"I'm not sure what to make of it, Gary." The older woman admits.
Giving her a reassuring smile, Gary replies, "At least he's not hiding in his room, right? This can't be as bad as last time."
After hearing the news from Delia about Ash returning home last night because of a breakup with Misty, Delia called Misty. It was then that Delia could hear the words out of Misty's mouth too. Although Delia wanted to ask Ash about the details, she couldn't bring herself to. She fears it'll make him relapse. Pikachu hasn't said much either. So far, Ash has been walking around the house like normal. He hasn't hid nor has he been depressed. This is a totally different breakup compared to the one he had in Kalos.
Unsure of what to do, Delia contacted Gary. Gary always helped Delia care for the reclused Ash. Also, with Gary being Ash's age, Delia figures there are things Gary can talk to Ash about that Ash won't want to speak to her about. However, informing Gary meant Leaf finding out, which in turn led to the Sketchits who have been staying with them.
Therefore, in the span of a few hours, the Sketchits have left for Cerulean City, and Gary is at the Ketchum house. Leaf is trying to call Misty while also caring for Sammy alone. Leaf wants Gary to speak with Ash, so she practically shoved her husband out the door. Gary has yet to see Ash, but based on Delia's story, Gary too isn't sure what to make of the situation. At least Ash isn't depressed. Unless he's hiding it? Mew. Ashy Boy.
"I'm gonna go talk to him." Gary says.
"Please do. I don't know what to do." Delia sighs.
"Pi pikachu pikapi." Pikachu tries to quell their worries, though he's also concerned for his trainer. Ash claims to love Misty a lot, but he doesn't seem affected by the breakup.
"I got it." Gary grins despite trying to convince himself of his words. How does he speak to Ash? The past 3 years, Gary was cautious and babied Ash. This past year, Gary has cracked a few jokes only because Gary knew Ash was getting better with Misty's help.
Once he's a few feet away from Ash's open bedroom door, Gary runs a hand through his hair. He's nervous. How does he approach Ash? Well, it's now or never. They need answers, and only Gary can really get to Ash. Misty has a lot of people already trying to contact her, and Misty is a lot more secretive than Ash. Knocking on the open door, Gary spots his old friend digging through the room.
Ash looks up, expecting his mother again. "Oh. Hey, Gary."
"Hey, Ash." Gary walks in and sits at the desk. "What're you doing?"
"Packing a bag."
"What?" Gary practically falls out of his seat. "What are you packing for?"
"I'm gonna go travel again."
"Wait." The professor massages his temples. "One, the tournament season doesn't start for another month. Two, why?"
"I'm assuming my mom already told you about the break up." Ash shrugs. He's still not looking at Gary because Ash is trying to get his traveling bag ready. It's been years since he traveled, so he's still searching for all the materials he'll need.
"What do you mean break up? You and Misty are just on a break, right?"
"Nah. Like it's really over. We filled out divorce papers yesterday, and she went to file them this morning." Luckily, he didn't have too many belongings at the gym, so he brought everything all back with him. He had left while Misty was out. It would be too painful and awkward to say good bye.
How can Ash talk so nonchalantly about this? Gary recalls all of the times he's seen Ash and Misty this year. They were so happy together. Yeah, at first, Ash was timid and shy. But lately, Ash has opened up, especially towards Misty. The look in his eyes when he's watching her is filled with pure love. Gary has seen the photos of them at the Hayden wedding. Therefore, Ash should be hurting a lot more than he's letting on...right?
"Are you okay, Ash?"
Sighing, Ash finally meets Gary's concerned gaze. This is just like the conversation he had with his mother. "Look, Gary, I'm not gonna relapse like before. It was a mutual breakup we decided was best for us."
"Then why are you leaving?" inquires the still worried man.
"I miss traveling. I know the season doesn't start yet, but if I sit around for a month, I'm gonna go crazy. I don't even know what I'm gonna compete in this year, so I'll just walk around for now. Figure things out. Clear my head." Ash has no clue about anything. He's just going with the flow.
Gary still studies his friend. Ash is dead serious, and that slightly scares Gary. Is Ash bottling up his feelings? "Bro. Don't lie to me."
"I'm not." Ash throws a shirt on the bed next to his backpack. "Yeah, I'm sad Misty and I didn't work out. We both love each other a lot, and we understand that we can't be together right now. We're adults, Gary."
"Why can't you be together?" Pries the man. Nothing makes sense to him. Why can't they just stay married while Ash travels? Gary is now remembering all the arguments he'd overhear from the couple. Maybe Ash and Misty did already talk about this? Maybe that's why Ash has accepted the breakup and isn't so down about it?
"Please respect the break up, Gary." Ash gives him a small smile. "Misty and I are both hurting. Give her space, and stop asking me about the break up."
Letting out a breath, Gary's mind is working overtime trying to piece everything together. What are the grounds for this break up? Is Ash really okay? Will Ash be okay traveling alone? Well, he'll have Pikachu. However, Gary just grows more anxious. No wonder why Delia is concerned. A depressed Ash is concerning enough, but this current Ash who isn't showing any signs of being upset worries Gary.
"Will you tell me if something is up?" Gary eventually asks.
Standing up, Ash walks over to pat Gary's back. "I never did thank you for helping my mom take care of me those three years, Gare. You're a good friend, but I'd appreciate it if you go back to being that cocky asshole I know and love."
Chuckling, Gary shakes his head at Ash. Okay. Ash is probably fine. Well, Ash is hurting, that's for sure. But unlike last time, Ash is coping a lot better. Misty has always been the healthiest person for him. Gary now stands up and shakes Ash's hand. "Don't forget about us little guys when you become a Pokemon Master."
Laughing alongside his friend, Ash replies, "Little? You're The Professor Oak."
"And you better remember that." Grins Gary. "You should come see Leaf and Sammy before you go."
Now, Ash's smile falls. He actually has been trying to leave as soon as possible. Before word of the break up spreads and he'll have to hear from everyone, including Brock. Mew. Ash doesn't want to hear Brock's questions and scolding. "Aren't the Sketchit's there? They're Misty's family…"
"They left this morning. Went to check on Misty."
Ash sighs. Yes, it's better to leave and avoid the questions, though he does wish he could say bye to Tina. That girl holds a special place in his heart. Giving Gary another small smile, Ash tells him, "I'll come for dinner tonight. But I'm having breakfast with my mom in the morning, and then I'm gone."
"Good enough. I'll make sure Leaf doesn't ask too many questions."
"Anything for ya, Ashy Boy." Gary smirks. "Where will you be going?"
"No idea." Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "I'm itching to move, so I'll go wherever my legs take me."
"That's the way it should be. I wish you luck, man." Gary then faces the door. "I'm gonna go tell your mom that you're okay. See you later, alright?"
"Yeah. Thanks again, Gary." Ash watches Gary leave.
With the smile now disappearing, Ash faces his bed. It has most of the things he'll be packing in his backpack. Water bottle, multiple changes of clothes, toiletries, hygiene, snacks, Pokemon food, flashlight, pocket knife, his pokebelt. He isn't sure what 5 Pokemon he'll be taking with him, but Ash assumes it'll be the 5 he had at the gym. Pikachu for sure always comes with Ash.
Looking around for the final item Ash will be taking with him, he finds the blue cap. In the past, he'd carry her lure and handkerchief. Lately, he's kept the handkerchief folded up inside the hat. The lure is long gone from years of traveling and whatnot. Ash throws the blue cap on the bed to bring with him on his journey. As much as it pains him, he wants to always remember the woman he loves.
'Are you done yet?' comes the very annoyed telepathic voice.
Shooting him a glare, the redhead replies, "I risk a lot hiding you. The least you can do is hide me for a few hours."
'It's your gym. Kick them out.' Mewtwo is tired of Misty crashing in the cave. He never even called her here. She just appeared in his home. Not the cave they usually frequent when he's heavily injured. He's managed to fend off challengers so far; thus, he hasn't called for Misty. Thinking she was another challenger, Mewtwo almost attacked her earlier.
