Disclaimer: My name's certainly not affiliated with Pokémon –not unless I want to be sued.
Story: All Ash Ketchum has ever wanted was to be the best. Ash's dream was to be the unbeatable, greatest and grandest Pokémon Master there ever was. So now of legal age to get a Trainer's license, Ash can start the road for just that. Problem? Ash is a girl. And the world is full of perverts as her mother had warned and so Ash Ketchum the girl must become Ash Ketchum the boy.
Set as an AU.
Warnings: Perverts, raunchy humor, weird humor, craziness, etc…
Pairings: Reverse Harem Genre along the vein of Fushigi Yuugi, Ouran High Host Club, Negima! (regular harem), Love Hina, and other Ken Akamatsu works, with fanon Harem twist of multiple partners. Most guys are reoccurring unrequited or "character of the day" crushes, but a select number are permanent requited guys. Hence, Ash with a lot of people (mostly one-sided), Ash/Lance, Ash/Steven, Ash/Giovanni, Ash/Lt. Surge, etc. for sure.
Loyal to the Game
Chapter Twelve: Haunted Memory
She felt a large hand push her head down, and then she was looking at the back of Giovanni as he pushed her behind him. Her eyes watched in slow motion as Lt. Surge, at the same time, rushed forward to close the distance between him and the student. She vaguely saw Giovanni pointing his own gun (where had that come from?) in the opposite direction towards the older boy, and expertly shoot the gun out of the boy's hands. Lt. Surge then tackled the male student, and before she could register anything else, she felt another pair of hands pull at her and she saw Professor Oak.
"S-Sam?" her voice sounded so dazed.
He pushed her under the table near them, but she turned her head and saw Lt. Surge still grappling with the wildly struggling shooter. Giovanni shot a quick look at her, before he was rushing forward as well to help her blond friend out. While Oak knelt in front of her, hiding her from view, she felt her other two friends sidle up to her sides and hide with her under the table.
"It'll be alright, Ash," Misty rubbed her shoulders gently, trying to calm Ash. "Giovanni and Lucien are taking care of this."
"Yeah," Brock tried to infuse cheer into his voice. "Didn't you see them? They moved really in time with each other. It was amazing how in sync they were, especially as I doubt they'd ever done so before or know each other well enough to coordinate so well."
"It's because they were protecting you," Misty added surely. "Because they care about you. We all do. So it's okay. We're here. Don't be scared anymore."
"Pika Pi…" Pikachu agreed with the others, snuggling up to her chest and settling himself into her arms, though he was shivering himself.
"It's alright now," Oak said suddenly. "Giovanni and Lucien subdued the boy completely and have him knocked out. I believe I see Officer Jenny and her fellow policemen coming."
Ash reached out and tugged at his sleeve. "You should go," she murmured. "You're not supposed to be seen, remember? Not until you've established an alibi and stuff."
Oak grimaced and looked down at her, feeling and looking torn. She gave a small smile and nodded her head, and he stood up and she could see his legs moving away. It didn't take long for another pair of legs to be seen in front of their hiding spot under the table, and then they were seeing Giovanni bent over and looking neutrally at them (though he spared a reassuring smile at Ash).
"It's fine to come out now," he said gruffly, though he held out a hand for Ash to take.
She had to crawl out a bit, though he led her out as he held onto her hand tightly. Once she was outside of the table, he helped her stand and then steadied her as she stood up on wobbly legs. She looked over at Lt. Surge, who sat on top of the unconscious boy and looked bored as he answered some questions for Officer Jenny, though he flashed a quick smile at Ash.
"Let's get you into a room," Giovanni murmured, while Misty and Brock were also getting out from under the table. "You can settle down in an empty room, though I'll have to give a statement to Officer Jenny before I can join you."
Ash nodded slowly, still feeling out of it.
Giovanni began to lead her to an empty room, planning on at least getting her there before coming back to have to answer insipid questions. He took off his jacket and put it around her and the arms she'd crossed across her chest moved slightly, and her tiny hands appeared and went to grip the labels of his double-breasted suit jacket that dwarfed her frame. She clutched it tighter around herself and continued to walk forward. Just as he began walking to take place by her side again, she lifted her head up from where her stare had been directed at the floor, and her eyes met Giselle's.
The brunette was sniffling and crowded by the bullying boys from before, the whole group now morose and still not over their fright. Little Joe seemed stuck in shock, his face set in a single wide-eyed, teary expression, and pulling his knees to his chest as he sat near the group, though not too close.
Ash pulled away from Giovanni and walked shakily over to them.
"Unkindness…just breeds more unkindness," Ash murmured softly. "In the end, we'll all just be unhappy. We'll never find the light at the end of the tunnel."
She gave a small, sad smile at the other.
"We'll be lost in the darkness forever."
Ash quietly turned away and headed back to Giovanni, who was inwardly frowning but said nothing, preferring to wrap an arm around her shoulders and lead her away. Ash and her group were silent until they reached the entrance to go into the Institute, where Giovanni then opened a door to the side. It was a small classroom setting and was empty.
"This should do for now," Giovanni spoke quietly. "I'll be back after I've finished with Officer Jenny, alright?"
She nodded and he left her with Misty and Brock.
"You okay?" Brock put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently.
Ash turned to him gratefully, nodding. "Yeah. I promise I am, guys. That was kind of scary and all…but I'm okay now. Sorry for scaring you all."
