I guess this doesn't have enough Contest-shipping for this to be good enough. Sorry. Pokemon belongs to Nintendo and Game Freak, and not all original characters are mine, but I have been given permission to use them. Thank you and enjoy.

---

Ambulando Cum Mortuis: by runia24

Chapter 3: And So The Journey Begins

---

"I knew it!" Michael exclaimed. "I thought you seemed familiar."

Cassius nodded, and then turned back towards Sidney. "As for the Nightshade attack, there's a very good story behind that, but it's fairly long, and really best told just about anywhere that isn't a bright, cheerful spring field."

"That scary, huh?" was Sidney's sarcastic response, but she didn't mean any harm by it. "Well, if you're ready...the next town is west from here. Where you headed anyway?"

Ginger was sulking again, she lost her berry, and now Sidney, her best friend, was ignoring her. Why wouldn't she just listen to her and stay away from these strange ghosts?

"I'm trying to get to Fortree City," he said flatly. "There's a festival taking place there in less than a week, and I'm supposed to be there to help open the new temple they've built there, dedicated to the forest sprits," he answered. "If you're interested, I've heard there's a big tournament happening during the festival."

Michael's eyes lit up at the word "tournament." Of course, he was also going to Fortree as well to challenge the Gym Leader, Winona, for a Feather Badge.

The Misdreavus, Maiden by name, drifted back, falling in next to Ginger. "Are you alright?" she asked quietly, speaking in the Pokemon language of course. It was hard to believe that the sweet, timid little ghost had only moments before looked quite frightening indeed.

"Absoool... (Go away...)" Ginger still felt bitter after her humiliating defeat...but it did make her feel good to know that someone cared.

Maiden nodded, drifting back a few paces to keep an eye on the Absol from behind. She looked genuinely worried about the dark Pokemon, despite the feud that was supposed to exist between ghosts and dark-types.

"Fortree City? That's great!" Sidney looked positively delighted and she clapped her hands together. "I'm from there. Ginger and I lived there five years before I became a trainer. I know the place like the back of my hand."

"Really?" asked Cassius, "I've heard it's a beautiful city, but never had a chance to see it for myself." He didn't quite have the nerve to ask for more directions. How hard could it be to find such a big city once he got his bearings again, after all?

"Oh, it's really beautiful. Everyone lives in trees. And speaking of trees…" She turned around, walking away. "I need to stock up on some things before we go. Wait here."

The young woman had made her way over to a nearby evergreen. A vine, out of place, dangled from the branches. She tugged on it, checking its sturdiness, and started climbing.

"This is my base!" she called once she reached the top. It was a few minutes before she came down again, her bag looking a bit more heavy than before. "Ready when you are."

Cassius was a touch amused to see that the Fortree trainer was still living in a tree, even when she'd moved from the city. "I'm ready, then," he said, double checking to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything back at the battle ground. Misdreavus chirped her approval, examining the vine at the base of the tree with some considerable interest.

"Me too," the blond haired trainer chimed in, causing the other two trainers to look back at him.

"You're coming with us?" Sidney asked.

"Um, yeah. I was heading for Fortree anyway… to challenge the Gym Leader, so what are waiting for, let's go!"

Sidney smirked, placing her hands on her hips. "Well, someone's in a cheerful mood. Do you even know where the place is? Or am I the only one here who does?"

The Absol didn't mind Michael so much. Cassius on the other hand…that dude gave her the creeps...and his Pokemon beat her to a pulp. One wondered how long it would take the little Pokemon to forgive the trainer.

"I've got a map to Fortree, but I'm a little lost even with it," he didn't mention the fact that he couldn't read maps to save his life. "By the way, you never gave me your name," he added, following the other two as they began walking. Misdreavus followed as well, several paces behind. She wasn't particularly fond of sunlight, but she hadn't been out of her Pokeball for awhile and was enjoying the chance at some exercise.

"Oh, you're right. How impolite of me, and to a Gym Leader no less…the name's Michael," he said to Cassius.

"And my name is Sidney Valentine. You already know Ginger. And I'll have to introduce you to the rest of the team sometime."

Cassius nodded, and turned to glance at Ginger for a moment, mentally connecting the name and the Absol's face. Unfortunately, it looked more like a glare coming from him.

