Epilogue: Streetlight, Starlight
The stars were bright tonight. Brighter than usual, actually. But maybe that was just a matter of perspective.
Misty walked along the streets of Cerulean City, carrying her travel bag, one hand in her pocket, smiling ear to ear. Every now and then, she'd bump into Ash's shoulder, wandering into him intentionally. He would do the same. This was their sign of affection, developed on a whim; Pikachu had accommodated them for it, choosing the non-Misty side. She was glad for that. Holding Ash's hand in public still seemed weird, for some reason. But that was fine. It was something that would come in time.
"Y'know Mist, there's a lot of Pokemon with type variations in Alola. You might be able to find Water types that aren't usually Water."
"Really?" replied Misty, glancing Ash's way in surprise. She turned her gaze upwards, staring up at the night sky with a grin. "Misty Waterflower: Water-type master of Pokemon that aren't always Water. I think that suits me perfectly."
"Pikachu thinks so too," said Ash, chuckling. He scratched the little mouse's head. "I can't believe we're really going there together. We're going to see so many new Pokemon! I heard the league down there's really competitive. And the food …!"
Misty laughed. Ash lived, breathed, and dreamt Pokemon – and ate everything else. Some things never change. "Oh, that reminds me. I should re-introduce you two."
Ash blinked. "Re-introduce? Didn't we, uh, do that-"
"Not that!" snapped Misty, feeling her cheeks flare hot. Pikachu snickered. "I want you to meet an old friend."
Misty nodded. She stopped, unzipping her travel bag, fumbling with the contents inside. Her fingers brushed against spherical metal. She smiled. There. She pulled the Poke Ball out from its resting place, pressing its central button with a Click.
A flash of light illuminated the dimly-lit avenue, sparking from the now-open Poke Ball up to Misty's shoulder. It formed a series of spheres: one round body, two flattened ears, a tinier ball at the end of a zigzagging tail. Two black, button-like eyes gazed at Ash and Pikachu, taking the place of the white sparks that had faded away.
"Marill!" the blue mouse exclaimed, holding up a paw.
"Whoa. Azurill evolved!" exclaimed Ash, staring in wonder. He turned to his shoulder. "Isn't that great, Pikachu?"
Pikachu didn't respond. Not to Ash, at least. Misty blinked, looking from the yellow mouse to the blue one upon her shoulder. They seemed to be … staring at each other. Very intently.
"Pika, Pikachu …"
"Um, Pikachu?" said Ash, blinking. "What's wrong, buddy?"
Pikachu put its paw to its mouth, whispering into Ash's ear vigorously. Ash listened for a while, nodding. A grin sprouted upon his face, growing ever-larger with each 'pika' and 'chu'. Before long, he was shaking with suppressed laughter.
"Ash? What's up?" asked Misty, curious.
Ash wiped a tear from his eyes. "Pikachu wants to know if they can get to know each other better."
Pikachu swatted Ash's head with its tail. "Kapi, Pikapi!" It crossed its paws, looking to the side with a blush.
"W-what?" said Misty, dumbfounded. Out of the blue, she felt Marril's bulbous tail nudge against the side of her head. The azure mouse pointed its paw to the Poke Ball in her hand. "You want this?" asked Misty, holding it up. Marill nodded. Misty handed it over.
In a flash, Marill used the device to shoot a red beam at Pikachu, returning him to her Poke Ball – and then did the same to herself. The Poke Ball fell from the air, landing in Misty's cupped hands.
Misty and Ash blinked at each other, blushing.
"We're pretending this isn't happening, right?" said Misty.
"So where do we go from here, Ash?"
"Isn't it ten blocks up this way, then you make a left-"
"Not to the airport," said Misty, jabbing him in the shoulder. Her gaze drifted down to her shoes. "I mean … where do we go? You know?"
They stood amid the streetlights, within their golden hue, waiting at the edge of one of Cerulean City's busier intersections. The crosswalk before them advised against passage, its display holding them far at bay, the red hand blinking steadily. Traffic whizzed by them, headlights streaming, leaving trails like electric jellyfish. The office buildings surrounding them stretched up into the stars, windows lit, silhouettes of workers moving to and fro.
Ash looked to the sky. "All the time I was traveling, I never really knew where I was going."
"I figured that out the first time you held a map upside-down."
"Har-har," he replied, glancing at her sidelong. Misty stuck her tongue out, and his eyes returned to the stars. "What I meant was … when you're out there, you're lost. Even if you don't really want to be. You never know which way is up, or where you should be going, or what you'll find when you get there. But if you keep moving, eventually, you figure out where you were really meant to be." He looked at her, smiling. "That's what I think, anyway."
Misty smiled, blushing. "Something poetic from Ash Ketchum. I never thought I'd see the day."
"Don't get used to it," he said, grinning. He gave her shoulder a little bump.
Misty stiffened intentionally, standing taller, putting on a fake pout. "Yeah, well, I'm still not forgiving you for seeing me naked."
"It really was an accident, y'know," said Ash, hiding his face beneath his hat's brim. Misty laughed inwardly; he was always so cute when he was embarrassed. "I-I didn't see that much."
"Didn't see much?" she replied, raising an eyebrow.
"I mean, well I did! Just, I mean, not … you know …" stammered Ash, turning red. "I liked what I saw?" he offered lamely.
Misty stared at him, completely deadpan – and then burst into a fit of giggles. Ash blinked at her, looking flustered, confused.
"You can relax, Ash. I'm not mad." She waved him off. "You do have to make it up to me someday, though."
"How would I do that?"
Misty tilted her head, thinking. How would he do that? She turned her gaze to him, eyed him up and down. The thoughts rolling through her head made her shiver. A devious smirk formed on her lips. "Well …"
"H-hey!" cried Ash, 'covering himself up', looking ridiculous. "That's not fair! You've seen me in my underwear plenty of times!"
"That's not the same, Ash."
"It is if it happened more than once! Saffron City … Route 15 …"
"The Indigo League …"
"The Indigo League?" said Ash, looking at her in dismay. "When?"
So he didn't remember how she … 'stumbled in' on him that morning, when he was in the middle of getting changed? Well, that was a memory to keep. "Oh, never mind."
Ash sulked. "And you called me a closet pervert. We were ten, Mist."
Misty laughed out loud.
It's different, now. Different, yet the same. The lights of the crossroads. The bicyclists that pass them by. The way he makes her laugh. The way he soothes her anger. The times that they share together. The (little) time they're ever apart. How she can't imagine her life without him, being next to him, shoulder-to-shoulder, side by side. The countless days ahead, spent together, gazing out at the horizon, wondering where the world might take them, wondering just what might be.
After all, the past is gone. This is the present.
The crosswalk sign changes to 'Go'. Ash's fingers interlace with hers. Her heart soars like a Wingull, riding the updraft, drifting through the clouds of an uncharted sky. She steps forward, taking strides with him in unison, knowing that whatever could come between them – distance, time, the stars themselves – will never be enough to keep them apart.
"So Ash, what kind of beaches do they have in Alola?"
Ash trips over his own feet.