The excitement involving the missing chunin was about over. Ash, Rukia and Sakura helped return the kids to their rightful villages after they helped Ichigo stop Aizen and Cyrus from using the chunin to storm the Soul Society and assassinate Yamamoto and creating a forced marriage with Ash and Orihime. Speaking of, Orihime had declared love to Ichigo. Back in Tsunade's office, Tsunade was reading the reports handed in by Ash and Suì-Fēng. Sakura, Naruto, Hinata, Ichigo, Rukia, Orihime, Kiba, Yoruichi and Pikachu were in the room alongside. "Thank you, you two," Tsunade verbally applauded their reports. "With the children back in their respected villages, the lands should be back to normal." That should sound like good news. "Won't be long until missions start pouring in." Everything was becoming back to it's originality.
"That's great to hear," Ash praised. Normal lives were on everyone's mind.
"Ash," Kiba barked, having Ash twist his head in his position. "I'm sorry I couldn't keep Meowth under wraps when those adults came and took him." Ash wasn't worried about Jessie and James reclaiming Meowth. He was more concerned about getting back home.
"That's okay. Unless they know a way back to the Pokémon World, I don't need to worry about Pikachu being taken." Hearing Ash, Pikachu would be happy to have three incensed monkeys off his back...but he knows the tenacity of Team Rocket. It wouldn't be like Team Rocket to surrender when in a fix.
("Let's not celebrate just yet,") Pikachu warned. Tsunade then turned to the Soul Reapers who assisted Suì-Fēng and Ash.
"Ichigo, Rukia, Yoruichi, Orihime," she called. "Your aid to Ash and Suì-Fēng has benefited the mystery. Perhaps I can call upon you sometime if I need help." Ichigo was humbled about the chance to help the ninja world. Suddenly, Shizune popped into the room carrying a pile...a small pile...of documents. Business beckoned. At least it wasn't the size of pillars like the beginning story.
"Lady Tsunade!" she spoke. Tsunade sighed as she rest her head on her fist. Her duties resumed.
"Missions." Knowing she had to do her job, the rest were ready to excuse themselves from her office.
"We see that you need to get back to work in running Konohagakure," Orihime pointed out.
"Yeah, Grandma," Naruto agreed. "If you need anything, just bring Ton-Ton over." Shizune, Sakura and Tsunade watched on as the rest leave the chambers. Tsunade had an idea about why they would just exit her office.
"They're fearing what the missions are going to be," she guessed. The word "missions" had Sakura remembered that she wanted to go on a mission of her own and turned to the Hokage.
"Lady Tsunade?" she spoke. Tsunade and Shizune twisted heads to the pink-haired kunoichi. "I- I was wondering if... if I could go on a journey into Ash's world." Shizune shuttered in thought of Sakura going elsewhere than continuing her training to be a ninja. Tsunade humbly chuckled with a rather misplaced grin.
"Now why would I simply let you go and join Ketchum into his world?" That smirk on the Hokage caused Sakura to flinch and stutter an answer. "It wouldn't be...out of love, would it?" Sakura realized that Tsuande was onto her. She knew about Sakura's admiration to Ash. "You still have business here." That news broke Sakura's heart and confidence. She wanted to go to Ash's world but now she couldn't. Oblivious to the rejection, the rest were planning one more trip: home.
"Well, with the case completed, I guess we need to get you back to Pallet Town," Suì-Fēng situated. Ash nodded. Ichigo was wanting to know about how Ash was doing in that world.
"So, what else do you need to do in Sinnoh?" he asked. Someone was late to the information.
"Sinnoh's done, Ichigo!" he announced. "Finished in the Top Four at the Lilly of the Valley Conference. Best finish ever!" Naruto chuckled and smacked Ash fiercely in the back. The slap was so hard, it knocked Pikachu off of Ash's shoulder and into Rukia's arms.
"This is news we didn't get when you first arrived!" he cackled. "Way to go! You'll be on top of the Pokémon world in no time!" Ash appreciated the compliment from his blond ninja-in-training friend.
"Believe it! I'll be conquering leagues in the blink of an eye!" Naruto had a smug on his mug, happy that his support was accepted but...
"Look, I may like you and all but don't go stealing my thunder. It's part of my personality." Pikachu sneered before firing an electric attack, zapping Naruto. The poor orange-clad ninja collapsed on the floor and Hinata came to his aid.
"Was that really necessary, Pikachu?" Pikachu wasn't sure why Ash would be upset at him.
("What?") he squeaked. ("I was just giving back his Thunder!") Pikachu, Naruto meant that figuratively. Still, Orihime and Ichigo shared a laugh at the pain of Naruto. Since Sinnoh was completed, Ichigo had a back up question.
