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ZeldaFan20
22nd August 2004, 6:27 PM
Well, even after all the great comments on it last time, it appears that The Bittersweet Reunion has been taken off the sight. Fear not, though; starting today, my first story is making an encore appearance! I know my old readers will be very happy---and those who didn't see it will have another chance to enjoy my work. So, without further ado, here we go again!






The Bittersweet Reunion


Chapter One



It is early morning, somewhere around 7:30 am. A gentle rain falls on a small path surrounded on both sides by trees. Along this path, a figure is seen running. It is a small child, in bare feet and pajamas, panting. In his face there is much sadness, and an evident feeling of abandonment. The tears his eyes shed mingle with the raindrops. Finally, he stops.

There is a cliff, one that overlooks another, much wider road. This road runs through a green meadow, towards a large forest. The child looks down and sees a figure walking along it. There’s a man, carrying a large backpack. The boy knows the man, who is starting out on a long journey. He then calls out to him.

“DAAAADDYYYY!...................DAAAADDYYYY!”

The man listens, and turns his head. Seeing the boy on the cliff above, he smiles a cheerful, yet sorrowful, smile, and waves. Then he turns back around, and continues towards the woods.

The boy sheds more tears as his father vanishes from sight. He promptly sits on the cold, wet ground, buries his face in his hands, and cries.

“Daddy, why do you have to go away? Daddy..........”



“Huh?................Oh, that dream again.”

Ash sat up in his sleeping bag, a cold sweat forming on his brow.

Ash, Pikachu, Brock, and Misty were on their way back to Pallet Town after Ash’s victorious triumph at the Johto League. Unlike his battles in the Kanto League at Indigo Plateau, Ash had made it to the final competition. He had gone up against his rival and neighbor, Gary Oak, and the battle was still fresh in his mind.

He remembered Nidoking and Arcanine’s crushing defeat against his Croconaw, Nidoqueen falling easily to his Quilava, and Alakazam (a real tough hitter) and Gyarados both taking a beating from Pikachu. And then there was Umbreon. Ash had first sent Pikachu to battle Umbreon, but it got knocked out after a couple of strong Quick Attacks. Croconaw and Meganium didn’t fare well for very long either. However, Ash got the upper hand when he sent out his Snorlax. It actually took all that Umbreon threw at it, and then delivered the final blow with a Body Slam, giving Ash the win.

After that battle they all spent the rest of the evening celebrating. Finally, after the awards ceremony, they headed for home. Ash was anxious to see his mom and Professor Oak again.

He looked around the glen where the whole party had camped out for the night, and noticed that the sun was just beginning to rise. Although most of the sky above was still dark, a little pink could be seen along the horizon. He then turned to observe the campsite.

Brock was all nice and snug in his navy-blue sleeping bag, which was directly opposite Ash’s. Misty was lying comfortably on her left side right next to the fire, with her Togepi closely folded in her arms. Ash then glanced at Pikachu, who was lying near his left hip. Pikachu had woken up about two minutes after he did, and looked worriedly at its young master.

“Pika pi?” it asked.

“Shhhh,” Ash whispered, not wanting to wake anyone else up, “I’m okay Pikachu. I just had a weird dream, that’s all. Let’s go back to sleep.”

“Pi pika chu,” Pikachu responded sleepily.

The two friends then lay back down, closed their eyes, and fell fast asleep once again.



“*Yawn*, what a great morning. Time to start breakfast.”

Brock climbed out of his sleeping bag, stretched his arms and legs, and began starting a fresh fire. It had been three hours since Ash had his dream, and Brock was eager to get the day started.

Misty got up next and took a pail down to the river to get some fresh water. Pikachu and Togepi were playing around in her sleeping bag; mostly crawling around inside it like a couple of moles.

Ash sat up, gave a big yawn, and watched them play. “Hey, are you two pretending to be a couple of Diglett?” he said. He tried to force a cheerful giggle, but, ever since he had that strange dream, he began to feel kind of bummed.

“It’s about time you got up,” Misty snapped as she walked back to the campsite with the water, “How about getting the blanket and dishes ready so we can eat!”

A few minutes later everyone was sitting on the blanket, eating the omelets Brock had cooked up. Pikachu, Togepi, and all the other Pokémon enjoyed their chow on the grass. Brock and Misty finished their meal in just two minutes.

“Hey, Ash,” Misty said suddenly, “what’s wrong?”

Misty noticed that Ash hadn’t finished his omelet. In fact, he had only eaten two bites before he began to pick at it with his fork. She also noticed the look on his face: he seemed listless, almost...unhappy.

Brock stepped in, “Yeah, you’re not your same old ‘look out world, here I come’ self this morning.”

Ash didn’t answer, nor did he acknowledge what they said. All he could think about was the subject in his dream.

“I wonder where he is?” he thought, “Why didn’t he come back yet? Did something...?”

“PIKA!”

“YOW!”

SPLAT!

Pikachu noticed that Ash wasn’t even listening to his friends, and shouted in his ear to “wake him up” as it were. Ash jumped, and spilled the rest of his breakfast right in his lap. Misty and Brock tried to repress themselves, but they burst out laughing. I guess they probably expected Ash to laugh too, because they were very surprised by the angry look on his face.

He stood up, grabbed his backpack and shouted, “I’m going to the river to wash up! I don’t want anyone bothering me!” before stomping off downhill. Everyone just sat there, staring.

“Gosh,” Misty said, “I never expected him to react like that.”

“Me neither,” Brock replied.

“I think I’ll go down and see if he’s alright.” Misty stood and was about to leave, when Brock stopped her.

“No, we’d better not. Let him blow off a little steam first, then we’ll check on him.”

“Okay…still, I wish I knew what was wrong.” She sat back down and began to clear off the blanket.

“He’s probably just excited to be going back home. I bet that, the minute he walks in the door and sees his Mom, he’ll be laughing again in no time.” Brock tried to sound reassuring, but he was just as worried about Ash as Misty was.

“I hope you’re right,” she said.

“Pika chu…” Pikachu nodded sadly.



Meanwhile…

“AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!”

After a long walk and nothing to eat, Jessie, James, and Meowth finally made it to the new Team Rocket Headquarters Building. The large white marble mansion towered over the threesome as if it didn’t welcome visitors. Aside from that, what they mostly feared was their boss. After their humiliating defeat at the Johto League by Ash, Giovanni had sent them a letter, by Spearow, to go to the new Headquarters immediately.

Just as they pressed the button on the front door’s intercom to announce their arrival, a trap door opened up, causing the group to drop at least 10 feet before hitting the ground. After landing, four Grunts grabbed them and led them into a large room at the end of a long hallway.

“Shut the door on your way out,” said a voice.

The four guards left the room and shut the door, leaving their fellow members alone with whoever was inside. They looked nervously around the room, trying (and hoping not) to find the speaker. Suddenly, Meowth gasped.

“What’s the matter with you, Meowth?” Jessie whispered.

Meowth then pointed a shaky claw at a window straight ahead. Jessie and James looked up, and froze.

Standing at the window, back turned towards them, was a man, wearing a bright-orange business suit, who was possibly between 35 and 40 years of age. He had a slightly muscular build, short black hair, a clean-shaven face, and piercing brown eyes. Standing beside him, growling and glaring at the frightened bunch, was a Persian. The entire room was silent for what seemed like hours, but when he finally spoke, the three behind him nearly jumped out of their skins.

“You idiots have disappointed me too many times. I have given you such simple assignments that even a rookie would easily pull off, and yet all you have managed to steal was a weak little Togepi. If it weren’t for the magnificent efforts of all your fellow Rockets, we would’ve been a laughing stock long ago.”

“We understand your disappointment, Boss,” James stepped in, “You see, we would have given you a palace full of Pokémon three years ago, including that Pikachu, but ever since we crossed paths with those meddlesome...”

“SILENCE!” Giovanni shouted angrily, “And that’s another thing: I have had it with your pathetic excuses AND with your pointless crusade. I am giving you fools one last chance to prove yourselves - and this time, I want you to concentrate on fetching me a variety of Pokémon, not just on one useless Pikachu.”

“But, Boss,” Meowth said, “you don’t understand; this Pikachu ain’t nothin’ like all de other Pikachus you’ve see before.”

“What are you talking about, you fleabag?” he asked.

Meowth continued, “It’s like dis: Pikachu is not only faster and stronger than the average Pikachu, but it’s also capable of learning some attacks much faster too. It’s quite a remarkable Pokémon, Boss.”

Giovanni slowly turned his head and looked at Meowth. “Hmm...intriguing. Anything else I need to know about this ‘rare’ Pokémon, Meowth?”

It was then that Jessie stepped in, “Well, sir, only that it has been traveling with a group of brats for the past three years. One used to be the Pewter Gym Leader; the other is one of the Cerulean Gym Leader Sisters. The last one, the one who trains the Pikachu, is just a twerp from Pallet Town.”

Suddenly, Giovanni swung completely around and looked in their direction, wearing a very surprised look on his face. “Where did you say this child was from?”

The three of them started at his face, but Jessie continued, “P-Pallet...T-Town,” she stammered.

“What gender?” he demanded. Jessie, James, and Meowth just looked at each other in confusion. “BOY OR GIRL, YOU DOLTS?”

“B-B-Boy,” they all said together.

“I believe he is called Ash, sir,” James added.

“Ash...” Giovanni turned to look out the window again. He placed his palms on the windowsill, laid his forehead against the glass, and sighed.

He was silent again for a long while, until Meowth asked, “Hey, Boss, is somethin’ botherin’ ya?”

Giovanni chuckled, and then turned to face them again.

“Ash, is it? Hm-hm-hm-hm...I would like to meet this boy.”

“Leave it to us, Boss,” Jessie chimed in, “we shall fetch this troublemaker for you.”

“No, I will handle this myself.”

The three of them were very shocked to hear this. “Your’e going yourself?!” they exclaimed. Instead of answering, he pressed a red button on the wall behind him. Almost immediately, a guard walked in.

“Yes, sir?”

“Have my private helicopter ready for departure. I will be leaving for Pallet Town first thing tomorrow morning.” The guard saluted, and left.

Zimmy
22nd August 2004, 6:45 PM
Ooooooh! I'm captivated! I can't find anything wrong with it either!

Keep writing! ;151;

WaterTrainer243
22nd August 2004, 7:25 PM
Now I'll admit ZeldaFan, when I first read the opening of this story do you know what it reminded me of? The opening reminded me SO much of an episode of an anime called Monster Rancher. Something tells me you borrowed that scene from that episode. Still good though.

PokeManiac
22nd August 2004, 7:28 PM
I think I read it the first time you posted it. It really sounds like monster rancher, but its fine. The length was good, and so was description. Keep it up!

ZeldaFan20
22nd August 2004, 9:48 PM
Uh...Monster-who? I don't think I've seen that one. Then again, I've only seen a small handful of Animes. Anyway, it's good to know that there are people who still like my work. Next update is coming up tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Breezy
22nd August 2004, 11:37 PM
Good story Zeldafan! ^_^ Description and dialouge were pretty good along with spelling and grammer. So fun lol.

Only real problem I see (hell, I dunno if its a problem period) is that you tend to switch from typing the numbers to using the actual numbers. Pick one and stick with it (I would chose typing them out though, some people get bugged by 'em lol).

But overall, Breezy likes a lot, she'll think it turn out to be a great fic.

LaTeR dAyZ!

ZeldaFan20
23rd August 2004, 8:46 PM
Hmm...well, I mostly use numbers for times, dates, and other "narrative numbers" (at least, that's what I call it when it is the writer---not the character---who says things like age, size, and all that other stuff). I've read some books that do the same thing, so I thought it would be okay.

Anyway, I've got the next chapter up---just like I said. It's pretty long (about ten MSW pages), so be prepared for some serious reading.






Chapter Two



After cleaning up their picnic area, Brock and Misty started packing up their backpacks. All the while, Ash still hadn’t returned from the river, and his Pokémon were beginning to worry (except for Croconaw, who was having fun juggling some rocks with its Water Gun).

“Togepi?” Misty said suddenly, looking around to see where her tiny Pokémon had gone, “Togepi, where are you?”

“Quil,” Quilava answered, pointing to Ash’s sleeping bag.

Everyone looked: Togepi was sitting on the grass and laughing while playing with something yellow. Misty walked over and lifted the little creature up in her arms.

“Togepi, what did I say about...huh?”

She then noticed the yellow thing and picked it up: it was a small piece of yellow cloth, a bright-orange trim along three edges (the other edge looked like it had been torn off).

“I don’t get it,” Misty said as she handed the cloth to Brock, “why would anyone leave a ragged piece of fabric in the middle of the woods?”

“You mean blanket,” Brock corrected her.

“Huh?” Misty wondered.

“Misty, this is a piece of an old baby blanket; from the colors I’d say it’s a ‘Pikachu-Pichu blanket’.”

“I thought they stopped making those blankets three years ago.”

“They did, but something else is strange: it’s supposed to have that picture of a parent Pikachu and its baby Pichu on the corner of one side; but, apparently, that side was ripped off.”

While they tried to figure out the old blanket, Pikachu noticed something else near the sleeping bag (more accurately, where Togepi was playing). There, it saw what looked like a scrap of paper; on it were what seemed like two people holding a little yellow bundle. It picked the paper up in its mouth and ran over to the two humans.

“Mi..Miii,” it mumbled before putting it in Misty’s lap.

“What’s this, Pikachu?” she asked.

“It must have fallen out of the blanket when you picked it up,” Brock answered, “It’s a photograph---dated almost thirteen years ago.”

They all took a good look at the photo: the two people were a young man and woman, possibly ranging from mid- to late-twenties. The yellow bundle they carried wasn’t really a bundle, but a tiny baby wrapped in the same yellow blanket.

Brock gasped when he saw the lady. “Wow, Mrs. Ketchum looks really pretty, except her hair is much shorter in this shot.”

Misty looked at him in surprise, “How do you know that the lady is Mrs. Ketchum?”

“I recognize those baby-blue eyes and that bright red hair anywhere,” he replied dreamily.

Misty rolled her eyes at his remark, until a sudden thought entered her mind; “So...if this is Ash’s Mom...then that means.........Oh my gosh, it IS!” she laughed out loud, looking at the baby, “Wow, I didn’t know Ash was such a cutie!”

All the Pokémon got closer to see little baby Ash, until a familiar voice from behind said:

“What do you mean was?”

The whole group turned around: Ash was standing right behind them; his backpack swung over his right shoulder, and his left hand resting on his hip. He had changed into his orange-and-white striped T-shirt and denim shorts. His hair was combed but still wet, and he wore a slightly embarrassed (as well as sarcastic) smile on his face. Seeing the blanket and picture his friends were holding, he chuckled to himself.

“So this is where I dropped them. I guess I should be more careful the next time I get mad.”

His friends stood up and immediately handed back his missing items.

“We’re very sorry, Ash---about what happened a little while ago,” Misty said hastily.

“Yeah, very...and we didn’t mean to pry or anything,” Brock said, hinting at the cloth and photo, “It’s just that, until now, we didn’t know these were yours.”

Ash nodded. “It’s okay, I know you guys didn’t, and I’ve gotten over what happened. Sorry for getting angry like that; it’s just that I don’t like being interrupted when I’m thinking about my dad.”

“Your dad?!” they both exclaimed.

Ash packed up his stuff and stood up. “I’ll explain on the way home, if you like. Right now, let’s get going; I wanna see Mom. Return!”

All the Pokémon were transported to their Poké Balls (except for Pikachu, who rode on Ash’s shoulder), and the whole party set off again. Ash walked ahead; Brock and Misty smiled amusingly at each other as they brought up the rear.



The whole party was almost halfway to the edge of the woods when Ash began his story. As he talked, the happy and excited tone in his voice told his friends how much he admired his dad.

“When my parents first met, they were still in school; Mom was studying plants and flowers, and Dad was learning about Pokémon breeding (not to mention he was also a good Pokémon trainer).”

“I like your dad already,” Brock said, with a gleam in his eye. Everyone in the group knew how much he wanted to become a Pokémon breeder. It was his childhood dream, and he was willing to do everything possible to fulfill that dream.

“Quiet, Brock,” Misty whispered, “You’re interrupting Ash.”

“Well,” Ash continued, “I remember hearing that my dad came from a very rich family, but my grandparents didn’t like what he was doing; they wanted him to be a part of their ‘business firm’...or something like that.”

“What kind of business did they run?” Misty asked.

“I don’t really know; my dad never seemed to want to talk about it. In fact, he didn’t even like it when anyone mentioned my grandparents. Anyway, they fell in love in school. A few months after they graduated, they married secretly.”

“Why secretly?” asked Misty, curiously.

“When my parents were still dating, Grandma and Grandpa didn’t like Mom very much: something about ‘tracks’?”

“Ah,” Brock replied, “You mean they were on ‘different sides of the tracks’.”

Ash and Misty both looked at him, “Huh?”

“Guys,” Brock explained, “it just means that Mr. and Mrs. Ketchum were from different social classes. Ash’s dad is from a wealthy family, and they didn’t like his mom because her family probably didn’t make that much money at the time.”

Ash laughed at himself. “Yeah, that’s right. Now where was I...oh yeah: after the wedding, they moved to Pallet Town, where they stayed with Professor Oak until they could buy a house for themselves. Mom got a job at the greenhouse and Dad worked as Professor Oak’s assistant for a while.

“Since this is becoming a long story I’ll skip the part about me being born. When I was a little older, my dad and I used to play with his Pokémon in the fields (I forgot to mention that he loved to train Ground-types), and...”

“Did you say he trained Ground-types?” Brock exclaimed happily, “That’s almost like training Rock-types! I think I’ve found a new role-model!”

“BROCK!” Misty shouted angrily.

Ash continued, “My dad also used to tell me stories about his Pokémon journeys every night before I went to sleep.” He paused. “My favorite stories were the ones about the Legendary Pokémon, Ho-oh. I would sit on my bed and listen as he described its majestic beauty: the rainbow-colored feathers, the graceful body...” He paused again, but when he resumed, Brock and Misty noticed the same sad expression they saw earlier.

“Those happy days didn’t last very long, though. After I turned six, Dad told me that he had to go away, and that he didn’t know when he would be back.

“The night before he left, I couldn’t sleep. It was really late and, except for the rain I heard outside that night, it was too quiet. I was so sad and scared that I cried. Dad came in and asked me what was wrong. I told him that I didn’t want him to go, but he promised he would always write to Mom and me. As he tucked me into bed, I told him that I wanted to be a Pokémon trainer, just like him. He smiled at me and said that, somehow, he would find a way to help me reach my dream.

“Because I fell asleep so late, I had woken up late. When I did I saw that it was still raining: I was happy because I thought Dad wouldn’t be able to leave at the moment. When I ran downstairs for breakfast, though, Mom told me that he had left a couple of minutes before: she was crying almost as much as I was.

“I thought I could catch him in time to say ‘good-bye’, so I ran outside. I ran through the rain to a cliff that overlooked the path to the woods; I could see my dad walking along that path. I called to him: he smiled and waved ‘good-bye’ to me. I cried as I watched him disappear into the trees.”

Brock and Misty saw Ash quickly wipe a tear from his cheek, but they didn’t say anything.

Brock knew how Ash felt: he remembered when his dad left on his Pokémon journey, leaving him to care for his younger brothers and sisters.

“Did your father keep his promises?” he asked.

Ash smiled and gave a nod. “Yup, even after he left, he never failed to let me know how he was doing. He sent me letters, postcards, even e-mails. He also sent me money for my birthday, so that I could buy my own presents and pretend they were from him” (Ash let out a light chuckle). “The promise about helping me train Pokémon was no lie either: he sent the registry forms to the Pokémon League so that I could get my Trainer’s License.”

“Gosh,” Misty said, “it looks like your father’s done everything for you, hasn’t he?”

“Yeah, I guess he has,” Ash agreed.

“Hey, guys,” Brock said suddenly, “haven’t you noticed where we are?”

Everyone looked around. During the story they had made it out of the forest into Pallet Town; they were now on the hill overlooking Ash’s house. They saw Mrs. Ketchum working in her garden; her Mr. Mime, Mimie, was sweeping the front porch.

Ash laughed out loud as he raced downhill towards the front door, his friends running close behind him.

“Hey, Mom,” he called out, “Mom, we’re home!”

Delia started at the sound of her name. Turning her head she could see Ash running towards her at high speed, wearing the biggest smile imaginable.

“Ash,” she yelled, “don’t run like that; the grass is...”

But it was too late. Ash stumbled on the wet green, and tried to keep his balance. Misty and Brock tried to slow down, but were caught in the flow and slid right into him, causing the whole party to literally go ‘tumbling down,’ and land in a heap right in front of Delia.

“Slippery,” she giggled sheepishly, realizing that she spoke up too late.

“Mime mime, mister mime!” said Mimie as it stood everyone up, picked up the feather duster, and proceeded to dust them all off. Ash choked through the dust cloud it was making. His friends did the same.

“Mimie...that’s enough,” he said through coughing. When the dust finally cleared, Ash ran right over to his Mom and gave her a big hug.

“My word,” Delia replied as she put her arms around him, “what’s this for?”

“I just wanted to say that it’s great to finally be home, and...I love you, Mom.”

Delia smiled her warm motherly smile as she gazed into those bright, hopeful brown eyes that were her son’s. She could truly see his sincerity in them...but, at the same time, she noticed a little heartbreak in his tears, which were just starting to form. It was then that she asked,

“You were thinking about him again, weren’t you?”

Ash looked at her in surprise. He wondered how she could have known what was wrong. Then he smiled, more to himself than to her; he knew that it was almost impossible for anyone to keep secrets from their mothers. He then laid his cheek on her shoulder, and they held each other tighter.

From behind, Misty was happily watching them, until Brock touched her on the shoulder.

“These two probably want to be alone. Why don’t we head over to the Lab and talk with the Professor? He can always catch up later.”

Misty nodded. She then turned to Ash.

“Hey, Ash, Brock and I are going to head over to Professor Oak’s Lab. Is it okay if we bring Pikachu with us?”

Ash, not wanting to break away from his mother to answer, gave her the ‘thumbs up’ sign with his left hand.

“Pika,” chirped Pikachu as it hopped onto Misty’s shoulder.

“Okay,” Brock said as he and Misty walked away, “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”



As they approached the Lab building, Misty giggled to herself and asked, “Do you think they’ve stopped hugging yet?”

Brock looked at her. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I don’t know; it’s just that...well...we’ve never actually seen Ash hug his mother like that. When you think about it, it’s actually kind of strange.”

“I don’t see anything strange about it. It’s perfectly natural for kids to hug their parents, especially if they’ve been apart for a long time. Remember, Ash hasn’t seen his mom since the incident with Entei.” Brock thought to himself for a few seconds. “Also, I think that---like many boys his age---he feels a little embarrassed about hugging her in public. I should know; I was like that once myself.”

Then, as they arrived at the front door and rang the doorbell, a thought suddenly occurred to Misty, and her eyes opened wide.

“Hey, speaking of age,” she said, “isn’t Ash’s birthday coming up soon?”

“Yes---tomorrow actually,” said a voice.

The two travelers jumped and looked in front of them. The door had opened while they were talking. There to greet them was neither Professor Oak, nor their friend Tracey; it was not even Gary.

A young girl around Misty’s age, with long brown hair, bright blue eyes, a white T-shirt and denim overalls, stood in the doorway. She looked at them with a friendly smile.

Misty was still wondering who she was when Brock’s face turned bright red and he quickly took both of the girl’s hands in his.

“Hello there. May a weary Pokémon trainer, who is on his way to see the accomplished occupant of this facility, have the name of such a divine creature as yourself?”

“Oh brother,” Misty thought grimily, “not again.”

The girl smiled and giggled, “Hello, my name is Daisy. If you’ve come here to see Grandpa, he’s out in the field feeding the Pokémon.”

“Oh, Daisy,” Brock said dreamily, “my name is Brock, and what would please me more than anything is to have your promise of...OWOWOWOW!” Before he could finish, Misty had grabbed him by the ear and shoved him onto the dirt path.

“Turn off the hot air and get some fresh air, Romeo,” she shouted. Then she turned to Daisy. “Excuse me, but I didn’t know that Professor Oak had any other grandchildren.”

Daisy laughed. “I guess neither Ash nor my younger brother, Gary, remembered to mention me. Oh well, it’s not surprising; after all, they’ve been busy with Pokémon training ever since they started their journeys. Anyway, follow me; I’ll take you to see Grandpa. I was just going to help him out when you guys came over.”

So the three of them went inside, unaware of the unusual turn of events that were taking place at the exact same moment...



Daisy led the pair down the main hall, past the main lab, to the back area of the building.

Misty couldn’t help noticing how spotless the entire interior looked: the floors shined as if they were freshly mopped, the restrooms (as they passed them) sparkled and gave off a hint of spring flowers, and---as they passed through the living room, she thought she could smell oranges coming from the wooden furniture.

“Do you like it?” Daisy asked when she noticed Misty’s pleasant expression, “I cleaned and polished around here myself.”

“It’s very nice,” Misty replied, “and you certainly have a way with fragrances.”

“Thanks, I’m especially fond of rose and lavender. Of course, I try to use a variety of smells for my relaxation method.”

“What method do you use?” Brock asked with a dreamy look in his eye.

“A few days ago, I realized that my Grandpa was working too hard and was getting very uptight. So I’m using ‘aromatherapy’ to try to lighten the mood and get him to relax more.”

“I’ve heard of ‘aromatherapy’,” Misty said, “my sisters used to do that before and after their diving shows back home in Cerulean City. You use different scents (like oils or incense) to stimulate specific senses in the body.”

Daisy nodded. “That’s right, Misty. However, Grandpa doesn’t like my idea very much; he says it’s ‘too old-fashioned’ and that it makes the house stuffy. In fact, he wanted me to leave all the windows open to air the rooms out. Honestly, he’s so silly sometimes...oh, hi there, Tracey.”

The three of them stopped. In the hallway just ahead, a young boy around Brock’s age, black hair, a green T-shirt, and red shorts, was walking towards the back door carrying a large sack of what appeared to be Pokémon feed. As Daisy said “hi,” he put the heavy sack on the floor, wiped his brow, and smiled.

“Hi, Daisy,” he answered. Then he noticed the two visitors behind her, and broke out in a big grin. “Brock, Misty, Pikachu, Togepi!”

“Pi pika pi!” exclaimed Pikachu.

“Toci-priii!” Togepi chimed happily.

Tracey ran over and the five friends were locked in a group hug. They were all so busy talking about Ash’s outcome in the Johto League that they failed to notice the back door open and Professor Oak walk in.

He wasn’t wearing his usual white lab coat and pants. Instead, he was in a red-plaid T-shirt, dark-blue overalls, black rubber boots, and a big straw sun hat: he had just come in from making his rounds in the barns and fields.

“Brock, Misty,” he said as he saw the group in the hall ahead of him, “welcome back.”

Everyone turned and smiled when they saw him. Misty and Brock both said “hi” and walked over to see him.

“Tracey, Daisy, will you both take that sack of food out to the Tauros, please?”

“Sure, Grandpa,” Daisy said.

“Okay, Professor,” Tracey replied. He turned to his friends, “We’ll be right back, guys.” The two of them picked up the sack and took it outside, leaving the others in the hallway.

“First of all,” said the Professor, “let’s go into the living room; we’ll talk there.” As they entered the living room, Professor Oak asked, “Where is Ash? Shouldn’t he be here?”

Misty giggled. “Last time we looked, he and his Mom were ‘having a moment’ (so to speak).”

“What she means is,” Brock interrupted, “we felt it was best to give them some time alone. You know what I mean?”

Oak gave a content laugh. “Well, I suppose it’s understandable. After all, a mother and child should spend every moment of their time together. Anyway, let me change clothes and we’ll have some tea. I’ll be right back,” and he left the room. In the hall he ran into Daisy.

“Daisy, dear, would you be so kind as to prepare some tea for our guests?”

“Sure, Grandpa,” she replied, and she headed to the kitchen.

A few minutes later, the company was talking over tea and cookies. Oak was pleased to hear about all of Ash’s adventures in Johto, but he was especially interested in what had happened that particular morning.

As Misty told him about Ash’s outburst, the Professor nodded his head.

“Yes, I agree with you; it really is rare to see him express anger in that fashion. But then, that usually happens to young children when they are about to turn thirteen years old. I would probably say it’s just hormones, but we all know that Ash misses his father very much.”

“So, you did know his father?” Misty asked.

“Of course, George Ketchum was the finest assistant I ever knew. He was very knowledgeable when it came to Pokémon. He took his position very seriously, but he was a kind and devoted family man; even Gary and Daisy were fond of him. It was very sad when we heard he was leaving, but George never failed to keep in touch.”

It was then that Brock spoke up. “Excuse me, Professor, but Ash told us that...uh...George...didn’t get along very well with his family. Why not?”

At that moment, the front doorbell gave a loud DING-DONG.

“Daisy,” he said hastily, “answer that, please? It might be Ash now.”

Daisy nodded and walked away. Oak then turned to Brock and Misty, wearing a very serious look on his face.

“Mind you,” he whispered, “Ash doesn’t know about what I’m about to say.”

The two friends agreed, and he began to speak:

“I’m not sure I know all of the details but, from what I know, George’s parents were very troublesome people. In fact, it was said that they were involved in some illegal activities.”

Misty gasped, and Brock looked very concerned.

“You mean like ‘bank-robbery’ or ‘counterfeiting’?” he asked.

“Well...no, it had more to do with Pokémon trafficking. From what he told me, their business was sort of like how the Mafia works in America.”

At the word ‘Mafia’, Brock and Misty nearly spilt their tea. They could feel an uneasy sensation in their stomachs; their blood began to freeze.

“Oh man,” Brock whispered to himself.

“Poor Ash,” Misty said sadly, “What if he finds out about...”

“He won’t,” the Professor answered, pointing his finger at them, “he mustn’t; I promised myself and George that Ash wouldn’t find out about this.” Then he heard footsteps coming from the hall, and abruptly changed the subject.

“So, my friends,” he said in a clearer, yet soft voice, “I was wondering if you could help me and Delia out: we are planning to have a surprise birthday party for Ash right here at the Lab. We need some help decorating and preparing party food. Are you interested?”

“Say no more,” Brock said, suddenly cheering up, “I’ll have a great party meal planned in no time! Hey, I’ll even make it myself.”

Misty brightened also at the thought of helping out, “I can help with decorations. I used to help my parents decorate for family functions.”

The door opened, and in walked Daisy. Everyone saw that she wore an expression of sheer distress.

“Well,” Oak asked, “is it Ash?”

Daisy slowly shook her head. “No, Grandpa...it’s Gary.”

“What’s the problem?” he asked.

She entered the room and stood right next to the doorway.

“Come in here, Gary,” she said.

Gary walked in. When he did, everyone stood straight up. Brock stood still as a statue. Misty opened her eyes wide, cupped her hands over her mouth, and gasped. Professor Oak’s curious expression suddenly changed to a combination of shock and concern.

Zimmy
23rd August 2004, 10:04 PM
Whoopsie! You must have pressed Ctrl+V twice there, Zeldafan20!

Anyway, review: Is a great fic so far, I can really picture most of it! Especially that bit at the beginning of the first chapter. I was in shock during my last review ;)

Keep Writing! ;151;

ZeldaFan20
24th August 2004, 8:20 PM
Yikes, I can't believe I did that. Thanks for pointing it out; I've just fixed it, so it should look much better.

Mistystar89
25th August 2004, 2:07 AM
Very well done Zeldafan20. I like this story so far. It's very descriptive and has a nice plot. Gee, I wonder what happened to Gary that made everyone so shocked...anyway, great story! ;) Can't wait for the next chapter!

Mist

ZeldaFan20
25th August 2004, 3:02 AM
Wonder no more, because I've got the next one right here.






Chapter Three



It was awful. When Gary entered the room, everyone was in complete shock at the sight of him.

His hair and clothes were filthy, but only his clothes looked like they had been ripped to shreds. They also noticed several scrapes and bruises on his bare arms. A gigantic bruise surrounded his right eye, and his left cheek was swelling very badly: both injuries were nearly the size of Poké Balls. Little streams of blood were trickling down from both corners of his mouth. To put it mildly, he was a complete mess.

Professor Oak gently took him by the arm, led him to the sofa, and sat down next to him, while Daisy ran to the kitchen to fetch a wet sponge and two ice packs. Misty sat on the other side of him, and Brock fixed him a cup of tea.

“What in the world happened to you, Gary?” Brock asked as he handed Gary the cup. He took a small sip before answering.

