be my best friend when I was little.” Ash admitted. He moved around until he found a comfortable position, knowing that his story would be long. “After we got old enough, he started being mean to me.

“The guy may not look like it now, but three or four years back, Gary would always harass me and call me names. He’d never give up the chance to shove something in my face to get me angry. And that wasn’t because he was just some jerk… …well, actually, he was a jerk – but that wasn’t his only reason to treat me like that.”

Ash sighed as he recalled earlier memories that he thought he had forgotten. “A few years before that… I remember I defended this kid who used to bully other kids. The bully was getting bullied now, and I didn’t think it was right. I did think he deserved to pay for everything he did, but notby us turning into him… So I defended him. And even though Gary was never bullied by that kid especially, he started looking at me different because I protected him. He thought I was too soft and nice to people – and that I was weak because of it.

“It’s not that I was supposed to be a jerk or anything… I just wasn’t supposed to be like… that. Being nice to some kid that we didn’t really owe anything to. And well… Gary and I didn’t really hang out as much after that, mainly because I couldn’t take his daily insults. He only got like that after I protected that kid. I never really knew why… but apparently that really bothered him.”



“I dunno… that’s kinda’ specific, don’tcha’ think?” Angie responded with a raised brow. “I don’t really know if just that one event is enough to think people will treat you weird for seeing this place.”

“Oh no, that wasn’t the only situation.” Ash continued, “That was just the example for a person you knew. I used to have a lot more friends when I was younger… and every time I acted different and stayed different, they’d get so uncomfortable that they’d stop being my friend.

“It happens even these days. If I act too mature or too knowing about something, Misty gets all quiet around me. If I act too interested in girls or okay with things like romance, May would start treating me differently. If I act too reckless and do dumb things for little to no reason, Anabel gets distant. I’m noticing this all now more than ever.” Ash sighed. “Because of my Empathy.”

He laid down and pulled out a nearby flower. “I really can feel it this time. I thought I was just paranoid before… but now I know I’m not crazy. It’s like people don’t want me to grow up or something… like I wouldn’t be me anymore if I just acted differently.”

His summer friend sat silently, listening to his story. She wasn’t sure what to make of all the information he was giving. Though it was similar to the stories he’d tell back at the Summer Academy, it felt a lot more personal.

From the stories he had told her then, Ash seemed a lot more mature and understanding than people gave him credit for. True enough he was still immature and stubborn and would be known for getting into the stupidest situations, but he was fully aware of it… these stories only enforced that idea.

She felt slight pity for him… yet also felt a sense of pride in knowing these things. In a way, Ash saw her as a partner he could confide in, and she was glad… because she wanted to be his partner. She wanted to protect him and support him in everything he did. He was a great guy, and she believed all his friends didn’t really deserve him.

“It’s not that I want to be different…” Ash spoke up again, continuing his feelings for the story he told earlier. “…I mean, I don’t think I’m that smart, I don’t think I’m really into romance, and I don’t think I’m that reckless… but it’s not like I’m never interested in those things, y’know?”

She nodded. It was a feeling she agreed deeply with.

“So whenever I start a new journey with a new person to travel with… I always want to try something different.” He let out a long sigh. “But then I get stuck. They get too used to the new thing I tried and expect me to always be that. …and I will be. But I’m other things too, ya?”

Ash closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose, letting all the air out of his lungs.

He opened his eyes again and stared back into the darkness, sighing.

“…but you’re different. You’re fine with whatever I turn into or change into. You don’t care who I act like… because… I dunno, I feel like you know who I am… like you always have or something.

Angie placed a hand on his leg to show affection. She wanted him to tell her more, to connect with her on deeper levels, to open himself up in ways no one else could see him…

“I mean… even if I look at you in that way… you still wouldn’t treat me any differently.” his words caused Angie’s face to turn pink.

Ash blushed with her.

Because well… I guess it’s not like we have to deny it. It’s not a bad idea. Not a bad thing at all.” His shoulders tensed as he continued to speak in a way he still wasn’t fully used to.

“Not a bad thing at all.” Angie agreed with a whisper and deep blush.

Ash flipped onto his stomach and started pulling out individual grass blades. “But my other friends… it always feels like that emotion would change everything… like we can’t ever think those things, wonder those things, want those things – without our relationship changing completely.”

“Except Anabel.” Angie added.

“Yeah… but Anabel isn’t even a close friend yet.” He tossed the cut blades into the wind. “It’s like she just wants to instantly be a girlfriend or wife or something.

“I mean… what’s it going to be like if I did get with her? What happens after the honeymoon? Do we even have anything in common that we love to do? …I mean, there’s Pokémon, but everyone loves Pokémon. So it’s not like we’re going to be there for each other. We’re just going to be there for the pokémon.”

Angie giggled in agreement.

Ash sighed again. “Why the rush into a relationship? It’s not like I’m going to disappear forever. I can still be their support and friend even if I get married. I’d still be there for them. I wouldn’t abandon them just because I was married.”

“Even if your wife wanted you to leave them?” Angie pushed.

He shrugged. “I guess I would leave them. But I don’t know why I’d ever have to.”

“Women don’t like each other very much.”

“Is that from experience?” Ash asked with a laugh.

“More than you think.” She groaned.





“So yeah.” Ash exhaled. “I brought you here because you’re the only one that could see this place and not treat me like some kind of tree hugger or delicate flower afterwards.”

“Honestly, it’d be perfect to call you a delicate flower.” she teased.

“Yeah.” He smiled in satisfaction. “But you wouldn’t mean it.”

“Nope.” She grinned.



“Can I ask you a question, Ash?”

“Hm?”

“Did May really kiss you?”

Ash buried his face into the grass and shouted loudly into the ground. “Mrrrrrrrrphhhh!!!



He lifted his head and answered in defeat, “Yes.”

Why did she? Why did you let her?”

“She was depressed. Thinking about old ex-boyfriend stuff. She was really sensitive.” Ash explained. “I couldn’t just let her be like that. …I especially didn’t want her to pretend like it wasn’t a problem. Normally when another person is around she just locks up those feelings, and it drives her crazier and crazier until she has time to be alone. She doesn’t think anyone knows, but I’ve felt her feelings whenever she was alone… she hates everything about herself when she’s alone.”

He shrugged. “So I wanted her to let it all out. To settle it all. So she wouldn’t be so crazy when she left. …I mean, who knows how long she’ll be by herself out there. If she didn’t let it out then, she might’ve done somethingstupid. Like get back with her ex. I didn’t want her to come back all messed-up, y’know?”

“So you let her kiss you?” Angie tilted her head.

“No!” Ash sat up, his face red from the memory. “I had no idea she was going to do that! And what was I supposed to do after she did? Push her away, spit to the side, and say ‘Ewww Cooties!’ ?”

Angie laughed childishly.

He chuckled. “Honestly, I didn’t know that would happen. I didn’t feel it coming whatsoever. And like I said, what was I supposed to do after she did? …she just really wanted to express that. She really wanted to let go of all of those feelings. …and I don’t blame her.

He blushed. “I mean, I don’t really regret that she did. It was very… nice… I guess.”

Angie kicked him back down. “Jerk. Saying that in front of me.” she spoke honestly.

I know. I know. I’m sorry. I just wanted to be honest.” He said as he sprinkled blades of grass into his face. “I know you’d understand if I told you…”

“You should just stop being so nice to those girls. You encourage them to have those thoughts, you know?”

He sat up again. “I guess. But what am I supposed to do? Lie to them by not caring? Honestly, I do care about them. I do feel for them. I want to be there for them. Because they’re not just great friends… they’re great women, they really are. And there are just so few good guys that catch their eye out there… All the guys I’ve seen them fall for are just… Gah! Just thinking about them getting with any of those jerks just depresses me.” he groaned.

“I mean, don’t you just want to be close to someone because you get sensitive in emotions? I know that even I’ve felt it a few times…” He massaged his forehead and exhaled. “… if any of them did that with just any guy, they’d probably end up like May. She feels… broken. And she’s always paranoid about men now… I don’t want any of them ending up and staying like that… they mean a lot to me…

“Well you’re going to have to make a choice sooner or later, Ash.” She slid off the stump and sat next to him. Her face turned a deep pink as she wrapped her arms around his. “A-And don’t forget that I’mone of th-those choices.” she stuttered.

Ash blushed and felt his body sweat a little.

Personally speaking,” she added, “I’d kick them all out. None of them are anything but trouble for you.

He laughed nervously, “They’re good friends.”

Oh, I’m not denying that they are!” Angie clarified. “From all the stories you’ve told me about them, they sound like wonderful people and great friends! But fact is, as long as they keep bickering over you, it’s just going to make things more complicated… And knowing you, you’re just encouraging that by letting them do whatever they please.”

The Empathic found himself falling back to the dirt… He rolled in despair.

What do you think I should do then?” He stopped rolling. “I mean should I…

Nothing.” Angie interrupted with a sigh. She hated what she felt like she had to say next. “You… You shouldn’t just say ‘No’ to them… with the way they are, they’d avoid you and just run off to find the next guy to care for them. And you’d be stupidly right… they would get with some jerk. And then you’d be stupidly depressed for them. And if I were anyone else, I’d tell you to forget about them. But you know what?? No. They mean a lot to you, I’d never tell you to do that…

She rolled beside him and started poking at his bandages. “But honestly you deserve more than all this, Ash. You helped them out with so many things… and you keep a lot of them stable… but you shouldn’t be crawling around trying to please every single one of them… you need one wife. One partner. And the rest should just be happy being your friends…”

…so I what should I do?” Ash frowned, even more confused than ever.

“Like I said… Nothing. The girls want to fight over you? Let them fight over you… It’ll make them know what they really want in their relationship. Eventually they’ll have to give up sometime… or at least admit defeat. And in the end, they’ll still be your friends, and they’ll know what to really look for in a guy…” She poked the tip of his nose playfully, sighing at her own conclusion.

Then…what will you do?

“I guess I have no choice but to compete, you jerk.” She gave a slight laugh. Her eyes judged his features in infatuation. “Honestly, I’m the best choice you’ve got. I’d take you right now if I could…” A bright red colored her face, completely in disbelief at herself for her honesty. “…but I won’t. Because if I really am the best for you, then I’d be able to beat them at their own stupid games. And unlike them, even if I lose, I’d still love to be your best friend…

Ash’s face mimicked her blush’s color. “…s-same here, Anj.

The two smiled at each other. Their fingers wrapping around each other’s firmly.



“C-Come on, let’s go.” Ash fumbled into a stand and wobbled for a few steps. “We’ve been gone for too long.” He placed his hat back on.

Angie stood up. “Oh wait! I want to swing on the tire swing!”

Ash grabbed her by the sleeve and yanked her away from it. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. That tire swing’s haunted.”

“What?” She didn’t believe him.

“No. I’m not kidding. I never put up that tire swing. That’s always been there.” Ash said distantly.

…and it’s haunted?” She started getting chills.

Definitely haunted.” Ash said as he walked back into the forest.

She stared at the swing as it rotated eerily. The air felt inhumanly cold in an instant. She let out a tiny squeal of fear and ran to the safety of Ash.

Told ya’.” He laughed as he wrapped his arm around her.

The two hurried on home, for the sake of time – but also to avoid any possible curses from angry spirits.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:14 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 12: Escape

Spoiler:
Knock Knock Knock.

Ash sat up and rubbed his face. The air was still cold, still crisp. Early morning, he figured.

His actions were automatic, his body piloting itself only to respond to things in necessity rather than will. Too early to care. Too tired to want to. He stood, but before he could make a single step towards the door he heard a sound coming from behind him.

“Pssssst!” the sound washollow, as it was from behind his window.

What now…

Ash turned towards the window in curiosity, though he found himself in conflict on whether to answer the door or window first.

“Don’t answer the door.” the hollowed voice warned.

That answered it for him.

He walked over to his window and opened up a crack. The freezing morning air shot through and nearly forced him to let go of the sliding window. “Hurry up!” it was Angie’s voice, with urgency and panic covered in whispers.

“What are you–”

NO TIME! Angie did her best to shout in her emotions.

His wrist was grabbed and yanked through the small opening of the window. He was about to audibly complain about the pain when a hand went over his mouth.

With quick pats and pulls to give him the sense of emergency, Ash squeezed himself through the window and crawled out onto the platform Angie had been standing on.

Angie did her best to close the window silently.

“Angie, what’s going on??” Ash groggily asked.

She put him in a headlock, covered his mouth, and crouched. “Shhhh…”

Through the window he could hear his room’s door open quietly.

Fop. Fop. Fopf. Someone was walking in his room, someone who sounded too heavy be anyone he knew.

“Boss,” a deep voice muffled through the window, “No one’s in this room.”

“Step out.” A familiar, threatening voice echoed into the room.

“Yes sir.” The large figure shifted out of the area.

“Ampharos… clear the room.”

A low purr entered the room. That doesn’t sound like a normal Ampharos…

“What kind of pokémon is that…” Angie hissed. She pulled out her pokédex.

‘POKÉMON NOT FOUND’ is all that flashed on the screen.

“What…”

Electricity burst from the Dark Ampharos, spreading across the room and into every crevice.

The heat coming through the window was growing hotter and hotter. “Angie, we’ve got to move.” Ash grunted.

She nodded and the two jumped off the roof and onto the floor in front of the front door.

They weren’t alone. “Who the–” A man who had been guarding the front turned at the sound of their landing.

He reached for his radio.

“Oh no you don’t.” another familiar voice appeared behind the man. It launched a strike to the back of his head.

BAF. The man fell over unconscious.

“Maylene?” Angie’s eyes widened. She grinned, completely gladdened to see a friendly face.

The pink-haired fighter glared around her before looking at Ash and Angie.

“Lucario, get Ash out of here.”

Ahum of acceptance sounded next to Ash. He had no idea Lucario was there. In fact, he never felt Maylene coming either. Something’s wrong, was all he could sense from them.

Two stiff arms wrapped around his waist and lifted him off the ground. “Huh??”

Angie’s eyes widened. “Maylene, what are you–”

“They’re after Ash.” She responded with a straight tone. “We have to get him out of here right now.”

“But what about–”

“We can’t save them. These aren’t regular Team Rocket thugs.”

“Team Rocket??” Ash struggled to get the blue jackal to let go of him. “They’re after Pikachu!”

“They already have him.” Maylene used her hand to silence Ash. “We can’t get him back. They have pokémon I’ve never seen before. And they have a lot of them.

“Besides, they weren’t after him. They were after you, Ash.” she growled.

Angie asked for the quieted boy, “Why him??

“I’ll explain later. For now grab whatever pokémon you have and let’s get out of here.”

Ash struggled to get his mouth free. “Mmm – My poké ball belt is back at my room…”

“Then it’s too late for them.” Maylene stated in disappointment.

“But–”

“Lucario, let’s go!”

Maylene ran into the forest, with her Aura Pokémon shortly behind.

“Let me go!! I said let me go!! ASH!!” Delia’s scream stopped Angie in her tracks.

She was conflicted. Go with them? Try to save the others?

“It’s Team Rocket!! Starmie! I choose – AHHH!!!” Misty failed in her attempt to fight back.

No… What should I do?!

Something moved at the corner of her eye. Angie turned and found a frightened espeon cowered behind a bush.

Anabel’s espeon…

Angie crouched down. “Espeon.” She whispered and waved the Sun Pokémon over. “We need to get out of here.”

The cat-like creature hesitated.

“Please… we’ll come back for Anabel later.”

It nodded and ran towards her, jumping onto her shoulder for protection.

Angie turned and ran into the forest. Maylene had waited for her, giving her a serious nod to let her know she had made the right choice.

The five ran deeper into the woods, never looking back.



_________________________________________________________



Despite Maylene’s seriousness, she still found herself in awe when she stepped into the sanctuary.

“What is this…”

Ash sat silently on the tree stump, clearly upset.

Lucario stared coldly at the ominous tire swing at the corner of the area.

Angie had avoided it and sat on the opposite side of the clearing. “It’s Ash’s hang out spot. No one knows about it other than him… and me.”

The Gym Leader glanced at Ash. Colors of red, orange, and yellow reflected on his body as the sun was beginning to rise. Without his usual vest and cap, the boy looked far less childish. His features far more pronounced as the loose clothes he had slept in draped over his form nicely. In a way, he seemed taller, leaner in all the right spots, and definitely far more mature. And whether or not it was just his morning or troubled looks, he certainly had a handsome look to his face.

Maylene found herself staring before too long.



Ahem. The tomboy cleared her throat.

“Right!” Maylene’s eyes turned stern once again. “Lucario, check the area. Make sure we weren’t followed.”

It took its eyes off the menacing swing and jumped into the branches above.

Espeon hopped off of Angie’s shoulder and sat on Ash’s lap, sharing similar concern as the boy.

“Why did we leave them…” his voice was lower than Maylene had ever heard. It startled her.

Instead of studying the constant surprises Ash hid under his sleeve, she decided to answer him. “There were too many of them. And that man with them, whoever he was, he didn’t look like any Team Rocket squad leader I’ve seen before… Not only that, but many of them were carrying weapons. They hardly looked like any of the cronies I’ve faced.”

“His name’s Giovanni.” Ash mentioned. His memory had finally revealed to him the identity behind the voice he heard within his room.

Hm?”

“He was a Gym Leader here in Kanto…”

“You have a Gym Leader that works with Team Rocket??” Maylene approached him. “How can you tolerate that?!”

HAD a Gym Leader that worked with Team Rocket… He disappeared one day. They still haven’t found a full replacement for him.” Ash tilted his head to face her. “Besides, no one knew he worked for Team Rocket. And no one has ever gotten evidence of him being a part of them.”

“But we saw.” Angie stood with determination. “We can be witnesses!”

“Wouldn’t be enough.” Ash frowned. “I’ve heard of a lot of people disappearing when they accuse him of any crimes.”

With a sigh, he continued, “…I didn’t think any of them were true, but there were rumors that Team Rocket’s everywhere here in Kanto. They have their hand in everything. And touching any of their higher-ups? It’s always bad news…”

“Have you ever faced Giovanni?” Maylene was curious. “As a Gym Leader, that is.”

“No… I had to fight a substitute. But Gary did.”

“How did he fair?”

Ash recalled the memory. It was strangely fuzzy, as if something was blocking the full story. “Gary was beaten easily by him. He kept saying something about a pokémon he had never seen before.”

The pink-haired fighter nodded. “They all had pokémon that I’ve never seen before. Knowing that, they must have been elites. Team Rocket often sells their rare pokémon… I’d guess only the higher-ups keep the best for themselves.”

“We should’ve tried something!” Ash yelled at Maylene, causing her to suddenly feel cornered.

“And risk you getting captured??” She had grabbed him by the collar. “Team Rocket’s known for more than just stealing pokémon! They not only have been thought to experiment on, brainwash, and even kill some of them – but they’ve been known to do the same to people!”

The Trainer growled… backing down unwillingly. Ash had heard of those rumors, but never wanted to believe them. They always seemed too dark in a world where wars were no longer fought, where the greatest heroes still existed and were known to be the Elite. To Ash, he didn’t think such dark figures could exist alongside figures so bright.

But knowing all this, he felt even more at edge at not saving his friends and mother. He wanted to fight back, he wanted to go back there and try something, but something in his gut was telling him that Maylene was right. They wouldn’t have stood a chance. …and though he never admitted anything was impossible or useless, something was stopping him from acting against this logic.

“Why were you back at Ash’s?” A tone of suspicion came from Angie’s lips.

Ash suddenly realized that he had no idea why Maylene had returned to their house. He struck hard with his Empathy to search her. But it was like ramming concrete with a needle. Her focus had kept him out and he was too weak to break through.

“I was tracking them.” She answered with no fear or doubt. “I saw them on my way to Viridian City. Originally, I was planning to knock them out and get them arrested, until I noticed how many there were. Lucario and I hid before they noticed us. …and then we followed them here…”

Angie nodded, finding her story clean enough. “But how do you know they were after Ash? And why would they be after him? Wouldn’t they have just aimed for him before?”

“They did.” Ash responded. “They were always after my pikachu.”

“Not this time.” Maylene stated. “I think their lower cronies were always after your pikachu, but if the head of Team Rocket really wanted him, they would already have him. They beat Pikachu easily and captured him back at your house. I only managed to knock a few of them unconscious, but their pokémon were far too powerful for Lucario and I.

“These ones? Were after you, specifically.”

“But that doesn’t make sense!” Angie threw her arms in the air. “Ash has competed in so many tournaments. He’s gotten involved with so many stories, it’d practically be impossible to find an event that didn’t have him in it! If Team Rocket really wanted him, they had plenty of chances to do it! Why here? Why now?”

“Tell me, what was the last tournament Ash entered in?” Maylene asked.

“The Tsunami Fest–” Angie’s eyes narrowed, finding one piece to the puzzle…

Lucario had returned and shook his head, calming his partner with his news.

“I’d assume Ash’s notoriety went beyond just ‘great Trainer’ after that tournament.” Maylene pointed out. “I heard some of them talking amongst each other… they knew about Ash’s Empathy.”

“So? There’s a lot of Empathics out there!” Angie had brought up yet another point Ash had wanted to ask. It was a relief for him, as he wouldn’t have asked as nicely…

“Not like Ash.” Maylene sighed, already tired of the topic that caused her tension. “Even ignoring all the things he’s famous for, he’s also been involved in a lot of things that Team Rocket had their hands in… and the rumors of what else he had been involved with are even more outrageous.”

Angie stared curiously at Ash. There was so much about him she didn’t know. Though he’d always tell her stories of their adventures, he never seemed to run out of them. What other stories he had to tell, she wasn’t sure, but she wanted to hear them.

Leaning against a tree, Maylene continued, “To Team Rocket, Ash is a kind of a boogeyman. But now that they know he’s an Empathic, they’re beginning to see him as a bigger threat than Lance.”

Ash felt a strange form of honor and pride from the comment.

“And seeing that Ash is still young and not even a Master in any region yet…” Maylene did her best to word it properly without offending him. “They thought they could capture him before he became a real thorn on their side.”

“What will they do to my mom and the rest?” Ash finally asked.



An uneasy feeling stung the air.

“We have to go back.” Ash decided.

Maylene stood in front of him. “No we don’t.”

“Then what do we do?! Stay here and let them rot?!”

“We can’t face them!”

“Then get the police involved!”

She placed a hand on his arm. “If what you said was true, we can’t go to any officials. Not even head figures. If Team Rocket’s as big as you say they are… then we don’t have any real allies up there. You’ll find your friends and family in worse troubles if you went to the authorities…”

“Then… what am I supposed to…” Ash’s eyes stared in defiance. Tears welled up on the corners. He couldn’t see her, yet he still hoped she could see his emotions through his eyes. He had no words left. Nothing more to say. She knew what he felt. He was just hoping she’d understand.

Angie stood to the side, deeply concerned forAsh… She had no idea what to do or say, but she needed something, anything. With pleading eyes, she looked towards the Gym Leader and frowned.

Anabel’s espeon curled against the fighter’s legs as if to beg.



Shoot.” Maylene ran her fingers through her hair in distress.



Fine!

Ash gave a resolutesmile and nodded, turning to run back.

“But we can’t go back now.”

“What?? Why?! He stopped in his tracks, irritated.

“I’m not taking back what I said. They are still too tough for us. We’ll need help. Information. Anything. We can’t just run in there.”

“But what about my mom and–”

“Hope that they’ll use them as bait for you. If worse comes to worse, we can let them know of your whereabouts so that they don’t try anything too hasty on any of them.” Maylene did her best to comfort and explain. “Team Rocket may be dirty and under-handed, but they never get rid of their cards until they no longer have a use for them. As long as they know you’re still out there, all of your friends will be as valuable as insurance alive.”

Shaking her head, she sighed. “…what we need now is help. We can’t do this with just the three of us… we’ll need a team. But there’s no way we can do this easily… we have to make sure we can trust them completely.”





Ash walked to the rust-covered toolbox.

He pulled out several individual items and laid it on the floor in front of them.

A ribbon sliced in half.

A bent spoon.

A strange rock.

A photo of a charizard.

A newspaper clipping of a famous researcher.

And a sketching of Ash and Pikachu.

“What are these?” Maylene asked as she and Angie studied the items.

Ash felt through the items with the tip of his fingers… a smile crossed his lips.

“People that I know can help us.”



_________________________________________________________



“Give me two days! I’ll be there as soon as possible!” May’s expression was that of a panicked woman who had been refused sleep, a stark contrast to its perfect complexion at the beginning of the video call.

No no no! May don’t!” Ash’s expression had been the opposite. His worried and stressed serious face had slowly dissipated at the sound of a familiar voice. “I just need some of your pokémon. Any that you can spare.”

“What happened to your pokémon at Professor Oak’s??? Did they take those too?!”

Maylene appeared behind Ash. “Can’t. I saw a group of them sent to bug and survey that lab. Any and all communication or visits will be reported immediately… We can’t step one foot near there.”

“Who is…” May looked faint. Too much worry and stress had hit her all at once. Any additional grief would have knocked her out completely. Seeing an unfamiliar face added extra burden to her already chaotic mind.

“This is Maylene.” Ash stated as he stepped back. “She’s the one who saved me.”

“Nice to meet you. I only wish it were in better circumstances.” Maylene nodded.

May bowed briefly and returned her attention to Ash. “You have to let me go there!”

“You have your Contests! I can’t let you…”

She responded with a palm to the screen, hard enough to cause static to flare for a few seconds. “That’s stupid! This is bigger than any Contest!! Their lives are on the line!! Your life is on the line!!!”

Angie squeezed between Ash and Maylene. She seemed the most indifferent of the call’s direction. By choice, Ash noticed. “What Ash is trying to say is that he doesn’t want you here. For all we know, Team Rocket’s got spies on you too. If you try to come here, you’d more than likely catch their attention. You really want to give Ash one more person to worry about?”



May’s eyes looked spiteful. Spiteful at Angie. Spiteful at herself. Spiteful at the situation. Spiteful at everything.

“… I’m coming.” She stated after wiping away a few tears.

“May! No!”

Angie threw her arms up. “This is why I said we should’ve called Dawn!!” She wandered away from the phone’s camera.

“We can still call her. She might be more willing to listen to warnings.” Maylene added.

“May, please…”

“No, Ash. I’m coming.” May decided with a determined look. “And don’t you dare call Dawn. She’s too trusting. She’ll get followed too easily. Just wait for me at Saffron City’s airport. I’ll be there and I won’t be followed.”

“May –”

“No Ash! Just no! You’re not doing this alone! I don’t care what you say. You ask anyone else for help, they’ll give you what you want and it won’t ever be enough! You ask me, and I’m giving it my all, you know that! So either you meet me in Saffron City Airways, or I go hunting for the Rocket base myself!” Click.

-Call Ended-

Ash sighed as he hung up the phone.

“Well that went better than expected.” Angie added sarcastically.

“We can’t risk meeting her there. She’s going to get followed.” Maylene thought hard. “We could probably use her as bait to find out where they take prisoners.”

“No.” Ash walked from the video phone and searched for the bed. There it is.

He sat down and faced Maylene. “We’re going to wait for her there.”

“You can’t be serious.” She had wanted to scream at him. Already his first contact had refused to work with them properly, and now they were risking everything so early in the game. She had a feeling he had no idea how dire the consequences were.

Ash understood her emotions, but kept to himself. He busied himself by running his fingertips across the surface of the half-ribbon, trying to remember what it looked like when he could see. May…

Whatever Ash was going through, she wanted to go through it with him.

“I am serious. I trust May. She says she won’t get followed, she won’t be followed.”

At this point, Ash wasn’t sure what his relationship with May was anymore. In the beginning, they had been mentor and student. As time went on, she treated him as more of an equal. Yet at this moment, in this situation, he wasn’t sure how to see her.

Circumstances required him to treat her as a source and a mercenary… but he couldn’t see her in any other way than as May.

It wasn’t so much he trusted May with this…

“She doesn’t exactly seem the stealthy type.” Angie noted as she searched the walk-in closet. “Coordinators are hardly what you call discreet.”

“May isn’t. But I know she knows what’s on the line.” Ash stated. “So we wait for her.”

It was that he wanted to trust her.

“And what are we supposed to do until then?” Maylene sighed, having given up on convincing him otherwise.

The pink-haired fighter wasn’t sure when Ash had taken over as group leader, but she wasn’t in the mood to fight it.

In retrospect, she had no idea what to do after securing Ash from the house. She had no real contacts, no real connections, and no real resources. She was a poor Gym Leader who felt like her peers had pitied her more than respected. This situation was far too big for her…

All she wanted to do now was prove herself… to herself.

“Let’s find a lower ranking Team Rocket member.” she ordered rather than suggested.

“Wait, I thought you wanted us to lay low?” Angie was getting tired of the constant changing of plans. She was getting tired of the entire mission already. It was all too confusing for her… too complicated, too drastic, and far too problematic. In her eyes, she was just a simple girl.

A simple girl that hadn’t been in a hotel room in years, especially in one so nice. The only plan she wanted to hear about today was a plan about ‘investigating’ the pool or ‘reconnaissance’ at the buffet. She didn’t think these things out of rudeness, but out of fear… This was too big for her. She’d face it gladly with Ash… but this was so different than what she had been used to just several hours before.

Maylene, thinking only about the mission, decided to put on her new clothes: a hat, a jacket, and a pair of shoes Ash had purchased for her that afternoon. “I did want us to lay low. And I still want us to lay low. That’s why we find a lower ranking Rocket.”

She adjusted her hair to fit comfortably underneath her beret. “Team Rocket, as frighteningly effective as they are as a group, are weak because of how they’re built. They’re a hierarchy, with the lower ranks being ignored unless enough of them are in trouble.”

Angie took Maylene’s wearing of new clothes as a sign to get dressed herself. “How the heck are we going to find one?” She grabbed her bags and brought them in with her into the closet.

“If we take the ferry to get to Saffron, then Celadon’s along the way.” Ash stated as he felt around for his own change of clothes.

Celadon… didn’t you say earlier that we had to avoid that place because it was crawling with Rockets?” Maylene turned away to give Ash some privacy.

“It’s also crawling with lower-ranked Rockets.” He noted. “Even going through one of the side roads in a forest near the city will run us into at least one.”

Angie popped out of the closet just in time to run back in from seeing Ash changing. She blushed hard. “Er um… Why can’t we just take the road there??”

Maylene answered for Ash, “Trust me, unless you’ve got bikes for all of us – there’s no way we’re getting there in less than a day’s worth of walking and running.”

“And by cab?”

“We were lucky enough to get a cab here that wasn’t Rocket-owned.” She mentioned with stress. “I do not want to risk that again.”

“The ferry’s fine. It won’t take that long.” Ash added. He finished placing on the new clothes Angie had picked them for him. A combination of green and gray colors, something that had blended with his slightly tan skin more than his usual combination of blues and blacks – according to her. Ash knew Angie wasn’t a fashionable type, but she assured him that he looked different enough.

Different enough from what, he wondered.

With an adjustment, his new hat was worn. They felt uncomfortable and itchy – as he always felt with any new hat. He scratched his scalp a bit. “We’re going to have to stay in the back though – to make sure we don’t draw attention.”

“No, we stay in the middle.” Maylene had turned and walked over to Ash to help him with his shoes, his previous injuries still preventing him from moving with flexibility. She explained, “Only the poor and the seedy stay in the back. And only the rich and seedy stay in the front. We have no idea if anyone from Team Rocket will be there, but I can assure you they’ll more than likely ignore the middle area.”

“So first you say we’re avoiding Team Rocket.” Angie exited the closet far more slowly this time. “Then you say we’re trying to find them. Then we’re trying to avoid them. We’re avoiding them to find them? This is giving me a headache.”

“We want to make as minimal contact with them as possible, and we want them isolated.” Maylene finished tying and adjusting Ash’s shoes for him. “If we get caught on land, we can run. We get caught here in Auburn, which is still too close to Pallet and Viridian for my comfort, we can only backpedal to Fuchsia – which will make us late with our appointment.”

She adjusted her shoes just to be sure they were tight. “If we get caught near Celadon, Saffron’s close enough to run to… but if we get caught on a ferry, you can bet that there will be Rockets waiting for us on shore.”

So just don’t get caught. Angie concluded to herself.

“Are we ready to go?” Ash asked.

A realization formed in Angie’s head. Her eyes widened as a small hum of excitementcame from her throat. “This is kind of awesome! We’re like super spies!

The Veilstone Gym Leader was going to scold the girl for not taking the situation seriously, but was reminded of something… “Spies usually have code names.”

Angie’s eyes widened. “YES!”

“The device points to this room.”

Ash and the girls shifted their attention to the door.

It busted open with a loud CRACK. A man, a woman, and an old man. All Team Rocket.

The old man pushed up his glasses. He laughedto himself with pride. “Giovanni will be quite pleased that the Rocket Tracker works perfectly.”

Maylene got into stance. “How did they–”

“Here, here, little kitty~!” The woman removed a poké ball from a strange device and pointed it forward.

Espeon, who had awoken from the sudden disturbance, began growling at the trio.

A red light shot from the ball and absorbed the irate creature.

Angie caught on fast. “That’s Anabel’s poké ball!”

“Then that means they can track us through poké balls…” Maylene hissed as she eyed her surroundings.

It was the man’s turn to speak. “I suggest you give up. Every floor is being patrolled by us now.” He pulled out a poké ball. “Though, if you want to have some fun first...”

“Lucario! Now!

Maylene’s lucario had smashed through the restroom door and rammed into the man and woman.

The old man’s jaw dropped. “No… SOMEONE GET UP HERE!” He fumbled to find his radio.

“We need to get out of here!” ordered Maylene. “We’ll have to jump from the balcony!”

“Wha-What?!” Heights had never stopped Ash before… when he could see where he would land or had a pokémon to catch him.

Lucario grabbed the panicked old man and slammed him into the Rocket pile.

Maylene moved for the sliding door.

“Wait.” Angie pulled out a poké ball. “Do we need to get answers from these goons?”

“No time!” The fighter gestured for Lucario to grab Ash.

Once again the boy found himself lifted off the ground. I hope we don’t have to keep doing this… Ash grumbled to himself.

“Bibarel!” A Great Ball flew from Angie’s hand.

A large beaver-like pokémon appeared in front of the green-haired tomboy.

“What are you–”

“Use Amnesia on those three!”

The bibarel nodded. Its eyes glowed. An orange aura surrounded the three knocked out opponents.

“Great job, Bibarel.” She summoned him back into its poké ball.

With a turn and run, Angie had jumped off the balcony without hesitation.

Maylene sprinted towards the trio, snatched the poké ball that carried Espeon, and crushed the Rocket Tracker with a powerful kick.

OK Lucario!” She yelled as she ran and jumped off the balcony. Lucario followed, with Ash in tow.

They passed several floors, with each light from other rooms highlighting their fall.

Ash was panicking. “What are we landing on exactly?!”

The drop stopped suddenly. They hadn’t touched the floor.

“Wh-What the –?!” Ash wobbled his hands and feet to see if there was any surface that held them aloft.

Slowly, they were placed onto the concrete.

“Good job, Meditite.” Maylene nodded towards a bush.

“Meditite??” Ash was let off Lucario’s shoulder.

With a rustle, a strange humanoid pokémon floated out of the leaves.

Maylene laughed. “What? You didn’t think we’d just jump off the balcony unless we knew we’d land safely, right Angie?”

Panicked breathing could be heard off to the side. Angie was on her hands and knees, sweating, and clearly spooked. “SPEAK. FOR. YOURSELF.” She gasped each word out. “I JUST JUMPED!”

Ash stood up and bowed to Meditite in thankfulness. He faced its owner. “So you knew we’d be jumping off the building??”

Maylene shrugged. “Not really. I just like to be prepared for the worst.”

The two of them laughed. Both glad to be alive.

“Hate to break up the party…” Angie was standing, patting dirt off her hands. Her eyes were pointed skyward. “But I think our friends know where we are.”

Above, several Team Rocket members were looking down in their direction from different balconies. Some were yelling to people behind them, others were shouting orders into walkie-talkies.

“Time to go!” Maylene returned her Meditite into its poké ball and started running.

“Hey wait up!” Ash was about to run, until he was picked up and carried off by Lucario. This again…

Angie stuck her tongue out at the would-be captors before turning and sprinting off.

The four escaped into the woods. Leaving panic and anger with their foes.



_________________________________________________________



The man had been staring at her since she passed him. She had no idea who he was. She had no idea how long he’s been aware of her. She had no idea if he followed her. What she did know was that she was scared out of her mind, nervous beyond reckoning, and absolutely unsure of herself at this very moment.

Would he really try something now?

Her fingers tapped erratically on her knee. She tried with all her might to come up with a plan, but couldn’t get passed her own cloud of fear.

I need to get out of here! Her breaths were getting shorter and shorter.

With a slight stumble, she stood up from her seat and walked briskly to the restroom. Before she could reach the door…

“Is your name May? The Coordinator?”

She turned. It was the man.

Oh no… not here, not in the plane…

“I’m a big fan!” He smiled.



She gave a nervous smile as she exhaled a heavy breath of relief. Oh thank goodness… just a fan.

“Can I have your autograph?” He pulled out a piece of paper and held it towards her. “Er… I don’t have a pen.”

May smiled cheerfully and turned to search her purse for a pen. “Oh don’t worry about it. I think I have o–”

She paused. Her eyes went wide, tears forming at their edges. Her lips quivered as she couldn’t believe what was happening.

No…

“Don’t move.” The man whispered. He adjusted the razor against her neck. “Or else…”

He looked around carefully and closed the curtain barriers that separated the restroom from the cabins. “Open the restroom. Get in.”

Her fingers shook, tears flowing down her eyes.

“Do it.” He pressed the razor into her skin, a trickle of blood running down her neck.

I’m sorry, Ash…

She turned the plastic lever. The door opened slowly.

Click.

“Drop it.”

May felt the blade against her neck tremble. The man was shaking.

“Drop it now.” The voice commanded again.

May’s heart leaped for joy when the razor fell harmlessly to the ground. She turned.

The man had his arms up, visibly frightened as a gun was pointed against his head.

A mysterious woman in a trench coat turned towards her and smiled. “Return to your seat, ma’am.”

“Y-You wouldn’t dare!” The man stuttered in defiance.

Being slammed into a wall and cuffed was the woman’s immediate response for him. “You’re right.” She lifted her gun, which immediately turned into a ditto and perched itself on her shoulder. “I wouldn’t. Gunshot holes and flying airplanes don’t mix very well.”

She removed her disguise, revealing an airline security Jenny.

“And don’t think your partners are coming. We’ve already got them in custody.”

May stared as the once threatening man was now kicking and screaming. “You can’t do this! Do you know who I work for?! You’ll pay! You’ll all pay!! Team Rocket never forgives and never forgets!!!”

