The buzzer sounded three times, loud in the small room. The girl took a quick glance at her waist, to make sure all six Pokéballs were there. She stood up, and shook her long hair away from her face. She was dressed in a pair of close fitting trousers that hinted at the toned muscle of her legs. A plain tank top under her jacket completed her look. She smiled to herself as she turned to the door. Despite her age of nearly sixteen she was still very small meaning that she was easily underestimated by many opponents, and up until recently had dressed the part. It gave her great satisfaction to thrash opponents when many had thought of her as just a "cute" young girl. However, she knew that strategy would not work against this opponent. He would know it and be expecting it. So she had gone for the confident look, in the hope it would give her an edge.

The buzzer sounded again, and the girl started to move, striding forwards towards the big light of the stadium. As she walked forwards, the voice of the announcer rang out clear.

"It's been five years since this stadium was used. At the start of this year's Johto League there was a commemorative service to remember those killed by the terrorist attack five years ago. Their names, inscribed on the largest stretch of wall that remains from the original Silver Stadium, will never be forgotten. Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding in memory of the victims."

The girl stopped, as she had been told, a few metres short of the light. Still invisible to those in the stadium she took a moment to compose herself.

"It is fitting that the one of the trainers to first fight in this stadium was one affected by the tragedy. She is one of Johto's own, two time reigning champion of the Johto League, aiming for a record breaking third consecutive victory. Show your appreciation, for the mysterious, the beautiful, the Queen of Johto. It's Mellanie Rigger!"

Mellanie strode out into the cauldron of noise in the stadium, a huge grin on her face. It gave her a buzz every time she heard that title. The Queen of Johto. The years since she had first been at the Silver Conference had been crazy for her. Training with the Pokémon Master which had made her a stronger trainer. Then she spent time away, training with Professor Oak. In terms of league titles she had outstripped her childhood friend, Sam Fernandez. He was still a formidable trainer, but he had never tried to take her on in Johto. Although he had won the Indigo League in Kanto two years earlier. He hadn't gone with her when she had trained with Professor Oak, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. When Mellanie had come back, she had done so just in time to enter the Johto League. The way she had taken it by storm had raised eyebrows, giving rise to a host of rumours that she was going to take on other regions, or tackle the World League. Mellanie had done neither. Instead she had returned to her training, and come back to defend her crown the following year, winning again. And now she was here for the third year in a row. Her future intentions had never been made clear, as the media had struggled to get interviews with her, protection extended from her mentor. Her first major interview was planned for after this match, regardless of the outcome. But then Mellanie knew she'd win. It was what she had pushed herself to do. She'd spent the last five years pushing herself to be one of the best around.

"And facing her, hoping to end her remarkable winning streak in the Johto League, Max Maple!"

Mellanie grinned across the field as Max strode out. His glasses were gone, replaced by contact lenses which made him seem less bookish. Mellanie had watched him fight his way through the earlier rounds, but never really feared that he might be dangerous to her. His tactics were always brilliant, but she knew she could match him with hers. And her Pokémon would be better trained. Max Maple was in for a schooling.

Mellanie looked up into the stands to try to spot her mentor. He had always said that he would try to make as many of her battles as he could, but it didn't appear he was there. She sighed. Despite being his first ever student, and one of the few that knew who he was, the Pokémon Master could still be distant to her. She hadn't seen him for months now; he hadn't been at home the times she'd returned there, and he hadn't managed to make it to any of her matches.

Max arrived at the middle of the field and held out his hand for Mellanie to shake.

"Good luck Mel." He said, a smile on his face. "You're going to need it to beat me."

Mellanie laughed. "Somehow I think you'll be the one needing luck." She turned, her hair settling into place around her shoulders as she reached her spot and withdrew her first Pokéball. A Pokémon that hadn't been used yet in this tournament, and so would throw Max off his rhythm. She hoped. Regardless, she knew she had to start with this Pokémon. After all, it/he/she had been there at the very end of the last battle in this stadium.

Mellanie threw her Pokéball and an Ampharos appeared. Across the field Max's jaw? dropped, and he hurriedly put the Pokéball he had chosen back onto his belt only to take it off again, then replace it.

"What's wrong Max?" Mellanie called in a light tone.

"You've trained that Ampharos for power." Max accused. "It's not your usual strategy."

