Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon. I do, however, own this story.
Update 1/28/09: Aoi's name has been changed to Angie.
Grinning, Ash Ketchum snapped his badge case shut, promptly placing it in his backpack for protection. The case felt heavy now, the weight of eight badges weighing it down. After defeating Volkner of Sunnyshore City in a close match that pitted Ash's beloved Pikachu against Volkner's powerful Raichu, Ash had procured his eighth and final Sinnoh League badge. Each badge had been hard-won, the result of countless days of training and preparation, and many of them had taken multiple attempts before he had finally obtained them, but he now had them all, and the Sinnoh League was finally here. The young Pokémon trainer allowed himself to release a contented sigh. Life was good.
Turning towards his traveling companions, Ash finally spoke the words on his mind.
"Guys, can you believe I've made it all the way to the Sinnoh League? It's really here, isn't it?"
Brock shrugged his toned, tanned shoulders. "Well, Ash, this will be your fifth league if you count the Orange League. I'm not sure why you're so surprised, really."
"Yeah, Ash, you're a great trainer," Dawn chimed in.
"Hehe, I know I'm great and all," Ash conceded, "but it just seemed like the Sinnoh League gyms were even tougher than all of the other gyms I've faced. I've finally made it, though, and we're going to win, right, Pikachu?"
"Pika!" The small electric mouse flashed its master the victory sign, confident that they would rise all of the way to the top in the Sinnoh League.
Surveying his surroundings, Ash couldn't help but grin. Sure, the Pokémon Center stationed near the Sinnoh Pokémon League headquarters resembled all of the other Pokémon Centers he had been in, but it also seemed to have this certain aura about it, one of prestige and magnificence. Even the Center's Nurse Joy, Brock had duly noted, was prettier than your typical Nurse Joy, and her companion was a fully evolved Blissey instead of the usual Chansey. It simply seemed like a place where truly wonderful things happened, a place where people achieved their dreams.
"So, Ash, what's your strategy going to be for your first battle?" Brock, always one to think and plan ahead, asked the Pallet Town native.
"Huh? Oh, strategy…" Ash trailed off.
"What? You mean you haven't thought of something yet?" Dawn asked incredulously, surprised that her friend hadn't given the matter much though.
"Well, hehe, um, I figured I'd think of something tomorrow," Ash admitted.
"Ash!" Dawn and Brock exclaimed in unison.
"What? Does it really matter when I think of a strategy as long as I think of one?"
"Come one, Ash! You can't be serious!" Brock chided his long-time friend.
Just like that, Ash's bubble burst. Here he had been fantasizing about beating Paul, his ultimate rival, in the Sinnoh League and coming in first place and then challenging the Sinnoh Elite Four and, ultimately, battling Cynthia for the title of Sinnoh Champion. He had spent months daydreaming about these events, picturing perfectly in his head how he would feel and the look on Paul's face when he would win, but he hadn't really given much thought as to how he would get there. Ash was one to throw caution to the wind, a doer and not a planner. Sometimes, though, one has to face reality, and in this case reality hurt.
"Oh, alright. Let's go check out my opponent on the computer, and then I can start making a strategy," Ash reluctantly agreed, following his friends and traveling companions over towards the Pokémon Center's computers.
"Now you're talking," Brock stated, patting his younger friend on the back.
Twisting her hands together, a young girl with big brown eyes and a mop of short blue-green hair reluctantly followed her parents, keeping a sizeable distance between herself and them. She took in her surroundings carefully, awestruck by the awesomeness that was the Sinnoh Pokémon League. On all sides of her trainers and their Pokémon scampered through the streets, while vendors sold various League souvenirs. The place was everything she had hoped for and more.
"Angie, keep up, will you?" a woman who resembled the girl commanded.
"I'm sorry, Mama," Angie stated timidly.
"Why are you lagging behind? You've been talking excitedly about going to the Pokémon League for mounts now," a tall man with brown hair questioned.
"Oh, no reason."
How could Angie explain to her parents the multitude of thoughts going through her head at that very moment? How could she explain the Butterfree dancing in her stomach? How could she explain that, despite her immense excitement, she was nervous to see him? It didn't matter much, because she didn't have to explain; her mother could read her every thought.
Stopping for a brief second, Angie's mother turned round towards her young daughter.
"Ah, I understand, honey. You're nervous."
"Nervous? Why would I be nervous?" Angie stammered.
"You're nervous about seeing Ash," Angie's mother stated wisely.
"Oh, I see. You still have feelings for that boy, huh?" Angie's father piped up.
"What? N-no. I don't have any feelings for Ash," Angie argued.
Angie's parents simply looked at one another and grinned. They knew their only child too well.
"Mama, Papa! Really, I don't have any feelings for Ash!"
Angie's parents didn't give their daughter another glance, and simply continued walking on and enjoying the scenery. Inwardly, Angie was glad that they had decided to leave her alone. She didn't like being teased about her crush on Ash, didn't like being reminded of it, although it did seem like all she could think of. Why was that? Why was it that thinking of Ash made Angie feel like she was both on top of the world and also like she was being slowly suffocated? It felt awful and wonderful at the same time. Crushes sure were funny things.
"It says here that your opponent tomorrow is going to be Mindy of Pastoria City," Brock read aloud to Ash from one of the Pokémon Center's computers. "According to this she specialized in fire type Pokémon."
