Hello, everyone, and welcome to another chapter of Trainer! However, before we begin, I have an apology to make.
Seems that some parts of the previous chapter were very similar, if not downright plagiarized, from The Mortal Earth by Mateusz, which is one of the few good Ash-journey-rewrite fics I've seen on FFn. Suffice to say that I was pretty irritated at myself. I'd been rereading TME a lot since chapter two was uploaded, so I guess it was just there somewhere in the back of my mind, just waiting to resurface. I know that it's a shitty explanation, and that it doesn't help this situation in anyway, but…
My point is that I'm sorry, I made a mistake, but it still happened and I'm sorry. When I get the time to edit the previous chapters I'll be making some minor edits so it gets cleared up and I don't get angsty.
I think that's it, really, because FFn has some rules that I don't wanna get caught breaking. Once again, I'm really sorry (I'm looking at you, Mateusz).
Chapter Nine: Tower Troubles
Two mornings later, Ash arrived at the outskirts Lavender Town.
He was dirty and sweaty and downright tired after so much traveling. His ankle had somewhat mended, although the constant walking hadn't helped the process. He was just thankful to his mom for packing a first-aid kit despite him not knowing.
He got a look at the real damage to his friends the morning after he'd captured Snorlax. Chimchar hadn't been hurt too bad, since he'd just been knocked out by a single blow from Snorlax. Ash frowned. He really needed to help his Chimchar to build up his endurance.
Zeus was fine as well. That Earth Power had been a bit too much, but he was in the same boat as Chimchar – both of them weren't seriously hurt and had been up and ready in almost no time.
Which was more than could be said for Delphi.
Delphi had taken the brunt force of Snorlax's Hyper Beam right in the back. Ash was worried whether her spine had broken and she'd been paralyzed, but it was nothing of that sort. Bird pokémon, however weak their bones were compared to others, could survive strong hits without severe damage. A few super potions had done the job, although he didn't let her out of her pokeball much. He wanted to have her checked by the Pokémon Centre in Lavender Town so that there wouldn't be any complications regarding her healing. It was well known that potions merely accelerated a pokémon's healing process; only a Pokémon Centre could fully heal a pokémon without any backlash.
Speaking of the Xatu, he was puzzled by her. Ever since she'd evolved, Delphi had been an enigma to him, like a completely different person. It was hard to get used to her new personality and behavior, which was far from the cheery yet fiery Natu he'd met on route one. Now, however, he was getting to understand something. She had been utterly displeased by their chosen sleeping place, and had denied sleep, choosing to wake up Ash several minutes before Snorlax had come upon them. How did she know? He needed to check that out.
He also needed to get some new clothes. His jeans had been ripped from falling so much and his t-shirt was torn in several places. His jacket and hat (which had been conveniently fallen alongside Snorlax's pokeball), thankfully, were as good as new, albeit a little worn out and incredibly dusty. He didn't know if Lavender Town had a clothes store or not, but he might as well try. He didn't want to roam around Kanto dressed like a homeless person.
Ash grimaced as he felt his fingers reach the lone ultra-ball on his belt which wasn't empty, which Saur had managed to snag from the pile of rubble with his vines (along with Ash's hat). He didn't know what to do with the Snorlax now that he'd captured it – should he release it or trade it over the GTS for a rarer pokémon? He knew loads of trainers would want a Snorlax on their arsenal – they were weapons that, if honed, could bring victory even in the grimmest situation.
It also didn't help that it tried to kill him, not once but several times. Ash had to grudgingly praise it for its resilience, although he didn't have to be particularly happy about it, since Snorlax's stubbornness had nearly brought him closer to the heavens.
Not to mention that raising a Snorlax was difficult. They ate a stunningly huge amount of food and weren't easy to maintain. They were also somewhat unreliable, since they were the epitome of laziness and gluttony, and it took a lot to rouse one from its deepest slumbers. There'd been products made specially for Snorlax that were the size of meat tins but could obliterate the gluttonous creatures' hunger in a matter of a couple minutes, but they were pretty expensive. He wished Red or Blue, or even Leaf, would take pity on him and help him out.
In the end he decided to hold onto it and make it a part of his team. His friends weren't that strong to take it singlehandedly right now, but he was sure that by the time he'd reach Celadon City they would be Snorlax's equal. Plus, he didn't want to let it go so easily. He and his team (not to mention that Nidoking, who hopefully hadn't noticed the missing plate on his back) had paid in blood and sweat to force it into submission. He would hold onto it for as long as he lived.
He shook his head, setting his thoughts aside. He walked towards Lavender Town to make his first stop – the Pokémon Centre.
Finding the Pokémon Centre was a rather arduous task. The locals were downright rude and simply brushed him off or ignored him whenever he approached one for directions. After several failed attempts he was furious, but fate allowed him to meet a pleasant, young couple who very eagerly pointed out the way towards his required destination. Ash dipped his head in respect and thanks before racing to the Centre, whose shape he could make out from the distance.
He rubbed his palms together as the cold air circulating the inside of the Centre washed over him, but it didn't affect him much – Lavender Town by itself was fairly chilly, which was odd considering that it was only mid-May.
Which meant that the Indigo Conference would commence in about a year's time. The League kept shifting the date of the renowned tournament to have skies full of clear weather throughout the event, so it was always around May or April. Last year it had been in January, which had been a surprise, although he supposed the League had its reasons.
He thought back to when he had begun his journey. It was coming close to three months since he'd left home, and he and his friends had grown exponentially strong. He could just hope that he'd become as strong as Red and make a name for himself just like his brother.
He was pulled out of his musings as he reached the front desk of the Pokémon Centre, where the Nurse Joy of Lavender Town flashed him a genuine smile. "Hello!" she exclaimed. "How can I help you?"
He set his clutch of pokeballs on the counter wearily. "My pokémon need to be healed up, please," he said with a slight yawn. Joy nodded grabbed the pokeballs before placing them on a tray with twelve pokeball holders. "I'd also like to book a room for the night, Nurse."
Joy nodded. "Alright. Can I have your identification please?"
Ash handed over his pokédex, which had been in his hand since he'd been anticipating that request anyway. He drummed his fingers on the counter as the nurse typed away on her sleek keyboard before looking up, hand outstretched as she held his device as well as a key card for his room. "It's done. I'll ring your room once your pokémon are all healed up. And I suggest you take a shower in the meantime – it looks like you've been in several rough spots."
Ash grinned, but nodded at her words. He thanked her once again before walking to his room. He really was tired.
Three hours later, Ash appeared at the front desk of the Pokémon Centre. He'd slept for quite some time after exiting his warm and pleasant shower, which only contributed to his drowsiness, along with the soft mattress he immediately jumped upon. He'd only woken up by the constant ringing of his room's intercom, or he'd been sleeping for an even longer period.
Joy readily handed him his team, with the exclusion of Snorlax. The woman's normal and cheery demeanor had completely faded when Ash reluctantly mentioned the gluttonous normal-type that had nearly killed him two days ago. The boy instantly steeled himself for the lecture that followed the narrowing of Nurse Joy's eyes.
"How could you be so irresponsible?" she demanded, her voice so sharp that it seemed to pierce him like daggers. Ash only gulped and wisely didn't answer, because if he knew one thing about women it was to not interrupt them while they were on a roll. "Your Snorlax has received a deep gouge to the stomach as well as its left shoulder, and there was enough poison in its system to wipe out several weaker pokémon in an instant. What were you doing, huh? Did you throw it on a pile of Toxic Spikes from the peak of Mt Silver?! And how the heck are you carrying seven pokémon anyway?"
Ash sighed. "My carry limit was lifted a month ago by Bill Goodshow," he explained. "As for the Snorlax, it was the same one that wreaked havoc on Route twelve, and it nearly killed me several times. I only got saved because a Nidoking nearly defeated it."
Nurse Joy pursed her lips, as if deciding whether to believe his story or not. He assumed she did, because she sighed resignedly. "Alright. Here is your Snorlax, but be careful. It's a bit tender and susceptible to a relapse, so don't expose it to any poison-type attacks until tomorrow. Is that okay?"
Ash nodded. He would use any excuse to keep the beast as far away from him until his anger and annoyance for Snorlax softened. He muttered a thank-you and was just about to leave before he remembered something. "If it's not too much trouble, could you please point me in the direction of the Pokémon Tower? I've been wanting to catch a ghost-type pokémon."
Joy chewed her lip nervously. "Alright…Just head East from here – its at the edge of town and near the mountains. Just make sure that you stay safe, okay?" she warned, her eyes examining him with concern. "The ghosts have gotten a lot more aggressive lately, particularly the ones at the topmost level."
Ash smiled. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Oh, and I suggest you talk to Mr Fuji first," she recommended, and Ash's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he said the name.
"Mr Fuji? Like, Professor Akira Fuji?" he clarified. He'd heard the name several times before – Akira Fuji had been a renowned scientist back in the day. He was actually the one who'd headed the fossil regeneration team, along with Blaine, ex-Elite Four member and current Cinnabar Island gym leader. Fuji had also been a master in the field of genetics and cloning, and with several other scientists had managed to pull off the successful cloning of the first pokémon ever – Dolly the Mareep.
But his legacy had ended when he'd abruptly given up continuing his work directly after the great Kohto Civil War – something to do with his daughter what's-her-name being killed – and had decided to spend the rest of his life in Lavender Town, devoted solely to taking care of abandoned and mistreated pokémon.
Joy smiled. "That's the one. I'm sure he'll have a lot of interesting things about the Pokémon Tower to tell you," she finished.
He nodded. "I'll make sure to do that. Thanks for your help, Nurse Joy!"
She simply continued smiling. "No problem, Mr Ketchum. Stay safe!" she added as he rushed out of the Centre.
Mr Fuji's house was the biggest house in town – four stories tall – and was the only one without dull colors. Outside, near the fence, was a metal sign that read 'POKÉMON VOLUNTEER HOUSE'. Next to the house was a garden, where several, small pokémon – Oddish, Nidoran and the like – with a couple of teenagers overseeing them.
The door was slightly open, so Ash simply assumed that they didn't mind people barging in, so he shamelessly walked inside the house. It looked like the epitome of normality, except for the several playpens that gave the pokémon their own space. They were small pokémon; babies, Ash assumed, as he saw an Igglybuff giggle when it tossed a small ball of yarn into the air with its nimble hands, making him smile fondly.
Tending to these pokémon were a few people, consisting of both adults and children around his age. As he walked inside, a couple of them shot him intriguing looks and a boy prodded a girl in the shoulder next to him, causing her to look at him in brief surprise.
"Oh!" She smiled, pushing herself up and walking towards Ash. She looked only a year older to him and her long, black hair was tied in an elaborate ponytail. "Hello. How may I help you?" She was trying to restrain her blush.
Ash smiled back at the girl. "Hello," he replied warmly. "I was told that this is the Pokémon Volunteer House led by Mr Fuji…?"
Her lips stretched upwards. "It is. My name is Reina, and I'm one of the workers here, along with being Mr Fuji's granddaughter." Her back straightened as she said those last words.
"Well, I'm Ash. Anyways, I was wondering whether Mr Fuji was home. Nurse Joy suggested that I meet him, since I am headed for the Pokémon Tower in any case."
