Ash opened his eyes to red and black, and for a brief second he feared that he was back in the water house, back in the Missionary's prison, back in that hell. He feared that the rescue had been nothing more than a dream, a fanciful hallucination he created to convince himself that everything was alright, when instead he was still being tortured by that maniac.
But when he sat up, a strange feeling of relief settled over him. It was odd…this was one place he had NEVER wanted to return to, but he understood that this was nothing more than a dream. A very vivid and disturbing dream, but a dream nonetheless.
Pyramid Head's temple stood in front of him. The same black coliseum that he'd visited in Mashura. The huge spears gouged the sky, drawing rivers of crimson. The executioner's helmet stared down at him, watching him, waiting for him to make a move.
Looking up at the helmet caused Ash to ponder. Now that he thought about it, the Missionary was nothing compared to that giant. For all the horrendous things the Missionary had done, he was just a crazy brute who preyed on the helpless. Ash thought back on his frenzied attack on the Glutton, that big temper tantrum. His utter idiocy when it came to tracking Ash, not noticing when he was in the same room with him. His screaming fits and his anticlimactic death. Why was Ash afraid of him again?
Because he was going to kill you. Ash reminded himself. Because he killed Adrian.
Still, the more Ash thought about it, the more he realized the Missionary was little more that a Pyramid Head wannabe. A crazy man who thought he could emulate Pyramid Head's power by hurting those weaker than him. Pyramid Head would've ripped through the Glutton easily. Pyramid Head would've tracked Ash down easily. Pyramid Head would've stopped the car in it's tracks. He…
Ash smacked himself upside the head, clearing his thoughts. Arceus help me, am I starting to ADMIRE that monster?!
Maybe it was just because Ash knew it was just a man under the Missionary's mask. Ash had seen his face, and it was anything but impressive. It was hard to be afraid of a faceless monster when you knew it was just a man underneath…
Ash paused, staring up at the temple. His hands drifted to his pockets, where he suddenly discovered that two small circles were inside. Surprised, Ash took them out to investigate.
Two wooden pictures, just like the ones from before. The pictures were of different people, however. Ash recognized Walter on one of them. The other one did and didn't look like Marge…she had shorter hair tied in a bun, but the same cold face and hateful eyes.
Knowing what he had to do to get out of this dream, Ash sighed and started walking towards the temple. As he did, he kept looking up at the image of Pyramid Head's helmet. His helmet…
He knew there was a face under that helmet. A human face. He hadn't seen it, not clearly at least, but he knew it was there.
Before he knew it, he was in front of the locking mechanism. Eight holes in a circle, two of them filled, the rest waiting for their respective keys. With a moment's hesitation, Ash inserted the two new portraits. All the while, he kept looking up at the helmet.
I stopped being afraid of the Missionary when I saw his face. He stopped being an invincible monster and was just a man. Ash silently mused. If I get rid of that helmet…If I see his face, look him in the eye, he'll stop being invincible.
The storm just laughed in response as it swirled around him…
Ash opened his eyes to the bright, sterile white lights of the hospital. He sat up in the green bed and felt his face. Creases and stitches…the doctors had finished sewing his more serious cuts while he was unconscious. He really wished there was a mirror handy. Luckily, Pikachu was there for a reassuring cuddle.
"Ash, you're finally awake!" Ash turned to see Brock stepping into the room.
Ash blinked his vision back to normal, letting Pikachu down to walk around the floor. "Hey…where's Dawn?"
Brock shrugged. "She went back home."
Ash sat up, getting himself more comfortable. "Oh…yeah. How about you? Are you heading home?"
Brock thought for a moment before nodding. "Yeah…I need to spend some time with my family." Brock glanced out the window door. "Your mom's here…maybe you should too."
Ash sighed. "I…I don't know if I wanna talk to her right now…"
Brock's expression became confused. "What? Why?"
Ash shook his head. "I…it's not like…you remember asking me why I haven't been battling so good lately?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
Ash scratched his head. "I…before we left for Sinnoh, she…she told me that…I asked her about my dad…"
Ash started shaking with anger. "She…she LIED to me! Kept telling me that Dad was out there! That I might meet him! But no. He's dead! He's been dead all along."
Ash's head fell into his hands, trying to hide the tears in his eyes. "I thought…I thought I could find him…or just…impress him if I won one of the tournaments. But…no. I'm never going to see him, I'm never going to impress him, I won't ever make him proud…what's even the point?"
