Author's Notes: Happy Father's Day, everybody! I am occasionally asked about my take on the great question of Ash's father. It is a question for the ages. Who is Ash's father? Is it Giovanni? Professor Oak? Silver? ...The Narrator? Well, I consider this massive one-shot to be my definitive answer to the question. We are going to dive into Ash's psyche a bit to discover exactly who his father is and perhaps what he would have become were his father a little bit different. I will warn you that this story gets a bit darker than my usual works near the end, but I wanted to answer this question as accurately as possible and as thorough as possible in a fairly suspenseful and creative manner. I hope you enjoy.

I do not own or have any rights to any part of the Pokemon franchise whatsoever.

The Scar

It got to him right as he woke up… or had it woken him up? It did not matter. The point was that it had somehow gotten to him very, very early in the morning, and with the sheer fogginess of his brain in the morning, he never stood a chance. By the time Ash had pieced his predicament together, he knew it was too late. How long had he been staring? Definitely at least three seconds. His body jutted forward in fear, trying to tackle the pale yellow demon to the ground, but it was no good. He slowed to a stop as he reached a sitting position in his bed. His eyes were unable to turn away from the horrible device. His will cried out in perseverance, but it was quieted to a dull moan. He stopped. Unable to move and unable to look away, Ash's face reverted to that of a dull surprise as he sat there in his hotel room with his chest bare and his waist covered in sheets.

The pendulum swayed back and forth. Every tick was precise. Every oscillation the same. It kept him tame, and as he was further entranced by the device, his mind grew numb. The man drew a complete blank as he stared at the terrible swinging tool, save for an insignificant thought in the back of his head that screamed for him to attack but was almost entirely overwhelmed by the deafening shriek of absolute nothingness. Ash was frozen solid.

"Well, that was surprisingly easy." Remarked a man in a black suit and gloves with long silver hair as he strolled out of the shadows on the other side of the hotel room and took a crouching position next to the Hypno that stood before a mesmerized Ash Ketchum. "The great Pokémon Master," he continued to taunt, "taken down by a Pokémon that has never seen a day of battle in its life."

Hypno stared vacantly into Ash's eyes, and the young man returned the gaze with only a twitch of his left eye and an empty groan.

The intruder only smiled at the situation and jubilantly trotted over to the master's desk to pull out his swivel chair and take the load off, propping his feet upon the nearby dresser for added affect. This was going to work out perfectly. "You know, it's poetic, really." The man continued to his absent audience, "The greatest battle of this league is going to be won without a single attack being called. My brother is literally going to defeat you without lifting a finger."

Ash's eyebrows bent downward ever so slightly. The untrained eye would not have been able to see his facial movements, but the trainer determinately growled for a third time as his body began inching forward toward the Hypno again. Every muscle in his being was fighting back against the psychic hold on his mind, and though his eyes still could not get away, Ash somehow found the ability to bend. He was moving slowly. Slowly. But the intruder could see it.

"My, my, aren't we tenacious?" he called out in a smirk, "I didn't think it was humanly possible to resist a Hypno for this long. What does the pokédex say again? Three seconds?"

Ash's still vacant expression failed to show whether he could hear the man or not, but if he could, he was ignoring him. His eyes still focused on the pendulum as he pulled forward with all his might. His right arm began to slowly lift from his side so that he could reach out for the Pokémon's menacing string. His limb felt like a dumbbell.

The intruder's smirk transformed into that of an unamused frown as the master's hand continued to move forward. "Yes, well, we'll have to send that mistake in to whoever makes the pokédex. Hypno give him something to dream about."

Hypno's eyes began to shine a dark blue, and the glow extended to encompass his whole body, eventually running its way down the pendulum string and onto the silver circle itself. The shine reflected itself onto Ash's eyes, and the man slowed to a stop again.

A few seconds went by, and the intruder gave another smirk. This time he resolved not to say anything for fear that he might accidentally snap Ash out of his daze, but he knew that every second Ash's eyes followed the glowing pendulum, he fell deeper into whatever illusion Hypno had prepared for him. In time, the young Pokémon Master would be so far under that it would simply be impossible for him to wake in time to stop the scheme.

Ash's arm twitched.

The intruder's eyes darted at the sudden movement. "No freaking way…"

The glow that reflected onto Ash's eyes slowly began to lose its shine, and Hypno comfortingly rubbed its head with its free hand. "Hypnoo…" it loosely moaned. Ash was still fighting it.

The intruder shot his eyes up and down the young master in complete bewilderment. "What are you?" he asked in a near whisper, "How can you possibly still be fighting it?" At this point, the man was wishing that he could just knock the little twerp out and go about his business, but he restrained himself. Knocking Ash out would leave bruises. Evidence. No. It had to look like Ash had just overslept. If there was even the slightest reason to believe that someone had sabotaged the man, the league would give Ash the benefit of the doubt. "This title must really mean a lot to you." The trespasser reasoned, "Will you just grow the heck up? You own a freaking mint from endorsements. You've got a thousand Pokémon and even more friends. You're married to the love of your life. You have three kids that the media swoons over in every other newscast, and you've got millions of screaming fans all over the world. What else could you possibly want?!"

That was when it hit him. At that moment, the strange intruder got perhaps the most brilliant plan that he could have conceived at the time. Unfortunately, it was perhaps also the cruelest plan that he could have conceived. His worried frown turned into an enlightened look of shock and then again into an arrogant smirk as he lifted his finger and pointed directly at Ash. "Hypno. Give him a better dream. Read his mind, and give him whatever he wants."

The Pokémon's eyes glowed an extraordinary blue, twice the size and color of their radiance beforehand as Ash's right hand continued to creep closer and closer to the pendulum. Hypno gave off a soft moan. Ash's hand dropped to his side.

Misty kept up her pace as the clock on her pokégear struck 11:00 A.M. Ash was supposed to call her as soon as he left the hotel room. Twenty minutes to get some breakfast. Twenty minutes to get through the chaotic traffic. Twenty minutes to find his way to the locker room. Ten minutes to get registered. And fifteen minutes to warm up his Pokémon. Ash's battle was starting at 12. He should have called her at 10:35 AT THE LATEST. The woman simply sighed as she hurried her way through backstage, dipping in and out of the various crowds that kept shuffling around her. She dialed his number for a sixth time.

One ring…

Two rings…

Three rings…

"Hello! You've reached the voicemail of Ash Ketchum, Pokémon Master extraordinaire!" a childish voice teased. Misty rolled her eyes. "No, but seriously, if you have this number, then you're obviously very close to me, but, unfortunately, I can't come to the phone right now. I swear I'm not blowing you off, but I'm pretty busy these days. Leave a message, and I promise I'll call you back as soon as I hear it! Thanks!"
"Pikachu!" came a second voice from the phone.
"Oh! And Pikachu says goodbye too!" Ash added with a chuckle, "Later!"


Misty's eyes narrowed as she looked into the phone with a threatening glare. "Hey Ash," she began with a bit of spite, "This is just your wife calling in again to remind you that there is a title match coming up IN AN HOUR that you are going to forfeit if you don't show up to! I'm coming back to the hotel NOW, and I swear if you are asleep in there, you're going to need a wheelchair to battle again!"


