"In recent news, there has been another abduction in a recent string of kidnappings." Said a blue haired woman with heavy make up.
"We now go to Christi Griffeth for more. Christi?"
"I'm on the scene in Celadon where twelve-year-old Yuki Takahashi was last seen on her way to Celadon Department Store. She is the fiftieth young girl to go missing in this case, but police are still baffled as to the perpetrators. The victims share almost no similarities except that they are all females, but each crime is marked by a confusing lack of evidence and a single white chrysanthemum left at the scene. The crimes have taken place all over Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn, plus the Orange and Sevii Islands, so everyone is advised to be on their guard."
Ash Ketchum sighed at the brunette woman on TV and the picture of the little girl floating beside her head. Normally, he would have been more concerned about this strange occurrence, but today was special.
"Come on!" He said impatiently, tugging at his blue hooded jacket.
Now the anchorwoman replaced the reporter.
"Thank-you Christi." She said. "On a lighter note, fourteen-year-old Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town won against Isabelle Parker from Cherry Grove City in the semifinals of the Hoenn League today."
"Yes! Finally!" Ash cheered. Pikachu, his yellow mouse Pokemon, jumped in surprise at Ash's exclamation, almost thundershocking everyone in the room.
"Calm down, Ash." His older friend, Brock laughed. "It's not like you've never been on TV before."
"Yeah, I know, I just always get so excited."
"You have a right to be!" Said another of his friends, May, as brushed her brown hair out of her face. "You worked really hard to get here."
"Yeah!" Her brother, Max agreed. "I wish I could be in the Hoenn League . . ."
"Don't worry, I'm sure you'll make it someday." Ash encouraged.
Max knew that Ash was probably just saying that because he had to, but it cheered him up anyway. He took off his glasses and polished them on his green shirt so he could see Ash's Sceptile finish the opponent Altaria with a take-down for the second time that day.
"Hi mom! Hi Misty! I told you I'd make it!" Ash yelled from the inside the TV. He took off his red and white hat and waved it around in celebration. He then replaced it on his black hair and gave a peace sign, saying "I'm going all the way this time!"
Then his image disappeared and the anchorwoman was back on.
"The finals of the Hoenn League are being held tomorrow at three P.M. Tickets are still available online at–"
But someone turned the TV off before she could finish.
"Enough TV. Time for bed!" Nurse Joy said.
"Aw, come on." Ash protested. "It's not that late."
"You need your rest; you have a big day tomorrow." Insisted Nurse Joy.
"But I'm not sleepy. I'm too excited to sleep!"
Nurse Joy said nothing, but crossed her arms and glared at Ash.
"Fine . . ."
Ash finally gave in and pushed himself off the green couch of the Pokemon Center lobby followed by Brock, May, and Max. Nurse Joy led them down the white hallway to their room, the loops in her pink hair bobbing up and down as she walked.
"You'd think she was my mom." Ash said when the door was closed.
"But she's right Ash." Brock said. "You don't wanna make a mistake tomorrow because you're tired."
Ash lied down on one of the bunks, but just as he had predicted, he couldn't sleep. He kept wondering what the next day would hold. Which Pokemon would his opponent use? What would his strategy be? Ash had seen him battle others before, and his team was a force to be reckoned with. Especially that Salamence. It was times like these that he really wished she were here. The blue-eyed girl with a temper as fiery as her hair. Misty. Whenever he was down, she was always glad to yell at him or tease him. Funny how that always made him feel better. Maybe it was because he knew that despite all her teasing, she always believed in his dream. Ash had never even realized it until she was gone. A few years ago, he would never have believed that he would actually be missing her when she left, but now he thought about Misty more than he liked to admit. Finally, Ash fell asleep, thinking about her once again.
Ash woke up feeling refreshed despite his insomnia the night before. Right now, he was too excited to be sleepy. In just a few short hours, he was going to be in the biggest match of his life. Already he could feel the Beautiflies in his stomach! His nerves made him feel like running a mile. Ash did not know how he would contain all his energy until the match. As he put on his jacket and hat, the others began stirring. May woke up first with a big yawn, followed by Brock and Max.
"You're up early." May said as she tied her red bandana over her hair.
"Yeah," Brock added, "usually we have to drag you out of bed."
"Not today!" Ash laughed, punching the air, "I'm totally ready . . ."
