Chapter Twenty-Three – Evolution
"Weakness consumes you," a voice rang in the void, "but I can make you stronger."
"Who are you?" Ash asked as he floated into the pillar of light.
"A beginning, an end," the voice replied. "What was, what is, and what will."
"I must save them," Ash pleaded. "They are the ones I hold dear."
"With strength comes a price," the voice said as Ash entered the column of light. "What was can never be again. What is can frighten even the bravest soul. What will is uncertain and full of grief. Do you accept these terms?"
Without hesitation, Ash briefly spoke, "I do."
"Arise, my Angel," the voice laughed as a red ring surged down the column of light. The ring surrounded Ash and formed a sphere around him. The pain he had once felt returned but with greater intensity. Through the void, his screams sounded through the endless space.
Tempest frowned as he continued his attack upon the hapless magian. Angel was a wasted potential, but he could easily become a threat once he had received proper training. Survival of a battle of this caliber would send to the first trainer he could find, and that was an unacceptable outcome. Death was the only certainty in this situation, even if Angel held the secrets to the greatest power in the world.
"Stop it," the human girl cried. "Can't you see you're killing him?"
The gnat was an annoyance and needed her own end, along with the weak fairy. This would be a messy day, but the demons would clean what he left. A smile formed on his lips at the thought of Madrid having to conceal the remains of his own children.
A minute after his attack began, the screams of his victim ceased, but he continued to bombard with Solar Beam. Often his opponents would faint from pain long before the demise, and he could not risk a recovery. Despite his boasting, Angel had landed a few major blows, and a continued battle would mean a draw or worse. He would still have enough energy for the others, but a quick withdraw would be necessary to avoid capture.
Suddenly, a resisting force countered his Solar Beam. The energy was surging around the crater created by his attack. First it was the white lightening, but now it had turned a deep violet. Tempest's eyes widened as the realization of a counterattack appeared before him. His own attack was reversed its course and assaulted its creator.
"How can this be?" Tempest cried as the solar energy singed his black hair. "You should be dead."
Tempest stared at the figure rising from his knees on the ground. Where once stood a young man, a monster now claimed his attention.
"My enemy," the monster spoke. "You are my enemy."
With less than a second to prepare, the monster disappeared and teleported behind Tempest. He quickly attacked with Hyper Beam and sent Tempest to the earth. His attacked was followed with relentless Thunderbolts that paralyzed his victim.
"Such power," Tempest shrieked above his cries of pain. "What is this monster?"
"Farewell, my enemy," the creature spoke as he completed his attack with a Thunder attack.
Misty grew quiet as she watched the events unfold before her. In one terrible minute, Tempest was now the one lying still on the ground, but she could not see his new opponent.
"Please, save Ash," she pleaded.
The figure silently turned his face to her, and her heart nearly stopped. Though his hair flowed past his waist and was as white snow, he still had the face she remembered from countless nights.
"Ash?" she spoke with a slight quiver in her voice.
He floated to ground just a few feet way from Pixie's barrier. He slowly approached the shimmering pink sphere and placed a hand upon it.
"Little brother," Pixie smirked at his new appearance, "you certainly made some improvements."
"Are you my enemy?" he blankly asked.
"What?" Pixie shouted as she shoved Misty behind her. "How can you even ask such a thing?"
"All those you have the ability to threaten me are my enemies," he said as the lightning sparked around his hand. "I must defeat all enemies."
"Misty, run!" Pixie shouted as her barrier collapsed under Angel's attack. She quickly tried to create a new barrier before her, but Angel smashed through before she had a chance. Angel grabbed her by the throat and gave a twisted smile. He immediately soared up into the sky and flung her back toward the ground. The effect of the Seismic Toss completely incapacitated Pixie.
"May you find mercy in the next life," Angel said as he extended his arm toward the fallen girl. A Hyperbeam began to charge in the palm of his outstretched arm.
"Better pray for mercy yourself," another voice shouted as the yellowish light of a solar beam struck Angel's back.
Angel grunted as he turned to see his new assailant. A battered Tempest huffed as he cradled his arm.