Misty let out a calming sigh as she hung up the phone, put it back in her purse, and continued her brisk walk back to the parking lot. She gently bit her lower lip as the marble Pokémon statues beside the stadium exit began to become clearer through the crowds. She was honestly a little more worried than she let on. Ash may have been stupid from time to time, but oversleeping on the day of a title match was just not like him. Pokémon training was his life. It was his dream that was at stake here. If he did not get to his match in time, then the challenger would take his dream job without even a fight. This battle was what Ash trained year-round for. This battle was what Ash traveled and fought for when he was younger. This battle was the reason Ash could not sleep last night and had to rent a separate hotel room so that his family could get some shut-eye.

Misty stopped in her tracks as soon as she reached the outdoors. Finding Ash asleep in his bed would actually be a relief. The woman lamented on the situation for a moment, and she tried to gather her thoughts amongst the cheering, jeering, and general noise of the stadium. This was not a situation to rush into. She had to think this through.

With another half-hearted sigh, Misty reached into her purse again, pulled out her pokégear, and dialed another number.

"Alright. No." Brock corrected with a short but earnest laugh as he picked up a small, pink-haired girl and turned her toward his face. "We do not pull Pikachu's tail, Ally."

"Why?" she asked with a smile.

"Not nice." Her older brother explained as he fell on the electric type with a lopsided hug.

"Exactly." Brock nodded at the boy's wisdom, "Pikachu needs all the strength he can get for when Daddy gets here, so that he can-"

"Um… Brock…" Dawn interrupted, as an even younger girl bit into her arm with small, drooly teeth, "Should I do something about this?"

The man only raised an eyebrow at her question. "Haven't you babysat before? She's clearly teething."

"So… Does that mean she can bite into me…?"

"Oh my gosh!" Came another woman's voice, as she entered the observation room with a refreshing spin, "I can't believe we are watching the Master Battle from VIP box seats!"

"Iris, you say that every time we come here." Gary pointed out, as he emerged from the outside seating on the other side of the room.

"Only because it's amazing every time!" the girl insisted without missing a beat. Her eyes immediately fell upon the complimentary snack bar in the room, and a wicked grin emerged on her face. Hotdogs, hamburgers, nachos, cotton candy, and BBQ galore. "I'm going to have two of everything!" she announced before pouncing.

Gary ignored the girl and shifted his attention to Pikachu. The electric rodent simply stood on his hind legs and carefully rubbed his tail where Ash's oldest daughter had been tugging earlier. He paid no mind to Gary's strange stares.

"You worried too?" Brock asked as he sat Ally back down to roughhouse.

"Well, at first I was coming in here because Delia wanted me to round up her grandchildren," Gary explained. He extended a finger out to Pikachu, "But what is he still doing here?"

Brock shrugged. "Ash hasn't shown up yet."

"The battle starts in an hour!" Gary reminded in an incredulous voice, "It's one thing for most of the VIPs to have not shown up yet, but isn't this a little careless?"

Brock stood up to his full height again before addressing his friend. "You don't have to tell me twice. In fact, Misty-" He was interrupted by the sound of his pokégear ringing, and as the Pokémon doctor dug the small device out of his pocket, he noticed Misty was calling him. "It's creepy how she does that…" he muttered before answering, "Hello?"

"Brock, it's Misty." The woman answered back, "I was halfway to the parking lot when I realized how strange this was."

"Tell me about it." The man said, "A challenger from Hoenn? Since when does anyone from Hoenn ever make it this far?"

"Not funny." She responded in a deadpan voice, "I think Ash might be in some kind of trouble."

Brock's expression suddenly shifted to serious. He had simply been writing this episode off as Ash being irresponsible, but Misty's mentioning of possibility #2 brought him back to reality. Ash was 28. He was no longer the immature little kid that Brock traveled through the wilderness with. He had motivation to be here right now, and he also had plenty of enemies. When it came to things like this, Ash was often focused, powerful, and…

Brock looked down at the two and three-year old siblings that were chasing each other on the floor, and then his eyes darted back up to see the little girl that Dawn was cooing at as well. Ash was a father. His family's well-being was at stake here. Something was definitely wrong.

"Misty, what do we do?" he asked almost absentmindedly.

"What do we do?!" She retorted in a huff of anger, "Get your butt down here so that I can have some back up!"

Brock peered across the room again, scanning his eyes over Gary, who was leaning against the wall and probably listening to the phone conversation, Iris, who was busy building her own cheeseburger, Dawn, who was tossing Ash's youngest WAAAAYY too high in the air to entertain her, and Pikachu, who was now running from Ally and her brother again. He knew Delia, Professor Oak, Tracey, and the Waterflower sisters were outside, so…

"Misty, I need to stay here." He finally responded.

"You WHAT?!"

"Look, I want to help." He assured, "I really do, but this place is going to fall apart without me. The kids are running crazy. Pikachu is being tormented. Delia and the others are blissfully unaware that Ash isn't here yet. How about I send Gary and Dawn down to help you?"

"Fine." She sighed anxiously, "Just hurry! …And make sure Dawn brings her Togekiss!"

Ten-year old Ash Ketchum bowed his head in defeat as Lt. Surge and his Raichu stood across from a limp Pikachu and a fried gym floor. Misty's mouth was agape in awe at the sight of her boyfriend legitimately losing a Pokémon battle like that, and Brock was just as dumbfounded. Neither gym leader said a word as Ash solemnly walked across the battlefield to pick up his best friend and hold him in his arms for comfort.

Lt. Surge could not help but buckle out some laughter when his challenger began heading for the exit. "Well, it was a nice try, baby," he taunted, "but ya should really think twice before pitting an unevolved weakling like that against a monster like Riachu! Whaddya expect?!"

Ash stopped in his tracks and looked straight ahead without turning around.

"Don't let him get to you." Brock cautioned.

"Yeah, you'll get him next time for sure." Misty offered with a smile, "What would your dad say right now?"

Ash smirked and turned on his heel in a second. "You're pitiful."

The smile on Surge's face faded, and his eyes grew wide with shock. Did that little kid really just accuse HIM of being pitiful? The little kid WHO LOST was going to tell THE WINNER that he was pitiful? "What are you tryin' ta-"

"You're an expert trainer that has been working with his Pokémon for years on end." Ash explained, "I think I even heard that some of your Pokémon went to war with you." His eyes fell on Raichu. "Now, I don't know if Riachu was one of those Pokémon, but it is clear that he has been with you for years. You and he train in this gym every day and probably get dozens of challengers a week. You've had experiences together that I can only imagine right now. I have been traveling with my Pikachu for just over a month. Of course you beat us. In fact, you should feel ashamed every time that you lose to a challenger as inexperienced as us."

Surge's face turned red, and his eyes narrowed on the boy across from him who was daring to spout this nonsense. "Now! You listen here-"

"In fact…" Ash continued, refusing to be interrupted, "The fact that you keep taunting us just shows how weak you really are. You're either so unsure of yourself that you need to pick on everyone to feel better, or you suck at battling so much that the only way you can feel like a good trainer is by going overboard with taunts and mocking every time you meet someone inexperienced enough for you to beat."