Brock didn't move for a second, not sure how to respond to this news. Eventually he got up and walked up to the bed. Sitting down beside Ash, he put his arm around his friend in a comforting hug. For a minute, the two just sat there, Ash trying not to cry into his hands. Pikachu joined in, nuzzling into Ash's lap like a pet.
Eventually, Ash got his breath back and Brock began speaking again. "Ash…was your father the only reason you went on your Pokemon journey?"
Ash took a deep breath before answering. "Nuh-no. I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to…wanted to see the world, be the best there was…it was my dream."
Brock smiled and nodded. "You know, Ash, for the longest time it was like my parents were both dead. When I found out the truth, it…changed everything. But I didn't let it keep me from my dreams, I didn't let it wreck my life, and I didn't stay mad at my family."
Ash glanced incredulously at Brock. "So you were never mad at your dad when you learned where he really was, all that time?"
Brock chuckled dryly. "I was angry, sure. But I didn't let that anger poison everything I did. You can't let what your parents do or don't do define you.
"Besides, for all his mistakes, he's still my father and I still care about him. And I know you care about your mother. You should talk to her. Listen. Maybe it'll make more sense once you've heard her side."
Ash turned away from Brock, mulling over what he'd said as he stroked Pikachu's head. He finally sighed and shrugged. "All…alright. You're probably right. I'll…talk to her. Let her know, K?"
Brock patted Ash on the shoulder, smiling. "I will. Take it easy for awhile, ok? The Lily of the Valley Conference isn't for months, and there'll always be another tournament."
Ash laughed. "I'll take it easy, but I'm not giving up on the Lily of the Valley just yet."
Brock laughed back. "There's the Ash I know." Brock started walking out. "Give me a call, okay? Let me know how things are going."
"I will." Ash agreed. "Say hi to Forrest for me, alright?"
"No prob." Brock nodded before stepping outside.
Just outside was the hospital waiting room. Several leather seats next to potted fake plants helped to keep it somewhat homey in the sterile hospital. A tv screen set to the news kept the waiting people somewhat entertained.
One of those people was Delia Ketchum, holding a large picture album. The second she saw Brock, she stood up to greet him. "Is Ash okay? Did he-"
Brock put his hands up and smiled calmly. "He's okay. I talked to him, and he's gonna be okay. Just…take it easy, okay? He's pretty upset about his dad."
Delia sighed. "I don't blame him. I really, really screwed up…you…you think I can fix this?"
Brock patted her shoulder. "It'll take some time, but…yeah. You can fix this. He loves you, no matter what."
Delia managed to make herself smile. "Yeah…thank you. Give my best to Flint and Lola, okay?"
Brock nodded. "I will. Take care of yourself."
Delia and Brock waved goodbye as Brock walked out the hospital doors. Delia took a deep breath, glancing at the picture album in her hands. Maybe she will be able to fix this…
"…police are still on the lookout for Marge Holloway and Anita Royce, the two women behind the trainer kidnapping operation…"
The two names caught Delia's ear. Looking at the tv screen, Delia's smile vanished and her eyes widened as she stared at Marge and Anita's faces.
"Anita is 40 years old, has curly red hair and brown eyes, and was last seen driving a brown station wagon. Marge is 37 years old, has straight blonde hair with brown eyes. If you see either of these women, contact authorities immediately. Do not approach, they are extremely dangerous. Please be advised…"
Delia couldn't watch anymore, and she quickly stepped away from the tv screen. Shaking her head clear, she opened the photo album to one of the earlier pages.
It was a picture taken while she was still pregnant with Ash. Kent was there beside her, his hand on her chest. But there were two other woman in the picture, two people she hadn't seen since Ash was born.
An older woman with curly red hair and a big smile, and a younger woman with long blonde hair and a more serious expression. Even ten years younger, these two women were unmistakable.
Delia stared at the picture, a sick feeling in her gut. After a minute of hesitation, she dug the picture out of the page and grabbed a pair of scissors from her purse. Glancing over her shoulder, Delia started to cut the photo into tiny pieces, everything going straight into the trash can.
Once the photo was destroyed, Delia checked the rest of the book. Luckily, there were no other pictures of…those two in the entire album. Just her, Kent, and their baby son.
Delia shook her head clear and tried to smile again. She loved her son. Nothing would ever change that. She would go into that room, apologize from the bottom of her heart, and mend the rift that her stupid decision had created.
But a part of her knew that things were going to get very ugly. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even a year from now. But no matter what, everything was going to change.
And her son was right in the middle of it all.
"I'm sorry." She said to no-one in particular. Her tiny voice seemed to echo in the quiet hospital hallway.
And thus ends part 3! Read and review, and watch out for part 4, coming soon!