A couple of weeks later…
"Are you sure, Ash? I'll stay if you want me to. I can understand if…" Brock began.
"No, Brock. It's best if you continue your studies. You can still be what you want to be, even if I can't." The last part Ash said in a whisper.
Brock hugged him. "I'll come back on my next break. I promise."
"Bye." Ash said, waving in the wrong direction.
Brock sweat dropped. "Goodbye, Ash. Take care. I'll see you soon." He released the younger boy and headed out.
"Goodbye, Brock." Ash murmured as the door shut behind his friend. "Come back soon."
Later that day…
Ash sat in the garden outside the house, listening to Pikachu running about the yard.
"Pika!" Pikachu cried. Ash realized he was telling him someone was coming.
"Oh, hello, Ash." Ash recognized Riley's voice. "I didn't expect to see you in a small town such as Pallet. I thought you'd be out collecting badges."
"Pallet Town's my hometown. This is my house." Ash told him, trying to ignore the part about collecting badges. "I didn't think I'd see you here, though. Why are you in Pallet Town?"
"I'm delivering a package to Professor Oak. Carolina didn't trust the mailman to do it." Riley answered. "But I'm lost. Do you think you could help me? I mean, if you live here, you surely know the way there."
Ash nodded. Suddenly, he remembered something. "Riley, you're studying to be an Aura Guardian, right?"
"Do you know how to see with aura?"
Riley was surprised at the question that had seemed to come out of nowhere. "I'm still trying to figure that out. Why?"
"Oh." Ash said with obvious disappointment.
"Are you trying to figure out how to do that, Ash?" Riley realized.
"I just thought of it now, but I'm going to do everything I can to learn how." Ash answered.
Riley thought for a moment. "You're going to have to know at least the basics of aura in order to do that. Tell you what, why don't I teach you?"
"You'd really do that for me?" Ash gasped.
"Sure. I know you're a good kid. Can you help me deliver this package first? I really need to get that out of the way." Riley said.
Ash smiled for the first time since the accident. "Of course! Follow me!" He turned and then stopped. "Pikachu! Mom! We're going to Professor Oak's!"
"Be back in time for Dinner! I'll call Professor Oak and get him to send you back!" Delia called.
Pikachu hopped onto Ash's shoulder and they set off. On the way, Riley noticed that Pikachu seemed to be guiding Ash. He wondered why for a few moments. Then, it suddenly came to him. The reason Ash had asked for his help, why Ash wasn't out collecting badges, why Pikachu was guiding the boy…
"Ash… have you been blinded?" Riley ventured, knowing that, if it were true, it was probably a touchy subject.
Ash gulped, but kept walking. "Yes. That's why I need to learn to see with aura. I can't see any other way. Don't tell anyone I don't though. I want it to be a surprise."
"I understand." Riley said. "I won't tell, but we're going to need to have a place to meet."
"Professor Oak will let us use the gardens. I know he'll do anything to help me get back out there." Ash told him as they came to Professor Oak's house. The boy felt the door before knocking.
"Hello, Ash." Professor Oak said, relieved to see Ash had come to the house willingly even though Brock had left earlier. He noticed Riley. "Who's your friend?"
"This is Riley. He got lost while delivering a package from Carolina, so Pikachu and I showed him the way here." Ash explained.
Riley took the package from his bag with a smile. "Here you go, Professor Oak. Carolina sends her best regards. Say, do you mind if I use your phone? I've decided to stay in Pallet Town for a little while and want to let Carolina know that."
"No, I don't mind. Come in." Professor Oak said, confused as to why Riley was staying. He showed him where the phone was.
While Riley made his call, Ash decided to take the time to request the use of the gardens.
"Of course." Professor Oak agreed immediately after Ash explained. "If it'll help make you happy again, you can use the gardens as much as you want."
Ash smiled. "Thank you, Professor Oak. I really appreciate it."
"Oh no! Ash is smiling! Everyone take cover!" Tracey came into the living room and ruffled Ash's hair. "It's good to see that grin of yours again."
Ash blushed. "Tracey!"
"Riley, this is my assistant, Tracey." Professor Oak introduced. "Tracey, this is Riley."
"It's nice to meet you!" Tracey said cheerily. "Welcome to Pallet Town!"
Riley smiled at him. "It's nice to meet you too. Ash was just going to show me around the gardens. I'd love to meet all the pokemon."
"If I didn't still have chores, I'd come along, but I do, so I can't." Tracey said.
"That's okay." Riley said. "I'm sure Ash can handle it."
"Okay. See you later." Tracey went off to do some chore of his.
"Good luck with your project." Professor Oak said. "I hope it works, but Ash, don't get your hopes up too much. There's still a chance you won't succeed."
"Well, I won't give up until I do." Ash replied stubbornly.
"It might take a while though, Ash." Riley told him. "So you're going to need to be patient."
"I will be." Ash said. "But enough said! Let's go get started!"
He ran towards the door, but didn't feel Pikachu touching his cheek and banged into a wall.
Professor Oak sighed. "Scratch hoping it works; we need it to work. I can't stand seeing him like this."
"I'm okay!" Ash called over his shoulder, getting up and listening to Pikachu's guidance this time.
"I'll do what I can for him. I promise." Riley followed Ash out the door so that they could get started on training.