Trainer @warsofshadows
Cerulean Blue

A/N: Please make sure to read the author's note below, as it contains something(s) important. Anyway, enjoy chapter four!

Edit: After a long time of consideration, I decided to change Poliwag with Psyduck. Challenger's Darkfire1220 has already done a member of the Poliwag line (a.k.a Douse, who is my favourite pokémon after Sobek) and I feel like I'm stealing his/her(?) idea. Psyduck seems more original even though there was a Golduck included in Traveller, albeit for a short time.


Chapter Four: Cerulean Blue

Ash spent the rest of the day resting in his sleeping bag. All of them were dead tired from the day's events, and none of the others complained about Ash's suggestion. As quickly as they could, they'd rolled out their sleeping bags and curled up right on the spot.

They kept their pokémon in their pokeballs. The three had decided to heal them up the next morning as soon as possible – their pokémon were most probably still distressed due to the previous events and none of them wanted to take the trouble of calming him down.

While Natalie and Jack slept immediately, Ash stayed awake for quite some time. He still didn't know what to make out of the Clefairy he'd captured. His best guess was that the fairy-type had wanted to go out and see the world and had chosen him to be its trainer.

Not that he complained. He was incredibly happy that he had a Clefairy on his team. It was like capturing a Dratini in the wild; Clefairy were along the same vein as Dratini in terms of rarity.

He shrugged. He'd introduce it to the rest of his family tomorrow, and he couldn't wait to see the looks on Natalie's and Jack's faces when he would release it. In the meantime, he decided to catch up on his sleep. Giving a huge yawn and ignoring his aching shoulder, Ash drifted off into the realm of unconsciousness.


The next morning, Ash, Natalie and Jack woke up with new vigour. According to his pokégear, it was half past noon, meaning that they'd slept for over twelve hours. Ash recoiled involuntarily as he took a whiff of his clothes – yuck. He made a mental note to give his clothes a thorough wash when he would reach Cerulean.

While they let their food cook, the trio let loose their pokémon, who burst forth in a rush of white light. All of them looked pretty worn out and the trainers immediately set to work.

Ash took a super potion from his medicine pouch and sprayed it over Saur's numerous bruises. The saurian winced as the medicine touched his wounds, but relaxed once the hurt marks healed quickly. Ash patted the Ivysaur on the head and turned his attention to the rest of his team.

Delphi was perfectly fine since she hadn't participated in the brutal battle against the Rockets. Ash just sprayed a small amount of a normal potion on her, making her as good as new. The Natu chirped and hopped onto his shoulder, nipping Ash's ear affectionately.

Ash grinned as he tended to the newly-evolved Flaaffy in front of him. He'd been waiting to inspect Zeus ever since he'd heard the news about him yesterday. His skin had changed from blue to a soft pink and become more rubbery, and a white man of wool covered his head and upper body. His tail had lengthened and the orb on the tip had changed from orange to blue.

Ash sprayed the super potions over the Flaaffy fondly. Zeus' eyes were half open as the wounds and bruises on his body cleared out due to the effects of the healing potion. Within a minute, Zeus was much better off than before and stood up on his hind legs, examining his body.

Ash could see Natalie and Jack eyeing Zeus enviously. By now neither of their pokémon had evolved, while Ash had two evolved pokémon with him. He allowed himself a smug smile and turned his attention to Zeus.

"How do you feel, Zeus?" Ash asked him. The Flaaffy snapped towards Ash and bleated happily. He experimentally electrified his body with a Charge and then grunted when the electricity subsided.

Ash snorted when he saw Zeus boastfully jab at the air. "Yeah, yeah," he said with a roll of his eyes. "Don't forget that Saur's evolved, too. If you keep your guard down, I'll make him whip you back into shape."

Zeus harrumphed. Like that overgrown bulb was really a match for him! He'd show the Ivysaur his place if it was the last thing he'd do.

"Anyway," Ash said suddenly, grabbing everyone's attention, human and pokémon alike, "I got someone to introduce you to." He tapped Clefairy's pokeball on his belt.

"Who?" Jack asked, puzzled. He took a swig from his flask of water. "What, did you catch a Zubat or someth—"

Jack sprayed Natalie in the face with water when Ash let the capture loose.

"Wh-what!" Jack choked out in shock, thumping his chest repeatedly. His face was absolutely comical and made Ash want to burst out laughing.

"Jack, you idiot!" Natalie screamed, examining her wet clothes. Jack ignored her.

"When did you catch a Clefairy?!" he continued. "We were with you the whole time!"

Ash didn't say anything, but allowed himself a ghost of a smile on his face. Clefairy was looking at the others in confusion, obviously not recognising any of them.

"Wait..." Natalie narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "You didn't steal one when we were with the Clefable's colony, did you?"

"I didn't steal it!" Ash replied frantically. "I just..."

When Ash finished his story, the others were even more flabbergasted.

"You mean it just came with you?!" Jack muttered, incredulous. "Like, la-di-da, I just happened to come across a random trainer I don't know but I wanna travel with him!"

"Yeah," Ash said, "something like that."

Clefairy looked at Jack curiously, then turned around in confusion. Ash guessed it didn't know he was traveling with these people.

"Hey, Clefairy," Ash told it. "Do you remember me? You got yourself captured last night."

Clefairy nodded and rolled its eyes like that was obvious. Ash continued. "Well, my name's Ash Ketchum. I'm on my way to become the strongest pokémon trainer the world. Do you want to help me in my quest?"

The Clefairy smiled, touched by the child's consideration. It nodded, confirming Ash's belief that it wanted to go out and explore the world, and he grinned.

"Great!" he exclaimed. "Alright, let me introduce you to the rest of my team. This is Saur—" he pointed at the Ivysaur, who grunted and raised a vine in acknowledgement, "Delphi—'" the little Natu chirped in welcome, and Clefairy smiled at her, "and this is Zeus." Clefairy exclaimed something happily in its native tongue and Zeus bleated at it in response.

"This is it for now," he told Clefairy once he was done introducing everyone else, "but we'll keep adding on as we keep travelling. Fine?"

Ash then took out his pokédex and scanned Clefairy. He wanted to assess it properly before he began training it. He pointed the lens at an oblivious Clefairy, and a few seconds later the instrument began spouting out information about it.

Clefairy, the fairy pokémon, it said. Ash rolled his eyes at its species name – the person who classified it must've been really bored to think of something so unoriginal. The moonlight that it stores in the wings on its back give it the ability to float in mid-air. The more moonlight it stores, the healthier it is.

This Clefairy is female and knows the moves: Disarming Voice, Pound, Double Slap, Sing, Defence Curl, Magical Leaf, Sweet Kiss, Aromatherapy, and Wake-Up Slap. Its ability is Magic Guard, which prevents it from indirect damage.

Clefairy seemed pretty powerful. She knew a variety of moves, ranging from special to physical to status attacks. Pretty soon, Clefairy would become an invaluable asset on his team.

Plus, he even had the Moon Stone shard which the Clefable had given him. According to it, the shard was different than other moon stones – it made the pokémon far stronger after evolution and could be used as many times as a person wanted.

Ash couldn't wait to unlock her dragon-slaying powers.

"Say, do you want a nickname, Clefairy?" he asked her. "Everybody else has one."

Clefairy thought for a few seconds before she nodded. Ash found it hard to list off names for Clefairy; he wanted something to suit her gentle personality, and he finally hit one that definitely fit her.


Her eyes glimmered when she heard the name and Ash nodded in agreement. Luna was a name that really suited her, what with Clefairy's thaumaturgy and cosmic manipulation. He couldn't think of an aggressive name for such a gentle creature, and he couldn't think of her in any other way.

"Okay, Luna, why don't you go spend some time with the others till we serve breakfast?" Ash suggested.

While Ash and Natalie went to stir the food, the newly dubbed Luna trilled in delight and floated off to inspect the rest of her new family. Ash noticed her shying away from Saur for some inexplicable reason, leaving the Ivysaur perplexed. The Clefairy circled Saur a good distance away from him and leaned a bit forward to sniff his pink bud before moving on the next person on the team.

Still, Luna held the one known as Saur in high regard, even though she wasn't fond of his poisons. It was clear with the way her behaved that he was the leader of their pack and her new trainer's first friend. She decided that eventually she would warm up to him and lessen her distaste for poison-spewing creatures.

Luna had a far better interaction with Zeus. The newly-evolved electric-type talked to Luna in a series of bleat while she spoke back in her native tongue. The fairy moved around the Flaaffy for a moment before she experimentally poked his back. She jumped back when she received a small electric shock in return and Zeus snickered in response. Luna eyed him curiously, then smiled and moved on to Delphi.

After spending just a few seconds with the Natu, Luna and Delphi absolutely free fawned over each other. Delphi was finally happy that there was another girl on the team; she was sick and tired of Saur and Zeus, who simply wanted to train all day. And their eating habits! Delphi sure was glad that Luna had come into the team.

The bird finally had a sister – one that could match her fighting spirit and her thirst to grow stronger.

Ash chuckled as Delphi and Luna chatted animatedly, the former waving her stubby wings and the latter her short arms. He was sure that the two girls would've kept talking if it weren't for him gaining everyone's attention.

While Natalie served food into three plates, Jack and Ash pulled out several tins of pokémon food for their friends. All their pokémon waddled over when the two trainers opened the tins and handed two to each pokémon. They immediately formed their own groups and began gobbling down the nutrient-filled pellets.

Ash made a note to give Zeus more food than the rest. Increased hunger was a normal quirk for any newly-evolved pokémon, and he wouldn't be surprised if Zeus ate twice as much on his first day as a Flaaffy. In any case, it didn't matter much to the others. Saur mostly depended on photosynthesis for nutrition and only ate the food pellets for the extra nutrients. Delphi detested the pokémon food (they weren't noted for their taste) and ate mostly berries from Ash's stock.

When Ash first gave Luna her food, she took one whiff of it and recoiled. Ash smirked at that, and then fished out a bowlful of berries from his pouch, but the Clefairy immediately separated the Liechi berries from the rest and began wolfing them down. Ash held back a snort at that, and didn't see Delphi glaring at him. He didn't allow her to have so many berries like that!

Luna sat next to Ash throughout the entire breakfast. Ash kept talking to her – he wanted her to have a clear picture about his goals and his expectations – the Clefairy listened attentively to everything he had to say. From the way he talked, Luna could make out that he was kind, honest, pure-hearted, courageous – the ideal human. She had made the right choice in choosing her human.

Pretty soon they were done with their hearty breakfast. Ash, Jack and Natalie cleaned all their dishes and utensils and threw the empty tins of pokémon food in a trash bag. They got their hands cleaned before recalling their pokémon and hitting the road.

Ash got into many battles as they made their way to Cerulean, although he used mainly Zeus and Luna in battles. He was still pumped that Zeus had evolved and he'd caught a Clefairy, so he put both of them to the test. Zeus was much stronger than before and had learnt two new moves: Take Down and Electro Ball. Take Down was just a much more powerful version of Tackle, and although it had more power it also gave the user high recoil damage. Plus, Ash figured he'd have learnt it eventually, what with practising Wild Charge so much. Ash didn't exactly know what Electro Ball was, but he quickly figured out that it was just an electric-version of Energy Ball.

Luna was a huge surprise, though. Most people thought that Clefairy were timid creatures, but Luna proved all of them wrong. She had a Double Slap that made him swear never to get onto the bad side of girls and her Pound was pretty decent too. She had good control over all her moves as far as Ash could judge. Luna was probably the strongest on his team right now.

Her Magical Leaf got Ash thinking. Her control over the attack was really good, so he decided to ask her to help Saur in learning it. Magical Leaf was an egg move for Saur and the grass-type was still finding it difficult to master all of them. The only hindrance was that Luna wasn't very fond of Saur and wouldn't like being told to work with him. As far as Ash knew, Saur hadn't done anything to hurt Luna, but it must be with him being a part poison-type.

