A/N: After my last story, I decided to do one that was less dark. This world is a mix of the anime and the games, and I will be leaving a lot of episodes out. It's going to be slightly darker than the anime – not that that's saying very much – but it's not going to be some godforsaken world like the Sun Soul. Anyways, I hope you enjoy the story. Make sure to review.

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon.

Today, he reflected, was the most important day of his life. He had been eagerly waiting for this ever since he had been old enough to understand when he would get a pokemon of his very own. Ash had been weighing the pros and cons of the Kanto starters for months now, and he had decided that he wanted a charmander. Ever since he had seen a trainer win a tournament with a charizard on the television he had wanted one. The fire pokemon was strong even when it was young, and only got stronger as it aged and evolved.

He had made sure to bed early last night so he wouldn't be late to Professor Oak's lab. His alarm clock had been set an hour earlier than it needed to and he had made sure his mom knew to wake him up at the time his alarm was supposed to go off. There was no way that he would be late.

It turned out that his plan worked great. Ash was ready to go to the lab whenever his mom was done worrying over him. She was fussing over him and making him promise to stay safe, although she wished him luck just as much. He just let her worry since she might not see him for a long time. Instead of listening, he just envisioned himself becoming Champion with his future charizard at his side.

"Oh!" His mother suddenly exclaimed, looking past his shoulder at the clock. "You need to get going if you want to get to the lab in time! Make sure you come back here and say goodbye before you leave! I'll have your backpack ready."

Ash smiled at her and nodded, the excitement killing any words he might have said. He walked off in the direction of Oak's lab, and he smiled and waved to some of the people that wished him good luck on his journey. Pallet was such a small town that everybody knew that he and a few other kids would be starting today.

In no time at all he was at the large white building. Its windows looked shiny in the sunlight, and he saw that three other kids were standing in front of the doors. Ash walked up nervously, but before he could greet them a familiar, irritating voice broke out from them.

"Oh look!" Gary said arrogantly. "It's the loser. I'm surprised you even showed up – we all know that I'm going to beat you."

Ash gritted his teeth but said nothing. The other two kids – a rather short boy named Jonathan and a pretty girl named Amelia – looked uncomfortable with Gary's teasing but were too meek to protest against him.. They just looked down and kept their eyes away from Gary.

Finally, Ash snapped. "Shut up Gary! I'll beat you when we get our pokemon!"

"Yeah right." Gary smirked. "A loser like you doesn't have any chance against me! But let's do it. I'll show you what it means to be a real trainer."

Ash tightly nodded, glaring at Gary. He reigned in his temper, not wanting to start a fight the day he got his first pokemon. He would just have to beat him in their battle.

The next few minutes passed in silence. Gary dismissed them all, smiling cockily while he leaned against the lab's wall. Ash stood quietly for a moment before walking over to Jonathan and Amelia. They quietly began to chatter about what pokemon they wanted and how they would start off.

Jonathan and Amelia would be travelling together, and they invited Ash to go with them. Ash quickly accepted. He didn't want to be on his own yet and going with Gary wasn't likely to happen – not that either of them would want to travel together to begin with.

Finally, the glass doors neatly slid open. The soon-to-be trainers rushed in eagerly, wanting to be the first to get their pokemon. Gary pushed past the rest of them and Ash was forced to the back. As they entered the cold lab, a short woman in a pristine white lab coat greeted them.

"Hello!" She said warmly. "You must be the new trainers I was told about. Follow me and I'll take you to Professor Oak."

Gary chatted with her as she led them to the professor, but Ash was too nervous to listen. He and the other two kids shared anxious glances as they moved into a small room to the right of the main lab.

Inside was a small table that had three pokeballs on it. Professor Oak stood next to it and smiled reassuringly at them, and greeted them all by name. The familiarity loosened the tension they were feeling, although Gary didn't need it. He had an overabundance of confidence as it was.

Now that he didn't feel like he had a lump in his throat, Ash noticed a small problem.

"Professor Oak?" He asked quietly. Oak looked at him curiously, and despite knowing the man for years Ash found himself regretting speaking up. "There are only three pokeballs."

Oak looked confused for a moment before he realized the problem.

"Oh! I must have made a mistake." Oak said, cheeks turning red from embarrassment. Ash and the other two trainers looked at each other anxiously, not sure if they would get their starters today.

"Don't worry." Oak said as he saw the look they shared. "You'll all get a pokemon. One of you will just have to wait a few minutes for me to procure one."

They shared a sigh of relief. Oak smiled and continued.

"Now, who is willing to wait on their pokemon? I don't want the others to have to wait."

Everyone shared a moment of silence. Gary wasn't paying attention since he was sure to get one of the three pokemon no matter what. The other three trainers just looked at each other, silently hoping that one of the others would volunteer.

After a few moments passed and it became evident that no one was going to say anything, Ash spoke up. He felt a lump of disappointment in his throat as he realized he would have to wait but decided it didn't matter. As long as he got a starter it was fine.

"I'll wait." He said sadly. Oak looked impressed with him and smiled.

"Good. Just let the others get their pokemon and I'll see if I have any others ready." Oak turned away from him and addressed the others. "The pokeball to the left is bulbasaur, a grass type. The pokeball in the middle is charmander, a fire type. The pokeball to the right is squirtle, a water type. Each of them have their strengths and weaknesses, but a skilled trainer can use any of them very well."

Ash watched enviously as Gary pushed in front of the others and grabbed the squirtle's pokeball. Gary released the small blue turtle and sized it up. Apparently he found it to his liking because he smiled at it.

Jonathan chose the charmander and let it out of its ball as well. He looked at the orange lizard in awe, and laughed when the charmander curled up in a ball and tried to sleep. The other boy tried to pet it and the charmander lazily looked up at him.

Amelia picked the bulbasaur. The grass type looked pretty calm and began to investigate its surroundings. After Amelia started talking and petting it the Professor cleared his throat.

"Now that you have your pokemon, could you please return them? I have an important announcement."

Gary grumbled as he returned his squirtle and cockily stared at his grandfather. Amelia and Jonathan didn't say anything and just looked at the old professor. Ash followed their example.

"Now that I have your attention, I'm going to give you each a project to work on during your travels. You see, recently I invented a machine called the pokedex. It collects a detailed amount of information on pokemon, but I need someone else to search the world for me. I'm too old to gather them myself, so I'm entrusting each of you a pokedex to collect the information for me."

With that said he opened up a small bag on a table in the corner and withdrew four small red computers. He handed one to each of them, and Ash looked at curiously before wondering why he had four pokedexes ready but only three pokemon.

"Err, Professor Oak?" He asked. The old man looked at him after he had given Gary a pokedex. "Why did you have four pokedexes but only three pokemon?"

"I have lots of Pokedexes in that bag." Oak explained. He turned back to the new trainers. "Once you activate the pokedex and put your information in it will serve as your identity. Now, the pokedex gives you information on any pokemon you come across. For example, it will give you what type it is, what it likes to eat, what species it is, and will tell you what moves it knows."

Ash's eyes widened as he heard just how much the pokedex could do. Professor Oak continued to list its features, which revealed that it had information like the pokemon's habitat, gender, and a detailed description on the species. When he scanned something with it the pokedex it would give a basic summary of the pokemon, but to learn more about it he had to actually open it up and read.

"Now that you know what it can do, I suggest you all go outside and get ready for your journey. Make sure to activate the pokedex at your earliest opportunity. Ash, please stay in here."

Ash grudgingly nodded and waved Jonathan and Amelia goodbye. Oak said something to his grandson before Gary ran out of the lab. The professor left the area to get Ash's new pokemon. He hoped that Oak could find him a charmander.

"We'll wait for you, don't worry!" Jonathan said with a smile. "Just come meet us at the gate when you're ready. Amelia still has to get her bag anyways."

He grinned and thanked them. When they left he searched around the small room for a chair. After he found one he sat down and impatiently waited for Professor Oak, although he made sure to activate the pokedex while he was waiting. It was a simple process that began once he turned it on and all he had to do was put his name and other information into it.

Activating the pokedex only took a few minutes off of his wait. He tried to count down the time and keep himself from fidgeting too much, and by the time he'd counted to twenty minutes Ash thought he would go crazy.

Professor Oak finally came back holding a plain pokeball. Ash jumped out of his seat in excitement and anxiously waited for Oak to give him his new partner. When Oak held his hand out Ash practically snatched the small orb out of his hand and stared at it in awe.

He pressed the release button and eagerly watched as red energy shot out of the ball and coalesced into a small, pink creature. Ash was momentarily disappointed at not getting a charmander, but that was soon forgotten.

He'd finally gotten a pokemon! Ash crouched down next to the pink creature – a male nidoran, he remembered – and carefully examined him. The nidoran looked at him curiously and twitched its ears. The new trainer grinned, but didn't pet him. He remembered that they were supposed to have poisonous barbs on them.

Ash stood up and aimed the pokedex at Nidoran. The small creature looked up at him and its right ear twitched again. The pokedex scanned it and gave Ash the summary on Nidoran.

Nidoran, the Poison Pin Pokemon. It stiffens its ears to sense danger. The larger its horns, the more powerful its secreted venom.

This nidoran knows the moves: Peck, focus energy, confusion, and leer. Its ability is poison point, which poisons pokemon that use physical moves against it.

"How big are its horns compared to other nidoran?" He asked the professor. Oak looked closely at it for a moment before answering.

"Quite large." He admitted. "This is an impressive specimen of its breed. It will do quite well no matter what you use it for. I must admit that it has quite the advantage in knowing confusion. One of its parents must have been a psychic type."

Ash grinned at that and looked at Nidoran. "Do you want to be friends?"

The Nidoran just looked at him and twitched its ears before nervously looking around. Ash remembered that they were supposed to be one of the more nervous breeds of pokemon and kneeled down. Maybe if he looked smaller it would be more comfortable.

He held his hand out and the pink creature cautiously stepped forward. Nidoran sniffed his hand and didn't try to attack him and calmed down a bit. After Nidoran seemed to be calmed down Ash returned him to his pokeball and thanked Oak.

Ash could barely hold in his excitement at finally having a pokemon. Who needed a charmander? He had Nidoran, which evolved into pretty powerful pokemon.

As he walked out of the lab he noticed that Gary was waiting outside with a cocky smile on his face. Ash gritted his teeth as he saw Gary and withdrew his pokeball.

"What took you so long, Ashy-boy?" Gary asked as he released his squirtle. The turtle tried to mimic its owners pose, but fell over doing it. Ash had to hold back a laugh as the turtle got back up, but the squirtle still noticed.

"C'mon." Gary said, annoyed at Ash's laughter. "I bet squirtle can beat your pokemon easy."

Ash grinned and released Nidoran. The small pokemon scratched its large ear when it came out and looked at Ash.

"Hey, Nidoran. Can you beat that squirtle for me?" Ash said. Nidoran looked over at Gary's squirtle and growled, extending its large poisonous barbs. Squirtle shrunk back a little, clearly intimidated by the dripping beads of poison.

"Ha!" Gary said, clearly not as impressed as squirtle. "That's the pokemon Gramps gave you? It's not even a real starter. Go get him, squirtle. Use tackle!"

His face colored in anger, but he wouldn't let Gary talk like that to Nidoran. Nidoran growled loudly and his barbs began to drip more poison. The small creature squared itself as squirtle charged at him.

Ash thought fast, going over Nidoran's capabilities. He knew that Nidoran wouldn't be very durable, so he couldn't just let squirtle tackle Nidoran. The squirtle nearly tripped several times as it ran towards Nidoran, but Ash didn't laugh at it. He needed to focus.

