The violent nudge against his shoulder shook him off from a troubled, psychic-induced slumber. A little movement, and a slight pain shifted the pain away, as Ash Ketchum discovered he had eyes. After an enormous struggle, and several moments of shutting them down, he finally managed to pull himself up, as he realized that both his arms and legs were tied with strong ropes all over.
The other voice finally registered in his head, as he looked to his right, seeing his companion, pressed against the wall, and incarcerated, looking at him with a slight frown on his face. The person, a young man around sixteen or so, Ash mused, wearing a purple jacket above his white shirt and khaki pants, with long, slightly purple hair, falling all over his face.
"Now that you've had your beauty sleep, it's time to get us out of here!"
"Shut up midget, and just do as I say." The young man looked around for a while, before whispering… "It's time, Misdreavous."
The air around him suddenly darkened as something condensed into an entity of otherworldly aura, before it formed out the features of a tiny, floating pokémon.
A ghost. Ash realized.
"A little psy-strike should do it." The elder boy commanded.
"Meese…" The little ghost drawled, before it manifested a single, miniature shock wave out of nothingness and directed it towards the ropes binding his hands. The ropes cut off instantly, as the young man used it to his benefit, getting rid of the rest of his ropes.
"Help the midget," He commanded, much to Ash's scowl.
"I'm not a midget." He retorted.
"Sure…" The other person drawled.
Out of his incarceration and free to stand up, Ash inspected himself. "I still have my pokeballs with me." He whispered in elation.
"Yeah, I'd say that was pretty crappy on their part. Must be some mindless grunts or something."
"Grunts?" Ash looked perplexed.
The other guy gave him a pitying look. "You are really a newbie in this, aren't you?" He scowled as he glanced at Ash's belt. "Five active pokeballs. You'd think someone with five pokémon would know what he's heading for!"
"Huh?" Ash thought.
"Huh?" Ash said.
That proved that on rare occasions, Ash Ketchum's mind and mouth did, in fact, work in coalition.
"Who are you?"
The young man gave him a sneer. "Paul."
"I'm Ash. Ask Ketchum."
"I'd say nice to meet you, but you're not worth it." Paul sneered again. "You are making me late."
"Right!" Ash jumped up. "Let's get out of this place."
"Man… this place is huge!" Ash complained, as he trudged along the underground route, following Paul and his Misdreavous.
"Shout out a bit louder, and you can guarantee yourself a permanent stay in this place." Paul mocked.
"…. You mean the grunts?"
"No, I meant that if you don't shut up with your stupid talk, I might be inclined to have Misdreavous hit with a confuse ray and let you sleep forever in this wretched place…"
"…." Ash thought.
"…." Ash said.
Silence prevailed between the two for exactly thirteen seconds.
"How did you get here?" Paul asked.
"How…. Did you… get… here?" Paul repeated sardonically, as if speaking to a little child. A little, extremely dull child.
"I was…." Ash began…
A few hours ago…
It had started with him travelling towards Cerulean city. He had already covered a third of the path in around four hours, and was passing through the final remnants of the mountainous landscape. The place was rather loud, with random explosions occurring at distances, with boulders falling down the cliffs now and then. He could also see a couple of Onix smashing their head into the mountains, creating tunnels as they progressed further into the monoliths.
This must be the region they were talking about on television.
It had been in the news recently. There was a new set of mountain tunnels being created by the League to facilitate better transport for young trainers. Since Cerulean city was only directly connected to Vermillion city, and was blocked on all sides by the sea, and by a huge mountain on the south-west separating it from Pallet, the League was working on the creation of safe transport routes to ensure better transport facilities in and out of the city through means of mountain-tunnelling.
"Now, now… what do we have here?"
Ash spun back, and nearly died, as a huge rocky boulder seemed to slam into his face, which it would, had he not dove to his right in haste.
"Hey, what's your-?" Ash began indignantly, before stopping midway, as he twisted his left leg, just in time to avoid getting squashed by another of those floating boulders.
Pokémon. He realized. The rock boulder in front of him had a somewhat sad-faced eyes and mouth, with a protrusion on the top-left which formed a miniature version of itself. The other boulder he had missed a moment ago, contradictorily, had a rather jolly countenance, though the protrusion was absent.
Koffing, the poison gas pokémon. Koffing embodies toxic substances. It mixes the toxins with raw garbage to set off a chemical reaction that results in a terribly powerful poison gas. The higher the temperature, the more gas is concocted by this pokémon.
Weezing, the evolved form of Koffing. Weezing alternately shrinks and inflates its twin bodies to mix together toxic gases inside. The more the gases are mixed, the more powerful the toxins become. The Pokémon also becomes more putrid.
Dexter didn't delay in its duties, as Ash pulled two pokeballs from his waist. "Go, Pidge-"
The rest of his words remained unsaid as a sharp force hit him on the head, rendering him unconscious.
Back to the present…
"So they put you out without even a battle?" Paul sneered. "How pathetic one can be!"
"Hey!" Ash retorted. "I'll have you know that I'm-"
"Shut it, midget! You don't want the grunts to hear you." Paul warned, his voice a little low and stern.
"So…." Ash lowered his voice. "How did you get here?"
Paul frowned. "I was…working with the miners, helping with the mountain tunnelling."
"… But why?"
"It's obvious. Because there's money there, and a chance to catch a nice cave-dwelling pokémon. Personally, I'd have liked a Steelix for myself, though a powerful Onix wouldn't be bad, I guess."
"A… Steelix? I didn't even think that one could find one in the wild, forget catching one." Ash replied in surprise.
"Eh, you're right." Paul half-sneered. "Guess you know something after all."
"Take that back!"
Paul didn't deign to dignify that with a comment.
"So… did you find one?" Ash asked after a while.
Paul looked away, as the two young men walked past the underground tunnel. "… Almost. That was when I was… taken by surprise by these idiots over here. The woman I was paired with… she was one of them."
"Team Rocket." Paul seethed. "Heard of them?"
"Can't say I have." Ash frowned.
"So they caught you by surprise as well." Ash drawled. "Guess you're just as pathetic as me!"
The other boy's face hardened. "Guess this pathetic person should've left you tied and dead in that cavern."
"Now you're just playing dirty."
'So, how do you plan on catching the Onix, when we get outta' here?"
Paul smirked. "I'll use one of my pokémon."