Only time would tell.

Finally, after a four-hour long walk, Ash and the others saw civilization up ahead of them. Although it had been only a day since they'd been in Mt Moon, Ash was itching to dive into a warm, cosy bed for once. Even the others were excited when the first saw the low buildings that were scattered around the mass of land that was known as Cerulean City.

Jack leaned on the wooden sign that read 'Cerulean City – 1.0 kilometres ahead'. Ash, however, wasn't focused on that. A smaller inscription, written in the lower corner of the sign, caught his attention.

"What's this?" Ash squinted and leaned to the sign, determined to read the writing. He didn't know why it brought so much curiosity to him, but nevertheless he took a better look.

Gary was here. Ash is a loser.

Jack and Natalie burst out laughing when they too saw what was written on the sign. With a surge of newfound rage and energy, Ash jumped back and made a mad dash for Cerulean City.

"I'm gonna get that Gary if it's the last thing I do," Ash growled to himself as he sprinted to Cerulean, leaving everybody else in the dust.



Ash grinned as the videophone's screen blinked to life, showcasing his mother. "Hi, Mom!"

He could practically feel his mother's wide smile once she saw he son on the other end of the line. "Hi, Ashy! You haven't called me since Pewter!"

"Well, Mt Moon has pretty bad reception," Ash replied with a cheeky grin.

His mom laughed at that. "So, how has your journey been? And how's your Bulbasaur been since I last saw him?"

"Great!" he remarked. "Saur evolved during our battle against Brock – wait, I'll send him out right now," he added, taking out the pokeball on his belt.

Saur growled happily at his trainer when he came out. Ash grunted a he struggled to lift the saurian up, but eventually managed to do it. "Here he is!"

Saur cocked his head curiously when he saw Delia on the videophone's screen. "Saur, you remember my mom, right?" he told him. "You met her back in Professor Oak's lab."

Saur's scarlet eyes lit up in recognition and he waved a vine happily at Delia in a form of greeting. Ash's mother smiled at the grass-type. "That's nice! I'm happy to hear he's doing well. Have you caught any other?"

"Mhmm." Ash nodded. "On route one, I got a Natu – I named her Delphi – and a Mareep-now-Flaaffy whose name is Zeus."

Ash saved Luna for the last. He'd throw the surprise on her when she'd ask about Mt Moon.

"You mean your Mareep evolved?"

"Yep," Ash confirmed. "He's a lot stronger now, but I've given him to Nurse Joy for a check-up."

Delia looked thoughtful. Then she smiled at Ash again. "Anyway, how was Mt Moon?"

"Mt Moon was fine," he said, glossing over the encounter with the Clefairy colony and Team Rocket. "We made it through by night, though."

"Did you see any Clefairy?"

Ash smirked. "I caught one."

His mother went slack-jawed. "What."

"I'm serious!" he exclaimed hastily. "You can ask Professor Oak if you want! He'll check up his directory and tell you the truth in no time!"

Delia looked excited. "Can I see it?"

Ash dutifully obliged. In one toss, Luna was out of her pokeball and inside the Pokémon Centre. Ash saw many heads turn in Luna's direction, but the Clefairy didn't notice them. Ash ignored the onlookers.

Delia's eyes widened and she practically squealed in delight as she saw the Clefairy next to her son. "Oh, my! She's so pretty!"

"Gee, Mom, I hope you don't have a fit," Ash teased.

"Stop it, you," his mom scoffed. "All I can say right now is that I can't wait for you to get back home! You've got quite the family at your disposal!"

Ash chuckled. "How are Natalie and Jack, by the way?" his mother asked next.

Ash's conversation with Delia went on for another thirty minutes before Ash heard the person behind him tap her foot on the floor impatiently. "Gotta go, Mom," Ash told her. "I anyway have to battle Misty and go collect Zeus. I'll call you before I leave Cerulean, though!"

"Okay," Delia said. "Bye, sweetie! Take care and good luck!"

Ash said goodbye one last time before disconnecting the call. The trainer behind him heaved a sigh of relief and Ash frowned, turning back to stare at her with an annoyed expression on his face, only to find her eyeing Luna greedily. Ash shot her one last dirty look before moving to the Centre's front desk.

"I'm here to receive one Flaaffy, please," he told the nurse at the desk. Nurse Joy nodded and handed over a scratched pokeball while never removing her eyes from the computer screen for one second. Ash murmured thanks before moving away.

Ash arrived at the couch where Natalie and Jack were sitting. Jack was drumming his fingers on the coffee table while Natalie was browsing through her pokédex.

Immediately, he felt his heart sink. They'd made a plan back in Pallet Town – a plan to travel together till Cerulean City and go their separate ways, having their own journeys.

How could it be so soon that he was parting ways with two of his best friends?

"So..." Ash removed the heartiness from his voice. "What are your next plans?"

Natalie looked up from her pokédex. "I'm thinking of sticking around Cerulean for some more time. I don't think my pokémon are ready for the Sisters, even though I do have Starburst...My Shroomish," she explained on seeing Ash's confused expression. "According to this thing, there are a few sections of the Kanto Power Plant which are open to the public, so I'm going to be in search for an electric-type over there. After that, I'll challenge the Sisters and head towards Rock Tunnel," she finished.

"Sounds like a good plan," Jack muttered thoughtfully after a few seconds. He glanced at Ash. "What about you, Ash?"

Ash shrugged. "I'll train a bit and then challenge the Cerulean Gym later today. Then, I'll head off to Vermillion."

"Same here," Jack voiced, "Except I'll be going off to Celadon City. I've heard Lt Surge is a pretty nasty fighter."

Ash nodded at that. He'd heard of Lt Surge – one of the most powerful gym leaders of Kanto, right up with Sabrina and Blaine and Giovanni. It was a good thing that he followed the same system as most of the others – having a team set up according to the number of badges a trainer had – or else many league competitors would find it hard to wind up in the Indigo Conference. The gym leader was notoriously famous for being a hardened war hero back in the Kanto-Johto Civil War, and he still used raw power and offense in battles with his electric-type pokémon. He was a force to be reckoned with.

Jack shuddered. "I really don't think I'm cut out for Surge right now. I'd rather battle people like Erika."

An awkward silence filled the air for several minutes. Then Natalie got up, and the other two followed suit.

"Well, it's was great travelling with you two," she said. Then she tackled them into a hug. "Don't forget to keep in touch!"

Ash and Jack hugged her back, and the three of them received quite a lot of funny stares. Natalie left, and then Jack, leaving Ash alone.

Ash forced a sigh. It was good till it lasted, but now he was on his own. No more distractions. Just him and his family till the Conference came.

And he'd show them.


Ash quickly laid out his plans once he was done changing his clothes. He'd spent quite a lot of time in the shower (of course, he'd cleaned his pokémon too) and was extremely refreshed when he came out. Zeus was curled up on the bed, Delphi was perched on his shoulder, Saur was resting near the window to absorb the most sunlight while Luna burrowed into him.

First he would do a bit of training. There wasn't a Battle Club in Cerulean, and he didn't want to keep training in the fields behind the Pokémon Centre, so he would travel north of the city in search of trainers. He'd heard from locals that the Nugget Bridge – a fifty-foot wide gold-plated bridge which connected the city to a sea inlet called Cerulean Cape, was filled with trainers all the time and was a good fishing spot for water-type pokémon. His friends were now refreshed and eager for battles. The trainers he'd encountered on the way from Mt Moon were pathetically weak and not worth his time.

He also wanted a water-type pokémon on his team, and Cerulean City was a great place to catch one. He'd just have a borrow a fishing rod from somewhere before setting off in search for one, though.

After that he'd rest for some time and the hit the gym. He was eager to see the Cascade Badge in his badge case and he was one-hundred percent sure that he and his pokémon would win it.

Since it wouldn't make sense to take on the road to Vermillion, he would do that the very next day. He didn't want to tire out his friends and, if things would work out the way he wanted, they would earn their playtime.

With that, Ash rose from his bed, and the others (except for Delphi) were recalled. He shouldered his backpack and made a move for Cerulean Cape, determined to get work done.


Nugget Bridge was, in fact, a great place to battle trainers. Ash wouldn't be surprised if the bridge produced trainers by itself for Ash to battle.

In fact, the first time Ash saw the sheer number of trainers hanging around the golden bridge he wheeled back around and bought some revives and potions at the mart. He didn't want his pokémon to have a chance of getting badly hurt or something, however strong he knew they were.

He and his friends had gotten into countless battles by the way, with only one loss against a vastly experienced pokémon trainer who had four badges at his arsenal. Although the outcome was the other trainer winning, Ash knew that his own pokémon had done pretty well against such a strong opponent.

It was an odd feeling, losing, but Ash shrugged it off. It was just one of the many facts of life.

After a good amount of battles, he'd decided to hunt for a water-type pokémon. He didn't want all the trainers defeated before he got any time to train if, so he decided that now was the best time to catch one. He stopped at one of the designated fishing spots on the giant bridge, took out his rented fishing rod and got to work.

Within five seconds, however, he felt the incredible urge to get up. Fishing was bo-ring. He'd now realised that the ads on TV, which showed a rookie trainer catching stuff like Squirtle and Psyduck, were just to scam ten-year-olds into becoming new trainers and bring profit to the League. It was only a minute before the blazing hot sun wanted him to go back to the city and have a nice, double sundae with extra ice cream and never come back.

"Please, please, please," he chanted as the pokeball at the end of the line bobbed on the calm waters. "I'll be happy even if you give me a Magikarp...Oh, please..."

And his prayers were answered, this time only a little too much. Ash felt a rise of hope and pulled the line back with a surge of new energy, only to find a Magikarp flopping on the hook.

"I didn't mean a literal Magikarp," he grumbled, unhooking the fish and discarding it back into the calm waters. He scowled when he heard Delphi trilling in glee at her trainer's predicament. At least now he knew how long it would take to catch something. He decided to keep the rod standing by itself between his legs while he passed the time on his pokédex.

Things immediately went wrong once again. This time a catch hooked onto the line within seconds, and Ash was busy playing with his trainer ID to notice the tugging until the rod itself was pulled free from his loose grip. Ash let out a yelp of delight as he saw the old fishing rod being dragged away from him by a distinct pink creature – a Slowpoke.

When nothing else came to his mind, his friends did. "Saur, pull that rod free with your vines! I need it back!"

The boy watched as the saurian appeared in a flash a growled threateningly before lashing out at the dragged rod with his thick, green tentacles. Right now, Ash didn't care if the Slowpoke went away or not – he just wanted the rod back. The fishing shack had specifically told him that "any damages to the goods and services provided will incur a steady fee of one thousand pokédollars".

And that was pretty steep considering the fact that he'd pain only two-hundred to rent it. He kept looking as the Slowpoke and Saur were locked in a game of tug, until finally Saur won and he pulled the vine free with all his might – which, granted, was a lot. He saw the Slowpoke swimming farther away with and Saur turned back to his trainer with a smug expression on his face.

"Great work, Saur!" Ash praised, petting the Ivysaur, and Delphi too got into the action. Saur huffed in happiness. "You saved my life."

He was about to recall his pokémon, but decided against it at the last second. "Why don't you stay out here with Delphi?" he suggested. "It'll be a lot better for the both of us and I won't have to waste any time choosing when I finally catch something worthwhile."

The next ten minutes felt like a year. Delphi at least had something to do, what with staring mysteriously into the distance, but Ash and Saur were downright impatient. Aside from the Magikarp and the Slowpoke, he hasn't really found anything. Ash kept holding the rod in front of him. The only question was how much time.