"Dodge and peck!" He cried. Nidoran jumped out of the way at the last second and let the turtle run into the lab's wall. His pokemon lunged at the dazed turtle and rammed its vulnerable underbelly with his horn.

Squirtle cried out in pain, but at the insistence of its trainer it pulled itself up and continued fighting. The turtle tried another tackle, this time hitting Nidoran in the back before he or Ash could react. Even as Nidoran was knocked back a foot, squirtle began to fall over. Nidoran's barbs had injected the tired squirtle full of venom when it tackled Nidoran, and the turtle was unable to fight.

Ash cheered Nidoran on for a moment before taking a risk. He didn't pull his pokemon back into his ball, instead motioning for Nidoran to follow him. The pink creature cheerfully followed Ash as the new trainer went home.

Gary didn't give them any trouble. He was too shocked that he had lost to bother them. They left Gary with his unconscious squirtle and walked back to Ash's home in euphoria over their win. Ash grinned and jumped almost the entire way home.

His mom was watching TV when they entered the small house. When Ash and Nidoran walked in, she jumped up and squealed in excitement when she saw the small pokemon.

"Oh, Ash! It's so cute!" She cried before scooping Nidoran up. Ash tried to call out a warning before she pricked herself on one of the poisonous barbs. His mom just looked at him admonishingly. She was carrying Nidoran strangely, but Ash realized that it was a position that would keep Nidoran from accidently pricking her.

"Don't you remember?" She asked as she carried the happy Nidoran around with her to get Ash's backpack. "I studied under Professor Oak for a few years. He taught me a lot about pokemon."

Ash blushed in embarrassment as he remembered that. His mom set Nidoran down before going to get his backpack. Nidoran walked next to his feet and sat down. He seemed to be listening for something, although Ash thought the little creature was just paranoid.

After a few minutes his mom brought out his blue backpack and handed it to him. Ash unzipped and looked inside to make sure it had everything he would need.

Food for him and his pokemon? Check.

A map? Check.

Rope and potions? Check.

A few more things were in the bottom and side pockets, but he didn't look at those yet. He had all the necessities and anything else he could buy at Viridian City. Now all that was left was to say goodbye to his mom.

Ash turned to her, but before he could say anything she had wrapped him in a crushing hug. He sputtered and thought his ribs were going to crack, and when his mom finally let go he gasped for air.

"Stay safe." She said. Ash thought that he could see tears in her eyes, but she pushed him out of the door before he could check.

The new trainer waved her goodbye and when he was finally out of sight of the house he ran to the gate that separated Pallet Town from Route 1. Ash saw the others waiting on him and both of them looked at Nidoran in curiosity.

"Is that a Nidoran!" Amelia asked excitedly. "That's so cool. I didn't even know the Professor had one."

Nidoran looked uncomfortable under the attention and sat down on the soft dirt. He scratched his ear as an attempt to ignore the attention Amelia was giving him.

"So what moves does he know?" Jonathan asked. "Charmander knows growl, scratch, and ember. I'm going to try and teach him smokescreen later."

Ash told his new traveling partners Nidoran's move set, and both were surprised when they heard that the poison type knew confusion.

"Wow, you're really lucky." Jonathan said. "But I think we need to get going. My mom got to Viridian City in three days and I want to beat her record."

Ash and Amelia grinned and nodded their assent. They wanted to get their journey underway just as much as Jonathan did. With that they set off down the worn dirt road of Route 1, eager to venture out into the world.


Ash had to return Nidoran after a while. Although his starter was valiantly attempting to keep up with them, its stubby legs and slow speed caused it to be pretty tired after half an hour. He didn't want Nidoran to tire himself out before they could find something to battle.

"So," he began in attempt to revive the conversation, "did you guys see the battle between Bruno and that Marcus guy last night?"

"That was awesome!" Jonathan said loudly. Ash noticed that a few pidgey roosting in the tree above them fled due to Jonathan's loud voice. "Bruno actually lost! I think Marcus or whatever his name is lost to Agatha though."

"What happened?" Amelia asked curiously as they walked down the trail. "My parents made me go to bed before the battle came on. I only got to see the end of Lorelei's match."

"Oh it was great!" Jonathan said boisterously. "Marcus' Gengar beat all of Bruno's pokemon except for onix. I think Bruno got pretty mad over his loss."

Ash and Amelia listened intently, but eventually they got bored of Jonathan practically swooning over the Elite Four. Amelia diverted the conversation to something that neither Ash nor Jonathan had known about.

"So have either of you heard about the spearow flock that's been causing trouble around here?" She asked. Jonathan looked pretty nervous – everyone in their class at Pallet Town had known that he was terrified of bird pokemon – but Ash wanted to know more.

"I thought that Professor Oak had them driven off a few weeks ago?" Ash said, reflecting back to the day that Oak had left with his gigantic dragonite. Gary had been bragging about being taught by his grandfather all day after that.

"He did." Amelia confirmed. "But they came back. I heard they've been attacking trainers, so we should probably be on guard. My older sister in Viridian City told me that the Pokemon Center there has been getting a lot of hurt people in from them."

Jonathan groaned and kept a hand on his pokeball. Ash noticed that he was quickly glancing around at the trees as if he was trying to spot the flock.

"Too bad none of us have an electric type." Ash said. "Nidoran doesn't have any moves for a lot of pokemon at once. How about you guys?"

"Bulbasaur knows vine whip and sleep powder." Amelia said off the top of her head. "I'm going to teach him poison powder and razor leaf soon. But right now I don't think he could do very much against a flock of spearow. They would have way too good of a type advantage."

"Ember would be able to fight off a few of them." Jonathan whispered as he continued searching the area for birds. Both Ash and Amelia looked at him oddly. "But he would have to get closer before he could really do anything."

Ash shrugged. They would just have to run if they came across the flock. For now it seemed like the sun was about to set.

"Hey, guys, it's getting dark. Do either of you know how to set up a camp?"

Jonathan and Amelia shook their heads. Ash sighed, realizing that he probably should have asked someone to teach him before setting out on their journey. It looked like the first night would be pretty uncomfortable.

They continued on for a bit longer before reaching a place that would be comfortable to sleep in. It was a small clearing surrounded by trees. The clearing had decent cover from any surprise rainfall they might get and was out of the way enough to keep them out of trouble.

At least they had all remembered to bring their sleeping bags, Ash thought as he laid his out on the ground. Jonathan was out searching for logs or something to burn while Amelia had begun to divide up small portions of food for them. Ash had to find a place to get more water in case they ran out in the morning.

Their large, thick plastic water bottles still had plenty in them, but none of them were willing to just play around in the wilderness. They'd all heard too many horror stories of kids getting lost and being found after they'd died from the wild. None of them wanted to be like that.

Ash yawned and wondered where Jonathan was. He definitely wouldn't be in any trouble – the pokemon around Pallet Town tended to be young and weak and wouldn't want to mess with a charmander – but he wasn't the smartest guy in class and could get lost. Anyone could get lost when it was this dark, although charmander and its tail flame would come in handy.

Just as he and Amelia were beginning to get worried, they heard a rustling at the edge of the trees. Amelia released her bulbasaur and Ash was just about to release Nidoran when they realized it was Jonathan. Their friend stumbled into the dark campsite with his arms full of small branches and other foliage.

Both of them were in awe of how much Jonathan had managed to carry and didn't say anything as he threw the massive pile into the small circle of stones they had created and collapsed near his sleeping bag. He was barely visible in the dim light from charmander's tail, but Ash could see him tiredly point at the pile of fuel.

"Catch that on fire." He said with a yawn. Charmander shot a small stream of flame onto the brush before walking over next to his trainer and curling into a ball, although the lizard was careful to keep its tail flame away from Jonathan.

"Put that out before you guys fall asleep." Jonathan said tiredly. Ash nodded and got off of his sleeping bag so that he could scoot closer to the fire's warmth. He released Nidoran, who seemed rather happy with the small camp. The small creature sniffed around for a few moments before sitting next to Ash and staring at the fire.

Ash heard snores coming from his left, which meant that Amelia had fallen asleep. He smiled as he thought of his two new traveling partners. Jonathan and Amelia had been good friends at school, but they hadn't really associated with him very much. In fact, the only thing he had really known about them was that they would be leaving on their pokemon journies, just like him. The rest of the class had been either too young or deemed too irresponsible to leave Pallet Town.

He was pulled out of his thoughts by Nidoran, who seemed to be growling at something. Ash frowned in concern and stayed silent as Nidoran's ears twitched. If there was something out in the woods, it would definitely be Nidoran to realize it.

After a while Nidoran relaxed, but Ash was still on edge. He hadn't realized just how nervous sleeping in the wilderness could make him. Ash grew less tense, but he still tried to listen to the forest. The trainer grew tired after about half an hour of sitting next to the fire and decided to go to sleep.

Before he went to the sleeping bag he poured a pile of dirt they had gathered over the dwindling flame, extinguishing it. As he slid into his sleeping bag he looked at Nidoran, who had stayed close to him the entire time.

"Will you wake up if you hear something?" He asked slowly, unsure if Nidoran could understand him. Luckily, however, the small creature seemed to nod at him enthusiastically. Ash smiled at his starter. "If you hear something, make sure to wake us up."

Nidoran nodded and curled up next to him, although he kept his back and its poisonous barbs to the fire pit. The pink pokemon didn't want to hurt his trainer by accident.

Soon enough they were both asleep, tired after their first day on the road.


Ash yawned as he woke up and stretched his stiff muscles. He looked around and noticed that Nidoran was standing next to him. The small pokemon nipped him again to keep him from going back to sleep.

"I'm up." The trainer said, waving Nidoran and his sharp teeth away.

It looked to be almost noon if the powerful sun was any indication, and Ash realized that he needed to wake the others up. They all wanted to get to Viridian City as fast as they could, so every hour counted.

He walked over to Amelia since she was closer and shook her awake. She groaned and told him to go away, but he kept at it until she finally got up. Amelia rubbed her eyes and tried to smooth out her hair.

"What time is it?" She asked with bleary eyes.

"I think it's close to noon." He replied. "Do you want to wake up Jonathan? I'll go fill up our bottles."

"Sure." She shrugged. Amelia dug around in her backpack for a moment before handing her bottle to him. After he'd taken it she walked over to Jonathan's sleeping form and lightly kicked him in the back.

Jonathan just waved her away, obviously still trying to sleep. Amelia sighed and walked over to Charmander, shaking the lizard awake. It had the same reaction as its trainer, but snorted out a small cloud of smoke to keep her away.

Ash watched from a small distance away with Nidoran as Amelia sent out Bulbasaur. The grass type looked around before focusing its eyes on its trainer.

"Wake them up with vine whip." She commanded. Bulbasaur nodded in agreement and sent out small vines from around its bulb, which it when smacked the sleeping forms with. Jonathan shot up with wild eyes and Charmander had a similar reaction, although the lizard also tried to use ember on Bulbasaur. Amelia returned Bulbasaur before it could get hurt.

"What was that for?" Jonathan grumbled. He rubbed the red spot on his arm where the vine had hit him before returning the irate charmander.

"That's for not getting up." Amelia said with a smirk. "Come on, we need to get going. It's almost noon."

Jonathan sighed and got out of the sleeping bag. Ash walked over and picked up the water bottle that had been behind the other trainer.

"Can one of you get my sleeping bag while I fill these up?" He asked. Jonathan sighed and nodded to him and began to walk over to the blue bag.

Ash soon found himself at the small stream with Nidoran, who was carefully listening to their surroundings. He took the top off of the bottles and quickly filled the thick plastic containers up. Jonathan would probably need to have Charmander boil it for them – he'd remembered about the dangerous illnesses people got from drinking water from ponds, and the bottles were made to be nearly incapable of melting – but it should be fine.

