Locked Away, Chapter 63

From the skies above the Johto region's infamous Goldenrod City, the situation seemed far worse than she could ever imagine. Buildings burned as the fires turned the sky black with smog and soot. Iris covered her mouth, riding on the back of of dragonite. It took her far longer to travel the distance between Kanto to Johto than she expected. Goldenrod City wasn't the only town being affected by the signal tower's horrible embrace, so she tried to help when she could.

Circling around above, she couldn't see much. With a twist of her wrist and a kick of her heel, dragonite swooped to the ground. His wings gust stirred up dirt, but as she flew, she realized that pokemon were no longer fighting one another, people weren't cowering in fear or hiding. In fact, the streets were practically empty. The violence had ceased.

What on earth...

In awe, Iris veered in the direction of the new tower—located at the center of town—it wasn't hard to miss. At the center, the burning remains of what should have been a protected, hard to destroy landmark glared back at her. Joy seized her heart for a moment, proud of her fellow trainers for being able to stand up and fight back. She circled once, then twice, and then finally landed, jumping away from dragonite quickly, and sending him away to scout above.

She landed in central park, a few yards from the tower. Also, empty.

Did everyone already evacuate? That couldn't have been the case. She would have seen remnants of some 100,000 citizens walking through the forest. Her torn clothing moved with her as she spun to examine the streets. Looking closely, she saw more than fires—she saw the cobwebbed marking of lightning hitting buildings, and large claw marks decorating the ground and structures. Larger than dragonite.

"He-hey!" Someone called to her in the distance, sounding nearly confused about who he was addressing. Her lungs burned because of the smoke, but she turned quickly on her heels to face the voice. A man wearing a mask waved her over, shouting again.

"Get out of the streets!"

Temporarily stunned, she cocked her head to one side. Before she could ask why, a crack of lightning rippled above her, followed by the drumming of thunder, and she peered to the skies to see a monster emerge. Large, with green scales, and massive claws. More than that, a funnel cloud at the center of the city, near the signal tower she saw moments ago.

In a blinding display of lights, lightning struck the tower again, shooting out electric webs, blinding her, save for her ducking behind her arm, and running for cover like the mysterious person suggested.

"What on earth is going on? What is that thing?" Iris asked the stranger, who turned into a group of strangers once she entered the small building.

Shelves were stocked with food and odd—toiletries, and she recognized that this was once a convenience store, now operating as a hideout. The hideous smoke wasn't as terrible inside, but perhaps it was living on Unova for so long, but the smoke didn't seem to bother her as much as it was bothering the people in the small room, who hacked and hissed in discomfort. The stranger removed his mask, revealing an unfamiliar face, who didn't bother with pleasantries as he glanced out the window, and then shut the blinds again.

"That monster... it showed up a few hours ago."

"Keeps attacking anything that moves."

"And stationary things. Burning down large buildings with a crack of lightning."

"What is it?" Iris asked, interrupting the endless spiel of fear and whimpering. She hated when people whined, so immediately her defenses grew, along with heightened shoulders.

"We don't know... but whenever someone goes outside, it starts dishing out more lightning. We've tried to stay away from it by staying in doors, but then we saw you ride in with your dragonite... at first, we thought the monster was coming from the sky to finish us..."

"And it might as well do that." Iris scoffed. "Are you expecting it to just go away while you all stand here? At this rate, you'll be electrocuted with the building."

However, something about the way they shifted uncomfortably told her that was already happening, and she exhaled disappointingly.

"Tell me, I'm here for another reason—has anyone of you seen Gary Oak?"

"The late Professor?" the previous-masked man asked, "He died a week or so ago, didn't he?"

Iris pinched the bridge of her nose, "Tell me, how did this start?"

"A bad storm hung above Goldenrod City for the last few days... then a few hours ago, the power went out...and then this started. Pokemon stopped attacking us, but..." Iris held up her hand, silencing him.

"Thanks. I'll check out the electric company, and go from there. You've all been... so helpful." Iris dusted off her shoulders, then approached the door once more, earning herself a warning.

"Please, ma'am, you don't know what you're getting into."

At that, she smiled back at him over her shoulder, eyes glistening with muted acceptance. "Believe me, I've seen worse."

XOX

Iris had seen worse. Much worse, but nothing prepared her for what was above her. She realized quickly, that the creature responded when someone below moved. In this scenario, it was her and dragonite weaving through the streets, dodging the crack of lightning, and trying to find Gary Oak—where ever he may have been. If she had to take out a tower, and didn't have the power of a dragonite, she would have immediately gone for the next source of energy—the electric company, and if Gary was hopefully as resourceful as they said, he would have also done the same.