Reina's face darkened. "Unfortunately, I don't know where he is right now," she muttered. "In fact, none of us know. He's been missing for over three days now, and I'm thinking that I should've filed that missing complaint at the police station a while back."
Ash blinked. "What?"
"Mhmm." She nodded rather sadly. "We don't even know where he was planning to go. Maybe it's the ghosts hands at work," she mused.
Reina sighed and motioned Ash to sit with her on a nearby couch. Once they were comfortable, the girl began. "Ever since the Pokémon Tower has begun being converted into the Kanto Radio Tower, has begun, the ghosts and spirits residing in there have become restless. This is understandable; nobody likes to lose their haven, and that is the same for ghost-type pokémon, however alien and different they are to us. However, the ghosts have become particularly vehement and aggressive lately, due to this act. They've been behaving nastily. One of the workers who had been helping in moving the graves to the House of Memories was attacked rather severely; he nearly lost an arm to an angry Haunter."
Ash cocked an eyebrow at that. From what Reina was saying, the ghost-types seemed to have it in for all humans. Suddenly he wasn't eager at the prospect to catch a ghost.
"But…Are all the ghosts angry in the Tower?" was all he could ask.
Reina shook her head. "Not all. Some of them are hardly affected by the destruction of their 'home'—" she said that with air quotes, "—but most of them are. Not all of them have murderous intent – Haunter are dangerous by nature anyway, so it's expected of them – but they are certainly riled up."
"So is the Pokémon Tower closed or something?" he asked.
Reina smiled. "Oh, no. The construction only started three days ago."
Ash frowned. "Isn't that when Mr Fuji disappeared?"
"…Yes," Reina admitted, her face darkening. "But whether there is a connection between these two or not, I can't say for sure.
"Anyway, make sure to visit only the first three floors – the upper levels, especially the topmost floor, is a favorite haunt for ghost-type pokémon. Although I'm not sure you'll find one, considering their dwindling numbers over the past few days."
And Ash, knowing that it was time to leave, bid the girl goodbye.
"Got 'em!" a woman exclaimed, flicking a strand of her golden hair out of her face as the ultra-ball on the floor stopped shaking and clicked. She wore a standard black uniform with a scarlet 'R' on her chest, marking her as a Rocket grunt. Her beady eyes glittered in glee as she walked over and picked up the capture device from the tiled floor. She took out her own pokeball and aimed it at the Raticate standing impassively in front of her, its tail flicking slowly. "Return, Raticate," she said, and the large rodent hissed as it was recalled in its pokeball.
"C'mon, Cassidy," the man next to her said, and the woman tossed the ultra-ball to him. He examined the sphere in his hand, and thought about pocketing the rare device before shaking his head; it wasn't worth risking the wrath of his superiors. He ran his hand through his hair – green hair, to be precise – as he tossed the ultra-ball in a sack containing a hell lot of pokeballs. He sighed as his companion started prancing around the fairly large room. "Quit playing around."
Cassidy huffed. "Stop bring such a bore, Biff."
"For the last damn time woman, my name is Butch!" Biff/Butch snarled. He smashed his fist into the floor in anger, instantly regretting it when pain seared through his bones. The tile under his hand cracked slightly, and he looked at it in slight fear, as if scared that the ground would give away.
"Whatever," Cassidy muttered with a roll of her eyes.
"All we need to do now is just catch a few more of those ghost pokémon, and then we're done!" Jessie said.
"Good. " Her partner – James – rubbed his palms together and breathed into them, shivering slightly from the chilled air. "I'm ready to blow this popsicle stand. This place is giving me the creeps."
"Meowth agrees," Meowth said. "Especially since that real ghost started appearing."
"Chill, Meowth," James comforted on instinct. "The boss just transported up this Silph scope, so if that spirit shows up we're gonna kick its associated into next year!"
"Shut it, you clowns!" Cassidy snapped.
Jessie glared at the other woman. "Who the hell are you to tell us that?!"
Cassidy smirked. "If you don't recall, Sir Proton kept us in charge of you twits, including the rest of the grunts. Ain't that right Chuck?"
"Leave me out of this," the man in question said, not even bothering to correct his name.
"How is the geezer holding up, anyway?" Jessie asked. "It'll be a shame if we lose such a valuable asset so quickly."
"He's still as defiant as ever," Butch replied as all four humans focused on him.
Akira Fuji was in a grim situation. His body was cloaked in dust and grime and his sweater-vest was torn in several places. Keeping him restrained were thick, bristly ropes that bound his legs and his arms behind his back. In any case, there was no need for the ropes, since the Rocket grunts had beaten him up pretty badly.
"Team Rocket," he uttered, his voice grave. "I should've known."
Cassidy smirked. "Yeah, you should've. Still, I can't believe it's really you. You look like a breeze'll knock you out in seconds."
Despite his exhaustion, Fuji mustered a hard glare. "I understand why you have restrained me – I stumbled on your operations and almost exposed you buffoons to the public. But why the child?" he pleaded, jerking his head to the lanky ten-year-old in the corner, whose eyes were lolled in the back of his head, his purple hair a mess as he lay unconscious and bound in the other end of the room. "Let him go. He has done nothing wrong."
"The twerp was there when we arrived, searching for them spooky ghosts," Meowth purred. "It ain't our fault if he followed us!"
"It's a good thing you came, anyway," James said. "Team Rocket was anyway going to extract you from your home in a few days. Once we're done here, we'll take you back to HQ and hand you over to the boss. He's really anticipated to meet you, and he'll surely give us a promotion for doing his work."
Fuji grimaced. "Why does your leader want me?" he asked, fearing the answer.
Butch rose to his full height and smirked. "Why else? Your work on cloning and gene-splicing is phenomenal. You headed the fossil regeneration team and successfully cloned a pokémon…but that's lame. Seriously, a Mareep? You could've at least cloned a Tyranitar or something! What a b—"
"What we're trying to say," Jessie interjected hastily, "is that your skills are needed at Team Rocket…again. It's time you finished what you started, Doctor Fuji. Project: Deoxyri-B needs your help."
Fuji's wrinkled features twisted into a scowl. "You think I'm going to come back and help you monsters?" he said in a snarl so vicious that the Rockets looked surprised. "You think I'm going to repeat creating that abomination that destroyed half of Kanto and Johto in a few days?! Too many people have died because of me…and I've sworn to do nothing but good since that day. Nothing you say, or do, is going to change my stand."
Cassidy turned red with rage. "Listen, old man… You're going to help us conquer the world. Or else—"
"Or what? What are you clowns going to do? Kill me?" The old man laughed without mirth. "That's not going to happen – you need me. You need my mind, my brain, my knowledge. Without me, your "experiment" isn't going to last a second. There's no Amber this time…You can't threaten me with her life again. And that's another reason as to why I won't help you dunderheads: you killed my daughter!" he added, voice strangled with fury.
The Rockets were silent for a few seconds. "…The geezer's got a point there, Crotch," Jessie admitted.
Butch groaned. "Not Crotch!" he moaned. "Call me anything but that!"
"Speaking of Amber," Cassidy said, "We have a rather…interesting…proposition for you, Doctor." She seemed to grin as she bent down so that she was eye-level with Fuji. "You and I both know that we need you for this little thing Team Rocket is funding. And you and I both know that, every single day, your heart pangs for dear Amber." She sighed dramatically, and Butch sniggered. "So…would you like your daughter back?"
The Pokémon Tower was enormous – at least ten floors high, with greenish-black walls. It was also fairly conical in shape, and had a domed top, with a long spire shooting upwards. As Ash came closer to it, he felt…unwelcome. Unwanted. He got the distinct feeling that something was warding him off, but it was too late to turn back now.
It was dim inside. Ash relied on his trusty flashlight to guide him through the eerie monument. His flashlight illuminated the path in front of him, as well as countless tombstones jutting out of the floor in rows. The place gave him the creeps but he steeled himself. He'd survived a Snorlax, dammit. He could not be easy to spook.
Ash reached for a pokeball and tapped the release, letting Saur loose. He felt much happier and warmer by his presence – he was glad to know that he wasn't passing through unknown land alone. Besides, he felt safer trekking through the melancholic spire with one of his friends on the outside.
The Ivysaur growled and stretched his limbs as much as he could before smiling at Ash, a gesture which he returned in full. "It's nice to see you too, Saur."
They walked through the tower for a while, searching for any inhabitants in said tower, which was a tedious task. There was not one ghost in sight (which wasn't saying a lot), but Ash didn't complain (much). Even Saur seemed weirded out by the lack of appearances.
They kept climbing stair after stair, searching high and low for the hint of a ghost. Disappointment started welling up in his chest, and he was tempted to keep climbing to the sixth floor as he stood at the base of the stairs that would lead him there. Reina's warning kept playing in his mind on replay, but in the end he decided to take the risk – he would keep climbing.
"This is boring," Ash groaned once he and Saur were done scouting the fifth floor. Saur grunted in affirmative, trotting next to his trainer. "I think the ghosts have left, buddy. Let's— hey!" he exclaimed suddenly, a thought striking his mind. "Saur, use Sweet Scent. Draw them out!"
Saur grinned as he understood what Ash was getting at and immediately tensed his legs before a cloyingly sweet aroma started to pour out of his bud. Ash couldn't help but grin as the pleasing scent pervaded his nostrils – the smell was fantastic, and he could never get used to it. He watched as the pink aroma diffused through the foggy air in order to draw out a pokémon.
Ash's triumphant grin faltered within minutes when there was no appearance of a ghost-type pokémon. He scowled, his shoulders slumping in annoyance and disappointment. "Let's go, Saur. There's nothing—"
He tensed and stopped as he felt a slight breeze on his neck. He whipped around, but screamed at the sight of two red and yellow eyes a mere inch away from his face. Ash scrambled back in fright and so did Saur, falling flat on his rear, his heart beating as the wraith giggled in amusement. But he grinned later when he recognized the intruder by its telltale necklace of red orbs its species were famous for.
The Misdreavus was around two-foot four, hovering in the air, its ghostly extensions for hair flowing slightly by nonexistent wind. The ghost-type giggled an echo, looking curiously at Ash for a moment.
Ash's eyes widened as his chance to capture a ghost-type literally began drifting away. His eyes snapped towards Saur, who looked back at Ash. "Saur, Vine Whip!"
A sturdy vine shot towards the fleeing Misdreavus, cracking like a whip as it struck the ghost. Misdreavus yelped in pained surprise as the vine smacked its ectoplasmic skin, throwing it to the side, where it tumbled in the air before coming to a halt.
The ghost-type stood still for a few seconds, during which Ash felt legitimately nervous and afraid, wondering whether the pokémon would turn on him. Instead, the Misdreavus whipped around, its grin transforming into a cocky smirk. It leered at Saur, although its eyes were twinkling with amusement.
Misdreavus hissed a challenge and Ash tensed as the shadowy creature began to rush at Saur. Fine by me, Ash mused to himself. A battle it is. "Saur, use—"
He never got to finish his sentence as the Misdreavus' suddenly fired a blob of ghostly energy with surprising speed, blitzing through the air as it left a trail of ominous black wind in its wake. Saur barely had time to blink before the otherworldly attack smashed into his face and popped in an explosion of black smoke and electricity.