"Your pokémon can take down an Onix? Just like that?"
"I don't want an Onix. I want a powerful Onix."
"Any pokémon can become powerful with the right training." Ash retorted.
"Guess that makes the difference between you and me, kid." Paul returned. "Tell me, how long have you been a trainer?"
Ash muttered something under his breath.
"Not audible." Paul deadpanned.
The purple-haired young man muttered a soft expletive. "And you've caught five pokémon already? What did you do? Keep throwing those balls at anything that moves?"
That… took Ash aback. Normally, people would have applauded the fact that he had caught five pokémon. Gary for one, had caught twenty, he reminded himself painfully.
"What's… wrong with that?"
Paul sneered. "I've on the field as a trainer for four years, and caught over three hundred pokémon. You know how many I retained?"
Ash waited for the answer.
"And the rest… of them?" Ash knew he wasn't going to like it.
'I gave them away. Left them. Sent them back to their home. Traded them for better ones. Take your pick."
"…. Why would you do that?"
"I only have slots for powerful pokémon in my team, kid. I don't want anything to do with weaklings." Paul drawled the last word out in a sneer.
Ash knew that the insult was on him, but he let it pass by. "I'm no weakling, but I'll never trade any of my friends or desert them."
"Like everybody in the world does." Paul sighed. "Congratulations on choosing the path of mediocrity, kid."
Ash gritted his teeth. "Don't call me a kid. You're what… one… two years older than me?"
Paul's eyes hardened. "I am an experienced trainer. I've trained for four years, gotten into conferences, and travelled over three regions. Compared to me, you are nothing but a kid, midget."
"When I defeat you in the Indigo Conference, then say that to me again." Ash snarled.
"If you manage to get to the Indigo League conference, I'll take my words back." Paul smirked antagonistically, "past the eliminations; that is."
Ash's nails did into his skin, as his fists tightened.
"Anyway, we better get going. Wouldn't want to stay for another useless moment in present company." Paul murmured, before continuing to walk. His Misdreavous drifted beside him as he did.
Ash stood glaring at his departing companion for a moment, before he rushed to join him.
The two trainers had walked past for another hour, with the occasional bickering that kept on occurring between the two. Paul, as always, kept on increasing on Ash's jerk scale with frightening intensity, as he kept on attacking and shattering each and every single of Ash's beliefs about pokémon training and battling.
"I admit, kid, that you have all the luck for interesting pokémon," Paul confessed. "I have searched for years, and never found myself staring at a shiny pokémon. And you, a midget newbie, got a shiny Pidgeotto flying into your hand…"
"Well, she's special."
"Yeah, I bet." Paul replied with a tone of jealousy in his voice. "A shiny Pidgeotto, with a dark parent, and knows double-team." He paused for a moment. "Want to trade it with me? I'll get you two fully-evolved pokémon in return-a Raichu and a fearow."
Curious are the ways of the world. Out of all the pokémon in the world, Paul just had to mention a Raichu of all things.
"No, I wouldn't." Ash retorted. "Pidgeotto is my pokémon, and I wouldn't trade it on my life."
"Pfft!" Paul sneered. "It couldn't help to try."
Ash glared. "You should've known better than that. I'm not like you."
That, in hindsight, might have been in a mistake.
Paul's demeanour changed. "You're right, kid. You are not like me. You'll never be able to become like me."
"Yeah? Well I've no-"
"My, my… it seems like someone has been a little naughty!" A female voice distracted them.
Instantly, the entire discussion came to an end, as Paul and Ash spun towards the source, their hands ready on their pokeballs. Standing in front of them, with at least five grunts behind her, was a curly blonde-haired woman. She was dressed in a tight-fighting black apparel with the letter R emboldened on her top. The rest of the grunts wore similar clothing though their faces weren't visible in the dim light underground.
"You…" Paul returned in a cold voice.
"How are you, Paul?" The blonde-haired woman chortled. "I'm surprised you managed to get out of the cavern so easily, and who's that with you?" She paused. "Ah, the kid from Mountain Moon. I forgot."
Ash narrowed his eyes.
"Ash Ketchum," Paul replied in a rather clear tone. "Meet Ariana Ortega. My tunnelling partner and… a bitch."
The woman, Ariana, laughed out at his description. Figuring she might as well go ahead with the formality. "Nice to meet you, Ash. I'm Ariana Ortega, or as my organization knows me, Executive Ariana."
Paul sucked his breath. She's… an executive? His lips twisted into a smile.
"Now that the introductions are over," Ariana returned in a no-nonsense tone. "Please hand over your pokémon to us right now. The more you resist, the worse your death will be. Personally, I'd prefer a long-drawn out one."
The grunts obeyed her command and stepped forward.
"I'd rather you didn't." Paul spoke up, quietly, though the silence in the tunnels reverberated his voice. "You'll find nothing but pain if you take another step." He looked up at Ariana and gave a twisted grin. "And darling, we must stop meeting like this. This is how the rumours begin."
Ariana sneered. "Kill them both."
A sudden flash of light inundated the entire tunnel, and just as the flashes faded, the entire scenario had changed. Standing all around Ash and Paul were five humongous pokémon. From his limited knowledge, Ash could identify only three of them. Not that he had any worry, since the sudden release of pokémon had made his pokedex activate and recognize them all.
Blastoise. The shellfish pokémon, and final evolution of Squirtle. Blastoise has water spouts that protrude from its shell. The water spouts are very accurate. They can shoot bullets of water with enough accuracy to strike empty cans from a distance of over 160 feet.
Skarmory, the armour bird pokémon. Skarmory is entirely encased in hard, protective armour. This pokémon flies at close to 190 mph. It slashes foes with its wings that possess sword-like cutting edges.
Gyarados, the atrocious pokémon. A tale is told of a town that angered Gyarados. Before the sun rose the next day, flames utterly consumed the town, leaving not a trace behind.
Raichu, the electric mouse pokémon, and the final evolution of Pichu. It can lose 100,000-volt bursts of electricity, instantly downing foes several times its size.
Machamp, the superpower pokémon, and the final evolution of machop. It is impossible to defend against punches and chops doled out by its four arms. It's fighting spirit flares up when it faces a tough opponent.
"Convenient." Paul drawled, glancing at Ash's pokedex. "You wouldn't happen to have another one of those in your bag, would you?"
Ash shook his head, staring at the monsters all around him.