Fortunately, when she and dragonite arrived at the company, it was perfectly intact, and she found that the further away from the center of town, the less destruction was caused by the creature in the sky. Because of all the smoke, and black clouds, she couldn't see the creature very well from a distance, but now knowing it was there, the turning clouds seemed far more menacing than they ever did before.

"Alright, Gary..." She squinted to the ground. "...where are you?"

For miles on one side, there were countless, undisturbed forest area and rolling hills. On the other side, there was the fiery hell that was the terrified city. It was somewhere in between, a singular cloud of smoke forming from the tree line of a path leading out of town, and if the city told her nothing—it's that no one was in a hurry to flee. Not when it meant facing the wrath of a bolt of lightning.

A long shot, for sure, but dragonite brought Iris close to the ground, where a car wreck proved to be the cause of the single stream of smoke. At first, she thought she would leave and continue her search, but a hunch told her to land and investigate.

The car was empty, save for a few blood stains, and a wrecked windshield. Not wanting to be close to a possible explosion, she walked the small hill into the forest, looking around for any possible survivor of the crash.

"Anyone down here?"

Dragonite huffed through his nostrils on the road above her, not happy that he couldn't see where Iris was going in the dark forest, but she paid him no mind as she stepped through leaves, finally noticing a change—damages, broken bushes. She stepped over the shrubbery, watching her footing as she ventured into the dimly lit forest, then stopped abruptly when her vision cleared the path to a shuddering man sitting below a large oak tree.

Suiting. She thought as she pushed away a low hanging branch and crossed her arms, stopping less than a foot away. Iris didn't like dead things, and he looked to be o the verge.

"Gary." She called to him, earning an immediate response. Rage filled eyes met hers, including the nozzle of a gun, but he quickly lowered it.

"...Iris." he breathed, closing his eyes briefly and leaning his head back against the tree trunk. "What brings you all the way out here? Did you already succeed?" he laughed in spite of himself.

"No. I never went to war with Kanto... but I did bring down Lance, and with Dawn Matthew's help, we've taken over Kanto from Team Rocket's reign." Finally, she knelt down to examine the injured leg, as well as his bruised forehead. Her fingers grazed the wound, realizing that the fever and chills were more than likely a side-effect of infection.

"I was told to come help you."

At that, Gary laughed, shaking his head slowly; then the laughter turned sour. She was sure tears would have spilled, if he had any left.

"I'm beyond help." He nodded bitterly, face pale. Breath still shaky. "How did you find me?"

"Intuition." She answered honestly. "How did you get out here?"

"I was taken by two rocket members. I thought they would have found me by now..."

"Anyone with a brain would have fled the city. They probably realized you were gone, and did the same."

"...Yeah... Guess I didn't get the tower turned off." He sniffled, barely able to keep his eyes open. "...is...is it bad?"

"No. The residents are fine for the most part. Save for the giant pokemon above the city shooting lightning at everything that moves."

Gary opened his eyes once more, staring for a long time. Thinking.

"I thought I was seeing things before."

"You know what it is?"

"Raqueyza...I...I think." Gary swallowed, trying to sit up now. "He's returned to create balance—but if the tower is destroyed, he should have been gone already."

The name struck a chord in Iris, surprised she hadn't realized it herself.

"We could hope..." Iris licked her lips, responding to his struggles by lending him an arm, and bringing him abruptly to his feet, despite the whimper of pain. "But have you considered that maybe it's too late? Raqueyza was considered the god of the sky, maybe he's a little pissed off."

"...Why?" Gary asked, but unfortunately, Iris didn't have the answers.

Shuddering and leaning on his good foot, Gary groaned. The accident opened up the wound on his leg, and it certainly didn't feel well. Nor the feeling in his head. "We have to do something."

"The best we can do is try to evacuate the city. He hasn't taken to destroying the cities outside of Goldenrod." however, when she tried to take a step, Gary's weight brought her down with him, and he landed flush on his knees, gripping the soil. He still had no strength, and his body trembled underneath his own weight. Sweat dripped from his forehead, and Iris clamped another hand over his shoulder and raised him to his feet once more.

"C'mon, Oak. You don't want to die here."

"I can't die here." He exhaled, pulling a strong arm around her, iron-grasping her broad shoulder to keep himself up this time. "Not while Leaf is still out there. Not while there's a job to do."

"Let's hope that when the world's hero, finishes Giovanni, there won't be."

At the mention of Ash, Gary pushed himself up with great force, his bum leg dragging slightly behind him. Ash could restore balance; if anyone could, it would be him. Though, both Gary and Iris had a sinking feeling, that if they 'beat' Giovanni, then Raqueyza's presence wasn't needed... not unless something else had gone terribly wrong.

