The wound was too much, the pain far too strong, and her body finally too weak to fight back death. In her last glances of light, she looked up to the man that held her in his arms.
This man… she thought to herself. This man, that I had just met… a man I had spent no more than two months with… he became everything that ever mattered to me… everything that I had desired in this world… he became my world… and I'm sorry… I did this for you…
Her world started to fade, and she could no longer recall what existence truly felt like.
Memories were vanishing, emotions were dulling, but he remained… whatever his name was… she couldn't remember… but he was still there…
"No please… please don't go…" the man whispered with a shaking voice. Tears ran down his face as he gazed into her jaded eyes. He never saw her like this. She used to be so full of life, so full of care, so full of love… but now she was leaving this life… leaving him alone… to finish a job he never wanted to do without her.
She touched his face one last time. "If we had only met sooner… we could have…"
Her body had stopped.
There was nothing left of her. No breath, no pulse, no movement – no life. He didn't want to believe it, he didn't want to accept it, he didn't want to realize what had happened. He wanted to forget, he wanted it all to stop and tell him it was a lie. But there were no evidences for him to hold onto. His denials and wishes would be his only comfort from now on…
"…don't go… don't go please! DON'T GO!"
"Can you just get this over with?" whined an older man. Tied up and incapacitated on the floor, the only thing he could do was speak his thoughts and ideas – and he took advantage of those freedoms.
"You heartless piece of trash! You shut your mouth!" A woman of fierce temper launched a strong kick against the callous man's head, knocking him unconscious.
Slowly letting his down his loved one's body onto the cold floor, the man stood. Broken, but determined. "I'm ready…"
The man's intentions were made clear.
Sensing these thoughts, a woman of strange power turned away from her responsibilities. "What are you… are you crazy? Stop!" She grabbed onto the ladder beside her and climbed down as fast as she could.
"Huh?" The hot-headed woman looked up at her in curiosity. "What's going on?"
"You have to stop him!" She jumped from the ladder and began running across the platform to reach the man. "He's not going to use Arceus to reverse what has been done! He's going to–"
The man had been whispering, his voice too low for anyone else to hear. Inaudible to anyone but the god pokémon.
Eyes burning in energies of all elements, Arceus faced the one it had promised its service to.
"So it shall be…" its voice echoed throughout the minds of everyone within its vicinity.
The ground shook; breaking and shattering all creations of man.
The room burned in white light; devouring all emotion and thought.
And reality began to dematerialize; threatening the fate of the universe.
"No! How could you do this?" Before the realm of their existence could be covered in the cloud of Arceus' power, the woman cried out into the spreading blank nothingness. "After everything we've fought for! WHY?"
And in the emptiness, the man answered…
"…because we could all have done better…"
"Where do you think you're going?" Determined eyes belonging to a furious boy followed an escaping trio of villains.
"Dis twerp just doesn't know when to give up!" an exhausted feline pokémon hissed.
"One could say the same about us." a blue-haired male of the group added.
"Seviper! Do something!" a woman with fiery hair demanded as she tossed one of her poké balls onto the metal platform.
This was a familiar sight for the boy; he had been chasing them all day in this building. 'Building' being a literal description, as the structure had not been finished, with several portions of every floor missing walls and bases. Many of the higher sections were missing all pieces together, only supported by large rods of steel and accessible only by staircases and ramps.
Floor after floor the boy would catch up with them, only to have the red-haired woman bring out her seviper to knock him back down to a previous unfinished floor.
On any given day he would have sent the seviper and the trio flying off into the sky easily, but this just was not one of those days. Without his pokémon he definitely couldn't stand a chance.
He thought several times as he climbed up each floor that he should've gone back and gotten his friends for help… or to make a quick run to the Pokémon Center to retrieve his poké balls… but now they arrived at the final floor, and it was too late to make any decision that was infinitely smarter than what would happen next.
A red blur of light interrupted the sunlight that beat down on them. Crimson light swirled, expanded, and broke away into the shape of a large snake pokémon. "Seviper!" the dark green pokémon hissed in pleasure to be out of its poké ball once more.