With introductions out of the way, the three trainers started down the road towards Fortree, each with one Pokemon out of their ball: Ginger, Maiden, and Proton.

Sidney set her bag down on the ground next to a large boulder. "Break time. You want some lunch?" She opened her sack with the utmost care, but it slouched to the side, spilling its contents all over the ground. "All I have are berries…and now it looks like I have to clean them again." Ginger, who was off sniffing flowers…or trampling them… came over and plucked a very large red one from the ground. She then curled up next to Sidney and began munching away.

Michael leaned against a tree on the other side of the road and opened his backpack. "I always keep a large supply of Berries, just in case. You can have some if you like, I don't mind sharing," he said, handing a berry to his Manectric, who immediately started gnawing on it.

"I've brought some food of my own as well," said Cassius, digging through his own bag and fishing out the last of the food he'd brought with him. Five small containers of Pokemon food, and a sixth with Pokechow-filled dumplings, which drew less attention than if he ate it plain. There was a large tree near the boulder, which thankfully provided a fair bit of shade, so he decided to let his entire team out for a break.

Maiden was already out, so he next released a Dusclops, followed by a Banette and a Sableye. An exceptionally large Gengar was the last to come out, and he looked warily around to ensure the rest of the ghosts were safe before accepting a food dish from Cassius.

The female trainer followed Cassius's lead, releasing a baby Cubone, a Medicham, a Swablu, a Milotic, and finally a Mightyena, the same one that left his Pokeball earlier. Sidney evenly distributed the fruit according to each of their tastes. The baby Cubone crawled up onto Sidney's lap, expecting to be hand fed. Rex, the Mightyena, took his and carried it over to Ginger. He placed it on the ground and nudged it towards the distracted Absol, offering her his lunch...but she simply ignored him.

The rest of the ghosts took their lunches, then floated, walked, shuffled or crept over to the tree to eat. The Banette called to Cassius, asking if he was going to join them. "Haunter haunt, haunt, haunter haunter (human form, guys, you know the drill)" he replied, taking a seat near the boulder and pulling out a pair of chopsticks from his bag.

Misdreavus smiled at the Mightyena's actions, ah sweet spring romance. The Banette, however, just snickered, mockingly mimicking the Mightyena by offering her lunch to the large Gengar, who growled and told her to knock it off.

Rex noticed he was being mocked, and he stuck out his lower lip in a very human-like manner.

"This little guy is Taro," Sidney said, helping the tiny Cubone to eat his half a berry. "He's just a baby. His mother died before he was born, so I took him when he was just an egg. Now he thinks I'm his mother," Yes, you could really see the resemblance. "The Mightyena's name is Rex. He's really sweet. The Milotic is Silvien." The Milotic waved at Cassius with his tail. "The Medicham is Lulu and the Swablu is Wesley." They both blinked at Cassius, not sure what to think.

Cassius frowned inwardly for the Cubone, wondering how his mother had died. "Haunt haunter haunter (pleased to meet you all)" he said to her team of Pokemon, bowing a little. "The Misdreavus over there is Maiden, and there's Rook," he motioned to the Dusclops, "Godfather," the oversized Gengar, "Marionette," the Banette, "and Sneak" the Sableye.

Taking the not-so-subtle hint, Mike let all his Pokemon out for some fresh air. "This is Static," he began, pointing to a Raichu. "And this is Lighthouse, Quicksilver, Kaboom, and Shockbox," he then pointed to an Ampharos, Jolteon, Electrode, and Electabuzz in order. Mike then gave them all some berries, and the five joined Proton, chowing down.

"Haunt haunt haunter, haunt (pleased to meet you, too)," said Cassius politely to the electric trainer's team.

It was pretty easy for Cassius to recognize what Michael's specialty was, and he gave Maiden a worried look. The Misdreavus gave him a nod, as if to say "I'm okay", then turned back to her food, edging away from the electric group. The Gengar glared at Michael, apparently blaming him for worrying the shy green ghost Pokemon.

Michael took notice of this, and realizing that the Gengar's name was Godfather, it concerned him a bit. "Well, I guess my dad had a lot of influence on me. He's a Gym Leader in Kanto also. You might know him as Lt. Surge," Michael stated, as if it was no big deal.

"That certainly explains your choice of Pokemon," said Cassius, smiling. "I've met your father before, he was on the board of representatives that chose me as Lavender's Gym Leader," he added, hoping Lt. Surge hadn't found his, ah, unusual condition interesting enough to mention to his son.