"You still breathe," Angel merely stated. "A status easily remedied."
Angel redirected his charged Hyperbeam at his revived opponent, but Tempest managed to dodge the beam. Angel smiled as he began a barrage of thunderbolts from above. Tempest continued to avoid the attacks, but he was quickly losing the energy he had regained. It was only a matter of moments before he would collapse again.
"Run, mortal," Angel jeered. "The pale horseman rides tonight."
"If you're Death," Tempest mocked, "better call me Pestilence."
Tempest quickly turned on his heal and threw a fist full of purple Poison Needles at the flying magian. Angel deflected the attack with barrier and flew toward Tempest who had fallen to ground and was gasping for breath.
"None shall bar me from my terrible duty," Angel said as he produced a thunderblade in his hand. He raised high above his head and dropped down upon the hapless magian, but as it approached Tempest's chest, another thunderblade blocked its course.
"Death must come by Time's course," another silvered haired man said. "Angel quit this foolishness before I have to hurt you."
Angel turned to this newcomer. Like himself, his silver hair reached down most of his back, but his piercing blue eyes did not hint the malice within his own soul.
"You are as me," Angel frowned. "Why did you stop me from my duty?"
"It is not your duty to judge all guilty," the newcomer said.
"Then shall you judge?" Angel asked. "No, you are merely the herald, and I am the wake."
"You are more than your function," the newcomer nearly shouted. "Just as I am more than the Keeper of Time, you are not simply an Angel of Death."
"I am what I am," Angel replied.
"You are Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town," the newcomer shouted as he dispersed his thunderblade. "The Angel of Death has no power of him."
"That name means nothing to me," Angel growled. "He was only the first of many upon my list."
"I refuse to believe you have completely removed him," the newcomer snapped. The irritation in his voice grew with each syllable. "He will forever be a part of you, and one day he shall consume you."
"Who can raise the dead from the ashes," Angel laughed. "That boy was no phoenix, and he can only hope for peace in the here after. I shall send him companions so his journey may not be solitary."
"I cannot allow that," the newcomer stated as he formed a ball of blue energy in his hand. "I hope you will forgive me for what I now must do."
"I cannot forgive what you fail to achieve, brother," Angel smirked as he formed a ball of yellow energy in his own hand.
Each launched their attack simultaneously though they were within three feet of each other. Tempest was blown like a leaf in the wind between the two forces of ice and thunder.
Tempest raised his head to watch the battle between the evolved magians. The attacks both easily tossed about eclipsed the power of a hundred magians. He had personally slain many with the smallest fraction of this terrible power.
"Monsters," Tempest huffed as started to teleport away. "Such frightening monsters have never walked the earth."
Misty cowered behind a tree as the loud clash of power continued from the nearby meadow. She was weak compared to any of the magians she had met, but now Ash was something more.
And it terrified her. He had lost all the compassion and cheer that once filled his very being, but it was not replaced with cold malice and destruction.
"Is he gone now?" Misty cried. "Have I waited too long?"
"Hindsight is often in twenty/twenty," a calming voice said, "but time also heals all wounds."
Misty looked up to see the smiling face of Puck before her.
"Hello, gentle lady," Puck smiled. "Let old Puck dry your tears."
Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he handed the white cloth to the girl. Misty wiped away the tears from under eyes and hugged the older man.
"I'm so scared," Misty cried. "Scared I've lost him forever."
"Forever is very long time," Puck said as he tried to calm her. "Ash must find himself again. It might take some time, but I know he will come back to you."
"Then what happened to him?" Misty asked as she pulled away from Puck. "I have never seen him so cruel, even to those that deserved it."
"You know the results of forced evolution?" Puck sadly spoke. "How it often changes the pokémon's mental state?"
Misty nodded her head as the horrible realization came to her. "He evolved?"
"Afraid so," Puck said as his green hair slowly turned silver and grew to the length of his back. "He thinks he is now the Angel of Death, which isn't too far from the truth unfortunately."
"How can Ash be the Angel of Death?" Misty shouted. "I know his silly magian name is Angel, but how can he take it to mean that?"