By the time he'd gotten back to the campsite his companions had cleaned everything up. Amelia looked to have just finished packing up her things, while Jonathan was leaning against a tree. Jonathan looked like he was about to fall asleep again, but every time he closed his eyes Bulbasaur – who Amelia had released while he was gone – lightly whipped him again.

Suddenly, a horrible shriek broke the serene silence of the forest. Nidoran's ears twitched and turned toward the source – Amelia. Ash curiously looked for whatever had made the normally calm girl scream, and easily identified it.

A small purple rattata was pawing at her backpack and had completely ignored Amelia. She flushed from her embarrassment at screaming and turned to Bulbasaur.

"Use vine whip!" She commanded. The grass type nodded and released its vines, which brutally smashed into the small rodent. Rattata growled and ran towards Bulbasaur with its teeth bared. Bulbasaur tried to whip it again, but the rattata suddenly seemed to vanish before impacting the grass type.

Ash watched curiously as Bulbasaur was knocked onto its side by the quick attack. The rattata wasted no time in savagely biting and scratching Bulbasaur, and nearly bit one of Bulbasaur's vines when Bulbasaur used them to pull itself up.

Amelia was digging through her bag for something when the rattata used quick attack again, although this time Bulbasaur stood strong against the attack. The rattata tried to bite Bulbasaur again, but it was knocked over as Amelia threw a pokeball at it.

As the small ball bounced off of the rat, it opened up and shot a beam of red energy at the rattata. It sucked the pokemon into the ball and everyone was silent as it shook three times before finally clicking.

"YES!" Amelia exclaimed, pumping her arm into the air as she walked over to the pokeball. She reverently picked it up and stared at it for a moment, seemingly unable to believe that she had caught her second pokemon.

"Good job, Bulbasaur!" She said to the wounded pokemon. Amelia kneeled down and wrapped it in a tight hug, but drew away when Bulbasaur winced from its injuries. "Do any of you have a potion? My mom forgot to buy mine."

"Yeah." Jonathan said as he dug around in his bag. A few moments later he withdrew a small bottle. He tossed it to Amelia, who deftly caught it and unscrewed the cap. She sprayed it onto Bulbasaur's injuries, and the grass type closed its eyes happily as the potion healed the scratches and bites.

Amelia recalled Bulbasaur, who looked quite happy to be going into his ball. Ash did the same with Nidoran. Neither could keep up with them yet, and Ash didn't want Nidoran to get tired.

"Now that that's over," Jonathan said as he put his backpack on, "let's get going. I want to break my mom's time."

They all agreed and set off a few minutes later. Ash hoped that he would find a pokemon or another trainer to battle.


After about an hour of walking they found another trainer, a girl that was fishing next to the path. Ash grinned and the group walked over to her. He wanted Nidoran to get lots of experience before the first gym leader.

"Hey!" He called out. The girl looked over at him irritably, allowing Ash to get a better look at her. She had orange hair that was tied into a unique ponytail.

"What do you want?" She asked in annoyance, clearly not impressed with him. Apparently she expected that he wanted a battle as her pokeball was in her hand.

"Do you want to battle?"

"Sure." She grinned cockily. "Don't expect to win though. One on one?"

Ash just smiled and nodded before tapping the release button. Nidoran growled when it was released and extended his barbs to their full length. The girl looked surprised at the appearance of Nidoran but shrugged and released a pokemon that Ash recognized as a staryu.

He waited for her to make the first move. She was definitely more experienced than him, so he would give her a few seconds to act. Staryu wasn't something he knew a lot about, so an indication of its abilities would be nice.

The girl seemed to realize this and grinned. "Use harden and follow up with tackle!"

Ash responded quickly. "Confusion!"

Nidoran's eyes glowed a bright, ethereal purple as it stared at the rapidly approaching staryu. The staryu seemed to realize what was about to happen, but continued its charge. The psychic attack knocked the staryu onto the ground. It didn't get back up for a moment, and Ash hoped that he had gotten lucky and knocked it out with one hit.

Unfortunately the staryu pulled itself back up, but the girl seemed a bit more wary of him now.

"Use water gun!" She cried. "Then harden and tackle again."

The staryu seemed to nod at her before turning back to Nidoran, who warily watched its opponent. A second later a strong jet of water erupted from staryu's core, and although Nidoran tried to dodge he was too slow.

Nidoran was stunned for a second, giving staryu a chance to finish up its attack. It seemed to glow for a moment, becoming completely rigid, before launching into Nidoran. Ash frowned as Nidoran cried out in pain and tried to think of a way out of the situation. His frown vanished as he realized that the staryu's gem seemed slightly duller than it had before. It looked like poison point had come in handy yet again.

"Use peck on its gem." He said. Nidoran jumped at the slower staryu and lowered its head. Its sharp horn landed straight in the center of staryu's gem, sending cracks through it and causing a look of panic on the girl's face as her pokemon collapsed.

Ash grinned and congratulated Nidoran when he realized staryu had fainted. The girl returned her pokemon and grumbled in annoyance, but walked over to him and shook his hand.

"You did good." She admitted. A few seconds later she sighed and dug around in her pockets, pulling out a wallet. Ash watched curiously as she pulled out a few bills and handed it to him.

"What's this for?"

"If you've got more than a thousand pokedollars you have to give the winner of a battle a share." She explained. "It's a pretty new rule, but it's made to give trainers a reason to get better. No one wants to lose money just because they're bad at battling."

"Oh." Ash said. He frowned for a moment. "What happens if you lose all your money? How would you buy food and stuff?"

"If you have a thousand pokedollars or less you don't have to pay." She explained. "Now, could you please let me get back to fishing?"

Ash didn't say anything and left with his new spoils, returning Nidoran as he walked back to his friends with a grin on his face.

"Good job!" Jonathan said excitedly. "Why did the staryu get all weak and slow after it tackled Nidoran, though?"

"Nidoran has the poison point ability." Ash explained, still smiling at his victory. "If something hits him his barbs can poison them. That's how I beat Gary."

Jonathan instantly stopped walking and turned to look at Ash. "You beat Gary?" He asked incredulously. "Why didn't you tell us about it?"

"Yeah." Amelia added. "That would have been a great story to tell us yesterday."

"Well," Ash began, scratching his head in embarrassment, "remember how he wanted to battle me once we got our starters?"

His companions nodded.

"He waited for me outside the lab and challenged me once I left. His squirtle wasn't trained and just kept on trying to tackle Nidoran. Nidoran's poison point knocked it out after we made it run into the wall."

"Wish I could have seen it." Amelia sighed. "Gary's really been a jerk lately. Oh well, we probably won't have to see him until the Conference."

"Hopefully." Muttered Jonathan. Ash nodded in agreement. They were quiet as they continued on their journey.

Every hour or so they encountered another trainer, most of whom were beaten by Ash. Amelia didn't want to do anything until she could get Bulbasaur checked out and she didn't trust Rattata yet. Jonathan battled them once Nidoran began to get tired. He won all of his battles as well.

By sunset both of them were rather tired from battling and the road. Ash had begun to feel the soreness from the first day of walking and his feet were aching a lot. He was starting to wish that he could just get carried around in a pokeball. At least he could just sit down.

Finally they found a good place to spend the night. It was almost exactly like their first campsite, but this one had a small pond right next to it. Not even Nidoran could detect any pokemon living in it so they judged that it was safe.

Everyone took the same jobs they had before, although this time Jonathan got plenty of fuel for the fire very quickly. He wasn't quite as tired as Ash was and didn't have to search around in the dark. By the time Jonathan had gotten back Ash had filled up the bottles and he and Amelia were making a small ring of stones for the campfire.

"Could you guys hurry it up?" Jonathan panted as he struggled to hold up the huge amount of fallen branches and small plants.

"Almost done." Ash said distractedly, placing one of the last rocks in the small circle. Amelia just scoffed and looked up at Jonathan with an annoyed expression.

"It's your fault that you got so much wood. What you've got would be enough to keep it burning for a week."

"Oh, shut up." Jonathan grumbled. "Now hurry up and let me put this stuff down. My arms are starting to hurt."

Amelia rolled her eyes but finished up their small pile of stones. Jonathan threw the massive pile of brush into the ring and sat down, panting heavily. He pulled his pokeball off of his belt and released Charmander.

"Could you catch that on fire?" He asked the lizard. Charmander yawned and lazily touched its burning tail to the pile of vegetation, instantly catching it on fire. All three trainers sighed in relief as the heat began to warm them against the cold night air.

Charmander watched the dancing flames for a moment before walking over to Jonathan and curling up by his side. Jonathan idly patted his head as he began to talk to the others.

"So, the first gym leader is a rock trainer, right?" He asked as he continued petting Charmander. Ash and Amelia released their pokemon as well, although Amelia kept Rattata in its ball. Apparently she still didn't trust the rodent.

"Yeah. His name is Brock." Amelia replied, leaning onto Bulbasaur. "My sister met him two years ago when she started out. He's supposed to be the weakest gym leader, mostly thanks to inexperience. But Jessica said that he was still pretty tough."

"Of course he is." Jonathan snorted. "He's a gym leader. If he was weak the League would find a new one. But I've heard the Sensational Sisters at Cerulean are the weakest."

Ash raised a quizzical eyebrow. "The Sensational Sisters?" He interjected. "I thought those were just performers."

"Nope." Amelia said, shaking her head. "They do a lot of shows, but they're also gym leaders. But I've heard that they're actually pretty tough. My sister lost to one of them the first time. She said that they just didn't care much about the gym and would probably be some of the hardest gym leaders if they were more focused."

"Yeah, but who cares about that? I just want to see one of their shows." Jonathan said with a grin. Ash looked at him in confusion.

"Why would you want to do that? I just want to battle them and get the badge."

"Well," Jonathan said with an even wider grin, "let's just say that they're so popular for a reason. Not all of the people are there just because they're talented."

"I still don't get it." Ash said with a growing sense of confusion. Jonathan just sighed theatrically and looked at him condescendingly.

"I'll tell you when you're older."

Amelia rolled her eyes but barely held in a laugh. Ash just blinked and shrugged. Clearly he didn't get the joke. It wasn't like he understood half the things that came out of Jonathan's mouth anyways.

"What are you guys going to use against Brock?" Amelia asked, returning to their original subject. "I'm just going to use sleep powder on whatever he sends out and then use vine whip or razor leaf if I'm able to teach it to Bulbasaur."

"I'm about to look at Nidoran's entry on the pokedex and see what moves he learns." Ash said with a shrug. "If there's something that would be effective against Brock I'll try to teach it to him. If not I'll either find another way or catch a pokemon that can. How about you, Jonathan?"

"Oh, that's easy." Jonathan said slowly, putting down his pokedex. He had pulled it out and seemed to be looking at the information on Charmander. "It says that he can learn metal claw pretty easily. I'm going to wake up early and try to get him started on it. Of course," he said with a grin, "my dad says there's a loophole for fire types."

"Really?" Amelia asked with a suspicious tone. "What is it and why would he know about it?"

"I really don't know if I should tell you." The trainer said playfully. When he saw Ash's glare he relented. "Fine, fine. My dad says that he found it on accident back when he was a trainer and went to the gym. You see, Pewter City's gym hasn't been renovated in a really long time and still has a really sensitive sprinkler system in it."

Dawning looks of realization spread across Ash and Amelia's faces. Jonathan looked rather proud of himself, judging by the imperious smirk he wore.

"Wow." Ash whistled. "Looks like you'll have a pretty easy time with Brock if you use a fire attack. I'd have thought they'd get that fixed in a rock type gym."

