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  1. #26

    Default Journey15

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 15: On the Road Again

    “Unleash your fire blast, Magmar!”

    Ash looked on from the center of a make-shift battlefield as a huge star of fire crashed down to the grassy meadow. He was officiating a battle between Allie and a younger trainer who had introduced himself as Peter from Vermillion City. So far, each side had lost one Pokémon, and both remaining Pokémon were starting to grow weak.

    “Dodge and tackle it,” Allie commanded her Vulpix as she brushed a stray piece of hair out of her eyes.

    Ruby leaped out of the way, narrowly avoiding a decisive strike. The fire blast had, however, knocked the small fox off balance, and she was unable to obey her trainer’s command until it was too late to attack. Magmar was standing over her menacingly.

    “Now hit it with thunderpunch!” the youngster yelled. The magma Pokémon’s fist began crackling with electricity as it stepped closer to Ruby.

    “Jump at Magmar’s face,” Allie ordered, intently watching the results of her strategy.

    The small fire type bounced up at its larger opponent, skillfully dodging the electric fist and kicking off the duck-like bill on Magmar’s face. Peter’s Pokémon recoiled in irritation. Distracted by the pain, Magmar made a fatal mistake. Reaching up to comfort its nose, the electricity from its attack, still not transferred to another target, surged through its own body.

    Ash raised his arm closest to Allie as her opponent ran to comfort and return his fallen Pokémon. “Magmar is unable to battle. Ruby and Allie win!” Ruby leaped into her trainer’s open arms and nestled into Allie’s chest.

    “Wow, miss. You’re really good,” Peter said, cheerfully accepting defeat. “But don’t expect to win the next time we meet. I’m gonna work a lot harder from now on if I’m going to beat you and become the Pokémon League Champion!”

    “You’re pretty good too,” she told him, looking down at the short boy. “It’ll definitely be a good rematch.”

    Ash approached the two with Pikachu following closely behind him. “Good work, both of you. There were minor flaws in both of your strategies, but overall it was a pretty good battle.”

    Peter gazed at Ash, feeling as if he had seen the older trainer’s face somewhere before. “What did you say your name was again?”

    “Ash. Ash Ketchum.”

    Peter looked up at him for several seconds before pointing at him with a Pokéball. “I bet you’re a pretty strong trainer Ash. But watch out, I’m going to be the Pokémon Champion. You won’t stand a chance against me someday.”

    “If you’re that determined, Peter, then it’s a battle I look forward to,” he said kindly, placing a strong hand on the boy’s shoulder. “We’re going to make camp here for the night. Would you care to join us for dinner?”

    The youngster’s eyes bulged and he glanced down at the blue Pokétch on his wrist apprehensively. “Dinner? It’s that late? Dang it, I was supposed to be at my aunt’s house in Lavender Town an hour ago. She’s gonna kill me for being late.” He began sprinting back the way Ash and Allie had come. As he was almost out of sight, Peter turned around and waved. “Thanks for the invitation, but I’ve got to go. See you around!”

    Ash and Allie waved to him as he disappeared behind a bunch of trees at the crook of the road. After he was gone, Allie turned to her mentor. “What minor flaws?” she asked curiously. “I thought that was a great battle.”

    “It was,” Ash conceded. “But you shouldn’t have won it. There’s no way that a more experienced trainer than him would have allowed you to finish his Pokémon off like that. Ruby didn’t even use an attack. You weren’t bad, but it was his skill level that determined the battle.”

    “Whatever Ash. I still won,” she rolled her eyes, following Ash over to a flat patch of grass to the side of the route. “Two wins in one day isn’t bad, is it?”

    Allie indeed had just won her second battle of the day. The road from Lavender Town to Saffron City had been unusually busy as they traveled on it. Hours before Peter challenged her, a bug catcher’s Venonat had lost to Squirtle in a heated battle.

    “Should I remind you that both your wins from today bring you up to a grand total of three victories?” he pointed out as he set his backpack down and began removing tent poles.

    “But one of them was for a gym badge, don’t forget,” she countered, reaching up and feeling the silver octagon pinned to her collar.

    “You’re right. You’re doing well,” he admitted. “But becoming a Pokémon master is like anything in life: a journey, not a destination. It may be cliché, but it’s true.”

    “I know,” Allie said, looking down at the mess of poles and tarps now littering the ground. “How did you fit all that into your backpack?” the girl asked, astonished at the volume of camping supplies he managed to carry with him.

    “Practice. Could you go fetch some water?”

    “Sure. Where from?”

    He pulled his XTransceiver off his belt and tossed it to her. “It’s a new model. In addition to video calls, this version has a bunch of applications you can use. Just tap the map button and cut through the woods towards the stream.”

    Half an hour later, Allie was still on her way there. The tiny picture of Ash’s face indicating her position was not quite to scale, skewing her reading on how far the stream was from their campsite. At last, Allie reached her destination. She pocketed the XTransceiver and straddled the narrow stream. As she bent down to fill a metal pot with water for cooking, she heard a rustling in a bush across the creek.

    As she looked up, the noise stopped. Assuming that it was just a Pokémon nest, she went back to her work. The rustling began again. Glancing up again to see what was going on, Allie’s heart dropped as she saw a set of glowing red eyes glowering out at her from the bush. Below them was a large set of teeth, smirking cruelly at her. Startled, she quickly rose to her feet. If it was a Pokémon and it decided to attack, she was going to be in trouble. Neither Squirtle nor Ruby had enough energy left after two battles to fight whatever it was.

    The eyes flashed a brightly, and suddenly the pot she had been filling with water rose into the air in front of her. As if someone was holding it, it flew forward at Allie. The pot stopped, but the water flew out of it. Allie was drenched as the contents of the bucket hit her in the face and chest. The surprise knocked her over and she landed in the stream, soaking the rest of her body.

    Now dripping wet and scared, she decided it was time to leave. Quickly grabbing the pot out of midair, she bent down and filled it up as fast as she could. She knew it was not the smartest idea, but if she didn’t bring the water back, Ash would want to know why. As soon as the pot was filled, she took off back the way she came.

    It didn’t take her nearly as long to get back to camp. By the time she arrived, panting and out of breath, the tent was set up and Ash was kneeling on the ground stoking a small fire. He looked up as he heard her approach. He looked up, slightly surprised to see her so disheveled and wet.

    “Um, Allie? Did something happen?” he inquired, one eyebrow raised in curiosity.

    “It’s nothing. I’m fine,” Allie insisted, handing him the pot of water. “Here’s the water you asked for.”

    He looked down into the pot and then back up at her. “I think there’s more water on you than there is in here.”

    The girl looked down into the pot, which was nearly empty. It must have spilled as she flew back to camp. She groaned, not wanting to have to go back into the stream.

    Her reservations did not go unnoticed by Ash. “I was planning on making soup, but we don’t need any more water if you don’t mind sandwiches.”

    Allie nodded gratefully. “Yeah, that would be good. Thanks.”

    The champion could tell that something happened down at the stream. If Allie didn’t feel like talking about it, though, then that was her choice.

    “Alright,” he said. “Could I have the XTransceiver back?”

    Allie reached into her pocket for it, but there was nothing there. Becoming anxious, she checked her other pockets. Ash waited patiently while as the girl grew more agitated with each one she searched.

    “I guess I must have dropped it on my way back,” Allie assumed. “I’ll go find it.” Without giving Ash a chance to respond, she disappeared back into the woods.

    I can’t believe I dropped it somewhere, the girl thought to herself. I thought for sure I put it in my pocket when I got to the stream.

    Thankfully, she didn’t have to go the entire way back to find it. The blue device was sitting on a pile of sticks and leaves only a fraction of the distance to the water. It must have fallen out of her pocket while she was running back to Ash. Relieved that she didn’t lose it, she bent down to pick it up.

    A dark hand reached out from the ground and grabbed hers. Allie fell backwards screaming, but the hand refused to let go. It wasn’t holding tightly enough to hurt her, but the hand wasn’t letting go.

    “Pika!” Allie heard over her own screams. Ash’s partner appeared next to Allie, sparks flying from his cheeks. The shadowy hand withdrew into the forest floor.

    “What the heck was that?” she gasped, trying to catch her breath.

    Pikachu shrugged.

    “I guess Ash sent you to find me, didn’t he?” Allie guessed as she stood up.

    “Pikachu,” the little Pokémon nodded solemnly.

    “Well, it’s a good thing he did or that thing might not have released me. Thanks.”

    “Pika pi,” it said, gesturing back to camp. Allie stooped down and picked up the XTransceiver, this time being careful not to leave her hand there for too long.

    Ash was just setting out dinner when Allie returned. She sat down next to him near the roaring fire and took a plate of sandwiches from him gratefully. Pikachu ran over and sat down between the two of them.

    “So did anything exciting happen?” Ash asked her between mouthfuls of dinner.

    “Something weird is going on,” she told him. “I think something’s trying to attack me.”

    Ash sighed and grabbed her hand. “Listen Allie. I know that your experience at the cape was terrible, but I’m not going to let anything happen to you. You’re completely safe.”

    “No Ash. I mean something actually grabbed my arm in the woods and splashed me with water by the stream.”

    His eyes narrowed. “Some of the Pokémon in this area are usually quite mischievous at the best of times, but there’s no telling how they might behave these days.”

    “Are you trying to reassure me or terrify me?” Allie mumbled with a weak smile.

    “Nothing will harm you as long as you’re with me, I promise.”

    Allie smiled at him and leaned her head against his shoulder playfully. Ash rolled his eyes and pushed her head away.

    “Come on now, you’re still soaking wet. Are you trying to give us both hypothermia?” he grunted lightheartedly. “Go and get changed before you freeze yourself.”

    “Fine,” Allie said, putting down the rest of the uneaten sandwiches and walking over to the tent. It wasn’t anything like the spacious canvas ones which Ash had brought her to after she emerged from Mount Moon. This tent was built for lightness and efficiency, not space and comfort. Allie ducked as she entered the blue A-frame tent. Her backpack and things were at the front of the tent, though she made a mental note to leave them outside overnight to maximize leg space. She found it particularly challenging to change her clothes without being able to stretch her legs more than a few feet.

    She emerged from the tent a bit later, having finally extricated herself from her travel clothing in the tight space in favor of pajamas. Ash and Pikachu were lying down on their backs next to the fire, gazing up at the stars.

    “It’s expanding, you know,” Ash explained to Allie as she lay down beside him. “Everything you see is getting farther and farther from us. At least, that’s what science says.”

    Allie remained silent, not knowing where he was going with this.

    “And if the universe is getting larger, then that means there’s always more to explore. More to explore means we have to keep striving for greater things. It’s never ending,” Ash said mystically. “Just like the journeys of life.”

    A shooting star passed overhead. Perhaps it was an airplane.

    “This is like that night at the cape,” Allie muttered. Ash sat up quickly and leaned on his elbow.

    “Is everything alright?” he asked worriedly, revealing the compassion he often kept hidden.

    “No, it’s fine. But this is how it was that night before everything went wrong. It was you, me, and the stars.”

    “What do you mean? You thought I was there?”

    She nodded, closing her eyes in concentration. “I don’t know. I guess it fooled me into thinking I was with you. The Creature was showing me what I wanted to see, and I fell for it.”

    Ash froze and stared down at the girl, not missing any of the implications of her statement. “Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” He stopped when he saw the tense expression on her face. “I’m sorry Allie,” he apologized quickly.

    “It’s okay. I know you just want to find out what’s happening. It’s just not a topic that I can talk about too easily.”

    “Tell me when you’re ready,” he instructed her. “I promise we’ll find out what’s going on.” The two friends laid there for several minutes before Ash finally tapped Allie on the shoulder and led her into the tent. It proved to be quite interesting for each of them to try and fall asleep in the narrow tent, shoulder to shoulder but for the thin fabrics of their sleeping bags.

    ……

    “Ash! Ash, get up.”

    The young man opened his eyes slowly, not entirely sure what was going on. The surroundings smelt of rotten eggs, sulfur, and ammonia. Allie was lying next to him, poking him in the side through his sleeping bag.

    “What is it?” he asked, regaining his senses. “Is there something wrong?”

    “I don’t know,” Allie whispered urgently. “I heard something outside, and then Pikachu ran out like he was going to do something.”

    Ash looked at the entrance of the tent, closed but for a small gap in the zipper large enough to let his beloved partner through.

    “Come on,” he ordered her, rolling out of his sleeping bag. Forgetting that it was his first time using the tent as a two-person tent, he accidentally rolled over onto Allie. He heard a small squeal and climbed out of the tent backwards, offering her his hand. “Whoops. Sorry about that. Let’s go!”

    As they stepped out into the dark night, they heard a Pikachu’s cry from nearby. Ash gestured to a bunch of trees near the edge of the woods. The trainers crept over as stealthily as they could, peering through bushes.

    Pikachu was standing with his back to a tree, clearly breathing heavily and completely alone. He didn’t appear hurt, thankfully, although he was definitely in the middle of something. Every few seconds he would begin talking in his own language to a listener who wasn’t there.

    A cold hand tapped Allie on her shoulder. Thinking it was Ash, she turned to look at him, but he was currently distracted by Pikachu. Against her own will and better judgment, the girl turned around.

    “EEEEEEEEEEEEEK!” Ash spun around just in time to see Allie fall backwards into the bush they were hiding behind. The reason for this became apparent in the form of a ghostly specter staring at him. Ash took a step back; while he knew what it was, he was unsure of its motives.

    Pikachu looked over to where his friends were.

    “Gengar,” spoke a voice from the shadows to the electric mouse.

    “Pika-chu Pi!” insisted Pikachu.

    “Gengar, gar,” it grunted hesitantly. The source of the voice, a large Gengar, materialized in front of him and nodded to Haunter.

    Ash had lifted Allie out of the bush with one arm around her waist and was standing between her and the Haunter. He braced himself as Haunter extended a hand and touched his forehead. A blur of images flooded through his mind.

    “Amazing,” Ash mumbled. “Allie, you have to see this.”

    Allie hesitated, but allowed Haunter to touch her forehead.

    Her mind was instantaneously filled with memories that weren’t hers, but were remarkably familiar. Allie saw again the events which took place at the stream, in which a Gengar levitated the cooking pot to scare both Allie and the fierce wild Persian stalking her. She saw herself being pulled down to the ground by the hand of a Haunter while a territorial Spearow barely missed her head with sharp talons. She also saw a new memory in which a Gastly chased away a troublemaking Misdreavus outside their tent.