Misdreavus cackled as Saur was sent reeling by the powerful Shadow Ball, but its eyes turned serious when the Ivysaur rolled onto his feet. Ash glared back at the ghost, clenching his fist as Misdreavus formed another Shadow Ball in front of its mouth. "Energy Ball!" he ordered. "Then Razor Leaf!"
Saur let loose a powerful surge of solar energy in the form of a sphere, which collided harshly with Misdreavus' Shadow Ball, resulting in an explosion of dust and smoke. Ash shielded his eyes as the wind streamed towards him, causing his hat to nearly fly off. Saur then grunted, the fronds atop his back tensing as he scattered several curved, sharp leaves from them. Ash grinned as the leaves spun and whizzed towards Misdreavus, who howled in pain as they slashed its corporeal form. The ghost plucked an embedded leaf from its ectoplasmic skin before focusing on its opponent once again.
The boy's eyes widened as Misdreavus sucked in a deep breath, then let loose a blast of icy air from its mouth. He hadn't fought a pokémon who could use that move, but he recognized it as Ice Wind. The fact that this Misdreavus knew it meant that it had trained with determination to master the move, which made Ash want to capture it even more.
He was shaken out of his musings as he felt the temperature around him drop, telltale signs that the gust of cold wind was approaching. The grass-type leapt away to dodge the attack, but his size, increased from evolution, prevented him from fully avoiding it. He shook away his fuzzy vision, the side of his head still having a thin layer of frost from the Icy Wind, although it was melting, and it irritated more than it hurt him. With an angry growl, he taunted Misdreavus to attack.
Misdreavus smirked before darting at Saur as it charged another Icy Wind to throw at its opponent. "Dodge, then Stun Spore!" Ash yelled.
The saurian adeptly pushed himself out of the way with his vines, and the gust of chilled air streamed to the floor, causing the tile to crater and a sheen of frost to develop in a small circle, while Saur unleashed a cloud of yellow spores on the specter. Misdreavus gasped and whipped at its opponent just as the spores settled on its corporeal form, and it froze abruptly as the spores finally did their work.
Saur blasted Misdreavus ruthlessly, causing the ghost to caterwaul in pain as it drifted away slowly, the orbs around its neck glowing. Ash grinned. "Vine Whip!"
The Misdreavus leapt for him once again once the vines that had struck it retracted. Saur rolled to the side, holding himself upright as Misdreavus smashed into the ground. He grunted, pawing at the tiles beneath his feet before grappling a recovering Misdreavus with his vines, holding the specter upright. The ghost writhed against its bounds just as Saur released yet another Energy Ball from his maw.
Misdreavus moaned in pain as yet another Energy Ball exploded in its face. The ghost unleashed twin beams of black energy and Ash ducked down as it nearly took his head off, scrambling away, and he sighed as the Misdreavus stopped in midair, face twitching.
Saur's eyes gleamed as he released a vine, charging it with power as it glowed green. He held it a few seconds longer than usual, although Ash figured he was probably just focusing more energy to make it stronger, but the precious seconds he'd sacrificed for that power meant that Misdreavus had recovered from its momentary paralysis.
Misdreavus was forced to leapt aside as Saur whipped at it, arching its back and raising its corporeal body upright, hissing. The red and yellow eyes glowed menacingly with red energy, black electricity sparking around the creature as it opened its mouth to make a hollow, slow laugh—
Swirling sky, the colors of which scramble his mind, spirals of black twist in the air, Distortion swooping down, its serpentine body graceful and the six black streamers begin to flutter as it opens its maw to consume his soul—
Ash gasped, a knot of pain in the pit of his stomach. He was lying face-down on the tiled floor, his breathing shallow and heavy. He tried to remember when he'd fallen, but he couldn't recall anything that happened ten seconds ago, and a wave of nausea almost made him hurl as he tried to reminisce the thing he'd seen in his vision.
Next to him, Saur was weaving erratically towards Misdreavus, his movements wild. His vines were whipping at the air, as if trying to knock down invisible moths. Levitating in the air was Misdreavus, whose normally cheery face was frowning slightly at the boy lying down. Instead of pressing the advantage, the ghost floated away after a second of hesitation.
"No…you…don't!" Ash wheezed, crawling towards the fleeing ghost. He forced himself up and detached an empty ultra-ball from his belt before taking aim at Misdreavus, although it was hard with his fuzzy vision and shaking body.
He hurled the ball with all his strength and nailed the Misdreavus on its back. Ash swore that he saw a smirk as the ball struck Misdreavus, snapped open and absorbed it in a flash.
The ultra-ball barely twitched for a split-second before it clicked.
Ash collapsed on his back in relief and took deep breaths to calm himself down. Next to him, Saur was recovering, the wild look from his eyes disappearing so that they didn't look like scarlet saucers anymore. His stocky legs were still trembling, and the Ivysaur was constantly shaking his head to clear out any confusion, although Ash was simply focused on what had happened not too long ago.
It could only be explained as a mental attack of some sorts. Misdreavus had most likely hit Saur with a Confuse Ray, and Ash, standing next to him, had come in his pokémon's way. The move had afflicted both of them, maybe even more for Ash.
Ghost-type attacks didn't affect humans (aside from psychic humans) a lot, mostly because they didn't have a lot of mental strength, latent or otherwise. Ghost attacks turned one's own mental powers against them, which was why psychic-type pokémon were so weak to them, due to their immense reservoirs of psychic energy.
Chill fingers brushed up his spine. Could it…? Could he be psychic? He could still feel his brain throb, as if part of it had turned into brittle ice, which meant that the Misdreavus' attack – his Misdreavus' attack, he realized slowly – was still affecting him. A lot. He'd never taken the tests, mostly because a psychic's powers manifested at an early age, and nothing like that ever happened to him when he was a kid. But now, especially after he'd reacted to a mental attack so strongly…
With a groan, he pushed himself up, vowing to investigate whatever had happened to him, but the time wasn't now. It still hurt as he thought about what he'd seen, the echo of it raw and painful in his mind.
"Good job, Saur." The grass-type simply grunted in acknowledgement at his trainer's praise, which consisted of a light pat on the head as well as a scratch under his chin along with the kind words. Saur shook his head vehemently, the trace of nausea still present in his scarlet eyes, although it vanished after a few blinks.
Saur snatched the ultra-ball from the floor and pressed it into Ash's hand, the boy smiling at his friend. Ash palmed the ball, fingers clenching around its smooth, circular surface, taking time to admire the sleek black and gold colors on the upper half. Ultra-balls were rare and really expensive, mostly because they offered a much better catch rate than pokeballs and great-balls, the latter of which were already good in that aspect. He was just happy that his friends had helped him acquire so much due to their hard work and dedicated determination on the St— on his travels.
He knelt down and held out a few berries, which Saur slowly nibbled on as Ash took out his pokédex in the other hand. He'd caught his ghost pokémon, and it was still only late in the afternoon, which meant he had enough time to train and then hit the sack. He pulled the newly-captured Misdreavus' data from the pokédex, which had already registered the information ever since its capture.
Misdreavus, the screech pokémon. Misdreavus is a mischievous pokémon that loves to frighten people with a creepy, sobbing cry. The red spheres around this pokémon's neck are used to absorb the feelings of others and convert them into nutrition.
This Misdreavus is female and knows the moves: Growl, Psywave, Spite, Confuse Ray, Curse, Mean Look, Psybeam, Shadow Ball, Icy Wind and Payback. Its ability is Levitate, which allows it to float and manoeuver over the field.
Ash considered Misdreavus' move pool thoughtfully. It – she, he corrected – had a mix of status and attacking moves at her arsenal. He could work with it.
"What d'you wanna do now, boy?" Ash said, scratching Saur under the chin. The reptilian grass-type shrugged in response. Ash smiled.
Then his smile disappeared when Saur's body tensed instinctively. The temperature plummeted a good ten degrees, and Ash froze in fear. The Ivysaur took a half-step back, a snarl building in his throat as his scarlet eyes glared daggers over Ash's shoulder. He felt scared to look behind him, but curiosity won him over and it was only a matter of seconds before he gave into the temptation.
A thin, sickly-purple fog was creeping into the chamber, making no noise as it did so. Ash could hear his own heart beating like mad through the silence. He silently cursed his luck and whatever higher power that wasn't watching over him. First, he'd been under the mild effects of a Confuse Ray, and now this?
He frowned as he noticed a silhouette through the purple fog, growing darker and darker by the second. He squinted as he tried to discern the figure by the shape, and the fog revealed it to be…a Mankey?
Ash blinked. "What the…"
The Mankey took another step towards Ash, the purple fog constricting around its legs. There was something…wrong with it. Its fur was grey, along with its darker grey skin – like in a black and white movie. Cracks were lined all over its arms, legs, the whole set. The eyes were the worst part. They were empty and black, devoid of anything, like wormholes. The Mankey limped slowly towards him and suddenly its right leg broke at the knee, like a clay model, but before the broken part could hit the ground, purple smoke and mud spilled out of the wound, and the leg stitched itself back almost immediately. What even…?
The boy shuddered in fear and disgust. "W-W-W-What's going on?!" he stammered. "Is that a…a zombie?!"
The zombie Mankey was quickly joined by two, then four, six, eight undead pokémon, and their numbers continued to grow until there was a whole army of them, ranging from Parasect to Machop to Goldeen. They all had similar features – thick, grey flesh, void-like eyes, cracks spread around their bodies like wrinkles, and several missing parts, like tails, legs, arms.
Ash scrambled back, eyes wide. This felt like a horror movie – one that was actually scary.
The animated pokémon corpses limped towards him like a horde of undead out for blood. A Squirtle at the frontline tripped onto the floor, its head hitting the floor and splitting open, ominous smoke leaking out from the wound. "This is all in my imagination," Ash chanted to himself in a whisper as the crevice in the Squirtle's head resealed, and it got right back up.
The purple fog around the corpses shimmered and hissed as it pushed the army further towards Ash and Saur. They were too fear-stricken to do anything other than stare as an undead Qwilfish opened its small, pink mouth and expelled a thick beam of black energy as a warning shot that struck a tile a blew it to smithereens.
That did it. "Saur, destroy them!" he yelled, all the while unclipped Hydrus' pokeball and setting the Golduck loose.
Hydrus flashed into existence just as Saur horizontally swung an extended vine at the horde of corpses. The green tentacle smashed into a zombie-Machop and split the reptilian fighting-type along its hip. Purple smog pooled out of the open wounds, but before the halves could rejoin, Saur hammered it multiple times until it was nothing more than fragments of decomposing flesh.
The stench hit him like a bullet train, but it didn't deter him. He saw Hydrus looking utterly perplexed, but Ash didn't have time to explain. "Water Gun!" he snapped. "We need to destroy them!"
Hydrus narrowed his eyes and immediately set to work. The Golduck's beak cracked open in an instant to release a high-pressured jet of water to snipe his opponents. The Water Gun struck a three-legged Growlithe corpse between its eyes with such force that it was decapitated in a split-second. The detached head flew away in a straight arc, disappearing from view while the rest of the Growlithe's body dropped to the ground, immobile.
Ash watched the proceedings with mild nausea and horror. While Reina had told him some weird and creepy things about Pokémon Tower, nothing matched this. He'd always thought of zombies as comical – dangerous, sure, but they moved so slowly and mechanically that Ash often scoffed at the protagonists in movies who tried to run away so fast. Now, however…he understood their dilemma without a word.