"Too bad." Paul sighed, before turning to Ariana. "You can go now." He drawled, taunting her.
Ariana didn't move an inch, though the grunts had taken a couple of steps back.
"Perhaps I'm not making myself clear here." Paul drawled as he stepped forward, his hands wide open, gesturing towards his pokémon which drew around him protectively. "This is a threat." At his words, Gyarados gave out a roar while Raichu looked ready to shove thousands of volts of electricity through the grunts.
"In exactly one minute from now, you…" he mocked Ariana—"and your little hunting party will become the prey. Now based on your previous experiences, you couldn't manage to hold me down despite… your advantage of surprise." He paused. "I'd recommend you heed my warning."
No one uttered a sound. No words had been exchanged.
And the victor of the impending battle had been decided without the battle even beginning.
"That…." Ash gushed. "—was awesome."
"At the very least you've got good taste, kid." Paul returned mockingly, though it was clear that he wasn't serious.
"Do you have to mock me every single time you speak a word?" Ash complained.
"I find myself a speaker of fluent sarcasm. I'd like you to not mock my intelligence."
Ash looked away. Paul was… well, he was still a… dick, but at least, Ash… respected him. He had seen the powerful pokémon standing all around him protectively, flexing their power. He had seen the confidence in Paul's stance, the underlying belief that under no circumstances would he or his pokémon be defeated by Team Rocket. The elder young man's belief regarding pokémon training might be contradictory to Ash's own, but there was no doubt that he had gotten results.
And results always spoke for themselves.
The two of them had gotten out of the tunnels, all thanks to Skarmory's aerial vantage point. It had taken another hour or so, but the two trainers had found themselves standing on the outskirts of Cerulean city.
"I suppose you're going to try for the gym badge, eh?"
"Yes, what about you?" Ash asked in curiosity.
"Meh?" Paul scoffed. "Got all of them. All twelve. I'm planning to challenge the Viridian gym leader after I'm done capturing an Onix though." He paused. "Heard he's the best of the lot or something."
The Viridian gym leader… of course. "And after that?"
"Train." Paul stated in a determined voice. "There is no other way to be the Number 1, kid." He stood at the edge of the crossroads in front of them. "You'll go that way, and I'll go down this one. Get rid of your stupid notions about pokémon training and you might just make it."
"You…." Ash gritted his teeth.
"Heh!" Paul smirked, before his expression went all bland. "Now get lost."
Cerulean city, or the city of the aquiline aura, referring to the aquiline blue aura that surrounds the city, where the land meets the sea. Cerulean was one of the chief centres of water-based transport of goods, food and rations towards the other regions. Ships sailing for Hoenn, Johto, Sinnoh or other regions would be seen taking off from the ports every week. Needless to say, with the influx of people and pokémon from outer regions, Cerulean had a diversity unlike any other, especially in food, people and pokémon.
It had taken Ash another day and a half to enter the main city-premises, as he found himself heading towards the Pokémon center, for the sake of his pokémon and himself. The previous day, he had met two other trainers, and had quick battles with both, earning him a quick thousand pokedollars. Bagon, Pidgeotto and rhyhorn had gotten a little stronger, the latter finally managing to master rock tomb to perfection.
Pidgeotto had slightly developed in muscle, and was progressing with the hurricane, though twister would've been a better move to learn. However, twister was a draconic move and performing it required Pidgeotto to sieve through the air, absorbing the ambient draconic energy in the atmosphere, and unleash it in the form of twister. However, Pidgeotto was having a tough time trying to gather any amounts of draconic energy in the first place, and that was his cause for worry.
Bagon had progressed further with dragon pulse, and was now trying to learn dragon breath. It was similar to dragon pulse only that instead of compressing all the draconic energy into a condensed, compressed state, he would have to hold it in and release it out slowly.
Rhyhorn had, in simple terms, become a rock-armoured growlithe, considering how very chummy he was being. Ash had been forced to play fetch with him once, only that rhyhorn had apparently forgotten that he needed to stop and collect the stick, and just kept on running.
It would've been fun if Ash wouldn't have his lungs begging for air.
"Mr. Ketchum!" came the smooth, familiar mechanical voice, waking him up from his thoughts as he waited in the lobby. "Please report to the front desk and collect your pokémon."
Still thinking about his recent experiences, both with the nigh invincible metagross, his altercation with the legendary king of ice, and Paul's somewhat unnatural mindset towards training and pokémon.
"In exactly one minute from now, you and your little hunting party will become the prey…"
Exactly how much training had Paul and his pokémon undertaken to have that level of self-confidence hanging on his every word? Irrespective of the young man's… incredible shallowness over picking pokémon, it was crystal clear that those he had picked, went ahead to become the best they could be, and they were still training.
"There is no other way to be Number 1, kid…"
One day I'll be number 1, and I'll show you then. Just you wait and see.
There was no surety whether they would cross paths again or not. But one thing was sure.
He wouldn't ever forget his name.
Still busy in his thoughts, he turned past the corridor in the lobby to reach the front desk-
And fell down on the floor after hitting a miniature truck.
"Hey, watch it you mor- Ash?"
Misty. Ash realized. So she did manage to get out of the forest with one go.
"Ash?" Misty repeated, as she pulled herself off the floor.
"Yeah?" He answered uncertainly, not sure how the girl was going to react next. Pushing himself off the floor, he faced the orange-haired girl. "What're you doing here?"
"What do you mean what am I-?" Misty stopped her tirade. "This is Cerulean city, my city. I live here."
Right. She did mention that….
"What are you doin' here anyway? Shouldn't you be in Pewter? Unless-"
"Pewter badge." Ash smirked, showing her the inner contents of his jacket, where he had pinned the boulder badge. "And in one go."
Misty raised an eyebrow. "So you are here to challenge the Cerulean gym is it?" Her expression became slightly… shifty, but Ash being himself, didn't notice it out of his enthusiasm.
"Yepp." He answered, before walking past her as he stood at the front desk, and collected his pokémon. "Say what? You have any pointers for me to use against the Cerulean gym?"
"Uh…." Misty looked baffled.
"Miss water-" began Nurse Joy but Misty interrupted her midway. "Yeah, The Waterflowers are the gym leaders of Cerulean city." She sent Joy a pleading look, hoping the nurse would take the hint.
"Gym… leaders? As in plural?"