Although he doesn't know her reason for visiting, he can sense she's troubled. Is it trouble in paradise? Apparently, she's hiding from her family who have returned from Pallet Town. Mewtwo has never been one to console Misty. They aren't exactly friends. While they do talk occasionally when she's patching him up, they've never met up for any reason besides healing him.
"Technically, it's their gym now." Misty reminds him.
The Sketchits are taking over the gym next month. She's still in the process of moving out. This morning, Misty was woken up to the loud yelling from Daisy asking if Misty is okay. When Misty saw Tina's face, Misty couldn't bring herself to speak on the breakup. Tina loves Ash. Mew. Misty feels her eyes water up just thinking of that asshole. It's the reason she's here hiding in Mewtwo's cave. She made up some bogus excuse to leave her gym and avoid having to disclose anything to her family, especially to little Tina.
'We are not friends, Leader Misty. You should go talk to one of them. Or your husband.'
"We broke up."
Cold and straight to the point. However, Mewtwo senses the pain. So that's why she's hiding. Humans. They're such strange creatures. He could've sworn Ash and Misty were deeply in love. What could've happened? Anyway, that's not his problem, and he won't let Misty think he's interested in her life. They are not friends.
"I don't get why he had to say that stuff." grumbles Misty.
Oh no. Mewtwo knows where this is going. 'I didn't ask.'
"But you're a good listener, Mewtwo. It's so easy to talk to you. You're wise."
He appreciates the compliment, but he won't be fooled. 'I'm not listening.'
"That's fine." Misty prefers just getting things off her chest. She had woken up early to run errands and stop by city hall to file the divorce papers. When she returned, Ash and his belongings were nowhere in sight. Although she wanted to see him one more time, she's glad he was gone. It hurt less than actually saying a goodbye.
About those divorce papers though… She couldn't bring herself to walk into the building, so she took a stroll around the city for a while. It's not like Ash is getting married to anyone anytime soon. Misty will file the papers when she's ready. Filing it now will involve the media meddling, and Misty would rather focus on mending her aching heart.
"If his ex never came, do you think we'd still be together? Or would this have come up later on after we fell more in love?" Misty won't blame Serena's visit for the break up. It seems like Misty and Ash were focusing on the bliss in their relationship when there were underlying issues they both had from the past. These issues came up for them after Serena came. Would the problems have risen in the future anyway?
Groaning, Mewtwo responds, 'I will hide you for a few hours, but I will not listen to your problems.'
"Fine. Just let me talk to myself." If Misty wanted someone to listen and console her, she would've called one of her friends. There's a reason she came to Mewtwo, besides him being the closest in location to her.
'No. Talk somewhere else where I'm not around.'
"This cave is big enough for you to teleport to a different part."
'This is the most secluded part.'
"Exactly. I can't be heartbroken in public." And Misty would rather not be alone. This past year living with Ash got her used to constant company. She'll have to learn how to live alone again.
'Humans.' grumbles the psychic type.
Misty turns her head at the sulking Pokemon. Giving him a small grateful smile, she says, "Thanks for letting me stay."
'I don't have a choice.'
Misty shuts her eyes as her smile fades. Choice. While she was the one who told Ash they should 'break up', he was signalling it the whole conversation. Rather than let him keep beating around the bush, she finally said it. However, what if she didn't say it? What if she did fight him more to keep them together? One thing Misty won't do is fight for anyone, but Ash is worth fighting for. Mew. Her head hurts, though her heart hurts worse.
How can she be at the gym with the Sketchits, putting on a fake smile, when she is at the lowest point in her life? Leaf did call earlier, and Misty told Leaf not to worry. Heh. Delia called Misty yesterday, presumably when Ash returned home to tell her the news. Being Delia, the older woman was so sweet and asked how Misty was doing. Of course, Delia didn't pry, though Delia did want to know if Ash and Misty thought this decision through. At least the people in Misty's life are respecting the break up. Everyone is very confused and concerned.
As for her ex… Misty knows he's in Pallet Town. That's it. Whatever activities he's up to or how he's doing, she doesn't know. If he was depressed or relapsing, Delia or Gary would tell Misty, right? Whatever. Ash is the one who kept saying he doesn't deserve her. And Misty initiated the breakup. They need to follow through with their words, even if Misty's whole body is telling her otherwise. That she should swallow her pride. That she should run to Ash and ask him to give them another shot. They claim they love each other. That should be enough, but it wasn't.
"Was breaking up the only option? Could we have worked through it?" Mewtwo sighs again as he listens to Misty talk to herself. "I mean. Like, he was saying he is using me, and I don't mind because I love him. But when he started getting into how he's not ready to be with me and all that crap, I just got mad. I said we should just end it then since it seems like he wants to. Fuck. I shouldn't have let my temper get the best of me."
'You can't change someone's mind once they've made it.' And Mewtwo said he wouldn't entertain her. Nevertheless, if he has to keep listening to her, he's going to go insane too.
"I know. I just wish we didn't have to end it. I should've never fell in love with him again." If they had just kept their relationship strictly platonic, none of this would've happened. "It all started going bad when we broke our rules. Our relationship turned from black and white to gray." Ash stated they shouldn't kiss, but they did. Misty wanted him to wake up before 9AM, but Ash always got up earlier at 6AM with her.
What if she never woke him up? If she let him sleep in until 9 rather than bothering him at 6 to help her around the gym? What if she never let him kiss her that day in the gym in front of all the challengers? What if she never initiated their Friday movie nights? What if she just treated him as a housemate instead of a friend? Kept him an arms-length away. That would've prevented her buried emotions from surfacing.
However, that would've prevented him from healing and growing again. As much as Misty hates this pain, she'd rather go over it ten-fold if it means helping Ash return to his once joyful self. Maybe this is what he means by using her? Nevertheless, she doesn't mind because she loves him. So much that she let him go to figure things out on his own.
'He's gone, right? I assume you know where to find him. You both still love each other.' Mewtwo doesn't understand human emotions. He's definitely not going to console Misty. If she and Ash still love each other and are heart broken over the breakup, then the only solution is to get back together. Why are they making this more difficult?
If only it was that easy. Misty knows what Mewtwo is getting at. Right now, she and Ash cannot get back together. Ash has demons from his past breakup, leaving him hung up on that relationship. Misty helped him get through most of his pain, but that last bit is what's holding him back. He needs to solve that on his own. Nothing she does will help him.
On Misty's end, she isn't ready for a relationship. She's a new Elite Four member. Also, some of the things she was saying during her breakup with Ash has irked her. Since when did she become so dependent on someone else that she loses her self worth? Telling him to keep using her. To stay with her while a part of him is still thinking about Serena. What is she thinking?
This is not the independent Misty Waterflower who was one of the strongest Kanto gym leaders. The Misty Waterflower who brought up this danky gym from its tarnished reputation. Misty needs to use this breakup as a way to get back to the person she's proud to be. As much fun as she had with Ash, she grew too dependent on him.
"I'll be moving to the League next week. Are you sure you don't want me to tell the Sketchits about you? Someone will need to patch you up when you're hurt." Misty decides to change the topic before she ends up crying again. She cried enough over Ash that night.
'I told you. I'm coming with you. That cave on Victory Road has lots of strong Pokemon, and it's more complex. There are many secret crevices I can hide in.' Although Mewtwo enjoys the quietness and less people here, he only trusts Misty. Victory Road may have way more trainers, but the extra Pokemon will help Mewtwo hide.
"I'm glad someone decided to stick with me." grumbles the redhead who continues to think about a certain raven haired man.
A few Weeks Later
"About time you pick up a call! I've been trying to reach you since last week, Ash!" exclaims the furious voice over the pokenav.
Pikachu winces, and he's not even near the device. His trainer is holding the pokenav away from his ear, and replies, "Sorry, Brock. I haven't had cell service til now."
"Where are you where you don't have cell reception? This is 2021, Ash! Cell reception reaches mountains and oceans now!"
"Forget it!" Brock shouts. He takes in a deep breath to try and calm himself. "I called your mom and she told me you left. Look, I'm happy that you're traveling again, but what the fuck, Ash? Why'd you and Misty break up?"