Saur unleashed two more pairs of vines that continued to grab pokémon bodies from the army and hurl them away, or hammer them enough number of times to disintegrate them. Hydrus was keeping them at bay with Water Guns, Scalds and the odd Psybeam, along with a Water Pulse every now and then to catch more than one.
Still, their efforts seemed futile. It looked like for every corpse they defeated, two more took its place, and the undead army kept advancing much faster than zombies were portrayed on TV.
Furthermore, the animated corpses seemed to be pushing him and his friends further and further to the top of the tower. Ash remembered Reina's warnings pertaining to the topmost floors, but it wasn't like he had a choice – the only other way to escape this house of horrors was to tear through the advancing army, and he had no doubt that he'd be swarmed by them the second he got close to them.
In any case, he needed to keep them at bay. If there was a window or something nearby, he'd most likely take a chance by jumping through there and hoping that Delphi would be fast enough to catch him. The Xatu was still tender and he certainly didn't want to risk her speedy recovery, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
As Saur sliced a Sentret to bits with Razor Leaves, Ash snagged Luna's and Delphi's pokeballs before setting the pair of female pokémon loose. The army of undead paused for a moment as the proud Xatu spread her wings and emitted a piercing shriek, but they continued their horrific walk as if nothing had happened. Luna cocked her head curiously at them, but the Clefairy looked a bit unnerved.
"I don't know what the heck is going on," he muttered under Delphi's curious stare, "but all I know is that we need to keep them far enough from taking us down. Go all out – don't hold back!"
Without a moment to lose, Delphi set off. The chamber was spacious and ceiling high enough for her to fly with little difficulty, which she proved as she soared upwards in a graceful arc before looping towards her opponents, wings flashing with steel-type energy. While maintaining the Steel Wing, she cracked open her beak and blasted two of the puppets – a Goldeen and an Ekans – with a Shadow Ball so dense that they were pulverized as soon as the concentrated shadowy blob detonated between them. There was a hiss of pain as her wings sliced through the corpses like a katana, felling them in an instant. Ash's heart leaped in his throat when he saw a particularly resilient Psyduck clinging onto her talons with its half-molded claws, but he breathed in relief when its grip suddenly went slack and it sank to the ground like a stone.
The boy frowned as he noticed something – the zombie-Psyduck had been as good as dead only when the ghostly fog had left its decomposing body. Maybe they were being controlled, somehow? If he could only test his theory by clearing out the smoke…
He cursed under his breath and launched himself up the next set of stair he found his back facing. His pokémon were making quick work of their foes, but there seemed to be an unending supply of them. Hydrus kept burning off their flesh with Scald; Delphi picked them up one by one with Psychic; Saur and Luna fended them off with Vine Whip and Magical Leaf respectively – but it still wasn't enough.
"Psybeam!" Ash yelled quickly, causing Hydrus' head to snap towards a nearing Spinarak. The gem on his forehead lit up and twin beams of psychic energy blitzed out of his scarlet eyes, blasting the possessed arachnid off the ground. It flew towards a wall where it met with an almighty crash before falling to the ground, its fragile, jointed limbs snapping off its thorax in an instant.
When the Spinarak dared to even twitch, Hydrus scratched its head off with his clawed, webbed hands. Toxic, purple smog oozed out of its neck along with its ghastly innards, pooling around the downed insect almost instantaneously.
"Gross," Ash uttered, wrinkling his nose in distaste as he backed up away from the advancing mob. Their numbers had diminished somewhat, but there were enough of them to pose a threat. Not to mention that Ash was scared out of his wits.
He decided to add another of his friends into the fray. Zeus appeared two seconds after he tapped the release button on his pokeball. The pink-skinned Flaaffy bleated, and jumped back when his eyes registered the unruly mob of zombie-pokémon crawling towards him and his friends. Zeus narrowed his eyes, but his mouth twitched.
Trust his trainer to fall into such a spot.
Zeus began zapping his enemies countless times with Thunder Wave. His plan was to render them immobile so that he could take his own sweet time to utterly demolish them – he liked to play with his food. Unfortunately, his initial idea didn't work, because they barely twitched when the thin lances of electricity struck them – maybe it was something to do with them being zombies, but Zeus didn't care. He skipped part one and went onto the next.
The first two Thunderbolts converted a Weepinbell into a smoking pile of ashes, while the next one blasted a Poliwhirl into oblivion. Ash couldn't help but wince a bit at his friend's ruthlessness. Sure, those…things…were asking for it, but he couldn't help but feel a bit sad for them. They were pokémon that had once belonged to trainers, after all. Just seeing them destroyed made him feel a bit guilty.
"Energy Ball, then Razor Leaf!" Saur grunted, first releasing stored solar energy by compressing it into a sphere before releasing a wild flurry of fast-flying leaves from under his bud. "Hydrus, Psybeam – Delphi, Drill Peck!" Ash called out next. The Golduck and Xatu readied their attacks, blasting and tearing through their opponents respectively. Delphi flew into the air, shaking her head to throw off a few grisly bits of the pokémon she'd just destroyed. "Luna, Pound! Zeus, Iron Tail!" Luna rushed forward, Zeus at her side as she drove her fist into a Larvitar's decomposing skull, causing the same, sickly-purple smoke to erupt from the wound as the lifeless rock-type crumpled to the ground. Zeus smashed his metallic tail into a Gligar's spine. The fly-scorpion pokémon's vertebra column snapped and it bent backward a hundred degrees at point of impact, the top half dangling and connected only by a few grisly bits of sinew. Nevertheless, it was out of commission.
There were only a handful of them left now – around thirty to thirty-five of them, their eyes void-like staring right back. For a second Ash felt a hint of hesitation and reluctance from their part, but he must've been imagining it, because they resumed their relentless onslaught right away.
Ash's heart was still beating fast, but he noticed one thing: the corpses never left the fog. Instead, the fog was always drifting a few feet ahead of the zombielike pokémon. Which meant that they were being controlled by the fog. And that meant…
"Delphi, Ominous Wind!"
The avian shrieked, flapping her powerful wings to reach the highest she could in such a chamber before concentrated otherworldly energy in her wings. She fanned the air, creating a gale of ectoplasm-laced wind so strong that a possessed Machoke was blown back. Its arm snapped at the elbow and it began to rise, but dropped to the ground like a sack of rocks as the purple smog surrounding it was blown away.
Ash held onto his hat as Delphi continued to flap her wings, and the boy did his best to hide his uneasiness from the wind-based attack. It wasn't like the one with the Misdreavus, but he could still feel twinges of discomfort as the air around him swirled with ghostly energy. He kept getting flashes of images in his mind – glowing, red eyes, a mask of gold, pitch-black streamers tipped with blood-red spikes – and that didn't make it any easier. He felt like just dropping to his knees and sobbing until his heart ached, but he didn't know why…
Delphi's Ominous Wind and the purple fog were locked in a stalemate. The Xatu shrieked as she pushed more and more strength into each flap, doing her best to overpower her gaseous foe while the rest of Ash's present team crushed the unmoving corpses. Apparently as long as they were not surrounded by the fog, they were next to harmless, but Ash didn't want to take any chances.
As soon as the last of the zombielike pokémon were obliterated, Delphi ceased her actions and pierced her way towards the ground, landing perfectly next to Ash's Clefairy, who dusted her hands in triumph. His pokémon formed a protective half-ring in front of him, and Ash contemplated recalling them and getting the hell out of here before the fog finally began to act.
There was a high, keening moan, and then the smog rushed towards an invisible focal point with such speed that it felt like someone had sped things up. The purple smoke coalesced, writhing and distorting when the vortex grew a pair of slanted eyes and a fanged maw. The end result was a gaseous blob of concentrated, black, ghostly energy, with a shroud of purple toxins, and Ash narrowed his eyes while growling at the Gastly's appearance.
Ash clenched his fists. Gastly were somewhat pranksters, but this one had scared the living crap out of him, and by the look on its face, the ghost looked like it had wanted to kill. And Ash was more than ready to return the favor. "Destroy it," he hissed, although he wondered briefly whether his friends would even be capable of that. "Delphi, grab hold of it with Psychic. When you do that, the rest of you attack it with all you've got! Understood?" he barked. They responded with a series of cacophonous sounds, which he took as a collective yes. "Go!"
Delphi's eyes glowed blue and she raised a wing as she expulsed her psychic powers, but the Gastly avoided the technique by dissolving into its own shadow before merging with Saur's. Ash's first friend yelped a grunt as the Gastly burst out from his shadow beneath him and slammed into his underside before knocking him away with a Night Shade. Saur snarled, the Ivysaur releasing his vines to grab the wraith, but it simply loosened the forces of attraction between its molecules so that the tentacle passed harmlessly through it.
Just as the Gastly reformed, however, it was blasted from behind by a snipe of electricity that ripped through the air before electrocuting the ghost. Gastly shrieked by the sudden attack and locked its furious eyes on a smirking Zeus as soon as the Thunderbolt faded, too angry to understand pain.
A Shadow Ball almost as big as its own corporeal form generated in front of its open mouth, but it was negated by an equally large Shadow Ball fired by Delphi. The two attacks burst right in Gastly's face, causing the ghost to reel back in pain and surprise from the sudden explosion. It contemplated disappearing in Ash's shadow, but it was stopped by a circumferential wave of psychic energy from Luna.
"That's it!" Ash praised, but he immediately wished he hadn't opened his mouth when the Gastly glared at him. He yelped as the living sphere of toxins and spectral energy rushed at him and he ducked, but not fast enough for him to avoid its fangs, which grazed along his forearm and drew a trickle of blood, and the shroud of toxins, which had suddenly flared due to the ghosts anger and had gotten strong enough to generate a rash on Ash's wrist by plain contact. Unfortunately, that was the last thing it ever did.
Saur was absolutely furious at Gastly for daring to hurt his trainer, which caused the saurian to continuously blast it with Energy Balls like a machine gun. By the time Saur had released his fourth Energy Ball, Gastly was done for, but that still wasn't enough for the Ivysaur to stop ruthlessly pummeling the unconscious specter. It was only Ash who managed to calm his friend down, although personally the boy partially wanted this crazed Gastly to be wiped off the face of the cosmos.
Still, it wouldn't do for the Gastly to just lay there and recover in a few days just to kill another wanderer. With a resigned sigh, Ash unclipped a pokeball and enlarged it. He could very well sell this Gastly over the network, or trade it for a pokémon that he wanted. He tossed the sphere on the downed ghost and watched as the sphere snapped open to emit a red beam…
…only for the energy to bounce off Gastly and the pokeball to drop to the floor.
Ash blinked. What?!
Gingerly, he picked up the pokeball and stared at it in surprise. Why hadn't Gastly been captured, or at least been absorbed? This was simply unheard of, unless the pokeball was defective, or if the pokémon…was…
Unless the pokémon was already owned by a trainer.
Ash's featured. "Damn it!" he cursed. "This thing already has a trainer!" he roared. The boy sighed upon noticing his friends' puzzled expressions. "Someone's been trying to…kill us. They've been using this Gastly—" he gestured at the unconscious ghost-type, "—to control those bodies and move us to the topmost floor. I don't know why," he added, noticing his team's inquisitive looks.