"Yeah, Ash. They are… three sisters, who are the gym leaders. You…" she stopped, appearing to think something quickly. Reaching a decision, she continued, "you know what? Come with me, I'll show you where the gym is…"
"Uh… I don't…." Ash began, but quickly withdrew all opposition on seeing her glare. "…sure."
"Fine. Follow me!" With that, Misty walked out of the pokémon center, with a thoroughly flustered Ash Ketchum walking behind her.
"Cerulean city is a symbol of the flow of water, Ash. Everything here, is about water pokémon. The gym leaders, are masters of the water-type."
Ash mused over his decision of coming to Cerulean in the first place. Water-type were in general, vulnerable to electric and grass-type, apart from the occasional powerful fire-type, neither of which he had in his arsenal. On the positive side, dragon-types were mostly immune to water-types, and that meant that bagon might just have a chance against the gym leader's water pokémon. Another thing to consider was that steel-typing was quite effective against water-type, especially considering metang's psychic nature. Maybe… just maybe if he would wing it…
"I have a steel-typing and a dragon-type. I am… hoping to rely on their lack of vulnerability against water-type."
"Reverse-mapping." Misty raised an eyebrow. "Usually it is the gym leader's side that does that on occasion. Most trainers I've met usually go for electric or grass-types for an easy win."
"And how easy of a win is it?" Ash inquired.
Misty sighed. "Depends."
"On what is more important to you…." Misty replied evasively.
"This is… insanity. Who in the right mind would just… give away a badge like that? Isn't that… against the rules or something?" Ash barked in frustration.
"The choice is ultimately yours." Daisy, eldest of the Waterflower sisters, and gym leader of Cerulean, let out a sigh. "You can either have the battle, or the badge."
"But… why not both?" Ash questioned.
"Listen to me… Ash, was it?" The second sister, Violet remarked, "The Cerulean gym is regarded as one of the toughest gyms for a reason. Ever since we three have taken up the gym leader positions, the number of trainers who have gotten badges from the Cerulean gym have been falling, since they kept on losing. Why, last year, we only have five people who managed to get away with winning, and even then, it was a coin-flip case."
"That is why," Lily, the youngest of the three spoke, "we decided to just… give away the badges to anyone who comes in, asking for them. It's our way of… not getting ousted from our gym leader positions for… discouraging trainer spirit, as the League puts it."
"Consider it like this, kid," Violet spoke again. "We only allow a trainer to try his luck at defeating us twice, and they still fail. You are a budding one, with only a single badge. It's best if you just took the badge and walked off. That way you could spend your time training your pokémon as well." She gave him an over-sweetened smile.
"So Ash, what do you say?" Lily asked.
"Say that again?"
"No." Ash repeated, looking up at the three gym leaders. "I've come to challenge the Cerulean gym, and I won't accept the badge without defeating you."
"Hmmm." Violet sighed. "Look, kid." Her patience was nearing now. "Let me warn you. If you take the badge now, you can have it. However, if you fail to defeat us in the two attempts you've got, this…. Offer for a free badge is null and void."
Of course you'd say that. Just the very thing to start getting me second thoughts. Ash thought.
"…. I still want to battle." Ash said.
Daisy let out a long-suffering sigh. "It's your funeral."
Around thirty minutes later.
"That… was brutal." Ash declared with a sigh, as he sat on the bench. Misty, who had happened to go visit her family for some… unavoidable circumstances just before Ash entered the Cerulean gym, had been back, since her… familial issues were temporarily solved.
"Well, I did tell you it's a matter of what's important to you." Misty empathised.
Ash hung his head low. Ten seconds. That was what it had taken. Ten seconds before Lily's dewgong had literally wiped the floor with Bagon. Since the conditions stated that Ash had to win the first battle to go through the second one, he had gotten himself out of the gym premises without comment.
"Well… you should know that Lily always trains her dewgong against fire and grass types. Her dewgong is the last pokémon you can expect to beat with tackle."
"You're… saying that, Now?" Ash accused.
"You're the challenger. It's your job to be prepared." Misty waved off, much to his consternation.
"Damn!" Ash cursed.
"So… what are you going to do?" Misty asked in curiosity. 'I mean… I'm pretty sure Daisy will give you the badge even now if you ask nicely."
"Uh… out of the question!" Ash refuted, standing up indignantly. "I refuse to be pitied by anyone, and certainly not by a gym leader."
"Oh." Misty looked at him, perplexed. "So what are you going to do now?"
Ash gave her a contagious grin. "What else? I'll train."
His stomach groaned.
"Uh… after having some lunch, that is."
Misty stared at him in confusion. Finally, making a decision, she nodded. "Very well, I'll help."
"Help?" He retorted.
"Yeah! You've a poliwag, right? I can help you train him. Besides, I've spent my entire life around water pokémon. Maybe I can give you some tips about how to counter their moves."
"Uh… sure, but why are you helping me?"
Oops. Wrong question. Ash backpedalled, "I mean to say is… you don't even know me. Why would you spend your time training my pokémon when you have… uhm… familial things to do, I guess?"
Misty's countenance shifted from a light red coloration to normal. "I… uhm… because you have a water pokémon to be trained, and I being a budding water master cannot witness a water pokémon having to suffer poor training regimes because his trainer is incompetent when it comes to water pokémon. Also," she went on in a single breath, "My honour as a budding water master forces me to correct the piss poor ignorance of a trainer when it comes to water pokémon."
"…. Right." Ash agreed, not wanting to try get the better of the scary girl.
"Humph!" Misty scoffed. "Let's get you started. Come with me!"
"Okay metang, I want you to use metal claw on Bagon. Bagon keep dodging and only use dragon claw in the extreme situation, all right?"
"I have to ask, Ash Ketchum, how do you land yourself on such… rare pokémon so easily?" Misty asked, a little perplexed. "A shiny Pidgeotto, a metang and a dragon? I'm almost disappointed that your water-type is a common one in Kanto."
"Well poliwag is special in his own way, aren't you, Poliwag?" Ash asked.
"Poli!" said tadpole raised its head in agreement.
"Anyway," Misty began, "I'll try to teach Poliwag hydro pump personally. In the meantime, you carry on with the rest." Declaring, she walked away towards the river bank, leaving a somewhat confused Ash and an even more confused Poliwag behind.
