Friendship is Eternal

A/N: Ash, Iris and Cilan find themselves pulled away from their journey at the request of one of their old friends. This starts them on a quest that brings back many old faces, a few new ones, and a challenge that Ash must overcome. Exactly what challenge is this? Well, you're just going to have to read to find out!

Disclaimer: I don't own anything Pokémon related whatsoever.

Chapter 1: Old Memories

It had been a long day, and the sun was halfway out of sight under the horizon. On the outskirts of Nimbasa City, three weary travellers rested around a foldable table, enjoying their last meal for the day.

A small, yellow mouse-like creature with black stripes, long, black-tipped ears, and a lightning-bolt tail scampered around the feet of his partner and trainer: a young man wearing a short-sleeved, blue and white jacket with black stripes and a bright yellow zip, dark brown cargo pants, red and black sneakers, fingerless black gloves with red cuffs, and a red and white baseball cap with a blue Poké-ball insignia set on messy black hair. In his palm sat a metal case, with eight indentations set in blue felt, four of which were occupied with a set of diversely shaped badges, which glinted under the light of the setting sun.

'Nice work, Ash; that's badge number four,' said the girl sitting across from him. She was a young dark-skinned girl, with a white, long-sleeved tunic with pink hemming, a pink sash around her waist, white leggings, pink and white sneakers, and a huge mass of inky black hair stretching above her head and almost down to her knees, tied into two pigtails above her head and a small ponytail below. Poking out of a tuft of hair above her shoulder was a small green lizard-like creature with two tusks on either side of its mouth and a black crest on top.

'Yeah,' responded Ash, closing his badge case and leaning back to remember his intense battle with the Gym Leader, Elesa, 'I'm halfway to the Unova League now! I can't wait for the next gym battle!'

Iris shook her head. 'Ever rash, Ash,' she sniffed. 'Can't you just take a break for a while?'

'That's true, Ash,' said the third member of their group, Cilan, a tall, green-haired young man, older than the other two, who was always immaculately dressed in black dress pants, a long-sleeved white shirt, brown shoes, black waistcoat, and green bow-tie. At the moment, he was busy packing away his cooking utensils. 'A great recipe still needs time to simmer and form, before it can become truly delectable to the senses.'

'I've taken my break when I had my dinner,' Ash said. 'I'm ready to get back on the road again!'

'Sorry Ash,' replied Cilan, 'It's too late to head off now. If we left, we'd never reach the next town before nightfall.'

'But if you really want to hurry,' Iris said, standing up. 'You can clean up!' she said smartly, sliding her empty plate towards Ash.

'What?' moaned Ash. 'Why me?'

'Think about it this way,' Iris said, 'the faster you clean up, the faster we can go to bed, and the sooner we can leave the next morning!'

'Axew-xew!' agreed the green lizard, poking its head out of her hair.

Ash frowned, thinking about it, then scooped up all the dishes on the table and turned towards the nearby stream. 'Come on, Pikachu,' he said. 'We've got dishes to wash.'

'Pika!' responded the yellow mouse, hopping up onto his shoulder as the two of them disappeared past the bushes.

Iris stared after them and shook her head. Sometimes I wonder how he made it this far, with an attitude like that.

That evening, after a long, tiring spell of washing dishes, cutlery and Pokémon plates, Ash rested under a tree with Pikachu perched on his lap. They were flipping through something that looked like a photo album.

'Pika! Pi-pi-pikachu!' piped up Pikachu, pointing to one of the photos.

'Yeah,' said Ash, turning to one of the pictures, depicting the moonlit surface of a lake, as stars twinkled both from the sky and from the glimmering surface of the water, taken from a lavish balcony, 'it was the view from the Wallace Cup, over Lake Valor in Sinnoh. That was certainly a sweet view.'

'What was a sweet view?' asked Iris, swinging down and hanging upside down from a tree branch, Axew cradled in her arms, looking over Ash's shoulder. Upon seeing the photo, her face lit up. 'Wow, that's beautiful!' she exclaimed. 'Where was that taken?'

