Disclaimer: I don't own anything regarding Pokemon-including the song Born to be a Winner, from Pokemon: 4ever. This story takes place following Three Worlds Collide, and shows occasional flashbacks to Pokemon: 4ever and Pokemon: Heroes.

                                                   Pokemon-The path to the Pokemon League

                                                           Prologue: A Pokemon shocker!

"Shocking, isn't it?" –Professor Oak, Pokemon-I choose you!

It's been quite a while since Ash and his friends had any amazing adventures, but as Misty and Brock wait for Ash to get to the S.S. Aqua before it departs, little do any of them know that recipes for pure disaster-and their next adventure-is right around the corner…

"The last time this happened, he nearly collided with the boat when jumping from the dock!" Misty growled lightly while pacing back and forth in front of Brock-a worried look on her face, and a sleeping Togepi in her arms-who was trying to keep himself from getting dizzy.

"That occurred when we met Celebi, but I'm sure Ash won't collide with the boat this time; I'm also sure he won't jump off the dock again." Brock insisted calmly, laughing to himself.

Eyeing Brock with an irritated glare, Misty asked, "When were you an expert on what Ash does or doesn't do?! And, what if he doesn't find us in time?"

"Well, in that case…" Brock sweatdropped lightly, pulled out a Pokeball and tossed it, quickly avoiding Misty's glare as he did so. "Go, Vulpix!"

"Vul!"

"Okay, Vulpix-go find Ash, and make sure he gets here before we end up leaving without him!"

"Vulpix!"

Pokemon!

No time to question my moves…I stick to the path that I choose…!

Me and my friends are gonna do it right…You'll never see us run away from a fight…!

To be a master is my dream…All I've got to do is believe…! (I believe…!)

That I've got a chance to win…! I'm on my way to victory… (Pokemon!)

I can be a champion if I trust in me…I'm on a Master Quest…! (Master Quest!)

I want the whole world to see… (That I believe…!)

I'm gonna be the very best… 'Cause all I've got to do is believe in me…!

Pokemon!

(Fanfare starts as Ash says the name of the episode)

Ash: A Pokemon shocker!

As for the whereabouts of Ash's location, he was lost-as usual. He'd forgotten the directions to the dock that Brock had given him in the morning and now, he and Pikachu were searching around, hoping to hear the call of the ship's horn…

"Hey, you! Are you a Pokemon trainer? You must be if you have that Pikachu with you. How 'bout a battle?"

…yet, neither one of them had expected to hear the call of another Pokemon trainer. And, as for Ash, once he heard it, any other thoughts vanished from his mind.

"You're on! How many Pokemon?"

"Pikachu…" The Electric Pokemon dropped his head in disbelief, knowing his best friend would have some serious explaining to do-and apologizing-if he were to miss this ship.

"A triple Pokemon battle! Golem, Feraligatr, Quilava-go!"

Ash smirked to himself, knowing he had the advantage because he had been involved in a double Pokemon battle back in the Orange Islands, yet he knew that these Pokemon wouldn't be easy to beat.

"Alright-Pikachu, Bayleef, Charizard, let's go!"

As Pikachu nimbly jumped off his shoulder, Ash pulled out two Pokeballs and summoned two of his Pokemon who had chosen to evolve, but for different reasons-Bayleef had evolved from a Chikorita because of her determination-and, as Brock had put it long ago, her crush-for Ash; Charizard had evolved in order to be more powerful than he had been as a Charmander or a Charmeleon, and he had accomplished that, in more ways than one.

"Alright, guys, are you ready to-?"

"Charrrrrrrr!!"

Ash blinked in slight surprise as he received a full-power Flamethrower in the face, and resisted the urge to fall over-for once.

"Bay! Bay!"

"I'm alright, Bayleef…but, why'd Charizard do that? I thought he had learned to listen to me…"
Shaking himself out of his temporary confused state, Ash heard not only his opponent's laughter, but he also heard the explanation.