Misty sighed and shook her head. "It's not your fault, Ash. That was a scary situation. A lot of people would have been scared in your shoes."
"Next time I won't freeze up," Ash said determinedly. "I'll make sure I can be useful and be able to do something."
Misty wasn't sure she wanted Ash to become 'useful' in those situations. Useful meant her putting herself into bigger danger and staying put in situations where she could get hurt. Ash was proving to be rather reckless –and in an alternate world, a male Ash would be just as reckless –and attracted trouble and danger in spades.
They all jumped in surprise and looked around for the young voice they heard. They eventually found a young boy moving from under a desk next to an open window to the outside, the blinds almost closed but a sliver.
"Hello," Ash smiled gently at the other, coming forward slowly. She took a hand from where it had been still holding onto Giovanni's suit jacket, and waved slightly at the boy. "I'm Ash. What's your name, sweetie?"
The young boy adjusted the low collar of his school shirt slightly, blushing a bit. "I-I'm Max. It's nice to meet you, Ash."
Ash moved a little closer still, while her friends stayed quiet and became curious.
"What are you doing here, Max? Were you studying?" Ash sat on the desk, reaching out to ruffle his hair.
His glasses slipped down his nose a little. "I was going to head outside when I heard the fighting…so I ducked into this classroom. I tried to hide under a desk too, but these desks aren't all that good at hiding people."
Ash laughed lightly. "That they don't."
"But they sure do a good job fitting pipsqueaks under them," Misty smirked.
Max pouted. "Don't call me a shorty!"
"Drink some more milk then," Mustang interjected, and Max blinked, looking around in confusion.
Ash turned red in embarrassment and scratched the back of her head, while Misty and Brock shot evil glares at the pokédex.
"Her pokédex tends to do that," Misty growled sarcastically, still trying to will it dead with her eyes.
Max looked at Ash in wide-eyed fascination. "Really?"
"Hai! Roy, say hi to Max," Ash held out her wrist, showing off her pokédex.
Max turned red and puffed up, rather adorably in Ash's opinion. She giggled, which deflated Max from starting an angry tirade, and began to tousle his hair again. He blushed again and nearly tilted up more to savor her touch.
It's been so long since he'd had someone mother him…
"Hn. All that fuss because I had a gun on me," they heard someone grumble as they looked to the door to see Giovanni slip through it. A hand stopped it from closing and Lt. Surge went through next. "I have a license to own and carry it around. That's nothing to say about that knife you had on you!"
"Psh…it wouldn't have come into the discussion if they hadn't patted me down. I don't even know why! I wasn't the attacker here –and there's nothing against owning and carrying around my SARK knife. Maybe if I had my bowie knife –"
"That's Giovanni of Viridian and Lt. Surge of Vermillion!" Max burst out in awe. "They're in my textbook!"
Both men turned to look at the kid, raising an eyebrow identically. They were also wondering who the hell he was.
"How'd you know about them?" Ash pouted. For all her studying about pokémon and the world she was going to enter into, before she'd gotten her license, she'd never heard of who were the gym leaders and what they looked like.
"Their names are usually spread out more, but they tend to try to keep some privacy, so their looks are somewhat withheld. Though it doesn't stop one from looking them up and seeing who they are," Max explained.
Ash continued pouting. Okay, so maybe her focus was more on the pokémon and training and anything outside of that hadn't really entered her field of interest…at first. Heck, she barely figured out there was something about gyms and badges before she started on her journey.
"Giovanni's a little more well known because he's a hugely successful business magnate, especially in the Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn region," Brock continued. "All gym leaders, regional Elite Fours, and Champions, know about each other and are updated on who they are. However, the farther off, the less likely they are to know what each other looks like. And well…they don't always remember, especially if they tend to stay within their assigned town or in the case of the Elite Four and Champion, stay within their region. That means they'll even have trouble knowing what and who the other gym leaders are from their own region."
"Giovanni will be a little more recognizable because of his business dealings," Misty added. "But as he's still a private guy…" she chanced a look at him.
Looking and sounding bored, Giovanni spoke next. "I don't tend to allow pictures. I value my privacy. In any case…I am looking to expand into Sinnoh and maybe even beyond."
"Ohhh, are you thinking of overtaking Cyrus Industries?" Max asked starry-eyed at him.
Giovanni was a little taken aback at the eager reaction, but he didn't show it.
"In terms of expanding business and outdoing Cyrus Industries in economy in the Sinnoh region –they specialize in the construction industry, as well as dabble in education, mostly by building and in charge of the libraries in Sinnoh. A lot of the buildings in Sinnoh are also constructed by Cyrus Industries, hence their specialization in construction. I, however, do not deal in either industries too much, so while I want to surpass them in business, I have no desire to specifically become the best in those areas of marketing," Giovanni said disdainfully.
Ash blinked and looked at her older friend in awe, which made Giovanni slightly fidget. Not that anyone noticed. But still –she had no idea that he was so powerful in the world.
He reluctantly spared a thought for that twenty-seven year old upstart that owned Cyrus Industries. Cyrus Akagi may be doing well in Sinnoh, but Giovanni had plans to surpass the other in that region soon enough. Not just in business, but in other matters –as that book in Ash's bag had said, similarly: Rocket Today, Rocket Tomorrow, Rocket Forever.