'This was the view from Lake Valor,' said Ash. 'I travelled there with my friends when I was in Sinnoh. It was for a Pokémon contest that me and my friends entered together.'

'You entered a Pokémon contest?' Iris repeated in amazement. 'I never thought you'd be the type.'

'Yeah, well, Wallace sort of talked me into it,' said Ash modestly.

'Wallace? As in that legendary grand master of the Elite Four and Top Contest Master?' said Iris in amazement. 'You met him?'

'It was a chance meeting,' Ash explained, 'and it didn't turn out too badly. I made it to the top 8 using my Buizel.'

'Wow, nice work Ash,' Cilan said, moving over to take a look. Just then, his eye fell on someone at the side of the photograph. 'Hmm? Who's this?' he asked, pointing to a person sitting at a small table in the corner of the photograph, looking over the lake. She was a young girl with shoulder-length navy-black hair, who was wearing a black tank top, white vest, short pink skirt, a pink scarf, a pair of gold barrettes, and a white cloth beanie with a pink Poké-ball insignia. Iris couldn't help noticing that she looked quite pretty.

'Huh? Oh, that's my old friend Dawn,' Ash said, 'she was my old travelling partner when I was going through Sinnoh. She's a Pokémon coordinator, and she actually won the Wallace Cup. She's going through Hoenn at the moment, hoping to become Top Coordinator.'

'Wow,' Iris said, hopping down from the tree to sit beside her friend. 'Sounds like you two were close.'

'We've had a lot of adventures together, both her and her Piplup, that's for sure,' Ash said, thinking about their journey through the Sinnoh Region. 'Her mother is actually a master coordinator, and she's hoping to become just like her.'

A small grin crossed Iris's face. 'Do you miss her?'

'Of course I do,' Ash said, 'I always think about how all my friends are doing. I wonder how many ribbons she's won by now…' Turning to look at Iris, his voice died off when he saw Iris's sly expression. 'Wh-what's with that look?' he mumbled, starting to sweat a little.

Iris cocked her head to one side. 'I mean, do you like her?'

'Of course,' Ash said. 'She wouldn't be my friend if I didn't.'

There was a thud as Iris collapsed anime-style. 'Ugh,' she groaned, 'you're really such a kid!'

'Hey come on, I'm almost 15 now!' Ash responded indignantly. 'How can you keep saying I'm a kid?'

'Because you don't understand what I'm trying to say!' answered Iris loudly.

'Okay, okay, you two, calm down!' cut in Cilan, moving in between the two of them. 'Anyway, Ash, you've never mentioned your other travelling friends before, how about you tell us about them?'

'Oh, sure,' Ash said, as Cilan sat on Ash's other side. 'How about I start from the very beginning?' Iris settled down as Ash turned to the very first photo. Sitting on the edge of a diving board was a redheaded young woman wearing a light yellow sleeveless tunic with a blue collar, yellow shorts, and cradling a small, bouncy blue mouse-like ball in her arms. Her hair was tied up in a ponytail that nestled on the side of her head. She seemed very happy to be there.

'This is my first companion, Misty, and her new baby Pokémon, Azurill. I met her right when I started my journey, and she's been with me through both the Kanto and Johto regions, and she's now the Gym Leader of the Cerulean City Gym, along with her three sisters. She's got a lot of spirit, and I hear she's doing really well at the gym.'

'Cool! She's a Gym Leader too?' asked Cilan, looking interestedly at her.

'Yeah,' answered Ash. 'And she's an expert trainer in water types, just like your brother Cress. She can get a little stubborn sometimes….' Ash's voice trailed off slightly as he remembered all the times the two of them had butted heads, 'but you'll never find a better person to watch your back than her.'

'So I'm not the first Gym Leader you've travelled with, am I?' asked the former Gym Leader of the Triathon City Gym.

'No you're not,' replied Ash. 'In fact, you're the third.'

'So who's the second?'