"You should… go with her." Ash spoke up after a moment. "She'll be teaching you, while I take the time to teach a few tricks to metang over here."
The tadpole considered that for a moment, before nodding in agreement. "Poli!" he let out a cry, and quickly raced after Misty.
Meanwhile, metang was having a rather hard time trying to get a hit on bagon, who was surprisingly nimble for something of its weight and body shape. Every time it managed to land a hit, Bagon had at the very least, head-butted back or used dragon claw to escape its clenches.
"Okay, that's enough." Ash ordered, as the psychic type stopped attacking Bagon, who let out a whine of irritation. Apparently, getting the metang all worked up was quite entertaining to the budding dragon.
"Rhyhorn, I want you to continuously use rock tomb until you can manage Earthquake." Ash commanded the rock-type before turning to his starter. "You, little buddy, are going to use dragon pulse to break the rocks." He turned towards the floating metang next to him. "You… come with me."
Metang made an odd mechanical noise.
"You know metang… I've lived with psychic pokémon all my life." Ash spoke softly. "I mean… my mom is an assistant researcher and she's totally psyched about psychic-types." He chuckled as he remembered her antics. "She's gotten a Mr. Mime, who hates me by the way, one loner of a kadabra, and a very chummy kirlia. Then, there's Professor Oak's Alakazam, who's like… really, really strong."
He paused, gathering his words. "What I mean is… I don't really know much about metang and metagross in particular, except that you are you know… steel and psychic, and Mr. Derrick told me that you guys are rarely accommodating to humans. So what I was wondering is… out of everyone in the colony, why did you choose to come with me?"
Said steel-type was hovering in the air, staring at its trainer.
"I mean… I understand that you came with me because I'm a trainer and everything, but you guys are like... super-smart and hence, must have your own desires like any other pokémon…" He paused, this was getting nowhere, and he was all over the place. "See, I don't know what you thought about me back at Mount Moon, but well… I'm just Ash. I just… I mean, I saw just how powerful metagross can be, and I don't want that you come with me, expecting something else and then repenting it. I just… I don't want to disappoint someone who has the potential to grow into the strongest pseudo-legendary."
Metang did not respond, but merely stared back at Ash with its red eyes.
Ash took a deep breath. "So tell me, Metang… what do you expect from me?"
Metang made an odd, mechanical groan, as its trainer suddenly felt mentally bombarded with a number of images rushing into his mind. He could see the colony of Beldum, the old metagross, several metagross, a large crystal with hundreds of Clefairy all around it, bright light, a dark cavern, a jet-black crystal, an island, Ash himself, and then bright light engulfed Ash's mind.
"I… I don't understand."
Metang made another of those groans. This time, another memory, one that belonged to Ash himself, rose back into his mind, and just like that, he was back in the heart of Mount Moon, staring at the old metagross, its powerful eyes staring back at him.
Power is a state of mind, human hatchling.
"Power… you want to grow more powerful?" Ash tried to guess.
Another image shot up in his mental landscape. He could see metagross firing a full-powered flash cannon towards Articuno, the powerful attack slamming into the legendary's own ice-beam, as the collision shattered the walls on all sides.
"You want to become powerful enough to challenge a legendary?"
This time there wasn't an image. Instead, there was a dull, broken voice inside his head. Almost like someone was trying to speak over the radio in an area of high network interference.
Met….an… is…. Is…. Meta…is… Metagross.
Initially, the words didn't make any sense. But then, something came up, something that Derrick had mentioned.
Metagross have a hive mind, Ash. They are never separated from their colony. All metagross are part of the hive and the hive is in every metagross.
"I suppose…" Ash replied with finality. "I suppose you want to say that if you are powerful, then the hive is powerful by extension, and you can do so by becoming a strong metagross."
This time the steel-type only gave a single answer in its mechanical voice. "Metang!"
"Well, that's as good a start as any."
"Metang!" Another set of image flooded into Ash's mind. This time it was he himself back in Pallet town, talking to his mother. The next image had him appearing for the licence examinations. Then he saw himself standing in front of Pikachu, and the final had him throwing the pokeball to capture the falling metang after bagon had fired his first ever dragon pulse.
"What do I want?" Ash suggested.
"I…" Ash's thoughts stopped short as he looked down onto the ground. A few days ago, had anyone else asked him this question, he would've boasted of his desire to become a Pokémon Master, of his wish to capture all pokémon and his dream team of dragons. But now…
"I… I don't know. Not really." His mouth spoke in an emotionless tone. "Right now, my only aim is to make sure that you guys, all of you, become as powerful as possible. That, and challenge the gyms of the Indigo circuit."
Ash looked up at the levitating steel-type, and gave a thin smile.
"Let's go get the others, shall we?"
"I don't understand. How do you even manage to teach a pokémon a move without a pokedex?"
Misty giggled. "A lady is allowed a few secrets, isn't she?" She chuckled at his expression. "Besides, all you need to know is that Poliwag is now able to use water pulse. That should give him an ace in the fight, right?"
"… Right." Ash drawled, not taking her words at face value for one bit.
"So where are you heading now?" Misty asked, eager to change the subject. "Speaking of which, Misty…."
Ash paused. "No…uh… nothing."
Misty gave him a weird look.
Ash looked away, as the two of them continued walking.
"After winning the Cascade badge, where are you going to try next?"
Ash frowned to himself. "I was… planning on getting some more training done, and then get myself a ferry to Vermillion."
"Uh-huh, and you do know that the Route 24 takes you directly to Vermillion, right?"
"Yeah!" Ash rubbed the back of his head. "It's just that… I don't really want to walk four days when the ferry could make do in one."
"It will still take you a day's walk to reach the ferry." Misty pointed out.
"Still…" Ash insisted, making the girl drop the topic.
"What about you?"
Misty blinked. "What about me?"
"I mean…" Ash hesitated a bit, "not that I'm not grateful or anything for everything you've done for me, but… what do you… personally, do?"
"I… well," Misty considered her words. "I just… maintain my family business. I plan to take over it in a few years."
"Oh." That perked his interest. "What business?"
"It deals with the training and breeding of water pokémon."
"Oh, so that's what you meant when you said that you've grown around water pokémon."
"I didn't think you'd remember that." Misty muttered under her breath.
Silence pervaded for a while between the teens as they walked.
"So, where are we heading?"