Since the two men were on the topic of gym leaders, Sidney decided to join in. "You must know Koga then." Taro tried to climb onto her shoulder and she helped him up with her hand. "I was born in Fuchsia City. I wanted to be a ninja, and he happened to be the best instructor in the area at the time. That was before my family moved to Fortree. I was eleven then." The memory of leaving still pained her. "As you can well guess, I was really upset. Fortree's a...simple place. I hated it there until my father caught Ginger for me. She's been my only friend over the years."

"So you're both from Kanto, then?" asked Cassius, more of a statement then a question. "That's a fair coincidence. I've met Koga several times. He's the world's expert on poison Pokemon and I, ah, I train several Pokemon who are half poison," He motioned to the Gengar, who turned and glared at the other two trainers.

Sidney waved, trying to be nice. "Hi, Godfather." Then she said quietly to Cassius. "Is he, like, the leader of your Pokemon? He's pretty big for a Gengar." Unlike Ginger, who was small...even for an Absol.

"He's more like their protector. He's a bit moody when he's around the living though, so don't mind him if he isn't very friendly," replied Cassius, looking over at Godfather. "And he's always been that big, ever since he….well, ever since I've known him."

Rex was still somewhere nearby, watching Ginger. The Absol didn't have to look around to know that. The Milotic slid over to Pandora. "You're some fighter," he sang in Pokemon speak. "Your trainer must be very proud."

"Thanks!" said Pandora cheerily, the praise going immediately to his head. "I learned the Thunderbolt attack all by myself, I've been practicing it for years. But that surf attack of yours was pretty big, dunno how I'd've fared if I didn't have a type advantage."

"Yeah," replied the Milotic. "Not many have avoided my Surf attack. Thanks to you, now I know to be more wary when using it." He swayed in the wind, his drooping 'ears' blowing to and fro. "But I prefer the life of luxury. I was a regular Beauty Contest precipitant until Sidney decided to become a trainer. But if it wasn't for her, I would've never evolved...so fighting for her is the least I can do."

Ginger finished the remains of her berry in one big gulp, and left her spot to join the two conversing Pokemon. "What are you doing talking to him? He blew us into oblivion...and you're praising him?" She rolled her eyes.

"Oh like you're one to criticize for talking when you're not supposed to, miss it's-not-over-'till-the-fat-Absol-sings," replied Pandora angrily, sticking out his tongue -- a very noticeable gesture on a Haunter. "You're just lucky Cassius didn't faint this time, or you'd be sorry."

"Oh, so now you're saying I'm fat?! Take that back you dumb ghost, you...or I'll Slash ya! Yeah, think you're so cool 'cause of your detached hands and...floatiness!"

"Calm down, Ginger," Silvien urged. "He didn't mean anything."

"I don't think you're fat!" Rex barked, running over. "Making fun of my girl, are you. I'll make you pay!"

"I am not your girl! Go away, Rex!"

"Can't we all just get along?" Silvien groaned.

"Hey, guys, the Absol just insulted Haunters!" yelled Pandora. The rest of Cassius's team turned instantly towards Ginger, glaring. Maiden was the only one to echo Silvien's comments, trying to keep the two groups apart.

"Pandora's always making comments like that, don't take it personally," said Maiden. "And Pan, you know better than to get a dark-type upset like that, Cass told us to be on our best behavior. We're going to be traveling with these guys for awhile."

But Ginger wasn't listening. She was already charging up another Shadow Ball.

"Uh, Ginger?" the water Pokemon said quietly.

Back over where the trainers were Taro saw what was taking place and tried to get Sidney's attention by tugging on a lock of her black hair, but Sidney failed to notice.

"So what's it like being a famous Gym Leader?" she asked as a large BOOM sounded behind her.

"I think 'stressful' would be the word for it," replied Cassius, glaring at the battlefield. "Hang on, I need to go tie Pan's tongue in a knot before this gets any worse."

The ghost trainer got up from his seat, walking over to a soot-covered and very dizzy Pandora, who'd been hit full on by Ginger's attack. He put a hand on the furious Gengar's shoulder, a difficult task since Godfather was taller than him.