To hell with Team Galactic.
"Are you brooding, Giovanni?" he heard Ash whisper to him, tugging at his sleeve. He looked over to her to see she was still snuggling into his jacket, causing an odd feeling in him, and that the kid was busy excitedly boasting about Giovanni's company and then reluctantly revealing his own Hoenn origins.
"No, I'm not," Giovanni told her, though he wondered if he had been. Still, the Rival Teams were getting a little too cocky. Especially those Team Aqua and Team Magma morons. "A little tired after the day's events though. We should get going soon, so we can get on with your journey."
Ash beamed at him and then trotted over to the others.
"... –And I got this Gio Corp. watch for my birthday last year!" Max exclaimed, showing off his watch. "It's got an inbuilt compass, and an emergency button that sends out a signal to the nearest police station."
"Uwah! Really? Sugoi! I want one too," Ash admired it. She found her bag and started searching through it. "Um…um…I do actually have something Gio Corp.!" she excitedly took out a…wallet. She hung her head after.
"Well…At least it's something…Yeah, Kanto-based companies!" Ash brightened up, pumping a hand into the air. "Kanto pride!"
Max was startled before grinning. "Y-yeah! Kanto pride!"
"Kid, didn't you say you were from Hoenn?" Lt. Surge gave him a strange look.
Max flushed red.
"Who cares?" Ash laughed, throwing an arm around Max's shoulders. "He's adopted into the region! Kanto pride!"
"Kanto pride!" Max cheered along with her.
"And you know, forget about owning any product from Gio Corp. You have the owner right there," Misty said blandly, pointing at Giovanni.
Ash glomped Giovanni's arm, and Max decided to copy her on his other side.
Max didn't want her to go. He liked her. She was kind to him, paid attention to him, and he really liked the way her hand would affectionately brush his hair back. Her smiles were so bright. And she was so smart and wise too –he heard what she said to Giselle earlier, through the open window he had been next to in the classroom.
He was having fun right now. He hadn't really been having fun there, even though he liked Kanto a lot. Since he was from Hoenn, not a lot of kids there were welcoming. He felt like an outsider and he didn't really have any friends. He missed his family back home and felt homesick a lot.
But now he just really wanted to stay with Ash.
She wasn't like Caroline or May, or any of the other ladies back in Petalburg. She didn't talk down to him, didn't brush him off, or think he was annoying. He could even bet that if she had been a boy, even though 'he' might have a little less patience with Max than this Ash did, 'he' would still care for and protect Max.
He didn't want to be left alone there, even if he had a scholarship and he was getting good grades and all his teachers liked him…
"What a gathering," he heard the door open again, and another man stepped in. He looked vaguely familiar too… "How's everyone doing?"
"Well enough," Giovanni answered neutrally, and Max was still in awe that a man like him was right in from him right now. "We're waiting for the green light so we can get out of here and continue on. We'll probably head to the place that we would have gone to, had we not teleported from Pokémon Land to Sonezaki's."
Max felt dread build up in his stomach, at the same time as he perked up a little about hearing about Poké́mon Land. He'd always wanted to go there.
"Maiden's Peak then?" the unknown man inquired.
"Yeah, looks like," Lt. Surge agreed. "Plus, they have a festival going on around now, don't they? Ash, you'd like to go, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah! Sounds fun!" Ash clapped her hands eagerly.
Max frowned in disappointment, upset that it seemed they (especially Ash) were all going already.
"Oh? Who's this?" the newcomer caught sight of him. "I'm Sam Oak…enshield. Oakenshield. Yes. Sam Oakenshield, nice to meet you."
Ash coughed and he looked to see her smiling behind her hand. "Oh yes, his full name is Samuel Thorin Oakenshield."
"Welcome to the Company, Max," Lt. Surge smirked at him.
The others started grinning as well (in Giovanni's case, a small brief uplift of his lips), and Max felt like he was hearing an inside joke. He wished he was in the 'inside' of the group…
"Before we go, I want to take a picture of Max," Ash said abruptly, and that made Max feel instantly happy.
"I wish I had a PokéNav already," Max said dejectedly. "Dad promised he'd get one for me for my graduation –but if I had one now, I could have used the camera app on it so I could take pictures too."
"Hm, I could sketch you a picture of the group," Sam said thoughtfully, rubbing his chin. "While Ash takes pictures of you with her phone, I'll work on it."
"And I'll sketch Pikachu for you!" Ash exclaimed excitedly.
"So you've kept up with your sketching, have you?" Sam asked her.
"Un! Although, I'm much better drawing pokémon than people," Ash told him.
And though Max was sad they were leaving, he was ecstatic to be taking pictures and being remembered by Ash and the others, and receiving three sketches –one from Ash of her Pikachu, who had snuggled up to Max the entire time the mouse had been sketched, and two from Sam –a drawing of the whole group, and one of just Ash herself.
He was so happy with them, and getting Ash's number so he could call her with the dorm's public phone, that he wasn't as sad as he thought he'd be when they all teleported away with Ash's Espeon.
The group of men was rather depressed that Ash had teleported away with her group. They'd wanted to show off their refurbished double-decker luxury sleeper bus, and hope for her to travel in it with them. Only they'd been outsmarted and left behind once again!
But that's okay. They knew where the group would be going once they finished helping out with some kind of errand they'd had to go to.