    As the memories faded, Allie opened her eyes and stared at the three ghost Pokémon floating in front of her. All day, she had thought something was messing with her, but now she realized that the ghost trio had been protecting her the whole time.

    “Th-thank you,” she stuttered, still slightly overwhelmed by the situation. Ash patted her on the back comfortingly. Haunter, Gengar, and Gastly smiled at her.

    “Ghost Pokémon,” Ash said. “They’re some of the most interesting types, but I’ve never done much training with them. I remember one time they turned me into a ghost too.”

    Allie giggled at him. “Seriously? You’re making fun of me.”

    “No, I’m not,” Ash insisted. “Come on, I’ll tell you the story.”

    The trainers and Pokémon walked back over to the tent and sat down in a circle. Ash began telling his story, much to the amusement of the ghosts.



    The next day, Ash and Allie were on the road again bright and early despite their long night. Because of the trouble at the Silph Building and the absence of a capable gym leader, Ash insisted on taking a normally sealed route below the city. They were currently on their way to the entrance which Ash described as a locked shack near the end of the route.

    As they approached a fork in the road, the trainers heard a cackling coming from above them.

    “Lookie here Scullie, we found ourselves a girlie and her boyfriend,” snickered a malicious voice. Leaping out from the branches of a tree to the left of the path, a small, skinny man landed about forty feet in front of them. Even at that distance, Allie could smell a rancid odor coming from his breath. His lips curled into a sinister smirk, revealing a mouthful of yellow teeth. He wore a black leather jacket and jeans covered with dirt. “Ain’t you a pretty one,” he observed, ogling at Allie. Instinctively, Ash stepped in front of her.

    “Shud up Pork. You ‘erd what da boss sayd. We’re after real trainers, not liddle girlies,” a second voice snarled. “He’ll have our ‘eads if we waste time on them.” An extremely fat man stepped out from behind a tree opposite from the one his companion sprung from. An undersized leather vest distorted his hefty form monstrously. His bald head shone in the morning sun.

    “But that Pikachu looks strong enough to suit our needs, Scullie.”

    “Who are you?” demanded Ash, interrupting their argument. Pikachu was standing in front of the trainers, his cheeks overflowing with electricity.

    “Shud up Red,” the one called Scullie shouted back at him. “We ain’t talkin’ ta ya.”

    “Red, who the heck is Red?” Pork whined. “That’s an idiotic name for a person.”

    “It’s a nickname ya nitwit. His hat is red, so I called ‘em Red. He does kinda look like a Red though, if that were a real name. Sounds like somethin’ outa some video game.”

    “Who are you and what do you want from us?” Ash asked again, this time even more threatening.

    The two strangers nodded to each other and stepped forward.

    “This is Scullie and I’m Pork,” the skinny one announced dramatically. “We’re members of the infamous Black Charizard Gang, and your Pokémon are forfeit to us!”

    They’re a little strange for Pokémon thieves, Allie thought to herself, looking at the peculiar men.

    “That’s not going to work out the way you want it to,” Ash warned them.

    “An’ why’s that, Red? Are you an’ your liddle girlie-friend gonna do us in?” Scullie laughed hysterically at a thought which to him seemed to be ridiculous.

    “Exactly what I was thinking,” the boy responded. Turning around to face Allie, he grinned at her. “I think it’s about time that I teach you what a double battle is like.”
    Last edited by Waras; 12th October 2011 at 11:57 PM.

  2. #27

    Default Chapter 16

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 16: Double Trouble

    In the skies far above Kanto, a single airplane soared through the sky. It was a small private flight; written upon the door in large yellow and blue letters were the words “Pokémon League National Union.”

    There were only four people inside this plane. Two of them were in the cockpit flying the plane, whilst the other two sat in the passenger area. Because it was designed for comfort, the floor plan was wide open. The two passengers sat in couches opposite each other.

    The first, a middle-aged man wearing a green fleece and jeans, stroked his beard while staring at the screen of a laptop.

    Across from him sat a beautiful teenaged girl with long brown hair. She wore a t-shirt and sweatpants, but exuded an aura of grace and exquisiteness far beyond what her humble clothing would suggest. She threw the magazine she was reading down next to her and sighed in boredom.

    “Is it much longer, Professor?” she asked, stretching out on the couch.

    He looked up distractedly from his work. “What? Oh, I believe we’re set to land in about an hour in Viridian City.” As soon as he answered, he looked back down at the database of Pokémon migratory behaviors.

    “How’s it coming? Are you having any luck?”

    “No, no,” he sighed, shutting his laptop and turning his full attention to the eighteen year old. “I won’t likely be able to figure it out until I study the Mightyena first hand. I’ve seen anomalies in behavior before, but something tells me this isn’t a natural occurrence.”

    “If there’s anyone able to find out what’s happening, it’s you Professor,” she told him encouragingly.

    “Thank you,” he said. “You never did mention to me why you decided to come to Kanto.”

    “There’s something I need to check out in Celadon City.”

    “And you want to see him again,” the man chuckled.

    The girl blushed slightly. “I hope so. It’s been so long. But there is actually something I need to look into. Have you heard of a place called the Dante Club?”

    Before her companion could respond, the copilot walked into the room. “Professor Birch, we will be beginning to land soon.” He turned his attention to the girl. “Miss, would you care for us to set up a connection flight to your final destination?”

    “No thanks. I’ll find my own way there,” she insisted.

    After the copilot had left, the girl glanced out the window next to her. As clouds passed by, she thought of her duty in Celadon City and of her friend. Although the chances of meeting up with him were slim, it was one of those things she felt destiny would just have to allow for if there was any meaning left in the world.

    ________________________________________

    “Are you chumps gonna fight us or do you just want to give us your Pokémon and run away?” snickered the man named Pork. “It’s not gonna make a difference anyway.”

    His companion cuffed him on the back of his head and knocked him whimpering to the ground. “Shud up nimrod. Ya talk too much,” Scullie growled at him. “Come on, Red. Show us what’cha got.”

    A short distance away, Ash and Allie stood side by side. Pikachu crouched in front of them, ready to fight. A cool breeze floated through the trees, making Allie shiver.

    “Are you ready for this?” Ash asked her quietly, so that the thugs couldn’t hear him. He must have thought that Allie was trembling with nerves, not cold. He realized his mistake when he saw the exuberant look in her eyes.

    “Let’s do this,” she whispered determinedly. Allie was beyond excited. Not only was this her first time seeing Ash in a proper Pokémon battle, but she was going to get a chance to fight right beside him. She refused to let him down.

    Scullie took a heavy step forward, holding out a dirty old Pokéball. “Come on,” he grunted. As the Pokéball hurtled through the air, a dark beast emerged from the flash of light. The Pokémon looked far too similar in appearance to Mightyena for Allie’s comfort, but it only made her that much more resolute.

    It was Pork’s turn next. He giggled insanely as a spotted purple cat leapt out of its Pokéball.

    “Houndoom and Liepard,”Ash told Allie. “Both are dark type Pokémon. Houndoom’s also part fire type, so he has a specific vulnerability that you should be able to exploit.”

    Understanding the advice, Allie pulled Squirtle’s Pokéball from her belt. The small turtle emerged and immediately recognized the situation. He took a step forward to stand next to where Pikachu was already ready for battle.

    A silence filled the route as the trainers prepared themselves for the battle. There was a swift breeze sweeping through trees lining the path. Finally, Pork broke the silence.

    “Liepard, slash at them,” the small man called. Liepard crouched down and sprung at Pikachu. The speed of the big cat was impressive, but nothing compared to the speed at which Pikachu dodged. There was a visible look of surprise on Liepard’s face when it realized it had missed its target.

    “Iron Tail,” Ash ordered simply. Pikachu, from his position behind Liepard, pulled his tail back. Before Liepard could react, the shining tail crashed into its side, throwing it across the makeshift battlefield.

    Allie’s attention was quickly returned to her own Pokémon as she heard a faint cry.

    “Squirtle, Squirt!” Allie’s partner had been scooped up in the powerful jaws of Houndoom and was being shaken like a chew toy. Only his strong shell was preventing him from becoming Houndoom chow. Scullie’s cruel laugh echoed around them.

    “Use hydro pump on it,” she quickly instructed him. Instantaneously, a jet of water burst forth from the shell, knocking the hell hound back.

    “Crunch again!” Scullie shouted with rage.

    “Dodge and use water gun,” Allie countered.

    Houndoom was still slightly disorientated from the sudden flood inside his mouth and didn’t move quick enough to reach Squirtle before he was drenched in a second blast of water. Not far away, Pikachu and Liepard were dodging around each other in an attempt to gain an advantage.

    “Attack with fire fang,” Scullie yelled, his rolls of fat flapping up and down in the heat of the moment. The choice in attack seemed surprising to Allie considering that Squirtle had the elemental advantage, but she quickly recognized her mistake.

    “Pika!” Houndoom’s blazing attack collided with Pikachu while he was occupied fighting Liepard.

    “Night slash!”

    Before Allie could react, a dark shape materialized behind Squirtle and vicious claws tore at him. The rest of Liepard appeared seconds later, a sinister sneer visible on its feline face.

    “Pay attention,” Ash whispered to Allie so the thieves didn’t see. “Part of a double battle is that both Pokémon have to work together. Don’t just focus on one side of the battle.”

    “Right, sorry,” she hastily apologized. Allie turned her attention back to the battle just in time to see Liepard crash into Squirtle at a blinding speed. “Hit it with water gun!”

    The little turtle’s cheeks filled with water. Liepard leaped nimbly away from Squirtle’s attack, not even coming close to being hit.

    “Keep going,” Allie yelled encouragingly. Despite having no chance of hitting its target, Squirtle obeyed his trainer and continued spraying water all over the dirt path. Next to them, Pikachu was dueling with Houndoom. Pikachu’s iron tail was acting like a sword, fencing and parrying Houndoom’s fangs and horns. The speed and grace was incredible; without speaking a word, Pikachu and his trainer understood each other perfectly.

    “Too slow girly. What kind of attack is that?” Pork sneered. He had no fears of his Liepard being struck by the jet of water. Although Liepard was doing well, it was too distracted to pull of an attack. By now, the route was utterly saturated and water was beginning to puddle up at the low spots on the ground.

    “Squirtle, protect yourself!” Allie cried. The water type curled into his shell and landed in a particularly deep puddle of water. “Now Ash!”

    “Pikachu, thunder!” the champion shouted. He had seen Allie’s plan from the beginning and had been waiting for the perfect minute.

    “No, Houndoom, git in tha air!” Scullie yelled, realizing a moment too late what was going to happen. Houndoom jumped just in time.

    Pikachu’s red cheeks sparked as he leapt into the air. “PIIIKKAAAACHUUUUU!!!!” The water at Liepard’s feet drew the full strength of the bolt of lightning straight to the big cat.

    A rumble of thunder followed by a cry of agony sent Spearows in the nearby trees flying away. When the steam had cleared, Liepard was collapsed on the ground, unconscious. The small thief shouted and returned his Pokémon to its ball.

    “What the hell?” Pork fumed. “How did that happen?”

    “Ya couldn’t win a battle aginst a rock, ya idjit,” Scullie reprimanded his companion. “Bedder let me show ‘em how a Black Charizar’ fights.”

    Allie, having learned from earlier in the battle, shifted her attention back on the battle before Scullie had a chance to do so. “Good Squirtle, now use rapid spin.” The tiny turtle poked his head out of his shell just long enough to wink at her, then began twirling in his shell at an intense speed. Houndoom took the attack head on, but was barely fazed.

    “Do ya really think your liddle pet would be able ta beat my beast with that?” As Scullie spoke, Houndoom grabbed Squirtle’s shell out of midair with its jaws and threw it against a nearby tree. Squirtle collapsed in a heap at the bottom, too stunned to move. “Your same strategy ain’t gonna work on me too.”

    Pikachu’s iron tail came from above, but was handily deflected by Houndoom’s horns. The skull dog again charged forward with its teeth bared. Pikachu took a back step.

    “Thunderbolt,” Ash ordered coolly. A bolt of lightning again erupted from Pikachu.

    At the same time, Scullie issued his command. “Fire Blast!” he roared. From Houndoom’s mouth burst a cross of flames.

    The two attacks collided in a splendid explosion which blinded all of the trainers. Sparks and embers flew everywhere. When Allie could see again, the situation had changed.

    “So this is how the Black Charizard Gang fights,” Ash said calmly, quite relaxed considering his position. “You aren’t even Pokémon thieves, just a couple of bullies out to take what they can from innocent trainers.”

    His friend gasped as she realized what was going on. Standing behind Ash, clearly smug at his own cleverness, stood Pork. He held a sharp knife at Ash’s neck. The champion was standing completely still.

    On the battlefield, Houndoom and Pikachu were staring at the new development. Both had survived the attacks, but just barely; each was breathing heavily and was covered in dust and scratches. Squirtle was also leaning against a tree, fighting to stay conscious.

    “Pika!” the yellow mouse shouted.

    “Shud up rat,” Scullie chuckled in a narcissistic tone. “Ya wouldn’t want my buddy’s hand ta slip, would ya?”

    “Now, I want the girlie to throw all of her Pokéballs to the ground at Scullie’s feet and then do the same with yours,” Pork demanded, moving the knife menacingly along Ash’s neck.

    Allie looked to Ash for advice.

    “Do what he says,” Ash said. “They’ve clearly outmaneuvered us.”

    Shaking, Allie threw her two Pokéballs toward Scullie. It wasn’t like Ash to surrender so easily, but maybe he had another plan. When she approached Ash to remove his Pokéballs, Pork motioned for her to get down on her knees to make sure she couldn’t interfere with his plot. Ash looked down at Allie; the girl’s face was at waist level.

    “Well, I’m sorry this is how your journey turned out,” Ash told her as she fiddled with the Pokéball holsters on his belt. “Caught by two fools with no idea of what a real trainer is capable of.” He winced as Pork used the dull side of the blade to pull up on his chin.

    “I don’t think you’re in any position to make insults,” the small thief snarled at him. “Even if your Pikachu were to attack me, it wouldn’t be able to stop me from pulling this knife and slicing you open.”

    “You’re right,” Ash said. “If it were to attack you.” Suddenly, he lifted a foot and forcefully pushed Allie down on the ground. “Now!”

    “Pikachuuuuu!” A bolt of lightning surged towards the hostage. From where she landed, Allie watched in horror as hundreds of volts of energy channeled through Ash and into the man standing behind him. Both men’s faces contorted in pain. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Houndoom charge at Pikachu.