“I just got into a fight, that’s all.” He did his best to sound like his usual tough-guy self, but the slight wavering in his voice gave him away.

Professor Oak, who had his arm around Gary’s shoulders, took his face in his hand and gave it a good looking-over. Meanwhile, Daisy came back, wiped his face with the sponge, and put the ice packs over his eye and cheek.

“Hmm...well these bruises certainly didn’t come from a Pokémon battle,” Professor Oak said, “You’ve been in a fist-fight, haven’t you?”

Gary coughed, and nodded.

“With whom?”

Gary leaned his head back, and let out a shuddered sigh. Then, without moving, he began to tell them what happened.

__________________________________________________ _______________________________________________


A few minutes after Brock and Misty left the Ketchum household, Gary walked up along the dirt road. He was also heading home after his defeat at the Johto League games, and he was none too happy. His Umbreon walked silently beside its unhappy master; it too felt ashamed of its defeat.

The two travelers stopped at the base of the hill to rest. Gary sat still, looking at the beautiful field of flowers before him. He couldn’t stop thinking to himself, “Where did I go wrong this time? How could I lose?”

“Umbre,” Umbreon suddenly leapt onto his lap and began to nuzzle his chest.

Gary couldn’t help but smile as he gently stroked its black-and-gold fur. Then he stood up---still holding the little creature in his arms---with a look of sheer determination on his face.

“It won’t happen again, Umbreon. We’re all going to train harder until we’re much better. Whether or not Ash just got lucky doesn’t matter now; I know the future will be much brighter for us, but only if we work for it, right?”

“Umbre!” Umbreon agreed happily.

At that moment, both thought that they heard a familiar voice laughing and saying:

“Lunch time!”

Gary ran to the top of the hill with Umbreon right behind him. What he saw when stopped made him fume.

At the foot of the hill was Ash’s house. Mimie had resumed cleaning the front porch. The sound of a vacuum cleaner told him that Delia was cleaning indoors. Right next to the garden were many other Pokémon, all of whom Gary recognized, eating from little bowls. And right among the entire herd was Ash himself, smiling over his hungry little friends.

“Well, well, well, look who I find here.”

Gary, without thinking first, had nimbly slid down the hill and walked over to the group, with Umbreon at his heels.

Ash turned his head and looked surprisingly at Gary, but then he turned back and grinned casually.

“Oh, hi there, Gary.”

His acquaintance frowned at this greeting before releasing a haughty smirk.

“I certainly didn’t expect you to get here before me.”

Ash laughed, “Well, life’s full of surprises. Besides, I guess I was more anxious to see my family than you were."

That’s where Gary really started to forget himself. "What family? Everyone knows that it takes three to make a family.”

Without looking at the speaker, Ash’s face fell, “Oh? And I suppose that you, Daisy, and your Grandfather are the perfect family?”

Gary crossed his arms behind his head, “Well, we might not be the ‘perfect’ family, but at least we are a family.”

“Isn’t it funny, though,” Ash said, in a voice that was increasing in displeasure, “that ever since before we’ve started training Pokémon, your parents seem to have suddenly...umm...dropped from the public eye? Where are they anyway?”

Gary’s face darkened, “You and I both know that they’re on that expedition in Africa. Hey, at least I know where my folks are.”

Ash clenched his teeth and fists as he heard these words. They cut him. He knew that, even though his father always wrote to him, the letters never said where he was. He took a deep breath, and turned to face Gary. However, the way he spoke made the Pokémon nervous, and they all began to slink away.

“C’mon, Gary, my dad has a big business to run. He can’t help it if it takes up so much of his time, and you know it!”

"Face it, Ashy Boy," Gary continued, his voice raised to something like passion, "your dad bailed on you! He bailed on your mom! He bailed on all of us! If he cared anything for us, he could’ve at least had the decency to call or visit!" While he talked he failed to notice that Ash’s face was turning redder by the second.

“You can slang me as much as you want,” he said through clenched teeth, “but I don’t see why you have bring my father into this pointless conversation! Why can’t you just back off, for once?!”

“Why can’t you just wake up and accept the fact that he’s NOT COMING BACK?!”

At this point Gary realized, a second too late, the fatal mistake he had just made. He saw Ash’s face turn from red to a sick white; the kind of white people look when they are angry---I mean really angry, more angry than they dare to be. He also noticed that the eyes seemed to grow increasingly dark, as if they had lost all the sight they had in them.

As Gary watched, his eyes became as large as dinner plates and he slapped both hands over his mouth; a cold sweat ran down his face as he began to speak.

“Hey, look Ash, I...I...I didn’t...” Before he could finish his attempt at apologizing, something happened that he would never forget.

Ash, in a blind rage and a roar that sounded very much like a wild Arcanine, lunged right at him. Both boys began to struggle furiously, each tearing at the other’s clothes in the process. In the struggle, they both fell to the ground and rolled around in the dusty road, Ash’s fingernails tearing at Gary’s now bare arms and Gary trying to push him away.

A few seconds later Gary was lying on his back, breathing heavily; Ash was sitting on his stomach. Gary watched as Ash angrily raised his right fist in the air. He was so scared that he almost didn’t feel the painful blow as it came down with full force right into his face. The other fist came down the same way, this time into his eye. The pause between punches only lasted three seconds at a time. During this time, Ash was shouting at him, giving him another punch with every word he said:

“DON’T...EVER...TALK...ABOUT...MY...DAD...LIKE...T HAT...EVER...AGAIN!!!”

Meanwhile, the Pokémon were all cowering near the wall of the house, horrified as they watched their master hurting another human being (except for Snorlax, who had fallen asleep after eating such a big lunch). They had never seen him act this way before...ever.

Suddenly, without thinking first, they all rushed right over to scene, and started to yell at him, telling him to stop:

“MIIIIIME!!”

“MEGANIIIIIUUUUUM!!”

“CROCONAW!!”

“QUIIIIIIILLLLL!!”

Delia, upon hearing the commotion, rushed outside to the disaster. She screamed and tried to pull her son off of Gary, begging him to stop, only to get pushed right to the ground during the struggle.

Then Meganium, who wanted Ash to stop just as badly as the others, rushed over and unleashed its Vine Whip upon him. The vines entwined around his arms, legs, feet, wrists, and waist. When he was secured, Meganium tugged at the vines, causing the struggling Ash to fly through the air and land two feet away.

While he struggled to get free of the vines, Meganium used a little Sleep Powder to finally subdue him. He slowly fell into a deep sleep as the glittering powder fell over him like a gentle snowfall...

__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________


“After the Pokémon got him off me,” Gary said breathing shakily, “his mom came over to me and asked if I was alright. I told her I was fine and that we had a little misunderstanding. She offered to help me, but I said ‘no’ and left; I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could before he woke up.”

Brock, Misty, Daisy, Professor Oak, and Tracey (who had come in during the story when he heard about what happened) looked at Gary, then to each other, and then back to Gary.

“I swear,” Gary continued, tears running down his face, “if I had known he would react like that, I wouldn’t have started that.”

“You shouldn’t have started at all,” Daisy told him angrily, “You know it hurts him when someone mentions his father.”

“I KNOW!” Gary sobbed, as he let his battered face fall into his hands.

“Pika pi,” said Pikachu, very frightened for its young master.

“Toci?” Togepi, being very young, didn’t understand the situation and was, therefore, very confused.

Professor Oak gently patted his grandson’s shoulder, “It’s alright, Gary, we’ll go over there and see if he’s alright.” Then he turned to the others, “Brock, Misty, Tracey, bring Pikachu and Togepi, and let’s go.” Everyone got up and started to leave.

“I’ll come too, Grandpa,” Daisy said, “I’m worried about Ash.”

“I appreciate your concern, Daisy, but I need you here to take care of your brother. When I come back, I’ll give you the details.”

Daisy nodded, and the others went out the door. She then took Gary by the hand, and carefully led him into the bathroom, all the while thinking to herself,

“I hope he’s alright.”



While all this was happening, Giovanni sat alone in his bedroom at Team Rocket Headquarters. He sat in a large red chair by the fireplace, staring at something in his hands; all the while, deeply lost in thought.

After his “meeting” with Jessie, James, and Meowth, he had them all locked up until he "had further use for them." Later, he had sent one of his Pidgeottos to Pallet Town to observe Ash (the one he sent was an incredibly fast flyer and one whom he knew could get such an assignment done in just a few hours).

He was staring so intensely at the object he was holding that Persian’s purrs and its rubbing against his leg were almost unnoticeable; it received a comforting pat on the head in return. Its purrs became louder and more cheerful.

Tap, tap, tap.

Giovanni turned towards the sound. The Pidgeotto was outside the window, tapping at the glass to come in. He stood up, hastily put the object into a little box on the mantelpiece, walked over, and opened the window.

All at once it flew into the room, and alighted on a large perch in the center. Giovanni then pressed the red button on the wall.

“Yes, sir?” asked the guard who came in.

“Bring me Meowth.”



A few minutes later, the guard came back carrying Meowth in his hands.

“Hey, watch the fur, ya big doofus,” Meowth shouted as he was dropped onto the floor, “You’re dealin’ with a rare Pokémon here!”

“Leave us,” Giovanni said to the guard, who promptly left the room.

Meowth looked nervously at his Boss (even more nervously at the Persian, who looked menacingly back at him).

“Uhh...*gulp*...what can I do for ya, Boss?”

Giovanni frowned at him, “Meowth, after our little ‘talk’, I instructed this Pidgeotto to go to Pallet Town and do a little ‘detective work’. Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of Pokémon speech: that’s where YOU can be useful.”

“Oh,” Meowth said suddenly, “Say no more, Boss. I’ll have the message for ya in a jiffy.”

He then walked over to the Pidgeotto, who just looked down at him.

“So, pal,” he began, “what’s the story on dis Ash kid?”

And Pidgeotto began to tell its story in its usual “Pidgo...pidgotto, pidgo,” with Meowth listening attentively, and Giovanni looking on.

“Uh-huh...yeah...yeah...........ya don’t say...............REALLY? Gee, I didn’t tink he could ever do dat...nothin’ too serious, I hope.........oh, good.........is that all?”

Pidgeotto nodded. Meowth turned back to the two spectators.

“Well?” asked an impatient Giovanni.

Meowth cleared his throat, “Well, Boss, it’s like dis guy here says: the twerp did get home okay, but afterwards he got into a fight with Oak’s grandkid; which, I might add, turned out to include more fists dan woids.”

Giovanni turned very pale when he heard this. “Are they both alright? Was anyone seriously hurt?!”

“Mainly Oak’s boy, Boss (a few bruises here and there), but not too bad. Apparently, the twoip’s own Pokémon broke up the fight: a little Sleep Powder and he was sleepin’ like a baby.”

Giovanni breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then he walked quickly to the wall and pressed the button again.

“Sir?” asked the guard.

“Is my private helicopter ready yet?”

“Yes, sir; just as you ordered, sir.”

“Good, because there has been a slight change in my plans for departure: instead of leaving in the morning, I want to leave immediately. Have the pilot ready by the time I get down there; I must pack a few things first. Oh, and have my little ‘gift’ brought to the helicopter also.”

“Yes, sir,” said the guard as he turned to go.

“Oh, and one more thing,” interrupted his employer.

The guard turned back around, “Sir?”

“Take Meowth back to his slacker pals in their cell.”

“Yes, sir.”

“WHAAAAAT?!” Meowth screeched.

HK
25th August 2004, 3:14 AM
Interesting fic you have here ZeldaFan20. Grammar is good, spelling, etc. Plot does indeed to seem original. Never knew that Ash could turn out to be such a 'fighter'.

With the little clues that you have been giving us, it seems that Giovanni... nah... shouldn't give it away! By I'm sure that others can connect everything and figure it out. Anyway, hope to see more of your writing! Later.

ZeldaFan20
30th August 2004, 11:19 PM
Thanks; I've always been picky about grammer and spelling my whole life---I guess it just makes writing look a lot better.






Chapter Four



At that moment the entire party had arrived at Ash’s house; all were completely out of breath as Professor Oak calmly knocked on the door. They waited for nearly three minutes before the door opened.

Delia stood right in front of them. Her face was freshly washed and her hair had been combed. She looked at them with her same cheerful smile, but they all knew that she had been crying.

Before Delia could get a word out, Pikachu shot right past her into the house, and was just heading for the stairs to go to Ash’s room.

“Pikachu, no!” she called after the little yellow mouse, “Ash is resting right now; he can’t be disturbed.”

“Pika...” Pikachu stopped dead in its tracks, then slowly walked back to the group, its eyes filling up with tears. Delia picked it up and softly stroked its back.

“Don’t worry, Pikachu, Ash is alright; he just needs time to cool off. He’ll be awake very soon,” she checked her watch, “In half an hour, at the most.” Her attention then turned to Professor Oak. “By the way, Samuel, is Gary alright? Is he badly hurt?”

Oak gave a reassuring grin. “I’d say his pride was hurt more than his body, but he’ll survive. Anyway, I had already decided to come and see you today, before I received the news. I wanted to talk to you about...” He then took a quick look up the stairs, and then added in a lower voice, “about Ash’s birthday party tomorrow.”

Delia’s face lit up, “Oh, that’s right. Let’s all discuss this in the living room; I baked some fresh cookies this morning.”

As they began to file into the next room, Tracey felt a tug at his sleeve. He turned to see Misty looking at him with concern in her face. He also noticed that she had taken her shoes off.

“What’s wrong, Misty?” he proceeded to ask.

“Shh,” she whispered, “I’m really worried about Ash, Tracey. I’m going upstairs to check up on him. Can you watch Togepi for me?” She started to hand the little spiked-ball Pokémon to him.

“But, Misty,” Tracey whispered, very surprised, “Mrs. Ketchum said we weren’t supposed to go up there. If you wake him up, you’ll be in big trouble.”

“I promise I’ll be careful; just watch Togepi for a couple of minutes, please?”

Tracey sighed as he took Togepi in his hands, “Alright, but be very careful.”

“I will,” she said as she tiptoed towards the foot of the stairs. “Tell them I went to use the bathroom.”

Tracey nodded half-heartedly as he went to join the others.



Misty took cautious steps as she climbed the stairs to the second floor of the house. With every step she was afraid of a telltale creek which would cause Delia to come looking. As she climbed, she could hear Professor Oak talking:

“I was thinking of having the party outdoors, just like the one we threw when Ash made the Top Sixteen in the Indigo League two years ago. We could have a big buffet table near the back door of the house...and, of course, the Pokémon are more than welcome to help...” The voices faded as she reached the top.

The windows at both ends of the hallway were closed, allowing very little sunlight to come in, making the area look very eerie. There were four doors, two along each side of the hall; Misty remembered that Ash’s room was at the far end on the right, so she walked on.

When she reached the door, she hesitated, unsure of what to expect. Would he wake up when she walked in? Or was he awake already? She then gathered her strength, turned the knob, and slowly opened the door.

The entire room was dark, even darker than in the hall. Misty looked ahead towards the bedroom window: Delia had replaced the old shade with blinds. She tiptoed over, felt for the rod that would adjust the blinds, and proceeded to turn it in her hand. She opened the many slits of plastic to let just the right amount of daylight in; at least enough so that she wouldn’t bump into anything and wake the room’s sleeping occupant. She looked to her right.

Ash was laying peacefully on his right side; both hands lay in front of him on the bed, just below his chin. He had obviously been tossing and turning, since the quilt was crumbled near the foot. He still wore his hat, but his feet were bare.

Misty just stood there, looking at him, listening to his soft, steady breathing. She smiled, more at him than to herself.

“He looks so peaceful,” she thought, “just like the little baby in that picture.” Then she noticed his face: three small scratches could be seen on his left cheek, probably from the struggle with Gary. There were scratches on his arms too, but not quite as visible. She also noticed tear stains under his eyes, telling her that he had also been crying.

Misty wiped away her own tears, realizing that she didn’t have much time. Gently and carefully, she tugged his hat off (she froze when he gave a low moan) and placed it on the top left (her left) corner of the bed. Next, she took the quilt and placed it carefully over him, covering him up to his chin. Before closing the blinds again, she leaned over, pressed a soft kiss upon his forehead and whispered, “Happy Birthday, Ash,” into his ear.

He moved his head only slightly, but thankfully he didn’t wake up. So she closed the blinds, tiptoed to the door, took one last look at him, and closed the door softly behind her.



“Misty, are you alright?” Delia asked when Misty joined the others, “You took so long in the bathroom; I thought you might be ill.”

Misty gave a chuckle, “I’m alright; just had a little trouble, that’s all.” She sat down on the couch next to Tracey, who eagerly looked at her. She responded with a smile, one that told him Ash was okay and sleeping comfortably. She smiled at Pikachu too, who smiled back and looked very relieved.

“Well, Misty,” Professor Oak said as she helped herself to cookies and milk, “I was just telling Delia how eager you were to help in decorating for the party. Any ideas?”

Misty thought for a moment. “Well, I think we should have lots of colored streamers, as well as balloons---you know; those Pokémon-shaped balloons they hang up on Kid’s Day. And we should have some party games, too...”

“Like ‘Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Ponyta’,” Brock cut in.

Tracey shook his head, “I don’t think that would be age-appropriate for a thirteen-year-old, Brock.”

Brock laughed, “Yeah, I guess your right. Hey, how about Bobbing for Apples?”

“I don’t think so,” Delia giggled, “I still can’t get over what happened at his seventh birthday. Remember, Samuel?”

Professor Oak slapped his hand on his head as he laughed, “How could I forget! The children made such a mess; all that splashing and spraying...everyone got so soaked you’d think they’ve been in a swimming pool!” Everyone started to laugh, unaware of the sound of footsteps in the upstairs hall.

“Ah...it’s so nice to take a trip down Memory Lane once in a while,” Professor Oak said once they’d all calmed down.

Suddenly, a soft noise echoed from the hallway, causing the whole party to turn their heads. Ash stood there, looking very groggy. His jet-black hair was a little messy, and he blushed bright red as he rubbed his hand on his left cheek (evidently to nurse his scratches). He gave a sheepish look as he said,

“Umm......hi, guys.”

“Pika pi!” Pikachu ran over to its young master and jumped nimbly into his arms. This seemed to cheer him up a bit; he smiled at the little yellow mouse he held.

“Hey, Pikachu, were you good at Professor Oak’s?”

“Pika-chu,” Pikachu nodded.

“Are you feeling any better, Honey?” Delia asked.

Ash walked over and sat down next to her. “I’m not bad. Not great...but not bad.”

“Well, would you like some cookies and milk? I baked your favorite: chocolate chip.”

Ash didn’t feel very hungry at the moment. But, rather than say "no," he smiled and said, “Sure...why not.”



Ash just sat there, silently munching his cookie. He was trying so hard to forget what had just happened, but the more he did the more horrible he felt. Without realizing it, he leaned his head against Delia’s shoulder.

Delia laid her arm around her son’s shoulder. With her other hand she began to stroke the mass of soft, black hair that rested near her cheek.

While the others sat there, pretending not to notice, the doorbell rang.

“Oh, my,” Delia said as she sat up straight.

Brock started to get up, “Allow me, Mrs. Ketchum, I’ll get it for you.”

“It’s okay, Brock,” Ash said suddenly, “I’ll get it; it’s probably just the mailman.” Before anyone could say a word, Ash got up and walked to the door.

“Huh?...Daisy?” Ash said when he saw the pretty girl from Oak’s Lab standing right in front of him. In her arms, she carried a medium-sized rectangular package; it was wrapped in shiny blue gift wrap printed with snowflakes, and tied with a gold ribbon.

“Hiya, Ash,” Daisy replied with a smile, “I came to see how you were feeling, and...” she then held out the package in both hands, “to wish you a Happy Birthday. I know it's a little early, but I thought you might like this right now.”

Ash tried hard to repress a giggle when he saw the wrapping paper.

Daisy laughed, “I’m sorry, but Christmas wrap was all I could find. I’m going to go shopping later, though.”

Ash reached for the gift. “Thanks, Daisy, I really...” Suddenly, he stopped. Ash peered over Daisy’s shoulder and realized she wasn’t alone.

Gary was standing right behind her. He had recently taken a shower (the smell of lavender soap was unmistakable) and had some fresh clothes put on. The numerous scratches on his arms had been cleaned so well that they were hardly visible. The swelling in his face had reduced considerably; the bruises were still there, but they looked more pinkish than black-and-blue.

Ash also noticed that Gary wasn’t even looking at him, but was actually looking at the ground. He also seemed to notice a little shame and sadness on his face. Ash’s eyebrows lowered, but, strangely, he didn’t feel angry at all. In fact, he felt just as sad as Gary probably was.

Daisy broke the silence, “Oh, by the way, this guy here has something to tell you, so I think I’ll leave you two alone for a while. Say, do you know where everyone else is?”

Without taking his eyes off of Gary, the words “living room” softly broke from Ash’s lips. Daisy started to head down the hall when she noticed her brother’s hesitation.

“Gary,” she said sternly, “get inside and close the door; it’s a little windy outside.” Then she disappeared into the next room.

Gary shut the door as he came in. For a moment both boys neither spoke to nor looked at each other. The long pause made them feel terribly uncomfortable. Suddenly, Gary let out a long sigh and began to speak.

“Um...Ash? L....Look......I......I........well, what I mean to say is.......uh......after the Pokémon battle.....I guess I was still a little..........I wasn’t thinking.......and.......Oh, this is too hard! Look, Ash, what I’m trying to say is.......................I’m sorry.”

Upon hearing this, Ash’s face softened. He walked over to Gary and put a hand on his shoulder. Gary cringed.

“Relax, I’m not gonna bite this time,” Ash said. "Actually...I’m the one who should be sorry; I guess I wasn’t thinking either.” He then added, in a lower voice, “Just between you and me...I was almost thinking the same things you said about Dad. I try not to believe it, but sometimes it’s just so hard.”

Gary couldn’t believe what he was hearing. All his life he had always considered Ash as someone who never had a care in the world, who was always so happy and free-spirited; yet, there he stood, hearing Ash confess that he thought his father would never come back. It was almost too overwhelming to bear.

Once more, Gary forgot to think first: with a comforting smile on his face he lunged forward, encircled his arms around Ash, and gave him a small squeeze. Ash was startled at first, but then smiled and did the same. At that moment they were silent; no longer as rivals, but as friends.



A few minutes later, Ash and Gary joined the others in the living room. Everyone was so glad to know that they had patched things up.

Just then, Misty said, “Hey, Ash, why don’t you open Daisy’s present?”

“Yeah,” Brock agreed, “we want to see what it is.”

Ash hesitated as Daisy laid the gift in his lap. “Gosh, guys, it’s a little early. Do you think I should?”

“YES!” they all cried. Ash laughed as he held up the gift.

The box, he noticed, was too small and too heavy to contain clothes. Actually, it felt like wood rather than cardboard. As he tore off the wrapping, they all began to see what it was.

The box was made of wood, but it wasn’t really a box: it was a small cabinet. Inside they could see four tiny, blue-colored glass bottles, what looked like an oil diffuser, and a set of six little tea candles.

Misty realized something; “Hey, Daisy,” she asked, “isn’t this an Aromatherapy kit?”

Daisy smiled, “That’s right, Misty.” Then she turned to Ash, “You see, you put a little water into the diffuser here, and then you add exactly twelve drops of the oil you want. Next, you put the candle into the hole down here, light it, and it releases the fragrance into the air.”

“This is wonderful, Daisy,” Delia exclaimed, “Ash could use a little relaxation now and then.”

“Mom...” Ash said as he turned Daisy. “Thanks, Daisy, this is great.”

Since she was looking over his left shoulder, Ash leaned his head near hers and planted a quick kiss on her right cheek. Daisy giggled (as did everyone else) and turned bright red.

“Hey,” exclaimed Gary, half playfully, half annoyed, “What did I say a while back about kissing my sister?”

Misty and Brock just stared at him when he said this.

“You mean he’s done this before?” Misty asked.

Ash, pretending not to hear her question, smiled menacingly (with a touch of humor) at Gary. “Careful, pal; you wouldn’t want me to have another episode now, would you?”

“On second thought,” Gary said hastily, “never mind.”

Both boys laughed. After wondering what was so funny, everyone else started laughing as well.



Later that night, Ash lay asleep in his bed, with Pikachu curled up comfortably at the foot. His new oil diffuser had filled the room with the warm scent of chamomile. The rest of his present rested on his writing desk, which was near the door.

Because of the hot summer night, his mom let him leave the window open. Ash had fallen asleep listening to the soothing night sounds: crickets chirping, Hoothoots hooting, even the trickling waters of the river could be heard.

Around two in the morning, however, a different sound disturbed the peaceful night. Ash slept on at first, but then he slowly became aware of it and woke up. It was a noise he had not heard since his adventures in the Orange Islands: it was the sound of a helicopter.

Ash got up and looked out the window. Even with the full moon shining in the sky it was still too dark to see where it was, but Ash could tell by the sound.

It was coming from the woods.

“Pika?”

Pikachu woke up and found its master standing by the window. It jumped off the bed and onto the windowsill to see what he was looking at.

Normally, most people wouldn’t even care if a helicopter was nearby. Yet, who ever heard of hearing one close to their home at two in the morning? Something told Ash the same thing, and it also told him to go check it out. Without taking the time to get dressed, and with Pikachu following close behind, he slowly opened his door and tiptoed down the hallway to the stairs.

He could hear snoring as he cautiously made his way to the bottom. Then he remembered that Misty and Brock agreed to sleep in the living room; Misty was on the couch, Brock was on the floor (in his sleeping-bag).

“C’mon, Pikachu,” Ash whispered to his companion, as he edged the front door open.

“Pi pika pika,” Pikachu whispered back. The two friends, still on tiptoes, made their way outside and shut the door behind them.

They both started down the dirt path towards the woods; a slow walk at first, just so they wouldn’t make so much noise. Then, something stirred inside of Ash, which caused him to walk a little faster. Faster. Faster. Finally, he broke out into a run, with Pikachu running to keep up. He didn’t know what it was that told him to do so, but Ash realized that the entire moment seemed familiar. The last time he had run down this particular path, it was raining, and he was crying. Now, the night was clear, and he was more concerned than upset. At that moment, he stopped.

Ash was standing on the same cliff he had stood on almost seven years ago. Looking down he could see the dark mass of trees that were the woods, and yet, all was as quiet as it had been hours before: the helicopter could not be heard anymore. Ash guessed that it had flown away before he got there.

“Pika...chu...”

Ash felt Pikachu tug at his leg. The little yellow mouse was apparently nervous about being outside so late, for it was shaking with fear. Ash heard the wind whistle through the trees nearby as he looked at his watch: 2:45 AM.

“Yeah, you’re right,” he told Pikachu, “There’s nothing to see here. Let’s go back.” They both turned around to head back home. Suddenly, Ash stopped.

The whistling was heard again. However, that time, it didn’t sound like the wind. The whistling began again. This time, Ash was sure it wasn’t the wind: he’d heard a tune in that whistle; a tune he remembered hearing long ago. Turning back, he felt his heart literally leap into his throat.

A small beam of light appeared from the darkness of the forest; it was from a lantern. Carrying the lantern in one hand was a man; in his other hand was what looked like a medium-sized carrier. He wore the kind of clothes that hikers usually wear: hiking boots, kaki shorts and shirt, and a special kind of knapsack (the kind that also holds your sleeping-bag). The man wasn’t alone either: a Pokémon was walking beside him at a steady pace, but Ash still couldn't see what species it was.

As he looked on, hope surged through Ash’s body at lightning speed. He wanted to believe who that man was; and yet, he still wasn’t sure. Words were unable to come out of his mouth for a while. But then, one word came out; it came out so softly that not even he could hear it.

“...Dad?”

ZeldaFan20
7th September 2004, 1:39 AM
Chapter Five



Ash’s eyes filled to overflowing with tears, and yet he was literally quivering with happiness. He almost couldn’t believe what he was seeing: his father, George Ketchum, coming back home...back to his friends...to his family........to HIM.

At that moment, all Ash could think about was running right into his dad’s arms and giving him the biggest hug he had ever given. In fact.........he did just that! He sprang forward, almost forgetting that the entire hillside under the cliff was covered with rocks. But, by the time he remembered, it was too late. As he slid down the hill, the smaller rocks cut his bare feet, and when he was at least a foot from the ground he tripped over a large stone, causing him to fall flat on his face, right onto the grass below. Pikachu had jumped nimbly from rock to rock, and frantically checked Ash to make sure he was all right.

As Ash stood up, he winced; his left ankle had become injured in the fall. However, he was far too excited to even care. Forgetting how much it hurt, he still managed to resume his run (limping as he did so), despite Pikachu’s protests. He then noticed that they were on the dirt road, just under the cliff. Straight ahead he could see the bright beacon that his father held.

“DAAAAAAAD!” Ash cried out, laughing happily as well as crying.

At first, George did not even know who was coming towards him at such high speed, followed by a tiny Pokémon. He shined the light in that direction. His eyes opened wide as he noted the familiar features: the raven-black hair, the olive complexion, and (most of all) those brown eyes that always sparkle with innocence and laughter.

George nearly dropped what he was holding (lantern and all) when he finally realized who it was. Hastily placing the articles on the ground, he ran right towards Ash, tears of joy flowing from his own eyes.

“Ash! Ash, I’m right here, son!”

They reached for each other with open arms, laughing and crying at the same time. Finally, after seven long years apart, father and son were together again.

George picked Ash up under the arms, lifted him off the ground (grunting as he did so, for he could not believe how much the boy had grown in seven years), and twirled around in three full circles, with Ash’s hands on his shoulders. Both came to a complete stop, sank to their knees, and locked into what was probably the biggest hug in history; Ash’s arms were entwined around his father’s neck, while George gathered his son’s mid-section into his own arms.

“Dad...you’re home,” Ash sobbed.

“Yes, son,” George said softly, “I’m home.”

In this fashion George ran his fingers through Ash’s hair and pressed a hearty kiss on his right cheek. Ash could feel the wetness on his dad’s face as it mingled with his own happy tears.

Then, George checked himself, and placed Ash right in front of him so as to look into his face.

“Ash, is everything all right? Why are you out here so early in the morning?”

Ash wiped his eyes and observed the look of worry in his father’s face.

“I’m okay, Dad; it’s just that....well....I heard a helicopter coming from the woods. I thought it was strange to hear a helicopter around here so late, so I came to check it out.”

“You didn’t think of waking your mother?”

“Um...well, I...I...I had Pikachu with me.”

“Pika chu, pika!” Pikachu nodded cheerfully.

George smiled at the little mouse, but then turned back to Ash, “Still, you should have at least told your mother you were going out, or at least let her know that something was out here. Normally, I would be very disappointed in you........but, for now, I’ll let it go.”

Ash hung his head as his dad talked, but then perked up at the last sentence.

“Wait a minute,” he said suddenly, “you must’ve heard it too, right?”

George looked startled, “W-Well, yes...I did, but I didn’t want to get too involved in whatever was happening, so I kept walking.” Then he remembered something, “Oh, I almost forgot.” He turned around, without getting up, and whistled.

The Pokémon that traveled with him had walked calmly to the pair. It was gently carrying the carrier towards them in its mouth (by the handle), and holding the lantern in its tail. When it reached them, Ash was able to identify what species of Pokémon it was. He recognized the sleek coat, the piercing eyes, the paws, the whiskers, and what looked like a red jewel in the middle of its forehead. Pikachu recognized the species too: it was a Persian.

“Wow, Dad,” he exclaimed, “where’d you get that cool Persian?”

Before he could answer, George yawned. “Later, son; right now, I want to go back home and get some well-deserved sleep.”

Ash yawned too, “Yeah, me too. C’mon, let’s go home before everyone wakes...OW!” He had just started to stand up when he felt a sharp pain in his ankle. Ash sank back to the ground holding his foot.

George immediately leaned closer and looked at his ankle. “My goodness, what did you do to yourself?”

“I just...twisted it...it’s really not that bad.”

“Oh, it’s bad all right: it’s starting to swell. And look at both your feet?! Did you run all the way here without any shoes?”

Ash hung his head again and nodded.

George looked disapprovingly at Ash, but then he smiled and chuckled to himself.

“Ho hooo boy, little man, I don’t know why, but I find it very hard to believe that you are able to hurt yourself just when you’ve turned thirteen. Oh well...it looks like we’ll be going to bed a little later than we planned.” Just then, he turned around, rested Ash’s stomach on his back, wrapped an arm around each leg, and lifted him off the ground.