"So, if Sinnoh is done," he brought the topic back into discussion. "Where are you heading to?" Ash sighed, fearing that this question was about to be asked eventually.
"I was gonna visit Professor Oak about any new regions that were open," he planned out. "Of course, that was before Rukia came by with the mission here." Well, now that this was completed, he could go on that new journey. "Then again, Scott could come by about a new Battle Frontier in maybe Johto or Hoenn, meaning I could see Norman and family again." So many options began leaving Ash indecisive.
"Ketchum!" Suì-Fēng voiced. She offered a hand for a shake. "Unlike my Lieutenant, you've proven to be a worthy partner. Perhaps I could recruit you as being one of my soldiers should the time come." Ash shook the hand of the 2nd Division captain. "After all, unlike Uzumaki, you're not a Ryoka."
"Thanks, Suì-Fēng." The door opened and out came a dejected Sakura. She couldn't accept the denial of traveling to the Pokémon world. "That look tells me a lot. Tsunade isn't letting you go?" Sakura shook her head.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I hope that you would go along with you, learn and maybe..." It was upsetting to hear Sakura unable to join. Ash wanted to do something to make up for Sakura's inability to be in the Pokémon World...but he had nothing. All his equipment was back with the 12th Division.
"I...don't know what I can do for you. I mean...I don't have anything on me that's my own I could give." Never fear, Ash. Ichigo to the rescue! He presented a red baseball cap which had a green triangle in front. Ash saw it, surprised to see it in Ichigo's possession.
"Think this could help?" he offered. Seeing the baseball cap had Ash sighing in relief...but perplexed at how this baseball cap was in Ichigo's hands. Besides, what's so special about that cap in the first place?
"That's my Official Pokémon League Trainer's Cap! I wore it when I traveled my home region, as well as the Orange Islands and Johto!" That's official, it was his cap. "But how did..." Ichigo replied by darting his eyes at Rukia. Rukia stole it?
"Found it in her closet back home. I never wore a hat lately and it wasn't one of Karin's. I had a gut feeling that Rukia wanted something from you and this cap is telling me a lot." Rukia wasn't trying to hide her groaning from everyone.
"If I recall, you said that you were too old for Ash and that you didn't want to play love games," Hinata remembered. Did Rukia have anything to say in her defense? "So you...do have a...crush on Ash?" Even with everyone talking to her, she refused to say anything to counter their findings. Surrendering, Ash had an item of his that he could give to Sakura.
"Well, if you feel lonely, this may help you think of me," he offered. Sakura snagged the cap, remembering all the moments she had with Ash during their brief time together from the moment they met in Tsunade's office to their swim in the hot spring to rescuing the chunin.
"Thank you, Ash," she awed before she leaned in and gave Ash a farewell kiss. Rukia's back was turned, not willing to see the kiss and hiding her enraged jealousy. With that, Ash and the Soul Reapers bid farewell to their ninja counterparts. It wouldn't take long before Ash and Suì-Fēng returned to the 12th Division for Ash to reequip his belongings.
"Fits like a glove," he smiled as he dressed his hands with the fingerless gloves. Captain Kurotsuchi and Head General Yamamoto were there to praise Ash and Suì-Fēng with their hard work.
"From the report submitted by you, Captain Suì-Fēng," Yamamoto spoke. "It was a good thing that you were summoned, if only to confirm one of your own world's bodies." Ash was grateful to hear praise from the master of the Soul Society.
"Thank you, Head General. Still, I kinda wish I found him sooner than when Aizen ripped his soul out." There was nothing wrong with Ash's actions according to those who've been involved with the case. He was also permitted to give out that confession that he'd learn where Cyrus was when he vanished from the Pokémon World.
"Not everything that happens is predictable," Kurotsuchi reminded.
"Yeah, expect the unexpected." Pretty much stating the obvious at this point. Kurotsuchi placed a leather gauntlet on the table. The gauntlet had a red ruby embedded in the knuckle. "So, the Glove of Arceus..."
"Is that what Rukia brought over? Well, I'm gonna do some research on this glove. It's a knack with me. I can assure you that it's in safe hands here." The Soul Reapers, with the exception of Aizen, were trustworthy and Ash acknowledged their words. "In the meantime, I do have a special tool that can help you summon your Aura Guardian form without exerting too much energy drawing it out." Kurotsuchi gave Ash a belt buckle with "AK" imprinted onto it. "Just press the four corners of the belt to summon the guardian in you and you'll be at full strength while fighting." Very handy. 12Th Division's knack can produce some incredible toys.