Then, after what felt like an eternity, he found something powerful tugging at the line. Ash and the unknown creature were locked in a battle for dominance, but he wasn't letting go. He didn't care if it was a Gyarados or a Sharpedo, because he was going to pull that thing up.

Then Ash received one last rush of energy and it was all over. He glimpsed yellow skin and a wide bill as whatever was on the other end of the line burst out of the water, then a jet of water was fired at him. It was only because of Saur that he was saved from the high-pressure jet of water that came next.

The Ivysaur grabbed Ash by the collar and pulled his trainer down roughly, narrowly saving him from the Water Gun which soared a good distance and the fizzled out. After that was done, the grass-type type turned to glare at whoever had the audacity to attack his trainer, but he misjudged his opponent by a long shot.

Ash immediately recognised the tiny creature by the dopey expression on its face – Psyduck. It was the primary stage of the Psyduck line (duh), which could later evolve into Golduck. Ash hadn't considered catching one, mostly since they were considered as pretty clueless creatures, but their kind were known to unleash massive bursts of psychic energy from time to time without being psychic-types on the first place. Plus the possibility of waiting a long time for another catch made him think again.

"Delphi, you take this one." The Natu hopped off his shoulder, eager for a battle. "Saur, keep your vines at the ready. If it tries to run away, grab it."

The Psyduck cocked its head curiously at that, but the way its eyes narrowed signified that it knew what situation it was in. Ash grinned at its eagerness to battle. Maybe he'd got a good catch, after all.

"Night Shade," he said tersely. Delphi fired a beam of black energy from her glowing eyes. The Psyduck dodged it, however, and retaliated with a high-velocity Water Gun from its wide bill.

"Teleport," Ash ordered next. Ash himself jumped away when the jet of water missed Delphi and headed straight for him, missing him by inches. He winced. That would've been a nasty mess.

Psyduck easily recovered, however, and spat another jet of water at Delphi. The bird squawked and easily fluttered away from the Water Gun, then hopped back to the ground for Ash's next order.

He decided to try something new. "Ominous Wind!"

Delphi opened her beak and exhaled a stream of purple, ghostly wind at her opponent. Psyduck quacked as it tumbled away from the force of the winds and received a sharp blast of ghostly energy from the gust.

Nevertheless, it got back up, more fired-up than ever. Just as Delphi landed back on the ground, it let loose a Water Gun that blasted the Natu head on. Delphi squeaked angrily at the force of the attack and teleported back, soaking wet.

Delphi squawked and let loose a guttural cry before letting loose a Shadow Ball at Psyduck. The sphere of ominous energy flew so fast at it that the water-type couldn't even widen its eyes when the Shadow Ball impacted.

Ash grinned. "Okay, wrap this up with another Shadow Ball!"

Psyduck dropped down like a sack of potatoes when the next Shadow Ball hit it and blasted it a good feet away. Ash grabbed an empty pokeball and hurled it at the water-type.

The trainer, Saur and Delphi watched with baited breath as the pokeball kept shaking and twitching for fifteen seconds straight. Ash couldn't believe how resilient Psyduck was, but it finally gave up and the pokeball clicked.


Saur quickly snagged the pokeball from the ground and gave it to Ash. Ash grinned at him and then turned his attention to Delphi. "You did great, girl. You've earned your share of Chesto berries."

Delphi trilled in happiness and hopped back on Ash's shoulder. He pulled out an Oran berry and offered it to the bird, allowing her to recover her energy a little.

With that, Ash recalled Saur and stuffed the rod into his backpack before continuing on. There were a lot of trainers still left to defeat.


Ash watched as Luna faced off their opponent's Venonat, which had surprisingly put up more a fight than he'd expected it to. It was giving Luna a tough time by stopping the Clefairy in her tracks with Disable and attacking with Psybeams and Confusions, but the fairy-type was holding her own. She kept smacking Venonat with her nasty Pound attack whenever it came close or letting loose a flurry of fast-flying leaves that kept slashing Venonat no matter how well it tried to dodge it.

"Psybeam!" the other trainer called out. Venonat immediately responses by shooting a weak multi-coloured beam of psychic energy at Luna, who easily dodged it.

Ash saw Venonat tense up for another Psybeam and decided to command Luna. "Magical Leaf."

Luna spun her body and scattered glowing, razor-sharp leaves at Venonat. The timid creature shrieked as the leaves slashed its body and pushed it a good distance away.

"Tackle!" Venonat's trainer roared.

"Sing," he ordered, making up his mind to wrap up this battle. "Put it to sleep."

Wasting no time, Luna murmured a centralised lullaby in Venonat's direction. The chant quickly forced it into a slumber and Venonat came to a grinding halt.

"Wake-Up Slap!"

Luna's right hand glowed white and instantly grew to thrice its original size and ruthlessly slapped Venonat with it. Venonat instantly woke up with wide eyes and then went out cold a split-second second later due to the force of the attack.

The trainer quickly recalled his poor bug-type and handed over the prize money to Ash. He looked pale – maybe he hadn't expected an innocent-looking creature such a Luna to thrash his pokémon so soundly. Whatever the case, he gave Ash the prize money and scarpered quickly.

Ash knelt now and nuzzled Luna on the head. The Clefairy hummed pleasantly as her trainer praised her. "You were great, Luna. At this rate you'll leave the others in the dust!"

Luna trilled once again and allowed her trainer to put her back in her pokeball. Ash stretched, then continued in pursuit of trainers on Route 25.

There weren't as many trainers on Route 25 as there were on 24, just couples hanging and making out. Ash grimaced whenever he saw one; couldn't they do that stuff at home?

So far, he spent time challenging as many trainers as he could to rack up both experience for his pokémon and money. He needed all the cash he could get his hands on so that he could purchase some TMs in Celadon City's famous departmental store. All of the trainers were rather weak, but a few of them put up quite a challenge. Ash nearly lost to some guy named AJ who had a really strong Sandshrew, but Saur took care of it.

As he walked under the blazing heat of the afternoon sun, Ash wondered how the others were doing. Had Jack won his battle against the Sisters? Did Natalie finally capture the electric-type she wanted? Most of all he wondered where Gary. He hadn't seen his tall rival since Pallet Town. Wow. That seemed like a very long time ago.

Nevertheless, he was sure Gary was training hard and had captured a myriad of pokémon just to imitate his elder brother, Blue. In any case, the next time he'd see him, Ash would challenge Gary to a battle. He wanted to see how strong his rival had finally gotten after a mo—

"Holy crap! Look who it is!"

Ash flinched as he heard a very familiar voice up ahead of him. He snorted. Speak of the devil.

"Ashy-boy!" Gary exclaimed in pure surprise and glee. He had his hands in his pockets as he swaggered to Ash, and a large, indigo turtle next to him with a similar cocky expression. Ash immediately registered it as a Wartortle – the evolved form of Gary's starter. "Long time no see!"

"It's nice to see you too," Ash replied, smirking. "I was just thinking about you."

"Aww," Gary whined. "Did ickle Ashy-boy miss his nice, goody rival?"

Ash snorted and rolled his eyes. "No, I was just wondering whether you were still sore about that loss back at the professor's lab."

"In your dreams," his rival sneered back. "Anyway, wat'cha doin'? How many gym badges you got?"

"One," Ash answered.

Gary immediately turned shocked. "One?" Gary blasted. "What're you, a loser or something?! I'd've expected something like this from Jack or someone of his calibre! I'm ashamed to call you my rival! How could you lose to those pathetic trio of girls?! Ugh! How—"

"Chillax, Gary!" Ash interrupted hastily. "I didn't lose against the Sensational Sisters or something! I haven't even challenged them yet!"

Gary immediately stopped ranting. "What?"

"Yes," he said patiently. "I only defeated Brock by now. We – Jack, Natalie and I – reached Cerulean today itself."

Gary's expression cleared. "Oh. That makes sense."

He then smirked. "Still, I expected better from you, though I suppose that Jackass must've slowed you down," he said.

"How many badges do you have?" Ash shot at him.

"Three," his rival said smugly. "Yeah, I defeated Brock and that Daisy girl on my first try, but Surge was tough. He's got a kickass Raichu. I had to get a rematch with him."

Ash frowned at that. If Gary found Surge a challenging opponent, then Ash had to admit that the decorated war hero was no piece of cake. His pokémon couldn't take it easy on Surge.

Then something Gary said confused him. "Wait...If you defeated Surge, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be heading to Saffron or something?"

It was Gary's chance to be confused. "Didn't Gramps tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

Gary smirked. He was very good at doing that. "Oh, it's the best thing ever. I'll tell ya about it...but first I want to return the favour you did in Pallet."

"You sure your pokémon are up for a battle?" Ash taunted. Delphi chirped eagerly on his shoulder.

"Hell yes!" Gary exclaimed. Wartortle looked fired up. "I can't wait to kick your ass, Ashy-boy!"

"We'll see," Ash retorted dryly.

"So how do ya wanna do this?"

Ash thought about it. "How about a one on one? I have five at the moment but I don't want all of them to be tired. I didn't bring a lot of revives," he finished sheepishly.

"Don't worry, I got you," Gary said, "but let's do a one on one. I don't want to whoop your ass for so long, either."

Ash scowled. "Enough talk. Let's get on with it."

"That's what I'm talking about!"

Ash and Gary backed away several paces from and then faced off. Ash unclipped a pokeball from his belt. Gary simply snapped his fingers at Wartortle and the reptilian water-type swaggered in front of her trainer.

Ash tapped the release and out came Saur, rumbling and growling as he came out. His eyes narrowed as he saw Gary, and a few long seconds later it finally clicked in his mind. This was the human who's Squirtle he thrashed a month ago!

Gary whistled appreciatively. "Finally evolved, huh?" He blew a raspberry. "It doesn't change the fact that Wartortle's a lot stronger! Your Ivysaur suuuuuucks!"

Saur growled deeply at that comment and narrowed his scarlet eyes further at the arrogant trainer and Wartortle.

"Saur, let's beat them again," Ash told him. Saur nodded, determined. "Vine Whip!"

"Withdraw," drawled Gary in a lazy tone.

Saur lashed out with his green appendages just as Wartortle retreated into her shell. The vines bounced harmlessly against her shell, but Saur didn't give up.

The Ivysaur then grabbed Wartortle, lifted her in the air and began thrashing her repeatedly into the ground until he held the turtle steadily in the air. Gary looked unfazed until Ash gave his next order. "Energy Ball!" he shouted.

"Get out of there with Rapid Spin!" Gary commanded. "Follow up with Double Team."

Wartortle began to spin and tore away from Saur's grip just as the latter fired a green sphere of solar energy. Wartortle then flashed for a second and a dozen illusory copies of herself appeared on the field. Saur kept turning in every direction, determined to find the real one.

"Frostbite!" Gary was grinning.

Ash didn't know what kind of move Frostbite was, but it sounded like an Ice Fang of some sorts. Each of the copies shot at Saur, who was still turning in his place to lock onto the real Wartortle.

"Use your vines, Saur!" Ash called out. "Slash through every one of them!"

Saur grunted, vines shooting out and destroying every single copy, but he wasn't fast enough. The real Wartortle finally reached Saur and clamped her powerful jaws shut on Saur's body. The saurian screamed in pain as Wartortle performed Bite, then yowled even louder as frost exploded from the turtle's maw, causing a thick layer of ice to form on that part of his body. Saur growled furiously and tugged Wartortle away harshly with his vines and hurled her away as far as he could.

Ash didn't know what Frostbite exactly was, but he could put two and two together. From the way Wartortle attacked Saur, it was probably a combination of Bite and Ice Beam, creating a variance of Ice Fang. Simple yet effective.

He watched as Wartortle was sucked back into her shell the second before she landed roughly on the ground, popping out a second later. She waited with baited breath for Gary's next command, and so did Ash.

Gary smirked. "Still think your pokémon are stronger than mine, Ashy-boy?" he goaded.