“Shut it.” Jenny slapped him across the face, effectively bringing the pathetic man to tears. She looked at May again. “Ma’am, I would very much appreciate it if you returned to your seat.”

With a bow of complete thankfulness, the Coordinator ran back to her seat. She hugged her purse tightly like a teddiursa and nearly broke down crying.

The other passengers were gossiping and turning to see the scene play out with the Team Rocket members being hauled to the back by security.

May couldn’t believe how close she was to getting captured.

Or worse…

She felt a heavy shame weigh on her thoughts.



For the rest of the flight she’d question her abilities and usefulness.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:15 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Chapter 13: Lies

Spoiler:
“This is quite possibly the worst food I’ve ever eaten.” Angie moaned with a sick tone as she chewed.

“No one’s tellin’ you to eat it.” Ash mumbled as he rolled his chin against the table.

She turned and grabbed another toothpicked item from a passing waiter and popped it in her mouth. Once again, her face had shown complete distaste for the taste. “…but it’s free…”

“No matter how free it gets, I still think fancy foods taste weird.” Ash toyed around with the plate of food in front of him.



Maylene hadn’t spoken once, but Ash had been hearing her very loud and clear. Her devastatingly vibrant personality was back in full effect as she devoured whatever food came her way… giving him a continuing headache.

She swallowed hard and gasped in pure delight. “Do you guys always travel like this???” She slapped Ash’s back roughly.

He flinched at the sting. “N-No.”

“I never traveled with Ash until now.” Angie admitted.

“Man, if I knew travelling with friends meant you got to try all kinds of food…” Maylene grabbed another tray from a surprised waiter. “I would’ve given up being a Gym Leader!”

The headache came harder as she had her way with the new food. Ash took off his hat and rubbed his head. “We never really ate this good. Sometimes we’d spend days starving when we ran out of money.”

Days?? Try weeks and months!” Maylene laughed with that familiar tone of shame.

Loud thumps rumbled the table as the tomboy stood up suddenly from her seat.

Both Ash and Maylene turned her way in surprise.

“What’s wrong?!” The fighter’s mood changed immediately. She glanced around her, ready for anything.

Ash, who had been freed from the powerful emotion, joined her in searching for threats with his Empathy.

Angie’s eyes were wide, her face serious. A surprisingly audibleswallow came from her throat. “That…”

The two turned towards her again.

“…was… DELICIOUS!!!!” Angie slammed her hands on the table.

Ash and Maylene fell over in response.

The green-haired girl turned and started chasing after the waiter that had given her the sample. “WAIT!!! COME BACK!!!”

Maylene and Ash shared a laugh.



The fighter’s mood suddenly quieted. She wasn’t touching her food.

“Maylene?”



“…can we fight sometime, Ash?” she asked with a voice that was hardly cheerful or happy.

“Is something wrong?” he had sat up, trying to feel her emotions.

They were somber and low.

“…can we?”

“Only if you tell me what’s wrong.” He wasn’t like himself, Ash thought. Or rather, not like what people always expect me to be… He had rarely concerned himself with the hidden emotions of a woman. Not for the fact that he didn’t care, but for the fact that it was never his business.

This wasn’t his business either. But with more on the line, he had felt the need to be closer to his partners on this journey. Nothing short of knocking him out would stop Ash from caring about either of his partners at this point. …especially after a strange feeling came over him… one that he couldn’t quite explain…

He shook off the thought, returning to the current topic at hand. Maylene was troubled, and he didn’t know what to do or say…

Something was wrong. That’s all he knew. And whether it would affect her performance in the future or not, he didn’t care. What he did care about was the fact that she was distant. And it was something about that moment. Whatever it was, for whatever reason, from whatever history, it was important.

There was no reason for him to act like a naive boy anymore. All the ones who were used to him were either captured or too far away now. He could help her. He could finally solve all those problems that always caused the awkward goodbyes.

Maylene was his friend. She had no reason to help him other than for her own kindness. She didn’t have to stay with them, she didn’t have to listen to him, and she didn’t have to risk her time away from her gym. In every way, she was being a selfless guardian. And he couldn’t let her suffer that burden silently.

She sighed.

With a thought, her emotions were starting to close up. And like a foot stopping a door from closing, Ash had grabbed her hand.

“Ash?”

A yank of the arm got her on her feet.

“What are you–”

“Come on!”

She was dragged passed the dining hall, through the hallways, and finally to their room. With a quick search and shove, Ash had unlocked their door with the right key. With a heavy swing, he threw her into the room.

“Hey!” Maylene shot an angry look at him as she stumbled in. Her face immediately turned pink when he took off his jacket. “Wh-What are you doing?!”

“I don’t know how to talk to you…” Ash said as he fixed his gloves. “I don’t know anything about you. And I don’t know how to get you to open up. But I do know you like to fight.” He got into a stance.

“So let’s fight.”

A smirk ran across Maylene’s face. Taking off her jacket and cracking her neck, she got into a stance and flexed. “OK!!



_________________________________________________________



She watched the screen change and display the next set of flights.





There.

She sighed in relief. I’ve got two hours to kill.

“One flight down. Two to go.”

She backed away from the wall console and moved her eyes back to the crowd.

They were still there. Unmoving. Unchanging. Still exchanging the same mumbles and shouts. Camera flashes still went off despite there being nothing to catch. And people were still trying to find the perfect angle to witness the entire scene.

May remembered thanking the Jenny of the flight for not allowing her name or picture to be given to the press. By the time any news of her being the almost-victim of an assault, she’d be long gone.

…if they mentioned me, I’d be stuck in that crowd… answering questions for who knows how long.

She was about to move herself and her bags to the nearest restaurant when the crowd suddenly boomed in commotion.

Yells, arm waves, camera flickers, microphone adjustments, and several electronic devices going live at once.

And then they came… Escorted by several security personnel, a group of nine Team Rocket members dressed like everyday passengers were herded passed by the crashing waves of press associates and freelance journalists. Each one looked different from the other, as if each was specialized for something horridly sinister that the other could have never touched. Seeing them sent chills down her spine.

Then those chills turned her blood into ice.

As one, they tilted their head up and glared at her. They all knew their target; they all knew her name, her face, and probably everything she had ever done in her life. They knew who May was. And they knew where May was going. And they knew who May was going to meet. As they were moved, their heads followed her. Each of them had a different expression: hatred, indifference, frustration, sorrow, curiosity, insane glee, professional analysis, envy, and disgust.

She felt as cornered and as lost as she had felt when the razor had touched her skin. As a reaction, she rubbed her neck where the blade had pierced. The pain and mark was gone, but an irritation remained.

Noticing her discomfort, the man who had given her the mark gave her a terrifying smile. Her body told her to scream and run, to just go and never come back. But her mind kept her still. Her mind kept her standing. Her mind kept her staring. She hated her mind; she had seen it as the one who kept her in the prison of her weaknesses.

If it weren’t for the fact that she had been standing directly behind the crowd of news figures, someone may have noted who exactly they were staring at. But for now, she was just a lone entity behind a swarm of energy. They could have been looking at any one of them – and the fact that she knew that she was their object of their fascination, made her feel sick in the stomach.

An abnormally bright flash had come from an old camera – temporarily blinding everyone that had stared in its direction. Their gaze was broken, and the nine became individuals once again. Some turned away, some tilted their heads to get their ‘good side’ for a photo, some cursed into the crowd, and others struggled to break free.

May’s gaze was broken as well. She blinked and shook her head, trying to rid of those scarring fears.

Picking up her bag, she walked over to a chair that was facing the large window gallery.

She sat and stared up into the clouds through the glass…

May… what are you doing? She began to scold herself. An action that had become a custom for her.
You can’t do this… you’re a Coordinator, not a Trainer…
You’re not even that great of a Coordinator. Average, lucky, and nothing special…


Why did you come here? Did you really think you could make a difference?
This is so much bigger than you. You should’ve just sent Ash the pokémon he wanted…
You could’ve died up there.


You should’ve died.
You’re so stupid.
It would’ve been better for you to die and no longer be a problem for Ash…
…rather than being another victim that he’ll probably have to save too.


Ash… I’m so sorry…

Tears were welling up in her eyes.

No, don’t cry again. Stop being weak. Stop being pathetic. I hate this. I hate you!

She crumpled her bag, trying to tear it to pieces with her frustration. As she did, her baggage’s zipper had broken.

… really, May? Sigh.

Trying to fix the zipper, she had accidentally opened the zipper from the wrong side. She cursed to herself silently and continued trying to repair it.

Gold.

Her hands and eyes stopped moving.

Gold?

She turned her eyes to one of the tears. From the tear, she could see the golden piece of an object. She pulled it out slowly.

It was a ribbon. Or rather, half of one. As a whole, it was a pink and white ribbon, with a golden sun as its centerpiece. A ribbon she had earned in an unofficial tournament. She had tied in first place with Ash, and they decided to split it in half – one for each to keep. The Terracotta Ribbon. It was her good luck charm. It still is my good luck charm. It was meant to remind her to go forward and become a better Coordinator. It still does. And it was supposed to remind her what was on the line.

…what’s on the line…

Ash is waiting for me. Ash needs me.

I’m not the best Coordinator, but I know I’m a darn good one! I’m not the best backup Ash can get, but I’m no pushover either!

A woman was sitting next to her, quite amused with her dramatic expressions.

“That’s quite a lovely ribbon you have there… May.

Her eyes widened.

The woman moved her face next to hers, her lips just inches from her ear. “There were ten of us on that plane.” she hissed in delight.

May was about to shake, about to panic, about to break, about to falter

She grasped the half-ribbon in her hand.

“NO YOU DON’T!!!” May roared. She grabbed a row of connected recliners, and with inhuman fury, she lifted them above her head. “YOU GET OUT OF HERE OR I’LL CLOBBER YOU!!!”

The cool-eyed woman was now cowering in terror. “Y-Yes ma’am!”

She stood, bowed apologetically, and ran away as fast as she could.

Breathing heavily, May slowly calmed herself, dropping the seats back to their original position.

Patting her hands and lifting her bag, she walked off to the nearest restaurant – ignoring the frightened stares of waiting passengers.



Once I get there, I swear I’ll beat the crap out of that ‘Maylene’. She sneered.

I’m the only ‘May’ in Ash’s life.



_________________________________________________________



Angie had noticed that the door was slightly ajar.

She heard heavy breathing coming from two people inside.

Kicking the door open she finally found who she had been looking for.

“WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?!”

With fury in her eyes, she stompedinside and slammed the door behind her.

Ash and Maylene were facing her with blank looks. The two were on the floor, with items sprawled about, and their clothes torn in several places. Bruises and cuts made the scenery far more understandable, but the bite marks were something else entirely.

Angie’s eyes twitched. She knew full well what was going on, but what else might have happened was making her infuriated.

“Oh h-hey Anj!” Ash said sheepishly. A green hat covered his face – quieting him from continuing.

“There’s your stupid hat! You left it at the table after you guys DITCHED ME!”

“Wuh wi duhn ahully diched hyu. Dhu fuht lhuthded lohnguh thuhn wi dhot!” He stated with sophistication from underneath the hat.

“What he meant to say,” Maylene uttered weakly, “was that we were going to come back for you after a quick spar… but we got a bit carried away.” She lifted herself slowly off the ground and sat against the bed frame. The mattress itself was across the room, leaning on the wall.

The tomboy pulled a toothpick from her pocket and started chewing it.

Not knowing what to do with the two, she stormed out of the room – slamming the door behind her. “Do WHATEVER you guys want! If you need me I’ll be in the casino!!!” her voice echoed metallically against the door.

“Isn’t she too young to gamble?” Maylene asked with effort.

Ash, with a continuing case of hat-face, shrugged.

The two stayed in their spots without moving an inch. Tired breaths were starting to slow and sweat was starting to dry. Pain, however, became more apparent as time went on.



Ash threw his hat towards Maylene.

She caught it and wore it in a mocking manner.

“So what’s up?”

“Nothing much.” She answered happily.

“No, I meant earlier.”

“…oh.”

He shuffled himself slowly towards her. “If you honestly don’t want to t–”

“I had a lot of fun, Ash.”



Is… something wrong with that?” he asked unknowingly.

Maylene’s pink eyes looked down guiltily at her hands. “I… I honestly don’t know what I’m doing here, Ash.”

The young man sat up, adjusting his back against a drawer to face her.

What I mean to say is…” She rotated her body to face him directly. “I don’t know why I left Sinnoh. I know I told you that I came here to train, and that’s partially true. But…

Her shoulders dropped, as if she had given up hope. “I don’t know what I’m doing. Becoming a Gym Leader was like a dream come true, especially after you and the others cheered me up from my defeat against Paul. Now…

“I don’t know. I’m not feeling it anymore. I don’t know why, but I’m tired of being a Gym Leader. I’m tired of being in Veilstone City. And I’m tired of being in Sinnoh. I thought that a break from it would be for the best. But it’s been two months.”

She fell over to one side, defeated by her own mood. “Two Months. And I still don’t want to go back. I don’t ever want to go back. People respect me there, people treat me right there. But whenever I see a challenger from a different region… I get jealous. Here I’ve been training for years to be a great Trainer… and I become a Gym Leader… Who could ask for more than that?!

…apparently I could. I’m ungrateful. People worked so hard to get me to become a Gym Leader. I had so many supporters, so many people cheering me on… but now it just feels so distant. Almost fake, even. And now just because I get cabin fever in my own region, I’m dropping everything they ever worked for… proving that I’m the fake. I’m the one that’s distant. They should’ve never wasted their time on me!”

BMF. Her fist dentedthe wall.

“And here I am, on a ship to pick up a friend of yours, on a crazy suicide mission to save your family and friends – who I don’t even know. And… I’m having fun. I’m… feeling satisfied. Accomplished. I’m feeling alive. More alive than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. And I just feel… ashamed.

She raised her head and faced Ash, pleading with her eyes for an answer.

Ash had been looking at her, into her emotions. It felt blocky, confusing, and draining. She didn’t know how to express herself well with feelings – which is what made it easy for her to hide them. But during the fight, he could feel all her emotions louder and far clearer than he normally could. She spoke with her fist, not her mouth.

Her mouth had been lying. She didn’t see herself as a brat, or as ungrateful. She was beyond grateful, beyond appreciative. She didn’t tire of her home, she loved it.

Her fists told the truth. She saw herself as weak, as undeserving. Despite all that she had been through, she never thought it was enough. She wanted to get stronger, more worthy for the people that had helped her get where she was in life – even if she no longer knew where they were.

But there was something else

“You want a reason to fight.” Ash concluded.

She turned away from him.

“You want to earn what they gave you.” he pushed.

She stood, ready to leave.

He grabbed her ankle. “You want to prove your worth.”

A fist shot at him. He grabbed her by the elbow and bent it, stopping the momentum. Her fists were speaking for her again. She had no idea how to say what she was feeling. It felt strange. She didn’t want him to know. Nothing in her emotions explained why she felt that way.

Ash was knocked to the ground by a kick to the head.

No! What am I doing?! She reached down to help him up.

A kick nearly hit her head. Ash had spun into a crouch, launching himself seconds after into a tackle. His shoulder met her chest, ramming her into a wall.

THOD. Her back, still with fresh scars, had stung against the cold metal. What’s he…

“Stop thinking!” He yelled as he thrust his fist towards her stomach.

She caught it, twisting him at the wrist. Her eyes focused on him in a cat-like manner.

Using her other arm, she swung an elbow down on his head. He twisted his body and used his back to pin her to the wall. She growled.

Knee to back of knee.
Chin lock to neck. Push down.
Wrist strike to stomach. Grab belt and lock.
Twist elbow and place on head-side. Shift body weight. Slam to floor.
Strike below belly with three knuckles.


She stood above Ash. Kicking him to ensure he stayed down.



Maylene’s eyes unfocused, realizing what she had done. “Ash!”

He coughed spittle in response.

“No! I’m so sorry! I don’t know wha–” A finger reached her lips.

Ash was smiling.

Why is he…

Her eyes widened. For some reason, Maylene had felt better. Satisfied. Why…

She stared at Ash with infatuation. Why am I feeling this…

“You’re welcome.” he barely managed to say.

Without figuring out how, Maylene’s questions were answered, her shame given pride, and her dishonor avenged. She felt confident and resolute. Ready…

Looking at the room, she recognized her frustrations and concerns plastered everywhere. Ash had been fighting alongside her, to fight herself. His last attack had made her face what she wanted to run from. She feared arrogance and found safety in humiliation. The fight had allowed her to face both sides and balance them.

The fighter stared at her hands. One was balled into a fist, the other was open. A symbol of something she couldn’t put into words, but explained everything clearly to her.

A tear had fallen from her cheek. I was… crying?

Maylene hadn’t remembered when the last time she cried. Years, at least…

There were no more tears, these were the last ones. The ones she tried to hide from herself. The ones she never wanted to face or admit. And as they dried against her hands, she felt complete relief.

Her eyes rested on Ash. He was slowly fading out of consciousness.

“I owe you one, you crazy guy.”

“O…K…” he muttered.

She smiled endearingly.



_________________________________________________________



Angie returned to the room. Her trip to the casino relieved some stress and even gave her some jubilation with her earnings… yet she still dreaded what she might find in the room.



Whatever, I’m too tired to care…

She opened the door, expecting the worst.

“What in the what??” she mumbled audibly.

The room was spotless. No clutter. No mess. No scratches. No scrapes. Mattresses were fitted back into their bed frames, tables and lamps were placed in areas where they were needed, and even the clothes and bags were placed neatly to the side. In a fashion, the room looked far better now compared to when they first booked it.

Ash was sitting up on the bed, fading in and out of sleep.

“Ash? What are you still doing up?” she whispered loudly.

“Maylene… said…… I shouldn’t sleep. Had… concussion.” each word was accented by a snore.

She walked up to him and massaged his neck. “How long ago was that?”

“Three… hours?”

He was patted on the head. “Go ahead, you can sleep now.”

Without lying down, he had fallen asleep. Snoring loudly in a sitting position.

Angie wrapped the blanket around him. Silly…

She crawled up the bunk and readied herself for bed.

“Wait a minute…”

Browsing the room with her eyes and peaking down corners, Angie realized something.

“…where’s Maylene?”



_________________________________________________________



“What are you looking at?”

“HUH?! Why you! Stay still!”

Maylene dodged the incoming baton and struck two hard blows against the Team Rocket member’s face.

“You’re a tough one, aren’t ya’?” the fighter complimented.

He spit blood out of his mouth and reached behind him.

With a grin, Maylene pulled up a belt. “Looking for these?” His poké balls were attached to them.

“Why you dirty little–”

Lucario appeared in front of the man, its arms crossed.

“If you really wanted a pokémon battle…” She cracked her knuckles. “You should’ve just asked. Lucario!

“NO WAIT WAIT WAI–”



_________________________________________________________



“All it says is ‘Gone for Business. BRB.’” Angie folded the paper and placed it back on the desk where she found it.

Ash was still bobbing his head in order to stay awake, making him appear as if he were nodding to her every comment and conversation.

“Where do you think she went?” The tomboy was tired, but she wasn’t ready to sleep knowing that one of them was somewhere on the boat during curfew hours.

Mmhmm.” is all Ash managed to reply with.

Angie stared at him… figuring out ways to wake him up.



Ash’s consciousness faded back in, its dream state being a fuzzy memory that tried dragging him back.

Something was extremely close to his face this time. Air touching his lips. In and out… in and out… BREATHING?!

“Ash…” a voice filled with yearning vibrated against his lips, so close that they were almost touching.

ANGIE?!” Ash stood up, only to smash his head against the top bunk. “OW!!! CRAP!!!”

Angie began laughing hard.

WHAT WAS THAT FOR?!!” he exclaimed as he continued rubbing the new bump on his head.

“I didn’t think you’d get so excited.” Angie teased.

He kicked in her direction, obviously missing.

“Now that you’re awake, we need to talk about Maylene’s note.”

Ash slowly crawled away from the bed before standing up. “What note?

“Maylene’s gone.” Angie let the phrase hang in the air before continuing, “She just left a note saying she was handling some business.”

“What are we waiting for? Let’s go find her!”

He was yanked back to the floor before being able to reach for the door.

“There are three-hundred rooms, a large banquet hall, several faculty rooms, and probably gigantic hallways in the basement.” The tomboy stated each point as if she knew them for a fact. “Where in the world do we start??”

“…outside?”

A smack to his new head mark had him quiet.

“Look, I sent Shinx out to look for her. He’ll be able to travel quieter and faster than us.”

Then why’d you wake me up??” He rubbed his head in distress.

“Because I was wondering if you knew where she went.”

“Well I obviously don’t. So… can I go back to sleep?”

She waved him off. “Yeah yeah, get your beauty sleep. I’ll wait for news from Shinx.”

Ash stumbled back into the bed and wrapped himself in the blanket.





“Hey Ash…” Angie had whispered almost to the point of being inaudible.

He rolled over to face her. “Yeah?”

“…remember when just a few days ago… we were just hanging out at the house all the time?”

“Yeah…”

“Those were fun days.”

Ash sighed. He remembered how much everyone was depending on them right now – and how every day they spent searching for help, another day was added to whatever his mother and the rest had to endure. He felt sick, the weight of responsibility and urgency poisoning his emotional health.

He didn’t want to think about older days… They would only remind him of what he had lost…

“Remember the day before the attack?” Angie continued.

Though he didn’t want to reminisce… Angie’s voice had comforted him and led him to follow whatever emotion she held. With a soft sigh, the Trainer played with a loose end of his blanket, letting his body find distraction as his mind wandered to a day that seemed like an eternity ago.

Yeah… Misty cooked that morning.”

“It was awful.”

The two laughed casually.

“Remember when Anabel tripped down the stairs?” Angie added with a giggle.

“And how she tried to play it off like nothing happened?”

“And when Mr. Mime kept making fun of her throughout the day?”

“And how I totally beat you in a card match!”

“You cheated! Both Misty and Anabel were helping you!”

“Only because you used the mirror behind me to look at my cards!”

“Like you couldn’t see my cards with your Empathy!”

“Not unless you made it obvious in your emotions.”

“You didn’t have to peak.”

“I can’t help it.”

“That’s your excuse every time.”

“Well I would’ve learned to control it if you weren’t always making me paranoid with your daily pranks.”

“I stopped doing that!”

“Then why did you keep knocking off my hat??”

“That was Misty!”

“You always blame Misty.”

“Because Misty keeps trying to get me in trouble!”

“What about that time when you really were the one that replaced my drink with soy sauce and you blamed Misty!”

“Well that was a classic.”

“You jerk.”

“You’re the jerk.”

“Great comeback.”

“Thanks. I try.”





Angie frowned. She knew how hard this was for Ash. And she knew that bringing up those memories would only cause him to become more depressed over time and cause him to gain more present stress. But she hated how fast this was all going… she hated where they were now as opposed to where they were just a few days ago.

It all felt so unreal.

Sighing, Angie sat on Ash’s bed and patted his foot. “We’ll get them back…”

“…I know.”



He sat up from his position, curled up, leaning his head between his knees. “Why were you outside my window that morning?”

“…I couldn’t sleep that night. I was taking a stroll… and… that’s when I saw two men forcing Anabel into a bag. I was going to stop them, but then… there were more of them. So much more of them. It was like some kind of a small army.

“I snuck passed one group before the next group came…” Angie adjusted herself uncomfortably. “I was trying to find a way into the house to wake you up… but they were already going through every door and window on the first floor. So… I climbed up to the roof, and then down to your window.”

Mm…” Ash nodded, his question answered.

As he thought, more questions came to mind. He honestly had no want to think back to what happened that night, but the more he considered it, the more he realized how it felt… too fast… too perfect… too sudden. He wanted more answers. He needed more answers. It was the only way any of this could feel real for the both of them…

“Did you see anything else? Any vehicles? Anything to show how they’d escape unnoticed?”

She shook her head. “Nothing. If they had any cars or trucks, they weren’t near your house. Maylene would’ve seen one, right?”

“She didn’t say anything about one…”

“But why would they march from Viridian City? That’s a long road from Pallet…” Angie tapped her chin inquisitively. “…either Maylene’s hiding something, or Giovanni’s got guts to march with an army to your place without even trying to hide it.”

“That just seemed weird. Normally Team Rocket works in small groups.” Ash scratched the back of his ear, trying to piece things together in his head. “That was… too sudden. Too quick. And too many at once.” he voiced his earlier concerns.

“Well Maylene did say they were probably high-ranking Team Rocket members. If they really wanted to take you in, they more than likely didn’t want to try their normal tricks – especially since you’ve probably been known to escape or beat them when they go in small groups.” She gestured her hand like an explosion. “Just boom. Strike with the best and with little warning. It definitely would’ve taken us off-guard…” Thank goodness I saw it…

“But it doesn’t make sense, how did no one notice them walking into town? You guys keep saying that there were so many of them, but wouldn’t someone have noticed them??”



I don’t know… I don’t even know how I didn’t see them until they caught Anabel. I know I would’ve at least heard that many people walking.”

“…and Anabel would’ve definitely woken up with that many emotions suddenly appearing.”

“Hey Ash… how come you didn’t sense them coming either?”

… I… I don’t know.” Ash realized. He thought back to the memory. Not once did he feel any emotion. Not once did he sense danger other than from Angie. “It’s like they were…

…invisible.

What? What’s wrong??” Angie gripped onto the bed frame, seeing Ash’s sudden reaction and feeling the anxiety in the air.

“Maylene…” I might be assuming too much, but… “…I can’t feel her at times. Like she’s invisible.”

“You don’t think she’s…”

Footsteps.

Someone’s coming.

Ash pulled Angie into bed with him, covering her in the blanket with him.

“What are you doing???” she growled in irritation, though her face was pink with blush.

Shhh… just watch for me.” Ash lifted the blanket slightly, allowing Angie to take a peak.

The door opened at a cautiously slow pace. It creaked the whole way through.

A white boot stepped into the room. As it slithered the rest of its body in, it was apparent that it was carrying something on its shoulder, and dragging something large with the other hand.

Finally, the person came into view. With a black bodysuit, matching white gloves and utility belt, a red ‘R’ emblem, and a black beret to complete the uniform – there was no doubt that it was a member of Team Rocket. Except…

Pink hair!

Maylene dragged the large bag and tossed it into the closet. Something’s moving in there!

On her shoulder, she placed a knocked out shinx onto the floor. SHINX!

Finally, another figure came in. Her accomplice, Lucario, had shut the door behind him silently.

Ash couldn’t feel Maylene, but he felt Lucario, and he also definitely felt what Angie was feeling.

“On three, I’ll go after Maylene, you take care of Lucario… and try to get a pokémon to block the door.” he whispered as low as he could.

Lucario’s ear twitched to the sound. Ash noticed.

“THREE!”

The two trainers launched out of the blankets in a speed that would’ve surprised anyone. The boy rolled onto the floor and ran for a tackle towards Maylene. The girl launched a poké ball from her hand before touching the floor. Click. Vacuum.

“BIBAREL! BLOCK THE DOOR!”

In a glow of red, the large Beaver Pokémon appeared, pressing its weight against the door.

Angie struck a punch towards the blue jackal.

The surprise attack fell after being countered, and the two trainers were quickly put into submission on the floor.

“What do you two think you’re doing?!” Maylene yelled down at Ash as her leg pressed against his neck.

Angie, being pressed onto her stomach by a lucario sitting on her back, growled, “What do you think you’re doing working with Team Rocket?!”

“I’m not–”

She looked down at her clothes.

“Oh this. No, you got it all wrong!”

Looking towards her pokémon, Angie commanded, “Keep that door blocked Bibarel! They’re not getting out of here without a fight.” She continued to struggle under the unexpectedly heavy lucario.

“Maylene.” Ash caught her attention with a neutral pitch. “Why are you wearing that uniform?”

“Because she’s a Rocket! I thought we just said that!” the tomboy hissed.

“I’m not a Rocket!” Maylene’s emotions suddenly opened. Feeling cornered and betrayed.

“Then why are you wearing that uniform?” Ash said with an effort to hide any accusatory tones.

“I got this off a lower-ranking Rocket that was out on patrol! I swear!

“Then why knock out Shinx?! Why sneak in like you didn’t want to get caught?! And why tell us not to attack any Rockets on the ship and do it yourself?!” Angie’s temper was skyrocketing.

“I… I…”

Ash could sense Maylene starting to falter. She wasn’t good with words, that much he knew. To answer so many accusations and misunderstandings at once had put her into a flee reaction. She was going to run, she didn’t know why, but she wanted to run.

Ash wasn’t going to let her. “Calm down, Anj. We just misunderstood.”

Maylene’s eyes snapped out of its panic. They focused on Ash.

She got off him slowly.

Ash sat up, massaging his neck.

“What do you mean misunderstood??” Angie hissed. “It’s clear as day! You said it yourself that you couldn’t read her like you couldn’t read the Rockets at your house!”

Maylene was hurt. She looked back at Ash with depressed curiosity.

The fighter was feeling vulnerable, scared, and alone. Ash didn’t know if any words would calm down Angie at this point. But he had to if he was going to prevent Maylene from regressing in her emotional state.

He could feel the honesty from Maylene’s emotions, and how she genuinely meant nothing of ill will towards any of them. If she were lying to him now, she would have been an amazing liar. But Ash wanted to trust her…

Crawling towards the closet, Ash felt for the bag and opened it.

A man’s head popped out. He was shouting inaudibly, with Maylene’s old bandages covering his eyes and mouth, as well as tied around his wrists and ankles. The man was clearly naked other than for his underwear, and his body was covered in bruises.

Angie tilted her head to look. She wasn’t sure what to make of it – as she had no idea who the man was.

Ash felt around the man’s head and removed the bandages that wrapped around his mouth.

YOU DIRTY WITCH! I’LL KILL YOU! WAIT UNTIL MY TEAM HEARS OF THIS! THEN YOU’LL HAVE THE ENTIRE TEAM ROCKET ORGANIZATION BREATHING DOWN YOUR NECK! YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO SLEEP, NEVER BE ABLE TO D– MMPH!! MRPH!!!” Ash had covered his mouth again with the bandages and shoved his head back into the bag.

“There’s your evidence.” Ash shrugged.

Angie looked away. Unsure what to feel.

Lucario rolled off her, letting her sit up.

“I…” Maylene tried to find the right words. “…wanted to pay you guys back for all the help you’ve given me. If it weren’t for your friendships…” She gave an emotion directed towards Ash. “I would’ve never found peace with myself… so I decided to catch a Team Rocket member and get the information we needed from him… this way, we don’t have to risk stopping by Celadon City now. We can just head straight to Saffron after reaching the port.”

“Ash said he couldn’t sense the Rockets that had attacked his home that night…” Angie sat with an unapologetic attitude. She returned Bibarel back to his ball and placed it back in her pocket. “…he said he can’t sense you in the same way. Care to explain?”

“I don’t… I really don’t know… but I don’t think it’s the same reason why he can’t sense the Team Rocket members that were at his house. I felt a strange feeling off them too… or rather, from their pokémon.” She rubbed her arms as if she were cold. “They felt… wrong. Just wrong.

Ash moved over to Maylene’s side and rubbed her back, trying to calm her. She was beginning to show a slight mistrust towards the two of them, and he did his best to repair her broken trust. This wasn’t the time and place to have doubts between teammates, when they were all they had in this terrible event.

“What information did you get?” he asked with a soothing tone.

“…I couldn’t get everything I wanted.” The fighter’s somber mood turned professional, noticing Ash’s attempt to pull her back to a stable condition. “But I did get something very valuable.”

Angie turned her way, too curious to continue her sour mood – though still unwilling to apologize.

“…there’s tunnels. Everywhere. Underground tunnels.” She pointed downwards. “Team Rocket uses them to get to places faster than any surface form of travel. Some of them have trains, some of them have roads for vehicles, and I’ve heard some of them have teleporter tech.”

“How much money do they need to build that kind of stuff???” The tomboy’s golden eyes widened in disbelief.

I have no idea. But it just goes to show that Team Rocket has the resources and manpower to control Kanto easily… and these tunnels are spreading to other regions. If left unchecked, we’ll all be in big trouble.”

“What about my mom and the others?” Ash had stopped massaging her back. His mood turned serious, and his voice lowered notably deeper… The news given had only reminded him of the dire mission ahead of them, causing him to focus only on what mattered most.

“I’m sorry Ash, but I don’t know.” Maylene sighed, disappointed in herself. “Unless we find one of the people who were at your house that day – we more than likely won’t be able to find them.”

“Why not?” he asked with frustrated patience.

“There are hundreds of bases on and underneath Kanto. The man I captured had no idea which base was designated for what – he only knew his base and his job. And the upper-ranks of Team Rocket keep to themselves. No one except for the individuals themselves knows what missions or positions the upper-ranks hold. It’s like they build up like a hierarchy, but split off into their own organizations at the top.”

Ash was quiet. Squeezing his fists.

“Ash, I’m sorry…” The roles were suddenly reversed. She felt as if she were the one at fault, and the Trainer being the one betrayed. Her information wasn’t enough, even after everything she had risked to obtain it.

It’s not your fault was his answer, but he couldn’t get himself to say it. He was no longer in the mood to stall. They had been eating too much time with all that they were going through… We’re just wasting time here…



“Let’s get some rest first.” Maylene suggested wearily, unsure how to answer Ash’s growing stress. “We’ll be hitting port in a few hours… we’ll need as much energy as possible if we’re travelling by foot to Saffron.”

“You goin’ out in that costume?” Angie asked quizzically as she stared at the Rocket uniform.

Oh right.” She pulled at her bodysuit, feeling its fabric. “I was just wearing this in case anyone caught me out there… I think I’ll keep it in case we need it in the future.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen any Team Rocket goons wearing a body suit. They usually wear pants or skirts. That uniform might just be for the ones who work here.”

Maylene shrugged, undressing and placing the body suit and accessories into the bag anyways.

Ugh!” Angie turned away quickly. “Tell me when you’re undressing!”

Ash’s face blushed as he crawled his way back to the bed in a hurry. His earlier sour mood becoming crushed under the weight of… certain thoughts. STOMP

Hm? …we’re both girls. What’s wrong with that?” Maylene looked at Angie with curiosity.

“I don’t think anyone should be comfortable undressing in front of others.” the tomboy stated plainly. “One’s body is their business and their spouse’s.”

“My my, aren’t you the saint.” Maylene giggled. She replaced her clothes and crawled into her sleeping bag. “I’m done changing, by the way.”

Angie cursed under her breath. …she’s so skinny. And her hips pop out so much… I wonder if Ash likes skinny girls like that.

She climbed the ladder and landed in her bed with a thump. I mean… at least I have a larger chest. But… Would he like my hips? …I wonder if he’d find my underwear cute… all of mine are way too much like a guy’s… should I… shop around?

As she wrapped the blankets around her shoulders, her eyes immediately closed, falling asleep faster than she had expected.



Ash’s face was red. Angie’s private thoughts weren’t so private to an untrained Empathic such as himself. He was now wide awake… and couldn’t get his mind clear no matter how hard he tried.

I just wanted to sleep… sigh.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:16 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Chapter 14: Perspectives

Spoiler:
“Ash, hurry up! It’s going to take us another day to get to Saffron if you keep walking that slow!” Angie was waving her arms frantically down the road.

Huff. Huff. Huff. Ash stomped his way through the dirt path. His body was tired and completely drained. “Sleeeep…” he groaned.

“I told you to get some sleep.” Maylene quickly said as she continued to jog circles around him. Her constant orbit didn’t help Ash at all, who had found her rotating emotions to be hypnotic. “Do you want me to get lucario to carry you again?”

Ash wanted to say ‘Yes.’ He wanted to give in and let the blue jackal be his portable bed. But his pride wouldn’t let him. “No!” Straightening out his back, he began his jog. Maylene jogged beside him.

“Finally.” Angie loosened her muscles and jogged alongside the two. “Hey Maylene.”

“Yeah?”

“You never answered my question last night.”

“Which one?”

“Why did you knock out my shinx?”

“Oh that. I thought it was the Rocket’s backup. I had no idea you had a shinx.”

“I had no idea you had a Bibarel.” Ash joined in the conversation.

“Well I did say I went off on my own journey, you’d think that’s something you’d ask first.”

“Sorry, I was a little preoccupied being blind for the first time in my life.”

“You’ve been blind for a long time now. You could’ve asked me anytime.”

“Hey, you never asked me what pokémon I had.”

Maylene added, “And no one asked me what pokémon Ihad.”

Angie went first, “I have Shinx, Bibarel, and Kricketot.”

“I have Lucario, Meditite, Machoke, and Tyrogue.” the fighter stated.

Whoah! You have a Tyrogue, Maylene?!” Ash’s face sparked with excitement.

She smiled with pride. “Sure do! The little guy loves to train!”

“Why don’t you let him out to jog with us?” Angie was excited to see the pokémon herself.

“OK.” Maylene smiled and pulled out a poké ball. “Go Tyrogue!”

Red light flashed and burst onto the ground in front of them. “TYROGUE!” the pink, humanoid pokémon shouted out.

The trio stopped and welcomed the new face.

“Say ‘hi’ to my friends, Tyrogue!” Maylene pointed to each of her companions. “This one’s Angie.”

“Nice to meet you!” She held out her hand for a high-five. Which only prompted the powerful baby pokémon to sniff her wrist in curiosity. A sweat-drop appeared on Angie’s head as she laughed at his confusion.

“Sorry, he hasn’t met much people.” Maylene apologized with a chuckle. “And Tyrogue, this one’s Ash. He likes to fight, just like us!”

“Hey there little guy!” Ash held out his hand. Hm? Uh oh…

The tyrogue, after hearing his master’s mention of this man’s interest in fighting – had mistaken Ash’s attempted handshake as a battle stance. It got into a stance of its own, ready to show its strength.

“No wait! I don’t want to fight! Aaaaaahhh!!!

“Tyrogue! Tyrogue! Tyrogue!”

Ash had dodged the first strikes and started running from him. It chased after Ash, seeking to finish the battle.

Maylene scratched the back of her head in embarrassment. “Yeah… he also tends to pick fights with anything that looks like a challenge.”

Angie sighed. “Well at least they’re running the right direction.”

The two continued their methodical jog side-by-side.



“So Angie. I heard you used to work in a Day Care Center with your parents.”

“Yep, did so for most of my life.”

“What made you want to go out travelling?”

She considered it for a second and answered simply, “Ash, actually.”

Maylene gave her a smirk. “Chasing boys, huh?”

Angie’s face blushed. “No, not like that. I just spent a summer with him at a camp.”

Go on~…

“Not like that!” Her faced turned a deeper shade of pink. “He just told me all of his stories and adventures in his journey to be a Pokémon Master. And man… they sounded awesome. I wanted to go out and have my own. …of course, the parents weren’t too keen on that idea.”