"Well they didn't. But," Jonathan frowned, "I really don't want to take advantage of that unless I have to. It wouldn't really be a win, would it? Just me taking advantage of a loophole."

Ash and Amelia nodded their understanding. The conversation continued for a while, each getting to know each other and what their goals were. Last night they had been too tired to really talk to each other, so this was a nice change.

He learned that Jonathan didn't really have a set goal other than to be a good trainer and succeed. Amelia wanted to win the Indigo League, although she admitted that just getting to the Conference would be a great success in her first year as a trainer.

And he, of course, wanted to be a Pokemon Master. Surprisingly, they hadn't laughed at it. Most people did laugh at his dream, thinking that it was just a youthful fantasy that would go away in a few months. But Ash knew that he could do it. He could feel it in his heart.

The group didn't stop talking until late in the night, although as they grew more and more tired the conversation began to die down a bit. Eventually everyone but Ash went to bed, although Nidoran was still awake and keeping him company.

Ash was reading the detailed entry of Nidoran on the pokedex, carefully examining his moves. He'd picked out double kick, which would work well with focus energy, and Nidoran's confusion attack. There weren't many moves good against rock types, but he'd already begun to work out a strategy that should work against Brock. It would be better if he knew what pokemon the gym leader would use, but as long as it wasn't something too powerful Nidoran would at least be able to hold his own.

"Hey, Nidoran." He asked, carefully nudging the small pokemon on its barbless face. Nidoran sleepily looked up at him, his large ears twitching. "Do you think you could learn how to use double kick?"

Nidoran nodded before walking over next to the empty sleeping bag and curling up into a ball. Ash wasn't sure if the nod was to get him to shut up and let Nidoran sleep or if it was a real confirmation. It looked like he would have to find out tomorrow.

Ash got into his sleeping bag after putting out the fire. It had been a long day.


He was woken up by a stinging sensation on his face. Ash yelped and stood up, but got caught in his sleeping bag. When he had untangled himself and escaped it, he glared at the culprit.

Bulbasaur just stared back at him with unblinking eyes. Ash eventually broke the stare and grumbled as he stood up. Nidoran obediently stood next to him as Ash dug around in his backpack for food.

Nidoran quickly snapped up the pieces of food Ash put on the ground in front of him and looked at the trainer with begging eyes. Ash sighed and gave him a bit more, but put the food away after he'd gotten a sandwich.

"Why'd you have Bulbasaur whip me?" He complained to a smirking Amelia. "It was a lot funnier when I got to see it happen to Jonathan."

"Stop complaining." Amelia retorted. "The rest of us have been up since seven. You just stayed up too late."

"Wait, what time is it?" Ash asked in a panic. He didn't want to waste more time by oversleeping.

"Don't worry, it's just nine. We don't want to waste time any more than you do. We've got about another day or so of traveling."

He sighed in relief and recalled Nidoran before beginning to clean up his sleeping bag. Ash finished his sandwich as he shoved the highly compressed sleeping bag into the backpack. One thing he noticed was that he was much sorer than yesterday and every move brought aches and pains.

"So where's Jonathan?" He asked, not noticing the other boy anywhere. The entire camp was packed up and their water bottles had been filled again, but Jonathan wasn't even at the small pond. Maybe he was trying to teach Charmander metal claw.

"He's trying to teach Charmander that move he was talking about last night." Amelia explained as she recalled Bulbasaur. "It's actually pretty funny."

"How?" Ash asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Jon has no idea how to teach it." She said with a grin, sitting down on the soft dirt. "He's just been telling it to harden its claws or something like that. Charmander just looks up at him and tries to go back to sleep."

"So it's true that pokemon take after their trainers." Ash said with a grin, laughing at the image Amelia had painted. She laughed as well, but an annoyed voice broke it.

"Oh, shut up." Jonathan said as he stumbled into the camp, breathing heavily and covered with ash. Both of them stared at Jonathan, slowly taking in his disheveled appearance.

"I wish someone had told us how we're supposed to teach pokemon moves." He complained as he collapsed onto a rock. "After Charmander started trying he ended up concentrating so hard that he snorted out a bunch of fire."

"Did you put it out?" Amelia asked in alarm.

"Yes, mother, I put it out." He scoffed. "It got me covered with a bunch of soot and dirt though. And Charmander didn't help at all. He just went to sleep while I did all the work."

Ash grinned at the story. "Do you need to clean up?"

"Nah." Jonathan replied, although he flushed for some reason. "I actually only have one set of clothes, so I can't exactly wash them in the pond. It would hold us back too long anyways."

"Why do you only have one pair of clothes?" Amelia asked. "That's disgusting! You can't just wear one set the entire time we're on the road."

"Well, I sort of got in a rush when I was packing…" He said in embarrassment, scratching the back of his head. "But I left a few pairs with your sister and aunt last time we were flown to Viridian. If they threw them out I'll just buy a few other pairs with that money I won."

Amelia just sighed, clearly used to these sorts of things. Ash decided to get onto another subject before they headed out.

"Are you going to let your rattata out?" He asked curiously. "Bulbasaur is still hurt and you might need him to protect against wild pokemon."

Jonathan seemed to agree with him, judging by the vigorous nod he gave. Amelia flushed and looked down at the rodent's pokeball, lightly tapping it in apprehension.

"I'm still kind of scared of him." She admitted. "He hurt Bulbasaur pretty bad, and I'm afraid he's going to try and attack me if I let him out."

"Well, you've got to do it eventually." Jonathan said with a shrug. "Better to make friends with him now than later. I say you do it before we leave the camp. We've got some time to spare."

"Fine." She said. Amelia began to search in one of her backpack's pockets before pulling out a small piece of pokemon food. "Could one of you let your pokemon out?"

Both of them nodded. They tapped the button on their pokeball and the red energy soon coalesced into Charmander and Nidoran. Both looked around curiously, but seemed to understand what they were released for when Amelia released Rattata.

The rodent hissed when it was released and all the fur on its back stood up. It bared its sharp teeth at them all before growling at Amelia, who had kneeled to the ground and was holding out the food. Rattata looked like it might try to bite her when she began speaking, but a loud growl by Charmander and the sound of Nidoran's barbs extending rid it of that idea.

"Listen." Amelia said firmly. "You might not like me right now, but I want you to. And if you keep on like this you're never going to be released from your pokeball. If you act better we can be friends and you'll get stronger. So make your choice."

Rattata's ears drooped at the prospect of staying in the pokeball and it cautiously approached Amelia and took the food from her hand. Amelia smiled widely as the pokemon nibbled on the piece of food and spoke to it again.

"You're going to have to back into the ball now, but I promise to let you out as soon as I can. Is that all right?"

The rodent growled for a moment but cautiously nodded. It hissed as it was returned. Amelia smiled and shrunk the pokeball before placing it back on her belt. She was clearly pleased with the results she'd gotten and cockily glanced at Ash and Jonathan before walking onto the nearby path.

"C'mon!" She called back to them. "Let's get a move on."

Ash and Jonathan groaned before following her on their sore legs, although the pain began to lessen as their muscles were stretched. They caught up with Amelia pretty quickly and began their third day.

It progressed much the same as the last day. None of them were really concerned with getting to Viridian City very quickly, instead opting to enjoy the traveling and the frequent battles. Nidoran had recovered admirably from his battles the previous day and seemed to be itching for a fight against the other trainers.

Jonathan had his own good share of battles – winning most of them, more than making up for any losses – but eventually decided that Charmander had had enough. From that point on – about four hours after they'd started walking – it was just Amelia and Rattata and Ash and Nidoran's insatiably appetite for battling.

Amelia had proved to be pretty good as well – she was about the same level as Jonathan, and learned how to take advantage of Rattata's small size and surprisingly ferocious temperament rather quickly – and only lost two of her five battles. Ash kept his unbroken streak, much to the annoyance of his companions.

One thing that he had noticed was that there were a lot more trainers today, which he judged to be due to their proximity to Viridian City. They couldn't be more than a day away from the frontier city.

Still, by the end of the day he was extremely tired. Nidoran was still energetic – something that Ash didn't understand after all the fighting the small pokemon had done – and still wanted to fight. The last battle he had been in was an incredibly easy match against a younger trainer's caterpie. Needless to say, the caterpie was knocked out with a single confusion.

The tired group was looking for another campsite when a loud, piercing shriek split the air. Ash looked up and saw a pidgey perched high above them on a tall tree and grinned. One looked to be slightly larger than the others and looked down its beak at the group, apparently unimpressed with the trainers.

As it shrieked again, fluffing up its feathers and trying to look as intimidating as possible, his grin grew. He wanted the prideful creature. Ash decided to let Nidoran get one last battle in and pulled one of the empty pokeballs off his belt. He noticed that Jonathan had a hand clenched around Charmander's pokeball and another in a tight fist. Jonathan's face was pale and he was looking away from the bird.

He tapped the button to release Nidoran and laughed when the pidgey puffed up even more before it shrieked out another challenge. Nidoran instantly locked eyes with it and lowered his larger horn, extending his barbs with a small clicking sound.

Pidgey waited until Nidoran was ready before swooping down with another loud shriek. Ash let it get off its branch before giving an order to Nidoran, who was squared and more than ready for the bird pokemon.

"Use confusion." He commanded. Nidoran's eyes glowed an ethereal pink, and pidgey seemed to try to spin around in midair for a second. Ash grinned as the psychic attack took effect, but winced when the pidgey went careening into a small tree. It didn't look to be harmed from the impact, but it continued to stumble around as it clumsily stood up.

"Tackle it." He said. His pokemon charged at the pidgey quickly, covering the ground at a decent pace considering Nidoran's small legs. The pidgey turned to look at Nidoran just a moment before the poison type tackled it, knocking the bird unconscious.

"Great job!" Ash cheered as Nidoran walked over to his feet. He leaned down to pat him on the head before returning to the situation. A second later he hurled his pokeball at the pidgey and hit the bird in the wing. The ball bounced off before opening up and sucking the pidgey into it.

Pidgey was helpless to resist in its unconscious state and the pokeball clicked after rolling around a bit. Ash pumped his arm up into the air in victory and walked over to pick the newly occupied pokeball up, reverently attaching it to his belt.

"Is it gone yet?" Jonathan asked tightly through closed eyes. Ash just grinned.

"We've got a new traveling companion. Does that count as it being gone?"

Ash and Amelia laughed as Jonathan groaned. Amelia gave him a thumbs up, but they were interrupted by Jonathan dramatically groaning and throwing his hands in the air, although the other boy made sure to reattach the pokeball to his belt first.

"Why would you catch the feathered menace?" He lamented, falling to the ground and burying his face into his hands. "It's probably going to watch me at night with those cruel, beady little eyes…"

"Wait, since when did you use words like that?" Amelia asked. "I didn't even know you knew what menace meant."

"Ha, ha." Jonathan laughed sarcastically, standing up and glaring at her. "Of course I know what menace means. I'm not dumb. Whatever, let's just go. I don't want more of those monsters to find us."

The other two rolled their eyes, but followed him as he stalked down the path. Jonathan kept a close eye on all the trees they passed, searching for any bird pokemon.

"Why are you so scared of bird pokemon anyways?" Ash asked, recalling Nidoran. "There are a lot of pokemon a lot scarier than them."

"I'm not scared of them." The other boy said in a very high voice. "I just don't like them."

"Oh, here we go." Amelia groaned, apparently knowing what was about to happen. "You'll be sorry about asking him about that later."

"Shut up!" Jonathan growled, turning to face Amelia. "It's your sister's fault anyways."

