Disclaimer - Everything you're about to read belongs to someone else. You know, except for the total compilation of ideas. That would be mine. Yup yup.

Author - Chibi / Warlordess

Notes - Okay guys, this is a weird one. I think it definitely qualifies for the fantasy genre I picked for it. Plus it's almost sickeningly romantic. Ugh, I hope I come out of this one unscathed. Even if you don't understand something or don't like or appreciate it, I hope you'll stick it out til the end and also - maybe, just maybe - give me a review and tell me what you thought.

So, without further ado. . .

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Title - "Undine's Thread" / part one

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Characters / Ages -

Ash / 16

Brock / 18

Misty / 16

Marina / 17

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The news came unexpectedly, like a storm.

". . . I'm standing outside the Cerulean Gym, currently undergoing renovations as this seaside city prepares to accept their new gym trainer, the talented Marina from the Orange Islands."

Ash paused, the potato chip that had been sitting between his lips falling, his finger frozen on the channel up button on the remote he'd been using to browse the networks. Pikachu, formerly lazing about beside him on the couch, immediately pricked up his ears at the sound of even one familiar word.

Cerulean Gym?

"W - what. . . ?" he mumbled, unable to accept what he'd just heard. The newscast continued, pictures of the Cerulean Gym flashing like a slide show on his television.

"Marina, an Orange League Champion, has undergone rigorous training in order to accept this role, despite repeated attempts to refuse the position earlier this year. The previous gym trainers, one of which she stated was a friend of hers, disinherited the power of the gym due to ultimately low scores on their past five annual League inspections, as well as negative comments from trainers around the region. Although Daisy, Lily, and Violet retained their acclaim as local legends - the Sensational Sisters - and in spite of them handing down the gym to Misty, their younger sister and a very talented water-type trainer, it simply wasn't enough for them to increase their reputation as gym leaders and to retain control of the property and their titles.

"Alongside Candidate Marina's awkward acceptance as the new Cerulean Gym trainer, PIA member Joy of the Kanto's local branch expresses disappointment in the League's decision to strip the former trainers of their rights. And she isn't the only one. Many fans of the Sensational Sisters, as well as Misty's training regimen, have gathered more than once before the gym in order to host a protest, though none of them have lasted long, nor have they forced a change in the League's plan to refurbish the gym and allow for new leadership.

"Pokemon officials, trainers, fans, and citizens will have no other choice but to wait and see how everything will turn out. Back to you at headquarters, Ethan."

"Thanks, Kris, and now. . ."

Ash tuned out the rest of the broadcast long enough to shake his head silently, eyes and mouth still wide open.

"B - but what about. . . Misty?" he asked himself. He was relatively concerned that the news anchor was informed enough to discuss his friend being forced from her home yet so uninformed that she'd neglect to mention what had become of the girl.

"Pikapi? Pikachu pi pika Pikachupi." Pikachu interrupted his train of thought, placing a small paw on his arm and attempting to shake him into focus.

". . . Ah, y - yeah. . . I'm gonna go try and call her. I remember Marina, hopefully she'll remember me too. Maybe she can give me some details on what happened at the gym. I can't believe it. . ." he muttered to himself, slowly easing his weight off of the couch and walking sluggishly towards the video-phone. "I really can't believe it. . ."

Luckily he'd long since stored the Cerulean Gym's phone in his memory so punching in the number only took half a second. Still, it felt like time dragged on forever as his heart picked up its pace. He gulped, his throat filled suddenly with cotton. Pikachu leapt up into his lap as he sat before the phone, receiver in hand.

It rang twice before giving a disheartening beep.

"The number you are trying to reach is either temporarily out of service or has been disconnected. Please try again later. Error code 00215."

"Crap. . . Crap!" Ash yelled, slamming the receiver back on the hook, "This isn't happening! It can't be happening!"

As soon as he'd taken another moment to exhale, the phone began ringing instead.

Could it be?

He hurriedly picked it up again, nearly forcibly removing Pikachu from his thigh in his excitement. Surely this was Misty. Surely she would explain everything to him. And in good faith, Ash turned on the video monitor.