XOX

The ringing in his head was unbearable as he watched the two titans brawl come to a devastating end. Lugia fell in slow-motion, a lifeless body of an ancient pokemon finally ending as the flames surrounding Ho-oh began to fade upon the realization of the mistake he made.

A realization he had moments too late.

It was torturous, to watch as the phoenix wailed. The marred and fiery feathers fell back to their normal span, and he raced to catch the wounded deity, only to nearly be crushed himself.

Ash fell to his knees; gutted.

His hands grasped for his chest where no air circulated, while pikachu and togetic tried to keep him upright. Hands and arms grabbed him from behind—no doubt Jessie and James, but his wide, brown eyes could only watch as Ho-oh cried, and painstakingly tried to take back his last attack.

Ash couldn't hear himself, let alone the cries from the devastated bird before him—Lugia's presence was gone, a black hole where enlightenment used to be; and Ash couldn't speak.

A killing blow no one expected. Until his friends stopped the towers, they had been fighting relentlessly, no holding back. Lugia was unprepared for the deadly blow delivered by Ho-oh.

Wake up! He heard someone chanting, but he couldn't look away. Not when Ho-oh tried to carry the burden of his long-time companion by lifting him up, only to watch him fall again, until finally realizing he couldn't breath life into Lugia, and let the beast rocket into the ocean with one last tidal wave.

Then a screech that brought tears to Ash's eyes bellowed throughout the area. Ash held his ears to make it stop, but he was pulled out of his stupor by pikachu tackling him, slapping his face with his small paws and knocking him onto his back, winding him.

"He—he killed Lugia!" Ash screamed breathlessly, eyes twitching while Jessie and James literally dragged him away from the rock he was standing on, and back onto the path up the prison slopes. Ash wasn't the only one huddled in pain, meowth was collapsed, curled into a ball and mewling painfully at the base of the steps leading up the prison.

"I know!" Both of the former rocket members screamed, nearly collapsing beside meowth.

"But we have to keep going! Now, more than ever!"

"Ho-oh—he's-!" Still in disbelief, Ash gawked and pointed in absolute horror.

"Pissed off, and will probably take it out on us!" Jessie replied with a shout.

Somehow the only reasonable one, Jessie compartmentalized the horrors, and started to pry and push at the boys to keep them moving. Even an equally panicked togetic kept padding Ash's back with the top of his head, hoping to keep his feet forward.

Arguably, Ash resisted, unable to tear his eyes away.

"Ho-oh didn't know Lugia was himself again, we have to help him-"

"We don't know that he was!" Jessie tried to reason with Ash, but he resisted her shouts, and nearly took off toward the ocean. Maybe if he could get to Lugia, he could save him... Then Jessie gripped Ash's collar, keeping him from running. The least affected by the death of the guardian, she shook Ash.

"What we do know is that between us and a giant bird, we can't do anything! So we need to get in doors and away from Ho-oh!"

"N-no! He can't be dead!" afraid, Ash yelled back, trying to free himself from Jessie's grasp. Frustrated, Jessie whipped her arm back, then slapped him, stunning Ash.

Holding his face as Jessie spoke, Ash's teary eyes faced the dirt and tried to squeeze out the pain.

"We have to keep going. We don't want to be out here when that rage turns on us." She feared Ho-oh's retaliation. "Need I remind you that Misty could still be here!?"

The slap was enough to calm him down, but the mention of Misty was enough to send him spiraling inward again. Sebastian. Now Lugia. He didn't like those odds. He didn't like where this was going. Ash felt disgusted by recent events. Nothing would ever be the same. That temporary void in his chest was a permanent fixture in his body that he was going to have to adapt to. He held his cheek, and stared teary-eyed at Jessie.

"You're right. I'm sorry."

"James, grab meowth. We're going if we have to drag them kicking and screaming."

James, who was still shaking himself, scooped meowth up like a baby, and started up the steps along side Ash and Jessie, the latter who had an arm wrapped around Ash and carried him up the first few steps. Despite her malice and stoic personality, Jessie's warmth was welcoming, and understanding. A time and a place, she told him once before. Today's devastation didn't exclude that motto. Even though Ash wasn't physically injured, nothing in his life hurt like this. Nothing numbed him like this.

Terrified him, quite like this.

Ash tried to ignore the sad sound above the ocean that Ho-oh was spewing, perhaps, begging for forgiveness. Maybe wishing for Lugia to return to life. Lugia could heal the land and the sick, but Ash had a feeling that Ho-oh was far more destructive than his counterpart, and this would not be the last he would see of the bird.

It's no wonder he believed humans to be cruel and worthless.