“Why not? It’s perfectly normal for a kid to go out adventuring when they come of age. As long as you’ve got your pokémon and they’ve got you, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Nah. My parents were always worry warts. That, and they wanted me to take over the Day Care business. So I had to keep working there to learn all its ins-and-outs.”

The gym leader snickered at the sight of Ash being chased around a tree by Tyrogue. She turned her attention back to Angie and paced herself to her speed. “How did you ever convince them?”

“…I… told them that I’d run the day care with Ash.”

Maylene stopped in her tracks. “WHAT?!”

Angie’s face was red. She hid it by turning away and continued her jogging. A nervous laugh came from her lips.

Maylene ran to catch up. “Wait wait, you told them you’d run it with Ash?? Like a business partner or something??”

“Oh no no. That business is a family business only. No outside financers or workers as long as my dad still breathes.”

“Then that means…”

“Yeah, it kinda’ does.” the tomboy said quickly as she quickened herself, trying to rid of that strange feeling in her stomach.

“So you are out chasing boys!”

“No, I’m not! That was just my excuse for my parents to let me go.”

“And yet you were training in the same region as him. Mhmm, just an excuse.”

“Hey, he’s the foreigner. Technically he was training in my region.”

“So… you weren’t planning on travelling with Ash?”

“N-Not really…”

“Or training to be strong enough to beat him in a match? To win over his heart?”

Wh-What?? N-No!

“Or maybe you were always going to come in and save the day when he really needed it! Making you his big hero~!”

Y-You watch too many movies…” Angie’s face was red hot. “I was just going to train and see if I could get to the League. Have my own adventures, my own experiences. That’s it. That’s all.”

Maylene crossed her arms and ran backwards in front of the blushing tomboy. “So you weren’t hoping what-so-ever that you would run into him again?”

She avoided eye contact. “Maybe a little…”

The tomboy found it very uncomfortable to talk about her feelings for Ash with people other than Anabel or Ash himself… it was a private matter that no one else really had the business of knowing. Especially not a young woman as forward as Maylene, who would’ve only put obvious thoughts into her mind.

A little?” The fighter blinked. “Ha! That’s adorable!”

Angie ran passed her.

In truth, she wanted to hit her across the face for ever calling her actions “adorable”. Ash and Angie do not make a “adorable” couple. …if anything, we make a… an awesome couple… or something. Her stomach started feeling sickeningly floaty.

“Honestly,” Maylene caught up with her again. “I had no idea you had a thing for Ash before all this. I honestly thought you two were brother and sister.”

“Yeah, we get that a lot.” She sighed, that wasn’t such an obvious truth. “A lot of people at the Summer Academy thought we were related somehow. I guess it’s because of how comfortable we were around each other.”

Maylene thought to herself for a second. “I’m not sure if this would be rude to ask, but… how does it feel now that he’s blind?”

“Huh?”

“Does he feel any different?”

“Not really. He’s still Ash. Only thing different is that Empathy thing he’s got.” She rolled her eyes at her next statement. “Apparently it makes him a babe magnet or something.”

Maylene laughed. “Yeah. I’ve got a thing for him too.”

I knew it!

“Was I hiding it?” the Gym Leader giggled childishly.

“No. But I totally made a bet with Misty that you had a thing for him! She said that you didn’t. So she owes me lunch!”

“Well, we better save her then if you ever want to get that lunch.”

“Eh. She can wait in there for a little while longer.”

Wh-What?? Haha–” Maylene stopped herself from laughing by covering her mouth. She punched Angie on the shoulder.

Ow! What was that for?” The tomboy blinked, suddenly realizing she just repeated a phrase she had known Ash for always saying…

“That’s so mean to joke about!”

“Hey, you laughed. Besides, I was just being honest.” Angie said seriously.

“You two hate each other?”

“Nah. Misty’s cool. It’s just her history with Ash.”

“She Ash’s girl?”

“Might as well be. Between her and May, I really have no idea who’s a bigger threat.”

“Don’t think you can compare?”

“No way. I’m way better for Ash than any of you, no offense. I just think that Misty and May’s time with Ash makes him a bit biased towards the two.”

“Wow, with all these girls hanging on him, you’d think he’d be a heart-breaker.”

Who, Ash??” Angie laughed. “No way! Ash isn’t interested in a relationship. Or at least, he’s not sure quite yet. Or ready yet.

“How can you tell?”

“He tells me these kind of things.”

Maylene was suddenly interested in the deeper relationship between Ash and Angie. “And?”

And what?”

“How do you feel that he feels that way? And that there’s all these girls wanting a piece of the Ash pie?”

The tomboy shrugged. “How am I supposed to feel? I want to be with him, so I’ll wait until he’s ready. And the other girls are just problematic for him.”

“You think I’m problematic?”

“Not you yourself. But I don’t think you and him match too well.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well other than fighting and what Misty has told you – what else do you like about Ash?”

Maylene looked out into the distance. Ash was finally fighting back against her tyrogue, though his fatigued body put him at a serious disadvantage. And though he was knocked down several times, he stood up for another try. And all while still having a smile on his face.

He’s a beautiful man…” Her eyes sparkled as she watched him.

Angie nearly tripped. Beautiful and Man aren’t exactly two words you use to describe Ash. she thought to herself.

“Seriously?” she asked bluntly.

Maylene snapped out of her trance and blinked oddly at Angie. “What? You don’t think he’s handsome?”

“He’s okay, I guess.”

The gym leader stopped in her tracks again. Her hands hooked to her hips in disappointment. “’Okay’?? And you think you’re better for him?”

Angie stopped and looked back curiously.”What? What did I say?”

“What happens if another girl is crawling all over Ash and calling him handsome and muscular?”

“M-Muscular???”

“That’s right, he’s got some muscles under there. Small, but they feel nice. Heheh.” Maylene drooled. “Anyways! What kind of wife would you be for just thinking ‘Eh, he’s so-so’ when another woman would find him absolutely stunning in looks?!”

Wife?! I’ve never th-thought of calling myself Ash’s… wife. I’ve thought about marrying him… but calling myself his wife??? … Ash’s wife… Her face turned red. …Angie Ketchum… that… that sounds nice.

Maylene coughed.Well?” She began her jog again.

Angie joined her. “Yeah, he is pretty handsome I guess… but, I just honestly like him for his personality. His looks can change any moment – but he’ll always be himself. And I honestly am attracted to that.”

The pink-haired fighter bobbed her head from side to side, accepting the answer. “Definitely a good trait… but… I also think he’s handsome. I wouldn’t mind taking advantage of his blindness, if you know what I mean.” She made a quick wink.

“M-Maylene!!”

“You can be honest, so can I. You like him for his good parts? I’d like him for his bard parts too.” She chuckled mischievously.

Angie was about to scold her like a mother, when a voice in the distance grabbed their attention.

“HEY GUYS!! WE MADE IT!!!”

A sign with a dent in the shape of Ash’s head had the words ‘SAFFRON CITY’ engraved on it.



_________________________________________________________



A bustling metropolis surrounded them. And under the setting sun, the city shined gold.

People of all kinds travelled between buildings, parks, alleyways, and homes. The constant movement and communication flooded the air with sound and human energy. Lampposts and business lights flickered and shined on as the night life would soon hit. There was a certain electricity about the environment, something that could get one lost and be forced on a road to greater and worse things. Saffron City – the “Shining Big City”.

Maylene stared at the clock post that stood in the center of a busy street. “So we have about eight hours until we’re supposed to wait at the airport for May. What do you want to do unti–”

“Ash?”

Angie’s voice caught Maylene’s attention. She turned in time to see a strange man in a purple uniform lead Ash down an alleyway.

“Where do you think you’re going with Ash?!”

The two girls chased down the alleyway, only to be blocked off by a group of more purple-dressed men and women.

“Move or…” Angie pulled out a poké ball. “Get hurt!”

A young woman in the group stepped forward. “No one but the Empathic may pass.” her voice was soft, yet commanding.

“They know Ash is an Empathic…” Maylene pulled out her own poké ball. “What do you want with him?!

You misunderstand. The Empathic came here to see our Mistress.” the young woman answered. Her eyes were cold and faded. “She has accepted to meet him, but no others.

Maylene whispered sideways to Angie, “Did Ash say he was going to meet anyone here other than May?”

“No.” The tomboy threw out her poké ball. “Go Shinx!”

Maylene nodded. “Go Machoke!”

The two pokémon stood beside their trainers and challenged their foes with battle cries.

“So, either you purple freaks move aside…” Angie smirked with arrogance.

“…or this is going to get messy.” Maylene finished her sentence gladly.

The Mistress warned us that you would refuse to comply.” As one, the purple uniformed guards raised their poké balls. CLICK. VACUUM. SNAP.

The air above them turned crimson by the amount of summons being released at once.

“CHIIIIME~!!!” all twenty Wind Chime Pokémon sung as a single voice.

“I think we’re outnumbered.” Angie laughed nervously as she backed away.

“We’ll never know until we try!” Maylene and her Machoke ran towards the crowd of purple.

“That doesn’t even make sense!” Angie and Shinx followed after them.



_________________________________________________________



“Welcome back to Saffron City, Ash Ketchum…”

“Nice to see you again, Sabrina.” Ash smiled. He ran his fingers across the bent silver spoon one more time before placing it into his pocket.

The woman with raven black hair stood from her chair and approached the male Trainer. She smiled. “You have grown much. That is good to know. It is a relief to have a friend in these troubled times, but a blessing to have one so experienced.”

“Troubled times? What’s happening here??” Ash asked, obviously concerned.

Sabrina nodded to the man that had led Ash to her home. The servant bowed and left the room silently.

The psychic master sighed in exhaustion.

In Ash’s sight, her exhalation seemed to blow away the wall of stiff emotion. Sabrina’s far more childish nature seemed to peek through.

She blew aside a lock of hair that hung around her view. “It is certainly nice to meet you again, Ash.”

Despite having greeted her earlier, Ash felt like he was talking to an entirely different person. “You too, Sabrina.”

Striding back to her chair, she moved a seat comfortably behind Ash and moved him closer to her with just a thought. She sat and stared at him.



“I know why you’re here, Ash… but I have troubles of my own.”

“What kind of problems? What can I do to help?”

Adjusting herself to a proper sitting position, Sabrina spoke her troubled mind, “Saffron City has always been under my watch, and was always guarded by the Psychics that reside and train here. However, very recently, a few hours before you arrived in this city in fact, a cloud has blocked our vision.”

“A cloud?”

“Not precisely a physical cloud, though we wouldn’t be too sure at this point, but more of a strange energy that’s preventing us from seeing the whole picture.”

Whole… picture?

She sighed. “Allow me to show you.”

Sabrina closed her eyes and transferred her mind’s images to Ash’s.

This is what it looks like if we can see clearly in our city. Sabrina’s thoughts echoed loudly in his.

Visions of Saffron City and its people flickered before his mind’s eye.

And this is what it looks like with the cloud…

The same images appeared in Ash’s mind, except something was hidden. A nagging feeling as if the entire scene wasn’t shown, despite it looking almost perfectly similar.

Do you see?

Kind of… though I don’t fully get it.

Sabrina’s eyes opened. “That is fine. You do not need to fully understand. What I request that you understand is that this is problematic for us Psychics. Something is disturbing our vision, and trouble may already be here within the city.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I am unsure what you can do, Ash. However, until this problem is resolved, I cannot help you with your quest.”

Ash thought hard.

Sabrina looked into his mind curiously…

Maybe it’s some sort of machine? On top of buildings or underground?

I’m afraid not, Ash. Sabrina replied to his idea. I have already had several of my students check for strange devices throughout the city. The block does not seem to be triangulated in specific locations, so an item of technology cannot be the culprit.

Hmmm… …counter-Psychics?

Not possible. We vastly outnumber any Psychic group within Kanto. Combined, no amount of psychic forces can stop us from destroying any blocks. And even if it were the case, a psychic-block feels different from this. …it is a description beyond our words.

…end of the world?

Sabrina laughed out loud. “Hm yes, if it were the end of the world, we would certainly find our Psychic powers becoming useless. However, if that were the case, then I’m afraid that you and I would have bigger things to worry about.”

Nature? Maybe like a weird anti-Psychic cloud that occurs naturally every thousand years?

You have quite the imagination, Ash. A very specific imagination, it seems. But you may have a point there. We have never encountered anything of that sort before, but it would not be impossible to consider. I will have some of my psychics look into i–



Ash? Ash, I can’t read your mental wave!

A strange energy seemed to darken the world around her, nearly blinding her mental sight.

She opened her eyes. Her eyes widening instantly.

At every corner of the room, an absol stood. Yet its fur was of pure black instead of its usual snow white.

“Dark Pokémon…” Sabrina growled. “That explains the disturbance. But how did they get passed the psychic link unnoticed? … Sebastian!”

The man that had escorted Ash to Sabrina had entered the room once again. “Yes, Mistres–” He gaspedat the sight of the foreboding Dark Pokémon. “What are these abominations doing here?!”

He ran beside Ash and pulled out a poké ball. “Empathic child, we must protect the Mistress at all costs!”

A laugh echoed throughout the room.

Behind one of the absols, a woman in black appeared. “Well, well, well… The infamous Ash Ketchum and the ever-troublesome Sabrina…”

“State your name and business.” Sabrina looked coldly at the woman, her red ‘R’ chest emblem obviously noting who she worked for.

“You may call me agent 009, ‘Mistress’.” she mocked as she swung her blond hair back. “As for my business? I’m here for the boy. But I believe I can get quite a bonus if I manage to take down the head of the pesky Psychics of Saffron.”

“KADABRA! GO– AHHHHHHHH!!!

“SEBASTIAN!!!” Sabrina cried out.

The blond woman had thrown a black tulip at the Psychic guardian, its thorns attaching and spreading a shockwave of electricity throughout his body.

He fell to the ground weakly, his body still smoking from the shock.

Tsk tsk. I really wouldn’t recommend resisting. You’ll find that I’m far more threatening than any of these lovely pokémon that grace your room.” She pulled another tulip from behind and smiled arrogantly. “Besides, I doubt any of your beloved Psychic Pokémon will be any use against them.”

With a snap of her fingers, each of the absols slowly walked towards them, surrounding them completely.

Ash readied to fight. “Why you–”

Sabrina had run towards Ash and wrapped her arms around him. “Hold your breath.” She closed her eyes tight and sent out a psychic spear.

The Gym Leader and Trainer vanished from sight, leaving the absols in confusion.



“WHERE DID THEY GO?!” 009 threw her dark flower into the wall, causing an explosion. She pointed towards the hole she had produced. “GET OUT THERE AND FIND THEM!!!”

The absols nodded and dashed out of the ruined building.



_________________________________________________________



Sabrina and Ash reappeared in an alleyway covered in moonlight… and cluttered in hectic frenzy. Pokémon and Psychic alike were being tossed around as two girls and their pokémon were causing mayhem amongst their ranks.

Enough.” Sabrina commanded with absolute authority.

Everyone froze in place and gave attention to the Psychic Master.

The calm young female with the cold eyes bowed and addressed her Mistress, “Mistress Sabrina. It is a pl–

POW. “Down you go! Ha-ha!” Angie had elbowed her in the back of the head.

She noticed Ash… “ASH!” …being held by a rather ‘mature’ looking woman. “LET GO OF ASH, YOU–

The raging tomboy had frozen in place, Sabrina’s psychic powers holding her down with little effort.

“Lianna.” Sabrina helped the assaulted female back onto her feet with a controlled thought.

Smiling as if nothing had happened, Lianna bowed. “Yes, Mistress?

Take the guards and spread throughout the city.” She ordered with perfect thought and precision. “Gather the other Psychic groups and protect key spots. Team Rocket has infiltrated our city with Dark Pokémon. Send a message to Janine of Fuchsia Gym that we are in need of their Bug Pokémon.

Yes, my Mistress.

She sent the message mentally amongst her fellow guardians. They nodded as one and spread out.

Lianna stalled and gave Sabrina a concerned look.

“I will be fine, Lianna. Fuchsia City is yours to protect until I return.”

She nodded modestly and left.



The Psychic Master glared at the two girls and their pokémon. “We will need your assistance, they are coming.”

With a thought, she released Angie, who fell over harmlessly.

The tomboy stood up immediately and tried to charge at Sabrina again. This time she was held in place by Maylene. “Calm down, Angie! I don’t think she’s an enemy!”

“TELL HER TO LET GO OF ASH!” Angie raged.

Sabrina slid Ash into Angie’s arms with telekinesis. Angie blushed as his face almost touched hers.

“Maylene.” Sabrina searched her through the Gym Leader’s mind, taking all the information she needed. “Please release all your pokémon.”

“H-How do you know my name??”

“There is no time, do so now.”

She pulled out all three poké balls and threw them into the air. “Go Lucario! Go Meditite! Go Tyrogue!”

The three Fighting Pokémon appeared beside the already-summoned Machoke and readied themselves for battle.

Sabrina eyed them quickly, judging their strengths and weaknesses. “Very good.” She walked behind Maylene and stood patiently. “Angie, your shinx shall do. Protect us from any rear assaults.”

Who do you think you are ordering mewhoah whoah whoah!!!” Angie and Shinx were lifted from the ground and placed behind Sabrina.

Ash, stay in the center with me.

“I can fight!” he growled as his pride was hurt.

“Team Rocket is more than likely here for you. They will want you to fight in order to separate you from the rest. Stand in the center.

He sighed angrily and walked behind Maylene, standing behind Angie.

The Sinnoh Gym Leader looked around in confusion. “What exactly are we looking for?”

Sabrina nudged her chin upwards, pointing to the trio of charging dark absols that ran across the telephone lines.

“What the heck are those?!”

“Weak to Fighting types.” the Psychic simply stated.

Maylene flexed. “That’s all I needed to hear!!! Lucario! Aura Sphere!!”

“HUAH!” The blue jackal shot a ball of blue energy towards the incoming felid pokémon.

The ball of energy impacted against one of them, causing it to disperse into black smog. As if vacuumed back together, the haze reformed several feet closer to them, reconstructing into the pokémon it once was.

What manner of creature are these…” Sabrina’s eyes narrowed.

I just said that!” Maylene shouted. “Lucario! Another one!!

The Aura Pokémon shot another blast towards the group of enemies. Once again, they rematerialized closer after disintegrating from the attack.

“This doesn’t look good.” muttered Maylene. “Guys, prepare for close combat!”

Her pokémon responded with ready growls and barks.

Maylene.” Sabrina commanded. “Hand control of two of your pokémon to Ash and I. You will not be able to control all of them at once effectively.

She was about to argue, until Ash gave her a reassuring nod.

“Machoke and Meditite, you’re with me. Lucario, listen to Ash. Tyrogue, listen to what’s-her-face.”

“And what am I supposed to do?!” Angie yelled.

“I had already given you a purpose.” Sabrina glared. “Do it.

A shiver went down the tomboy’s spine and faced back the other way. But there’s nothing here…

Sabrina… Ash thought out. I can’t see them. They don’t have any emotions… How am I supposed to command Lucario in this fight? They’re moving too fast for me to hear them.

Feel them out.She responded.

But I can’t! They’re just blanks!

Exactly. Pin-point them by knowing where they’re not. Your Empathy should allow you to do that.

Ash tried…

Despite the world being dark to his sight, he could feel the colors and temperatures of the air around them. And within these blurring winds of emotion, there were dark patches where nothing existed. A complete blankness. There!

“Maylene! What attacks does Lucario know?!” he shouted towards her.

She panicked at the sudden question. “Uh – uhm! Aura Sphere! Um! Bone R-Rush! Let’s see–

The empty nothingness was almost on top of them. “HURRY!

“METAL CLAW AND FORCE PALM!!!” she completed just in time. “Machoke! Cross Chop! Meditite! Detect then Meditate!”

“Lucario! Forcepalm!”

Sabrina’s eyes glowed, surrounding Tyrogue with a purple aura.

Maylene’s machoke jumped and swung down its hands in a slicing motion – the attack cut through smog, with the dark absol reappearing behind it instantly with a roar.

One of the shadow creatures ran along the side of the wall, launching itself towards the meditite. The half-Fighting Pokemon vanished and appeared across the alleyway – beginning its meditation.

“HAH! HYAA!! HRAAAH!!!” With each shout, Lucario missed another strike – the absol vanishing into smoke and reentering the fray from a different angle.

Tyrogue stood its ground, waiting for its opponent to get close enough. From her mind’s eye, the dark creature didn’t exist to Sabrina – or rather, it was the opposite of existence. But seeing through the simple-minded courage of a Fighting Pokémon, the opponent was clear as day.

“Machoke! Seismic Toss! Meditite! Drain Punch!”

“Keep at it Lucario!”

Every strike missed, or impacted into smoke.

Hey lady! Nothing’s working!” Maylene shouted above the sounds of battle.

“Come on! Let me help!” cried Angie from the side.

The nothingness finally came for Tyrogue/Sabrina. He/she struck out; the fist vanished into the darkness. There’s nothing here! No entity! But then what are these… No. They exist. I see now.

Angie! Now! Strike the area in front of you!” Sabrina commanded sharply.

“But there nothing the–”

DO IT NOW!

“Shinx! Use Spark!” she growled, pointing at the open air in front of her.

Angie’s shinx released electricity across its fur, becoming completely encased in yellow energy. “SHIIIINX!!!” The tiny blue and black pokémon ran towards open air.

It collided with an invisible entity.

A deep roar shook the bones of everything in the alleyway. And in an instant, the dark absols vanished completely… replaced by a single, giant absol of midnight black fur. It stood behind all of them, facing a frightened Angie who cowered before its size. “G-Guys!! N-Need help!!!”

They all turned and faced their new foe.

The other absols were mere illusions controlled by this one.” Sabrina explained with a cold tone. “It was planning on distracting us long enough until it could take Ash from behind…

Sensing her correct deduction, the creature’s large red eyes locked on Sabrina and pierced through her Psychic mind. “AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!” She buckled in pain, pulling at her hair as tears poured from her eyes.

“SABRINA!!!” Ash reached down and grabbed her head, as if trying to pry the beast away from her thoughts.

Laughter echoed down the alleyway. Agent 009 walked towards them from behind. “I see you met the true form of my lovely Dice. He’s quite a charmer, isn’t he? Let me give you a bit of warning though… he loves to play with his food before eating them… so I’d advise that you make this fun for him.”

DOMINO!!!” Maylene charged towards the Rocket Agent, her fists raised.

Maylene? Is that really you? Why it’s been forever! We really do need to catch up!” She dodged Maylene’s strike and pierced a tulip into her back, the lightning spreading across her muscles and paralyzing her. “Sadly, we don’t have time for that.”

The pink haired fighter fell to the ground without a sound of rebellion.

Maylene’s pokémon roared in anger. All four of them charged at their master’s assailant, ready to avenge her.

NO WAIT!!” Sabrina cried out.

Domino smirked.

THUDTHUDTHUDTHUD – Being cleared of any would-be Fighting Type defenders, the huge absol charged down the alley and grabbed onto Ash’s belt with its massive jaws.

“WAHHHHHHH!!!!” The male Empathic panicked as he was suddenly lifted off the ground.

NO!!!” Sabrina screamed as she tried to regain control of her broken mind.

The four Fighting Pokémon stopped in their tracks, turning back too late – as the monster was getting away with their trainer’s companion – the one she had fought so hard to defend.

“I’VE GOT YOU, ASH!!!!” Angie leapt onto the creature’s back and began ripping its dark fur from its skin.

RWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MY DICE’S BEAUTIFUL MANE!!! HOW DARE YOU!!!” Domino launched a flower towards Angie.

“SHINX! GRAB IT!!”

The Flash Pokémon caught the tulip before it reached its mark. Shinx had absorbed the electrical damage from the attack and landed safely on the giant creature’s back.

Angie grabbed the organic weapon from her pokémon’s mouth and jammed it down onto an open patch of skin where she had removed the fur. The dark absol growled in pain as it continued to try to knock the riders off its back.

“Now! Shinx!! Thunder Fang!!!”

“SHIIIIINX!!!!” Charging off all its electricity into its teeth, the cub bit down onto the tulip, redirecting all its energy into the very flesh and bone of the furious beast.

RWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!

“DICE!!! NO!!!”

Its massive fangs foamed and flailed, freeing Ash from its grip. Its muscles tensed and locked, dropping it to its side like it had been a wind-up toy running out of fuel. The lightning continued to spread in its body, forcing the creature to spasm despite losing consciousness.

Angie and Shinx jumped off the creature and ran towards the tossed-about boy. “Ash! Are you okay?!”

Domino ran towards her pokémon and pulled her weapon away from its back. “My poor, poor Dice… what did those awful creatures do to you?” She pressed a button on her belt, absorbing the creature into a metal device attached around her waist.

There, there. It’s over now. Get your rest. Shhhh…” She patted the device gently.

Ash limped towards her. “You’re not going anywhere, Domino!”

Angie stood by his side, her shinx ready for another round. “Time for you to get a beating.” The tomboy cracked her knuckles. Maylene’s pokémon stood beside her, stretching and readying their muscles.

Oh my,I believe I’m late for an appointment!” Domino hurriedly said while staring at an imaginary watch. She threw one more tulip to the ground. Its impact spread a spray of smoke in every direction. All who were caught in its radius found themselves choking for oxygen.

Ash felt the enemy’s feelings fade into the sky. “We’ll have to reschedule this little meeting! Ta~ ta~!!”



The smoke cleared, revealing nothing but open air.

Their foe had disappeared completely. No traces were left that she had been there other than the damage they had left in their attempt to attack her. Not even a single one of her tulip weapons was left behind. And to where she could have vanished, no one had a clue – as no aerial vehicle or pokémon traced the night sky above.

Whatever the case was, wherever she had gone or what she had done, the danger was finally gone… leaving a strange sense of accomplishment and peace – almost hollow, yet still a victory to be cherished.

The standing combatants stared at one another in bewilderment, still on edge after the strange battle. First to react to the victorious silence, the Fighting Pokémon moved towards Maylene’s side.

Angie was the next to act, supporting Ash, the Trainer limping weakly to the downed Psychic.

“Sabrina… are you alright?”

The Saffron Gym Leader slowly got up and stood, wiping leftover tears from her eyes. “I will be fine.” She massaged her forehead. “Thank you for your concern. I suggest you tend to the young woman.”

Maylene was up, held up by her pokémon. Her eyes twitched to stay open, looking weakly at Ash and the rest of her allies. “Did… did we win?”

“I think so…” Ash responded dizzily.

Before they could make a pathetic celebration attempt, a bright light flashed out.

They all stiffened to a panic.

“What now?!”

“Another attack?!”

“No wait!” Angie called out. Her eyes widened. Her lips hung open.

The tomboy gazed down in awe, a white radiance reflecting off her amazed expression.

“Shinx is evolving!!!”



_________________________________________________________



“Come on open… open… open please!” Misty pleaded in whispers as she jammed the hairpin into a strange lock.

Kilink.

“Yes!”

She turned her head. “Come on, let’s go.”

Swinging the door open into another dark hallway, the Water Pokémon Trainer led her ragtag team of escapees towards their next destination.

For days she had endured countless tortures, sleepless nights, and moments of starvation. The malnourishment and insomnia were tolerable, but memories of the torture frightened her with every thought she made.

Every element of attack and curious form of ailment had ravaged her body during her interrogations. The pain and panic in her senses constantly forced her to cry out and begged her to give in. And at times, she did. At many points, she did.

And when she had, the suffering would stop – and she’d be given rest, food, and kindness as a response. They were trying to break her. To make her compliant and obedient to them. Any answer they wanted, they had to get. And whether it took them minutes or hours, they would always get what they wanted.

Her body still ached, and her heart still felt dead.

She was sorry, she was sorry for giving in – but she couldn’t feel it, she couldn’t feel anything. She knew she wouldn’t feel anything for a long time… not in this place… not while we’re still in here… yet despite this, she still was sorry. Always sorry… she didn’t want to give in.

Despite still breaking in the end, Ash’s mother had held on for much longer than she had. As the noticeably weak woman moved behind her, Misty wondered how much her spirit had shattered in order to give up the answers that Team Rocket sought.

She had to give up her son’s safety to keep her own…

It was a sickening idea. A despicable act on her torturers’ part. No person should ever have to give up their loved ones. No person should ever be pushed to the limits of giving up the one that they treasure most in life. No parent should ever hold the guilt of sacrificing their child just to stop the pain.

If any pain were to be felt in her heart, Misty yearned to cry for Delia Ketchum. As she knew this was not a memory she would ever forget for the rest of her days…

However, of all of them, Anabel suffered the worst. Not once did she speak. Not once did she break. Her screams and howls of pain would echo terribly across the cells. The sounds were horrendous, serving to make any prisoner more willing to talk when their turn came next. Several times Misty had found herself pounding at her gate, begging her to talk, begging her to give them what they wanted – so that the screams would stop, so that the pain would stop.

But she never talked. She never said a word. She never gave in.

At certain moments, the guards would loudly converse with themselves about how they had gotten her to speak – how their torture had worked – and how they had what they needed. But Misty knew they were lying.

They didn’t want the prisoners to have any heart left, to believe that anyone could suffer their punishments and never break. …but Anabel had. Anabel did.

Anabel wasn’t with them.

A day ago, the guards had moved her to a different area. Somewhere Misty wished she would find during their time of escape.

Anabel…

A teardrop fell to her arm… it was her first tear, her first feeling, since her first emotional breakdown. She didn’t know she had any tears left after that day, yet the evidence left a clean trace against her cheek. Her heart had felt shame, it had felt weak… she wished with all her soul that she was as strong as Anabel was… as strong as the girl she had thought to be the weakest of them.

I’ll get you back, Anabel…

“Misty.” Tracey snapped her attention back to the dark reality. “Guard.”

The group moved quickly behind a corner. A Team Rocket member was walking towards their area.

Three poké balls. Flashlight. Radio. Keys. Misty gathered all the data of the guard she needed from a single glance. A technique she had learned from necessity – a technique that had given them the chance to be to get this far in their escape.

Click. Vacuum.

A starmie appeared beside her. The Sea Star Pokémon was stiff, its gem glowing softly.

It, too, suffered under interrogation. All their pokémon had suffered the same fate. Any answer they had given was relayed psychically from Psychic Pokémon.

Knock. Misty got the Water Type’s silent attention with a knock on its gem.

It looked up to its trainer with weakened concentration.

Using simple visual gestures with her hands, Misty issued her commands.

Silent commands, another technique Misty had developed in her time locked up. She had secretly taught these visual commands to any pokémon that faced her cell whenever the guards were looking away. It was through this skill and method that she was able to overpower any and every opponent that faced her in these cold halls.

Starmie’s gem glowed once to show its understanding.

After a nod from Misty, it launched itself into the air with a spin. Rounding the corner, it found its target.

“What the heck is th–”

KAK. Thud.

“Guard down.” Misty hissed to those under her protection.

They charged towards the downed body and stripped it of all its accessories, clothes, and tools.

“Tracey, put these on.” Misty handed the man’s clothes to the sketch artist.

As he put on the uniform turned disguise, she turned and scanned the others.

Ms. Ketchum. Starmie. Mr. Mime. Pikachu. And Dawn.

Dawn was the most recent arrival. She was taken in soon after Anabel’s disappearance. As such, she had never been put up for questioning. Her body was enviably free of wounds and her clothes perplexingly clean. Misty wondered how she had been captured. She wondered who else were on their way.

“Dawn and I still need disguises.” Misty concluded.

She turned and nodded to the Rocket-dressed Tracey. “Let’s go.”

Returning the star pokémon to its ball, she led them down another hallway.

To where? She asked herself in doubt.



The only way to go… Forward.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:17 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 15: Pieces

Spoiler:
“We probably should’ve asked May which plane route she was taking.” Maylene stared at the rotating screens, counting how many were arriving straight from Hoenn or Johto. “For all we know she could be taking one plane, two planes, or three planes to get here.”

“She didn’t really give us a chance to ask.” Ash shrugged as he leaned against a wall.

“You can blame Angie for that. That ‘we should’ve called Dawn’ remark really set May off.” She turned towards the tomboy trainer… the girl was busying herself with playing and celebrating with her new luxio. Maylene continued, “She probably would’ve been more gracious with her information.”

“Hey, you were the one saying that ‘we still should’ve called Dawn’.” Ash pointed out. “It’s not like you were encouraging May with your attitude.”

“Well there’s a difference between supporting an idea and offending someone.” she countered. “I just supported an idea, Angie was straight-out offending May.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

“Speaking of which… Aren’t you tired, Ash? You’ve been awake for how long now?”

“Nah, I’m too excited to sleep right now. That fight we had back at the alleyway was insane.”

“You should’ve been there when Angie and I were fighting the Psychics! THAT was insane!”

Ash wanted to ask all about it, but something popped into his mind that bothered him. “Wait, Maylene…?”

She noticed his changed tone and hesitated. “… y-yes?”

“How do you know that Domino girl?”

OH. That… we used to go to school together.”

“Really?” Ash tilted his head curiously.

“Yep. Fellow classmate.”

“Small world.”

“Tell me about it.”





“Hey, Ash?”

“Yeah?”

“How do you know that Sabrina girl?”

Before he could answer, a friendly yet reserved emotion entered his immediate area.

“I’m the Gym Leader of Saffron City.” Sabrina walked around the corner and handed a drink for each of them. “Ash was a challenger.”

“Wow, another Gym Leader!” Maylene laughed and bowed in thankfulness for the drink. “Does Ash make friends with all the Gym Leaders?”

“It would seem so. Though how Ash befriended me was done in a rather interesting fashion.” She smiled.

Maylene was taken aback by the comment and stared at her curiously.

Worry not, child. I am not interested. Sabrina’s amused thoughts echoed in her own.

“W-What the heck was that?” The fighter panicked at her mind’s intrusion.

The Psychic leaned against the wall next to Ash and stared at the clock on the wall.

“By the way, Sabrina…” Ash turned towards her. “How’s Haunter doing?”

“I do not have him anymore.”

Huh?? Why not?”

“A young girl who entered my Gym needed him far more than I did.” she responded with a hint of nostalgia. “I miss him dearly, but his gifts were needed elsewhere.”

The young trainer smiled with satisfaction. “Well that’s good. Everyone needs to learn to laugh once in a while.”

…haunter? … laugh?” Maylene had no idea what the two were talking about.

An excited energy had rammed into the air. Angie. “Hey guys! Guess what?”

“Torchick butt.” Ash stated.

Wow, how old is that joke? Maylene wondered.

Sabrina and Ash laughed loudly together at the ridiculously corny humor.

Both Maylene and Angie stepped back at the sight of the normally deadly-serious woman laughing.

Er… uh… no.” The tomboy snickered nervously. “I wanted to say that Luxio knows how to do Roar!”

That’s awesome!” Ash faced towards her in fascination. “Wanna’ show it??”

Yeah I do! Come on Luxio, show them y–”

Sabrina interrupted, “I must prevent you from that action. Security in Saffron City’s airport is very strict about Pokémon Attacks being used indoors.”

…but… I just used it over there…” Angie whimpered, anxiously wishing to show-off.

“And it caught the attention of several officers in the area. They are watching you closely as we speak.” The woman nodded her head towards a wall on the other end of the airport.

Angie looked – and found three guards staring at her, speaking into their radio with discretion.

“Oh, whoops.” She waved apologetically towards them.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Bright, sunny, and absolutely desperate, an emotion had struck Ash after hearing his name. Like the thunder to a lightning strike.

With tears in her eyes, May was running towards the Empathic as fast as her legs could take her.

Strangers and employees alike stopped and stared at the scene playing out, their hearts happy to see such a loving reunion.

BAKK. Which was broken in an instant. May’s fist had met Maylene’s face. Her knuckles cracking on impact. And sending Maylene’s drink skyward.

The twotumbledover in a tussle.

Angie rolled up her sleeves. “That reminds me!” She jumped into the fight with vicious excitement.

As the limbs locked and kicks flew, Sabrina turned towards Ash.

“You keep interesting company.”

Ash laughed in embarrassment.

Security guards charged towards them, calling out orders and commanding them to stop.

The Psychic sighed. “Let me handle this.” she grumbled to Ash in irritation.

She appeared in front of the combative three, blocking the law enforcers. “The three are under my care.” the Psychic Master spoke with frightening authority, “I shall see to it that they are reprimanded.

The guards froze in place, shocked at her intervention. They bowed quickly in apology. “Y-Yes, Sabrina!” “Th-Thank you, Mistress!” “Have a pleasant d-day, Mistress Sabrina!”

In an instant, they ran off – afraid of being seen as incompetent fools that had offended their city’s hero.

Sabrina’s eyes glowed, surrounding the three young women in a purple aura. Affected by telekinesis, the three were separated and lifted into the air. Each of them continued the fight with bickering while levitated, with May obviously outnumbered in the argument.

Sabrina’s brow twitched in annoyance. “Enough!

The airport went quiet.

She cleared her throat and let the young women down onto their feet. “Calm yourselves.”

May looked at her in curiosity. “Who’s that?” she asked with an aggravated emotion, almost ignoring the fact that the woman had her lifted off the ground psychically just seconds before.

“This is Sabrina.” Ash introduced nervously. “She’s this city’s Gym Leader.”

The brown-haired Coordinator eyed the woman as if in challenge. “I’m May.”

“A pleasure to meet you.” Sabrina said almost sarcastically.

“A pleasure…” A trickle of blood dripped from May’s lips. She wiped it off in disgust.

Ha! Mission accomplished!” Angie laughed in victory. “That’s what ya’ get for kissing Ash, ya’ hussy!”

WHAT?!” May and Maylene shouted.

Ash slapped his face into his palm.

May’s face was suddenly red. “H-How did…”

Maylene laughed. “I better step my game up or Ash might have something else taken away before I get to him!”

Ash now had both hands covering his face. Angie was shocked, nearly having a nosebleed from the thought. May was both dying from embarrassment at such a comment – and burning with anger at such a forward statement.

Sabrinacleared her throat once again. All four gave her attention immediately.

“I suggest we leave the building. We are disturbing the peace.”



_________________________________________________________



Lights flickered dimly on the orange walls and tangerine seats. Brown tables and cream carpet, having the scent of microwaved breakfast, patterned the floor. A neon white sign welcomed any strangers that happened to the pass. Inside the small diner of slow atmosphere and slower service, a group of five sat as the only customers.

“I don’t get it…” A girl of thick green hair poked at her strangely browned food. “If you’re not poor, why did you choose this place to eat?”

Two young females, one of brown and the other of pink hair cared less to talk as they devoured the food placed before them.

A boy wearing messy black hair snored quietly at the seat closest to the window, his food getting cold from lacking attention.