". . . Oh, Brock. . . It's you." He prayed that he didn't sound too disappointed.

"Ash, did you watch the news a few minutes ago? That story about Cerulean. . . !"

"Yeah, I saw it. I have no idea what's going on. Brock, did Misty try and contact you or your family? Did she say anything at all about this?"

"No, not a thing. Nobody's heard anything about this, even my parents, and they attend most of the League functions in place of my brother since he's too young to really participate. It looks like the League council was keeping it under the radar all this time. It's hard to believe there weren't any leaks about something this big. But what about your mom? Misty loves her like family; if she told anyone, I'm sure it'd be her."

Ash sighed, drooping in his seat a little more.

"Pi. . ." the electric mouse in his lap offered in condolence, looking equally somber.

"She isn't home right now, not for the next hour or two. But still, she isn't this absent-minded. If Misty were to break this kinda news to her, I'm sure she woulda told me as soon as I got home from Unova."

"Well we should try calling Misty. For all we know, she only just found out about this too. She'll need us to be there for her if she's been stripped of her gym leader license."

"I tried that already, right before you called. Her phone's been disconnected. I figure it's from the construction they're doing at the gym."

"Yeah, that or the fact that they've probably received a ton of harassing phone-calls from fans and trainers and news crews."

"I - we've gotta find her, Brock. I don't like this. I can't handle not knowing where she is. We hafta find her."

"I know that, I know! Ash, just keep trying to reach the gym. I'm going to contact one of my League sources. I'll use my staple as a former gym leader and relative of a current lead trainer to try and get some information. There's no way they can keep us from finding her and her sisters."

The two young men hung up without saying goodbye to one another, Ash hurriedly pressing redial on the touch-screen keypad so that he could immediately reconnect to the Cerulean Gym's main line. Alas, even after five attempts, he couldn't get more than the (at this point) far too familiar beeping of an unregistered phone number.

Finally deciding to try something else, he dialed Information and waited for someone to pick up there.

"Thank you for calling, this is Vincent speaking. May I have the city and region of whom you'd like to contact please?"

"Uh, yeah, I'm trying to reach the gym in Cerulean City, Kanto region."

". . . I'm sorry, sir. That number has been temporarily removed from our database due to backlog. I can direct you to Indigo League HQ, who placed the block on this number, if you'd like."

Ash sighed, clearly despondent at his lack of progress, before thanking the man and hanging up instead. Clearly, if the people in charge of the Indigo League had kept everything about the Cerulean Gym quiet until now, they'd be hard-pressed to deliver him the information he wanted no matter what his relationship with Misty was.

And just what relationship is there when you haven't seen your best friend in over two years, and haven't bothered to contact her in nearly one? She didn't even try to tell me that she was getting kicked out of the gym!

"Pi pikachu Pikapi!" Pikachu admonished his trainer, as if to remind Ash not to think that way. As if he knew the way the boy was thinking to begin with.

"Nah, Pikachu, don't worry. . ." Ash responded, patting his buddy on the head, "Brock said that Misty might not have known this was coming either, just like the rest of us. . . She would have told us if she'd had the chance. Brock'll find out what's going on. He'll figure out where Misty is and we'll go make sure she's okay."

"Pi pika pi chu Pikachupi?"

"Of course I mean that," Ash practically laughed, a sight if ever there was one, "I mean, she and I, we're best friends! So what if she can't be a gym leader anymore? That doesn't mean she can't be my friend! I'm just. . . worried. . ." And his tone grew soft and melancholy again as he turned to stare at his television for the first time since the newscast had ended.

"I'm worried 'cause I don't think she knows that."

Ash sat there with Pikachu for a few minutes longer, waiting for Brock to return their interrupted call and wondering offhandedly when his mom would come home. He knew that she'd be upset if he didn't at least explain to her what was going on because one thing was for sure. . . Something weird was going on.

About fifteen minutes of waiting later and the phone rang again.

"Brock, tell me you found something out."

"Sorry, Ash, I tried every trick in the book. Lance's secretary wouldn't even yield to my manly valor!"

"Dammit Brock, you tried flirting with her again, didn't you? I thought it was obvious that she didn't want you the last time you tried that. . ."

