Many thanks to Shaydrall for his great beta work!
Chapter Version: 5 (February 2015). The beginning is entirely new. A significant part of the chapter was rewritten.
This story has been inspired by many, particularly the works of ARCEUS-Master, Pichuauraguardian49, 'Storming Unova' by perfect oblivion, 'The Best, Like No One Ever Was' by Omega-Saber, and 'Ash's Unleashing' by Lightningblade49. The story idea might have been used before but I'll try to do this in my style. You can expect many changes from the actual Sinnoh Saga, starting this chapter.
Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon. The characters and other elements of this story are the copyrighted property of Pokémon or its affiliates and licensors. This fan fiction is purely for enjoyment and no desire of profit comes out of it.
A lesson learned
The world of Pokémon is one which promises unending mysteries to an explorer. Scattered across the various landmasses, hundreds of species of Pokémon inhabit the planet. Pokémon of varying sizes roam the land, water and air, wielding with ease the powers of nature that humans mostly fail to comprehend.
The planet Arcea has eight major continents and several island groups. The largest single landmass consists of seven of these continents and is located in the northern hemisphere. The two northernmost continents, Sinnoh and Orre, are at the northeastern and northwestern regions of this landmass. Immediately south of the Sinnoh region is the Almia region, and to its west lies the Fiore region. Almia and Fiore collectively form the nation known as the Ranger union, where capture of Pokémon is strictly prohibited. The reminder of the regions permit and even encourage people to capture and train Pokémon. Pokemon Championships and contests are widely popular in these regions, and many choose to become a trainer or a coordinator.
Sandwiched between Orre and Fiore is the Holon region. Below the Holon region, in the south west of the largest landmass, is the Johto region. To its east and to the south east of Holon is the Kanto region.
The remaining continent, Hoenn, lies in the western part of the Southern hemisphere, isolated from the others. The rest of the southern hemisphere is occupied by the Orange archipelago and Sevii islands.
The earliest recorded human civilizations began around 2800 years ago to the North of Kanto, in the area which became the Kingdom of Rota a few centuries later. Around that time, civilizations also began in the Holon region, then named Sione, as well as the combined Kanto and Johto regions which was called Pokelantis. The capital of Pokelantis was called Pokemopolis and is one of the oldest cities in the ancient world. When Pokelantis was destroyed around 1800 years ago, the cities and towns in these regions faded to obscurity. Rota outlasted all of these kingdoms, surviving even in the modern age, albeit with greatly diminished power.
The forgotten ruins of Pokemopolis was resettled around a hundred years before present time, and was named Pallet town, the town of purity and new beginnings. Indeed, this is where the trainers and coordinators of Kanto start their Pokémon journeys. They receive their first partner from the lab of Professor Samuel Oak, one of the world's greatest experts on Pokemon. His laboratory is located on top of a small hill and serves as a landmark to the peaceful town. A small dirt trail runs down the slopes of the hill, and joins the stone paved roads. The road leads to the beach located a few miles to the south of Pallet town.
On either sides of this road are a cluster of houses that dot the grassy landscape of Pallet. The first house to the left stands in a square plot bounded by a white fence and has a small garden to its side. The small wooden house was painted white and had a sloping red roof. The house was occupied by Delia Ketchum, who runs the town's only restaurant, and her son Ash Ketchum. Ash, now fifteen, aspires to someday become the greatest master of Pokémon the world has ever seen.
Ash Ketchum was currently home, resting after his latest achievement in the Kanto Battle Frontier. Two weeks ago, at the end of the month of Ho-Oh in the year 2815, he made history by becoming the first Champion of the Kanto Battle Frontier. However, the jubilance that he had felt for the past weeks had all but evaporated today afternoon. That was when he was defeated in battle by his friend and longtime rival, Gary Oak.
Ash wasn't foreign to the concept of defeat. Sometimes by his mistakes, sometimes by the brilliance of his opponents, Ash had tasted defeat multiple times during his journey to become a Pokémon master.
But there was something different about this particular defeat. The defeat he had just suffered at the hands of his old rival, Gary Oak.