    “Squirtle, use hydro pump quickly!” she shouted. Squirtle, though grimacing with pain, struggled to his feet and released a torrent of water from his mouth. The flood hit Houndoom straight on and blasted it across the battlefield. The hell hound collapsed at Scullie’s feet, completely unconscious. Scullie was cursing and shouting from where he stood, livid at the turn of events.

    Allie’s eyes were wide opened as the electric current from Pikachu finally subsided. Ash and Pork both collapsed on the ground, completely exhausted. Allie ran forward to check on Ash. She knelt down at his side and reached for his wrist to check for a pulse, but his hand grabbed hers. He opened one eye weakly.

    “I’ll live,” he grunted. Motioning for her to help him up, the champion struggled to his feet and stared across the destroyed path they had been using as a battlefield. “Pikachu, retrieve Allie’s Pokéballs.”

    In the blink of an eye, Pikachu dashed over to Scullie and reclaimed Allie’s Pokéballs. Scullie, enraged, stretched towards Pikachu to grab him, but missed. Struggling to control his huge weight, Scullie clumsily lost his balance and fell face forward on the ground. Pikachu scurried over to Squirtle to help him limp back to the trainers. Allie quickly returned Squirtle to his Pokéball to get some well-deserved rest.

    Ash glowered down at Pork’s trembling figure. “You’re pathetic and cowardly, but I’m not wasting any more time on you. If I were in your position, I would take some time to think. Allie, let’s go.” And, without so much as a glance backward, Ash and Allie walked past the criminals.

    Half an hour later, the trainers reached the entrance to the tunnel which ran below Saffron City. It had been another silent journey. Ash sighed as he reached into his pocket to pull out a rusty old key. As he pushed open the door, a foul smell made Allie crinkle her nose. Ash stepped in and reached for the light switch, but nothing happened.

    “This is a service road that hasn’t been used for years. I didn’t really expect the lights to be on, but it would’ve been nice,” Ash explained apologetically. “Put your headlight on and stick close to me.”

    Allie pulled the device out of her backpack and put it on. She pressed the power button, but nothing happened.

    Ash turned around and motioned for her to hurry up.

    “Um, Ash? Mine won’t turn on.”

    “What?” He pulled in off her head, accidentally pulling her hair a little. Seeing her wince, he apologized. “Sorry about that. Darn it, the bulb must be broken. We’ll have to buy a new one in Celadon.” He put the broken headlight back in Allie’s bag and turned his on. Extending a hand to her, he said, “It’s going to be pitch black down there. Hold on to my hand and stay close behind me.”

    Allie’s heart beat faster right away. She put her small hand in Ash’s. They made eye contact for only a brief second before Pikachu dashed past them and down the stairs. Ash grinned, spun around, and led Allie down the steep steps. Allie, who couldn’t see where she was going, relied completely on Ash to help her avoid loose and missing steps.

    When they reached the bottom, Ash continued to guide her through the dark corridor. It was rather cramped and dank, and smelled like raw sewage. The champion moved slowly and deliberately. Pikachu was walking in front of them.

    “Here we are.” Allie suddenly felt Ash’s hand pull downward as the older boy knelt facing a wall. She heard him rummaging around with something metallic. “It looks like the power generator is dead. Pikachu, you know what to do.”

    Allie could see a small spark near the ground. Seconds later, there was a whirring and grinding of gears. Dim lights above the trio gradually flickered and came to life. Allie’s vision returned just in time to see Ash grin and sit down against the wall. Allie followed his lead and leant against him slightly.

    “Pikachu is really amazing Ash. He was so powerful in that battle,” Allie commented in an attempt to start a conversation. The electric mouse smiled and jumped into Ash’s lap.

    “You mean against those thugs?” Ash chuckled as he scratched Pikachu’s ears. “No Allie, that’s barely a fraction of his power.”

    “Seriously? I thought you were going to be fried by that thunderbolt.”

    “Nah, I’ve spent way too much time with Pikachu for that to have happened,” the champion explained. “I’ve gotten used to it over the years. He wouldn’t have had time to just hit Pork, so I had him zap both of us. It’s been a long time since he’s shocked me like that though, which is the only reason I needed help to stand. Thanks for that by the way.”

    “No problem,” Allie said bashfully, surprised to hear him thanking her. “Why would that Pork guy try to attack you like that?” she wondered.

    “They’re nothing more than run-of-the-mill Pokémon thieves. They’re too weak to train their own Pokémon, so they go around trying to steal other peoples. They couldn’t even do that without cheating.”

    “But Houndoom and Liepard were pretty tough,” Allie added.

    “Not really. Even you could have beaten either of them handily in a single battle. Just remember, they might seem challenging for you know, but you’ve got even harder opponents ahead,” Ash pointed out. “You’re due for a loss eventually. But for now, good job.” He placed his left hand on her knee encouragingly.

    Allie blushed a little at the touch. “Ash Ketchum is congratulating someone? This must be a first.”

    Ash removed his hand from her knee and hit her gently on the back of her head. “Watch it,” he warned her jokingly. Ash stood up and brushed the dust and mold off his jacket, then extended his hand down to Allie. “We need to keep going. We’ll be able to make it to Celadon tonight, but it’s going to be late. You’ll be able to have your battle with Erika tomorrow if everything goes well.”

    “She’s the Celadon gym leader?” Allie assumed as Ash helped her to her feet.

    The older boy nodded. “She’s a good trainer and she uses grass types. It’ll definitely be an interesting match. Don’t listen to anything she tells you about me though,” he added impishly.

    “Why Ash?” Allie smirked. “What did you do?”

    “I’m sure you’ll hear all about it tomorrow. That girl will never let me live it down.”

    “Pika pi,” Pikachu giggled at the memory.

  3. #28

    Default Chapter 17

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 17: Blossoms and Forget-Me-Nots

    “What, aren’t you coming inside with me?”

    “Well,” Ash hesitated. “Maybe you should do this by yourself.”

    “It’s almost like you have something to hide. You know, the thoughts going through my head are probably worse than what actually happened,” Allie joked.

    “I have my doubts about that.”

    Flower petals were floating through the air, carried by a warm, sweet breeze drifting through Celdaon City. Happy people were strolling up and down the streets with shopping bags and ice cream cones. Allie and Ash were standing across the street from a huge round building shaped like a giant rafflesia.

    The excited girl grabbed her companion’s hand and gave her best pitiful expression. “Come on, I thought you were here to support me no matter what. I promise that nothing will change my opinion of you.”

    Ash looked down into her pleading eyes and sighed. His free hand reached up and gently lifted her chin. “This isn’t always going to work.” He winked at her.

    “Come on then.” Grinning, Allie turned herself under his arm and led him across the street, with Pikachu running along beside them. The trainers walked around the building until they reached a small brick building attached to the gym. Several women were gathered around staring into the building at the small glass bottles lining the shelves.

    Allie pushed the door open, pulling a resigned Ash through it. The shop was surprisingly empty for the amount of shoppers in the city. A young woman with purple hair looked up from the cash register and smiled weakly.

    “Look who it is,” she said, a mischievous expression creeping across her otherwise innocent face. “Little Ashley Ketchum.”

    Ash hung his head in defeat. “Ten years, Erika. Ten years. It doesn’t matter to you; you’re never going to let me forget it.”

    Allie, meanwhile, was completely bewildered. What the heck were they talking about? she wondered.

    Erika laughed and stepped out from behind the counter. “Is your girlfriend aware that you’re a cross dresser?” the florist asked, turning her attention to Allie.

    Allie couldn’t help laughing in surprise at the ludicrous thought of Ash wearing a dress. It took her a moment to realize the other thing Erika had said. Looking down, she saw that her and Ash’s hands were still locked together. Her face blushed bright red as she made eye contact with Ash and he removed his hand from hers.

    “First of all, I just did that because you refused to battle me,” Ash countered. “And second, the two of us aren’t dating. This is Allie Dogwood,” he introduced the girl.

    “Nice to meet you,” Allie said politely. “You’re the gym leader, right?”

    “Indeed. I’m Erika. You look like a Pokémon trainer,” the woman guessed.

    Allie nodded eagerly. “If you’re not too busy, I’d like to have a battle against you.”

    Erika looked around the small shop sadly. There was only one person other than them inside it. The shelves were nearly empty, with only a few glass vials remaining on them. It was apparent that the store had fallen upon hard times.

    “I’m rarely too busy these days. This shop isn’t what it used to be,” Erika sighed. “Hold on for a second.” The young woman walked over to the customer, who promptly shook her head and walked out the door. Erika followed her and removed the “Open” sign from the window. “Follow me.”

    Erika led the trainers through a back door. They walked through a short corridor and emerged into a large greenhouse. The atmosphere rapidly became more hot and humid. Grass type Pokémon frolicked amidst the beautiful flowers and exotic plants. Allie was astonished by the natural beauty. Despite the biodiversity, there was hardly any smell in the air.

    A Gloom hobbled slowly over to them and hugged Erika’s leg. Allie thought it seemed emaciated and weak compared to others from its species. Erika bent down and stroked its petals lovingly.

    “What happened to the perfume store?” Ash asked Erika curiously. “It was always so lively.”

    The gym leader smiled at him weakly. “That’s nice coming from someone who once belittled my business. A few months ago, many of the greenhouse Pokémon became very sick. Then they all stopped producing the scents we use in the perfumes. Nurse Joy managed to heal them, thank Arceus, but they haven’t had their distinctive smells since then.”

    “And without perfumes, your customers stopped coming,” Ash surmised.

    “Yes. I’ve never seen anything like that. I’ve worked with plant Pokémon my entire life, but I couldn’t figure out what’s wrong. I feel so useless.”

    Ash extended a hand to her, which she took. “I know you. You did your best, I’m sure it will get better.”

    Erika stood up and smiled, her eyes twinkling. “Thank you, Ash.” She turned to Allie. “I’m ready for a battle whenever you are.”

    “Let’s go,” Allie grinned, reaching to her belt.

    “Alright, the only problem is that I only have one Pokémon right now who’s ready for battle. Gym battles are usually at least two-on-two, but if the champion approves, we’ll do battle,” Erika said with a glance to Ash.

    “Given the circumstances, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Ash decided without any additional thought. For no apparent reason, he suddenly bent down and pulled a piece of grass from the ground. He looked incredibly closely at it, then pulled his XTransceiver out and began taking pictures. The female trainers looked at him confused, but he waved them off. “Do you mind if I have a look around the greenhouse, Erika?”

    “Feel free,” the young woman said, surprised at the question. “Just be careful not to damage any of the more sensitive plants.”

    “Thank you, I’ll be incredibly careful.” Ash turned to Allie. “Good luck in your battle.”

    “You’re not going to watch?” the girl pouted, slightly hurt by his lack of support and interest.

    “I’ll be cheering you on, don’t worry. I just have something I want to check on.” And without so much as another glance, he spun around and disappeared behind a wall of bushes and trees. Pikachu followed at his trainer’s feet.

    Allie sighed. Erika rested a comforting arm across the girl’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about him. He does some questionable things, but he’d go to any length to do the right thing. Ten years ago, he wore a dress to get a battle, and nearly died trying to save Gloom from a fire. Without Ash’s determination to battle me at all costs, this building would have been destroyed and many Pokémon would have died. I tease him about it, but I’m so grateful to him.”

    “I suppose,” Allie said, still bothered by Ash’s absence.

    Allie followed the gym leader through overgrown trails and between trees. They finally reached a small, grassy battlefield marked by white chalk lines. A single blue bench was in the center. Erika directed Allie to go to the other side of the field. Another young girl walked out of a row of flowers holding a watering can.

    “Ah,” Erika smiled. “Kelly, would you mind officiating this battle?”

    “Okay,” the girl said, skipping towards the battlefield. She was tall and pretty, and about Allie’s age. Her brown hair was tied in a braid, and her clothing was covered with dirt and leaves.

    “This is one of my remaining assistants,” explained Erika. “I can’t afford to hire many these days, but Kelly wanted to stay involved with the gym. All of the girls who work here are also trained Pokémon League referees.”

    The girls greeted one another, before Kelly’s face became suddenly serious. “The Celadon Gym Pokémon battle between Allie Dogwood and Miss Erika will now begin,” she said in a sharp and official tone. “Each trainer will use one Pokémon. Substitution is not allowed in this battle.”

    “This looks like a job for you Ruby,” Allie whispered to the fire fox’s Pokéball. “Let’s take home our second badge!” she shouted, throwing the ball to the center of the field. The Vulpix leaped out of its Pokéball, bursting with excitement.

    Erika pulled a Pokéball from her jeans pocket. But as she looked up, Gloom stepped away from her side and onto the battlefield. The small purple and red weed Pokémon slowly walked halfway between its trainer and Ruby. “What are you doing, Gloom?” Erika asked anxiously, nervous for her beloved Pokémon.

    “Gloo, Gloom ,” it chanted, clearly intending to battle.

    “But you’re still weak,” Erika protested.

    “Gloom!” the Pokémon insisted. It pointed at the Vulpix.

    “Please, you can’t fight right now.”

    “The gym leader must make a decision on her Pokémon or forfeit the battle,” Kelly cut in from her spot at the center of the battlefield.

    The gym leader and her Pokémon stared deep into each other’s eyes, and finally Erika relented. “Just… be careful. Please.” Gloom nodded solemnly and turned back to face Ruby.

    Meanwhile, Ash and Pikachu were navigating the tight service hallways which wound their ways below the greenhouse and circulated air. The smells of fertilizer and nitrogen were wafting through the dark, damp passageways.

    Pikachu stopped and sniffed the air. “Pika-chu,” the electric mouse said, pointing in front of them.

    As they turned a corner, the partners saw a large fan standing in their path. It was spinning slowly. Something was glimmering on one of the blades. Ash careful reached towards it and pulled it off, being very careful not to let his hand get too close to the fan. He held it up to his face to get a better look.

    Ash felt his stomach drop as he looked at the small plastic case. A single letter, written with red ink, was the only marking upon it. He hastily pulled out his XTransceiver and opened an app.

    Holding the item up to the camera, he said, “Computer, analysis.” The device immediately began beeping and flashing as it searched the Pokémon League database for information.

    “Small case containing trace amounts of unknown substance,” it said. “May have once been filled with more of substance.”

    Ash turned the item over and over in his hand. For the entire league network to not turn up a single result was seriously disconcerting. He pulled out a small plastic bag and sealed the mysterious device inside. The champion looked down at his partner.

    “Pika.”

    “I know buddy. We’ll get to the bottom of things eventually.”