And there it is. The question. A key reason Ash chose to be in remote areas these past few weeks. He wants to avoid everyone's questions once Misty tells them, especially Brock's. Rather than ignore people's calls and texts, he used the real excuse of not having service. However, Ash knows he can't and shouldn't avoid his friends for too long, so he finally came back to civilization today. Of course, he has to call Brock first, though Brock called just as Ash was trying to get the nerve to contact Brock.
The past two weeks, Ash has trained and traveled. He's getting back into the knack of walking everywhere. The first few days were absolutely straining on his body. Even though he worked out with his Pokemon the past year, that did not prepare him for walking miles on end. He's followed the map on his pokenav, but without service, most of the time, he had to follow signs. Some people he met along the way helped. The quietness allowed Ash to reflect on his breakup, as much as he tries to avoid it.
Every time his mind wanders back to the woman he loves, his heart aches tremendously. If he loves her, then why'd he let her go? Because he doesn't deserve her. Her strength. Her happiness. Her support. Her love. All of her. Ash has been using her and taking her for granted. Misty is more special than that. Before he can even think about asking her for forgiveness, he needs to come to terms with his own troubles. His own reasons that are keeping him from being the man Misty deserves.
"Didn't she tell you?" Ash would rather not revisit that painful time.
"All she said is that you guys couldn't work out. She wouldn't answer questions and asked me not to ask anymore." Brock would usually pry, but Misty really looked like she was barely holding everything in. With Brock being the only one who knows of the fake marriage, it must be difficult telling him any details.
"Can I ask you to stop asking questions too?" Ash inquires.
"You've dodged my calls for days, Ash. I know damn well Misty is still head over heels for you! And you told me you were gonna propose. How does all of this go south one month later?" Brock can't grasp his mind around it.
Looking up at the city ahead, Ash frowns. Pikachu worriedly eyes Ash when Ash stops walking. Although the tournament season starts next week, Ash has not been aimlessly walking anywhere. He actually has a destination. It did require him to take a plane the day he left Pallet Town, but once he landed in this region, he's taken the longest most secluded route here. Pikachu has worriedly kept an eye on Ash, though Ash seems to be handling this just fine.
No one knows where Ash is. Delia asked, but Ash didn't give her an answer, similar to his response to Gary. When Ash used the last of his money to buy a plane ticket, he really contemplated doing so. Nevertheless, he's hid enough. He's hurt enough, and it caused him to hurt someone else more. Someone he loves and regrets losing. Even if it takes Ash more time to be ready, he figured being in this region is a good stepping stone.
The only positive outcome coming from the break up is that Ash gained strength to focus solely on Misty. He spent the alone time hurting over her and still loving her. He wants to be worthy of her, but more than that, he wants to heal. He needs to move on already, and he feels ready. Despite being extremely nervous, Ash will make this step for himself. It's the last thing binding him from living a fulfilling life of his own.
"How is Misty?" Ash decides to ask and avoid Brock's question.
"Answer my question first, Ash." Brock grumbles. He hasn't been waiting weeks to have Ash ignore him.
Sighing, Ash opts to sit near the sign instead of enter the city. "Look, man." Ash runs a hand through his hair. How should he say this to Brock? What should he say? "Misty is perfect. She's beautiful and she has a beautiful heart. I couldn't keep letting myself hold her back. I'm not the right person for her."
"Dude!" Brock wants to hit Ash upside the head. "She loves you! She's loved you since we were kids! Do you think she cares that you're not as successful as her? Misty doesn't care about any of that!"
"I know!" Ash yells in frustration. "But it still bothers me, Brock! I'm not ready to be with her. The breakup was gonna happen sooner or later. I'm glad it happened now before we got too deep-"
"You wanted to propose."
"And I'm glad we broke up before that happened." Ash reiterates. He glances back up at the dreaded sign.
"How did this even come about? I swear you were both doing great!" Brock does not understand how Ash could want to propose one month, and then break up with Misty the next. There must've been something to cause it.
"No way, Brock. I answered your question, so now you need to answer mine." Plus, Ash doesn't want to answer Brock's questions. Nevertheless, Ash is worried about Misty. Despite knowing she isn't the type of person to pine over anyone, Ash knows Misty keeps her emotions hidden. She bottles them up and explodes later. He hopes she's confiding in her friends.
Grumbling under his breath, Brock eventually answers Ash, "You wanna hear the truth or what she told me to tell you if you asked?"
Chuckling, Ash can already picture the redhead saying this to Brock. "The truth."
"I'll tell you both." Brock sighs. "She wants you to know that she's doing great. She just moved into her Indigo Plateau apartment, which allows her to visit the Oaks often. She's so busy with work that she barely has time for anything else. Life is returning back to how it was before you came."
Ash frowns. So Misty is moving along just fine? She didn't have to tell Brock that. She could've just told Ash. Well, Ash sees why Misty won't tell him. It's the same reason he hasn't contacted her. Not only is it awkward, but they just broke up. To completely get over each other, they need to not communicate. Many nights were spent where Ash typed out texts to Misty he never sent. He fights so hard to not contact her until he's ready to.
"But in reality, she's hurting, man." Brock's own heart aches for his friend. Although Ash is a lot more honest than Misty, Brock can tell Ash is hurting. Both Ash and Misty are handling the breakup maturely, though it just sucks. "She's lonely and trying to learn how to live on her own again. She hopes you're doing well and that you achieve your dreams. Even though you guys broke up, Misty wants you to finally be happy. She told me not to tell you any of this, but you deserve to know."
Wiping the few tears that have slipped out, Ash eyes the sign again. Mew. Those words, indirectly from the love of his life, give him strength again. Strength to return to her. Hopefully, she accepts him when he comes back. However, right now, he needs to fix himself before he returns to her. Ash really does hope Misty is doing well in her new position. She deserves to be happy too. "I gotta go, Brock."
"Wait! My question!"
"This can't wait. I'll see you for Annalise's birthday!" Ash then hangs up before Brock can argue more. Deciding to silence his pokenav, Ash stands up. He's gotten way too many texts and calls that are still flooding in.
"Pi pikapi pikachu pika?" Pikachu asks Ash.
Nodding, Ash takes in a deep breath. "Let's move on now, Pikachu." They'll be closing this painful chapter for good.
"Pi!" Pikachu hops on Ash's shoulder, ready to tackle their most intense battle yet.
"Don't you have a newborn to breastfeed?" mutters the annoyed redhead.
"I don't get where you have the idea that I'm a responsible person." Notes the amused brunette. Spotting Misty's frown deepen, Leaf grins more. "Gary can survive a few hours with Sammy. Besides, they're at the Ketchums. You know Delia will help him a lot."
Groaning once more, Misty shoots Leaf a glare. The Elite Four member is currently going through some more online trainings on her computer. Leaf, of course, came by for a surprise visit, though Misty expected it to happen sooner or later. Misty has been dodging some of Leaf's calls, and all of Leaf's questions. Misty just assumed Leaf would be too worried about Sammy that Leaf wouldn't come until a few months later. Well, Misty would rather get this excruciating conversation done with.
"Did you really have to bring up the Ketchums?"
"Why?" Leaf inquires. "You did ask if Sammy and Gary are fine. I had to reassure you that they're in good hands."
Letting out a breath, Misty replies, "You didn't have to go into detail."
"Because that's your ex-mother-in-law?"
Although Leaf feels slightly bad for Misty, Leaf wants answers. The divorce is abrupt, though Leaf and Gary were recalling all the times they've overheard Ash and Misty's intense arguments lately. Leaf just needs to hear Misty's side of the story to fully believe that the marriage is over. "Wanna talk about it?"
"Do I have a choice?" Misty knows Leaf is only here to check on her and hear about the breakup.
"You always have a choice, babe."
Scoffing slightly, Misty tells her friend, "I'm assuming Gary already talked to Ash?"
Leaf gives Misty an apologetic look. "Well, yeah. But you're our friend too, Misty. How are you coping?"
"As you can tell, I'm fine." notes the redhead.
"Burying yourself in work to hide from your feelings isn't necessary my definition of fine." Leaf knowingly remarks, and Misty sighs.
"I don't know. What do you want me to say, Leaf? That my heart is shattered? That I cry over the divorce every night? That I wish Ash was here? My heart is aching and tearing with every breath I take?"