"What happened?" He asked curiously. Ash had met Amelia's older sister a few times before, although he'd never talked to her very long. She'd seemed nice. Maybe she just liked messing with Jonathan.

Amelia laughed. "She was showing off her new murkrow after she got back from Johto while Jon was over a few years ago. Jon spent the night and –"

"And that stupid bird decided to watch me sleep." Jonathan said irritably. "I woke up and saw those creepy, glowing red eyes staring at me and freaked out. That stupid bird got scared and decided that I was dangerous so it used nightshade on me. That's when everyone woke up."

"Yeah, because you were screaming like a little girl." Amelia said, although there wasn't any bite to her words. "Besides, it's not like it hurt you that bad."

"Didn't hurt me that bad?" Jonathan asked incredulously. Ash noticed that they seemed to have forgotten about him. Apparently this was an old argument between them. "I was sick for a week and still have nightmares about that damn bird."

Amelia rolled her eyes and waved her finger at him disapprovingly. "Language," she said condescendingly. "What would your mom say if she heard you say that?"

"Don't remind me." Jonathan grumbled. "Remember that one time when –"

Ash decided to put an end to the conversation. He was tired, and there reminiscing was starting to get on his nerves. Even if the story about the murkrow was pretty funny…

"I see a place we could set up for the night." Ash interjected, pointing out a small area a few feet away from the trail. Several picnic tables and chairs were there, making it much nicer than the other places they'd stayed. Another pond was next to it and reflected the sunset.

Jonathan grinned and walked over, leaving Amelia behind and huffing in annoyance. Ash shrugged and followed sluggishly. They quickly delegated the responsibilities again, although Jonathan groaned when he realized he'd have to get the firewood again. Ash didn't envy his job, not if Jonathan was half as sore as he was.

Ash didn't focus on him too long, instead refilling everybody's water and releasing Nidoran. Pidgey stayed in the ball. It would probably be best to wait until morning before releasing the bird. By then it would be completely recovered.

Soon enough everyone had completed their routine and Jonathan came back with a much smaller pile of brush than usual. Ash knew that for once he wouldn't be the one putting out the fire. He just wanted to sleep.

He rolled out his sleeping bag and got in, feeling Nidoran burrow into his side. The last thing he heard was the muttered conversation between Amelia and Jonathan, filled with laughter and jokes.


Ash practically leapt out of his sleeping bag as a sharp pain erupted throughout his side. All of his fatigue vanished as he glared down at Nidoran, whose ears were twitching. The small creature's eyes were nervously glancing around the campsite and Ash realized that something was wrong.

Jonathan and Amelia were still sleeping, but Ash resolved to change that. He quickly skirted around the small ring of stones and the smoldering remains of the fire and lightly kicked Jonathan in the back. The other boy groaned and turned over but didn't wake.

Ash groaned in annoyance and kicked him again, this time much harder. It wouldn't really hurt Jonathan, but it might give him a small bruise for a few days. This time it worked, and Jonathan snapped up and glared at Ash.

"Don't say anything." Ash said sternly. "Nidoran thinks something is wrong, so we should probably get out of here."

The other boy grumbled a bit but began to pack up his things. Ash walked over to Amelia and repeated the same process he had done with Jonathan. She was a much lighter sleeper than either of the boys and scrambled out of her sleeping bag on the first light kick.

"Is something wrong?" She asked once she'd awoken. Ash nodded and explained the situation. Amelia seemed alarmed – she always read about pokemon at school, so she probably knew that nidoran were good at sensing danger – and quickly packed her things.

Ash got all of his stuff packed pretty fast. He'd only taken out his sleeping bag and a small bag of food for Nidoran, so there wasn't much to do. By the time he was done Amelia and Jonathan were impatiently waiting next to the tables.

Just as he began to walk over – recalling Nidoran as he did so – he heard what seemed like dozens of loud, shrill cries. All of the trainers' eyes widened as they recognized the familiar call of a flock of spearow.

"Crap!" Jonathan exclaimed as he began running down the path. "Run!"

Ash and Amelia were only too happy to follow suit and ran down the path after their friend. Neither could run as fast as Jonathan – he was one of the fastest kids in Pallet Town – but they managed to keep up as they ran from the flock of spearow. Ash could hear the flocks' wings beating as they continued to cry out.

He took a chance and looked behind him for a moment. Ash instantly regretted that decision. Several dozen spearow were following the group and some had even begun to overtake them. He could see that several had managed to get in front of Jonathan.

The trainer hoped that they would get bored, but after what Amelia had said about them he doubted it. Spearow were notoriously fierce when protecting their territory, so the only way they would escape the flock was if they passed the unseen barrier that marked the end of the flocks' land. Of course, their territory might be too far to escape from, especially if they were led by a fearow.

As if to confirm his fear, he heard a deeper, more intimidating squawk that rose above the chorus of spearow. Ash cursed and focused on running, doing his best to ignore his sore muscles and the fatigue that was rapidly building up in his legs. He could see that his friends were slowing down as well, although both were still managing to keep ahead of him.

Even as his body began to slow down, the burst of adrenaline he'd received when he saw the flock chasing them fading, he focused on just running. The sound of air being displaced by the spearow just a few feet behind him kept him going.

Until he tripped, anyways. Ash cried out as he fell onto the rough path and skinned parts of his forearms. The others turned back to look at him in panic, but he tried to get them to move on. The spearow wouldn't kill him – very few people were killed by pokemon, and those that were killed using died due to an accident, their own negligence, or one of the powerful, raging pokemon like a gyarados – even if they would probably hurt him a bit. Jonathan and Amelia could just find help and come back to get him.

"Run!" He shouted at his friends, even as the caws of the spearow grew ever closer. "I'll be fine."

Jonathan was all too happy to follow his orders – probably too terrified of the birds to do anything helpful anyways – but Amelia hesitated for a moment before the rapidly approaching flock and their fierce cries got her to leave.

Ash closed his eyes and covered his head, anxiously awaiting the sharp beaks and claws that were sure to come. He waited for a moment, and was surprised when nothing happened, although he could still hear the spearow just behind him.

Suddenly, he heard a deep voice call something out. Ash began to look up just to be nearly blinded as a blindingly bright bolt of electricity arced through the air before striking the flock behind him. Ash hissed in pain as his vision went completely white and focused on what he was hearing.

The trainer could hear small thumps as the spearow hit by the bolt of lightning fell to the ground. Ash's vision was beginning to clear up, but he still couldn't see very well. He began to stand up when he noticed that almost every spearow seemed to have been knocked out, but went back down as he heard the fearow's annoyed shriek.

He looked back up and managed to see a glimpse of a massive, dull orange bird flying at a high speed towards the direction of the voice that had probably saved him a lot of pain. Ash's vision finally cleared aside from a few flashing spots and he managed to lock his eyes onto the fearow as it swooped downwards.

Ash saw a yellow, canine-like pokemon that was shooting small bolts of electricity off of its body as it casually dodged the large bird, who nearly face planted into the ground before pulling up at the last second with a loud call. He watched the pokemon – which he recognized as a jolteon – dodge another swoop before the voice called out another command.

His eyes focused on a tall teenager. The mystery trainer had a cap on that hid their eyes and had a wide grin on his face as he pointed at the wary fearow that circled above them. Jonathan and Amelia were standing next to the stranger with amazed looks as they watched the jolteon.

"Hyper beam!" The teenager shouted. Jolteon didn't show any sign of hearing it other than opening its jaws and tracking the fearow. Small orange particles of energy began to coalesce into a ball of fiery energy in the jolteon's mouth before a powerful beam erupted from the jolteon's maw.

Ash was awed by just how powerful the move was. It blasted through the air, narrowly missing fearow. He thought that it was over, but the jolteon swept its head to the side and caught the fearow in the beam.

Fearow shrieked in panic as the beam swept over its chest, singing feathers and blasting it away. The large bird managed to catch itself slightly before it slammed into the tree and collapsed to the ground in a state of unconsciousness.

Even if the bird had fainted in the end, Ash was more impressed that it had managed to withstand a hyper beam. He'd been reading up on some of the more advanced attacks on his pokedex, and hyper beam was definitely one of the most notorious moves in that regard.

His attention was soon drawn to the trainer again, who was ruffling the jolteon's ears in pride. Ash noticed that the small bolts of lightning that were still arcing off of the jolteon's fur didn't seem to bother him at all.

Ash stood up and began to walk towards the trainer and his friends, ignoring the dozens of unconscious spearow behind him. He already had a pidgey, so wasn't particularly interested in having another pokemon that was practically identical. Besides, spearow were pretty aggressive and he'd heard that a lot of them fought with their trainers' other pokemon.

"Are you all right?" Jonathan called out as he approached them. His face wasn't quite as pale as it had been when they'd first started running and he seemed to be back to normal.

"Yeah." Ash responded. Amelia looked concerned, but looked satisfied by his answer. He turned his attention to the mystery trainer. "Err, thanks for saving me from those spearow."

"No problem." The other trainer grinned. Ash could see that he had warm brown eyes and dark red hair, but was otherwise pretty average looking. "My name's Michael. What's yours?" He asked, sticking out his hand.

"Ash." He responded, shaking Michael's hand. The older trainer's eyes suddenly returned to the unconscious fearow and pulled out a pokeball. Michael carefully threw the pokeball and easily caught the fearow.

"Sorry about that." Michael said once he'd called the pokeball back to his hand. "But that fearow is the whole reason I'm down here. The League heard about the flock and hired me to capture it."

Amelia's eyes brightened. "You work for the League?"

"Not officially." Michael shrugged. "I do a few odd jobs for them, but it's on a pretty infrequent schedule. Mostly I just take care of aggressive pokemon and catch them. After that I either keep them or just give them to the League."

"What about those spearow?" Jonathan spoke up, saying the word spearow with distaste.

"Those little guys?" Michael asked, sending a glance to the small birds. "They won't be a problem. Most of them will just go back to their nests now that the fearow is gone. It's always the fearow that turns them aggressive."

Jonathan just nodded, but still glared at the fallen birds.

"Anyways," The older trainer continued, "are all of you okay?"

The group nodded. Ash's scrapes were just a small nuisance.

"Good. So, you guys are on your way to Viridian City, right?"

"Yeah." Amelia responded. "How far away is it? We've been travelling for a few days."

Michael thought for a moment. "Two hours, if you can keep up with me. I need to get back to Viridian anyways, so I might as well get you guys there too."

"We can keep up." Jonathan said resolutely, puffing out his chest in pride.

"Alright then." Michael grinned. "Let's get going."


They arrived at Viridan two and a half hours later. The entire group - except for Michael - was sweaty, dirty, and tired and couldn't wait to get to Amelia's sister's house. From the way Amelia and Jonathan fondly recalled memories of the place it was rather nice.

Michael accompanied them through Viridan, saying that he could wait a while before heading to the Pokemon Center. That would be there next location after they dropped their things off and got cleaned up.

Ash was amazed at the size of Viridian and eagerly took in all of the sights that he could. He had never been to a city before, aside from a few visits to nearby cities when he was younger, and was amazed at how much bigger everything was than in Pallet Town.

His amazement soon ended, his fatigue winning out over the sights. Fortunately, Amelia's sister – a twenty year old named Jessica – lived close to the city's border. The Pokemon Center was only a few minutes away, so they wouldn't have to worry about getting lost.

As they walked towards the small home that Amelia and Jonathan pointed out, Ash decided to ask Jonathan what pokemon he had. Maybe he would have a fighting type. He still wasn't sure how he was supposed to teach Nidoran double kick.

"What other pokemon do you have?" He asked curiously. Michael perked up, clearly happy with this line of questioning.