This time when Ash paused, Surge did not say anything. He simply stood where he was with a baffled look on his face. His mouth was hanging open in disbelief, and his brow was furrowed in both anger and confusion. He HAD been to war! He HAD experienced things that Ash could only hope to experience! What made this kid think he had the right to talk to him like this?!

Misty and Brock had similar expressions, but they were not angry, just amazed. Ash had some serious nerve to stand up to Surge like that. Not only had he more or less psychologically deconstructed the man, but he had done so without a second thought. He did not hold back. He did not flinch. For Pete's sake, the gym leader was basically a giant in an army suit.

"Normally, I would train my Pokémon a little bit more so I could beat you," Ash started again, "but you can keep your badge. I'll get one somewhere else, but only because I think you're kind of pathetic. Someone with self-esteem problems as serious as yours needs to keep all the badges he can get." And with that, the young trainer simply walked out the front door, his friends hurriedly following behind him.

"Holy cow, Ash! What was that?!" Brock asked in amazement, "I don't think I've ever seen you do that before!"

Misty smiled again as she ran up closer and linked arms with her boyfriend. "That's because we've never seen Ash deal with a bully before."

The young trainer simply kept a modest smile and continued to walk forward, the Pokémon Center in his sights.

"Well… Maybe so…" Brock came again, "But I still didn't expect THAT from you, Ash! I mean you DESTROYED that guy! Who taught you how to do that?!"

Ash finally slowed his pace a little bit and he shifted his eyes over to Brock, then to Misty. "Well… You guys probably won't believe this," he began, "But I actually used to deal with bullies pretty frequently when I was in Elementary school."

"No…" Misty teased sarcastically, causing an even brighter smile from Ash, "You?"

The trainer let out a small chuckle and nodded his head slightly. "There was this one kid I used to be friends with, named Gary Oak. He and I were always competitive, but there eventually came a point that our rivalry evolved into hatred." Brock and Misty were listening intently as their friend closed his eyes to remember. "I never really stopped being friends with Gary, but as the years went by, he more or less became a bully. As we grew up, he started to pick on me. He used secrets that I told him in the past to get people to make fun of me. He started hanging around with kids that didn't like me, and he used his knowledge of my personality to mess me even more."

"Wow. Couldn't his parents have done something?" Brock asked.

"No." Ash explained with a shake of the head, "He lived with his grandpa, and that guy was always REALLY busy."

"Then what did you do?" Misty prodded.

Ash's face lit up again. "Well, one day when my dad came to pick me up from school, he saw Gary pour a bucket of sand on my head. He asked me why Gary would do that, and, even though I was a little scared at the time, I explained to him how Gary had become a bully over the years." Pikachu's eyes opened slightly at the sound of talking, and he began to come through again, giving a small chirp to let Ash know that he was okay. Ash's eyes glistened at his partner's well being, and he opened the door to the Pokémon Center in front of them. "My dad told me that hurt people hurt people. When someone is being a bully to you, you have to put aside your emotions and logically assess the situation. Try to reason out why they are hurting you, and then you can understand them more."

"But you didn't sympathize with Surge." Misty reminded him, "You tore the guy apart."

Ash's smile faded, and a look of seriousness crossed his face as he gazed down at Pikachu one last time before handing him to Nurse Joy. "Well, sometimes, you have to fight back. Especially when the bully is hurting other people. It's not my place to decide how much punishment someone else can take, only how much I can take."

In reality, Ash learned this lesson on his own at age thirteen.

In reality, Ash was mortified by his loss to Lt. Surge that day. It was one of the most embarrassing and hurtful moments of his entire Pokémon career.

In reality, Ash walked home alone on the day that Gary dumped sand on his head. His mom was too busy with her jobs to pick him up that day. She was always busy trying to provide for him. He wandered home to find her asleep on the kitchen counter. He spent an hour in the bath trying to get sand out of his hair. He could never find the nerve to burden his mom with bully problems. She had enough of her own.

The intruder kept a constant stare on Ash. The Pokémon Master had been surprising him to no end, and although it looked like Ash was still under Hypno's mesmerizing rhythm, the silver-haired man was not taking any chances. He had resolved quite a while ago that he was going to sit in this room until he was absolutely certain that Ash could not wake up for a couple of hours, but that was harder than expected. Each tick of the pendulum was supposed to put the trainer farther under, but there was little to suggest that this was actually happening. Ash was still sitting up with an empty stare on his face. Sure, his eyes were still locked on Hypno's spellbinding string, and, sure, he had not moved in the slightest since Hypno amped up his perfect dream, but something more should have happened at this point. Ash should have fallen back over onto his bed, or his eyes should have started twitching to indicate a deeper level of sleep. Neither of those had happened, and the intruder was starting to wonder if he would have to sit in the hotel room until 12.

"Ugh…" he moaned in an annoyed voice, "I think I have a defective Hypno."

As the elevator continued to rise between floors, Dawn took out her makeup kit and began using the many mirrors as a reference to powder her face a bit.

"Is now really the best time?" Misty asked with a tint of irritation, "Ash might be in serious trouble."

"I know, but I always worry about my looks when I'm nervous," Dawn defended, "Besides, I definitely smeared some of my makeup during our flight over here." She reached to press the pad against her cheek again, but Gary caught her hand in mid-powder, provoking her to shoot daggers at him with her eyes. The man only kept a grave expression as he shook his head. "Not now." He insisted, "You're just going to make yourself more anxious. No need to worry, remember?"

Dawn was about to respond to that, but she bit her tongue for a moment and let it go. Gary was probably right. They were nearly to Ash's floor anyway. She would just have to swallow her fears and let come what may. She put her makeup away and shot a glance at Misty, who had her hands on her hips and was impatiently tapping her foot on the ground. "Man…" the coordinator began with a laugh, "We are gonna feel stupid when we get there only to find that Ash forgot to set his alarm clock."

Gary lightened up at Dawn's quick change of attitude, and Misty's irritated frown slowly turned into a small grin. "Yeah…" She quietly agreed, "Then I'm going to kick his butt for scaring us like this."

The elevator soon ground to a complete halt, and the trio briskly made their way down the hall in a frantic search for Ash's room. Misty racked her brain trying to remember which turns to take and which halls to enter, but within just a couple of minutes, they found themselves in front of a door that read 756 in gold plated numbers.

"Alright, so who's going to knock first?" Gary joked upon approach, but Misty simply dismissed him with a gentle huff as she pulled a key card out of her purse and slid it through the sensor. A beat passed, the lock glowed green, and the woman slid the door open only to find it jamming before she could see more than a crack of her husband's entryway. The three friends were shocked for a moment, but Misty's eyes followed up the side of the crack to find a small chain preventing the door from opening any further. It was locked from the inside.

"Well, that's cute." Gary's voice came again, "Maybe we should just try yelling now?"

"No." Misty interrupted with a whisper, "Ash never chain locks his hotel room when we sleep separately. We had a whole conversation about this. There's someone else in there."