"Well." Leaf is a little shocked by Misty's small outburst. "You've been watching a lot of romance movies."
"Exactly. I'm fine." deadpans Misty. "Thanks for checking on me, Leaf, but I'm okay. There's a reason Ash and I were always pulled away from each other. We were never meant to be."
Frowning, Leaf worriedly watches her friend. Although Misty isn't showing it, Leaf knows the Elite Four member is hurting tremendously. "But you two were always brought back together. I don't know what caused the break up, but the love you both shared was real."
"And it wasn't enough." Misty takes in a deep breath to hopefully calm down. "I was just a temporary fix he used so that he'd recover enough to be himself again. But I'm not mad at him." Misty quickly adds when she sees Leaf open her mouth. "Ash didn't intentionally use me. I'm just mad at myself for letting my feelings blind me to the truth."
"Misty, he does love you. Well, he did when you were together. Even I could see it." Leaf reassures her friend.
"And like I said, love wasn't enough for us, Leaf. I thought it was, but it never has been." Why else would she be forced away from him when they were 12? Their feelings weren't enough to keep them together. And then in Alola. They each had bigger things to accomplish, resulting in their separation, like now. Misty should've seen it coming.
After a few silent seconds, Leaf chooses to move on from that subject. "Have you guys talked since?"
"What do you think?"
"You did say it was a mutual break up on good terms."
As good of terms as it could've been. They both hurt each other a lot. "No. He was gone when I got back from the courthouse the next day." And she didn't bother calling him or looking for him.
"The courthouse you still haven't filed the divorce papers at?" Leaf has been checking the online databases. Also, the media would've known if the divorce was filed.
Misty shoots Leaf a serious look. "I just haven't found a good time to file them. You know the media will be on both of us, and I'd rather they only care that I'm the new Elite Four member." That's one of the reasons Misty hasn't filed the papers. The main reason, though, is she can't bring herself to walk into the city office.
"Because you still love him."
"Of course I still love him!" Misty fights the ache in her chest. "I've always loved him. It's never gonna go away, but it's not enough to keep us together."
Leaf lets out a breath. "Yeah, I know. You've been saying that."
"So why do you keep asking?"
"Just checking on that head of yours. Trynna see where you're at mentally and emotionally."
Misty motions to her body. "Well, as you can tell, I'm fine."
"As fine as anyone can be after verbally divorcing the man they love."
"You're not helping."
"That's never what I'm here for." Grins Leaf mischievously. "But Ash left a few days after he came back to Pallet Town. Did you know anything about that?" Also, Delia has been asking about Misty, but the older woman doesn't know how to approach Misty now.
Surprised, the redhead meets Leaf's glimmering green eyes. It annoys Misty to know that Leaf has her interest; however, Misty is more shocked to hear that Ash left so soon after the break up. How should Misty take it? Good that he's not a recluse again? That he didn't relapse? Or should she feel insignificant because he left so soon after the break up? Because he went off to live out his dreams. Was she holding him back? This is precisely why she wanted him to travel again in the fall.
"Good for him." Misty eventually says.
"Why do you sound like you had to force those words out?"
"We did just break up a few weeks ago, Leaf." Misty reminds her friend. "And you're here telling me how quickly my ex moved on."
"He didn't move on if he's still single."
"He moved on because he's back to himself from before Serena broke up with him."
"Okay, fine." Leaf throws her hands up defensively. "But you need to stop comparing yourself to his ex, babe. You're his ex now too, but you are much different than Serena. You mean something else to Ash."
"You don't even know Ash."
"I know him through Gary." confirms the gym leader. "All I'm saying, Misty, is that you need to focus on yourself. Live your life freely, but don't forget about your love for Ash. Don't try to bury it again. You both mean too much to each other to lose that."
"I've been focusing on myself." It's the reason Misty has indulged herself in work again. "And I'm not gonna take love advice from a former player."
"I am married now." Leaf shows off her wedding ring. "Uh. Whoops." Forgot Misty is newly divorced.
"Thanks." Misty dryly replies. "I'm hurt by the break up, okay, Leaf? But I'm handling it fine, and I'm glad Ash is too. Now, can you just go back to being my annoying friend who I need to bail out every week? I don't like this nice Leaf Green."
"Technically." Giggles Leaf. "I'm Leaf Oak now."
Misty sticks out her tongue in disgust. "I still can't believe you married Gary Oak, but I can only see you two together." The women then continue laughing and catching up. With Misty being married this past year, and helping Ash with his reclusiveness, Leaf didn't see her best friend as much. In addition, Leaf was busy with Gary, especially after getting pregnant. Thus, the two women are long overdue for time alone together.
"Uh...hi, Ash?" The larger man greets in surprise. When the doorbell rang, he opened it. He just never expected his fiance's ex to be here.
"Chu." Pikachu sparks his cheek, but his trainer raises a hand to stop him.
"Hey, Tian." Ash took a very roundabout route to get to this house. Along the way, he was trying to remember what he'd say to Serena. He didn't account for Tian, though he should've. Fortunately, Ash did practice speaking confidently. He won't let these people think he's some timid person again. "Is Serena home?"
Tian continues blinking at the arrival. "Uh. Can I ask why?" He recalls Serena visiting Ash a few weeks ago. Serena came home upset that Ash wouldn't give her closure even though Ash had moved on and was married. Nevertheless, Serena did tell Tian that Ash says his marriage to Misty is a sham.
Ash takes in a deep breath to calm his rapidly beating and anxious heart. "Closure. I wasn't ready to give it to her when she visited. We both need it."
Can Tian trust Ash? He isn't here to hurt Serena? Or much worse, try to get her back now that he's better again? Although Tian trusts his fiance, he doesn't trust Ash. Ash could be here for revenge on them both. Fortunately, it's still daylight out, so if Ash does something, people outside will notice. Who is Tian to deny Ash of closure when Serena wants the same thing? When Serena can't fully tie the knot with Tian because of her past with Ash, who Tian helped Serena cheat on?
Sighing, Tian motions to the gate around the house. "I'll have her meet you in the backyard." Ash should know how to get there. He did live here for a few years.
Ash gratefully nods. "Thanks."
Before Ash can walk off, Tian quickly squeeks out, "Sorry." Ash freezes to give Tian a curious look. Tian releases a long breath. When Ash and Serena broke up, it was so abrupt, Tian never got a chance to speak to Ash. The man feels guilty for hurting his friend. "I'm sorry, Ash." Apologizes Tian. "It was never my intention to hurt you. I didn't even know you were gone when I came here. I would never have come if I knew she was home alone."
Mulling over his words, Ash is shocked that he isn't as upset as he thought he'd be. Here is the very man who he caught his fiance cheating on him with; Ash's former friend and rival, yet Ash is feeling a weight being lifted. The pain is less, and he gives Tian a small smile. "We weren't meant for each other, Tian." Ash speaks to the surprised man who now meets his eyes. "You were meant to make her happy. Everything happens for a reason, and while I wish it went differently, I know the outcome would've been the same no matter what. I'm glad you're both happy together."
If the cheating never happened, Ash wouldn't have become a recluse. He wouldn't have been tricked into seeing Misty and falling back in love with her. He wouldn't have Misty in his life. Well, he doesn't have her anymore, but it was nice while it lasted. Ash would go through the heartache all over again if it means he gets those few short happy months with Misty.
Nodding, Tian returns the small smile. "Thanks, Ash. I promise to always keep Serena happy. I wish you happiness too." With that, Tian watches Ash disappear around the side of the house. Tian feels a lot better knowing Ash isn't bitter. Ash really does look ready for closure. Taking in a deep breath, Tian heads inside to search for his fiance.
Eventually, the back door slides open, and Ash is met face to face with the blonde. While waiting for her, Ash was trying to go over his words, and he was calming Pikachu down. Meeting Serena's blue orbs, Ash instantly feels nervous. All thought escapes his mind as she sits on the chair beside him. His heart is racing, and this sweat isn't due to the summer heat. Despite not having romantic feelings for Serena anymore, Ash is reminded of all the emotions that she correlates with. He was once in love with her. Happy with her. And then he was hurt tremendously by her.