"And, you call yourself a Charizard trainer?! That's how some Fire Pokemon greet their trainers-with a full-powered attack! Though, yours must not be that powerful, since he didn't even use Fire Blast-"

"CHARRRRR!!!"

Ash struggled to control his own laughter as his Pokemon had instantly turned around and hit his opponent with a full-power Dragon Rage attack.

"Now that the introductions are over…time to battle!"

Pokemon…Pokemon…Pokemon…Pokemon…Pokemon…! (Let's do it!)

I wanna be the very best like no one ever was… (No one ever was…)

To catch 'em is my real test-to train 'em is my cause!

My whole life has led to this…! Time to test my skills; I know I just can't miss-gonna show the world!

Born to be a winner…Born to be a champion…Born to be a winner-born to be the very best!

Born to be a winner…Pokemon!

Deciding against turning his cap around for this battle, Ash had that same determined look in his eyes anytime he was facing an opponent who had Pokemon like these. After taking a moment to plan his strategy, Ash ordered Pikachu to use Quick Attack on Feraligatr, which turned out to be a smart move, as Pikachu was barely able to avoid Feraligatr's Bite attack! Knowing it was pointless to send a Grass-type against a Fire-type, Ash had Bayleef take on Golem, but warned her to be careful, as Golem was a fully-evolved Pokemon, and that Charizard would help out if the situation called for it.

Seconds later, the trainers and the Pokemon had to wait for the smoke to clear, as both Charizard and Quilava's Flamethrower attacks caused an explosion! Not one to wait-and, knowing that the others were waiting for Ash-Charizard blew the smoke away with his wings, grabbed Quilava and, after hearing the okay from Ash, quickly took Quilava out with a Seismic Toss! Ash figured that the match was over, but his opponent said that two out of three Pokemon had to be defeated, and both his Golem and Feraligatr were doing fine. Patient as ever, Ash had Bayleef wrap up her competition with Vine Whip, but Golem broke free from the attack, then quickly had her on the defensive within seconds, as she had to run in order to avoid Golem's Rollout attack! Charizard, seeing that Bayleef was at a crossroads, stopped Golem, then he literally used him as a bowling ball, sending him into Feraligatr that caused both of them to hit their trainer!

Realizing that victory was only seconds away, and commenting on Charizard's strike, Ash had Bayleef Body Slam Feraligatr as hard as she could, then warned her to move, as Pikachu blasted not only Feraligatr and Golem, but also their trainer with an extremely powerful Thunderbolt attack! Ash and his Pokemon cheered before going to help up Ash's fallen opponent, but to their surprise, Vulpix came running in and spoke as fast as possible, the three Pokemon instantly repeating what was said to Ash. Suddenly remembering about Misty and Brock, Ash quickly apologized to the trainer for the attack, and for the quick departure, but he had a boat to catch, and, without waiting for a response, Ash, Pikachu, Bayleef and Vulpix shot off; Charizard flew through the skies with ease after Ash and the others.

Every challenge along the way, with courage I will face… (With courage I will face…!)

I will battle everyday to claim my rightful place…!

Come with me! The time is right-there's no better team…! (There's no better team…)

Arm in arm, we'll win the fight-gonna live our dream!

Born to be a winner…Born to be a champion…Born to be a winner-born to be the very best!

(The very best…!)

(musical riff for 15 seconds)

Speaking of Misty and Brock, Misty's pacing had grown frantic when Vulpix hadn't returned with Ash for some time. Brock tried to calm her down, but when they heard the captain say that they were preparing to depart, Misty ran towards him and pleaded to wait for just a few minutes more. Brock frowned lightly, wondering what else Ash could have to do that would keep him this late…and, then, Vulpix raced into view and jumped toward her trainer; a big grin on Brock's face replaced the frown as he recalled Vulpix and tapped Misty on the shoulder. Turning around, Misty smiled in relief as Ash, Pikachu, Charizard and Bayleef appeared within sight, Ash choosing to slide down the hand rail, Pikachu a heartbeat behind him…then, ending up at the foot of a flight of stairs, Ash stumbled a bit, but that had been because Pikachu jumped from the rail and landed on top of his head when Ash had landed.