“It’s my favorite.” A woman, whose midnight black hair glowed forest green under direct lamplight, smiled happily as she placed another waffle piece into her mouth.

A feline creature of lavender fur ate silently underneath the table.

The boy choked on a snore and rolled his position. “M-May…”

May blushed at his dream-encouraged mumble.

The Coordinator had traveled far and dodged more than one attack on her journey to this bustling city in the Kanto region. It was well worth it in her mind. She was here for Ash. And she smiled happily at the thought that of finally being able to help him.

“…lene…”

Her brow twitched in annoyance.

“Ha!” Maylene laughed in her face, her mouth still half-full with food.

The young fighter admittedly never fawned over the boy like the other girls, but he was the only man in her life that she had ever been enamored by. Love interest was the definition that resembled him in her vocabulary, with love and interest still being weighed. He was, however, a very fun subject of conflict and charm for her.

May struck the boy’s knee with her foot.

Ash twitched in response and rolled to another position… which caused him to fall off his chair entirely. “AHH!”

THUD



Espeon walked over to the fallen boy and licked his cheeks.

His snoring returned, louder. “N-No… …I don’t want to go to the concert…”

The girls giggled to themselves.

Sabrina placed her utensils down and delicately patted her lips with a napkin. “Where has Ash planned for this group to go next?”

“I’m not sure.” Angie pushed her plate away. “Other than May, he never really told us who we were searching for. I didn’t even know we were meeting you.”

“I find it strange that a boy who seeks your help would inform so little.” the Psychic stated curiously.

“Why don’t we just check his pockets?” Maylene suggested.

May tensed. “Doesn’t that seem… you know… a little rude?”

“Doesn’t seem to bother Angie.” The fighter laughed.

Angie was already crouched over Ash’s sleeping body, pulling out contents from his pants and jacket pockets. Standing up, she placed six objects onto the table.

Half ribbon – Sketch – Photograph – Bent spoon – Rock – Newspaper clip.

“What are these?” Sabrina eyed each one with interest.

“These are the items Ash showed us when he said he knew who could help us.” The tomboy looked over them with disinterest. She found it useless to try to figure out the bits and pieces without one of them knowing what they stood for – and she knew absolutely none of them.

May immediately hovered over the half ribbon. “Ash… he still has his…”

She reached into her pocket and produced the other half, reuniting the pieces. The two halves looked as if from different timelines, as Ash’s half had been worn from weather and exposure.

Despite this, the Coordinator smiled with cherishment.

“Well, we now know that one’s May.” Maylene concluded.

Sabrina picked up the spoon. “If these are symbols, then I believe this one represents the Psychics of Saffron – with me most likely in mind.”

“Then what are the rest?”

The four stared at the remaining four objects.

Angie lifted the sketch. “You think this one means Tracey?”

“Tracey?” The fighter tilted her head.

“A Pokémon sketch-artist that works for Professor Oak.” May explained. “But I don’t think that one’s his. This definitely doesn’t look like his style of sketching.”

“Maybe it’s an old one?” Angie scratched her head.

The Psychic let out a slight gasp.

The three looked at her in worry.

“Is something wrong??” Maylene browsed the area.

Sabrina’s eyes focused in suspicion at each object placed before them. “Maylene, release your lucario.”

“What?”

“Do it.”

Hesitantly, the pink haired Gym Leader pulled out a poké ball and released the pokémon inside.

Lucario stretched and stared curiously at his surroundings.

Sabrina’s eyes shined. A purple and blue mist engulfing her. Lucario’s eyes locked, his eyes glowing in reaction.

His trainer stared in wonderment at the scene. “Wh-What are you doing to Lucario?”

I am borrowing his body. Please be patient. she heard echoing in her thoughts.



Lucario picked up each object and glared – its eyes becoming lost in unknown reflections.



Without her calling him back, Lucario returned to his poké ball. “Huh??” Maylene glanced at the ball in surprise.

“I returned him for you.” Sabrina said before continuing. “There is something special about these objects.”

She stared at each of the girls to gain their attention. “They are not mere symbols. They are objects that have retained traces of Aura.”

“Aura?” Maylene and Angie asked in unison.

“…jynx.” Maylene whispered. Angie growled in response.

“Aura,” May said with serious attention, “is found in every living creature. It’s like a soul. Or like an energy. Ash is able to read and use Aura.”

“What?!” Angie’s eyes widened. “So you mean he can do things like Aura Sph– Ow!” Maylene had punched her.

“I said jynx. No talking.” Maylene smiled mischievously. “No but seriously, can he do stuff like that?!

May nodded. “He said it’s very draining, but I definitely know he can use it like that.”

“More importantly,” Sabrina returned the topic to its origin, “he’s laced these objects with Aura.”

“…meaning?” The fighter blinked.

“Ash has given these objects great sentimental value. However, as he can manipulate Aura, he has also transferred some of his memories’ auras onto them.”

“…meaning?” the tomboy asked for her to clarify. “Ow! Quit it! Ow!” Two extra punches.

“This means that Ash can find us through these Auras. He seems to be attracted to them.”

“Are you sure?” May questioned skeptically. “All he did was call me, and you were already in the same city as the airport I ended up in. …and wouldn’t he be able to use these to find Misty and the rest? Why doesn’t he just use an object to find them?”

“Valid observations.” Sabrina nodded. “However, there certainly are traces of Aura on these items. And it should be noted that he may indeed carry additional items on his person that would allow him to find the kidnapped victims. But one factor changes the dynamics of that search… Team Rocket is masking themselves.”

“Masking themselves?” May placed Ash’s ribbon into her pocket, leaving her half on the table.

“Yeah, Ash mentioned that he couldn’t sense any of them when they first attacked the house. Ow! Quit it, Maylene!”

“I myself could not sense their presence in Saffron until it was too late.” the Psychic mentioned. “Aura won’t be able to help him find them.”

Maylene picked up the rock. “Then what about the rest? Where do these lead? …like this rock?”

“That is no ordinary stone. It is a meteorite piece.” Sabrina examined.

“Who does it belong to?”

“We cannot know until Ash tells us himself. Your lucario can only sense the Aura, I can only detect mental traces – but even together we cannot know who Ash connected each object to.”

Sketch – Photograph –Meteorite – Newspaper clip.

The four looked down at the sleeping young man, each one curious where he would lead them next.



_________________________________________________________



Ash yawned as he entered the main room. He wasn’t sure how he ended up in a bed, and he wasn’t sure what building he was in – but he knew that his friends were there, as he tripped over their scattered shoes and bags. I guess we went to a new hotel…

The main room was a hybrid quarter; containing a living room, kitchen, and dining room comfortably situated next to each other in a small space. It was white, modern, and nothing spectacular – but definitely something not cheap. He could tell this by just touching the material of the walls and side tables. I hope they didn’t pay with my money… we’re running a little low…

Three energies gathered around a table, one other stood in front of a strong scent, and one more sat comfortably to the side. A warm and silent energy wrapped around his leg. He reached down and picked up the solemnly friendly pokémon. “Hey Espeon. How are you today?”

It yawned in response.

“Yeah, me too…”

He sensed towards the table again.

Serious and inquisitive, Sabrina studying something.

Patient and ready, Lucario waiting for a command.

Frustrated and puzzled, Angie trying to solve a question.

He opened his senses towards the lone figure in front of the scent.

Happy and distracted, May daydreaming.

French Toast? Pancakes? …Pie? He still had a difficult time with scents. Whatever it was, it was breakfast being made by May. And it had smelled like she improved in her cooking. Must be from traveling alone.

And lastly, the casual single that sat on a couch.

Calm and methodical, Maylene searching through a pokédev.

Sabrina stood up and circled the table. “So far, with what we’ve determined– Ah, Ash. We’ve been waiting.”

“Hey guys, what are you… hm?” He finally recognized what was on the table. “What are you doing with those?” his voice suddenly serious.

Angie hadn’t caught the tone. “While you were sleeping your butt away, we were trying to figure out what was up with your mementos. So far we’ve got Tracey, your charizard, probably a clefairy, and one of the Professors in any of the regions. Are we close?”

Sabrina and Lucario, however, caught it. The two looked at each other with concerned looks.

Despite her authority, Sabrina did not feel it in her place to speak with Ash with his suspicions towards them.

May. Stop what you are doing.

“Huh??” May looked around in confusion.

It’s Sabrina. Ash is currently showing offense against our research on his items. I believe he has his reasons to have kept them to himself.

“Uhm… what do you want me to do?” she whispered to herself, unsure how to communicate back in a proper manner.

Ask him what’s wrong. she thought with an air of obviousness.

“Hey Ash?” May felt awkward knowing what he was feeling before even speaking with him. “Is something wrong?”

Her innocent reaction seemed to have a positive effect on him. His body loosened and his emotions culled into a much more manageable state.

“What are you guys doing with my stuff?” Ash asked in a far friendlier manner.

Angie turned around on her chair. “I just said what we were doing with your stuff. You deaf or something?”

“Nope! Only blind! I know that one.” Maylene raised her arm without looking. She was quite proud of knowing that fact, despite it being obvious.

Sabrina felt comfortable enough to approach him now.

Do you not trust us with these items?

Ash’s thoughts curled into a defensive state.

She retreated from his mind. Sighing, she opened herself up.

Uncomfortable at speaking anything else other than her mind, Sabrina’s emotions showed vulnerability and sensitivity.

It was her invitation for fairness. As she showed honesty and allows him to search for whatever he wished, and he would do the same for her. The only thing that would be needed to complete the deal… was his acceptance.

Though it was a rather uncomfortable situation to be in for Ash, as he did not fully know Sabrina on a personal level, he found himself searching into her feelings – an action that sealed their agreement. It wasn’t a choice he made lightly… as he knew what it would mean. But at this moment, he needed to trust his friends and partners. His personal secrets weren’t going to help them get anywhere.

The Psychic entered his mind once again.

Is something wrong, Ash?

… you didn’t find anything else, did you?

Angie had only found these objects in your pockets.



… can you look at something for me?

Sabrina nodded. “Excuse us.”

Ash and Sabrina walked into one of the bedrooms and closed the door behind them.

All three girls snuck towards the door and placed their ear against it.

I suggest you three move away from the door. Otherwise…” The Psychic’s cold tone pierced through the closed entrance.

May and Angie backed away immediately. Maylene exhaled softly and closed her eyes, keeping her ear planted on the door.

“Maylene!” May hissed at the fighter. “Get out of there!”

She responded by waving her away.

“Your funeral.” The Coordinator returned to her cooking.



_________________________________________________________



Ash reached into each of his pockets, trying to find something that he feared he misplaced.

His face winced as he adjusted his wrist in an odd angle.

“There.”

From his hand, Ash produced a strange marble.

Sabrina’s eyes instantly locked onto it. “What is this?” Her voice turned suspicious.

“I don’t know… I’ve always had it. I… think.”

Ash wasn’t sure. Ash was never sure about it. He had found the item in his private toolbox after one of his many journeys. Which journey, he could never remember. All he remembered was that he was surprised at finding the marble as he had no memory of ever collecting it.

However, the strangest fact about the item was that he had no proof that it was new. When he would search through his memories, he remembered always having it. The memories themselves felt fabricated, but such an idea seemed silly. For whatever reason, Ash had this marble, and he never felt the need to carry or toss it. It laid dormant in his toolbox for all his life. …was it really all his life?

In a fashion, he felt like it had always belonged to him, as if it were something very important to him. But he himself could never figure what was its significance. All he knew, was that many of the strange feelings he had felt throughout his journey, may or may not have been affected by… this.

Sabrina sensed all his thoughts, memories, and worries for the small object. She nodded in response to them. “I see…”

“I didn’t just come to visit you for help in getting back my friends and mom… I really wanted a private meeting with you to talk about this.” Ash rolled the marble back and forth between his finger and thumb. “You know what this is, don’t you?”

She shook her head, her honest unawareness disappointing the boy. “I am afraid not. This object is completely unfamiliar to me. I do, however, sense a great energy from it. Psychic energy, and other energies as well.”

“Empathic and Aura.” Ash placed the black marble down. “…ever since I had gotten Empathy, this item’s been… disturbing me. I had always sensed something from it with my Aura, but never as loud until after I had gotten Empathy. I can‘t understand it completely, but…

He scratched the back of his head, unsure if anything he was saying was true. But it was the only way he wanted to explain it. The only way he could explain it, as if it the marble itself did not want him to explain any further or any differently.

“Perhaps if I…” Sabrina reached out.

He knew what she would mention next. “I’d like that actually.”

With a bow of his head, Ash allowed the Psychic to search his mind.

She placed her palm gently on the young man’s forehead and closed her eyes. Underneath her eyelids, a shining light glowed. A purple aura swirled around her… it traveled down her arm and into Ash.

Opening Ash’s mind’s eye, Sabrina was able to see the world as he saw it – a world of darkness, filled with unphysical color and heat, accented by his inherent Aura ability – which made everything far more clear. But with her trained Psychic mind, she could see far more than Ash ever could.

With the new abilities at her disposal, she felt for the marble.

Where did he place it…

Her fingertip touched it.

In an instant, the object absorbed her mind into itself.

The world around her suddenly turned bright. Colors of every shade, and even ones that couldn’t exist, shot and exploded in different angles and shapes. Waves of Aura faded in and out below her like a tide. And the one element she had always been comfortable with, Psychic energies shaped the sky aboveher – showing things that existed, had existed, and would exist.

A flash of light had almost blinded her.

The powers combined into a single orb, mimicking the visual color and shape of the physical marble, except for its frightening size.

Like a crystal ball, the orb revealed the memories of Ash in this journey. Becoming blind. A sensitive Empathic and a logical tomboy colliding in worlds. Meeting of old friends. His realization of Empathy. Relationships that would bind and hold them to fate. The Team Rocket attack on his home. His journey and arrival at Saffron City. Meeting her. The fight against Domino.

what’s this? Sabrina’s eyes went wide.

A Researcher and his assistant found in a lone lighthouse. A fierce guardian of powerful charizards. A Pokémon Ranger. A young woman who had befriended a unique pokémon.

The memories… they’re continuing to move forward!

A legend assisting them on their journey. Revealing a young fighter’s past. A trio rescuing them from certain death. A traitor. A massive battle that threatens their very world. A…

The memories started blurring and fading.

These aren’t memories at all… they’re prophecies.

Black. The orb had distorted and disappeared into nothingness. A feeling of changing futures hit Sabrina’s intuition.

Peering into these futures must be changing their outcome… I may have well destroyed those possibilities…

The Psychic studied the environment around her one more time before deciding. Then I shall no longer interfere with the future’s plans. I have everything we need.



Sabrina opened her eyes. She saw the young man in front of him, holding tightly to the marble. His face was pale. His body tilting, nearly falling over.

Placing her fingers into his, she opened his hand - allowing the marble to fall harmlessly to the floor.

Ash opened his eyes. “You… saw it… didn’t you?” his voice was wavering in tones, between past and future, light and dark. For a second his physical form shifted into different visions of Ash. An older Ash who had given up on everything. A student who had never gotten a chance to begin his journey. An Aura Guardian seeking nothing but the safety of others. A loving husband to a faceless spouse. An unbeatable champion who searches for the next adventure. A familiar face that shared a common past. And much more… but only for a second.

Sabrina moved away from him, stunned. “I… I know not what that object is. But it has chosen you.”

Ash leaned against a nearby table, almost fainting. “I… I thought… those things it kept telling me… were just weird dreams…”

His hand gripped onto his vest as if to hold himself in balance. “But they were true… they happened… I could’ve stopped them… I could’ve stopped Team Rocket… I could’ve saved Pikachu… mom… Misty… Anabel… but… I didn’t listen…”

The Psychic, her emotions still open for him to feel, approached him with a pitying heart. She held him upright, preventing him from stumbling. “Ash…” her voice adjusted to her mature tone, showing a mothering nature. “Listen to me… it wasn’t your fault. You could not have prevented it. Even if you did, an alternate disaster would have taken its place.”

“…but… why…” Tears flowed down his eyes, his exhaustion from the psychic fusion disabling him from having any true control of his mind, body, spirit, and emotion.

Sabrina sighed sadlyand petted the poor boy’s hair. “Something’s calling for you Ash. It needs you. And it needs you in a certain place, a certain time, and a certain way… you can change the outcome, but you cannot change the fact that you are needed there and then.”

“What do you… mean?” He wrapped his arms around her, feeling lost.

“You’re destined for something great, Ash. And all these events are meant to shape you into a person who can face the challenge.”

“Does that mean… everything will be okay…?”

She frowned. “…no. The future keeps shifting, and it will continue to shift. Despite being destined, the destination and meaning can change at a moment’s notice - but its purpose for the universe will forever remain the same, even if you do not. …you need to strengthen yourself, and we need to move forward. If not… we…” Hesitation struck her throat – Ash’s vulnerability making her fearful of being her usual logical self.

“…we might never see them again…” Ash continued her thought. His hands loosening.

Sabrina lifted his chin with her fingers and wiped away his tears. “Then we must see to it that those futures never occur.” She gave a reassuring smile.

He sniffled, trying to regain his composure.

The Psychic wondered to herself how to cheer the boy up. It embarrassed her at how awkward she was at these moments - admitting she had no experience in them.

Sabrina thought back to how the other girls would treat him...



She pushed Ash’s head back and made a pathetically weak punch to his arm.

Huh?” He tilted his head at her.

“I um… am trying to be friendly.”



Ash laughed. She laughed along with him.

Much better.

He smiled back at her in thankfulness.

“Let us go. Your friends must be suspicious in our time together.”

Sabrina opened the door.

A surprised pink-haired girl fell in with a yelp. She looked up at Sabrina and laughed nervously.

How did she manage to stay by the door without me kn–

The Psychic’s eyes thinned into daggers, the memory of her time in the orb revealing to her that the girl was not who she said she was.

She raised her hand, a dark purple aura overtaking Maylene and smashing her against the wall.

The girl was pinned, unable to fight back.

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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:18 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 16: Duality

Spoiler:
“I told her to stay away from the door!” May whimpered as she fearfully cowered behind a table.

Maylene was choking, an invisible hand grasping her neck.

“S-Sabrina!” Ash pulled at her arm to stop her. “Stop it! What are you doing?!”

Lucario charged in to protect his partner.

WHO ARE YOU” The Psychic’s energy flared, tossing aside the pokémon and forcing Ash off her.

“W-Wh…at?” The fighter struggled hard but couldn’t escape the woman’s power.

YOU HIDE SOMETHING FROM US” Sabrina’s hair began floating upwards, her mind’s power showing itself in a threatening physical form. “I CANNOT READ YOUR MIND – SPEAK OR I SHALL SPILL YOUR MIND FROM YOUR WILL

SABRINA! STOP IT!” Ash pressed his hand against the Psychic’s stomach, a blue energy rushing from his body ran through his flexed limb exploded against her.

“GUH!” She flew from the impact and crashed against a side table.

Maylene fell to the ground, grasping her neck as she gasped and swallowed as much air as she could. Ash ran to her side, helping her to her feet.

Sabrina appeared behind him, her eyes noticing Ash’s skin becoming paler and his body weakening to a frail state. “…do not push your body in using Aura. You are not yet experienced enough to handle the effort.” she warned in with a concerned tone.

“Sabrina…” Ash faced her weakly. “…what’s wrong with you?”

Ask Maylene. She is well acquainted with Domino.” She glared towards the young woman he was carrying.

“They were classmates!” Angie yelled as she helped Maylene balance from the other side. “You paranoid freak! You could’ve just asked!”

Sabrina’s narrowed eyes locked onto Angie at her rude response. “That is a lie. She hides it well in emotion and thought, but I saw for myself who she is. She is a member of Team Rocket.”

“She isn’t!” Angie barked back, ready to escalate the fight further – with words or with pokémon.

Maylene pushed Angie and Ash aside. “No… …I was a member of Team Rocket.

WHAT?!” Ash, May, and Angie reacted in unison.

Was a member of Team Rocket… no longer one.” Maylene continued, rubbing her neck and shoulders. “My father… he always gambled. Got us into a lot of debt. I’m still in debt. …I paid for most of the debt by working for Team Rocket at one point… he owed the most to them.”

“Maylene… why? How could y-”

“Because if I didn’t, they were going to kill him!” she interrupted Ash with a shout, tears forming in her eyes. “I hate my dad and all his stupid gambling… but… I still love him. He’s still my dad. I couldn’t just let them kill him.”

Sabrina stood in front of her, looking down at her with cold eyes. She received a fiery-eyedreception from Maylene. The Psychic ignored it. “Why hide this information? Your experience with them would have helped us, no matter how little.”

“Well you already know everything I know at this point.” She looked down in shame. “I was a low-rank Rocket. I didn’t know too much from my time with them.”

“Wait a minute!” Angie crossed her arms and leaned on one leg. “If you were a Rocket, why in the world did you interrogate that Team Rocket member back at the ferry??”

“I never interrogated him.” she admitted. “I only beat him up and took his costume. I only said I interrogated him so that none of you would suspect how I already knew all that information.”

“Why even bring him to the room? We would’ve taken your word for it!” Angie lied, she would have never believed her explanation after the discussion she had with Ash. But in her eyes, she needed to give as many benefits of the doubt to themselves, as they weren’t the ones guilty.

“I owed Ash that.” Maylene looked towards him with guilt. “He needed information. And unless he knew the information had come straight from an obvious source, he would’ve… thought we were just wasting our time… he would’ve thought we were stalling for too long, even though we were doing our best.”

The raven-haired young man walked towards her, his faded eyes locking with her pink-shaded ones. “Then that means you do share the same ability as the Team Rocket members that attacked my house… the reason why I couldn’t see you in our fight, right?”

She frowned with deep apology. “I… I do. …I wasn’t lying that their pokémon were the source of their lack of an aura, but they themselves have the ability to hide their mental and emotional state as well… some of them can even hide their Aura trace.”

“A very unique technique.” Sabrina caught her attention. “But why trouble learning it yourselves if your pokémon can accomplish it for you?”

“Why do you train as a Psychic if your pokémon already are?”

The Saffron Gym Leader nodded in understanding. “Understandable then… However, why would such an ability be learned in the first place?”

Well…” Angie rubbed her arm ashamedly and stared at her feet. “I learned it to escape them. No one can ever stop working for Team Rocket now. No one. I learned it so I could become that no one. If they could never find me, they‘d never be able to get me back. I didn’t want to be stuck with them. I had to get out.

“But how did you learn this technique?”

I found their manuals… these technique manuals they had made from compiling research from…” She paused, depressed at what little words she could choose from. “…‘testing’ on humans and pokémon alike.” She could feel Ash’s sickening emotional glare press against her. “I… I studied it whenever I got the chance.”

How could you?!” Ash pinned her against the wall. “How could you learn from those manuals knowing how they researched them?!!”

I! I don’t know! GET OFF ME!” Maylene shoved him away. Her emotional and mental state disappeared completely. She was completely gone from Ash’s senses… except for the shaking of her body and the growing sobs.

“…Maylene…” His anger started to disappear. The fighter’s cries showing absolute shame of herself. She didn’t mean to… She didn’t mean it that way…

I’M SORRY!! I’M SORRY!!!” she screamed, her hands gripping onto the Empathic’s legs. Desperation flowed through her every word and twitch. “I JUST DIDN’T – I DIDN’T WANT TO STAY WITH THEM FOREVER!! AFTER I LEARNED IT I DESTROYED IT!! I DIDN’T WANT TO BE LIKE THEM!!! I’M NOT ONE OF THEM!!! I’M NOT!!!!

The strong fighter had broken completely. Howling and cursing, she fell to her knees and curled into a ball, continuing her wailing in her own private hell – remembering the times when she had found the victims of the experiments.

Ash wrapped his arms around her, unsure what he could do or say to console her.

May joined him, wrapping her arms around her as she whispered comforting encouragements into her ear.

Sabrina sighed, never knowing how to fix the emotional damages she placed on others. “I apologize. I had jumped to conclusions.” She fiddled with one of her coat’s buttons, trying to find the right thing to say. “…I apologize.” She couldn’t find one.



Maylene’s sobs stopped; her breathing and tone becoming calm. What she had to say next would affect every plan and decision from now on. A fact that she had never wanted to be responsible for…

“…Team Rocket learned these techniques so that they could capture Arceus.”

The room suddenly went silent. No one moved, no one said a word.



Arceus…? What’s that?” Only Angie showed puzzlement.

“Arceus, creator of worlds.” May answered her. “It was said that it had created the universe this world and many others belong to.”

“…you can capture something like that?” Angie raised her brow in disbelief.

“Arceus is a pokémon.” Ash mentioned. “The most powerful one that we know of. I doubt they can capture it with just a giant poké ball, but it can be affected and weakened by the elements just like anything else. …I don‘t think it‘d be impossible to control Arceus.”

“And how would you know that?” The tomboy continued her skepticism.

“Because I was there when it almost destroyed this world.” he responded solemnly.

Angie jumped back in shock. “You can’t be serious!”

“The Michina Town incident!” May gasped. “You were there?!

He nodded, saying nothing.

“The michi-michi what now?”

May stared at Angie, almost pitying her lack of knowledge. “I’ll tell you about it later. For now - was it true, Ash?? Was there really a giant battle there between Legendary Pokémon??

He nodded again, still saying nothing.

She covered one eye with her palm, exhausted from the revelation. “The officials kept covering it up, saying that it was just some mass hallucination or some crazy natural disaster blown out of proportion. But… I can’t believe this is all actually true…

Sabrina kneeled in front of Maylene. “How would this ability allow them to capture Arceus?” She took a softer approach this time.

“Arceus…” The fighter sat up, still refusing to look the Psychic in the eye. “…is the creator of things. Mental, emotional, aura, and physical energies create worlds. And they’re as much a part of Arceus as Arceus is a part of them.

“You can’t capture Arceus, because it is a being of pure creation. It can recreate itself over and over again, never allowing its mind, emotion, aura, and physicality to ever be bound to a singular object. But it can be killed, because that is the one rule that must come with all things that live - they must be able to die.” She wiped her dried tears and looked up at Sabrina.

“But Team Rocket wants to control it, not kill it. To control something so powerful would give Team Rocket the ability to recreate the universe in whatever fashion they wish.”

Her last words had gained everyone’s complete attention.

“…to capture a creature more powerful than any creation within this universe, something far more powerful must control it.”

Maylene exhaled. Her emotional and mental state was no longer blocked - it was empty. Ash, Lucario, and Sabrina lost their balance, almost feeling as if they were being sucked into its void. … she inhaled, her inner state becoming normal once again.

“That, was just one ability they were training to achieve.”

Wh-What was that…” Sabrina massaged her forehead, trying to regain control of her psychic abilities.

“The only thing we, creations of Arceus, can create beyond its power, is the ability to take away its power… so they planned to capture Arceus by becoming everything it wasn’t. A sort of anti-Arceus.”

Sabrina gripped the carpet beneath her tightly, not wanting to believe what she had just heard. “Is that possible?

Not yet…” Maylene frowned as she turned towards Ash. “…they need to learn how to create anti-matter. They have a long way to go before they achieve their goals… and Ash… matches the description of the one who was destined to stop their goals.



Within the other room, the marble burned. Another piece to the puzzle fitting into where it belonged.



_________________________________________________________



Sabrina shook her head. “I’m sorry, Ash, my teleportation can only take us so far. I would have to have visited the area recently in order to travel so far.”

The small group was walking through another forest by the cover of night. A luxio lit the way; small sparks flew from its glowing tail tip.

Roads were watched, public transports were problematic, and May’s stories of being attacked in air travel had only proven that planes were not an option. The forest was their only path of travel now, and night being their invisible cloak.

“Why don’t any of us now how to drive yet??” Angie sighed in exhaustion as she tripped on another root that stuck above the dirt.

Maylene laughed, with her familiar shame being hinted through. “I could never afford a car.”

Sabrina coughed in embarrassment. “I’m… a horrible driver.”

“I’m just too young to drive.” May shrugged. “I definitely could use a license with all the traveling I do.”

The tomboy patted dirt off her long sleeves. “Well why doesn’t Ash have a car?”

“You really want a blind boy to drive us?” The Coordinator laughed.

“No. What I meant is, why didn’t he have a car before he went blind?”

“What’s wrong with walking?” Ash questioned as he held onto Sabrina’s arm, using her as his guide.

Nothing’s wrong with walking!” Angie growled as a vine smacked her face for the fourth time that evening. “It just really would’ve been helpful right now.”

May skipped on one foot as she tried to shove a pebble out of her other shoe. “Well, why don’t you have a car?”

“I’m not old enough for one, duh.” she pouted.

HUH???” Ash turned towards Angie in shock, still walking as he let the Psychic to give him mental instructions. “I thought we were the same age, Anj!”

Wh-What??” Her face suddenly blushed in shyness. It was the first time Ash wasn’t seeing her as an equal… which had made her feel funny. “N-No. I’m three years younger than you.”

A hand grabbed her head and proceeded to ruin her already messy hair. “Awww, that means you’re the kid in this little family!” May giggled, looking at Angie in an endearing fashion.

The tomboy had bitten her hand in response.

“Ow!”

Angie did not like being treated as a child. Especially by a girl she had always seen herself as at least an equal to. “Don’t get any stupid ideas. I could still kick your butt.”

May blew at her throbbing hand. “Whatever, little sis.” She let out a giggle.

The pink-haired fighter laughed. “That makes me the eldest sister!”

“Sabrina’s older than you, dummy.” Angie pointed out.

“I still would be the oldest sister. Sabrina’s like our mom or something.”

The Psychic almost tripped at being labeled as such. She focused her senses and regained her balanced.

Raise right foot slightly. she sent to Ash, remembering the duty she had given herself for the trip.

The boy raised his foot, avoiding a sudden incline. In truth, he wasn’t paying attention to the conversation the girls were having behind him. His mind was distracted by thoughts of what they should do next, where they should head next after all this.

Psychically linked to his mind, Sabrina did her best to sort out his plans and help him choose priorities. She knew how important each decision was to their journey. A single mistake would only lead to greater disasters. Knowing this, she had assigned a large portion of her mind to assist in his thoughts.

“And what would that make Ash? Our brother?” Angie made a gagging sound at the thought.

“Ew. No way.” Maylene responded. “He’s like uhm… uhm… a boy for an arranged marriage!”

“And Sabrina has to pick one of her daughters to marry him!” May added excitedly.

“And –”

More tasks were brought up for Sabrina to handle. In addition to guiding Ash’s steps, sensing which direction he wished to go, as well as managing his thoughts – she had also given herself the job of scanning the area psychically, becoming familiar with the boy’s mental energy, and discussing strategies with the lucario that walked alongside them. …anything to completely shut out the sound coming from the two Mays.

“So where are we going?” a voice broke through her concentration.

It was Angie. She had left the two playful girls and moved up to the front. “If that map we saw at the hotel room’s right – does that mean we’re heading for Cerulean City?”

“Further up.” Sabrina had answered.

“Further up?” She tilted her head. “…I don’t think there was a city there. None that I can remember…

“Not a city, a lighthouse.” Ash answered.

At the moment, Ash was extremely curious of how Angie’s age affected their relationship – or if it had any effect at all. In most cases, age never mattered for him, but he had always noticed it when a person treated him according to their age difference. May was one of the primary examples, who tended to show submissiveness to his decisions at certain moments when they were alone – as she treated him as a senior during those rare moments.

Would Anj treat me like a senior? That would be kind of weird.

“What’s up at the lighthouse?” Angie disturbed him from the thoughts.

He pulled out the newspaper clipping. The scrap of paper was far too small to show any names, as it had been destroyed from rough weather striking against the box it was originally contained in.

The tomboy took it from his hand and placed it close to her luxio, trying to read its exact words.

“A famous Researcher in Kanto named Bill.” Sabrina resolved for her. “His experiments are often strange and his behavior and interests are far too erratic to keep contained in a proper facility, but his results speak for themselves.”

Ash nodded in thanks. “Maybe he can give us something. Maybe a gadget or something to give us an edge against Team Rocket.”

The girl placed the clipping back into Ash’s pocket. “Cool. And maybe he can give us some more information on Arceus and all that anti-Arceus stuff.”

Sabrina smiled in surprise. She realized that she had considered the thought herself. Angie was growing to be a favorite of hers. The rough-edged girl did her best never to cause problems for the rest of the group, yet at the same time, spoke and acted honestly. She also showed a sharp mind – being able to come up with ideas no others could.

Studying her mind, the Psychic found that she was blissfully unaware how helpful she was in balancing out whatever crowd she was placed in.

If Sabrina truly was the mother of this group, she would’ve favored Angie for Ash, as the others never really took the possible relationship as seriously as she did.

Ash was blushing and stumbling, as the Psychic had forgotten to remove her mental link with him as those thoughts crossed her mind. Also still being connected, Lucario found himself curiously adding to the psychic conversation.

Sabrina laughed out loud, having understood a rather dirty joke from the calm pokémon.

Ash fell over, his face absolutely red.

Lucario laughed proudly at the reactions.

The three girls stared in interest. They’d harass the other trio for an explanation throughout the rest of the night.



_________________________________________________________



It was morning. The second morning of their travel from Saffron City. The sun shining brightly against the trees, clouds flowing beautifully, and pokémon of all sorts making their calls into the air. It was a wonderful time to be awake, yet there was sleep to be had.

Tents were set and their inhabitants dreamed quietly.

Two pokémon and two humans, however, refused sleep.

Bibarel and Meditite stood guard, protecting the immediate area with careful vigilance.

Inside one of the tents, Sabrina and Ash sat facing one another, the dark marble sitting between them.

The two yearned for sleep, but there was still business to be done.

And after meeting with Bill, I suggest we head to Johto first. Violet City should be our main destination there before moving forward. Depending on transport, the amount of time it will take will vary greatly.

Maybe Bill will give us some Pokémon to get there faster.

I would hope so. All forms of transportation are now too risky to take. But if we must, there is a lesser railroad station located near Cerulean that should take us to Ironwood Station… which is near Route 30, I believe.

You think there’s any chance we can take one of the underground tunnels that Team Rocket built?

Suicide. But if you wanted to take that foolish road, we can discuss it with Maylene to see if she knows of any entrances.

What if we took air travel?

We would have to backtrack to Saffron, but it would be the fastest mode of travel. Though I doubt Team Rocket will be as clumsy as they were when they went after your friend May. They would have redoubled their efforts after such a failure.

“Ash? Are you awake?” the voice came from outside the tent.

“May?” he recognized the tone immediately.

It seems this is a private conversation. I will take my leave.

Hm? No wai- … Sabrina had disappeared.

“Can I come in?”

Uh… sure. Come on in.”

May’s bright and sunny personality had graced the tent’s originally serious atmosphere. There was something different about the Coordinator this time, however. Ash couldn’t tell what exactly.

She had sat down in front of Ash, with a curious smile hinting her face. Do you notice anything different? She felt towards him, hoping he could still sense her emotions like he used to.

Y-Yeah… not sure what, though.” He scratched his chin in bewilderment.

The Coordinator giggled.

Since her return to Ash’s side, she had been trying to figure out a way to be attractive in a manner that he could notice. As her friend was now blind, the idea of beauty was no longer something visual. She experimented with different methods, and was now finally testing it.

“You smell nice.” he finally concluded.

Her entire self squealed in emotional delight at the compliment.

Now it was time to test her next trick.

Closing her eyes, she changed her thoughts and ideas. She focused on single emotions and memories.

“How about now, Ash?”

“M-May??” To the Empathic, the girl in front of him changed into someone completely different. In front of him sat a sweet and gentle girl. She had a love for pokémon that resembled a mothering guardian. Her soul seemed gentle, fragile, and needing protection from the corrupt world around it. Her heart gazed into Ash’s, making him melt at the presence of such a saint.

His face turned pink, his jaw fell slightly ajar, and a hint of drool hung from his lips.

The emotion turned back into its simple, far more immature and insecure ways. She was back to normal. And she had just winked at him.

Ash shook his head to snap out of it.

He laughed with an embarrassed tone.

You really felt it, didn’t you?

“Y-Yeah… but what was that?”

Just a little trick I taught myself. She giggled.

“How in the world did you learn that??”

You remember when Anabel said that I had the right heart to be an Empathic?

Ash had just remembered… the incident with Duplica. “Yeah?”

Well, I thought… maybe I could be more useful if I was an Empathic.

“So are you one yet?” Ash asked despite already knowing the answer.

I don’t thinks so… I’m just trying to get used to all this emotional control stuff. Did my control work like it was supposed to?

“How exactly was it supposed to work?”

Something like a dress~! And make-up. That kind of stuff.

Ash’s face showed minor irritation. “Mm… I’m not really into that fake stuff.”

“It’s not fake.” May finally broke her verbal silence. “It accents what’s already there.”

The boy shrugged. “I dunno… If you have to accent who you are, that’s not really a compliment to yourself.”

Offended. that was all Ash could feel from her.

“May?”

She stormed out of the tent angrily.



“I have no idea what that was about.”

“You’re very smooth with women.” Sabrina was back, and she brought sarcasm with her.

“I don’t even know what that was about.” He sighed.

The Psychic closed the tent back up and sat back down. “Girls who have low self-esteem tend to be very troubled if you mention anything negative about them. Especially their attempts to better themselves.”

Ash felt no guilt for what he had done. “I was being honest.”

“Honesty is often harder to swallow than a lie. Most people prefer lies.”

He fell to his back and sighed again. “How about you? You prefer lies?”

People can’t lie to me.

I’m pregnant. Ash had sent back with no trace of doubt in his mind.

Sabrina laughed heartily. “Well, I suppose there’s a first time for everything.”

“So are we going to keep discussing plans? Where did we leave off?”

The Psychic thought quietly to herself.



“Actually, I’d prefer to eat something. If that’s alright.” she admitted with an embarrassed smile.



_________________________________________________________



“Professor, the vehicle is ready to leave…”

“Dana, it’s Bill.”

“Professor Bill, please, hurry to the transport…”

The man sighed.

Falling back to a luxurious chair, the man ran his fingers through his curly green hair. Frustration and exhaustion slowly spilled out of him yet again. No matter how many things he had solved, the stresses would only come flowing back, causing him to rethink and re-plan almost hourly. Such a task would have driven any person mad… For his powerful logic; the form of insanity would simply take longer to give its full effect.

Gazing at the ceiling lamps, he wondered his fate. It was one of the few free thoughts he could have that did not concern priorities and decisions. Though all his strategies would eventually affect his fate, he knew full well he wasn’t in full control of this situation… a fact that troubled him to no end.

“Professor Bill…”

“Dana, it’s just Bill.”

A woman wearing lab attire and long golden hair adjusted her posture uncomfortably. She stared at the man she had spent the last two years working for. The prodigy named Bill. A young Pokémon Researcher of great renown.