Luckily for him, she breaks the silence first. "Hey." She had expected Ash to do it because he is the one who visited her. Serena was surprised when Tian told her Ash is here. However, she did visit Ash unexpectedly a few weeks ago, so it's only fair that he gets to do the same to her. Besides, Tian said Ash didn't seem malicious. Ash wants closure, which Serena really needs as well.
"Hey." Mutters Ash. Mew. He isn't here to sound like a timid boy anymore!
"Pika!" Pikachu hisses to remind Ash as well.
Ash takes in a deep breath while reaching into his pocket. Serena warily watches him in case he pulls out a weapon. Instead, her eyes open wide, spotting that familiar black box that Ash places on the table in front of them. "I couldn't throw it away. I tried." He chuckles sadly. "But I couldn't, and I think it's because we never got closure."
Nodding, Serena thinks over her words to him. Eventually, she says, "What made you change your mind? I did visit you last month."
He sighs. "I realized you're right. I thought I could live hating you and Tian. I thought it'd be easier, but it's the reason I never healed. After you came to the gym, I realized I was hurting Misty. I was fine hurting myself. I mean, I deserve it for abandoning you. But I'm not fine hurting Misty."
"Ash, you don't deserve any pain." Serena seriously tells him. She never hated him. Although she felt guilty for cheating on him, Serena has always wished Ash to be happy.
"No, I do." He meets her blue orbs again. "I shouldn't have left. We just lost our baby, and I neglected you. I...gave up on us…"
"That was no excuse for me to cheat!" Serena can't let Ash blame himself only. Their relationship falling apart was both of their faults. "I loved you, Ash. Since we were kids. I never meant to hurt you, but we both didn't handle the miscarriage well."
Nodding, Ash finds a small smile gracing his lips. Pikachu is shocked to hear about this. These two had a miscarriage? Is that what broke them up? Is that why Serena was bedridden and bleeding years ago? Is that why these two were so depressed? Everything is making sense, including Ash's fear of children.
"Yeah. That miscarriage broke us." Ash agrees.
Serena lets out a breath. She's a lot more comfortable knowing where Ash's head is at. He's not upset or anything, which she feared. "I used to wonder if we'd still be together if the miscarriage never happened." Ash curiously watches her talk into the sky. "I blamed the miscarriage for us breaking up, but I think we would've broken up regardless."
"What do you mean?" They were too in love with each other to break up. It took the miscarriage to drive them apart.
Fighting the small pang in her heart, Serena has had years to think about her past relationship. "I was in love with you, Ash, but I think I only loved you because you were my first love. It made me only focus on you." She looks back at that closed black box. "You weren't in love with me-"
"I was. I loved you when we were together." Ash knows his feelings.
She shakes her head. "We loved each other, but we weren't in love, Ash. You only dated me because I asked. You're a sweet man. You did all the boyfriend things I wanted, but I could always tell you wanted more. You were meant to be a Pokemon Master. Not a house husband."
"We talked about this." He reminds her. "I was gonna travel again after the wedding."
"You were just doing what you thought you should be doing as a lover." Serena reassures him that it's okay. She always knew he wasn't as in love with her as she was with him. At the time, she thought it was enough because Ash was only focused on her. She had him, and Ash is too kind to cheat on her. Thus, Serena was fine with their relationship. His whole head and heart may not have been there for her, but most of it was. "It would've been an unfulfilling relationship for us both."
Leaning back in his seat, he knows she's correct. Ash only dated her because she asked him to. Ash wasn't romantically interested in anyone. All he wanted was to be a Pokemon Master. Thus, he learned how to be a good partner to Serena. They were friends, so he continued that relationship while adding in kissing and sex. For the most part, he was fine with the relationship, though he knows he forced himself to be in love with her.
"I still think we would've worked out if we didn't lose the baby."
"Maybe." Shrugs Serena. "But you cut off Misty for us. You couldn't hide from her forever. What if you ran into her in the future, and those feelings were sparked?"
"I wouldn't cheat."
"I thought I wouldn't cheat on you either." Serena reiterates. "I was so in love with you."
Ash runs a hand through his hair. He didn't know his feelings for Misty until this past year. In the past, he crushed on her. She's the only one he ever crushed on. Nevertheless, he forgot about those feelings when he was competing in the World Tournament and then when he got with Serena. Romance has never been a concern or focus of his.
Reaching out towards the box, Ash opens it and slides it closer to Serena. "I forgive you for cheating, Serena." Mew. Even though it hurts saying her name, it's not as poisonous as it once was. "Will you forgive me for leaving you?" For neglecting her.
To Ash's surprise, Serena rests a soft hand on top of his. She slides the box out from under his hand, and closes it. "I've forgiven you for years now, Ash. Thank you for forgiving me." Instantly, they both feel a huge weight lifted. It's too soon to fully heal from their pains, but with time, the wounds will be gone. Now that they finally have their closure, they are both ready to move on with their lives.
"Uh." Ash motions to the ring box in Serena's hands. "I got that for you, so do whatever you want with it. It's yours."
"I sent it back to you because you spent a lot of money on it." She informs him.
Chuckling nervously, Ash replies, "I don't think it's my place to throw it away."
Serena bites her bottom lip because she too doesn't feel like it's her place to get rid of it. "One sec." The woman leaves the box on the table and quickly runs inside. Ash and Pikachu curiously watch the back door, unsure of if she'll even return. Fortunately, Serena comes back out with a pokeball.
Recognizing the pokeball, Ash asks, "Why do you have Braixen's pokeball?"
She calls out the fox. "Because we both don't feel like it's our place to get rid of this." Serena points to the ring box.
Braixen is confused when she sees Ash and Pikachu. What is going on? Didn't Serena already visit them last month? "Brai?"
Serena opens the box, and approaches Ash. "Let's get rid of it together."
The words finally register in Ash's head, so he smiles brightly. Taking the box from Serena, Ash nods at the woman. They both know what to do. He throws the box as high up in the sky as he can. "Pikachu!"
"Braixen!" Serena yells.
The Pokemon look at each other and smirk. This is very much needed for their trainers. Thus, Braixen and Pikachu don't need to be told twice. They release very powerful attacks to make sure the box and ring don't survive. In the air, the items are destroyed. This is right. This is where Ash and Serena hurt themselves and where they loved. It's only right that the ring is rid of here, and it's only right that they do it together.
Extending a hand towards his ex, Ash gives her a huge smile. A smile she hasn't seen in years. "Take care, Serena." Now, he feels he's at 100%. Nothing is holding him back to getting to the Ash he once was.
She shakes the hand with her own large grin. "Take care, Ash."
"Uh. Sorry. I think I'm at the wrong house." Mutters Ash in embarrassment.
The tan boy raises a curious eyebrow up at the man. Why does this raven haired man look so familiar? And that Pikachu? "Are you looking for the professors?"
Ash now looks at the boy with wide eyes. "Yeah. Do you know where I can find them?" At least the island is still small enough that everyone knows one another.
Nodding, the boy replies, "They're in the backyard doing research. I can take you to them." He knows better than to pull the professors away from their work.
"Sure." grins Ash. It's been a decade since he was last here. He misses the professors a lot.
The boy steps out of the house and leads Ash around back. Everything looks the same, even the fence that surrounds the yard. In the back, the fence ends at the ocean. "What was your name?" The boy inquires as they walk around the house.
"I'm Ash, and this is Pikachu." Ash scratches the mouse under the chin.
"What's your name?" inquires the man.
"My name is Lei." Lei replies while thinking about why Ash's name sounds so familiar. Ash too is thinking about why Lei seems so familiar, even his name.
However, they soon reach the back where Lei opens the gate. When he and Ash enter the yard, Ash is instantly bombarded by Pokemon. "Ly!"
"Ror!" The Incineroar picks up the group in his large arms.
"Pikachu!" Pikachu ecstatically cries out while Ash hugs all the Pokemon.
A few tears slip from the man's eyes. "I missed you guys so much!" This is much like the reunion he had at Oak's lab, though he never went a decade without seeing his Pokemon. "I'm so sorry I didn't come by earlier, guys." Sniffles Ash.