"Saur, activate Chlorophyll!" Ash yelled. "Bring Wartortle down a few notches."

Saur nodded and quickly absorbed sufficient sunlight to produce the hormones that would significantly boost his speed. Gary narrowed his eyes, then shrugged.

He hadn't seen anything worth noticing.

"Double Team and Rapid Spin," Gary commanded. "Frostbite when it's confused."

Wartortle nodded and set off to work. Her body flashed once again, creating a wall of copies that quickly retreated into their shells and spun their way towards Saur, who simply stood there with a ghost of a smile on his face.

Then, a split-second before Wartortle was about to bite Saur, the grass-type type blurred away with a shock of speed, completely ignoring his bulk that would've normally slowed him down. Wartortle bit thin air and Gary was staring at Saur as if he was the newest wonder of the world. He was actually rubbing his eyes to make sure that what he saw was true.

"Double Team-Rapid Spin!" Gary called out, finally recovering from his initial surprise. "Shit, I gotta make up a name for that."

"Sweet Scent," Ash said with a grin on his face.

Just as ten copies spun towards their opponent, Saur spewed a stream of pink, cloyingly sweet aroma from his large pink bud. The powdery scent flowed into each of the shells, shattering the copies and revealing the real foe.

The Scent was enough to slow down Wartortle and she came to a halt a few feet away from Saur, then shot out of her shell, all relaxed and groggy.

Sweet Scent was actually a very useful tactic in battle. It would render the victim quite incapable of doing much. It was basically like alcohol – the organic chemicals present in Sweet Scent drastically increased the victim's reaction time, impaired judgement and decreased perception and coordination over time – at least until the target was knocked out.

Gary looked like he was about to panic now. "Snap out of it!" he shouted.

"Razor Leaf!" Ash called.

"Dodge!" Gary said.

Saur dozen razor-sharp, curved blades shot out from the saurian's back and sped towards Wartortle, but the turtle was still too stunned to avoid the attack. She cried out as the leaves cut into her reptilian skin and slammed into her sturdy shell, pushing her a good few feet away.

Wartortle staggered on the spot, still too dizzy to do anything. "Take Down," Ash said.

Gary didn't react as Saur blitzed his way to Wartortle, who finally seemed to get a handle on things. Ash thought for a moment that the other boy simply didn't have a way to counter Saur until Gary barked a single word. "Protect!"

A green circular shield formed in front of Wartortle and Saur smashed into it with such force that he was knocked out instantly upon impact, as though he'd run headlong into a brick wall, but Wartortle wasn't left safe. She was still groggy and the Protect barrier had been a hasty creation. With the added speed of Chlorophyll and the natural force it required for a Take Down, the barrier had exploded into a hundred fragments, repelling her into a thick three where she slammed and slumped down unconscious.

Gary shrugged and recalled Wartortle, but Ash just stood there, stumped. He couldn't believe Gary had been that smart to use Protect as a damaging move. That was brilliant.

Ash recalled Saur a moment later without saying a word.

"Ash much as I hate to say it, you did well," Gary admitted. "Maybe you are worthy of being my rival. That's the first time Wartortle's lost against an adversary of the same strength."

"You've done well, too," Ash complimented. "I didn't expect you to flip Protect around like that, though."

At that, Gary smirked. "Well, what else would anyone expect from the greatest of the greats, huh?"

"Yeah, yeah." Ash rolled his eyes. "Anyway, what were you talking about? What didn't Professor Oak tell me?"

Gary smiled wryly. "Ah...You know the carry limit for each trainer is six, right?"

"Uh-huh." Ash nodded, confused. Where was Gary going with this?

"So," the tall boy continued, "there are some trainers, like Elite Four members and ACE trainers, even Red and Blue, who are allowed to carry more than six pokémon with them, although this has to be endorsed by the League. Ya dig?"

"Yes, I dig," Ash said, sounding exasperated. "Can you please just get to the point?"

"Fine, fine," Gary relented. "Gramps had received confirmation that we can carry as many pokémon as we like."

He turned around and started walking off with a casual whistle on his lips. Ash blinked, stupefied as he finally comprehended what his rival had said.


Gary stopped in his tracks and looked at Ash with the politest expression on his face. "What?" he asked innocently, further infuriating Ash.

"Don't 'what' me!" he snapped. "What do you mean?!"

"Gramps has been trying to do that for a long time," Gary drawled. "He gave our application to the League a month ago and they finally agreed a week ago. That means we – you, me, Natalie and that Jack – are finally allowed to carry as many pokémon as we like!"

Ash felt like a door had opened, allowing a gust of breeze to hit him. He couldn't believe what Gary told him. With this, he didn't have to worry about rotating his pokémon constantly. He could train them and be with them throughout his journey!

"Are you serious?!" Ash exclaimed.

"Yep." Gary nodded. "I suppose the old man forgot to mention it to the three of you, so it was a good thing you met me. Anyway, he told me to go and meet Bill Goodshow – that rich guy who comes to the lab sometimes? – and thank him, because he's the one who sped up our application process. I actually just came back from meeting him before I stumbled onto you," he finished, showcasing a myriad of pokeballs on his belt.

"So, what – I just have to meet him and I'll be able to have as many pokémon as I want?" Ash asked, incredulous.

His rival nodded. "C'mon. I'll show you to his place."


Ash was extremely pumped as he made his way to Bill Goodshow's house. He'd heard the name before, obviously – Bill was the one who had the man who'd developed the international PC system that trainers used all over the world. Before, trainers were only allowed to make regional transfers, but Bill had changed everything. Now, trainers could make international transfers in the blink of an eye. Bill was also the son of Charles Goodshow, CEO of Silph Co and president of the Pokémon League. Ash couldn't not know such an important figure of the League.

To pass the time, Ash had battled a few trainers, but their numbers were decreasing as Ash and Gary made their way to what Gary called the 'Sea Cottage'. When there were literally no trainers near them, Ash and Gary began talking to one another and exchanging stories.

"So, what do you have on right now besides that Ivysaur and that Natu on your shoulder?" he asked, pointing at Delphi when he finished.

Ash shrugged. "Aside from Saur and Delphi, I've got Flaaffy and Clefairy."

His rival's eyes bulged. "Where'd you get a damn Clefairy?! Did you buy it or something?"

Ash shook his head. "I found her in Mt Moon," he said. "She came up to me and just captured herself."

Gary whistled appreciatively. "Shit, I combed Mt Moon forever for one of those. I spent three days and then I completely gave up."

Ash snickered. "As for me," Gary said without being asked, "My team is Wartortle, Nidorina, Pidgeotto, Raticate, Machop, Growlithe, Drowzee. Now that I'm allowed to carry as many as I can, I don't need to rotate my team," he finished.

Ash blinked. "Do you want to open a corral like your granddad?"

"Hey, at least I train them well," the other boy said defensively. "I bet I could kick your ass in a six-on-six!"

Before Ash could make an angry retort, Gary stopped in his tracks. "There it is. Sea Cottage."

The place was nice and quaint and held a peaceful air. The cool sea breeze washed over him and ruffled his jacket slightly. Several benches were placed along the cliff and most of them were filled.

"Like the place, huh, Ashy-boy?" Gary grinned. "C'mon. Let's go inside."

Ash knocked on the door, but unfortunately no one answered. Ash was about to knock once again to declare his presence, but the Oak next to him simply snorted and pushed the door wide open without permission.

It was exactly like how Ash had imagined it to be – messy. Papers were strewn on a mahogany table, which held a superb computer. A mug of stale coffee and a half-eaten sandwich was set next to it. There were many bookshelves along the walls, filled with a million books, and most of the spaces were empty. Some books were littered on the floor, with coloured post-its stuck on dog-eared pages. Ash though Red was disorganised, but Bill put him to shame.

At the back of the room were two, large tubes set several metres apart from each other. The glass walls were translucent green, and between the tubes was a small computer with cables snaking away from it.

Then Ash noticed the next thing – there was a Clefairy in the room. A rather large Clefairy. It had a perpetual smile on its face and it looked like it was frozen.

"Does Bill have a Clefairy?" Ash asked Gary. "And where is he?"

Gary shrugged. "Dunno. I swear he was here when I came to meet him."

"I'm right here, chap."

Ash and Gary flinched as they heard a deadpanned, sophisticated voice come from the Clefairy. He didn't know how a Clefairy could actually talk, but ever since his encounter with the Clefable elder and the Meowth in Viridian City he wasn't taking any chances.

"Whoa!" Gary sounded awestruck. "You can talk?!"

The Clefairy turned towards the duo like a robot, still smiling. "Of course I can bloody talk, you git. And to think you were the grandson of Mr Oak..."

"B-But how—"

"It's because I'm not a bloody pokémon!" the Clefairy exclaimed in the same silky voice, crudely waving its stubby arms about. "Damn, that bloody hurts!"

"Wait..." Ash frowned. "If you're not a Clefairy, then—"

"Are you thick?" the Clefairy snapped waspishly. "I'm Bill Goodshow and I'm stuck in this bloody costume!"

Gary snorted. "How the hell did you manage to get yourself in a frickin' Clefairy costume?"

Bill sighed, exasperated. "I'm doing a project on Clefairy right now," he explained. "I usually dress up like the pokémon I'm studying to, uh, get to know it better, but I completely misjudged the costume while making it. The arms are so bloody short and my arms feel like they've been folded in half. Now I can't get out of this unless I press the release button on this bloody thing.

"So," he said, "it would be really bloody brilliant if one of you would care to get me out of this sloppy thing and not leave it up to one of my aides, who will be coming up later today. It would really save my damn pride."

"Sure." Ash shrugged. He anyways needed to get his work done, so saving Bill wouldn't create any hard feeling between them.

"My saviour!" he cried out. The 'Clefairy' waddled like a creature with immovable joints in Ash's direction and Bill spread his short arms for a hug, then immediately dropped the idea. "Ouch, that hurts. Sorry, old chap, but I won't be able to hug you right now."

"Uh, that's okay," Ash replied. In any case he didn't want a hug from the Clefairy-disguised person. He walked behind Bill and searched for a release button over the costume before finding a small, grey button on the suit's neck. The moment he stabbed it with his finger, the suit separated dorsally from the top, letting out a cloud of smoke and revealing the person inside.

Ash was looking at one of the most brilliant minds in the entire world. He looked young for such a genius, perhaps twenty-three, and had a mass of unruly brown hair. He was thin, but not so much to be considered scrawny. His eye colour matched his hair, except that they were darker. Bill wore a fine, silk shirt and brown pants. He held a smug air, but that was soon lost when he whipped around and pulled Ash into a hug.

"You, sir, are a godsend!" he exclaimed. Ash tried to politely let go, but Bill's grip was like steel. "I would've made a bloody fool out of myself if it weren't for you!"

He suddenly let go of Ash and grinned at Gary. "And you helped!"

Gary took a step back in fear of a hug. "I – I did?"

"Yeah, you did!" Bill said. "You brought him here, Mr Oak! You guys are life-savers! I owe you my dignity!"

Ash waved off the comment. "Don't mention it, Mr Goodshow," he said.

Bill rolled his eyes. "Don't call me that," he told Ash. "Mr Goodshow is my dad. Call me Bill."

Ash chuckled. "Okay, Bill."

"And, secondly, you two simply cannot refuse my offer," he continued. "A Goodshow always pays his debts."

"Well, if you insist..." Gary shrugged. "Wha'd'ya have in mind?"

Bill thought for a moment. "Aha!" he exclaimed triumphantly. "I have just the gift!"

He headed up to the upper floor of his house, leaving Ash and Gary down for a good fifteen minutes before coming back down with two big parcels. Ash and Gary stared at the gifts curiously for a few seconds before opening it up to take a look at the contents.