“Hey, Dad,” Ash said, sounding both surprised and amused, “what are you doing? I’m too big for piggy-back rides.”

“Persian,” he said to his Pokémon companion, “I’ll need you to carry the lantern and carrier for a little while longer.”

“Reeooow,” Persian nodded as it picked up the articles once again (Ash thought he’d seen the carrier move that time). Pikachu leaped onto Ash’s shoulder, and the party set off.

“By the way, Dad,” Ash inquired, “what exactly is in that carrier?”

George smiled, “Uh-uh-uh; you’ll have to wait until later this afternoon.”

“Awwww,” Ash whined, clearly disappointed.



When they arrived at the house, a small streak of crimson could be seen on the horizon. With Ash still on his back, George slowly opened the door, and they all went in.

George slipped off his boots and carried Ash to his bedroom. Fortunately, no one was up yet, but Brock’s snoring could still be heard. As they went upstairs, Ash explained to him that his friends were staying the night in the living room.

In the bedroom, George sat Ash on the bed. After retrieving the lantern from Persian, he reached into his knapsack, and pulled out a roll of white gauze bandage and a bag full of herbs. Then he took out his canteen and a small towel.

“What are those for?” Ash asked.

“I’m going to clean your feet,” he replied, and proceeded to do so. When they were dry he took some of the herbs, rubbed them in both hands, and applied them to Ash’s ankle. Then he took the bandage and wrapped it around the ankle, from above the swollen area to the arch of the foot, and tied both ends together.

“Is that too tight for you?” George asked.

Ash shook his head, “No, it’s fine.”

“Good. Now, I want you to try and get some sleep while it’s still dark.” George helped Ash get under the blanket. Then he tucked him in, and kissed him on the forehead, “Good night, son.”

“Good night, Dad.”

Ash fell asleep almost immediately, with Pikachu near his head. George unrolled his sleeping bag on the floor and, with Persian near his feet, fell asleep himself in a matter of minutes.



Meanwhile, at Team Rocket HQ...

“I can’t believe the Boss would just go off like that!” said a sky-blue haired man. He was dressed in a black TR uniform, as was the female companion he was talking to.

“Relax, Butch,” said the girl, who played with her blonde pigtails, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

“He could somehow let some information slip about where we are, Cassidy!” Butch exclaimed, “Then we’ll have cops all over the place. I don’t believe it...all this fuss over some brat!”

“Calm down; the Boss may be eccentric sometimes, but at least he’s not stupid. Trust me on this one, if anything bad was going to happen, he would have contacted HQ by now, wouldn’t he?”

Butch maintained his scowl. “Okay," but then he muttered, “I still have a bad feeling about all this, though...”



The sun rose slowly over all of Pallet Town. All was quiet, the inhabitants still enjoying the sweet bliss of an early morning slumber.

In the nearby woods all the Bug and Bird Pokémon rose from their little nests and began their search for food. In the river all the Water creatures came out from under the rocks, splishing and splashing, to look for breakfast.

Suddenly, the silence of the morning was disturbed by two unfamiliar noises...

“VAROOOM!”

“RREEEEOOOOWWWWW!!!!”

In the Ketchum household, Ash, Pikachu, and George sat straight up in their beds, clearly startled by the noise.

“Pika Pii?!” asked Pikachu.

“Hey, what’s going on...Huh?!” Ash exclaimed.

“What on Earth is all the ruckus about......Persian, what are you doing?!” George shouted in amazement.

The two humans and the little mouse just sat there, their eyes and mouths wide open.

Persian had perched itself right on Ash’s desk, claws extended as far as they could go, back arched (the fir literally standing on end), eyes afire, and hissing and caterwauling like an alley cat. A few feet away, a frightened Mimie was trying to keep it at bay with the vacuum cleaner (which, I might add, was turned ON).

Ash and Pikachu hopped out of bed and took the vacuum away from Mimie while George attempted to settle Persian down.

“Mimie,” said Ash angrily, “how many times do I have to tell you not to vacuum my room so early---especially when I have company over!”

“Easy now...settle down, girl,” George calmly told his little friend. Once Persian had relaxed a bit, he soon marveled over Mimie. “Ash, when did you get a Mr. Mime?”

Ash blushed, “Oh, it’s not mine, it’s Mom’s. Long story; I’ll tell you about it some other time.”

Persian then directed a low growl at Mimie, who instantly fled the room, completely scared out of its wits. The whole group giggled as it ran out, until Pikachu noticed that Ash was actually standing on both feet.

“Pika chu? Pika pika?” it asked, pointing to his ankle.

George noticed too, “Is your ankle feeling anymore pain, son?”

Ash suddenly remembered what happened the previous night; he then raised his foot and pressed the ankle gently.

“Well...I feel something, but it’s not pain.”

George nodded, “That’s good; it means that the Aloe Vera has taken effect.”

Just then, the sweet aroma of chocolate and buttermilk passed through their noses, and they heard Delia calling from the kitchen.

“Ash, time for breakfast!”

“Alright,” Ash shouted, “Chocolate-chip pancakes!”

“PIKA!” Pikachu agreed.

“Mm-mm-mm,” said George, rubbing his stomach, “My angel-girl makes the best pancakes in all of Kanto.”

Ash laughed, “I can vouch for that.” He got dressed quickly, combed his hair, and started to head downstairs with Pikachu; but then stopped.

“Dad, do you think you could wait here for a bit? I want to surprise everybody---especially Mom.”

George smiled, “Of course, son. I have to take care of something here anyway, but Persian and I will wait for you.”

“Thanks, Dad, you’re the best!” Ash and Pikachu ran out the door.

As George watched them leave he smiled, but then his face fell and he thought to himself, “Not really.”



Ash bounded into the kitchen (followed by his little friend) just as Delia was pouring some more pancake batter into a hot pan; a stack of fresh, hot pancakes was sitting on the counter next to her, waiting to be served. Sitting at the table were Misty (holding Togepi), Brock, and.....Tracey?

“Hey, Tracey, what are you doing here so early?”

“Oh, good-morning, Ash,” Tracey replied, “I wanted to stop by and see how everyone was doing.” As Ash walked over to the table Tracey suddenly added, “By the way, how’s your foot?”

Everyone looked at Tracey, then at Ash. All Ash could do was look at him with surprise. He knew that Tracey was an experienced Pokémon Watcher, but he never imagined that he would notice something as unnoticeable as a minor foot injury.

Ash smiled as he quickly thought up an excuse, “Um, I just bumped my ankle falling out of bed last night; it’s really nothing serious. How did you notice?”

“Well,” Tracey answered, “when you came in, I noticed the irregularity in the way you walked. But I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“Thanks,” Ash replied cheerfully.

“I’ve got a question, too,” Brock said, “this morning I thought I heard a cat in your room; there was this terrible shriek....like a wild Meowth, or something.”

“More like a scared Persian,” Ash muttered under his breath.

“What did you say?”

“Err…I said it must’ve been your imagination.”

Everyone secretly wondered why Ash was in such a good mood, and yet so jumpy, but no one said anything out loud.

“Okay, everybody,” Delia walked to the table with the plate of pancakes, “breakfast is served.”

The four children and the Pokémon eyed the meal greedily, licking their lips as they did so.

“Wow, Mrs. Ketchum, these look great,” said Misty.

“Yeah, not even I can make ‘em this good,” said Brock.

“They sure do smell delicious,” Tracey agreed.

Delia giggled and her color rose, “Why thank you, guys...Ash, what’s wrong?” She noticed that her son was out in the hallway, looking up at the top of the stairs.

“Wait, Mom,” he said hastily, “don’t serve anything yet.”

“Why not?” everyone asked.

“Because, I’ve got a big surprise for you all---and I know you’ll be very surprised, Mom. Wait a sec, I’ll be right back,” and he ran upstairs.

“A surprise for me? Oh, this is quite exciting,” Delia said.

“What was that all about?” Brock asked.

“How should I know?” Misty smirked.

“Ash is up to something,” Tracey observed.

Several minutes passed before Ash came back downstairs.

“Okay, everybody, close your eyes.”

“What for?” Misty was first in asking.

“C’mon, please?”

The group either closed or covered their eyes (Misty grunted annoyingly as she hid hers), and waited.

“Okay,” they heard Ash say, “you can look now.” They all opened their eyes: Brock and Tracey stood up sharply, and Misty and Delia covered their mouths and gasped.

Holding Ash’s hand was George. He had taken off his hiking gear and put on some fresh clothes: a plain-white T-shirt, navy-blue sweatpants and similar-colored sneakers. He had just brushed his black hair, and his face was pink and slightly moist (telling them that he had just washed it). Standing next to his right leg, purring softly, was Persian.

No one knew quite what to say, they seemed to have mixed feelings about Ash’s “surprise”; caution, happiness, and shock seemed to be rolled up into one indescribable emotion.

George gave each of his son’s friends a pleasant smile. Then he looked at Delia, and saw the tears starting to form in her eyes. He gave her an even brighter smile.

“I know those beautiful eyes anywhere,” he said as he opened his arms out to her, “How’ve you been, my angel-girl?”

Delia laughed (though it sounded more like a sob than a laugh) as she ran into his arms. She entwined hers around his neck, and pressed her lips onto his. George gathered her closer to him.

“Well, Mom,” Ash interrupted, “what do you think? Do you like your surprise?”

Delia looked at Ash happily, despite her tear-stained face, “I love it, sweetheart. Thank you.” Then she checked herself and wiped her eyes. “Oh! I ask you, where are my manners? George, these are Ash’s friends: Misty (and her Pokémon, Togepi), Brock, and Tracey. Guys, this is my husband, George.”

“How do you do, sir?” they all said together.

“It’s a pleasure to meet all of you,” George said as he shook hands with each child.

Suddenly, the moment was interrupted by a low, yet loud, grumbling. The three teenagers immediately looked in Ash’s direction.

Ash stared blankly at them. “What? It wasn’t me this time.”

George chuckled, “I’m sorry, that was me; I never had supper last evening.”

“Well then,” Delia said, “let’s all have some chocolate-chip pancakes, and have a ‘double celebration’.”

“A ‘double celebration’?” Misty asked.

“Yeah,” Ash answered, “MY birthday, and Dad’s homecoming!”

Everyone agreed, sat down at the table, and started to fill their plates and glasses with hot pancakes and cold milk.

Zimmy
7th September 2004, 4:27 PM
Nice to know there are others as obsessed about spelling and grammer as me! I did spot a few typo's, though, but everyone gets them.

Sorry I haven't reviewed in a long time, I've been really busy.

*is not picky for once!* ;151;

ZeldaFan20
25th September 2004, 8:31 PM
Sorry for not posting in a while myself, but school is really eating my time away---especially Astronomy (the first time I ever went to class at night!). Anyway, here's the next chapter!






Chapter Six



As they all sat there eating, Misty, Brock, and Tracey each told George their stories, as George listened with the greatest interest.

“Well, Tracey, I’d have to say that what you're doing is a great accomplishment. Not all young people your age get a chance to travel the world and study different Pokémon. You should be very proud.”

“Thank you very much, sir,” Tracey replied.

“So, your old man is the Pewter Gym Leader again?” he asked when he heard Brock's tale, “I haven’t seen Flint since school. I’ll have to remember to give him a call later; I bet there’s never a dull moment with all those children.” He laughed, as did everyone else, “And Pokémon breeding! Well, it appears you and I share the same dream. Perhaps we can work together, someday.”

Brock’s eyes sparkled at the thought, “Really? That would be great!”

“As for you, young lady,” he said to Misty, “I know it’s not easy feeling like you’re in your sisters’ shadows. Still, you, as well as Brock, should consider yourselves lucky to even HAVE siblings: our family has a history of having only one child born; if we wanted more, we had to adopt. So, you both should think of each of your siblings as a blessing, not a burden.”

Ash looked at George, “This is the first time I’ve heard that: only ONE kid?”

George nodded seriously, “My side of the family had eight generations of single-child families: it’s quite sad, to tell you the truth.”

Misty thought for a moment, “I’m sorry to hear that. And I guess you’re right: my sisters are annoying at times but, hey…I can’t help loving them anyway.”

“And I certainly have no regrets,” Brock said, “I’ve had to take care of all my brothers and sisters since my mom died, and I’ve enjoyed every day with them.”

“I agree,” Delia said, “There is no greater joy in life than to be with family.”

“Well then,” George stood and raised his glass (everyone else followed suit), “here’s to family.”

“To family!”

“PIKA!”

“Toci toci priii!”

The clinking sound of glasses filled the room.



An hour later, Ash, Pikachu, Persian, and George were sitting on the couch in the living-room. Ash was showing his dad all the Badges he had won on his previous adventures (including his Orange League trophy), when Delia came into the room.

“George, the children and I need to get something at the Lab. We shouldn’t be more than half an hour. Could you and Ash stay here and.....look after the house?” During that time, Ash had turned his back to put his trophy away; Delia chose that moment to send George a quick wink.

“Sure, angel-girl, what ever you say,” he replied as he sent a wink back to her (he had clearly gotten the picture).

The two Pokémon looked at each other and chuckled softly: they knew what was going on with their human pals.

Delia walked over and gave him a kiss. “Thanks, hon, you’re a prince,” and she walked out the front door.

Misty (still holding Togepi in her arms), Brock, and Tracey were waiting for her on the front porch.

“Well?” Misty asked hopefully.

“Don’t worry,” Delia said with a gleam in her eye, “Ash doesn’t suspect a thing.”

“Great,” chimed Brock, “Now, let’s get to the Lab and get started.” The whole group then set off for Professor Oak’s Lab at a steady pace, increasing speed as they got farther from the house.



That afternoon...

“Hey, Mimie,” Ash asked, “do you see Mom and the others yet?”

Mimie looked out the window, shook its head, and replied, “Mime, mime.”

Ash flopped back on the couch. He was bored, and growing increasingly impatient at his friends’ delay. George had made them all a lunch of macaroni and cheese, and was in the kitchen putting the dishes away (Ash had helped wash them, and was sent into the living-room as soon as he was finished). There was nothing good on TV, Mimie had knocked the radio to the floor while it was dusting, and he had lost three games of chess in a row to his dad. It wasn’t fair: it was his birthday, and, aside from George and the Pokémon, there was no one around to celebrate with him: no gifts, no cake, no ANYTHING.

All the while, Pikachu was riding Persian around the room like a pony: both were having the time of their lives.

Ash was finally fed up. “Dad,” he called “what time is it?”

George was looking at his watch as he came into the room, “Let’s see…it’s 2:59 pm.”

“Ugh...They’ve been gone since ten o’clock! What’s taking so long?!”

George smiled an amused smile as he saw Ash’s frustration. “Calm down, tiger; maybe something came up.”

Ash sat up, frowning at him, “Like what?”

“Hmmm...I’m not sure. Let me call and find out.” He went to the phone near the fire place and proceeded to dial the Lab’s number.

“That’s strange,” said George (feigning concern) as he hung up, “I’m getting nothing but static.”

Ash stood up in a flash, “Something’s up over there.”

“Wait a minute, let’s not jump to any conclusions. After all, we don’t know for sure if there is anything wrong.”

“Even so, we should check it out.” Ash put on his hat and started to tie his sneakers in a big rush.

“Alright, but I’m coming with you.” George then turned to the Pokémon, “You three had better come along too.”

“Pika chu,” Pikachu nodded.

“Meow,” Persian said.

“Mime...mime,” Mimie said as it stared nervously at Persian.



When the five got to the lab, they noticed that all the lights were off inside. They went up to the front door and rang the bell, but no one answered. George then tried the doorknob...the hinges creaked as it opened with ease.

“It wasn’t locked,” Ash said. He was clearly getting worried.

George shook his head, “Come on, and stay close to me.”

The entire group went cautiously from room to room. Everything was dark and uninhabited, including the Lab itself; not even a single Pokémon was around.

“Do you think Team Rocket was here?”

“I’m not sure, Ash,” George replied, “Let’s keep looking around...wait, what’s that?”

The back door was just ahead of them. From the other side they could hear rustling noises. A faint light, and a shadow or two, could be seen through the crack.

Ash, George, and the three Pokémon crept up to the door quietly. George grabbed the doorknob and quickly jerked the door open. Ash jumped back, his eyes wide open with both confusion and shock...

“SURRRPRIIIIISE!”

Ash was thunderstruck. He was in such a state of shock that he failed to notice his surroundings, but George, Pikachu, Persian and Mimie saw everything.

Tall poles decorated with long colored streamers, and topped off with different Pokémon-shaped balloons, were arranged in a circle around the open field. Inside the circle, several tables and chairs were organized in a similar fashion; each was covered with a large rainbow-colored tablecloth. The longest table stood just outside the door (on the left side): it was stocked with salads, sandwiches, fruits, punch, cookies, and a chocolate cake nearly the same length and width as a coffee table. At one end, a large cooler filled with ice, ice cream, and every kind of soda known to man, was sitting on the grass; at the other end was a huge pile of brightly wrapped presents heavily guarded by two Nidorinas and two Nidorinos.

In the very center of the area was a large mass of people and Pokémon. Friends and neighbors, including Delia, Misty, Brock, Gary, Daisy, Tracey, Professor Oak, and many others, stood there with the biggest smiles imaginable.

What made Ash snap out of it was some other people in the crowd; he recognized them. From Kanto there were the Cerulean Sisters (Misty’s older sisters: Daisy, Violet, and Lily), Brock’s family (Flint and all his younger children), Lt. Surge, Erika, Sabrina and her parents, Koga and his sister Aiya, and Blaine. From Johto were Professor Elm, Falkner, Bugsy, Whitney, Morty, Jasmine, Chuck, Pryce, and Clair. Every Gym Leader he battled had come, bringing their Pokémon, to celebrate his thirteenth birthday. It really blew him away.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ASH!” they all shouted.

“Happy Birthday, sweetheart!” Delia said as she ran over to Ash and gave him a kiss on the cheek, “Do you like YOUR surprise?”

For a moment, Ash was lost for words. The return of his father the previous night was enough of a surprise, but all these people who had come to wish him a happy birthday; his happiness was so great that he almost passed out. In fact, he almost did until George grabbed him by the shoulders. Without noticing, Ash broke out in a smile. More happy tears fell down his cheeks as he looked first at his parents, and then his friends.

“Thank you, Mom...Dad...........All of you.”

Then, out of nowhere, there was a clicking sound and a bright flash, followed by a familiar voice saying,

“What an emotional moment! This will make a great shot!”

Ash didn’t have to look at the person to know who it was.

“TODD!”

Todd Snap, a Pokémon photographer and one of Ash’s best friends, ran over and gave him a hug.

“Hey, buddy, why the tears?” Todd asked, “It’s your birthday. You should be happy.”

“Of course I’m happy,” Ash laughed, “Why do you think I’m laughing?”

A girl with aquamarine pigtails, two Dittos standing beside her, spoke up from a couple of meters away,

“More like bawling, Ashy Boy.”

“Duplica,” Ash said, “You’re here too!” He ran over to her and the two friends shook hands.

“Are you kidding?” Duplica said, “I wouldn’t miss this for the world. It’s not everyday that one of my pals officially becomes a teenager.” Then she noticed George and said, “Hey, who’s that man over there with your mom?”

“Huh? Oh, that’s my dad, George Ketchum. He just arrived early this morning.”

“What do you mean by ‘early’?” said another voice. Ash looked and saw a boy who was around his age, and who dressed similarly but with different clothes. Perched on his shoulder was a Pikachu.

“Richie, Sparky!” Both boys laughed and locked in a big hug, while the two Pikachus did the same. “It’s great to see ya!”

“It’s great to see you too, Ash,” said Richie, “but you didn’t answer my question: when you said ‘early’, did you mean ‘early’ as in after you woke up, or ‘early’ as in before you woke up?”

“I mean before the SUN was up!” Ash laughed. Everyone else laughed heartily. But then, Lt. Surge spoke up,

“Hey, everybody, what do ya say we grab a bite ta eat before all that food goes ta waste?”

The entire party agreed and began to grab some plates.

An hour later, the adults were all sitting at their tables talking to one another, while the youngsters were either running around on the grass with their Pokémon or making up games to play. Bugsy suggested a race between the Pokémon and their trainers, but many thought that it wouldn’t be fair. Then Gary suggested a game of Musical Chairs, with the humans and Pokémon playing together: everyone liked this idea, including Bugsy.

While Gary was indoors looking for his CD player, Ash felt a tug at his shirt. One of Brock's little brothers, named Tommy, was smiling at him and trying to pull him away from the group.

“What are you doing, Tommy?” Ash asked

“Come over here, Ash,” was the reply.

“Why?”

Tommy stopped tugging and looked at him, “Our family has a birthday tradition, and we want to share it with you.”

Ash smiled, “Really? What is it?”

“Come on and you'll see,” Tommy said and grabbed his hand again. He led Ash to where the rest of his brothers and sisters had gathered. In the middle of the bunch was a single chair, which they made him sit in. Ash, thinking that they had snuck him a gift and were going to give it to him, had closed his eyes, but what they really did startled him so much that he nearly jumped out of his skin.

“One...two...three...” All the children had grabbed the chair, and started lifting it off the ground and then putting it down again, counting as they did so. Ash didn’t know why they were doing this, but it made him feel like he was riding a boat on a rough sea. What made it worse was that he had eaten not too long ago, and his stomach was already starting to turn.

“Seven...eight...nine...”

“Hey, guys, what are you doing?” Ash managed to ask.

“Twelve...thirteen!”

“And here’s one for good luck!” Tommy said as they raised his chair one more time, and then settled it back on solid ground. Ash stood up immediately, putting a hand on his heart, and laughed.

“Wow,” Ash breathed, “that was definitely...interesting. Thanks, guys.”

All the children were cheering. Ash then saw Gary come out of the building, carrying his CD player, and walked over to where they were setting up for Musical Chairs.

Just then, Delia walked up to them. “Sorry, guys, but that will have to wait until later. It’s time to cut the cake.”

“YEAH!” they all cheered as they ran over to the buffet table

They all looked at the cake with great anticipation. It was covered with white vanilla frosting, and decorated with multi-colored flowers made of icing. In the very center were the words “Happy Birthday Ash” in red and blue letters; on each side of his name was a picture of Pikachu, waving. Delia had already placed thirteen candles on it, and Professor Oak was in the process of lighting them.

Everyone who was there gathered around and started singing:


“Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday, dear Ash,
Happy birthday to you.”

Then they all clapped as Professor Oak lit the last candle.

“Make a wish, honey,” Delia said.

Ash closed his eyes, and made his wish. After what seemed like minutes he opened his eyes, took a deep breath, and blew as hard as he could; all the candles were extinguished in one breath. There was a much louder cheer as Gary handed Ash the carving knife.

“Here, Ash, you’re supposed to cut and pass out the very first piece.”

Ash nodded as he took the knife. He thought for a moment, and cut a square piece off the top right corner; Todd was snapping pictures as he did so. As he scooped the slice onto a paper plate, and Delia scooped some fudge swirl ice cream next to it, everyone wondered who would get it. Many of them were quite surprised when he walked over to George, handed him the plate of cake and ice cream, smiled, and said,

“Welcome home, Dad.”

Happy smiles broke from their faces as they watched George take the plate from Ash, wrap him up in a hug, and say,

“Thank you, son.”



Because of the number of guests, the cake was gone in a matter of minutes. It was now time for Ash to open his gifts.

While Delia was trying to ease the stubborn Pokémon guarding the presents, George crept up to her while no one was looking.

“Angel-girl, I left something back at the house for Ash. I’ll only be a few minutes, but I don't want Ash to worry.”

Delia smiled, “It's alright, I’ll tell him where you went. Just don’t be too long, okay?”

George kissed her lips and smiled back, “Team Rocket couldn’t keep me away.”

“Make sure they don’t,” she called as he ran off, with Persian close behind him.



The center of the field was covered with many beach blankets; everyone was going to sit on the grass and watch the unwrapping.

Each person took their present and found a spot to sit. Ash sat on the north side with his mother and friends.

Brock and his family went first:

“This is from us,” he said. Brock handed Ash a small box tied up with a gold ribbon. When it was opened, it revealed a tiny Pikachu statue made entirely out of amberite.

“How cool,” Ash said with delight, “Thanks, Brock, to you and your family.”

“You’re welcome, Ash,” said Flint.

“I’m next,” Misty cut in as she handed him a small, square-shaped present, “This is from me and my sisters.”

Ash opened his eyes wide when he unwrapped it: it was a CD; more specifically, the latest album of his favorite trio, BBMak.

“This is great! Thanks girls!”



While Ash was finishing up the first half of his presents, George had walked out of the house, carrying the carrier in one hand, with Persian walking beside him.

“We got what we came for, girl. Now, let’s get back to the party.”

“Meow,” Persian replied, and they walked slowly back towards the Lab.



A few minutes later...

“Wow!” Ash exclaimed as he gazed at his gift from Clair: a chess set; each piece, made of pure silver and accented with a tiny crystal, was molded into little figures of dragons, wizards, elves, trolls, and the like. “Thanks, Clair, I love it!”

“You’ll definitely have fun playing chess with those,” Clair said with a smile as she sat back down.

Ash carefully laid the chess set with all his other gifts: books, little figurines, games, a set of Tarot Cards from Morty, clothes, etc.

“Well,” Professor Oak announced, “I believe that’s everyone.”

“Wait,” Delia interrupted, “George isn’t back yet.”

“Did someone mention me?” Everyone turned to see George walking through the yard towards Ash, who instantly noticed the carrier in his hand.

“So whatever’s in there IS for me,” Ash said, clearly filled with excitement, “I can’t wait!”

As George handed the carrier to his son he said, “Mind you, it took me a lot of searching before I finally found one. So, be sure to take good care of it.”

Ash nodded and opened the top half, and what he saw astonished not only him but his guests as well.

The first thing everyone saw was a pair of long, brown, furry ears pop out. Next came a tail, also brown, but with a small splash of lighter brown on the tip. The head came out more slowly. It was the cutest face anyone could ever see; those small, dark eyes sparkled with as much innocence as Ash’s own eyes. Around its neck, the fur was fluffy, and a light, almost whitish, brown; much like the tip of its tail. It was also clear that it was still young, for it was very little, and very shy.

“Oh...an Eevee,” Ash whispered so as not to scare the little Pokémon. He smiled, and gently stroked its furry head. Eevee looked at him as he did so, and smiled itself.

“Rrrriiiii,” it managed to say, and it licked his hand.

Ash gave his father an even bigger hug and said, “Thank you, Dad, it’s wonderful. And I promise I’ll train it well.”



During the remainder of the party, Eevee quickly adapted to all the people and Pokémon around it, and even enjoyed frolicking with the children. As for the game of Musical Chairs......well....it was cut short due to an argument between a Ditto and a Geodude over who was first on a chair.



That night, after everyone had gone home, Ash put all his presents in their proper places, and went to bed with Pikachu and Eevee sound asleep at the foot. As he slept, his mind was filled with a happy memory...of the best birthday he ever had in his whole entire life.



Meanwhile, something was happening at Team Rocket HQ...

“Sound the alarms!”

“Seal off the exits!”

“Hurry, to the cells!”

A group of guards were standing outside an open cellblock, completely stumped. The occupants who once inhabited that particular cell had disappeared, and the air vent on the ceiling was wide open...

Elemental Charizam
25th September 2004, 9:43 PM
Wow! Great chapter, veryyy long!

Zimmy
25th September 2004, 10:50 PM
Ooooooohhhh!!! Cliffie! >.< You mean!

Chicky ;257; : ... I thought you loved cliffhangers?

Not when I'm reading!

Chicky: -.-;

^.^ I don't mind about the time gap - I'll keep reading anyway!

Chicky: If only you'd written a fic. I could tease you about time gaps.

>.< Go away, Chicky! I like reading better than argueing(sp?) !!!!!!!

Random Note: Eevee actually used to be my fave pokemon before Hoenn, then I got all confused, and switched to Mew! >.<

~Zimmy, the pickness in human form. ;151;

Cerulean Girl
6th October 2004, 5:59 AM
Oh wow! This was the fic that made me join! I remember the time serebii went down and your WHOLE story was lost... that was sad and it must have been disappointing. I would have been. Anyway, I'll keep on reading this fic because I love it! Good job! I can't wait for more and let's hope nothing like that happens again on serebii! :D
~Cerulean Girl

ZeldaFan20
14th October 2004, 6:42 PM
Yeah, it was very disappointing; but I think it was also due to not many people replying to it after it was finished. Oh well, at least I'll get a chance to make any improvements during reposting. Btw, my web access has been down and I've been busy, so it will be a little while longer before the next few chapters come along. Don't give up on me yet.

ZeldaFan20
24th October 2004, 11:02 PM
Chapter Seven



Beep-beep-beep----beep-beep-beep!

George and Delia, after such an exciting and eventful day, were peacefully sleeping in the master bedroom. It had been such a long time since they were together that they smiled in their sleep, holding each other close.

Beep-beep-beep----beep-beep-beep!

George groaned as the blissful moment was interrupted by a strange sound, one he never wanted to heard for a long time.

Beep-beep-beep----beep-beep-beep!

He reached for his open backpack on the floor next to the bed, and pulled out his cellphone. He was looking at the clock as he did so: 3:30 AM. As soon as he pulled the antenna and pressed the button, he whispered one word,

“Wait.”

George got up slowly (so as not to wake Delia), put on his bathrobe, and crept into the hallway. It wasn’t safe to talk in the house, so he quietly went outside into the front yard. He frowned as he put the receiver to his ear and said,

“Skip the slogan, and talk.”

“It’s Butch,” said the person on the other line.

“I know who you are. What is it?”

“Uh.....we’ve got a little problem...”

“Yes, we do,” was the sarcastic reply, “I have underlings who can’t even follow a simple order. I thought I told everyone that I would be the one doing the calling.”

“I...I understand, sir. But...you see....it’s an emergency.”

Giovanni’s frown became lined with concern when he heard this. “Go on.”

Butch began to relay his message.

“What, escaped?!” Giovanni shouted. He then checked himself and turned towards the upstairs windows to see if anyone woke up, but all was quiet, “When did this happen?” he whispered furiously.

“J...J...Just a few minutes ago,” Butch stammered, “The cellblock is completely empty. We’ve assembled a search party to find them, but they haven’t...”

“Don’t you dare give me any excuses, you’re beginning to sound worse than THEY are!” Giovanni hissed, clenching both his teeth and his fists, “Now, you listen to me, Butch. You had better have them back in their cell BEFORE I return, or I assure you that you and your partner will both be taking their places! Do I make myself perfectly clear?!”

Butch paused before answering, “Yes, sir, crystal clear.”

“Oh, and Butch?”

“Yes, sir?”

“You do know what happens to those who fail too many times, do you?” Giovanni’s voice was cold as ice, and flowed with a sense of doom.

Butch remembered alright: the last Grunt to fail so much disappeared five years ago; the Boss had taken him and one of his Guards for a drive, but only TWO came back. Whenever anyone asked what had happened, Giovanni would only give a menacing smile and say, “If you don’t want to find out, don’t fail me.” The mere thought sent cold shivers all over his body, and he gulped and clutched his throat.

“Yes...sir.”

“Good. Now find them, or else,” and Giovanni hung up the phone. The whole time, however, he failed to notice a faint blue light emitting from the nearby trees, and a pair of mysterious eyes watching his every move...

Suddenly, the front door slowly opened. George hastliy put the phone away and turned around, just in time to see Ash walk outside, rubbing his eyes and yawning.

“Dad,” Ash yawned, “what are you doing out here?”

George wasn’t hasty in fabricating an excuse, “I just had a bad dream and came out for some fresh air, that’s all,” he said smiling gently, “What are you doing up?”

Ash yawned again, “I was thirsty, so I got up to get some water. But I saw that you weren’t in bed, so I came looking for you.” He paused, and looked down at his feet, “I know this may sound stupid, but...for a moment...I thought you might have left me again.”

George instantly walked up to Ash and gathered him in his arms, a look of surprise and understanding resting upon his face.

“Don’t ever think such a thing! I would never dream of leaving you or your mother like that.” Then he took Ash’s face in his hand and made him look into his own face, “You are both more precious to me than anything else in this world. If anything ever happened to you...I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”

“But why did you leave so long ago?” Ash asked, “I hated it when you left us.......when you left ME.”

George gathered him closer and kissed his soft, black hair, “I’m sorry, son. Believe me, I was hurting just as much as you were. But, you see, the situation was beyond my control; I couldn’t possibly take you with me. I would have been taking you away from your friends, your home, everything you've ever known and loved. You didn’t want that, did you?”

