A/N: Alright this is it, the beginning of their new journey! Please keep in mind I wrote most of these chapters years ago so it might not be as fleshed out as the newer chapters that are to come. Please leave a review if you read and enjoy!

Chapter 9-Soaring High

Hours had passed since they last left the train station yet they were still wandering inside the never-ending forest. The sun was starting to reach its apex as Ash led the group through the dark forest. He looked closely at the map, trying his best make out the confusing directions. He was sure that they were on the trail so he continued with confidence as Pikachu rested on his shoulder and Misty trailed behind.

"Ash, just admit that we're lost already and give me the map!"

"We're not lost! It's just…taking longer than I expected. If you would move a little faster than maybe we would be there by now!" he said looking back at her.

"Well after walking for three hours straight, I'm sorry if I can't walk any faster! Where's the nearest Pokemon Center anyway, my feet are killingme…"

"Well according to this map there should be one right…here!" As he said this he pushed aside a bush and right in front of them, was a Pokemon Center. Misty's mouth dropped, even Ash was a bit shocked too, but he kept his composure.

"See, what did I tell you? I can read these maps with no problem!" he said as he strutted towards the Center hidden amongst the trees. She stood still in disbelief then shook her head and followed right behind him.

They entered the red and white Pokemon Center through the automatic sliding doors. The center was empty with the exception of Nurse Joy standing behind the counter. Her attention was drawn to them as they approached. Misty sighed in relief as she rested on one of the couches in the lobby and Ash walked up to Nurse Joy as Pikachu took the time to stretch.

"Hi Nurse Joy I'd like to…wait a second, how do you look like all the other Nurse Joys? I thought this island was isolated for centuries!" She smiled back at him,

"One of my ancestors actually came along on the expeditions into Muntein." He sighed in disbelief,

"You guys should at least give others a try at being nurses…" He then looked over at Misty. She was distracted as she stood around observing the center so he leaned over the counter and whispered so she would not hear.

"Do you know where the nearest Gym is?" Misty crept up right beside him with a sly smirk.

"Oh I thought you knew how to read directions with noproblem, Mr. Map Master?"

"Well it doesn't hurt just to make sure, does it?" he said. He then turned to Nurse Joy. "So what's the quickest way to get to Conifer Town from here?" Nurse Joy's eyes widened in surprise and she said,

"You would probably have to take the train by now to get there in one day." Ash stepped back in shock and Misty raised her eyebrows, very interested to hear what she had to say.

"What do you mean by that?" Ash asked.

"Well you're not in the Evergreen region." Ash was stunned and Misty was looking smug, eager to rub it in Ash's face now.

"You're actually in the Minera region now. You can tell by the different colors of the trees: the ones in Evergreen are obviously green and the ones in Minera are orange." She drew their attention to a tree that could be seen outside the window. Its leaves were an assortment of colors from red to brown, but were mostly dyed orange. Misty looked at Ash with a sideways grin.

"So Ash, I see that not only you didn't find the Gym, butyou also landed us in a completely different region. I'd have to say that's a new record for you!" He turned around looking very aggravated.

"If you're the expert all of a sudden then how come you never noticed that the trees were different in color?"

"Maybe it's because I was too tired from walking in circles! And why are you getting mad at me for? You're the one that's dumb enough that you can't follow directions as simple as staying on a dirt road!" She huffed at him and they both positioned themselves for a fight until Nurse Joy leaned over the counter and separated them.

"Settle down you two, I don't want you to wind up in a real hospital!" They scowled at each other but they straightened themselves and looked away.

"So do you know where the nearest Gym is Nurse Joy, now that somebody couldn't find the right Gym in the first place," Misty said, glancing at Ash from the side of her eye. He threw her a dirty look as Nurse Joy responded,

"I could show you if you gave me a map…" Ash pulled out the map from his backpack and handed it to her.

"Let's see… If you simply go up this road after about an hour of walking you should reach the end of this forest. Once you do that, you'll be in a plain rock field with a big mountain in front of you; that is known as Mt. Minera. You need to go up that mountain about halfway to be able to reach Avia Town. I'm sorry if I can't make it any simpler than that," she added with a bow.

"As long as I'm the one leading, we shouldn't have any problem getting there," Misty said as she grabbed the map. She passed Ash who objected and looked ready to fight again as he stomped his feet through the exit.