The boy flinched back, afraid he would be knocked back to the previous floor again.
No! It's now or never. If I don't stop them now, they'll get away with Pikachu! the boy yelled in his mind with resolve.
Seeing the child, the pokémon vibrated with delight, happy to be able to send him flying back down just one more time. It was a delicious feeling… this boy had been a thorn on their side for as long as the pokémon could remember.
And this- this one's for making my life miserable! the Seviper laughed in its thoughts as it lunged towards the pest.
"Now!" the boy shouted to the air as he dove over the large snake. The trio of criminals' eyes widened as they slowly realized that the boy was now rocketing towards them.
"AHHHH! What's he tink he's doin?" the cat pokémon panicked.
"He's going to knock us all off!" now the blue-haired man panicked.
"Seviper! Behind! Use your tail!" the red-headed woman commanded venomously.
The large green pokémon swung its tail mid-lunge.
A large whip-like tail had connected with the boy's ribs. An odd thump.
Pain shot throughout his body as he felt one of them snap- though that wasn't his biggest worry, an ever-extending landscape of ridiculous measurements below him definitely had his attention. The strike from the Seviper had caused him to launch off the non-walled top floor of the building.
This was going to hurt. Bad.
"AHHHHHHHHHH!" the boy screamed as he saw the forest below magnify faster and faster.
The trio looked over the ledge in surprise.
"Ya tink we overdid it?" the feline tilted his head.
"That certainly is a long way down." the man whistled.
"Oh shut up!" the woman shot back, "We've survived worse. Now get in the blimp before the other twerps get here!"
"Aye aye!" the two exclaimed.
Lots of pain.
Several thoughts and sensations swirled in the injured boy's mind.
Where am I? What's blocking my eyes?
The boy cleaned off his eyes and blinked.
What? Why's it so dark? Where am I?
Using his hands, he tried feeling his surroundings.
Grass. Dirt. Rock, I think. This is a tree. W-Wait a minute! PIKACHU! the boy had finally realized what had happened to him. Fearing that the trio had gotten away with his best friend, he jumped up and ran forward – only to collide with a tree.
"Owwwww!" the boy grabbed his head. A pain sliced through the rest of his body. "AAHH!" his tensing body had reminded him of the broken rib. He fell to the ground, a numb feeling spreading through him.
Breathing heavily, the boy still tried to drag himself across the ground. "P-Pikachu… I'm comin' buddy…" and with a sudden release of breath, he fainted.
A sound pierced his consciousness, though it was indiscernible to his thoughts.
Again. That noise. What is that?
What was that?
Huh? Someone's calling my name!
"I-I'm right here!" he struggled to say, unsure if someone was trying to find him.
"I know, I've got you."
Ash shook his head, a headache pressing into his conscious from adjusting to the voice's immediate response. He flinched, suddenly surprised at his position. Someone was holding him off the ground, and they were walking.
"Wh-Where am I? And why is it so dark?"
"Ash? Oh my God… What happened to you?"
"I was fighting Team Rocket, and… I think I fell off a building?" he slowly groaned as he tried to gather bits of pieces of the recent events. He kept his thoughts moving, avoiding his body's pains from weakening him.
"Lift your head, let me see…"
"How can you see when it's so dark?" the boy raised his head.
"Hey, what happened?"
They refused to answer.
Whoever was holding him had started shaking.
"Is something wrong?"
A gentle hand touched his face. Wait a minute. Who is this?
"Um… who are you?"
"Oh Ash… you poor thing…"
"Wh-What! What happened?" Ash panicked, fearing the worst – though what the worst could be, he had no idea. He wasn't sure if he wanted to know, and now he regretted asking.
"My eyes? What about the—" the realization had hit him hard. "I-I'm blind?"
No answer, though he was sure the person nodded.
What do I do now…?
"Pikachu! … We have to save Pikachu!" the boy exclaimed.