"Um, what's this?" a pretty lady with glasses practically gawped at their bus, her hand loosening on her travel bag.
"This is the Ash Ketchum Travel Bus," one of them proclaimed proudly.
"It's huge," another man stood next to the glasses lady, and he was huge. "Lorelei, that's freakin' awesome. I wished I had something like that for my pokémon journey."
"What's this about Ash Ketchum?" an elderly lady came up from behind the duo.
And so, the Harem Club explained their existence and their present calling. Agatha, the old lady, chortled loudly. A glint appeared in her eyes.
"So you follow her around and want to cheer her on, eh? Why don't you also join her fanclub?"
The guys looked at each other before turning back to the now foursome (a red-haired man was standing beside the hulking dude, looking amused at the proceedings) with wide grins.
"We'll join Ash's fanclub!"
Espeon had teleported them back to Pokémon Land, near the private hotel, where Giovanni then had a helicopter fly them out to Maiden's Peak. There they saw all sorts of festivities going on, that got most of them all gung ho and eager to partake in the festival.
"Oh, I should dress up now," Ash sighed, remembering. She really hadn't thought about it before, since she'd mostly been detained with thoughts of other things, and she hadn't really been traveling. But still, she should dress up as a guy, especially with so much celebrations going on. And don't they say that festivals usually 'invite' heavy drinking? She didn't want to run into any drunk perverts.
"Yes, yes you should," Misty said firmly, ignoring how the others deflated.
Oak blinked. "What? What's going on?"
"Er…didn't Mom tell you what she'd wanted me to do on my journey?" Ash blushed.
"I have to dress like a guy," Ash mumbled. Not that she was doing a good job remembering. But she was surrounded by so many guys and people who knew anyway! It wasn't her fault if she forgot. Plus, she really hadn't needn't to, what with the events that had happened and prevented her from needing to disguise herself, especially on her travels.
"Let's get over here, Ash," Misty dragged her over to behind some trees, and the rest waited until they were done. When Ash came back out, she was in the dress suit Giovanni gave her, since her regular clothes were still dirty and she hadn't gotten a chance to get them cleaned.
"I don't approve," Oak deadpanned. "It's like seeing you being dressed up by my assistants again. Do you remember when they made you cosplay? I had to deal with your mother berating them and then me."
"Sam!" She didn't want to remember those embarrassing times.
"It was cute when they had you dressed up as a lab assistant though. I kept that around so you could wear it around the lab –it was like having a mini-assistant around!" Oak reminisced.
"Samuel Thorson Oak!"
"Thorson? Your middle name is Thorson?" Misty interrupted.
Oak looked at her warily. "Yes, it is. Why?"
"It really fits with Thorin! Hahaha!" She, Brock, Lt. Surge, and Ash burst out into laughter and Oak rolled his eyes.
"Or maybe I should say Thor?" Ash continued mischievously. "Where's your hammer?"
"Hush, you mischievous girl," Oak huffed. "Fits with your name, Asheila Lokison Ketchum. Lord knows why your mother named you after me, in a pair."
"Haha, we have Loki and Thor in our group," Misty kept laughing.
"Wait, your name is Asheila?" Lt. Surge turned to Ash. "I'd always thought 'Ash' stood for Ashley."
Ash pouted, but Oak snickered as he tugged at her hair. He felt odd acting young though…
"Ash doesn't like stating her full name," Oak explained. "She knows it's odd and people have the same reaction to her first name…and middle name, while we're at it. In any case, people always assume 'Ash' is for Ashley, so she lets them assume what they want. It's easier that way."
"Well, I think your name is pretty," Giovanni said sincerely, stealing the spotlight and causing Ash to turn red. "Let's head further in. We might miss out if we stay here any further."
Everyone agreed and they began to walk more into the festival.
Nearby, two pairs of eyes continued to watch them. Though they hadn't heard a thing, they'd watched them from the moment the boy in the dress suit had walked back to the group.
"It's him, Ghastly," the Maiden whispered. "It's Toushiro…"
Ghastly watched the fading backs of the group, particularly on the one that the Maiden was talking about. Every time the people of this town held this festival, he would choose a male to witness "The Ghost of Maiden Peak" to keep her story alive, and to hopefully actually find her one true love.
Maybe this time, it really was him…
"And so the Maiden waited and waited, refusing to give up hope that one day, her true love would come back to her…"
"What a sad story," Ash murmured.
"I know, right?" Misty sighed. "It's so romantic though."
"It's more of a tragedy," Oak frowned. "Who knows what happened to the soldier? Did he move on and forget about her? Did he die? And there's the Maiden, who waited for so long and ended up dying waiting for him. It's a sad ending all around."
"But I suppose all great, epic and maybe even true love stories are usually tragic," Brock added on, looking serious. Then he turned to Ash, wearing a goofy grin as he held her hands. "Not that our love will be tragic –!"
Misty twitched and grabbed his ear, pulling him away.
"You need to cool your heels, Romeo…"
Ash just stared more at the painting, feeling extremely sad. Suddenly, she thought she saw something at the side of her peripheral and saw a transparent woman gazing sadly at her, looking remarkably like the Maiden of the painting they'd been looking at, while a man had been presenting it. She swallowed harshly, staring wide-eyed at…the ghost?