“No,” Ash replied sadly, “I guess not.” Then, he started to doze off.

George noticed this, “Come, let’s go inside and get back to sleep.”

The figure in the bushes vanished soon after both boys walked sleepily into the house.



The following morning, right after breakfast...

“Mom, Dad, I’m taking my Pokémon for a run! I’ll be right back!”

Ash, Pikachu, and Eevee bolted out the front door. As he watched the other Pokémon burst out of their Poké Balls, he let out an embarrassed chuckle at Snorlax, who lay fast asleep on the grass.

“Well, most of them anyway,” Ash said as he called back Snorlax. He was soon leading the five Pokémon down the dirt road towards the fields; Pikachu and Eevee right beside him, Meganium and Quilava behind them, and Croconaw bringing up the rear (heaving as it did so).



“Oh, George, why not?” Delia asked her husband, “He’s much older now, and he’s gotten more mature during his travels.”

“True, angel-girl,” George said uneasily, “But, I still don’t think I can. I’ll be so busy, we won’t even have enough time for each other. And what about you?”

“I’ll have Brock and Misty to keep me company, and Mimie’s great around the house. As for you being busy...well...it never stopped you before, remember?”

George smiled and chuckled, “Yes, I suppose you’re right. Okay, when he gets back, I’ll ask him.”



Ash turned his head and saw how slow Croconaw was going.

“Hey, Croconaw,” he called sarcastically, “Did you have too much to eat yesterday? Better pick up the pace or I’ll be forced to put you on a diet. Come on, let’s see some hustle!”

At the word diet, Croconaw panicked and began to jog faster.

“That’s better.........wait! Eevee, where are you going?!”

At that moment, Eevee gave a delighted squeal and ran into the woods, to their left. Forgetting about the exercise, Ash and the others soon started chasing after Eevee (Croconaw groaning with exhaustion).

They raced deep into the woods; dodging low branches, skipping over rocks, hurtling over short bushes, side-winding around tree stumps. At one point, Ash thought he had lost sight of Eevee in the brush. As he stopped to get his bearings, the Pokémon came to a screeching halt, nearly knocking him into a nearby shrub (I say nearly with the greatest relief, because that bush was a thorn bush; and you can imagine what would happen if he HAD fallen in).

Croconaw came pelting up behind the group, and flopped right onto the ground. Suddenly, the sound of water flew past its ears (or whatever it had for ears), and it perked up. It knew that there was a pond nearby and bolted ahead, hoping for a drink and a swim. However, Ash, who also knew about the pond, grabbed Croconaw before it could go too far.

“No, Croconaw, don’t go in there. That pond is filthy; you’d get sick if you went in THAT water!” Ash knew this for a fact: as a kid, he and Gary used to go there to look for frogs every summer. To prove it, he led them into the clearing where the pond was located. When they got there, they suddenly stopped, their eyes and mouths wide open.

What Ash expected to find was a large pond, completely overgrown with dead plants and the water dark-green from algae: put simply, a place absolutely unfit for man or beast.

Instead, the entire clearing was a bright and lively green. The once-dead cattails and waterlilies thrived in the bright sunshine. The water was a crystal-clear blue, and so clean and sparkling that they had to hold their hands (or paws) in front of their eyes; the sun danced happily on the water. The only green came not from algae, but from the salvayo weed which flourished on the bed of the pond.

“Eevee!” Ash shouted suddenly. At the edge of the pond was Eevee, who was happily lapping up some refreshing water. It turned as soon as Ash spoke, and ran into his arms with glee.

“Rriiiiiii!”

“Eevee, I’m glad you’re okay. Don’t ever do that again.” Ash then surveyed the scene again, “Still, what happened to this place?”

The Pokémon seemed to take no notice of his question as they began to take long drafts of water (and Croconaw swimming to its heart’s content).

As it finished its drink, Pikachu noticed something floating in the middle of the pond.

“Pika!”

“What is it, Pikachu?”

Without answering right away, Pikachu dove in and swam towards the object. It came back almost immediately, carrying the thing in its mouth.

Ash took the object in his hand and looked at it. It appeared to be a lock of hair, no thicker than a magic marker and no longer than Ash's hand. It was also the most beautiful color he had ever seen; a mixture of aquamarine-blue and royal-purple, and like the pond itself, it sparkled brightly in the morning sunshine.

He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of silver ribbon he had saved from yesterday’s party. He tied the ribbon around the hair and put it in the inside pocket of his vest.

Kneeling down by the edge, he took some water in his hands and sipped it slowly, savoring every drop. It was so crisp and cool, one might think it came from a mountain spring.

Suddenly, Beep-beep-beep!

Ash reached into the other pocket and pulled out the PokéGear he got from Professor Oak, “Hello?”

“Ash, honey, it’s Mom. Listen, your father and I want to talk to you. Can you come home?”

“Sure, Mom, I’m on my way.” Ash hung up the PokéGear and turned to his companions, “Okay, guys, time to head home.”

After a few attempts to get Croconaw out of the water, the six friends started their trek home, with Ash still wondering who was responsible for cleaning up the pond.

ZeldaFan20
29th October 2004, 4:16 AM
This chapter may seem a little different to those who remember, but I've been doing some slight alterations to make each chapter longer.






Chapter Eight


By the time the group arrived at the front door, the clock struck twelve. From the kitchen window came the distinct aroma of chicken and vegetables.

“Great,” Ash said, “Mom’s making chicken pot pie!” He opened the door and began ushering the Pok&#233;mon inside.

“Hey, guys,” he said when they entered the living-room. Delia was standing in the doorway leading to the kitchen, while George, Brock, and Misty sat circled around the hearth: all appeared to be watching something.

“Shhh,” Brock hushed.

“Be quiet,” whispered Misty.

George smiled at his son and motioned him to come over. Ash peered over his shoulder. Persian lay curled up on the floor. Leaning on her middle section was Togepi, who was giggling as Persian cheerfully washed it; you know, the way a mother cat washes her kittens.

Ash giggled to himself as he watched, “Persian kinda looks like a mom - doesn’t she, Dad?”

George nodded slowly. “Yes, she does.”

Ash remembered the small pocket camera he had received from Todd; he pulled it out of his back pocket, and snapped two shots. After that, Togepi waddled back to Misty and Persian began to doze off.

“You’re begining to act like Todd, you know,” Misty said with a smile, as Ash put the camera away.

Ash stared at her hard, “So?”

George, eager to prevent another fight, broke in, “So, Ash, how was your run?”

“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Ash suddenly remembered what had happened, and began to tell them what he had seen. As he talked, the others (especially George) listened with the greatest interest, marking every detail he described.

“And when Pikachu came back to shore,” he continued, reaching into his inner vest pocket as he spoke, “this was in its mouth.”

The group gasped as Ash showed them the lock of hair, which had completely dried, revealing gentle, wave-like curls. The sun shone through the window onto his hand, causing each strand to sparkle before their eyes.

George took the lock tenderly in his hands and began to examine it, all the time with a happy, yet dreamy look in his eye.

“The hues of the deep blue sea,” he said softly, “Clear waters wherever she roams...”

“What are you talking about, Dad?” Ash asked.

George snapped out of his trance and carefully handed the hair back, saying, “Be sure to take good care of this, Ash. It may be a sign of good things to come.”

Ash didn’t know what his father was talking about, but he smiled and put the hair back into his pocket.

“Speaking of good things to come,” Delia interrupted, “I believe that your father has something to tell you.”

Everyone turned their heads as George cleared his throat.

“Listen, Ash, I will only be able to stay for three more days, and....”

Ash stood up instantly, “Oh no! Does this mean you have to leave again? But you promised me last night...” His voice rose to the point of distress.

“Wait, Ash, let me finish,” George earnestly interrupted as he coaxed his child to sit back down. “Now then, your mother and I have been talking - and I know I couldn’t before, because you were so little, but we think it would be a good idea to let you come live with me for the rest of the summer. I have a villa on the coast of Seafoam Island; it has its own beach, enormous gardens for your Pok&#233;mon to play in, and there are clam bakes and barbecues once every week (with fireworks on the Fourth), and...”

“But why can’t you stay here, with us?” Ash DID like the sound of George’s proposition, but the thought of leaving his mom and friends behind bothered him.

George smiled tenderly, “I’m sorry, but my business requires me to go to Seafoam Island every summer. To be perfectly honest, I too worried about your mother and friends, but they assure me that they will be fine while I’m gone.”

“You and your father need more time to catch up,” Delia agreed, “and I think this trip will help you two bond better.”

Misty nodded, “Besides, after doing all that traveling and winning the Johto League, you deserve a nice long vacation.”

“Go on, Ash,” Brock urged, “Think about it: you and your Dad, surfing and sand-castles by day, fireworks and barbecues by night. If it were me, I’d go in a heartbeat........What’s wrong?”

To them, Ash didn’t look too enthusiastic; in reality, though, he was. However, he was thinking about what he and his dad talked about the previous night; about leaving his friends and his home. He thought for a second, then he looked up and said,

“Can’t I take some time to think it over? I mean, it sounds great and all, but I want to weigh my options first.”

Brock and Misty looked at each other. They had expected Ash to jump three feet into the air when he heard the news. This sudden change of attitude was just as surprising as his mood on the day they came back to Pallet Town.

George put his arm around Ash’s shoulders. “Of course you can,” he said with a smile, “Take all the time you need.”

Then, Delia said, “Oh, I almost forgot: lunch is ready everyone.”

Everyone in the room, human and Pok&#233;mon alike, soon began to file into the kitchen. During the meal, everyone at the table couldn’t help but notice how quiet Ash was. He just sat there, gazing into space as he ate; even more odd was the fact that he was eating slowly, because he usually gobbled his food down in a flash.


An hour later, Ash headed for the front door. He had changed into his blue shorts and white muscle shirt.

“Mom, Dad, I’m going for a walk,” he called. Almost immediately, every one of his Pok&#233;mon rushed into the hallway after him; apparently, they were expecting another work-out.

“Sorry, guys,” Ash replied as he bent towards the herd and smiled, “but you can’t come with me this time; your work-out is over.” The small crowd responded with disappointed grunts and squeals, and Meganium (who was clearly the most disappointed) nearly Body Slammed him into the wall.

Ash laughed heartily, “Easy, guys! I’d like you to come with me, really. It’s just that I need some time to myself; to think more clearly, you know?”

The Pok&#233;mon looked at each other and agreed. They all knew that Ash had an important decision to think about.

“Now, I’ll be back in a little while. Take care of everybody while I’m gone,” Ash said as he went out.


Fifteen minutes into his walk, Ash decided to take a stroll along the river, near the forest. As he walked along, he would occasionally pick up small stones and skip them across the rapidly flowing waters.

Ash had so many memories of his father in this place: catching his first fish in the spring, splashing and wading in the water during the summer, hunting for acorns in autumn, and ice-skating in the winter. This was clearly his favorite place to reminice about the good old days. He smiled to himself.

When he had walked a few yards upstream, he spotted the small waterfall, and the bridge he had crossed so many times: a single oak log, which stretched the entire width of the river, and completely overgrown with moss and algae. Ash ran over and began to cross it. The green, slippery plants made it very difficult, causing him to hold out his arms in order to balance. He thought he would get along fine when he had gone three quarters of the way.

Suddenly, a branch from one of the trees broke off and fell in the river, causing a big splash of cold water to startle Ash. He lost his balance, slipped on the mossy log, and fell over the waterfall. As he hit bottom, the right side of his head slammed hard against a medium-sized stone on the riverbed, knocking him sensless. The force of the riverflow turned him over on his face, resulting in a little water starting to enter his lungs. Because of his unconcious state, he did not realize the danger he was in.....or the feeling of someone dragging him out a minute or two later...


Ash coughed hard as he came to. Without opening his eyes he turned onto his left side and spat out a mouthful of water, groaning with pain (and holding his head) as he lay on his back once more.

“Good, you’re awake,” said an anxious voice, “Are you alright?”

As the person finished speaking, Ash slowly opened his eyes. At first, his vision was so blurry that it was hard to see the speaker, but everything became clear in just a few seconds, and he was soon able to look upon his nameless deliverer.

Kneeling next to him was a young girl; the prettiest girl Ash had ever seen. She looked to be no older than himself. Her fair skin contrasted remarkably well with her long hair, which cascaded over her back and shoulders in a river of soft, wave-like curls, the ends reaching as far as her waist. Speaking of her hair, it was quite a beautiful color; the front edge around her face was a light blue shade, while the rest was a deep purple hue. The eyes were also purple, but they sparkled with such compassion and innocence that Ash couldn’t help but gaze into them for what seemed like hours. He also noticed the way she had spoken to him: her voice was gentle, kind, and warmed his very soul.

“Yeah,” Ash managed to say as he sat up, remembering that it was very rude to stare, “I...I think so. Thank you.”

The girl breathed a sigh of relief, “Thank goodness; I was afraid I may have been too late. Wait here, I have some medicine in my pack for your head.” As she got up, Ash caught a glimpse of the clothes she was wearing. The entire outfit was the same color as the front of her hair. The shirt, which went down to the lower part of her stomach, had a large white diamond design on the front. The “ankles” of her slacks came down between her calves and her ankles, and each leg had a chain of white diamonds running down it. At first, Ash though it was strange that she was wearing sandals, because he thought this girl may have been on a hike; but then he noticed a pair of hiking boots, soaking wet (possibly from saving him), sitting near the edge of the river.
After a minute or two she came back to him, holding a strip of gauze, and a little brown flask.

“What’s that?” Ash asked, still reeling.

The girl opened the flask and dampened the gauze with the fluid inside, “This is aloe vera and rose oil; It’s supposed to aid in healing. Here, tilt your head.”
Ash did as he was told. The mixture hurt at first, but the wound began to ache less as the girl treated it. Finally, she was done.

“There; just leave the cut to air out, and it should heal faster. Luckily, it was very slight and there wasn’t any major damage.”

“I guess Mom wasn’t kidding when she said I had a thick head,” Ash joked.

The girl giggled, “Well, at least you have a sense of humor: that proves you’ll be okay.”

Ash looked at her again, “By the way, what are you doing here...uh...”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, shaking his hand, “My name is Aurora - Aurora Clearwater.”

“My name’s Ash - Ash Ketchum.”

“Nice to meet you, Ash, even if it is under such bizarre circumstances.” Aurora then offered him her canteen, “Here, have some water.”

“Thanks,” Ash said, taking the canteen and taking a small sip, “Where are you from, Aurora?”

“Well, I can’t exactly remember where I was born, but I’ve spent most of my life in Ecruteak City.”

“Ecruteak? You’re definitely a long way from home. Do you know Morty?”

“Not face-to-face, but I’ve heard that he is an expert in Ancient Pok&#233;mon legends.”

Ash nodded in agreement, “Yeah, he is; I’ve met him, and I won a match against him a while back. He even came to my birthday party yesterday.”
Aurora clapped her hands, “Really? Happy Birthday! How many years?”

“Thirteen.”

“Hey, me too: just this morning.”

“Then I should be the one saying ‘Happy Birthday.’ Too bad I don’t have a present for you.”

Aurora blushed, “Thanks, but seeing that you’re okay is present enough for me. What were you doing up there on that log anyway?”

Ash recalled the moment, “Well, I wanted to cross the river to see if I could find a Pineco in the trees. Then I got startled when a branch fell and splashed some water on me. I slipped and fell, and I guess I hit my head. I would’ve drowned if you hadn’t saved me.”

The young girl smiled sweetly, “Actually, I wasn’t the only one: Bee helped out too.”

Curiosity immediately crossed Ash’s face, “Bee? Who’s Bee?”

Aurora stood up and took the only Pok&#233; Ball she had (a Fast Ball) from her belt, “I’ll show you. I choose you, Bee!” She threw the Fast Ball and it burst open, releasing the Pok&#233;mon inside. Ash’s eyes widened when he saw it.

Hovering in the air was what looked like a figure-eight, or so it seemed, but the top circle turned out to be an eye (Ash saw it blink). It circled around Aurora, then around Ash, who remained transfixed at the sight of such a Pok&#233;mon.

“That’s an Unown!” Ash managed to say.

“Unown B, to be more specific,” Aurora replied, “but I just call him ‘Bee’ for short.”

“Him?” Ash wondered, “I thought Unown didn’t have a gender.”

“Well, technically, they don’t, but Bee here likes being referred to as him, so that’s what I call him.”

“Wow, cool! So, where did you find...uh...him?”

“The Ruins of Alph; I went exploring there last year. It’s a long story, actually.”

“I’m in no hurry,” Ash said eagerly, but then he blushed, “Uh...I mean...well, I’d like to hear it.”

Hearing this, Aurora sat cross-legged back on the ground, and began to tell her story. Ash listened attentively from where he sat and Bee hovered next to Aurora’s left shoulder...

Cerulean Girl
29th October 2004, 5:17 AM
Another great chapter Zelda Fan20! I can't wait for more. It's like memories coming back again!

Brian Powell
29th October 2004, 12:26 PM
I've read this fanfic before. I've said something about this fanfic and I'll say the same thing again.

This is one of the best fanfics I've read in a long time (Remembered it by heart :P).

Ororo Munroe
30th October 2004, 8:41 PM
It's been a while since I've read this but I remember that I already read past this part. Anyways, this is really good and Aurora is a cool OC.

ZeldaFan20
14th November 2004, 3:33 AM
Chapter Nine



"When I was very little," Aurora began, "I was brought to live at the Guardians' House of Love, an orphanage overlooked by the Tin Tower in Ecruteak City. The people there took real good care of us, and taught us all about the history and customs of the city. They also taught us about Pokémon; how to love and respect them, and how they influence our lives. I loved the people and Pokémon there, and they loved me.

"As I grew older, though, I began to grow more and more restless. A little more than a year ago, I had a sudden urge to leave and see the world, and also to find out if I had any family out there. It was then that I decided to embark on a journey; one of self-discovery.

"I explained my situation to the staff. They supported my decision, and even helped me prepare. I was given money, some food, maps of the surrounding regions, clothes, etc. It was raining the day I left, but I didn't mind.

"A few days later, I heard that something strange was happening at the Ruins of Alph, so I went over to see what was going on. Many people were being hustled out of the Ruins by police. During the commotion, I found that someone had dropped a Fast Ball on the ground; I picked it up and put it in my pocket before sneaking past the officers and entering the Ruins.

"When I got inside everything was quiet. The great statues of Ancient Pokemon stood watch over the whole interior like guards. At the far end of the Ruins was a shrine, possibly to honor the Ancient Ones. I laid some of my money on the shrine as an offering, and proceeded to leave.

"Suddenly, I heard a jingling sound from behind me. I turned back around, and I saw Bee hovering right above the shrine. Thinking that he wanted me to leave, I started to walk away. However, Bee began following me around the Ruins. After he had done this for a while, I turned to him and asked if he wanted to come with me: he blinked his eye, bounced up and down, and made more noise, almost as if he were happy to be asked such a question.

"At first I was disappointed because I didn't have any Poké Balls with me to catch him with. Just then, I remembered the Fast Ball I found outside earlier. I took it out (luckily, it hadn't been used) and threw it at him; Bee actually flew towards the Ball as it came, and he was caught instantly. The moment I picked up the Fast Ball, though, an officer came up behind me and escorted me out of the Ruins."

Ash listened to every word Aurora said; all the while, he had a dreamy look in his eye as she spoke.

"And that's how you and Bee became partners?" he asked.

"Yup," she replied with a smile, "Ever since then, Bee and I have gone everywhere together; land and sea. We were able to see many different people, places, and Pokémon."

"But didn't you ever want to catch more Pokémon?" Ash asked. Aurora was the first person he'd met in a while who only travelled with ONE Pokémon.

Aurora thought for a second, "Sometimes, but even if I did catch more, I don't think I would ever find a better match than Bee here." She patted Bee gently on the top of his head, and he jingled with delight.

Ash smiled, "Yeah, I know what you mean: I feel the same way about Pikachu. But, about what happened today..."

"Oh, yes. Well, we were walking through these woods to get to the port in Pallet Town, when we suddenly heard a loud splash in the direction of the river. We raced over and found you laying face-down in the water. I called to you, but you didn't respond. I got frantic and ran over, with Bee following close behind. Seeing the wound on your head, we realized that you were unconscious, so I dragged you onto the shore, with some effort (please, don't be offended; I'm not really that strong, you see). We did our best to give you CPR: Bee was jumping up and down on your chest during the whole process."

Both Ash and Aurora laughed as Bee turned a bright red.

"Well, thank you both for what you did," Ash said, "Wait...why are you heading for the port?"

"Bee and I were planning to take the next available ferry to Seafoam Island," Aurora answered, "There are so many Water Pokémon that I want to observe, and maybe Professor Westwood can tell me something more about Bee."

Ash looked startled, "Seafoam Island? My dad says that the next ferry leaves in three days. He's going there on business for the rest of the summer, and he asked me if I would go with him." Suddenly, Ash had an idea, but getting the idea out into the open proved to be far too difficult for him.

"Um....say, Aurora....uh....I was wondering...."

"What is it, Ash?" Aurora asked.

Ash gulped hard, "Well....uh....would you....or rather, you and Bee....like to....um....would you two like to....travel....with....me..I mean us? Would you like to travel with us?" Ash blushed red as a beet as he talked. He had never talked to a girl (much less, a very pretty girl) in this fashion before; not even to Misty. Also, his heart was beating incredibly fast; he was both hopeful and afraid of what she might say.

It was strange, though. He felt this feeling was familiar, like the feeling he got when he began his first Pokémon League Tournament match two years earlier. Yet, it was quite a different fear; he actually felt greater fear (and even greater hope) at this very moment.

As soon as Ash made the offer, Aurora let out a soft gasp, then turned a little pink in the cheeks herself. No boy had ever asked her such questions before in her entire life. The feeling was new to her: she was scared, and yet, she actually liked it.

Bee gave her a nudge in the arm, as if he were begging her to accept Ash's offer. Aurora thought for a few minutes, then smiled.

"Sure, why not? I mean, it's much more fun to travel with friends, right?"

Ash did his best to conceal how happy he was to hear her answer. Inside, he felt his heart swell to the point where he thought it would burst right there and now.



A few minutes later, Misty was anxiously watching for Ash through the living-room window.

"He sure is taking his sweet time," she said, clearly annoyed.

"Give him a break, Misty," Brock said as he dusted the bookshelf, "After all, he has a very important decision to make."

Misty huffed, "I don't think it's so hard. I would go with MY dad in a minute; especially if it meant spending more time with him."

"But, you see," Brock continued, "Ash's parents don't live together, and you can tell he wants to be with both of them. It's so hard to grow up living with one parent at a time."

Misty nodded, "Yeah, I suppose you're right...hey, there he is!"

Everyone else heard her from the kitchen and came to the window. Just then, Brock noticed something odd,

"Wait, who's that girl he's with?"

George grinned, "I don't know, but she's quite the catch."

"George," Delia said slyly, "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, angel-girl," he replied hastily, "Nothing at all."



Pikachu and the two children stopped in front of the door. Ash invited his new friend into the house to meet his friends and family. Aurora, however, declined the invitation, saying that she still had preparations to make before the voyage.

"Now then, the ferry leaves at around 12:45 PM, right?" Aurora said, "So, Bee and I will meet you on the dock just before boarding. Is that okay?"

Ash nodded, "That sounds great. We'll be there."

"Great! See you in three days." With that, Aurora planted a quick kiss on Ash's right cheek, and waved to him as she ran off in the direction of the harbor.

Ash was dumbfounded. Except for his mom and dad, he had never felt a kiss before (then again, there was that girl Melody, in the Orange Islands, but that's another story). He smiled dreamily as he slowly pressed his hand against his cheek.

Everyone was staring at Ash as he walked through the door into the house. To their surprise, the very first words they heard come out of his mouth were,

"Dad, when exactly DOES the ferry leave for Seafoam Island?"

Everyone stared while Ash made his way to the living-room.

"I told you it wouldn't be that hard," Misty whispered to Brock as he walked right past them.

"What's the matter, dear?" Delia asked him, "Are you feeling alright?"

Ash turned and looked at her. "I'm fine, Mom," he said happily, "In fact, I've never felt better."

Delia put on a relieved smile, "That's good to hear. By the way, I'm making your favorite dish for supper tonight, so don't make any plans for the evening, okay?"

Ash just shook his head, "Thanks, Mom, but I've got to start packing for the trip; I need to decide which of my clothes and gifts I should bring. Besides,..." He then put a hand on his stomach and flopped right onto the couch (Persian, who was sleeping there, jumped out of the way before she had a chance to get body slammed by a human being), "....I'm not really hungry this evening."

"WHAT?" The entire group suddenly turned pale; Ash---not hungry?

"Now I KNOW something's wrong!" Brock exclaimed, "The only time you've ever turned down a meal was when you were dead set on going for a Gym Badge first."

"Who are you?" Misty laughed (she thought that this was actually a joke), "And what have you done with the real Ash?"

At that moment, George realised something. A slight grin formed on his lips. "Ash?" he proceeded to ask, "Who was that beautiful girl we saw walking with you just now?"

Delia and the two children immediately looked at George, then at Ash, who became even more spaced-out the minute that question came up.

"Her name," Ash said, "is Aurora Clearwater. I guess she is very pretty; she's also heading to Seafoam Island, only it's to look at some Water Pokémon."

"Aurora, huh?" Brock asked himself.

"Ahhhh..." Misty chimed, "So, this decision to go actually has to do with a girl, right? Well, I'd really like to meet this...uh...what was her name again?"

Ash sat straight up, "Her name's Aurora," he snapped, "And for your information, I had already decided to accept Dad's offer BEFORE I met her. She told me that she was going there too; I just invited her to come along with us." Ash then turned to his father, "That is, if it's okay with you, Dad."

George nodded cheerfully, "Of course, I don't mind having another guest during the ferry ride."

Hearing this, Ash immediately flug his arms around George's waist. "Thank you, thank you!" he shouted joyfully, "I swear, you won't regret this."

George chuckled, "I'm sure I won't."

"Hold on, Ash," Brock suddenly interrupted, "I didn't see any Pokémon with Aurora. Does she travel alone?"

Ash looked at him, "Oh no, she has a Pokémon, but she only has one."

"Only one Pokémon?" Misty echoed.

Ash frowned at her seemingly stupid question, "I already said that she had one Pokémon, didn't I? Why are you suddenly interested in my new friend?"

"I just want to know more about her, that's all. What's your problem, anyway?"

"Right now," Ash growled, "My problem is that I have certain friends who obviously don't think that I'll ever know what it's like to be around girls!"

Misty looked appalled, "What are you talking about? And what do you think I am, A banana?"

"I'm talking about REAL girls; not skinny tomboys who put you down and boss you around all the time!"

"Excuse me?!"

"Don't play dumb! Ever since you started following me (I won't say why because I don't feel like going there right now), all you've ever done was put me and my Pokémon down, tell me what Pokémon I could or could not catch (sometimes you tried to capture the same ones I was going for), you even called me the worst the day after we started. Well, let me tell you something, Misty; if anyone's ever been the worst, especially now, it's been YOU!!"

The whole time, Misty couldn't even defend herself, and that last sentence hit her right where it hurt. For a while, all she could do was stand there, still as a statue. Her heart seemed to stop beating at the same time Ash stopped shouting: slowly, almost mechanically, she put her right hand over it.

"Ash, that's enough!" George cut in, holding his son back, "I believe you've said quite enough already." He spoke firmly, but at the same time, he tried to maintain his tenderness. "Now then," he continued, "You are far too riled up, so I want you to go upstairs and cool off for a while. I will bring you up some dinner a little later."

Ash broke away from him angrily. "Fine, I have some packing to do anyway!" He proceeded to go upstairs, but before he left the room, everyone heard him mutter, "The sooner I get away from THAT (they all knew he meant Misty), the better." He stomped up to his bedroom and slammed the door hard...BANG!

George then turned to Misty, who had quietly sat down on the other couch and began staring at the floor.

"Misty," George said, "I'm afraid I must apologize for Ash's behavior. He's just excited about this whole trip. And then there's Aurora--he's obviously hung up on her. It's natural to feel that way about your first crush...."

Misty shook her head, "No...he's right," she started to say as tears fell down her face, "What he said just now was true: I have been the worst. He was a new trainer in the beginning and I should have been supporting him more. I just never realized how much he was hurting; he never said anything about it during our adventures."

"He was probably anxious to get it all off his chest from the start," Brock observed.

"Brock," Delia warned him, "hush."

"It's okay, Mrs. Ketchum," Misty said, "I agree with Brock."

At that moment, a "beep-beep" was heard in the kitchen.

"Oh," Delia exclaimed, "the casserole is ready!"



An hour later, George knocked on Ash's door, holding a tray on his arm. From inside came the words "come in," allowing George to enter.

The only light in the room came from the little candle on Ash' oil diffuser. The entire room was filled with a lavender fragrance. Ash himself was laying on the bed, facing the wall. He didn't even turn around to see who came in.

"It's me, son," George announced, "I brought you some dinner: your mother made tuna-noodle."

"No thanks," Ash replied blankly, "I'm still not hungry."

Rather than head back downstairs, George placed the tray on the bedside table, and sat down on the bed. He then noticed some open suitcases and a trunk on the floor: all were empty.

"You haven't started packing yet?" he asked.

Ash paused, "I guess I got distracted."

"I can understand why," George replied as he soothingly rubbed his hand over Ash's back. For a while, neither said another word, until Ash suddenly broke the silence.

"Dad, what's wrong with me?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I never used to be like this. Usually, when I yelled at my friends, it was only because I was annoyed. But, this time..." Ash couldn't go on, he buried his face in his pillow to hide the oncoming tears.

George leaned over, turned Ash around, sat him up, and gathered him up in his arms.

"It's just hormones, that's all. Every child experiences them after they reach adolescence; sometimes even before: like you and Gary did the day before the party."

Ash suddenly looked into his father's face, "You know about that?"

George nodded, "Your mother and Samuel told me yesterday. In fact, that was one of the reasons why I asked you to come with me for the summer. Sam told me that Gary often gave you some trouble during your travels, and we thought it would be a good chance to put a little more space between you two." He then paused, then continued, "And after what happened an hour ago between you and Misty...I am more convinced than ever that this trip is the best thing for you."

Ash took his eyes off George, "Is that the only reason you want me to come along?"

"No, no, of course not. I want to have you near me as long as I can." He took Ash's face in his hand, so as to let them look into each others' eyes, "I love you, son, more than anything. If I ever had the chance, I could go back to those happy days we both shared. You believe me, don't you?"

Ash watched his father's face very carefully. He could see the concern in his face, and the hope and sincerity in those eyes. He smiled, and gave George a much tighter hug before saying, "Uh huh."

Just then, Ash's stomach growled.

"Heh heh...I guess I'll have a little something now."

George smiled and nodded, handing him the tray.



A little while later, Ash was in the bathtub. George had run a lavender bubble bath for him, and was scrubbing his back at that moment. Both were reminded of the days when Ash was very small, when George gave him such baths every night: it made them both feel so happy.

As George was filling a plastic pitcher with water, Ash suddenly asked, "How's Misty?"

"Err...well," George responded seriously, "You hurt her pretty badly with those words of yours."

Ash hung his head, "Yeah, I know. I'm going to talk to her sometime tomorrow."

George smiled, "Make sure you do it before we leave, okay?"

"Okay," Ash smiled as well, but it turned to laughter when George poured a pitcher-full of bath water over his head.

Later, when Ash was dry and dressed, George once more tucked him in and kissed him good-night.

"By the way," he said as he turned to go, "I can't wait to meet Aurora."

Ash sat up, "Oh, don't worry, you'll see her at the docks. I promised we'd meet her there just before boarding."

George nodded, turned out the light, and closed the door.

Ororo Munroe
14th November 2004, 6:06 AM
<3 Aurora's name. I've read past this part already but rereading it again is good too. It's really good and I can't wait for the next chapter that I've already read as well.

Water Spirit
14th November 2004, 4:09 PM
*sighs* I used to read this fic before I became a member and it was by far my favourite! I loved reading every single minute of it and I'm sorry that it disappeared...

And Aurora and Ash are just so Kawaii together! This fic is brilliant ZeldaFan20 and I love it to bits!

You should DEFINATELY put it in the completed fics section once its finished!

Well, take care!

WS
XxX

ZeldaFan20
15th November 2004, 6:36 AM
Ask and you shall receive ;). I know you guys will enjoy this one.