Confident that Ash had finally made it, Brock pulled Misty onboard the ship, as they all heard the ship's horn going off a moment later. Ash, however, had been blocked from getting to the ship-thanks to numerous forklifts going one way-or the other-carrying specific items! Recalling Charizard, Ash groaned worriedly, not wanting to face Misty if he were to miss the ship. Once the last forklift passed by, Ash, Pikachu and Bayleef sighed in relief to see the S.S. Aqua…starting to pull away! Their sighs turning into screams, Ash quickly ran as fast as possible, with Bayleef keeping up, toward the dock, all of them hoping that somehow, just like before, Ash would be able to get onboard. Now, both Misty and Brock had worried looks on their faces as the ship started to gain a bit of speed, away from Ash! Gritting his teeth, Ash grabbed ahold of Bayleef's neck, then ordered her to do a Vine Whip attack on the dock. Realizing what Ash meant, Bayleef fired her Vine Whips at the dock and pushed up, the three of them soaring through the air toward the others like a rocket. Releasing his hold from Bayleef's neck, Ash saw Misty and Brock reach their hands out to him, and in turn, he reached his hands out to them. They got closer, and closer, and closer…and, to their surprise, Ash completely missed their hands and started to plummet toward the propellers at the back of the ship!

To the relief of Misty and Brock, before Ash splashed underwater, a pair of Vine Whips wrapped securely around Ash's waist and started to pull him up! Confused, Ash and Pikachu looked up, only to see that when Ash had released his hold from Bayleef, she had been able to successfully get onto the ship! Realizing, obviously, that her trainer was in trouble, the Grass Pokemon quickly turned around and fired her attack, saving Ash and Pikachu from a watery end. Feeling relieved to be on the ship, Ash and Pikachu sighed in relief before smiling to themselves.

I was born to be a winner…Born to be a champion…Born to be a winner-born to be the very best!

Born to be a winner…! (Born to be the very best…!)

Born to be a winner…Pokemon! Pokemon! Pokemon! Pokemon…! (fades out)

As the S.S. Aqua resumed its course toward Vermillion City, Ash recalled Bayleef before eyeing Misty with an apologetic smile on his face.

"Uh…hi, Misty-"

"WHERE WERE YOU?!!" Misty screamed a second later, causing Ash and Brock to jump back in shock; Pikachu fell off Ash's head and rolled down to the ground in surprise, expecting Misty to be upset, but not this upset.

"Well, I…I got lost while trying to find the dock, and then a trainer ended up finding me, and, I…I had a battle with him-but, I won, so that's good-right?"

"Do you know the next time the S.S. Aqua would've made a return trip if you'd missed it back on the dock?" Misty asked sweetly, which caused Ash, Brock and Pikachu to sweatdrop in confusion.

"Uh…" Figuring that Misty's question was hypothetical, Ash managed to say something, hoping that it was the right answer. "…one month?"

"THREE YEARS!!"

"Waaa! Three years?!" Ash exclaimed, stunned that it would've taken the ship more than one year to make a return trip.

"That's right-three years! You were the one who wanted to try out for the Pokemon League back home, remember?!"

"Hey!" Ash snapped impatiently, giving Misty a heated glare of his own. "I wasn't the one who wanted to come back to Johto so soon after we'd already left, anyway-and, at least, I didn't get my Pokemon mixed up with a wild Pokemon for a long time, like you!"

Seeing that this fight had broken out beyond normal parameters, Brock quickly put himself in between the two of them. "Okay, you two-knock it off, before you cause a scene-"

"WE'RE NOT CAUSING A SCENE!" Ash and Misty yelled at the same time, causing Brock to glare back at them, for a moment at least.

"Pika…CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!"

After noticing that Togepi was safe-and sleeping-in Misty's bag, which was next to Brock's, the Electric Pokemon had chosen that time to shock all three traveling companions with a well-aimed electric attack, thus ending their argument.