Ash gaped at the five ultra-balls and ten full restores inside. He knew that both items were ridiculously costly and not something he could purchase without starving for a month (at least right now). He also knew that ultra-balls gave a much higher catch rate than pokeballs and great-balls, while full restores accelerated healing much faster than potions and held more of the potent medicine than their simpler forms. He peeked at Gary's gift and found the same items in them. Then both boys stared at Bill.

The researcher chuckled. "I've got more money than I care to count, lads," he drawled. "Plus, you two just saved my hide back there. This is just a simple and small token of appreciation."

The two nodded dumbly and stuffed the gifts inside their backpacks. Bill chuckled once more at their stupefied expressions before sitting at his messy desk.

"Anyhoo," he said, typing away on his computer, "why did you come back, Gary? Did you forget something? You'll have a hell of a time searching through this mess for it, though."

Gary's eyes widened. "Oh! This is one of the trainers gramps was talking about, Bill. The one who needed them carry limit terminated."

Bill abruptly stopped typing whatever he was and slowly turned his head to Ash. "Well, why didn't you say so?" he demanded.

"We were busy getting you out of that dam costume, that's why," Ash growled, though soft enough for Bill to not hear it.

"Can I have your pokédex, please?" Bill demanded. Ash immediately took the chrome device out and handed it over to the young researcher.

Ash watched as Bill tapped the device a few times, then turned to his computer and typed in Ash's trainer ID. Ash waited only twenty seconds before Bill stabbed the enter button and grinned. "Voila!"

Ash blinked. "That's it?"

"Righto," Bill agreed. "You are now allowed to carry more than six pokémon on your roster."

Ash was so happy that he began jumping up and down his pure joy. Gary snorted and took out his pokégear to record it, but Ash didn't care.

The only thing he cared about was whether his rival would hold it against him for the rest of his life or not.

When he was done expressing his happiness, he looked at Bill, revering him. "Thanks a lot, Bill. This means a lot to me."

"Don't sweat it, Ash," Bill replied. "Anyway, it was Mr Oak – and by that I mean your grandfather – who asked me to perform this request, and I'd do anything for that man. He was the one who took me under his wing and made me the researcher I am today! Not to mention my dear old pals Celio and Lanette!"

Ash grinned at Bill. "Okay, Bill."

Gary cleared his throat. "Normally I would love to see budding bromances, but I need to get to Vermillion before it's too late," he said, smirking. "Gramps got a ticket to the St Anne, but he's got a lot of work to do so he gave it to me. Pretty sweet, right?"

Ash stared at Gary.

The boy shrugged. "Anyways, smell ya later, Ashy-boy...I've got a cruise liner to catch..."

Gary whirled out of the house like a roadrunner. Ash stamped his foot in frustration. "Damn that Gary," he growled. "I'm gonna get on that ship if it's the last thing I do!"

Bill cleared his throat, declaring his existence. "Sorry to interrupt," the researcher said, "but I couldn't help but overhear your conversation with Gary. If you really want to get on that bloody ship..." He put his hand on his pocket and took out a scrap of paper, holding it out to Ash. "Here it is."

Ash blinked, frowning. "What's that?"

"That, my dear friend, is a ticket to the St Anne cruise liner." Bill scowled. "One of my colleagues at the League gave it to me, but those bloody rich crowds aren't my type. I can't stand those fancy do's. If I were a trainer," he added, "I'd definitely take up such an offer. They have tournaments on board that offer rare pokémon and items as prizes."

Bill smirked. "I'm sure you'll be able to win most of the prizes, for most of the trainers on board are rich prats who got trainer licenses from their wealthy parents so that they could own pokémon as pets."

Talk about an offer he couldn't refuse. Ash didn't like mingling with wealthy people, but the sound of prizes and tournaments made him think twice.

"The St Anne will dock in Vermillion city for two days in a month from now," Bill continued, "and will head to Cinnabar Island for a five-day trip, including a return journey to Fuchsia. Sounds good, doesn't it?"

Ash nodded dumbly. "Thanks a lot, Bill," he said. "For everything."

"Well, what are friends for?" Bill grinned. "If ya need any help, just give me a ring. I'll always answer, unless I'm going out in search for Clefairy of something."

Ash nodded. With a final word of thanks and goodbye, he stepped out of the Sea Cottage and pocketed the St Anne ticket.


It was evening when Ash returned to Cerulean City. He'd battled as many trainers as he could on the Nugget Bridge, but made sure to defeat all of them quickly. His pokémon were pretty exhausted and he was running low on medicines.

He'd almost forgotten about the Psyduck he'd captured. When he finally remembered about it, he made haste to the Pokémon Centre and gave up all his pokeballs to Nurse Joy. He spent his time in the Centre's cafeteria, thinking about the day's events and also his battle with Gary.

The way Gary had trained his Wartortle had set Ash thinking. Wartortle hadn't just used attacking moves – Protect and Double Team were proof of that. What infuriated Ash even further was that Gary was smart enough to implement combo moves and Ash hadn't. He was feeling really stupid.

The way he saw it, he and his team were just relying on brute force a bit too much. He didn't fight with much more than brute force. Of course, you couldn't make it far without a lot of power, but he had to begin thinking competitively. If not, the seasoned veterans he would face in the league would thrash the living daylights out of him.

Gary was the analytic. He didn't make rash decisions in battle, and mostly kept his cool during them. He'd always recover from other trainers' strategies, even if they left him really stumped. He, Ash, wasn't like that.

That's when he decided to take a step back and go easy. It wasn't like he was giving up on increasing his friends' strength, but he also had to help them develop strategies that would help them in battle.

He was so lost in thought that he almost didn't hear Nurse Joy calling out his name over the speakers. He grabbed his things, slurped down the rest of his shake and ran to collect his friends as quickly as possible.

They needed some training to do.


As soon as he was at the training field, Ash pressed the release buttons of the four pokeballs he was familiar with, and his pokémon greeted him with a chorus of sounds. Luna immediately rushed over to her trainer's side, earning an ugly look from Delphi.

"Okay, guys, we're going to hit the Cerulean Gym tomorrow," Ash informed them. "The gym leader there uses water-types, so we should have a pretty easy time there."

At the sound of water-types, Saur grinned and Zeus swelled importantly, causing Delphi and Luna to roll their eyes and share a disgusted look. Boys.

"However," Ash added, "just because Saur and Zeus have a type advantage doesn't mean that I'll be using them. Zeus is going up tomorrow, and so are you, Delphi."

At that, Delphi shrieked in laughter, Zeus snorted and Luna chuckled as Saur looked at his trainer in utter shock and disbelief. Ash gave him an apologetic look. "Sorry buddy, but you had your fun at Pewter. I can't just let you take on everyone and not give the rest a chance. Unless you want to go tomorrow and miss out on the next two gym battles..."

Saur glared at Ash, then nodded reluctantly and looked away, sulking. Ash snorted. Apparently that deal was too much for Saur.

"The second thing I want to talk about is our new teammate," Ash told them. "You guys remember the Psyduck back on the Nugget Bridge?"

Delphi and Saur nodded, although Zeus and Luna stared at their trainer quizzically because they had yet to meet it. Ash took out Psyduck's pokeball and held it up, prepared to tap the release. "Remember not to intimidate it, alright?"

When his team nodded, he set Psyduck loose. The water-type looked around confusedly at its surroundings before finally noticing Ash and his team.

He smiled, doing his best to not seem intimidating to Psyduck. "Hey there, Psyduck." He spoke slowly. "Feeling good?" When the water-type nodded, he continued. "I'm Ash. I'm your new trainer, and this is the rest of my team: Saur, Luna, Zeus and Delphi."

Each of them greeted Psyduck when their names were announced. Psyduck seemed a little uncomfortable when he saw Zeus' woolly mane involuntarily sparked, but the Flaaffy immediately snuffed it out and let Ash hurry on.

Ash quickly gave it his obligatory monologue. "I'm on my way to become the strongest Pokémon Master in the world," he told it. "Think you have what it takes to be the best?"

Psyduck cocked its head for a moment, then quacked eagerly. Ash smiled at its enthusiasm. Psyduck wanted to become the strongest, and Ash would help it achieve that goal.

Ash took out his pokédex and Psyduck looked curiously at it. "This is a pokédex," he told it. "It'll help me tell a little bit about you. Just don't move for a while."

Psyduck nodded. Ash scanned the duck with his device and waited for the information to be relayed.

Psyduck, the duck pokémon. Psyduck uses a mysterious power. When it does so, this pokémon generates brain waves that are supposedly seen only in sleepers and Psyduck can't remember having done so. It apparently can't form a memory of such an event because it goes into an altered state that is much like deep sleep.

This Psyduck is male and knows the moves: Water Gun, Scratch, Water Sport, Confusion, Confuse Ray, Refresh, Disable and Psybeam. Its ability is Swift Swim, which increases the pokémon's speed in water and/or rainy conditions.

Psyduck had a wide range of moves, and Ash could work with it. He figured he was probably at Delphi's level right now, and given a week or two of solid training he would quickly fall into the ranks.

Ash grinned at Psyduck. "So, do you want a nickname? I already have one thought up for you if you want one."

Psyduck eagerly nodded. An eager trainer and a nickname? Sweet!

"How about Hydrus?" he told him. He'd thought of several names for a water-type pokémon – Poseidon, Tidal, Torrent and Ariel to name a few – but he liked this one best. His only hope was that Psyduck would also like it, and he grinned wider when Psyduck nodded and quacked in agreement. "Great. Nice to have you on the team, Hydrus!"

Ash let the newly-dubbed Hydrus mingle with the rest of his new teammates. Hydrus quacked a greeting to everyone except Zeus, whom he was still wary of. The others hummed, growled or chirped back and Zeus himself brought out a hand in the form of a handshake. Huh. He'd never thought the Flaaffy would've picked up that human gesture.

He was further surprised when Zeus didn't give Hydrus a mild shock when the latter shook Zeus' hand with his own. Zeus normally shocked others as a prank, but perhaps this time he wanted to make a good impression on the newest teammate, who was naturally weak to electric attacks.

They were growing.

"Alright, everyone!" The boy clapped loudly for their attention. "Let's get to training. Hydrus, come with me. I want to assess you and your battling skills so that I can give you some training regimes. Delphi, work on Stored Power with Luna. You'll have to get it down before tomorrow. Saur and Zeus, you two come with me. I've got something to give you two. Sounds good?"

His team let out a chorus of sounds. "Let's get started."


Ash's assessment of Hydrus had gone rather well. His Water Gun was extremely precise and he was proud in the Psyduck's Water Gun. Hydrus had gotten Scratch down pretty well too. The only things he hadn't tried out were Hypnosis, Psybeam and Confusion, since Hydrus just looked at Ash awkwardly for a few moments.

As for Saur and Zeus, Ash had decided to give them TMs to widen their move pool. The only attacking moves Saur knew right now were Energy Ball, Vine Whip and Razor Leaf – Ash didn't consider his hereditary moves – and the rest were powder moves. Zeus also knew a limited number of moves, so he needed more to his arsenal.

Besides, Red had given those TMs for a reason. He was pretty sure his big brother would smack him upside the head if he knew that his TMs were put into storage.

Ash gave Saur Toxic. Poison Powder has extremely bad accuracy and basically floated slowly towards the opponent, so there was no guarantee that Poison Powder would hit it's mark. Toxic, on the other hand, could be released in a wave or as a stream and was produced much faster than Poison Powder.

Plus, if Toxic was used by a poison-type pokémon, the venom would be produced in a split-second, so fast that it would rarely miss the target. Ash didn't know why, but it was just one of those mysterious things about pokémon.

Ash took out Saur's pokeball when the machine stopped whirring and released the Ivysaur before inserting Zeus' pokeball in the TM Case. Ash took out the TM for Toxic and replaced it with Iron Tail. He pressed the start button and waited as the machine began to whirr again, this time releasing a faint silver light.

