by Marisa Mockery

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Ash woke up in a bed of leaves. A yellow, familiar face popped into his line of vision and, after studying his eyes intently, shouted, "Everybody, he's awake! And normal!"

Immediately there was a flurry of action, as Ash was helped up by both Sceptile and Charizard and climbed on by Chimchar and Pikachu. Buizel and Heracross stood in the background with a Mew and a Bonsly, and—

"What the hell is going on?" Ash yelled, staring at the assorted Pokémon. "Where's Gligar and Turtwig and Staravia? What are you guys doing here instead?"

"Notice how he notices this instead of the Mew," said Pikachu dryly. Ash glared.

"I'm pretty sure we're in Hoenn and that's the Mew we came here for," he growled in English. "But the others? That's new."

This time Pikachu had the decency to look mildly ashamed. "Well, we kind of switched your team a bit back in Kanto the night before we left. It was for your own good! All of your Pokémon got together and decided us six are the best equipped to handle this training thing—it's not the same as getting badges, after all…"

Ash looked furious for a moment, then looked down and sighed. "No," he said softly. "No, it's not."

He looked up at the Mew. "So, what happened while I was out from the teleport?"

"Nothing to be concerned with, Purple," said the Mew simply. "You may call me White. I will be training you until it is time for you to go back. We must work hard, because I'm not sure we'll have enough time."


"That is the color of your Aura, is it not? We Mew have always called each other by the colors of our Auras. It's simpler than learning your human name."

Ash grumbled for a moment, then grinned wickedly. "What's my dad's name, then?"

White stared at him for a moment, then said, softly, "He plays a human in the world, yes?"

Ash nodded.

"Ah, I remember him. I trained him as well, for a time…his name is Pink."


"Yes. Pale Pink. Most call him Pale, but I've preferred to call him Pink. It is more accurate." She cocked her head, and waited for a good five minutes until Ash stopped laughing.

"Oh, I think I will too. In fact, I think we should both call him Pinky. It sounds so perfect for him." And with that he burst into another round of laughter. It wasn't until Mewtwo phased into the room that he got serious again, and when he told the clone his father's real name even Mewtwo cracked a smile.

I think I can agree on Pinky, the clone said, smirking. Now, as to your training…?

Ash made a face, and White nodded.

"Yes. This will be your training too, Mewtwo. You are powerful, but you trained yourself, and were trained by Pink the human way. Now it is my turn. I will train you…properly."

And with that they started.

— — — — — —

It was by far the most exhausting, annoying, and utterly thrilling training Ash had ever done. No rocks or leaves were involved in this training, nothing like that—he was learning how to take the laws of physics and biology and tell them to screw themselves.

And he loved it.

His team practiced fights around him, training each other, learning how to get along. For once in his life, he was so focused on training himself he didn't even notice. He'd always watched his Pokémon and cheered them on when they learned a new attack, but he never knew of the sheer euphoria that one felt when one managed to successfully Thunderbolt the landscape into rubble, or Transform into a different shape and use Blast Burn on the target, or how much fun it was to use Hydro Pump or to actually see a Shadow Ball form between one's own hands…and the uses of Psychic were, quite frankly, astonishing. He wondered when White would run out.

He was stunned when his friends told him three weeks had passed since they'd last seen him. When he asked White about this, she frowned.

"Your training is not going fast enough," she said shortly. "At this rate you will not know how to use Aura before you have to go back. We must intensify the training."

So they did.

Before, it had merely been exhausting. Now, it was beyond words. Ash could barely drag himself into his sleeping bag at night—more often his friends or Pokémon would tuck him in instead, as though he were a child. White woke him long before the sun rose and didn't stop until long after it set. For White the only limits were physical, and half the time not even that.

Mewtwo found the training easier than Ash, and wondered if it was because he was a pure Pokémon or because he simply had more experience. Whichever it was, he often helped the boy when Ash couldn't understand, or asked for a break when Ash looked on the verge of a collapse. Occasionally Mewtwo also noticed Ash's eyes began to glow again during particularly stressful training periods, but if the boy noticed anything he said nothing.

Time passed.

Finally, when Ash was nearly convinced that White was trying to kill him and not train him, the day came when she stopped the Mew training and gave Ash the next day off. Not wanting to waste it, Ash ordered Pikachu to wake him up at dawn so he could finally see his friends, whom he hadn't seen in weeks. Pikachu, noting the matching set of luggage under each of Ash's eyes, promptly ignored this and let him sleep as long as his body wanted him to, which turned out to be the entire day and night off. In fact, it was White who woke him up the next morning, a smile on her face.