"Thanks a lot, Captain Kurotsuchi." With one final sigh and Pikachu returning from the 4th Division's checkup, Ash and his little Pokémon were ready to return to Pallet Town. The past few days were pretty exhausting, even with that hot spring bath that healed him and Sakura.
"Come!" Yamamoto called to Ash. "Home awaits!" Entering a portal back where Ash and Suì-Fēng entered, the portal sent Ash back to Pallet where he and Pikachu rested up. Their next task: a new adventure. The next morning, a three-headed brownish orange bird cawed the rise of the new day. Ash and Pikachu were up, eating breakfast. They could only ponder who could be joining the two on their next adventure as they headed to Prof. Oak's home, walking down the road.
"It's not gonna be the same without Brock, Pikachu." Brock? This was the first time that name was mentioned. Was he special? Pikachu sighed in agreement. They arrived at a ranch where their eyes were being deceived. A dark blond girl in a bleached yellow dress was feeding some of the Pokémon. Too short to be Ino. Ash realized who it was off the bat. "Yuzu?" Hearing her name, the blond spun her head to see Ash and Pikachu.
"Hi, Ash!" she greeted to the befuddled duo. "I hope you don't mind us." Us? Who else?
"Yuzu, how did you get here?" Special connections?
"Well, I was curious about how you were doing so I asked Ichigo if I could come on by." That's understandable but...then, growling noises. Ash peered to the sound where a grapple of a man and Pokémon confronted. The man was tall, tanned and wore a Hawaiian button-down t-shirt. The Pokémon was a big blue bear. The bear was overpowering the tanned man with one mighty shove. The man was losing his footing.
"You got it, Snorlax!" he praised. HE should focus on what he's doing, not saying. His footing slipped from underneath and Snorlax lifted him before...SLAM! Big bear Pokémon, bigger slam. The man was motionless for a little while. He rose a little, shaking cobwebs from his head as Ash and Yuzu came to check on him.
"Chad!" they shouted in fear. Slowly, Chad got to unsteady legs but smiled up to Snorlax.
"That was good work, Snorlax. Guess that half-ton size has power behind it." Half-ton? That's understating big. Snorlax roared confidently to the gesture. The smaller group arrived to meet the big man.
"You okay, Chad?" Yuzu worried.
"I'm alright. I feel like I need some rest before testing the Tauros." He wasn't serious about it...was he? Even Ash had to raise an eyebrow as he glared at the herd of brown bulls idling close by.
"All 30 of them?" he pointed out. Chad and Yuzu saw the herd but the big man didn't seem deterred.
"Nah, just a few." Even if he wanted a selected bunch...that's still a lot of bull. "Well, Ichigo felt that you did a lot of work on your stay in Naruto's world that he'd ask us to go along with you on your next journey." This was news to Ash. Yuzu and Chad with him and Pikachu on their next adventure?
"We even have someone from that world who also wanted to travel," Yuzu informed. Someone from the ninja world? Naruto? Hinata? Ino? Nope! Sakura sneaked behind Ash in some new duds that made her look like a Pokémon Trainer: red spring jacket, tight jean shorts and tennis shoes. Her hair had a blue tiara instead of her headband. Boy, won't Ash be shocked to see her. Ash sensed a presence behind him and turned. Startled, he slipped on the grass and fell onto his...nope, Chad caught him before his hide hit the turf. Sakura and Yuzu giggled at Ash's brief misfortune.
"You okay?" Sakura asked as she helped Ash back on his feet. Ash had a question about her appearance.
"Didn't Tsunade say that you couldn't-" Ash started but Sakura jumped her gun.
"It was for a few deliveries around Konohagakure, and the Hokage let me travel over here with Urahara's help. By the way, there isn't anything between you and Yuzu...is there?" Ash and Yuzu glared at each other but shook heads. Nothing between them at all.
"I'd have a better chance with Chad," she compared. A big guy like Chad with a little girl like Yuzu? Hey, it worked with Kenny and Yachiru.
"Well, I am happy that I'm traveling with someone who helped save a whole lot of ninjas-in-training...and my heart." How did Ash save Sakura's heart? SMOOCH! There's a kiss and Yuzu wasn't jealous one bit, totally different take than Rukia. Instead, she was awed by the notion.
"Perhaps we may find a special someone here," Chad figured. Yuzu could wonder if there was someone who she could actually fall for. There was one thing that needed to be done: finding out where Ash and his new crew of Chad, Sakura and Yuzu would be going to? Whatever the journey, Sakura was happy to be with someone special. That's victory in her opinion.