    Ash pulled a long lever down and the fan began turning even faster. As he pressed a series of buttons on a control panel, the air system began venting and cleaning itself.
    ________________________________________

    A sudden burst fresh air blasted through the gym. Gloom was lying on the ground, completely exhausted after only a few minutes of battle. Standing over it was Ruby, awaiting her trainer’s final orders. Erika had an anxious expression on her face.

    But as the clean air was absorbed into Gloom’s body, a remarkable change appeared. It fought to its feet, a look of pure determination in its face. The thin, weak body began returning to its normal appearance, and the wilting red flora on Gloom’s head stopped sagging. Color returned to Gloom’s entire body, and as everyone looked around in surprise, they saw the same change occurring in the trees and flowers.

    Within minutes, the entire greenhouse underwent an incredible transformation. No longer were the plants clinging to life; lush color and life returned to the building. Tears of joy were forming in the corners of Erika’s eyes.

    “Are you ready Gloom?” she asked, beaming.

    “Gloo, Gloooooom,” it cried back, jumping up and down with excitement.

    “Great, then use acid!” the gym leader shouted, her battle spirit returned to her.

    Purple ooze sprayed from Gloom’s flower. Ruby had no chance of dodging it, and the poison hit her directly. Allie gasped as her Pokémon recoiled. Ruby was suddenly having difficulty standing, and her sharp teeth were clenched in pain.

    “Use ember,” Allie ordered.

    “Gloom, dodge!”

    Gloom spun out of the way of the small fire. At the beginning of the battle, such a performance would have been impossible. But now it handily evaded the attack.

    “Now attack Vulpix with sleep powder!”

    “No, get out of the way!”

    But the glistening powder enveloped Ruby. Her eyes blinked sleepily, and the small fox rolled over and curled into a ball. Even Allie had to cover her mouth with her sleeve to keep from being affected. Gloom’s flower began glowing as it absorbed energy from the sun through the glass ceiling.

    “Now Allie, I wonder. Have you ever seen a solarbeam?” Erika asked combatively. “If not, this should be an impressive way to lose this battle.”

    “Ruby! Ruby, wake up!” Allie shouted futilely. It was to no avail, the fox remained fast asleep. “You have to finish the fight Ruby!”

    The entirety of Gloom’s flower was a stunning white. It lowered its head, preparing to use its final move.

    Please Ruby. Please don’t let it end like this. I know you can do it. Use flamethrower, please, Allie thought desperately. Please…

    As the blast of sunlight erupted from Gloom, Allie clenched her eyes in fear for her Pokémon.

    “Pix!” Allie heard suddenly. A huge jet of fire sprung from Ruby’s mouth. By some miracle, by that beautiful and wonderful connection between a trainer and her Pokémon, Ruby had awoken and followed through her trainer’s command. The flamethrower eclipsed the solarbeam, and Gloom straight on.

    The burned Pokémon landed at its trainer’s feet, and Erika immediately bent down to comfort it.

    “Gloom is unable to battle. The challenger has won!” Kelly shouted enthusiastically, losing her profession manner and jumping up and down in excitement.

    Erika solemnly returned her Pokémon to its ball, then stood and smiled at Allie. “You are an amazing trainer, Allie,” she said. “The bond between you and your Vulpix is one of the strongest I have ever seen. You still have a lot to learn before you’re ready to battle some of my fellow gym leaders, but you have incredible potential. Therefore, I have no regrets in presenting to you the badge of the Celadon City gym. Congratulations.”

    Allie, who was holding and hugging Ruby, quickly set the small fox down on the ground. She held out her hand and received the small metal pin. It was a rainbow colored flower.

    A clapping was coming from the side of the field. Ash Ketchum was sitting on the bench with Pikachu applauding his companion. No one had noticed his reappearance, but he had apparently seen the conclusion of the battle and was beaming at Allie. He walked over to where the three girls stood and put his arm around Allie’s shoulders.

    “Congrats,” he grinned at her. “You’re up to two badges, and beating Erika is an impressive feat.”

    Erika laughed. “That’s right, you didn’t even beat me!”

    “Seriously?” Allie asked.

    “I would have if Team Ro-” he stopped abruptly, a shadow flashing across his face. “I would have if not for the fire. Anyway, I still earned the badge.”

    “Whatever you say Ashley Ketchum,” the gym leader teased. The entire group began laughing, and only stopped when a foul stench caused them all to choke on the air.

    “What is that?” Allie asked Erika, holding her nose.

    Tears were streaming down Erika’s face as she cried openly. “That’s the smell of Gloom before it’s made into a perfume. We’re going to be able to keep the store open!” She hurled herself at Ash and began hugging him. “I don’t know what you did, but you saved my gym and Pokémon again. I can never thank you enough,” she whispered in the champion’s ear.

    Ash nodded, patting her on the back gently.

    “Hey, Allie,” Kelly interrupted. “Did you know that Celadon City has a nationally recognized mall? The shopping here is amazing.”

    “Yeah, I’ve heard a little about it,” she answered, finally returning Ruby to her Pokéball. “Why?”

    “I think today’s events call for a bit of a celebration,” the gardener suggested. “Are you up for coming shopping with Erika and me? Ash is welcome, of course, but I figure he doesn’t really want to go.”

    The relieved look on Ash’s face that he didn’t have to go showed that she was right.

    “I don’t actually have any money,” Allie admitted. “I haven’t had enough battles to earn much prize money.”

    Ash pulled a small plastic card from his pocket and spun it to his friend. “Credit card. A gift from me. Go treat yourself,” he told her.

    The joy on Allie’s face was immense. Growing up on her own had always made a normal life as a girl nearly impossible; she had rarely shopped for things apart from necessities. The blonde girl new right away that she was going to have a blast.

    “Come on,” Erika told them. “Let’s lock everything up and we’ll go check out some of the clothing styles. This’ll be fun.”

    Ash watched as the girls hurriedly began closing up the gym, smiling to himself. There was something great about people doing something they loved together. The gym staff had only met Allie that day, and already they were planning a fun day on the town.

    He followed them out of the perfume shop and watched as Erika locked the shop up. “Could I have a word with you Erika?” Ash asked the gym leader, making sure not to let the girls hear. She nodded.

    The champion took her aside behind one of the trees outside the building. He pulled the black plastic container from his pocket. “I found this in your gym. I don’t know what it is, but I would bet it’s what’s been causing the plants to die.”

    Erika stared at the item in the plastic bag while her hand went to her mouth. The logo on it was facing her. “This is impossible. It can’t be.”

    “You can’t tell anyone yet. I don’t want to start a panic, but I’m going to show this to Professor Oak. Whatever it was doing to your gym seems to have stopped.”

    “I-I can’t believe this,” she shook.

    “Don’t worry, we’ll get to the bottom of this. But keep your eyes open, and call me if you see anything suspicious.”

    The gym leader nodded, and the two elite trainers walked back over to their companions. Erika made an effort to smile, but Allie could still tell something was bothering her.

    “I’m going to head out. I’ve got something to attend to. Great job again Allie,” he said again, patting her on the back. “Now go enjoy yourself.”

    “Thanks Ash,” she smiled at him.

    The three girls began walking to the Celadon shopping district, while Ash and Pikachu went in the opposite direction. Allie was amazed at the size of the mall. It was an enormous tower, hundreds of floors high. She was going to have the time of her life.
    ________________________________________

    Ash slammed his head down on the table in front of him. It had been hours since the battle, and he was now sitting in his room in the Pokémon Center. He was again talking to Professor Oak over a video call. The piece of black plastic he found in the gym was sitting in front of him.

    “Damn it! How can it not be in the entire Pokémon League’s records?” Ash swore. “And this is just another sign. They’re back. I know it.”

    “Calm down Ash. Just send it to me and I’ll do my best to analyze it,” Oak said. His voice, as always, was serious but relaxing.

    “Alright, professor, thanks.”

    “How’s your protégée doing, Ash?” he asked, curious of Allie’s progress.

    “She just earned her second badge from Erika,” Ash responded, a touch of pride in his voice.

    The old Pokémon professor laughed. “That’s something even you didn’t do. But I do remember hearing something about a dress…”

    “Pika, Pi!” Pikachu chuckled.

    “Good bye, professor. I’m going to go send you what I found.” Ash rolled his eyes and ended the call.

    Ash and Pikachu left the bedroom and went downstairs to the Pokémon Center’s transport room. In addition to the Pokéball transfer machine, there was also one for sending items to and from different places. Ash put the black case one the machine, and watched as the black plastic, and red letter “R” fade in front of him. He went on to the computer and chose to send it to Oak’s lab, then left the room.

    It was late in the evening by this point. Only a few trainers were still enjoying dinner in the center’s bistro. Ash walked past all of them, not in the least bit hungry. A couple of Pokémon were playing on a playground in the center of the lobby. Pikachu looked over yearningly.

    “Go ahead,” Ash told him. “Have a bit of fun.”

    “Pika!” Pikachu thanked him.

    As he used his key card to open the door to his room, the champion walked in slowly. It was time for bed; there wasn’t much of a reason to stay awake any later. Allie still wouldn’t be back for several hours, Pikachu was playing with new friends, and Oak’s analysis of the mysterious substance would take a few days. He took his jacket off and hung it on a hook. He began reaching for his shirt, but quickly stopped and spun around as he heard a giggle.

    “What are you doing in here!” he was about to yell, but the words never reached his lips. For as soon as he saw the girl sitting on his bed and grinning at him, he felt his heart leap. “Is it… is it really you?” he asked incredulously.

    The girl was curling her brown hair around her finger, smiling a smile he hadn’t seen for far too long.

    “Is that how you greet me?” she laughed sweetly. Her blue eyes twinkled. “Hello to you too.”

    For the first time in years, Ash was rendered speechless not by choice, but by joy. The two trainers stared at each other, taking the moment in.

  4. #29

    Default Chapter 18

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 18: April Showers

    Ash’s heart was racing. Could it really be her?

    “What are you doing here?” Ash asked, still stunned at his friend’s sudden appearance. “The last thing I heard was that you were in Unova founding a contest league.”

    “There are rumors among the coordinators. Everyone’s heard what happened at Silph and Cerulean Cape; it’s national news. When Professor Birch told me he was coming to Kanto, I decided to go with him. Especially since I knew there was a chance of seeing you.”

    “May…” her smile grew as Ash said her name for the first time in nearly three years. “How have you been?”

    “Amazing. I’ve won so many contests and met a ton of new people.”

    “I’ve been watching your progress,” Ash admitted. “On the news, I mean. I’ve always kept an eye on a few people, even after…” He cut off abruptly as the memories flooded back. “I watched your victory in the Hoenn Grand Festival. I cheered you on the entire time.”

    “Why didn’t you ever come to one of them?” May asked forlornly. “I looked into the crowd every time hoping and dreaming to see you.”

    The champion broke eye contact for the first time. “Shame,” he mumbled.

    “There was no reason for you to be ashamed,” she told him. “What happened that day wasn’t your fault. You cut yourself off from everyone. Ash, we just wanted you back.”

    “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

    “Don’t be sorry. You need to know that we still all care about you. I know you were still there in spirit, but after everything we went through, don’t you realize that we would have been there for you? But you avoided us.”

    Ash hung his head. “What happened was horrible, and avoiding you made it worse. But by the time I recognized that, I couldn’t bear to look at myself.”

    May stood up and walked over to him. She put a warm hand on his cheek and lifted his head from its slump. “Ash, we’re together again. The past is over; there’s nothing more we can do. Let’s make something out of the present.”

    ________________________________________

    “Oh my God, Allie. That dress looks amazing on you!” Kelly exclaimed.

    Allie was wearing a gorgeous dark blue dress, covered with sequins. The hem reached halfway to her knees, and the straps revealed the right amount of flesh; it was beautiful without being overly daring.

    “Do you think so?” she fretted. “I feel like it’s too much.”

    “Not at all,” Erika joined in. “You pull it off beautifully.”

    Allie spun around, feeling the fabric swirl around her. Seeing as she essentially raised herself, she didn’t have the opportunities to go to fancy parties or dress elegantly. She was having the time of her life shopping with Erika and Kelly.

    The group of three was in a high-end clothing store on the fortieth floor of the Cerulean Department Store. They were trying on different dresses and styles: some sexy, some crazy. The pile of clothing these had tried on was growing ridiculous. The stack of dresses was nearly as tall as Allie now.

    “I do like it,” Allie admitted. Looking at the price tag, she frowned. “But it’s a bit expensive.”

    Kelly grinned roguishly. “He did tell you to treat yourself. I’m sure he’s got enough cash to get by. The amount of prize money for winning the Pokémon League is insane.”

    “Well yeah, but I don’t want to spend this much of someone else’s money on myself.” She looked at her reflection. It was truly a magnificent dress.

    “Kelly’s right,” Erika agreed. “Truthfully, I doubt Ash would have a problem with it. He’s needed someone for a long time; maybe this is just a way of saying thanks.”

    Allie laughed hollowly. “He doesn’t act like he wants someone around.”

    “I definitely think you helped him finally thaw his cold heart,” Erika told her. “I haven’t seen him for a long time, but the stories I’d heard of how he shut himself off from the world were troubling. You have no idea how shocked I was when I saw him walking into my shop holding hands with a pretty girl.”

    Allie blushed a little. She and Ash had been growing a little closer in the weeks they had known each other. Erika had a point about him warming up to her. “I guess. He’s a bit of a mystery.”

    “That’s just how Ash is, I’m afraid,” the gym leader sighed. Her expression suddenly brightened up. “I saw the perfect shoes to go with that dress. I’ll be right back.”

    Erika hastily walked down the aisle and left the store on her way to a shoe outlet. Kelly turned back to Allie.

    “It must be amazing to travel with such a legendary trainer,” she said aloud, her voice full of wonderment.

    “He is amazing,” Allie admitted, her eyes losing focus momentarily. “His knowledge, his skills, everything about him is just incredible.”

    “It sounds like you’ve got a crush on the guy,” Kelly teased as she looked through dresses on a shelf. “Ooh, this one looks nice.”

    Allie’s face turned bright red, but Kelly was walking into a changing room nearby and didn’t see it. “No, no. He’s like an older brother.” She knew deep down that she was trying to convince someone other than just Kelly. “I mean, he’s incredible, but I doubt he really thinks of things like that.”

    “Whatever you say,” Kelly shrugged. “But you two have really good chemistry.” She opened the swinging door and stepped out in a new dress. “What do you think? Sexy?”

    “Way too short,” Allie answered immediately, hoping no men would walk by and see her new friend in the tiny dress.

    ________________________________________

    Ash and May were sitting on the Pokémon Center room’s floor, just like they sometimes did back while they traveled together in Hoenn. They were exchanging stories of what had happened since they last saw each other.