Lei takes a few steps over to his parents who are also curiously watching the scene. What is going on? The professors didn't see who walked in with Lei, so they don't know what these Pokemon are doing. "What is it, Lei?" The woman asks.
"I don't know, mom. He said he was looking for you and dad." Lei informs his parents.
"Did you get his name?" The man asks.
Lei nods. "He said his name was Ash."
"Ash?" The parents exchange confused glances before they both smile largely. As if on cue, the Pokemon finally release their estranged trainer, but Ash is soon tackled in n Ursaring hug from his father figure. The woman follows behind to wrap her arms around the pair.
Ash coughs out, "Heh. Alola, Professors."
"Don't professor us, Ash Ketchum!" The older man chuckles through his own tears. As Ash's father figure, he always saw Ash as a son.
"Alola, Kukui. Alola, Burnet." Ash now properly hugs the adults.
While Ash was a recluse in Kanto, Burnet and Kukui were worried about him. They'd get updates from Delia, but nothing seemed to improve Ash's condition. That was, until he all of a sudden was married to the Cerulean City Gym Leader last year. Delia told them Ash used to travel with Misty Waterflower. Ash now looks like the Ash they remember. Fortunately, they never had to see the depressed Ash that Delia warned them about.
"What have you been up to, Ash? Where's that beautiful wife of yours?" Burnet asks the young man.
"Uh." Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head, and Pikachu greets the Professors before joining Ash's Alolan Pokemon nearby. "It's a long story, but she's in Kanto."
"So the rumors about you leaving are true?" Kukui ponders outloud. "You started traveling early."
Looking down at his feet, Ash mutters, "Not really. We're letting everyone think that, but we're actually over."
"What?" Kukui thought Ash was itching to travel again, hence the reason he is leaving Misty alone in Kanto.
Luckily for Ash, Burnet can read that Ash doesn't want to talk about this heartache. Thus, Burnet nudges her husband. "Alola, Ash, welcome back. How long do you plan on staying?"
Glad for the subject change, Ash answers, "If it's alright with you, can I stay until the tournament starts? It'll just be a few days."
Kukui swings an arm over Ash's shoulders. "You're always welcomed here, Ash! This is your home too!"
By now, Lei has approached the three again. "Um. How do you guys know him?"
"Lei, don't be so rude." Burnet scolds her son, causing Lei to wince.
Kukui ruffles Lei's hair. "Lei, this is Ash Ketchum. Your older brother." Kukui then looks at Ash. "And you remember Lei, right, Ash? He was a baby when you last saw him."
Oh yeah! That's why Ash felt some familiarity when Lei answered the door. Reaching out a hand towards Lei, Ash says, "Alola, Lei. Nice to meet you again."
And now, Lei recalls all the stories his parents would tell him about the first Alolan Champion. The one who beat his father in the finals. The one who created the Alolan tournament. The boy who lived in Alola with his father and was here while his parents met and got married. All those photos of the young man, and Lei can now remember exactly where he's seen Ash and Pikachu before.
Instead of greeting Ash back, Lei asks, "Can we battle?"
"Lei!" Burnet hisses.
Ash smiles because Lei reminds him a lot of himself. They really are brothers, though not by blood. "I'm always ready for a battle!" The two then run off, Ash opting to use his Alolan team he hasn't battled with in years rather than the team he brought to Alola. Lei is using the team he's created from the past two years of traveling.
Kukui wraps an arm around his wife's waist. "They really are brothers." Although Ash was gone for years and depressed, the two are glad to see he's himself again. They're even happier knowing that their son gets along with Ash. Well, Ash and Lei aren't difficult people to get along with. However, a decade apart does make the heart grow fonder.
"I'm happy Ash is okay." Burnet is concerned about his current relationship with his wife. That look on Ash's face didn't seem convincing. Nevertheless, the parents walk down the beach to watch their sons battle. A battle that is long overdue.
A few days later, Lei is out with friends. Ash has somewhat disclosed more information about his relationship with Misty. The professors are watching TV with him because Misty is finally having her ceremony as the new Kanto Elite Four member. "Congratulations on your appointment, Elite Four Misty." Director Goodwin announces in the microphone.
"Pikachupi!" Pikachu excitedly cheers from his seat.
Grinning beside him, Pikachu's trainer is lovingly watching the screen. What he wouldn't give to be by Misty's side right now, but she doesn't want him there. He isn't deserving to be by her side. All Ash can do is support her from afar. Is this how she felt all those years he traveled without her? Mew. How the tables have turned, but rightfully so.
"You should've just gone back to support her in person." Notes the older man.
Despite those words, Ash can't help but keep smiling as he watches his ex on the screen. "I don't wanna ruin her special day." Misty worked hard for this position. Ash won't let his presence cause any inconvenience to her.
Sighing, Kukui wraps an arm around his wife's shoulders. "How long do you plan to stay away from her, Ash?"
The other day, Ash arrived in Alola to visit. However, the Kukui's know he has a lot more going on than just dropping by for a casual meeting. The last time they saw him was when he competed in the World Coronation tournament a decade ago. They heard about his engagement and then that ended, and he was a recluse in Kanto. Next thing they know, he's married to Misty Waterflower, yet here Ash is without her.
When Ash doesn't respond due to his focus on Misty, Burnette tells her husband, "Be patient with him."
On the television, Misty is being questioned by the media. One person asks, "On such a special occasion like today, where is your husband, Misty?" Ash pales, which Pikachu notices. Like always, Ash hates the media. In addition, his heart aches constantly for Misty.
He watches her fake a smile that seems very real, yet only those close to her can tell it's not. Those like him. And he knows he's the cause for it. "Ash is off training around the world before the start of the tournament season. I told him he didn't need to come back for this, but I know he's watching from wherever he is." And then she looks directly at the camera. Almost as if she's looking right into his warm brown eyes, causing Ash to gaze into those loving pained blue orbs of hers as she fights keeping that damn fake smile on her face. "I love you, Ash."
Okay. That's enough for him. He hangs his head and stands up quickly. Hiding a slight sniffle, Ash mutters, "Let's see if Lei wants a rematch, Pikachu." Lei is home until the start of the next tournament. He plans to go to Sinnoh, but he has eagerly challenged Ash to battles everyday. Ash has managed to beat the young boy each time, though Lei really gets a lot of battling strength from his parents.
Burnet and Kukui exchange worried glances. The woman inquires, "Ash, is everything alright?" She has her speculations about why he's here and not there. Although Misty just confirmed that the two are still married, Burnet believes Misty and Ash must be going through some marital problems.
"Uh. Yeah." Ash fakes his own smile, which these two can easily see through. They are like his second parents.
Running a hand through his hair, Ash lets out a long breath. He reaches for the remote to turn off the television. As much as he wants to watch until the end of Misty's program, he can't do that anymore. His heart is beating rapidly. He misses her and he loves her too much. That confession on TV is very real. There's no way she's putting on a show to the world. She still loves him, and he knows that. He still loves her too. This is just a reminder to him about what he's working so hard for.
"I just, uh, need to get stronger. I need to be worthy of her." The man finally meets the eyes of the professors. "She still loves me a lot too." He's grinning, causing the professors to feel for their other son.
Kukui gets up to pat Ash on the back. "How about you battle me instead of Lei today?" Lei is currently playing with friends on the island somewhere. The island is small enough to find Lei if Ash flies around on Charizard. Ash has enjoyed playing with his Alolan Pokemon these past few days because he rarely sees them. It's been a decade since he last saw them.
Chuckling, Ash nods at Pikachu. "Let's go!"
A few days later, Ash and Lei are in front of the airport with Kukui and Burnet. The tournament starts tomorrow, so the two want to be in their regions by then. Lei will be competing in the Sinnoh tournament, and Ash gave him a lot of advice for how to battle Paul. Even though Ash and Paul haven't battled in years, Ash still has some sense for the Sinnoh Champion's battling style.
"Call us when you land in Sinnoh." Burnet tells her son.
"You know I will!" Grins Lei. The boy faces Ash. "If we run into each other, I wanna battle, Ash! I'm gonna beat you some day!"