"It was not just his name, but that hybrid moonstone that caused this," Puck sighed. "It focuses our power into a single force. Mine happened to focus on time distortion while his was destruction."
"Are there any more of you then?" Misty hesitantly asked.
"No," Puck smiled, "at least not yet. Natural evolution is still beyond most magians, but I think I've heard a few will happen in the next millennia or two."
Misty raised her eyebrows at Puck's claim. "How old are you?"
"As old as time itself, now?" Puck said. "Once I evolved, I lost all the barriers I had as a child. My powers became infinite. It was almost maddening. I suppose that is what is happening to Ash right now. He has the power to destroy the universe in his hand, but does he have the will to control it?"
Misty slumped back to ground. This was not the carefree Puck that Ash had told her about. This was a sage from a forgotten time, a time that once was and will be again.
"I hope I'm taking it easy on my poor, deranged brother," Puck said as he looked toward the thundering clouds. "If he was in his right mind, this might be an even fight, but I have the advantage as it stands."
"Is there nothing I can do?" Misty asked.
"Ash will need time to heal," Puck smiled at the girl. "The wounds are deep, but Ash will be whole again. Perhaps, this event will leave him a bit wiser."
"I just wish it was over," Misty said as she rose to her feet. "I hate having to always watch from the sidelines as Ash takes on the world by himself."
Puck smiled as he again reached into his pocket. He pulled out the melted remains of Ash's once prized pokédex. The casing had hardened again after Tempest's final Solar Beam upon Ash, but it was clearly beyond repair.
"The hard drive is still intact, thankfully," Puck said as he handed it to Misty. "It's the only source of Professor Oak's experiments on hybrid stones. I thought Ash would be upset if it was completely destroyed by the thoughtless actions of a thoughtless being."
Misty smiled as she cupped the remains of Dexter in her hands. It was another memory she shared with the boy she loved. It might be damaged, but it could be repaired. Ash was in a similar state. They both needed a loving heart and time.
"My work here is done," Puck smiled as he brushed his hands together. "I better see to that rambunctious brother of mine."
Puck flew into the sky toward the battling titans leaving Misty behind. She stared in the direction of his flight. Pocketing Dexter, she slowly made her way back to the battlefield. Ash need her help now, probably more than any moment during their travels as children. She needed to save Ash, even if it was from himself.
The path back to the meadow was almost too easy as she left the trees. Looking up in the sky, she saw Angel and two Pucks battling together, but a nearby moan alerted her to another in need.
Pixie was finally rousing from the attacks of Tempest and Angel. Her energy was depleted, and she could barely open her eyes. She coughed a mouthful of blood, but it ran down the side of her face. Her face was still pale from the exhaustion of regaining consciousness, and her usually vibrant pink hair laid flat against the ground.
Misty ran to the girl and began to wipe away the blood. She could not tell her much Pixie was truly injured but expected she would need a doctor soon.
"Don't move," Misty softly spoke. "You might make it worse."
"This little thing," Pixie laughed between coughing. "I will be fine in the morning, but what about Angel?"
"Puck is dealing with him," Misty replied as she looked up at the sky for a moment. "You just need to rest."
"Those stupid brothers of mine," Pixie laughed. "One day, I'll take care of them both."
Misty smiled down at the girl as she cradled her head in her lap. She once envied Ash for being an only child, but his siblings were stranger than her own.
"Who are you calling strange?" Pixie asked as she tried fain indignation. "One day, I may be your sister too."
Misty blushed at Pixie's implication but could not offer any objection. She had wanting to marry that stupid boy she had fished out of a stream for years now. Her only fear had been him finding someone else while she hid from her own feelings.
"You two are pathetic," Pixie laughed as she closed her eyes. "Most people spend their whole lives searching for their soulmate. You found yours at ten, and I'm almost four hundred. Where's the justice in that?"
Misty stared at Pixie as she switched between coughing and laughing. Eventually, she settled with a haggard breathing. Her weariness had taken over, and she drifted into a restless sleep.
Misty resigned to watching over the fallen magian while Puck fought Angel.