    “And that’s when the judges decided that Garbodor covering the audience in harmless sludge didn’t qualify as a performance, so I won the contest.”

    “Wow,” Ash said. The champion barely looked away from her face, as if he was afraid she would disappear if he broke eye contact. “That’s impressive.”

    “And…” May hesitated. “That’s when I first heard of the Dante Club.”

    “The what?”

    “The reason I came to Kanto, apart from finding you.” He gave her a quizzical look, so she continued. “After that contest, I heard a rumor about an unsanctioned contest hall in Kanto. It was offering incredible prizes to the winners. Everyone thought it would be shut down immediately.

    “That’s when things started becoming suspicious.” May’s voice became graver. “In no less than a couple of weeks, it was an official Kanto contest hall. Normally, the approval process takes months, and that’s when a hall doesn’t operate illegally beforehand.”

    “It just sounds like someone’s pulling strings,” Ash commented, not sure what was so bad about it. There were certainly much darker things happening in Kanto than a contest hall being made official.

    “Unlike most halls which host contests only a couple of times during the contest season, this one does one weekly. That means that the other contest halls are less influential comparatively. The contest organization has rules against it, but they’re turning a blind eye.”

    “So you think someone connected to the new hall is manipulating the contest league?”

    “Yes, but that’s not the worst of it,” May continued. “After I returned from Unova, I started looking into what was happening. I discovered something even worse than illegal contests. The winners have been going missing.”

    An image flashed through Ash’s mind of the Creature of the Cape. “You don’t mean like what’s happening near Cerulean City?”

    “I hope not, but that’s what I’m here to find out,” May said, finally returning to the subject that started the discussion. “After every contest, the winner receives a special invitation to a private nightclub called the Dante Club. They don’t leave; they’re just gone. And I’m the only person looking into it right now. Other coordinators think it’s suspicious, but they all want to stay as far away as possible.”

    “What can I do to help you?” Ash asked without hesitation.

    May smiled. “Thanks Ash, but I still don’t even know what to do. I’d enter the contest myself, but too many people know my face. I don’t think they’d risk taking me. All of the winners so far have been young women who are relatively unknown.”

    “Do you think the judges could be selecting the winner based on that criterion rather than the best performance?” wondered Ash.

    “I’m afraid so.”

    “So is there any other way into the Dante Club?”

    “You can buy your way in, but it’s expensive and you’d probably only see the part of the club that conceals everything that’s going on behind the scenes,” May explained. “Come on, we haven’t spoken in so long. Let’s talk about some nice things too. What have you been up to?”

    ________________________________________

    Around the same time that the girls finished their shopping trip, clouds were obscuring the sleek black sky. Allie thought it looked like rain, but expected to be back in her room before the precipitation began.

    “You look fabulous, I promise,” Kelly insisted. “There’s no reason at all to be nervous. He’ll love it.”

    Allie, Erika, and Kelly were standing in front of the Pokémon Center. Allie was wearing the outfit she bought at the department store. It consisted of the sparkling blue dress, the tall black boots Erika found her, and matching accessories. In the end, she decided that he wanted her to treat herself, so she went ahead and purchased it. Her decision was influenced by Kelly insisting that Ash would love it too, and she decided to wear it when she met up with him.

    “Thanks for inviting me,” Allie said graciously.

    “It was our pleasure, thank you for coming,” replied Erika. “Good luck on your travels.”

    “And good luck with Ash,” Kelly winked.

    They all waved goodbye and Allie walked inside the Pokémon Center. It was late at night and all the inhabitants of the center were sleeping, so she wasn’t worried about the dress drawing unwanted attention. The girl was excited for Ash to see it. Since she purchased it with his money, she had to show him it right away. Even if he was asleep, she’d wake him up. He’d like the outfit.

    Most of the lights were off in the Pokémon Center. Only illuminated exit signs and emergency lights guided Allie’s path. She passed an indoor playground, which appeared empty. In fact, Pikachu and several other Pokémon were curled up inside the tires. It had been a fun night, and they were sleeping soundly.

    Allie saw no one as she climbed the stairs to their room. She paused outside the door, readying herself to model her new dress for Ash. She slipped the cardkey into the slot, and slowly opened the door. Peaking in silently, she watched what was unfolding.

    Ash was holding both of the hands of a girl Allie had never seen. The brunette’s face was shining with happiness. They seemed to be having a very serious conversation, which Allie listened to with rapt attention.

    “I failed you all these years, May. I messed up. But I promise, I won’t do that to you again.”

    “Ash…”

    “I’m going to do whatever it takes to help you with this. For everything we once were, I give you my word.”

    “Thanks Ash.” The two figures moved together and embraced passionately.

    Allie slammed the door loudly and fled down the corridor. Ash started at the noise, his expression changing instantaneously from sincere to confused to concerned.

    “Allie!” he shouted, realizing immediately what had happened. “Come back!” He sprung from his spot on the floor, glanced back at May apologetically, and ran out after her.

    The young girl was already far gone. She felt the hot sting of tears in the corners of her eyes. She was a fool, and she knew it. Suddenly, Allie couldn’t understand how she had been able to fool herself into believing that Ash actually cared about her. Hurt and sadness filled her, and her stomach was doing flips.

    It was raining when Allie ran out of the Pokémon Center. The raindrops mixed with her salty tears while she ran without anywhere to go. Ash’s voice was calling her name faintly in the distance, but he was the last person she wanted to speak to.

    She still had her backpack with her from when they were shopping. Perhaps it was time to leave Ash, to start fresh on her own. The girl immediately felt sick at her own thought, knowing that she still wanted to be with Ash.

    What had he meant when he said “For what they once were?” Who was that girl?

    The thoughts swirled through Allie’s mind, but without answers, each one just made her feel worse. She was still crying as she ran through the streets, bumping into people in her haste. The makeup Erika put on her at the mall was washing off her face, staining her cheeks with black mascara.

    Her boot caught on a raised part of concrete and she fell face forward onto the cold, wet ground. She picked herself up and struggled over to a nearby bench, where she sat crying. Very few people were still out in the nighttime rain. Allie sat with her face in her hands, sobbing into them.

    “Allie!” she heard over and over again. “Please, I want to talk to you.”

    The voice subsided with time, and Allie was soon consumed by her tears, oblivious to what was happening around her.

    The bench suddenly shifted slightly, but Allie didn’t look up.

    “Here you are. Thank Arceus.” It was Ash’s voice, calm and kind as it always was. “Allie… please… talk to me. Allie…”

    “What is there to say?” she mumbled, too exhausted to cry anymore. “I walked in on you and her. I heard what was going on.”

    Ash paused for a moment. “May is one of my best friends. She travelled with me way back before I was the champion. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her.”

    “So what does that make me? The new her? A cheap replacement?”

    Ash began to respond, but stopped, wanting to think his answer through better. He thought of all the people he had travelled with over the years: Brock, Misty, Tracy, May, Max, Dawn, Cilan, Iris, and the others. “No Allie. Every single companion I’ve journeyed with over the years has been special, including you.”

    “Then why were by yourself when I met you?” she countered. “If they were that special but you still left them, are you going to do the same to me when you get bored?”

    The questions stung. Allie could feel Ash’s arm on her back become suddenly tense. “I’m human. I’ve made my share of mistakes. Sometimes ways part. Sometimes it’s for the best. But I’m not going to leave you now. I promise.” When she didn’t respond, he continued. “That’s not all that’s bothering you, is it?”

    A wave of blonde hair swished side to side. Allie whispered something completely inaudible except to Ash’s well-trained ears.

    “We do have something special Allie, but things can’t be like that. You’re like a younger sister. There can’t be anything more.”

    “I knew it was a ridiculous idea, but I always thought someday… maybe…”

    Ash shook his head regretfully. “Allie, we’re friends. I can’t… that’s all...”

    “I’m sorry Ash. I know all that and still I did this.” Allie finally looked into his eyes. There was a genuine look of empathy in them. He wasn’t just trying to be kind to her, he meant what he said. Ash did care, and somehow, for a moment, she had forgotten.

    “Don’t blame yourself,” he told her compassionately. “Sometimes things feel different then they are. Allie, we’ll look past tonight, alright? It’s not worth counting it against our friendship.”

    Allie nodded, and suddenly threw her arms around his neck. The girl buried her face into his chest. Ash held her tightly, and felt her breathing finally slow down. Her grip loosened, and he knew she had passed out.

    He carried the unconscious girl back to the Pokémon Center in his arms. As he pushed the door to their room open, May rushed over to help Allie to her bed. Gently, the two older trainers lay her on sheets and covered her with blankets. Ash turned his head while May removed the soaking wet dress from the blonde girl’s body to prevent hypothermia.

    “So this is Allie,” May said pensively.

    “Don’t judge her by tonight. Everyone does things they regret.”

    “Of course I won’t,” she assured him. “She did what none of the rest of us could. She reminded you of who you are.”

    The champion remained silent as he searched in the closet for more blankets.

    “She reminds you of yourself, doesn’t she?” May asked.

    Ash looked at the young girl out of the corner of his eyes. She was breathing deeply, her small body covered by nothing more than blankets. Here was a girl who had defeated a gym leader earlier that day, survived attacks by Mightyena and the Creature of the Cape, and escaped the very heart of Mount Moon by herself. Life had given her hell, but she was still going to do whatever it took to achieve her dreams.

    Ash finally nodded, knowing that anything else would be a complete lie.

    He sat down at the head of her bed with a blow-dryer, and began warming her hair. May looked down at the cold, wet girl and a thought occurred to her.

    “Ash,” she began, not sure how he would react to the suggestion. “Has she ever said anything about participating in contests?”

    “No, and that’s not up for discussion.”

    “But she has talent and matches the profile for the vanishing winners. Allie could win and infiltrate the club. We would be in there too, but she might be able to get in behind the scenes and find the evidence we need to bring it down.”

    “No. There’s no way I’ll let her do that. It’s too dangerous,” he repeated unwaveringly.

    A noise from the bed made Ash and May glance down concernedly. Allie’s eyes were still closed, but her lips were moving slightly. “I’ll… I’ll do it,” she whispered.

    “Allie, you need rest,” Ash insisted. “You don’t even know what we’re talking about.”

    “The… the Dante Club,” she replied. “Erika mentioned it today. She said she was becoming suspicious of it, but didn’t have any evidence.”

    “Allie, please,” Ash began to say, but was hushed by May.

    “Let her speak,” the coordinator told him.

    “You need someone to win the contest and find out what happens to the winners. I can do it.” Ash opened his mouth to argue, but Allie shook her head. “I can help Ash. There’s going to be no way for you to get into the club without me.”

    “I don’t feel comfortable letting you do something so dangerous. People are going missing. It would be like the Cerulean Cape all over again.”

    “Ash… thank you. But you’ve risked so much for me; it’s my turn to do something for you,” she said adamantly.

    “If that’s what you want to do.”

    Allie became still once again and she drifted back off to sleep. She wasn’t injured or sick, but she was tired and needed sleep. Ash stepped away and walked back to May.

    “She really is like you,” the brunette earnestly whispered in his ear.

    “I know,” Ash grunted. “That’s what scares me.”

    ________________________________________

    Loud music was playing in a large plaza area outside the Celadon City Contest Hall. There were jugglers and fire breathers working alongside their Pokémon to entertain the massive crowd gathered. Allie Dogwood was standing alone in line to register for the contest later that day. She hummed softly to herself while tossing a Pokéball up and down in her hand.

    It was nearly a week Allie won her second badge. She had spent the majority of each day learning from May how to participate in contests. The girls had grown increasingly close to each other as the training progressed, and by the time Ash paid them a visit the previous evening, they were sitting on the floor giggling about something they refused to tell him.

    Allie’s Squirtle became fast friends with May’s Wartortle, and Glaceon and Ruby bonded despite being elemental foils. May had shown Allie everything she knew about contests, from appeals to the contest battle round. The newer trainer wasn’t perfect, but she should be able to win this contest.

    “Are you there yet?” a voice spoke into her ear.

    Making a face, Allie moved her hand to her ear to adujust the volume control on the communicator device hidden in her ear. Ash had insisted that she wear one for as long as possible so that he and May knew what was going on at all times. The champion was across the plaza, pretending to watch a street show staring a Clefairy.

    “Too loud Ash,” she whined quietly. “Yes, I’m the next person up.”

    She stepped up to the registration table and was greeted by the smiling face of a young woman with blue hair. “Hello there. Tell me your full name please.”

    “Allison,” Allie began. She immediately stopped, mentally kicking herself for forgetting Ash’s advice not to use her real name in the contest. At least she didn’t use her common name: Allie.

    “And your last name?” the staff member asked.

    Frantically looking around her for inspiration, Allie’s eyes stopped on a nearby Pokémon floating beside its trainer. She recognized it as a Klink, native to Unova.

    “Geary.” The name was absolutely ridiculous, but at least it worked. Through the device in her ear, Allie heard a slapping sound. She rolled her eyes, knowing Ash had just hit his forehead with his hand.

    “Allison Geary,” repeated the blue-haired woman, handing Allie a sealed envelope. “Alright, I have you all signed up. Just return these forms to me and you’ll be ready to participate.”

    Allie thanked her and walked away. Unknown to her, a mysterious man watched her do so through his window in one of the contest hall’s high towers. He laughed, and scribbled a note on a piece of paper.

  5. #30

    Default

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 19: Contesting the Norm

    The Story So Far: Ash Ketchum has joined Allie Dogwood on her quest to become the Pokémon League Champion, a title he currently holds. During their adventure, the companions have learned that evil is stirring in Kanto. In Celadon City, Allie and Ash met up with Ash's old friend May. Allie soon became jealous that she wasn't the only girl Ash had ever traveled with. When May told the two about a place called the Dante Club where coordinators were mysteriously disappearing, Allie agreed to go undercover in a contest in order to gain entry to the club.

    ________________________________________

    Huge banners hung from the roof of the large domed contest hall near the Celadon City Plaza. Crowds filed into the grandstands talking animatedly, bursting with excitement for the competition. Among them were a woman with a long gown and a veil accompanied by a man wearing a colorful poncho and an over-sized sombrero. Their faces were obscured, but beneath his comical hat, the man had just rolled his eyes.

    "These costumes look ridiculous," he mumbled, barely audible in the noisy arena.

    "We can't take any chances," his companion whispered back. "Everyone who follows Pokémon Contests knows who I am, and if the people running the Dante Club find you, then Allie's position is compromised and she'll be in danger."

    "I know," Ash sighed. "But a sombrero, really?"