"No we don't! We're getting you to a hospital right now!"
"What? Why? And who do you think you are?"
"It's me, Ash. Anabel." the voice had suddenly become gentle.
"A-Anabel? Where's Dawn? Brock?"
"I'm not sure… but we have to get you to a hospital right now."
"A hospital? They only have one in this region! That's going to take forever!"
"I know… but we need to, you're badly hurt."
He tried struggling off the girl holding him, "I-I'm fine! We need to find Pi-" the pain from his rib emerged and quickly made him light-headed. He lost consciousness.
…the sound… of a helicopter?
"It's okay, we're almost there…"
Ash blanked out again. Feeling nothing, thinking nothing.
…someone's there. Above me…
"He's- "He's regaining consciousness." the voice blurred oddly between thought and sound.
Who was… that? Sounded… like an old man.
"Oh thank goodness! Ash! Are you okay?"
That's not Anabel… is that Dawn? No…?
"It's me! Angie!"
…Angie? …Did Angie save me? …I thought that was Anabel.
Moaning through his closed mouth, Ash slowly remembered how to move his lips… "Ann… An-Angie? Where's Ana..bel?"
A small gasp "She went after Team Rocket after she handed you over to me." The girl's voice trembled, "Oh Ash…"
Ash still felt unconscious. The darkness that surrounded his sight gave him a strange sensation. The only thing that felt normal was sound… though even that confused him. As Angie's voice reached him, he noticed its difference from Anabel's. It would be the only way he could differentiate people from now on. An idea that slightly scared him. Angie's voice is more… like a boy's. Anabel sounded a lot more mature. Is that how they always sounded like? I wonder what Dawn and Brock sound like.
He played with his thoughts for a few minutes before asking what had really been on his mind, "…so when do I get my sight back?"
"I'm sorry, but we can't fix your eyesight without going through surgery." the older man's voice now responded. It was cold, stiff, and distant. Whoever this man was, he certainly didn't care about what happened to me, Ash considered. Or maybe he's just too used to this job?
"So why can't I have the surgery?"
"Young man, I don't mean to offend, but I doubt you could afford such an expensive procedure. Especially to risk it on something with such little success rate." he responded bluntly.
"Little? But you're a doctor! You should be able to fix this, right?" Ash felt a fragment of bitterness run through him.
"Young man, I wish I could say that I could. I wish I could say that we doctors could fix everything. But in a world of pokémon, we just don't have the amount of research and manpower to care for humans." the older man's voice returned Ash's bitterness. "For now, we don't. Not for some years. And without it, I'm afraid we have too little medical knowledge to guarantee any proper procedure to cure your blindness."
"How much would it be?"
"The same price to start a new Gym." Simple. Quick. Indifferent. "Perhaps more, little chance to be less."
A compassionate hand lay softly on his arm… must be Angie.
"So what am I supposed to do now?" defeat ringing silently in his throat.
A silence filled the air… followed by the rustle of papers with the response of the older man… though Ash could tell he was looking away by how his voice sounded hollowed out, "We do have a therapy here that would help you learn how to interact with things while blind, you could purchase a guide pokémon, or you can depend on others as guides."
"Let me take care of you, Ash." That's Angie's voice again. But it sounds different…
Ash thought hard. There was something he had to make sure of.
"What about Pokémon Battles? Would I still be able to compete in them?" He turned in the direction of the doctor's voice.
An odd feeling in the air. "…there are no rules that state that handicap Trainers cannot compete – blind or otherwise." the doctor said with a hint of amusement in his voice. These people and their Pokémon, honestly. the doctor thought to himself.
A grin ran across Ash's face. The muscles flinching to press a smile on his face felt a tad foreign. The darkness making every action of his feel far more empty… yet more special… more… specific.
"But Ash…" a hint of concern flashed in Angie's voice.
He felt her hand running up and down his arm… "How are you going to against anyone blind?"
"You saying I can't beat them just because I can't see them?" Ash growled his pride.
A sigh. Concern? Embarrassment? Exhaustion?
