The timeline to this story is after Ash completed the Unova league.
The ship's horn blared. My heart skipped a beat when I heard it, Pallet Town was just up ahead! Oh, Pallet, Pallet. That name has such a sweet ring to it. It sounds like, home... I've been to many places and many landmarks that were breathtakingly beautiful, but nothing can beat sitting on the couch at home with the smell of mom's cooking wafting all throughout the house. I just couldn't contain myself.
"We're almost there!" I nearly shouted, but managed to keep things down. Don't want to disturb the other passengers.
"Man, I'm excited to see all of them again. I bet you are too huh, Pikachu?" Turning my head from the window, I saw my best buddy, all yellow and fluffy, gazing at me with his beady little eyes while sitting on my shoulder. Pikachu was my first Pokemon. We had a rough start but we've been best buddies ever since.
"Pika!" Pikachu smiled, punching a little paw into the air. He's so adorable.
Travelling's great, but really tiring. I've worked so hard these 5 years, sometimes I feel like I've lost out on being a kid. Could have been playing video games all day at home, cramming for a test the night before and running all around town with a few best friends. There's just something about being able to screw up and not have to worry about it that's so... wonderful. Although, that's exactly what I did wasn't it. Roaming the various regions with awesome companions who always had my back. And now that I think about it, Iris was always telling me what I a kid I was, heh.
Yet, to think that I only managed to get into the top eight of the Unova league. Sure, it's an enviable result, but I've gotten to the quarterfinal's three times already! Although I did win in the Orange league. That was the one time when I didn't switch out my entire team for new ones. Maybe, if I had stuck with the same Pokemon all the way I could have gone further in the tournaments. But then again, I wouldn't have had the experiences that I did with Swellow, Ambipom and so many other Pokemon if I did that.
Ok, so I wouldn't have done that differently. But I would like to be more skilled at handling Pokemon. It's fun when I get in the swing of things, but even though I'd never admit it to anyone, I really admired the way Paul battled. To be sure, I would never treat any of my Pokemon the way Paul did. It's just the way their attacks flow so smoothly one after the other. It was all so calculated and planned out. It gives his battling style a spark that I feel has been absent in mine all this while. Imagine combining my power with Paul's wits, we'd be unstoppable. I'm sure Misty would be impressed. Speaking of Misty, it's been a really, really long time since I've last seen her. I wonder how she's doing. Man, I'd like to battle her again just to show her how strong I've gotten. I can't believe that in our two years across Kanto and Johto that we only battled twice! And they weren't even real, complete battles. But I can't let my guard down if I ever go up against her again. She actually managed to raise a Gyarados, and teach it flamethrower! And that was two years ago while I was still in Hoenn. I can't imagine how much stronger she could have gotten in those two years.
"Pika?" Pikachu tilted its head to look at me with a perplexed look. I realised that I'd been spaced out for awhile in my thoughts.
I smiled, it's always easy to smile at Pikachu.
"Nothing Pikachu, I was just thinking," I said as I patted Pikachu gently on the head.
It's dark... Oh, I'm asleep. Ahh... my bed's so warm and comfy. Hmm? What's that that's prodding me? Go away... I wanna sleep...
I raised my hand to sweep whatever it was out of the way. But the thing still kept prodding me on the cheek as I layed in bed. I could detect the faint scent of damp grass, and had no idea what a smell like that was doing in my bedroom. I couldn't care less anyway. I tried to drift back off to sleep, but after 5 minutes it became clear that whatever it was that was disturbing me wasn't going to leave me alone. So I relented. Sitting up while rubbing my eyes and stretching my back, and felt something crawling off my belly onto my legs. Then I heard a croaky, but gentle voice.
I opened my eyes, and there he was, crawling back onto my lap, Bulbasaur! I was so happy to see him again that I didn't know what to say! I must have sat there smiling like an idiot for like ten seconds or so but Bulbasaur sure didn't seem to mind it. In fact, he was smiling back!
"Aww man! Bulbasaur I'm glad to see you!" I said as I scooped him into my arms.
"Bulba!" I don't speak Pokemon, but I'm pretty sure that meant "Me too!" His petals were soft, smooth and cool to touch. This was home alright.
I'd just arrived home at Pallet Town yesterday after a really long journey from Unova. Right after touch down I went to say hi to everyone, fighting the sleep monster all the way through. It was only six in the evening when I got home but I was so tired that I think I past out the moment I crashed into bed.
Looking around, I noticed that my floor was awfully clean. Mr Mime and Mom must have kept my stuff for me. Of course now that I'm back things won't stay clean for long. There has to be a little mess. Call it Ash's mark, if you will. A smile crept onto the side of my lips as I thought about how Mr Mime cleaning up while singing: "Mime! Mime!". That Pokemon sure has a lot of energy.