Chuckling, Ash ruffles Lei's hair. "I can't wait!" Ash's pokenav then dings. A ding he and the Kukuis have been waiting for all week.
Lei's eyes light up. "Did they release your rank?" With the tournament starting tomorrow, Ash was wondering when he'd be informed of his World Rank. The young man pulls out his pokenav while everyone watches in anticipation. Pikachu peers over Ash's shoulder just as Ash checks his rank and frowns.
"What is it?" Burnet asks. Was it not his rank? Was it a message from someone reminding him of his pain?
Ash sighs and faces the pokenav towards the family. "51,629."
"That's a lot." Lei mutters.
"You climb the ranks fast as you beat stronger people." Kukui reminds Ash. Ash was once at 99th rank, so he probably feels like it'll be difficult to reach it again. However, this is Ash Ketchum. Plus, the World Tournament is easy to climb in the Normal Rank. Ash is strong enough to defeat gym leaders, which will bring him up to the low 2000s in no time.
"Yeah, I know." Ash takes in a deep breath. Last time, he started in the 10,000s. Beating gym leaders will bring him a lot higher up in rank. He just needs to go at his own pace, and he'll get to the Monarch in no time. Giving the family a confident smile, Ash tells them, "I'll be the one who dethrones Leon."
"Whoa! He's always been the Monarch!" Lei excitedly notes.
"If anyone can stop him, it's Ash." Kukui pats Ash's shoulder. "Good luck, Ash. I wish you and Misty well."
Ash gives his other parents a grateful smile. Their hospitality this week has allowed him to relax a lot before the tournament starts. In addition, he's missed his Alolan Pokemon. All of whom are here bidding him goodbye too. Maybe he'll switch them out along the way this year? He knows he'll be visiting a lot to challenge various trainers and to see his loved ones, but goodbyes are always hard.
"Thank you. I'll make you guys proud!"
"Pika pikachu!" Pikachu exclaims from Ash's shoulder. After some more hugs, especially from Ash's Pokemon, Lei and Ash enter the airport. With them going to different regions, they separate to different parts of the airport once inside.
Looking up at the gate, Ash takes a deep breath. His hands clench around his backpack straps. The start of the tournament is tomorrow. He hasn't competed in years, but he's trained for this. He's trained rigorously to be the greatest. And now, he's not just fighting for himself. Looking at the screen, Ash narrows his eyes at his destination. This is where his new journey will begin.
The next day, Ash makes sure to meet his first competitor early. This man is in high demand, so Ash wants him fully refreshed. Thus, when the doors open, Ash is met with surprised brown eyes. "Ash Ketchum?"
Ash smiles warmly. "Hey, Lyra."
"Pi pika!" Pikachu greets the woman.
Lyra blinks at Ash and notices the line of trainers behind Ash. How long has Ash been here? People always line up on the first day. Wait. Why is Ash here? Shouldn't he be with Misty? "What are you doing here?"
Showing her his pokenav, Ash says, "I wanna challenge Silver in the World Coronation tournament."
Lyra is still very confused, but out of habit, she lets as many people inside as she's allowed to. Her Pokemon help keep trainers in an orderly fashion while she takes in Ash's information. "Why are you battling Silver first?" This is the first day of all tournaments. Lyra doubts Ash battled anyone outside, especially since he wants his team to be refreshed for Silver.
Shrugging, Ash replies, "He'll increase my rank a lot." Plus, Silver talked down about Ash at the Oak wedding. Ash felt ashamed he couldn't defend himself. That he was with the beautifully powerful Misty Waterflower, like Silver was saying. Ash needs to prove to himself and Silver that he's deserving of being by Misty's side.
"Your rank is pretty low. He might not challenge you." Lyra apologetically informs Ash. She knows how picky her gym leader is.
"I'll get him to." Ash smiles gratefully. Lyra then points him to the arena. Despite challenging a powerful gym leader, Ash isn't that nervous. He's trained for this. Also, Pikachu is eagerly waiting for their first official battle. A battle they haven't had in almost a decade. Nerves are nothing for this duo.
"What the fuck." The voice causes Ash and Pikachu to finally meet the eyes of the redhead. "What are you doing here, Ketchum?"
"I need to increase my rank." Ash shows Silver his rank, making Silver grumble more.
"Don't waste my time. Come back when you're under 5,000."
"Scared?" Ash challenges. Silver is a lot like Paul. With a little provoking, Ash will get his battle.
"You're Leaf's friend, so I have to be nice to you." Silver narrows his eyes in annoyance at Ash. "I'll make quick work of you."
Smirking, Ash grabs a pokeball from his belt. "That's what I should be saying." There's no way Ash will allow Silver to continue looking down on him. While Ash understands he fell off and lost lots of respect from people, Ash is looking to gain that back.
About an hour later, Silver angrily tells Lyra that he needs a half hour break. Silver has lots of Pokemon he can use for gym battles and world battles. For the gym battles, he uses Ice types only. For the world battles, he can use any Pokemon. Therefore, he used his usual team when battling Ash. Although Silver normally sticks to three on three battles, he really wanted to beat Ash with six.
After making sure Pikachu is okay, Ash looks up at the pacing gym leader. "Silver."
"Are you okay?"
Silver stops to glare at Ash. Silver isn't mad at Ash. He's mad at himself. How come he's been training for years nonstop only to lose to someone who hasn't trained in years? To someone who gave up on Pokemon battling? Ash Ketchum may still be that gifted boy from Pallet Town. Silver shouldn't have taken him so lightly.
A ding makes Ash and Silver look at their pokenavs. Silver frowns as his rank falls from 72 to 341. The higher in rank one is, the easier it is to fall. On the contrary, the lower in rank someone is, the easier it is to climb until they reach the Ultra Class. Then, it's more difficult to climb. Ash smiles brightly at his new rank: 8,210.
"What are you doing, Ketchum?"
Silver's gruff voice makes Ash look up at him again. "What?"
Letting out a breath, Silver repeats, "What are you doing?"
"Competing in the World Coronation?" What exactly is Silver talking about?
Silver shakes his head. "And your wife?"
Glancing back down at his feet, Ash's smile falls. Why do people feel the need to constantly remind him of his ex? Granted, most people don't know he and Misty are through, but it still hurts. "She wants me to travel and compete again. She's busy with being an Elite Four member, so she told me to get out here." That's not a lie.
Scoffing, Silver informs Ash, "Leaf told me you're secretly divorced." Seeing Ash stiffen up confirms that Silver is right. "I don't care about your personal life, but Leaf does. She said you should visit Misty."
"Can't." Mutters Ash. "I'm not ready to."
"That's such a wuss answer." Silver can't believe he lost to this man! It wasn't even a close battle! Ash still has 2 Pokemon left. Pikachu took out half of Silver's team, hence the reason the mouse is sleeping right now. "You really are an idiot."
Alright. Ash came here to earn respect on his name. He thought he could get that by defeating Silver. Instead, Silver still doesn't respect him? Returning Silver's glare, Ash hisses, "I'm not gonna talk to you about relationship advice. You've never been in one." Besides, Ash doesn't want relationship advice from Silver. The gym leader turns away to hide the faint blush on his cheeks. The silence causes Ash to grow curious and less angry. "Uh, Silver? Are you okay?"
"Everyone loves differently." grumbles Silver in embarrassment. "I don't know you or Misty well, but Leaf says you two need each other."
"And I already said-"
"Do you love her?" Silver interrupts. Defeated, Ash nods. "Then follow your heart."
Sighing, the raven haired man responds, "I'm trying to. I wanna be someone worthy of standing next to her."
"She married you when you were a nobody. When no one wanted anything to do with you. She doesn't care that you're not as strong a trainer as her."
"But I do." Plus, Ash can't face Misty right now. Not after the way he used her to get through his heart ache. He needs to be a new man. A better man before he can even think about talking to her again.
"What if you never reach her? Are you just going to stay away forever?"
That is not a possibility Ash has thought about because it's not going to happen. He believes in himself and his team. He believes in his love for Misty. He will make it to her. "I love her, Silver. I will reach her."