"Keep an eye on it, Delphi," he ordered. Without acknowledging the command, the Xatu levelled her eyes at the unconscious Gastly's semi-corporeal form.
He frowned in concentration, weighing his options. While he would very much like to beat the crap out of his assailants, he didn't exactly know who they were. They could be some punks who liked to scare the bejesus out of others, or even the workers who were busy converting the Pokémon Tower into the Radio Tower who wanted privacy a little too much. Still, he couldn't just let them get away – those zombies – or whatever the hell they were – nearly made him crap bricks, and he was ready to give whoever it was a piece of his mind.
Sighing, he motioned for his friends to follow him. "Come on," he said. "Let's go."
The journey through the next two, and the last two, floors was, thankfully, relatively mundane and boring. There was still fog obscuring his vision, but at least it wasn't the purple miasma that he'd come to hate.
His pokémon had chosen to walk in a specific formation – Zeus in the front, then Luna and Saur, with Ash between the two of them. If any wild pokémon tried to attack them, both Zeus and Saur would attack them while Luna would be on protection detail. That wasn't even mentioning they had Delphi to the left, Hydrus to the right and his Chimchar on his shoulder.
There was no way someone was going to get him.
By the time he reached the topmost step that would lead to the highest level, Ash was tired. He quickly recalled most of his pokémon, but kept Zeus outside. That way if it was someone shady who had planned the attack on him, then the Flaaffy would quickly take them out with Thunder Waves.
Balling his fists, he walked into the room.
The first thing he noticed was the six people in the room. Two of them were bound with tight, bristly ropes – a scrawny old man and a boy his age with thick, purple hair – while the rest were wearing what looked like uniforms. The blond and a green-haired guy wore pure black jumpsuits and the other two, whom he recognized vaguely, wore white ones.
But what really caught his attention were the huge, red 'R's printed on the front of their suits.
His blood ran colder than absolute zero and his features were locked in a rictus of fury. "Team Rocket!" he raged.
The redhead shot to her feet frantically. "Shit! How did this punk get here!?"
"Jessie, you twat!" the blond hissed. "Your stupid Gastly botched the plan!"
"B-But Cassidy, our defenses were impenetrable—"
"People said condoms were impenetrable, but look where that got me when I was twenty-one!" shouted Cassidy. Then she levelled her gaze at Ash and smiled in a sickly-sweet manner. "It's truly a shame you had to stumble upon our operations, dearie, just like the little boy over there, but there's no other choice but to silence you." She looked at the other Rockets, who eyed Ash nervously. "Jessie, James, Bach – kill him."
James looked violently ill at the idea. "Kill?" he spluttered. "B-But he's just a child!"
"That didn't stop him from kicking your arse at Viridian, eh?" She sneered.
Ash had heard enough. "Now listen here, you pricks," he roared. "I've had enough of you Rockets to last a lifetime, and after the stunt you pulled on the St Anne I swear I'll have your guts for garters, not the other way around. Got me?"
Next to him, Zeus flared with a sheen of electricity as he curled his fists.
Butch scoffed. "Listen, kid. We've had enough chumps who've tried to play the hero in the past, and most of them have ended up dead. Do you want your story to finish after ten years? What will dear mummy think? Just surrender. It'll be easier this way."
"I could say the same to you," Ash snapped. "Thunder Wave!"
There was a sharp ZAP! that pierced the air, like the sound of ice being dropped onto a hot griddle, and then a thin lance of electricity, courtesy of Zeus, ploughed at Butch, who ducked at the last second, the Thunder Wave striking the wall and fizzing out a second later. Butch rose, furious at the attack. "You little shit! Primeape, kick ass!"
Red energy coalesced into a Primeape, who smashed its fists together before jumping lightly in the air, signifying its readiness for battle. Five more pokeballs followed, releasing a Raticate, Arbok, Weepinbell, Kingler and a Koffing in quick succession.
Ash gulped nervously. He wasn't intimidated, but the battle seemed to appear for more difficult than he'd originally anticipated.
Wordlessly, he loosed the rest of his pokémon and then began giving them orders while the Rockets' pokémon prepared for battle. "Saur – Kingler. Chimchar – Koffing; Hydrus – Primeape; Delphi – Weepinbell; Luna – Raticate; Zeus – Arbok," he said, quickly and tersely. He didn't want to waste time by giving his pokémon precise orders – that would just give the Rockets more time to prepare themselves and he didn't want that to happen.
"Primeape, Thunder Punch!" The pigmonkey pokémon shrieked, its right fist encased in a shroud of sparks as it thrust said fist forward. The Thunder Punch caught Hydrus under the chin, knocking the Golduck skywards a couple inches before he crashed hard into the ground. With an angry quack, he rose, spewing a jet of boiling water that struck Primeape right in the snout, blasting the fighting-type back while also filling its nostrils with scalding water.
Elsewhere, Jessie's Kingler was surprisingly holding its own against Saur, who seemed frustrated by the fact that his vines did almost next to nothing against the crustacean's sturdy carapace. Luna was pounding Raticate into next week, while Delphi released constant waves of psionic energy that bombarded James' Weepinbell constantly.
There was an ear-splitting explosion as the Rocket's Koffing detonated with raw energy, flinging every pokémon nearby away from the epicenter. Ash winced, rubbing his ear furiously to drive the ringing noise away before he noticed his Chimchar laying unconscious. Gritting his teeth, he returned Chimchar and harshly clipped the ball back to his pokébelt.
"Give up, hero!" Cassidy yelled over the din of brawling. "There's no way you can win!"
Ash didn't even bother acknowledging what she said. Instead, he was entirely focused on giving his pokémon orders while also trying to inch closer to the kid bound at his side of the room. The trainer looked vaguely familiar, and Ash was subconsciously trying to place where he'd met him.
The Rockets, however, caught onto his sneaky movements. "Oh no you don't!" Butch roared. "Primeape, fuck that kid up – Thunder Punch!"
A piercing shriek split the air as Primeape punched Hydrus to the side and leapt into the air, eyes trained on Ash. The fighting-type's fists were flailing while also gaining sparks of blue-white electricity. It landed gracefully on all fours, grunting as it touched the ground, before lunging at Ash.
"Shit!" Ash screamed.
He ducked under the first jab, but the second Thunder Punch connected with his gut. He felt all the wind knocked out of him, and it hurt like hell, as if someone had smashed a block of concrete under his ribs. He flew into the wall and felt a jolt of pain shoot up his spine. His head was swimming in pain, but he was thankful for the electricity-resistant and force-hampering jacket he was wearing, otherwise he'd be dead.
"Ugh…" He groaned, clutching his stomach. His eyelids fluttered and he got glimpses of Primeape looming over him. Its eyes were wide due to anger and an overdose of adrenaline.
This is how it ends, I suppose, Ash thought to himself bitterly as blood collected at the back of his mouth. I'll have my face smashed in. But there was a sliver of hope within him that he'd survive this encounter, just like he'd survived several other dangerous situations.
Butch hovered right behind his Primeape, a look of pity on his face. "Sorry, kid."
Ash's heart hammered against his ribs. He watched as Primeape raised its arm, its fist sheathed in flickering flames.
"Puh-please!" Ash pleaded, feeling angry at himself for this moment of weakness and desperation. He felt his rage multiply tenfold when the Rocket didn't even bother responding.
He was secretly hoping for his friends to save him, but the Rockets and their pokémon had barricaded them from coming ten meters within Ash's range. Each time Saur tried to snake his vines through the wall of Rocket pokémon, Jessie's Arbok would spit acid, forcing the Ivysaur to recall them.
"Are you sure you wanna kill the kid, Bart?" Jessie asked nervously. She looked sick, as if the idea of killing someone nauseated her. Why the hell had she become a Rocket then anyway?
Butch shrugged, as if murdering was as easy as breathing for him. "We have to. Petrel told us to… exterminate anyone that purposefully interferes with our operations."
Ash coughed up blood in his throat, his eyes never moving from Primeape's intimidating form. It was grinning – smirking, damn it, infuriatingly so – as it eyed Ash in sadistic glee. When it was finally done humiliating him, it moved to crush his skull.
With the aim of someone that had spent most of his childhood spitting at Gary in anger, Ash hawked up the clod of blood in his mouth, the projectile hitting Primeape straight in the eyes and hampering its vision. As it gurgled in annoyance, Ash rolled to his side, allowing the flaming fist to embed itself where his head had been mere seconds ago.
The boy continued to roll towards his right, dimly hearing Butch yell something that sounded like 'Get him!', avoiding every single attack that came his way. Acids sizzled on the tiled floor, Water Guns washed them away, Razor Leaves passed overhead, one slicing off a lock of his hair. When he came to a halt, he used up his first defensive mechanism, palming the seventh pokéball on his pokébelt and tapping the release button out of sheer reflex.
He immediately regretted as the red beam coalesced into the buff and massive form of his Snorlax.
"Holy mother—" Butch yelled as Snorlax began to register its surroundings.
Cassidy was equally pale. "Crap!"
Snorlax just looked on with a docile, albeit perplexed, expression. It was no longer hungry and content, but something was wrong. It was no longer in its home, in the wilderness, smashing trees down as a testament of its raw, brute strength. Instead, it was encroached in a confining room – the normal-type's triangular ears were just a couple feet away from touching the ceiling – and in front of it were several other pokémon, all of them tensed and ready to attack.
Snorlax picked up on their hostility, but didn't do anything. If it would remain silent they could all go away without scars—
The Arbok suddenly reared up, hood fluttering, and it spat a gunk of poisonous goo that splattered against Snorlax's belly, making the creature wince in pain form the debilitating toxins.
Then all hell broke loose.
With an almighty roar, Snorlax raised both arms before smashing its claws into Arbok's underbelly, causing purple scales to rip away and leave the harmed area raw exposed. The serpent hissed before jabbing its now-pointed tail into the offending pokémon's arm, making it groan as it was struck by the Poison Sting.
"Saur, Energy Ball on Kingler!" Ash bellowed through the mayhem. Miraculously, Saur caught onto the order and smote the crustacean in the face with an emerald sphere of energy. The Kingler staggered back, momentarily stunned, and James' Weepinbell unintendedly hammered its armored carapace with a barrage of grass-type moves.
Ash sprinted over to the unconscious kid tied up in the corner. He had no time to remember his name as he pulled out his survival switchblade and began to cut at the thick, bristly ropes binding the trainer together. Once he was free, the purple-haired boy fell limply at the ground, head hitting the floor with a clonk.
Ash gritted his teeth. "Wake up, you dingus!" he slapped him twice but to no avail. It was only when he saw Hydrus firing a Psybeam at Snorlax (who decided that everyone was its enemy) that he fished for his canister of water and emptied the contents in a jiffy, pouring the liquid over the boy's head. He flinched and woke up with a start, reflexively punching Ash in the shoulder.
"Get away from me, you filthy Rockets!" he screamed.
"Whoa, whoa!" Ash held up his hands in surrender. "I come in peace!"
The kid was still holding his fist up, but no longer looked like he wanted to beat the crap out of Ash. He continued. "Look – Paulo, isn't it?" Ash took a wild guess.
"Paul," the boy snapped.