Brock whimpered as though not having heard the poor boy, but managed to get over it a few seconds later. And thank goodness, too, for it seemed not all was lost.

"So I couldn't find out anything about Misty or her beautiful, gorgeous sisters-"

"-Okay, yeah, get on with it-"

"-But according to my sources," and he put on a serious, mysterious face, "Marina is still being housed at the Cerulean Gym even though they're doing the renovations and phones are down. All we have to do is ask her about it, right? I mean, you said you knew her, didn't you? That you met in the Orange Islands?"

Ash wasn't so sure all of a sudden, but for the sake of finding out what had happened to Misty (and his personal curiosity), he would at least give it a shot.

"Alright, Brock, I'll be in Pewter by tomorrow afternoon."

Delia Ketchum was not exactly pleased when she returned home from the super market to find her one and only son already packing to leave her alone again. He hadn't even been back from Unova for a full week and yet he didn't offer an explanation until she shut and locked the front door and forced him to sit down long enough to tell her what was going on.

Of course, then he did and she grew overly sympathetic. She hadn't heard much from Misty since the two of them and Professor Oak had gotten together to send her darling son that gift package awhile back. Misty had been much too secretive about what she was giving her best friend, and Delia had known better than to pry. A girl's feelings were her own of course, and she had no business butting in. Plus, the thought that her Ashy might actually, maybe, possibly acquire his first girlfriend because of such a special surprise was more than enough for her to bite her tongue and remain calm and to wait to see if anything panned out.

Nothing did, unfortunately, and now she was left with the cold, hard fear that accompanied knowing absolutely nothing about what was going on. Misty was her son's best friend, practically a surrogate daughter, and yet they hadn't spoken in months. And now she had vanished without a trace and nothing to tie her down or bring her back. After all, just who were the Cerulean Sensational Sisters without their Pokemon gym to identify them?

"Fine, Ash, alright. You can go, but I want an update everyday. Please, please," she begged him, though still somehow completely composed as she braced herself, "don't put yourself at risk. . . but do whatever you can beyond that to find Misty, okay? I don't think either of us would easily forgive ourselves if we let her go without even trying."

And so Ash left home, running down the path and out of Pallet Town in record time, Pikachu zipping along at his heels. Through Viridian City without even ten seconds to stop at the local PokeCenter, no time to shop for healing items, dashing through Viridian Forest so fast that even the Beedrill feared trying to trace them.

Somehow, miraculously, Ash made it to Pewter by four in the morning, at least six hours ahead of schedule.

He raced up the path and around the bend leading to the Pokemon Gym, only stopping to knock on the front door for fear of how impolite it would be if he barged in so early in the day. Nevertheless, after only a few spare knocks, the doors slid open and he walked inside, noticing Brock behind the front desk where he must have been unlocking the front entrance.

"Wow, you made good time. I'm not ready to go just yet. I'll need about an hour," he said by way of conversation.

Ash sighed, not out of exasperation, but due to the exhaustion finally catching up on him. Still, he refused to let it show anymore. He didn't have time to be tired. Pikachu had nearly fallen off his shoulder three times on the way out of Viridian Forest, having felt the ramifications of constant running for half a day straight awhile ago. But the two of them had somehow made it.

"No, that's fine. To be honest, I didn't expect you to be up at all. It's kind of early."

"Six-thirty in the morning. You didn't sleep at all last night, did you?" Rather than waiting for an answer (considering he already knew what it'd be), Brock changed the topic. "I probably wouldn't have been except the phone started ringing nearly an hour ago and, well, I've been kind of restless too, so I was only half asleep."

"Who calls at five-thirty in the morning?" Ash asked with a furrowed eyebrow, as if he had room to talk.

"It was May. It turns out she's back home for now and they happened to air a delayed broadcast about the Cerulean Gym and Misty's family. She and Max were worried and wanted to know if there was anything they could do. She said she'd tried calling you first but your mom told her you'd already left to come see me. I'm surprised there was any news of this over in Hoenn. It doesn't really mean anything to their region, does it?