The scientific community had found his lack of focus on a single field to be amateur – his risky experiments to be his inevitable downfall – and his ideas and research to be quack at times.

Yet she saw him differently. Despite being older than the boy by five years, she was fascinated by him. His works were ingenious, his theories were profound, and his confidence and love in his passions were unbreakable and astounding. He was an inspiration, a visionary, and a misunderstood master.

The day she had been chosen as an assistant was like a dream come true. And every hour spent with him felt like a fantasy she’d never wake from. She loved working with him, she loved seeing his efforts come to fruition, and she loved how much he depended on her humble self.

…but the dream was ending, and it was time to wake up.

“Sir, please…” Her hands trembled as she grabbed onto his sleeve. She wanted to shake him, to slap him across the face, anything at all to make him get up and start running. “Team Rocket is almost here! If you do not leave now, we won’t be ab–”

His dark eyes locked onto hers. Just one look from him would always silence her – as she’d listen to anything he had to say as long as he’d look into her eyes.

“Dana, I won’t be leaving. I cannot abandon my work.”

“We’ve already–”

Yes yes… my research papers and my smaller prototypes. You can tell them to leave with it now. Ensure that their journey is safe.”

The lab assistant took a step back. “S-Sir… what do you mean?” Her eyes filled with tears.

“I know what your plan was, Dana.” Bill turned and looked into his fireplace. Its warm lights flickering fiery reflections in his eyes – a sight that built up his determination. “…you were planning on staying here for me, and seeing if you can protect it yourself.”

“How did you…”

He looked back at her, silencing her once again. “I wouldn’t be a very good Researcher if I didn’t know what my assistant was thinking, would I?”

Her cheeks turned rosy. “Professor…”

“Go with them. I will not abandon my work.”

She stomped her foot, almost breaking the heel of her footwear. “NO.

“Dana…”

Bill. I won’t go. I am staying here with you.”

Before he could say anything, she had run to the back door and waved off the delivery trucks.

The vehicles instantly revved and drove off in a panicked speed.

She slammed the door shut and locked it.

“Dana, what are you doing…” Bill was about to stand. He was pushed back down by his assistant, who would not face him.

She ran to the console across the room and activated several security systems, effectively locking them inside the building. With a press of a button, the side-wall opened, revealing several poké balls ready for use. With a sweep, she had gathered them into her sleeves and pockets.

The Researcher walked over and grabbed a few for himself.

“No, Bill.” the woman gave a voice that seemed to command down at his smaller size.

“I won’t stand idle.” His eyes closed and his hand gripped onto the ball. “If you’re willing to risk everything just to protect me…”

She glared at him, refusing to cower to any commands or suggestions he would give. He may have been senior in status, but she was senior in time. Nothing would stop her from protecting the stubborn boy.

“…then I’ll do everything in my power to protect you.”

Those were the last words she had expected from his mouth. The surprise had caused her to drop several of the poké balls she was carrying. Her cheeks turned redder as she clumsily tried to pick them all up.

He bent down and placed his hand on hers. Her trembling stopped.

“We’ll do this together…”

A single tear fell from her eye, a smile forming gently on her lips.

She nodded with a cheerful expression.

“Very well, Professor.”

“It’s Bill.”



_________________________________________________________



Fourth night. Dark clouds. Strikingly bright moonlight. Lighthouse.

A luxio of black-silver fur appeared from the forest, its electrical fur slowly dimming as it scanned the horizon with its piercing yellow eyes. Its thoughts of loyal obedience to the commands it was given suddenly blanked into excited tension. There was a certain spark in the air, and it knew that it could mean only one thing. Trouble…

Three figures soon followed.

Sabrina, wearing midnight black coat to match her hair, entered the open air, her eyes adjusting to the shocking white of the moon. Her recently smiling lips quickly turned into a frown. With the psychic waves no longer blocked by the forest’s natural barriers, she could completely read what awaited them. I feared this…

Ash, dressed in a simple black long sleeve with dark green patterns, stood beside her, his hands locked around her elbow. The dangers sensed by the prior two were easily noticed, but exiting the energy-filled woods allowed him to feel the thickness himself. There’s so many of them…

Landing softly from a long-distanced leap, the blue-and-black-furred lucario began glowing with a mystical hue. Individual hairs on its skin stood up at the menacing auras that hung heavily in the air. Maylene, come quickly…

The bond shared between a pokémon and their trainer is often strong, especially when the two have spent years together. It was no surprise that Maylene, covered in a light outfit that challenged the cold night wind, stumbled out of the forest soon after. Not having the extra senses of her preceding companions, she ran up to the edge of the cliff to find the peril they faced. A smirk ran across her face, the sight below being far greater than what she had expected. I was hoping for a fight…

Seeking to find out what all the commotion was, Angie burst from the bushes in a rather plain gray and black jogging suit. She ran up beside Maylene, eager to see what had caught everyone in its silence. Her eyes widened. At least we know who we’re after really is a threat to them…

Covered in dark hues of blue and gray, a rather well-dressed girl stepped uncaringly out of the darkened trees. May was indeed curious of her team’s reactions, but her irritable mood had prevented her from showing any care. Ash’s words still stung at her, putting at her in conflict with herself again. These thoughts would continue to bother her as she closed the distance between her and the boy. The sight of what was ahead, however, threw away any and all petty concerns. Oh no…

Ahead of the seven, an army amassed.

Like an ominous sea of black and red, Rocket members marched and formed, their shapes silhouetted by the white reflection of the moon. Lined and sectioned into different groups, Kanto Pokémon of every type and color growled, hissed, and howled for battle. Patrol groups flew above and climbed below, ensuring that no incoming do-gooders would be able to catch them off-guard.

“I think we better move…” Angie backed away from the cliff. “We might get spot–”

Staring directly at her, a Team Rocket member held a radio up to his mouth. A golem stood by its side, halfway into an attack stance.

The tomboy pulled a poké ball instinctively. “Shoot!”



The man and pokémon had not moved. It was as if they were frozen in time.

Sabrina stepped towards them, her arm reached out in their direction as a strange aura misted from her shoulders.

Girls, please remove this man’s clothes.

May’s face turned red. “Wh-What??”

Angie and Maylene gladly walked forward. Knocking the Coordinator slightly off balance, the tomboy responded to her reaction with annoyance. “Geez May, it’s not like you‘re dating him. Quit getting so excited.”

The fighter grinned mischievously. “I know I’m excited.”

“You’re just a pervert. Undressing every Rocket you find.” Angie teased.

“You know it.”

The two girls worked quickly in removing every object that was attached to the frozen Rocket… other than the only thing that kept him from being completely susceptible to the elements.

Taking the clothes and items, Sabrina floated the stolen goods toward Ash. “Go into the woods and dress into these. Maylene, lead him there, and I suggest you use that Team Rocket outfit you were saving.

“H-Hey!” May protested. She was too embarrassed to say anything else against the command. Though Sabrina read her thoughts quite well.

“The outfit she carries is only for male figures.” the Psychic commented professionally. “Your figure would not allow you to wear it comfortably. And she is the only one of us who knows how Team Rocket really works.

“…unless you’re suggesting you’d like to dress Ash.” She raised her brow.

“I. Uhm. I…” May blushed uncontrollably.

Sabrina turned away, focusing her full attention back to the two frozen patrollers.

“Come on Ash~!” Maylene wrapped her arms around his elbow and began dragging him. “Let’s get to know each other better.”

A stutter and stiff movement was his only response.

The fighter turned and stuck her tongue out at the other girls right before she disappeared with Ash behind the pitch-black leaves.

May was upset, to say the least. However, Angie had other worries.

Facing the army was a destroyed lighthouse. Smoke rose from large tears that pocketed the structure. Water leaked from protruding pipes that were ripped from their original placements. The foundation was flattened from hundreds if not thousands of steps. And innumerable attacks had scarred and burnt most of the architecture, with only a single block building to the side being its lone survivor.

Moving shadows and figures within the reinforced windows gave a slight comfort, their existence showing that there was still stood a last line of resistance to hold a defense.

But for how long? Angie wondered.

She turned and walked towards the two enemies that were ready to report their position. If they had caught us, we wouldn’t stand a chance.

“What are we going to do with these two?” She poked at the man, who seemed to only breathe heavily in defiance.

Sabrina swung her wrist downwards, covering the man in a deeper shade of purple.

He fainted immediately.

Angie jumped back in surprise.

“He will not wake for a while… and he will not have memories of this night once he does.”

The Psychic turned towards the golem and tensed her thoughts.

“G-Go… lem…” The Boulder Pokémon struggled stiffly as his body involuntarily walked towards the edge of the cliff.

What are you doing?!” May panicked. “The pokémon was only following orders!”

It rolled into a ball shape, shaking in fear.

“You mistake me for a murderer?” Sabrina gave a cold smile. “This golem will be fine. I cannot say much for the people below, however.

KraCkrakAcraCKrackACKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAK. The Rock Type Pokémon started spinning in place, accelerating with every second.

“Oh this is going to be awesome.” Angie crawled to the edge, looking at the rolling hills below.

“We’re readyyy~!” Maylene popped out from the woods, dragging an extremely embarrassed Ash back out into the open.

Disguised in Rocket apparel, the two seemed like a matching no-good duo. Their outfits blended well with the darkness, except for the striking red ‘R’ formed on their chests. Clothes were not the only items changed, as their hairstyles were also altered to seem far more clean-cut and menacing.

Still forcing the golem to speed itself, Sabrina turned towards them and regarded their new outfits with a nod. “Maylene, Ash. Take the west road. You will be attacking them from behind. With your disguises you should be able to get passed several of them easily - do not hesitate to take advantage of that.

The two nodded. Sabrina tossed a poké ball towards the boy. “Take Espeon.

She turned towards the two girls. “You two will take the east path. You’re to distract as many of them as possible. Back away towards the last remaining facility and you should receive reinforcement from the defenders inside. Take care to keep distance, as that will be the biggest factor for your victory.

“How do you know any of this will work?” May’s body was shaking in nervous excitement and utter fear. She felt sick to her stomach, but held her composure.

“I do not.” she replied simply. “However, if we do nothing at this exact moment – we will lose our chance to save whoever is inside.”

Both girls nodded to their assignment, adjusting their clothing and running strategies in their minds.

Go.

The teams split and ran in their different directions. Lucario followed Maylene. Luxio followed Angie.

Wait!” The tomboy stopped and turned. “What are you going to be doing??”

I will be the one that breaks their will.

Sabrina spread out her fingers, releasing her grip on the golem. The Boulder Pokémon shot out into the air, crashing and rolling down the cliff in impossible speeds, rocketing towards the crowds below.

The Psychic followed as she jumped off the ledge, her poké balls detaching from the belt and levitating around her body as she fell towards the ground below.

Angie turned and ran to catch up with May. “What a show-off.”

A smile ran across her lips, the realization of the battle to come hit her with a rush of adrenaline. “Let’s steal the stage!!!”
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:21 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 17: Distractions

Spoiler:
Yells, roars, and screams rang out into the night sky. Plumes of dirt clouds and energy accented the sounds with visual interpretations. The scene above was an art piece itself created from the destruction below. Chaos overtook the world in front of the destroyed lighthouse.

An unstoppable force of nature was its source. Like an artist with the most uncontrollable muse, the Boulder Pokémon created a masterpiece of demolition as it rumbled through anyone and anything that stood in its way.

All that were cursed to come into contact with the beast were flattened, spun out of the way, or barreled into the surrounding panicked crowds.

With its momentum unleashed, Sabrina could no longer control its course or speed. Except for one trait.

Selfdestruct. The battlefield and its participants were paved by orange, yellow, and red illumination for a few lingering moments. With a powerful psychic command, the golem had released a devastating blast in every direction – spreading damage and pandemonium within a massive radius. Rubble and other debris rained from the skies.

Team Rocket, Trainer and Pokémon alike, were left disoriented and confused.

Landing softly on the shattered ground, the Psychic studied the battlefield before her.

Alakazam, Hypno, Jynx, Kadabra.

A flash of red reflected against Sabrina’s features. The four Psychic Pokémon released from their containers. Each one stood with calm confidence as their minds linked with their master.

Salvaging themselves quickly from the disaster, the Rockets charged towards the Psychic and her pokémon.

Rushing passed their slower companions, pokémon of pure speed howled in anticipation of battle. Jolteons sparked and barked, rapidashes whinnied and flared, golbats screeched and spun, pidgeots cried and darted, and persians growled and pounced. They spread out, avoiding crashing over one another while still racing to beat the other to their prey. Like a line of incoming traffic, the charging pokémon’s elemental lights and eye shines revealed their pattern and positions – as well as their frightening momentum.

Sabrina nodded, a psychic command floated softly to her golden-haired pokémon.

Hovering to the front, the Jynx readied itself.

Grunting, the human-like pokémon shot its arms out. An expanding box of energy released from her hands towards the battle-bound opponents. In seconds, the box halted in its growth, revealing a cube of intangible light and power that covered a large portion of ground and sky – its blue glow humming softly in the darkness.

Tumbling the speeding pokémon to a halt within the Trick Room, Jynx held her stance and focus – waiting for her next command.

Hypno, Mass Hypnosis.

“Hypnoo…” the exhausted pokémon sighed as it shuffled towards the struggling foes.

Its yellow hand trembled as it swung its washer pendulum slowly from left to right. “Hyp… no…” it whispered to itself, timing its syllables with the sweeps.

Flashing its glare, the hypno let out a low groan.

Like a draining shockwave, an invisible force raked across the ground and through the field – making its victims fall asleep within seconds after contact.

VSSSSSHHHHHHHH-KRAK

The soil below the Psychic and her pokémon’s feet tenderized and scarred as whips of plant green and forest blue struck at them from a distance. Sabrina and her party lost focus as they dodged and retreated several steps back in reaction.

Paused thoughts allowed a team of coordinated machokes and machamps to close the distance without opposition.

To their right, a wall of impossible brute force came in the form of charging rhyhorns – the world trembling underneath their crushing feet.

To their left, towering onixes zigzagged towards them – their stature casting ominous shadows with the full moon.

In the distance, teams of human and pokémon were forming for readied retaliations.

The Psychic reached out and captured the thoughts of one of the commanding members.

…a scyther team coming from above, and a dugtrio team attempting to collapse the earth from below…

Alakazam. Sabrina calculated the plans in her head as swift as she could, fearing that any time wasted defending would give the enemy a greater advantage. Handle the scythers. Jynx, ready yourself for the dugtrios. Hypno, Rockets are charging soon after the onixes. Kadabra, come with me.

Her single-spoon-holding pokémon synced – instinctively searching for their next location.

The two disappeared into thin air.

Kadabra reappeared in front of the bulking machokes and machamps, startling them to a halt.

Sabrina fluttered back into sight, standing boldly in front of the furious rhyhorn stampede.

“MAAAA!!!” An over-muscled fist came down into nothingness. The intended Psi Pokémon target had vanished and rematerialized to the left of its attacker.

Enraged, the grouped muscle pokémon struck, pummeled, and clashed at and through the kadabra. Nothing but the cold night air met their fists. Their angered faces showed obvious hatred towards being toyed with.

Glad with their reaction, Kadabra ended the game…

“CHA–!” A machoke fell flat on its face, its body shut off in order to cope with an overloaded brain. A ripple of illusionary pain spread throughout its system – with nothing to convince its senses otherwise.

The Psychic Pokémon smiled.

Feeling a chill from the sight, the muscled pokémon backed away.

Kadabra loved Fighting Pokémon…

Mind over matter… it laughed to itself… yet it would be an unfair compliment to say that any of you mattered…

Kadabra, focus.

Yes, master. I apologize.

Forgiven. I applaud the pun, however. Sabrina giggled to herself. Her normally serious mood was loosened and far more at ease.

Business and respect had prevented her mind from relaxing within the confines of Saffron City – her kingdom and castle. …the world that had hundreds of others like her, who gazed at and pried into her mind continuously out of curiosity or arrogance. They looked up to her to be the perfect Psychic representative for the rest of the world – a standard that would hold her to an eternal stress.

But here… even in the flurry of battle, her mind found peace.

It was a welcome vacation.

Focus, Sabrina. She returned her thoughts to the wave of instinctual fury shaking the ground before her.

Spreading her hands out and gritting her teeth for the worst, the Saffron Gym Leader let loose a powerful psychic command – its force countering the physical vibrations with its own deadening power.

RRRWAAAAA–!!!” A rhyhorn was lifted off its feet and launched skyward. Another followed.

Picked off one by one, the stampede slowly lost its power as each of its participants was forcefully removed from the equation…

…revealing a new charge taking its place, a line of proud arcanines.

The night air rustled against their cream fur, making their manes resemble soft embers that contrasted against their bright orange bodies. Like a badge of honor, they wore their orange as a direct challenge to any foe – their barks and howls reflected this virtue in audible form. They never hid or backed down, but commanded those who faced them to do so.

Sabrina coughed a curse as she rubbed a speck of blood off her nostril. Her body showed obvious signs of strain and exhaustion from her attack against the rhyhorns.

She shook off the weakness and prepared her mind for the next challenge.

Now where would my distractions be, I wonder…



_________________________________________________________



“Do… Do we even need to do anything?” May stared in disbelief at the pandemonium caused by the Psychic Gym Leader. Pillars of flame and spears of psychic energy decorated the starry sky. It was almost mesmerizing…



“Angie?”

The Coordinator turned, only to realize she had been talking to no one.

YAHHHHHH!!!” In the distance, a green haired tomboy bit and kicked as a group of Rockets tried to hold her down. Her luxio fought with similar fury and irrationality as it struggled in a battle against a herd of crazed dodrios.

May sighed in reaction.

Click. Vacuum. “Glaceon! Go!!” Snap.

“Glace!” The icy blue pokémon barked in excitement.

“Now Glaceon! Ice Beam!”

A ray of white pierced and swung wide. Mists of snow formed where the Ice Beam cut through the already-cold night air, and patches of frost trailed the path it had followed. The winter blue pokémon slid gracefully along the icy trail, stopping at its edge to admire her work.

To her left, six Rockets froze in place, their limbs stretching out in panicked angles. To her right, four dodrios were captured in mid-jump; a wave of ice encasing them in their aggressive stances.

The rescued luxio didn’t seem too pleased with the conclusion and gave a small grunt in the direction of his stolen victories.

Freed, Angie slid away from the ice sculptures and waved towards her savior. “Thanks guys!”

“Angie!!” May waved back angrily. “Get back over here!! We’re supposed to be distracting them TOWARDS the building!”

“I have no idea how that makes sense! I thought we were supposed to be PROTECTING the building!” she shouted back.

“Sabrina’s already handling the main group! We’re supposed to handle everyone else!! And we need the building’s support to–”

She wasn’t listening. A new fight was already underway with another group of Rockets.

Why did I get stuck with her…” May sighed in defeat. She turned towards her glaceon and smiled. “Come on, let’s go save her butt.”

“Glace!”



_________________________________________________________



“Come on, Ash, this way.” Maylene held onto the boy’s arm as she shoved through the crowd of alert Rockets.

Not once did any of them look their way. Not once did they ever question their presence. Not once did they ever suspect who the two might’ve been.

It would have been a reason to be proud of their disguises and cunning, but it was the only reason that Maylene had felt shame.

She was too used to this. Too used to these people, too used to their ways. Their lingo and posture being almost instinctive for her – getting irritated by Ash’s clumsiness and hesitation towards them – knowing exactly what her “colleagues” were planning – and actually still calling them “colleagues” in her mind…

Not too much has changed… She bit her lip, holding back the confused doubts that were ready to overtake her.

Thak.

A knuckled strike jabbed into her hip.

She turned. Ash was frowning at her – his punch expressing a hundred more messages than anything he could have said.

Exhaling, she threw away her thoughts. “You’re right. Let’s do this.”

“Lene…”

Hm? Maylene wasn’t used to nicknames. The sounds of her shortened name were alien. “Ash…?”

No ideas of sweetness or cherishment came from his tone.

It felt weak, lost, and utterly confused. His forced frown added to the effect.

“…the emotions…” he struggled to whisper.

Her eyes widened in realization. How could I have been so stupid to drag Ash through all these people?!

“Sorry! Sorry sorry!” She crouched down, adjusting the Trainer’s limbs around her body before standing again. Ash was being piggybacked. Not something he was used to, but definitely not something he could be opposed to at that moment.

“Sorry sorry sorry!” Maylene continued her eccentric apologies as she ran through the flood of people and pokémon as fast as she could. “Lucario!” She whistled loudly.

The blue jackal appeared by their side, ready for any command.

“Get us out of here!”

Bowing low, the lucario placed its head between the fighter’s legs and lifted her onto his shoulders.

The totem pole of figures wobbled back and forth while trying to find balance.

Tilting forward, Lucario kicked off the ground, leaping the trio above the swarming Rockets – the flash of lights, screams, and explosions of faraway battles covering their unique form of escape.

They landed horribly. Crashing and tumbling off one another into an open area.



Grass stains and mud decorated their clothes. A few bruises and cuts would later reveal under their skin during a bath. Their ruined appearance made them fit the description of Team Rocket at the moment, as it looked like they had just been through a tough fight.

Maylene laughed loudly, realizing how much fun she had during that momentary escape. Ash tiredly laughed with her. Lucario simply stretched its limbs and patted dirt off its fur.

What do we have here?” a strange voice grumbled above them. “I hope you’re not planning on abandoning the mission…”

An intimidating man stood in front of them…
his hands behind his back…
his suit perfect and expensive…
his hat adjusted perfectly to shade his eyes…
and his face being fearfully familiar.

“It’s Giovanni!” Maylene rolled off her back and hopped to her feet, readying her stance.

The man frowned and tilted his head curiously. “What do you think you’re doing, runt? Get back there and destroy that lighthouse! And it’s ‘Boss’ to you!”

His voice cracked on the last syllable. Ash caught it. “Wait…

The trainer weakly got off the dirt and adjusted his head, hoping to catch the man’s voice one more time. “…that’s not Giovanni.

Eep!” the voice cracked again. It coughed horribly. “What! I mean, of course I’m Giovanni! I mean the Boss! Your Boss! You dare question me?!”

Maylene squinted, slowly realizing that there was something obviously wrong with the man’s face. “Wait a minute… you aren’t Giovanni!” Her stance relaxed. “Remove that mask!”

What mask?! I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

“Oh give it up, Jessie, I don’t think they’re falling for it anymore.” A blue haired man peeked up from behind a rock.

Now they’re not falling for it, you idiot!” The man’s voice suddenly turned into a venomous female pitch.

“Da’ boss is goin’ ta’ kill us if he finds out we’ve been impoisonatin’ him!” A cat pokémon popped its head above another rock.

“Would you two shut up! You’re ruining everything!!”

The “mask” fell, its cheap papier-mâché design surprising the pink-haired fighter that she could have been fooled by it in the first place.

With the mask, the hat and wig tumbled off as well – springing a strikingly red hair back to its original, impossible shape. Exaggerated by moonlight, the face’s features were obviously feminine.

Ash wanted to yell ‘It’s Team Rocket!’ after hearing their voices and recognizing their emotions, but realized the redundancy of the exclamation.

Jessie’s eye twitched, realizing that her cover was completely blown.

The cat and man ran up beside her and bowed profusely towards the three witnesses.

“Please don’t tell the boss! We’ll pay you anything!” James begged.

“Find it in ya’ heart to feh’giv’ us! We didn’t means nothing bad! We’s just upholdin’ the Rocket Code!” Meowth blabbered.

“Who needs just one man if we can have all his pokémon? You understand, right?” James smiled stiffly in an attempt to be charming.

“Quit it you two!” Jessie knocked two bruises into their heads. She adjusted her posture and folded her arms. Her face uncaringly serious, as she paused in thought. “You little peons better keep this quiet. We’ve been sent by Giovanni himself to take care of this matter.”

“Whatta ya’ talkin’ about?? I tought da’ boss told us not ta’ interfer–mmph! MPH!” Meowth was shut silent by the woman’s quick hands. She laughed nervously.

“Hm?” James walked towards Ash, tilting his head in curiosity. “You look familiar…”

The Trainer backed away, mimicking Jessie’s same laughter. He did his best to adjust his outfit in the hopes that they would suddenly make him unrecognizable.

However, it wasn’t the clothes James was studying, but his eyes…

“Wait a minute, you’re–”

HEY!! WHAT ARE YOU THREE DOING HERE?!!

“Whoops! Gotta’ run!” Jessie grabbed her two companions and ran off into the distance.

A broad-shouldered man in a large coat chased the three off. He stopped halfway and turned towards the still-disguised three. “And what are you grunts doing out here? Where’s Giovanni?”

Uhm…” Maylene had no idea how to react. She had no clue who this man was or where his rank in Team Rocket placed him. None of his outfit revealed his purpose for the group – something that put her on edge. All Team Rocket members show their rank…

“Doesn’t matter. He gave us a job and we intend to finish it…” The man’s eyes turned dark. “…so what are you doing out of line? We’ve got a bloody massacre going on out there!

“W-We were just heading back, sir!” Maylene backed away quickly.

“…get back here.”

A chill ran through her spine. She stiffly walked back towards him.

He placed his large hand onto her shoulder. Maylene’s teeth grit, suddenly feeling threatened and completely cornered. Lucario let out a low growl as well.

Inching his face close to hers, the man gave a smug grin.

Ugh… his breath smells like fish… Her face winced.

“Maylene, is it?”

Maylene jumped away, only to be slammed into the ground by the man’s quick grab.

A word to the wise… Disguising as one of us is a smart idea…” His boot found the back of her neck. It pressed down. “…if you weren’t dressed in the same fashion as your old wanted poster, that is.”

HAAAH!!” In a blur of blue, Lucario struck at his owner’s oppressor.

“Hitmonchan, take him.”

Three strikes. Lucario fell to his knees.

As if phasing into reality, an abnormally tanned hitmonchan dressed in Team Rocket uniform appeared over its beaten foe. It massaged its gloved hands, hoping that his victim would try acting brave.

Maylene choked, the large man’s boot adding more force against her neck. Her struggles and attacks did nothing to persuade it otherwise.

“We know all about you Maylene…” he sneered as he pulled out a baton from his belt. “Tell me, where’s that blind boy you always babysit?”

Ash?? Her eyes darted back and forth – the boy was gone.

She choked harder, as the weight on her neck increased. N-No… not like this.

The weight disappeared. And she gasped back into life.

AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!! AAAGH!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!!” The man screamed, his knees to the floor, and hands to his head. His hitmonchan followed with the same reaction. The two roared in unison.

Maylene and Lucario stood in bewilderment, seeking the cause.

Espeon.

The lavender cat glared, eyes shining red as it sat nonchalantly beside the fallen foes.

Ash stood beside her, his hand firmly gripped onto its back and his eyelids shut tight.

“Ash, what are you–”

IT WAS DOMINO!!!” The man screamed. “SHE TOLD US EVERYTHING!!! NNNGG!!! I PROMISE!!!!

Ash squeezed Espeon harder, her eyes becoming fiercer in response.

The large man kicked and slammed his head repeatedly against the ground. “IT WAS MY ORDER!!! I WAS TOLD TO FIND THE RESEARCHER!! BILL!! BUT GIOVANNI TOOK OVER THE OP!! TOLD US TO CAPTURE THE POKÉMON INSTEAD!!! I SWEAR THAT’S ALL!!! I –

Silence.

The man and his pokémon fainted – released from the attack.

Espeon fainted with them, completely exhausted from the sudden outburst.

Maylene caught Ash before he could fall himself. “Ash!”

A soft smile appeared on his face. “Gotta’ thank… Sa… brina for teaching me… uf…

What the heck did you do, Ash…” Maylene whispered quietly, letting the boy rest on the grass.

“I’d like to know that myself.”

Maylene turned. Another suited man stood over his fallen comrade. The moonlit sky revealing his tall, yet slender form. His calm yet slightly smug face showed obvious arrogance. And like the other, he showed no sign of rank or function in Team Rocket.

“…though I’d take a guess that’s why the boss wants him so much…”

The female fighter stood, readying into stance once again.

“The name’s Copper, pleased to meet you.” He bowed.

“…name’s Maylene. And the one behind you is Lucario.”



_________________________________________________________



“Now, now, two against one? That hardly seems fair.” The man traced his fingers calmly through his long silver hair.

“RAAHHH!!!” Lucario’s strike hit home. Jabbed between ribs, the lucario twisted its arm and released a shock of Aura into his opponent. Such a move would have been lethal for any human, but Lucario knew this was man was anything but ordinary.

He didn’t fall.

He was bent over from the first attack, noticeably in pain… but the aura shock did nothing to his senses.

Lucario released another blast of Aura. The light flashed at the end of its paw – and vanished directly into the man’s body.

“Funny thing about Aura…” Copper grabbed Lucario’s arm and squeezed.

HRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!” Lucario howled out in pain as it seemed to age within mere seconds, his Aura being consumed by the man’s contact.

“LUCARIO!! NO!!!” Maylene ran and tumbled into a roll, readying a kick to knock him over.

He hopped over the attack just in time. Before the fighter could cancel into a new technique, Copper threw Lucario’s limp body towards her.

He adjusted his tie and swung his hair back. “…I tend to have a, let’s say, a certain affinity towards it.”

The man ran towards Maylene, her body pinned underneath the weight of the black and blue jackal.

With an arrogant smile, he placed a fingertip onto her nose. “…and it works for humans as well.”



Maylene blinked oddly at the finger.

Copper blinked oddly at her reaction.



He poked her nose. And poked again. His face becoming extremely frustrated and embarrassed.

“Why isn’t it working?! What’s wrong with you???” He slapped his palm into her forehead, his face cringing in effort.

Her fist landed a blow across his face. “You should be asking yourself that!!”

He toppled over. “AHAGH!” a pathetic yelp escaping from his lips.

The pink haired fighter softly slid Lucario off her stomach and crawled back to her feet.

Just a few feet away, the confident assailant was on the floor, writhing as he sobbed pitifully into the hands that covered his face.



She sighed. I can’t believe I feel sorry for this freak…

“Hey… you okay?”

Returning to a perfect standing posture, the man had recovered miraculously – his features perfect except for the obvious throbbing bruise showcased on his cheek.

He cleared his throat and held his nose up in pride. “Of course I am. But next time, my mysterious Maylene…”

An abra materialized next to him. “…next time, I’m afraid you won’t be.”

With a wink, he vanished into thin air.



…what a weirdo…

Maylene returned her attention to reality, where her beaten partner pokémon was slowly fading back into his normal state. She smiled in relief and leaned him against a nearby boulder.

“Rest up, buddy… you did good.”

Hrrm…” He didn’t seem to believe that himself.

Looking around her, the fighter realized that the man and his hitmonchan were no longer there, as if they had never been present. Only the cold breeze of the coming morning stood in their place.

Ash, however, was sitting up – with the Sun Pokémon sitting up with the same disposition. The two looked dazed and weak, but functioning enough to still be a threat for any new invaders.

“Are you okay, Ash?”

Never… better…” He smirked in her direction. “Just… give me a sec.

“OK…” She patted him gently on the head. “…but I’ve got to go now. We promised that we’d strike Team Rocket from behind, remember?”

He struggled to get up. “Oh… right…” He found himself forced back into his sitting position.

No, no. You come help once you feel better. For now, rest up, okay?”

OK.

She grinned and pulled out two poké balls from her pocket. “Maylene’s gotta’ get to work.”



_________________________________________________________



The fearow screeched as it dove in for another attack. SFF. It was swiped away with a psychic slash.

It turned, flapping into a different angle to attack her.

The Rocket came again, swinging his electrified baton with renewed vigor. His baton leapt from his hand and beaten into his stomach.

The crowd circled. Their flashlights, night goggles, eye shines, lightning sparks, and fiery flares surrounded them with the effect of an angry mob hunting a monster. Many more Rockets were ready to find the perfect opportunity to strike.

Saffron City’s Gym Leader was tiring – starting to make mistakes – losing focus – looking faint. But still she held herself in confidence.

No one would be allowed to get near her kadabra.

The Psi Pokémon had taken a deadly poison into his system.

While such a status was something he normally could have managed through a quick meditation, the poison’s effects had come from three arboks at once. No Psychic could handle that amount of venom, no matter how trained they were.

I need to get him out of here…

Teleportation, Sabrina’s only method of travel that got her there, and her only method out, depended heavily on Psychic focus and visualizing the location she wanted to travel to.

However, she could barely manage the situation she was already in.

The battle was too long, the enemies far too plentiful, and room for mistakes was quickly becoming nonexistent. If she had tried to teleport out now it would mean certain death.

Kadabra, hold on…

She looked around, trying to find her other pokémon. To her relief they still continued their fight.
Jynx and Hypno were cornering a group of Rockets against a cliff. Alakazam had finished his tussle with the zubats within the dark clouds and hovered into a new battle with the magnetons.

They will be fine, but not for much longer…

Sabrina realized that she had bitten off more than she could chew. She regretted her arrogance, but was willing to face the consequences. It was my fault…

Her cold eyes watered as she looked down at her fallen pokémon. I can still get you out of here, Kadabra… guide Ash and the rest to come rescue me.

No… The poison was already ruining his mind, yet the Psi Pokémon still could not allow his master to do what she was about to do.

“I’m sorry Kadabra…”

A tear fell from her cheek. She knew exactly what sufferings she would be put through in the hands of Team Rocket. She had offended the organization more than once and had stopped far too many of their operations for them to be lenient on her.

It was time for her to face their wrath. At least this way, she thought, my capture will be enough to distract them from the boy…

She exhaled. The battlefield before her turned dark, its mental waves disappearing completely.

One by one, she found her pokémon’s mental signatures, readying to relocate them first.

A rhydon was about to strike her with its horn drill, she could sense it perfectly – she had to act fast.

FWHUSHHHIN

The night air was abnormally sub-zeroed in temperature.

Sabrina’s eyes opened, her focus completely broken by the unexpected interference.

The rhydon’s mind panicked… its body frozen solid.

OUTTA’ THE WAY!!!” a voice Sabrina had forgotten about shouted out of the crowd.

The stubborn tomboy, Angie, was knocking out several opponents from behind as her luxio spread paralysis into the masses.

The Psychic’s savior, the elegant Glaceon, twirled and danced in the air as it dodged several sloppy attacks, its trained skills meant for Contests giving it a unique advantage over the rest.

The unconfident fashionista, May, appeared shortly after. She squeezed between and jogged passed many bewildered Rocket members, as if she was late to an appointment they were all aware of. “Excuse me~! Pardon! Thank you!”

Sabrina’s shoulders relaxed, the tension in the air suddenly gone.

I thought I told you two to act as a distraction!” her voice spoke with authority, despite her soul feeling relief.

“That’s what I told her!” May shouted over the loud cries of battle.

Angie struck another opponent with her head, a dizzying attack that she regretted as she stumbled backwards. Shaking it off, she responded to Sabrina, “How the heck are we supposed to be a distraction if you’re the one getting everyone’s attention?!”

“A valid point!” Sabrina admitted with a small smile. “Have any of you seen the other two?”

RIGHT HERE!” Maylene crashed in, striking several enemies with rotating kicks.

Tyrogue and Machoke exploded through, their fists and tackles knocking away everyone that stood in harm’s way.

The fighter rolled and stood in stance next to Sabrina. She quickly eyed the downed pokémon.

Without looking at the Psychic, Maylene quickly asked, “Is Kadabra okay?”

“As long as he is given time to fight the poison, he will be fine.”

“Are you okay?”

“Much better knowing that you girls are here.”

Maylene smiled. Tyrogue and Machoke set up defense positions around the Psychic.

“Where’s Ash?” Sabrina choked the aggressive fearow from the sky with just an eye twitch – her mind finally able to focus on one opponent at a time.

“He’s safe with Lucario. We got into a bit of trouble in the back.”

“Clarification?”

“Met some higher-ups back there.” Maylene struck a powerful punch into a charging henchman. “I think the same kinds that were hunting Ash that one night.”

“And you fared well?”

“Kind of. If it weren’t for Ash – HAAH!” She countered a baton strike with two quick kicks to the arm and head. “Then we might’ve never made it out of there.”

“CHOOOKE!!!” A ramming blastoise was wrestled away from the two women by the amped machoke.

In the enclosing crowd, several waves of Rocket members found themselves being lifted into the starry sky above. Sabrina lowered her hand, allowing them to fall freely. “Is Espeon with him?”

“Definitely. By the way, he did something with Espeon that he said he should thank you for…” Maylene ducked. A kick flew over her head. Sabrina turned and forced the hitmonlee back to its poké ball. “Thanks. Anyways, I think you know what he was talking about.”

The Psychic nodded. “A technique he shouldn’t be using so soon.”

KRAK. Maylene’s knuckles cracked on impact with a female Rocket’s chin. “You think you could teach me something like that?”

“I’m afraid not. You have no attachment to Empathy or Aura.”

“Ah. I was afraid of that.”

A psychic boom launched several figures off the ground.

Outlined in psychic blue, Jynx and Hypno had finally broken through the sea of Rockets to meet up with their trainer.

Hovering down beside them, Sabrina’s Alakazam returned from his aerial struggle – staring with worry at the downed kadabra.

“Looks like we’ve got backup.” The fighter grinned in thankfulness.

Bomf.

Pretending as if she hadn’t tripped at all, May ran up to the gathering team with a smile. “How’s it going over here?”

“Good, but you really should watch your step.” Maylene teased.

A venomoth fell to the ground, encased in a block of ice. Glaceon landed with finesse in front of her owner. “Glace!”

“Angie should be heading this way soon.” May confirmed as she adjusted her bandana and eyed the enemies around them.

Walking silently in, Luxio found an open spot to protect and sat obediently.

Incoming!” Angie body-slammed on top of Maylene. The two fell over with yelps and struggling kicks.

Ow! What the heck, Angie??

The tomboy’s eyes were lit up, sparkling with a grin, as if she were a child in a candy store.

Maylene pushed her off, weirded out by the expression.

Angie shot up and howled in excitement. “ISN’T THIS AWESOME?!

The three other females blinked at her oddly.

She spun in place and gestured to the scene around them. “We’re like the epic heroes that save the world or something!”

Sabrina smiled. Her heart warmed at the thought of such an innocent view of the trouble they faced.

A flashlight in her eye made her wince and return her attention back to the battle at hand.

All around them, the Rockets were questioning their will to fight. Seeing the few that had decimated their countless numbers crowded into a solid team, hesitation and worrying forced them to a standstill. Someone had to make a renewed assault in order to inspire the rest… yet each waited for the other to start it.

“Look at ‘em! Shakin’ in their boots!” Angie giggled in continued excitement. “Hey, hey, watch this!”

She ran out towards the nearest group of Rockets, roaring like a madwoman.

Startled, the targeted Rockets, both trainers and pokémon, fled from the area.

Entertained beyond belief, Angie fell to the ground, laughing hysterically.