Chapter Ten



For the next two days, everyone was busy helping Ash pack for the journey. All his summer clothes, pajamas, swimsuit (as well as some unmentionables) were packed in the suitcases. In the trunk he packed some books, music, bug spray, a beach bag, playing and collectable cards, and many other things.

"Hey, Ash," Brock said, "Why don't you pack some Poké Balls? There's bound to be some very interesting Water Pokémon over there."

"Yeah, maybe," Ash replied, "But Dad says that there's a PokéMart near his house, so I'll be able to buy some when I arrive."

"Pika-chu? Pika pika?" Pikachu asked, pointing to Ash's new chess set.

Ash shook his head, "I don't think so, Pikachu. I won't know how to take it with me; it's much too large."

"I'll be happy to look after it for you," Misty said with a smile.

He smiled back, "Thanks, Misty."

Before I forget, the two of them DID make up the previous day.



Finally, the big day came.

At exactly noon, the whole party was at the pier to see Ash and his father depart. George and Delia went to get some lunch, while the others sat at one of the many picnic tables in the dining area.

"I hope they remember how I like my hot dog," Gary said.

"Let me see if I can remember," Misty answered sarcastically, "Grilled, everything on it except relish, hold the onion rings, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, and a Mountain Dew. You've told us a million times, Gary."

"I can't help it, sea air makes me hungry."

Daisy wore a disgusted look on her face, "Gary, why do you let yourself eat all that junk? Why can't you be sensible, like me?"

Her brother cringed, "You call a chef salad with lowfat dressing and a plain tofu burger sensible? Boy, I'm glad I'M not a vegetarian."

"Well you should be," Daisy reproached, "Do you know that, the more fatty foods you put into your body, the greater chance you have of getting a heart attack before age forty?!"

Tracey chuckled, "You gotta admit, Gary, you sound like Ash on one of his feeding frenzies."

"Hey, speaking of which..." Brock said suddenly. He noticed that Ash had his back towards them; he was standing on his chair and frantically surveying the crowd. "Ash, get down from there, or you'll fall!"

Ash looked very worried as he sat back down. "What's taking so long? She said she would meet us before boarding. Why isn't she here yet?"

"Oh, relax already," Misty responded, "We still have plenty of time until you have to get on the ferry."

"I don't know..." Gary remarked, "Maybe she decided not to come and took an earlier...MMMHHH!" Daisy quickly slapped her hand over her brother's mouth and hissed in his ear.

"We're back!"

Everyone looked to see George and Delia returning to the table, carrying three large trays loaded with hot dogs, sandwiches, drinks, etc.

"Now, eat up, guys," George said, "Because Ash and I have to be at the boat in half an hour."

Ash looked through the crowds once more as he reached for the tray with his cheesburger and Coke. He didn't even see who gave it to him, but the voice sure didn't sound like either of his parents...

"Here you go, Ash. Better eat fast, we only have a few minutes."

"Thanks, Mom...Huh?"

Ash instantly turned his head. Smiling at him was neither his mom nor dad. It was a beautiful young girl with shining hair.....

"Aurora!" Ash shouted joyfully as he jumped up and took her hands in his, "You're here! Did you bring Bee with you?"

It was true, Aurora was right there in front of him. At first glance, Ash's friends could see what was so wonderful about her. She was still fair-skinned, and both her eyes and smile were filled with warmth and kindness. She wore the same outfit that Ash saw when he first met her; sky-blue with white diamond designs. Her hair, however, was a little different: the blue front edge was in two small braids, each one hanging over a shoulder in the front, and the purple was done up in a ponytail in the very back of her head.

"Of course," she giggled, "I always keep my promises." She then showed him the Fast Ball at her belt, indicating that Bee never left her side.

"We met her at the counter while they were finishing up the order," Delia said.

Aurora nodded, "I heard them mention your name, so I asked if they knew you. Imagine how surprised I was when I found out they were your parents."

Ash laughed, "Well, since you know my mom and dad, I'd like to introduce you to my friends: These are Misty, Togepi, Brock, Gary, his sister Daisy, Tracey, and...hey!" Pikachu and Eevee suddenly sprang up, and each landed on one of his shoulders, "...these are Pikachu and Eevee."

"HI!" they all said together.

"Pika!"

"Rrriiii!"

"Toci toci prriii!"

"Whoa," Gary gave a sneaky smile, "She's actually quite a looker, pal."

Aurora laughed and blushed. Ash only shot him a sour look, one that warned him to 'keep his big mouth shut.'

At that moment, the announcer's voice was heard on the intercom:

"Attention, attention: The ferry for Seafoam Island will be departing in exactly thirty minutes. All passengers please report to Dock 8. I repeat: all passengers please report to Dock 8. Thank you."

"Ash, hurry up and eat," Delia said, "you don't have much time." She then turned to Aurora, "Would you like something, dear? We have plenty to share."

Aurora shook her head, "Thank you, but I already had something a few minutes ago. I'd be happy to offer some company, though."

"Great," Ash said, "the more, the merrier." With that, everyone hurriedly ate their lunch.



Ten minutes later, after they had finished, George gave the kids a chance to take a pit stop. The four girls weren't long in relieving themselves, as were four of the boys. Ash came out a couple of minutes later.

"What happened in there, sweetheart?" Delia asked.

"I'm sorry," he replied, "It's just that my lucky charm fell out of my pocket and I had to look for it."

"Did you find it?" Brock asked.

"Yeah." Ash then produced the beautiful lock of hair he had found days earlier as proof. Aurora was in awe at the sight of it.

"Oh, Ash, that's gorgeous!" she exclaimed, "Where did you get it?"

"Pikachu and I found it at the lake in the woods three days ago." Suddenly a thought occurred to him, "Say, Aurora...this looks a lot like your hair, doesn't it?"

Aurora gave an embarrassed chuckle, "I wish, my hair doesn't even hold a candle to this."



Later, they all gathered at Dock 8 to watch Ash and George board the ferry.

"Now dear," Delia said as she straightened Ash's hat and shirt, "I want you to be on your best behavior this summer. Do everything your father tells you; be polite, don't fight, don't wander off without him, don't get dirty, don't forget to write, call, or E-mail..."

"Mom," Ash cut in, "would you please stop worrying about me? I'll be fine."

"There's nothing to be upset about, angel-girl," George agreed, "Ash is in good hands."

"Is all his luggage on board?" she asked.

"Yes, dear, everything is checked and loaded up."

"I'll miss you both so much," Tears began to form as Delia hugged her husband.

"Believe me," George smiled as he held her tighter, "three months will go by faster than you can say 'Marowak' ten times fast." He then pressed another soft kiss upon her lips.

"WWOOOOOOOO....WWOOOOOOOO!!" The ferry horn blew, as if telling them to get on board. Ash, Pikachu, Eevee, George, Persian, and Aurora began to climb the gangplank, waving to their friends as they did so.

Soon, the time had come to set sail. The plank was hoisted, the ropes untied, and the whistle sounding. The six of them continued waving even as the boat moved farther and farther away from shore.

"You kids take care of Delia for me!" George exclaimed.

"Bye!" called Ash, "See you all in September!"

"So long!" Aurora cried out, "It was nice meeting you all! I'll never forget you!"

"PIIIIKAAAA!" said Pikachu.

"RRRRIIIIII!" Eevee yelled.

"MEOWWWW!" cried Persian.

After a few minutes, the entire shoreline vanished from sight. Eventhough he was still sad about leaving, Ash was more excited than ever about reaching Seafoam Island.

By the time the clock struck one, the ferry was out on the open ocean. Seagulls flew across a cloudless sky above the heads of those onboard. Below, salty waves crashed against the hull, while dolphins swam along the sides: some even jumped out of the water while the passengers watched and, occasionally, shot photos.

Ash was leaning over the side, watching the dolphins play. He had his camera on hand, hoping to catch one in mid-air. Pikachu was perched on his right shoulder, and Eevee was on the other; both were as preoccupied with the swimming masses as their master. Then, without warning, a huge Mantine burst out of the surf and glided through the air.

"Wow, a Mantine!" Ash exclaimed, "Pikachu..." He was about to order Pikachu into Attack Mode, when he suddenly paused.

The many water droplets that fell from Mantine's wings sparkled like a thousand diamonds in the mid-day sun; it looked so majestic that Ash couldn't help but look on. He also noticed its face. The beautiful creature wore a happy smile. Even though it was a wild Mantine, it was clear that it delighted in seeing people; it used its freedom to entertain the passengers, and make them happy. It would have been a terrible shame to destroy the moment with a Pokémon battle. Plus, he then remembered that he didn't bring any Poké Balls.

Ash smiled as he settled Pikachu down, "...Never mind."

He and his two little pals gave the Mantine a hearty applause before it took a nose dive back into the waves.

"Hey, Ash," said a voice from behind, "Where's the show?"

"Huh? Oh, hi, Aurora. Hey there, Bee."

Aurora had just come up from below deck, and Bee was floating close to her head. He gave a cheerful jingle at Ash's greeting.

"What were you clapping at?" she asked.

"Oh! Well, a wild Mantine jumped out of the ocean and flew in front of us. At first I wanted to capture it, but it looked so beautiful and so happy, I..."

"You just couldn't," Aurora cut in.

Ash nodded, "It was happy being free, but it also loved making humans happy. I couldn't take that feeling away."

Aurora gave him a pleasant smile. She then leaned over and said, "You know, you are a very sweet guy, Ash," before giving him another kiss on the cheek.

The young boy chuckled and turned bright red, "Aw...cut it out, Aurora, this is embarrassing." Both of them, as well as their Pokémon, started to laugh. They then turned around and leaned on the railing, watching the dolphins together.

At one point, Ash dared to catch a glimps of his female companion. He was almost breathless at the sight of her. To him, Aurora seemed even more beautiful, and equally as happy, as that Mantine. Her violet eyes were fixed on the playful mammals below. Her fair-skinned arms gracefully rested on the edge of the boat. However, what he most noticed at that moment was her hair: her deep-blue-sea-colored curls glistened with the waves in the sun.

It was then that Ash remembered what happened at the pier earlier:

"Say, Aurora...this looks a lot like YOUR hair, doesn't it?"

"I wish. My hair doesn't even hold a candle to this."

Suddenly, the word "impossible" softly broke from his lips.

Aurora snapped out of it and turned towards him, a look of surprise resting on her face, "What did you say?"

Ash blushed again and quickly averted his gaze to the water.

"Um...I was just thinking about what you said...about how you compared your hair to my lucky charm."

"And?" she asked smiling.

"Well...I think that's impossible," he maintained his blush and grinned.

This time, it was Aurora's turn to turn red. She did so, and giggled, "Now you're the one who's embarrassing me."

Both laughed, and looked into each other's eyes for what seemed like hours...

"Ahem."

They turned around. George was standing right behind them. He had a stern smile on his face. Persian was sitting by his right leg, combing her whiskers.

"Enjoying the scenery, kids?" he asked.

"Yeah," Ash answered, "You should've seen the Mantine come out of the waves, Dad. It was great."

"The sea certainly is lovely, Mr. Ketchum," Aurora replied.

"I'm glad you're having a good time, because we should be arriving at Seafoam Island in two hours." He suddenly turned to Aurora, "And please, call me George; all my friends do."



An hour later:

"Attention, this is your Captain speaking: If you look to your left, you will see what's left of Cinnabar Island."

Ash was showing Aurora how to massage Pikachu when the announcement came up. They instantly stood up and raced to the left side of the boat.

"What did he mean by..." Ash ceased talking; what he saw stung him at the heart.

The last time he was at Cinnabar was when he was going for a Volcano Badge at Blaine's Pokémon Gym. There were jungles, buildings, and all kinds of Pokémon and people. Now, what he saw was the entire island covered in black rock. All the trees and plants were gone, and there was not a single living thing whatsoever. The only building he was able to see, the one that was still standing, was the Pokemon Center.

Aurora noticed the shock on Ash's face, "You mean you didn't hear? Six months ago the volcano at Cinnabar erupted. Lava covered practically everything, except the Pokémon Center."

Ash looked at her, "Was anyone...?"

Aurora shook her head, "Thankfully, everyone managed to get off the island, so there were no casualties."

Ash breathed a huge sigh of relief, "That's good. But why didn't Blaine tell me about it when he came to my party?"

"Maybe he didn't want you feeling sorry for him; most people are like that. Anyway, I heard he'd rebuilt his Gym at Seafoam Island, so maybe you'll see him there."

"I hope so," said Ash.



At precisely 3 o'clock, the ferry anchored at Dock 12 off the coast of Seafoam Island. The announcer welcomed the passengers through the loud speaker as they all filed down the gangplank.

"Who are you looking for, Dad?" Ash asked as he reached the end of the plank and headed towards his luggage, "Is someone picking us up?" He noticed that George was looking up and down the entire port.

"No, son," he replied, "I'm trying to see how far we are from the beach."

"Why?"

"Because, if the beach is close by, then we can walk from here." Suddenly, George looked further down on the left, and smiled, "And, from the looks of things, we'll be at my villa in just a few minutes." He turned towards Aurora, who was busy putting Bee back into his Fast Ball, "Aurora, why don't you stay with us for a while?"

Aurora immediately shook her head, "Oh, no thanks, I don't want to impose..."

"Nonsense, my villa has at least twenty-five bedrooms, and it would be nice for Ash to have someone his own age to talk to during his stay. Besides, it's the busy season, and I doubt you'll find many hotels with even one vacancy left."

Aurora nodded, "Yes, I see your point...okay, I except your invitation."

"What are we waiting for?" Ash shouted happily, "Let's go!"

And the three humans, with their Pokémon close by, started walking away from the harbor, towards the beach.

Ororo Munroe
15th November 2004, 7:18 PM
I remember that chapter and it's as good as when I read it the first time. The only thing I don't like about it is that you skipped Ash and Misty making up. You mentioned that they did but I think it would have been better if you had the scene in the fic. Anyways, nice job on another great chapter.

ZeldaFan20
15th November 2004, 9:41 PM
I know, but I guess I thought it would be nice for everyone who read that part to have something they could imagine for themselves. I miay not be making much sense to you guys, but I know what I'm talking about.

Ororo Munroe
15th November 2004, 9:44 PM
Maybe but it's like you forgot they fought. One chapter ends with them not talking and in the next one they're talking then you say they made up. It's like the fight never happened. Heh, don't worry about it, just seems odd to me. LOL ^_^;;;

DeciousSennenal
15th November 2004, 11:56 PM
Well, I like this fanfic alot. I have to feel sorry for Misty though. I also wonder when the rest of TR will appear.

ZeldaFan20
11th December 2004, 3:57 AM
Chapter Eleven



The beach that day was full of life; beach blankets and umbrellas covered every inch of sand. Most people were lounging under the sun, while others played in the water. As they strolled along the wet sand, the group noticed a few trainers digging, possibly searching for Shellder or Krabby. Aurora had taken her sandals off, and was pleasantly walking bare-foot the rest of the way.

Suddenly, Ash cleared his throat. “Hey, Dad,” he said, “Do you think we can stop by the PokéMart afterwards? I want to see if they have any...ahem...Ultra Balls for sale.”

George smiled, “Of course, son, but wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to buy Great Balls? I mean, the Ultras cost around twelve dollars a ball.”

Ash grinned, “Yeah, they do. Well...ahem...I’ll see what's available.”

“If you want to catch some Water Pokémon,” Aurora chimed in, “the beach is definitely the place to look for them. There’re so many here.”

Ash nodded, “I know, and I really need to catch some more Pokémon: I’m so far behind in...ahem...capturing, it’s not even funny.”

“Really?” Aurora asked, “How many have you caught so far?”

Ash thought for a moment, “Let’s see....there was Pikachu, then Caterpie (it evolved into Metapod and Butterfree), Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Charmander evolved too...I gave that Beedrill I caught in National Park to my friend Casey, so that would make it...ahem...thirty Pokémon all together (with around nine released or given away).”

“So you have twenty-one right now,” Aurora said, “I’m really impressed, Ash.”

Ash’s face turned red again, “Actually, it’s more like twelve...ahem...but I’m very proud of them all.”

“As well you should be,” George interrupted, “Every good trainer needs to treat all of his (or her) Pokémon with trust and love. Always treat them as friends, never as slaves.” George had his back turned towards the two children as he spoke, so they failed to notice the uneasy expression that slowly formed on his face. Suddenly, he stopped. Ash and Aurora stopped too.

“We have arrived!” George proudly announced. The two teenagers gave a loud “Wow” at what they saw.

It was a large mansion, no bigger than a two-story school. The entire structure was made of pure white marble; Gothic-style columns surrounded the porch (the beach, where they were, was in the back of the building). Many hundreds of windows reflected the sunlight out to the open sea.

The three humans and their Pokémon all laughed as they bounded happily up the stone steps to the large doors. George opened them to reveal a long hallway, covered wall-to-wall with old tapestries. On the floor was a long, red carpet that seemed to stretch the whole length of the house.

“Edward!” George suddenly called.

Ash looked at him in surprise, “Who’s Edward?”

George smiled, “He’s the steward and caretaker here. He and his wife, Sarah, take care of the place when I’m away: keeping everything neat and orderly, and making sure things are working properly for when I return.”

“Are they like a butler and maid?”

“Well, yes…in a way. Actually, they’re more like family than hired help.” George turned back towards the hall, “Edward, are you home?”

Almost immediately, a man was seen running their way. He was dressed in a pair of fancy pants, as well as fancy shoes, and a black shirt. His hair was black, too, but it began to show traces of grey, indicating that he was a bit over the hill. His eyes were hazel and looked very kind. He held out his arms to George.

“Sir,” he cried, “it’s been such a long while. We’ve missed you, my Sarah and I.”

“Your dad didn’t tell us that Edward was British,” Aurora whispered to Ash, after noticing the man’s accent.

“I guess his wife is too,” Ash whispered back.

“It’s good to be home, old friend,” George said as he embraced Edward. He then turned to the children, “I’d like to introduce my son, Ash. This charming lady here is his friend, Aurora. Children, this is Edward.”

“Hi,” said Ash.

“How do you do?” greeted Aurora.

“It is a pleasure to meet the young master and miss. Welcome to Seafoam Manor. I trust the voyage was satisfactory?”

“Yeah,” Ash replied, “It was great, thanks.”

”Edward,” George said, “I’m going to show Ash to his room. Will you please take Miss Aurora to one of our best rooms---one with a view of the sea would be nice.”

‘Of course, sir,” Edward replied as he led Aurora down the hall to the left.

“Follow me, Ash,” George said, “Your room is this way.” He led Ash down the hall also, but he went to the right.

They followed a set of stairs up to the second story, where they came to another hallway. They walked to the very end to a pair of mahogany wood doors. George opened them, and led Ash inside.

The bedroom was very large indeed, even larger than his own room back in Pallet Town. Across from the entrance, a king-sized bed made of ebony and covered with a blue patch-work quilt stood right next to a window, which looked right out towards the city. Long, white adjustable curtains hung from the canopy of the bed. Beside it was a writing desk with a little lamp on top.

To the far right of the room was a double-door made of glass panes: on the other side was a balcony that let you look out at the entire shoreline. Shelves filled with books and magazines lined the walls. Opposite the bed was a TV, with several movies and video games (as well as an N64) in the little cupboard underneath.

To the left was a fireplace; a fire burning brightly in the screened hearth. The large wardrobe, which stood next to the TV, had several drawers for clothes and accessories, and one of the medium-sized doors revealed a mirror (and many hangers for formal wear) when opened.

Pikachu and Eevee ran around exploring the room. The other Pokémon burst out of their Poké Balls and did the same.

“Well,” George asked with a smile, “what do you think?”

Ash’s eyes shone at the very sight of his new room. He looked at his dad and gave him a big, hearty hug.

“Dad, you’re the greatest!”



An hour later, after Ash and Aurora had put their things away in their rooms, they all went down to the beach for a swim. All the Pokémon were enjoying the sand and water (Quilava preferred the sand over the water), while their trainers tried their hand at surfing.

After a while, Ash remembered that he wanted to buy some Poké Balls.

“Hey, Aurora,” he called to his friend, who was taking her surfboard back into the water, “I’m going to the PokéMart! I’ll be right back!”

Aurora nodded and waved, and Ash set off.



Ash came out of the Mart carrying about 10 Great Balls in a shopping bag.

“Darn, I can’t believe they were sold out of Ultra Balls. Oh well, at least I’ll be able to catch some more Pokémon.”

As he made his way back to the villa, he heard a cry from some nearby bushes. He followed the sound to a small clearing. In the middle of it was a little blue Pokémon, tangled up in some vines. At first, Ash was unclear whether it was an animal or a fish. It appeared to be both; it had flippers, and what appeared to be a small dorsal fin on the top of its head.

He went over to it and began to break the vines, freeing the little creature. Thinking that its friends were somewhere nearby, Ash began to walk away. However, the Pokémon followed him at a quick pace for a few minutes. Finally, Ash turned to it.

“Hey, go on. Go home to your family.”

The Pokémon shook its head, “Kip.”

“What,” Ash asked, “Do you want to go with me?”

“Kip, kip!” It hopped over to him happily as soon as he was done asking.

Ash thought, and then said, “Well, maybe Dad or Professor Oak can tell me what you are." He reached into his bag and pulled out a Great Ball, “Okay. Great Ball, GO!”

With a steady swing, Ash threw the Ball at the little Pokémon, catching it instantly. Then he picked up the Ball, and ran back towards the main road, anxious to get his new friend home.



It was near dinner time when Ash returned to Seafoam Manor. The sun wasn’t even touching the horizon yet, so the sky was still a bright blue.

Back on the beach, Aurora, Bee, Pikachu, Eevee, Persian, and all the other Pokémon were attempting to build the biggest sand castle in the world; George was observing them from his lounge chair, a happy smile stretched across his face.

“Hey, everyone,” Ash shouted as he ran towards them, “I’m back!”

George instantly sat up and turned to face him, “Hello, Ash, what kept you? It doesn’t take that long to get to the PokéMart and back.”

Ash giggled, “Yeah, I know; I just got a little...uh...sidetracked on the way home.” He then pulled the used Great Ball from his belt, “Wait ‘til you see what I found. I choose you!” and he threw it.

Everyone there was shocked to see the little fish-like Pokémon. It was so cute: the fins, the blue color, the beady little eyes, the orange cheeks.....

“Oh, Ash,” Aurora was the first to speak, “it’s so adorable!”

“Kip, kip,” replied the tiny creature.

“An interesting specimen, son,” George said, apparently trying his best to sound like Professor Oak, “What species is it?”

Ash suddenly looked confused. He had never seen such a Pokémon before; not in Kanto, not in the Orange Islands, not even in Johto.

“Gee,” he said at last, “I don't know.”

Aurora leaned toward the Pokémon and examined it carefully, “Well, from the fins, I’d say that it’s a Water type. Why don’t you use your PokéDex and see what it has to tell us?”

“Good idea, Aurora,” Ash said as he took the device out of his backpack, “Now, let’s see here...”

“Pokémon: Unknown. No data available.”

Everyone's faces fell; mostly Ash's.

“No data?” he exclaimed, ‘None at all? Rats.”

Just then, George clapped his hands together, “I have it: let’s give Samuel a call. Maybe he’ll have some answers.”

So, they all packed up their stuff, and headed inside.



“Hello, Ash," said Professor Oak’s screen image, “I see you’ve all made it. How is it so far?”

“It’s great, Professor,” Ash replied, George and Aurora were standing right behind him, “I’ll tell you all about it later. Right now, I have a question to ask you.”

“Ask away,” was the cheerful answer.

“Well, you see, I just caught what looks like a Water Pokémon, but Dexter can’t tell me what its name is or what it does.”

“Hmm...let me think…” Professor Oak said, “Maybe it’s because it’s time to upgrade your PokéDex. I know that there have been some new additions to it lately, so it would be a good idea. Place your PokéDex into the drive there, and I’ll upgrade it for you.”

Ash did as he was told. The entire process took nearly five minutes to complete, during which time he told the Professor about the boat ride, his new room, and how he caught the new Pokémon. Ash also showed him the Pokémon itself, much to Oak’s great enthusiasm. Finally, the PokéDex was finished.

“There,” Oak announced, “you should be able to find out about your new friend now. Why don't you give it a go right now?”

“Okay,” Ash replied as he aimed the newly upgraded Dexter at the little creature, “Let’s find out who you really are...”

“Mudkip: the Swampfish Pokémon. More commonly found in the region of Hoenn, it uses the gills on its cheeks to breathe water. During the winter and drought seasons, it uses a special inner organ, called a 'labyrinth,' to breathe air on dry land.”

“Mudkip,” Ash said, “So, that’s what you are. Cool!”

“Kip. Kip kip!” Mudkip nodded.

“Wait a sec,” Ash said suddenly, “what’s a labyrinth?”

“I can answer that,” Aurora cut in, “A labyrinth is a type of organ that is quite similar to the lungs: it has many different openings and passages, much like a maze, in order to distribute more oxygen throughout the body.”

Oak smiled and nodded, “You definitely are a bright girl, Aurora. Still, this Mudkip is strangely a long way from Hoenn. I wonder what it’s doing on Seafoam Island.”

Ash looked even more confused, “Hoenn? Where’s that, Dad?”

“Hoenn is the island region that is directly south of where we are.” George looked at Mudkip, “It’s not a long distance away, and this is a Water type: maybe it swam here.”

“I don’t know,” Ash said, “I mean, look how tiny it is. If it’s a baby, how could it possibly swim all that way?”

“Many baby animals demonstrate strong endurance as soon as they are born, Ash,” Professor Oak explained, “So, I don’t doubt that this one somehow managed to swim there.”

At that moment, Edward entered the room, “Excuse me, sir, but supper is ready.”

George looked at his watch, “My goodness, six-o’clock already? Alright, Edward, tell Sarah we’ll be down in a minute.”

“Of course, sir,” and he left the room. George then turned back to Professor Oak.

“I’m sorry, Samuel, but we’ll have to cut this conversation short.”

Oak laughed, “Heh heh heh, I quite understand, George. I’ll talk to you all later, then.”

“Bye, Professor,” Ash said, “Say ‘hi’ to Mom and the others for me.”

“I will. So long,” And they hung up.



Ash and Aurora were introduced to Sarah at the dinner table. She was almost the same age as her husband, but had far less grey in her amber-colored hair. Her eyes were blue, and just as kind as her manner. Wearing a red dress, the skirt falling three inches above the ankles, she actually looked very pretty for her age.

Dinner that night was much like a clam-bake: boiled scallops, Manhattan and New England clam chowder, clam cakes, even steamed lobster. There was also salad and bread rolls, and old-fashioned lemonade to drink with the meal. For the Pokémon, Sarah prepared a special PokéChow: when asked what kind it was, she would only say, “It’s a secret recipe, one that will remain a secret.”

During dinner, Edward and Sarah told them the most amazing stories: one was that, long before they were married, they had traveled and trained many different Pokémon; in fact, they had even gone on the same journeys together since they were children.

Ash and Aurora, in turn, told them their stories. This went on until the clock struck eight, at which time George sent the two of them to get ready for bed. Before getting into bed himself, Ash took the quilt off and laid it on the floor (to make a kind of nest for his six little friends). Meganium, Croconaw, Quilava, Pikachu, Eevee, and Mudkip all curled up together, and fell asleep almost immediately. The fire in the hearth had completely gone out a while before when Ash slipped under the cool sheets. The only light left in the room came from outside: the moon reflected on the water and onto the walls. Ash happily watched the dancing lights and shadows until he gradually fell into blissful slumber.



Meanwhile, in another part of Kanto, three weary figures wandered through the dark forests of Route 2. Their clothes were in tatters, and they looked as if they hadn't bathed in months. They also had neither food nor water, so they were very near the brink of total exhaustion.

Suddenly, they finally stopped just before the entrance to Viridian City. Two of the travelers plopped onto the ground, sweating and gasping for air. The third just looked on in total disgust.

“C’mon, you two, we’ve only got a little ways more ta go!”

One person spoke through heavy breathing, “I can’t help it; this figure was not made for such hard trekking.”

The third spoke next, “Besides, how do we know that we really want to do this? I mean, what will happen to us if we do?”

“Let me put it dis way,” said the first, “It’s either dis, or face de big guy back dere?”

The other two thought for a minute, and the memory of what happened five years ago flashed into their minds: cold shivers went down their backs. Finally, the second person stood up, tired but irritated.

“Alright, alright, you've made your point. Even I can’t take all that abuse for so long.”

“Me neither,” agreed the third, who also stood up, “Even I have my limits. In my eyes, home was paradise compared to...THAT.”

“Well, I guess it’s decided den,” the first said, facing the city gates, “C’mon, let’s get dis over with.” And the three of them marched out of the forest, into the city...straight to the Police Station...

Ororo Munroe
11th December 2004, 9:07 AM
I like your description, not too much of it is good because I don't like a lot of it. For the ball thing, I think having Ash buy Net or Lure balls would have been better since he's at the beach and ocean so could catch many water types (like he already did). Also the caught Mudkip a little fast but I do like how you mentioned it being a baby which makes the way he caught it cute. Anyways, nice chapter which I've already read. I think it's a few more before you get to chapters I haven't read yet.

ZeldaFan20
11th December 2004, 4:37 PM
I know, I really should've put more effort into that part. As for the Poké Balls, Net Balls are only found in Hoenn (and he hasn't quite been there yet), and the Lure Balls were only made in Johto, right? Oh well, I know the next one will be better.

Ororo Munroe
11th December 2004, 4:41 PM
Lure Balls were only made in Johto, right?
I think so but you could have had them imported to the island. Would have been interesting. Doesn't really matter much though. Heh.

ZeldaFan20
24th December 2004, 10:26 PM
Chapter Twelve


Ash’s first week at Seafoam Manor was a blast! During that time, with Aurora at his side, he was able to catch quite a number of Water Pokémon: Mudkip was on Monday, a good-level Magikarp on Tuesday, Chinchou on Wednesday, Shellder on Thursday, Mantine (a real fighter, I might add) on Friday, Corsola on Saturday, and a Staryu on Sunday night.

At the start of the second week, Aurora announced at breakfast that she and Bee would be leaving the next day, to continue their journey. Ash tried to be happy for her sake, but inside, he was devastated. Throughout the entire day, he helped her pack what she needed: maps, PokéChow for Bee, a full canteen of fresh water, etc.

That afternoon, Ash and Aurora took a walk along the beach. The sky shone with gold and crimson hues as the sun sank halfway into the ocean. After a few minutes of silence, Aurora noticed the gloomy expression on the face of her companion.

“What’s the matter, Ash? You look sad; aren’t you happy here with your father?”

Ash abruptly looked at her, putting on a bright smile, “Of course I’m happy, I love every moment with my dad. And Edward and Sarah are amazing. It’s just that...well, you and I...we’ve only known each other for a couple of weeks, and...now that you’re leaving...it’s just that it’s so....so soon...” Ash couldn’t finish; he couldn’t stop blushing, and his words kept getting jumbled. It was too embarrassing.

Aurora looked at him with a sweet smile. She knew what was on Ash’s mind at that moment, but she didn’t want to say anything that would make him feel more awkward. Instead, she slowly wrapped her arms around his neck. Ash twined his around her waist as she kissed his cheek.

“I know it’s been short, Ash,” she told him, “but, I still have a journey to fulfill: I want to keep looking for a family, for a past, for people who care...”

“I care,” Ash interrupted, “My friends do too...but, I know what you mean.” Ash stood right in front of her, “Let’s make a promise: one that says we’ll always be best friends.”

“Yeah,” Aurora said, “and I promise to write from wherever I am.”

“And, if you ever stop at a Pokémon Center, give us a call.”

“And I’ll be sure to come and visit when I’m in the neighborhood.”

They both hugged each other again, but then noticed the sun sinking lower on the horizon, and headed back inside.



That night, Ash went to bed earlier than usual: Aurora had to catch an early ship to Olivine City in the morning, and he offered to walk with her. However, despite the familiar smell of lavender (from his oil diffuser) and the fact that his Pokémon were right nearby, sleep never came to him. Not even closing his eyes and counting sheep would work.

He was still struggling to sleep when the old clock in the hallway struck twelve. Feeling kind of thirsty, he got out of bed, walked into the bathroom, and poured a glass of water. He gulped down half a glass, and started walking back to bed. Just as he was pulling back the sheets, however, Ash stood stock still.

The sound of a door creaking was heard from behind, followed by footsteps running down the hall. Ash slowly turned around: the bedroom door was open a few inches, and he knew that he had closed it completely before going to bed. What was even stranger was the footsteps. There was no one awake anywhere in the house at that hour...or was there? Ash walked cautiously to the door and opened it.