Ash reluctantly closed his eyes, and after a few steps, walked his crippled self up the stairs and let the adrenaline push out the fears and doubts. Whatever concern he had regarding the death of Lugia had to wait. Ho-oh had to wait. They still had one man to end.

XOX

Sadness rang above them as they ventured through the entrance of the old prison. Since the gate was not open, James cut the barbwire at the top, then helped the rest of the group over. The guard towers were empty, and aside from a few tumble weeds and broken rocks, the primary entrance was abandoned. The front door, Ash realized, was ajar from this distance. The sun sprayed endless light into the dark facility, and he thought only to himself, that he was tired of grim, Team Rocket facilities. He would have given his left hand to resolve this in a nicer location—like the Orange Islands, or anywhere in the Hoenn region.

Jessie's voice ripped through their temporary silence.

"We don't know what's in there. So we need to prepare for anything."

Ash kept the immediate sarcastic remark to himself, but pikachu answered for him.

Prepare with what? The few pokemon Ash has left, your complete lack of pokemon, a devastated Ho-oh and twenty four hours of exhaustion?

"Pikachu's right. It's going to be an uphill battle no matter what, so we might as well go in swinging." Ash grumbled. Mewoth was still unsteady since Lugia's death, so togetic remained at his side as support. His feet kicked up dust from the old grounds, irritating his nose. Burning his eyes.

Thoughtfully, Ash added: "I think if we take out Giovanni, we can handle Mewtwo after."

"There's enough of us, we could probably split up." James suggested.

Haven't you idiots seen every horror movie ever? Never split up. The cat pokemon thought angrily, finally well enough to pop in the conversation. However, they all knew they may not have the luxury of staying together. There could be over a dozen rocket members. There could be vicious pokemon. For all they knew, they knew nothing.

As the entrance was growing near, they still had no idea what their plan was. Betting entirely on; we'll figure it out when we get there.

James and Ash pulled the large, metal doors open. Originally, they had a mechanical piece that forced the doors open, but for whatever reason, the power was out, causing some worry on whether or not Giovanni was still here. The door creaked and groaned with each tug, and once both sides were wide open, Ash and James fell together to look inside.

Pitch black except for...

"Misty!"

Ash sprinted. He wasn't thinking when he slid on his knees to check the unconscious woman laying lifelessly at the center of the room. The light barely touched her, and nothing else. A bit slower, Jessie, James, and meowth followed behind, but togetic and pikachu were both on Ash like a cloud of smoke.

All of pikachu's hairs stood on end, lighting sparked from his cheeks, but when Ash touched her cold arm, he wasn't aware of his surroundings as much as he was interested in how cold Misty was. Her body was pale and malleable; he would never compare it to lifeless, but it was the only word that felt correct when he shook her, to no response.

"Misty." He whispered painfully, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her rougher than he should have. Togetic let out a warning cry while pikachu stood on all-fours glaring into the darkness, a hallway where slow, malicious clapping erupted from.

"Come one, come all."

Truthfully, Ash shouldn't have had any reason to recognize the gruff voice from within the darkness, but he did. The chilling and flat tone was unforgettable and powerful.

"Well done." he complimented them, barely visible in the passing light from pikachu's sparks.

"...Boss." James grunted bitterly since no one else seemed to find their voices.

James knew very well that title had long passed, but he could not bring himself to speak his name. Not directly. They prepared for this moment for years, the day they would permanently remove Giovanni from his throne, but now that they were here, fear swallowed them. Paralyzed their bravery, caught their tongues.

Ash usually would have immediately ran at him, but something told him to stay grounded. This wasn't his dreamworld, as he rarely had to reminded himself lately. If he was struck down, it would probably be his last. Instead, Ash curled his arms protectively around Misty, calming down a bit when he realized she was still breathing softly.

"All this work, and no one wants to talk?"

"There's nothing to say." Jessie retorted bitterly.

"But there's a lot to say. Thank you, for starters."

Ash snorted, eyes twitching as he asked: "Thank you?"

"Yes, if it hadn't been for you three, I would still be waiting to finish my grand plan. You've... escalated events rather well." his smirk wasn't hidden by the darkness. "Intentionally or not."

"What do you mean!?" Ash shouted angrily.

"Don't you find it strange that only now everything seems to fall apart, after nearly ten years of peace?"

Ash's brow furrowed as he gnawed the inside of his cheek. Giovanni's evil glare turned to Ash in the darkness, and the wide grin sent a chill down Ash's spine.

"I always knew you'd serve a purpose..." his voice was low and menacing, so when Ash looked worriedly at Jessie and James, he expected to see that they lied to him, all along.