Bulbasaur and I cuddled for awhile, then I got down from my bed, releasing Bulbasaur for him to jump back onto the ground. I ran to my clothes drawer and started rummaging through the piles of clothes in search for something that I had been dying to try on for a really long time. I gasped when I finally saw it. Under an entire pile of T-shirts was the plain black one that I wore throughout my entire journey in Kanto. Yes, if you were wondering, I did wash them, I had several. And I changed my you-know-what everyday too. Almost everyday, anyway. I don't know why, but I just had a strong, almost painful desire to put on my old clothes. It took awhile, but I soon found my blue coat, light blue jeans, black and green gloves, and my Pokemon Expo Hat which I won by sending in a million postcards. Man did I have a lot of time back then.
The clothes were too small to fit me now though, which was to be expected. I'm 15 now, I've grown taller and packed on some muscle after travelling so much. So, I guess this was good for me. Still, what a bummer. My shirt couldn't even reach down to cover my belly. I caught my own eye in the mirror and was taken aback. The old Ash was staring right back at me. Even though the clothes hardly fit, I still looked like I had grown a few years younger. A wave of nostalgia swept over me. Maybe, just maybe, coming back to Pallet will help me regain my passion for Pokemon. No way I was going out in those undersized clothes, though. I changed into a large pale grey T-shirt that reached halfway down my thighs and a pair of baggy, knee-length pants. Then I completed the look with my old straw hat before heading out. I was just about to step out of the house when-
"Aaaaaash! I made breakfast for you!" My mom sang.
"Uuuahh! Mom! I'm going out!"
"What? Aren't you going to eat first? And what about seeing all your other Pokemon? I'm sure they're looking forward to meet you." My mom had a concerned look on her face. Trust your parents to know that something's amiss. The old Ash would have wolfed down mom's cooking and rushed out to meet all my old Pokemon. Now, even though I could smell that smell that I had been missing for so long, I had a huge lump in my throat and somehow I just knew that I wasn't going to be able to swallow any food.
"Well, uh, I need to get something done, I'll be back soon. Leave some for me ok Mom?" Then I quickly bent down to speak to Bulbasaur.
"Bulbasaur, you stay here and play with Pikachu ok?" I said as I lowered my cap to cover my face and rushed out of the door before my mom could speak further.
I arrived at that place. That place where Gary and I fought over that Pokeball. The rushing of the river water was really melodic. It was almost as if my parched ears were getting hydrated just by listening to that familiar sound of the currents. Gary and I had so much energy back then, making every little thing a competition just to prove that we were better than the other. Speaking of Gary, I wonder if he kept the half of the Pokeball that I gave him.
There were Pidgey chirping in the distance. The sun's glow was warm and gentle, it's harsh rays buffeted by clouds that passed by. Sitting on the grass, I threw my head back and closed my eyes to take it all in. For once in a really long time, I could sit back and relax. No worries about collecting badges in time for a Pokemon League or catching up with rivals. Or so I thought.
"Well, well, well. Fancy meeting you here!" The voice was sharp and familiar. Don't tell me...
I opened my eyes, and sure enough, it was Gary. My heart instinctively leapt into my mouth until I realised that Gary wasn't a jerk like he used to be. Ha. Pallet Town must be doing its trick of reviving the past.
"Hiya Ash, I didn't know you were in town. What are you doing here?"
"I... just finished competing in the Unova league, I came back for a break. And aren't you supposed to be in Sandgem Town doing research for Professor Rowan?" I asked, pointing a curious finger at him.
"I came back for a break too. Research was really tiring, even more so than compared to being a trainer. We had so many accidents and the other experiments that didn't blow up in our faces ended up being a complete waste of time. I was getting sick of all of it so I decided to come back for awhile."
Gary too? I guess I'm not the only one who's stuck in a rut then. But Gary could just be taking a regular old break. Me, I have no idea how long I'm going to be here. I didn't know what to say in reply to him as he continued to talk.
"To think we had so much fun as kids, watching Pokemon battles on television and getting all excited about getting our starters on our tenth birthday. I felt for sure that battling was what I would be doing all my life, and then when I discovered my love for researching I thought that that's what I would stick to for the rest of my life, too! Now it seems like my passion for studying Pokemon is flickering too, just like how it was with battling! Life sure knows how to throw curve balls at you huh Ash?" Gary looked down at the river as he said all this to me, his lips curled ever so slightly into a barely noticeable smile as he reminisced.
"Yea, I know what you mean." I said wistfully, looking too downcast perhaps, and Gary was quick to pounce on it.
"Ha! I had a hutch that something was up with you."
I gulped. Man Gary sure was sharp as ever. At least his eyes were. He had that familiar glint that left your soul feeling naked. I was almost expecting him to call me out on being a lousy trainer and topping his insults off by calling me 'Ashy-boy' condescendingly.
"H-How could you tell?"
"I wasn't sure exactly, but wearing that old straw hat, and coming to the place where we fought over a Pokeball before we started out our journey? I thought you might be just thinking about the good ol' times, but now it seems to me like you wanna go back to those old times! I'm guessing that the Unova League tournament wasn't great for you?"