"Pandora, return," he said quietly, returning the angry ghost to his Pokeball. He then ensured that the back of his head was turned to the other trainers before he locked eyes with Ginger. "Haunt haunter haunter haunt haunter, haunter haunt haunter (If you have a problem with ghosts, take it up with me)," he hissed. Eerily enough, his violet eyes glowed a faint red as he spoke.

Kaboom was watching the Pokemon quarrel, and was annoyed by the yelling and shouting so much, he was ready to waltz on over and blow a fuse, quite literally. Mike's other Pokemon wisely decided to stay out of the little quarrel.

Maiden noticed Kaboom's irritation, and, not wanting anyone to get blown sky high, rushed over to tell him Cassius was handling it. "He's really good at dealing with situations like this, honest!" she pleaded. "Just please don't electrocute me, er, anyone please Mr. Electrode sir."

"If you say so…" Thankfully, Kaboom did back down and rolled back over to his fellow electric Pokemon. "But if you're wrong…"

"I think it was mostly Pandora's fault," said Cassius, putting away the aforementioned Haunter's Pokeball. "He's got a, well, a sense of humor a lot of Pokemon don't understand, I don't think you can blame your Absol for getting angry with him."

His eyes had returned to their usual brownish-purple shade, and he seemed to be oblivious to the fact that they'd been glowing seconds before.

"And you've earned yourself a timeout, young lady," And before Ginger could protest, she was stored back inside her Ultra Ball. "I've never seen her behave this badly. I'm really sorry...and I know I keep saying that."

She looked down at the black and yellow ball. It had been several years since it was last occupied by its Pokemon. And suddenly, a wave of guilt swept over Sidney. Had she done the right thing?

"Whoa! I've never seen her that mad before," Lulu butted in, joining the other Pokemon. She crossed her arms, squatting down.

"NO!" roared the Mightyena. "My Ginger!"

"Get over it, you overgrown mutt," Lu hissed, swatting him on the back of his furry head.

"It's really quite alright, and I can assure you Pandora will be receiving a stern talking to once we get to a Pokemon center," replied Cassius, turning after he spoke to the rest of his team. "These other Pokemon are going to be traveling with us for a fair while, as your trainer I'm asking you to cooperate with them," he said to them, using the human language despite the fact he was taking to Pokemon. "Anyone else starting a fight is liable to get a shadow ball in their face too, and it will serve you right."

Silvien shook his head, then slithered over to Sidney, touching the button of his Pokeball with his nose and returning to his place on her belt. The Cubone had been clinging to Sidney's hair the entire time, and now he sat perched on top of her head.

"You like it up there? Is it comfortable?" The tiny dinosaur Pokemon nodded his white head. "Alright, then you can stay up there...for now." She turned to Cassius. "He has severe separation anxiety. I kept him in his ball for too long."

The rest of Sidney's Pokemon wandered over to her, and she returned each of them to their Pokeballs, except Lulu, who was last in line. She tugged on Sidney's skirt, blinking up at her with the saddest looking eyes she could manage. "Alright. You can stay outside while Ginger's being punished."

Cassius called his team back too, clipping all six of his Pokeballs back onto his belt. Maiden had been getting tired of the light, and none of his other healthy Pokemon were travel friendly, so when the ghostly trainer packed up his bag and prepared to continue, he was without a Pokemon companion at his side.

"Shall we get going, then?" he asked, his tone indicating it was an honest question and not an irritated demand. He was eager to get to the next village, but now that he had a guide he had a fair bit of time to spare on his journey.

Michael followed suit, returning all his Pokemon but Lighthouse, who pulled off a similar routine that Lulu did. The electric trainer sighed, "Yeah, yeah, I know. Just don't cause any trouble." The Ampharos was claustrophobic, which meant he had to regularly be let out of his Pokeball. "I'm all set."

"Then let's go," Sidney laughed, taking off running. Taro nearly toppled off her head, but managed to hang on to the thin strands that made up his trainer's hair. Lulu did a type of victory flip, then chased after the young trainer using her short, thick legs. "Mediiii-cham! (Waaait up!)"

---

Wow, this chapter was much longer than I anticipated. Anyway, we got some group conflict between Ginger and the ghosts, and some other stuff too! Next chapter will have a super special awesome ghost story in it, a little late for Halloween, but it's going to be good I swear. Again, don't make me beg for you to click those green words and review.