"Huh? Oh, just the Pokemart. Need to purchase some… TM's." Ash's voice toned down as it hit him. Glancing back at the redhead, he opened his mouth, but then decided against it, and looked away.
"You sure you don't have anything to say?"
"… no, not really." Ash returned evasively.
"If you say so." Misty replied, her tone laced with disbelief. "Anyway, take the right."
Pokemarts were, in general, a shopping mall for all things pokémon. Need full restores, or potions, or even the general healing paste, this is your place to visit. Need to check on the latest influx of poketches or travelling equipment, this is your place to visit. Besides, with Silph Co. and Devon Corp., the two companies invested in pokeball production being active investors in the pokemart business model, you can be sure that any new Silph or Devon product will be on the shelves before you know it.
And then, there was the main attraction. TM's.
A rather new invention that had been patented around a decade back, TM's had become every trainer's top purchase. A magnetic disc into which, through advanced psychic manipulation of a particular pokémon's memories, a move can be recorded, and later, transplanted into another. In such a fashion, a squirtle who has never progressed beyond the standard water gun attack, can be taught the near-invincible hydro pump or something effective like ice-beam, without even having to teach it to them in the first place. Just put the magnetic disc inside a specially constructed TM machine, and administer it into the pokeball containing your pokémon, and presto! Said pokémon automatically acquires the knowledge and muscle memory necessary to perform the move, though it might take several attempts to perform it flawlessly in the first place. Before the invention of TM's, pokémon used to take a much longer time to grow, gather innate energies enough to start learning a move, and then some more to perform it flawlessly. That meant delayed evolution, and often it was seen, that a first-generation pokémon would take at least a year to begin showing signs of evolution. Now though, it's almost… normal to see a trainer with less than a year worth of experience having fully-evolved species at his command.
The best thing however, happened some three years ago, something that entirely changed the pokémon world and our thinking about pokémon.
The TM 2nd gen.
Prior to this, it was only possible to copy the muscle memory of moves as long as it was inter-species duplication, or in rare cases, inter-type, if the move in question was a general one like flamethrower. A very notable case in this regard is Shadow ball, a ghost-type move that was limited to pure Ghost-type pokémon. However, with some tweaking, Shadow-ball could be administered into some dual-types as well, which had Ghost as one of their typing. That was the most that could be done with the help of TM.
A decade ago, training ghost-types was a very good idea, should one decide to fight against psychic pokémon, since psychic attacks were relatively ineffective against most ghosts. Such a flaw in the natural order was abused by malicious organizations who used this… situation to counteract the… psychic security setup of hospitals, warehouses, pokemarts and the like.
The TM 2nd gen. changed everything.
Now, it was possible for a psychic-type, say a Kadabra, to be able to learn and successfully perform a shadow-ball, a ghost-type move, which is, for example, highly effective against ghost-type. At the same time, it is quite possible for a ghost-type, like Haunter, to learn a psychic-type attack like psychic. Such freedom of transferring moves amongst different types, has increased the diversity of pokémon moves, breeding, battles and the like. Of course, the 2nd generation is far from perfect. For instance, it is almost impossible, for say… an Arcanine, to learn something like water-gun, or for a Blastoise to learn flamethrower. That is why, researchers at Silph Co. and Devon Corp. are presently studying the physiology of the dragon and the fairy-type, the former because of its versatility and affinity towards all typing. The latter is usually a center of research because of the ability metronome, a move that can literally, summon a move of any type as well.
Ash and Misty stood in front of the TM corner, the male staring widely at the vast selections of TM's available, along with the newest batch of ultraballs, a modified version of the pokeball on the shelves.
"So…?" Misty asked. "Have you decided?"
Ash looked like a kid in the candy store. "I have roughly five thousand pokedollars in my trainer account. Even if I go by the rations from the centers, I still have a maximum of thirty five hundred that I can spend on TM, but I want them all."
Ash turned towards her. "Can you give me some time alone? I need time to decide."
"Sure, Ash." Misty nodded. "I'll go check on the other items on the second floor. I'll see you at the outer lobby, alright?"
"Okay." Ash nodded, before turning to face the expansive selection spread out before him. "Now… which one do I take?"
The next morning.
Ash Ketchum stood inside the Cerulean gym, facing off Lily, the youngest of the three sisters, and his first opponent on his way to the Cascade badge. After a lot of thought on the subject, he had gone ahead and purchased the TM's for protect and toxic. He had debated over purchasing the TM for flamethrower but the chances of Bagon learning it on his own, or Ash himself catching a fire-type were high enough. If nothing else, he could always get himself the TM from the pokemart in Vermillion city when he got there.
"So Ash," Lily asked with a smirk. "Are you ready to face defeat again?"
Any other day Ash would've got a rebuttal ready. Today however, he just kept silent and waited for the woman to continue.
"So now you're giving me the silent treatment, eh Ash?" Lily chortled. "Very well, go Dewgong!"
"Dieu!" The evolved seal pokémon clapped her hands, as she laid on one of the many platforms floating on the large swimming pool that was the battle ground for the match. Ash and Lily herself, were standing on the edges of the pool, on the concreate platforms made for the trainers to stand on.
"I choose you… Pidgeotto!"
"Pidgo!" The avian let out a war cry, as she hovered in the air above the seal, staring down at her opponent with a sharp glare.
"A shiny Pidgeotto?" Lily swooned in approval, much to Ash's irritation, who yelled, "Pidgeotto, you know what to do."
"Pidgo!" cried the bird.
"All right, Dewgong. Use icy wind."
"Use protect and go for Double-team!"
Instantly, the entire area was thick with icy flakes and wind blowing as Pidgeotto used the protect move to increase her defences, before creating several dozens of illusionary avians in the air. It was only a testament to her abilities that her skill with Double-team had improved by leaps and bounds in such a short while.
"Now use peck on dewgong!"
The flock of illusionary avians shot towards the seal pokémon in fury.
"Dewgong, jump into the water."
Ash smirked. "Use whirl wind."
The entire body of water started to twist and turn into concentric circles as the bird pokémon began to execute whirl wind in haste.
"Dewgong, get to the surface and use aurora-beam on Pidgeotto!"
The seal pokémon did so, but due to some oddity, her attacks missed the avian every single time.
"Now Pidgeotto, use double-team and use peck!"
"Return attack with aqua tail."