"Be careful," Misty whispered, "and bring my Ash back."
Angel was surprised when another Puck joined the battle. The fight was still in his favor, but he could no longer afford to pull his punches. This was now a battle to the death, and he was its embodiment.
Toward the first Puck, he tossed a thunderbolt while he greeted the second with a nightshade attack. The first dodged and countered with another solar beam, but the second merely absorbed the attacked. The second Puck flew behind Angel and grabbed onto his shoulders.
"Release me," Angel demanded as the first Puck continued to charge his solar beam.
"You will listen to me," the second Puck snapped back. "Quit this foolishness. You are only hurting yourself and those that love you."
"I have no need of love," Angel shouted as his body sparkled with surging energy. He attempted to free himself with a spark attack, but Puck absorbed all his energy with a continuous leaching.
"That girl below us would disagree with you," the first Puck stated as he released his attack upon the two, "and the boy inside you should know this as well."
"That wretched creature is dead," Angel roared. "It was destroyed by its own weakness."
"Are you so superior to him?" the second Puck smirked as he released Angel into the oncoming attack. Angel howled in pain as the heat of the solar beam burned his exposed skin.
"He held onto his human heart," Angel countered as a ring of fire formed around his waist. The firespin grew and soon formed a sphere around his body. He flew directly at the two opponents until a sudden attack from behind doused the flames with a hydro pump.
"Such a heart has saved this world many times over," a third Puck stated. "As the Keeper of Time, I have witness such deeds most would hope to dream. Yet, this boy not only withstood them but triumphed."
"How is then the greater being?" the second Puck asked. "The Future is built upon the past that you now reject."
"The Past shows the path the present has taken," the third Puck said as the three began to circle round the stunned Angel.
"And the Present is the sum of the past and dreams of the future," the first Puck stated as the three began to circle faster until it appeared to be only one being.
"Past, Present, Future," the three voices chorused. "A chain that is forged is stronger than any link, but if one link is broken, the chain is lost."
Finally, the blurred images began to slow into one solid form. A single Puck now stood before Angel. He extended his hand to his brother.
"You are now a broken chain," Puck smiled at his brother, "but you can be mended."
Angel's face glared at his younger brother as an orb of dark energy formed his left hand. While Puck continued to draw nearer to him, Angel released the new attack upon his opponent. The attack created black lightning against an invisible barrier surrounding Puck.
"Oh, brother," Puck sighed. "I wasted that speech for second time now, but I suppose I shall try it once more."
Puck countered Angel's attack with a barrage of razor leaves, but they were consumed in the flames of Angel's renewed firespin attack. The two circled the sky with endless attempts of attacks and counterattacks, but it was a standstill.
Misty watched the battle from the ground with the recovering Pixie. Pixie had finally stopped coughing up blood but was unable to join in the battle. She was even too weak to even teleport for help.
"Never thought I would be this helpless," Pixie sadly laughed. "You throwing rocks at his feet would be more use than I."
"I wish Ash would just listen," Misty said as she tried to bandage Pixie with some of the cloth from her pants.
"Ash would by now," Pixie replied, "but this Angel is a different story. Why would someone that could crush the planet listen to anyone?"
"Ash is still in there," Misty said as she rose to her feet, "I'll make him remember, even if I have to beat it out of him."
"Maybe I'll get in few punches myself," Pixie smirked as she stumbled to her feet. "At the least, we'll be given Puck a chance to finish the fight."
Misty nodded and the two started toward the two fighting magians. She was still unsure how she could stop or even hinder Angel, but she had to rescue Ash. He had saved so many others, now he needed rescuing.
"I'll try to draw him away from Puck," said as she began to fly upward. "See if you can jog his memory."
"Right," Misty nodded. "Ash! I know you can hear me."
Angel ignored her as he unleashed a barrage of thunderbolts upon Puck. When Pixie attempted to poison him, Angel deflected the attack toward Misty.
"Foolish, human," Angel laughed but used a whirlwind to disperse the slime before it reached Misty. "Leave this place for those greater beings."
