Title: The Final Step to the Master Reloaded

Part: First Arc, Prologue

Author: Matthias aka MysticMew (Solarsenshi .at. gmx . de)

Beta: H-Man #89995, partly xryuran

Status: Alpha

Rating: R

Category: Romance, Adventure, Dark, lots of other things...

Pairings: Ash/Dawn (main), added as revealed

Continuum/Spoilers: Everything up to the start of the Sinnoh League Tournament, from there on original plot.

Distribution: M&M DreamWorks Blog ((hypertext) mysticmew44 . blogspot . de), M&M DreamWorks Archive ((hypertext) mysticmew . bplaced . net), Fanfiction . net (www . fanfiction . net), M&M DreamWorks archive and blog gets preference and the desired and best format, all versions will first go to the blog and archive.

Disclaimer: Pokémon©1995-2011 by Nintendo, Creatures Inc. and GAME FREAK Inc.

Story Disclaimer: TFSTTM Reloaded©2011-? (ongoing) by Matthias aka MysticMew

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Revision Note (2013)

The first two arcs have been given a thorough revision. Revision sounds a little much though. Mostly what has been done is clean-up of potential typos, plot inconsistencies (if I find any) and taking to heart some of the helpful comments of reviews over the course of the story.

Just when I thought I'd give up, I stumbled upon a competent beta after all, unfortunately that wasn't in time since I had most of the revisions done already. But I will have him look over these as well in time and probably make another mass update once we are done until all episodes are properly beta'ed.

As of now I will use a slightly altered format as well. Instead of the {} for place indication I will simply bolden the entire line and the scene break as well. This has a dual reason really. First of all it gives one less thing to replace in the future when converting the files for ff . net. But it is also more convenient to handmaking html code out of this (and not the crap word spits out) and properly indent the text. Everything else will stay as you know it though.

Oh, and we will have an Opening sequence for the first arc. In accordance to the divided opinions about the inclusion of the Opening in every episode, I will make a compromise and include it only every other episode in reasonable intervals.

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New Archive and Blog (Update Priority!)

Furthermore. I will have started a blog by the time I am ready to really write and post again. The blog ((hypertext) mysticmew44 . blogspot . de) will be kept in tandem with a complete revision (and that is meant for real) my outdated archive ((hypertext) mysticmew . bplaced . net). The blog will be for a lot of things, honestly, but also a more consistent way of bringing about updates, plus hopefully freeing you of the constraints of ff . net's formatting rules (or restrictions).

Considering I kept saying that you should go to my site but no one apparently did so... well, I will enforce my policy of update priorities going to my new blog and site. The advantages are for both of us. For one it means, I can more easily, directly and for others to see answer questions, criticism or other points raised if you post a comment on my blog rather than a review. And I can present you with the best layout possible for the story. Aside from that, I will use this more frequently to put out additional information, status updates and perhaps even sneak previews of upcoming chapters. So if you really want to support the story and the speed with which I am going to move on to its conclusion, please give it a try and visit more frequently.

Especially since it's not going to stay as an update measure (that wouldn't quite warrant a blog after all). There will be news, articles/essays and such about the things that interest me from various categories (mostly though anime/manga, games, fanfiction).

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Author's Notes

Yes, I am alive. *Looks to a comatose Maia* Not so sure about my muse. Personally I am not sure if this just a short reemergence or something more. I'll try but I can't keep any promises. Lots of it will depend on my motivation which had been rather lacking in the last years, mostly due to university but also just a simple, personal lack thereof.

Enough about me though. Let's talk about this story. Some old readers, mostly my German/German-speaking readers from long, long, looooooong ago may recognize the title. And as you may guess, this one is based on a similar principle but with many different elements. To be fair, I personally still don't know where exactly I'll be going since I've got only a rough idea about the start so far. However, many of the elements the original TFSTTM had will be used, altered probably, in new situations most likely but you'll see some familiar aspects for sure.

Despite that it is still more or less a unique story. Ever since I first started TFSTTM in a time where Gold/Silver hadn't even reached Europe, a lot has changed in the Pokémon Universe. Especially so to the available cast and as such the possibilities for pairings. Back in the day there was rather little flexibility but there is now. You'll definitely not see the same pairings in this one. And to all those hoping, I'll say right away, this is definitely not an AAML. Once upon a time Ash/Misty was beyond doubt my favorite – probably for lack of any substantial alternative too –, this has long ceased to be. You'll already see in this Prologue which direction I'll be taking with this one and my current favorite. So without further ado, I leave you to read and hope you enjoy these first glimpses of this story.

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M&M DreamWorks Presents

The Final Step to the Master Reloaded

First Arc: Breaking the Limit

Prologue: Diverging Paths, Overlapping Paths. Journey Crossroads!

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Not much further now. The Lily of the Valley Island was only a short trip away. The excitement had been steadily growing stronger, reaching a cresting peak with the battle against Volkner. Suppressing it was not an easy yet a necessary task. Failing to do so meant I wouldn't be able to properly focus. And I needed to do that now or I feared the outcome of this League would not be much more than the last attempts.