"Well, not exactly. I did well, but..."
"You're not happy with doing well? How far did you go?"
"Top eight," I said, before looking down to the ground and taking a deep breath.
"Again." I sighed. A long, heavy, sigh.
"Top eight's pretty good if you ask me! There will always be more tournaments to compete in y'know." Gary smiled as he patted my shoulder to reassure me. And I snapped. Really sudden, I know. But c'mon. "Pretty good"? What else was he going to say, huh? Oh I know, "You're still young", you'll have plenty more chances, just try again". I've heard it all before, and I was sick of it.
"No Gary! You just don't get it do ya?" I cried, slapping his palm away.
"Huh? Ash what's gotten into ya?" Gary cried, looking shocked at my sudden outburst.
"Don't you know how tiring and disappointing it is to travel miles and miles to another region, train so hard with your Pokemon, fight countless of battles, just to get to yet another Pokemon League and not win? I've been doing this for 5 whole years Gary, and it doesn't look like I'm going to become a Pokemon Master any time soon. Sure I can always 'pick myself up and start over', but I'm tired! I'm so tired of failing and I just don't wanna do this any more!"
I was starting to choke up, which was really embarrassing for me especially in front of Gary. I think I really shocked him because he certainly wasn't expecting a reaction like that from me. I may be hot-headed and irrational but I certainly don't get angry all the time, and hardly ever like this. His jaw was left hanging for awhile, but he soon composed himself.
"Hmm. Well Ash, I'm certainly not going to tell you what to do. It's your life so you figure it out yourself. But we all need a little break sometimes."
Thanks Gary. I thought, but held the words in.
"Tell you what Ash." His eyes lit up and that a familiar smirk came back to his face. "Let's go mountain boarding!"
That sure lifted my spirits. Mountain boarding... Just like old times...
"Yahooooooooooo!" This was exhilarating. Travelling down the mountains at a breakneck's pace, feeling the cool wind rushing across my body. I felt free. Nothing could compare.
Gary came from behind, expertly maneuvering his wooden board to get around and then in front of me.
"Last one down's a rotten egg!" Gary cried out. Darn it, I sure didn't want to lose to him! Hey, wait a second. I was here to get my mind off competing.
"Aww, c'mon Gary, let's just have fun! I don't wanna race ya!"
I think I caught him off guard again. "Huh? Man Ash, you really have changed! Oh well, suit yourself!" He smirked and sped off. It did suck to be left in the dust like that, and I felt my competitive streak rise up in me a little. But I wasn't going to go back there again. No way. I was done with putting pressure on myself.
I must have let my mind wander off again. Because before I knew it I was about to smash into a rock.
"Arcanine go!" Gary was already at the base of the hill. He threw a Pokeball into the air and there was a flash of light. Arcanine was fast. It managed to run up to the hill and tackle me out of the way just before what might have been an ugly collision occurred. I landed on my back and rolled down the hill a little, but managed to slow myself down by digging my heels and hands into the soil. Then I ran down to meet up with Gary and Arcanine did the same.
"Hahaha! Man what a klutz! You sure scared me there for awhile. Just like that other time when we were training for the extreme Pokemon race!"
"Oh yea! I remember, and I remember beating you in that race too!" Screw being laid back, rubbing past victories in Gary's face felt good.
"Yea? Well if Arcanine and I hadn't stopped you from falling back then you would have ended up with a broken leg and wouldn't even have had the chance to be in the race, Ashy boy!"
Argh, there's that name again. I was wondering when he would say that since he showed up. I was already beginning to think that he'd outgrown that tired old phrase. Still, it did bring back some memories.
"I guess you're right, I owe you one then." I chuckled, scratching my hand against my back in embarrassment.
Gary laughed too, and for once in a really long time he wasn't laughing at me, but with me.
"Wanna go again? I'll race you to the top!" Gary said, picking up his wooden board.
Well, I guess a little friendly competition wouldn't hurt.
"Sure!" I raced ahead of him, picking up my wooden board that was stuck at the base of the rock that I nearly crashed into earlier.
Just running around playing in the sun with one of my childhood friends. I could get used to this.
*Crunch!* *Crunch!* *Crunch!* Went the brittle crisps as my teeth ground them into powder. The television screen flashed in the dark living room where Gary and I were lounging after a long day out. Nothing could beat vegging in front of the television with a bag of salty, crispy potato chips after a long day of hard work. The best part of all was that I had the whole couch to myself. Gary was sitting on the floor playing a video game on his laptop.
"Hey Ash, whatcha got there?" He said with his eyes glued to his screen. Must be some intense game.
"Uhh... Bellsprout's Garden Chips."
"Could'ja feed me? I'm fighting a boss battle right now." He said nonchalently, tilting his head towards me and opening his mouth wide as bright white light flashed across his screen and the sound of gunshots blared from his speakers.