"Ash Ketchum!" Misty snapped back. "I remember when you couldn't tell the difference between a metapod and a rock. You are no greater being."
"Silence," Angel shouted as he used another whirlwind to drive back Pixie and Puck. "Little girls should learn their place."
"Big words coming from an idiot like you," Misty smirked. "I thought evolution would make a bit smarter, but I see I was wrong again. You couldn't make it as a Pokémon Master, and I see you can't make it as a magian either."
"Enough," Angel snapped as he used a thunder attack on both Puck and Pixie. The two fell to ground and did not appear to recover. "Insolent, little wench."
"Maybe I should never have pulled you out of that river," Misty yelled. "Maybe being beaten by magikarp would knock some sense into that thick skull of yours."
"Then I wouldn't had to listen to your yapping for all those years," Angel shouted back as he flew toward her. "Your constant whining was enough to drive even a saint to tears."
Misty smirked as Angel began to sound more like Ash. "Maybe if you weren't always leading us into the woods every night, I wouldn't have complained as much. We didn't even see a Pokémon Center for weeks on end."
"No one asked you to follow me," Ash snapped as he landed in front of her. He stared down at her since he was almost a head taller than her now. His silver hair swayed with wind, and his warm brown eyes did not hint at any malice, "but I'm glad you did."
"Ash?" Misty asked.
"Sorry for worrying you," Ash shyly smiled. "I lost myself in the moment."
"You big idiot," Misty said as she wrapped her arms around him. "I thought I lost you."
"Me too," Ash replied as he hugged her. "Thanks for showing me the way back."
"Such a touching scene," a haggard voice interrupted. The two broke apart and saw both Puck and Pixie hobble toward them. "You would think she alone faced a nearly omnipotent opponent."
"I am so sorry," Ash said as ran toward his siblings. "Let me help."
Ash's hands began to glow with a warm light. When he extended them toward Pixie and Puck, the light drifted toward them and gave a brief flash. When it had faded, both of the injured magians were restored.
"I suppose we should thank you," Pixie said as she stretched her arm, "even though you did do the damage to us."
"Sorry about that," Ash sheepishly replied. "I couldn't help myself."
"The next time you go berserk, I'll send someone who won't let you off so easily," Puck said as he started fade away. "Misty, take good care of him."
"I will," Misty said as Puck disappeared. "Where will you be heading?"
"It's about time for the flowers to be blooming in Johto," Pixie replied. "I know this nice open field where the sunflora dance throughout the day and the houndour light the night sky."
"Sounds lovely," Ash replied, "but we better get back to Cinnabar Island. The storm probably did a number on my apartment."
"The rat hole can wait," Misty replied. "I need to get back to my stuff at Fuchsia City. I bet Meowth is already pawing through my bags for money."
"Alright, Fuchsia it is," Ash replied. "Hold on tight, Misty."
"I intend to," Misty smiled as she once again wrapped her arms around him. "I'm not going to let you go ever again."
Pixie laughed as Ash's face turned bright red. The two flew off into the sky leaving the laughing magian to her own designs.
"I've said there are not any ekans in this area," Officer Jenny tiredly told the couple before her. "With the evacuation, I don't have time chasing after a wild goose. If you lost track of your friend, please talk to someone in missing persons."
"But she was kidnapped," James pleaded, "and her boyfriend has a very temperamental pikachu."
"Look, with the evacuations of the Cinnabar and Seafoam Islands, we have hard time tracking all the evacuees," Jenny said as she tried placating the two. "Try asking around first. I'm sure she is just lost in the crowd."
"But…"James said before Jessie pulled on his sleeve.
"I'm sure you are quite right," Jessie smiled. "Come on, James. Let's try looking around the town some more."
James bowed his head in defeat and followed after her. They had already searched very nook and cranny around town but had not seen either Misty or an ekans.
"This is getting us nowhere," Jessie sighed as they left the police station, "and without a flying pokemon, it'll take us even longer to search the city again."
"Maybe Meowth has had better luck than us," James replied.