"Is that a problem?" Mellanie asked sweetly.

Max grinned. "You wish." Decisively he pulled a Pokéball from his belt and threw it, and his Haunter appeared. Mellanie grinned. She was determined to enjoy this battle.

It was close, much closer than she had expected. Max had played her during the early exchanges, before she realized that he had planned to use Haunter against her powerhouse. Despite the total failure of her ploy, Ampharos was able to outlast Haunter, before taking a break allowing Totodile to rack up another quick win. After that it became a lot more gruelling, and despite her best efforts the next three rounds went to Max. However to get in front, he had been forced into using all of his Pokémon, which meant that Ampharos' return was a lot more effective on tired opponents. When Max finally managed to defeat her, Totodile was able to wrap it up, giving her the win with two Pokémon left. She was smiling when she shook the brainiac's hand as he grinned ruefully back.

"I thought I had you for a while there."

"No such luck this time." Mellanie said. "Although I'll admit, you were close. Closer than I expected."

"I'll get you soon." Max promised, before turning away. Within moments Mellanie was swept along to receive her trophy, her picture with her victorious team taken once again, going up in the Hall of Fame. Leaving the stadium, avoiding the crowds of supporters by hiding in a blacked out car. The price of fame, as she had rapidly realized, was the people that followed you. It wasn't so bad when she hadn't entered a tournament for a while, but immediately after a victory, she would always be followed by hordes of fans. It was one thing that her mentor had refused to do for her. When she had asked his reply had been very simple.

"Find a way to deal with them. I did."

"But you just don't ever talk to them!" Mellanie had protested.

There had been a gleam in his eye when he answered with an easy grin. "That's my way. You can use it if you want, but I suspect you'll want to find your own."

Mellanie hugged herself in the back of the car, curling up into a small ball. She missed him. The Pokémon Master had been the closest thing she had ever known to a loving father. He had given her everything she could ever have asked for. But she hadn't seen him for nearly eight months now. She had headed off to do some training in the wilderness, something that he had encouraged. When she had come back for a few days, he hadn't been on Mystery Island. Then she had headed off to run through the Johto gyms once again, taking her time and enjoying the trip. She didn't technically need to, but she enjoyed travelling with Sam and meeting all the Gym Leaders again. It was when she had gone around this year, she had realized how popular she was around Johto. Every Gym Leader had invited them to stay with them, asked them to spend time with their own trainees, and fought them using their absolute best Pokémon, the ones that usually didn't make it into Gym battles. When Mellanie had commented on it to Sam, her friend had laughed.

"You're the hero of Johto." He had said. "You were the young kid kidnapped by Team Rocket that went on to become a great trainer. The more they dig into your past, the better it becomes. Self-made? No loving parents? Coupled with the fact that you're damn attractive? It's a small wonder that you're so popular. Welcome to being a celeb Mel."

Mellanie had burst out laughing, partly at Sam's blush and partly because she knew she was doing the exact same thing. She leaned in and kissed his cheek before he could stop her.

"You're adorable. You know that right?"

Sam had blushed even more, before growling something unintelligible at her. It had led to her thinking more about boys though. Who she would date if they asked. She'd been asked several times by guys that she'd met, but she'd said no to all of them. Delia Ketchum had been sympathetic when Mellanie had wanted an opinion.

"You may not feel it dear, but you're still young" she had said. "Wait until they are something special. That's what you deserve."

Mellanie looked up from her thoughts when she heard a tap on the dashboard. The driver was looking at her sympathetically.

"You'll be fine Miss." He said with a kind smile. "I've watched you enough to know that."

Mellanie smiled at him, before undoing her seatbelt and climbing out of the car. There were a group of people waiting to meet her.

"Miss Rigger?" One of them asked. Mellanie nodded, not trusting her voice. "It's great to have you here with us. If you would follow me, your interview is scheduled to start in fifteen minutes."

"Tonight we have a very special guest on our show." Zane Zito said, a big grin on his face. "She's young, she's single and she is utterly fearsome at battling. Please welcome Mellanie Rigger, the Queen of Johto!"

The camera panned out to see Mellanie sat in a chair opposite Zane, the battle analyst and the man who was interviewing her. Mellanie looked around the studio, looking at the cameras all focused on her. She smiled weakly, before looking back at Zane.