"Ash… think about it. If you can't see your opponent's pokémon…" she paused to let it sink in, "…how will you be able to command your pokémon to fight them? How will you know where they are? What they're doing? Where they're going? What they're planning next?"
She was right. This realization hit him hard.
He glimpsed at the idea of giving up, of letting her win, but that glimpse led to awful days sitting in silence at home… No, there's gotta' be a way… some way… somehow… something…
"There's gotta' be a way…" he echoed his thoughts and continued trying to think. He wouldn't even know where to start with the thought. He was just hoping something would come up, or for someone to suggest something… This is usually when Brock comes up with something. Or when I come up with something. Or someone calls… or something… Angie's quietness and pause in movements had only shown that she was thinking the same.
"For now," the doctor interrupted their thoughts, "you're free to return home." The doctor shuffled in steps, the voice trailing off to another corner of the room. "Take it slowly for the first few days, and remember about that rib."
"What rib?" Ash questioned curiously as he sat up. A dulling pain spread and he was forced back down to the bed. "Ow…" a small grunt escaped his lips… THAT rib…
"Take it slow, lie down often, and don't move around too much." the doctor suggested with a monotone emotion, as if he were reading from a script, "and if he has any further problems with the pain, please give him this medication."
The sound of pills pressing against one another was heard.
It sounded like a small bag. Why I don't get any pills in a bottle? Is that too expensive too?
"Of course." Angie responded to the doctor, as she was handed the medicine.
Her soft hand slipped underneath his neck as it wrapped around his shoulder. As he was lifted from the bed, he felt her other hand wrap his arm around her shoulder. She felt warmer suddenly.
"You okay, Angie?"
"Y-yeah… Let's get you home." Her arms struggled, yet their balance felt strong – stiff, in a manner.
I sure hope she isn't sick... I'd have a cold WITH my broken rib and blindness. Wouldn't that be a day… The thought invited another smile from his mouth, with the movement of his cheeks and lips becoming noticeable again. I wonder if there's medication for that.
With a bit of a struggle, the two summer friends exited the hospital and rode a homeward taxi.
"Breakfast's ready!" a voice announced through the house.
"Coming!" Ash jumped off his bed with a spring and ran down the steps. Alright! Didn't trip once yet!
It had been three weeks since he woke from that hospital. Three whole weeks since that accident. Or maybe a few days more than three weeks… Ash wasn't sure if he had regained consciousness on the same day he had fainted from the accident. For all he knew, he was out for a month. Whatever the case was, nobody thought it was important enough to tell him.
His return home was welcome, but his condition wasn't… his mother didn't take his accident well… What mom would? She had spent an entire day crying as she babied him for anything he wanted- needed- and things he neither wanted nor needed. It was a rough first day to say the least, but Ash's mother seemed to have cheered up slowly with each passing day.
Throughout the three weeks in the house his friends came to visit him.
Dawn and Brock were the first to arrive.
The two's guilt was awkward and heavy. They had blamed themselves for not being able to help him in that disaster, but Ash assured them that it was fine – that it was his fault that he ran off carelessly like that. Normally he wouldn't have been so quick to admit to his mistakes, but he was in no position to say otherwise. He did get himself blind and broken because of all the trouble.
As with any true friend's concern; forgiveness and relief from responsibility is never taken lightly. To say they wouldn't let him take the blame was an understatement – but a stressed yell from Dawn quickly ended the conversation, with admittance that he was too hasty – and that they were too slow.
The conversation led to other concerns, other topics, other stories… it then led to something more current, something more important, something that the entire meeting was depending on: "… what now?"
It took convincing. It took a lot of convincing. And it took more time and care than for a pokémon egg to hatch, but Ash managed to push Dawn into continuing her journey as a Coordinator, and for Brock to accompany her. Journeys in the Pokémon World were tough, and support was a precious commodity – but most important to Ash: it gets lonely, and friends keep you from turning back and running home.