So what sets this loss apart from the numerous others in his career, one might ask.
The answer was clear as day to Ash Ketchum.
Because this time, Ash had lost to someone who he had defeated about two years ago. That someone had chosen to walk a different path thereafter, and pursued a goal to become a Pokémon Researcher. He had lost to someone who had essentially stopped his push to improve. Someone who hadn't actively battled others for two years.
Ash knew that someone doesn't get better when they're out of practice. On the contrary, they're expected to lose their skills. After all, practice makes a trainer perfect.
He was the one who actively battled others. Logically, he should've won the battle with his rival without any trouble.
So where did he go wrong? Why was Pikachu –his Pikachu defeated by an evolution of Electobuzz? After triumphing against all odds against Pyramid King Brandon and his legendary Regice, he was sure that he would have no problem against Gary.
He was sure.
Ash thought back to some of his other failures of similar nature. Many a time, a big victory would make him overconfident, and his overconfidence would subsequently cost him.
Ash balled his fists after realizing his mistake. It was such a novice error to give into overconfidence and throw caution out of the window, especially while facing a new kind of Pokémon. After all his years as a trainer, he should have known better. He thought he had learned from his past mistakes. It was clear now that he hadn't.
Ash broke from his train of thoughts and glanced at his partner. Pikachu had recovered from the battle against Electivire after the Professor tended to his wounds. Ash was surprised that Pikachu hadn't said something yet. His partner has been unusually silent for some time now. Maybe he wasn't the only one so affected by this loss? It must've hurt Pikachu's pride a lot to have lost to another electric type. Ash winced. He was to blame for that.
"Sorry buddy." Ash broke the silence with a sigh. "I messed up big time, didn't I?"
Pikachu's ears twitched in response to his trainer's voice. Pikachu turned to face Ash, his face showing surprise at the sudden conversation. It seemed that Pikachu too, was lost in his own world.
"I should've known better than to get cocky after we beat Brandon. Look where that got us." Ash's eyes mirrored his sorrow. "I'm sorry you had to get hurt like that, Pikachu."
Pikachu shook his head emphatically, refusing to admit that the loss was his trainer's fault. "Pika pi! Pikachu pika pika!" Pikachu pointed to himself, as if to say that it was his fault, not Ash's.
"How can it be your fault?" Ash asked incredulously. "Don't be silly. You did your best, and that's all I could ask for. You trusted me with the strategy and did exactly like I told you to. But since I was so sure we'd win, I didn't think things through. I made some stupid mistakes. This loss is entirely my fault." Pikachu opened his mouth to protest again, but Ash cut him off. "I know you mean well Pikachu, but there's no way around it. Don't beat yourself up over this battle. I made the mistakes, not you." He said in a tone leaving no room for argument.
Pikachu made a face, clearly dissatisfied with his trainer's decision to blame himself. "Pii Pikachu." he muttered.
"I promise, buddy," Ash began, determination seeping into his voice again as he watched his faithful companion. "I won't be this careless ever again. No matter who we're up against, I'll give it my all like I know you will." Pikachu's fierce loyalty only strengthened his resolve. He didn't want to see Pikachu get hurt due to his mistakes. He didn't want to see Pikachu get hurt, period. That went for all his other Pokémon as well.
Pikachu, realizing that his trainer has stopped berating himself, decided to let the matter go for now. He still disagreed with his trainer on the matter of burdening the defeat, but he supposed it was fine if Ash wasn't beating himself up over it. To be honest, it was quite refreshing for the yellow rodent to hear the determination in his trainer's voice. It never failed to lift his spirits.
"Maybe losing to Gary wasn't so bad after all." Ash muttered thoughtfully. Pikachu was perplexed by his trainer's statement. Since when was losing to Gary a good thing?
"I mean it got me to think about it, right?" Ash's mouth twitched to a half smile. "We can't always hope to wing it. I should think more."
"Pika pika." Pikachu nodded sagely. Ash should definitely think more.