"Ash, you okay?" Lt. Surge nudged her shoulder, and she saw that she was being stared at by the rest of the group.
"I just…thought I saw something," Ash frowned in confusion. "I could have sworn I saw the Maiden." But she looked again, the ghost was gone.
The guys all chuckled at her and she pouted at them. "I swear I did!"
"I think you just got a little too into the story," Giovanni said wryly. "Don't worry about it. It'll fade from your mind. For now, let's get some food."
Everyone decided that was a good idea, especially since they hadn't had anything to eat for awhile, and then went to go grab Misty and Brock and the food. All the while, they were being watched by the Maiden and Ghost.
"My love…come back to me…"
Ash shivered and looked around warily.
Ash yawned as she played dice with some people, feeling full after eating so much. She wanted to play all the games in the festival though, especially since she wanted to win all the prizes.
"Hey. Hey, you."
Scrunching up her eyebrows, she turned and saw an old lady beckoning her over. Ash blinked and pointed at herself. The old lady nodded and Ash curiously walked over, though she felt increasingly cold as she came closer.
"I've been waiting for you."
Ash looked behind the old lady, hearing the voice that said that, and saw the Maiden. Her shriek died in her throat as the old lady from before transformed and she saw a Ghastly. It performed Hypnosis and Ash crumbled to the floor.
"Toushiro...let's be together again. Forever," the Maiden whispered wispily, reaching out tenderly to brush back Ash's hair, though her hand passed through.
"Don't worry, Maiden," Ghastly reassured her. "I promise everything will be alright in the end."
He used Psychic to then levitate the Maiden's true love from that spot, and back to the Shrine of the Maiden. There was no evidence left behind, and they were neither seen nor heard.
Except for three trouble-making idiots, who were hugging each other in fright.
"Did you see that?"
"A ghost! And it kidnapped the twerp!"
"What do we do? What do we do?"
The Team Rocket Trio panicked and almost started to run around like headless chickens.
"Should we tell the boss?" James asked suddenly.
The others stared at him in horror.
"He'll kill us!"
"Yeah, the boss'll be furious that we didn't even do anything!"
"But he'll be even more mad if we don't say anything to him now," James shivered.
Jessie flipped her hair, straightening up. "Of course we tell the boss! What are you two? Scaredy cats?"
Meowth sniffed. "Speak for yourself. I am a cat."
That decided, the three of them went to go search for their boss, who coincidentally (or not) was looking for Ash with the others, after they noticed she'd gone missing from their group. In fact, he'd become so worried, that he uncharacteristically was going around flashing his phone at people, and showing others his picture of Ash –the first selfie she'd sent to him, with Pikachu squishing into the picture –while asking around if anyone had seen her.
But he was having no luck, and neither were the others.
Giovanni blinked and then frowned, looking around.
"Pssst! Boss! Giovanni, sir!"
He inwardly sighed, wondering what those three idiots wanted now. Especially when he had much more important matters to deal with, like finding where Ash was and making sure she was okay.
Turning, he saw them hiding behind a stall and he reluctantly trekked over to them.
"What is it?" he asked irritably.
The three looked at each other and he was about to snap angrily at them, when Jessie and James pushed Meowth forward. And the cat pokémon blurted out what they saw and Giovanni hid his cringe. This didn't bode well.
Damn it, why can't the dead stay dead?
He distractedly praised them, making all three preen happily, and rushed from them to inform the others of what he'd learned, hiding exactly whom had told him.
Lt. Surge cursed under his breath. "You don't think she's in any real danger, right? It's just a fucking Ghastly…"
"And a ghost," Misty flinched.
"The ghost sounded benign," Oak tried to lend out some logic. "Just…missing her lover. Who she thinks is Ash. Who shouldn't have dressed up as a male," he looked darkly at them.
"It is the Ghastly we should be worried about," Giovanni frowned. "He's behind this kidnapping, maybe with indirect prompting from the ghost."
"I think we should go back and see that shrine from earlier," Brock suggested. "Maybe they took her there?"
"Good idea. If anything, anywhere important to the Maiden," Oak finally admitted for himself and the others that the legend and the ghost of the legend were true, "should be our best bets on where Ash could be."
"And we're all pretty sure of one spot, and haven't heard of any others," Lt. Surge muttered.
Giovanni looked out to the area where they knew the shrine was and felt himself tense up.
May was nervous. She'd just set foot in Kanto, in the town of Vermillion. She was in a new place and didn't know where she really was or where to go. Frankly, it was rather frightening to be traveling around by herself.
But if she could only just meet Ash Ketchum, then this would all be worth it.
And if she could only just somehow teach and help May connect and reach out to her father…
One of the things she'd really hoped for was Ash maybe teaching her to connect to and like pokémon, so that she could finally have something in common with her father and become closer to him than she currently was.
May was tired of being alone and feeling outside of her family, with having nothing in common with any of them. Maybe, just maybe, she could at least find someone to connect with in Ash, even if the other couldn't help her connect with her family, especially her father…
She wondered how Max was doing. Ever since he'd gotten that scholarship to attend the Pokémon Seminar here in Kanto, he hadn't really been contacting home as much. She wondered if he was happy, happier than he was in Hoenn. Had he made a lot of friends? What would he say about Ash?
Would he have the same thoughts as May?
Then again, maybe May was just crazy. Crazy, depressed, and alone.