As the two walked toward the Pokémon Center, a man in a trench coat began to follow behind them. His short-cut black hair and dark shades unnerved any who noticed him. He quietly trailed behind the couple until they reached the center. He paused only a moment at the door before entering.
"I hate cleaning up these messes," he sighed as he scanned the room for his targets. "Marid owes big for covering for his kids again."
He spotted the couple and Meowth talking next to the phone booth. Despite the flood of people from the islands, the Pokémon Center had remained fairly empty. Nurse Joy had driven off most the others who did not have pokémon either in the infirmary or the kennels.
"Excuse me," the man said as he approached the three, "but I understand you are searching for a lost friend."
"Huh?" James replied. "Do we know you?"
"No, but I've been watching you for quite some time now," the man smiled as he removed his shades. His rich brown eyes sparkled in the glaring lights of the center. "I'm called Baku."
"Baku?" Jessie repeated. "Isn't that some kind of demon?"
"Sorta," Baku smiled. Reaching his hand into his trench coat, he quickly pulled it out and scattered sleep powder over the three.
"Meow, I'm getting sleepy," Meowth yawned as he slumped down against the wall. "I need to take a little catnap."
"Jessie, I think we've been tricked," James yawned as the two fell against each other's back.
"What was your first clue, idiot?" Jessie replied.
"Looks like Team Rocket's nodding off again," both yawned as the drifted off to sleep.
"Always good for laugh," Baku said as he went about his business of erasing their memories of Apep's capture of Misty.
Ash shook his head as he entered his apartment. The storm had knocked out his window and scattered most of stuff around the room, or Pikachu finally managed to redecorate the room to his design. The little mouse was curled up in a ball on top a mountain of clothes and his futon sleeping under the noon day sun.
"Traitor," Ash said as he closed the door. His mirror had been shattered by the debris, but this was the first time he had seen his reflection since evolving. His silver hair reached almost to his waist, and his muscles had become more tone than before. His face was mostly unchanged, but he had grown to almost six feet. Still, he doubted anyone would really notice, or they would just assume he had a late growth spurt.
"Ketchum, you here?" the apartment manager shouted.
"Yeah, Mr. Yamamoto," he replied.
"You have a call downstairs," Yamamato shouted. "It's some girl from the mainland."
"Be right there," Ash said as he left the devastation. Walking down the flight of stairs, he wondered if he could possible get his deposit back. When he picked up the receiver, he expected to hear the voice of Misty.
"Ash, are you all right?" the worried voice of his mother asked.
"I'm okay, Mom," Ash replied with a slight be of disappointment. "It was just a little fight."
"Pixie said it was more than just that," Delia said as she quieted herself. "She mentioned that you evolved."
"Yeah, I decided to change my hair," Ash said when he noticed the prying eyes of his nosey manager. "I doubt I can change it back even if I wanted to."
"Your father and I will be there in about a week," she replied. "We would leave now, but some of Tempest's thugs are causing problems. You would almost think they want to be caught."
"Don't worry about me, Mom," Ash said as he hoped to ease her mind. "The storm didn't do too much damage. I think classes will start again next week anyway."
The phone remained silent for a moment before Delia spoke again.
"How is Misty?"
"She's just fine," Ash answered. "She's staying in Fuchsia City until they start the ferries again. They said once the waters calm it would only be a day or two.
"I'm just worry about you two," Delia sighed. "You always seem to get into the most trouble."
"Don't worry so much," Ash said as a smile grew on his face. "After all, someday I'm going to be the greatest Pokémon Master ever, and I've finally gotten the best edge over anybody."
"And what would that be?"
"I've been through everything a pokémon can," Ash said as his hand began to sparkle with electric energy. "Once I've master myself, nothing can stop me."
"Just be careful," Delia told her son. "You've gone off the map now. No one knows anything about magian evolution. Your brother has been quite tight lip about it and has never been seen in his evolved form."
"I'll just have to learn as I go," Ash said. "My journey has just reached a new chapter."
"Well, just take care this isn't the last one," Delia replied. "I would really like this to have a happy ending."
"I would personally like to never see one," Ash said as he hung up the phone. "Look out world, here come Ash Ketchum."