They were out in the autumnal forest after leaving the Pokemon Center as Misty, who had the map in her hand, followed Nurse Joy's directions to the word. Ash lagged behind her with Pikachu on his shoulder.

"I think it's time you gave the map back Misty, we've been walking for a while now," Ash whined.

"So we can end up in another region? No thanks; besides I think I see the end of this forest up ahead…" she said, squinting her eyes to get a better look at the end of the road. A bright light shone from far away, signaling the end of the gigantic forest and Misty began to sprint with excitement towards the light as Ash and Pikachu followed. They passed into the opening and looked in awe around them at the colossal field in front of them.

The tan rock field before them was lightly covered with grass with bumpy rocks protruding throughout the field and small hills that rolled all through the land. Directly in front of them was an enormous mountain that towered before them, shrouding the land in a black shadow. The sun hid behind the peak of the mountain, giving it a golden halo and they stood in awe as their eyes traveled down the wide slopes of Mt. Minera.

"Come on Misty, we have to get there before it gets too dark," he yelled back at her as he began to run up the undulating hills. She followed after him, screaming back at him to wait as he neared closer to the mountain.

The sun had now begun its descent as they treaded up the steep mountain path. Misty was leading the group again with map in hand as Ash stayed close behind her. Pikachu was camped on Ash's shoulder, observing the barren mountain side as they climbed up the slope. Misty stopped in front of a big cliff that stood in front of their path. Ash caught up to her and asked,

"What's the matter, Misty?" She turned back to look at him after she took a final glance at the map.

"Well according to this map, we have to climb wall to be able to reach the town…" she said. Then she looked at him with a determined smile.

"Are you ready for this Ash?" He flashed a wide smile at her and clenched his hand,

"You know I was born ready!" Pikachu yelled in excitement and they all stared up at the bluff. They began to climb up the long cliff with no equipment or safety gear relying only on their bare hands and raw tenacity.

The sun was already setting by the time that they reached the end of the cliff, tinting the sky with an assortment of purple, orange, and blue. Misty was resting on a tiny plateau that stuck out of the cliff as she waited for Ash who had lost his footing a while ago, but was catching up now. She laid back on the plateau as she looked up at the sky, enjoying the beautiful view. She could see over miles of land as she looked beyond the forest and she saw for her own eyes the colored division of the islands Evergreen and Minera.

Without notice a thick black fog began to gather around Misty taking away her sight of the land. She stood up and looked around in confusion as the black fog fell upon her. She crawled towards the edge of the cliff, making sure she wouldn't fall over as she felt around with her hand.

"Ash! Hurry, give me your hand!" she yelled with her hand outstretched as she leaned over the cliff.

He looked up and saw the fog eat up Misty and fall further past her. He started to panic and climbed faster, reaching for the hand that stuck out from the fog. He was almost there when a strong wind blew from the side. He held onto his hat as he tried to fight off the wind, grabbing onto the cliff as tight as he could. The wind picked up speed and his hand slipped off the rock. He screamed out loud and Misty heard him from the darkness of the fog.

"Ash!" She screamed as she saw the outline of his body fall away from her until she no longer saw anything. She looked away and trembled, fearing the worst. The air in front of her rushed down and she felt something dive past her. She peered over the cliff still in the veil of the fog.

She could make out the outline of a moderately sized bird descending towards where Ash had fallen into, but she wasn't sure what it was. It was definitely not something she had ever seen before. The bird had disappeared from sight yet she waited patiently by the edge of the cliff having gained a sliver of hope.

The seconds passed at an agonizing crawl and Misty was holding her breath. She was going to lean forward when a heavy thud next to her startled her and nearly threw her off the cliff. Once she regained her balance she looked back at what was now next to her. The tall black shape of a person dressed in a hooded cloak loomed over the cliff's edge beside her. Then Misty heard the faint sound of flapping wings coming from below and she rushed to look over the edge again.

The outline of the bird held what appeared to be the body of a young man and a plump rodent in its talons. The bird dropped the bodies onto the cliff and Misty kneeled down before him, sighing with great relief as she recognized the man and his Pikachu.

"Covvul, use Gust," the black figure said in a rough voice. The bird pokemon perched on his shoulder and squawked out loud as it began to flap its wings, scattering the fog. Misty's eyes widened once she took a look at the pokemon before her as the fog cleared out. It was a bald headed pokemon with the exception of a black Mohawk running down his head to his beak. Its black feathers reflected no sunlight and its breast was a pale white. Its face was serious matching the fierce gaze of its red pupil eyes. She then looked over at the mysterious person hidden underneath the cloak.