"Wow Ash, I've never seen you this determined!" Max exclaimed.
" . . . for breakfast!"
Everyone face-faulted as Ash finished his statement.
"What?" He asked naively.
But Ash got what he wanted. He filled his plate high with pancakes, bacon, and eggs before sliding into one of the red Pokemon Center restaurant booths.
"How can you eat all that?" May asked in disbelief. "Aren't you nervous?"
"Yeah, but I need plenty of energy for my match!"
"But don't you think you're overdoing it a little?"
"No." Ash replied, his mouth-full.
May just rolled her eyes. Ash was such a . . . boy.
"Whatever. There's a big sale today in the town shopping center because of the League. You coming with me, Brock?"
Brock glanced at Nurse Joy, who was waiting on a table across the room.
"I'd love to go . . . but I think I should stay here and help Ash with his preparations for the match."
"Yeah right," Max interjected, "you just wanna look at all the pretty girls who're attending the tournament."
"Hey, I resent that statement! I do think about things other than girls, you know."
"May I take your plates for you?" Nurse Joy said from behind Brock.
He grabbed her hand and put on his most romantic act, completely forgetting his previous statement.
"Oh, Nurse Joy, of course you can take my plate, and while you're at it, you can take my heart as well!" He said, running his fingers through his spiky brown hair. "My name's Brock, and I– ow!"
"Point proven!" Max stated bluntly while grabbing Brock's ear.
Nurse Joy just blushed and cleared the table as quickly as she possibly could, desperate to get out of the embarrassing situation.
"So, does anyone need anything when before I go?" May asked.
"We're almost out of film." Brock replied.
"And you might wanna get some potions and antidotes for after the match, just in case." Max added.
"Got it. I'll see you guys around two!" May said as she stood up, and then she left.
May hummed a tune to herself as she walked down the cobblestone street. It was turning out to be a great day of shopping. She already carried shopping bags with her new sun-dress, shoes, and a bright pink yukata inside, but she wasn't through yet! She was already late, but May had completely lost all sense of time in her excitement. She pushed her way through the doors of an already overcrowded store and joined thirty other girls in fighting over clothing and souvenirs. Unfortunately for May, a rather large woman had spotted the Marill doll she was clutching, and was determined to make it hers. May did not even sense her presence until she noticed a shadow looming from behind, but when she did see the woman, she forfeited her doll immediately for fear of her life. She headed back onto the street defeated, but glad to still be in one piece. That was when she noticed a stand situated between two trees. "Pokemon League Memorabilia– Cheap!" the sign on the top read. The only people inside were a red-haired woman and a blue haired man dressed in foreign clothes. Everyone else was inside, looking only for name-brand goods. May, however, was not one to pass up a bargain.
"How much is this?" She asked, holding up a porcelain Wynaut figurine to the woman.
"Oh, that is very good deal!" The woman exclaimed. "You have good eye for value! This piece is hand-crafted by best glassblower in Hoenn! Usually very expensive, but I give you good price!"
"Yeah, so how much is it?"
"I think . . . fifty dollars is good price."
"Fifty dollars! I'm not paying you fifty dollars for this!"
Suddenly, the woman looked as if she were about to explode.
"Now Je– I mean Hilda, remember, customer is always right!"
"How dare you insult our fine collectibles like that!" "Hilda" screamed, suddenly losing her accent. "I'll have you know that I could sell that for three times that price!"
"Yeah, well I'm not– wait a minute. Don't I know you from somewhere?" May asked suspiciously.
"N-no, how wouldyou beknowing us?" The man stuttered. "We is just simple folk from Old Country!"
"Hey, wait a minute, you're Team Rocket!" May exclaimed as she pointed at the two.
"Good guess, kid." The woman, now known to be Jesse, said.
Both Jesse and the man, James, threw off their odd clothes and revealed their gray Team Rocket uniforms with the bright red Rs.
"Prepare for trouble!" Jesse began
"And make it double!" James continued.
"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!"
"Team Rocket blast off at the speed of light!"
"Surrender now or prepare to fight!"
"Meowth, that's right!" Said a Meowth who had appeared suddenly from behind the booth.
"What are you doing here!" May yelled.
"Just tryin' to make an honest buck. Is that so wrong?" Said the Meowth.
"No, but I doubt there's anything honest about what's going on here!"