She wished someone was with her right now.
It was cold, so very cold. It felt like she was submerged in ice. She could even see her breath in front of her, as she took deep breaths.
Her limbs felt numb and she couldn't seem to move them. The hardwood floor she lay on creaked every so often as the wind from outside picked up. The room she was in held very little light, and what little it had came from the natural light that crept in from the outside.
Ash blinked lethargically. Where were the others? Were they okay? Did they notice she was gone? Were they panicking (she hoped not)? She wondered if the Maiden's ghost would let her go. Did she really think Ash was her lover from the story? After so many years, the Maiden's love had finally come back?
Ash wanted to say she wasn't 'Toushiro.' She wanted to plead with the spirit to let her go, somehow convince the other that she was really Ash Ketchum, a female and just a regular pokémon trainer. But she had a feeling the Maiden, nor the Ghastly that prowled about watchfully, would listen and believe her.
"Toushiro, my love. Together again," the Maiden murmured, appearing and hovering above Ash, lying parallel in the air to Ash's body. Ghostly lips lingered above Ash's own, and she could feel herself share ghostly breaths. It chilled her already cold body.
She saw white wrappings appearing from thin air, coming towards her and gently wrapping around her limbs until they pulled her upright and had her hanging in midair. Her arms were spread out and the wrappings bound her legs together. One of the wrappings wrapped around her throat and pulled back, making her neck stiff and frozen in place. Part of it moved up and her chin lifted, which led to her staring straight into the apparition's ghostly visage.
"I'm...not…Toushiro," Ash muttered, looking sadly at the ghost.
'I'm not him. Please let me go.'
For a moment, the Maiden wavered. But then Ghastly appeared and floated beside the spirit.
"Hush now, Toushiro. Don't upset your love," it reprimanded her. It turned to the Maiden. "He is confused. It has been a long, long time, my lady. Don't fret, you two. At long last, the two of you have been reunited."
Ash blinked away tears. This was at once sad and yet also frightening. She'd always been afraid of spirits and the supernatural, but now she was really experiencing something like this…But she also felt sorrow and pity for the Maiden.
And really…What had happened to Toushiro?
"Soon…soon we'll be together forever."
Ash cried, not knowing if she was crying for the Maiden or herself.
The group finally made it to the shrine as the sun was setting. So far, they'd seen no sign of Ash and their worry was getting worse. Suddenly there was a crash and most of the group jumped in fright, while two specific individuals whipped around towards the source and got into ready attack stances, fingering their pokéballs. Weapons would probably do no good against spirits and ghost pokémon, though most of them lacked any pokémon that could go up against ghost-types anyway.
Giovanni's Persian was already out, lithe body tense and coiled, ready to pounce, feeling his master's agitation and having a vague sense of something wrong –especially with the girl his master was so fond of missing from the group. That made him just as unhappy as his owner.
Raichu was also out, cheeks sparking in equal agitation as her own master and also of that of Pikachu's, who she tried to keep calm. Nevertheless, Pikachu's beloved mistress was missing and nothing seemed to be able to calm Pikachu.
"It's cold," Misty muttered, rubbing her arms.
They could see their breaths in the air and the temperature seemed to be dropping even more. Then there was another crash and they all turned to the direction it sounded from, with Persian growling and leaping forth, gracefully rushing forward and into the trees. Within seconds, two familiar people were thrown out and Persian was striding back with a certain Meowth struggling from his jaws, cursing and whining. Still, Persian was much stronger than him; not that Meowth would ever admit to that.
"What are you two doing here?" Misty asked in exasperation.
"Who are they?" Oak whispered to the closest (Lt. Surge) to him.
Lt. Surge vaguely explained, not yet as familiar with them as the others. Brock chimed in and explained a little more, and the Rocket trio jumped up and huffed.
"We're here to help," James said haughtily, though an undertone of worry was easily heard.
"Yeah! No one's allowed to mess with the twerp except us," Jessie sniffed, whipping her long hair behind her as she put a hand on her hip.
"We already called dibs on the twerp!" Meowth added in, finally getting away from Persian, who actually just let him go while rolling his eyes.
"Whatever. Just don't get in our way," Giovanni said warningly, letting the double-meaning wash over the trio and also hinting retribution in his eyes if they messed up.
They hid their gulps.
Suddenly, they heard the door to the shrine slide open and they looked over to see Ash. But she didn't seem to notice them, as she walked out of the shrine and farther away from them…heading…heading towards the cliff!
"Ash! Ash, what are you doing?!" Oak yelled, and they all panicked and tried to run after her.
Ghastly appeared in front of them, blocking them from reaching her.
"I won't let you interfere!"
It raised a bunch of things, most rocks and branches, and began throwing them at them. They did their best to dodge them, but they could only watch as Ash got closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. They were running out of time.
He turned his head and saw Lt. Surge give him a look. At the moment, he was probably the best to talk to Ash and break her out of whatever hypnosis she was under (plus he was the closest person in distance to her). But he had to go now.
He bolted for it and almost got a rock to the head for it, only for his loyal Persian to leap high and take the hit for him. He winced, but his Persian growled and shot him a look, still standing strong and ready to keep fighting Ghastly. He clenched his jaw and continued to rush towards the hypnotized girl.
"Ash! Stop! You have to stop!"
Surprisingly, she did. But right at the edge.