'This guy right here,' Ash turned to the next page to show them another photograph, this time showing a huge family. A happy couple stood in the photo, with a tall teenage boy between them. The mother had long auburn hair and bright eyes, while her husband was strong and sturdy, with a head of spiky grey hair and squinting eyes. Iris and Cilan could instantly see the resemblance between father and son, with his son instead having hair that was dark brown. He was dressed in a green t-shirt with an orange-and-brown vest, khaki cargo trousers and black sneakers. 9 kids ranging from preteen to toddler were perched on the ground at their feet, all sporting the same squinty eyes and spiky hair.

'His name is Brock,' Ash said, pointing to the teenage boy. 'He was once the gym leader of Pewter City, taking care of his many siblings, but once his father returned, he started travelling with me to become the world's greatest Pokémon Breeder. He's been with me the longest, travelling with me through Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh, heck, he's been everywhere with me except the Orange Archipelago. Right now he's training to become a Pokémon doctor.'

'Sounds like someone I'd like to meet,' said Cilan, looking at him interestedly.

'You would, you're both amazing chefs,' Ash agreed. 'He's very smart and he knows a lot about Pokémon, just like you, but he does have one problem…'

'What's that?' asked Iris.

Ash winced as the memories came back to him. 'He has a tendency to fall in love and hit on just about every pretty girl he meets, in particular Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny back in the other regions. Was it embarrassing? Most definitely. Successful? Pretty much never.'

Iris and Cilan winced in sympathy as they could imagine Brock trying to flirt with almost every young girl around, embarrassing his companions. 'Why would he do that?'

Ash shrugged. 'I've given up trying to understand the reason a long time ago. Normally it fell to Misty, Max, or even his own Croagunk to haul him away.' He chuckled at the image of Brock being dragged away by his three old companions.

'Max?' wondered Iris. 'Who's Max?'

'I'll come to him later,' said Ash. Turning the page to the next photograph, he showed his companions a teenage boy with jet-black hair, who was wearing a green t-shirt, a red headband, brown cargo pants and sneakers. In his hand was a sketchpad, and he was busy drawing a group of Pokémon who were playing in the background.

'That's Tracey. He's a Pokémon watcher, and he specializes in observing Pokémon in their natural habitat, and then drawing them in his sketchbook. He accompanied me through my journey in the Orange Archipelago and the Orange League.'

'Wow, he's good,' Iris said, looking at the sketch in the photograph.

'Yeah, he is,' Ash agreed. 'He knows a lot about Pokémon in their natural habitats, and now he's working as an assistant to Professor Oak.'

'Huh? You mean he's working for the famous Professor Oak?' Cilan gaped, wide-eyed. 'The officiator of Pokémon development and care? A literal trailblazer in Pokémon connoisseurship?'

'Well, I don't know about the connoisseurship part, but yeah, he does help Professor Oak a lot in caring for the Pokémon on his ranch. He actually joined me because he heard I was close to the Professor, and wanted to meet him. He's a great companion, him and his Pokémon.'

'Cool!' Cilan said. 'He's a lucky guy. He and Brock both sound like someone I should talk to about the quality of Pokémon. Such people would give great insight into forming the perfect recipe of Pokémon care!'

'Oh, Cilan, can't you go one sentence without putting connoisseur-speech into it?' complained Iris.

'Of course not,' replied Cilan, twitching slightly. 'Every connoisseur has to perfect the art of artistic speech before the board even puts you into C-Class.' Iris shook her head in amazement.

'Moving right along,' Ash said, trying to get past the subject, he changed to the next photo in the album. This one showed a picturesque Pokémon Gym in the background, and a smiling family standing in front of it. The tall, sturdy man was wearing a striped brown jersey, dark blue trousers and had jet-black hair and an exceedingly friendly smile. His wife was very pretty, with long brown hair and a pretty smile. Their two children were smiling from in front of them, and in the foreground was a teenage girl, a couple of years younger than Ash, with hair just like her mother's, tied into two bunches on either side of her head, tied back with a red bandanna around her head, marked with a white Poké-ball image. She was wearing a red blouse with a black undershirt; black travelling shorts, a yellow pack on her left hip and white walking shoes. Beside her was her younger brother, who was about 8, with a green jersey, black shorts, long black hair, and thick spectacles.

'Hey, isn't that Norman, the Gym Leader of the Petalburg Gym in Hoenn?' Cilan inquired, peering at the man. 'You're friends with him?'