"No way, get them yourself." I said, throwing the bag of chips onto the table.
"Hmph!" Gary snorted, a little annoyed that he had to pause his game in the middle of what was clearly an intense battle.
It's been over two weeks since I arrived in Pallet Town, and with nothing to do, Gary and I have been pretty much hanging out all the time. If we're not mountain boarding we're at Professor Oak's playing with our Pokemon, which helps take a load off the Old Profs back, so we're earning our keep in some way. When the sun sets we head to either one of our houses and play video games or watch television until its time to tune in. Life sure doesn't get any better than this. Of course, we both knew that it was too good to last.
Without warning, the living room lights went on, illuminating our dark technology haven. It was so blinding that I went into a daze for a moment.
"Ash Ketchum! How many times have I told you not to watch TV in the dark? Besides, do you know what time it is? Turn off the television and go to bed now! Gary, please be a dear and go wash up." It was mom, standing beside the television with her hands on her hips and a look that could cut glass. I shoved a pillow into my face and groaned.
"Uhh... Alright Mrs Ketchum." Gary said sheepishly as he closed his laptop. Normally he would have spoken in his usual suave fashion. I mean, what's wrong with playing video games after a long day outdoors right? Right. Except for one tinsie wincie problem. It was three in the morning. Gary bounded upstairs to brush his teeth, but mom surely wasn't going to let me off the hook that easily.
"Don't you know that it's bad for you to be lazing on the couch watching television and eating junk food for so long? You're going to get sick if you keep this up young man. You're 15 years old and I expect you to behave like a young adult. Learn to exercise some self control before I'm forced to treat you like a child and limit your TV time. I'm sure you don't want me to embarrass you in front of Gary, do you?"
Aww man. I could already imagine it. "Aaaaaaaashhh~! Time to go beddy-bye~!". Gary would never let me hear the end of it.
"Oh alright, mom..." I said, looking down at my feet which were plopped at the other end of the couch. I sure hoped Gary couldn't hear mom yelling at me.
"Good. Now-" She paused to stretch and let out a yawn. "Go to bed, it's late."
Mom headed back to her room as I walked back to mine. I opened the door to my bedroom to see Pikachu and Bulbasaur curled up next to each other on my bed sound asleep. Seeing my Pokemon buddies getting along with each other like that made me smile. It was then that I realised that I hadn't brushed my teeth yet. On my way to the bathroom door, I brushed past Gary who was heading back to my room where he would sleep on a mattress my mom provided.
"Your mom sure can be tough when she wants to, Ash." He said, a little nervously but I could tell that he was slightly amused by the situation as well.
"Yea, haha. I guess we should sleep early next time."
Where am I? What is this place? Nothing around me but a sea of purple nothingness all about me. And I'm... floating...
There's... something in the distance. Hey! Over here! Do you know what this place is? It's a figure of a human, but it didn't seem to respond to my cry. It's standing still, but continues to grow bigger. I realise that I'm moving towards it, willing my body along fact, instead of walking. The figure continues to grow larger as I float towards it and I can make out certain features now. It looks... familiar. It looks really familiar. I see... a distinct spiked pony tail at the side of a girl's head. Could it be...? She's coming closer. I can see her face now. A small pointed nose, a pair of blue eyes with a mischievous glint that couldn't wait to make fun of me. It is Misty! Boy was I glad to see her!
"Hello Ash, long time no see!"
"Misty! Do you know where we are? How did we get here?"
She doesn't respond. Her face is completely rigid. Her lips form a small smile, one that her eyes do not follow. She's starting to creep me out. Wait a second, I'm right next to her, but she's still getting bigger and bigger. I'm moving closer and closer to her face! I've never seen Misty up close
like this before. Her eyes look really strange for some reason, like there's some black fog dancing in the pupils. Misty stop! Mom said that I can only start dating girls at 18! Ok, ok, good you're backing away. Now my eyes are at your lips, your chin, your neck... Wait, what? I'm shrinking! What going on around here? I'm- Misty looks like a giant!
"Ash Ketchum, did you win the Unova League and become a Pokemon champion?"
No, but I did manage to make it to the top 8." I offered. "I know I'm not the best yet but I promise you that after I rest I'll train even harder and win the next Pokemon League!"
"I knew you wouldn't win, you're just a lousy trainer who got by on luck! You shouldn't even have qualified for the Pokemon League! YOU DIDN'T EARN YOUR BADGES, YOU GOT THEM JUST BECAUSE BROCK AND MY SISTERS FELT SORRY FOR YOU!" She bellowed in a deep, sinister voice that echoed all over the mysterious chasm. Then she threw her head back and started cackling maniacally. Now I was really starting to get scared.