When the process was done, Ash released Zeus. The Flaaffy bounced on his hind legs and grinned with newfound power. Ash snorted as Zeus began to bleat, but stopped when Saur shut his mouth with his vines.

"Cut it out, guys," Ash said with a roll of his eyes as Zeus and Saur took a step away to face off. "If you guys start fighting then say no to dinner."

That effectively shut the two up and Ash had a victorious smirk on his face. Then he decided to set off to work.

"Saur, we won't be testing Toxic right now because you might accidentally hit someone else," Ash said. "Zeus, let's see Iron Tail, okay?"

Ash found a suitable target – one of the boulders that he and his team were so fond of destroying. "You see that?" Zeus nodded. "Okay, use Iron Tail when I give the word. Give it all you've got."

Zeus screwed up his face in determination and balled his fists, waiting for Ash to give one word.


The Flaaffy darted towards the boulder on his hind legs, his striped tail glowing a violent shade of silver all the way. When he was a few feet away, Zeus front-flipped into the air and drove his metallic tail home. Ash saw cracks spreading under the force of the attack and Zeus bounced away when he was done.

"That was great," Ash congratulated. Saur grunted to Zeus and the latter huffed arrogantly.

"Okay, then." Ash snapped his fingers. "Saur, you'll be practising Magical Leaf. I'll ask Luna to help you with it, 'cause she's got a good amount of control on that move," he told Saur. "Zeus, I think you've got Iron Tail down, so come with me. I've got a pretty good strategy for you to use in battle."


Once has had deemed Delphi's and Luna's training session on Stored Power done, Ash decided to bring Saur over. The Clefairy looked unwaveringly, but Ash could see the distaste in her eyes as he and Saur came closer.

Other than wanting Saur to get a hold on Magical Leaf, Ash also wanted the saurian to train with Luna so that they could spend some time getting used to each other. Their relationship wasn't cordial, but it wasn't broken either. Other than polite hums and growls, Ash had never seen the two communicating in either way.

Ash didn't want that to happen. He smiled fondly at Delphi and Luna when they finished storing up the required psychic energy in their bodies. It was far easier for Delphi than her companion, since Luna wasn't used to manipulating psychic energy, but fairy-types were closely related to psychic-types and Ash was sure that the two of them would master it before long.

"Delphi, you've earned your rest," Ash told it. "Luna, I couldn't ask more of you, but I have a tiny request."

Luna nodded, determined to do anything for her trainer. Ash grinned sheepishly. "Well...I want you to help Saur learn Magical Leaf, okay?"

Luna's eyes widened at that, staring at the dual grass/poison-type in fear. Ash was afraid she was going to decline, but smiled when Luna nodded, albeit reluctantly. Ash shrugged. "Alright. Saur, Luna, get to work. Delphi, do you want to stay in the pokeball or outside?"

Delphi responded by hopping onto his shoulder and trilling out loud. Ash smirked, but hi face twisted into a frown when he saw Saur and Luna staring warily at each other.

Ash walked away, leaving that problem to the two pokémon. Ash couldn't solve it on his own – they had to do something on their part too. He would've known that there was some hope if he'd seen Luna and Saur decided to set their differences aside and get to making the grass-type stronger.


"Alright, Zeus," Ash said. "You ready?"

Zeus bleated in confirmation. The electric-type balled his fists and the woolly mane on his head and back sparked with electricity. He grunted, waiting for his trainer's command.

"Cotton Stun!"

Cotton Stun was experimental, but the concept was simple enough – Zeus used Cotton Spore, but with an electrical charge just powerful enough to paralyse the opponent. Ash had actually thought of it while brainstorming strategies, and this one seemed like a pretty good idea.

The wool Zeus wore already had static electricity stored in it, so it wasn't exactly hard for him to use the Cotton Spore variation. In any case, half a dozen cotton balls burst out from the Flaaffy's mane, with enough amount of electricity embedded in them to paralyse the target – Delphi.

Ash grinned in happiness when the Cotton Spores latched onto the Natu and dispersed an electrical charge into her body. Ash grimaced as he saw sparks dance around her body for a moment; he hated seeing her like that, but she didn't mind.

Ash was actually surprised when she came up to him and volunteered to be the target for Zeus' practice. The first three times Zeus had tried using Cotton Stun, he'd put a bit too much electricity into it and shocked Delphi, but the Natu had simply shaken it off and shrieked for Zeus to try once more. Ash couldn't help but be surprised at the fortitude she demonstrated, especially since she wasn't fond of Zeus' electric attacks.

He watched in anticipation as Delphi hopped once, twice, thri – Delphi froze abruptly, a spark travelling around her body as she fell down to the ground. The electricity had incapacitated her, rendering her immobile for a few seconds.

Ash jumped up in joy, then immediately rushed over to Delphi with a full heal in his hands. He sprayed the medicine over the twitching bird and her paralyse quickly healed up. The Natu chirped and ruffled her feathers before smiling at Ash with her eyes, causing Ash to smile back.

"Great job, you two," Ash told them. He sighed. "I guess this is it for today. I'll get you guys healed up and we'll head for dinner. Sounds good?"

Zeus and Delphi nodded. Ash recalled Zeus, allowed Delphi to hop onto his shoulder and decided to call it a day.

It had been a long night.


Ash had only seen one two gyms in his life, and this one seemed like a joke.

Cerulean City's gym looked more like an entertainment facility than anything, what with the colourful stripes on the roof and the huge structure of a Dewgong on the front. Ash had actually double-checked whether he was in the right place, but sure enough, he was.

He'd woken up pretty early, but decided to give Delphi and Zeus a bit of training and having a hearty breakfast before going out. He made sure his pokémon didn't overeat, because he didn't want any of them falling sick mid-battle. He was pretty sure gym leaders didn't appreciate pokémon sicking over each other.

Ash stepped into the gym. It was a short walk to an enormous lobby, which was surprisingly empty. From what he had heard, the Sensational Sisters were very popular in Kanto and were regularly mobbed by crazy fans in Cerulean City.

A receptionist, with a bored expression on her face, sat at the front desk...digging her nose. Yuck. Apparently she hadn't noticed Ash yet, because she was still going at it. Ash felt pretty disgusted and he cleared his throat as loud as he could, startling the receptionist and causing her to jump in the air.

"Oh!" The receptionist hastily wiped the snot off on her blue mini-skirt. "Hello! If you're wanting to meet Cerulean's Sensational Sisters, they're not available—"

"I'm here for a gym battle," Ash cut in. The girl abruptly stopped and nodded.

"Okay. Please wait for a second." The receptionist pressed a button and spoke into a microphone. "Ms Waterflower? Ms Waterflower!" she yelled into the mic, causing Ash to wince at her loudness. The receptionist looked at Ash apologetically. "Sorry. It'll take a while to wake them up."

The girl kept screaming into the mic for the next five minutes until she heard someone yell back into her earpiece. "Ms Waterflower, we've got a challenger." Pause. "Yes, I understand." She looked at Ash and gestured to a door at her right. "Go in through there," she told him. "The Gym Leader will meet you shortly."

Ash dipped his head and pushed the door open. He was pumped for a battle.

The battlefield was pretty impressive. It was an enormous pool with several circular platforms scattered around it, which was a good thing since it would be good only to water pokémon. The huge swimming pool was surrounded by stands for spectators to sit, although the only ones present were three girls with distinctly coloured hair and another – someone very familiar to Ash – was swimming expertly.

As soon as the three girls in the bleachers saw Ash, they raced towards him, annoyed. Ash noticed they were stunningly hot. "What the hell, kid?" The one with orange hair pouted. "Couldn't you just let us sleep? Last night's show was like, so tiring!"

"Yeah, totes," the blue-haired girl agreed. "What kind of a trainer gets up so early?"

Ash glared at her, irritated. "What kind of a gym leader sleeps till eleven in the morning?"

"Why, the Sensational Sisters, of course!" the pink-haired exclaimed, utterly unabashed.

"Shut up, Lily," the girl with blue hair chided. "You'll make our reputation sink into the drains!"

"Yeah, like it hasn't already drowned," a familiar voice said acidly.

Ash turned his attention to the speaker. Ash immediately recognised her – the girl who'd been swimming earlier – and his face twisted into one of shock. "You! You're that Misty girl I met in Mt Moon!"

Misty smirked, drying her hair with a fluffy white towel she'd picked up on the way. "Yep. I was surprised you didn't come here yesterday – by the sounds of it, it seemed like you wanted to get to the gym battle straight away."

"You two like, know each other?" the blue-haired girl asked.

"Yes, Violet, try to keep up," Misty snapped. She turned to Ash with a smile. "The others already came up here yesterday, you know."

Ash frowned. "The others?"

"Let's see..." Misty screwed up her face in concentration. "That Paul boy easily won his badge with his Turtwig and Elekid, and that Jackie boy scraped a win, too – although it was expected when they had to battle my useless sisters," she added, smirking.

Violet glared at her. "We're so not useless!" she yelled. "We're the Sensational Sisters – and you're the runt!"

Misty groaned. "How many times do I have to tell you that the word 'runt' does not get to me?"

The blonde sighed. "As many—"

"Shut up, Daisy," Misty interrupted.

She turned to Ash. "Anyway, let's get this show started. Daisy, ref the match, please," she told Violet.

"Okie-dokie!" Violet squeaked, then ran over to the halfway position of the battlefield.

"Well, what do we do, then?" Lily huffed angrily, gesturing at herself and Daisy.

"Why don't you go sleep in the bleachers?" Misty suggested. The girls considered this, and a moment later shrugged and went to the stands.

Ash and Misty quickly walked towards their respective trainer boxes on the field. "How many badges do you have, Ash?" she yelled from across the field.

"One!" he yelled back.

Misty nodded and took out a set of pokeballs from her badge-registered teams. She stared fiercely at Ash, who stared back in the same challenging manner.

"This gym battle for the Cascade Badge will now begin!" Violet declared from her place. "Both sides are allowed to use only two pokémon. No substitutions are allowed. Incapacitate the leader's pokémon or force her to withdraw both of them, and you win the match!" she said, the last part directed towards Ash. The boy nodded. "The challenger will have the first move.

"Trainers, release your pokémon!"

There were two bursts of energy and light subsequently. Zeus formed on Ash's side, bleating angrily. Misty released a fish with white and orange scales – Goldeen. It sported a sharp, thin horn on its forehead and leapt into the air from under the water with its powerful dorsal and pectoral fins.

Ash didn't know much about it, except that it was blindingly fast in water for a water-type and had a wickedly sharp horn. He didn't want it anywhere near Zeus and made sure to mention that to his friend.

Violet slashed her hand down, flag and all. "Begin!"

"Charge," Ash ordered. He wanted Zeus to finish off Goldeen as quickly as possible before he let Delphi have a go at the gym leader's next pokémon.

Zeus immediately curled his fists and began to ionise the air around him. Sparks were drawn to his body in a matter of seconds, making his electric attacks than before as charges were pumped into his system.

Misty, however, didn't seem perturbed by this action. In fact, she seemed calmer than Ash had ever been and even had a smile on her face.

"Horn Attack," she told it. Goldeen murmured and bounded towards Zeus.

When Goldeen was a good distance away, Ash snapped. "Full-power Thundershock!" he shouted. "Fry it."

Zeus let loose a lance of electricity at Goldeen, ignoring the fact that Misty was smirking. Goldeen was leaping in and out of the pool as it made towards its opponent, and the electricity managed to hit it the second it burst out of the water, striking its horn—

Ash's eyes widened as the electricity was absorbed the second it touched the fish's horn, and Zeus looked equally surprised. Goldeen leapt at the Flaaffy with a glowing horn and proceeded to stab him right in the torso, making him bleat out in pain. Before he could do anything, however, Goldeen flopped back into the water and to its trainer's side.