“Remind me not to let Angie near any sugar.” May half-joked.

Sabrina stepped forward.

Surveying the breaking crowds around them, she concluded that it would only take one last action to push them into a retreat. “Their will is broken. It’s time to finish this.

Her eyes closed and her breathing slowed. A puff of frozen air misted from her lips.



Fear. Absolute fear.

Anxiety. Suspicion. Paranoia.

Panic. Vulnerability. Dread. Looming danger.

May found herself about to run, but her sense stopped her in her tracks. “Wh-What’s going on??”

Maylene was shivering, trying to shake off whatever it was that plagued her. “I have no idea!”

The pokémon seemed to be in uncertain alarm as well.

Angie, however, seemed absolutely immune to it. She stared at each of her friends in curiosity.

Her eyes locked on Sabrina. A strange sense coming from her.

In an instant, the feeling ended. But its effect had worked: Team Rocket was retreating.

Those who were the most frightened were already gone, caring little for those who remained behind.

The brave stayed and dragged the unconscious away from the field, their expressions, gestures, and vocal reactions showing signs of complete urgency.

Pokémon were returned to their poké balls or ridden on to escape.

What caught the group of females’ attention were the giant tunnels that opened up for only a few minutes, the main routes Team Rocket seemed to be taking in and out of the area.

Maylene wanted to chase them into the closing tunnels, but the feeling of fright still hung over her body.

The tunnels closed completely, silencing the panicked shouts of the Team Rocket members that once flooded the large field.

Only the last howling winds of night stayed.



Deep blue turned slate blue as the sun slowly graced the region of Kanto.

Morning arrived.

Maylene punched the ground in protest. “What the heck is wrong with me?! I can’t move!”

“It’s a Psychic Shriek.” Sabrina said calmly. Her eyes were glazed – her focus not being on what was around her. “A technique I invented. It can force anyone within its vicinity to have thoughts of fear and despair. Very effective in clearing areas.”

“Why didn’t we use that earlier?” May asked, her body relaxing knowing that she wasn’t having a panic attack.

“And how come I didn’t feel it?” Angie was slightly disappointed.

Sabrina fell back. Alakazam catching her with care.

“One…” her strong voice turned weak. “…it drains me. To use it prematurely would be foolish.”

The girls crowded around her, worried that their most powerful had suddenly become their most vulnerable. They checked her pulse and temperature. Pale skin and tired eyes were revealed by the slow-crawling sunlight.

She shook their head at their concerned facial expressions.

“I am fine.” she simply stated and continued, “Two, the Psychic Shriek is only effective against those with weak will.”

Maylene seemed to take offense. Angie, on the other hand, felt pride.

The Psychic sensed their reactions. “…that is not to say Angie has the strongest will of us – her excitement merely made her rather ignorant of any weaknesses… in contrast, Maylene, you found yourself vulnerable… due to the earlier fights you exhausted yourself in…” She rubbed her forehead, hoping to calm the spinning headache.

Maylene seemed satisfied with Sabrina’s answer and nodded with appreciation.

The tomboy cared little, she still found herself invincible.

However, the Coordinator felt shame, knowing that it was her own insecurities that made her experience it.



Sabrina’s silence proved it for her.

The Psychic Gym Leader was many things – but she wasn’t a liar.

“Then what about Ash?” Maylene’s question released everyone from their personal thoughts. “Ash was in pretty bad shape. What if he ran too?”

May and Angie looked around in concern. “WHERE’S ASH??” they asked in unison.

“I left him and Espeon with Lucario… the three were pretty beat up from the fight we were in.”

The two girls were about to yell in protest. The idea of leaving the one they were supposed to protect alone, especially in an area that was swarming with Team Rocket members, was irresponsible beyond their belief.

Sabrina cut them off, “They were not in the vicinity of the Shriek, as far as I could sense… they will be fine.”

Angie took off in a run.

“Where do you think you’re going?!” Maylene shouted.

“I have to check on Ash!!”

“You don’t even know where he is!”

“Well it’d be faster if you just told me where he is!! Otherwise I’m just gonna’ run around like an idiot until I find him!”

The fighter sighed. She pointed in the direction where she last left the boy.

Without even a thank you, she sprinted east, her figure turning into shadows as she headed towards the rising sun. “AAAAASH!!!

Luxio followed.

May bowed politely in gesture and jogged with Glaceon to the location given.

Maylene was about to join them, but Sabrina grabbed her by the wrist. The fighter looked back with concern.

“Check up on the inhabitants of the building… we need to ensure that they are safe.”

With a nod she turned herself around. “Right. Let’s go, guys.”

Tyrogue and Machoke dutifully trailed their trainer.

The fighter laughed embarrassingly to herself. I completely forgot why we were here…
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:22 PM).
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 18: Support

Spoiler:
The woman adjusted her golden hair, trying to hide the split ends. They’d show no matter how many times she’d try. Her posture would always look awkward no matter how many times she changed it. And the items on the side table would always look disorganized no matter where she moved them.

The place was a mess, she was a mess, everything was a mess – and there were guests. What a mess…

“Dana, could you please prepare our heroes some tea?” Bill smiled gently as he patted her arm.

She calmed down and nodded, leaving for the small kitchen… which was also a mess.

“Oh no, ‘heroes’ is a bit much.” May scratched her chin nervously. “We were just doing our best to help.”

“And we are more than grateful.”

Sabrina crushed the polite air with her bluntness, “That is not entirely true. We came here for a reason, Professor.”

“It’s just Bill.”

“Very well, Bill. We came here for you.”

Cups and dishes clatteredin the background.

The Researcher angled his head towards the kitchen. “Don’t worry about it Dana, they don’t mean any harm by it.”

He faced the Saffron City Gym Leader. “At least, I’d hope I’m correct in that assumption, Ms. Sabrina.”

She nodded and continued petting the boy’s head on her lap. “The young man came here to talk to you. We are in need of your help.”

“Mr. Ketchum.” Bill stared at the sleeping Ash. His sleeping body snoring quietly to itself as it twitched from unknown dreams. “…I haven’t seen him in quite some time.”

He looked back up, regarding Sabrina with his attention. “And what was it he needed?”

“You mean you don’t know??” Angie’s foot kicked upwards, revealing her location behind the couch. “An entire army from Team Rocket comes knocking at your door, and you have no idea what they want??” her voice was slightly muffled due to her position.

May dropped a book behind the couch.

“Ow! What was that for??”

The Researcher responded, “I know quite well that Team Rocket was here because of Mr. Ketchum. But as to why Mr. Ketchum specifically, and what I had to do with it – I was given no prior explanation.”

“This is going to be quite a long story.” Maylene passed her water bottle to Lucario. “Where do you want us to start?”

“That won’t be necessary.” the Psychic removed the offer.

Bill nodded. “Yes, I’d prefer Sabrina’s methods of recall, if that is fine.”

Hm?” Maylene tilted her head. “…OH! OK! Right… Psychic-stuff.”

“Conveniennnt!” Angie pronounced lazily as she threw the book back at May… missing entirely and knocking over a vase. “…oops.”

May rushed off her seat to clean the accident.

A cheerful, pink pokémon beat her to the chore. “Chansey~!” It waved her back to her seat as it started sweeping.





Other than the noises of tea being prepared, cups and plates being organized, and the sweeping of broken vase pieces, there were no sounds.

Bill and Sabrina stared into each other’s eyes with intent. Despite this stillness, the Psychic continued to pet the sleeping boy’s hair… a position that Espeon seemed quite jealous of as it tried to encourage any of the other girls to give her the same treatment.

None of them really understood its begging-gestures, as their minds were elsewhere.

Angie was coming down from a battle high. Its intensity forever etched into her mind.

I never realized adventuring could be so… epic. I should’ve left home years ago! Can’t wait to tell everyone back home about these adventures! She grinned happily to herself, reenacting the scenes of fighting in her head, with added flair just to make it more interesting.

Maylene observed with curiosity the meditating kadabra off at the side.

Psychic Types are so… weird.



Er, pure Psychic Types, that is. she clarified as she smiled at her meditite. It hovered beside a sleeping nidoqueen, having its own meditation session.

Lucario busied himself with studying the room around him… finding items that could be used as weapons, possible exits, and the strengths and weaknesses of each creature that lived underneath its ceiling.

For the moment, he was on guard duty. And any duty he was given, he took seriously. It wasn’t too different from his free time activities, as he even treated games and relaxation as deadly-serious business.

The Coordinator May found herself in a daze. Her focus blanked as she unintentionally stared at Ash’s sleeping body. She was thinking of something earlier, but the slow and methodical movements of Sabrina’s hand had hypnotized her into forgetting everything.

Tyrogue spent its time sizing up the larger pokémon in the room, trying to intimidate those that challenged his glare.

And Bibarel sat with a blank look and mind. It was counting the specs on the wall as if they were important to their mission.

Many more pokémon found something to occupy their moment of rest within the small facility.

Dana had returned from the kitchen, quietly handing out cups of tea and offering small treats to compliment the drink.

Alakazam seemed especially grateful for the relaxing drink and atmosphere. Its mind far more concerned with the present condition rather than past or future happenings.

Jynx ignored the tea and continued brushing her hair in front of a small mirror.

Hypno thanked Dana in place of the uncaring jynx and helped himself to some of the snacks.

Machoke refused, knowing that he couldn’t wrap his massive fingers around any teacup without crushing it.

The Researcher’s Assistant continued to make her rounds around the room, offering and giving, bowing and smiling. She wasn’t used to guests. Strangers yes – but not guests.

I hope I’m being a good hostess…

Leaving Bill’s tea and scone on the table between them, she uncomfortably sat back down on the chair. She found herself adjusting her hair and posture once again, hoping that she wouldn’t look like such a mess.

The Pokémon Researcher’s eye twitched. His attention no longer occupied in his own mind.

Dana sat up straight in reaction. She held her breath, as if breathing would interrupt any conversation from starting.

“I see…” Bill stood. Dana exhaled. He looked at her strangely before continuing. “…I’m still not fully sure why Mr. Ketchum chose me for help, but I do believe I can offer some assistance.”

Angie’s leg appeared again. “We’re becoming like an army! Woo!”

“I won’t be coming with you, however.”

Every creature’s attention, other than the sleeping Ash’s, turned to Bill.



He seemed to notice the attention and felt on edge. “I can still help, but I have to see to the moving of my laboratory.”

Dana was about to stand, Bill knew what she was going to suggest. He raised his hand to prevent her from adding anything.

Both Dana and I need to supervise my laboratory’s transfer, I’m afraid.”

Raising a finger to the air and twirling it playfully, Bill spun and marched cheerfully to one of the many cabinets that decorated his walls. “However! We can still stay in contact.”

“Ain’t that what vid-phones are for?” The tomboy’s foot twitched as if it were the one talking.

May smacked it back down. It retaliated with a kick… that flung its shoe at the cleaning chansey.

“…oops.”

Maylene sighed as she apologized quietly to the helpful pokémon. It responded back with a smile… though she wasn’t sure if it was a new smile, or the same smile it had been wearing the entire time.

“Video phones are far too archaic in this day and age.” Bill returned with a flat pad. He adjusted it to prop up on the coffee table that sat in the center of the room. “And Pokédevs are far too unreliable with their poor signals.”

Pressing a button on the corner of the device, the large screen lit up with a Chime~♪.

The guests all stood and peered curiously at the sleek piece of technology. Except for Ash, who was now sleeping upside-down on the couch.

Icons and text floated around the display. A quiet charming tune played as the items continued to dance inside the screen.

“I call it the Pokétab. Consider it similar to a pokédev, or even a laptop, but far more effective.” Bill pressed a few objects on the screen. Small windows appeared; each showcasing understandable functions and eye-pleasing visuals. “As you can see, each of the icons on the screen offers an easy-to-use program that you’ll find useful in your journey. It has the standard items found in your pokédev, such as communication and a pokémon encyclopedia – updated by yours truly – but it also has…”

He touched a few more icons. “…a Poké Ball Transfer System, maps of every recorded region, notepad and sketch functions, photo and video camera options, battle strategy programs, music player, geographi–”

MUSIC PLAYER!!!” The three young women dove for the device.

Bill moved it out of the way immediately. Causing the three to crash and break the coffee table.

“…oops.”

“I’m sorry girls, but this is a delicate device.” Bill presented it to Sabrina. “As it is not built to take as much damage as a pokédev, I’d feel comfortable if the most responsible of you carried it.”

The pokétab’s screen fuzzed in static when it touched Sabrina’s arm. The Gym Leader backed away. “Ah… us Psychics aren’t very… technology-friendly.

Ah, yes… well…” Bill judged the three girls on the floor. “Very well, May, if you will?”

The Coordinator jumped for joy as she grabbed the pokétab for herself. “YES!!!

“Be very careful with it.” the Researcher scolded as he loosened her grip.

She bowed. “Yes, of course!”

He sighed. Scratching his head and looking into his fireplace, he continued his previous explanation, “Use this device to keep in contact with me. I will offer you whatever information you need for your journey.

“Team Rocket must not succeed with their plans. And while that means I must help you – it also means that I must protect my own researches. I’m afraid I’ve found some information they might find too useful for their current project.”

“Destroy it?” Angie suggested plainly.

Bill and Dana laughed.

The tomboy blushed, feeling like she said something completely stupid.

“No, no, no… I will be doing no such thing.” the Researcher commented as he wiped a humored tear from his eye. “Besides, this very same research can help you on your journeys as well. To rid of it now would be a travesty to science and a wasted benefit for all of you.”

Dana nodded in quiet agreement.

“We need one more thing, Bill.”

The room turned towards the sound of the voice.

“Ah, Ash. Greetings. I’m glad you’ve recovered.”

Ash still sat upside-down, but his eyes were open and awake. Still blind and looking at nothing in particular, but still open and awake.

The boy rolled over and allowed Espeon to crawl onto his lap. “We need some pokémon, Bill. Ones that we can ride.”



“…hm… I’m not sure how much we can spare. My Assistant and I need to move out of here as soon as possible, and we’ll need all the hands we can get to ensure that every item is successfully transferred.”

The golden-haired woman added, “The nearest towns with delivery trucks are at least a day away. We simply cannot risk that time waiting for them.”

Ash frowned. “So…

“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can offer in transportation.” Bill said coldly.

“Wait!”

Eyes turned to Maylene.

“I saw Team Rocket use a tunnel to get here. Do you think that tunnel can get us where we want to go?”

“That depends where you want to go…”

“Johto.” Ash answered. “Somewhere near Violet City.”

Ah yes…” Bill adjusted his coat and stared at the ceiling. “…yes, I believe if you take the southwest tunnel, near a large waterfall here, that should take you straight to Johto.”

“Wai-wai-wai-wai-wait-wait! Hold up!” Angie rolled off her back and stood, confronting Bill face-to-face. “You KNEW there was a Team Rocket tunnel here?!”

“Tunnels, to be more exact.” he clarified.

The tomboy scratched her head in bewilderment. “Why would you stay here knowing that there’s tunnels?! And not report it to anyone?!”

Bill explained nonchalantly, “Ms. Angie, there are tunnels everywhere in Kanto. Team Rocket’s known for their love of digging. These tunnels are a part of the region’s geography at this point. To report it would be like reporting a new pebble in a gravel mountain.”

“This region’s getting more and more backwards the more I learn about it.” Maylene sighed.

“Weren’t you a Rocket?” May asked innocently. “How is this new?”

“A Rocket girl from the Sinnoh region.” she countered. “We had tunnels, but not this many tunnels… and especially not tunnels that were common knowledge.”

The Pokémon Researcher coughed. Attention returned to him. “Not common knowledge. Only a few of us know of their existence… and I’m not supposed to be one of them.”

“Not supposed to be?” The fighter found herself confused by the phrase.

“Rocket business is League business.” He shrugged. “League handles big Team Rocket activity, civilians stay out of it. I’m considered a civilian. I’m not supposed to know.”

“So how do you know about it?” May pressed.

“I am a Researcher. Not just of Pokémon, but anything and everything else I find interesting. That includes what business Team Rocket has on my property.”

“Yet you didn’t even know what they wanted from Ash.” Angie replied, earning another hit from May for rudeness. “Ow!

Bill laughed. “Well I certainly know better now. Research successful!”

Dana and Chansey clapped childishly as a tiny celebration.

“But I digress. I can offer you the key needed to continue forward… if you are sure you want it.”

“Any reason we shouldn’t want it?” Ash was ready to snatch whatever key Bill offered, but felt the need to ask anyways.

“It’s a Team Rocket tunnel.” the Researcher stated simply. “No one but Team Rocket goes in. No one but Team Rocket comes out.”

“Other than Lance.” Sabrina finally added to the conversation.

“Obviously.” Bill shrugged. “But that’s an unfair comparison for anyone else.”

“I wanna’ meet this ‘Lance’ guy people keep bringing up. Sounds like he can do whatever he wants.” Angie admired.

“Lance is the League here in Kanto.” Sabrina admitted. “He very well could do as he pleases, and we would have little choice but agree to it.”

“Why aren’t we recruiting him then??”

“His business is his own.” Bill excused. “Considering he manages League business, often disappears into other regions whenever he feels like it, and handles more than just Team Rocket when it comes to facing evil organizations – I doubt anyone would be able to pull him from his duties.”

“There are even some rumors that he often saves the world from problems like the one we face on a monthly basis.” The Psychic yawned and walked over to Kadabra to check up on him. “The rumors tend to become rather ridiculous and exaggerated, but it just goes to show his influence and importance in the region... it would be an honor to work with him, but I also share doubt that we can obtain contact with him. He always finds himself rather busy.”

“If the rumors are even half-true, however…” Dana joined the conversation again. “You’ll more than likely end up running into him – if your business really is as urgent as it seems.”

Of course it’s important!!” Angie was offended.

The woman was taken aback by her reaction. “I… uh… didn’t hear your group’s story earlier. I’m not Psychic.”

“Oh… uh… sorry.”

The two looked away from one another, waiting for the awkward moment to pass.



“The key, Bill?” Sabrina approached him.

“Very well.” He walked over to a different cabinet and produced a strange, small rod. “Here we are.”

Dana politely took the object and handed it to the Psychic.

Bill nodded in their direction and made a gesture with arm motions. “Simply swing the rod in an ‘R’-shaped fashion next to the waterfall, southwest from here, and the tunnel should show itself to you.”

Sabrina nodded to her comrades, with a mental nod towards Ash.

The group bowed in unison and thanked the two Researchers in their own manners.

Bill and Dana bowed back.

“To good health and safety?” The Assistant raised her teacup.

The group raised their cups in cheers.

Except for Ash, who wondered why he never got a cup.



_________________________________________________________



The sun was setting, and all but a single soul was asleep.

Beside a rushing waterfall, a camp was set and readied. Its bodyguards, a lucario and a Psychic, sat facing in opposite directions. Though their eyes were open, they saw nothing – as their consciousness had fallen into slumber just hours before. Within sleeping bags and blankets, the other inhabitants, human and pokémon, slept soundly.

The battle the group experienced took its toll on them all.

Except for the single soul.

May sat up, staring at the rocky wall. A rocky wall they were told to be the entrance to a secret tunnel.

Click-click-clickick. Clickick-click-click.

She toyed with a strange rod-shaped device in her hand, spinning and turning a mechanical wheel. She was unsure what it did, though she assumed it did nothing as this was her fourth time spinning the wheel all the way around.

Chime~

The pokétab was activated again. It was the third time she turned it on since they left Bill’s lab. And it was the second time she stared at its geographical sound map.

So go straight forward… take the first left… then…

…nothing. The sound map could only chart so much until it faded to black. Even with the little information the device could obtain, it already showed how massive the tunnel was. Like a maze, there were far too many sections that split off into dead ends or smaller passages.

Left. May repeated to herself.

Left was the only path that reflected anything close to an area with a transport. Whether a car, a wagon, or a small passenger train – all she knew was that the object moved back and forth according to the echolocation images… and that smaller objects, possibly Team Rocket members, would separate from it whenever the moving object stopped in one section.

She sighed and placed the pokétab back into her shoulder bag.

What do I do…

Since the battle, the Coordinator had felt fulfilled. For once she was directly helping the journey move forward. For once she felt that their chances of rescuing everyone would be far slimmer if she wasn’t there. And for once she knew that she was an important part of the team.

But as the hours passed, memories of past events trickled in. And everything came crashing down into a single thought and concern…

Should I?

Her eyes laid on the rocky wall again. The rod trembling in her hands as she considered using it.

Looking to her right, Sabrina was still asleep… the woman’s eyes gazing into open air as a soft snore rumbled from her nose.

May’s fingers gripped tightly to the device. With limp determination she gestured an ‘R’ with small swings. Her eyes closed shut, regretting the action, wishing that she had never thought about it, hoping that she had done it incorrectly.



No sound.

She let out a sigh of relief as she slowly opened her eyes, expecting to just see the rocky wall again.

A gray hallway with hanging yellow signs and red arrows. Florescent lighting marking every major section. A humming of conditioned air flowing out. A ticking of the device in her hand, counting down how long the entry would stay open. Tunnel.

Oh no…” she whispered with a voice of disbelief.

…now I have to go…

Any and all hesitations were shut out of her mind as she stood. In a single fluid motion, she inhaled, wrapped the shoulder bag around herself, latched her poké ball belt onto one of her belt loops, adjusted her bandana, threw the rod device in Sabrina’s direction, and jumped into the opened tunnel.

Rolling into one of the walls, she let out an exaggerated gasp – her breath no longer held.

The open tunnel entrance suddenly changed into a dead end. No sound, no warning. It was solid as if it was never an exit or entrance.

She stared at the once-entrance wall, finally realizing what she had done.

I’m in… “I’m in.”

Quickly turning her attention to the other side, she found the first left turn.

There it is!

A step forward, and she hesitated.

What am I doing?

What do you mean ‘what am I doing’? She fought her fears with her determination. Why do I keep getting scared when I’m alone?! I’m stronger than this! I know I am!

Still, her foot wouldn’t move forward.

Come on, May! You can do this!

She took a step back, wanting to run towards the dead end and claw at it.

No! I can’t do this on my own! This is suicide! This isn’t just some Contest! This is a Team Rocket base! And you’re all alone! You can’t do this… just…

Gritting her teeth, she took five steps forward.

This isn’t a base. This is just a tunnel. That means there’s more than one exit, and plenty of places to run! It’s meant for travelling, and that’s what we’re doing here!

But why… why are we here…?

Flashes of Sabrina, Angie, and Maylene appeared in her mind. Two images, Ash holding onto Sabrina and Ash sleeping on her lap, especially haunted her conscious.

Because Ash needs someone dependable, not a just a pretty face.

She wiped off a tear and pulled out a poké ball.

“Help me out here…” Click. Vacuum.

Snap. “Blaaze…” The humanoid bird yawned, its eyes opening slowly.

“Sorry to wake you, Blaziken… I just need some company.”

Grunting, it stretched its legs and rotated its shoulders. After a quick shake of the head to bring its focus to the fore, it turned towards May and nodded.

She responded with a thankful smile. “We better hurry then.”



_________________________________________________________



Someone was missing.

The first thought to cross Ash’s mind as he slowed his gulps of air.

Espeon stared at him curiously, almost innocently unaware that sleeping on a person’s face makes them suffocate. Ash frowned in her direction, wanting to let her know that he didn’t enjoy the experience of waking up in that manner. The lavender cat didn’t seem to care too much.

With a few slaps to the face to remove the irritating fur from his cheeks, Ash snapped his consciousness to complete attention and sat up. “Someone’s missing…” he mumbled his thoughts – no, his emotions.

There was something absent in the air. A certain energy that he had just gotten used to again, was gone – again. He tried feeling it out, wondering where it could have gone, and more importantly, who it was. All other emotions and vibes still hung, danced, dimmed, and swung in the air lazily – each unique flavor representing a person or pokémon within their group. Yet of all of those, a single one was missing.

May…

No feeling of sunshine and warm friendliness surrounded the area. Even when she was asleep, there would still be traces of her personality hanging softly in her direction. But it wasn’t there…

It wasn’t hidden, trapped, changed, altered, or locked up. It just wasn’t there. A disturbing idea.

His thoughts first wandered to the worst, believing she was kidnapped or worse… but he realized how unlikely that idea seemed. Everyone else was still there, and more importantly, he was still there. He was Team Rocket’s target, not May, not anyone else. It was a fact that was pointed and spoken out so often that it had been enforced to a ridiculous degree.

The tent he had slept it was not his. The pillows, the blankets, the backpack, and even the food packed near his resting area weren’t his. It was not his choice to sleep in the tent, and it wasn’t his choice to have it in the center of the camp. If he had it his way, he would’ve been out there with everyone else.

But he was Team Rocket’s target. No one else. And for that, he was protected like a jewel. A reality that he hated and was uncomfortable with, but one he had to learn to respect – as his safety was important to outcome of the mission.

Yet in this safety, in this protection, in this fortification, the others were left vulnerable… and no one else noticed that one of them had gone complete missing.

The team’s sunshine was gone, and he was the only one to notice how things dimmed without her.

Ash crawled out of his tent, with the faithful Espeon in tow.

He checked his surroundings one more time to be sure.

Alert, attentive, strict… but simmered down, as if slowed into a stasis. Sabrina asleep on watch duty.

Caring yet stern… also asleep. Lucario.

Infatuation with the pillow… definitely Maylene sleeping.

Fighting something… showing acts of bravery. Subdued. Angie dreaming.

Blissfully oblivious, as much as they are when they’re awake. Bibarel.

Comfort… a special blanket… Machoke.

Meditation, battling what’s left of the poison… Kadabra.

Exhaustion and wishing to no longer care… just for a few more hours… Meditite.

Self-obsession even in slumber… Jynx.

Trying to fall asleep, completely unaware that he already is… Hypno.

Reliving past memories within lucid dreams… still alert of everything around him…

Alakazam! Ash ran up to the dozing pokémon.

Before he could reach him, Alakazam sat up and stared.

She went into the tunnel. The overpowered Psi Pokémon spoke into Ash’s mind.

Wait… why didn’t you stop her?

She needs this. It nodded. A flash of white transported the rod device from Sabrina’s lap into Ash’s hands. And you’ll need this.

The boy felt the metal bar in his palm, noticing that it was still warm.

A small psychic nudge returned Ash’s attention back to the pokémon.

Do not wake the others. It spoke with a soft mental tone, even far more controlled than its trainer. Take the rod with you. I will stay behind to guard Sabrina and the others – she will be informed of what has transpired after she wakes.

Why are you doing this, Alakazam?

Helping you? Or Ms. May? Perhaps both… Its mind trailed to other concerns.

It returned with assured assessment. We are not powerful enough to face Team Rocket at their full strength. The ones we face now are gravel in the face of mountains.

The fox-headed pokémon paused, a hint of its emotion showing through… Worry…

Both of you are needed at your full strength if we are to survive this.

Then why–

No more questions. She will find herself requiring your assistance in a short matter of time. Carry the rod and go now. We shall find our own way into the tunnel.

With a psychic suggestion, Ash’s arm unwillingly spun the metal device in an ‘R’ shape in front of him.

Any chance of refusing disappeared as Espeon ran into the opened tunnel entrance.

The boy chased after, shoving the rod in his pocket and following the trace of emotion fading into the passageway.

You must find her and help her, Mr. Ash. You must help her find herself.

The tunnel entrance faded. And only a wall of rock remained.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:24 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 19: Guidance

Spoiler:
“Blaziken! Dodge and Fire Spin!”

“Kricketune, stop and use Double Team!”

“BLAAAAZE!!!” A pillar of fire shot and erupted into the red Cricket Pokémon.

The target vanished on impact, leaving nothing but the nearby crates to be engulfed by the vortex of flame.

“Far too slow, little girl.” A woman of dark complexion sat comfortably on a small railing. Her uniform marking her as another member of Team Rocket. “Tell me… How will your lovely pokémon dodge another Perish Song if it doesn’t know where the next one will be coming from?”

Humming in strange warbling patterns, a trio of kricketunes danced in different corners of the room.

“Blaziken…” May slowly reached for her poké ball belt.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” The woman smirked. Her foot hovered over a small cardboard box on the floor beside her. “We agreed to a simple one-on-one match, remember? You win, I let you through. You lose, your pokémon’s mine.”

Using her heel, she tilted the box – revealing several cases of poké balls of all types and colors. “However, if you want to go back on such a reasonable deal… you can see how well you do against a small army…

May’s hand pulled away, balling into a fist.

Letting out a laugh, the woman moved her foot away from the box and kicked her feet in careless glee. “I heard of the trouble you and your friends gave my fellows out there… but you’ll find that the ones in here aren’t incompetent buffoons. Kricketune? Would you please add another pokémon to my collection?”

“Kriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii–” All three kricketunes slid their bows together, letting out a low rumble.

May and Blaziken winced as a sharp tone ripped through the air.

Smiling, the woman grabbed a pair of headphones wrapped around her neck and snapped them onto her ears. “You can’t dodge it this time!”

A high pitch shrill shrieked through the air as a melody of chaos crashed towards the Fire Type Pokémon from three directions. One aimed high, one aimed low, and one aimed straight forward – leaving no room or angle to evade.

While May knew that two of the three attacks had to be fake, a one-in-three chance of getting hit was not a gamble to take lightly.

“Dive for the top, Blaziken!!”

BLAAAYY –” The blaziken had jumped towards the highest song blast, only to be struck silent.

A wave of white surrounded its body and shut its consciousness off. The Blaze Pokémon crashed into a column of steel and fell quietly onto the cold floor.

Blaziken! No!”

The remaining Perish Songs shattered into soft hums as they came into contact with a wall. The two false kricketunes vanished with them.

Laughing like an arrogant schoolboy, the woman hopped off the railing and spun happily to the defeated pokémon.

She stopped with a mocking pose and kicked the pokémon’s body. “Oh my my, he really isdown for the count! Too bad his trainer didn’t realize that sound, even if mimicked, is still sound.” She gave out another laugh as she yanked the headphones off her ears.

Wh-What?!”

“Little girl, I warned you that there was no way you could’ve dodged that attack. You should’ve just given up while you had the chance.” Standing up straight, she turned and held out her hand. “Now hand me his poké ball. I’ll take good care of him.

No!” May reached for her poké ball belt. Click Click Click. Vacuum.

Really? You really want to do that?”

“Venusaur! Wartortle! Delcatty!”

The massive pokémon and its smaller teammates appeared in offensive stances in front of their trainer. They growled at the sight of their fallen friend.

“Have it your way…” The woman walked casually towards the box.

“Delcatty! Blizzard!”

A wall of ice blocked the woman’s path completely.



For the first time since May had met her, the woman frowned.

“…you little brat!”

KllllkakakkakAK!

Electricity cackled menacingly from her hand. A steel baton sparked as she pointed it towards the Coordinator.

You… I’ve had a wonderful day until now! You just HAD to ruin it, didn’t you?!”

May backed away, slightly frightened by the woman’s sudden mood change. “V-Venusaur! Vinewhip!”

KRICKETUNE! FURY CUTTER!!!

KRI! KET! KET! KET! KET!” One strike after the other, the kricketune redirected the incoming whips. With each slash it took a stride forward, closing the distance.

“Venusaur! Retract your Vinewhip! Delcatty! One more Blizzard!”

Delcatty took a deep breath, its lips forming frost.

RYAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

“DELCATTY!!!”

AHA-AHAHAHAHAAAAAAHAAAA!!!!” Eyes crazed in rage, the woman had struck her electric baton against the cat pokémon’s back. Her laughter halted as she issued more orders. “Kricketune!! Rain some sound on their parade!!!” She ducked and re-covered her ears with headphones.

“KRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII–!!!” A high powered Screech ricocheted and echoed against the steel walls of the large room, changing in pitch with each bounce-back.

May and her pokémon crumpled. The Cricket Pokémon was far too close and its attack far too powerful to be avoided or defended against.

Unable to cover its ears effectively, Venusaur was the first to faint.

Wartortle, Delcatty, and May struggled against the pain that shook every organ and bone in their body.

“My kricketune’s Screech is similar to a virus inside your systems!” the woman shouted over the sound and walked over to May. She nudged her chin with her boot, forcing the suffering girl to look up at her. “As long as you hear it! Your brain’s going to keep sending ALL the WRONG signals to your body! Painful, isn’t it?!”

With a sweep, the woman grabbed May’s poké ball belt. “Or maybe it’s like a tuning fork! Every object has a breaking point when it comes to sound! Including brains!” She laughed heartlessly.

Of course…!” she continued. “This wouldn’t have happened if you just played fair and square! I had just the most horrible month! Paycheck came in too late for the rent! Car broke down twice! I was demoted for something another person with the same name did! And to top it all off, I was transferred to this dreary region just because of you and your friends’ meddling!

The woman pried Delcatty’s paw away from her ear, the Shriek no longer blocked. She fainted in seconds.

“I just wanted one day! Just ONE perfect day!” She returned Venusaur and Delcatty to their poké balls, shoving them into her pockets. “I was even being nice to you! Making deals! Making reasonable rules! Well that’s the last time I do that! I’ll tell everyone that I steal from that you’re to blame for my rotten attitude! And – AAAHH!!! OUCH!!! YOU LITTLE CRETIN!!!

Trying to move away Wartortle’s arms from its ears was a big mistake, as she had earned a large bite mark from the attempt.

Angered, she tackled the tough Turtle Pokémon to the ground and wrestled with its arms.

The Screeching continued, preventing May from doing anything, though her soul begged her to.

No… I can’t let it end like this… I was supposed to clear the way for them… I was supposed to find the way to the other side… But now… I’m such a failure… I’m so weak… I’m useless…

I’m sorry, everyone…

The Screeching stopped. Kricketune continued to make noise, but it was no longer a Screech. It was… yowling.

May blinked open her eyes and uncovered her ears.

The kricketune was hurt. A burn mark was on its shoulder, a hiss of smoke floating off the wound. Its owner ran to its side in a panic. “Kricketune! My poor baby!! What happened?!

A ball of blue energy struck the Bug Pokémon’s face, knocking it unconscious.

KRICKETUNE!!!

“That’s an Aura Sphere!” May’s eyes lit up. A smile of excitement shaping her emotions. She struggled to her feet and turned. “Lucario! Sabri–”

Her excitement was cut short by a gasp.



Down the hallway that led to the room, a young man stood. His hands outstretched, his arms trembling from exhaustion. His hair was a mess, his shoes barely tied, and his shirt on backwards. And his face… one that she had memorized almost too well… one that she often took for granted, she realized.

Ash!

“Now Espeon!”

A feline pokémon of lavender fur ran around the corner, dashing quickly down the passage and growling with fury. The gem on its forehead shined.

The railings ripped away from the walls and floors, twisting and bending until they wrapped around the Rocket and her kricketune.

“Wh-What?!” The woman struggled to break away. To no avail.

Espeon hissed loudly, its gem glowing brighter.

An aura of psychic blue covered the imprisoned Rockets, lifting them off the ground and slamming them repeatedly against the floor. The woman had already fainted by the fifth slam – yet it continued.

“ESPEON!!!” Ash snatched the raging Sun Pokémon from the ground. “ESPEON STOP IT!!!

The blue energy faded and the gem lost its light. Espeon grunted in upset understanding… its fur relaxing.

Geez Espeon, I told you to just do a Quick Attack…

She turned away and hopped away from his hands, trying to show no care for his words.

Ash laughed nervously. “So...”

He turned. “May? Wartortle? You two okay?”

Arms wrapped around him as the young woman wept into his shoulder. Her usual emotion of sunshine resembled a cloudy day, its dark clouds covering any hope for warmth. Her body trembled, her breath skipped erratically, and her tears abnormally hot.

She was more than relieved to see him. Yet she was more than ashamed to need him.

I’m sorry…” was all she wanted to say.



_________________________________________________________



I’m useless…

You’re not useless.

I’m pathetic…

You’re not pathetic.

You saw me… I couldn’t do anything…

Her kricketune was powerful. I don’t know if I could’ve won that fight.

But you did… you weren’t even affected by the Screech…

I did get affected! I can barely even hear right now. You were just too close to the attack.

Then I let them get too close…

May, stop it.

In the corner floor of a small subway car, the two friends sat quietly.

The other seats were taken. A mixture of men and women of all ages, all professions, uniformed and casually dressed – all members of Team Rocket – sat and stood within the cramped underground transport.

No one noticed them.

The young woman sat between the man’s legs. His arms around her shoulders as she pet a tired espeon to her left… To everyone, they looked just like any young couple that joined Team Rocket. Relationships were often bound to happen within the group, as it was the only thing that kept most of them steady.

And the two’s depressed yet comforting posture was common for rookie Rockets. Every single one of the passengers have been there: questioning the morality of their choices, wishing to go back home, or wondering if any of this would lead to a better life… you get used to it, many of the passengers thought when they glanced their way.

If they only knew, was what Ash thought when he first sat down. Though he questioned whether or not any of them didn’t know. It seemed as if one man recognized him, but deemed himself on break, moving interest away with lack of care. Or maybe he took pity on them, as May was obviously miserable.

Whatever the case was, Ash was thankful. And whatever the case was, he only cared for the Coordinator at this point…

Why did you come here? Where are Sabrina and the rest? her thoughts continued. Her mood far too depressed to consider herself worthy of speaking.

They’re still sleeping… I came here by myself.” and Ash continued his whispering consoles. “I realized you were gone and I came after you.

But why by yourself? Why not wake the others? …and you took the rod… how are they going to follow?

I… don’t know really.” Ash wanted to talk about Alakazam and his words. But he had no idea how to phrase them that made sense to even himself. He was too confused about the entire situation, but glad he had arrived just in time. The situation he had found May in was far too close for comfort… and if he had been even a minute late, things would have gotten far worse.

… you… you don’t even need others to save the day. You can do things by yourself… I can barely even last on my own…

That’s not true. I couldn’t have gotten this far without all of you. And you’ve done great as a Coordinator on your own! I always needed someone to journey with me for my Gym Battles, but you were able to make it by yourself. And already you’re a world famous Coordinator.

And what are you? You’re popular in every region you’ve set foot in… and not to be mean, but… Ash, you never even won in any of those Leagues.

Ash’s eyebrow twitched at that fact. A shameful fact.

You don’t even need to win in any famous battles to be known. You’ve gotten 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th place on so many competitions – yet people still remember those competitions because of you.

The Trainer wanted to cry at the humiliating statistics his friend was giving.

Not to say anything bad about Brock, Tracey, or anyone else you travel with… but you’d still make a difference in this world without them. I don’t think we’ve ever followed you for convenient’s sake… you really are an inspiration to follow, Ash.

He blushed, though conflicted on how to feel with the sudden change of compliments.