The person drew back their hood, revealing their wizened face. He was a muscular man whose gut protruded in his sleeved maroon shirt. The hair on the top of his head had mostly fallen out except for a small tuft in the front. His face was in a permanent scowl, accented by his thin goatee that lined his lip and cut down sharply to the bottom of his chin.

Misty and the man locked eyes and he said nothing as they stared at each other. Ash began to stir and the man broke his gaze and turned to him. Ash opened his eyes and began to look all around him; first at Pikachu who was standing right next to his face, then at Misty who was kneeled beside him and finally at the man and the hunched bird on his shoulder.

Ash took out his Pokedex without a moment's hesitation. It beeped as it recognized the pokemon and displayed his picture on its screen. It spoke in a mechanized voice:

"Covvul, the Brooding Pokemon. 3' 5" Dark/Flying: This pokemon's head is always hunched down, giving it the impression that it is deep in thought. These pokemon can shake off particles of black dust from their feathers to disguise itself as it hunts for food. There have been many accounts of people being saved by this pokemon who often mistakes their cries for help as wounded prey."

"Ash, are you okay?" Misty asked once the Pokedex closed.

"Yeah, I'm fine…" he said as he lifted himself off the ground. He brushed the dust from his shirt and extended his hand towards the large man.

"If it wasn't for your pokemon, I probably wouldn't be in one piece by now. Thanks a lot!" The man looked at his hand and turned his back on him.

"What business do you kids have climbing this mountain without a guide?" He didn't bother to look at them as he spoke. Ash retracted his hand and frowned at his cold attitude.

"Well we were in a rush to get to Avia Town to visit the Gym…" Misty pushed him out of the way as she stepped forward.

"What's the matter with you? He's giving you thanks for saving his life the least you can do is return it! You have some nerve!" The man looked at her through the corner of his eye then turned away and said nothing. Misty burned from anger and she was about to get in his ear again when a hand on her shoulder held her back. Ash shook his head and let go of her shoulder.

"Come on Misty let's go." They looked at him one last time and turned to leave when the man spoke.

"If you want to get to Avia Town, I can get you there if you follow me. We'll have to camp out though as it's getting late to travel safely." Ash looked up, now that the fog had cleared he could see the sky was beginning to blacken. The man walked away and jumped up onto a nearby plateau. With no other choice, Ash unloaded his backpack and started to prepare for the night. Misty turned her back to the man and whispered to Ash.

"Do you really trust this guy? He appeared out of nowhere and he's kind of a jerk." She glanced back at the unnamed man who pulled off his cloak and laid it on the floor as a blanket. Covvul jumped off his master's shoulder and perched on a nearby branch that hung off the side of the cliff above them.

"Maybe he just wants to make sure that we're okay, though I do agree with you about the jerk part." Ash said as he spread his blue sleeping bag out.

"For now it won't hurt if we tag along, as long as he leads us to Avia Town." He took off his hat and jacket and climbed into the bag with Pikachu taking up a spot right next to him. Misty was still skeptical though as she looked back at the man who lay completely silent on his side with his back turned to them. He reassured her that they would be fine and pulled the covers over his head. She sighed and gave up trying to convince him, pulling out her sleeping bag from her red backpack. She spread it out right next to Ash's, making sure she faced the man because she still didn't quite trust him.

"Goodnight Misty…" Ash muttered as he turned in his sleeping bag.

"Goodnight Ash," she said. The vulture pokemon hung his head against his white breast and dozed off and the night fell quiet.

The sunrise early in the morning was accompanied to the sound of Covvul's loud call. The rays of the sun shone over the vast forest in front of them. Ash yawned and stretched as sat up in his sleeping bag. Pikachu stirred and woke up and Ash petted his friend's head as he looked towards Misty. She was still sleeping, her hands supporting her chin with her head in the direction of where the man was sleeping. But where he was last night, there was nothing there. Ash stood up and walked around, searching for the man until found him standing around the corner. He was basking in the rays from the horizon with his massive hands in the pockets of his black jeans yet his gaze was unfocused. Ash turned around, keeping quiet so he wouldn't disturb the pensive man. He went to Misty's side and he nudged her.