"What the heck just happened?" he spluttered to no one in particular.

Misty snorted. "I've built my team to counter every weakness, Ash," Misty called out from the other side. "All I'll say is this: Lightning Rod."

Ash cursed under his breath. Of course it was Lightning Rod. Lightning Rod completely negated the effects of electric attacks on the carrier and instead boosted its strength every time the carrier was hit. Goldeen with this ability were incredibly rare, but maybe being a gym Leader Misty had contacts with professional breeders of all sorts.

Ash chewed his lip nervously. This completely changed the tide of the battle. If Zeus couldn't use electric attacks without strengthening the opponent, he was at a huge disadvantage. Granted, he did know stuff like Take Down and Iron Tail, but that would include physical contact and Ash really didn't want him to get anywhere near that horn.


He decided to hold that thought for later. "Cotton Stun!" Ash said. "Aim for the body, not the horn!" he added in a whisper.

Zeus grunted and balls of cotton shot out from his body and towards Goldeen. Misty scoffed. "What the hell is a Cotton Spore going to do?" she said as the wool latched itself on Goldeen's body. "I mean yeah, it'll slow her down, but—"

She stopped abruptly as Goldeen began to spasm and twitch uncomfortably as the paralysis took over. It took a moment for Misty to figure out what had happened. "A Cotton Spore with an electrical charge in it..." She sounded impressed. "I like it, but it'll take more than just a paralysis to bring Goldeen down! Goldeen, Water Pulse!"

Goldeen formed a positively large Water Pulse (for its level) in front of its mouth and fired it at Zeus. He didn't need to be told twice to dodge it, and Zeus successfully managed to evade it by leaping onto another platform. However, that brought him, unfortunately, tantalisingly close to Goldeen and its horn.

"Horn Attack!" Misty yelled triumphantly.

"Not happening!" Ash bellowed. "Intercept with Iron Tail!"

Horn Attack met Iron Tail and both pokémon were knocked back upon collision. Goldeen managed to do little damage to Zeus, because the Flaaffy had managed to evade the point and strike the side of Goldeen's horn. The fish whined at its aching horn, but shrugged it off and leapt towards Zeus once more.

"Pulsing Strike!" Misty ordered.

He didn't have the foggiest idea as to what Goldeen was preparing. "Dodge!" Ash called out.

A Water Pulse formed around Goldeen's horn and it swam towards Zeus. Zeus waited for the last second to dodge, but Goldeen simply bounced back out of the water and hit Zeus in the back. The sphere of water exploded in a pulsing wave upon contact and sent Zeus flying away, but not before Goldeen managed to score a swift jab with its horn.

Zeus bleated out in pain as he was sent flying into the water, but upon hearing Ash's orders he made to swim towards the nearest platform, however awkwardly. Misty took her chance.

"Pulsing Strike, double time!"

Zeus frantically began to paddle faster when he turned his head back and saw Goldeen speeding towards him, but in vain. The Water Pulse variant slammed into him and knocked him right into the platform he was heading towards. Ash glared in anger as he saw Goldeen deliver a few more Horn Attacks from all directions before swimming back to its trainer.

"You see?" Misty shouted as Zeus finally pulled himself onto the platform after moments of struggling. "You can't beat me right now, Ash. If you want you can come back later when my sisters are free – they basically hand out badges." She paused. "What is it – do you forfeit?"

Ash didn't say anything, but, instead of shaking with rage, he was surprisingly calm. Misty was just another milestone he had to pass to prove that he and his friends were strong enough to conquer the world. He wasn't going to end up like any other ordinary trainer in the world.

"Zeus!" he shouted. "If you're fine, keep going. Let's show them what you're made of!"

Ash smiled when he saw Zeus grinning at him, no matter how hurt he was. The Flaaffy stood up, doing his best to shake off the pain. He shook his body, removing most of the water in his wool before Ash saw sparks dancing across is body.

He wasn't giving up.

"Fine," Misty said. "I hate putting pokémon through so much pain, but I'll have to do it if your Flaaffy is still standing. Horn Attack!"

"Take Down," Ash said. "Avoid the—"

Zeus bleated in annoyance, effectively shutting his trainer up. He didn't need to be told constantly to avoid Goldeen's horn.

Zeus tensed up as Goldeen came closer, but the fish suddenly froze and spasmed as sparks flew across its body. Paralysis. It was still paralysed.

Zeus then leapt from platform to platform, building up speed while Goldeen followed him in the water, shooting Water Pulses occasionally. Zeus avoided them, and although one managed to nick him in the legs he kept running.

Finally Goldeen caught up and lunged at Zeus, but the Flaaffy ducked and avoided the glowing horn. Instead, he battered into Goldeen's underside in a reckless tackle and sent it flying into the air.

Ash decided to try out his idea. "Wild Charge when it comes down!"

Goldeen flailed helplessly as it plummeted straight to Zeus, who was waiting below it. Zeus tensed his legs and leaped into the air, cloaked in electricity as he slammed into Goldeen's underside once again, although this time giving it the shock of its life.

Ash grinned when Goldeen flopped and spasmed in pain from the electricity. Although he was happy that Zeus had managed to score a devastating hit, he was happier at the fact that his assumption was right all the while.

While Lightning Rod did draw negate the effects of electric attacks, it happened only if the pokémon managed to catch the electricity on a suitable rod – tails for Pikachu, bones for Cubone, and horns for Goldeen and its evolution, Seaking. Misty's Goldeen could easily redirect bolts of lightning to its horn and completely shrug off the electricity, but not it the case of Wild Charge, because it wasn't used in a beam-form like Thunderbolt or Thundershock, to name a few.

Wild Charge delivered an electric blow to the body, so Goldeen had had no way to redirect it to its horn. Ash was pretty smug to say that he'd thought of it all by himself, and in such a sticky situation.

Ash pulled himself out of his thoughts. "Zeus, finish it with Iron Tail!"

Misty was frantically calling out commands for Goldeen to get back into the pool, but Zeus was faster – much faster – and smacked a solid, metallic tail on Goldeen's head and knocked it out unconscious. The fish stopped flopping like a Magikarp and lay still on the platform.

Misty recalled Goldeen back into its pokeball and murmured a word of thanks to a sphere before putting it back on her belt. Even though they had just been in a heated battle, it warmed Ash's heart to see another trainer care for her pokémon the same way he did.

"Nice job there," Misty admitted grudgingly. "I thought Goldeen would've finished off that Flaaffy of yours, but the two of you managed to turn the tables around. Consider me impressed."

"Thanks, but it was all Zeus," Ash said, deflecting the praise to his friend, but Misty shook her head.

"I know he did a great job, but it was you that managed to keep him going. That pep talk? That shows the true bond between trainer and pokémon. It obviously shows that he trusts you. And I was stumped when you found a counter for Lightning Rod."

Ash smiled warmly. Misty was certainly a great gym leader. "Thanks for the kind words, but don't expect Zeus or I to let up to you for them," he said.

She grinned. "I like that attitude." She hurled a second pokeball in the air. "Starmie, let's go!"

The Starmie which appeared on the platform was very different than the one he'd seen her use in Mt Moon. It was significantly smaller, but Ash knew it was strong in its own right. It was also newly evolved, he noticed, because when it rotated the second set of arms on its back they moved slower than they normally would, which meant it was still getting used to its new form.

Ash couldn't help but asking his opponent a question. "Hey, what happened to your other Starmie?"

Misty smiled. "You're not yet ready for my league registered team," she told him. "I've trained it since I was seven years old. Its become quite the monster, you know."

Ash didn't know how she could train since seven, but before he could ask her, Violet cleared her throat. "Excuse me, but can your questions wait? A gym battle is going on!"

"Sorry." Ash turned his attention to Zeus, who was panting. That battle with Goldeen must've really tired him out. "Zeus, can you keep going? If you can't, let me know!"

Zeus nodded his head determinedly. He didn't have much gas left in the tank, but he wanted to keep battling. His goal was to get stronger. He didn't want to pull back just like that.

"Okay," Ash said, nodding, "but if I feel you're pushing yourself beyond your boundaries I'll recall you. Alright?"

Zeus grunted and turned to face Starmie.

"Begin!" Violet screamed.

"Thundershock!" Ash ordered. "Give it all you've got!"

"Dodge, Starmie!" Misty shouted.

Starmie's gem flashed and the second set of limbs began to spin like a helicopter, and, to Ash's astonishment, began soaring in the air. It effortlessly dodged the bolts of electricity Zeus kept firing, but the electric-type quickly stopped and watched his opponent warily.

"Hydro Pump!" Misty said.

Ash watched as a surge of water was blasted from the ends of Starmie's first set of arms at high pressure. He frowned as Starmie began spinning, spraying it all over the field. There was no way Zeus could dodge that in such a tired state.

He decided to try something. "Hit the water with Hydro Pump!"

Zeus let loose another bolt of electricity just as the Hydro Pump crashed into him. The water multiplied the intensity of the electricity and gave Starmie a thorough shocking.

Ash knew that Zeus was on his last legs as he saw the Flaaffy panting heavily and struggling to keep standing. "Thunder Wave, Zeus! Give it a little parting shot."

Zeus nodded in understanding. He himself knew that he was about to faint, but at least he could lay some damage on Starmie before giving Delphi a chance at defeating it. Zeus fired thin lances of electricity at the water-type, which it easily evaded with Rapid Spin. Zeus got more and more frustrated until he finally tagged the creature.

Starmie's limbs froze up and it went tumbling to one of the circular platforms. Sparks danced on its jewel as it spasmed and jerked due to the effects of paralysis.

Ash saw his chance. "Electro Ball!"

He'd never seen his friend perform the strange move before, so he decided to try it this time. Zeus willed his energy to collect at the orb on his tail until a medium-sized orb crackling with electrical energy formed at it. The Flaaffy swished his tail and the sphere was launched at his opponent.

Starmie got up at that moment and the electrical sphere slammed into its jewel. Starmie gurgled in pain as it was electrocuted by the attack, but Misty decided she'd had enough.

"Swift!" she ordered angrily.

Ash knew there was no dodging that. Swift was a unique move that followed its targets like homing missiles – it was very similar to Magical Leaf, its grass-type counterpart. He quickly recalled an already tired Zeus, and the star-shaped rays of energy exploded against the platform he was standing on.

"Good job, buddy," Ash told the pokeball in his hand. "It's time you take a rest."

He looked at Delphi on his shoulder. Delphi chirped and hopped onto the platform nearest to her trainer.

Misty raised an eyebrow sceptically, but didn't say anything. "Starmie, finish off that Natu quickly. Swift!"

"Night Shade!" Ash ordered. "Destroy each and every one of those things!"

Delphi blasted each and one of the homing rays with powerful black beams of energy. The only downside was that Starmie burst through the veil of smoke created and slammed into Delphi with its spinning body.

Ash winced as Delphi was hurled several metres back, but she managed to hop back up. She shrieked indignantly and fired a Night Shade at Starmie, who easily flew out of the way.

"Teleport/Night Shade combo!" Ash shouted.

"Dodge!" came Misty's command.

Delphi kept teleporting over the field, blasting at Starmie with Night Shades, but Starmie was still fast, even with the paralysis. It managed to avoid half a dozen of the ghostly attacks before Delphi tagged it on the gem and pushed it a few feet.

"Hydro Spin!" Misty ordered. Starmie's limbs tensed up and the tips of its appendages were filled with wa—

—Starmie twitched painfully as its muscles contracted too tight from the paralysis it was suffering. Ash took his chance and bellowed, "Shadow Ball!"

The sphere of ectoplasmic energy slammed into Starmie's jewel and knocked it to the pool. Starmie was still twitching uncontrollably for a moment or so, allowing Delphi to hit it with another Shadow Ball. The jewel on its body was now glowing dimly, signifying that it was low on health.