"It's a pleasure to be here Zane." She said, hoping her voice didn't betray her nerves.

"So." Zane said, leaning in towards her. "This is the third year in a row you've won the Johto League, but the first time you've given an interview. Can you tell us why?"

Mellanie gazed at the analyst, who instantly leaned back in his chair, retreating from the piercing gaze. "I guess I was just too young before." Mellanie answered. "I mean, I'm still only fifteen. I could have easily waited a few more years."

"Years?" Zane asked with a wide grin. "But you'd be denying all your fans the chance to know what goes on in your head!"

Mellanie tried to hold in a laugh, but ended up with a huge smile plastered across her face. "Well, you know. I have to do what I think is right. Two years ago, I would never have been able to sit here and give a decent interview."

"I think you underestimate yourself." Zane said. "But to move on, your third win in a row, something nobody has ever achieved. How many years are you going to keep going like this?"

"I honestly have no idea." Mellanie answered. "I mean, I'll probably keep training for and entering the Johto League, but one day somebody will beat me. Until then I will keep training, keep fighting along and keep trying to be the best trainer I can be."

"How did you become so dominant, and at such a young age?"

"How I became dominant is a question of training. I'm not saying that the other trainers don't train, but I've met few with a regime like mine. It keeps my Pokémon as healthy as they can be."

"Can you share any parts of your training regime with us?"

Mellanie sent a shrewd glance at her questioner. "And give you all my advantage?"

Zane laughed. "I guess not then. However, while we are on the topic of training, can you clear up something? There have been persistent rumours that you've trained with the Pokémon Master. Would you care to comment?"

Mellanie froze for a moment before taking a deep breath. "I have trained with Champion, yes. He invited me to train with him some time ago and I accepted."

Zane smiled. "You are a very lucky woman Mellanie. Now, you've been reticent with details about your private life. In particular, any boys you have your eyes on?"

Mellanie stared at Zane. She had expected the question to lead to a whole host more, trying to find out information about the Pokémon Master. As far as she was aware, this was one of the most personal interviews that anybody who knew who he actually was had ever been in, yet Zane – who was an experienced analyst – was letting it go.

"Mellanie?" Zane asked gently. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine…" She said quietly.

"Right." Zane said briskly. "Now, are you going to tell me all about your love life?"

Mellanie recovered to smile weakly. "I'm fifteen Zane. How many boyfriends do you expect me to have?"

"You tell me."

"None so far."

"Keep 'em hoping then? Good on you Mellanie. Anyway, I think we are running out of time here, so we'll have to wrap this up with just one more question. What are your plans for after the tournament?"

"I'll probably be taking a couple of weeks to recover from the tournament, then get back to training. I might run a different region, I haven't really decided yet. So I'll just see if anything comes up."

"I wish you good luck. Thank you very much for joining us here tonight, and I hope we'll see you again soon" Zane said with a warm smile, before waiting a moment. A voice rang out, shouting that they were off air, and Mellanie relaxed into her seat.

"You okay?" Zane asked.

"Fine." Mellanie said, smiling at him. "I expected that to be a lot harder."

Zane laughed again. "Suffice it to say, there has been a lot of pressure on me since you agreed to this interview. Somebody at the Pokémon League does not want you put through too much. We were told to keep it short and make it easy."

Mellanie grinned. She knew exactly who that would be.

The car didn't have a driver this time. It drove itself up the familiar ramp to the gates that opened to let it in. She travelled along the road, before the car pulled up in front of the house. A figure was waiting at the doors, gazing out towards the road. Mellanie threw herself out of the car, charging up the steps and hurling herself at the figure of her mentor. The Pokémon Master. Ash Satoshi Ketchum.

After a long minute, Ash let go of the teenager, who grinned up at him.

"Hi Ash."

Ash smiled back down. "It's good to see you again Mellanie. Congratulations on your victory at the Johto League."

He turned back into the house, followed by Mellanie. Delia was waiting for them, dinner already on the table.

As she tucked in, Mellanie felt Ash's gaze on her.

"Ash?" She asked uncertainly.

"How was your interview?" He asked.

"Fine. I admitted you'd trained me, but Zane didn't ask anything else."

Delia laughed. "Mellanie, he knows. He watched the whole thing."