"Well, anyway, right after that, your mom called. She must have thought the same as you and knew you'd rather skip out on a few hours of shut eye. She also said that Tracey called her last night, apparently confused about something. He thought we should know about it after watching the newscast too."

"What is it?" Ash asked, curious as he took a seat in the lobby. Brock followed suit with a groan, apparently weary and shaken after everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours.

"Cerulean City's Nurse Joy sent him a Pokeball."

"So. . . ?"

"Azuril was inside."

"Azuril. . . You mean Marril's baby, who was given to Misty a couple years ago? Why would she send it back to Pallet Town? What, does she think that she can't be a proper mother just because she's not a registered gym trainer anymore?" the raven-haired boy asked with a sharp laugh. Brick didn't join in, taking the further development much more seriously than him. In fact, it was enough so that the younger man sobered up immediately, feeling rather ashamed.

"Pikapi. . ." Pikachu admonished him from his shoulder.

"I don't know why she sent Azuril back to Tracey. Perhaps she really thought she couldn't care for it any longer, although probably for more reasons than simply lacking a gym license. For all we know, the whole thing is temporary. Maybe she wanted Azuril to be with its real mother while she and her sisters found a new place to live. Who knows?"

"There was no note, huh?" And Ash seemed rather diminished as he begged the question.

". . . No. No note."

The two of them sat there in the lobby of the Pewter Gym for the next few minutes, drinking in all of the facts and the overall situation. Neither one seemed able to think up a solution to the mystery that had presented itself before them. Finally, the silence cracked and shattered.

"You said about an hour, right?"

"Yeah, let me go finish packing and then I'll wake my family and tell them goodbye. Did you need to do anything? Use the restroom, get some breakfast?"

"Not really. Uh, I think I should use the phone though; call my mom, tell her I made it here alright. She told me to keep her updated."

Brock nodded, pointing towards the front desk, "You can use the video-phone there. After that, go to the PokeCenter. I'll meet you there."

"Brock," Ash laughed again, "it's not all that necessary. Pikachu and I are more than enough to take on any threats we see in Viridian Forest. We got here just fine without using a single potion. There's no reason to see Nurse Joy for a check-up."

"Pika!" the electric mouse assured the Pewter gym trainer.

"Don't give me that," the breeder practically snapped at his younger friend anyway, "You two ran all night to get here, you didn't stop once to rest or eat. You both look exhausted. I'm disappointed in you, Ash. I know you're worried, Pikachu too, but that doesn't mean you can ignore your Pokemon's health. Go see Nurse Joy. I'll be there in a little while.

"And try not to panic too much." Brock reminded him with a smile so confident, the raven-haired trainer couldn't help being jealous of it, "we've been through worse than this. Misty too. We'll find her."

Silence consumed the two of them again, Ash refusing to say anything in response to Brock's comment, least of all to admit that he was right. It wasn't like he'd meant to hurt Pikachu, of course not. And his Pokemon knew to speak up if it felt it was being mistreated. . . But all of them were so worried and upset about what had happened to Misty, curious as to her whereabouts and as to why she'd kept the truth from them all this time. Of course Pikachu wouldn't say anything. It didn't want to hinder their investigation, didn't want to hold them up.

". . . See you in an hour," Ash muttered, getting up with fists clenched uncomfortably tight. He carefully released the tension in his muscles with a deep breath of air before walking out of the gym and towards their next meeting place.

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Notes - Hallo, all! It took me far too long (like, months) to finish the first chapter of this but, hey, at least it's finally done. If you've read the notes both on my FFN profile and at the start of the chapter, I'd say it's pretty obvious where I'm going with this. But I hope you're still interested and will stick around anyway because it's been a pretty fun ride! Whew, I think I may be playing around too much with certain stereotypes. . . Well, we shall see!

Also, as a minor note, this was originally going to be a two-shot mini-fic. . . but I took a step back and realized I wanted to do something with shorter chapters this time so I'm going to split it up into about four parts. Since the first chapter was originally twice the size it is now, I do have the second chapter written and ready to post, and I've started on the third one as well. As for how soon I plan on actually doing that posting, well. . . We shall see. . .

Reviews are appreciated and inspirational!