"Think we should end this argument…?" Misty stammered out to Ash, who replied with a quick nod.

"Yeah-before Pikachu sends us blasting off…"

"At least you're finally listening to reason…" Brock gasped out, before all three of them collapsed to the ground.

"Pikachu!"

After apologies had been made, and forgiveness granted, Ash found Misty on the starboard side of the ship, looking at one of her Pokeballs.

"Hey, Misty-you doing okay?"

Turning to look at her boyfriend with a faint smile, Misty nodded. "Yeah. Just amazed at what's happened to us so far: returning to Johto…"

"You getting some new Pokemon-and finding out about-"

"I know, Ash-I know!" Misty gritted her teeth in irritation-not irritated with Ash, but irritated at the situation itself…

Flashback

Even then, Misty's attitude was somewhat sour, as due to engine trouble, the S.S. Aqua had to make a detour at OlivineCity for a few weeks before heading over to Vermillion. Her mood had brightened, when she had managed to successfully acquire a Corsola, and a Politoed, since, according to Brock and the Pokedex, a Politoed was an alternate version of Poliwhirl. Ash, however, had already retrieved Cyndaquil and Totodile from Professor Oak a while back. After certain incidents involving Celebi, Suicune, and two other Pokemon-Latias and Latios-things had quieted down for some time. Then, while staying in the PokemonCenter for the evening, on the day before they'd received word that the ship had been repaired…

"I was hoping to run into you guys here!"

"Huh?" Ash and Misty blinked in confusion before realization had set in. "Marina?"

"That's right!" Marina smiled at her old friends, pleased that they remembered. "It's good to see you guys again. But, what happened to Tracy-?"

"Oh, don't worry-he's with Prof. Oak in PalletTown!" Brock announced, immediately clutching Marina's hand. "My name's Brock, and even though we haven't been formerly introduced, you're already the owner of my heart!"

"She's the owner of something alright-but your heart took a detour long ago!" Misty muttered while dragging Brock away by the ear.

"Toge-toge-prrrrri!"

Laughing lightly, Ash replied, "It's good to see you, too-but, why'd you say you were looking for us, Marina?"

"Oh-because, I think I have a Pokemon that belongs to you, Misty!"

"Huh-a Pokemon of mine…?" Misty blinked, wondering why Marina would have one of her Pokemon, until Marina opened a Pokeball to reveal…

"Psyduck!"

"Well, well, well-if it isn't our old friends, the twerps." Jessie announced, a wicked smile on her face.

"Of course, Jessie-ever since the ship had to stop for repairs, we've tried to follow them around, but never really got anywhere!" James admitted.

"Maybe not, but we did get to see a Celebi, and a Suicune-right?" Meowth asked, actually patient for once.

"Wobbuffet!"

Bashing both of them in the head-and recalling Wobbuffet before that-Jessie ranted, "We saw them, but did we catch them for the boss?! No, we didn't! And, now, we have to do something spectacular to get us on the boss' good side again!"

"Maybe that other twerp, who seems to know the twerps, may have something valuable." James noted.

"Something valuable enough for us to capture…" Meowth added.

"Like a rare Pokemon…okay! Here's what we'll do…" Jessie quickly explained her plan to James and Meowth-and Wobbuffet, who popped out again from his Pokeball-to which, a quick nod was seen from them all.

"Time to go to work, team!"

"Psyduck?!!"

"Pika?!!"

Ash and the others were shocked-but, none more than Misty herself, to see Psyduck again!

"But…but…how can this be? Psyduck evolved a long time ago!" Misty stammered out, recalling what had happened.

"She's right-it happened when we had to rescue the Legendary Pokemon from this collector. Psyduck fell into a pond, then when he came out, he evolved into Golduck." Ash said quickly.