"Then why… oh." Mellanie said. "I found it easier than I expected. Thank you."

Ash nodded, and turned back to his food. It was often like this, quiet from the Pokémon Master when he was with her, but she didn't mind. A companionable silence was fine by her. Just being with him was fine by her.

After they finished, Ash stood up. "I need to go and train. Mellanie?"

"My Pokémon are tired." She said. "But if you're doing fitness I'll come with you."

As they set off on a run, it rapidly became obvious this wasn't a normal run for Ash. The pace was faster than Mellanie was used to, and kept increasing. She was desperately trying to keep up, but really struggling. All of Ash's Pokémon, so often happy to chat to her on the run were silent, forcing themselves onwards. Mellanie cast a glance at several, they seemed to be fine with the pace. It made her wonder just how far ahead of her Ash was.

Meganium appeared alongside her, a small vine extended for Mellanie to hold on to. She smiled at the Pokémon, who began transferring a small trickle of energy, enough to keep her going. As the group arced around towards the house, Ash finally slowed slightly.

"Mellanie, this is where you stop. You can't keep up with us."

"I'll try." She said defiantly.

Ash looked long and hard, before shrugging slightly. He turned and headed off, far faster than he had before. Mellanie surged forwards, but was rapidly left behind by the sheer pace of the Pokémon. She grimaced. She still wasn't sure how Ash did it, but every time she tried to compete with him, she felt utterly outclassed. She didn't even know how a human could run as fast as he did.

As Ash ran, Espeon settled into her run next to him. She didn't try to nuzzle him, at the speed they were going it would have been dangerous. Instead, she started speaking with her mind.

"Ash, you'll have to tell her soon."

"I know." Ash said, his voice not showing the strain of the pace he was setting. "But not yet."

"When? She loved him, as she loves you. You were the family she never had."

"Tomorrow." Ash said. "I'll tell her tomorrow before I head off."

"Make sure you do, the sooner the better" Espeon warned. "You're not the only one who has become fond of her."

Ash waited a few moments, listening to the sound of his feet slamming onto the ground. "Tonight?"

"As soon as possible." Espeon agreed.

Ash looked down at his companion, who met his gaze for a moment. She was right. Mellanie had become popular among the whole team, and they felt she deserved to know.

When the Pokémon settled into their battling practice, Ash sat meditating. Mellanie had joined him again, sitting quietly. Her own Pokémon were doing some light battling of their own, but nothing too strenuous.

"Mellanie." Ash said, his voice quiet, not opening his eyes.


"You need to know where I've been these last few days."

The girl twisted, staring at him. He virtually never shared where he had gone when he was away from Mystery Island. He turned his gaze onto her, sadness showing in his eyes.

"It's Professor Oak. He's gone missing."


Right, well firstly I should probably say welcome back. Turns out I did have another one of these in me after all. Hopefully this won't take me quite as long to write as "The Lost Master" but it also won't be the only thing taking my time, so chapters are highly unlikely to be overly regular. I'll try, but I won't be able to set a regular update schedule. However, I do promise that I will finish this eventually, no matter how long it takes! What I'll probably do is write when I get a chance, and release chapters when they are ready. If I get some free time, you'll get them quicker. If I don't you'll get them slower. Although they'll probably be shorter than my usual. I'm aiming for somewhere between 4-5,000 words each time.

On the note of this being a sequel, if you haven't read it, I would strongly recommend reading the story that precedes this one. You can find it through my profile. The reason I suggest this is that a fair bit happened (It is 235,000 words or so) and I won't be explaining it all here. So if you've read this chapter and have burning questions like "When did Professor Oak retire?", "Why is Ash sometimes called Champion?" or "Who on earth are Sam and Mellanie?" then go read it. Hopefully it'll answer your questions.

As for those who said they'd like to see some one-shots from Ash's past. They are also in the works, but this has been written first. So you'll get what you asked for as well, if you'll just bear with me while I spend time typing furiously. While trying to get through an exceptionally busy period of my life. Yeah, I shouldn't have started this…

As a final note, while I have a rough outline for the plot of this story (hopefully the name will make sense eventually), this is early on so if there is anything you desire from my stories, get it into a review or a PM. No guarantee I will listen, but if you don't ask I definitely wont!

Anyway, that's it from me. Until I next get around to writing!