Kanto had been a learning experience. The first journey. Looking back I felt kind of foolish for acting the way I did after my loss. Johto was a close call, so was Hoenn. Close calls, yes. Never further than the best eight either. Every time I thought I would do better. Sure, I did. Somewhat. But not enough. Never enough.

Gazing out over the ocean, I once again wondered what I should do. Normally I did not worry about these things, tried to always push forward, grow stronger. Not that I was despairing over the issue but in the last days ever since the conclusion of the battle with Volkner I couldn't shake of this nagging feeling, this need driving me onward to change things. I had hit a wall somewhere. Plain and simple. The realization had hurt and was hard to acknowledge. My progress was minimal at best. I knew I was good but for a long time now I had been unable to make the last step, overcome the last obstacle to fight toe to toe with the elites.

At least we were arriving early. The League would not start for another three months. A decent time to get some training in but too short for anything short of getting everyone in top shape. Normal training would not produce any greater breakthroughs short of perhaps learning a few new attacks. What I needed was something more... daring. Extreme one might say. Perhaps now was the right time to implant the special training regiment I had been working on for a long time. I had always shied away from the strain it might put on my Pokémon, especially after meeting Paul and seeing his methods but if I wanted to make that last step and if I wanted to do it now, I would need to.

"If that were to be the only thing," I mused to myself. Pikachu was playing with Piplup somewhere and I was glad for the moment of solitude. My best friend was getting far too stubborn in bugging me about the other issue that had an impact on my concentration. I know people think I am entirely naïve about the subject of love. Maybe in a lot of ways I still am, no one ever told me properly. Mom hadn't when I left home and I didn't really understand or found it important. There had been something between Misty and I but by the time I realized what it might actually be, it was already too late. I doubted we would have worked out to begin with, always at each other's throats as it were. There was no particular regret now that nothing had come off it.

Back then regret might have been a factor. Perhaps May and I could have gotten somewhere. We definitely had a few moments where I kept wondering but at this point some regret over Misty was still there, to some degree, and I never acted... Not that I would have really known how.

Now there was Dawn though. Something had just clicked from the very beginning. There was a connection that I had never felt so strongly with anyone else. Maybe it was because right from the beginning we were travelling as equals. Misty often had acted like the more experienced person even though there was only a year of difference between our ages and in the end I could say I had become the better Trainer. At first May had been following me around and even freely admitted in the end that she had copied a lot from me. Dawn had known her path from the beginning and our journey together had been more like equals. Her determination to pursue her goal had reminded me strongly of myself. I was impressed how she actually handled all the bumps in the road. I certainly hadn't had it that rough on my first time through Kanto – barring Charizard troubles – but she dealt with all the setbacks with an inner strength that was simply admirable.

And she was definitely more successful. Her loss at the Grand Festival was hardly anything to be ashamed about. The final outcome was so close it was probably in the decimals if actual points would have been counted. The "loss" made the otherwise less than flattering term of second winner actually worth something.

Seeing her fight like this might have been the deciding factor for me to admit, at least to myself, that I had strong feelings for her. With that came the knowledge that this journey through Sinnoh was all but over. And with that our journey together. Never before had the thought of separation from a travelling companion affected me so much. There was no guarantee we would stick together... unless I did something about it.

Pushing away from the rail, I nodded to myself. "No way around it." And with that I meant both of my prime concerns. Too often I had missed the opportunity before. The time for a change was now.

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For how long I had stood there, observing Piplup and Pikachu play below on the deck, I can't say for sure. Ash's silent arrival had startled me out of my thoughts. My mind had been drifting, replaying all the important parts of my journey. So close. So close had I come to fulfill my dream just a short while ago. Rationally I knew how stupid it was to even think that making second place at the Grand Festival on your first try could be considered failure. However, coming so close and then to fall just a fingertip short of success was harsh.

And then there was the whole "daughter of a former Top Coordinator" issue... Perhaps that pressure had been mostly self-made. Not that it wasn't without basis. Mom was very popular at home and I hadn't made much of a secret out of it from a young age that I wanted to follow in her footsteps. They weren't outright and direct but the comments were there, as were the expectations. I used them willingly as fuel too, until I had actually set out and realized how stony and steep the road to the top really was. Was it a wonder that I was feeling somewhat inadequate for just coming short? I didn't show it and I was genuinely happy for Zoey. To be more precise, I was glad it was Zoey and not someone else I lost to. But it still hurt.

How pathetic. My feeling of inadequacy barely stood a chance against Ash's situation. And more than once now he had actually praised me for my progress. "You've already come so close, sometimes I feel a little envious," was what he said just the other day and made my heart ache in shame of my own thoughts. Ash had been a great inspiration. His unwavering will had often pulled me along when I was feeling down. Seeing and hearing him talk about his own doubts made a big impact. I could sympathize with his feelings but at the same time felt so tiny and insignificant. The kind of situation he was in I could not even comprehend. Trying to imagining myself in this situation a few years from now, I realized I couldn't. Deep down I knew, having come so close that the final push I had to make was already so much smaller than what he had to do over and over again.