"Well, we might have tried to steal a Pokemon or two while we were at it," the man, James said thoughtfully, "but we were unsuccessful, so there!"
May sweat-dropped. It was true, these guys could not steal a Pokemon if it were gift-wrapped and left on their front door step. Pathetic, really.
"Well, Ash and Pikachu aren't with me, so you can forget it!"
"Oh, we ain't after Pikachu today." Meowth said, a plan forming in its head.
James was slightly confused by the sly tone of its voice.
"What are you talking about, Meowth? We're not after anything today."
"Maybe not, but we can't let an opportunity like this pass us by."
James still didn't get it.
"Opportunity like what?"
"Don't you get it, James?" Jesse asked, getting irritated with James' slowness. "This is the perfect chance to add another piece to the boss's little 'collection'."
"Oh, I get it! We kidnap the girl and take her back to the boss!"
"Bingo, Jimmy-Boy!" Meowth said as it winked at James.
May could hardly believe it. She'd always known that Team Rocket stole Pokemon, but not people.
"So you're the ones who've been kidnapping all those girls!" She yelled.
"Well, not us poisonally, but–" Meowth said, but May cut in.
"What does Team Rocket want with all those girls!".
"Because . . ." James thought out loud. "Hey, why does the boss want with those girls?" The question had never even occurred to him.
"Don't tell me you don't even know!"
"The boss is a very private person!" Jesse said in defense. "He can't just go around telling everyone his plans!"
"But once we shows him this girl, I'll be top cat again!" Said Meowth dreamily.
"And we'll get promotions!" Jesse and James squealed in unison.
Team Rocket was obviously off in their own a little world, and May saw her chance and started to creep away.
"Hey, she's gettin' away!" Meowth called.
"Come back here, Twerp!" Yelled Jesse. "Dustox, go!"
Her green eyes flashed as she threw her Pokeball, which released a purple moth Pokemon with green wings in a flash of light.
"Dustox, string attack!"
Dustox obeyed its master and shot a string of sticky wed that wrapped around May like a rope, stopping her in her tracks.
"Hey, let me go!" She screamed.
"No way, kid." Said Meowth smugly.
Just then a voice came out of seemingly nowhere.
"Roselia, go!" It called.
Everyone turned to find the source of the voice, a teenager with unruly green hair. He wore a black T-shirt with a purple vest and a defiant look on his face. He threw a Pokeball and a green, flowery Pokemon appeared.
"It's that kid from Jessie's contests!" Meowth exclaimed.
"The name's Drew, and don't forget it!" Yelled Drew. "Let May go!"
"Not without a fight!" Jesse answered. "Dustox, stun spore!"
Dustox fluttered its wings and sent a cloud of yellow dust flying toward Roselia.
"Roselia, dodge it!" Drew ordered.
Roselia jumped into the air, just missing getting hit by the attack.
"Now, razor leaf!"
Roselia, still airborne, called out its name as it released a flurry of sharp leaves. The leaves hit their mark, knocking Dustox to the ground.
"Get up, Dustox!" Jesse called.
Dustox tried to rise, but it fell back to the earth.
"Another razor leaf, Roselia!" Commanded Drew. "Cut May free!"
Roselia sent another round of leaves flying, at May this time. She flinched, but they cut only the web binding her. Then she got up and called out her own Pokemon.
"Go, Combusken! Flame thrower attack!"
Her yellow and red bird Pokemon shot a beam of fire from its mouth, igniting Team Rocket.
"Hot, hot, hot!" They screamed, running around in circles.
May and Drew nodded at each other in agreement.
"Tackle!" They cried together.
Team Rocket was sent flying. One more attack would do it.
"Combusken, flamethrower again!"
The flames shot them higher and higher into the air until they disappeared into the sky with a call of "We're blasting off again!"
With that, May and Drew returned their Pokemon and thanked them for a job well done.
"Thanks for helping me, Drew." May said politely.
"So what are you doing at the Pokemon League, anyway?"
"I have friends competing. Why are you here?"
"I'm with Ash, of course. Duh!"
"No, I mean what are you doing here? And especially by yourself! Haven't you heard about those kidnappings that have been going around!"
"I can take care of myself!" May replied indignantly.
"Like you did just now?"
"That was– why are you worried about me anyway? I thought you didn't even like me!"
"Well . . . uh . . ." Drew stuttered, trying to come up with a good response, "you're the only competition I've got. Without you, Contests would be way too easy!"