"You don't have to agree, you know!" Ash said playfully. His face turned serious again. "You know, I only think of strategy after we've lost to someone. Normally I just battle on instinct, and that may not work out with more experienced trainers." His numerous gym losses flashed in his mind. Many a time, he had to resort to special strategy to defeat gyms. Sadly, he only thought about strategy after a loss. "I need to strategize for every battle. That's the only way to improve." Ash realized. Pikachu nodded in agreement. He had to admit, Ash did have a slight tendency to rush into battles.
"Pikachupi?" Pikachu asked. Ash correctly interpreted his partner's question.
Pikachu nodded. The Battle Frontier was behind them. Where would they be going next?
Ash contemplated his options. He didn't want to wait for the next Indigo league, plus he had already travelled throughout Kanto. His other option was to go to another region.
"What about… Sinnoh?" Ash asked.
"Pika." Pikachu shrugged. How was he supposed to know?
Ash grinned. "Yeah, you wouldn't know much either, huh? Well, Gary made it sound like it was an awesome place with lots of new Pokémon…" Ash trailed off, excited at the thought of meeting new Pokémon. "Sinnoh it is, then." He grinned to his companion. Pikachu grinned back. He too felt excited for another journey. A part of him was sad, too. This probably meant they'd be leaving behind a lot of his friends. Still, it was Ash's choice to make.
"There'll be a whole new challenge waiting…" Ash muttered to himself. "We'll have a new beginning-" He abruptly caught himself. Something about that thought seemed off to Ash.
"A new beginning…" Ash frowned. He wanted that when he left to Hoenn, and took only Pikachu with him. He tried to forget about his past failures and tried to tackle his future challenges. But failures weren't the only things he forgot about. The lessons he learned from those failures were also left behind.
"Pika?" Pikachu nudged his suddenly silent trainer. Ash broke from his reverie at his partner's prompting.
"I shouldn't have tried to forget." Ash whispered, almost to himself. "I tried to forget my losses, and I forgot the lessons they gave me too. That's why I'm not improving much." The realization came as a shock for Ash. How could he have done something so stupid? Had he simply wasted all the experience he received as a trainer by hoping for a fresh start and forgetting the past? Forgetting a loss seemed to be the best way to avoid the unpleasant memory, but as his most recent example showed, defeats were at least as much important as, if not more important that, victories.
Ash hadn't felt this depressed even after his first league loss. He berated himself for not realizing his folly sooner.
Pikachu grew steadily more worried as Ash's mood dropped just as fast as it had risen a minute ago. His trainer's face reflected his inner conflict. Pikachu understood where Ash was coming from. He knew how important it was to learn from his past battles. That's how he got as strong as he is now. If Ash didn't learn from his defeats, there would be no improvement.
Ash soon realized that dwelling on his mistakes would get him nowhere. All he could do was to make sure he didn't make the same mistake in the future. He wouldn't push away his defeats as an unpleasant memory. He'd try his best to analyze where he went wrong and make sure not to make that mistake again. If he didn't, what respect would he be showing to his Pokémon who battled valiantly for him?
The thought of his Pokémon brought another sting of pain to Ash's troubled mind. He had neglected to train many of his older Pokémon for quite a while now. He hadn't used some of his Kanto Pokémon for years. Then there were the ones he caught from the other regions. He could have rotated his team like Gary does, but he didn't. Why? Did he unconsciously want to cut off all the links to the regions that presented him failure?
This thought very much upset Ash. He cared for his Pokémon, he really did. But he ignored many of them for a long time. How could he call himself a trainer? What did his old friends think of him now? Would they forgive him? Had they forgotten him, like he had forgotten to train them? Sure, he has spent some time with them after his return, but he didn't accomplish any serious training.
Ash was thrown out of his musings courtesy of a minor Thundershock from Pikachu. The electric rodent had tried to capture his trainer's attention for a while now, and his worry prompted him to take drastic measures.
"Pika pi! Pikachu pika!" Pikachu yelled, trying to bring his trainer back to the present.
"Sorry buddy, I was thinking of our old friends…" Ash trailed off.