"You sure?" Dawn whispered back as she tilted her head to see through the small crack in the door, "I mean, Ash has some moments when he's not all there."

"Positive." Misty nodded. Her heart began racing. "Think about it. Ash oversleeps today of all days? He sleeps until…" she paused for a moment to check her pokégear, "11:13 for the first time in months? His pokégear fails to wake him up again and again? And on the same night, he just happens to chain lock his door?"

"She's right. Too many coincidences." Gary confirmed, "I'm thinking sabotage."

"What do we do?" Dawn squeaked in fear. This was a serious situation. Who knows what kind of crazy things someone might do to Ash to ensure the master title?

Gary stood up straight and folded his arms. Time to get down to business. "Let's start with the basics." He began, "We have roughly forty-five minutes to find out what's going on in that room and either get evidence of sabotage or get Ash to his match in time. Do either of you have anything that we can use to gather evidence?"

"I… have a camera…" Dawn suggested, pulling a digital device out of her purse, "But it broke yesterday during the match between Jimmy and Karo."

"Okay, well, at least it's something." He admitted, "What about you Mist-"

Misty interrupted the researcher before he could finish, grabbed a pokéball from his belt, and dropped it just barely inside the cracked door, releasing Umbreon.

"Misty!" He protested in a hushed roar, "What are you-"

"SHHHH!" she insisted, putting her finger in front of her lips. "We don't have time for this."

Umbreon surveyed the area curiously and peaked its head back through the crack to observe its master and his two friends. "Umbre?" it asked in a small cry.

Misty knelt down to speak with the creature and gave a cheerful smile. "Umbreon, could you do us a favor, please?" she pleasantly requested. The dark type tilted its head sideways and continued to stare at the woman in wonder. "We think Ash is somewhere in that room, but we can't quite make it in." She explained, "Would you please quietly walk into the bedroom, observe the area, and then tell us what you see?"

"Umbreon." It nodded gently as it began to walk down the entryway.

"Not a bad idea." Gary complimented the still crouching Misty as her eyes continued to follow Umbreon off into the distance.

"Please be okay." She prayed.

"Pikachu is unable to battle!" the referee announced, "Charmander is the winner!"

The crowd went wild with excitement as another green light under Ash's picture on the jumbotron screen went dark. Ash only had one Pokémon left to choose, and Ritchie still had two. Zippo, the boy's Charmander, was already out, and Pikachu had successfully KO'd Happy (a Butterfree) minutes ago. Ash would have to choose his next Pokémon very carefully. He could not send Bulbasaur out against a fire type, so that left him with limited options, and he turned his eyes to the crowd for an idea.

Ash noticed his mother in the crowd. She was smiling full of confidence, and Professor Oak sat next to her with an expression of equal satisfaction. Neither of them really knew about Team Rocket's interference earlier that day. Neither of them knew how limited Ash's options were at the moment, but they still shared an unwavering belief that he would make the right decision. They knew he could win this fight.

The young trainer's eyes dropped lower to see the back wall of the stadium and the bench that sat against that wall with Misty and Brock upon it. They both had the same smiles on their faces as well. They trusted him. They all believed in him. Ash could do this.

"Hey, kid!" a strong voice shouted from behind. Darting his eyes upward, Ash found a fifth supporter sitting in the row just behind Professor Oak and his mother. It was a little bit dark, and the shuffling crowds of fans prevented Ash from seeing the man's face, but he recognized the voice completely.

"Dad?!" He cried with excitement and joy as his face lit up to reveal perhaps the goofiest smile he had ever expressed, "You made it! I can't believe you made it!"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, son!" he replied back with a hearty chuckle, "You know who to use. We've been practicing with him all month!"

"Right." The boy agreed with a thumbs-up. He narrowed his eyes across the battlefield at Ritchie, and he grabbed his front most pokéball with his right hand as he turned his cap around with his left. Fire burnt in the young trainer's eyes as he leaned back on one leg and pitched his final Pokémon forward with a confident cry, "I choose you! Charizard!"

"Charizard?!" Brock shouted in shock.

"Oh no!" Misty echoed.

Charizard was a bad decision. The fire type never listened to Ash. Even if it was a powerhouse, it was almost completely useless in any kind of serious match because it was more likely to take a nap on the battlefield than it was to actually assist its trainer.

Nap on the battlefield? Why did that scenario seem so familiar to Ash? He got the strangest feeling of déjà vu for a split second. He saw an image of Charizard snoozing on the ground in front of Sparky (Ritchie's Pikachu), but the image faded away almost as quickly as it emerged. The trainer violently shook his head to get back in the game.

"Don't give up, Zippo! Just keep battling!" Ritchie commanded. The Charmander blasted a stream of fire toward Charizard's face in response to his trainer's order, but the larger dragon simply tilted his head to the side and avoided the attack.

"Into the air, Charizard!" Ash yelled with a point of his finger. The fire type did as he was commanded and took to the skies within seconds. The large stadium lights reflected off of his silky smooth scales as he majestically reached a height out of Zippo's range, and Ritchie sweat dropped in fear of what might happen next.

"Um… Just… Wait for him to come down." The boy tried, "I'll think of something."

Zippo nodded in assurance and kept its cool, but Ash was having none of that. "Charizard! Hit him with a Flamethrower from the sky!" he ordered, and a twinkle appeared in the great beast's eye as he called down a mighty river of fire to wrap this battle up for Ash. It did not hit the enemy Charmander at first, but after following the little Pokémon around the stage quite a bit, eventually Zippo was overtaken by the attack and pushed into unconsciousness.

The crowd cheered with enthusiasm. It was a great battle!

"Charmander is unable to battle!" The referee came again, "Charizard is the winner!"

The jumbotron blinked again, and this time, one of Ritchie's lights went dark. The trainers were tied two-to-two. Each had one Pokémon left, and as Ritchie chose his last partner, Ash was left to deal with the praises he was getting from his friends.

"Ash! How'd you do that?!" Brock cried for joy, "I thought Charizard wouldn't listen to you!"

"He wouldn't!" Ash called back with a smile, "But I've been working on him! My dad and I tried some special training, and we were eventually able to make him obey!"

"Wow!" Misty added with a delightful chirp, "What are the chances that your dad would know something like that?"

Ash only blushed a little bit and rubbed the back of his head. "I don't know. Pretty good, I guess. I mean, the guy has been training Pokémon for years now, but even if he didn't know how to fix Charizard, I could have always just asked someone else for advice, right? What are the odds that I have the only disobedient Charizard ever?"

In reality, Ash did not manage to get Charizard to listen to him until he was almost finished with the Orange Islands League.

In reality, Ash lost his match with Ritchie that day because Charizard decided to take a nap on the battlefield.

In reality, Ash's father had been training Pokémon for years by the time his son entered the Indigo League, but the man never gave him advice or mentored him on anything. He never even showed up to his matches. Ash was always hesitant in taking advice from others anyway. He learned at a very early age that he didn't need any help. People had a tendency to desert the young boy, and he could become a great trainer all on his own.