She turned halfway to him, her profile highlighted by the sunset behind her, the colors bathing her in a bloody light. Her dress suit and tie billowed in the wind and her eyes were dark and hazed over.
"Come back with me, Ash," his lungs were burning. He didn't remember the last time he'd run so desperately. "Come back to us. Come back to me."
She blinked and then her lips moved into a sad smile. Then they soundlessly formed words.
She took a single step back and floated a moment in the air over the cliff, before she began to fall backwards. Giovanni didn't even think. He ran and leapt after her.
He couldn't explain what had happened next. All he knew was that he'd caught Ash and held her tightly as they continued to fall to the waters, with her still in his arms. And then there was a flash of gold and a warmth unlike any other entered him as he was caught by something and then flown back unto the cliffside. A screech, both terrifying and yet heartwarming, sounded through the air, and the Ghastly flittered about before disappearing.
And then the presence, whatever it was, was gone as well.
"Was that….Ho-Oh?" Oak muttered in shock.
Giovanni stared at him, still holding Ash as he sat sprawled on the ground.
Oak brushed back Ash's hair, whom had lain unconscious ever since the near death experience. The group, even the Rocket trio, silently gathered together in the shrine. Pikachu was worriedly snuggled into her arms, staring at her intently.
"I don't know what to even say about this whole thing," Misty rubbed her face. "Ash attracts so much trouble. I'm just glad she has so many people to help her out."
"She's always been a magnet for trouble," Oak confessed. "It's more or less why her mother and I were unsure of letting her go on this journey in the first place. I'd honestly really had wanted my grandson to travel with her, but he was adamant on traveling on his own all of a sudden. If I could guess, it's probably because he didn't want to travel with the girl he likes. He's not very subtle about it. Rather the opposite."
Giovanni and Lt. Surge inwardly scoffed, thinking the kid was a chicken. Brock was a little more sympathetic, but he also couldn't imagine not traveling and being by Ash's side, even if she didn't return his feelings.
Ash began to shift and focus moved back to her. When her eyes opened, they all looked expectantly at her.
"G-guys?" she blinked a few times. "What happened?" she moaned and pushed herself up, and Oak helped her.
When he told her what had happened, she winced and then her own memories began to come back. She told them what had happened after she'd got separated from them, and sheepishly rubbed the back of her head.
"Ah, geez. Now I'm going to be even more afraid of ghosts," she sighed. "But I can't believe Ho-Oh came to my rescue again."
"Again?" Giovanni raised an eyebrow, getting intrigued.
Ash grinned slightly, though it was a tinge sad. "When I was younger, I got lost in the woods near Pallet. Ho-Oh found me and kept me company, while I waited to be found. I think it also somehow led the people searching for me to where I was…"
Oak rubbed his chin. "Hm, I remember that. You were gone for hours and everyone was worried. When the group that found you talked about it, they mentioned hearing a soft trilling, like a song, leading them almost instinctively to where you were. They also felt inexplicably warm as they got nearer, not really in temperature but more feeling-wise."
"Yeah, I stayed in that clearing with Ho-Oh until they came. Ho-Oh left before they saw him," Ash finished off the story. "I'm also pretty sure I saw him flying towards a rainbow during the first day of my pokémon journey."
"Ho-Oh, huh? Wow, that's amazing," Brock commented in awe.
"It's a he?" Misty noticed Ash differentiating.
"Un! Ho-Oh is a male."
"Fascinating," Oak sighed wistfully. "I wish I could have met him."
They talked quietly for the rest of the night, trying to not bring up recent events and remind themselves how close to a bad ending they had been. Even Team Rocket's presence was let slide, and the trio just chowed down and enjoyed Brock's cooking.
It was a tiring night.
The next night was full of excitement and activities, being that it was the last night of the festival. Misty and Ash were dressed in colorful yukatas, and she ignored the voice in her head that was lecturing her about being in a female yukata when she should (as her mother would want) be dressing up in a male yukata.
Next time, Ash promised herself. Next time, she'd go as a male.
Brock, like usual, was acting silly but very sweet. He repeatedly complimented Ash, making her giggle and feel flattered at his kind words. Lt. Surge, who also repeatedly complimented her, was more boisterous and sometimes edgier with the admiration, easily making her blush again and again. Of course that was his goal, and Misty had no qualms chasing the unremorseful and laughing man around with her mallet.
It was Giovanni who was a little odd though.
As soon as he saw her, he'd blinked and then complimented her (even if it was a mutter). Then he'd walked off quickly and isolated himself. Occasionally, she'd catch a flash and look in that direction to see him holding up his phone, only for him to quickly turn away and continue keeping to himself. She wished she'd managed to get him into a yukata though, but he seemed adamant in staying in his suit…
Then it was time for the tourou nagashi, and Ash lit the candle in her paper lantern and gently set it down onto the water, so it could float down the river, with the wish it would help the Maiden's spirit be guided back to the "other world." The others, along with other people that had been in the festival, also did the same thing. She even saw Giovanni, though he looked extremely uncomfortable, perform the traditional ceremony.
Still, the ceremony made Ash remember the Maiden and she felt both sad and scared. She didn't want to remember what had happened, but she also felt an inexplicable sorrow for the Maiden and her plight. Her feelings and thoughts haunted her as much as the Maiden literally had earlier, and she privately wondered if that was just the Maiden still haunting her for real…
Ash couldn't help herself. She made her way back to the Maiden's shrine, and headed straight to the cliff.