    May giggled as she and her old friend took their seats the gallery facing the glimmering stage. As they watched, the lights flickered twice, and then went completely dim. Two spotlights from the left and the right began crossing back and forth across the stage. There was a large flash at the center of the stage and a woman appeared, silhouetted by the backlighting. Her hands dramatically rose above her head as an announcer proclaimed, "Ladies and gentleman, boys, girls, and Pokémon: welcome to the Dante Cup Celadon City Contest! Hosting today is the beautiful, graceful, and ever loquacious Jane Goddard!"

    The spotlights centered on her, revealing a tall woman wearing a long sweeping dress and holding a microphone in her left hand. Her deep red hair was tied in a bun. "That's right folks," she announced to applause. "We've got a fabulous show in store for you today with some of the greatest coordinators in the nation."

    As she spoke, about twenty coordinators began walking out from behind the long curtains and lined up around the edge of the stage. Ash's eyes fell immediately upon his protégé. His mouth fell open. Hours prior to the contest, May had taken Allie privately and did her hair and makeup. Ash hadn't seen her since then, and May's work didn't go unnoticed. Glitter and mascara lined her eyes and her hair was curled around her neck. She was wearing a blue dress identical to the one she purchased at the department store, a gift to her from Ash after her first one was ruined in the rain. She shone like a star on the stage.

    "Regret your decision now?" May chuckled quietly so that only Ash could hear her.

    Coaxing his eyes back into his head, Ash straightened himself in his seat. "No. She's beautiful, I'll freely admit that. But you know as well as anyone that it would never work. She's my friend. Anything more would be wrong."

    May frowned and began to speak, but was interrupted by Jane's voice booming over the crowd.

    "This contest will be broken into three stages: the exhibition match, semifinals, and finals. The first round will begin in several minutes," Jane explained. "Up first is Kanto's own Allison Geary! The other coordinators will return to the waiting room while she competes and shall come out one by one for the exhibition round."

    Allie stepped forward into the spotlight as the others returned backstage and Jane stepped to the side of the stage. She was all too aware of the hundreds of eyes fixed upon her. Determined to follow the advice May had given her over the past week, she gazed right back at the crowd and smiled brightly, waving with her left hand. Her right reached to her belt and grabbed hold of a Pokéball.

    A timer with two minutes appeared on a giant screen above the stage. "When the clock begins, Allison will send out one Pokémon and will proceed to impress our judge with her routine." She paused for effect then began the countdown. "Three, two, one. Let the contest begin!"

    The second she heard these words, Allie leapt forward and twirled through the air. "Give them a show Squirtle!" The Pokéball flew out of her hand and landed at the center of stage. Squirtle twirled through the air as he emerged, spraying bubbles through the air. The audience cheered as he struck a pose as he landed.

    "Glacial purge!" Allie commanded him. It was a technique she had practiced with May. Squirtle began spinning around in his shell, and suddenly an ice beam erupted from one of the holes. The stream of ice looked like a white beacon, reflected and magnified by the many bubbles drifting peacefully through the air. Suddenly, the trajectory of the ice beam changed, and it began popping the bubbles one by one. Each bubble released tiny snowflakes as it burst, raining down on the audience.

    Even though he was often shy, Squirtle seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly. The timid turtle was a huge hit with the crowd who were all on their feet, gazing at the beautiful snow created by Squirtle's special combo.

    "Thank you Miss Geary," the emcee shouted. "Next up is Damon King from Sinnoh."

    Squirtle did a final backflip as Allie curtsied, and they walked back behind the curtain. The appeal had gone over incredibly well, Allie thought. It was a little different than she thought it would be. May had explained that there would be three judges present to evaluate and critique her performance, but Allie had seen none.

    The same thought was on May's mind. It didn't make sense that the contest organization would allow a venue to deliberately alter the rules of the competition so drastically. She looked around the arena trying to figure out how the contestants were being judged, but she couldn't spot anything until she saw Ash's hand point to a darkened suite in the center of the arena.

    "Whoever's pulling the strings is in there," he whispered.

    May nodded and stared into the box, wondering who it was who had so much power as to arrange and fix a contest only to find victims for whatever sick things were happening in a nightclub.

    ________________________________________

    "Great job Squirtle," Allie congratulated him once they were back in the participant's waiting room. "You were fantastic." Her starter grinned at her, highly satisfied with himself.

    "It was an average performance," Allie heard from across the room. Turning around, she saw a boy smirking in the corner. Behind a pair of frameless glasses, his red eyes burned with mischief.

    "It was fantastic," Allie repeated to Squirtle, although her eyes didn't leave the newcomer.

    "Suit your own amateur wishes," he shrugged scornfully. "It just shows how much of a noob you are."

    Allie couldn't believe what she was hearing. Quickly withdrawing Squirtle to his Pokéball to protect his self-confidence, she walked right up to the boy. "What's wrong with you?" she demanded, poking him in the chest.

    He passively shrugged again; his apparent lack of emotion was infuriating Allie even more.

    "I suppose you think you're the greatest coordinator to ever live," she assumed, rolling her eyes. The girl was pleased to see a fleeting shadow of irritation cross his face.

    "No," he replied slowly. "I know I'm the greatest person to ever live."

    Allie's mouth hung open with shock at this show of arrogance.

    "That's cute," he chuckled cruelly. He patted her on the head like she was a mere child. "You're cute. But you're not going to win this. But don't be upset. You'll be able say you've met the infallible Lucian Andrews, and had the honor of losing to him. I can't think of a greater gift."

    Without another word, Lucian Andrews walked away, leaving Allie with a sour taste in her mouth and an expression of disgust upon her face. Who did that pale-faced, overdressed boy think he was? What a jerk.

    An hour later, Allie and her fellow coordinators gathered around the television screen hanging in the waiting room. She could feel the excitement and tension building. Each competitor had his or her own reason for wanting to win, and Allie was no exception. The Dante Club's illicit activities needed to be stopped, and the only way for her to do this was to win the contest.

    But there was also another reason, more private than the first. Allie wanted impress Ash. She was slightly ashamed of this motivation, but couldn't deny it to herself. In addition to wanting to justify her emotional overreaction a week ago, she needed to prove to him that she was more than just a burden he had to protect on her journey.

    She needed to prove it to herself too.

    Jane Goddard appeared on the television. "I will now announce those competitors who will be continuing into the next round of the Celadon City Dante Contest." The room held its breath. "Lucian Andrews! Damon King! Satine Lin! And…" She paused for dramatic effect. Allie crossed her fingers. "Allison Geary!" The crowd erupted into wild applause for the four semifinalists. "We will have a twenty minute intermission, followed by the first contest battle of the semifinals: Allison versus Satine!"

    Allie looked around the room at all the disappointed faces. Well, she reasoned, they wouldn't have wanted the prize anyway, not from this corrupt contest. Her eyes fell upon Lucian, who was staring keenly at her.

    "Not bad for an amateur, huh?" she mouthed.

    "Not as good as a master," his lips answered.

    ________________________________________

    The lights once again signaled the audience to find their seats for the battle round. May and Ash observed as Allie and Satine walked out onto the stage and made for opposite sides. Jane Goddard stepped up to the center of the stage and proceeded to explain the rules.

    "The coordinators will have three minutes to impress the judge," she declared. "They will try to defeat each other in battle, but the winner will be the Pokémon who performs in the most stylish way."

    Allie gazed at her opponent. Satine was an exceptional beautiful woman, just a couple of years older than Allie. Her long purple hair reached down to her hips. Her dress reached her ankles, but the side had a triangle cut from the upper thigh and reveal a great amount of skin.

    "Alright, ready! Contest, go!" Jane shouted.

    "Ruby, let's do this!"

    "Milotic, douse my opponent's hopes and dreams!"

    Ruby bounded out of her Pokéball gracefully landing on all four feet, while her serpentine opponent twirled and snaked through the air before landing on the stage. The water type let out a wail as it overtook Ruby. Milotic began wrapping its body around the small fox and squeezed.

    "Fire spin," Allie ordered, panic in her voice already.

    Unfortunately, the Vulpix was caught too tightly to breathe and had no chance to following her trainer's orders. Satine took this opportunity to continue her attack.

    "Use aqua tail and ice beam!"

    Milotic's tail scooped Ruby up and knocked her high in the air. The freezing blast hit Ruby directly, and Allie watched in horror as her childhood friend fell straight to the ground. Ruby crumbled, her weak body covered with frost from the attack. The audience gasped, shocked at the ruthlessness of the contest. May and Ash were watching for Allie's attention.

    Allie's eyes were as wide as they could be. "No, please," she mumbled. "Be okay."

    Ruby shivered to her feet. The crowd in the stands applauded her determination, but Allie was still fearful for her Pokémon.

    Ruby looked back into her trainer's eyes, and winked. She turned back to her opponent and opened her mouth. A blast of spiraling fire emerged, enveloping Milotic in the flames. Ruby leaped in front of the vortex, and everyone could see the frost melt right off her, sparkling in her auburn coat.

    "Escape from there and use waterfall!" Satine yelled, growing impatient with a battle she believed she should win easily.

    Ruby jumped away from the flames just in time to avoid being hit by the torrent of water. Milotic was at its full height, towering above Ruby's small form.

    "Finish it," ordered Satine, deadly quiet. Milotic's tail began to glow again, but this time Ruby dodged out of the way just in time.

    "Ruby, Sun's Edge," Allie counted.

    Ruby jumped onto Milotic's long body and began running up it. When she reached the head of the water snake, she leaped off into the air and performed a flip. The Vulpix opened her mouth wide and once again blasted Milotic. Satine's Pokémon collapsed on the floor, exhausted by the match.

    The crowded room erupted in applause when they saw Allie's partner land back on Milotic's head, triumphantly posing like a hero.

    "Time's up!" Jane announced in her exaggerated tone. "The judge has decided that Allison Geary will proceed to the next round based on her Vulpix's incredible performance. Congratulations!"

    Satine swore, her face contorted with fury and bitterness. Allie beamed at Ruby, then looked up into the grandstands just in time to see Ash nod to her proudly from under his sombrero.

    ________________________________________

    Allie carried Ruby into the back room. It was completely empty, as the Damon and Lucian were both preparing for their turn on the stage. As Allie sat down on one of the benches, the tall figure of Satine Lin appeared over her.

    "You have no idea what is awaiting you should you win the next round," she laughed harshly.

    "What do you mean?" Allie asked, suddenly curious. This could be the lead they were looking for.

    "A little girl like you thinks this is all a game. But you'll learn. Oh yes, you'll learn," Satine smiled cruelly.

    Ruby lowered her head and growled at the woman. "Are you talking about the Dante Club?" Allie whispered, looking around to make sure there was really no one else in the room.

    "You're such a soft, innocent girl, aren't you? They're going to eat you alive." Satine cackled, and left the room.

    Allie began immediately fumbling with her earpiece. "Did you hear that Ash?" she shook.

    "Yes. You don't have to worry. I don't know what she was talking about, but you are safe. We're not going to let anything happen to you."

    "I know Ash. Thank you."

    "Keep up the good work and it'll be done in no time. Call us if you need anything."

    Despite Ash's reassurances, Satine had seriously freaked Allie out. She tried to get a grip. Satine lost. Of course she was eager to intimidate Allie. But still…

    Back in the grandstands, Ash rose from his seat.

    "I'll be back. Keep an eye on her for me."

    May nodded and watched her longtime friend slide past the other contest fans in their row. He was going after Satine. The brunette didn't think it was a good idea, but after hearing her speak about Allie like that, Ash would have gone no matter what. She settled back into her seat and refocused her attention on the battle beginning on the stage below. Lucian was highly skilled based on his appeal round, and Allie would certainly have a difficult round should he win. That is, she would if a dark force wasn't manipulating the contest in her favor.

    ________________________________________

    In the contestant's room, Allie eagerly awaited the results of the match. She had finally put Satine's words in the back of her mind, and was more relaxed. The closed circuit television in the room was turned off so that she couldn't study her opponent's techniques before the final battle.

    Finally, after what seemed like ages, the door to the stage opened. A familiar, arrogant face smirked at Allie as Lucian entered the room.

    "Like I said," he began, putting emphasis on every word. "I'm the greatest."

    Allie stood up so that her face was at the same height as his. "You haven't beaten me yet," she retorted.

    "Not yet. But there's no reason a rookie like you could beat me." He pulled a small gray box out of his pocket and proudly opened it. Four colorful ribbons were inside. "I've travelled all across Kanto collecting these ribbons. This is the last one I need to qualify for the Grand Festival."

    Allie almost felt bad for him. If Ash and May were right about the contest being rigged, then he wouldn't even have a chance to earn his ribbon. But at the same time, his pride made it hard not to want to defeat him at his own game, even if the judging was corrupt.

    "Someone like you won't be able to keep me from earning my last ribbon."

    Maybe not, but perhaps the Dante Club would.

    A stagehand opened the metal door and poked his head in just in time to see the two coordinators glaring at each other. "Hey, you two. The final round is about to start. Are you ready?" he asked. Assessing the situation, he added, "Are you two alright?"

    Both trainers nodded.

    Allie extended her hand to Lucian in one final attempt at peace. "At the least, I'll put up a fight. May the best coordinator win."

    Lucian stared down at the small hand extended to him, then turned and began moving to the stage.

    "I will," he chuckled without turning around to face her.

    Allie rolled her eyes and followed him to the stage.

    ________________________________________

    "Contest fans of all ages, welcome to the final round of the Dante Cup. In this last battle, Allison Geary will be competing with Lucian Andrews for the Celadon City Ribbon."

    Allie stood on her side of the stage, waving to the crowd,

    "Prepare thyself, Allison. Defeat shall come quickly and painful for the unready. Escavalier, give me nothing but your best!" he finished, throwing his Pokéball with a full wind up and watching the armored bug leap out.

    "You really should stop underestimating me Lucian. Defeat is even worse when you don't see it coming. Squirtle, let's give these people a show that they'll never forget!" Squirtle spun around in his shell, blowing bubbles to the kids in the crowd.

    "And now, let the battle begin!"

    Ash quietly stalked Satine out of the contest hall and followed her into a dark alley. His sombrero and poncho had been cast aside in a dumpster they had passed. Halfway down the alley, Satine spun around and pulled out an aerosol can.

    "You have the next ten seconds to clear out of here, creep, or you'll pay the price."

    Quicker than she could react, Ash jumped out from his hiding spot, knocked the can of pepper spray from her hand, and pinned her chest against the brick side of a building.

    "I have no intention of harming you. However, you will tell me everything you know about the Dante Club."