"Alright," Gary whispered to Misty, "As soon as he comes out of there, I need you to chase him down. See if you can catch him, and make sure he doesn't hurt Dawn. I'll work on waking Ash up and getting him to his match in case you don't manage to catch the guy."

"Why do I have to chase him?" Misty asked, "Can't you just chase him down?"

The man shook his head. "No. If it really is a Hypno, like Umbreon said, then you're going to need me to wake him up. I'm the only one with a dark type Pokémon, and they're strong against psychic types. I'm the only hope you have."

When Umbreon emerged from the room earlier, it had informed the trio of friends that Ash was being held captive by a trainer and his Hypno. The three humans bounced around ideas of exactly how to take action for a while before coming up with a pretty solid plan. They agreed that battling a mystery trainer with a hypnotic Pokémon head-on might be dangerous, and they agreed that getting the police might take too long, as they had no idea how long the trainer was planning to stay in Ash's room or what he was planning on doing to Ash. So, in the end, Gary proposed a very basic "distraction and action" plan. They would draw the trainer away from Ash's room and try to take him down while simultaneously trying to wake Ash. If the mystery trainer managed to get away from Misty, then perhaps Gary would succeed in waking Ash and getting him to the title match on time. Alternatively, if Gary failed to wake Ash and get him to the match in time, then perhaps Misty would succeed in capturing the trainer and getting him to admit the part he took in sabotage.

In Gary's mind at least, it was a foolproof plan, and he and Misty were now simply waiting outside the room for Dawn and Umbreon to start things off.

Umbreon crept silently into the dark hotel room and peered around the corner of the entryway for a second time to observe the strange scene. Ash was still sitting upright in his bed, staring at the ominous Hypno without a single hint of consciousness on his face. If one did not know what a Hypno was and simply wandered inside the room to see the Pokémon Master staring off into space so silently, they might even believe he was dead. To the Master's right there was the silver-haired intruder that continued to observe his adversary with the utmost curiosity. He was in a continuous state of bafflement at Ash's strong will.

Umbreon's eyes then darted to the curtains that covered the window of the hotel room, and as a large shadow emerged outside the glass, blocking the late morning sun that would have otherwise been shining through, the Pokémon charged a small ball of dark energy in its mouth. The shadow was still. The shadow was still. Then it waved. That was the signal! Umbreon launched a Shadow Ball from its mouth at breakneck speed, and it flew through the room, connecting with the curtains so quickly that they dissolved within seconds and let an ocean of light flood into the room.

Hypno did not react to the change and just kept its eyes focused on Ash as the pendulum continued to swing, but the attack seriously stunned the human intruder. "Who's there?!" The man screamed in fear as he tried to regain his sight from the sudden blinding light that had entered his domain. He stumbled around for a moment as spots and colors continued to overwhelm his eyes, and he reached for a pokéball from his belt.

"Say cheese!" came a muffled taunt from the window, and as the intruder's vision finally came through, he saw Dawn standing on her Togekiss outside with a digital camera in her hand.

"You!" he screamed in fear as he noticed the girl, "You… You can't do that!"

"Sure I can." She replied, pulling her bottom eyelid down to further infuriate the crook, "Let's see what Officer Jenny thinks of your little visit to Ash's place with a Hypno!"

"You… You can't!" he continued to sputter from his side of the glass, "Give that camera to me NOW!"

"You'll have to catch me first!" she laughed, and with a kick to Togekiss' back, Dawn took off into the sky. The strange man shot from the room and into the hallway in retaliation. He was determined to stop that girl.

There was silence in the hotel room for a moment.

"Umbreon." Gary's dark type squeaked as it emerged from its hiding spot with the dangerous intruder gone. Umbreon strolled toward the Hypno and its captive to get a closer look at the situation. Ash was still just as mesmerized as ever, but Umbreon found it odd that the Hypno was not reacting to the sudden change of circumstances.

"Um-Umbre!" it tried again… No luck. Hypno seemed to be just as enamored with Ash as Ash was with it. Umbreon walked in between the two to make a point, but, again, nothing happened. Ash stared. Hypno stared. Umbreon was not getting through. Finally, the eeveelution simply gave in and launched a second Shadow Ball at Hypno. Direct hit. It knocked him out cold.

Ritchie buckled his eyes down and reached for his final pokéball. "Maybe it's risky…" he reasoned, "But it may be my only chance to win. It's your turn, Sparky!" Within moments of his shout, a small Pikachu materialized on the field with only a tuff of unkempt hair to distinguish him from an ordinary Pikachu. He gave off his signature cry as Ash raised an eyebrow at the choice.

"Sparky…" Ash muttered to himself. That's right! Sparky is an electric type Pokémon! He has an advantage over Charizard's flying type! "Be careful, Charizard! Ritchie's Pikachu won't be as easy as it looks!" Still in the air, Charizard let out a ferocious growl to let his trainer know that he understood, and the two Pokémon commenced a stare down.

Ash looked Ritchie in the eyes. He was waiting for the first move. He knew that his rival was going to try an electric attack, and, given the average speed of electricity, he wanted to be ready to dodge and counter as soon as possible. The only question was whether Sparky was going to summon lightning from the sky or produce it from his own body. Both types of attacks obviously required completely different methods to dodge, so Ash was on his toes, and the moment Ritchie opened his mouth to form the letter "D", he took action.

"Discharge, Sparky!"

"Charizard! Flamethrower!"

The two attacks collided in the air and sent up a billow of smoke, but Ash was on the offensive as he screamed, "Now go in for a Take Down!" and Charizard jutted through the mist to ram into his opponent at top speed. The resulting crash was deafening, and a small crater formed in the stadium from the pure force of the assault.

Bleachers shook. Dirt cleared. The entire crowd erupted with applauds, cheers, and screams for the show they were getting, but a faint "Piiikaaa…" was heard through the noise, and Ritchie smiled to see that his faithful Pikachu was still holding on below Charizard's right foot, deep in the crater.

Ash's eyes widened for a moment in astonishment at the sheer tenacity of the little mouse, but he knew that he need only to turn around and set his eyes upon his friends and family to get the encouragement that he needed to defeat one even as resilient as Sparky. To his surprise, however, disappointment only grew as he faced the other way. He saw Misty, Brock, Professor Oak, and even his mom, but the seat that had once been filled with the encouraging, unseen voice of his father was now completely empty.

Ritchie's smile grew as Ash took his eyes off the battle. "Sparky! Thunder!" And an enormous bolt of lightning dropped from the sky to consume Charizard. "Sparky! Thunder!" Again. Everything in Ash's world suddenly began to slow down, and Ash himself was the slowest. The young trainer tried to turn away from the disappointing vacant seat, but every motion he made was slowed beyond possibility. "Sparky! Thunder!" He was forced to watch as Charizard was slowly fried with one of the most powerful electric attacks in existence over and over again. "Sparky! Thunder!" This match was over.

In reality, Ash could not properly express the number of times that he lost his attention during a match due to the simple thought of family. He would see his opponents' relatives rooting for them, and it would cause his mind to endlessly wonder. What was it like to have a full family cheering for you like that? What was his father doing? What was he like? Was he happier where he was? Fathers…

"Alright, Ashy-boy! I need you to wake up now!" Gary shouted desperately as he shook his half-dressed friend, "We are running out of time! I need you to snap out of it!"

