Ash lounged lazily under the cool shade of a tree, Pikachu's light snores cutting the otherwise peaceful air. The small Electric type laid beside him and Ash stroked the fur on his friend's back, eliciting a content purr from the little Pokemon and a slight current of electricity that traveled up his fingers.

Bulbasaur basked in the sun, his bulb healthy and plump and perched atop Ash's resting place prowled Heracross, hopefully eyeing the relaxed Grass type for the chance at a tasty snack. Noctowl ruffled his feathers and shot a disapproving look at Heracross, who thought better off it and flew off to try his luck somewhere else.

Ash watched them with a content smile on his face. It always did cheer up his spirits to visit his old friends and they too rejoiced when the wandering trainer would pay one of his visits. He looked into the distance by the lake's surface and saw Kingler, one of his oldest Pokemon, surrounded by a dozen Krabby, his offspring who had been born a few months before Ash's arrival at Pallet town.

It was a sight that vexed the young trainer for days on end. When he visited Oak's Pokemon ranch, he had been surprised and overjoyed to see his friend become a father to a new generation of Krabby and Kingler himself had also basked and accepted his praise. He'd introduced the baby Krabby to his Unova team. The Krabby swarmed around the new faces, clicking their claws and bubbling happily, Kingler looking on proudly.

And yet, something about the scene gnawed at Ash's mind. It did so for the rest of the afternoon and the days since. Not just Kingler but the rest of his Pokemon as well. And now, after days trying to discern what this feeling was, Ash now knew. Regret. Regret at not being there for Kingler on what was possibly the most important day of his life. Regret at not being there for him, nor for his other Pokemon, all whose lives had gone on during his travels.

He was not there when Totodile evolved into Croconaw. He was not there when Bayleef found a suitable mate in a fellow of its kind that would make her happy. He wasn't there when the normally timid Torkoal made a lifelong friend with a resident Wartortle. It hit him that he had been away from his cherished Pokemon, that he had missed the big and small changes in their lives, all because he was consumed with his travels and with assembling a whole new team with each new region.

It wasn't something Ash did intentionally, neglecting his friends, but he loved Pokemon of all kinds and the prospect of finding and training new partners fueled his spirit like nothing else.

"It won't be that way anymore," Ash whispered, his words unheard by any, but he made the promise, both to his Pokemon and to himself. "You guys have been good to me," he said quietly, stroking Pikachu's fur. "I promise, I will become the trainer you all think me to be."

It came as no surprise to anyone when Ash made a formal announcement he would be setting off for a new region, Kalos, to continue his journey of becoming a Pokemon master. His mom, always sad but proud to see him go, doted on him on the days before he left, making sure to squeeze in as much time as she could with Pikachu, who always loved the attention the Ketchum matriarch placed on him.

And so Ash left his hometown and boarded a plane to the faraway region of Kalos. But unlike his previous journey, he was now accompanied by a full roster of his friends. That is not to say he would not catch any new additions, no. But Kalos was a big region, full of promising trainers and Pokemon who could give his team a good workout. And if he just so happened to catch new members to add to his growing family, then all the better.

He looked to Pikachu. The small mouse Pokemon stood atop the window seat, eagerly looking down as the plane passed over the fertile green fields of Kalos, his lightning bolt tail twitching excitedly. The little mouse was clearly eager as he was to begin anew.

Ash fingered the pokeballs strapped to his belt. He could feel a faint warmth radiating from inside. He wondered if his Pokemon were as determined as he was to become the best of the best. It was not something he had really done before, taking a full team to another region, but recent developments had caused him to try this new method.

In fact, Ash wondered, is this the only new thing he should do? He thought back to his previous journeys—Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova. In these travels he had forged new friendships, experienced moments that would stay with him and that he would cherish for years to come, yet his ultimate goal had gone unfulfilled. Victory at the Pokemon League.

It eluded him still, like a mythical Pokemon. Why? What was he doing wrong? Did he not put enough effort into it? No, that was not it. He and his Pokemon always gave it a hundred and ten percent. His team members worked hard and strived to meet his expectations and not once had they let him down. No, the fault was not with them. So was it he? Was it because of his shortcomings that ultimate victory still eluded him? Was he destined to repeat this circle being met with failure after failure, defeat after the defeat no matter how close victory was at hand?