Of course, their expressions hadn't changed, they were as upset and angry, if not more so, than Ash. He looked back at Giovanni, who was clearly trying to make a coincidence appear intentional. Ash trusted the former Rocket Trio. Despite their quirks and odd behavior, they had good intentions. They had to. Besides, it was too late to address their many mistakes.

"What do you mean?" Ash asked quietly instead, feeling gravely uncomfortable.

"Years, I've planned, and waited for all of the legendary pokemon to come together. And you delivered that to me—then, you went and tried to be a hero, and caused more mayhem than I could have ever imagined."

"Don't listen to him, Ash." James encouraged, but curiously, Ash narrowed his eyes.

"I didn't.."

"Who disrupted the nature in Unova, or brought questionable light to Kanto... Who attacked the first pokemon facility, or gave the coordinates of every legendary beast?" Giovanni smiled. "Who climbed Mt. Silver to-"

"You had nothing to do with any of that!" At the mention of Ho-oh, Ash had to interrupt Giovanni. He couldn't look at all of his progress as a mistake, or as playing into Giovanni's hands. There was no way he could have planned for this.

"Yes, but my lackeys did."

Ash looked at Jessie and James once more, who stared back at him awestruck. Jessie's blue eyes didn't leave Ash's, who wasn't so sure of himself anymore, that is, until James asked:

"Then what is your grand plan, Giovanni? Hm?"

Giovanni recoiled. "World domination... and the power of the strongest pokemon."

Promptly, Ash turned back to Giovanni, who sighed, knowing that he wasn't going to break away.

"I wanted you to join me, child." The mere suggestion made Ash gag in disgust. "These miscreants were great for my first act... but you,"

Giovanni's smile was practically devilish. "These creatures trust you. Together, we could rip apart the old world, and create a new one."

"I kind of like the old world." Ash retorted snidely with a nod of agreement from Jessie and James.

Again, this notion did not seem to resonate with Giovanni's grand scheme, so when his face fell, Ash wasn't surprised. He looked more hurt, than anything.

"...I thought you, of all people would understand." without a moment to spare, he disappeared into the darkness adding, "How disappointing."

"Wait-!" Ash went to move, but struggled. Strong hands ran up his chest, and then wrapped around his neck before he could move.

"...Mis—ty" he inhaled, looking down at her.

Once more, her eyes were dull and blank. The sea-green iris was matted to the point of anger, and the same hurtful expression he saw on Giovanni echoed in her own features. She squeezed until air no longer escaped. Stunned for a moment, he flinched, then grabbed onto her wrists and tore them away, effectively separating them before rolling away and hacking.

"Shit—she must still be controlled by Mewtwo!" James ran to support Ash who held his throat, and was helped back to his feet while Misty cracked her neck unnaturally and popped her back into place.

Ash continued to cough, rubbing his sore neck as Misty folded her arms, and watched Ash with those unnatural eyes. His heart fell into his stomach. He was nauseous again, the same feeling when they faced her initially in the forest. He hoped that she would have broken away from this by now!

"Pikachu-pi!" The mouse squeaked, his attention pried from Giovanni for the nearest threat. Togetic hung back, once again petrified by Misty's behavior. Maybe it was because the egg was still young, but he was unsure why Misty would be acting in such a way.

Jessie, still focused on Giovanni, kicked out her feet. "We don't have time for this." She hissed quietly, insinuating that Giovanni was getting away, and meowth was already trying to separate, despite his disagreement about splitting up earlier.

"I'll stay here. You three go catch up with Giovanni." Ash demanded, flicking out his worn out jacket to think about the pokemon he had on hand. The stance Misty took was familiar, and when Jessie and James tried to push through, she immediately threw gyarados out, which Ash countered with charizard.

The two red lights clashed before the pokemon fully formed in the physical world, gyarados met charizard with a fiery growl, and the weakened dragon pokemon whipped around to provide ultimate protection for Jessie and James.

"We will take care of Giovanni and Mewtwo, then come back for you two." said James, looking between the possessed Misty, and concerned Ash.

"Don't lose here, kid." Jessie snipped over her shoulder, then the three of them ran ahead.

Immediately, Misty threw another pokeball, but Ash pointed to togetic.

"Safeguard!"

The egg flashed forward, a blue aura casting above the trio as they ran into the hallway. Togetic knocked back the flash created by Misty's starmie, and Ash exhaled to gain focus.

"Misty, why are we battling! We don't have time for this!"

"Time for this?" She sneered. "And why not? Your friends have already saved the regions, you've restored balance."

A mocking tone, a voice he hadn't heard in nearly a year—at least, not in such a hateful way. Worse of all, it was coming from a place that wasn't her own.