"Misty wake up…" She slowly opened her emerald eyes and looked up at his smiling face. She smiled back at him with bags under her eyes. She couldn't sleep, it was hopeless for her to try to shake off the unease she felt from the man's presence. So she stayed up for the majority of the night keeping an eye open until her exhaustion got the better of her. She got out of her sleeping bag as well and she rolled it up, yawning as she struggled to keep her eyelids open. The man walked back from the corner and Covvul swooped off the branch to land on his shoulder.

"Are you ready to leave yet?" he said with his usual scowl. They nodded and he turned around and walked up the mountain trail. They followed closely behind the stranger as a gentle wind blew from the east.

They hiked up and down the winding trails, some of which split into other paths. The man led them without hesitation and after a few hours, they reached a small hill with a road sign that read: "This way to Avia Town." Ash, Misty, and Pikachu smiled at each other and ran past the man and up the hill. Ash was out of breath by the time they reached the top. He smiled as he looked at the small town before them.

The town was surrounded by small cliffs like a miniature canyon. Little children walked up paths on the face of the cliffs carrying large neon colored hang gliders. The houses were shaped like giant huts with red roofs and brown walls. They lay throughout the town side by side leaving areas open for the gliders. Gliders swayed from side to side as they soared above the town. Off in the distance in a small park, a multitude of kites could be seen floating around and close by, a group of people were building a small wooden airplane. Ash looked for a building that could be the Gym, but he couldn't find it and he turned to the man who had just joined them. As Ash opened his mouth, the man said,

"If you're looking for the Gym, it's not in town. You'll have to pass through it and go up a specific path that will lead you to it. Come, follow me…" He walked forwards with his loyal pokemon on his shoulder as he led the way.

As they walked across town, people began to follow them with wide smiles as they cheered and clapped, with more people gathering by the second. Ash looked back at them with a wide grin and waved back at them, soaking up the cheers. He was convinced they were cheering for him so he began to greet everyone with waves and bowed. Everyone stopped immediately and looked at Ash with puzzled looks. A young girl from the crowd asked out loud,

"Who are you?" Ash dropped to the ground as Misty snickered at his stupidity.

"Ash I think they're cheering for our Mystery Man right there…" she said, nodding towards to the man as Ash picked himself off the ground.

"Yeah I think I noticed…" he said in low spirits. A teenage boy said in great shock,

"You mean you don't know who he is?" They both looked at him with vacant expressions, the cloaked man stopped walking.

"Why, should we?" Misty asked.

"Of course! This is Alexander-" The boy from the crowd proclaimed in a deep voice, "Alexander the Great! Defender of Man!" Everyone smiled and nodded and Ash and Misty were even more confused.

"Wow, you guys must be not be from around here… You see this man -" He extended his hand towards Alexander who still had his back turned. "-has saved hundreds of people from impending doom in the mountains! He is this town's hero which is why we admire him." Alexander turned around suddenly and glared at the teenager. The teenager jumped back from the look and sunk into the crowd with his head hung low.

"Let's not waste anymore time here and it gets too late. I hear the Gym Leader hates unannounced…" he looked back at the teenage boy again, "-visitors…" He turned around and began to walk again. Ash and Misty continued on as the group scattered apart, some muttering their displeasure at the cold man as the teenage boy sniffled and sulked away.

Just outside the town, Alexander came to a stop once more and Ash, Misty, and Pikachu looked at what lay before them. The platform they were standing was connected to a zip line that ran across a steep drop and connected to a building off in the distance. The building itself sat on a rock pillar that was isolated to everything around it. The ground below them was full of jagged rocks sticking out from the ground with the exception of a black safety net that extended over it. Alexander turned to them and he said,

"This is the Avia Town Gym. The only way to reach it is by going across this zip line while holding only onto these handlebars." He grabbed a pair of handlebars out of a box that lay next to the line and placed it onto the zip line. "If you're up to the challenge then follow me." Covvul flew off of his shoulder and flew to the top of the Gym as Alexander jumped off the cliff and sped across the high gap on the zip line. He landed safely in front of the Gym and entered through the big blue double doors of the tall white building. Ash turned to Pikachu standing by his legs and offered his hand.

"Alright buddy, let's go win our first badge!" he said as Pikachu climbed up into his vest, sitting snug in the tight denim material. He grabbed a pair of handlebars and set it on the zip line. Misty was nervous as she looked at the large drop then at Ash who reared himself to jump.