Anyone would follow you… I know you’ve saved the world more than once. I don’t know why you never talk about it… We were there, we saw it ourselves… we talk about it all the time… You saved the world, we were just there to give moral support…

May…

I mean, I don’t even know everything about you, Ash. Dawn probably knows more than me… Angie probably knows more than me… People who have spent less than a month with you probably have a million stories to tell about you. You have more reason to brag than any of your rivals, but you don’t… Why? You’re amazing, Ash! Why?



Pride would have been the first thing most Trainers would have felt with those praises. But to Ash…

Someone needed to do those things. Anyone else better than me would’ve done it faster.

That’s not true, Ash… Look at yourself! You’ve got Aura, you’ve got Empathy, you’re fighting blind, and you snuck into a Team Rocket tunnel! These guys are probably too scared to fight you! Maybe that’s why no one’s done anything about us yet! No one would’ve done it faster, Ash… because no one could do it like you do…

May… please…

She was crying. Tears dripping onto his arms, her body shaking again.

And what am I? A top Coordinator with all the ribbons she wanted and more. A self-reliant girl who’s featured on more than one magazine. And probably someone who could get into the League if she tried!

Her fingers clawed into his legs. Her sobbing slowed. …yet you came here to rescue me… when I was here to help all of you. We may be talented and great, Ash… but not where it counts. You have everything where it counts…

…I’m just some girl. Just some shallow girl. Just some pretty face that everyone will forget once someone beats my record.

Ash held her tighter, pressing his chin against her shoulder. He wanted to help her, but he didn’t know how. He wanted her to stop feeling those things, but he had no idea where to start. All he could do was deny her claims and be there to catch her tears.

“That’s not true, May!”

His outburst made the other passengers feel uncomfortable. Many turned away, some made coughing sounds, and others covered their faces with books or newspapers.



She was silent. Not wanting to give him a chance to make her feel better. She wasn’t fishing for compliments… she wanted to just dig her grave.

May was tired of Ash rescuing her. Tired of him saving the day. Tired of him wasting his time and risking his life for someone unworthy. She hated his Empathy. Hated having no place to hide when she broke down. Hated having no way of covering her ugly side. Hated having to be so honest even when she never wanted to be.

She wanted to push him away and run. She wanted to go somewhere he could never save her. No more risks taken, no more time wasted. In her eyes, she wasn’t worth it. In her heart, she wanted to be. But in her soul, she believed she could never be.

…I’ll always remember you, May…

Her heart paused.

I can’t make anyone remember you. I can’t make anyone see you for how great you are. But I know I will always remember you… And I know I’ll always see you for how wonderful you are. You mean a lot to me, May. Even if you think I don’t need you, I just want you to know that… I always want you with me.

Her face turned pink, her mind racing with denials, her heart melting too fast to build walls, and her soul not being able to reject any of his words…

His words… so full of love, so full of care…

She rolled, turning towards “Ash…

Pushing her lips towards his, her mind went blank.

Her kiss met steel.

The train jostled, slightly rocking its passengers in different directions.

Vrrrrrmmmmm.

The subway doors opened. Ash stood and allowed Espeon to jump onto his shoulder.

“Seems like we’re already here.”

Phya… thheemth wak et…” May mumbled against the wall that stole her kiss.

He reached down, offering his hand. “Come on, May.”

She looked up, facing the man that had stolen her heart. There were no more doubts of what he meant to her. And though she wanted to tell him, this wasn’t the time or place. Not yet…

With a smile, she grabbed hold of his hand and pulled herself up.

Three quick wipes and a shake of the head and she was ready – showing little sign that she had been crying just a few seconds before. “Okay, let’s go!” she spoke with a sweet smile.

The three exited the subway, being swallowed up by the tide of comers and goers.

A fourth followed them unseen.



_________________________________________________________



Ash…

“I know.”

The man that had recognized them in the subway was following them. Still following them. For an hour, around every corner, down every hall, Ash had noticed him. The stranger’s stalking emotions were hardly subtle.

Originally, Ash had wanted to confront him earlier on, but his constant training and meditations with Sabrina had taught him that patience and careful research was key to finding victory in any foreign situation. He still wasn’t completely sure if he was cut out for that kind of thinking, but… He hasn’t attacked so far… and he had a lot of chances when we were still around larger crowds… Getting impatient would’ve probably gotten us into worse trouble…

May, on the other hand, was completely panicked. Her entire time walking was spent guiding Ash. It was a sense of closeness that kept her completely distracted. All other traces of attention were used for reading the sound map the pokétab had given her.

She hadn’t noticed the man until now. His footsteps echoing in the empty warehouse area were impossible for her to ignore. She wanted to scream, to shout, to turn and attack, but she had to wait for Ash’s call. He was calm; he had been calm this entire time. And she now depended on his unusually cool head to make the best decision.

What do we do? Do we run?

“Two of us, one of them…” Ash whispered in response.

Tap Tap. Espeon pawed at his face.

“Three, I mean.”

Which pokémon do I use?

“Which one of yours is able to fight?”

I’ve got Beautifly and Snorlax. I can also get Wartortle out if you need him… but he’s still a bit dizzy.

“On three, take out Snorlax.”

Got it. She reached for the poké ball attached to the front of the belt.

“One…”

Espeon tensed.

“Two…”

Click. Vacuum.

Three! Espeon, Quick Attack!”

Snap. “Go! Snorlax! Focus Punch!”

The Sun Pokémon vanished from Ash’s shoulder. A large red aura shined between the two and their stalker. An enormous pokémon with a cat-like head poured in from the light.

“SNORRR!!!!” The snorlax struck its arm down at the Rocket member.

The man dodged with a roll and lifted his hands in surrender. “Whoah whoah whoah! Guys! It’s me! Trace– OOF!” Espeon reappeared with a spinning pounce to the side of his head.

He crashed into a wall and stopped moving.

Tracey??!” the two yelled in unison.

They ran to his side.



_________________________________________________________



The story of the escape was told to Ash and May – Misty’s efforts, the breakout, the undercover run, the rescue of fellow prisoners, and finally, the split up. The two listened intently and intensely, both barely able to believe what their friends had gone through.

They sat in attention in the corner of another large room. A collection of crates acting as their seats and chairs.

Team Rocket members passed by every now and then. To them, the three humans and pokémon were fellow members on break. Many of them showed envied expressions, wishing they had such lax schedules.

A few of them nodded in their direction. Tracey, in full Team Rocket uniform, waved back casually.

He continued his story, “Misty took Pikachu and Dawn to find Anabel in the East Sector. Ms. Ketchum, Mr. Mime, and Brock led the other prisoners out the vents that led to the ports. They might be in Alto Mare by now. Ritchie and Casey headed west to see if they could stall any of Team Rocket’s other projects. Todd and I split up to patrol the subway sections – to see if any patrols were being sent out for us.

“We had literally just split fifteen minutes ago… We honestly didn’t expect to find any of you in these tunnels…”

Ash fell back, dropping his weight to the crate on his back. He released a long sigh.

“It’s like we fought for nothing.” May spoke Ash’s thoughts.

Tracey patted her on the shoulder. “Don’t speak too soon. We still have no idea where Anabel is… and we are still split up… Until all of us meet again, I don’t think we should feel like we’ve all escaped.”

“When and where are all of you planning to meet?” The Coordinator pulled out her pokétab and opened the Notes section. The sketch-artist stared at the device with great interest.

“Well, we won’t be seeing Brock’s group for a while. They won’t be meeting up with us – we consider them safe now. The rest of us will still meet, though.”

When and where?” May pushed.

“Vientown in Almia.”

“Almia?! That’s all the way to the east!”

Tracey lowered his voice to a whisper. “And it’s the only region that has active protection against Team Rocket.

“Then why didn’t you send my mother there?” Ash spoke up.

The travel to Almia would be far too dangerous. It may be the safest region, but Team Rocket circles the roads and waters that lead to it.

“Then cancel that meet.”

“What?!” Tracey stiffened. “W-Why?!”

“Because we’re not running.” Ash stared at the sketch-artist, his blank eyes still having stern determination.

Great… First Casey and Ritchie, now the one we were all trying to save wants to face them head-on. What next?” He turned towards the Coordinator. “What about you? You feel the same way?”

She nodded. Placing her hand on Ash’s.

“Do you guys even know what’s going on here?! Team Rocket’s after you, Ash! Do you even know why?!”

“They’re trying to capture and control Arceus by using some kind of power that makes them anti-Aura, anti-Psychic, anti-Empathy, and anti-Physical. They’re either trying to kill me to stop me from stopping them, or they’re trying to capture me to use me in their project. Everyone I know that can help me or has something they need, is being captured one after the other. And it all started after I gained Empathy, because apparently that was one more sign that made me resemble someone in a prophecy that’s able to stop them.”

He took a deep breath. “Did I miss anything?”

Tracey’s face was pale, his jaw slightly ajar. “….I-IS THAT WHY THEY’RE AFTER YOU???

May wrestled Tracey’s head down, covering his mouth.

Two passing Rockets stared at them.

“Th-Those darn cops, am I right??” May laughed nervously at them.

“Been there before, honey.” One of the Rockets responded. The duo walked away.

The Coordinator smacked Tracey’s head before letting him go. “Watch your volume, jerk.”

He scratched the back of his head and laughed embarrassingly. “S-Sorry.”

His face turned serious again. “But… that’s really why they’re after you??”

“You didn’t know?” Ash tilted his head.

N-No! We had no idea why!”

“Then why did you ask him if he knew as if you knew?” May sat next to Ash.

The sketch-artist shrugged. “I thought it was a rhetorical question… to, you know, discourage you from doing anything stupid.”

Ash lifted himself to his feet and pulled his arms into his sleeves… adjusting the shirt as he just realized that the tag was on the wrong side. “Now that you know, what are you planning on doing?”

I… I don’t know… I don’t even know.” He ran his fingers through his hair in distress. “I don’t think I even understood everything you just said! What do you want us to do, Ash?”

He thought about the question for a few moments – wondering what Sabrina would tell him to do, while still getting what he believed was best for the situation.

“If you can get into contact with them…” he began with a nod, “tell them to take the train you found me on. Sabrina, Angie, and Maylene should be taking it soon.”

Angie’s safe?! Thank goodness!” Tracey hugged Ash in excited happiness. “When I saw you two, I thought you were all that was left from the attack!” He pulled away and frowned slightly. “Honestly, we had no idea if any of you guys were captured yet or not… or worse…

Tapping his finger against his lip, he blinked curiously at May. “But wait… I thought they said you went back to Hoenn…”

“I did. And I came back after Ash called me for help.”

“How? By plane? Is that a safe form of travel?”

May laughed. “No way! I was attacked more than once! Barely got out of there unscathed!”

He returned his attention to the young man. “So after we meet up with them, what’s the plan? …and you realize that such a large group won’t look very… inconspicuous, right?”

“Just tell anyone that asks that you’re being sent to go after Ash Ketchum.” May nudged Ash’s arm. “They’ll believe you.”

Tracey gave an unsure smile. “Okay… Well, what do we do after that? And what about Anabel?”

“If you find her, you find her, but… I get this weird feeling in my stomach that tells me she isn’t here.” Ash’s intuition was being honest. Something was hinting him that no fellow Empathic was in the area… wherever Anabel was, she was long gone.

Find the one in charge of all this and you’ll find her. is all Ash could feel. It’s all he ever felt since he went inside the tunnel… and now he knew what it meant. “Find whatever you can about any other prisoners or who’s in charge of all of this.” he continued. “Then head for Violet City. This hallway leads to there.”

“Got it.” The sketch-artist nodded and started sketching an immediate map of the area. As he sketched and continued his study of their situation, he found himself impressed by the boy’s assertiveness. He sure is growing up fast.One thing, though. All major exits to cities are guarded. You need a metal rod to let you through. If you wait here, Misty’s carrying one she got off a guard.”

The Trainer showed one of said rods.

Geez, you guys have thought of everything… so what’s at Violet City?”

Ash smiled in confidence. “Our new way of traveling.”



_________________________________________________________



Four mawiles stood in their path.

A bored member of Team Rocket sat on a stool nearby. His eyes completely on his pokédev.

“How do we…” May worryingly adjusted her posture.

The Rocket raised his finger, silently asking for a minute as he finished his game.





Aaand, there.” He closed his pokédev and looked up. “Show me your Rocket Rod.”

Ash presented the device.

Taking the rod from the young man’s hand, he inspected it.

He paused, eyeing the two suspiciously.

Oh no… May reached for her poké ball belt. Ash stopped her with a quick grab of her wrist.

“We’re fine…”

The man handed back the rod. “You’re clear. But you should get a replacement for that rod. There’s a newer model back at the armory.”

“S-Sentimental value.” the Coordinator quickly responded.

You sentimental types…” he sighed and shook his head. “Anyways… Stacy, Fina, Liandra, Jazz, let ‘em through.”

The four mawiles moved aside. One of them unlocked and opened the door for the two trainers.

Each of them bowed as May and Ash passed.

The Empathic took interest in them, as each of them had a very distinct emotion. Bored. Tired. Dutiful. And cheerful. They were sisters, as their family connection showed well in their feelings. Ash considered them to be an interesting collection of pokémon, and wondered what they liked to do on their spare time. He also wondered if any of them would be good friends for any of his pokémon.

The cheerful one looked up at Ash, somehow being able to see that he could sense her feelings.

It winked.

Ash shivered at the thought and hurried out the door – no longer interested.

May patted the cheerful mawile on the head. “You girls are real hard workers.”

“Please don’t pet Jazz. She’s known to follow strangers.” the Rocket mentioned as he returned his attention to his pokédev.

The Coordinator moved on and passed through the door.

Espeon stopped in front of Jazz and hissed. The mawile’s hissed back with its mouth-horn.

The Sun Pokémon didn’t seem impressed. It turned and followed Ash and May.

“…darn rookies.” The man continued his pokédev game. “Close the door, Liandra.”

Rrrrrrrrrrrrclick.

The door had closed behind them, disappearing into the rock wall it had been built into.

“I wonder how many of these hidden doors and entrances Team Rocket has.” May wondered as she poked and prodded at the once-doorway.

Ash didn’t seem to answer.

Curious at his silence, she turned… letting out a small gasp at the sight.

A city of nature and concrete lay before them. Trees stood proud as their thick foliage raked the skies. Buildings sat in relaxed manners beside them, complimenting in a fashion that made them seem like cousins of the trees. And above is where the ribbon of beauty gathered everything into one magnificent view: Bird Pokémon of all kinds flew in the orange, afternoon sky. Their patterns and calls giving the town an almost seaside feel.

The wind blew. And with it, a hundred smells. Sweet berries, soft blankets, fresh concrete, morning dew, and citrus perfumes were ones that May recognized…

Violet City – the “City of Nostalgic Scents”.

“Isn’t this place beautiful, Ash?”

He shrugged. “It’s okay.”

May fell over.

She stood and crossed her arms. “Why can’t you ever appreciate beauty??”

“I’m blind, remember?”

“You can still smell.”

“Not very well…”

May sighed. “Just take my word for it.”

He shrugged again and waited beside her.

She took one more sniff of the air… each fragrance bringing back memories of home and her past adventures… each one soothed her as much as they hurt her.

And for one moment, the aromas had made her forget where she was, and what she had been doing.

She exhaled and looked at Ash with a distant look.

Within that short lapse of memory, she couldn’t recognize him. Who is this… Why is he waiting for me… What are we doing… Why should I keep going…?

And just as fast it had disappeared, she recalled everything again in an instant.

Ash…

“Hm?” He tilted his head, unsure of what to think of her vanishing and changing emotions of the moment.

You’re Ash Ketchum…

Er… yes?” For a second he had wondered if she had gone insane… or if he was mistakenly talking to someone new and didn’t realize the change. Either way, he took a step back and scratched his head in nervousness.

We’re here in Violet City… to find a new form of travelling, right?

“Y-Yes.”

…from the Gym Leader, right? Falkner? He has Flying Pokémon... I bet you know him very well, and he owes you something, right?” She smiled at him, admiring her friend’s fame and relations.

Er… no.”

She blinked. “N-No?”

“No way. Falkner’s a jerk.”

She laughed loudly, her foreign emotions and thoughts snapping back to its usual happy and warm self. The simple yet honest dislike of a great Gym Leader of respectable reputation made Ash sound immature. His refusal to work with someone who could be vital to their mission, all for a petty reason that she thought he was beyond considering. She had forgotten how childish Ash could be.

He pouted. “Hey! What’s so funny?”

N-Nothing. Nothing at all.” She giggled the last of her laughs away. “So if we’re not getting Flying Pokémon from him, who do we visit in the city to get one? We are getting Flying Pokémon, right?”

Ash tugged on her sleeve, gesturing her to guide him again. “Yeah, we’re getting pokémon that can fly. But not in the city.”

Wait… then why did you tell Tracey to get everyone to meet in Violet City?”

“Because we’re going to a place near here.”

“And where’s that?”

Ash smiled. “Charicific Valley.”
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:25 PM).
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Chapter 20: Alternatives

Spoiler:
The two fell face-flat onto the dirt.

“H-How far is this thing?” May whined as she refused to move.

“I could’ve sworn it was closer…” Ash grumbled, trying to drag himself forward.

“Liiiiiizaaa!!!” he shouted into the open air.

No response.

“…you sure that pokétab isn’t giving us the wrong directions?”

“I wouldn’t know! I’ve never been there!” She slipped out the device and slapped it down on the ground in front of her. She lazily pressed random buttons on the screen in the hopes it would magically give them new information. “And who is this Liza you keep calling? I don’t think we’ll see anyone for miles…”

“Liza’s the one who I called to get my charizard to help us, remember? She watches over Charicific Valley…” Ash moaned as he fell back onto his chest. “…there’s no natural road into it. Someone needs to take a Flying Pokémon to get in there. And Liza decides who gets in and out.”

What?! Why didn’t you mention that earlier?!”

“Why? Would it change any plans if I did?”

“We could’ve called ahead of time!”

“I already did. I called her from Bill’s while we were leaving.”

“And…?”

“Line’s disconnected…”

She groaned in response. “I give up…”

Espeon hopped onto the pokétab and pawed at its flashing and rotating images.

May rolled onto her back. “Yeah… you make it work, Espy… I don’t know how to work that thing…

Ash rolled beside her. “And yet they trusted you with it?”

“Hey, it’s not like Angie or Maylene would know how to work that device better than me!” She paused, taking a large gulp of water from her bottle before continuing. “Ahhh – that’s good… and Sabrina said that if she held it, it’d probably explode or something…”

Ash fumbled his hand across May’s body, trying to find the water bottle. She shoved the drink into his hand before he could touch anything embarrassing. “Geez, just ask next time.”

He tilted the bottle back, swallowing as much of the sweet water his body would allow him to.

“Don’t drink it all!” She snatched the drink back.

Ash lazily tried to get the bottle back, to no avail.



The two sighed in unison, both exhausted.

May looked up into the sky, watching the clouds pass by.

“We should probably set up camp… It’s getting dark.”

Her eyes were tired and her mind was strained. She didn’t want to sleep, but her body protested at her being awake. And to make it worse, her internal clock was completely off.

Their constant sleeping during mornings and moving at night… The nervous energy that had kept her awake during their travels in the Rocket Tunnel… And now her fatigue from their uphill hike… All of them factored in confusing and irritating her body and mind to the point of conflict.

But now was the time for rest – as navigating up cliff roads, that tended to get narrow at the most unexpected times, did not seem smart to continue during nightfall.

“Did you bring any tents?” Ash asked as he struggled to sit up. His body sore from the constant walking.

“You didn’t?”

The two sighed. “I didn’t think we’d need them.” they admitted in unison.

“We should’ve rested at the Pokémon Center in the city…” May pulled out her poké balls and allowed each of her pokémon out. Each one looked groggy or exhausted; some still showing signs of pain.

Yeah… I didn’t think the Valley would be so far away.” Ash picked up Espeon and started petting her.

The Coordinator applied medicine to any wounds and gave treats to each of her pokémon, hoping that it would sooth their tensed bodies. “So what are we going to do for sleep? And do we build a fire?”

She looked over the cliff path. “I don’t think there’s any firewood for miles…”

“We camp it out the old fashioned way.” The male Trainer walked over to Venusaur, stretched, then fell back – landing his back against its side. He grabbed Espeon and placed her on his lap.

The other pokémon followed suit. Blaziken sat next to Ash. Wartortle sat on-top of Venusaur. Snorlax rolled onto its side to Blaziken’s left. Delcatty rolled up onto Snorlax’s stomach. And May’s beautifly landed softly next to Wartortle.

May watched the scene with playful interest. “Hmmm… Now where do I sleep?”

She was about to find a space between her snorlax’s legs, when Glaceon curled up against her legs – causing her to lose balance and stumble. She fell next to Ash, shoulder to shoulder. Despite its obvious closeness, it was more than a comfortable position.

Her face blushed.

Glaceon gave her a lighthearted smile.

May shot her back a look. “You meant to do that.” she mumbled towards her.

The Fresh Snow Pokémon pretended to not hear her trainer’s response as it snuggled into her lap.

May pet her faithful pokémon’s head and hummed a soft tune to put her to sleep.



“Hey May…?”

Her humming stopped.

“Yeah, Ash?”

“Why’d you go ahead?”

“Into the tunnel?”

“Yeah, the tunnel.”

“So I could scout ahead. To help.”

“Yeah, I figured that. But… why?



She went silent, trying to figure out what to say next. She wasn’t sure what he meant by that question, or what answer he was specifically looking for.

“Can I look?”

She turned towards him and blinked. “What? Look at what?”

Um…” He felt uncomfortable. In truth, he wanted a simple yes or no answer. No thoughts, just a casual reaction to his question. Now that she was giving him her full attention, he realized that the explanation would be far more intrusive than he’d intend it to be. “N-Nevermind.

“No, tell me!” She nudged him with her shoulder. “Now you’ve got me all curious.”

Sigh. “I meant it like… looking into you. Empathy and stuff.”

Her face blushed again. The simple request seeming far more personal than she expected it to be.

“W-Why??”

“Well… you don’t know exactly what I’m asking… and I don’t really know how to describe it… so I thought I could just, well, find out the answer…” He coughed to seem nonchalant. “If that’s okay with you, that is.

Throughout their journey, Ash had been slowly improving his Empathic abilities. By poking into people’s emotions and backing away, as well as attempting to block them off, Ash had learned how to control how much he could feel at once from a person or a group of people. Emotions were no longer as obvious or as loud for him now… Like Anabel had told him in the beginning, he couldn’t turn it off, but he had gotten far more used to it.

He still didn’t consider himself as skilled as Anabel, as he still struggled with extremely loud personalities like Maylene’s, or with large floods of strong emotions like the battle at the Bill’s Lighthouse. But he had certainly gotten better.

Ash’s fingers ran through Espeon’s fur, her Psychic energy hidden inside reminding him of why he had truly improved: Practicing with Sabrina.

While Sabrina herself wasn’t an Empathic, she knew how to hone nonphysical abilities and heighten focus to a great extent. Their hours of constant training and exercise had not only increased his Empathy’s effectiveness, but also had created a bond between him and Sabrina.

This bond allowed the two to empower their own abilities. For Ash, it had given him the ability to use the psychic powers of Psychic Pokémon in a much more devastating manner, as well as giving him more clarity and control in reading other’s emotions.

And now, here with May, he had another chance to test himself – another situation for him to truly sharpen and empower his Empathic abilities.

No, not that. He told himself. I’m genuinely worried for May! This isn’t just another test!

The bond with Sabrina also had the unintentional consequence of reflecting one another’s personalities. While the objective-focused, self-improving, and strategically-careful traits of Sabrina were useful, they had also made Ash forget the spirit and heart of what he was aiming for at times.

He could suppress the side-effects, and often times he felt like they hadn’t affected him whatsoever. And in that, he was improving, which boosted his confidence greatly.

Though, he wondered if he really was winning against the side-effects… or if they were becoming less and less obvious.

“S-Sure.” May’s answer snapped him out of his layered thoughts.

The Coordinator played with Glaceon’s tail nervously, her face bright red at the thought of letting ‘Ash in’. “W-What do you need me to do?”

Nothing. She didn’t need to do anything.

“Sure” was Ash’s go-sign. The instant she had said it, he had already dived into the heart of her intentions.

Her emotions flew passed, each one explaining a portion of the story she didn’t want to speak out loud.

Am Useless. Am Weak. Am Burden. Her insecurities showed loudly, showing the obstacles she saw in front of her.

Digging deeper he found what he had been looking for…

Need Stronger. Need Better. Need Useful. Need for Ash. And there were her ‘why’s. Her reasons. Her goal to face her insecurities.

With an exhale, Ash retreated from her emotions and returned reality’s far more restricted grip.

Her emotions had made his face blush a deep red. He was unsure how to respond, unsure of how to feel or think. The Coordinator’s yearning to become better for him flattered him greatly. It would have been an idea that he didn’t understand, if it weren’t for the fact that he felt similarly for her.

May was a friend. A close friend. A very close friend.

She was a part of his past that meant greatly to him. And in their time together, he grew to realize everything that made her great and wonderful. But she was just a friend then. As long as they had a great time together, he was happy. As long as they were friends, then that’s all that mattered.

Then that… moment… they had together occurred.

And though she didn’t want it to change anything, it would change everything. He couldn’t just see her as the friend he travelled with so long. Though he’d admit he could never see her that way after he found that she actually dated someone – that… moment… sealed his old views of May permanently.

She was still his friend. Still his close friend. But now she was someone who depended on him, on his answers, and his emotions. He had to answer to her someday. An answer that he was afraid to choose, fearing what it would mean to everyone else, what it would mean to her. He didn’t want to have to choose… he didn’t want to have to lose one of them…

‘Let them fight over you… It’ll make them know what they really want in their relationship. Eventually they’ll have to give up sometime… or at least admit defeat. And in the end, they’ll still be your friends, and they’ll know what to really look for in a guy…’

The tomboy’s words echoed in his head. Angie…

If he could trust anyone’s counsel, it was his summer friend’s. Her innate understanding of his mind, heart, and spirit even without any special abilities made her words often the truest. She wasn’t biased towards any sides of herself, only by what she saw and was told – a person who could judge a book by its cover and be successful at finding its contents.

A person who understood this situation better than he did.

Ash returned his attention to the concern at hand… May’s insecurities and need to prove herself.

“May, you don’t need to prove yourself… to me.” the two last words were spoken with hesitation.

“I know.” She nodded and returned her attention to petting her glaceon. “At least, I know that now. But… I’d like to at least be stronger. To be better.”

“If it weren’t for your help, we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we have.” Ash responded as he straightened his back, trying to prevent himself from completely slipping off of Venusaur’s abnormally smooth skin. May must put lotion on her skin or something…

She nodded again. “And I know that. But that’s not where I want to improve.”

He tilted his head. “What do you mean?”

“Ash, you’re the main reason we’re on this crazy quest… this isn’t about being the best Trainer or Coordinator anymore. Not about badges, trophies, or ribbons. We can’t just sit around and just have fun all the time like we used to. And we can’t… make mistakes like we used to.”

She paused, wondering how to continue her thoughts.

Acceptance. “…Angie? She keeps her head focused on what matters. Even if she doesn’t think about it, she’ll get the job done. And she’s your emotional support… at least, from what I’ve seen. You always seem to go to her when you want to talk in private.”

Glaceon sat up and moved onto Venusaur’s back – removing her owner’s only distraction.

May turned and faced Ash. Admiration. “And Maylene? She can fight just as good as her pokémon. Even without her pokémon, she’s a strong bodyguard. And her… thing that she does. That thing that makes her immune to Empathy and Psychic people? With that, she’s invaluable to this team.”

She looked down. Shame. “And of course there’s Sabrina… If all of us left your side, she could probably handle this entire mission by herself. We’re nothing but jokes compared to her.”

“May…”

Self-doubt. “And me? …I’m just back-up. I’m there just so that the job isn’t so hard. Which is nice, but I’m not really necessary.”

“That’s not true.”

She fanned the pokétab in front of Ash’s face. Self-hate.This is the only thing that makes me useful right now! And what good am I with it? You give any other girl enough time with it, and they’d be just as useful with it. You give any girl enough time, and they could easily replace me in this team.”

Ash was about to interrupt again. May put her finger up to his lip.

“I’m a Coordinator, Ash… not a Trainer. I’m not a Psychic, I’m not a fighter, and I don’t have confidence. I don’t want to build up confidence, I want a reason to be confident. But honestly? I don’t have anything. I train my pokémon how to make their attacks prettier, but not more effective.

“I mean, even Dawn is better at that than I am! You’ve seen her, I’ve seen her, everyone’s seen her! She gets so creative with her pokémon’s moves it’s unbelievable. I’m just a standard, Ash. I’m only a challenge to other Coordinators because I’ve had more time and practice than them. But I don’t have the same spirit and creativity as they do. I’m a high standard, Ash, but standard nonetheless…”

Depression. “What good am I for this?”

“May…”

“Please Ash… no more cheer-me-ups. No more excuses for me. I don’t want any. It’s time to face facts… I–”

Close your eyes.

“What?”

“Close your eyes.” he repeated.



Her eyes closed. “O-Okay, they’re closed… Now what?

She felt something warm on her forehead. Ash’s palm.

“Now? We hope I learned this right…”



_________________________________________________________



Sunrise.

Bird Pokémon of all kinds hung on branches of trees, watching the line of strange visitors pass by.

THIS IS AMAZING!!!

The shout caused several of the birds to fly from the safety of the trees. They cawed and tweeted as they fled to find a better, far more quiet area to rest.

May had been the one to shout. She faced up towards the trees, her eyes covered by her bandana as she smiled with pure glee.

Woww… I can’t believe it…” She laughed in excitement and jumped in place.

In her blindness, she saw the colors, she felt the heat. Colors of all kinds that she had never seen before, temperatures of all warmths she had never felt before. No, that’s not it. she thought to herself.

She had seen these colors, felt these heats, but never in this way – never in this manner, and never in this light.

Empathy.

Her Empathy had woken up.

The opposite could be said for Ash, who was dead asleep ontop of Venusaur’s back.

Ash hadn’t slept. May hadn’t slept. The two had spent all their night in unphysical work.

Using a technique that he had developed with Sabrina, the Empathic was able to unlock the latent talent within the Coordinator… Treating Espeon as his Psychic extension, he dove deep into May’s mind. Using Aura, he found the walls that blocked her from the abilities. And using Empathy, he was able to open the gates.

The task was hardly simple, and extremely uncomfortable. The two would grunt in pain and sweat profusely through the night. Mental and emotional challenges often prevented them from continuing, and only working through them slowly and carefully would allow them to pass. Their history together as friends, as student and teacher, and as rivals had given them the tools needed to succeed – as it was these connections that allowed them to destroy the insecurities that slowed her progress towards Empathy.

Ash knew this was another technique that Sabrina would lecture him endlessly if she found out he used it. It wasn’t ready. It wasn’t safe. And it wasn’t meant to be used while he was still so inexperienced.

But it was now or never, he had thought to himself at the time. If May kept on like that… always hurting herself… she might close herself off completely, instead of improving.

He thanked Sabrina’s training, as it was only his bond with her that allowed him to come to that conclusion.

Now, however, he had little to no thought. Absolutely exhausted from the ritual, he had fainted and had not awoken since. Espeon shared the same tiredness, as she slept soundly on his stomach.

May was the opposite. Her granted access to Empathy had awoken her body completely.

For her, it was like a dream. She could see things that she didn’t think was possible, experience things she didn’t think could exist, and feel things she never thought could ever be. She didn’t want to wake from this dream.

And so she kept her eyes closed, her bandana acting as her blindfold.

When she could see, she couldn’t sense as much. For now, she didn’t ever want to stop. Empathy felt far too natural for her – as if she was always meant to be an Empathic.

This, of course, was dangerous. As she’d often trip over or nearly fall off the cliff-side while following emotions in the sky. Her pokémon had to keep a close eye on her.

She took a deep breath in…

DREW!!! YOU JERK!!!!

She struck her fist in the air and laughed. For once in her life since that horrible day, she could mention his name without feeling any hate for herself.

She felt… confident.

DREW!!! JUST YOU WATCH!!! I’LL KICK YOUR BUTT ONCE I GET BACK THERE!!!

Glaceon and Blaziken grunted together. The two despised the man that had broken their trainer’s heart and mind. And they were more than willing to help her getting her justified revenge.

They looked at each other and looked back at Ash. A better mate for her, they agreed to one another.

“GUYS! I CAN HEAR THAT!!” May’s face was a bright red. ‘Mate’ was far too strong of a word.

And I can hear you from a mile away.

The Coordinator froze. She suddenly noticed a large group of powerful energies above her.

H-How could I miss something so huge???

“Wh-Who’s there?!” May struggled with her bandana, trying to remove it out of its impossible knot.

“I should be asking you that. No one’s allowed in these canyons.”

“My name’s M–” She successfully pulled away the bandana and looked up at their threat. “Liza??”

Above them, a team of frighteningly large charizards kept themselves aloft while staring down at them in battle-readiness. A woman of deep sea green hair, blue eyes, and a strikingly red suit stood on one of their backs. Her frown was accented by a scar that ran down from her cheek to her chin.

“Funny, I have the same name.” she spoke with little humor.

“N-no. I’m May! Are you Liza? Wait, you just answered that.” May laughed nervously.

Choose your next words carefully…” The charizards around her growled furiously. She gave the Coordinator a death glare. “…those looking for me lately have met quite an… unfortunate end.”

May’s blood turned cold. “Er… n-no! It’s not like that!”

She ran up to her Venusaur and started shaking the sleeping passenger.

“Ash! Wake up! We found Liza!”

He snored louder.

“…Ash?” Liza’s eyes widened. She jumped to the ground below, the charizards following closely behind.

Walking up to the slumbering young man, she smiled. “It’s good to see him again…

The woman faced May. “I apologize for my reaction earlier. We haven’t had much good company lately.” As she bowed, so did the charizards. “It’s a pleasure to meet you May. Any friend of Ash’s is a friend of Charicific Valley.”

May panicked at the sudden mannerisms and bowed quickly in response. “N-Nice to meet you!” She gestured for her pokémon to bow as well.

“You’re welcome to follow us into the Valley. I am sure we have much to discuss if Ash had come to seek us out.” Liza hopped onto one of the charizards’ backs.

“W-Wait… I don’t have any Flying Pokémon…

“That’s fine. Just call in your pokémon and ride on any of these charizards.”



_________________________________________________________



All around her, charizards stood or sat in lines. Above, they flew in patrols. In one corner, some slept in shifts. And in another corner, they trained their attacks in military precision.

May got off the back of the charizard she had ridden and gazed at her surroundings.

“So this is the Charicific Valley? I thought these charizard were wild… they look more than just trained to me. They’re so intense… and huge!”

Liza gestured signals to the ones she had flown with, giving them silent orders.

She turned towards the Coordinator and frowned. “They are wild… and they weren’t like this before.”

Her finger traced along the scar on her face. “Well, they were always large, but they were never this trained… but I had to. We were too disorganized. No matter how powerful they were on their own, as long as they were disorganized – we didn’t stand a chance.”

“What do you mean?” May leaned the still-slumbering Ash against one wall and let him slide down to a sit. “Did something happen?”

“Team Rocket happened.” She grit her teeth. “They just… came like a swarm. Capturing the charizards… and killing the ones who put up too much of a struggle.”

May gasped. “Oh no… I’m so sorry…

“I don’t know why they came here. They normally keep a safe distance away from the Valley. It would normally be a big risk for them to try anything here.” The Valley Guardian balled her hand into a fist. “But this time… there were so many… and they were so powerful. We put up a good fight, but it wasn’t enough. …it wasn’t enough…”



“Are they gone?” May asked in hesitation.

“Maybe. Maybe not. We got them into a retreat eventually… but I have no idea where they went.” Liza sighed. “They jammed my signals. I don’t know what’s going on beyond the areas that are immediately outside of the Valley’s view. And I don’t want to risk going out too far in case it’s a trap.”

The Coordinator rummaged through her bag and pulled out the pokétab. “You can use this!”

The woman stared at it in curiosity. “What is it?”

“It’s a pokétab! You can use it to call someone if you need to.”

“It has a signal?!” She snatched it from May’s hands. “How in the world does it still have signal?? Charicific Valley’s lines have been blacked out for days now!” She checked her pokédev just to be sure.

“The poketab’s special. Boosted range… or its own private signal. I’m not sure which. It’s all pretty fancy stuff to me.” The girl laughed embarrassingly.

Clair?! Clair is that really you?!” Liza didn’t hesitate to make her call.

“Liza!!” a voice responded in a hiss of static. “What happened?! I tried calling you yesterday! It said your line was disconnected! I was going to check up on you, but I’ve been busy lately.”

“Is something wrong?!”

“No no, nothing terrible. Just appointments. I should be asking you that! You look terrible! And where did you get that scar?!”

“Team Rocket attacked the Charicific Valley.”

THEY WHAT?! Are you okay?! How are the charizards??”

“I’m okay. They captured four of the charizards… and killed five.”



“I’ll make them pay. Tell me where they went and I’ll see to it that you are all avenged.”

“I don’t know they are, Clair… they’ve got the entire place in blackout. I can’t hazard searching for them as long as I don’t have any signal. I was only able to call you because of this girl’s strange device.” She turned the pokétab towards May.

“Ah, the famous Coordinator.” The light blue-haired woman in the poketab’s screen bowed. “I’ve seen your Contest matches. You are quite impressive.”

“Th-Thank you.” May blushed and bowed back.

Liza turned the device back towards herself. “She’s a friend of Ash Ketchum.”

“I had assumed so.” Clair responded. “I’ve seen her with him during several Contest broadcastings.”

Liza sighed into a smile. “You don’t know how much of a relief it is to hear your voice, Clair. I had thought Team Rocket had already come after you.”

“Hm? Is there a reason you would think that?”

“Not really… but I don’t really know why they came here in the first place. They don’t normally risk such an attack. I just assumed they would come after you, but only because I’m a bit paranoid right now.”

“Don’t worry, that’s understandable. Have you asked May?”

“The girl? Ask her what?”

“Ask her what Team Rocket’s doing there. What else would the girl be doing all the way out in Charicific Valley? She’s supposed to be back at Hoenn, the Contests are already underway – and she was supposed to be one of the main contenders.”

Liza looked up at the Coordinator.

May grinned nervously.

“I’ll call you back, Clair.”

She pressed a button to end the call and handed the device back to May.

“So, May. What are you and Ash doing all the way out here? From what I remember, he was competing in Sinnoh.”

“Well…”

“Team Rocket’s after us, too.” Ash was awake and standing behind May.

She leapt out of the way in fright.

Catching her breath she gave a slight kick at his leg. “Don’t sneak up on me like that! Geez! …When did you wake up anyways?”