"If by balance, you mean royally fucked everything up." She blinked to Ash, offering one of her slight smiles. "She hates you, you know."

The Misty-impersonator waited for that to sink in before she continued: "Before you, life was pretty simple. No wars. No violence. Sure, there were a few broken laws, and sometimes people would behave in selfish ways... but it was so much easier before you came along. There could have been a peaceful resolution to all of this... but you... You couldn't have that. Everything had to be large explosions and 'oh pity me, I was in a coma for ten years!'. Grow up!"

She laughed quietly, covering her lips with the back of her hand. "Your mom should have let you die in that hospital."

"Shut up!" Ash screamed back, an angered pikachu erupted a small spark in his favor. Ash exhaled. "Stop talking! You're not actually Misty, I know you're controlling her!"

"But I am. I can see everything she sees." Her brows crinkled. "After all, she did give me control. Funny, how easily she broke."

"She was already injured-"

"Because of you." She wagged her finger, walking back and forth. "The same could be said about, well, most of the people you've come in contact with, can't it?"

She gestured with her hands. "Team Rocket are these big scary bad guys, but what was their worst crime, in all of this? You still got your adventure. Your pokemon back. A roof over your head—you even got your poor little mom and a sweet little brother. What was it that was so terrible about this new world that you just couldn't accept it?"

She paused for dramatic affect, then smiled, tapping her chin with her index finger. "I know. It wasn't that perfect dream world you created so you kept digging until you found a problem."

"There is a problem...You—Giovanni turned pokemon against their trainers..."

"Like it wasn't going to happen at some point, anyways!"

"And he imprisoned the legendary pokemon!" Ash shouted, finding his footing again in her stupid mind games. "He attacked and imprisoned the people of Unova, killed hundreds of pokemon, blackmailed all of the Kanto region and attacked our friends! They may not all be as chaotic as now, but he's the one that created those stupid towers—he's the one that planned all of this! Whether it happened today, or next year doesn't matter, so long as it's over."

"That's very charming. I see now why you have so many people that fall head over heels—but aren't you missing the bigger picture?" She ginned. "All of the regions will finally be unified when this is over."

"At what cost? So Giovanni can label himself the new king? It's pathetic."

Misty locked her jaw, and narrowed her eyes. "Why do you resist change?"

"You barely belong here. Constantly seeking your previous iteration of the world—a better world... Wouldn't you rather have that world?"

Ash paused, for only a moment, but then shook his head. "No."

Misty scoffed, biting the inside of her cheek and shaking her head in disappointment. "You truly have a disconnect...but you refuse to see..." She inhaled. "Enough talking."

When she raised her hand, Gyarados knew to use hydropump, though unlike a normal battle, she directed it at Ash. Grabbing pikachu, he jumped out of the way while she laughed maniacally.

"I guess all those rules I was taught are out the window for this battle?" Ash offered, waiting for a remark from the Cerulean City gym leader, but there wasn't one. Only a lifeless curl of her fist, around another pokeball that Ash grew far too familiar with.

"Gyarados, I know you're blindly loyal to Misty—but look at where we are. We shouldn't be fighting here." The water-serpent quietly turned at Misty for approval, but she barely cracked a muscle when she replied.

"Gyarados, use dragon rage."

Ash inhaled in preparation. "Don't do it gyarados, you know us. That isn't Misty. She's being controlled by a monster upstairs—you have your own freewill, don't let her hurt you."

"I said dragon rage!" Misty screamed out, and whatever glimmer of hope Ash thought he was getting through to gyarados, faded immediately as the dragon roared and his eyes grew a hue of red. Starmie reeled around the back with a rapid spin that came directly for Ash, and not his pokemon.

Ash dove out of the way, hitting the ground hard and squeezing his eyes shut. Unfortunately, he wasn't sure that he could get through to Misty... but he had to keep trying. Ash looked up at her, her disgusted expression told him that some of what he was saying was working, so he climbed back to his feet.

"Alright. Then we'll just take out your pokemon, and then talk some sense into you!"

XOX

Neither Jessie or James were comfortable about leaving Ash and Misty to battle. However, with Meowth leading the charge, they were seemingly right on Giovanni's trail. The darkness clouded their vision, and the stairwells leading to upper floors seemed endless as their damp boots brushed against stone surface. Yet, once they reached the top, meowth came to a screeching halt, bringing Jessie and James with him.

"Could be either way, huh?" James asked the cat, who nodded.

They had two options, down a long hall, leading into another part of the prison, cells, more than likely, or up another flight of stairs, where worn out signs labeled 'administration' and 'cafeteria' were hung.

I can't track his scent... Meowth blinked, pacing back and forth, tail flicking.