"Umbre?" Umbreon asked from the floor.

"Yeah, it looks like the Hypno got to him pretty good." Gary confirmed, looking into Ash's expressionless eyes, "He's still experiencing whatever dream that crook cooked up for him."

"Umbreon!" his partner offered.

"Thanks, but what we really need is something that knows Dream Eater." He replied. Gary checked his pokégear for the time. 11:35. "Ugh! We're going to be late! I don't have enough time to find a ghost type!" He tried hitting his head several times to jog an idea, but he got nothing. All he could think about was the time. "Come to think of it, Misty is taking a while to catch that maniac, too…" he reasoned, "That guy must have some strong Pokemon…"

"Breee…" the dark type sighed.

Gary was just now realizing how stupid his plan was. He had sent two of his close friends off against an unknown trainer that had the guts to launch a surprise attack on the Pokémon Master. Misty was supposed to be fighting that guy, and Dawn was supposed to be running from that guy with a broken camera. His eyes nearly popped out of his head as the thought crossed his mind. The broken camera! How was that man going to react if he found out that Dawn only had a broken camera?! Gary picked Ash up by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes again. "Ash. Listen to me. You've got to listen to me! Your title is in jeopardy. Your friends are in jeopardy. I need you to wake up! If that guy catches Dawn… Arceus help us." He paused for a moment to study Ash's face again. Empty. Emotionless. Vacant. "Well… Sorry to do this to ya, Ashy-boy," he began again as he held his former rival's head in his right hand and reared back with his left, "but desperate is desperate."


Ash's mind had now slipped out of the dream world, and his scrambled thoughts jumped from one memory to another. The happy utopia he was living in moments ago had faded away entirely. He was no longer a competent up and coming young trainer, who, under the tutelage of his parents, managed to reach his full potential. He was now revisiting memories that said utopia had reawoken. Past events that had lain dormant in the back of the trainer's head rose to the forefront of his consciousness.

Eight years old was a strange time for Ash. He never really cared for school, and his best friend was kind of turning into a jerk, but he hated being sick at home even more. The flu was going around heavily that year, and staying in bed all day to watch cartoons is no fun when you feel like you are dying. The one thing he was looking forward to was a knock at the door that would come any minute now. Gary Oak was going to show up with his homework.

Ash stood in the empty kitchen of his house with so much excitement and eagerness plastered on his face that he could not help but spin a little bit in anticipation. His spin knocked him into his mother's china cabinet and shattered a plate on the floor, but it barely put a damper on his ecstatic mood. The little boy could remember three months ago, when Tyler was absent from school. Tyler had hurt himself playing in the woods the evening before, and the entire class spent all day making 'Get Well' cards for him. Ash could not wait to see what they did for him. His father had been gone for a year now, and the boy always felt like nobody wanted him around, but getting personal cards from his classmates might be just what he needed to change his mind.

Sure enough, a knock at the door came in no time, but when Ash walked outside to great his (kind of) best friend, he was shocked to instead find Daisy, Gary Oak's brown-haired, green-eyed sister. "Daisy?" he questioned with a tilt of the head, "What are you doing here?"

"My brother had some important stuff to do, today." She explained as she emptied her purple backpack of extra materials, "Mrs. Henson told me to bring you your homework instead."

The boy took the papers that Daisy offered him, but his heart sank as he realized that there was not a single letter in sight. "Daisy, where are my 'Get Well' cards?"

"'Get Well' cards?" She asked with a tilt of the head, "Why would I have any of those?"

Ash did not understand. It made perfect sense to him that the class would have made 'Get Well' cards, but Daisy was apparently not following his logic. "Well, remember that day when Tyler was absent?" he asked, "We made 'Get Well' cards for him."

Daisy gave Ash disappointed look and put her hands on her hips in frustration. "Ash, sometimes you say the silliest things." He looked at her blankly. "Tyler was attacked by a Scyther, Ash! You just have the flu. Those are two completely different things!"

"I… It was a Scyther?" he asked. He had not heard that.

"Yes, it was a Scyther." She explained, "In fact…" this time she shifted her eyes back and forth to make sure no one was around and leaned into Ash with a secret. "I heard he still has the cut on his chest to prove it."

Ash's eyes began to water at those words. Tyler was attacked by a Scyther. All he did was get the flu, and not a single person cared. In retrospect, it was kind of silly for him to expect 'Get Well' cards anyway if he was only getting them because Mrs. Henson made the class write them. No one was writing them on their own free will, so it didn't change the fact that nobody cared. Besides, how many people knew he had the flu, anyway? Gary and Daisy. That was about it. For all anyone else knew, he could be dead… but nobody cared. Story of his life.

"Well, I'll se ya later!" Daisy waved behind her back as she began to walk back home.

"HOLD ON!" Ash stopped her. She paused in her steps and turned to see what was wrong, but Ash only returned her pause with silence and a nervous stare.

"Ash?" She began again.

"I was attacked by a Scyther, too!" he blurted out, but Daisy was not buying it.

She put her hands on her hips again. "Were not!"

"Was too!"

"Were not!"

"Was too!"

"Then where did it cut you?" she demanded, staring Ash down for all he was worth. She knew he did not have a good answer, and he froze up on the question.

"Uh… It's… It's… On my waist!" he decided as looked down at his feet to avoid Daisy's cold gaze.

"What's a waist?" she asked in a quieter tone. Ash was staring to peak her interest.

"It's… uh… It's the part right below the top of your pants…" Ash explained, "…It's the part your belt goes over."

"Then show it to me."

"No!" he refused with a grin, finally bringing his head up high again, "You're a girl! You aren't allowed to look at my waist!"

Daisy paused. Ash had a point. Neither of their parents would like it if he let Daisy look below his pants. And on top of that, it would feel weird. She clenched her teeth in anger. "You're lying, Ash Ketchum!"

"Am not! You can't prove it!"

"Oh, yeah! Well, I bet Gary can!"

This time Ash paused. That was a serious accusation. Gary was another boy, so Daisy probably had a point there. He and Gary had definitely seen each other's waists before (nothing lower), and Daisy was giving off a smirk for having thought of it. "Yeah!" she started again, "If I can't see it because I'm a girl, then I'll get Gary over here to take a look! You just watch, Ketchum! You're lying!"

"AM NOT!" he yelled loud enough for the neighbors to hear as he slammed the door shut.

Daisy picked her backpack up and began running down the street to get Gary. She would PROVE Ash Ketchum was lying.