Dawn would need the help more than he needed it now. For now, his journey was over. A handicapped Trainer stuck in bed all day. Any sense of self-pity was overwritten by his yearning for Dawn to complete her goal. He wouldn't want to hold her back from that; she has a lot to offer to the Coordinator world.
With a new destiny set and a determination renewed, it was time for the two to leave.
Goodbyes were exchanged and loose promises were left in the wind.
For some time, Ash knew Dawn had stayed long after Brock had left the room. He wasn't sure why, but she had stood in silence near his bed. With a quick rub on his shoulder with her lengthy fingers, she gave a sigh and left the room.
Misty was the next to arrive. And just as he had expected, she had stormed in with all the fury of a massive wave. Spits of insults and unintelligible complaints were fired from her mouth. He was surprised that she couldn't literally breathe fire with her temperament. The visit was spent with yells for stupidity and recklessness. At times he tried to fight back, but was shot down every time. It was like battling an incoming tsunami; a person could make it splash and could even stop some of it, but it was impossible for one to prevent the waves from damaging everything in its path. And in that moment, Ash's pride was its target.
To give a small sense of relief, Misty's voice would sometimes crack to give away a real sense of concern, but it would never last long enough.
Misty's time was short; she had spent too much time away from her Gym just trying to get to Ash's house. She obviously had no time for the visit, a point which she made abundantly clear, but she had – and she blamed him for it. She had left the following day –still angry, still Misty.
On the second week, May had vid-called him.
The conversation was awkward and often had a deafening silence. Ash took his time during the call to notice how different a voice was on a call, how it was hard to notice certain changes through the silent static. It was the only thing he could do to ignore the uncomfortable quiet.
"I gotta' go…" was the last thing she had to say.
Tracey and Gary visited at the same time by midweek, one showing kind concern – and the other showing harsh concern. Their treatment was similar to a good cop - bad cop routine, except they were closer to a strange couple. Yech! That was not a thought Ash wanted to hold onto.
The two were trying to help him cope with his blindness, but both in two very different manners; one showing how things weren't too different even when blind, the other showing that blindness was just a wall that he had to break through. There may have been some useful lessons in their words… if the two teachers weren't so contradicting. Though Tracey had mentioned they were complimentary. Gary, however, insisted that Tracey's explanations were just confusing Ash. Gary was right, but the same could have been said about his lecture as well.
They left eventually, leaving the young boy both grateful and even more confused.
However, Tracey, much like Dawn, didn't leave immediately. He stayed, taking his time with whatever he busied himself with. Though unlike Dawn's stay, Ash knew what Tracey was doing. The scritch-scratch of paper was enough to tell him that he had been drawing. Drawing what, he wasn't sure…
"You look like a completely different person when you're not judging everything you see, you know that?" Tracey simply stated. And with a pat on Ash's head, the sketch-artist left.
Oddest of the visits, was the girl named Duplica. A girl Ash had no real relationship with other than acquaintance and "part-time friend". That title felt a bit cold, but it was the only way he could honestly describe her. They never spent exclusive time with one another in the past – her visit may have been their first time alone in a room together as far as he knew.
Whatever the case was, Ash enjoyed her visit the most. She had spent most of her visit with him trying to perfect her voice mimicry to fool him. Ash found it quite funny that he couldn't be fooled by her as easily anymore, which only angered the girl. He could have admitted that he was fooled once or twice, but to give her that credit might have ruined the fun.
The lengths she'd go to trick him was a bit much; leaving and re-entering the room with a new voice, making distant voices outside his window as she hung on the top of his roof, mimicking a conversation between two to three people. It was entertaining, if anything. And he certainly was grateful for the light-hearted treatment she was giving him. All the other heavy-feeling visits had become far too depressing for his tastes.
As Ash was treated with her company, he realized that he wasn't entirely sure what the purpose of her visit was… she hardly tried to cheer him up or tease him about his lack of eyesight… in fact, she never mentioned it. She had never voiced any concern or curiosity. She just spent the rest of her time with him talking and joking. As if nothing was wrong at all.