The Maiden wasted no time reappearing, looking sadly at Ash.
"Toushiro, have you come back to me?" she asked Ash mournfully.
Ash smiled just as sadly. "I'm sorry, but I'm not Toushiro."
The Maiden stayed quiet, watching her forlornly.
Ash reached out and lightly touched her fingers against her ghostly cheek, feeling her fingers encased in ice.
"I'll visit you next year. I promise. I won't let you be lonely."
The Maiden smiled softly before she burst into tiny bits of bright light that hovered and surrounded Ash before disappearing. Ash blinked back tears and continued to watch the lights fade away one by one.
And if Ash could, she would do her best to find out what really happened to Toushiro.
Started 6/25/14 – Completed 7/13/14
A/n: This came out much more serious and ghostly than the original episode XD I blame Jigoku Shoujo, the anime, and the soundtrack. Every time I think of supernatural, I think of that anime and that soundtrack (which I inevitably listen to). I will also say that while I liked how this chapter came out a lot, I am much more giddy about the next chapter and the chapter after that. I have one word for you: Saffron. Mwahaha! Finally, Sabrina.
Quick Important Points:
1. Bill and Ash's pokédex: I find your guys' reactions to him hilarious. He is an ass, but a useful one to have on your side for all the smart tech things he can do. In any case, what he did to Ash's pokédex, the ultra secret feature, I think will be a cool addition and one that I don't think has been done before. Looking forward to seeing how you guys think about it, when it comes up.
2. Sir Aaron: Leaning towards a positive add towards permanent, but I'll let you guys add your opinion on him for this last chapter before making a decision before the next publication.
3. Genderbent Characters: Only Ash's gender will have changed. I tend to not genderbend other characters besides the main, mostly so I can focus more on the ripple effect and how characters' perception and interactions would change towards the main, if the main character's sex was changed.
4. Pokémon Suggestions: I should have mentioned this last chapter (or maybe even the one before, not sure when I completed my list), but I have finished creating a whole list of Ash's main pokémon parties for each region, etc. compiled mostly from everyone's previous suggestions. That isn't to say that Ash won't substitute and probably even have a secondary party of pokémon ready to be used in battles. So, for any more pokémon suggestions you guys suggest from here on (or really from last chapter on), they'll probably be used for something else aside for Ash battling with them, used to sub for the main party, or she just plain adopting and mothering them. The full list is on my website, in the new Loyal to the Game section (that I've been working on), but be wary of spoilers. Even the pokémon list is spoilery!
5. Il Silenzio Delle Stelle Cadenti/Precious Doll in This Ugly World: My Poké/HP Giovanni/Fem!Harry fic. Check it out please! I'm actually really getting into this one, and would like to know how others find it. The other fic is a new fem!Ash that I wrote for a contest in Wattpad (I lost, but oh well) and decided to at least put it up here as well, and have gotten way too many ideas for it to not want to write for it. Please check it out as well!
6. Pairing Names: If you guys are curious and want to know, I had time and decided to painstakingly look up the shipping names of my Permanent group (I'm quite surprised some of my crazy pairings actually had a shipping name):
Giovanni/Ash: ShatterShipping, Lt. Surge/Ash: WorstKindShipping, Lance/Ash: ChampionShipping, Oak/Ash DaddyShipping/BizarreShipping, Steven Stone/Ash: HoleShipping, Norman/Ash: UnbalancedShipping, Wallace/Ash: PerceptionShipping, Volkner/Ash: LightningboltShipping, Riley/Ash: AuraProtectShipping, Cyrus/Ash: RedTreeShipping, N/Ash: UnknownShipping, Cilan/Ash: CafeMochaShipping, Siebold/Ash: AquaTrainerShipping, and Sycamore/Ash: SixthLabShipping.
However, Colress/Ash, Archie/Ash, and Maxie/Ash didn't have a shipping name, but I did end up creating some and submitting them to become official. Therefore, Colress/Ash is now AmazedGeekageShipping, Archie/Ash is now KyogreCrossingShipping, and Maxie/Ash is BurningAshesShipping :D I also came up with Archer/Ash as InsubordinationShipping, Archie/Ash/Maxie as MotherEarthShipping, Cyrus/Ash/Giovanni as LikeABossShipping, Lysandre/Ash/Professor Sycamore as DrawbridgeShipping, Archie/Maxie/Cyrus/GiovannixAsh as BurntLedgerShipping, and Cyrus/Jupiter/Mars/SaturnxAsh as GagaOverVenusShipping. And since they don't accept Crossover Shipping names anymore, these are unofficial but created by me too: Giovanni/Harry as EmeraldIceShipping, and BurdenedWorldShipping as Cyrus/Harry.
Ship these byotches! Because I do and I'm crazy, so you should too and join my strange pairings cult.
To guest: Thank you! As for Ash finding out about what Bill told them, probably not for awhile. The others won't be so quick to want to bring it up either. And Mustang insulting Lt. Surge will be awhile (for a reason), and you'll have to see about Professor Oak :D Giovanni is totally a sucker for Ash, isn't he? Haha. Yup, Oak is younger and many people will be jealous and want the secret. And as you can see, Ash is fine! She's got her bodyguards ;)