As for Ash, he sat balled up in front of the slammed door, crying. Memories of his father ran through his mind. He remembered the fateful night when the man had left and taken all of the comforts and joys of life with him. He remembered the fights. The yelling. The threats. Memories of his friends flooded in as well. Ash had become antisocial to a degree. He was the weird kid that played by himself. He was the weird kid who didn't have a dad. Now his only real friend in the world hated him, too. He could not even get a 'Get Well' card for being sick. No one cared about him, and Gary was about to come here to prove that he was also a liar… unless…

Through the streaming waves of his tear-filled eyes, eight-year old Ash Ketchum looked on the ground in front of him to find the shattered plate of his mother's china cabinet. It was the plate that he had knocked over earlier during his stupid twirl. His red, wet eyes narrowed on the delicate decoration, and with his hand shaking, he slowly reached forward and picked up a shard. It was sharp. The light through the windows glistened on its surface. Then Ash pulled up his shirt. He had been wearing pajamas all day, and his sweat pants were a bit loose as well. He pushed them down slightly to find the waist. It was an empty, cutless waist that would sell him out to Gary as a liar. It was the waist that had betrayed him by not having a Scyther slash on it, depriving him of friendly condolences. He gripped the plate shard in his hand with all of his will and decided he would go on three. One… Two…

"ASH! WAKE UP!" Gary continued to scream, slapping the man across the face over and over again. He turned his friend's head to the side and gripped his ear. "YOU HAVE GOT TO SNAP OUT OF IT! WE'VE ONLY GOT-"

"Twenty minutes." A voice finished from behind the researcher as the door to the room made a definitive 'click.' Gary spun around to face the mysterious tone, but he was thrown aback when he saw Umbreon tossed to the floor at his feet. The small Pokémon barely moved, save for a rising and falling motion in its chest to indicate that it was still alive. "Stun Spore." The voice continued as Gary's eyes jutted up to see the silver-haired man back in the room, holding Dawn captive with her hands behind her back and a firm glove placed over her mouth. "I extracted it from a Vileplume." He proceeded, "It's a clever trick, but not near as clever as your broken camera ruse."

Gary slowly raised his hands in the air to communicate defeat as he noticed the light reflecting off of a silver knife that the intruder nearly concealed in the hand he had around Dawn's mouth. "What did you do with Misty?" he calmly asked.

"Misty?" he chuckled sickeningly, "I think I lost her somewhere around 4th Street and Main, but I've gotta hand it to the gym leader. She does a fairly impressive job of chasing down flying Pokémon with nothing but water."

Dawn moaned in fear from her captor's grip, and tears began to swell up in her eyes. Gary walked forward slowly. "Alright." He began, "Let's think about this before you do anything. I just wan-"

"GET ON THE WALL!" the man ordered, motioning to the yellow and white square pattern that adorned the room on the right side of Ash's bed. Gary nodded slowly and did as he said. The intruder followed suit and kicked Umbreon to join its master.

"Look, we don't want any trouble." Gary tried.

"Well, neither did I!" he shouted back, tightening his grip on Dawn. The girl's muffled cry was enough to make Gary sick. This was bad. "Do you know who I am?" the man whispered.

Gary did not know how to answer at first, but upon squinting his eyes a little bit and looking at the intruder closely, he finally connected the dots. "You… You look just like Karo…" he answered, "…The Hoenn champion that's challenging Ash today…"

"My name is Kyto." The man continued in a hushed tone, "Karo is my brother."

Gary bent his eyes and mustered a scowl. "And you were willing to go through all this just so your brother could defeat the Pokémon Master? …How petty are you?"

"PETTY?!" Kyto screamed with indignance, "Do you have any idea what we've gone through?! What we've been through together to get this far?!" Gary backed up further against the wall. If his body were heavier, he would have fallen through it. This man was insane. "We have pulled ourselves out of poverty to get here!" Kyto continued, "We have trained for years to find what?!" his eyes fell upon the still entranced Ash, "To find a 28-year old child standing in the way of our dreams. We find a happy-go-lucky kid with everything in the world, who managed to merrily skip his way to the top of the ranks in no time at all... What has he worked through?! What has he conquered to get where he is?!"

Gary did not flinch at the man's words. He just continued to glare at him through determined eyes. "Well... For starters..." He said, "He beat the Champions League fairly."

Kyto tightened his grip on Dawn again and passed the knife to his other hand. "Turn around." He insisted.

"Listen." Gary tried, "This isn't-"

"TURN AROUND!" He screamed.

Gary did as he was told, pressing his face and arms against the wall, but he still tried to reason. "Listen." He continued, "If your story is true, then you don't want to do this. Hurting us will get you and your brother banned from the leagues for life."

"It's too late for that." Kyto hissed, "If this gets out, I'll be banned as is." He took a deep breath.

"What are you doing?" Gary asked calmly, "Think about what you're doing."

"QUIET!" he yelled.

There was a pause.

"...I ...I didn't want to have to do this." He continued, pulling one of Dawn's hands out and forcing it to close around the handle of the knife. The terrified girl cried out with a suppressed squeal. "I was just going to keep him unconscious until 12." the man insisted, "You three shouldn't have gotten involved!" Dawn continued to cry, but the man gripped her harder and gave her a brisk shake. She pulled herself together. "Your finger prints are already all over it, sweetheart."

Gary turned his gaze intently toward Ash. "Come on, Ketchum. Wake up. Wake up."

"Here's what the articles are going to say:" Kyto began again, slowly pushing Dawn toward the cornered Gary, "Pokémon Master, Wife, and Two Close Friends Found Dead In Local Hotel Room. Kyto Haligan, brother of the new Master, Karo Haligan, reportedly went with Misty Ketchum and Gary Oak to check on Master Ketchum during his strange absence from the title challenge this morning. Much to the group's surprise, they found famous coordinator and longtime friend, Dawn Berlitz, in the same room as Ash Ketchum, engaging in sexual activities." Dawn's eyes doubled in size at the notion, but she still could not move.

"Oh... Come. on." Gary sighed. Kyto prevented further comments by jamming the researcher's chest into the wall with his foot to hold him still.

"Confused and embarrassed by the scandal," he continued, "Mrs. Berlitz lashed out in the moment and stabbed her lover to death with a nearby knife." As if on cue, the knife's blade glistened again, Dawn's hand still firmly grasping it as her fist was forced into the air to ready for the blow. "She was deranged and shocked by her own actions, which then prompted her to take the lives of Misty Ketchum and Gary Oak as well. Kyto bravely tried to stop her, but to no avail. In the coordinator's dying breath, she took her own life."

Ash's pupils began to dilate from behind the intruder, and Gary just barely got a glimpse of Ash moving his hand to comfortingly touch his head. "Dawn..." Gary whispered quietly, "Listen to me." Her arm was now at its highest point, ready for the strike. The researcher smiled. "No need to worry."

Everything that happened next happened so fast that no one was quite able to process it. Ash had finally come to his senses, and just as Kyto was about to deliver a lethal gash to Gary's back, the Pokémon Master jumped at the man from behind, tackling him into a wall and knocking him to the ground. The unexpected force caused the intruder to drop both Dawn and the knife, but the building shook when he landed on the floor, and Ash merely held his head in pain.

"...Do you have any idea what you just put me through?" The trainer asked in the gravest tone he had ever used. Kyto looked up from the floor for only a second before Ash kicked him in the face, knocking him into the opposing wall.

"Uurghh..." the man moaned.

"YOU'RE A MONSTER!" Ash continued, picking the intruder up by his shirt and slamming him into the wall. He punched him in the face with all of his might a good three times before tossing him down the entryway.