"But didn't I train really hard? I fought my way into the top 16 of the Indigo League didn't I? And what about Lt. Surge? And Blaine? Misty, you don't think I'm that bad of a trainer do you?" Part of me was hoping that the Misty giant would bend down and comfort me. Then I heard another voice.
"She's right Ash. You're nothing short of a pathetic excuse for a trainer. I shouldn't have even given you the boulder badge. Using Pikachu's electric shock to set off the sprinklers? What a cheap trick!"
"B-brock... You too?" I could feel my eyes softening in grief, and a pang in my heart that's been recurring for the last couple of months. One that I'd been trying to escape since I came back to Pallet. Brock wasn't looking at me anymore. He was looking on the ground. He held a fist up at me, and it was shaking. Shaking violently.
"And to think, that I accompanied you all those years travelling to the various regions, teaching you about battle strategies, attacks, Pokemon food and how to groom your Pokemon, for you to screw up the Pokemon League time and time again! All while I could have been pursuing my own dream of becoming world class Pokemon breeder instead of wasting my time on you! YOU RUINED MY DREAM WITH YOUR INCOMPETENCE ASH KETCHUM!"
He pointed at me and joined Misty in hysterical laughter. I didn't realise when but now both of them had grown into giants and were towering over me, looking down on me, sneering and mocking.
Just then, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"I'm here Ash, don't worry!" It was Dawn! She smiled at me sweetly, and for a moment all my fears disappeared. Finally, someone who's normal around here.
"Dawn! It's you! This place is really creepy, all my old friends are turning into giants and laughing at me! Dawn?"
She floated backwards, putting some distance between her and I before stopping.
"Wait! Where are you going? How do I get out of this crazy place?"
Dawn was looking down again, just like Brock.
"You know what I've always had to worry about, Ash? You! You and your stupid Pokemon battles! You can't even win the Pokemon League, and you think that you're fit to teach me how to battle? No wonder I didn't win the Grand Festival, it's YOUR FAULT for thinking so highly of yourself. You're not a good trainer, and my coordinator career was ruined all because of you!"
"That's right! That goes double for me Ash! Drew and Harley were much better trainers than you! That's why I lost to them even though I trained with you all the time! You're a pathetic training partner!" It was May, stepping from behind Dawn to stand beside her. Both their eyes were burning with rage against me.
"B-But I tried my best! Honest! I only wanted to help you because you were my friends! I didn't realise that I was such a bad trainer!"
Then I heard an obnoxious voice scream in my ear.
"YOUR NAME IS ALF!"
I looked behind to see giant Max bending down, staring directly at my face.
"Max! I already told you my name is Ash!"
"I'm sorry, I forgot about your name. See, you lost in the second round of the Silver Conference! There's no way anyone's going to remember your name! You will be buried deep in the Pokemon League's history record just like the rest of the losers who failed to become Pokemon Masters! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Now all five of them had grown into giants, surrounding me with their fingers pointed and their heads thrown back in maniacal laughter. What is this crazy place? How do I get out of here!?
I feel myself slipping deeper and deeper into darkness, my friend's laughter growing louder and louder until the sinister sound engulfs me. All I can see are their menacing eyes, glowing in the purple fog. Overcome by fear, I shut my eyes and let out a blood curling scream.
On the outside the battles may be tough, but the friends are real.
"AAAHHHH!" I screamed as I opened my eyes. My white ceiling flooded my vision as I was pulled back into the real world. I sat abruptly in my bed, almost afraid that the giant versions of my friends in the nightmare woud pull me back into that dark abyss if I remained lying down. Cold sweat poured down my temples and my matted hair stuck to the back of my neck. A tingling sensation crawled all over my skin, and it felt as if the floor beneath me would give way any time. I huddled up in the sheets with a pillow tightly clutched to my chest to brace myself, even though I knew in my logical mind that it was ridiculous for me to be afraid of something like that.
"Nightmare?" Gary's voice jolted me out of my dark little bubble, which I was grateful for. He was standing at the window with Bulbasaur and Pikachu perched on the window sill. I was slightly embarrassed, and hoped that Gary hadn't seen all the raw emotion that I displayed on my face. Pikachu leaped off the window sill and hopped over into my lap. I sure stank off sweat that had been fermenting overnight, though it wasn't anything that Pikachu wasn't used to.
"Chuu?" He asked, with one ear slacked and a look of concern on his face.
"I'm ok Pikachu, thanks for the concern. I had a... nightmare, yea." I said, turning to Gary as I mumbled the last few words. As I gave him a weak grin, I noticed that the sky was painted in a pink hue.
"Umm... Gary, what time is it?"
"What? But that means that we barely got four hours of sleep! I'm going back to bed." I said as I yawned and stretched.
"Toughen up dude, surely you can go one day with less than adequate amount of sleep! Besides, I'm sure you wouldn't want to miss this sight, come take a look!" Gary waved a hand to motion for me to come over to the window.