"Aside from Jolteon, I've got a steelix, gyarados, arcanine, machamp, and alakazam." Michael grinned, aware of the awed looks on the group's faces.

Amelia spoke up first. "That's incredible!" She exclaimed. "Most of those are really hard to control. How long have you been a trainer?"

"Six years, give or take a few months." Michael shrugged. He turned his attention back to Ash. "Why did you want to know?"

"Well, I wanted to know if you had a fighting type." He admitted, nervously scratching the back of his hat. "I don't know how to teach my Nidoran double kick, and that's the only move he can learn that could hurt Brock."

"Brock, eh?" Michael said. "I remember him. Yeah, I can give you some pointers. The secret for a Nidoran is to just get it to jump and use the attack. Their legs aren't long or strong enough to do the kick by themselves, so you've just got to get gravity on your side and then just drop kick."

"How will I know if I've got it right?" Ash asked curiously. "I know that I've seen a lot of fighting moves glow, but I don't know if that's just a technique or not."

"In a way, it is. The glowing limb or area is the part that's going to be used in the attack, but the glowing itself is caused by complete mastery of the attack." Michael explained. "When your Nidoran evolves it'll take a bit of time and practice in order to get it used to the attack enough for it to glow."

"I get it." Ash nodded, noticing that both Amelia and Jonathan were listening intently in hopes of getting a few tips. "Thanks."

"No problem." Michael shrugged. He suddenly stopped in front of a small, grey house. Despite its drab color it looked rather happy looking and possessed a homely feel. The grass in front was slightly overgrown and he could see a massive Persian happily curled up on the small porch.

"This is it!" Amelia cried. She ran towards the house, closely followed by Jonathan. Their fatigue seemingly vanished in the face of hot food and showers. Michael and Ash trudged towards the thick wooden door, attempting to ignore the large Persian that stared at them as if they were nothing more than a rattata.

Ash noticed that Michael examined the Persian for a moment as they passed it. Amelia had given it a few scratches behind its ears as she and Jonathan had waited on the others and the feline was purring happily.

Once everyone had assembled on the small white porch, Amelia loudly knocked on the door. Ash could hear footsteps approaching a few moments before the door opened, revealing a happy looking teenager with a stark resemblance to Amelia. She looked to be about eighteen and her warm brown eyes widened when she saw the group.

"Hey, Amelia!" She said before grabbing her younger sister up in a hug and picking her up off the ground. Amelia coughed from the force and her sister blushed in embarrassment before putting Amelia back down.

"Hi, Jessica." Amelia wheezed out. "I don't know if Dad told you, but Ash is going to be staying with us. Is that guest room still there?"

"Yeah." Jessica said. She turned to look at Ash. "Sorry, I didn't recognize you. How long has it been? Three years?"

"That sounds about right." He responded. Jessica nodded before turning to Jonathan. The other boy grinned at her and held out his hand.

Jessica just smiled and wrapped him up in a hug. "Hey, Johnny. You need to come out here with Amelia more. It's been ages since I saw you."

"Only a few months." Jonathan grinned back as he stepped out of the hug. Now Jessica's eyes moved onto the last member of the group. When she saw Michael, her face twisted into distaste. Ash thought it was odd on the woman's perpetually smiling face.

"Oh, great." She said in annoyance. "It's you."

"I'm not particularly happy about this either." Michael responded with a roll of his eyes. "I thought that I wouldn't have to see you again after knocking you out of the Conference a few years ago. Anyways, I suppose I'll be leaving now. Good luck to all of you."

"Wait, wha—" Ash and Jonathan spoke in unison, only to be cut off by Michael practically fleeing the area. They looked at each other oddly, each regretting the fact that they wouldn't be able to grill the other trainer for more advice.

"Good riddance." Jessica growled before brightening up. "Anyways, come on in. Amelia, Jonathan, you can have your normal rooms. Ash, I've got a guest room that you can stay in. I'll have one of those two show you to it later."

They all nodded and obediently followed her into the home. It projected the same cheerful feeling as the outside of the house, and Ash noticed that several pokemon were idly laying about. The Persian that had been outside followed them in, butting its head into Jessica's leg. She absentmindedly scratched it as she showed them to a small room filled with couches and comfortable looking chairs.

"Have a seat." She said. "I'll be back in a few minutes with some food. I remember how hungry I was after going from Pallet to Viridian."

The group thanked her and picked out their seats. Amelia took an entire couch all to herself while Jonathan found a large recliner. Ash found a couch. He jumped when a small creature shaped like a exclamation point floated up from next to where he sat, earning a laugh from his companions.

"What is that thing!" He hissed, pointing at the strange creature that stared at him with its blank white eye. Amelia laughed for a second before calming down.

"That's an Unown." She said. "Jessica caught it in the Sevii Islands."

"An Unown?" Ash said, meeting the creature's stare with new interest. "Aren't those legendary in Johto? The Thousand Arms of Arceus, or something?"

"Yep." Amelia said smugly. "They're really rare. Jessica's gotten all kinds of people wanting to study it, but she won't let them. She's afraid they might hurt the little guy."

"Is it very strong?" He asked curiously. Legends were legends for a reason, and anyone who managed to catch them had to be really strong.

"No, it's not." A new voice said, breaking into the conversation. Ash looked over and saw Jessica carrying a tray of food. She handed it out to the hungry trainers before continuing. The Unown floated over to her and levitated next to her head.

"He's not very powerful at all, and is practically useless in battle." She continued. The Unown hummed in a tone that Ash construed as irritated, but quieted down when Jessica patted it calmingly. "But he's very intelligent. I don't know why he let himself be captured, but he's been a big help. He can get some of my pokemon that aren't very aggressive a lot more pumped for battles, so that's helped me out."

The Unown hummed again before levitating out of the room. They all looked at it leaving for a moment before digging into the hot food. Jessica watched them with a mix of disgust and bemusement.

"Is that how I ate at your age?" She asked. "No wonder all of my traveling partners left me. That's just appalling."

They ignored her, but by the time they'd finished eating Ash and Jonathan had some questions for her. Ash began to ask her about Michael, but Jonathan beat him to it.

"So, what's up with you and Michael?" He asked, swallowing the last mouthful of food. Surprisingly enough he had been the cleanest eater out of all three of them. "He seemed like a nice guy."

Jessica rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair, petting the massive Persian that had just leapt up onto her lap. "I'm sure he is, but we have our share of distances. We didn't get along back when I still travelled, and he was what trainers would call my "rival". Neither of us liked each other very much, but were both similar in skill level and encountered each other a lot. I'm sure at least one of you will have one by the end of the year."

All three glanced each other. Jessica noticed it and smiled.

"Looks like you got started a bit early. Who is the lucky guy?"

"Gary." The group answered in unison. Jessica laughed but turned serious after a moment, turning back to Amelia.

"You sent me a message about an injured Bulbasaur. Can I see it?"

Amelia's eyes widened as she realized that she'd forgotten about the grass type and quickly released it. Bulbasaur took a fighting stance and looked at the Persian before charging it. Its trainer groaned as she realized that it thought it was in a battle and tried to call out a command to stop.

Persian lazily yawned and batted Bulbasaur away as it tried to tackle the great feline. Bulbasaur finally heard its trainer's commands to stop after it got back up and glared at the Persian.

"It looks fine to me." Jessica said with a grin. "A few scabs and bruises, but nothing to be concerned about. If a pokemon is that willing to fight it probably just has minor injuries. You shouldn't even bother going to the Pokemon Center."

That cheered them up, but their conversation soon fizzled out. The group's exhaustion had begun to catch up to them, and Amelia soon called dibs on the shower. Jonathan rolled his eyes but didn't say anything, content to wait his turn. He was less bothered by the grime and dirt of the road than the other two and continued talking to Jessica.

Several hours later everyone was full and clean. Amelia had showed him the bedroom he would be staying in before she went to her own room to sleep, but Jonathan and Ash stayed up quite a bit later. Eventually they too began to tire, but before they went to bed Ash realized that he had forgotten about his pokemon.

"Hey, Jessica." He said to the tired woman. She glanced up at him, clearly waiting for his question. "Can I release my pokemon? I've got a Nidoran and a pidgey and neither have been out in a while."

Jessica blinked. "Yeah, that's fine. There's a perch in your room that your pidgey can sleep on. Your Nidoran can just go wherever. None of mine will bother it, but Persian might want to play with it."

Ash shrugged and thanked her before heading back to his room. It was small and painted the same dull grey as the rest of the house, but the bed was rather comfortable looking and there was a small eevee curled up on it.

He pulled the sheets back so that he could get in, unintentionally antagonizing the eevee in the process. It growled at him in a spectacularly unintimidating manner and went back to sleep. Ash smiled and released his pokemon before he got into bed.

Nidoran instantly walked over to his feet and sat down, but Pidgey seemed to be more resistant. The proud bird puffed out its small chest and leveled a steely glare at him, seemingly attempting to challenge him. Ash rolled his eyes and walked closer to the small bird, his bulk making it back down a little. Nidoran followed and growled at Pidgey, lowering his horn.

"Listen." He said calmly, kneeling to the bird's level. "We can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way. If you accept that I'm your trainer now everything will be fine. If you don't then I'm going to have train Nidoran on you. What's your answer?"

Pidgey tried to meet Ash's eyes but looked downwards. Its chest sunk down a little. Ash frowned at the disheartened bird, although he was glad that it had accepted him as its master. Maybe a real name would return its pride.

"So, do either of you want names?" He asked suddenly. Both of his pokemon stared up at him, although Pidgey nodded. Nidoran shook his head. Ash frowned in concentration as he thought of a suitable name for Pidgey. He'd heard that pidgeot had impressive plumage. "Alright. Pidgey, is Plume a decent name?"

Pidgey nodded and fluttered its wings. Ash almost jumped as the bird landed on his shoulder, digging its sharp talons into the covered flesh. The newly designated Plume nipped his ear, although it wasn't painful.

"Alright, you can sleep on that perch over there." Ash said, pointing out the small, gnarled branch that extended from the wall. Plume fluttered over to it and nuzzled her head into her wing as Ash flipped the light switch.

Ash had carefully picked Nidoran up before turning off the lights. He was careful to avoid the poisonous barbs covering his friend's back lest he accidently poison himself. Nidoran was completely still as Ash placed him onto the bed, right next to the sleeping eevee.

He yawned as he slipped into the bed and felt blackness begin to overtake him. The last thing he felt was the comforting weight and warmth of Nidoran and the eevee.


The next morning, everyone was frantically trying to get ready. They wanted to make some progress into the Viridian Forest, but they had all overslept an hour or two. Luckily, Jessica had stayed up a bit later last night and prepared food and replaced their supplies for them. That cut nearly half an hour of waiting time out.

Eventually the group was completely ready, each in clean clothes and more than ready to tackle the Forest. It was just a twenty minute walk away, so they weren't in such a hurry once everything was packed. Jessica was giving them last minute tips, but Ash noticed something on the newspaper.

He curiously examined the photo of a grim looking Michael outside of the Pokemon Center – which seemed to be slightly damaged and covered with soot – with his jolteon standing next to him. Michael looked far more dangerous than Ash had thought the teenager could. The teen had a scowl on his face and his eyes – despite being nearly hidden beneath his hat – blazed with anger.

Above the large picture that covered nearly a quarter of the page the headlines read in massive print: Trainer Defends Pokemon Center! Team Rocket members still at large!"

Ash didn't have time to read it before Amelia walked over.

"What's holding you?" She asked. Ash looked up and realized everyone else was ready to go.

"Nothing much." He replied and held out the newspaper. Amelia took it and began to look at it. "Now check out the headlines."