"...So much for not splitting up." Jessie grumbled, mocking their earlier conversation.

"Looks like we'll have to..." James murmured, but then looked to Jessie, with the softest smile. "Been a long time since we separated."

"Don't get all mushy on me, James." She scolded lightly, though a smile trickled over her red lips. Slowly their arms wrapped around one another, embracing each other tightly as James brushed her hair away from her shoulder and breathed down her neck.

"We're almost done with all of this."

"We're so close..." She whispered back, shivering as she rested her forehead against his shoulder.

One way or another, it will all be over tonight. Meowth added, watching his two, long time companions. A lot was unsaid, namely, whether or not Ash still trusted them—whether or not they trusted themselves. Could they have always, unintentionally, still been assisting Giovanni? Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of time to consider it, and after today's events, they weren't sure it would still matter. Slowly, James peeled away, and nodded curtly to the woman, who pat him firmly on the shoulder, then scooped up meowth in her arms.

"We will take the offices,"Jessie paused, watching James from over her shoulder.

"Guess that leaves me with the prison cells. Hopefully, there isn't anything too crazy."

"We'll be fine." Jessie stroked meowth's head thoughtfully, then without another comment she stepped into the darkness, with James doing the same.

XOX

"What's the matter, you were awfully chatty before!"

Ash hadn't even put a dent in her defenses because aside from togetic and pikachu, his pokemon were all still injured from previous battles. Misty's pokemon, aside from poliwrath, were practically at full health. Even with starmie collapsed and gyarados on the ropes thanks to pikachu, he still had to fight through kingdra and whichever pokemon she still had hiding.

With the combination of her pokemon, Ash, charizard, togetic and pikachu were nearly exhausted.

"It's alright, guys. If we can pace ourselves, we can still win. Snorlax isn't much of a battler, but if worst comes to worst..." Ash grunted while looking up at Misty. She wasn't battling with a fragment of the passion she usually did. He had no doubt if it wasn't Mewtwo giving the commands, Ash would have lost several times already. Then again, Misty would never be seriously fighting him like this.

There had to be a way to get through to her but with kingdra standing in the way, he wasn't sure he could.

Kingdra was the pokemon Ash spent the least amount of time with, while gyarados was scared of going full power, kingdra pulled none of the same punches.

"Pikachu iron tail!"

"He's too slow, kingdra, counter it with water gun." She remarked calmly, and Ash winced when pikachu was hit directly, because she was right. They were running on fumes...He wanted to do this without charizard; he hoped that he could, but when he caught pikachu who wailed in his arms, Ash inhaled.

"Misty, snap out of his, would you!?" Ash shouted, as the large, black and orange charizard emerged at his side once more, seething blue fire and a roar. Knocking kingdra away without so much as a command, charizard followed the charge with a tackle.

She hesitated, her entire body quaked, but Ash could have imagined it, because she prepared her next attack. With togetic acting in defense, he now had two offensive pokemon to counter her, and she didn't like the idea of being out numbered.

"It's time to finish this." the voice that pretended to be Misty exclaimed, though from Ash's perspective, it seemed like she struggled with what to do next. Then, she removed yet another pokeball, and tossed it.

Ash was terrified, for a moment. Misty had a dozen powerful water pokemon that she could turn loose on him—he knew for certain it wouldn't be lapras, given the accident—but when psyduck popped his confused head out of the pokeball, Ash's shoulders dropped, but she appeared slightly relieved, then entirely pissed off.

"Not you, you stupid duck!"

Ash's eyes snapped forward, she was losing her cool.

"Not a stupid duck. It's psyduck! You love psyduck!" Ash screamed at her, watching her face recoil in disgust.

"Psyyy-yy?" The duck asked, then looked at Ash with an even more confused expression, asking him why in the world are we fighting? More importantly, why was he fighting. He was simply one of Misty's companions. Never one to fight.

"We shouldn't be. Psyduck, you're a psychic pokemon, you know that Misty is being controlled—tell the rest of her team to back off so we can help her!"

"Pssyyy!" The duck yelped, looking back at Misty, and feeling absolutely petrified for the first time. He actually ran away from her, which only pushed her into more anger. It was as if he could see the monster controlling her. Ash couldn't imagine what that would be like as he caught the small duck in his left arm, and looked back up to see her viciously yelling.

"Gyarados, hyperbeam!"

"-shit." Ash groaned, having hoped she wouldn't resort to that any time soon, as hyper beam was practically unavoidable.

Ash grabbed togetic out of the fight, knowing that the pokemon could not repel the blast and tucked him up underneath himself as charizard threw off kingdra and then rushed to Ash's aid. When the light struck, Ash thought that was it, until he witnessed blue fire erupt and swallow the blast. Charizard stood above Ash and togetic, heaving with a wing spread that made Ash stand immediately.