Misty chewed her lip nervously. "Recover!"

Ash blanched. If Starmie successfully pulled of the move, it was be fully healed in no time flat. "Don't let it, Delphi! Night Shade!"

Starmie took off like a helicopter, its gem glowing white as it began to wash healing energy over its body. Delphi hopped after it at top speed, firing Night Shades, but it vain. From what he was seeing, Starmie was already half-healed by now.

Delphi finally teleported right next to where Starmie was going to be and struck its limbs with a Night Shade. The healing process stopped immediately, but some of its bruises had faded. Delphi used Starmie's body as a launching pad to leap onto one of the platforms, but Misty wasn't having it.

"Hydro Pump!"

Delphi shrieked in pain as a close range Hydro Pump slammed into her small body and sent her hurtling away before she crashed into the pool. Ash feared for her, but a second later she teleported onto the nearest platform. She was panting and her entire body was drenched.

"Swift Spin!" Misty said. Starmie spun at top speed and scattered half a dozen star-shaped rays of energy that instantly began to home in on the Natu.

"Dodge!" Ash cried out.

Delphi teleported the second a few days were about to hit her, and they exploded on the platform, but the rest quickly changed direction and sped towards Delphi's next location.

Ash winced as a few stars slammed into his Natu, then continued their relentless pursuit. He had to find a way to get rid of them...

An idea sparked in his mind. "Delphi, get to Starmie!"

She glanced back at him, like, Are you crazy?, but nevertheless followed his orders. She teleported to Starmie, who had been gaining at her from the other side, and took the Rapid Spin that knocked her back. Thankfully, that was what Ash was waiting for.

He grinned when the Swift missed Delphi by a mere inch and proceeded to slam into Starmie. There was no time for the rays of energy to change direction and Starmie gurgled in pain from its own attack. Ash and Delphi had turned its own attack against it.

Misty scowled. "Recover, now!"

"Ominous Wind!" Ash said.

Delphi teleported in mid-air and exhaled a gust of ghostly energy from her beak. The winds formed a small, ghostly cyclone around Starmie and the pokémon gurgled frantically from the onslaught until the winds died down and let Starmie go away.

"Drill Peck!" he roared. "Aim for the jewel!"

Delphi leaped at Starmie with all her strength while corkscrewing like a drill. Delphi slammed dead-centre into Starmie's jewel with so much force that it cracked and sent the water-type flying into the wall of the gym, where it crashed and slumped down in defeat. The cracked jewel blinked a few times before it stopped completely.

Violet called it. "Starmie is unable to battle!" she declared. "Natu wins! Victory goes to challenger Ketchum!"

"Yes!" Ash felt a wave of joy rush over him. It felt even better than his first gym battle against Brock, but maybe because this one was much more intense and closer than the previous one. Both his pokémon had taken a lot of damage and Delphi had even come close to fainting.

Ash recalled Delphi, who was struggling to keep standing. He pressed the pokeball to his lips, which were curled up in a smile. "You did amazing, girl."

Misty recalled Starmie and walked over to Ash with a huge smile on her face. "It's not everyday that someone manages to beat me," she said. "Great job."

"Starmie and Goldeen were really good, too," Ash complimented wholeheartedly. "I'm pretty sure Goldeen would've been able to knock out Zeus with a bit more training."

Misty nodded. "Yeah. My sisters just got him a few weeks ago, but he's pretty strong." She shook her head. "Anyway, that's enough of me. Here's your—"

"Prize!" Violet interrupted with a squeal. She had both her palms open; one had a teardrop-shaped badge while the other had a light-blue floppy disc. "Here is your Cascade Badge—" she pressed it in Ash's open palm, "—and here is the complimentary TM!"

Ash received the two objects eagerly. He put the Cascade Badge in his pocket for now – it would go in his badge case later – but held the floppy disc in his hand. "What TM is it?"

"Scald," Misty said simply. "It's a more powerful version of Water Gun, but the major difference is that the user releases boiling hot water. It sometimes leaves quite a burn."

"Great." Ash grinned. He couldn't wait for Hydrus to evolve into a Golduck so that he could teach him the new move. "Thanks a lot."

"Where are Daisy and Lily?" Misty asked Violet suddenly.

"Oh, they're still sleeping in the bleachers, those lazybones," her sister replied.

"Like you aren't one," Misty muttered darkly.

Violet pouted. "Am not, you runt!"

"Don't call me runt!"

"Okay, runt," Violet teased. Misty simply groaned and rolled her eyes.

A question popped in Ash's head. "Wait, aren't you participating in the Indigo Conference this year?" he asked Misty.

"Yes," she answered. "So?"

"I mean..." He looked confused. "But you're a gym leader. Will they even allow you to collect badges?"

Misty smirked. "As of now, I've got the Boulder, Cascade (obviously), Soul, Volcano and Rainbow Badges," she told smugly to an awestruck Ash. "I've still got to beat Giovanni, Sabrina and Lt Surge. Giovanni and Sabrina are monsters, so I have to train up the rest of my team for real, and Surge is just a dick." She scowled when she mentioned the ex-soldier's name.

"The only downside is that the rest of the gym leaders use their real teams, so I have a tough time beating them," she told Ash. "I've had to ask Koga for a rematch and Surge has kicked my ass thrice by now – four, actually. I forgot last Thursday."

Ash smiled. "Maybe I'll get to battle you and your real team," he told her.

She grinned fiercely. "Don't expect to win, though! I'm winning that Cup if it's the last thing I do!"

Ash snorted. "We'll see."


His team greeted him with a cacophony of sounds. Ash looked at each and every one of them, grinning hard. "Look what we won today," he told them, and he fished the badge out.

Their team cheered when they saw the teardrop-shaped badge held between Ash's fingers. Zeus looked pretty happy with himself and so did Delphi. They both received their teammates' cheers and congratulations warmly.

The only one who looked confused was Hydrus, who tilted his head in bewilderment as he considered the strange object. "It's a gym badge," he told his newest friend. "If you win one, it shows how strong you are."

With that news, Hydrus went off to congratulate Delphi and Zeus for their victory in a series of quacks. Ash couldn't hold back a laugh as he saw them act like one big, happy family.

He considered his next move. He wanted to head to Vermillion not only to catch the St Anne, which was docking at the city in a month's time, also to challenge Vermillion's notoriously powerful gym leader – Lt Surge. From the way everyone was talking, he seemed like Giovanni-material, but Ash knew that wasn't the case. Surge was just one of those people that intimidated people into becoming nothing more than flopping Magikarp, but he certainly wasn't a pushover and Ash would take him seriously. There was a reason he was considered one of Kanto's top eight gym leaders.

With that, he and the rest of his team proceeded to devour their lunch. As smirked. If there was one thing they all had in common – Ash included – it was their appetite. He made a mental note to pack some extra food for the journey that lay ahead.

Ash recalled his pokémon and stepped out of the Pokémon Centre, making sure to restock his supplies before he hit the road. He briefly wondered how different it would be in the wilderness without Jack or Natalie by his side but he dispelled the thought and smiled.

It was his journey, after all.


Hey, guys! I hope you enjoyed the chapter as much as I did. I really liked writing this chapter, which is why I worked on it double time so that it could come out earlier than expected.

I honestly spent a lot of time deciding what water-type Ash should get. It was first Krabby, then Psyduck, then Mudkip, then back to Krabby, then Poliwag and then finally Psyduck. I hope you guys are happy with my choice!

Gary makes a special appearance! Gary is not a dick rival to Ash, but he also isn't like those shitty rivals like Brendan/May, Hau, Calem/Serena, etc. Gary is the competitive rival who is still friendly to Ash and is a jerk only to Jack because he doesn't deem him 'worthy'.

Ash gets his ticket to the St Anne, and I need some help here. I'll need OCs for a tournament I'm planning to keep during the St Anne Arc. Frankly I'll be using only five or six of them, but if there are some that catch my eye I'll use them for a later tournament I've planned.

The rules for OC submissions: give me a brief description of the character, age, gender, behaviour, etc. They should be two to four badges power wise – if they are stronger than expected I'll weaken them up and use them. No OP and legendary pokémon and take it easy on the Shinies as well. List six pokémon and I'll choose which ones should stand in for battles. You can even choose international pokémon because I want most of the OCs to be rich brats XD

Side note: updates for Trainer: Kanto Arc will be slow till March, because I'm having my twelfth grade going on and I really need to study for my finals. Sorry for the disappointment, and the story's not being abandoned, just don't expect updates as quick as previously :)

Anyways, thank you for your support! Here are the review responses for chapter three:

Mewmaster89: I can not wait it's getting good and will Ash get an Eevee.

-For that, you'll have to wait and see ;)

Vvethsuvan: This story is interesting and well written. Though some characters rub me the wrong way. If I was in Ash's situation, I would've ditched them.

Besides that, this has a lot of potential.

-Thank you for the kind words! And, yes, Ash had 'ditched' Jack and Natalie. He's on his own now.

Rockingchampif: Awesome chapter great story so far i like the pokemon ash have exotic pokemons not native to kanto...this chapter reminded me of the fanfic the challenger i guess you were inspired by that one ...having few pokemon good pokemon is a great way to go...

-Yes, Challenger was one of the things that made me rewrite my original story. Darkfire1220 has an unnatural ability to give a good pace to his story. As for having few pokémon, Ash certainly will catch a good amount of pokémon, but not so many that he'll be overcrowded with them.

Crazily Insane One: Awesome. I've been waiting for you. Nomad was on my favorites for a long time. That's how I keep track of stories I like. It's my 3rd most favourite story after The Traveler and The Challenger. Considering this is written by the author of Nomad I'm not surprised the story is so awesome. While I'm disappointed you chose Mareep over the multitude of other Electric Pokemon available. It's still quite good considering the diverse range of moves it has access to. And Clefairy! You rock dude. Clefairy maybe slightly girly but I find it to be one of my favorites. Though it is rarely seen in Fanfiction. Dratini is obviously my favorite dragon type but I don't think you'll be giving Ash that... Or will you? Would be pretty awesome if Ash went solo after Cerulean since it will allow things to change up a bit. But if he doesn't that's fine too. I do hope he'll get the other 2 starters. Charizard is my all time favorite of Ash's Pokémon. It almost feels OP but I can't help it. No matter what anyone does. Charizard will remain at the top of my list for fire types. I'm fine if he doesn't get Squirtle. Give him 2 fire types if need be. But give him a Charizard for sure. Pretty please?

-The praise and kind words are what really keep me writing! I'm rely happy that you think the Nomad was on top with Challenger and Traveller, but I've still got a long way to go. As for choosing Mareep, Ampharos is my personal favourite because Mega Ampharos is a beast, however beautiful it looks, lol. I was strongly leaning towards choosing Pikachu, but I decided to think of something original. Plus, Ash's brother, Red, already has one and if I gave Ash Pikachu after giving him both Poliwag and Bulbasaur it would seem like I was giving him his manga team. Elekid was given to Paul and I don't like the Voltorb or the Magnemite line very much. And so Mareep was my choice.

As for Clefairy, it really isn't used much in fanfiction and is a great asset in battle. I also wanted to give Ash a counter to dragon-types. Speaking of dragons, no, Ash won't be getting a Dratini, although I have decided on giving him a dragon in Kanto. You'll just have to wait and see what it is :)

You got your wish! As for catching Charmander, I'm debating over the entire thing because I've already chosen Ash's fire-type for the region. I love Charmander and it breaks my heart to see Ash ignore him on the rock and leave him to die :'( However, if Ash doesn't get Charmander it'll probably go to someone else. I'm not that cruel.

Anyway, thank you for the long review! I hope you like Trainer more than The Nomad and there will surely be more to come.

Thanks for reading!

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