"Okay. Look, you need to send out your pokémon. Y—"
Paul suddenly pushed him away, using the knockback to fall flat on his stomach as a jet of water sailed towards them and struck the space between. "I get your meaning," he muttered impassively, grabbing three pokéballs and enlarging them. "Grotle, Poliwhirl, Lairon, standby for battle!"
Out came a Poliwhirl, a large grass-type that was probably Turtwig's evolved form, and a lizard-like creature with an underside of hard stone and a carapace of silver steel burst out, before Paul began to give commands. "Water Pulse, Iron Head, Body Slam, Metal Claw, Bite, Mega Punch, Razor Leaf!"
Ash was surprised at the series of commands, and even more surprised as Paul's pokémon carried out the orders with only brief moments of hesitation. Paul looked absolutely sure of himself, calmly giving further commands once his pokémon had executed them. Ash did his best to imitate his companion.
Meanwhile, Snorlax raged out all of its anger and frustration on any pokémon that came within its line of sight. Some froze under its glare, allowing the beast to pummel them before they retaliated. Even Ash's own pokémon weren't saved from that fate, and swallowed their fear and began attacking the monster as soon as it even glanced in their direction. Snorlax rampaged through the domelike room, striking down anything in its path.
Despite its power, Snorlax was just one against many and, just as a mighty man could be felled by a single arrow, so too could a berserker crumple with a well timed shot. The numbers were too much for the normal-type, the Rocket pokémon swarming it and attacking it from all sides. Collectively they were all much powerful than the Nidoking in the forest, and they attacked it with all they had, pinning the fat pokémon down and pummeling it until it was no more in the realm of consciousness.
Ash watched in shock as Snorlax lay unmoving. His best hope had failed. While the Rockets and their pokémon were certainly tired, so we're Ash's and Paul's. Snorlax hadn't even bothered to discern between friend and foe – he'd simply unleashed carnage upon anyone who had the misfortune to meet him.
"Fuck off, kid," Cassidy growled. "Raticate, Hyper Fang!"
The savage rodent snarled, spittle and saliva flying from its mouth as its fangs lengthened temporarily, gaining a cloak of pure white energy. It rushed Ash, but Paul ordered his Poliwhirl to intercept, the amphibian lunging a few meters in front of Ash and taking the brunt of the bite. It grimaced as the canines dug into its arms, drawing a trickle of blood, but it hammered the offending pokémon with a Mega Punch that forced the savage rodent to let go and attack from a different direction.
And the battle began anew. Attacks flew into the air, some crashing into their targets while others missed. Ash managed to recall an unconscious Delphi just before Jessie's Arbok stabbed her with a Poison Sting. In retaliation, Saur wrapped his vines around the serpent and restrained it, allowing Paul's Poliwhirl to knock it out with a couple of Mega Punches.
Then there was a flash of silver through the corner of his eye and Ash whipped around just in time to see that damnable talking Meowth plummeting towards him, claws enlarged and as thin, like hypodermic needles. He had no time to move, and a scream was half formed in his throat, but suddenly Paul snagged the feline out of the air with his backpack and charged it towards the wall, the Meowth hissing and yelling for the boy to let him go all the while. That was until Meowth was sandwiched between the backpack and the wall, where it slumped to the ground.
James yelped at Meowth's unconscious form. "Meowth!"
Butch growled. "That's it." The green-haired man pulled out an Eagle from his holster, along with a silencer from the other side of his pants. He pointed it at Ash, his finger on the trigger, but suddenly a grassy-green tentacle wrapped around his wrist and pulled it down – Saur. The Ivysaur growled angrily, stuck in a game of tug-of-war with the Rocket grunt until the trigger was pulled, letting out a muted gunshot as Saur hissed a split-second later. His trainer paled as he saw a bullet-sized hole in one of the fronds supporting his bud.
Rage filled him. "No!"
And then cold filled the room.
Everybody froze as the temperature around them suddenly dropped by a solid ten degrees. Saur, ignoring the brief pain in his frond, let go of Butch, while the man's grip around his gun slackened, not even caring as the weapon clattered harmlessly on the ground. Ash looked around the room and realized it had darkened. He had the feeling that something was about to go horribly wrong…
His eardrums almost burst as the harsh words echoed in his mind. He wanted his head to explode so that he would be relieved of the uncomfortableness and pure agony, and as he looked around he noticed that everyone else had clamped their hands over their ears, even though the words had been spoken telepathically. The pokémon in particular were freaking out. They looked ready to bolt out of the room at a second's notice.
And then he felt it, too. It was like the air was heavy, like a storm was about to burst out at any moment. He could feel a thrumming in his bones, and it felt as if an invisible hand was pushing him down, as if wanting to flatten him like a piece of paper on the ground. And he knew that feeling. The Pressure around him was unmistakable.
A wisp of purple and black smoke swirled in the center of the room, before getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it was nothing more than a swirling storm of ghostly energy that suddenly obtained demonic, red eyes and a gaping maw of white that kept emitting spectral light. Its mouth was open as if in a never-ending moan, and crudely shaped black arms sprouted from either side, otherworldly light dripping from them onto the ground.
Once again it droned, GETOUTOFHERE!
"B-Butch," Cassidy stuttered, "the Silph scope!"
Butch didn't even realize that Cassidy had said his name correctly, so shocked he was. Nevertheless, it took a few moments for him to fumble with a strange device that vaguely resembled a pair of binoculars. "Get it, Hydrus!" Ash ordered.
Hydrus nodded and tapped his bejeweled forehead, unleashing his inner psychokinetic powers. The Confusion attack was mild enough to repel Butch without severely hurting him, and the Golduck telekinetically pulled the Silph scope towards them and directed it towards Ash, allowing it to perfectly set on his face without hurting the boy.
There was a brief moment of darkness in front of him before Ash pressed the button at the side of the scope, allowing the screen in front of him to flare to life. Everything was tinged blue, with an outline of mossy-green, but he had no time to check everyone's heat signatures. Instead he moved the scope towards the vortex of otherworldliness. For a second the thing was just as it was, then the screen flickered. First it appeared as an emaciated skeleton, halfway through the ground, raw and decomposing flesh still clinging to parts of bone as blood and gore formed a pool at the base. Then it changed into something of a Haunter, except that the ghost was pure white and had grotesquely long, thin limbs. Then the screen flickered for the final time, revealing the visitor's true form.
It was a Marowak, but something was…wrong…with it. It looked to be in constant agony, and the exoskeleton-skull had a bullet sized hole right between the eye holes. The only other difference was that the ends of the bone club it carried were engulfed in black flames.
Ash noticed that the spectral vortex was nothing but a protective shroud around ghost-Marowak. It brandished the flaming bone club at the Rockets and then hurled it at them like a javelin, a stream of black smoke trailing it and striking Cassidy in the chest. There was a crack of bones and the blonde Rocket was sent flying straight into the wall as the bone returned back in the ghost's hands.
Cassidy's Raticate, enraged, snarled at the ghost and rushed at it, but was trapped in the swirling vortex. The rodent was tossed around like a plaything until it was thrown back at the ground. It was hurt and dizzy, but not yet unconscious.
"It's a Marowak," Ash muttered.
The conscious Rockets seemed ready to piss themselves. Even their pokémon seemed nervous. Meowth in particular look ready to bolt. "Shit!" cried Butch. "It's that godforsaken Marowak!"
Jessie moaned. "It's come back to haunt us!" she wailed. "It's all Cassidy's fault – she killed it!"
Hate and rage bubbled back to the surface the second Ash heard this statement. "You what?!"
Nobody bothered to elaborate.
"Meowth is thinking it's 'bout fucking time we got da hell outta here, Jimmy," Meowth stuttered.
YOU SHALL NOT PASS! the Marowak screeched, rushing to block the only exit. The screen of the Silph scope died for a few seconds before coming back on. Desperately, Jessie threw a pokéball at the creature. It was sucked in before it had the chance to comprehend what had happened; the temperature started increasing and everything went still.
Then the pokéball burst open with such force that it snapped into two halves before shattering into pieces. Jessie shrieked and tried to make a run for it, but the Marowak tossed its ghostly club at her, smacking her on the back of her head. She didn't get back up.
YOU DARE!? It looked utterly enraged, but shrieked in pain as a Water Gun from Kingler hit it right in the torso. Ash realized that it could be hurt – it hadn't become a true spirit, after all.
"Kill it with fire!"
The Ghostowak (as Ash had begun calling it) began to attack with unrestrained dogma. First fell Meowth, followed by Saur, Paul's Grotle, the Rockets' Kingler and Raticate and Primeape until all that was left was a handful of pokémon collectively. Ghost-Marowak seemed to be hurt equally, and Ash was incredulous at the calm and collected way Paul was ordering his pokémon. His Lairon raked the spirit with its claws, while Poliwhirl and Ash's Golduck distracted it with short bursts of water that seemed to be doing more damage than other kinds of attacks.
Finally a Psybeam from Hydrus, who was the only remaining pokémon conscious, felled the enraged spirit. The translucent form of the Marowak shrieked unearthly, then the gas and smoke was sucked into a central vortex. The Marowak looked incredibly hurt, but also at…peace. Its features turned from hateful to enlightened for a brief moment, before it imploded and disappeared from their lives.
A concussive blast happened the moment it imploded, sending a circumferential ripple of energy that knocked everyone away. Their pokémon's limp bodies were pushed away on the ground, but the humans were blown away like ragdolls. Paul hit the wall with a thud, while Jessie and Butch piled up on each other. Ash wasn't better off, though. He smacked leg-first into the wall and felt himself lose feeling in his legs.
He felt the wind knocked out of him, his vision darkening due to lack of air. Then, for the umpteenth time, Ash Ketchum blacked out.
A few hours later, Ash woke up in unfamiliar surroundings. He was lying in a comfy bed, sheets covering him up to his chest. The air smelt somewhat similar to his home – crisp and sharp, yet putting him at ease. A short distance from the foot of his bed was an open doorway that led up and downstairs. At the other end of the room was a desk, upon which an alive laptop whirred as it processed data.
There was a soft knock at the door that made his head turn and his eyes soften. Standing there, hesitant, was Fuji's granddaughter – Reina, blushing slightly as she held a cup of tea in her hand.
"May I…?" she whispered.
"Uh, yeah. Sure." He sat up straighter and propped himself on his elbows, pushing the bedsheets off him. His legs ached like hell. Reina pulled a chair and placed it next to the bed before sitting.
"Drink. It's tea."
"Thank you." He took the cup and took a hesitant sip. It was sweet and hot, but not cloying and scalding. It had the right amount of sugar and warmth to it that made him feel lazy. Reina just watched as he drank, and once he drained it she took it from him and held it in her hands.
He licked his lips off any remaining tea and smiled weakly at Reina. "Uh…How die I get here?"
She smiled. "That was grandfather. He called a few of the volunteers and brought you and the other boy – Paul – over here. Your pokémon are fine, by the way."
"And the Rockets?" he asked, clenching his fists.
Reina frowned. "Yes. Them. Grandfather called the police force. Needless to say, they will be locked up for quite some time."
"Good." He meant it, too. He didn't want those disgusting criminals to get away with their crimes, even though he felt a bit sorry for those three blundering fools Jessie, James and Meowth.
"What we're they doing there, anyway?" Ash asked, frowning.