"G'way, wan' sle'p," Ash muttered to his pillow. White laughed.

"You've slept enough, Purple. It's time for you to meet your Aura instructor."

Ash blinked the sleep from his eyes and looked up. "Wait…Aura? We're switching to Aura now?"

"Yes. Well, you are, anyway. I will continue to train Mewtwo, at his request."

Ash sat up, and his stomach rumbled. He blushed.

"Um, can I have breakfast first?"

— — — — — —

The gray-muzzled Lucario sat across from him, its legs crossed and its paws clasped together, its eyes closed. After a moment Ash mimicked its position, and the Lucario grunted in approval.

White has told me of the situation, it said, opening its eyes. Ash was struck by how intense this Lucario's gaze was, even compared to the previous Lucarios he'd met. We must train hard. There is not much time before you must go back.

Ash couldn't help but bite his lip. He knew now what 'train hard' meant. "What do I call you?"

Call me? The Lucario blinked for a moment, evidently confused. The Eldest will do, it said after a moment. Lucarios generally…do not bother with names. We identify via mind and brightness of Aura. Soon, you will too.

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More time passed.

The Eldest's training was just as, if not more, intense than White's. Most of the time Ash was not even allowed to open his eyes, in order to force the ability to see without sight to come faster, which came a lot faster when the Eldest was throwing Aura Spheres at him. He also learned how to make the Spheres, which were completely different from any other attack he'd used previously.

When Ash had time to think (not much, of course, but still, he had a little between training periods) he thought Aura was a bit like training the spirit, and Mew powers were a bit like training the mind. Similar, but still different. Maybe that was why all Aura was the same color, and why everyone had Aura, but not everyone had Pokémon powers.

But he never had time to reason past that, because by then the Eldest had thrown something painful and dangerous at him as an "unexpected" surprise, and it was time to react.

Ash got really good at reacting to things before they happened.

Not even his sleep was safe, as the Eldest was just as likely to attack then as any other time. Using sight without sight while sleeping was difficult, but it paid off when the Eldest thrust a knife five inches long straight into where Ash's heart would have been had he not teleported himself, sleeping bag and all, five feet to the left without even waking up.

After that the Eldest took Ash seriously. Training became even harder.

He wasn't limited to mere mental activities—he had to climb the outside of the entire Tree of Beginning blindfolded, while both White and the Eldest took potshots at him in any way they chose, as quickly as he could. He had to dodge the white blood cells without destroying a single one blindfolded, and he had to use Aura to do it. As the cells glowed only slightly more than the tree itself, it was extraordinarily difficult. Then he had to purposely attack humanoid targets, all of which fired guns or threw knives while he defended himself with only his Aura powers. One of the more fun ones was playing some sort of tennis—with Aura Spheres—with his hands—with the Eldest. Whoever got hit the most lost. When Ash stopped losing, the Eldest tried to make it more interesting by banning both sight without sight and normal vision, so one had to play using the other senses.

And one day, after letting Ash sleep until dawn, the Eldest said, You may have this day and the next to rest. Do as you will.

Assured this time he'd have two days to mess around in, Ash asked White to wake him up the next morning and went back to sleep.

— — — — — —

During all this time, Ash's friends and Pokémon had not been idle. Charizard and Sceptile had had many epic battles, refereed by Brock, and the current score was 25-26, with one draw, Sceptile leading. This made Charizard furious, as no one should lead over him, especially not a damned grass type, and he was going to settle the score today.

Heracross and Buizel had struck up a rather odd friendship, if you counted 'beating the stuffing out of each other all the time and then congratulating each other about it afterward' as friendship. Both wanted to be strong, and both accepted that they were using each other to do it. Pikachu didn't really get it, but if they were fine with it, then it was fine with it too.

Chimchar missed Ash the most out of everyone (except Pikachu). It trained with Pikachu and the others, but it mostly wished it could at least help Ash out with whatever he was doing. No one saw him, except at night when he was passed out from exhaustion and they had to put him to bed. And White shooed them out before they could even say good-night.

Ash's human friends missed him too, and Misty had voiced more than once her wonderment of why they were still here, since it seemed White and the Lucario were taking care of everything. Privately the others agreed, but still they stayed. Something told them if they didn't, Ash would get into…trouble.