"There is a small remote area just a little ways off from Valley Lily Island. We can get there with a different ferry and then go straight over to the League from there. I'd like to do some training away from everything. Just my Pokemon and me... A training partner wouldn't hurt though," he had said, giving me a smile that made my heart flutter. Of course I told him the obvious. It was his tournament and he had always taken time out of his schedule to train with me too. His response had surprised me a little, more so the emotions I could see reflecting in his eyes. "I have been working on some new training methods. There is no way to sugarcoat the truth. What I am planning is going to be rough. I've given all my Pokémon a choice whether or not to participate, so the same goes for you."

He had been so serious. Obviously this path scared him somewhat... no, not scared exactly. There was reluctance to take it, perhaps doubt if he could pull it off. That hadn't been the greatest surprise though yet. The greatest surprise definitely was when Ash gently placed his hand on mine and granted me a look I had sometimes fantasized about but never – or at least not in the immediate future – expected to see. "I've never felt so... connected to anyone before. I feel that if we do this together, I... no, WE will definitely get stronger."

There was so much more expressed than spoken. I was still shocked now as I stood silently with the older boy. Ash had taken a step I didn't expect him to. Crossed that invisible line that had kept the strong friendship, comradeship and yes, almost partnership from sliding into something more intense, something more... Just something more. I couldn't say what and I doubted even Ash did. The word "love" was left unspoken because frankly neither of us seemed ready to acknowledge that seriously.

Now though, now it would only be harder to decide what to do after the League. Kenny's words and quasi love declaration had thrown me for a bit. Not so much the latter. I liked Kenny as a friend mostly and couldn't really see it go anywhere else. But then again, I had also not expected for Ash to get a clue and push our friendship down a possible romantic path. He often acted so outrageously clueless about the subject that I wondered how much of it was an act. Looking at him now, feeling his hand still on top of my own, I realized that perhaps he really was far more aware than showing everyone else.

No, I couldn't say now what I would do after the League was over. But the likelihood of sacrificing some of my ambitions had just gone up a bit. I know Ash would never want me to but if there really was a chance of something more blossoming between us – and he had more or less shown me that without actually saying –, then I had to seriously consider giving it serious thought.

For now, I realized, I still had an answer to give. An answer that was far more simple than the rest of the choices ahead. "Count me in." The relieved and radiant smile warmed my heart. Yes, everything else would work itself out from now. Perhaps this training would not just benefit our Pokémon and training skills. Perhaps it would always provide the answers I have been looking for as well.

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Ending Notes

So much for the Prologue. Considering my long absence from writing anything serious that I actually considered of posting, I am definitely hungry for some feedback. Especially from readers who know my previous work and whether or not I managed to keep some of the quality.

There is really not much to say yet about this part. I placed it at this point in the anime as the most opportune for a divergence. The tournament honestly didn't have me very satisfied. I think what irked me most was the stupid Legendary Pokémon Trainer. Treatment of Legendary Pokémon has always been rather... controversial but that Trainer was really pushing it. It was pure and unnecessary overkill. They obviously just couldn't think up another good challenge for Ash after he kicked out Paul. Considering that Ash even took down two Legendaries but the remaining finalist didn't even get past Darkrai... You can draw your own conclusions, I'm sure.

Ages. I haven't really specified but I'm taking some liberties. The eternal same age complex of the anime is definitely getting on my nerves as is the starting age. Maybe back in the old days you could pretend that Ash and Misty were around 10/11 but Ash still looks mostly the same. And he's been through 4 leagues, the Orange Isles and the Battle Zone. If you consider at least the leagues worth a year-long journey each (intervals between tournaments) and the Orange League + Kanto Battle Zone roughly amounting the same put together, Ash should be around 15 at the end of Sinnoh, perhaps even more. Definitely doesn't look like it. And Dawn, May before that as well, don't exactly make the impression of regular ten year olds. I'd put them at 12/13 at the very least and that's roughly the age range I'm going to work with. I might have thought this through a little better next chapter.

This story is going to be a serious one. Not the same – pardon, if I offend anyone personally – crap that you can find in most Pokémon stories around. There is a definite lack of good, serious and original epics that involve the original crew. Same goes for Ash/Dawn stories. Those who knew the original will know I can get pretty dark at times and while that may be some ways off, you won't find the same kiddy approach of the show but something more mature. As such I'll need to make the characters like that too while not trying to go too OOC. Every oddity will be somehow explained and if I end up not doing so at some point in the story, you are free to tell me.

I really hope I can get back to more serious writing, even if only at a slow pace. My work situation doesn't look all too good at the moment. I'm finished with university but still looking for a job. I got some unpaid practical training at the local newspaper online section in June and July, so time for writing will depend on whether or not I can make time for it. Considering that both video games and local TV have little entertaining to offer for quite some time now, there is more hope for me sitting down in the evening and writing something... perhaps. Depends on whether or not I can rouse Maia from the dead once in awhile.

Feedback will help, always. As you might know I appreciate constructive one, be it praise or criticism but even short comments may help to motivate me.

Ja ne, yours