What did he want me to see? The sunrise? I've seen that many times already. It took a lot of effort for me to pry my eyes open, and a wave of grogginess as I forced my weary eyes to do their job. Whatever it was, it'd better be good. I slowly trotted over to the window, still fighting to keep my eyes open. What I saw when I looked out the window took my breath away and I completely forgot about how tired I was.
Across the fields, above the mountains that stood in a distance, was a swarm of Butterfree! They wafted across the skies, their large, white, striped wings beating slowly and softly. The air around them sparkled in colours of purple, blue and yellow, which I reckon came from the powders from their wings. The powder filled air glowed softly with the light from the warm morning sun that was peaking out of the mountain ridges. That majestic view was aptly complemented with the Butterfree's shrill, yet mild cries.
"You're right Gary, this is great!" I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear as I looked on.
"The Butterfree cross the sea from over at Vermillion City back to the Vermillion Forest where they came from to lay their eggs during this time of the year. Pallet Town just happens to be in between these two places so the Butterfree pass by here along the way. Some of them even settle down in the mountains to take a break. But," He paused to grin at me after that scholarly speech. "I'm sure you didn't know that, did you, Ashy-boy?"
"What? I did too! In fact, I happened to release my Butterfree in Vermillion City so that he could find a mate back when I was still in Kanto! Besides, you'd think that I'd have already seen Butterfree flying by when I was growing up in Pallet." It felt good to be able to rebutt one of Gary's snide remarks for once. Gray just snorted in reply, never one to truly admit defeat.
But it was more friendly little shots that we took at each other now, it wasn't serious and neither one of us intended to hurt the other's feelings.
We stood there in silence for awhile, mesmerized by the Butterfree fluttering across the mountains.
"Say Gary, you think we could head up the mountains to get a closer look at the butterfree?"
"Sure thing. Butterfree are quite timid actually. So I guess there wouldn't be any danger. But we'd have to be quite though, it's their mating season and we don't want to disturb them."
After two hours of trekking, we finally arrived at the top of the mountain. Butterfree were laying down on a vast flower field, mostly in pairs. Flowers were scattered all over the plain like a rainbow mosaic, and the black and white splotches of Butterfree wings brought out the colours even more. Gary and I crouched down behind some bushes, being careful of where we placed our feet so that we do not accidentally snap a fallen branch and startle the Butterfree.
"It's really beautiful huh Pikachu, Bulbasaur?" I said to the two Pokemon who were crouched at the bottom of the bush where their little bodies were easily concealed.
They didn't really give me an answer apart from squeaking quietly, I'm sure they were as captivated by the sight as I was. We saw more Butterfree were fluttering down from the skies to take their landing looking a lot like snowflakes tumbling from the sky.
Just then, Bulbasaur barked excitedly and sped off into the grassy plain, scaring away any Butterfree that was in it's path before diving into a deep flower patch.
"Hey Bulbasaur! Wait up!" Leaving my hiding spot behind the bush and running towards him with Pikachu and Gary following behind me, startling even more Butterfree along the way.
"Bulbasaur, you're not supposed to come out here, you're disturbing the Butter- huh?" I was cut off mid speech by what I saw. There was a Butterfree standing in front of Bulbasaur, and the two of them seemed to be engaged in a... conversation of sorts.
"Pika-pi!" Pikachu hopped toward them both and joined them in their animated chatter.
"Say, what's going on?" I scratched my head, confused, and still feeling a little bit bad about disturbing the Butterfree.
The three Pokemon stopped their conversation and looked up at me. Both Bulbasaur and Pikachu's eyes were sparkling with glee. Then the Butterfree flew up to my face and circled me a couple of times before landing on my shoulder.
"Pikachu!" Pikachu nodded in approval.
"Wow, this is pretty fascinating Ash. I don't think I've ever seen Butterfree so friendly towards humans before. You sure have a knack for befriending Pokemon!"
"Huh? Well, if you say so!" I chuckled, blossoming with pride at Gary's complement.
"Pi...Ka!" Pikachu frowned, his ears twitching in irritation. He pointed a tiny paw at Butterfree and waved his arms about in the air.
"What is it Pikachu? Are you trying to tell me something about this Butterfree?" I said, turning to look at the Butterfree that was perched on my shoulders. It was then that I noticed that this Butterfree was wearing a yellow scarf. A yellow scarf? Hmm... why does it seem to remind me of something? It's like one of those things that you just know is buried deep within the dusty, forsaken corners of your mind, but can't quite spit out.
"Oh, it has a yellow ribbon. Pikachu have we seen this ribbon somewhere before? It reminds me of something, but I don't know what!"
"Pi!" Pikachu gasped in shock and toppled over in mock unconsciousness. Bulbasaur laughed. Whether at Pikachu or me I didn't know.
Then it struck me.
"Wait! I've got it! It's umm... a scarf right! So it's got something to do with Pokemon Contests? No wait, that doesn't seem quite right..."