Silver shakes his head. This man is such a dunce. Someone Silver would rather not associate with, but Leaf brings idiots into Silver's life. "Why'd you even break up if you both still love each other? That's so stupid."
Ash doesn't want to get into details, so he says, "She wanted to breakup anyway, so I made it easier and left." Really, a lot more happened, but he's not lying. Misty has constantly told him that she'd break up with him while he travels again. It's just, they broke up before this happened.
Frustrated, Silver runs a hand through his hair. "Do you always do everything everyone tells you?" Ash was a recluse. Silver recalls Ash following Misty around at the Oak wedding. He thought Ash was a lot better now, though Ash is still doing everything Misty tells him to? "You let her break up with you. If you love someone, you don't let them go. And you don't let them let you go that easily."
Although anyone would be confused about Silver giving romance advice, dense Ash doesn't even think about it. He's more focused on his aching heart and the redhead they're talking about. The last time he heard anything about Misty was when she had her welcome ceremony. "It was more complicated than that."
"How?" Silver challenges. "Because you gave up? You seem to give up a lot."
"You don't know me." Leaf's friend or not, Ash will not condone being spoken to this way.
Silver scoffs again. "You keep making excuses to live a sorry life. Maybe you are meant to be alone."
"I love Misty. I don't need to explain it to you! I'm working my way back into her heart. We broke up because we had to. It was the only way for us to grow and actually be for each other. I will be the Monarch, and I will get back with Misty. Just watch, Silver!" With that, Ash grabs the barely conscious Pikachu and storms out of the gym. Silver knows nothing. No one knows anything. Not even Brock. No one will understand. Ash is doing this for him and for Misty. For both of them. He just hopes Misty at least understands.
Soon, Lyra enters the arena to check on Silver. Ash ran out pretty pissed when he should be happy. Lyra inputs the information as trainers win or lose, so she knows Ash won. That's why his rank went up. Thus, the only reason Ash would leave so upset is if the temperamental Silver said something again. Only few people understand Silver, and she's glad she's one of them. Even fewer people see his kind side. She is also one of those people.
"What'd you say to Ash?" Lyra questions the man picking out his new team for his next gym challenge.
"The truth. He just didn't wanna hear it."
"Your truths are harsh, Silver."
"You need to be harsh so idiots get the message."
Sighing, Lyra grabs Silver's hand before he can pick out another pokeball. She intertwines their fingers and steps closer to him. Looking up into his annoyed silver eyes, she gives him a small smile. "Your day just started. Don't let one person ruin it." And a loss. Silver hates losing and idiots. It's a shame Ash gave him both.
Seeing those warm brown orbs, Silver relaxes slightly. Only two people can calm him down like this. Leaf and Lyra. He lets out a breath while resting his forehead on hers. "I'll win out the rest of the day."
"I know you will." Lyra pats Silver's cheek with her free hand. "But let me rejuice you up." She then tiptoes to capture his lips in hers. Silver welcomes the kiss. It's very much needed after a loss. After hearing an idiot not follow his heart. Why should Silver care? Ash is technically a stranger, yet Silver does care.
When the two pull away for air, Silver feels instantly reenergized to face off the rest of the day. He gives Lyra a small smile. Why does he care so much about love? Because of this woman. This woman who's been constantly trying to get into his heart for years, and he somehow let her in last year. It was after the Oak wedding. Various things led to Silver giving Lyra a chance, and here they are. Silver finally gave into his heart's annoying desires to hold Lyra, resulting in him realizing he actually has the same feelings for her that she has for him.
"I love you, Lyra."
"I love you too, Silver." Grins Lyra. As much as she hates seeing Silver lose, he always gets sentimental and soft when he does. He always wants a kiss to motivate him. Lyra was patient, and she's glad she was. This man has had her heart for years. Now, she finally has him too.
Since Ash is the best man for Goh's wedding, Ash had to leave Johto after a few days. Goh and Chloe didn't want their wedding to interfere with too much of the tournament season. They couldn't have their wedding in the summer due to busy schedules. Thus, their wedding is the first weekend of the tournament.
Ash had to arrive early for the wedding party rehearsals. Being back in Kanto, he was nervous to run into anyone who knows about him and Misty. He's not ready to face anyone face to face. He was more nervous to run into Misty, but then he remembered that she's not in Cerulean City anymore. She's on the other side of the region at the Indigo Plateau. Besides, there's no way Misty will be at this wedding. She doesn't know Goh or Chloe, even if this is a big wedding. Moreover, Misty, and the world, knows Ash is Goh's best man. Ash doubts Misty will want to see Ash.
People Ash does know will be here are the Oaks. Gary and Professor Cerise work together often since they're the Kanto professors. Gary even texted Ash saying he'll see him today. Ash's mother is also here because she treats all of Ash's traveling companions as her own children. Goh and Chloe were his last traveling group. Ash did see his mother earlier, and she's happy to hear that he's doing well. Fortunately, none of these people have questioned him about Misty.
To his surprise, the Cerises and Goh haven't asked him about Misty. While Goh and Chloe don't know Misty too well, they think she's Ash's wife. Ash should be at a wedding with his wife, especially in the same region. There's not really a good excuse for Misty to miss this wedding. Nevertheless, no one has brought up Misty, much to Ash's relief. His heart still yearns for her, so he isn't sure how to react if he sees her unexpectedly.
"Mew. I'm nervous." Mutters the groom. "How'd you do it, Ash?"
"Uh." Because Misty hasn't gone public with the divorce yet, no one knows. They just assume Ash and Misty are focusing on themselves and most likely meeting regularly behind the scenes. Ash won't ruin Misty's cover, nor will he cause her any annoying publicity by bringing up the divorce. Racking his brain for an answer, Ash eventually says, "We didn't have a wedding. We just signed papers."
"Yeah, but weren't you nervous?"
He had this same conversation with Gary almost a year ago. With a small painful smile on his lips, Ash resplies, "Yeah, but she gave me strength, you know. I believed in her and us, so I just signed the papers." He's not fully lying. Although Ash didn't realize his romantic feelings for Misty at this time, he did rely and trust her a lot.
Letting out a long breath, Goh hopes to calm down. "I guess you're right." He hates the spotlight. However, the Cerises know so many people that the invitations flew out by the masses. Chloe and Goh figured they'd put up with the large crowd. It's only for today anyway, and it makes Chloe's parents very happy.
Ash pats Goh on the back. "Of course I'm right! Now, let's get out there. The sooner we get through the boring stuff, then the sooner you can get out of the spotlight."
"Boring stuff? Are you saying my wedding is boring?" Goh narrows his eyes at his friend.
"Anything that's not Pokemon training or battling is boring." Ash notes. "That's why I signed papers when I got married."
"Pretty sure you signed papers because you were too much of a hermit to have a wedding."
"Just stating the facts, Ash." Goh grins, some of his wedding nerves leaving. Ash is really good at calming people down. He's a great friend. "C'mon, let's get this over with."
"Wait!" Ash quickly follows Goh out.
Eventually, Goh is at the altar. Ash, being the best man, is the last to enter the chapel before the bride. He walks in with Chloe's maid of honor. When Ash is at the altar, he stands beside Goh. Noticing Goh is very nervous under the many eyes, Ash discreetly pats Goh's back to reassure Goh that everything is okay. That Goh just needs to focus on his bride rather than the mass of people.
Fortunately, it's not too long before Chloe walks down with her father. All eyes turn to the door one last time as the beautiful bride walks in. Goh's breath hitches in his throat due to Chloe's beauty. Everyone is watching Chloe except for two people. One of them being the best man. The moment he looked up from Goh; the moment he looked up at the entire audience, he instantly spotted a familiar fiery orange in the crowd.
There's no mistaking who that could be. And when he happened to immediately make eye contact with those stunning cerulean blue orbs, he knew. It's her. For the first time since his latest break up, he meets the woman he loves. While all eyes are on Chloe, Ash is mesmerized by his ex, who too is only focused on him. Everyone knows he's Goh's best man, so why is she here?
There's a lot I want to do before the end, so I'm trying to incorporate them in as few chapters as possible. Like I said before, we're basically at the end. Just a few more chapters!