And he didn't need any more of that.

And then one day, pale and sallow-skinned, with bags still evident under his eyes, Ash wandered down from the top of the Tree.

"Hey, guys," he said, yawning. "I got today off. Want to hang out?"

He collapsed under the massive group hug.

— — — — — —

Predictably enough, it only took fifteen minutes for Ash and Misty to go from pleasantly chatting to furiously arguing. Also predictably enough, it was about something they'd both regret as something utterly stupid and not worth arguing about, but at the time it was vitally important.

"So Ash, did you even realize we didn't see you for like two months?" began Misty.

Ash blinked. "Did you even realize you just said 'like'? Who are you, Daisy? Seriously, Misty. Are you mimicking them now?"

"No, I am totally not!"

" 'Totally'? Misty, are you sure you're not a clone?"

"Why, you—"

It just went downhill after that.

Brock and Dawn watched, one with a mildly annoyed expression and the other stunned at the ferocity, until the two teens were shouting into each other's faces. Finally Misty stomped off after having failed at clubbing Ash with her mallet (he'd ducked it, which had only made her angrier), and Ash sat by himself, arms crossed, growling something in Mew at Pikachu. Pikachu said something back, and that only made Ash more irritated.

After a minute Dawn stood. "Maybe I should go find her. Help her…calm down."

"Don't," Ash snapped. "The Tree will look after her. I've only got today off and then it's back to more training. Let's go do something else."

And he stomped off. With a sigh, Brock followed, and after hesitating a moment more Dawn ran after both of them with a groan.

— — — — — —

Ash was still seething when Dawn caught up with him.

"Can you believe what she said?" he hissed, apparently now in a talkative mood. "I am not a moron! And I did not waste our time! I was busy training, you guys knew that, right?"

"It was pretty obvious when we saw you using Pokémon attacks on the scenery," said Brock dryly.

"But why were you training so hard?" asked Dawn.

Ash deflated just a bit. "Well…it's just White and the Eldest keep pushing me, saying I only have so much time before I go back, and…I've been working hard to finish this up quick so that we can go back. I mean…Mew powers are cool, and Aura's really useful, but…"

He didn't have to finish the sentence. Brock and Dawn were already nodding. Pikachu patted Ash on the back sympathetically.

"I'm sure she'll understand, Ash," said Dawn kindly. "You just should explain that to her, and—" Ash held up a hand. Dawn glared, just a bit, irritated at the interruption. "What?"

His eyes were unfocused. "Something… coming." He shook his head, and suddenly there was a purple Barrier around the four. "Dammit, where's Misty?" he said desperately. "I can't protect her if I don't know where—"

Then the big thing landed. It was a monster—the Pokémon stood at least seventeen feet tall, with blue skin and sharp white spikes on its chest, head, feet, neck, and back, and had hard, glowing red eyes.

"Dialga…" whispered Dawn.

With a snort Dialga destroyed Ash's Barrier, then turned a baleful red eye at the boy.

"YOU. YOU ARE THE HERO, THE CHILD OF TIME?" it roared. Ash shuddered. The way Dialga said it made him want to either fight the Legendary or run as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

"I—I guess," he said softly, not meeting the creature's eyes.


Ash realized Dialga was now staring at Brock, Dawn, and Pikachu. He nodded.


Ash grinned. Finally Dialga was speaking his language! "Yes!"


"I said yes!"

"Ash, what are you saying yes to?" asked Brock.

"Dialga will take us back home!"

Brock stared. "What? Dialga came all the way here to take us to Kanto?"

Ash blinked, and realized Brock was making sense. Mewtwo could have taken them home anytime. Heck, he could take everyone home at this point. Why would the Pokémon God of Time do it?


"What? Deciding to die—what are you talking about?Expla—"

Dialga roared, and the whole group felt the roar vibrate through their bodies, sending them flying even though it felt like at the same time they weren't moving at all. Ash tried to scream, but there was no time. There was no time to scream in. All he could do was wait until the vibrations and the flying-not-moving stopped.

And when Ash finally landed, he wasn't in Hoenn anymore.

Unfortunately, he wasn't in Kanto either.

Instead he was unconscious, laying on dirty concrete, surrounded by tall, demolished buildings, and completely alone, but for the high full moon overhead.

A breeze blew gently, and then all was still.

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