"Wow." She muttered, her eyes growing wide as she looked at the scowling face of Michael. "He must be really strong to be able to beat Team Rocket. It says here that he almost captured them with just his Jolteon. They escaped in a…balloon?" Amelia said incredulously. "Who uses hot air balloons for anything?"

"I don't know." Jessica said, butting into the conversation. "But don't try to follow his example. Michael's not my favorite person, but I know that he's strong enough that Team Rocket won't want to bother him. They know their limits and will certainly limit their activities when he's in the area."

"How do you know all that?" Jonathan piped up. He didn't move from his position by the door.

"He was my rival." She shrugged, avoiding his real question. "It was my business to know how strong he was. And he was stronger than most trainers even a few years ago. Michael's probably only gotten stronger since then. But that's not important. What is important that you stay out of Team Rocket's way. Run if you can, only fight if you have no other choice."

They sighed and nodded. Even if they would rather fight the criminals, they realized that their pokemon wouldn't even be a challenge for hardened Rockets.

"Alright." Jessica smiled. "Now get going. By the way, Amelia, I'm planning on entering the Indigo Conference this year. I'll just fly around to get my badges."

"That's great!" Amelia exclaimed. "Maybe I'll get to battle you."

"Maybe." The older girl shrugged. "Now, you should go before it gets too late. The Viridian Forest isn't a fun place to be and you need to get as far in as possible. Good luck."

The group thanked her and finally left Viridian, all eager for what was to come.


"It's getting dark. Should we find a place to stay for the night?" Jonathan said, breaking the comfortable silence. Ash and Amelia quickly agreed, both beginning to tire. They had been walking through the dense forest for nearly six hours, although there had been breaks in the constant battles with wandering pokemon and the "bug catchers" – new trainers that tried to catch the easily available bug types and train them into fighters.

As Plume had proved when she singlehandedly wiped out a full team of three caterpie, a weedle, and a beedrill, they weren't doing a very good job. Charmander had defeated the others just as easily and appeared to becoming far more skilled with his flames.

Amelia had seemed to take joy in beating the appallingly weak trainers. Bulbasaur had spent quite a bit of time mastering its grass moves before Amelia had told him to knock out the bugs, and Rattata had proved just how brutal it was when it used its sharp fangs to tear into the bugs.

They continued walking through the darkening forest for several minutes before finding a good spot. It was wide open and next to a small stream and would be easily defendable against any of the highly territorial pokemon that made their home in these woods.

Once their routine had been completed Ash released Nidoran. He had about two weeks before he would have to face Brock at Pewter City and he would need every second of spare time to teach Nidoran double kick. Focus energy was already mastered, so at least he could fall back on that if he needed to.

Amelia and Jonathan released their own pokemon that needed to learn moves. Jonathan had Charmander scratching at a rock, which was apparently one of the best ways to learn metal claw. Amelia had Rattata attacking a tree with its long fangs so it would learn hyper fang. Bulbasaur was strengthening its vines by holding up large rocks.

All of them made progress. Charmander's claws had begun to shine brightly and make thin gouges into the rock, although the lizard still had a bit more to go. Jonathan was quite pleased with his pokemon and gave it an extra bit of food, which Charmander happily ate before curling up and falling asleep next to his trainer.

Rattata's fangs had begun to glow a bright white whenever it lunged at the tree, and large chunks had been torn out of the wood. Amelia praised it and also gave it more food. Bulbasaur was exhausted by the effort from his own training and also received extra food.

Nidoran improved the most. Ash had managed to find a video of a Nidoran using double kick in the pokedex files and showed it to Nidoran. The small pokemon now had an idea of what to do, and had practiced jumping high into the air before drop kicking whatever he was told to. His small feet had begun to shine brightly whenever he did the move.

Everyone was tired by the time they were done and quickly fell asleep, putting out the fire before they got into their sleeping bags. The pokemon were left out in order to warn the trainers of any approaching bug types.


The next two weeks passed in much the same manner. Trainers grew scarce as they ventured further into the massive forest, but their encounters with wild pokemon grew. Only the roving groups of pikachu could give them much trouble, but if the group managed to separate them they were easily fought off.

Most of the trainers they met now were much more powerful than the ones at the entrance of the forest and had teams full of beedrill and butterfree, although some had more exotic options such as a rare scyther or bugs from Hoenn and Sinnoh. Only a few trainers had a more varied team, which showed them as trainers that were in the same situation as the group.

All of their pokemon had grown much stronger from the constant battles and had toughened up a considerable amount. Bulbasaur's bulb was growing larger, showing that it was nearing evolution, and had learned razor leaf and had mastered poison powder.

Charmander had perfected metal claw and could easily tear boulders apart. His tail's flame had begun to glow brighter and his skin had taken on the slightest hint of red. His evolution was also nearing.

Nidoran had mastered double kick several nights ago and had taken to using it in combination with focus energy during battles. Ash was glad that Nidoran seemed to be quite skilled with the move and knew how to apply it to great effect.

According to their map they were only a few miles from Pewter City. The forest was already beginning to thin and everyone was anxious to finally return to civilization. Their clothes were dirty, their hair was matted, and tempers had begun to fray. There still wasn't any real conflict, just slightly acerbic comments and cutting criticism, but everyone could see where the situation was taking them.

As they walked down the path through the thinning forest they were all feeling extremely anxious. Civilization was a welcome thing right now and each of them couldn't wait to get clean and eat all that they could. The pokemon also seemed desperate to get out of the forest. None of them naturally lived in forests, so they were all uncomfortable with the trees.

Just as they walked out of the clearing, a long, shining blade sliced through the air in front of them. Ash jumped back in a panic, hurriedly releasing Nidoran. He jumped away – closely followed by his shocked companions – and looked at the source of the attack.

Ash rolled his eyes and sighed as he saw a determined looking kid garbed in fake looking samurai gear glaring at him. Unfortunately the sword was very real, as shown by the sharp edge. The kid looked at them proudly and buried his sword into the soft ground before speaking to them.

"Are you trainers from Pallet?" He asked, leaning on the sword. Ash noticed that his helmet was slipping to the side as if it hadn't been put on correctly.

"Yes." Amelia answered cautiously, a hand on Rattata's pokeball. "Why do you ask?"

A wide grin split across the kid's face and he released his grip on the sword and withdrew a pokeball. He tapped the button and released a large pincir that clicked its large horns ominously at Nidoran.

"I was defeated by a trainer from the town of Pallet!" The kid exclaimed. "Now I must regain my honor. Prepare to be defeated!"

"You want to take this?" Ash asked Jonathan. The other boy grinned widely with a gleam in his eye. Jonathan laughed at the expression on the kid's face when he saw Charmander.

"Your fire lizard shall not defeat my Pinsir!" The boy cried. "Pinsir, use hyper beam!"

The group's eyes widened and their jaws dropped as small particles of orange light began to gather in the gaping maw of the pinsir. Jonathan recovered from his shock quickly and began to command Charmander.

"Dodge it!" He shouted. Charmander barely jumped to the side before the hyper beam burst from the pinsir's mouth, the powerful beam missing Charmander by a great distance and blasting through the trees. It was clear that the pinsir wasn't very experienced with the powerful attack, as it only managed to keep the beam going for a single blast. The pinsir was tired from the attack and collapsed to the ground for a moment, although it began to pull itself up.

By the time it was ready to fight again, Jonathan had already acted.

"Ember." He said. Charmander reared his head back and released a small ball of flame that hit pinsir. The tired bug had no chance against the attack and fainted, leaving Jonathan with a pleased smirk and the Samurai Kid with a crushed expression.

"How did you beat my Pinsir?" The Samurai Kid shouted angrily. "Your pokemon shouldn't have been able to dodge the hyper beam!"

"Oh, calm down." Jonathan replied, patting Charmander's head before returning the lizard. "Maybe if you actually trained your pinsir with it you would have won."

The Kid's face turned red with anger. "How dare you insult me! I still have a pokemon left. Put your lizard back out."

"Fine, I just hope –" Jonathan ceased his talk when he began to hear dozens of wings beating and a low buzzing sound echo throughout the forest. Everyone looked around the clearing nervously as the buzzing grew louder.

Jonathan quickly released Charmander again. Ash and Amelia released all of their pokemon, afraid of whatever was causing the noise. The Samurai Kid just ran away as fast as he could, something that made them realize that the situation was very bad.

A few moments later a dozen beedrill burst through the trees, their stingers raised and dripping venom. They instantly zoned in on Jonathan and Charmander, although a powerful ember forced them to stay away.

Ash knew he wouldn't be able to help much with Nidoran, so he recalled the small pokemon. Plume was awaiting orders, her wings tensed and ready to launch her into the air at a moment's notice. Amelia had already acted, ordering Bulbasaur to use vine whip and razor leaf on the beedrill.

"Gust!" He shouted, his voice barely carrying above the loud buzzing. Plume's sharp hearing picked his words out, however, and the pidgey burst up into the air. With a few beats of her small, powerful wings Plume had thrown several beedrill onto the ground where they were easily knocked out by Rattata.

Unfortunately the rest of the beedrill realized the threat Plume posed and went after the bird. Ash called out a warning but Plume was too slow to dodge the numerous barbs that shot from the beedrill's stingers.

The poison stings hit their mark and Plume began to fall to the ground. Ash ran to catch her, but the remaining beedrill tried to do a similar attack on him. He saw the small, sharp barbs flying towards him and closed his eyes even as he attempted to jump away.

Ash prepared to feel the barbs injecting poison into him, but instead heard a loud gale of wind. He opened his eyes in wonder when he didn't feel any pain and saw that the beedrill were flying away. A magnificent bird flew after them, throwing them down to the ground for Rattata with a single flap of its powerful wings.

When all of the bugs had been defeated the bird swooped down onto Ash's shoulder. Ash buckled from the bird's weight but managed to keep from going to his knees. He was aware of the amazed stares coming from his companions and looked at the bird.

A proud pidgeotto stood perched on his shoulder. The body had grown and become more powerful, but the fierce glimmer in the black eyes of the bird marked her as Plume. Ash winced as she nipped at his cap – the bird now much too tall to nip at his neck as she had before – and the sharper beak penetrated his hat and drew a bit of blood. Nevertheless he raised a hand to pat Plume on the beak.

"Thanks for saving me." He whispered. Plume chirped – a rather disconcerting sound coming from such an incredibly massive bird – and took off of his shoulder and into the air. Ash winced as the sharp talons dug into his shoulders through his jacket and gouged into his flesh.

He returned Plume and turned back to his amazed companions.

"Let's get to Pewter." He said before walking back down the path. The others stared at his back for a moment before following.


"What kind of idiot uses hyper beam in woods where beedrill are known to nest!" Jonathan exclaimed, dramatically throwing his hands into the air. "How did he even teach his pinsir that move anyways? There was no way someone that inexperienced actually managed to teach it."

"Probably a TM. That pinsir obviously had no idea what it was doing. Remember how fast Michael's Jolteon used it?" Amelia responded as they entered the Pewter City Pokemon Center.

They had arrived at the city roughly an hour after their spat with the beedrill and Jonathan had been speaking about the idiocy of the Samurai Kid the entire time. Both Ash and Amelia certainly agreed with him, but would be much happier if he would just drop the subject. Aside from a strange man attempting to get them to buy random rocks nothing interesting had happened since they left the forest.

"Sounds right." Jonathan shrugged. "So, who wants to fight Brock first? Our pokemon are fine aside from a few bruises and I want to get going again as soon as possible."

The group looked at each other, none willing to let the others go in front of them. No one said anything for a while until Amelia finally broke the silence.