It was not a thought he liked in the least and yet, it stuck on his mind. His expression turned unusually introspective and he mulled this possibility, going through it on his mind and trying to determine why exactly he'd never tasted victory. He was, a good trainer, he'd like to think, and several people, many of them gym leaders and Elite Four members, had commented on that.

They'd seen in him a raw potential and, if he wasn't being too self serving, Ash would say the same himself. After all, his Pikachu, Sceptile and Charizard had gone toe to toe with Legendaries and won almost without help. How many trainers could say the same?

No, his abilities as a trainer were very much clear, so what was it?

The fault did not lie with his abilities as a trainer, nor with his Pokemon. As he sat there, arms crossed and a faint crease in his brow, the answer eventually dawned on him. It was so simple and so clear cut that he felt like an idiot for not realizing it sooner.

His preparation for a league was crap.

It almost made him want to bury his hands on his face as a deep, sinking pit formed on his stomach.

Of course! He thought. During his journey in the Kanto league, he had placed pretty far, considering he'd spent only a year as a trainer. He remembered looking back to the previous champions of the regions, and they all shared one specific trait. They were older than him. He didn't think much of it at the moment but now, as he put the pieces together did he realize with horrifying clarity the major factor that contributed to his defeats.

Ash's own worst enemy was himself, as it was due to his and no one else's actions that he lost every time. It was very, very unusual that a first timer would become reigning champion. Unusual, but not unheard of. All those champions of leagues past were older than him and as he checked his encyclopedic pokedex and feverishly tapped and scrolled through various screens, the answer stared at him in the face.

The champions... all those champions like whom he aspired to be had not won their first league either. They came close, most of them, but it was not until a few years later that they were crowned among the best of the best, not until they were older and they had a full roster of almost all fully evolved Pokemon.

After their defeats, the champions strived to better themselves and went on to travel to more regions, facing new opponents, growing stronger and wiser as did their Pokemon. And speaking of their Pokemon...

There was yet another thing the champions shared in common. From their very first attempts at the league and up to the point they became champions, their teams had remained largely the same, with maybe a few new additions made. From the first year of their journey, all the way to their crowning title, the champions used the same roster of trusted and powerful Pokemon, who'd ultimately won their masters' victory.

Ash... Ash wasn't like that. Every new region he'd drop off his Pokemon at Oak's ranch, taking only Pikachu with him and catch new additions to his team. He thought back to Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Pidgeot, Kingler, Muk. How strong would they all be if he'd kept them all these years? In his Kanto journeys, Pikachu had achieved but a smidgen of his full potential. He had grown into a powerful battler capable of taking down Pokemon much bigger and, by all rights, stronger than him. Even now, as Ash looked at his little friend, he marveled just how much Pikachu had grown since that first day in Pallet town. So how, did Ash wonder, would his Kanto Pokemon have grown had he taken them with him? How much more powerful would they have become? Had he done like the other champions, would he be a champion now himself?

In that moment he was broken out of his musings. A cool pleasant voice announced from the intercom that the plane now started its descent at the airport. Pikachu chattered excitedly beside him, happily looking at Ash, a gesture the trainer returned. His little buddy did know how to bring a smile to Ash's face.

Shaking off this morose train of thought, Ash returned his attention to the present. The plane was near ground level. Soon they would be unboarding the metal contraption and the duo would be on their way.

This time, thought Ash, this time things would be different.

"Again, I'm really sorry," Ash said yet again, bashfully apologizing to the bemused boy.

"Really, it's fine. I'm the one who should be apologizing about my younger sister," the blonde boy said looking sideways at the little girl, still sprawled in the ground and smoking slightly.

"Speaking of, are you okay?" Ash asked as he and the boy loomed over the little girl, a dazed little smile gracing her lips in spite of the rather potent electric shock delivered by Pikachu.

With a vigorous cry, the little girl bolted from her position and stood, seemingly in good spirits and beaming widely. "That was awesome!" The little girl exclaimed, her eyes positively sparkling as she leered at the wary Pikachu. "Your Pikachu is really strong."