'Yeah, mainly because his kids were my travelling partners through Hoenn,' answered Ash. 'His daughter's name is May, and she's also a Pokémon Coordinator, just like Dawn. When I met her, she was just starting out her journey, just like Dawn was, and she and her brother Max decided to follow me through the Hoenn region as I competed in the Hoenn League, and then followed me through Kanto and the Battle Frontier as she competed in the Kanto grand festival. This picture was taken about two years ago, right after I beat Norman.'

'Where's she now?' asked Iris.

'She's going through Johto right now, collecting ribbons. I wouldn't be surprised if she's reached the Grand Festival by now.'

'What's she like?'

'She's very strong-willed. In fact, when I first met her, she didn't even like Pokémon at first, but she's become a very talented coordinator. She's funny, resourceful, likes her food, and…hey,' Ash said, turning suspiciously towards Iris. 'Why all the questions?'

'Oh, nothing,' Iris said innocently. 'Just wondering what a girl would have to be like to put up with you for two whole regions.'

'What's that supposed to mean?' Ash asked indignantly.

'Well, given your attitude, a girl would have to be really thick-skinned, or really like you to stand you for so long,' replied Iris cheekily.

'So then, Iris, why are you following me then?' Ash countered smartly.

Ash almost enjoyed the dull flush that appeared on Iris's dark face. She floundered for an answer for a moment, then mumbled, 'Never mind. Forget what I said.'

'So what's Max like?' asked Cilan, trying the change the subject.

'He's incredibly smart for his age,' Ash replied, 'he probably knew more about Pokémon starting out than any beginning trainer did. He's probably just started his journey already. And as I mentioned already, he's the one that did the Brock-dragging when we were in Hoenn.'

Cilan chuckled at the image. 'You've certainly got a lot of great friends,' he said, 'Any more?'

'Yeah, a couple more,' he said, turning to a new picture, showing two people out in the woods standing next to each other, waving happily to the camera. The girl on the left had a very perky smile, along with long brown hair tied into two pigtails, partially hidden under a large white hat with a pink bow. She was wearing a long-sleeved pink tunic with a white collar, a pair of short blue overalls, long white stockings and pink flat tops. Over her shoulder, she carried a beige bag with a pink Pokégear attached. Next to her was a young boy with a mop of curly black hair, a white long-sleeved shirt, a green tunic, blue jeans and brown shoes. On his back he wore a blue backpack with a blue Pokégear attached to the strap, and a pair of spectacles rested on his nose.

'Lyra and Khoury are from Johto, and they travelled with Dawn, Brock and myself for a short while through the Sinnoh region,' Ash said, pointing to the girl and boy in turn. 'They're best friends and they're both great trainers, and Khoury's actually training to become a Pokémon breeder, like Brock.'

'Wow, so that's who you could meet after 5 or so years of travelling,' Iris said. 'Do you have more travelling companions?'

'Not really. Well, after May and Max headed back to Hoenn after my Battle Frontier journey, Brock and I headed to the Sinnoh region with Brock where I met Dawn. After my travels through Sinnoh, I rested back in Pallet Town for a while, then I came here to Unova where I met you two.'

'You really get around a lot, don't you?' said Cilan.

'Yeah, I guess I do,' said Ash modestly, rubbing the back of his head. He and his friends continued flipping through the photo album for a while, looking at the pictures of his friends, mentors, rivals and other characters whom he met on his journey. It was when they were looking at a picture of their group with Bianca, Professor Juniper's blond, ditzy assistant that he gave a yawn, and realized how late it was. Closing the album, he stretched and picked up Pikachu.

'Well, looks like it's getting late. We'd better turn in if we want to make it to the next city.' He turned and headed to the spot where he left his backpack. Cilan and Iris watched him, and then turned to each other.

'Ash certainly has a lot of great friends,' Iris mused, 'I wonder if we'll meet them someday.'

'I'm sure we will,' replied Cilan, 'after all, they all seem to have a great friendship.'

Well, that was the first chapter! Hope you like it! I'll be posting the rest up soon, so please R&R! And please, no flaming!