"Charizard, are you okay?"

The dragon slumped a second later, unable to battle anymore. Charizard was already exhausted from his previous injuries in the forest, as well as whatever sickness started to eat away his healthy orange glow, and replace it with sickly scales. Ash should have known better. He reached out for charizard, but his hand was knocked away by kingdra, who tackled charizard while he was down.

"Enough!" Ash screamed, but not before psyduck intervened, and kingdra was enveloped in a purple aura, lifted from the ground, and thrown into the wall with a massive crack, and stone crumbling on top of it.

Misty, in her anger, snapped on psyduck, and with harsh eyes, she pointed to gyarados to use another hyperbeam on traitorous pokemon. Under normal circumstances, there was no chance gyarados would have turned on his own, but pokemon were a reflection of their trainers soul. With Misty's integrity and mind ripped up, gyarados was now showing the same insanity and hostility. Growing worse with each minute the battle dragged on.

Ash couldn't let that attack land. Psyduck would never survive, and being the weakest of Misty's pokemon, could not counter it. So, Ash stood, flailing his arms.

"Pikachu, use thunder on gyarados now!"

Previously unable to build the energy to create the powerful attack in the middle of battle, pikachu took advantage of his distracted opponent, and charged without hesitation. He leaped from the ground and his cheeks surged with power; like a flash he was gone. Light erupted into the entire building, shattering the glass and ricocheting off of the metallic bars and bouncing from the stone. A blast that would render any pokemon unconscious, strong enough to kill a person when they were on Mt. Coronut.

The room shone brightly, illuminating the stone walls and floor. Being a powerful pokemon, gyarados would surely survive the attack, but would be unable to battle. Psyduck was safe. Unless the mind-controlled Misty had another trick up her sleeve, Ash was going to win.

Confident, Ash turned toward Misty, though as if in slow motion, Ash saw that Misty's eyes were pained and unmistakably her own... then watched her jerk forward into the light.

XOX

She was suffocating. Lungs caving in with each breath she drew. The world around her blurred. Bones ached as if she was being pulled apart piece, by piece.

Not again. She whispered internally, eyes trying to squint—to see. Outside was darkness, like someone tugging at her body with chains and pulleys. Her mind was heavy, but her body weightless, moving without her say.

Misty! A familiar voice in the darkness called out to her.

What on earth was going on? She wasn't asleep, and as far as she could tell, she wasn't having an out of body experience. No, she was still here. Only... she had no control. Glimpses pried through her mind and she knew that she was fighting Ash, but had no idea why. Couldn't remember what she was doing last, let alone how she got here. Distress caused her pokemon to panic, she could feel them flailing. They were as torn apart as she was. Listening to her commands, but unable to connect.

Everything she tried, to stop, to think, to act, met with no reward. She couldn't take it anymore: the pain seeping through her body, forcing her to move, stealing her thoughts. Throwing venomous words from her mouth. She tried to stop it, she tried to keep the words in, but they spewed out like toxicity and she wanted to vomit. Misty couldn't see well, but Ash's eyes burned holes into her body, hurting her more than his words.

What's wrong with you! Snap out of it!

Couldn't he see that she was trying? This hurt her, and she had no idea how, or why she was like this. Something pulled at her strings, and wouldn't let go. Wouldn't let her feel, wouldn't let her move. Numb from the neck down she wanted to cry, but her tears weren't hers anymore. Gyarados, her closest pokemon, was reacting based on these emotions—rampaging in fear of what was happening. In anger of what he couldn't control.

How could she never feel it before? How connected they all were. How easily her emotions affected her pokemon. She wanted to console them, but her mind wouldn't let her. What scared her the most, was that she was becoming compliant. Aware of the control the creature had on her, but she almost didn't care. It tapped into something darker than her and held on with an iron grip.

Sweat ran down the back of her neck as the lightning bounced off the walls. She tried to attack psyduck—what the hell was wrong with her? She hadn't wanted Ash to battle anymore, she hoped psyduck could help. But she made it worse. How could she live with this?

Ash couldn't take this anymore, and neither could her pokemon.

She wanted to stop, she had to stop... she...

With one breath, she instinctively jerked forward, pulling away from the strings that kept her grounded, away from the torment weighing heavy over her mind.

No...more... Misty whispered, then using the last bit of energy she still had. Fearlessly allowing the lightning to immediately coarse through her body.

In a moment, it was over.

Sweet.

….Release.

Author's Note:

The the person who said they missed when I could update everyday... You and me both, man. Hope you all enjoyed.