"Emptying the Tower of ghosts," she practically hissed. "They entered the Pokémon Tower under the guise of Radio Tower workers and smuggled captured ghost-types out of there through their fellow Rocket grunts. Apparently the ones in charge of smuggling had left a few hours earlier to complete the transfers. They've been doing it ever since the "construction" began, and grandfather went to investigate the reducing appearances of the wraiths. And they took him by surprise and held him hostage."
She brushed the hair out of her face. "Anyway, we found a few pokéballs still with them and released the ghost-types back into the Tower. They weren't pleased."
"I can imagine," Ash replied dryly. How many times had he stumbled across Rocket operations and shut them down – three, four times, now? Maybe he could make some League trainers travel with him. At least then the next time he wouldn't be hurt in the process…
"Anyway, do you want to leave? You've been alright for some time now, but you were still sleeping."
He shrugged. "Alright." He spun his legs off the bed and stood up, wincing briefly from the ache in his legs. Damn. He ought to be careful for some time, at least.
Ash followed Reina down the stairs. He was thinking about the enraged spirit he'd seen in the tower. Even musing about it sent shivers down his spine. It felt…unreal.
When he reached downstairs, he smiled. It looked the same as it had when he'd come just several hours ago, except for the presence of Paul and Mr Fuji and the absence of the melancholy and worry that had made the air heavy earlier. The pokémon seemed happier, and Akira Fuji smiled as he stroked an Oddish in his arms while a Rattata and a Pikachu clung to his back.
Fuji looked up and grinned at Ash. "Ah! Welcome, Ash. We were wondering when you would join us from your deep sleep."
Several of the workers chuckled and Ash blushed despite himself. All volunteers were looking at him with pride and happiness and praise in their eyes, and Ash appreciated it. The boy smiled at Paul, but the purple-haired trainer stared back with dark, brooding eyes, his face a mask of emotionlessness. Unnerved, Ash looked away.
"We owe you a great deal, Ash," Fuji continued. "Without you, Paul and I would've been held hostage for an indefinite amount of time and Team Rocket would've gotten away with their nefarious plans."
"It was nothing," Ash said, embarrassed. "I just did what anyone else would've done."
"Ah, but the fact is that you did do something, Ash, and not run away like another trainer would've," Fuji countered. "But anyway. What's done is done. We're all safe, and Team Rocket is paying for their crimes."
At the last few words, there was a flash of emotions in Fuji's eyes. It was nervousness and…was that guilt?
"Anyway, what will the two of you do now?" Fuji inquired.
Paul was the first to answer. "I'll be continuing my journey to Fuchsia, even though I didn't get a ghost as I wanted two. Celadon had already been conquered, and now it is time for my fifth badge."
So he's already defeated Erika, Ash mused. Then he shook his head. "Well, I'll be heading for Celadon City. I've always wanted to explore that departmental store of theirs, and I'll need to challenge Erika for the Rainbow Badge. I already caught a Misdreavus from the…y'know."
He looked at Paul when he said the last part, curious to see a reaction slip up front eh otherwise impassive boy, but Ash was disappointed to see only mild interest leak into the boy's eyes. Must be pretty great at controlling emotions.
Fuji scratched his chin. "So the both of you are aiming for the championship title…I might have something that would help you. Follow me."
Fuji led him and Paul to the third floor, and then later into a room that was an office of sorts. The wall was lined with shelves that held books for both pleasure reading and increasing one's intellect. Research papers were smeared over the large mahogany table that held an amazing laptop, and he just tossed the papers aside as if they were nothing. Fuji shut the laptop and placed it on his bed before heading form a cabinet and rummaging through the items within.
Moments later, he came out with a briefcase that looked like it was used for high-level security, like for the energy amplifier that Surge had talked about. Fuji rolled in the passcode and flipped the briefcase open, showing Paul and Ash its contents.
It was a collectors delight. The Stone family would pay with their lives for such an ornate collection of gems. The round stones, just a bit smaller that pokéballs, were lined carefully on a silk seat. They gave away colors that Ash had never seen. They weren't evolutionary stones, Ash knew that much. Although each of them filtered different colors, they each had an S-shaped insignia in the center, like DNA.
While Paul (who was so surprised that he want even aware of his emotions beings given away) and Ash looked at the colorful gemstones with gaping mouths, Fuji pulled out another surprise. This time he brought out a smaller case filled with identical, spherical gemstones – although they were much smaller, kind of like a minimized and empty pokéball, they had were pale blue-green and had the same S-shaped mark.
Fuji chuckled. "Incredible, aren't they?"
"I…I can't even…" stuttered Paul.
"I understand you," Fuji said. "Even I was just in such wonderment and incredulity when I first laid my eyes on these beautiful objects. I remember when Gurkinn and I turned searched every corner of the world searching for them once we found the first…"
"But…What are they?" Ash asked.
"The larger ones are megastones," Fuji said as cryptically as he could. "The identical ones are called keystones."
"Do they help pokémon evolve, like fire stones and thunder stones do?"
Fuji shrugged. "In a way." He ran a wrinkled finger along the line of stones, which rolled under the movement. "They help certain pokémon achieve a state known as Mega Evolution."
"Mega what?" Ash asked.
"Mega Evolution," Fuji repeated.
"What Evolution?" Ash said, grinning as he tried to make a joke.
Fuji sighed. "Mega."
"Mega," Ash said.
Ash gasped mockingly. "You…You don't mean…That's…" He sighed. "You know what, forget it. I lost the joke."
"That, you did." Fuji chuckled. "Anyway, where was I? Yes. Mega Evolution is a form of evolution. I haven't fully understood the mechanics of it, but if you really do then do purchase a book by one Professor Augustine Sycamore: A Guide to Mega Evolution. I know, it's not that good a name, but it can't be helped. Anyway, Mega Evolution is only temporary. Oh, yes," he added, noticing the looks of disbelief and incredulity on their faces. "It's true. Very few trainer not belonging to the League use Mega Evolution. And the higher members of the Pokémon League – such as first class ACE trainers, the Elite Four and the champion – and handed keystones and megastones for use, simply because of the sheer rarity of them. It is a wonder that Gurkinn and I managed to recover so many of them."
"But that completely defies the mechanics of evolution!" Ash exclaimed.
Fuji nodded. "Yes, but I don't know why. You can ask someone like Sycamore, or Charles Rowan. I just studied genetics and cloning. But one thing is clear – the bond between the trainer and pokémon must be strong."
"What do you mean by bond, exactly?" Paul asked sharply.
"It means that the trainer and pokémon must have an unbreakable bond of unconditional love and trust," Fuji explained, much to Paul's shock and nervousness. "The trainer and pokémon must be able to act as a single being – only then can Mega Evolution be successful."
Ash grinned. He loved his pokémon with all that he had. He was sure that he and his pokémon would be an to attain that state if they got a megastone and keystone.
"Why haven't we heard about this phenomenon before?"
"Because the sky is blue and one day we all will die," Fuji snapped, a bit annoyed. Then he sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I'm sorry. It frustrates me that I do not have much knowledge on certain topics."
Ash nodded. "So, why are you showing these to us?" Paul asked. "To make us feel jealous?"
Fuji chuckled. "No, only the fact that the two of you had at least one pokémon that could Mega Evolve," he said. "But only a handful of them can undergo this process, but it is not clear why. The fact is that you, Paul, have a Lairon, whose evolved form, Aggron, can Mega Evolve; and that you, Ash, have a Flaaffy and Ivysaur whose evolved states can both Mega Evolve.
"So this is my gift for rescuing me and saving our town's precious ghosts – a megastone and a keystone for the both of you. Paul, here is your Aggronite and keystone." He handed over one of the pale, green stones and one of the megastones that was half silver and half black. The purple-haired boy took the objects reverently, and bowed to Mr Fuji.
"Thank you, Fuji-sama."
Fuji waved off the thanks and looked to Ash. "Now I cannot hand over both Venusaurite and Ampharosite to you, as that would be impartial to young Paul here. However, I will let you choose, Ash. You decide."
Ampharos or Venusaur. That was a tough decision to make. He wished he could release Saur, order him to put both Paul and Fuji to sleep so that he could take both megastones and perhaps even the briefcases and make a run for it. Paul looked at him as if he was expecting him to do just that.
In the end he decided to go with the Ampharosite. While he wanted to make his starter an even bigger powerhouse, he leaned more towards his equally loyal Flaaffy. He voiced his decision.
"The Ampharos-wotsits, then," he ground out reluctantly.
"The Ampharosite." Fuji said. Paul looked a bit impressed at the fact that Ash hadn't done what he'd been fantasizing about.
Fuji handed over the large megastone – half golden-yellow and half dark-brown – and the keystone, that shimmered in the light. Fuji even handed over a bracelet to hold the keystone so that the boys could wear it.
"That settles it, then," Fuji muttered. "Goodbye, the two of you. I wish you luck on your journeys."
The two of them muttered grateful thanks before rushing downstairs, each of them looking gleeful. Paul turned to Ash, a serious expression on his face. Then he began to talk.
"I had promised to have a battle with you the next time we would meet," Paul began. "But it looks like we'll have to postpone unto a later date. Don't slack off, Ketchum. I don't want to win easily – I would like you to be a challenge."
Ash scowled at the implied defeat, but didn't say anything as Paul left immediately without bidding goodbye to the rest of the volunteers. Ash waved them goodbye and turned to leave, but was stopped by Reina.
"Ash!" she exclaimed, rushing up to him just as he stepped out of the door.
"Yes?" He noticed her wringing her hands. Her cheeks were tinged red.
She bit her lip nervously. Closed the distance between them until they were mere inches apart. Ash tugged at his collar. "I wanted to say…Well, thank you, Ash, for rescuing the ghosts and bringing my grandfather back in one piece. It would be really bad if he wasn't."
Then she leaned forward, making his eyes widen, and brushed his lips softly against his cheek. He felt himself burn the next second when she pulled away and blushed furiously, not meeting his eyes. "Y-You can come back anytime, A-Ash."
The she slammed the door shut.
What the heck?! Why the hell did she just kiss him?! He didn't know if he appreciated it or despised it (he was still between the 'Girls are icky!' and 'Girls are the greatest thing ever!' stage), all he knew that he was very confused.
He shook his head and began to walk towards the Pokémon Center, still unable to drive away the blush from his cheeks.
Ash left the next day early in the morning – seven thirty, to be exact. He'd slept for a long time at Fuji's house, and his body didn't need to rest for much longer during the night. He'd given all of his seven – now eight – pokémon to Nurse Joy for a thorough checkup so that his buddies would be as good as new when they began to travel again.
There weren't a lot of trainers on the road, maybe because they didn't want to go to Lavender Town, where the rumors of angry ghosts still lingered. Ash trained his pokémon during the battles that the did accept, keeping Snorlax and Misdreavus in their pokéballs, mainly because he was sure the former would flow into a rampage and he wanted to introduce the latter properly to the group.
At midday, they found a secluded spot at decided to have lunch. Ash set his team loose (again, except for Misdreavus and Snorlax). Before they began eating lunch, Ash clapped his hands to gain their attention.
"Okay everyone, we're going to meet a new teammate," he said, and Saur and Zeus exchanged glances, as if expecting I-wanna-be-a-pokémon-master-will-you-join-me routine. Ash didn't blame them – he'd practically memorized his speech involuntarily.