Dawn had a concerned look on her face, and she tried to reach out and say something, but Gary held her back and shook his head in awe. "Don't go near him right now."

"DO YOU KNOW WHAT I'VE SUFFERED BECAUSE OF HIM?!" Ash yelled as he slowly walked toward the criminal, clenching his fists, "DO YOU KNOW WHAT I'VE REPRESSED?! DO YOU KNOW WHAT I DEAL WITH EVERY DAY?!"

Kyto picked himself off of the floor and tried to rush toward Ash, but the trainer simply leaned into the attack and uppercutted his captor in the stomach. Kyto coughed up blood in pain. "DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT'S BEEN LIKE?!" He continued, punching him further and further down the entryway, "YOU GAVE ME EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED AND THEN MADE ME SUFFER SEEING IT ALL DISAPPEAR AGAIN! AND YOU DARE TRY TO COMPARE YOUR STRUGGLES WITH MINE?!" They hit the door. Ash kept punching. He moved to the villain's face. "EVERY! SINGLE! DAY! OF MY CHILDHOOD LIFE! YOU THINK I WAS SKIPPING AROUND FORESTS AND PICKING UP POKEMON WITHOUT A SINGLE OTHER THOUGHT ON MY MIND?!" The blows became too much eventually. Kyto lost consciousness. The door started to give way. Ash kept hitting. "HOW DARE YOU THINK YOU ARE ENTITLED TO SOMETHING JUST BECAUSE I DON'T LOOK DEPRESSED ALL THE TIME?!" The door broke down from the force. Ash and Kyto both tumbled onto the floor in the hallway, but Ash's attacks didn't let up. He was enraged at the man, and his flurry of fists just pounded harder and harder. "YOU THINK I DON'T HAVE SCARS JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN'T SEE THEM?! YOU THINK..." He paused for a moment. It just now occurred to him that he was still in his boxers. He looked down at his underwear to find that they were slouching a bit from the intense movement, and he could just barely see his waist. A long white scar spanned across it from years ago, and as he continued to stare at it, his eyes began to tear.

Gary and Dawn both came to the door (or what was left of it) to see what had happened, and while they were utterly confused, they were also terrified. Dawn's glance left Ash and instead fell upon her would-be killer. He was pinned to the ground, face covered in blood, still breathing. "Should we... Call someone?" she tried.

"I'm sure the police will be here in no time." Gary answered, "Ash made one heck of a racket."

"Ash!" Came a call from down the hallway. The man's gaze never left his scar, but he could tell by the voice that it was Misty beckoning to him. "Ash!" she continued as she got closer, dropping to her knees to hug and comfort her husband, "Oh, thank Arceus you're okay! You are okay, right?"

"What time is it?" he asked, avoiding the question.

"11:47." Gary answered, "But I wouldn't worry about the match, Ash. I'm sure that a fight with your competitor's brother at your hotel room is more than grounds for claiming sabotage."

"Or at least postponing." Dawn agreed.

"Ash..." Misty began again, looking at the the blood on the man's hands and the heavily injured Kyto, "What did that Hypno make you see?"

The master only closed his eyes, prompting more tears to roll down his face. "You... You don't wanna know, Misty."

She was not sure how true that was, but the gym leader decided to let it go for now, and she looked her husband over one more time before fixing her eyes on the scar that she could barely see from his sitting position.

21 Years Earlier

It was cold that December. The snowfall in Pallet was more than enough to warrant a heavy jacket, but Ash Ketchum rushed out of his house in a t-shirt and jeans anyway. The snow easily came up to his knees, and the icy sting of the falling powder pelted him with fear and panic, but he kept running. He ran as though his life depended on it, eyes darting left and right. Houses were few and far in between, so there were only so many landmarks the little boy could look for, and the footprints only lead in one direction. The hill.

Ash shielded his eyes as he approached the large hill. It was the hill that helped him return from school every afternoon with its steep inclines. It was the hill that he and Gary would always race on with sleds or bicycles. And as he continued to run, he continued to scan the hill, eventually spotting a lone figure on the top. "Hey!" he yelled, "Hey! Down here!" No response. The man, a mere shadow now, continued to walk further. If Ash did not hurry, he would soon disappear completely. "STOP!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, "I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!"

No response.

Soon enough, Ash's great speed betrayed him, and the boy fell to the ground with a face full of snow. That was when the tears started. He could not follow the man in this weather. Everything was fighting him. "YOU HAVE TO STOP!" he yelled from the ground, and for a moment, it seemed as though the shadow lingered. Ash tried to prop himself back up against the harshness of the cold ground mixed with his own frozen tears, but as he got closer to his feet, he fell over again, and the man continued walking. "YOU CAN'T LEAVE!" he tried again.

No luck.

"WHAT ABOUT MOM?!" Ash cried. He kept trying to situate himself in a position that would allow him to rise, but every time, the snow knocked him over again and the tears continued. He was on his back now. He could not even see the hill. "SHE NEEDS YOU!" he yelled at the sky, "I NEED YOU!"

Ash turned himself around from his fall one last time to get a good look at the hill, but the shadow had disappeared. Anger and fear began to rise in the boy, and his sadness quickly turned to rage as he began to yell again. "I'LL MAKE YOU PAY! DO YOU HEAR ME?!" he screamed, knocking the snow out of his way. Ash dug into the floor to find solid ground, and he used it to pivot his right foot into a kneeling position. "YOU THINK YOU'RE SO TOUGH?! I'LL FIND YOU! I'LL FIND YOU AND BEAT YOU AT YOUR OWN GAME!" He brought his left foot down, finally managing to stand up. "WHEN I GROW UP, I'M GONNA BE A TRAINER JUST LIKE YOU! AND I'LL BEAT YOU! DO YOU HEAR ME?!"

The boy paused for a moment to catch his breath. The frigid air blew more snow into his face, and his long hair, now dripping wet, fell over his his right eye due to the wind. Loneliness encompassed his body as he finally lost his ability to scream. "Even if I don't find you, I'll beat you." he pledged, "You might never see me again, but I'll still beat you. I'll become the best... The very best."

More AN: And there you have it. Like I said, it's a bit darker and more depressing than I'm used to, but I think it is accurate. The canon explanation for Ash's father is that he left Ash and his mom to pursue Pokemon training many years ago. I can imagine that Ash would have some serious daddy issues after that. Say what you will about Ash Ketchum, but he would never abandon family to pursue his own personal goals. He is not selfish. On top of that, the kid never talks about his dad, which says quite a lot about him. Ash talks about everything. If there is something that Ash is not talking about, then it's probably because he does not want to remember it. According to the novelizations, even Delia has some resentment toward Mr. Ketchum, and that woman is the kindest person on the face of the planet. Take today to appreciate your dad. They impact us in so many ways, and they really shape who we are, for better or worse, whether they are around or not.
Side Note: For those of you who are fans of my major fic, Pokemon Adventures: AshGray Chapter. The next round will be posted on the upcoming Saturday, and we will return to weekly updates. I used the last break to catch up a bit. ;)