"Hmm…that is what Psyduck said to my Psyduck." Marina agreed with Ash's statement. "But, Psyduck ended up colliding with a wild Psyduck underwater, who was in the process of evolving. That must've been the Psyduck you saw. I was near that area, and was able to fish Psyduck out of the lake-when he appeared, I mean. When I learned what happened, I must've gone all over Johto trying to find you guys-from the site of the Johto League to Goldenrod, to AzaleaTown, and  to VioletCity, before finally deciding to come here."

"So…all this time, I've carried around a wild Pokemon with me, and I hadn't even officially captured it?!" Misty exclaimed in disbelief, holding up the Pokeball that contained the aforementioned Pokemon.       

"It looks that way. I'm sorry, Misty." Ash said sadly.

"Pikachu…" The Electric Pokemon nodded in agreement. Strangely enough, Misty had a smile on her face as she ran out of the PokemonCenter and released Golduck from the Pokeball, before recalling Psyduck.

"It's okay, Ash-I'll get to officially capture Golduck now! Go, Corsola-"

"Psyduck!" Before Misty could even grab Corsola's Pokeball, Psyduck popped right back out of his ball, in front of Misty and the others!

"Just like old times!" Brock laughed, his laughter fading as Misty eyed him with a steely glare.

"No one asked your opinion, Brock!"

"Pikachu…!" Pikachu groaned while perched on Ash's shoulder, figuring that this would, once again, be a recurring theme-just, as Brock had put it, like old times.

"Psyduck…! Get back in your ball!" Irritated that Psyduck had come right back out, she tried to recall him to the Pokeball, but Psyduck avoided the red beam while turning to face Golduck.

"I think Psyduck wants to beat Golduck in a battle." Marina realized in amazement, as Psyduck continued to avoid the beam for a few minutes.

"You mean like this time Pikachu took on Raichu?" Ash asked, recalling the event well.

"Mm-hmm. Most unevolved Pokemon get an urge to face their evolved versions in battle, to prove that they can defeat them, or that they can win future battles without evolving." Brock explained calmly to Ash, as the two of them watched Misty and Psyduck prepare to battle Golduck-until two hands appeared and grabbed both Pikachu and Golduck at once!

"Pikachu!"

"Pika pi!"

"Ha ha ha ha ha!" Ash and the others watched as Jessie, James and Meowth appeared in their Team Rocket balloon, yet strangely enough, they were landing.

"Prepare for trouble-we've caught you off guard!"

"And, make it double-we'll put this steal on our credit card!"

"To protect the world from devastation…"

"…to unite all peoples within our nation…"

"…to denounce the evils of truth and love…"

"…to extend our reach to the stars above!"

"Jessie!"

"James!"

"Team Rocket, blasting off at the speed of light…"

"…Surrender now, or prepare to fight, fight, fight!"

"Meowth, that's right!"

"Wobbuffet!"

"Team Rocket!" Ash, Misty and Brock yelled out a second later.

"That's who we are-and, now that we have what we came for, we'll just be going now!" James declared.

"But first…" Jessie began, motioning back to James to deliver the punch line-so to speak.

"Weezing-Smokescreen!"

"Weezing…!"

Ash and the others coughed while covering their faces as best they could, not knowing that the balloon was making its ascent into the sky!

"Charizard…!" Ash gasped out, pulling a Pokeball out. "…blow this smoke away!"

The instant Charizard exited his Pokeball, he started flapping his wings until all the smoke had cleared.

"Okay…let's go stop that balloon!" Ash demanded, but Brock got in Charizard's way.

"Hold on, Ash-I've got it taken care of!"

"Huh?"

"Go, Onix!"

To the surprise of Team Rocket, a massive Rock Pokemon appeared in front of them, growling in a deep voice!

"Great job, Onix! Bring 'em back down!"

Once Onix had done that, Ash had Charizard snap the hands from the balloon, effectively freeing Golduck and Pikachu.

"Okay, Onix. Now, take 'em back up!"

When that had occurred, Ash tossed Pikachu back up toward Team Rocket, yelling out, "Pikachu-Thunderbolt attack!"