Dewgong slammed an aqua tail attack on Pidgeotto but the bird hadn't missed her strike and had made a sharp peck onto the seal's abdomen before the aqua tail had come slamming into her.
"Air slash," Ash commanded, "it should be starting any moment now."
"Pidgo!" the bird cried, the excitation of the battle burning high in its blood, as it flexed its wings and slammed two long energy strokes onto the seal, hitting true both times.
"Dewgong!" Lily cried.
"Now, Pidge0tto, go for it. Use twister!"
The bird have another war cry, as a huge column of water rose out of the pool, the seal pokémon trying its best to come out of it, but failing miserably.
"Dewgong, get out of it!" Lily yelled in astonishment.
The whirlpool deepened in intensity, as the seal pokémon tried in vain, before ultimately getting sucked into the pool.
"N0w slam it down onto the ground." Ash replied with a sense of finality. As the waves subsided, all that was left was the unconscious white seal pokémon, its body spread-eagled on the platform.
"How is this… even possible?" Lily muttered in shock. "Dewgong can resist entire hurricanes caused by Gyarados. A tiny twister cannot beat her down."
Ash smirked. "Guess that's for me to know and you to find out, eh?"
"Hmmf!" Lily scoffed. "You might have won this round, but you are no match against Vi."
Ash just let out a deep sigh. One down, one to go.
"All right, Ash." The middle sister Violet, addressed him, her hands up on her hips in typical interrogative fashion. "You might have gotten lucky once, but can you do that, twice?"
As was agreed, the battle would be a one-on-one, just like it had been with Lily. Should he be able to win this round, the Cascade badge would be his, without question.
Ash let out a deep breath. "I'm ready."
Violet raised an eyebrow, before sending a flying kiss. "Go, Vaporeon."
The creature in front of him seemed like a fusion of a feline and a mermaid. It had gills all around its face, and an extra-long tail that looked akin to those of mermaids.
Vaporeon. The bubble-jet pokémon. Vaporeon underwent a spontaneous mutation and grew fins and gills that allow it to live underwater. This Pokémon has the ability to freely control water.
"This is going to be difficult." Ash muttered to himself. "I choose you, Poliwag."
"Poli!" the familiar tadpole revealed its presence.
"Challenging a water pokémon owned by a water-master using a water-type? I don't know whether I should call it bravery or stupidity." Violet asked, raising an eyebrow at Ash's choice of pokémon.
"You can call it whatever you like after I've won the battle." Ash retorted. "Poliwag and I have trained for this, and we can win. Even if it is against your Vaporeon."
"Is that so?" Violet drawled. "Very well, Vaporeon, your prey is in front of you."
"Pore….." the water-type slowly growled.
"Poliwag, start with water gun." Ash began.
The jet of water hit Vaporeon head-first, before she automatically used an aqua-tail to flip it away.
"Pfft!" Violet sneered. "Show that poliwag a real water gun."
What followed was possibly the largest jet of water Ash had ever seen coming towards them. It was, at the very least, twice as large as Poliwag's own attack.
A ball of compressed water shot out of Poliwag's mouth, slamming into the water gun, causing a collision.
"Jump into the water!"
"Apply ice-beam on the water!"
Vaporeon forced the full power of ice-beam onto the water surface, as the liquid froze in mere seconds at the point of contact. Poliwag however, seemed to be using his swift-swim ability to his level best, as none of the ice-beams were remotely close to the frighteningly fast tadpole.
"Now jump out of the water, and throw water pulse!"
"Use water pulse yourself!"
The much larger water pulse shattered through Poliwag's attack, as it hit him face-first, throwing him onto the now icy floor.
"Hydro pum, full power." Violet went on, completely merciless, as another torrent of water smashed against the tadpole.
"Poliwag, try to endure it, and use water pulse."
It was easier said than done. Poliwag was having a worse time trying to balance itself after getting hit by that powerful water-pulse in the first place.
"You can do it, Poliwag. Use protect!"
Then something strange happened. Poliwag's entire body seemed to glow for a moment, as Poliwag suddenly gained ground. Unlike protect, there was no golden sheen around him. Instead, it seemed like the powerful torrent of water wasn't… affecting the tadpole at all. Rather, it seemed like Poliwag was slowly getting more control by the second as the large jet of water smashed into him.
Water Absorb. Poliwag's ability. Ash checked Dexter. Water absorb allows it to convert any water-type attack on itself into restoration energy.
"Awesome, Poliwag!" Ash cheered.
Only if that were all there was to it. As soon as the restoration hit him high, Poliwag stood straight on the icy floor, almost indifferent to the forceful jet of water smashing against itself. It let out a tiny roar of defiance, though its voice was strained and… more metallic this time. Before anyone knew it, Poliwag began to shine bright silver, as his physical-self condensed into pure energy before expanding in size.
"Poliwag is evolving!" Violet whispered in surprise.
When the light had subsided, Poliwag was no more. Instead in his place, stood a much-larger tadpole, with a distinct pair of hands, and much longer, and stronger legs. His body had gained a lot more muscle, and the tail had contracted to the point of non-existence. The evolved tadpole stretched his arms as he let out a more metallic war cry.
Poliwhirl, the tadpole pokémon. The surface of Poliwhirl's body is always wet and slick with a slimy fluid. Because of this slippery covering, it can easily slip and slide out of the clutches of any enemy in battle.
"Awesome!" Ash cheered. "Give them hell, Poliwhirl!"
"Use mud-shot, followed by water-gun!"
The large torrent of water that followed the mud-shot had been as large, if not larger than Vaporeon's attack. It smashed against the feline, sending it back a couple of feet.
"Al right, Poliwhirl, use bubble beam on Vaporeon!"
The collision of the two long-ranged attacks had created a dense fog in the center of the battlefield. "Now Poliwhirl, get closer and use Double-slap!"
"Vaporeon, use aqua-tail!"
The two water-type raced towards each other, with Vaporeon being slightly slower, no thanks to the mud-shot attack. The aqua-tail slammed into Poliwhirl while Vaporeon was smashed into the ground by the repeated strikes of the double-slap attack.
"Vaporeon get up and use Aqua-tail again."
Ash smirked. "Now get closer and use Ice-ball!"
"What? Vaporeon use protect!"
It was too late, as the larger tadpole's fists, now powered by ice-ball, repeatedly slammed into Vaporeon, the mere momentum of the attacks banishing the pokémon towards the ground, as it slid on the ice.