    He saw a corner of her mouth raise in a sneer. "I have no desire to speak of it. Are you someone who would torture an innocent woman to extract information? If you are, then you are no different from Dante."

    Ash growled dangerously. "I would never harm another on my own behalf, but you've threatened my friend and shown that you have information that can help her."

    "Ah, so you are a friend of dear Allison's," Satine guessed correctly. She struggled around in Ash's grasp to face him. They were incredibly close. "In that case, of course I will tell you about the Dante Club. It is a place of great evil, but also provides great opportunities. I had hoped to gain entry so that I could join it."

    "And why did you want that if it's a place of such evil?"

    "Because I am a woman of great evil." Her tone was becoming more and more seductive.

    "I find that hard to believe," Ash said. "Could you elaborate?"

    Instead of a response, Satine leaned closer to him and kissed him on the lips. Ash immediately took a step back, giving her just enough time to escape his grasp and begin running back out to the street.

    "Damn it," he swore, and chased after her.

    He tackled her just as she reached the sidewalk, and the two toppled forward and landed in front of a group of laughing trainers.

    "We're going to take the Dante Club down," Ash whispered in her ear. "And Officer Jenny's going to keep an eye on you until we do."

    ________________________________________

    Author's Note

    It's been too long, I know. I've been struggling to find inspiration, and I'm not really fond of writing the contest battles. Sorry. I just couldn't bring myself to write it any sooner.

    If you want another way to remind me to update or read special author's notes, you can now Follow me on Twitter: WarasFF. This account is solely for supplementing my fic, so there'll be no random junk on it. Feel free to tweet me questions or whatever you feel like.

    Anyway, let me know what you think. I've found a new muse, so hopefully I'll get the next chapter up much sooner. Thanks for everything, and remember that reviews are a great way to encourage me to write more frequently.
    Last edited by Waras; 2nd March 2012 at 8:41 PM.

  6. #31

    Default Chapter 20

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 20: From Heaven to Hell

    The Story So Far: Ash Ketchum has joined Allie Dogwood on her quest to become the Pokémon League Champion, a title he currently holds. During their adventure, the companions have learned that evil is stirring in Kanto. In Celadon City, Allie and Ash met up with Ash’s old friend May. Allie soon became jealous that she wasn’t the only girl Ash had ever travelled with. When May told the two about a place called the Dante Club where coordinators were mysteriously disappearing, Allie agreed to go undercover in a contest in order to gain entry to the club. She has now progressed to the finals of the tournament and will face off against the arrogant Lucian Andrews, but what horrors await her at… The Dante Club?

    ________________________________________

    SPLASH!

    Allie looked at the dripping wet audience apologetically. That would hurt her score. Escavalier had dodged out of the way of an oncoming hydro pump, and the water continued uninterrupted into the grandstands. Lucian’s knight Pokémon was fast. It was far too fast for Squirtle to hit with one of his usual attacks.

    “Escavalier, let your judgment rain down upon your enemy!” Lucian commanded, brandishing his finger aggressively.

    “Take cover Squirtle!” Allie responded frantically.

    Squirtle ducked into his shell just in time to block Escavalier’s dual lances, but the shell was being devastated by the tireless blows. Allie knew that this was no way to impress the crowd, but she couldn’t think of any way to stop it. From her spot in the stands, May bit her lip, knowing that if this were a fair bout, Allie’s score would be dropping swiftly.

    “Squirtle, water gun!” Allie yelled just in time to prevent Escavalier from landing a finishing blow.

    “Get back!” Lucian ordered.

    Water sprayed forth from the turtle shell at a frightening speed. Escavalier closely dodged attack, but a tiny stream of water caught on its abdomen. Glimmering, the wet tail caught Allie’s eye and gave her an idea. Images flashed through her mind of Satine’s Milotic launching poor Ruby into the air. Could Squirtle use that attack?

    “It’s worth a try,” she told herself. “Squirtle!” Her partner turned his head to look at her, trying not to leave himself open to attack. “You’ve got use aqua tail.” He gave her a queer look, not sure why she was asking him to perform a move she knew he didn’t know. “Try to concentrate water at where your tail is.”

    Squirtle dodged a fury attack, but continued to look confused. “Please, just trust me. I believe you can do it.”

    As the Squirtle and Allie strategized, Escavalier was pumping up the audience and channeling its own power with a sword dance.

    “Now,” Lucian cried. Escavalier flew forward and began encircling Squirle at a breakneck speed. Multiple copies of him appeared, and Allie knew it was using double team to outmaneuver her Pokémon.

    Suddenly, one of the copies accelerated at Squirtle. Allie shut her eyes, unable to watch. The next thing she heard was a loud cheer from the audience. When she brought herself to look, Squirtle was parrying Escavalier’s lances and slashing with his tail, elongated and strengthened by the water streaming from it.

    Allie jumped in the air and waved her arms. “Oh yeah!” The audience went wild seeing her getting so into the battle. Squirtle’s new tactic gave her an idea to impress the crowd and give Squirtle enough speed to even the odds. “Use hydro pump to flood the stage!”

    Squirtle began spinning around and filling the battlefield with water. Escavalier began floating higher to avoid the rising water.

    “Ice beam, now!” The freezing blast chilled the water, leaving a layer of ice. Squirtle landed on the slippery surface, and, anticipating Allie’s next instructions, began ice skating towards Escavalier.

    “Perfect, that’s it!” Allie cheered. She looked to Lucian and saw a look of confusion on his face. Everyone in the crowd was going wild, including May. Even she was impressed by Allie’s creativity.

    “Come on Escavalier,” Lucian yelled. “Hit it!”

    Escvalier flew at Squirtle, but this time the tiny turtle managed to leap and twirl over his head. He spun around and caught Escavalier from behind with aqua tail. The move knocked Escavalier to the ground, but it quickly recovered and charged again.

    The two were just about to collide for the final time, but a loud gong stopped the battle. The two Pokémon slid harmlessly past each other, and the coordinator’s eyes didn’t leave each other. Jane Goddard made her way to the center of the stage, careful not to fall on the slippery ice, and began speaking.

    “Time’s up! We will now consult with our judge on which coordinator will take home the ribbon and title of Dante Cup Champion.”

    There was a pause, and everyone in the arena was silent. Then, a new voice came on over the speakers. May listened very closely to see if she recognized its owner from the contest circuit, but was disappointed by an eloquent yet ominous voice she had never heard before in her life.

    “This was one of the most even matches I have ever seen. Both coordinators have shown promise, however, only one can take home the Dante Cup ribbon. I hereby declare that the winner is… the gorgeous and talented Allison Geary!”

    She had won. Even though the contest was fixed, she could tell by the tremendous applause that the audience agreed with the judge’s decision.

    “Please accept this ribbon on behalf of the staff of this contest.”

    Jane placed in her hand a pale green ribbon with a tiny red jewel at the center.

    “Now Miss Geary, after such a splendid performance, everyone in the crowd is wondering what you’re going to do now. Will you be competing in the Grand Festival so that we can all see you in a contest again?”

    Allie shook her head and spoke into Jane’s microphone. “Sadly no. Contests are fun, but I live for Pokémon battles.” There was audible lament in the packed arena. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lucian’s mouth fall open and his angry expression change to shock.

    “Well, if being a trainer doesn’t work out, I think everyone here agrees that you have a future as a coordinator.” Another huge round of applause followed the host’s remark. Lucian marched off the stage. The winning coordinator couldn’t tell if he was pissed or just stunned by his defeat. He was a pompous jerk, but she still felt a little bad.

    Allie refocused on the moment. This wasn’t about a contest. It was about infiltrating the Dante Club and helping Ash take down those responsible for whatever was going on in it.

    “To everyone in the stands, thank you for coming and we hope you’ve had an excellent time. Merchandise is available in the store on your way out, and we hope that you’ll come back for next week’s contest as well. Ta ta!”

    A cloud of fog instantly covered the stage, and Allie was ushered back behind stage. A production member took her by the arm and showed her to a very nice room. He told her to wait there, and left.

    Allie curled up on a red velvet couch. The cushions were very soft, and she sunk down in them. It was the first time all day she had a moment in private. For the first time, she understood fully why Ash always avoided the spotlight. Everyone in Kanto, and thousands of trainers from around the world, knew who he was. No wonder he doesn’t introduce himself so readily or allow himself to grow close to others. The people in the crowd today were cheering for her, but they didn’t have any idea of who she was or what type of contest they were supporting.

    She closed her eyes and let her curls fall over the arm of the sofa. There was no lying to herself: the worst was still to come. But, for the time being, she was content. Whether or not she would have won a fair contest, she was proud of herself and her team for their effort.

    Without realizing it, Allie had fallen asleep. She dreamt that she was in a grassy field with Squirtle and Ruby, working on techniques with them.

    A familiar voice called her name from behind her and she spun around. It was Ash, and the field had suddenly changed into a flowery meadow. The companions ran towards each other and Allie dove into her friend’s arms. The champion caught her and spun her around in a hug. He whispered congratulations in her ear. She wondered why. The pair tripped and fell into the flowers. They held each other tight, lying side by side. She was incredible in the contest, he answered. She was incredible always.

    A creaking door returned Allie to the real world. She saw a woman poke her head into the room and look at her. She was tall and lean, dressed in a skintight lime green dress.

    “Hello Miss Geary,” the woman’s voice said cheerfully. “I’m Kore. I’ll be your guide for the next several hours during your victory celebration.” She looked perplexed and curious as she gazed down at the amateur coordinator.

    Allie, still waking from her nap, finally noticed she had her arms and legs wrapped tightly around a pillow. Her dress was twisted and tangled. Remembering her dream, she blushed. Quickly straightening herself up and tossing the pillow across the couch, Allie fixed her dress and hair. “I’m so looking forward to it Kore!” she enthused, perhaps a little too innocently.

    The attendant corrected her perturbed expression and motioned for Allie to follow her. “As you know,” Kore explained as they walked through the corridors and down stairways, “the Dante Cup is one of the contests in the Kanto Contest Circuit that distributes ribbons for participation in the Grand Festival. But in addition, it is sponsored by the Dante Club. This allows us to offer our winners special accolades beyond that of normal contests. Such a strategy benefits both the club and attracts more competitors to the cup. We have the fastest growing contest in Kanto!”

    Allie didn’t even have a chance to speak before Kore continued. “A starlet of your age and innocence has likely never heard of the Dante Club. However, due to your incredible performance, they know all about you.”

    The trainer felt chilled by these words, but her tour guide was apparently oblivious to the effect they had on her. Kore’s face had an impish grin on it, like a girl exchanging gossip.

    “It’s an exclusive nightclub for the rich and powerful men of Kanto,” she eagerly whispered the huge secret.

    The trainer could only imagine how many winners stood there before her, thoroughly unnerved by the revelation of who sponsored the contest they had just won. But Allie, who had a job to do, tried to ignore the thoughts of what could be going on there and kept the innocent and curious look on her face.

    “And tonight, you’ll get to meet the best of the best. You’ll be introduced to the CEO of the club and his closest friends. It’ll be wonderful.”

    The two walked through a doorway with a large framed arch around it. “Right now, we are travelling through an underground tunnel that directly connects the Dante Club and the contest hall.” Two men stood guarding a reinforced steel door. They were surly, and both roughly twice Allie’s size.

    “Hi boys, this is the new contest champion.” Neither reacted at Kore’s words. She pulled out an ID card and scanned it through a card reader. “Have a nice day!” They continued walking.

    Allie put her finger on the communication device still in her pocket so that Ash could hear what was going on. Hopefully he would get the message.

    “The Dante Club was built on top of an old casino. The owner, who you will have the honor of meeting later tonight, created an exciting nightclub for the best of the best. As a way to give back to the community, he created and sponsored the very contest you just won.”

    Philanthropy my foot, Allie thought as they walked past ten more tough looking guards. “The security is rather tight, isn’t it?”

    “Only the best. We’re the most exclusive organization in Kanto, and pride ourselves on keeping the peasantry out,” Kore beamed. She suddenly stopped, taking Allie by surprise. “Here we are. Through here is your dressing room. If you have any questions, an attendant will be in shortly. Congratulations again, and good luck!”

    ________________________________________

    Ash and May were sitting on opposite beds in the Pokémon Center room talking in hushed tones. Although no one was around to hear them, Allie’s safety was entirely dependent on total secrecy so it seemed appropriate though unnecessary.

    “We’ve heard nothing from her for hours,” Ash said, abruptly standing up. “I’m going after her.”

    May sighed and put her hand on his shoulder. “She’s fine Ash. We’ve both seen her train and know her potential. She has her Pokémon with her. Anything rash will blow her cover and expose her to more than good.”

    He grunted and kicked the nightstand. “Damn it, we’re useless. I trust her, but she’s in so much danger. We should never have let her do this.”

    “She wanted to Ash. She needed to prove herself to you. To herself.”

    “I know.”

    “She’s like you.”

    “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

    An uncomfortable silence permeated the room, broken only by static noise coming from the small table Ash had kicked.

    “…on top of an old casino…”

    “…security is rather tight…”

    May could hear Ash’s heart beating the room was so quiet. The static took over, and the earpiece went mute.

    “Pikachu,” he turned to his trusted partner. “Go to Cycling Road. Find Copper and Tyra. Tell them to come immediately. We need backup.”

    Pikachu nodded obediently, waited for Ash to open the door, and bolted out. Ash turned back around to see May looking at him questioningly.

    “Some old friends of mine,” he explained briefly.

    “You seem to have plenty of them,” May whispered sweetly.

    He nodded with his eyes closed. “Good thing too. We’ll need all the help we can get on this. Call the Saffron Police Department. We’ll need them standing by to arrest any scumbags we catch. They can’t do anything yet, but we’ll get them all the evidence they need.”

    “Got it. Do you know where the club is then?” May asked, taking a red XTransceiver from her bag and browsing for the police number.

    “Yeah,” he frowned. “She said a casino. That can only be the old Game Corner. Formerly operated by Team Rocket.”

    ________________________________________

    Allie stared at her reflection in a mirror. She couldn’t believe it was her staring back. As Kore had promised, an attendant arrived several minutes after they parted.

    The exuberant woman had promptly insulted her hair, called her dress tasteless, and fretted over the state of her makeup after the contest.

    Allie had endured while the self-proclaimed fashion goddess stripped her blue dress off without asking permission. There was no room for modesty as the woman forced her to try on and take off nearly fifty dresses from a rack in the corner of a room. Finally, Allie found herself wearing the shortest skirt she had ever seen and a top that left her navel exposed. Long socks and boots accompanied this. To make matters worse, the fabric was an incredibly thin silk that was nearly transparent. Her hair, curled beautifully by May just that morning, was now twirled upwards in a horrible fashion.