"Pika! Pika! Pikachuuuu!" Now Pikachu was starting to get really frustrated with me, making all sorts of facial expressions and jumping all over the place in a frantic attempt to jog my memory. Then Butterfree flew off my shoulder and started to flutter in mid air in front of me. Somehow, looking at Butterfree dancing like that in front of me with that yellow scarf, however torn and tattered, triggered a whole series of memories with the same Butterfree that I caught back when I was travelling in Kanto. It couldn't be...
"Wait a second, t-this is Butterfree, isn't it? Pikachu, is that what you were trying to tell me? That this Butterfree was the one that we met in Viridian Forest?" I was a little embarrassed and felt bad for Butterfree for not remembering him, at the same time I didn't want to get my hopes dashed. Pikachu confirmed it with a delighted nod of the head, however.
"Man Ash, how could you forget something like that?" Gary sighed and so did Pikachu and Bulbasaur. I wasn't paying any attention to them though. I couldn't believe it, after so many years, I thought I'd never get to see Butterfree again. See, Butterfree was the very first Pokemon that I'd ever caught, and I was really sad to see him go, but I did so anyway because it was the best thing to do at the time.
"Hahaha, Butterfree! It's really you! How have you been buddy? You look like you've grown bigger and stronger since the last time I saw you!"
Butterfree let out a high pitched shrill and nodded his head in agreement, spinning up and down in front of me. I guess Butterfree was really happy to see me too.
Then another Butterfree flew down towards us. It was the pink one that caught Butterfree's heart back in Viridian City.
"Hey. You're Butterfree's girlfriend aren't you? It's nice to meet you!" The pink Butterfree blushed and nodded shyly.
Meanwhile, in Cerulean City...
"Huff... Huff..." I breathed heavily as my feet pounded against the concrete pavement. Breathing through my mouth left it dry, and my feet were sore from running over long distances, but it didn't matter. If you want to be a respectable Gym Leader, you have to work hard.
Opps, I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself. Hi, I'm Misty. I'm the Cerulean City Gym Leader. I haven't been in this position for very long. My three older sisters used to be in charge of the Gym until I took over when they went for a vacation.
"Come on Misty, can we take a break? My legs are like killing me." Lily, my third sister, cried out from behind me.
"Yea, we've been at this for hours!" My second sister Violet joined her in protest. Both of them were trailing far behind my oldest sister, Daisy and I.
"No way! If you have the energy to talk like that you certainly have the energy to run! We're not stopping until your feet fall off!" I roared, and continued to jog off, leaving Lily and Violet to reluctantly shuffle their feet to catch up. See, this was the reason why I had to take over. My sisters used to be wonderful Pokemon trainers, but for some reason they lost their drive and became interested in silly things like painting their nails and going shopping. I mean, there's nothing wrong with doing those things for fun, but it has utterly consumed their lives. At first I thought it was just
a phase that they would get over, but they've been this way for over five years now. They still do help out with Gym Leader duties, but of course, I take care of majority of the battles. The part that infuriates me the most? Their attitude. It's one thing to lose, it's another to simply give up whenever the going gets tough, and that's exactly what my sisters do all the time. At least Daisy shows some level of maturity. But for the most part, trying to keep these three motivated is an absolute pain.
"I don't see what's the point of all this training anyway, we could be like some cute clothes right now instead of getting all sweaty and stinking in these ugly outfits!" Lily groaned, being mindful of complaining loud enough for me to be able to hear her from a distance. I felt my neck muscles stiffen.
"We should never have sent her to collect badges from Mr Kinzo. It's bad enough that we have to break our backs every time we run out, but now that Misty's gotten all serious about being a Gym Leader we have to do Mr Kinzo's workouts everyday!"
Sigh... I'm doing the best I can to help us become better trainers and also make things fun and engaging for them. Ok fine, maybe part of the reason why I'm so motivated is because I get to torture my sisters. Still, one can only listen to so much complaining before they go crazy.
We continued to jog three more times around the neighbourhood before we finally headed back to the Cerulean Gym. Determined to get the most out of my workout, I burst into a sprint, leaving Daisy trailing behind. At least she was still maintaining her speed. Violet and Lily had already given up and were strolling back. Upon reaching the Gym's doors, I turned around.
"Hurry up you three! We're not done yet!"
"I don't think I can take this anymore, Misty." Daisy moaned as she collapsed at the entrance of the gym.
"Mist-iii, it's late already! Can we eat something and go to bed? We can always train tomorrow!" Violet cried out as she sauntered her way towards the Gym. Lily nodded vigorously. I wanted to slap them both.
"Oh no you don't! You may be older than me but I'm the leader of the Cerulean City Gym so I'm the one in charge around here! We're going to train our Pokemon at the pool now, and nobody gets dinner until I see you three put in a hundred percent! Lily, I'm training with you today!" I knew that Lily and Violet would slack off if they trained together. I knew what was coming next.
Lily and Violet groaned.