"Yeah... that he is," Ash said, relieved she seemed no worse for wear.

"Bonnie, you can't go around snatching other people's Pokemon," the blonde boy admonished, waggling a disapproving finger. Bonnie obviously took offense to this, as her little hands balled into fists and hunched her shoulders, sullenly glaring at the boy.

"I just wanted to give Pikachu a big hug 'cause it's so cute!"

"But did Pikachu like it?" The boy pointed out, and Bonnie deflated a bit. Seemingly satisfied, he turned to Ash anew. "Sorry about my little sister, but she really likes Pokemon."

"Please, don't worry about it," Ash said, trying not to wince as Pikachu's little claws dug into his shoulder, the little mouse tense in case Bonnie tried anything. Seeing how the blonde girl still eyed him eagerly, Ash couldn't really blame him. "And you know," he said to Bonnie. "I really should be thanking you. That was brave what you did, saving Pikachu like that."

He really did mean it, and the praise lifted Bonnie's spirits, as she smiled happily once more. "You're welcome!"

Ash smiled and nodded graciously in return. He then set his sights on the massive structure looming over them and the city. A massive tower framed almost entirely in white, the defining landmark of the Kalos region. "What a weird gym," he muttered.

"Oh, that," the blonde boy said. "Let me guess, you got kicked out, right?"

Ash nodded dourly. "And even after coming all this way. The nerve of that gym leader..."

"The leader of the Lumiose gym is this really super duper strong person," Bonnie pointed out. "So they asked you how many badges you have, right?"

"Yeah, but when I said I didn't have any, I got zapped, bad."

"Really, you don't have any badges?" Bonnie asked, more than a little surprised. While not exactly set in stone, most trainer who made their was to Lumiose city had at the very least one badge under their belt.

"No. Well, technically I do."

"And they still didn't let you in?" Bonnie interrupted.

"If you really did have a few badges, you should have been let in no problem," the blonde boy stated, a slight frown in his brow.

"I didn't have a chance to tell them," Ash said. "But I have dozens of badges already. I've traveled through lots of different regions and beat all their gym leaders."

"Wha~" Bonnie and her brother gaped. "And you still got the boot?" Bonnie asked indignantly.

"I guess," Ash shrugged helplessly.

"And if you don't mind me asking, where are you from?" The blonde boy asked.

Ash smirked. "I'm Ash Ketchum from Pallet town, and this is my partner Pikachu. We just arrived here in Kalos.

"Nice to meet you, Ash. My name is Clemont, and this is my little sister Bonnie," the jumpsuit-clad boy, apparently named Clemont, motioned to Bonnie, who shot Ash a toothy smile and said, "Hi!"

"Hey, big brother, since Ash is new here, we should totally show him around Lumiose."

"Huh?" Clemont blinked, perplexed at the odd request. Then again, Bonnie was predispositioned to such things. "Well, sure. If Ash is up to it, at least." The two siblings simultaneously looked toward Ash.

"Sure, why not?" A friendly little tour of the city. What could possibly go wrong?

Amourshipping because Amourshipping is best shipping.

Now then, before we embark in this journey, there's a few things I'd like to get out of the way. As I said in the description, this story will feature a smarter, slightly more darker Ash. No, not dark like that, but I mean dark as in a logical course in personality that would manifest after all his years of travel. More mature, if you will. That being said, my writing style tends to lend itself to, shall we say, realism in my stories. That means that in this fic I will strive to include a certain amount of realism, or at least, as much realism as something like Pokemon can have, meaning that the story will take a different course as it goes.

The destination is very much the same, but you can expect the journey to have quite a few twists and turns not included in the anime. Ah, but you probably want to know more about the shipping aspect of this story, yes? Suffice it to say, Serena will soon make her way in, and yes, she'll be a little more... daring, as evidenced by the Teen rating. ;3 But again, do keep in mind I said I tend to strive for some realism in this story, so while Amourshipping will most definitely happen, it won't happen right away.

That's all I wanted to say. If you have the time, do be kind enough to give me your opinions on my take on this popular ship, wouldjaprettypleez? Until them, I will see you all next time. Hopefully my pokewords will continue to entertain you. Buh-bye, all. *waves*