The first thing he noticed was a light. Sitting on the carpet was a flashlight...and it was turned on. Ash closed the door, walked over to the flashlight, and picked it up. He then started pointing it up and down the hall, trying to find the person responsible.

Finally, Ash called out in a low voice, “Hello? Who’s there?” There was no answer. “Edward?...Sarah?...Aurora?...Dad?” Ash gulped. He had been nervous before, but what happened next absolutely terrified him.

Ash walked down the hall to George’s room, hoping that he wasn’t the only one awake. As he came in sight of the door he noticed what looked like a mist in front of them, and a bright light shining through into the hallway. However, as he went closer, Ash recognized a distinct smell, and coughed. A horrible realization occurred:

“Smoke?”

At that moment, another, even scarier sound was heard. However, this was more human than inanimate. From further down the hall was a gurgling sound, followed by a low moan. Almost immediately, the noises evolved into laughter: not like someone who was playing a prank or a joke. It was a demonic laugh - deep and low - which quickly faded away into the darkened corridors. Sensing danger, Ash ran over and flung the doors wide open.

Directly opposite the door was the master bed. White-hot flames in great quantity were licking the curtains on the right side. George was lying right in the center of the bed, unconscious from smoke inhalation.

Ash reacted fast. He jumped onto the bed and began shaking his father.

“Dad! Dad, wake up! Wake up, please!!”

George failed to respond. Seeing a full pitcher of water on the dresser, Ash got up, grabbed it, and started dousing the curtains. There were still some surviving flames on the lower part, and they were slowly moving onto the sheets. Suddenly, Ash saw a vase full of fresh roses on the table next to the bed. He snatched it, tore every last flower out of it, and threw the whole thing onto the room’s occupant.

George woke up spluttering and coughing. “What’s going on?” he demanded.

He then observed the scene, and abruptly hopped out of bed. Pushing Ash out of the room he tore off the curtains and, throwing them to the ground, began stomping on them. After making sure all the flames were extinguished, George came out, and led Ash into the next room (the sitting room). He sat his son on the couch in the middle of the room and poured him a glass of water.

“Here, drink.”

Ash took the glass, and quickly drank its contents, despite the coughing fit he was in. “Are you okay, Dad?” he asked.

George nodded as he drank some water himself, “What about you? Are you alright?”

Ash nodded also, “I’m scared, but okay.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know; I know I heard someone in the hall...someone laughing weird...”

“Was it a man or a woman?” George asked. He looked more concerned that surprised at that moment.

“I...I’m not sure. I was so scared...I didn’t pay attention.”

“Listen to me, son,” George said suddenly, “I want you to stay right here until I get back: I’m going to go look over the house. Don’t move a muscle, am I clear?”

Ash nodded nervously and George left the room, closing the door behind him. For nearly twenty minutes Ash sat there in the silence. After what had just happened, he was afraid that whoever was responsible for the fire was still in the house...maybe even in that same room. The very thought struck him cold to the heart; he curled up on the couch to warm himself. Just then, he heard more footsteps outside. Ash was ready to run when George came back into the room. He ran over to him and hugged him.

“It’s alright now,” George said, hugging him back and trying to sound reassuring, “Whoever it was is gone. I’m just grateful they didn’t come after you.” He then knelt on one knee and looked Ash straight in the eye, “I think we should both sleep in your room for tonight. However, I don’t want you to say anything about this to the others; they mustn’t be allowed to worry. I’ll come up with an excuse for it tomorrow morning. Understand?”

“Okay,” Ash replied. He wondered why his dad wanted to keep everything a secret, but he said nothing.

The two of them went back into Ash’s room. They crawled quietly under the covers and fell asleep, wrapped up closely in each other’s arms.



The old clock gave six chimes as Ash sat up in bed that morning. With a big yawn, he looked around the room. Bright sunlight streamed in through the window, as if the sun itself were reaching out to tell the world to wake up. Outside the window was a cloudless sky. Birds were singing in the garden, and you could even hear the waves breaking against the shore.

George lay, peacefully sleeping, to his left. At first, Ash was very glad to see that his father was there, but it distressed him as well: he remembered the terrible turn of events during the night, and was hoping that it was all just a nightmare. Ash also remembered his promise to escort Aurora to the harbor. He quickly got dressed, combed his hair, left a note for George on the pillow, and left the room.

He hesitated in front of George’s bedroom doors. There was no more smoke, no more fire. Only images remained. He wanted to take a look inside, to make sure it all really happened. The doors, however, would not open; after leaving the room last night, George had locked them. Ash looked at his PokéGear clock, gasped, and headed downstairs.

Aurora was standing before the large doors that led to the beach. She was just saying ‘good-bye’ and ‘thank-you’ to Edward and Sarah, when she saw Ash coming toward her at a fast pace.

“Good-morning, Ash,” she said, “Did you have a good sleep?”

“Not really,” Ash yawned, “when I sleep late, I sleep great; but when I sleep early, I don’t sleep at all.” Both children laughed.

“Oh,” Aurora sighed, “I’m sure going to miss that sense-of-humor of yours.” She giggled when she saw Ash’s face turn beet-red.

“Good heavens!” Sarah exclaimed, “You had better be on your way, or the young miss will not make it to the ship!”

So the two teenagers walked outside, hand-in-hand, and started running along the beach in the direction of the port. When they had gotten about three quarters of the way to their destination, Aurora suddenly stopped and let go of Ash’s hand.

Ash looked at her in surprise, “What’s the matter, Aurora?” He then saw a look of worry on her face.

“Ash, is that blood on your hand?”

It was true. Ash looked at his right hand: in the very center of the palm were nearly a dozen small puncture wounds, surrounded by what appeared to be dry, brownish-red blood stains. At first, Ash couldn’t figure out how he got them, until he remembered the incident last night, when he had pulled the roses out of the vase to save his father.

“The roses had thorns,” he said softly.

“What?” Aurora asked, puzzled by his remark.

Ash looked at her with a serious expression, “If I tell you something,” he said, “Will you promise to keep it between us?”

Aurora did not hesitate to reply, “Of course, if that’s what you want.”

With that answer, Ash began to relate what had happened, with Aurora listening attentively. They kept walking down the beach, just to keep time.



By the time Ash was finished they had arrived at the harbor, just when the announcer was speaking over the loud-speakers:

“Attention, attention. All passengers departing for Olivine City, please report to Dock Eleven in ten minutes. I repeat, all passengers departing for Olivine City, please report to Dock Eleven in ten minutes. Thank you.”
Ash and Aurora stood at the edge of Dock 11, just as some people were starting to board the ship.

“I don’t like where this is going, Ash,” said Aurora, “What if that person is still around town? He may even come back. Maybe I should put off my...”

“You are getting on that boat,” Ash interrupted, “And you are going to stop worrying. I’ve been in lots of scrapes before...”

“All with Team Rocket,” said Aurora.

“Also with some really dangerous Pokémon,” Ash continued, “But it always turned out okay. And you know what? It will STILL be okay. Besides, Dad’s been looking out for me ever since he came back (even before), and he’s never let me down yet, right?”

Aurora looked uneasy as Ash spoke. “I guess,” she said.

WOOOOOOOO........WOOOOOOOO! The ship’s horn sounded, and more passengers were filing aboard.

Aurora was halfway up the plank when she turned around, ran back to Ash, and gave him another hug.

“Ash,” she began, “I want you to promise me something.”

“Sure, Aurora,” he answered.

“If anything dangerous does happen while you’re here, then, please, don’t try to be a hero. Just get out of there. I don’t want to find out that something terrible happened to you. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.” A tear started to trickle down her cheek. Ash smiled and wiped it away.

“Hey, don’t worry about that. I promise, for your sake, that I won’t do anything stupid.”

Aurora’s response was a relieved smile, and an even tighter hug. She then ran as fast as she could back up the plank, onto the ship. The plank was raised, and the ship was preparing to sail. Bee had burst out of his Fast Ball and was floating on the rail of the ship next to Aurora. Both waved (Bee just bounced up and down) at Ash, who did the same to them. After about half an hour, the ship was out of sight, and Ash started along the beach back home.



At that exact moment, something was happening back at the villa.

George woke up and gave Edward the key to his bedroom, as well as a clever explanation to why it was locked. He then headed to the basement. When he arrived, George walked over to a large bookcase, and pulled out one of the books. The shelf slowly opened, revealing a hidden electronic door. Sliding a card key into the slot, he passed through to the other side.

Several Rocket Grunts stood to attention as their Boss walked by. They all saw the angry look on his face, and quickly backed out of his way.

Giovanni walked down the corridor, past several cells containing different kinds of Pokémon, a small kitchen and several bathrooms, until he came to another door. This particular one was like any ordinary door, except it was made of iron. It was also heavily barred, and locked from the inside. Giovanni gave a quick knock.

“Open this door, Louisa,” he said sourly. Almost immediately, the sound of jingling keys came from the room, followed by a click of the lock. The door opened, and he marched inside.

The entire room was dark, except for a small lamp in the corner (which didn’t really give off that much light). Despite the lack of light, Giovanni was able to make out a huddled figure. It was lying on the floor in a fetal position. It made a low gurgling noise as he entered the room, followed by a growl, much like that of an angry Growlithe.

The door was closed by an elderly woman, much older than Sarah. She wore a black band on her upper-left arm, with the Team Rocket logo written in bright red letters.

“I’m very disappointed in you, Louisa,” Giovanni said crossly, not even bothering to look at her, “I gave specific orders that you were not to open this door, for any reason, unless I or one of my guards were here to help.”

The old woman stammered, “I am aware of the trouble I’m in, sir. You see, it’s because I...”

“I have full knowledge of your so called ‘lapses,’ Louisa. As for trouble, you have no idea how much of it you’re in right now! Do you have any idea what this....this...THING tried to do to me?!”

Louisa just looked at him fearfully.

“I was nearly burnt in my bed! If my guest hadn’t woken up and helped me out of that mess, you wouldn’t even HAVE a leader!”

The figure suddenly gave a maniacal, yet menacing laugh. Giovanni shivered to hear such a noise. He then turned to look at Louisa: there was fire in his eyes as he spoke in a lower tone,

“I don’t wish to raise suspicion in my guest, so I’ll let it go for now. However, if anything like it happens again, to me, him, or anyone else, you shall not escape punishment. Is that clear?”

Louisa licked her lips nervously, “Yes, sir.”

With that, Giovanni left the room, and Louisa quickly locked the door after him. The crazed laughter was still in his ears as he made his way out of the lair and back upstairs.



Ash came home at least two minutes after George came up. It was still too early for breakfast, so Ash decided to watch a little TV in his room. When he got upstairs he noticed that the door to George’s room was unlocked, and took a peak inside.

Edward was cleaning up the disgusting mess on the floor, and gathering up the laundry. Sarah was taking some fresh new curtains and sheets out of a large trunk by the window. Both soon noticed Ash standing in the doorway, and smiled at him.

“Hello, young sir,” greeted Edward.

“Hello, deary,” said Sarah.

“Hey there, guys,” Ash replied, “What’s going on? What happened?” He pretended to be clueless about the disaster.

“We’re just cleaning up a bit in here,” answered Edward, “Your father was reading in bed last night. However, he made the common mistake of using a candle instead of his electric lamp.”

Sarah nodded, “He fell asleep while it was still lit and the curtains caught fire.”

Ash feigned a realistic gasp, “I was wondering why he slept in my bed last night! Is he okay? Where is he?”

“Of course he is, dear,” Sarah hastily answered, trying to calm Ash down, “He luckily woke up in time to put the fire out. And I believe he is waiting for you in the study, downstairs.”

“Thanks, guys,” Ash replied as he left the room. As he ran to his room, he couldn’t help but chuckle: George said that he would make up an excuse, and he did.

All the Pokémon were very glad to see him; they were worrying about where he was. Ash said that they were all going to look for more Water Pokémon later. He called them back into their Poké Balls (except for Pikachu) and ran downstairs to the study.



George was reading a book when Ash and Pikachu walked in. Persian was sleeping on the sofa.

“Ah, there you are,” he said, “Did Aurora make her boat?”

Ash nodded, “Yeah, she did.” He then hinted to the people upstairs, “Boy, that was some lie you came up with!”

Pikachu just looked at Ash, “Pika?”

George waved his hand slowly. “I’d prefer to think of it as ‘stretching the truth’...just a little.” He then put the book down, “Listen, Ash, Edward and Sarah are a little busy, so why don’t we go out to breakfast? There’s a Pancake House down the road that makes very good French toast.”

Ash broke out in a grin, as did Pikachu.

“Sounds great!”

“Pika chu!”

Ash got himself and the Pokémon ready while George went upstairs to tell his two friends. By about 8:00 AM, they were heading down the street in the morning sunshine.

Ororo Munroe
25th December 2004, 3:50 AM
Another chapter I already read but also another good one. Heh, I think it's amusing how he has Rocket Grunts and Louisa living in his house without nobody knowing.

ZeldaFan20
17th January 2005, 7:22 PM
Sorry this one's so short, guys. I promise that the next one will be longer. Enjoy!






Chapter Thirteen



During the next few days, things became quiet again. Ash caught a lot more Pokémon, he and George were able to spend more time together, and all the Pokémon were able to gambol around the beach and gardens without a care in the world. During those times, Ash received phone calls from his mom and friends, and he never failed to reply.

About a week after that horrible night, George made a surprising announcement at breakfast:

“Listen up, everyone,” he began, “Despite how much time we’ve spent together, Ash, I feel I’ve been a bit busier than usual. I also feel that you need to acquire a better understanding of the kind of lifestyle I was brought up in. So, I decided to arrange a special gala event, right here at the villa, around late August.” George looked at the others with a big smile on his face, only to see confusion written all over theirs.

Edward spoke first, “Are you sure you want to do this, sir? I mean it’s a superb idea, of course. It’s just that...well...you have always hated fancy gatherings - ever since you were a small boy.”

“Wait a minute,” Ash cut in, “What’s a gala?”

“A gala,” Sara explained, “is like a party, only much bigger, and you dress up in beautiful clothes. There is music, dancing, delicious food, and you meet so many interesting people.”

“Fancy, huh?” Ash though a little bit. He’d never been crazy about fancy-do’s either. Still, he always loved a good party. “I guess it would be okay. I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to be with high-class guys (except, of course, for that thing with James’s family, but that’s another story).”

“Then it’s settled!” George said gladly, “We’ll have the best caterers and musicians in all of Kanto. Sarah, I’ll need your help preparing invitations for friends and family.”

“Yes, sir,” said Sarah.

“Can Mom, Professor Oak, and the others come too?” Ash asked.

George smiled and nodded, “Sure, if they want to. I am inviting family and friends after all.”

“YES!” Ash literally jumped three feet above his chair when he heard this. When he sat back down, though, everyone saw him clutch and clear his throat.

“Ash, are you alright?” George asked. “Come to think of it, you’ve been coughing and clearing your throat ever since we arrived.”

“I’m fine: just a little sore, that’s all.” But it wasn’t just sore: after that last shout, Ash actually sounded more hoarse than before.

Edward suddenly walked over, “I used to be the family physician before I started working here. Let me have a look.”

Edward sat down next to Ash. He then took a tiny, pocket-sized flashlight from his vest, and shined it down Ash’s throat. “Let me see, hmm...” After what seemed like forever, Edward finally looked up and grinned, “I believe it’s nothing a little ice cream and some throat-drops won’t remedy.”

“Is the young master alright, dear?” Sarah asked.

Edward nodded, “Oh yes, quite alright. In fact, he is not ill at all: it’s simply because his voice-box has begun to alter in shape and size.”

George and Sarah soon broke out in smiles themselves. Ash, however, was unclear of what Edward just said.

“Um...English translation, please?”

George chuckled, “Ash, what Edward is saying is that, well, your voice is changing. You know, getting deeper.”

Ash looked shocked, “Is that bad?”

“No, no, it’s good. It’s just one of those things boys go through on their way to becoming men. It means that you’re growing up,” George wiped away a tear, “At least I got to see you in your last few days of childhood.”

Ash made a face, “Gee, Dad, you make it sound like I was dying or something.” Everyone started to laugh, including the Pokémon.



A few minutes later, Ash and Pikachu (along with their other friends) walked back to his bedroom. As he entered, Ash heard a beep-beep coming from the bed: the PokéGear had a message! He ran over, picked it up, and pressed the message button.

“You have TWO messages.”

BEEP!

“Hi, hon, it’s Mom! Just calling to see how you were. I think it’s great you caught some new Pokémon, especially Water types (Misty’s very jealous of you for that, hee hee hee!). I’ve kept your room nice and tidy, and all your presents have been put away for you. By the way, the others send their love, and they can’t wait to hear from you again. Send mine to your father, and give us another ring when you can. Love you! Bye!”

BEEP!

“Hi, Ash, it’s Aurora! How’ve you been this past week? I’ve been great. Right now, I’m at the Pokémon Center in Ecruteak; one of my friends at the orphanage is being adopted, so we’re all having a party to celebrate. Bee and I’ll be staying for two more days, but then we’re leaving for Violet City. Bee says ‘Hello,’ by the way, and we both really miss you. Give us a call after you get this message, ’kay? Hope to hear from you soon. Bye.”

BEEP!

“End of messages.”

Ash was happy to hear both messages, but the one from Aurora made him giddy with joy. Without wasting any time, he dialed the number for the Pokémon Center.

“Ecruteak City Pokémon Center. May I help you?” said the person on the other end.

“Hello, Nurse Joy, this is Ash Ketchum. Remember me?”

“Of course! How are you, Ash?’

“Great. Listen, I’m trying to reach a girl by the name of Aurora Clearwater. Is she there?”

“If you’ll wait one second, I’ll have her paged for you.”

“Sure, I’ll wait. Thanks.”

What followed was a stream of music as Ash was put on hold. Before a minute was up, the line was picked up again. This time, though, it wasn’t Nurse Joy.

“Hello, Ash?” said a girl’s voice.

“Hey, Aurora, I just got your message.”

“Oh, Ash, it’s so good to hear your voice! Did you catch anymore Pokémon?"

“Lots, and not all of them are Water types. How was your friend’s party?”

“Actually, the party is this afternoon. Oh, Ash, I’m so happy for her. Kris was just adopted by this great couple from New Bark Town, and after she gets settled in, she’s going to go for her Trainer’s Licence!”

“Wow, that’s great! Tell her that I said ‘congrats’ too.”

“I will.” Suddenly, Aurora paused. "Say, Ash, you didn’t happen to get another one of those visits, did you?” She sounded very worried.

Ash knew what she meant by visits. “No, I didn’t. Now that you mention it, it’s been pretty quiet this week.” Ash then had an idea, but he had to clear his throat again before speaking.

“Listen, Aurora...um...I was wondering...do you think you’ll be able to come back to the island...say...around late August?” Ash blushed as he spoke.

“It’s a possibility. Why?”

“Well...my dad is planning this big party - I think he called it a gala - around that time. He’s inviting friends and family, so I thought...”

“A gala? You mean like a ball? It sounds fabulous, of course we’ll come (I’ll bring Bee along too)!”

“Great. As soon as I get an exact date, I’ll give you a buzz, okay?”

“I’ll be waiting.”

“Hope to hear from you again, Aurora. Bye, Bee.”

“Bye, Ash.”

“Ringle-ringle,” Bee called.

As Ash hung up the PokéGear, he gave another leap off the floor; he was so happy to know that Aurora was coming to the party, that he almost forgot to make a similar call to his mom. He was soon dialing his house in Pallet Town.

“Hello?” Delia asked.

“Hi, Mom, guess who?”

“Ash! Hi, baby! How are you and Aurora doing?”

“Aurora left for Johto a week ago, but she and I are doing great (I just called her a minute ago). How are you holding up?”

“We’re all doing fine; Misty and Brock have been a big help. We’re currently having breakfast with Samuel, Gary, Tracey, and Daisy.” At that moment, Ash could hear people shouting in the background:

“Hi, Ash!”

“We miss you!”

“Come home soon!”

Ash smiled as he heard his friends’ greetings. Then he remembered the reason he was calling. “Hey, Mom, Dad’s having a big party sometime around late August. Do you guys want to come?”

“Oh, honey, a party sounds fantastic! Let me ask the others.” Ash listened to the confusing sounds of too many people talking at once, before Delia finally came back on the line.

“Well, Samuel and Tracey have a lot of work to do at the lab, Gary is going to Viridian City to become the new Gym Leader, and Misty is going back to Cerulean City to help her sisters. But Brock, Daisy, and I are definitely going.”

“Great. I’ll call you guys back when I get a...Gary’s going to be a WHAT?” Ash was in a state of shock and surprise by the news.

“Oops, I can’t believe I forgot to tell you: Pokémon League Headquarters offered Gary the position of Gym Leader at Viridian City a few days ago. He starts in just three more days!”

“Wow, that’s the best news I’ve heard all day! Tell him I said ‘good luck,’ and ‘congratulations!’

“I’ll do that, dear. You’d better get to work planning that party with your father.”

“Okay, I’ll tell him you all said ‘hi’.”

“Take care. Good-bye, Sweetheart!”

“Bye!” said the others in the background.

“See ya!” he responded before hanging up.

Brian Powell
18th January 2005, 10:47 AM
*Checks my last post on this thread* I also remember mentioning that it's impossible to say anything negative about this fic. I have this fanfic saved on my computer and it has been one of my favourites for a very long time.

Overall: Check my bit in "Great fics you ever read" thread and you'll find out.

Fire_Emblem_Prodigy
30th January 2005, 12:31 PM
Incredible. Truly incredible. Lady ZeldaFan20, I have read the full version of this as a non member, and it brought me nearly to tears. I am also reading "To the Rainbow's End", and "Pokemon: Evil's Awakening". I love your stories especially this one and its sequel, because they are so heartwarming *sobs*. Do not stop writing these stories, please.

ZeldaFan20
11th March 2005, 4:36 AM
Chapter Fourteen



“No, no, no!” Edward exclaimed, “Forgive me, young sir, but you are going about this all wrong.”

During the next couple of days, Ash was kept busy preparing for the party. At every meal, Sarah instructed him on how to act at the table, as well as how to properly speak in front of people. In between, Edward taught him how to walk, how to stand, and how to dance. At this precise hour, Ash was in the upstairs sitting-room, having a standing lesson.

“What’d I do wrong now?” Ash asked Edward, “Head up, chest out, and shoulders back, right?”

“Yes, but your back is not straight enough. Look, your lower stomach is showing. It must go in more...like that...there, much better.”

Ash felt like he was leaning backwards. He looked in a nearby mirror, and frowned. “Now I know how a statue feels,” he said blankly, “I wish Dad would get home so we can go swimming.”

“Well, sir,” Edward answered, “you do know your father’s business has occupied much of his time. He must deal with some very disagreeable clients.” Edward thought to himself for a minute, “Still, I wouldn’t say that all of his clients were disagreeable: Miss Bianca does very well with the master.”

Ash looked at him with great interest, “Miss who?” He didn’t even see Sarah enter the room.

“You must be talking about Miss Bianca,” she interrupted, “She’s the daughter of the late Lord Darby. Her family has been around since the days of the Irish Struggle for Independence; a very old family. She has been declared the prettiest girl in all of Great Britain.”

Ash turned to look at her, “You know her?”

“Well, I saw her once. It was at a Christmas ball your grandparents held seven years ago, at their estate in London. All the servants were allowed into the ballroom to watch the dancing and merry-making. Many of the young ladies were quite lovely, but they paled in comparison to Miss Bianca: a girl of eighteen years, she was considered the belle of the ball.”

“Sounds like she’s very popular,” Ash commented, “What’s she like?”

“Tall, slender, a creamy complexion that contrasts well with her long, golden hair. Her eyes are the most brilliant blue you’ve ever seen. Very well educated also: poetry, painting, archery, horseback-riding, heraldry, and especially in music. She played the piano all night at the party. Sang like a nightingale as well: your father accompanied Miss Bianca during one of her performances.”

“I didn’t know Dad could play the piano!”

“Oh, he can - and very good, I might add - but I meant that he and Miss Bianca sang a duet."

“I know he can sing: Dad used to sing me to sleep every night.” Ash was growing more and more uncomfortable about this ‘Bianca woman’ the more Sarah talked.

“Your father has a fine base voice - we all know that for a fact. Yes, Miss Bianca is a fine lady. A very kind person, too: she donates money to many charities every year, and she’s especially fond of Pokémon (unlike her mother).”

“Does Dad...like her?”

Sarah looked at Ash with a surprised look, “Well, yes...perhaps in a business-like way. But don’t worry; they are certainly not in love. The master told me that he had known Miss Bianca since childhood, so my belief is that they are nothing more than good friends.”

“Still,” Ash wondered, “did anyone ever talk about them getting married?”

Edward stepped in, “There was some mention of it. However, the Darby family doesn’t have a very large fortune; before the Lord Darby died, three months later, his eldest son came for nearly everything they had.”

“Also,” Sarah continued, “there is a significant age difference between them: the master is almost forty, Miss Bianca is twenty-five.”

“So what?” Ash asked, “My mom’s younger than Dad too, and they got married anyway.”

“Perhaps,” said Sarah, “but many people in high society have certain traditions when it comes to marriage.”

At that moment, a car horn was heard out front. The three of them ran to one of the windows (the one that had a good view of the city). Three long, black limos and a grey bus were parked in front of the house. People got off the bus and were running to the limos. Ash saw George get out of the first one, and opened the window to wave, but stopped when he saw the other people coming out into the sunshine.

About eight men and women, all dressed in business-like suits and hats, gathered in a crowd and started talking to each other. As he looked on, Ash saw George walk up to an elderly woman in a violet dress (with a matching wide-rimmed hat) and help her into a wheelchair. Holding the chair was a younger lady, in her mid-twenties, with long blond hair, creamy skin, and wearing a white three-piece dress suit. Sarah immediately knew what he was guessing.

“The Darbys! Miss Bianca!” She and Edward instantly left the room and hurried downstairs to greet the guests.

Ash stayed where he was and continued looking at Miss Darby. He instantly saw the kindness in her face and manner, and she smiled so sweetly; Ash was reminded of Aurora’s own happy smile.

“I wonder if Dad likes her the same way I like Aurora,” Ash wondered to himself. He both hoped and feared that he was right. It would be a horrible shock to know if George was actually having an affair with another (much richer) woman.



Throughout the remainder of the day, the house was alive with activity: the guests being shown to their rooms, servants (obviously the people who were on the bus) helping Sarah and Edward prepare for the evening: some were with Sarah in the kitchen, while the rest went over the house with Edward.

Feeling that it was better to stay out of the way, Ash stayed in his room. He wasn’t lonely (Pikachu and the others kept him company), but it was getting dark, and he was dying for some dinner. Finally, at 6:00 PM, Sarah entered the room with a tray of PokéChow in her hands.

“Ah, good,” she said, putting the tray on a nearby table, “you haven’t gotten into your pajamas yet. Your father asked me to bring you down to meet the guests...oh my!” She wiped her forehead with a handkerchief and sighed.

“Sarah,” Ash asked, “are you okay? You look tired.”

“I am, but I’m alright,” was the reply, “It’s just that he’s never wanted to have company over before. When he was a child he would always make up an excuse to get away from such people, but now he seems determined to fill this house to the roof with them.”

Ash laughed, “I don’t think Dad is that crazy. Anyway, I’m guessing he was just trying to be polite when he sent you to get me, so I’ll say ‘no thanks’.”

Sarah smiled as she put each of the six bowls on the floor for the Pokémon, “Well I told him that you may not be accustomed to high society, but he just laughed and said ‘you tell him, that if he won’t come down, I’ll come up there and get him myself’. Besides, the master told Miss Bianca all about you and your adventures, and she is most anxious to meet you.”

Ash stood up, “Okay, I’ll be right down.”

“Wear your Sunday clothes,” Sarah added, “There’s no need to look too formal.”

Ash wiped his face with his hand, “That’s a relief.” Before Sarah left, the words “How long will they be here” burst from his mouth.

Sarah replied, “Only for two days, not a day more. Lord Henry is going to be married next week, so they’ll need to return to London very soon. Don’t you worry,” and she left the room.

As he got dressed, Ash kept thinking about Miss Darby. Was she really such a good person? Was she really not in love with his father? Did George really think of her as “just a friend?” She seemed nice enough.

After combing and smoothing his hair, Ash walked out of the room, and closed the door behind him so the Pokémon could eat in peace. He then took a deep breath and headed downstairs.



Everyone was in the dining room when Ash reached the study. Relieved that no one was there, he walked over to the fireplace (which had a hearty fire burning in it) and sat down in one of the leather chairs. As he sat there watching the fire, Ash noticed a book lying on the floor near his feet. He picked it up, thinking that his dad dropped it by accident, and read the title.

“Hmm...Jane Eyre...I think I saw a movie with that same title with Mom once. Too bad I can’t remember it very well.” Before opening to the first page, Ash noticed a bookmark halfway to the mid-section. He opened it to page 148, the sixth-to-last page of Chapter 15:

I tried again to sleep; but my heart beat anxiously: my inward tranquility was broken. The clock, far down in the hall, struck two. Just then it seemed my chamber-door was touched; as if fingers had swept the panels in groping a way along the dark gallery outside. I said, “Who is there?” Nothing answered. I was chilled with fear.

All at once I remembered that it might be Pilot: who, when the kitchen-door chanced to be left open, not infrequently found his way up to the threshold of Mr. Rochester’s chamber: I had seen him lying there myself, in the mornings. The idea calmed me somewhat: I lay down. Silence composes the nerves; and as an unbroken hush now reigned again through the whole house, I began to feel the return of slumber. But it was not fated that I should sleep that night. A dream had scarcely approached my ear, when it fled affrighted, scared by a marrow-freezing incident enough.

“Wow,” Ash thought to himself, “Whatever’s happening in this story almost sounds like what happened to me last week.” He read on. The more Ash read, the more clearly last week’s incident came into his mind.

This was a demonic laugh...uttered, as it seemed, at the very key-hole of my chamber door. The head of my bed was near the door, and I thought at first the goblin-laughter stood at my bedside - or rather, crouched by my pillow: but I rose, looked round, and could see nothing; while, as I still gazed, the unnatural sound was reiterated: and I knew it came from behind the panels...

Because he was so engrossed with the book, Ash failed to notice the study doors open, and a tall figure walk casually in his direction. It quickly tapped him on the shoulder.

“AH!” Ash jumped; he nearly had the living daylights scared out of him. Turning around, he saw who was responsible.

Standing right in front of him was the same tall woman he had seen outside earlier; this time, though, she was wearing a short-sleeved dinner dress (the skirt stopped three inches below the knee).

“Good-evening,” she said, smiling kindly.

Ash struggled to remember his manners, “G...Good-evening, M...Miss Darby.”

“Please, call me Bianca. You must be George’s child: I’m sorry if I’ve frightened you, but I was told that you came in here fifteen minutes ago.” Bianca then noticed the book still in his hand, “That is a very good book; I’ve read it ten times myself, and never once was I tired of it.”

Ash instantly put the book on the table, “Yeah, well, I was just...uh...flipping through the pages...and I guess that chapter caught my eye.” He produced a sheepish grin.

“Come, let us go into the dining room; everyone is just sitting down to supper.”

Ash shook his head, “I’ll be there in a minute. Thanks anyway.”

“Very well,” Bianca said, “I will see you in a few minutes, then.” She started to leave, but then turned back around, “Excuse me, but your father failed to tell me your name.”

“Oh,” Ash said, “well, they call me Ash.”

Bianca made a slight face, but maintained her smile. “Ash...an interesting name, but it does not suit you.” Bianca giggled as she saw Ash’s confused look. “I have an idea; would you mind if I called you...Arthur?”

Ash thought for a bit, smiled, and gave a slight nod. Suddenly, a loud growling came from his stomach. “Heh heh, on second thought, I think my few minutes are up.”

Both laughed and started to leave the study. As they walked down the hall, Ash told Bianca about some of his friends and adventures, while she listened very attentively: he was actually beginning to like her.



Just as Ash and Bianca were being seated, a knock was heard at the front door. Sarah went over to see who it was.

A fairly young gentleman was standing outside. Despite the warm weather, he wore a long, long-sleeved purple robe. His eyes were a piercing violet color, and his mouth was curved into a nervous smile.

“May I help you, sir?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, you may.” the man replied, “I am looking for a Mister George Ketchum: he and I are old friends. Is this his residence?”

Sarah nodded, “However, we have a house full of guests. I don’t think the master will want to see you right now.”