He tossed the ultra-ball in the air, smiling at it reached its peak and snapped open to shoot a beam of red. It settled in mid-air while Ash snatched the capture device, sighing in relief when the energy formed into Misdreavus and not Snorlax. He made a note to mark her pokéball with one of his stickers.
Misdreavus floated in mid-air a few inches from Ash's head. The ghost surveyed the human and the six pokémon with a creepy smile. The band of orbs around Misdreavus' neck glowed faintly. He remembered that it was a female.
He winched when he looked into her yellow-and-red eyes, remembering the vision he'd seen when he'd been hit accidentally by her Confuse Ray. The serpentine monster still made him shudder. And ever since that vision, he'd been experiencing voices in his head – hums and muffled words that sounded like a woman's voice.
"Hello, Misdreavus," he greeted warily. He didn't want the ghost to lash out, and he'd told his friends to be on the their best behavior. He smiled when the Misdreavus didn't respond aggressively; instead, she sang (for lack of a better word) in vibrato, much to Ash's amusement.
"My name's Ash. Do you remember me? I caught you yesterday at the Pokémon Tower." At that, she looked amused, and a bit happy. "Anyway, I'm your trainer now. Do you want to join me and my friends? I'm not going to force you to, but I'm not going to lie when I say I'd be really happy if you did join me."
Misdreavus smiled in that same, unnerving manner, then she cried jovially. "Is that a yes?" When she bobbed her head, his face broke out into a grin. "Great!"
Ash spent the next several minutes introducing his friends to Misdreavus. She seemed to mix with every one of them, especially Luna. She leered at Saur affectionately, no doubt remembering their battle, and spooked Zeus by disappearing and then reappearing behind the Flaaffy. When she approached Delphi, the Xatu inched away in the most subtle manner, and Misdreavus smirked in amusement at that.
"There's another one, and it's a Snorlax," he told Misdreavus. The corporeal creature tilted her head. "But it's not here right now. It gets angry pretty easily."
He glanced at her. "Do you want a nickname? The other have one."
Misdreavus trilled in delight and nodded her head. Ash blinked. Most pokémon would take some time to consider whether they wanted a nickname or not, but Misdreavus seemed to be pretty quick at making decisions. So Ash listed off a few names, but she shook her head at all of them.
"You've got to be the pickiest pokémon ever," Ash grumbled. At this rate she was going to be stuck with 'Ghost'. But he noticed that she seemed to lean towards the weirder, odder names.
"How about Screecher?" he said, picking out the most random name from the silliest part of his brain. Surprisingly, she seemed to love it. The Misdreavus performed a backflip in mid-air and squealed harmoniously, all the while grinning.
Ash blinked. "Seriously? Screecher? I mean, it's not the best name, you could have a much better name—" But his newly-captured Misdreavus wouldn't have it, and he sighed. "Okay…Screecher it is."
The newly-christened Screecher trilled happily and then floated a good distance away, performing acrobatics and whatnot. He just sighed at her antics.
After that, they began to eat. He gave each of his pokémon a bowl of pokémon food and mashed berries before he ate his own pack of beef jerky. Even though it wasn't the best food, it was enough for sustenance, and it wasn't like he had much else to eat on the road, anyway.
He watched his pokémon interact with their new member during his lunch, and he was pleased to see that everyone reacted well to Screecher. Saur kept mostly to himself but responded with growls whenever Screecher came close to him. The only one who seemed unnerved was Delphi, but he realized that she being a psychic-type would naturally shy away from ghost- and dark-types.
He was also pleased to see Delphi trying to levitate her food via her psychic powers to increase her focus while using Psychic. Ash watched her levitated several pellets and a berry, but frowned when a single pellet lost the blue outline, broke away from the chain and fell back into the bowl.
Once they were done, Ash and his team packed up the utensils before continuing along the road. Only Chimchar and Screecher opted to remain outside their pokéballs for the time being.
He got into several battles after that, but none wherein he lost, even though he came close to that when he pitted Chimchar against a Pidgeotto.
Evening time came, and then he sent out the rest of his team for their usual training session. He'd already set up camp for the night, and he wanted to make sure that his pokémon got stronger and get a good night's sleep after their workout.
His friends appeared in flashes of light and he smiled at them. "Okay, everybody," he said. "We're making our way to Celadon City now, where we'll be having our fourth gym battle." Many of the cracked grins at that. "She uses grass-type pokémon. So, Delphi, Chimchar, you two are going to be the two major players in the fight."
Chimchar chirped happily, the little monkey pounding his chest. Delphi simply gave a curt nod, so he continued.
"The other one is going to be Hydrus." That got a few weird looks, but Ash was confident in his Golduck. He already knew a couple of psychic-type moves – most grass-types in Kanto had an additional poison-typing to adapt and nullify their weakness – and when he would purchase Ice Beam in Celadon, he would prove to be quite the problem for Erika.
Hydrus looked equally surprised as the rest of his teammates, but stepped forward and quacked eagerly. Ash grinned and nodded at his enthusiasm. "Good, then. Delphi, I want you to help teach Hydrus and Luna to perfect Psychic while you work on it too. Chimchar, you'll be sparring with Zeus – I want you to use Agility and then Electro Ball, okay. See if it gets stronger or not. Saur, I want you to work on Magical Leaf, okay?"
He assigned Delphi, Luna and Hydrus to work on Psychic while Zeus and Chimchar sparred with each other. He watched the Flaaffy blur away with Agility, then pause for a second and fire an overpowered Electro Ball that Chimchar nimbly dodged, the fire-type retaliating with a blanket of red-hot embers. Saur was busy launching a flurry of glowing leaves at his targets.
He kept Screecher with him so that he could assess the Misdreavus properly, and he was pleased to say she was pretty strong. While her Icy Wind wasn't perfect, she was great at the rest of her attacks. Her Shadow Balls were particularly nasty, and he didn't want to be on the receiving end of it.
"That's enough, Screecher," he said, pleased by the way her Icy Wind left a layer of snow and frost on the bark of a tree. "You were great. I can see that you're already pretty powerful."
She tittered happily, and nuzzled against him. He shuddered at the coldness of her ectoplasmic skin, but didn't say anything.
In the end he just told the Misdreavus to practice her moves so that she could execute them quickly and perfectly, without a hitch. Screecher nodded and floated off to another target not that far away from Chimchar and Zeus. She immediately began to collect ectoplasmic energy in front of her mouth, and Ash was pleased to see the force with which it struck the tree and left it shaking.
Ash walked over to Delphi's group. He watched from. A few feet away as she chirped something softly, and her pupils nodded. Luna closed her eyes and her hands, the Clefairy searching for her inner psychokinetic powers. Hydrus' jewel began to glow bright red and he clenched his bill in concentration.
Slowly, a few rocks near Hydrus began to rise in the air, all surrounded by a blue glow and connected by near-invisible strands of energy. He managed to hold them for a good twenty seconds before his arms sagged and they fell to the ground with a thud.
Luna was doing much better, almost as good as Delphi. The Clefairy held her set of rocks in the air for an ever-growing amount of time, although Ash could notice her eyes narrowing every few seconds. In the end, she too gave in and let the rocks drop the ground.
Ash turned to Hydrus. "Luna, that was great." He looked at Hydrus, for whom he'd already made a new training regime. He wanted the Golduck to learn Hydro Pump, one of the most powerful water-type moves. It was basically an overpowered version of Water Gun, with much more volume and a greater water pressure. He'd heard of some pokémon managing to punch through steel.
"Hydrus, keep working on Psychic. After that, we'll begin teaching you Hydro Pump, he said, and he was pleased to see the spark of eagerness and excitement in the Golduck's eyes. Hydrus immediately focused and levitated the rocks again, determined to master Psychic at the earliest so that he could begin working on Hydro Pump.
"Keep up the good work, guys," he said, walking away. Then he stopped as he got an idea. Picking up the heavy rock at his feet, he casually tossed it at the ring of stones being levitated by Delphi and made it land on one of the floating stones. Ash watched as the concentration nearly broke, and all off the rocks began to fall to the ground. The Xatu's eyes widened and her eyes lit blue once again, stopping most of the rocks inches from the ground, but some of them hit the dirt. Ash smirked and began to walk away.
Then he heard a voice in his head – erratic and static, and deeply feminine.
W-Why did y-you have to go d-d-d-do th-that?
Ash froze, and he turned around slowly to look at Delphi, who looked at him with annoyance in her eyes.
Realization him like a bullet train.
"D-Delphi?" he croaked. "D-Did you just…t-talk?!"
In one of the rooms of the Pokémon Volunteer House, Akira Fuji sat in his office, deeply troubled. It had been only a day since those two nice boys had saved him and those poor ghosts in the Pokémon Tower. He smiled when he thought of those two, and how he knew Reina had taken a liking to that Ash boy, despite her half-hearted protests.
He looked at his locked cabinet, where he kept his storage of megastones and keystones. He felt a lump in his throat as he thought about them. He'd only given them to Ash and Paul as gifts to lessen his guilt – the guilt that he'd suppressed at the back of his mind for so many years.
But now, when those dastardly Rockets had held him captive, he'd been reminded of his mistakes, and the memories came back to haunt him. How he'd worked to end the Kohto Civil War, only to create so many casualties. How he'd created the monster that he'd first loved and then come to hate. How, when he'd destroyed all his research that gave birth to that abomination, he'd been held at gunpoint by the newly-formed Team Rocket, only for his newly-married daughter to take the bullet from him and die when he'd refused to work for them any longer.
He chuckled bitterly as he held his only daughter's photograph in his old hands. At first when the Rocket Corps (as they'd been named then) had come to him, they'd been the epitome of success. Our name stands for power and speed, they'd said! But it had been the worst decision of his life. He loved Amber so, so much…And that day, he'd felt like he'd lost everything.
But he'd been caught off-guard when those bastards talked to him about getting his daughter back. He knew what they meant by that, and it gave him hope. He could have Amber back in his life, Reina could finally have her aunt back…But he couldn't help but recoil when he thought of consorting with Team Rocket…again.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, he made his bitter decision. Wiping his tearstained face, he slumped back in his chair.
He waited for Team Rocket to come and extract him from his home.
Trainer: Ash Ketchum
Pokémon in Possession:
Saur – Ivysaur
Delphi – Xatu
Zeus – Flaaffy
Luna – Clefairy
Hydrus – Golduck
Screecher – Misdreavus
I think that's a pretty good place to end it, even though I was leaning to end it after the Delphi-speak thingy. For the most part, I think this was a meh chapter, mostly because I didn't like the first half of it, but was pretty happy with the latter.
As always, thanks for all the reviews and favorites and follows, everyone! I hope you're enjoying this journey as much as I am.
Also, MEGA EVOLUTIOOOON! BOO-YAH!
Mega Evolution won't occur until later in Kanto – or maybe in the next saga, I don't know – but it definitely will be a feature. I couldn't help but take the idea of Fuji giving Red a Charizardite X in Pokémon: Origins, so I just had to put this in.
Next chapter comes up in early Feb, because I'll be having my preliminary exams in Jan, follow by my board exams beginning from the first of March. So Feb seems like a pretty good place for the next update.
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Merry Christmas, everyone!