Now Pikachu knew what caused Ash to be depressed again. He probably was thinking about how he didn't train his old Pokémon properly for a while now. Frankly, Pikachu had been wondering when Ash would come to this realization. He knew that Ash wasn't purposefully neglecting them. He never brought this up because he trusted Ash to realize it sooner or later. He didn't want to give Ash the impression that he was being reprimanded by his own Pokémon.
"Pika…" Pikachu nodded understandingly. "Pikachu pika pika…"
"Yeah, better late than never, right?" Ash smiled. Of course Pikachu knew what he was thinking about. It was very thoughtful of Pikachu to wait until he realized it himself, but Ash wished Pikachu told him off earlier. He could've rectified his mistake a lot sooner.
"I'll take them with me to Sinnoh." Ash nodded determinedly. "At least, some of them. I can always switch with the others…" He glanced at his companion. "Hey Pikachu, I know you didn't tell me this because you didn't want to hurt my feelings, but there's no need for that. If I make a mistake, please tell me or I won't know."
Pikachu thought about it. He knew his trainer was right, but he felt uncomfortable in correcting his trainer in matters like this. Still, if Ash wanted to be corrected, who was he to say no?
"Pika." Pikachu nodded. Ash smiled, knowing he could count on his best friend.
"So who will I take with me?" Ash wondered. He threw a questioning glance at Pikachu, hoping for suggestions.
"Pika Pikapichu Pikachu" Pikachu said immediately. "Pi… Pika pikapi chu?"
Ash nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, I should definitely take Bulbasaur." Ash felt a pang of guilt. Bulbasaur was one of his most faithful and loyal companions. He shouldn't have neglected training him. Ash decided that a guilty conscience would get him nowhere. What he needed to do was learn from his mistakes and become a better person.
"Now I need a water and a fire type, huh?" Ash mused, as Pikachu had simply suggested that he could take a fire and water type with him in addition to Bulbasaur. After putting some thought into the matter, he decided to take Corphish and Cyndaquil as they needed training the most.
"Honey, dinner's ready!" Delia's voice cut Ash's thoughts. Grinning at the prospect of dinner, Ash rushed to the dining room, his faithful friend right behind him.
"Aaah… that hit the spot!" Ash commented, patting his bulging belly. Beside him, Pikachu did the same, leaning on an empty ketchup bottle. Delia had only been able to convince Pikachu to take a bare minimum of Pokéfood before he began to loudly demand his ketchup. She decided that it couldn't hurt as long as Pkachu didn't make a habit of it.
"I'm glad you liked it honey." Delia smiled. "Have you decided what you're doing next?" She asked. Ash had been quiet most of the afternoon, seemingly lost in thought. If she knew Ash, he would have decided his new destination by this point.
"I'm thinking of going to Sinnoh." Ash replied. "This time, I'll win for sure!"
"I have faith in you, Ash. Give it your best shot!" Delia said encouragingly. She had to hide her sadness, as this probably meant Ash was going to leave tomorrow. Such is the life of a Pokemon trainer. She thought to herself.
"You know I will!" Ash fist pumped. "I'm also taking Bulbasaur, Corphish and Cyndaquil."
Delia was surprised but pleased to hear this. She often visited Ash's Pokémon and knew that they missed him dearly. She knew they would be overjoyed at the prospect of travelling by Ash's side again.
"Goodnight, Mom!" Ash got up, getting ready for bed.
"Goodnight, honey." Delia smiled warmly.
The following morning, Ash left to the Oak laboratory to see his Pokémon even before he had breakfast. On the way, he met a few kids who had come there to play with the Pokémon. Upon seeing Ash, they were excited and wanted to talk with him. Some asked him for an autograph, while some little girls fawned over Pikachu. Apparently, his league accomplishments didn't go unnoticed, neither did his victory at the Battle Frontier. Ash went over the top when his Mom told him he made it to the front page because of that accomplishment. Moments like these were those that Ash cherished. After engaging them for a while, he waved goodbye to the kids and saved Pikachu from being hugged to death.