"Gee, thanks for caring." May remarked sarcastically.
"Where are you staying?" Drew asked. "I'll walk you there so you don't get into any more trouble."
So May allowed Drew to take her back to the Pokemon Center. She was secretly glad that he had worried about her. He was arrogant and self-centered, but she had to admit that she liked him in spite of herself. At least a little.
Meanwhile, at the Pokemon League Stadium, Ash was beginning to regret having eaten such a big breakfast. It was already two o'clock, just one hour before the match was scheduled to begin, and he was getting more nervous every minute. This was the biggest battle of his life. What if he blew it? And in front of all those people? But it was sort of a good feeling, nonetheless. Ash thrived on the thrill of competition. It was almost addictive. And even if he did lose, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Sure, it would be disappointing, but all his friends would be there for him. Brock was with him right then, trying hard not to follow every pretty girl that walked by, and May would be there eventually. At least, he hoped she would get there on time. Max was sitting on the floor, busy brushing a contented Pikachu's fur, getting it ready for the battle. And Ash's Mom, Professor Oak, and Tracey had called from their hotel the night before. They were probably already in the stands.
"I just wish Misty were here . . ." Ash mumbled.
Brock overheard his comment and smirked. Could he be any more obvious?
"There are still forty-five minutes until the match, why don't you call her, Ash?" Brock suggested.
"Good idea, Brock!" Ash said as he headed off to the video-phones.
He took a seat at one of the booths, picked up the phone, and dialed Misty's number. The phone rang a couple of times before it was answered and Misty's sister, Daisy, appeared on the video screen.
"Oh, like hi, Ash!" The pretty blonde girl said.
"Oh, Daisy, my delicate flower!" Brock said. He had a way of popping up out of nowhere whenever girls were involved. "I have awaited this moment ever since I last saw you!"
"Yeah . . . so, Ash, aren't the finals like, really soon? We're all rooting for you!" Daisy said, quickly changing the subject.
"Thanks! Actually, that's sorta why I was calling. Is Misty there?"
"Like, good one, Ash!" Laughed Daisy. "Really, what's up?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
Daisy stopped laughing when she saw Ash's baffled expression.
"Like, isn't Misty with you?"
"No. Why would she be?"
"She left two weeks ago to go see you. She like, wanted to surprise you."
"Don't worry, I'm sure she's fine. She probably just got held up somewhere."
Ash was not sure of this at all. In fact, he was very worried about Misty, but he could not let Daisy see that. She was already concerned, and it would not help to upset her any further.
"Like, I hope you're right, Ash."
"I'm sure I am. She'll be ok, Daisy."
"Thanks, Ash. Like, I have to go."
Daisy hung up without even a good-bye, but now Ash was free to express his worry.
"Where do you think she could be, Brock?" He questioned. "She should be here by now, I know Misty wouldn't be this late! And what about those girls that have been getting kidnapped? What if something happened to her? We have to find her!"
"Calm down, Ash. Panicking won't help."
"I know." Ash said. He did his best to cool down. "What do we do?"
"The first thing we need to do is find out where she was last seen."
"But how do we do that?"
It took Brock a minute to think of something, but finally he developed a plan.
"Why don't we call all the Pokemon Centers Misty would have stopped at on the way here and see if anyone's seen her."
It wasn't the best plan, but it was all they had at the moment. So they called Pokemon Center after Pokemon Center, and spoke to countless Nurse Joys. No one had seen Misty. Not until they got to the Rustborough Center in Johto. The Nurse Joy there recognized Misty's photo immediately. Misty had spent the night there just five days ago, she said. They finally had a lead. The next step was to go to Rustborough City and find Misty.
"Ash Ketchum, please report to the arena. The final match will begin in five minutes." The intercom boomed.
"Ash, I'll go and look for Misty while you're having your battle. You can meet up with me later." Brock offered.
It was kind of Brock, but there was no way Ash was going to just stand by idly and wait for something to happen while Misty was in trouble.
"No, I'll go." He said. "You stay here and wait for May to get back, and tell everyone else what's going on."
"Are you sure about this, Ash?"
"Positive. Misty's much more important."
And with that, Ash walked out on the match of a lifetime. But what would winning a silly tournament matter if something happened to Misty? No, this was what he needed to do, what he wanted to do. He had no regrets.