We stood on random floating boards scattered across the pool where we held our battles. The pool was divided by an imaginary line across its length with Daisy and Violet facing off in one half while Lily and I faced off in another. Daisy and Violet were training their water gun attacks with Luvdisc and Goldeen respectively. They were focused, but neither of them were particularly excited about having to train on an empty stomach. My training session with Lily on the other side of the pool however, was much more... heated, to put in nicely.
"Corsola, use Spike Cannon and don't stop until I tell you to!" I commanded. Corsola's voice rumbled in her throat as her body glowed white and bright white bullets fired out of her horns towards Lily's Seel. Seel gracefully dodged the attacks by swimming away, and Corsola adjusted her aim to follow Seel.
Battling against my sisters is honestly quite boring since we all know each other's tactics so well. After battling the same people so many times you kinda get this numbness that makes you wonder if training with them is going to do you any good since you know that nobody else will be so boringly predictable.
"C'mon Lily you can't keep dodging forever! Tell Seel to attack!"
"No way! If Seel goes in, he'll definitely get knocked by Corsola's Spike Cannon! Why don't you move in?"
"Ugh, Corsola would have already hit Seel by now if I wasn't taking it easy on you, just- just come up with an attack right now!"
"Fine! If it'll shut you up, Seel! Aurora Beam!"
Seel dived into the water and swam towards Corsola before surfacing again and shooting a rainbow coloured beam at the Coral Pokemon. But before the beam could hit its mark, Corsola started to glow red. The beam bounced off Corsola and went right back towards Seel, knocking it backwards a couple of feet into the air before it landed with an emphatic splash.
"See! I knew that would happen! Look Misty, I'm just not as good a trainer as you alright, what do you expect me to do?" Lily's stiffened her lower lip as she folded her arms and looked away in anger.
"Come up with a strategy to counter Corsola's Mirror Coat! I can't do all the thinking for you!" I sighed. I can't stand my sisters' defeatist attitude. At least try! If I can just find a way to tear off that facade of shopping, manicures and underwater ballet that they wear to escape the incompetence that they feel deep down. Not that they would ever admit something like that to me. It's some older sibling pride thingy. Or maybe they got so good at acting stupid that they really were becoming stupid.
On the outside the battles may be tough, but the friends are real.
I will admit that it's been a long time since I've watched the Pokemon anime. Aside from a single mid-season episode I've seen here and there, the last time that I really watched the anime was back in the Advanced seasons. So when I saw that your fanfic was about Ash about the Unova league, I was interested to see where this was going to go.
It struck me as strange that Ash would return home to Pallet and take a break from Pokemon training just because he got in the top eight of the Unova league. It was a cheap loss (against someone who has captured several legendary Pokemon, which in the anime universe is rather sketchy), but Ash just doesn't strike me as the type of person to give up Pokemon training or lose his passion for Pokemon.
But maybe that's because his personality keeps getting reset at the beginning of each region.
I'm guessing with the title being "Settling Old Scores" and Gary playing a major part in this story (with Misty just arriving on the scene in the recent chapter) that this fanfic plays more towards the nostalgia side. Which helps for readers like me that really only paid attention to the old days of the anime.
Your story has a slow start to get to anything exciting, but it works here. Ash is returning to his roots in Pallet Town, trying to go back to the ten-year-old boy that he was when he started training. Meeting up with his friends at that time can help. I like that Ash and Gary have matured to the point where they can put aside their differences in raising Pokemon and just be teenagers sharing lazy summer days together.
It's a nice, quiet, slow story that I enjoyed reading outside on a hot day. Seeing old familiar faces is great (particularly Butterfree, whose arrival made me smile) and the drawing card of this fic.
Since you asked for me to look for any weird grammar quirks, we'll get to that part now.
-I'd recommend looking up the rules for punctuating dialogue. In some places, it was put in wrong.
-"I had a hutch something was up with you." - "hutch" should be "hunch"
-Personally, I'd rewrite the opening lines of chapter two so it's not an onomatopoeia. Instead of "*Crunch**Crunch**Crunch*", have something along the lines of "Ash crunched on some potato chips as he sat in a dark living room."
-"Old Profs' back" - should be "old Professor's back"
-When using a title, you capitalize it when it can replace the person's name. So when Ash says "My mom stood at the door," "mom" isn't capitalized. It is if the sentence says something like "Leaning in the door way, Mom glared at Gary and me."
-"But we have to be quite though" - "quite" should be "quiet"
-When the scene switches over to Misty, it read really awkwardly to have her say "Hi, I'm Misty, from Cerulean City..." in the actual narration. Share that information through the story, like you did with Ash. We didn't have to be told that Ash was telling this story. We could guess that by the clues the narration dropped: returning to his home in Pallet, talking to Pikachu, thinking about his previous Pokemon.
If you have any questions or would like me to explain anything further, always feel free to ask! Good luck with the rest of your story!