I know my mistakes. Now, It's time to correct them. he thought. Glancing at his partner Ash asked for his support. "What do you think, Pikachu?"
"Pikapi! Pika pika Pikachu pika!"
"You're right buddy! Time to make up to them!" Ash replied, fist-pumping.
Ash walked over to the ranch. It was beautiful, with the afternoon sunlight shining on the green meadow. There were a few wild Pokémon and Pokémon caught by other trainers who started from this part of Kanto. The Oak laboratory is huge, and made up a significant part of Pallet town. He finally reached his destination, and saw all the Pokémon he caught on his journey, either sleeping peacefully, playing, or, in some cases, training. He had unforgettable adventures and memories with all of them. Even Tauros, one of his underused Pokémon, had performed magnificently against Drake. Speaking of Tauros, Ash wondered how he'd train them. He'll have to train the leader and have him teach the others.
"Hey Guys! Over here! I'm here to tell you guys something!" Ash shouted, waving. Pikachu too, helped his trainer gather their attention. "Pika!"
The Pokémon that were awake recognized the voice, and nudged those asleep to get them to wake up.
Ash spotted a dust cloud, closer and closer it came and stopped in front of him. There they were. His friends, his life. Bulbasaur, Kingler, Muk, his 30 Tauros, Snorlax, Heracross, Bayleef, Cyndaquil, Totodile, Noctowl, Donphan, Swellow, Sceptile, Corphish, Torkoal, Aipom and Glalie.
"Guys-", a few shouts of protest "and gals," Ash sweat dropped.
"I'm planning to leave for a new region called Sinnoh tomorrow," he continued, "but unlike before, I want some of you guys to come with me. I know I haven't been the best trainer-" This led to massive protest from the group. Ash smiled at their support. "Thanks Guys, but it's true. It's my duty to train each of you and help you to be stronger. We're partners, but I haven't been doing my part well. Can you guys forgive me?"
The collective response was a big yes for Ash, so he smiled. "I can't take all of you guys, as I can only carry six Pokémon. I've left two slots open and I'll take Pikachu with me. That leaves three slots."
The excitement subsided. Everyone was in their best behavior, hoping they would be chosen.
"I've decided to take Bulbasaur, Cyndaquil and Corphish for now. But don't worry guys, I'll be asking for each of you in due time."
Bulbasaur was ecastic. Cyndaquil looked happy and Corphish was jumping up and down with joy. The others looked depressed but cheered up at the thought of meeting their trainer soon.
"Well, see you guys real soon! Gotta get ready for tomorrow!" Ash returned his selected three Pokémon and waved goodbye at the rest. He returned home to find a new set of clothes and a backpack waiting for him. Ash smiled. Knowing his mother, she probably had packed everything he'll ever need in his trip. Ash could tell that breakfast was ready from the heavenly smell of food. Almost drifting to the dining table, his face split into a grin upon seeing the larger than normal breakfast.
After finishing his breakfast, he wore the new set of cloths gifted to him by his mother and his backpack. He got outside and was a bit surprised to see Professor Oak and Gary waiting for him.
"Hey Professor, Gary. What's up?"
"We came to wish you luck Ashy-boy. So Good luck!"
"Hey, thanks Gary, Professor!" Ash smiled.
"Don't mention it, Ash." Said the Professor, also smiling.
"We know you need it." came Gary's response.
Ash smiled, though was somewhat irked. He should have expected that. "Well, see ya later!" He waved.
"Bye honey, and don't forget to- "
"Mom! I know! I'm not ten anymore! I'm fifteen!"
"You could've fooled me!" returned Gary.
"Shut it, Gary." Ash grumbled.
With a final wave of goodbye, Ash headed towards Viridian city. He needed to get a ship from the newly built Viridian port. It would take the long sea route almost touching the Orange Archipelago and heading east. After travelling parallel to most of the Sevii Islands, the ship would head North, moving parallel to Almia region and finally reaching the port city of Sunnyshore in Sinnoh. The entire trip would take about two weeks.
Look out, Sinnoh! Here I come!