“I am aware of the time. But, you see, I’ve come a long way, from the Orange Islands, and I am very tired. I only need to stay until tomorrow evening.”

Sarah eyed the stranger warily before asking, “May I have your name, sir?”

The man answered, “My name is Lawrence: Robert Wilhelm Lawrence the Third.”

ZeldaFan20
5th May 2005, 5:42 PM
Short, yes, but this chapter does add a suspenseful flavor to the story.






Chapter Fifteen



At the dinner table, everyone was laughing and talking while they were being served. At first, Ash had difficulty remembering exactly which utensils to use for each dish (there were a number of them). Then again, it was even harder to remember how to behave in front of such a crowd.

“Boy, James was right,” Ash thought to himself, “These rich guys have rules for almost everything.”

Just as a servant was offering him some salad, Sarah entered the room, and walked up to George.

“Pardon me, sir,” she began, “but you have a visitor; he says he’s come a long way to see you.”

George’s face fell, “Did you tell him I have guests?”

Sarah nodded, “Yes, sir, but he insists upon seeing you.”

George was silent for a few seconds, and then said, “Did he give his name?”

Sarah nodded again, “His name is Lawrence, sir; says he’s from the Orange Islands.”

Upon hearing the name “Lawrence,” George spat out the wine he was sipping, and gave a choking cough. Everyone just stared in amazement, including Ash.

“Dad, what’s the matter?”

“George, are you alright?” Bianca asked.

George held up his hand, “I’m alright; the wine just went down the wrong pipe, that’s all.” He then turned to Sarah, “Show him into the study, please, and tell him I’ll be there shortly.” Sarah bowed to the party and left the room. Ash just looked at George: he thought he had seen a little fear in his father’s face....

“AAAAIIIIEEEE!” Mrs. Darby suddenly screamed. Everyone turned to see what was happening.

“Mother, what is wrong?” exclaimed Bianca.

“THERE IS A CREATURE UNDER THIS TABLE!” shouted Mrs. Darby, “GET IT AWAY FROM ME!”

Ash instantly dove under the table to catch the creature. What he saw made him gasp.

“Kip, kip!” Mudkip was busily snacking on a lettuce leave that had fallen onto the floor. Ash slapped his hand against his head and chuckled.

“Mudkip, what are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay upstairs. How did you get out of the room anyway?” Ash grabbed Mudkip and stood up, showing everyone who the “creature” was. Nearly everyone smiled at the little Pokémon:

“My word, remarkable!” said one old gentleman.

“How incredible,” said a younger man.

“Oh, Arthur, it’s perfectly darling,” Bianca remarked.

“It’s perfectly hideous!” Mrs. Darby shouted angrily, “I can’t stand having such vermin near me! I want that filthy beast OUT!”

Mudkip was trying to get into Ash’s shirt out of sheer terror. Ash, who liked Mrs. Darby’s tone even less, excused himself and proceeded to leave the room. As he entered the hallway, he could hear George trying to explain:

“You see, madam, my son has been a Pokémon Trainer for the past three years. He’s very good with them, let me assure you...”

“I don’t have a care in the world how he treats those little beasts!” Mrs. Darby interrupted, “I could never stand such vermin ever since that incident in Wales years ago: a Pokémon Trainer was caught training one of those Chiko-thingys in my prized rose garden: attracted every insect in all of Britain! And those Trainers; they’re just as incompetent as the creatures they collect! UGH!”

Ash trembled with rage as he heard that woman talk.

“Who does she think she is?” he growled as he walked further down the hall. He then looked at Mudkip, who had succeeded in getting into his shirt, “I’ve met a lot of Pokémon who are much smarter than certain people.”

Both giggled as they walked towards the study. As they passed the doors, a figure stepped out into the hall and said, “Are you, by any chance, speaking of anyone in particular?”

Ash immediately stopped; his blood both boiled and froze. He knew that voice: it was one he hadn’t heard for two years, since the Orange Islands, but would never forget. He slowly turned to face the speaker. Standing in the doorway was Lawrence III. He was looking at him with that same cunning smile and piercing gaze. Ash recognized him at first glance.

“YOU!” Ash shouted.

“Ah, the Chosen One,” Lawrence said coolly, giving him a graceful yet mocking bow, “I must say it is a pleasure to see you again...”

“What are you doing here, anyway?” Ash demanded.

Lawrence maintained his smile, “I may ask you the same question, Chosen One.”

“That’s none of your business.”

Lawrence chuckled, “Well, I’m here to visit a dear friend of mine.”

Ash put on a sarcastic air, “Well, this is interesting; hard to believe that the same man who nearly caused a world-wide natural disaster even has friends.” He turned to walk away, but had hardly taken two steps when Lawrence suddenly grabbed his right arm, pulling him back. Mudkip growled in defense.

“I had to start all over from scratch because of you,” he said, looking less composed than before, “Because you and your comrades freed Moltres and Zapdos, everything I have slaved for was destroyed.” He tightened his grip on Ash’s arm, causing the boy to cringe in pain.

“I had to set them free; it would’ve meant the end of the world if I let you take them...let me go!”

“Not until I have received retribution,” Lawrence growled as he tried to drag Ash into the study, ignoring the sprays of Mudkip’s Water Gun.

“Robert, let my son go.”

Both turned to see George walking quickly in their direction; and he was not too happy with what he was seeing.

Lawrence turned pale in the face, “George, this is...your son?”

“Do you not understand English? Let him go now.”

Ash started rubbing his arm the instant he was released.

“Are you alright, Ash?” George asked.

Ash nodded, glaring at Robert, “I’ll live.”

“Do you know Robert?”

“Yeah, I know him, all too well! While my friends and I were training in the Orange Islands, this guy tried to capture some rare Pokémon – and almost brought the whole world to an end!”

George shot a fierce look at Lawrence, but then turned back to Ash, “Listen, son, why don’t you head upstairs to your room while I sort things out with Robert? I’ll have Sarah take your dinner up later.”

Hugging Mudkip, Ash gave Lawrence one last glance, and ran upstairs; he neither stopped nor looked back until he reached his bedroom doors.



Ash lay tossing and turning in his bed. The very thought of Lawrence III in the house caused a strong resistance in sleep. He knew that the doors and windows were all locked from the inside, and that his Pokémon were sleeping outside their Poké Balls, but it didn’t help much. In fact, by the time he finally did get to sleep, it was close to one o’clock.

Around 1:30 AM, Ash was awakened by a slightly familiar noise; it was faint, but it was definitely the sound of people talking. Thinking that the TV had been left on, Ash reached over to the bedside table, grabbed the remote, and aimed...

“Huh?” The TV was off. Ash shrugged and attempted to go back to sleep, until another, much louder noise prevented him; this noise, however, literally sent chills down his spine.

A man’s scream was heard echoing through the whole house. Ash had never heard anyone scream that, it was even worse than Mrs. Darby’s yells: it was like the scream of someone in terrible pain or distress. He thought someone might be in danger. Forgetting about Lawrence, and the promise he made to Aurora (to not be a hero), he sprang out of bed, opened the door, and ran into the hall. A large crowd of people were already gathering outside George’s door; they were all in a panic.

“Good-heavens, what happened?” asked one.

“Was anyone hurt?” inquired another.

“Where the devil is George?” asked a third.

Ash was just about to go over to them, when George suddenly came into view. He was soon attempting to calm the frightened mass.

“It’s alright, nothing to worry about. One of the servants had a nightmare, that’s all. However, she can’t be looked after until everyone calms down and returns to their beds. Now then, if you please.”

One by one, people were being ushered back into their bedrooms. Soon the only ones still up were Ash (who was quietly returning to his room) and George. Ash was just about to open the doors, when George stopped him.

“Ash, wait...I need your help.” Ash knew that something was wrong; his father’s face was a sick white, and he was breathing very rapidly.

“What is it, Dad?” he asked.

George hesitated at first, but then spoke, “First, do you feel sick or faint at the sight of blood?”

Ash felt another chill down his back, but he remained calm, “No…at least, I don’t think so.”

“Then come with me,” George said, taking Ash’s hand in his. Together, the two of them walked down the hall, towards the stairs. Ash was unsure of where his dad was taking him, but he was sure that it wasn’t back to bed.

ZeldaFan20
21st July 2005, 6:56 PM
Sorry about the long-term absense, guys. But ths summer's been a busy one for me since I'm attending another college this fall.

Enough of that, though, the next chapter is here. For those of you who don't know what happens, be warned as it contains some blood and suspense. Enjoy!






Chapter Sixteen



George led Ash down the stairs and through the halls of the first floor at a rapid pace, as if time itself was of the utmost essence.

They passed through the study to a much darker corridor. There were no windows; the only light came from a couple of electric wall-lights. At the end of the corridor was a single door, which opened to reveal another flight of stairs.

As they descended the stairs, Ash saw George take a card from his pants’ pocket.

“What’s that for, Dad?” Ash asked.

George didn’t answer, but his face became very grim. Upon reaching the bottom, they quickly walked to the far end of the room. Ash saw that a bookcase had been moved, revealing a steel door. George took the card and slipped it into a slot on the side, causing the door to open. Still holding hands, they both passed through to the other side.

Because George kept his flashlight pointed to the floor, Ash could not see the walls of this hallway very well; although, he thought he could make out stone and mortar. He also noticed several large curtains and a number of doors, but there was one door that gave him a odd feeling in the stomach.

At the very end of the hall, where they were heading, was a regular-sized door. It was made entirely of iron, and locked; the little window in the top center was protected by bars: a little bit of light was shining through them. However, instead of going into this room (much to Ash’s relief), George led him through another door to the left. This particular room was furnished just like one of the upstairs guest rooms: a large bed, a fireplace, its own bathroom, table, chairs, etc. George led Ash to the left side of the bed, and what Ash saw nearly made him reel:

Lying on the bed was Lawrence III. He was on top of the covers and his eyes were closed, but he wasn’t asleep. He had on a pair of indigo pants and an unbuttoned white silk shirt - or, at least, it WAS white: an old rag was pressed against the entire right-shoulder area (from the neck to the forearm), which was ripped to shreds and literally soaked in blood. Ash also noticed his face: it didn’t have the same cool expression as before; in fact, it almost looked pitiful, like a man who was suffering terribly, and it was also a nasty green color.

“Here, Ash,” George said suddenly. He was pouring some water from a ewer first into a basin, then into a little glass; both were sitting on the bedside table to the left. He then handed Ash a large sponge, and a set of keys.

“I am going to get the doctor for Robert; I shouldn’t be more than an hour. In the meantime, I want you to take this sponge and try to stop the bleeding. If he feels faint, give him some water to drink. And what ever you do...” he pointed to the locked door outside, “Don’t open that door. No matter what sounds you may hear coming from in there, don’t even go near it. Understand?”

Ash nodded, and George left the room.

For a minute or two, Ash stood still as a statue. He had no idea what was going on, or how Lawrence had gotten into such a situation. Suddenly remembering his job, he took the sponge, and dropped it into the basin. He then reached for the rag Lawrence was clutching and gently pulled it off (the patient moaning in agony as he did so).

Ash made a face at the sight of the crimson cloth, as well as the gross squishing-sound it made. He quickly walked over to the fireplace, and threw the horrible mess onto the hot, still-burning logs. When he came back to the bed, he squeezed the sponge out and began to clean the wounds. Every time Lawrence began to slip out of consciousness, Ash took the glass and helped him drink.

“I don’t know how you got like this,” Ash whispered, more to himself than to Lawrence, “but, right now, I don’t know whether to feel sorry for you or say you deserve it.” The patient gave a low groan in response, even though Ash was certain that he couldn’t hear a word.

This went on for about half-an-hour, in perfect silence, until Ash was suddenly distracted from what he was doing: the iron door suddenly began to shake; softly at first, but then increasingly faster, and more violently, as if someone - or something - was trying desperately to get out. It kept shaking for about three more minutes before it finally subsided. The silence, however, didn’t last very long, for it was instantly followed by a sound that Ash never expected to hear…a sob.

Someone inside the room - someone human - was crying. Ash listened carefully to the voice; it sounded like a man, but much younger. For a moment, Ash forgot what his father told him and, leaving the sponge on Lawrence’s shoulder, walked slowly out of the room...right towards the door.

As he got closer the noise was hushed, and everything became quiet again. Ash soon stood right in front of it. He gulped, but quietly so that what ever monster was inside would not hear.

“...Hello?” Ash managed to whisper, “Is anyone...in there? If so...are you okay?”

There was no answer. Gathering his courage, Ash stood on his toes, and leaned his head towards the little window. Almost immediately, and in a terrible fright, he pulled himself back so hard and so fast that he fell to the floor.

A growl echoed from the inside, like that of an angry Houndoom. Two lightning-quick hands grasped the bars of the door. They were ghostly white and dripping in blood (which Ash knew was Lawrence’s). The fingernails were long, but also looked well-groomed despite the tiny rivers of crimson. They clawed at the air - as if reaching for Ash - while the growling continued. After a few seconds the growls finally ceased, and the hands slowly sank back into the inky darkness of the unknown room.

Ash suddenly heard Lawrence groaning from the bedroom. He ran back in, only too eager to get away from the man in that weird dungeon, and resumed his work.



Soon the hour was up, and footsteps were heard running down the hall towards the room. George marched in, followed by a man in a black summer jacket holding a large, similarly-colored bag.

“Hurry, Porter,” George said to the man, “The servants will be up in two hours, and we have half-an-hour to dress the wound and get him out of here.” He then turned to Lawrence, who had opened his eyes at the sight of them, “How are you, Robert?”

Lawrence gave a shuttered sigh before answering, “I think it’s the end for me, George.”

George threw him a disgusted look, “Don’t be silly, you’re perfectly fine - if not shaken up a bit - and Porter will tell you the same thing.”

“I most certainly will,” Porter said as he helped Lawrence sit up and looked at the wounds, “If only you had brought me here sooner, though, he mightn’t have bled so much...but what’s this? This was definitely done with a knife, but the neck and shoulder are torn as well. Were there teeth involved?”

Lawrence nodded sorrowfully, “He bit me...sucked the blood, like a vampire. He said he’d...drain me to the heart.”

George trembled as Lawrence talked, but then regained his composure, “Stop it, Robert! You know better than to believe anything he says: it’s all rubbish!”

“I’ll never be able to forget this. It was horrible...”

“You’ll forget it as soon as you are off the island. Porter will keep you at his house until you are well enough to take the next available boat back the Orange Islands.” George then turned to Ash, who had quietly sat down in a nearby chair, “Ash, we’ll need to get Lawrence out of the house; Porter’s car is out in front. When we get to the study I want you to tell me if you see anyone coming, alright?”

Ash nodded. Soon, the four of them left the room and headed towards the stairs: with Ash leading the way, Porter and George supporting Lawrence.



As soon as Ash said it was clear, they walked quietly out the front door and into the driveway. A blue Mercedes was parked close to the exit. Ash stood by while Porter got into the driver’s seat, and George helped Lawrence into the passenger’s seat.

“Be sure to treat him well, Porter. I’ll come by tomorrow at noon to see how he is. Good-night, Robert.”

“George...” Lawrence said.

“What is it?”

“Please...don’t do anything to him. It’s not his fault...”

“I know, I know, nor mine either. If anyone’s to blame for what happened tonight, it’s you. You should have waited until morning, when I could’ve been with you.”

“Please, take good care of him. Treat him tenderly...”

“I have always done so up until now, and I will continue to do just that. Quickly, Porter; the servants will be up any minute.”

With that, the car started and was soon driving down the street. As he watched it disappear, George said to himself, “I only wish there was an end to all of this.” He then led Ash into the house and back upstairs.



When he returned to his room, Ash didn’t go to bed right away; the night’s events made him feel sick to his stomach. Instead, while his Pokémon slept on, he rushed straight into the bathroom, bent down by the toilet...and threw up. The noise disturbed Pikachu, who ran in to see what was going on.

"Pika chu? Pika pika chu, pika?" asked Pikachu.

Ash looked up and saw his little friend, “It’s okay, Pikachu. I’m just not feeling well, that’s all.” He then stood up, gurgled some water, and smiled half-heartedly, “C’mon, let’s go back to bed.”

And so they did. However, Ash knew that he was going to have nightmares for a long, long time.

ZeldaFan20
9th August 2005, 4:05 AM
Chapter Seventeen



After what had happened that night, the weather the next morning was paradise! Dark grey clouds loomed over the island, blocking out the sunshine. The wind howled like a pack of wild Houndour searching for a fight. Rain was pelting heavily against the glass windows of the mansion. It was the kind of weather that perfectly matched the sleeping Ash’s mood that day.

Ash was still asleep when Bianca knocked on the door and walked in. She noticed that he was drenched in sweat, incredibly pale, and shaking almost as badly as someone with a bad fever. Bianca thought that Ash was either sick or having a terrible nightmare. She walked over and sat on the bed, and gently rubbed his back...

“Huh?” Ash woke with a start. He frantically looked around the room; his Pokémon weren’t there and Bianca was sitting near him.

“Good-day, Arthur,” she greeted with a cheerful smile, “How are you feeling today?”

“Where are my Pokémon?” Ash asked; he was too nervous to answer the question.

“Edward and Sarah took them to the Pokémon Center,” Bianca said reassuringly, “They seemed to think that you were ill, so they offered to take them for an examination in your stead.”

Ash breathed a huge sigh of relief, but then he held his stomach and groaned.

“Did you know that you have missed breakfast this morning?” Bianca asked.

Ash looked at her in disbelief, but soon he was holding his tummy again. “I don’t care,” he replied, smiling weakly, “I don’t think I’d be able to eat anything anyway. By the way, what time is it?”

Bianca looked at her little silver pocket-watch, “I would say it is almost noon.” She suddenly stopped Ash from trying to jump out of bed, “Please, don't get up; George wants you to stay in bed today.”

Ash thankfully sank back onto his pillow, until he suddenly remembered the events of last night, “Bianca, did Dad go anywhere this morning?”

Bianca seemed surprised by his question, but she giggled and replied, “Why, yes; he said that he was going to see his friend Lawrence off at the harbor. Why do you ask?”

Ash frowned, “I just don’t see how Dad could call that maniac a friend.”

Bianca was just about to ask what he meant, when a servant came into the room, “Excuse me, Miss Darby, but her Ladyship would like to speak with you.”

“Please tell Mother that I will be there in a minute.”

The servant bowed and left. Bianca then turned to Ash, and kissed his forehead, “I’ll come back later to see how you are doing.”

“Wait, Bianca,” Ash said immediately, “could I please have a book from the study?”

Bianca was already at the door when Ash spoke, and had turned back around upon hearing the question. “Of course, which one would you like?"

Ash didn’t know what possessed him to say such a thing, but the words came out before he even knew what'd happened:

“Jane Eyre.”



An hour later, Ash was flipping through the pages of Jane Eyre. The next few chapters after the part he’d read were actually very interesting: love, jealousy, intrigue, fancy parties, and disguises. Ash was beginning to think he’d found something better than comics, until he came across a passage in Chapter Twenty; a passage that made him grow more pale than he already was:

I saw a room I remembered to have seen before; the day Mrs. Fairfax showed me over the house: it was hung with tapestry; but the tapestry was now looped up in one part, and there was a door apparent, which had then been concealed. This door was open; a light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling, snatching sound, almost like a dog quarreling...

Ash gulped hard, “This is starting to sound way too familiar,” he said to himself as the image of those white, bloody hands reentered his mind. Still, he kept reading:

An easy-chair was near the bed-head: a man sat in it, dressed with the exception of his coat; he was still; his head leant back; his eyes were closed. Mr. Rochester held the candle over him; I recognized in his pale and seemingly lifeless face--the stranger, Mason: I saw too that his linen on one side, and one arm, was almost soaked in...

Beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep!

The PokéGear suddenly rang. Ash, almost too glad to stop reading, put the book down and picked up the PokéGear.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Ash, it’s me!” Aurora’s voice answered.

“Aurora, hi! How are you?”

“I’m great. Bee and I are in Azalea Town right now; we’re exploring Slowpoke Well. Say, are you okay? You sound like you’ve got the flu or something.”

Ash chuckled, “Yeah, maybe that’s what it is: I threw up around three-in-the-morning.”

“Oh dear,” Aurora said sympathetically, “I bet it wasn’t a pretty sight.”

“Throwing up is never a pretty sight,” Ash replied. Both of them laughed.

“Well,” Aurora said, “I’m just glad you didn’t have anymore late-night visitors.”

Ash was quiet for a minute or two, but then gave a reassuring laugh, “I’m sorry; it’s just that I don’t like to be reminded of that night.”

“I know, and I’m sorry too; I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Oh, did you find out when the party is?”

Ash then remembered George’s plans for the gala, “Yeah, I think he said it was gonna be around the last week of August.”

“Sounds great, Bee and I can’t wait to be there. Whoa, look at the time; I’ve gotta go. See ya!”

“Bye, Aurora,” and they hung up.



George walked in at around 1:30. Ash was watching a little TV in bed when he did.

“How are you, Ash,” George asked.

Ash never took his eyes off the screen, “I’m okay: just the stomach.” George heard a little disapproval in Ash’s voice, so he knew that his son was not fine. He walked over and sat on the bed.

“What’s wrong, Little Man?” he asked.

Ash looked up, “What was that all about - you know, last night?”

George said nothing, but had an uncomfortable look on his face.

“Dad, I heard a young man crying in there. He’s the one who attacked Lawrence, and I know he’s the one who set fire to your bed that night. Who is he? And why is he in that room?”

George then looked Ash straight in the face, both distress and reassurance on his, “The man in that room...is Robert’s nephew, David. He’s only nineteen years old, and still physically healthy. His parents both died when he was only ten. The reason he’s in that room is because he is - how shall I put this - mentally ill, and because of it he’s become uncontrollable.

“Robert loves his nephew very much. However, his constant pursuit after Legendary Pokémon has caused him to become negligent in his responsibilities as a father-figure. So, a few years ago, I offered to have David lodged safely here.”

“But, Dad, that guy’s dangerous," Ash interrupted, “How could you keep him here for so long?”

“Now, Ash,” George continued, “If I were to turn David away, the only place left to send him would be an asylum. It was an option neither Robert nor I could bear. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Ash thought a while, but then nodded, “Yeah, I guess so. Still, he has to have more help than to be shut up in that dark room twenty-four seven.”

“I know, son,” George agreed, “Luckily, I convinced Robert that David would be better off in an institution where he could receive individual care and attention, and where we could visit him any time we liked,” he then scooted closer towards Ash and put a hand on his shoulder, “Which means that you will get your way after all.”

This seemed to satisfy Ash enough to force a smile. Just then, his stomach growled, and George produced a tray filled with hot chicken soup, salad, and milk.

“Here, eat up; as soon as the rain stops, we’ll go see Bianca and her friends off.”



It was nearly dinner time when Ash and George returned from the harbor. Bianca, her mother, and all their friends had set sail for England on the S. S. Aqua at around 5:00, and both boys were bushed.

Dinner that night was Spaghetti and Meatballs, garlic bread, milk (coffee for the adults), and vegetable stew. Everyone began making more plans for the gala as they ate: Ash was going to need a new formal suit and a hair-cut, and they still needed to find musicians.



That night as he lay in bed, Ash couldn’t help but worry about David; all alone in that cold, dark room every day and night. It was enough to drive a person to tears. Ash drifted off to sleep, with thoughts of David still haunting his dreams.

Down the hall, George lay restless in bed. He was thinking about David too, but not the same way. Ash was also on his mind; George let out a long sigh.

“Someday, Ash,” he whispered to himself, “Someday, I hope to tell you the whole truth...”

ZeldaFan20
19th August 2005, 2:11 AM
Chapter Eighteen



The next couple of months were full of preparations: decorating the downstairs halls, cleaning up the unused ballroom (especially the old piano), and sending invitations to friends and family. George managed to locate, and hire, the best musicians and caterers on the island for the big event.

Ash was busy too: he and George managed to get him fitted for a new suit, and an appointment was made at the local barber-shop to get his haircut, a couple of days before the party. In fact, the only times he ever got to play with the Pokémon were during the middle of the day and just before bedtime.

During these busy times, Ash almost didn’t notice that his voice was getting much deeper – a definite sign that he was reaching adolescence. Even with all these changes, two things were constantly on Ash’s mind: Aurora and David.



On the day before his appointment, Ash decided to take his Pokémon to the Seaside Mall, to find gifts for his mother and Aurora.

The huge outdoor facility, despite the fact that it was a Tuesday, was quite crowded. Tourists, who were obviously doing last-minute shopping, filled every store to the brim. There were even lines that stretched out onto the boardwalk. No matter where he walked, there was always somebody pushing or shoving him.

Knowing that it was too crowded to look for anything, Ash found a quiet bench in the very heart of the Mall and sat down, releasing his Pokémon friends while doing so. Meganium started examining a nearby palm tree right after being released. Pikachu and Quilava sat on the bench, next to Ash, and began chatting amongst themselves. Ash was watching Eevee and Mudkip as they played on the ground, and Croconaw was splashing in the fountain a few feet away.

Everyone who walked by looked at the happy Pokémon; some smiled, some complimented on how cute and funny they were, and others (mostly little children) wanted to go over and play with them. But, among all the chattering people in the area, there was one voice Ash almost failed to acknowledge...

“Say there, Buddy,” the voice said, “quite a lively brood you’ve got there.”

Ash suddenly looked up. Standing over him was a tall man, wearing a bright red shirt and pants, and rose-colored glasses. Even with the wig, he managed to recognize the old face.

“Blaine!” Ash exclaimed as he stood up. The two friends locked into a quick hug before sitting down on the bench.

“So, Ash, I haven’t seen you since your big birthday bash in June. What’ve you been up to?”

“I’m staying with Dad for the summer. It’s been really cool; I’ve caught all kinds of Pokémon, Dad and I have been doing some surfing – he’s even having a party for me in two days.”

Blaine looked confused, “But I thought you already had a birthday party.”

Ash nodded, “Yeah, but this isn’t a birthday party: Dad is throwing a fancy party - he calls it a gala - to introduce me to high society, or something like that.”

“A fancy party, huh?” Blaine said smiling, “Sounds great. Too bad though; I’m scheduled for a couple of Pokémon battles that day so, even if I am invited, going would be out of the question.”

Ash’s face fell, “I’m sorry you can’t come, Blaine. I’m sure you were invited, though.” Then he had an idea, “Say, do you want to hang out with us for a while? I’m looking for presents for Mom and Aurora, and the crowd’s died down a bit.” It was true; The mile-long lines were starting to look smaller, and the shop windows became more visible. Ash (who was recalling his Pokémon), Pikachu, and Blaine stood up and began to look around.

There were many places to buy gifts; toy shops, electronic stores, shoe stores, clothing shops, jewelry shops, even an antique shop.

Ash took a look in the antique shop first. The first thing that caught his eye was a doll. He was instantly reminded of his mother; the hands, feet and head were made of fine white porcelain, the face was painted with the greatest detail (right down to the heavenly-blue eyes and rosy cheeks). The hair was a bright red-orange, and arranged in the cutest little curls. The bonnet that covered it, as well as the dress she wore, seemed to come out of the Victorian Era; they were made of gossamer-pink satin, and frilled with ivory-white lace.

“Blaine, I think I found something,” Ash called. Blaine walked over to where he was standing, and saw the doll in his hands.

“A beautiful girl,” he said in awe.

“It’s perfect for Mom,” Ash agreed as he looked at the price tag, “Only twenty dollars...not too bad.” So Ash took the doll to the register and paid for it. The man put it into a long white box, which he then put into a shopping bag, and handed it back to him.

Two minutes after leaving the shop, the three of them came to a jewelry store. Ash wanted to find a bracelet for Aurora, so Blaine offered to watch Pikachu while he walked in.

There were so many bracelets there that, at first, Ash couldn’t decide which one he thought was right: there were gold ones, silver ones, copper ones, and even ones decorated with little gemstones. Finally, he spotted the perfect bracelet; it was a charm bracelet, made entirely of pure Silver Rock Island silver, with five little Silver Wing charms dangling from it. It was reasonably priced too - just $10.00 - so Ash talked to the lady behind the counter. Soon he walked out of the shop, with the bracelet safely stored in his shopping bag.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Blaine asked as Pikachu hopped onto Ash’s shoulder.

“Yup,” Ash replied.

“Good, now what do you say we get a bite to eat? I’m starved.”

Ash was just about to say ‘yes’, when he suddenly remembered something, “Actually, why don’t you and Pikachu go ahead? I’ll meet you at the Food Court in just a minute.” Ash suddenly raced into another shop - a toy shop - with his two friends looking on.



Ash found Blaine and Pikachu sitting at one of the umbrella-topped tables, a couple of meatball subs and cokes in front of them. In his arms was an adorable Pikachu Doll.

“Sorry,” he said as he took the sandwich being given to him, “these toys must be really popular; took me a while to find this one.” Ash then proceeded to eat his lunch.

Blaine looked amusingly at the stuffed toy, “So, who’s that for?”

Ash looked up; there was a startled look on his face, “What?”

“You know, that Pikachu Doll. Who is it for? Someone you know?”

“Um...yeah, it’s for someone who’s...uh...also staying with us.”

Blaine thought Ash seemed a little nervous while answering, “Ash, is there something bothering you?”

“Pi, pika chu?” asked Pikachu.

Ash hesitated at first, but then looked around to make sure that no one was listening: he seemed very scared.

“If I tell you something, will you promise not to tell anyone else?” he asked.

“Sure, Youngster,” Blaine replied, “Shoot.”

With that, Ash began to describe (quietly) what had been happening since he arrived. First, he talked about the laughing he heard the night George was nearly burned in his bed. Then came Lawrence III’s arrival at Seafoam Manor, and the brutal attack on Lawrence that same night.

Blaine and Pikachu listened with the greatest concern. However, as Ash talked, they all failed to realize that they were being watched at that precise moment, from the table two meters away...

“Dad said his name was David, that he was Lawrence’s nephew," Ash continued, “and that he was there because he was crazy or something. Dad said he was going to find someplace else for David to stay...”

“Did he?” Blaine interrupted.

“No, not yet. I asked Dad a week ago, but he said that there were some problems at the hospital where he was planning to send David, and that they wouldn’t be able to take him for several weeks.” Ash paused, “Anyway, I felt bad for him being there all alone, so I wanted to buy him a little present today; and I thought David might like this Pikachu.”

“Pika Pi!” said Pikachu.

“Did you tell anyone else about this?” Blaine asked.

Ash nodded, “Only Aurora, but I only told her about what happened to Dad. This was long before the attack on Lawrence.” He then looked Blaine straight in the eye, “Please don’t tell Dad I told you this. He told me that everything would be okay, but that I’d have to keep this a secret.”

Blaine thought for a minute, then smiled and nodded, “Of course, George probably doesn’t want anyone spreading gossip; most high-class guys are like that.” A frown then crossed his face, “However, if anything else happens, you have to tell me. Then, maybe, we can discuss what to do. Okay?”

Ash nodded half-heartedly, “Okay.”

Just then, a loud growl was heard from behind them. Turning their heads they saw a Houndour coming right at them; it was literally flying through the air. Ash gathered Pikachu and his gifts, and got out of the way - as did Blaine - just as the little black dog crashed right into the table.

People all around were laughing at this strange sight, until a voice called out,

“Phantom, down boy!”

The Houndour shook itself, and trotted back towards the voice. Standing a few feet away was an elderly gentleman. He was dressed in what looked like a brown business suit. In his hand was a black cane, and he wore a similarly colored bowler-derby hat on his partially-bald head. When the man spoke, Ash couldn’t help but notice his British accent.

“I say, are you two alright? By Jove, that was a narrow one.”

Blaine brushed himself off, “We’re okay, but your dog gave us quite a scare.”

The man chuckled, “Oh, so sorry, old man. Phantom here probably thought that little toy was a real Pokémon.” He then pointed his cane at the stuffed Pikachu Ash held.

“That’s okay,” Ash said, “At least no one was hurt. Is your Houndour okay?”

The man patted Phantom’s head and smiled, “I’d say that little stunt will teach him to stay when I want him to. Always restless, this one.” He then took out a gold pocket-watch and looked at it, “Well, we must be off. Once again, I apologize for the rude interruption. Come, Phantom.” The man and his Pokémon soon disappeared into the crowd.

Ash looked at his PokéGear too - 1:15. “Yikes!” he exclaimed, “I’ve gotta go too, Edward and Sarah are helping me with my surprise for the party.” He picked up his sandwich, as well as the rest of the shopping.

“Me too: Magmar’s check-up was done at one o’clock, and I have to pick it up at the Pokémon Center. Bye, Ash!”