"Awesome! I guess I'm just going to have to rely on good old Floatzel then, huh?" Ash pumped his fist in the air, already excited for what he presumed would be his first victory.
"Not so fast, Ash," Brock began solemnly. "She also has a Vileplume on her roster. Vileplume's part grass type, and Floatzel is weak to grass types."
"Oh…well, OK, then, I'll just have Infernape on my team, too, then," Ash stated confidently.
"I'm not so sure that that's such a good idea, Ash. Mindy uses fire types, many of which have the Flash Fire ability, and if Infernape were to hit them with its fire attacks, you'd be in trouble," Brock reminded Ash. "You're going to have to be very careful if you use Infernape."
Before Ash could think of a good retort to Brock's critique, Dawn interrupted them with an exclamation.
"Angie!" the Pokémon Coordinator cried, drawing Ash's attention to the other end of the Pokémon Center.
Sure enough, Angie and her parents had just entered the Pokémon Center and were approaching Ash, Brock, and Dawn.
"Angie! It's great to see you!" Ash approached his friend from the Pokémon Summer School and offered his hand. Reluctantly, Angie shook it, blushing profusely.
"So, Angie, what brings you here?" Brock asked the young girl.
"Well, my grandpa said he would watch the day care center for a while so that Mama, Papa, and I could come watch the Pokémon League," Angie responded, still recovering slightly from her handshake with Ash.
"When Angie heard that Ash was going to be in the Sinnoh League, she insisted that we come see it," Angie's mother explained, winking at her daughter and causing her to turn an even deeper shade of red.
"Oh, yeah, hehe," Angie replied.
"That's great, Angie!" Ash exclaimed, completely missing the not so hidden meaning in the comment Angie's mother made. "You can stay here at the Pokémon Center with us…that is if your parents say it's OK," he added, not having forgotten the incident in which he and Angie had gotten in trouble at the day care center for hiding a recently evolved Lickilicky.
"Of course it's OK," Angie's parents agreed.
Grinning, Angie dropped her bags near the computer terminal where Ash, Brock, and Dawn were working as her parents left the Pokémon Center to go to their hotel room.
As she made her way through the crowded streets of the Sinnoh League, a tall, slender redhead couldn't help but smile. Being there made her feel like she was in her element. She had always loved competitions, had always loved the Pokémon Leagues she had been to before. Of course, the fact that she had been with her friends…and him…had probably had a lot to do with those facts.
Misty, the Cerulean City gym leader sighed, but it was not an altogether sad sigh. How long had been since she had seen Ash and Brock? Far too long for her liking!
Ash. At the mere thought of him Misty couldn't help but smile. Soon enough she would be seeing his sweet, adorable (often dirty) face again. What would he think when he saw her? Would he be as happy as she would be?
Would Ash look any different than he had looked the last time she had seen him? Probably not, Misty guessed; he never seemed to change. Would he have caught any new Pokémon? Probably, since he had traveled all throughout Sinnoh. What would his mood be? Probably overly excited and overly confident, as always. She'd have to tease him about his ego, of course. It would be just like old times. Misty couldn't wait.
Ash, Brock, Dawn, and Angie sat in the lobby of the Pokémon Center playing a game of cards. Brock, who usually had the best ideas when it came to games of strategy, was winning, as usual. Ash was becoming increasingly fed up.
"This stinks! I quit!"
"Aww, don't be a poor sport, Ash," Dawn teased.
"I think it's about time we got to bed, anyway," Brock reminded the group.
Sure enough, at that very moment Nurse Joy entered the Pokémon Center's lobby to announce that it was bedtime. Brock was on his feet in an instant.
"Nurse Joy, your eyes are like beautiful sapphires, ones I would pay thousands of dollars to obtain!"
"That's nice…" Joy stated apathetically.
Brock knew what was coming next and braced himself for Croagunk's Poison Jab attack. Instead, he felt someone swiftly tug his ear.
"Alright, Romeo, enough is enough!"
That voice. Ash knew that voice. For reasons he did not understand, it made his stomach somersault.
Author's Note: OK, the whole thing with Ash and Aoi has been bothering me immensely, and this is my solution to the problem (and the way I think the writers should solve the problem, too, not that they'll ever read this). If you're worried that this one will turn out like The Winner Takes it All, well, don't. I'm determined to give Misty a happy ending this time. Don't worry, though, Aoi fans, because there will be no Aoi bashing in this fic.
In case you don't know who Aoi is, she's a girl who appeared in the summer school arc that aired relatively recently in Japan and who developed a crush on Ash. She appeared again a couple of weeks ago and her crush was still there. Ash doesn't seem to return her feelings, which is good. Aoi doesn't have an English name yet, so when she gets one I'll change her name in this fic (and in The Winner Takes it All for what it's worth). She really did call her parents "Mama" and "Papa" in the episode she was in recently, so I'm not just having her do that to be cutesy or anything. Aoi's parents don't have names in the anime.
I know this chapter is pretty short, but the rest of them should be longer, and it is only the prologue. I have a pretty good idea of where this fic is going.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this. I hope to update every weekend, but I'm certainly not making any guarantees because I'm pretty busy with school. I'll try my hardest, though.
Don't forget to review. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
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