"Pika…"

"Do you think it's about that time for us to blast off?" James whined to Jessie, who simply nodded.

"Next time, our plan will be more thought out than just one of our random ones!"

"3…2…1…" Meowth counted down until Pikachu appeared right in front of them-so close, they could practically grab him-if his cheeks weren't sparking with electricity.

"CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!"

"Looks like Team Rocket's blasting off again…!"

"Wobbuffet!"

To Misty's surprise, Golduck didn't try to attack Psyduck after being rescued by Ash and the others-but awaited her to toss one of her empty Pokeballs.

"But…why wouldn't Golduck want to battle?" Misty asked. "I wasn't able to help out against Team Rocket."

"Probably because you've shown your battling abilities with the other Pokemon so well after all this time, Golduck already sees you as a worthy trainer, and doesn't need to face you in a battle to know that." Ash noted, to Brock's surprise.

"Yeah…you're right, Ash!" Misty said excitedly. "I have Psyduck back, and now I have a Golduck, too! Pokeball-go!"

Within seconds, Golduck was secured inside the Pokeball, and it shook for a while before finally coming to a stop.

"Yay! I've officially caught Golduck!" Misty declared, a huge smile on her face.

"Toge-toge-prrrrrri!"

Then, to Misty's astonishment, the Pokeball sparked with electricity before vanishing entirely from her hand!

"Hey…! Where'd Golduck go?!"

"Uh-oh!" Brock gasped worriedly, pushing Ash in front of Misty, who eyed her boyfriend, determined to get an explanation.

"Well, Misty-uh…you might have more than 6 Pokemon, and that's why Golduck disappeared like that!"

"Pika, pika!"

"What?! Are you serious, Ash Ketchum?!" Misty nearly exploded, forcing herself to calm down while counting her Pokemon.

"Yeah-for once…"

"Staryu, Goldeen, Togepi, Psyduck, Poliwrath, and Politoed…oh, no! I did have more than 6 Pokemon! That means that…now Golduck's all the way back at CeruleanCity with my sisters!" Misty cried out sadly.

"And, knowing them, once they find out, they probably won't want to send Golduck back." Ash said while holding Misty tightly.

"Yeah-they might have Golduck as a special attraction for one of their shows!" Brock added.

"I DON'T WANT THEM TO USE GOLDUCK FOR ONE OF THEIR SHOWS!" Misty groaned a second later while looking at Psyduck-who still hadn't gotten back inside his Pokeball.

"Why couldn't you have been the one to go back to Cerulean…?!"

"Psyduck."

End flashback

"Did you call your sisters and tell them about Golduck?" Ash asked calmly, backing away a bit as Misty looked like she was about to launch a Flamethrower attack.

"Last night-and, you know what they said, Ash?"

"Uh…no?"

"They said, 'oh, no! We couldn't, like, send Golduck back to you yet-he'll be one of our special attractions for the show, and the money we receive will go toward the remodeling of the Gym!'"

Blinking in slight surprise, Ash noted, "Neat impression of your sisters."

"Thanks." Misty replied, shrinking the Pokeball a second later, still a bit upset about having to relive that experience.

"Attention, passengers-we are just minutes away from VermillionCity!"

"Alright! Finally, the road to the Pokemon League begins once more!" Ash declared, a smile on his face.

"Right. And, I'll be there the entire way." Misty admitted, a smile on her face as she leaned forward to kiss Ash…

"Hey! Don't forget-I'll be here, too!" Brock added, interrupting what would've been an amazing kiss from Ash and Misty. Pikachu, hopping on Ash's shoulder, had said nothing.

"How many times do I have to tell you-STOP RUINING OUR ROMANTIC MOMENTS?!!" Misty yelled heatedly while chasing Brock around the ship with her mallet, Ash and Pikachu laughing at Brock's misfortune once again.

After remembering the incident that returned Psyduck to Misty-and sent Golduck to the Cerulean Gym-Ash and his friends are now ready to face the Pokemon League once again, and hopefully, Ash will rank higher than he did the first time…