"Now use water pulse!"
The powerful compressed ball of water smashed into the already disoriented Vaporeon, making it lose consciousness.
"Vapor-reon?" Violet choked in shock.
"Poliwhirl wins." Lily, who was referring this battle, replied in a no-nonsense tone. "Ash Ketchum is the winner!"
"I… lost?" Violet thought to herself.
"YOU DID IT!" cried an extremely familiar voice in the background, as Misty ran into the chamber, ignoring the looks of surprise on the gym leaders' faces and comprehension on Ash's. "I knew you'd be able to defeat them!" Misty threw a fist into the air.
"Misty? You know this boy?" Violet asked with apprehension.
"Yeah, so?" Misty defended, crossing her arms over her chest.
"So this is what you were doing all day yesterday!" Lily accused.
Misty glared, though given the reddish tinge her face had acquired, the glare had outlasted its usefulness by a significant amount.
"Wait, Misty, you- this is your family?" Ash asked, slightly flabbergasted.
"Of course," Lily scoffed. "She's the tiniest of us, the fourth Waterflower sister."
"The… fourth… Waterflower sister?" Ash paused, as Misty's previous statements began to make more sense. "So… you're training to take over the gym leader's position?"
"Pfft!" Violet scoffed. "She still has long to go before that can even be possible."
"Take that back!" Misty retorted.
"I won't." Violet scoffed. "So what have you been doing with him, Misty? Showing your boyfriend all around town?"
Two things happened. One, Misty's face changed color so fast that Ash wondered if she had somehow learnt flamethrower. The other, Misty's high-pitched scream nearly shattered his eardrums.
"HE IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND!"
"Of course, you'd say that." Lily taunted. "Why else would you try to help him win the battle? I dare say you're the one that helped teach some moves to that Poliwag."
"whirl-" came an indignant voice.
"Sorry, Poliwhirl!" Lily corrected.
"It was nothing like that, got it?" Misty snarled. "I was just getting tired of your-'oh I'm unbeatable' persona, and needed someone to snap that attitude out of you."
That shut everybody up.
"We…. Might have been a little…"
Misty let out a growl.
"I mean, quite a lot… confident about that," Violet finished.
"Yes, and nothing hits home better than getting beaten by a newbie. Did Ash mention that he's been on the journey for like a week now?"
"What? Just a week?" Lily asked, surprised.
"Well, its eight days now." Ash tried.
"Not important." Misty waved it away.
"Hmmm…." Violet stared at Ash, as if speculating him in a new light. "You can hardly tell."
"Obviously!" Misty waved it away. "See who's taught him about water pokémon!"
Ash raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything. After everything the girl had done for him, she deserved to get away with a little shine.
"Anyway," Violet spoke up, walking towards Ash. She held his right hand up and dropped a shiny badge on his palm. This is the Cascade badge. It is a symbol that you have defeated us with your skill and your pokémon's power."
"… Thanks, I guess."
"Also," Violet continued, "you've demonstrated a lot of potential, Ash, and as gym leaders, and it is our duty to help you maximize that potential." She walked out of the room for a moment before returning back, with something in her hand. On closer look, there were two… discs in her hand.
"This is for you, Ash." Violet handed the TM discs to him, as Ash stared at her in shock. "This TM is for Ice-beam, a very powerful offensive move as you know. From what I remember, your bagon is a dragon-type. You can teach this move to him as well as your Poliwhirl."
Ash gratefully took the Ice-beam TM in his hand.
"The other one is for Hydro Pump, and I certainly don't need to explain that, do I?" Violet smirked, handing a completely flummoxed Ash who wasn't sure if this was real or just a dream.
"I… thanks, I mean… this is… beyond my imaginations."
"Well," Violet mocked, "we are the Waterflowers. It is our job to be beyond imagination."
Every one chuckled at that.
"I wish you best of luck in your adventures, then, Ash." Lily returned with a smile. "it is unfortunate that Misty is busy learning to take over the duties of the gym leader, else we wouldn't have minded if she decided to travel with you." She paused, as an evil grin appeared on her face, "although I'm sure Misty can find a way to keep contact with her not-boyfriend."
"He's NOT my boyfriend." Misty screamed again.
"I never said he was." Lily drawled.
"You…." The redhead growled.
"Anyway, Ash," Violet spoke. "It has been fun meeting you, and even more battling you. However, duty calls, and we cannot be late for our performances. Daisy can only manage alone for so long, so… this is goodbye," she sent another flying-kiss at a thoroughly embarrassed Ash who looked away, making sure not to look at a certain redhead who was unable to decide to whether to be enraged or flustered.
As Ash and Misty walked out of the gym, Misty stopped on the pavement. "Hey Ash?"
"Yeah?" Ash answered, stopping and turning back to her.
"What are you going to do after you've gotten all the badges?"
"I…." Ash paused. "I don't know. I had kept Viridian as my last gym, so I guess I'll come back to Viridian for it."
"Viridian, then you'll have to pass through Cerulean." Misty stated as a fact. "Good, there's lots you need to learn about water pokémon, before you can qualify as a water-type trainer. Poliwhirl's abilities can only go so far.
Ash opened his mouth, then closed it. Then repeated the same thing twice.
"Of course, I'm an extremely busy person, and you might need to inform me before coming, so that I might be able to get some free time to teach you a few tricks. You understand?"
Ash paused for a while, before he nodded. "I do."
"Good," Misty nodded, as if speaking more to herself than to him. "Also…" she walked up to him, and held his hand, before forcing something into it. "This is for Poliwag. Think of it as a consolation gift for him not getting a proper water master to train with."
Ash opened his palm and rolled the hard substance inside it. It was slightly oval, with a certain aquiline aura sparkling inside it.
"A… water stone?" He asked, his breath forgotten. This thing… it was a rare fortune.
"Poliwhirl might need it, if he wants to be strong and evolve. I didn't really have a King's Rock, and I personally ain't a fan of Politoed so…."
"Misty?" Ask interrupted her.
"Huh? What?" Misty asked, a little flustered.
"Thank you." Ash returned with a smile. "And once I'm done collecting seven badges, I will return, and I see you again."
Misty smiled. "I'll see you then."
YEP! I'm totally changing the characters and their behaviour, and the canon lore as shown in the anime. Please do not look at characters based on their canon versions. After all, this is fanfiction.