“Bye, Blaine,” Ash said as he waved good-bye, “It was nice seeing you!”

“Pika!” waved Pikachu.



George had just finished his lunch when Ash walked into the dining room.

“Ah, there you are. How was your day?”

“It was great, Dad; I found great presents for Mom, Aurora, and David, and I even had lunch with Blaine today - you know, the Cinnabar Island Gym Leader?”

“Really? Blaine? That’s strange, he’s usually been so reclusive after the eruption...did you say you bought David a present?” George’s expression turned from cheerful to confused in a split second. Ash nodded and showed him the Pikachu Doll. George’s smile brightened when he saw it, but then he jumped when Ash asked to bring it to him.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea right now, Ash,” George replied, “David usually sleeps during the day, and he becomes very wild without any rest. Which reminds me,” he leaned further towards Ash, “The hospital called while you were out. Apparently, one of their patients is going into remission in a couple of days. If everything works out, David will be leaving here right after you leave.”

Ash nearly jumped for joy when he heard this, “That’s terrific, Dad, David will finally get the help he needs!”

“That’s right,” George said, “and, since Pallet Town is close by, you can go and visit him anytime you like.”

This pleased Ash even more. He may not have the chance to actually meet David while he was there, but at least he’d be able to check up on him whenever he wanted. Ash was just about to head upstairs when George stopped him.

“One more thing: your mother and Aurora both called, they’re going to be arriving tomorrow morning. They all want to help out with last-minute preparations, so get a good-night’s sleep tonight, okay?”

Ash nodded and bolted upstairs at lightning speed.



That night, while Ash and the others slept, Giovanni paid another visit to the mysterious room. As soon as he was let in, he moved closer to a figure huddled against the wall, holding Ash’s present. The young man hidden in the shadows growled as Giovanni came even closer. Louisa stood back in fear.

“David,” Giovanni said softly, “It’s me; I’ve brought you a nice surprise.”

In the darkness and dim light, David suddenly stopped growling, and just looked at him.

“My...my young friend bought this for you,” Giovanni said as he held out the stuffed Pikachu towards him, “He asked me to bring this to you. Do you want it?”

At first, David jumped back when Giovanni held out the stuffed animal; but as he looked at it, he slowly put his white hand out, and then quickly grabbed it. He was soon cuddling and caressing the little mouse, giggling happily as he did so. Giovanni, when he saw that David liked his present, slowly backed away towards Louisa.

“I trust you’ll keep a close watch on him for the next few days?” he asked menacingly.

“Oh, don’t worry, sir,” she replied, “I’ve done well trying to break my habit. I’ll not let him out of my sight.”

Before exiting the room he added, “For your sake, you had better not.” Giovanni heard Louisa lock the door the instant he left the room. Then he headed upstairs, and went to bed.

ZeldaFan20
1st September 2005, 6:30 PM
Chapter Nineteen



The sky was a clear blue and sunny the next morning. Seagulls screeched as they scouted the many tourists on the shore; some of whom threw a slice of bread or two their way.

Ash gave a big yawn as he walked along the pier with George; he hated these early-morning hours. They had arrived at the harbor at around 7:30 in the morning to meet their friends. The first boat to pull in would be the S.S. Aqua, which meant that Aurora would be the first one there; the ferry from Pallet Town would come about a half-hour later.

“Dad,” Ash said finally, “how long before Aurora’s boat comes in?”

“Be patient, Ash,” George answered with a smile, “The S.S. Aqua should be docking here in fifteen minutes.”

“Can’t we get a little something to eat in the meantime?”

George shook his head, “Not yet, Sarah is making a big breakfast for all of us, so we have to wait until later.”



At 7:45, the S.S. Aqua pulled into Dock 7. Ash eagerly skimmed the line of passengers coming down the gangplank. He soon broke into a big smile when he saw the last person come down.

Aurora's ivory-skin had a slight tan, indicating that she had done some sun-bathing during her journey. Her hair was the same color and style as it was the day Ash first met her: a sky-blue front and deep purple, cascading down her back in soft curls like a waterfall. The clothes she wore, however, were much different: a pale-lavender sun dress, and violet-colored sandals on her bare feet. Under her left arm was a long white box, and Bee was floating in the air to her right. Aurora caught sight of Ash, who was standing at the very bottom of the gangplank, and waved at him. The minute she was on dry land, Ash scooped her up in his arms and, lifting her off the ground, twirled around three times. Both were laughing, very happy to see each other, before finally settling down.

“It’s great to see you, Aurora,” Ash said, “How was your trip?”

“It was wonderful,” Aurora replied, “Bee and I saw so many sights, I could write a book about them all. But, it’s great to see you too, Ash.” She wrapped her arms around Ash’s neck and kissed him on the cheek. Ash entwined his around her waist, and squeezed her gently. Then, he suddenly let go.

“Hey, guess what? I ran into Blaine at the mall yesterday.”

Aurora’s eyes shone, “Really? Did he talk about what happened on Cinnabar?”

“Nah, we never got into that subject, but he did help me buy a present for Mom.” He then blushed so red that he looked like a Vulpix, “I...uh...I bought you a present too, Aurora.”

Aurora gasped softly and smiled, the color rising slightly in her own cheeks.

“Hey, Dad,” Ash suddenly said to George, “can Aurora and I take a little walk?”

George thought for a moment, then nodded, “Alright, son, but be back before the ferry gets here.”

“We will – let’s go, Aurora.”



Ten minutes later, Ash, Aurora, and their Pokémon were splashing along the beach near the harbor. Bee was hovering over the waves as Mudkip and Croconaw tried to squirt him with their Water Guns. Aurora and Ash plopped down on the sand and looked out onto the horizon, which was already trading in its gold tinge for a bright blue. The two of them held hands; neither one said anything for a while.

“So,” Aurora broke the silence, “how have things been since I was away?”

Ash turned his head towards her, “It’s been great: I managed to catch a variety of Pokémon, and we’ve had some interesting visitors...”

“Not that ‘late-night visitor’, I hope,” Aurora said, sounding very nervous.

“No no no, not that guy,” Ash lied, for he didn’t want to frighten his friend, “We’ll get to that later, but that’s not who I was talking about. You see, Dad has this friend, Bianca Darby – who’s from London. She came to stay with us for a couple of days. At first, when Edward told me that she and Dad were very close, I though there was something going on between them. But then he told me that they’ve known each other since they were kids, and that they were sort of like a brother and sister.”

Aurora gave a relieved breath, “Really, I didn’t know that. Your father’s friend must have been very nice.”

“Yeah,” Ash agreed, “She is very nice.”

Aurora then became very serious, “But what’s this about your ‘late-night’ friend? Do you know something I don’t?”

Ash’s voice lowered and he looked around to see if anyone was listening, “Yeah, well...I know who it is.” Aurora gasped louder and Ash began his story:

“I’ve been nagging at Dad to tell me if he knew anything about that night, and a few weeks ago he told me. There is a young man who also lives in the mansion - his name is David. He lives in a secret room underneath the whole house. Dad says he’s there because he’s...um…a little crazy. David couldn’t be put into a hospital at first because his uncle (who’s one of my dad’s friends) didn’t want him in one. Dad says he had David locked up in that room ‘for his own protection’ - or something like that.”

Aurora had tears in her eyes when Ash finished talking, “He stays in that room all the time, all alone?”

“Not entirely alone; David has his own private nurse who stays with him everyday.”

“But your father still keeps him there, even after he set his bed on fire?”

Ash put a hand on her shoulder, “It’s not David’s fault; he’s just sick. Besides, Dad called the hospital yesterday, and they said that a place opened up. So they’ll be able to take him in a couple of days.”

Aurora cheered up, and smiled, “I’m glad; at least he’ll be able to get some real help.”

At that moment, a loud WWOOOOOO---WWOOOOOO was heard from the docks. The two children turned to see a large ferry pull into view. They recalled the Pokémon, and headed towards the pier at lightning speed.



“MOM! BROCK! DAISY!” Ash shouted happily.

The Pallet Town Ferry anchored at Dock 12, and everyone was just getting off. Delia, Daisy, and Brock were practically at the head of the line.

Delia ran right over to Ash, and hugged him so hard that she nearly squeezed the life out of him. “Oh, Ash,” she exclaimed, “I missed you so much, sweetie!”

“Mom,” Ash said, choking under the woman’s strong hold, “I’m glad to see you too, but if you squeeze me any harder, I won’t be here much longer!”

“Oh,” Delia immediately let him go, “I’m sorry, pumpkin.”

“Hey, Ash!” Brock walked over, and both boys shook hands.

“How’ve you been, Brock?”

“Well, it’s been cool staying with your mom, but it hasn’t been the same without you in the house.”

“I can vouch for that,” Daisy cut in, “We’ve really missed you, Ash.”

“I’ve really missed you guys, too,” Ash replied. It was weird; when he first left for Seafoam Island, Ash expected that everyone would enjoy not having him around. Now, after standing there and hearing that they were bored without him, he couldn’t help but feel touched.

Just then, George looked at his watch and interrupted the happy moment:

“Listen up, everyone, we’ve got a lot to do before tomorrow evening; and Ash has a haircut appointment today at three, so let’s go home and have some breakfast.”

So everybody started heading down the beach to Seafoam Manor - in couples: Ash and Aurora, Brock and Daisy, and George and Delia.

As soon as they walked in the door, Delia, Brock, and Daisy were almost trampled by the stampede of Ash’s Pokémon - all of whom burst out of their Poké Balls the minute they got inside and started giving them happy “kisses.” Breakfast that morning was French toast, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and as much juice as they wanted. They all sat down and ate - making plans for the day at the same time.



It was the big night: the night of Seafoam Manor’s Grand Gala. The sun was just setting on the horizon, and many stars started to sparkle in the still-crimson twilight.

Lights were on in practically every room of the whole house. Limos, black cars, and even horse-drawn carriages were filing in front of the front door. From these came the most elaborately-dressed people anyone had ever seen - a few had even brought their Pokémon.

Ash stood in front of his mirror. He was amazed by what was staring back at him. His newly-cut hair was much shorter than before, but all the rough edges were nice and neat, and it was parted on the left side.

He was wearing a black dress-jacket (it had four silver buttons arranged in a square on the front), matching pants and shoes, and a solid-white dress-shirt. In the pocket of his pants was the little box with Aurora’s bracelet.

Ash took a deep breath before looking in on his Pokémon. All of them - Pikachu, Eevee, Mudkip, Meganium, Croconaw, and Quilava - were sleeping peacefully on the bed. He threw his old torn baby-blanket over them, smiled and kissed each of them on the forehead, and snuck out of the room. Just as he closed the door, a figure walked up.

“Hey, Ash,” Aurora’s voice chimed, “Are you ready?”

Ash jumped and shushed her.

Aurora put her hand on her mouth. “Oh, are they sleeping?”

“Yeah, they just got to...whoa,” Ash had turned to look at her, and he was suddenly breathless.

The dress she wore was strap-less and made of royal-purple silk. The wide skirt reached all the way down to her ankles (the shoes were the same color as the dress), and the white gloves she wore reached up past her elbows. Her hairstyle was very nice too: a low ponytail in back, close to her neck, tied by the blue section of her hair, which was braided.

Ash couldn’t take his eyes off of her for what seemed like hours. Finally, he snapped out of it, and started stammering. “Wow, Aurora...you look....you look....beautiful.”

Aurora giggled and her color rose, “Do you really think so, Ash?”

“Cross my heart,” was the reply.

Just then, another figure appeared in the hall - it was Delia. She was dressed in a gown much like Aurora’s, except it had puffed sleeves that reached below the elbows, and was colored light-blue.

“Hey, Mom, lookin’ good,” Ash smiled cheerfully, as did Aurora.

“What, this old thing?” Delia asked, twirling around for them to see, “Your father gave this to me as a wedding present years ago. It’s hard to believe I can still fit into it.”

Ash chuckled, “Well, you look great anyway, Mom.” He then held out his arms, “Shall we go, ladies?”

Aurora and Delia both laughed as they each took an arm, and in this fashion they headed downstairs to the main hall.



Bright lights filled every inch of the gallery, and rich people of every shape and size were entering the ball-room.

George stood by the door to welcome the guests; Brock and Daisy were standing next to him. Both men wore suits just like Ash’s, Daisy had on a long black evening dress with only one sleeve (the other arm was bare, except for a long white glove much like Aurora’s). Persian sat by her master’s leg, combing her whiskers.

George chuckled out loud as he saw the three of them come down the stairs, “Well, well, aren’t you the ladies man tonight.”

“Very funny, Dad,” Ash answered, pretending not to be amused.

“I hope you don’t mind if I steal this charming creature for the night,” George took Delia’s hand, and drew her to him.

Ash let his mother go, “Be my guest, sir.” The whole group laughed.



The ballroom was illuminated by hundreds of candles. A large refreshment table lined the whole wall to the left. A small group of people near the back of the room were playing wonderful music on a variety of stringed instruments: a harp, violin, viola, and two cellos (one person was playing the piano). Around the room people were talking and laughing. A few danced to the sweet music, while others began showing off their Pokémon. Ash especially noticed one middle-aged woman showing off a Granbull. The whole party walked over to see what was going on.

“As you can see,” the lady was saying, “my darling Granbull has a variety of strengths. Just the other day, she demonstrated her Dynamic Punch beautifully in a Pokémon battle...” She then paused upon seeing Ash in the crowd, “Ash, my dear boy, what an unexpected surprise!” She ran over and gave him a quick hug.

“Madam Muchmoney?” Ash certainly was surprised to see the old woman. It had seemed like a long time since his travels through Johto that he was afraid his memory would begin to fade. “It’s nice to see you too. I didn’t know you were invited too.”

“Of course,” Madam Muchmoney replied with a laugh, “I’ve known your father for years, of course I had no idea until now that you were George’s child. It came as quite a shock to hear such news. I mean, he did mention having a son, but I never dreamed that he talked about you. Pardon me if I sound rude.”

“That’s alright,” Ash assured her, “By the way, how’s Granbull been doing?”

“My baby has been delightful,” she said, smiling at her Pokémon, “I had her groomed extra well for the party tonight, and I even bought new ribbons for her to wear. And, thanks to all the training we’ve done together, she’s even stronger than before.”

Ash was very tempted when he heard this, “Maybe next time I’m in the neighborhood, we can have a Pokémon battle.”

Madam Muchmoney nodded, “Just name the place and time, and I shall arrange everything.”

“Deal.” Ash then felt Aurora tug at his sleeve, “Oh, I almost forgot: you already know my dad and Brock, but I’d like to introduce my other friends: this is Daisy Oak, my mother, Delia Ketchum, and this is my friend Aurora Clearwater. Guys, this is Madam Muchmoney, from Johto.” The three mentioned people each shook hands with her.

“I’m delighted to meet you all, especially my young friend’s charming mother.”

Just then, the music changed, and a certain someone had the urge to ask someone else for a dance.

“Excuse me for a minute, guys,” Brock said before bowing to Daisy, “Would you care to dance?”

“I’d be delighted, young man,” Daisy curtsied to him, and they both headed towards the dance floor.

“I had better get back to Granbull myself,” Madam Muchmoney suddenly said, “Heaven only knows what mischief she’ll get into without me. Ta-ta,” and she walked away.

“I think I’ll take this little beauty out for a spin as well,” George said, smiling at Delia, who giggled at his fresh remark.

“We’ll join you two in a second,” Ash said, “Right now, I want to get us something to eat.”

Aurora nodded, “That’s a good idea: Never dance on an empty stomach, right?”

“Right,” Ash agreed, and the two couples parted in opposite directions.

ZeldaFan20
26th November 2005, 9:46 PM
Chapter Twenty



Ash and Aurora walked up to the buffet table. The entire thing stretched the whole length of the wall, and every dish was elegantly displayed on the best silver - even the silverware was silver!

The line in front of them was moving slowly, as people pondered over what to have. There were so many things to choose from: salads, soups, breads and other pastries, meats, fruits, all kinds of seafood - scallops, oysters, shrimp cocktail, lobster, and a funny-looking dark-green spread (Ash later found out that it was caviar). As people moved up, Ash and Aurora picked up some plates and utensils, and surveyed the delicate dishes before their eyes. Whenever Aurora chose a particular dish, Ash would offer to serve her some.

As they neared the end of the table, a different sight met their eyes; bottles by the dozens, different shapes and sizes, were spread out all over that area. As they passed, Ash caught a glimpse of the label on one of them:


“Giorgio’s Vineyard: The Finest Taste in Rome”

“I didn’t know your father owned an Italian winery!” Aurora exclaimed, sounding very impressed indeed.

Ash wore a puzzled expression, “What do you mean; his name’s George.”

Aurora giggled, “Ash, Giorgio means George in Italian.”

“Oh,” Ash replied, “Well, do they have anything else to drink besides wine?”

Aurora looked around the table and said, “Sure; there’s a bowl of fruit punch close by.” The lady behind the table poured each of them a glass of punch, and they left to find a place to eat.

The table chosen had two seats, and the cloth was made of pure white silk. A single white candle was glowing brightly in a silver candlestick in the center. They both sat down and started eating, as they watched the dancing and the merry-making.



Across the dance-floor, Brock was trying to lead Daisy in a waltz. Halfway through the dance, though, Brock accidentally bumped into a dancing gentleman. The man put his foot behind him by mistake, looping it around Brock’s ankle. As a result, both men tumbled to the floor in a heap, with the gentleman right on top. Everyone around was laughing as Daisy and the other woman tried to help them to their feet. The whole time, Brock’s face was redder than the flame on a Moltres, and a nervous smile to go with it.

“Oh dear,” Aurora said, trying to repress her own laughter. Ash didn’t say anything, but slapped his hand against his forehead. Suddenly, something popped into Aurora’s mind.

“Hey, Ash, what were you saying this morning a big surprise for the party?”

Ash jumped to attention, “That’s right, I almost forgot!” Then he stood up, took Aurora’s hand, and led her to the edge of the dance-floor. In front of a mirrored-section of the wall, viewed from a sideways angle, was the piano.

Ash stood in front of the keys. To Aurora, he seemed very nervous about something. Taking a deep breath, Ash tapped repeatedly on an “A” key. The high note echoed throughout the room, immediately silencing the talking, dancing, and everything else. George, Delia, Brock, Daisy, and all the other guests started looking in his direction.

Ash cleared his throat, and attempted to speak as clearly as possible.

“Forgive me for interrupting, everyone, but I have something to say right now.” There was an intense silence as the crowd waited.

“Firstly, I would like to thank all of you, on behalf of my father and the rest of our family, for attending tonight’s event. It’s not everyday I find that my father has so many friends.” Everyone, including Ash, chuckled at this remark. He then raised his hand and resumed his speech.

“Secondly, I would like to thank my family for allowing me to spend this wonderful summer with one of the greatest people I know.

“Believe it or not, this person and I have been separated for seven years. It was during the early hours of my recent birthday, however, that this person suddenly came back into my life. My mother and all of my friends knew that I wanted to spend every waking moment I could with him, and they told me to do so. It is because of them that I am standing right here tonight. Mom, Daisy, Brock, Aurora...thank you.”

The four of them smiled happily as hundreds of hands clapped loudly from every direction. Ash raised his hand again.

“Finally, I would personally like to thank my father for everything he’s ever done for me.

“Ever since I was very little, my father has never failed to keep a promise. The very night before he left home - seven years ago - I told him that, when I grew older, I would travel the world and train many Pok&#233;mon. He then told me, that no matter how far apart we were, he would find a way to help me reach that dream.

“Three years ago, because of that same promise, I had received the privilege to fulfill my dreams; traveling from one region to the next, training a variety of Pok&#233;mon, and meeting many different people along the way. It is because of him that I was able to live my life to the fullest, as well as learn to believe in myself, my friends, and my Pok&#233;mon.

“Dad, I know that we’ll soon have to say good-bye again. The song I'm going to play now is to remind you that, even if we’ll be separated by distance, we’ll never be separated in our hearts.”

With these words, Ash sat on the stood in front of the piano. However, he failed to notice Brock and Daisy whispering.

“What’s he doing?” Daisy asked, “Is he actually going to play that?”

“As long as I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him even touch an instrument; let alone...” Brock never got the chance to finish; his voice was immediately drowned out by an unexpected sound.

The entire room was suddenly filled with a delicate melody. Ash’s fingers glided from one key to another with the greatest of ease. After playing for a while Ash added something else to the melody: words - words that many of the spectators recognized:


Think of me, think of me fondly
When we've said goodbye.
Remember me every so often,
Promise me you’ll try.
On that day, that not so distant day,
When you are far away and free,
If you ever find a moment,
Spare a thought for me.

“I can’t believe it!” Daisy whispered, “He’s actually playing - AND singing!”

“Is this the same Ash who left Pallet Town a while back?” Brock thought to himself.


And though it’s clear,
Though it was always clear
That this was never meant to be,
If you happen to remember,
Stop and think of me.

Think of August, when the trees were green;
Don't think about the way things might have been.

Think of me, think of me waking
Silent and resigned.
Imagine me, trying too hard
To put you from my mind.
Think of me, please say you’ll think of me
Whatever else you choose to do.
There will never be a day when
I won’t think of you.

What followed was another stream of beautiful notes. George and Delia just looked at Ash; tears of joy falling down their cheeks. Aurora’s eyes shone as she watched her friend perform; she couldn’t help but smile. Brock was still thinking to himself when Edward walked up from behind.

“It pleases me that you are enjoying the performance,” he said, “Young Ash has been practicing ever since the plans for the gala began - he would practice non-stop whenever his father was out working: said he wanted it to be a surprise.”

“I guess all that hard work paid off,” Brock responded, just as Ash started singing the last verse:


Flowers fade, the fruits of summer fade,
They have their season, so do we...
But please promise me that sometimes
You will think of me.

At the very last word of the song, everyone clapped as hard as they could; some were even cheering. Ash stood up, observed the ecstatic guests, smiled, and took a bow.



After Ash’s stirring performance, the musicians struck up their instruments once more, and the dancing and conversation resumed. As he walked over to the rest of the group, Aurora ran up to him and took both his hands in hers.

“That was wonderful, Ash!” she said happily, “I had no idea you could play like that!”

Ash gave an embarrassed chuckle, “Actually, that was my very first time playing on ANY instrument – even in front of an audience.”

“Well, first time or not, you were actually very good!”

“Your young friend is absolutely right, Arthur,” said a voice from the crowd.

At first, Ash was unsure of who was talking to him. But then he remembered that only one person ever called him by that name; he looked straight ahead. Sure enough, Ash saw a young woman in a white evening gown coming towards him. The golden hair, fair skin, azure-blue eyes; he recognized her almost immediately.

“Miss Bianca,” Ash exclaimed as he ran over and gave Bianca a big hug. She smiled pleasantly and returned the gesture.

“It is good to see you again, Arthur.”

“It’s great to see you too, Bianca. Did you see Dad yet?”

“Absolutely, and I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting your mother and friends - and speaking of friends...” Bianca happened to glance over at Aurora, “Who is your charming escort?”

“Oh, this is Aurora Clearwater; I met her back in Pallet Town after my birthday.” Ash then looked at Aurora, “This is Miss Bianca Darby, from London. She’s an...uh...” (He was about to say “old friend”, but then he thought that it wouldn’t be very polite,) "...a childhood friend of my father.”

“Good evening, Miss Darby,” Aurora greeted, “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“It is an honor to meet you as well,” Bianca replied, “And please, call me Bianca; all of my friends do.” The introduction didn't last very long, because at that moment, the three of them heard a buzzing noise coming from Bianca’s purse.

“That must be my new cellular phone,” Bianca said before looking back at the two teenagers, “Will you please excuse me?”

“Sure, Bianca,” Ash replied, and the young woman walked out of the ballroom into the main hall. As they watched her vanish into the crowd, Ash and Aurora ran over to George and the others. They were all ecstatic over the talent Ash had demonstrated.

“Oh, you were magnificent, sweetheart!” Delia exclaimed.

“Your mother is right, Ash,” George agreed, “I’m very proud of you!”

“Wow,” said Daisy, “I can’t wait to tell Gary and Grandpa!”

“Yeah,” Brock responded, “And I can just imagine the look on Misty’s face when I tell her!”

Ash grew pale when he heard this. “Don’t you dare tell any of them,” he said, “They might want a command performance!”

Everyone started laughing. Suddenly, the music changed, and practically everyone was on the dance floor.

“What kind of dance is that, Mom?” Ash asked as he watched the people twirling around in the center of the room.

“It’s called a waltz, dear,” Delia replied, “It’s one of my favorites.”

“Well then,” George said as he took her hand, “How about another round?” Delia giggled and nodded, and the two of them were dancing among the crowd again.

“Why don’t we have ‘another round’ too?” Brock asked Daisy.

“Sure, why not?” Daisy said, taking his hand. Both followed the first pair into the mass of dancers.

For a while Ash watched them from where he was standing. It seemed like a very complicated dance to him; arms around each others’ waists, spinning around-and-around together at the same time, very quick steps - one time he even saw George twirl Delia around by one hand.

“C’mon, Ash,” Aurora said suddenly as she took his hand, “Let’s dance.”

Ash felt a lump in his throat at those words, “Uh...me...and you...dance?”

“Yeah, you and me, let’s go.”

“Uh...I don’t think so.”

Aurora looked puzzled, “Why not?”

“Well, learning to play the piano in front of people was hard enough; but dancing in front of them is way too embarrassing.”

“You were just nervous a few minutes ago, not embarrassed” Aurora corrected him, “Now c’mon, please?” She was soon making the most pathetic-looking face you’ve ever seen: sad eyes, quivering lips - Ash knew what was coming.

“Okay, okay, I’ll do it!” he exclaimed, “Enough with the sad-puppy face already!”

In a flash, both of them were on the dance floor. Aurora was trying to teach Ash what to do:

“Now, put your hand right here, on my waist - good. Then I place my arm on your arm - like this. Then you hold my other hand - no, not that way; this way – that’s better. Now we have to be an arm’s length apart, but still holding each other in this fashion. Understand?”

Ash seemed a little confused, “I think so.”

“Okay, now listen: when you’re dancing, don’t just watch what the others are doing. You have to listen to the flow of the music and let it guide you. Try it.”

Ash took a deep breath and closed his eyes. In the beginning, it was difficult to focus because of all the people talking, but soon he was able to separate the soft tunes from the chatter. The rising and falling strains of the violins, the deep tones from the cello, and even the gentle strokes of the harp seemed to cast a spell over him. Before he knew what was happening, Ash began to move. Slowly at first, letting his movements flow with the music; but as the dance wore on, they both were twirling around the floor as well as everyone else.

The whole time, Ash couldn’t believe he was actually dancing - and with Aurora in his arms no less! Suddenly, the very thought (as well as a million others) started racing through his head faster than an Arcanine using Extremespeed. His breath quickened rapidly, and so did his heartbeat. Without warning, Ash broke away from Aurora and ran through the crowd, towards the terrace.

“Ash!” Aurora called after him, “Ash, wait, what’s wrong?”



The air was a lot cooler than it was that afternoon, but the warmth rising from the baked beach sand was very pleasant. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so the stars sparkled like diamonds against the bluish-black. An image of the full moon was dancing brightly on the ocean’s surface.

Even when out on the terrace, Ash still didn’t stop running: he pelted down the steps, crossed the grassy lawn at the foot, and headed straight for the shore before finally stopping. He was short of breath, and pale as the moon itself. Ash then collapsed on his hands and knees, and tried to steady himself.

“Okay, Ash,” he said to himself, “Try to calm down. It was only one dance, that’s all. Take it easy...Oh, who am I kidding? I blew it back there, I totally blew it!” He banged his fist against the sand in disgust.

Just then, he froze…a noise was heard from some nearby bushes. As he turned in the direction it was coming from, Ash saw a tall figure walk quickly towards the house, stuffing something into what appeared to be a small bag.

“Hey,” Ash called, “Who’s there?” The person didn’t answer, but instead walked a little faster. Thinking that it might be David on the loose again, he got up and followed the figure further into the bushes. Because it was so dark, however, Ash’s pursuit was halted; the mysterious person had vanished into night.



Ash came out from the bushes, back onto the moonlit beach, but then he saw another figure running in his direction - it was Aurora.

“Ash, are you okay?” she asked breathlessly, “You ran out so fast that I couldn’t keep up.”

The young boy ran his fingers through his hair before answering, “I’m sorry. I just…needed some air.” He then noticed the sad look in Aurora’s eyes, “What’s the matter?”

“It’s my fault,” she replied, “I should’ve realized that dancing with me would make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s not your fault!” Ash said hastily, “It’s true that I was a little nervous, but everybody’s like that sometimes. Also, I admit that running out on you wasn’t a smart move, so it’s mostly my fault.” He observed that Aurora still looked a bit sad, so he thought for a moment, smiled, and said, “Tell you what; I’ll treat you to another dance, if you promise to forget what just happened between us.”

Aurora’s face seemed to brighten up slightly. She smiled her cheerful smile, and replied, “Deal.” So Ash wrapped his right arm around Aurora’s shoulders (she responded by wrapping her left arm around his waist), and they both started walking across the sand to the terrace.



Just as they reached the top of the steps, however, Ash suddenly remembered his gift for Aurora, and quickly pulled her aside.

“What is it, Ash?” she asked, clearly puzzled.

“Remember when I said I’d gotten you a present?” Ash said as he reached into his pocket, pulling out the little white box, “Well, I was planning to give you this before the party, but I guess - with all the excitement - it completely slipped my mind.” He held the box out to her, the color once again rising in his face. Aurora smiled brighter as she took the box and slowly opened it; her eyes opened wide, and she gave a soft gasp.

The light emitting from the large windows fell onto the little silver bracelet inside, causing it to shimmer and sparkle. The tiny “Silver Wing” charms dangled from the chain as she held it up, reflecting equally small light patterns on the wall next to her. She looked up at Ash; her eyes were shining as much as the bracelet was.

“Oh…Ash,” she said in voice that was close to a whisper, “It’s beautiful.”

“I picked it out myself. Do you like it?”

“I love it,” was all Aurora managed to say; she was at a complete loss for words as she tried to put it on.

“Here, let me do that.” Ash took the bracelet and attempted to fasten it around her wrist. It was hard at first because his hands were literally trembling with joy at her reaction, but he was successful in the end. Aurora then took his waist in her arms, and gave him another, much bigger hug. Her eyes were closed, and her head rested against his heart.

Ash felt his heart beat faster again, but he did not run this time – for some reason, he didn’t want to run. Instead, he gathered Aurora in his arms, and laid his cheek against the top of her head. Her hair felt so soft and cool, and the sweet scent of a spring rain was floating into his face.

“This feeling...” Ash slowly thought to himself, “I’m scared, but - then again - I’m happy too. Why?” Just then, a sudden realization entered his mind, “Is this...what love feels like?” Ash let out a pleasant sigh, causing Aurora to move her head. She looked into his face and smiled sweetly. He did the same; each one’s eyes entirely focused on the others’. Then, Aurora’s eyes slowly closed.

Instantly, Ash’s heart felt like it was about to burst; he didn’t even know what to do. He then glanced at his surroundings. It was all so perfect: he was outside, under the moon and stars with her - alone. No one was there to stop them. Without realizing it, he started to lean forward, drawing her closer to him, closing his own eyes in the process. Finally, his lips gently touched hers.

For a few seconds, time itself seemed to have stopped. Ash couldn’t remember how or why this was happening, but he didn’t care - he didn’t want to care. Apparently, Aurora had the same thoughts coursing through her mind as well. Both held each other tighter, as if they wanted to keep the kiss longer.

“Is this...right?” Ash thought. Before he could come up with an answer, though, a feeling of uneasiness churned inside of him. His eyes opened, and the moment was over.

“Ash...” Aurora began, but she was instantly hushed.

“Hear that?” Ash asked.

Aurora listened, “Hear what? I don’t hear any...” Suddenly, she stopped, and her confusion turned to concern in a split second.

Everything was silent. The music had stopped playing without their noticing. The chatter and laughter was no more; in place of it were a few quiet gasps, and what sounded like whispering. Following the silence was the sound of many footsteps, but no one uttered a word out loud.

“What’s going on?” Aurora asked nervously, “Was there an accident?”

“I’m not sure,” Ash replied, “But I think we’d better check it out.”

Leading Aurora by the hand, Ash walked back into the ballroom. Pushing their way through the crowd, the two of them were able to find George and the others. Upon reaching them, however, Ash saw something that made him wish he and Aurora had stayed outside.