"Ash, don't you think this is a little dangerous? What if you don't make it across?" He jumped off anyway and cut down the line, yelling in joy as the adrenaline rushed through his body. She looked at him in disbelief until he landed on the ground safely.

"Come on Misty! What are you scared?" he yelled across at her. She looked down at the gap again and quickly turned away.

"The things I do just for this boy…" She grabbed a pair of handlebars and jumped off the cliff and sped down the zip line, screaming all the way as her hands shook against the metal handlebars. The wind rushed against her face so quickly it made her head spin and she closed her eyes. She fell forward onto the ground once she reached the end and staggered on wobbling knees.

"Took you long enough!" he said with a smile. She smacked him over the head with the metal handlebars and leaving him on the ground with a huge lump sticking out of his head. She huffed and dropped the handlebars and walked to the Gym, her nerves starting to settle down. She pushed the heavy doors open and walked inside.

As soon as the door closed behind her, the tall building was immersed in faded darkness, lit by the thin horizontal slits in the wall. She looked up and around the birdcage-shaped building spotting two staircases adjacent to each other. They wound all the way up the sides, never intersecting the other. Two signs in the middle of the room pointed to each one: the left was labeled: "For the Gym Leader" and the right labeled as: "For the Challenger." She headed for the "Challenger" staircase, wondering which one Alexander had climbed up. The door opened and for a brief moment, light pierced through the darkness until Ash closed the door behind him, encasing the Gym in darkness again. He joined Misty as he sprinted up the staircase and they both walked up the staircase, side by side as their steps echoed in the chamber.

Once they reached the end of the staircase, it led to another walkway and a door at the base of the domed ceiling. Cold air rushed in from outside through the cracks of the door and Ash opened it. They stepped outside onto a grey-blue metal walkway circling halfway around the gold dome and into a set of marble white steps. Walking up the stairs with the magnificent background of the rocky fields of Mineral and the lush green forest of Evergreen behind them, the sun shone with magnificence above their heads. After finally climbing the steps, they reached the match floor. It lay on top of the dome and the wind blew harder from this height than at the bottom. Right across from them was Alexander with Covvul perched on his shoulder.

"If you haven't figured out by now, I am the Gym leader of Avia Town!" he yelled across at them as a strong wind blew. "I hope you and your pokemon are ready for a tough match because I promise you that I won't go easy!" Ash nodded and glanced at Pikachu who was willing and ready for whatever Alexander had prepared for them. Misty walked across to the side of the match floor beside the referee as he began to announce the rules,

"This will be a battle with challenger Ash battling against Gym Leader Alexander for a Soar badge! It will be a two on two-"

"Wait a second! I don't have two pokemon yet!" Ash yelled across to the referee. The referee paused for a second as he looked at Ash. He then declared,

"This match has been cancelled due to the challenger's lack of pokemon!"

"What?" Ash yelled at the referee. Misty stepped forward,

"Ash, why don't you just use one of my pokemon?" Before Ash could respond, Alexander cut in.

"According to the official rules of the league, any trainer who wishes to participate in a Gym battle must have caught at least one of the pokemon exclusive to Muntein. If you have not caught one yet, then leave immediately from this Gym and don't come back until you have caught a Muntein pokemon." He then turned his back towards them and the cloak flapped behind him as he waited for them to leave. Ash clenched his hands and gritted his teeth in anger.

"Why did we have to waste our time coming up here then? You could have just toldus when you met us on the mountain!" Alexander said nothing more, only angering Ash even more. Misty walked up to him, hoping she could defuse his anger before he did anything rash.

"Why don't we leave now and start looking for some pokemon and then you can challenge the Gym leader again?" she said in a calm and comforting voice. He sighed and unclenched his fists, but still gritted his teeth. He turned away and they walked down the staircase once more, remaining quiet on the trip down. Ash was still boiling in anger at Alexander's attitude and Misty couldn't help but sympathize with him.

"Don't worry Ash, when you get your next pokemon, I'm sure you'll beat some sense into that jerk's head!" Ash smiled as Misty gave him a reaffirming smirk.

"You're right Misty, I'm gonna make him sorry and get my first badge!" They exited through the front doors and took another zip line that lead to a flat landing on the mountain below the town. As they traveled down the path, they began their desperate search for a new member in Ash's team, gaining him eligibility for his first Gym battle.