Whatever the reason may have been, she left as nonchalantly as she came. A simple "Bye!" and she was gone.
And just two days ago, Anabel arrived.
Opposite of what would happen each time a friend came to visit; it was Ash that ran up to Anabel with a hundred questions. She ignored his panicked interrogation and answered all of them at once by placing a tired pikachu on his head.
His happiness at its highest, Ash hugged Anabel with all his strength. He noted that doing so made her very stiff, and she felt very warm – possibly even hot. It would have been something he would have been affected by – if it weren't for the fact that at that moment all he cared about was that someone brought his best friend back to him.
He admitted that his time reunited with his best friend was the best medicine he could have ever received. Pikachu always knew him the best, and their ability to communicate with foreign words the other fully understood without translation helped in their ability to converse with one other despite his new weakness.
Pikachu showed honest concern for Ash's lack of eyesight, but never seemed to think it would really stop his best friend and trainer from doing what he wanted to do. This treatment had encouraged Ash, more than anything else, to never feel hopeless in even the most pathetic situations during his blindness.
"Hey Pikachu! Breakfast!" Ash called out as he reached the bottom of the stairs.
He felt his best friend land roughly on his head as he walked into the kitchen.
"Morning Pikachu." Ash grinned as he scratched the back of Pikachu's ear.
"Pika pika." Pikachu responded happily.
Before the boy could reach the table, Ash felt his yellow pokémon grab at his hair suddenly. "Pika!"
Ash instinctively hopped forward. "Missed me!" he exclaimed with an obvious air of pride.
"You're lucky Pikachu's with you now. You were easy prey before that." a familiar voice said to his right.
"Just give it up, Angie. It's getting easier to avoid your tripping these days. Especially with how loud you breathe." Ash teased.
Angie had stayed with him this entire time.
No matter how depressed he was, how angry he was, or how stubborn he was, she stuck with him during this rough patch in his life. She had been helping him do his daily activities around the house – from things as simple as walking, to even the embarrassing, such as helping him find his clothes when his mother wasn't around.
Ash was grateful for all her help and her company. Without her, he admitted he would have slowly drowned into a miserable slump. He also admitted that may have been more than just grateful if it weren't for all her "helpful pranks".
"Now now you two…" Ash's mother intervened from the other side of the kitchen. "Sit down have some breakfast. And Angie, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't trip my son on the tiles. I just cleaned them."
Angie gave a giggle and helped Ash into his seat.
"Hey, I can do this." Ash grunted in rebellion.
"Whatever, I just don't want you to destroy breakfast again."
"That was one time."
"That was also yesterday." Angie moved Ash's hands over the table, allowing him to feel where his plate and utensils were, "So what do you want on your plate?"
"Mmmm… some of that bacon! It smells great."
"Oh, right. Sausages, and maybe some of that toast."
"That's hash browns."
"Fine, whatever, just give me a bit of everything! I'm starving!"
Despite Ash's hearing becoming far more sensitive at judging and discerning distance, people, and objects, his sense of smell left much to be desired.
"Not until you say the magic words." Angie giggled.
As Angie scraped and scooped the food onto the plate, Ash's mother remarked with a pleasing tone, "My my, teaching my little Ash some manners! You'll make a great wife for him someday."
"Wh-WHAT?" Angie nearly dropped the food in her hands.
"Mom quit teasing Angie." Ash defended, mostly to protect his food from falling to the ground.
"I'm pretty sure I'm encouraging, not teasing." Ash's mother had giggled in delight at her son's defense for his loyal 'girlfriend'. "Don't you think she'd make a great wife, Ash?"
Ash couldn't find anything to respond to the comment. Not that he'd ever want to respond to any of his mom's entrapping comments. His only response was a hot sensation that spread across his face.
He heard a clanging of plate and utensils in front of him. "H-here's your food." Angie's voice stuttered as she readied her own food.
"Awwwww, you two will make a perfect couple! I can't wait for grandkids!"
Breakfast was eaten in awkward silence.