Everyone decided that that was fair. Ash ended up winning the most out of three rounds, so he would be the one to battle Brock today. He just hoped that Nidoran was ready.

After the order was decided – Amelia would go after Ash and Jonathan would go last – they got two spare rooms in the Pokemon Center – Amelia would be in one while the boys shared the other - and put their stuff in them. It was barely noon, so they had plenty of time to shower and change their clothes.

An hour later, when everyone felt refreshed, they got directions to the gym and made their way to it. The gym was just a short distance away in the small city, and when they finally got to it Ash was practically jumping in excitement.

The gym was much less imposing than he had imagined, Ash mused as he walked to the heavy wooden door. It had thick slabs of stone at the front, supported by massive wooden beams. The stone only covered the front, though. On the back and the sides it was just an ordinary looking building.

Ash and the others struggled to get the heavy door open, although a good push forced it inwards. The room was dark and he could feel hard stone underneath his feet as he slowly walked in. He saw that there was a thin path of flattened stone that led to a small, lit area.

A teenager with dark skin and a green vest on sat on a small pedestal. Ash assumed that it was Brock. The teenager stayed still as he saw them enter.

"What are you here for?" He asked in a deep voice. Ash took in a deep breath and ignored his nervousness.

"I'm here to battle you for the Boulder Badge." He replied. Brock nodded – Ash noticed that the teen's eyes were almost completely closed, strangely enough – and began to speak again.

"It will be a two-on-two battle. You can switch pokemon. The victory will only go to whoever knocks out all of their opponent's pokemon, although forfeit is allowed. Are you ready?"

Ash nodded. Brock stood up and led them to a massive room.

He looked at the massive chamber in awe as he stepped in and examined the landscape carefully. The gym's interior had been carefully molded into a rocky battlefield with a small flat area in the very center.

He looked around and saw that there were balconies far above the battlefield, presumably for spectators. Ash noticed that Brock had walked over to the opposite side of the massive battlefield and was patiently waiting for Ash to finish looking around. He saw Jonathan and Amelia up in a balcony.

"Are you ready?" Brock shouted. Ash nodded and sent out Nidoran. The small creature growled as it appeared in the center of the field.

"Your pokemon is cute." Brock called out. "But it's no match for me. Go, Geodude!"

A round rock with small, beady eyes and two powerful looking arms appeared in front of Nidoran. It crushed its stone fists together before glaring at the small pink creature. Nidoran growled at it and extended his barbs.

"Begin!" Shouted the gym trainer that would be supervising the match. Ash wasted no time.

"Focus kick!" He cried. Ash didn't want Brock to know what exactly he was doing, so he had changed the focus energy and double kick combo into focus kick. Nidoran instantly tensed up before leaping as high as it could.

"Tackle." Brock said lazily. Geodude tried to slam itself into Nidoran, but as it passed under the small creature Nidoran performed doublekick. Nidoran's glowing feet seemed to land in just the right spot and the geodude was knocked out.

"Impressive…" Brock muttered before grabbing another pokeball. "But that was just practice! Go, Onix!"

Ash blanched as the massive stone snake materialized in front of Nidoran, its crest lowered as it glared at Nidoran. His pokemon backed up a bit, his large ears twitching nervously, but Nidoran did not flee. Its barbs began to leak more poison as it growled at the onix.

"Body slam." Brock ordered. The onix roared and dropped its body on top of Nidoran. Ash didn't have to tell Nidoran to jump out of the way.

His thoughts raced as he attempted to find a way to defeat the onix. Onix weren't as powerful as they looked, but their massive bulk intimidated pokemon and made even a tackle ridiculously powerful. Their bodies weren't very hard, however, and they could be penetrated with the right attack.

"Focus kick." Ash repeated. Nidoran's ears twitched in confirmation and tensed before leaping up into the air. Onix didn't bother to dodge, confident in its defense.

Brock should have been more cautious. The attack got a lucky location – the soft skin in between the rocky segments – and onix roared in pain. Ash grinned and began to order a follow up attack, but Brock was faster.


Onix forced itself into the air before tearing into the ground. Its body quickly vanished into the hole made by its crest and Ash realized that this might be it for Nidoran. There was no way he could defend against an onix using dig. All he could do was capitalize on the opportunity in any way he could.

"Run around, Nidoran!" He shouted. Nidoran obeyed and ran in random patterns amongst the small rocky crags and the dirt floor. It did little, however. A few seconds afterwards onix burst up into the ground directly beneath Nidoran.

Ash gulped as Nidoran went flying into the air, propelled by onix's crest. If Nidoran just landed on the ground he would be badly hurt. But if he found a way to get rid of that energy…

"Focus kick!" Ash shouted in desperation. Brock's eyes widened and began to shout at his onix to dig again. The onix was too slow to avoid Nidoran's powerful attack.

Nidoran's feet glowed as it dropkicked the stone serpent. The massive amount of energy he had accumulated during the fall all went into the attack on onyx's large head. Nidoran's attack sent small cracks threading throughout onix's head and knocked the rock type unconscious.

As onix's massive body crumpled to the ground a great amount of dust was kicked up. Ash held his breath and silently hoped Nidoran was alright. He hadn't been able to see the small creature's body due to the dust and didn't know how badly he had been hurt by the fall.

There was nothing but silence in the chamber as they waited for the dust to clear. Ash released his breath when the dust cleared, revealing that Nidoran was slowly crawling off of onix's body.

Nidoran ran to Ash in excitement when he was safely off the onix. Ash praised him and patted the small pokemon on the head for a while before returning the tired pokemon. When he stood up from his kneeling position he became aware of a tall figure just a few feet away from him.

"You did good." Brock admitted, holding out a small badge shaped like a boulder. "Here's the Boulder Badge. Are your friends going to come back tomorrow?"

"Thanks. They'll be here tomorrow."

Brock nodded in satisfaction. Ash supposed that he needed some excitement. It couldn't be easy to just sit on that pedestal all day.

Ash soon found himself outside the gym with Amelia and Jonathan. They seemed rather impressed with his performance, although he was just glad that Nidoran hadn't gotten hurt and that he'd won the battle.

"That was awesome!" Amelia said loudly, attracting the attention of several passerby. "I thought that you would end up losing against the onix, but you actually pulled out a win without Nidoran fainting! Me and Jonathan are going to have to do really good to outdo you."

Jonathan just nodded, although he had a grin on his face. Ash expected both of his friends to win their battle.


Amelia's battle had just begun. It was a one on one battle and she had chosen Bulbasaur. Brock had used his onix again and it seemed warier than it had the previous day. It tried to dodge the worst of the attacks and was doing surprisingly well for such a bulky creature.

"Rock throw." Brock commanded. Onix tore a piece of one of the small mountains off with its powerful mouth and hurled it at Bulbasaur.

"Dodge." Amelia shouted. Bulbasaur used his vines to pick itself up and avoid the massive chunk of rock.

"Now, vine whip!" She cried. Her pokemon lashed out at the onix with its vines, the effective attack cutting into the thick stone of its body. Bulbasaur continued to use vine whip against the weakened onix, although Brock soon put an end to that.

"Dig." Onix performed the same maneuver as it had with Nidoran and tunneled through the earth until it was directly below Bulbasaur. Amelia fully expected that and had Bulbasaur push himself away with his vines.

Onix burst out of the ground, raining chunks of earth upon Bulbasaur and the two trainers and creating a massive cloud of dust. It seemed to know where Bulbasaur was, as it quickly snaked its way towards a specific location.

"Stun spore!" Amelia shouted, unwilling to let the onix get close to Bulbasaur. Ash could see just the barest hint of golden spores coating the massive stone serpent before the dust swallowed it back up.

"Slam." Brock said. Onix roared and reared up out of the dust cloud before falling down onto Bulbasaur. Its movements were slow and thick, proving that the stun spore had worked effectively. Amelia ordered Bulbasaur to dodge and Ash saw just the smallest hint of a small green body through the cloud.

"Now, razor leaf! Finish it off with vine whip." Amelia ordered. Bulbasaur – now out of the dust cloud – obeyed and fired dozens of sharp leaves at the stone snake. Onix roared in pain as the leaves cut into its stone body, but collapsed when Bulbasaur used vine whip one last time.

Brock sighed when onix fell to the ground, but handed Amelia the Boulder Badge anyways. Amelia grinned and ran out of the gym after praising Bulbasaur for his victory.


"Metal claw." Jonathan said. Charmander's claws grew metallic and shiny as they gouged into Brock's graveler. The rock type roared in pain and tried to use fight back but Charmander ignored its resistance and continued to tear into it.

After a few moments the graveler fainted and Brock sent out a rhyhorn. It dumbly looked around for a few seconds before focusing on the fire type. The rhyhorn charged at the lizard, fiercely roaring as it neared its target.

"Metal claw." Jonathan lazily repeated. Charmander nodded and casually sidestepped the charging rhyhorn, tearing into the stone body of its opponent as rhyhorn passed. The rhyhorn tried to turn and attack Charmander, but it ended up flipping over and slamming into one of the stone hills.

Ash and Amelia both blinked as the rhyhorn accidently knocked itself out. Jonathan's battle had been shorter than either of theirs and he and Charmander had proven to be powerful fighters. Charmander was surprisingly agile and fast, although it still barely managed to dodge the worst of the rock attacks.

Brock seemed just as dumbfounded as he stiffly walked over to Jonathan and gave him the Boulder Badge. He also seemed to be talking about something to the other boy and Ash saw the gym leader recall rhyhorn and hand the pokeball to Jonathan, who reverently took it from Brock's calloused hands.

"Did he just give Jonathan a rhyhorn?" Ash asked Amelia as they stood up and walked out of the balcony.

"It looks like it." Amelia responded, equally dumbfounded. Although Jonathan was a good guy, he wasn't someone that you would give a pokemon to. He could be rather irresponsible at times.

Ash just shrugged and walked out of the gym, closely followed by Amelia. Jonathan had a wide grin on his face as he waited for them. He was tossing the pokeball up and down in the air and didn't seem to notice them at first.

When Amelia tapped him on the shoulder he took his eyes off of the pokeball.

"Can you believe it?" He shouted excitedly. "Brock gave me a pokemon! And I got the Boulder Badge too!"

"Why did he give you that rhyhorn?" Amelia wondered. Jonathan brightened even more and seemed to be practically bouncing around in excitement.

"Brock said that it was causing trouble around Pewter so he had to go catch it. He doesn't want to put the time into training it when he has several good teams already and figured that I could use it. Brock saw that I only had Charmander, so he decided that I would be able to put the rhyhorn to better use than either of you."

"That makes sense." Ash shrugged. "Anyways, let's get ready. Do both of you have everything packed?"

"Yeah." Amelia replied. "Hopefully we'll be able to get to Mt. Moon within a week. I don't want to be out in the wilderness for so long ever again."

"Agreed." Jonathan said. "I'm completely ready. Let's just head back to the Pokemon Center and –"

All of a sudden the strange man that had been attempting to sell them rocks outside the city shoved past them, rushing into the gym. They all looked at the man oddly before shrugging and continuing on their way to the Pokemon Center. They'd been meeting a lot of weird people lately.


Ash stood outside of Pewter with his friends. Plume was flying overhead, scouting out their path and reporting potential dangers. The road could be dangerous and treacherous at times, so every bit of safety helped.

Amelia and Jonathan stood next to him, both looking eager and determined to get past Mt. Moon and into Cerulean City. It would be a long journey, but by the time they finished they would be much, much stronger.

He grinned and started walking. They might have all the time in the world, but he didn't have all of the patience in the world. Ash wanted to be at Cerulean as fast as he could.

And then he would get to show just how good he was.