He shrugged. “Few minutes ago?”

“Nice to see you again, Ash.” Liza smiled and nodded towards him. “I’m glad you’re… what’s wrong with your eyes?”

“Ash is blind.” May put it bluntly.

What?! When did this happen?!” She ran up to Ash and inspected his eyes as if she could fix it.

“A while back. Accident. Long story.” He was in no mood in explaining a story he’s had to tell more times than he could count. “Anyways, we came here to get some charizards for transport. I know your charizards don’t really let humans on their back, but–”

“No, they do now.” Liza answered quickly. “Team Rocket attacked lately. Long story, as well. Long story short, they’re far more trained now. If Team Rocket wants to try anything again, they’ll regret it.”

Ash’s face showed panic. “Are the charizards okay?! Is Charizard okay?!

Despite there being several charizards in the Valley, she knew exactly who he was talking about. “I’ve lost some charizards, but… yes. Your charizard is safe as well. He’s… not in the mood to talk, however.”

She nudged her head back, pointing at a figure in one of the corners. May peaked around and saw another large charizard, its back faced towards them as it stared into the rock wall.

“Be careful if you approach him. He hasn’t slept, and he’s quite irritable.”

“Did something happen?”

Hurt. Pain. Sorrow.

Ash feared the worst. And his fears were true.

Charla… she was killed in the second wave… she died trying to save an egg they stole from one of the nests.”



Ash went silent. Liza fell silent.

May quietly broke the silence. “Who’s Charla?”

My charizard…” Liza’s voice strained as she refused herself from crying.

“And Charizard’s… partner.” Ash explained in the most respectable way he could.

Gasp.No… I’m so sorry…” May had regretted her question and took a step back, hoping that her distance would allow them to forget she had ever asked.

“Then we can’t stay in the Charicific Valley. We all need to move.” Ash stated.

“We?” The Valley Guardian crossed her arms and raised a brow.

All of us. Including the charizards.”

“I’m not abandoning this reserve. We are not abandoning this reserve. You can go, but Charicific Valley must be kept safe.”

Which matters more? The Valley or the charizards?”

Liza took those words as a challenge. “In case you didn’t hear, Team Rocket’s got a signal block in this area. That means there’s a good chance they’re still out there waiting.”

“It could also mean they’re trying to keep you paranoid enough to stay here while they recuperate for the next attack.”

Ash wasn’t being himself. His words were far too logical, far too intelligent, and definitely far too authoritative. Sabrina’s bond was overtaking his personality again.

“The Valley’s a private zone.” Ash continued. “Because you’re not anywhere public, they can attack this place over and over again without anyone finding out. You’re too far for direct support, and your only line out to the rest of the world has been cut.”

“And what do you propose then?” Liza hadn’t conceded. She had only asked out of curiosity. This doesn’t seem like the Ash I knew. He seems… older. It’s good to know he’s finally acting his age.

Move to Violet City.

“Not going to happen. That area’s far too public. It’ll make the charizards incredibly uncomfortable and panicked in those surroundings, and I don’t want any of those tourists and trainers to bother them.”

“Of course it’s too public. That’s why we’re moving there.

“You keep saying ‘we’ as if we agreed to it.”

You’re going to have to. If you stay out here, you’ll be hunted until there’s no charizards left for the Valley to protect. If you go to Violet City, you’ll be under the public’s watch – and Falkner’s. Team Rocket won’t even try to risk that obvious of an assault. With any chance of a witness getting away through sky or land, there’s no way they could get away safely.”

But Ash, what about… May held onto his sleeve.

He knew exactly what she meant. The assault on his home. But the difference there was that they were a small family in a quiet town, while this was a large group of powerful pokémon within a bustling city.

May’s new Empathic abilities allowed her to read that meaning from his silence. She nodded. She also wanted to squeal. Her Empathy surprising her in its usefulness. However, it wasn’t an appropriate time to show excitement, so she kept silent.

Ash stepped forward, facing the Valley Guardian – his dulled eyes locking onto her fierce gaze. “Head to Violet City. We need your services as much as you need ours.

Liza stepped forward in challenge. “And what makes you think that?”

“Because they’re not after you. They’re after me. And they think you’re going to help me. So either make them happy by proving them wrong, or upset them by proving them right.



_________________________________________________________



Please don’t touch the charizards.” Liza repeated as another passerby tried to take a picture with one.

They’re not for sale. They’re not for capturing. They’re not open for battle.” she grumbled loudly as another team of trainers readied themselves for a fight when they noticed one on a rooftop.

Sigh. “How much longer do we have to wait?”

“They’ll be here soon.”

“You said that you took the rod that lets you go through these tunnels. So how are they supposed to get here?”

“They’ll find a way through.”

Please don’t touch the charizards!” She massaged her forehead. “So Ash… if you were gathering all of us to save your mom and friends, and now they’re all saved… what’s your plan now?”

The young man stretched and leaned against the wall behind him. “Team Rocket’s still a threat. We can’t let them get away with what they plan to do.”

“That’s obvious enough. But how exactly do you plan we do that?” She walked over and sat next to Ash. “We’re not exactly an army… and I don’t think we’ll be able to get any support beyond our little ragtag team. And if you’re right about Team Rocket’s influence, I don’t think getting the authorities or any organization involved would be a good idea.

“We’d have more spies than allies at that point.”

“I know.” Ash searched the Valley Guardian’s emotions, trying to find the answer she was looking for. “We won’t need more than that. Team Rocket’s head group is tiny in comparison to the rest of the team. And they’ll be the only ones who’ll be directly involved with the Arceus project.

“Small team versus small team.” he concluded simply.

“Except they’ve got an army of henchmen and thugs to cushion the blow between them and us. By the time we face them, we’ll be too exhausted to fight back.”

“Then we have to play it smart.”

“Smart’s not really my thing.” she admitted.

“It’s not mine either.” he admitted with her.

They laughed together, relieving the tension.

“Don’t sell yourself short, Ash. You certainly kept your head on straight back at the Valley. I hated to admit it at the time, but you were right.”

He scratched the back of his head and smiled with embarrassment. “Well, that wasn’t all me. I learned a thing or two about logic from Sabrina.”

“Maybe she could teach me t– DO NOT TOUCH THE CHARIZARDS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.Sigh. “I swear, these people…”

Flapping of wings. Large wings.

A gust of wind twirled around their feet. Several dirt and debris flew into different directions, nearly blinding the area in a swirl of activity. The blast of air was strong, nearly knocking Ash off his feet, and causing the nearby charizards to flinch.

The large object landed. A massive pidgeot.

Someone was on its back. Cool, confident, and curious.

“Well now, it has been a while, Ash Ketchum…

“Falkner.” he nodded at the Violet City Gym Leader, keeping his own cool despite having a bad taste in his mouth.

“And Liza too. Now this is indeed an interesting meeting.”

Beat it, Falkner.

That wasn’t a response Ash was expecting to hear. He thought he had been the only one that disliked the Flying Pokémon Master. Or rather, he thought his immaturity had made him dislike him. But if Liza doesn’t like him either, maybe I’m not being childish. he considered with a smile.

So rude, Liza!” Falkner jumped down from his pidgeot and sighed. “You come to my city as a guest…”

“It’s not your city.” she shot back.

“…you cause a ruckus by inviting your charizards to perch on my buildings…”

“They’re not your buildings, and we won’t be here for long.”

“…and then you endanger my city’s citizens by bringing Team Rocket to my doorstep!”

Liza stood straight. “What??

“It seems that you thought you could avoid whatever business you had with them by using my city as your time-out shelter.” Falkner frowned. “I don’t appreciate that, Liza. Many of Team Rocket’s clients are happy residents in my city. I don’t want your problems thrown on us just because you’re too selfish to solve it yourself.”

You–!!!

“Get out of my city now.”

Ash walked forward and gazed into Falkner’s emotions. Proud. Insincere. Bluffing.

“You’re lying. Team Rocket doesn’t know about this.”

Falkner’s eyes narrowed. “And how would you know what Team Rocket knows and doesn’t know, Ash?”

Nervousness. Hiding something.

Ash peered deeper into Falkner. …Team Rocket… tower…

Urk!” Falkner found his feet scraping against the ground. Ash had dashed towards him and lifted him by the neckbands. “What do you think you’re doing?!”

“You made a deal with Team Rocket!”

Liza’s frown twitched, her scar burning. “What kind of deal?

“I don’t know what he’s talki–”

Ash interrupted. “Falkner allowed Team Rocket to build a tower here! The tower’s been the one blocking out the signals in Charicific Valley!”

Panic. Fear.

“H-How did you–?!”

Crk-Crk. Liza cracked her knuckles and slowly walked towards Falkner.

His pidgeoto came to his rescue as it stood in front of the furious woman.

With a snap of her fingers, every Charicific Charizard surrounded and glared at the now-seemingly-small bird pokémon. It cowered in response and moved away.

“Now Falkner…” Crk-Crk. “Tell me… why in the world would you allow Team Rocket do such a thing?” her voice was cold, and her emotions dangerously sharp.

“You really want to harm me in a city filled with Team Rocket? If you know what’s good for you, you’ll let me go.”

Bluffing again.

“Give it up, Falkner. I know Team Rocket isn’t here. You’re trying to scare us out of the city before they do find out we’re here.” Ash threw him to the ground and glared down at him. “You sold out Liza so you could protect yourself!”

“You dirty little–” Liza had launched herself onto Falkner. Her fist raised in the air… and it stayed. Her body trembled. Tears formed on the corners of her eyes. “You… CHARLA DIED BECAUSE OF YOU!!!” she roared as she slammed her fist into the ground, missing his head by inches.

The woman pushed herself to her feet, turning away in disgust. “You’re the one who should leave this city, Falkner. Otherwise I’ll let Charizard do as he pleases.”

Violet City’s Gym Leader was shadowed by a large creature.

Atop a tall building, Ash’s charizard stood. His silhouette blocking a large portion of the setting sun. His eyes burning red with fury.

He had been distant from the rest of the group, preferring isolation and time to be left with his thoughts. Ash had barely recognized him during his time away, his emotions refusing to let him in or acknowledge him.

But now his emotions were obvious. Uncontainable rage.

It wanted Falkner dead, ripped apart, destroyed. But just like Liza, he knew it wouldn’t bring Charla back… and it wasn’t Falkner that killed her, he had only been an indirect cause.

Without these thoughts, he wouldn’t have stayed where he was. Angry. Intent on revenge. But still distant, still isolated.

He growled and turned away. That was his last response to the situation. He returned to his thoughts.

Falkner crawled back to his feet, patting dirt off his kimono and hands.

No regret. No concern. No care.

Hmph. I’ll give you two more hours. If you’re not gone by then…”

He hopped onto his pidgeot and patted its back twice. It began flapping its wings, causing another strong gust of wind to push everyone off balance.

I’ll remove you myself.

The pidgeot shot into the air in frightening speeds and rocketed deep into the city.



“He’s bluffing.” Ash commented.

“He always is.” Liza spit as she kicked her heel into the dirt.

Thu-thump.

The two turned.

Despite the sun setting, another sun was rising.

With a loud yawn and a grunted stretch, a young woman who had been sleeping quietly for the past few hours – began to wake after falling off the comfortable bench she had claimed as a bed.

Did I miss something?” May groaned.

“Glad you could joi– DO NOT TOUCH THE CHARIZARDS.
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Old February 12th, 2012 (12:26 PM).
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Nine-Sixteenth Nine-Sixteenth is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Chapter 21: Communication

Spoiler:
KLANNNGG-KRAK!!!

The false door slammed open, vibrating the inner-metal and breaking the outer-rock of its design.

A ball of mawiles rolled out of the open doorway and smashed into a tree.

Smoke fizzledout into the open air. And a figure stomped through the darkness.

It scanned the area and found what it had been looking for.

YOU JERK!!!” Angie charged at Ash. “You ditched us and took the rod with you!! Do you have any id–

She was picked off the ground and pulled back by Maylene.

The pink-haired fighter looked over the tomboy’s shoulder and glanced at Liza. “Man, Ash, what’s with you and always picking up new chicks?” She laughed heartily.

Tracey wandered out of the smoke and coughed. “Well, that’s certainly one way to get through security.”

“I sure wish I could’ve gotten a shot of that.” Todd casually walked out of the tunnel and immediately started taking snapshots of the forest around them.

“Keep an eye out for any ambushes.” Ritchie, with his faithful pikachu Sparky on his shoulder, exited with careful suspicion. “We might not be out in the clear yet.”

No need. There are no more threats.” Sabrina walked out confidently and nodded in Ash’s direction with a smile.

Well, if there were any more… me and Electabuzz could handle ‘em!” Casey boasted as she marched out, with her electabuzz in tow.

Dawn shuffled out shyly. She knew who would be on the other end of the tunnel. When she saw him, she blushed and waved lightly.

Ash waved back, feeling her timid greeting.



…and that was all.

Before any of the others could give their own personal greeting to Ash, he walked passed them and into the tunnel.

He ran out seconds later. Where’s Misty?! Pikachu?!

Each of the recently freed prisoners looked down in self-disappointment.

The sketch-artist was the one to answer, “Misty took Pikachu with her to keep looking for Anabel.”

Ash grabbed him by the collar and yanked him down to his height. “I thought I told you that Anabel wasn’t there! Why didn’t you stop them?!

Ash, we tried…” Ritchie defended. He tilted his cap down, hiding his eyes to respectfully show disgrace.

“…she and Pikachu felt guilty…” Casey looked away in shame. “…for all the information we gave to Team Rocket. Anabel didn’t give up anything… so… the two of them wanted to save her. It’s the least they could do for her… and you…

“Where did they go?” Ash turned and faced down the tunnel. “I’ll find them.”

I wouldn’t go back there, if I were you…” Todd placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Our cover was blown an hour back. Now the entire place is swarming with armed patrols.”

“Even more reason why I should go back there.”

KRRK-DOMMM!!!

The false door slammed shut, its illusionary wall of stones and boulders reappearing, albeit crookedly due to the damage it had taken. An invisible force had been the one to seal it away. The same force thrown Ash off his feet and yanked him to the ground.

A hint of purple and blue aura faded off his body.

Sabrina…

Ash, calm yourself.

Let go of me, Sabrina.

Let go of them, Ash.

They’re in danger!

And so are we. And we must keep moving.

But…

“Ash, they’ll be fine.” It was Dawn.

“Misty and Pikachu have gotten really strong since you last saw them. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have ever escaped.” She helped him to his feet. “If any of us would be safe on our own, it would be the two of them.”

She was being sincere. And while he didn’t want to believe her…

I don’t really have a choice… do I? he thought to himself depressingly, finding himself completely outnumbered by those who would stop him at all costs.

You always have a choice. But so do we. Sabrina responded.

She walked over and straightened his jacket. “I am glad you are okay.” she said softly.

Though Ash still yearned to get his two oldest friends back… the closeness of Sabrina gave him a sense of calm. The bond they had formed would often make him feel far more stable. And that stability comforted him greatly in this time of loss.

The Psychic shared this comfort, as she seemed to relax greatly in being able to talk to him again. With her emotions open for him once again, she let him know that Misty and Pikachu were well. A message that helped bring a smile to his face.

Ash trusted Sabrina’s experience and knowledge. If anyone knew the two would be safe, it was her. And though he knew he wouldn’t be able to be with them for a while, he knew it would only be for a while. He looked forward to the day when that ‘while’ ended.

For now, he felt an immense relief knowing that all of his friends and his mother were no longer in Team Rocket’s grip… and gladdened to be reunited with so many of them again.

“I’m glad you’re okay, too. I’m glad you’re all okay.” He grinned. “I missed you guys.”

“Me too!” Dawn hugged him tightly, her cheeks rosy with happiness.

“Me three!” Tracey sniffled as he wrapped his arms around the two.

“I guess me four, you jerk.” Angie stood awkwardly by him and kicked at his foot.

“Oh what the heck, group hug everyone!” Ritchie exclaimed, encouraging Casey and Maylene to join in.

The Psychic shifted out of reality before she could be dragged in.

Todd stood in front of the group and readied his camera. “Say hitmonlee!”

“HITMONLEE!!!”

Snap.



“And what am I? A zubat in a cave?” May pouted.

Sabrina appeared by her side. “Good to see you again, May…”

“Hey Sabrina!” She smiled and gave a slight wave.

I see Ash had done something to you that he shouldn’t have…

Her face turned red. “Wh-What??!

“The Empathy.” the Psychic clarified, holding back an immature laugh.

“O-Oh!Right… that! Yeah!” She shook her head and grinned widely. “I’m not that good with it yet, but it’s really awesome!”

“Your mind seems much clearer because of it. I am glad for that.”

“Really? Thanks!” Her grin widened.

The smile disappeared when she noticed Sabrina’s narrowed eyes.

Do not allow him to try anymore forbidden techniques. Clear?

C-Clear!” She waved her hands in surrender.

May searched for a new topic to switch to, in order to avoid the continuing evil glare. “O-Oh! H-Have you met Liza??”

She hopped out of the way and gestured towards the woman in red. “Sabrina, this is Liza. Liza, Sabrina.”

The Valley Guardian held out her hand. “A pleasure. I know you by reputation.”

“Similar.” The Psychic simply nodded towards her and moved her attention to the crowd of friends that surrounded Ash.

Liza didn’t take offense to her coldness. Working with charizards all day, it’s nice to run into cooler tempers.

She followed the Psychic’s example and looked back at the chatting group.

“Quite an interesting team we’ve got in the works here.”

Sabrina nodded, having nothing to add to any friendly chatter.



Phew that was a nice save. May prided in her escape.

I meant it, May.

Y-Yes ma’am!



_________________________________________________________



“Alto Mare’s our next destination.”

“Are you trying to meet up with your mom and Brock?”

“No, I was planning on going there even before I was told that was their destination.”

Ash and company gathered around a campfire within the thick forest of Route 32. To their south, their pokémon rested within a lone Pokémon Center that sat outside Union Cave. All except for the Charicific Charizards, who stood guard in different sections of the forest.

“What’s at Alto Mare?” Ritchie sat closer to the inner-circle and adjusted the backpack he was using as a seat. He had asked Tracey, who shrugged, then moved his attention to May, who also shrugged.

Er… Neither of us were there with him.” May responded to his glance.

“What’s wrong with me saying it?” Ash titled his head.

“Well, what I’m wondering isn’t what exactly happened at Alto Mare…” Ritchie scratched his chin, figuring a way to word it correctly. “…but more of why Misty suggested for Brock and Ms. Ketchum to go there. The Team Rocket ports could have sent them anywhere. Why that island specifically?”

“Because it’s the only place they never asked about.” Tracey answered, wincing at the memories of the interrogations.

“With how…” Todd entered the conversation. “…thorough they were with their questions, I’d wonder why they never mentioned Alto Mare.”

“What does it matter? Why don’t we just attack Team Rocket now and bash their brains in?” Casey punched a nearby tree. Her reaction partially out of the immature need to prove herself, and partially out of anger for what she had to go through within those dark cells.

Liza looked towards Maylene. “Do we even know where their main base is?”

“No… we don’t.” The fighter didn’t meet her eyes.

Since their reunion and story-telling within the campsite, Maylene had felt slightly alienated from the rest of the group. The necessary inclusion of her history as a Rocket girl to tell the progress made in their journeys had made several of them uncomfortable or suspicious towards her.

“Lower ranking Rockets never meet within the main base.” she continued. “They just got orders from indirect sources.”

Jiiigullyyy~ Puff~ Jiguulllyyy~yyy Puuufff~♪

Ash and Tracey instinctively covered their ears.

“Cover your ears! It’s jigglypuff!” Ash dove down, as if being closer to the ground would buffer the sound.



Ash sensed the bewildered emotions of the group.

May laughed nervously and pulled the pokétab out of her bag. “Oh sorry, that’s just the ringtone I chose… I thought it was cute.

“Choose a different one!” Ash grumbled loudly as he stood from his embarrassing position.

The group laughed together. Released tension.

Chime~♪

“Greetings, May!”

“Oh hey Bill!” She turned the device’s screen towards the others. “Guys! It’s Bill!”

Each of them gave their own form of hello.

“It seems you’ve got quite a formidable group forming.”

The Coordinator placed the pokétab on a log, allowing the others to gather and hover around it.

“I’m glad.” The Pokémon Researcher adjusted the screen from his side. “The more we have on our side, the better.”

Ash squeezed between Maylene and Todd. “Bill. How are you and Dana doing?”

The blond-haired woman appeared beside the Researcher. “We are doing fine. Thank you for asking.” She smiled and left the screen, going back to her business.

“We successfully moved to another research facility. Far more private and secluded.” Bill explained.

“The lighthouse wasn’t?” Ash joked.

“Well, indeed, the lighthouse was also isolated… but this one has no Rocket Tunnels! Definitely an improvement.”

“Nice. Where is it?”

“Now now, Mr. Ketchum. If I told you, it wouldn’t be so private, now would it?”

Dana’s voice could be heard from the background, “Don’t tell them where it is! This place is still a mess!”

The crowded friends shared a few giggles.

What news do you have for us?” Sabrina inquired loudly, standing several feet away from the pokétab.

“Ah yes. Now that we’ve relocated successfully, you can now contact us at anytime you wish. We can provide any and all information you may or may not need.”

“Would you have any info on where the Team Rocket headquarters is located?” Liza asked as she tried to find a comfortable spot to look over the pokétab.

“Ah… well… maybe not all the information you may need.” Bill scratched his nose. “I can definitely do some research for that, but I can’t guarantee getting you the location anytime soon.”

“How about recent Team Rocket activities in Alto Mare?” Ritchie asked this time.

“Hm… from what I know…” Bill began pressing unseen icons on the screen. “From my recent notes, there haven’t been any obvious activities there. White collar crimes at best.”

“Then we should be safe. Thank you, Professor Bill.” Ritchie gave a thumbs-up.

“Please, just call me Bill. Is there anything else?”

Ash reached into his pocket and felt around. The meteorite piece rolled in his fingertips.

“The location of Pokémon Ranger Solana.”

“Hm…” The Researcher scrolled through a window invisible to them. “Reports dating back two days show that she was still active in the Hoenn region. Last seen… entering the Forbidden Forest.”

The Forbidden Forest. The two Empathics shared the same worry.

“Any reason why she’d head in there?” Ash questioned.

“A young couple had accidentally wandered in there through a broken wall. It seems the Ranger went in there to rescue them.”

Kinda’ like us. May felt towards Ash with a blush.

Eheh… yeah. Ash shared the blush. Except they probably didn’t befriend any of the pokémon in there.

Solana will save them. They’ll be fine.

“Hm… now this is disturbing.”

“What is it?” Ash and May asked in unison, their attention returned back to Bill.

Bill leaned out of screen and returned with a collection of printed documents. “It seems there’s been a mysterious group of men and women in dark uniforms spotted in a nearby town.” He shuffled through the pages. “And their daily movements seem to reflect that of the Pokémon Ranger’s. They might be trailing her.”

“It’s Team Rocket.” Ash growled.

“That is highly possible… Is there anything else you need?”

“That’s all for now, Bill.” May responded, feeling Ash’s need to leave soon. “We’ll cal–”

Wait wait wait! Mr. Bill!” Casey crawled between the Coordinator’s legs and popped up in front of her.

“Just Bill.”

“Do you have any more of these things?” She picked up the pokétab and shook it. “These things are so awesome!”

“I’m afraid that’s my only other working copy other than the one I’m using.” Bill laughed. “But once I get someone to mass-produce them, I’ll be sure to give each of you your own copy.”

The baseball fanatic hugged the screen and squealed. “Be sure to give me one with stripes!”

“I’ll try to remember that.” He snickered.

May pulled the device away from Casey’s hands. “So we’ll be seeing you, Bill.”

“Very well. It was a pleasure speaking with all of you.” He reached to one corner of the screen. “Farewell. And… good luck.”

The screen went blank… and slowly faded back to a May’s background.

With a clumsy fumble, the Coordinator hid the device behind her back and laughed awkwardly. “W-Well now, you weren’t supposed to see that.” She whistled nonchalantly and hid behind a tree.

“Was that a picture of Ash sleeping?” Maylene followed. “It’s so cute! Show it!”

“Where’s everyone getting these photos of Ash?!” Angie shoved Casey aside and trailed them.

Dawn shyly tagged along with her purse. “I-I have some.”

Todd waved his camera and grabbed a binder. “Are we comparing photographs? I’ve got tons!”

The mood had changed, and everyone went on with their casual and excited conversations…

Except for Ash and Sabrina.

I assume we have a change of plans.

The male Empathic sighed. Yes…

Then I must apologize, for I have news that I have withheld until I could speak to you in private.

He shrugged. At least we can think up new plans now, instead of making up for it later.

My thoughts exactly.

So what did you find out?

The last known location of Anabel…



_________________________________________________________



In an area of pitch-black trees and frosting winds, a blind Empathic and a silent Psychic sat in complete stillness. The two had separated themselves from the fireplace, finding an area where only the nocturnal could see – an area selected for its distance and privacy from the rest of their team.

Chosen to guard over them, a pokémon of impossible intelligence sat amongst the branches.

Taking advantage of its talent for trickery, it misguiding all those that would near the area – sending the intruders back to where they came by removing their most recent memories and recollections. No victim would remember why they had travelled to these parts of the woods in the first place.

It did, however, find irritation in a certain tomboy who persisted on returning to the spot no matter how many times he would send her back. Yet it had to endure its duty.

Silence and seclusion were of the utmost importance, as the two preferred to hold their meeting in secret due to the difficult decisions made and the sensitive information shared.

Within this personal darkness, Ash and Sabrina sat in quiet. A psychic link being the only voice they had.

Why didn’t you tell me about Anabel earlier?!

Why did you not mention May’s Empathic ability? Why did you deem using a technique I forbade you to use, more than one technique – might I add, unimportant to my knowledge?

“That’s different.”

How so?

Anabel’s life is in danger!

And your life is as well! Those techniques could have killed you, Ash! Yet you use them with little care or remorse!

“But they didn’t kill me. I used them when I thought I needed to, and not one second before. And I’m still not dead.” So I don’t know what the big deal is.

Then you’ll be happy to know that Anabel is also safe. So I do not understand your panic either.

Ash stood.“She is?!” Where is she?! Did she escape?!

Calm yourself. Sabrina waited for him to sit before continuing. She is still in the hands of Team Rocket… they want her alive.

What are they doing to her? “Where is she?”



The Psychic’s mind went quiet. Her heart in hesitation. This was unlike her, Ash noticed and she admitted to herself.

Just as their formed bond had affected Ash to become cold and heartlessly logical at times, Sabrina had become at times irrational and too caring. It was a side-effect that she dreaded, as many depended on her intellectual guidance… which required her to be distant and disconnected.

Tell me, please. he pushed.

Sigh.When they couldn’t have you, Ash. They took her.

“…what do you mean…?”

Their original plan was to locate you, capture you, and use you. For what, we are not yet fully certain. But we assume it has something to do with Empathy. Though I would assume they wanted more than just Empathy… but they settled with her.

“Why do you keep saying ‘we’?” Who’s ‘we’?

Misty was the one who gave me this information.

What?! She knew where Anabel was?! “…I thought they said they were only searching for her! I didn’t know they actually knew!”

Ash continued to switch between voice and thought, each to express two differing opinions and conversations. A social technique he had gained from Sabrina herself – ‘the mind acts as the sword, while one’s words acts as the shield’.

He practiced it rarely, treating it closer to a habit than an actual lesson to keep. However, at this moment, it only felt natural to speak to the Psychic in this way, as it conveyed exactly what he wanted her to understand from his perspective.

Quiet. Others may still overhear us.

Though she was well aware of his intentions, Sabrina decided to prevent him from continuing, for the sake of privacy more than anything else. In her eyes, if the meeting were public it would have caused the other members to see a negative dichotomy between her and Ash – which would only cause them to choose sides.

The Psychic knew there was no real conflict between her and the Empathic, only a strained form of communication caused by their cultural and age differences. It was a gap they had seen bridged with their bond, and she only sought to bridge things between them in every other manner and matter – as to increase their effectiveness as the unofficial heads of the group.

Understanding her need for his silence, Ashexhaled slowly.

So they knew all along?

No, only Misty. The search for Anabel was fruitless, but it did give her the information for where they moved her and for what purpose.

Why didn’t she tell the others?

She had planned to… until we met. Misty had not expected that our groups would ever run into each other until the end.

Sabrina paused, choosing her next words carefully as to not offend or hurt the Empathic. Their bond was her main translator, as she had to be sensitive to how he saw the world in order to communicate everything she had meant without him ignoring what mattered in her words.

The plan you had given Tracey for the meet up in Violet City had excited everyone. If she had given them the information about Anabel, it would have depressed the rest of the group – as they would have had to cancel the meeting with you in order to rescue her.

So she went by herself…

And Pikachu as well, as he had been there when she originally found the intelligence.



Ash adjusted his posture, feeling the bark of the fallen tree he was sitting on. He felt the cold night air sting his skin, and listened to the soft hoots and caws echo throughout the woods. His physical senses meant to take his attention away from his emotions and thoughts.

He felt alone. Unsure. And confused.

No matter what he did, he always felt like he was one step behind. No matter what he accomplished, he felt like he was always wasting time.

Team Rocket had snuck up on his life because he refused to listen to the warnings. Team Rocket had already infiltrated Saffron City by the time he got there. May had been attacked twice during her travel to him. Bill’s lighthouse was already surrounded before his arrival. More of his friends were captured and tortured because of his illusiveness. They escaped on their own without his help. Misty already knew where Anabel was. And he still had no idea what Team Rocket wanted from him.

…or where he fit in any of this.

What am I supposed to do…

Sabrina walked over and sat next to him. Wrapping her arm around his shoulder and warming his arm with a gentle massage.

“You’re doing fine…” Sabrina’s voice returned to its far more youthful tone. Light, soft, warm, and absolutely attentive. “You’re facing an entire organization. An organization that has existed longer than you. And you’re still giving them trouble. Being one step behind isn’t a bad thing, when this group’s always been known to be a hundred steps ahead of everyone else. You shouldn’t be worried at all, Ash. They’re worried about themselves – because of you.”

Ash leaned his head against her shoulder and relaxed. “Thanks, Sabrina…

The Psychic’s words were comforting, caring, and kind. It was her way of speaking to him, when no one else was around. She guided him, protected him, and watched over him. Ash wasn’t sure if it was because of their bond, their time shared with one another, or simply who she was when she wasn’t judged by others. Whoever she was, she acted as his guardian.

With encouraging words, logical explanations, and hesitant warnings, she would help him move forward whenever he found himself stalled. She would give him confidence and strength in a way that made him feel useful and important. And more than once, she had pushed him to become more authoritative and demanding in order for him to take over as the team’s leader.

And though he was never sure why she had wanted him to be, with her only explanation being ‘something is calling you and no one else’, he tried hard for her. She saw potential in him, and he wanted to prove her right. Proving her right, however, was difficult.

Ash always needed her help in making the first step…

Here.” Sabrina sat up and pressed her forehead against his. “We’ll come up with a plan together, okay? We’ll make it simple and easy. One that’ll blow Team Rocket away! Got it?”

He smiled and breathed a small laugh. “Yeah. Got it.”

Close your eyes and focus.

You too.



_________________________________________________________



“Look! She’s coming back!” Maylene exclaimed as she took another bite of her fire-toasted sandwich.

Angie walked out of the darkness and into the campfire’s light. “I swear! I keep forgetting what I was going in there for!”

The group laughed loudly.

“You were looking for Ash!” Casey shouted with a snort.

Right! Thanks Casey!” The tomboy turned and marched back into the woods.

“How much you bet she’ll be back in two minutes?” Ritchie half-joked.

Liza pointed her drink in the girl’s direction. “I still say she’s faking it.”

“But didn’t you forget too when you went in there?” May nudged her with her foot.

“I didn’t keep going back in though!”

Rustle Rustle.

“She’s coming back already? New record!” Tracey raised his arms in joking celebration.

“I win the bet!” Ritchie exclaimed.

“No one even bet against you, idiot.” Casey pointed out with another snort.

Angie appeared from the shadows again. This time, with two in tow.

“Look who I found!” She grinned with pride.

Ash and Sabrina walked towards the campfire.

And where have you two been?” Maylene teased.

Todd whistled.

The group found themselves laughing again. Except for Dawn; the joke flying over her head completely.

A psychic spike shot through each of their heads.

Each of them moaned, groaned, cursed, or went silent.

Listen up.” Sabrina commanded, not so much encouraged. “Mr. Ketchum would like to speak about the renewed plans.”

“Can’t we talk about it tomorrow?” whined Casey.

Would you rather wake early tomorrow for a meeting?

“No way.” “Nuh-uh.” “I’m sleeping late tonight!” “Yeah right.” “Noo! Let’s do it now!” they individually exclaimed their distaste for the early morning meeting.

Then we shall commence the meeting now.” Sabrina sat and nodded towards Ash. Go ahead.

Ash stepped forward. “Tomorrow, we’re splitting into three groups.”

Complaints were heard all around, but were immediately quieted by a single glare from the Psychic.

“May, you’ll take Ritchie and Maylene to the Forbidden Forest in the Hoenn region. The Grass Pokémon shouldn’t attack you as long as you stay close to May, so keep close.”

The three nodded.

“Angie, Liza, Todd, and Tracey… you’ll be leaving with Sabrina to the Orange Isles.”

The four looked at one another in curiosity.

“Casey, Dawn? You two will be coming with me to Alto Mare.”

Casey silently cheered, hoping for a vacation. Dawn tilted her head.

“We’ll each split up and take a charizard for flight. Any pokémon that has one, should be put into their poké balls to make the flight easier. We leave tomorrow afternoon.”

Casey raised her hand.







May nudged her with her elbow and waved her hand in front of her eyes.

Casey raised her brow.

“Ash can’t see!” the Coordinator hissed.

OH! OH right. I mean. Er. Teacher – I mean, Mr. Ketchum – er, Ash! Yeah, Ash!”

Ritchie and Tracey covered their face in their palms in embarrassment for her.

“What is it, Casey?”

“Well… thing is… I understand why May and the rest are going to the Forbidden Forest… it’s to save the Pokémon Ranger, right?”

“And get her to join us.” he added.

“Right. That. And well… why is Sabrina’s group so huge? And what exactly are they doing? And what exactly are we doing?”

“What I’m doing, and what you two will be helping me with, is trying to find someone named Bianca in Alto Mare.”

“And she is…?”

“A friend.”

“Seriously Ash, don’t you know any men?” Angie sighed.

“HEY!” Todd, Tracey, and Ritchie barked at the same time.

“She meant REAL men!” Maylene laughed, much to their ire.

Anyways!” Casey took back the conversation. “So why are Dawn and me specifically for this group if neither of us have ever been to Alto Mare?”

“No one here’s been to Alto Mare other than me. Right?”

“Actually, I vacationed there once!” Liza admitted with a smile. “It’s a beautiful place.”

The group started to chat about the rumors and stories of the island’s wonderful scenery.

Ash coughed to regain their notice. “You have to stick with Sabrina’s group, Liza.”

Casey continued with her questions, “Why is that? Why is Sabrina’s group specific? And like I said – fricken’ huge?”

The Psychic answered for him. “My team will be heading to a secluded isle in the Orange region… where Anabel is being kept.

“WHAT?!” Shouts, questions, and argumentswere thrown at Ash and Sabrina. The main one being “You knew where she was?!”

Another psychic spike subdued them.

I had received this information from Misty herself. She did not hand it to anyone else so we could all meet first while she went ahead.” Sabrina knew she wasn’t being entirely true… Misty didn’t want anyone to follow. But this was the only way to calm them.

“But why us?” Todd asked honestly. “Wouldn’t it be smarter to take Ritchie or Maylene for this mission instead of…” he trailed off, not wanting to admit any weaknesses.

“A sketch-artist and photographer?” Tracey finished for him, choosing their profession as a label.

“No, it wouldn’t.” Ash answered. “If a group of Rockets are after Solana, she’ll need the most experienced fighters with her. And since Ritchie and Maylene have more battle experience than the rest of us –”

“Other than Ash and myself.” Sabrina added with no note of arrogance.

“– then they have to stick with May, who the Grass Pokémon will respect in the Forbidden Forest.”

“Then couldn’t Todd and I just tag along with you?” the sketch-artist suggested in nervousness. “I mean, wherever Anabel must be kept must be heavily guarded. We’re not exactly the best trainers.”

The photographer nodded with slight shame.

“Sabrina will be the main one handling any battles in your group. However, your main goal there isn’t to fight, it’s to rescue. Both you and Todd have sharp eyes and probably have more experience than the rest of us when it comes to staying unseen by pokémon… so you’ll both be needed there.”

Angie cleared her throat.

Ash smiled. “And Angie will be there because she knows Anabel the most.”

Hey! I can fight too!” the tomboy stepped on his foot.

He held back a shout of pain. “I – I know. But Anabel needs a friend more than a fighter right now.”

She sighed, walking off to her own corner. “Man, I don’t even like her that much…” she mumbled to herself.

Angie turned back. “Can’t we at least take Espeon or something?? Have her talk to Anabel!”

“I might need Espeon in case anything goes wrong.” Ash shrugged.

“Gah! Fine fine fine…” The tomboy rolled onto her sleeping bag. “But don’t expect me to handle all her mushy stuff.”

“And me?” Liza spoke up.

“In case there’s any other prisoners there, or in case you run into Misty – they’ll more than likely need their own charizards to make it safely off the island. And you’ll need to be there to direct them.”

“Gotcha’.”

“…does that answer everything?” Ash turned towards Casey.

“Almost.”

The male Empathic sighed. He was getting tired of all the questions, and tired of acting like the one with all the answers. He missed it when Sabrina or Maylene would lead these kinds of meetings…

They need to trust you and listen to you. Sabrina reminded.

I know I know…

“Yes, Casey?”

“Where do we meet after all this?”

“Angie? Maylene?” He nodded to the two of them. “You remember how to get to my hiding place in Pallet?”

“Still do!” Maylene smiled.

“Yeah. I think I can find my way back.” Angie said with a wave.

“Then we’ll meet there when we’re finished. Anyone who gets there early, just camp and wait for the rest. Are we clear?”

Nods and agreements were felt and heard all around.

“Then meeting dismissed.”

“I’ll go print off maps!” May stood and ran towards the Pokémon Center.

“I’ll make a quick trip to Violet City to buy medicine and Potions.” Dawn put her purse around her shoulder and started jogging. “Let’s hope their store’s still open!”

“I’ll write notes, just to outline what everyone has to do in case they forget.” Tracey eagerly pulled out his pencil and notebook.

Ritchie got up and rummaged through his backpack. “I can make everyone small meals they can take with them for the trip.”

“And I’m going to sleep!” Angie slippe