    Despite Allie’s protestations, the attendant ignored her and continued. She felt disgusting dressed like this, but she didn’t have a choice if she wanted to complete her mission.

    “And now you look absolutely gorgeous!” the woman shrieked joyfully. “You’ll make such a splash with Mr. Dante tonight.”

    “Um… thank you,” Allie grumbled. “What exactly am I supposed to be doing?”

    “To talk and socialize with the fine patrons of our facility. Be friendly!”

    “I see,” she mumbled. It was going to be a fun night. Not.

    “Kore is just outside waiting to take you with her. Make sure you tell everyone who dressed you so that I’ll get a promotion for my magnificent job.”

    Allie made a mental note to herself not to. She walked over to where her favorite blue dress lay abandoned to collect her Pokéballs, but the woman blocked the way.

    “Don’t worry, dear. We’ll make sure you get all your things back. Just leave those to us and we’ll take care of everything,” she said ominously. “Go on, have a great evening. Bye!”

    The blonde girl was angry to have to leave her Pokémon, but she promised herself that she would get them back at any cost.

    ________________________________________

    Loud music pounded inside the club. Hundreds of people danced around the room where Ash stood, decorated with a fire-type theme.

    “I’m in,” May’s voice said over the earpiece. The two had decided it best to enter separately so that they both won’t be caught as easily. It wasn’t hard to gain entry, Ash only had to slide the bouncer several hundred Pokédollars.

    “Good. Now look around for anything suspicious.”

    “Roger Ash. Good luck.”

    “You too, May. Be safe…”

    Ash pocketed the earpiece to avoid attracting unwanted attention. He made his way past dancers and servers until he reached a bar. The bartender gave him a suspicious look as he sat down next to a woman, but no one would card him in a place like this. Even if they did, the drinking age was twenty in Kanto.

    “Just get me a glass of water,” he ordered quietly. The bartender twirled glasses around and put the drink in front of Ash.

    “Not fond of cocktails?” a familiar voice asked.

    Without turning his head, he took a sip of the drink. “I’ve never much liked being influenced by something. Water’s good. Pure.”

    “Just like the girls you travel with.”

    It took all of Ash’s focus to remain composed and to not spit out water in surprise. He spun to look at her and found himself face to face with Jane Goddard, the emcee from the contest, sitting on a barstool beside him. She was twirling a straw in her drink, gazing at him.

    Something was different about her. Although her face remained unchanged, her magenta hair was out of its bun and went out to its full length, ending in a curl. She was Jane Goddard, but she was not Jane Goddard. Ash felt his stomach drop.

    “You can’t be. Not here. Not now,” he whispered. He couldn’t believe he didn’t notice her at the contest, but he hadn’t been paying attention to anyone but Allie.

    “It’s been a long time, twerp,” she replied wryly. “You haven’t changed much since the old days.”

    ________________________________________

    Author’s Note:

    Surprise! It takes me longer to write these days, so sorry. But anyway, here’s the next chapter. Remember to review, favorite, subscribe to updates, and follow me on Twitter (@warasff).

  7. #32

    Default

    The Journey Never Ends
    Chapter 21: Blackjack

    Note: Please see the author's note at the bottom regarding my update plan.

    The Story So Far: Ash Ketchum has joined Allie Dogwood on her quest to become the Pokémon League Champion, a title he currently holds. During their adventure, the companions have learned that evil is stirring in Kanto. In Celadon City, Allie and Ash met up with Ash's old friend May. When May told the two about a place called the Dante Club where coordinators were mysteriously disappearing, Allie won a contest and earned entry to the club. Ash and May also managed to get in and split up. As he sat down at a bar, an eerily familiar voice spoke to him: one he had not heard since he became Pokémon League Champion.




    "It's been a long time, twerp," she replied wryly. "You haven't changed much since the old days."

    Even Ash Ketchum, as emotionally controlled as he had trained himself to be, felt his blood freeze and the hair on his neck stand on end. "This can't be," he muttered, more to himself than to the red haired woman sitting next to him.

    "Jessie?" he asked suspiciously.

    She put a finger to her lips and hushed him. A second later, though, she winked at him.

    Now that he saw her for who she was, he couldn't believe he had missed it. Her narrow eyebrows, sharp features, and long red hair provided more than enough evidence of her identity. It was plain as could be that Jane Goddard, the contest host, was none other than the woman who had pursued him and his friends across Kanto for years.

    She was Jessie, of Team Rocket.

    "I'm flattered you remember me, twerp," she smirked, putting a martini glass to her lips. "Then again, I suppose it's hard to forget someone like myself."

    Ash ignored her vanity. "How are you involved in all of this?" he probed her. "What kind of scheme are you operating?"

    The woman laughed the same obnoxious laugh Ash remembered from his childhood. "Don't be silly. I have nothing to do with the club. I'm reformed." She put special emphasis on the last word.

    "There are some people who never change. You, Meowth, and James spent more than five years on the same desperate effort to steal Pikachu. Like you could change."

    The effect this sentence had on Jessie was startling. Her blue eyes became unfocused, and Ash could sense her stiffen. Her drink fell out of her hand and rolled down the bar past a man in dark glasses and a suit. The man turned towards them angrily. The bartender glanced at them curiously.

    "I'm sorry," Jessie muttered distractedly. She held out her hand to Ash. "Well?" she huffed. "Aren't you going to ask me to dance?"

    The trainer was suspicious, but the fallen glass had already drawn the attention of most of the bar. The privacy of their conversation was already compromised. He took Jessie by the waist of her black sequin dress and left the bar. They walked down a hallway and emerged onto another dance floor, this one playing much slower music than the one Ash had passed on his way in. The lighting was dim, and the dancers were spaced far apart. It would be a much better location for a secret discussion than the bar.

    "I'll answer all of your questions honestly if you tell me something. Have you seen him?" she whispered as they began a waltz.

    Ash took a moment to respond. He was, after all, very close to one of his former enemies. Maybe she even still was his enemy, simply trying to distract and manipulate him. There was something in her voice, though, that hinted at sincerity. Still, the truth about what happened to James could crush her emotionally, and so he proceeded with caution. "I have," Ash responded.

    Her eyes lit up and excitement entered her voice. "Where is he?"

    "It was a while back that we last saw him," he answered. Jessie's expression fell. Ash knew she would be even less happy with the ending. "He attempted to rob my friend in Pewter City a couple of months ago. We chased him into Mount Moon. There was a battle, and then a cave in."

    She stared at him, waiting for him to finish, hoping against all hope that he wouldn't say what she knew he would.

    "Jessie, I'm sorry. I don't think he made it out."

    Ash winced as he felt Jessie's long fingernails claw into his neck and shoulder. She buried her face against his neck, and Ash was shocked when he felt a tear touch his skin. It was the first time ever he had seen her cry selflessly. Team Rocket bursting into tears was nothing new to him, but sincerity was. He tried to pat her on the back reassuringly, but it came off as just an attempt to get her hands to stop clawing him. Even so, she ignored it.

    "He's… he's gone..." she whispered to herself. "Every night, still, I dream about those years long ago before everything went wrong. I've started praying, yes, even praying, that he would be okay and we would be together again. But now…"

    "He was different when we met him," Ash tried to explain. "I… I never actually saw him up close, but Brock's brother said that he was acting like he was a broken man. Like he had nothing to lose. He attacked my friend sadistically multiple times and got into a fist fight with Forrest."

    She began weeping openly in his arms. It was all Ash could do to keep turning so that the other dancers didn't get curious. The dark blue lighting all around the room did nothing to making the mood any lighter.

    "It's my fault," she moaned. "It's my fault he's like that and it's my fault he was in that cave and hurt your friend."

    "You can't blame yourself," Ash tried to reassure her.

    She shook her head. "You don't understand. A couple of years ago, after Team Rocket fell, James insisted that we could resurrect it. He kept talking about never giving up our dream and fighting the world for what it owed us. I disagreed. I told him and Meowth that I was going to start a new life. After losing for so long, he wanted to keep going until he won, and I wanted to get out when we had the chance. We argued. We each wanted the other to come with us."

    "And eventually, you just split apart."

    "Yes. After one particularly nasty fight, Meowth and I woke up to find him gone. There was only a note, in which he had written that he would do whatever it takes to prove to me that he was a winner. I didn't understand it then, but I eventually realized that he just wanted to redeem himself in my eyes for all those years of failure. He never had to."

    "You really cared about him, didn't you?" Ash asked, already knowing the answer. During his journey, he never really paid attention to anyone's romance. Now that he was an adult, however, he could actually understand the bonds between people. Even if he believed himself incapable of more intimate emotions.

    Jessie nodded.

    "You two meant a lot to each other. From what my friends told me, his last words were about you. He never stopped caring."

    "I believe you. Thank you, Ash. Now, at least, I know the truth," she said. In her eyes, Ash could see her spirit fighting to come to terms with the awful knowledge.

    "Now you tell me," he continued after giving her a sufficient amount of time to reflect on James' death. "What is this place?"

    The former Rocket shook her head forlornly. "I told you the truth, twerp. Sorry, I suppose I should call you Ash now."

    "Twerp is fine," he grunted in reply. "It'll keep people from putting a name to my face, and I'm more used you calling me that anyway."

    "Whatever you say, twerp," Jessie chuckled. "Anyway, I have nothing to do with this. After James and I split up, I pursued my love of Pokémon Contests. Even as fabulous a coordinator as I am, the judges simply could not appreciate my fantastic techniques, so I assumed the false identity of Jane Goddard and became a contest host. I started hosting the Dante Cup a few weeks back, and noticed that the winners seemed to vanish into thin air after the contest."

    "So you decided to come to the club and see what was happening," presumed Ash.

    "Precisely. Even though there is little I can do, I wanted answers. Many of the girls who won reminded me of myself before I joined Team Rocket. So determined and filled with spirit. Your friend Allison included."

    "How did you know she was with me?" Ash inquired while Jessie twirled under his arm.

    "Simple. She performed just like May back in Hoenn. I lost to your friend enough time to understand the way she and her Pokémon worked together. After that, it was just a matter of time until I spotted you and May in the audience, under those terrible disguises. That was at least something James and I could always do properly." Her voice trailed off as memories of the purple haired man returned.

    "Why didn't you say something if you knew she was with me?"

    "I figured you must have had a reason for letting her enter. You're not the little boy you used to be."

    "Tell me one more thing. You must have seen what happened to the Silph Corporation. The fire was in the shape of an R where the building burnt down. And then there's everything that happened in Cerulean. Is Team Rocket back?"

    Jessie sighed, and pulled him away from the dance floor. "If it is," she replied, "Then it isn't the Team Rocket I was a part of. If this is Team Rocket… it's something entirely new."




    Allie nervously adjusted the hem of her silky top, as she and Kore waited for their elevator to reach the top floor. The young woman was talking excitedly about all the opportunities that the Dante Club had given her to meet important people, but Allie was barely listening. All she could think of was how glad she would be when it was all over.

    The elevator dinged, and Kore's face lit up. "We're here!" she announced in a singsong voice.

    As the elevators opened, Allie saw a large, red-lit room where dozens of people danced. The level of the music was nearly overwhelming, but the mob loved it as they jumped up and down, adding to the chaos. A bar was on one side of the room, and Allie noticed several dancers holding glasses and knocking into each other on the dance floor. On the far side of the room, above the sea of dancers, was a huge balcony, enclosed by glass.

    Kore led her directly through the crowd, up a flight of glass stairs, and past two surly guards in suits. They continued up, and finally reached a door marked "Private." Kore pushed it open, and beckoned Allie inside.

    The music was comparatively quieter in the room, but there were many voices talking and laughing abnormally loudly. The din evaporated as she stepped farther into the room, and applause took its place. Allie looked around at all her "fans," and wasn't sure whether to be thankful or concerned that they were all strangers. There were many men, well dressed in suits, accompanied by beautiful women.

    "Remarkable performance, Allison. Absolutely fantastic."

    Allie's attention was drawn to a man sitting casually on a red velvet couch, at the center of the clapping group. He wore jet-black suit, which matched his slicked-back hair. His sharp, handsome features were striking, though his twinkling eyes seemed to hide something more sinister. There was a very sweet air about him. He stood up, revealing his remarkable height. He extended a hand politely to Allie. She cautiously accepted the motion.

    "My dear girl, your performance today simply blew us away," the man complimented her. He turned her hand delicately, brought it up to his lips, and kissed it. "Ah, but where are my manners? I am Lord Dante de Tali the Fourth. You may simply call me Dante. Welcome to my nightclub, Allison."

    Allie nodded, unsure of what to do while watched so carefully by those intimidating eyes. She started as she felt his hand reach around her bare back and grab her by the side.

    "There's no need to be anxious, Allison," Dante reassured her, like a snake would a mouse. "Come and join us." He led her over to the couch he had just vacated, and eased her down next to him. As the room was so crowded and the couches were overflowing with guests, Allie was sitting snug up against the lord.

    Conversation resumed, and Allie found herself relieved to no longer be the focus of the group's attention. Although she was uncomfortably aware of eyes glancing in her direction every now and then, most of the men were boasting of their business exploits and accomplishments. Kore sat next to a relatively young man, running her fingers through his messy silver hair.

    A waiter approached the couch where Allie and Dante sat, offering them a platter of drinks. The club owner took two glasses from the tray and offered one to Allie.

    "I don't, um, drink," Allie tried to explain, not trusting the bubbling amber liquid.

    "Rubbish," the man in black scoffed. "The human body needs fluid to exist, particularly in one as alluring as yours." Allie blushed with a mixture of mortification and embarrassment. "Ah, but you were referring to what is in the drink. I had my staff prepare this drink especially for you, in case you were concerned about what we were serving. It is a mix of apple juice, Combee honey, and bubbling water. There is no alcohol in it, I promise you."

    Allie sniffed it just to be sure, but she didn't sense the bittersweet scent of the drink she had seen adults drink at dinner, and judged it to be safe. Dante smiled as she took a sip of it.

    "There you go, my dear. It tastes good, doesn't it?"

    Allie nodded as she swallowed the sweet mixture.

    "A toast!" Dante proposed to the entire room. "To one of the most beautiful and talented coordinator's in Kanto's history!"

    Applause again. Of all the people in the room, Allie noticed that only two remained motionless. Kore frowned slightly, her hand frozen in her companion's hair. Was there jealousy on her face? The silver-haired man himself gazed intensely at Allie instead of applauding. She noted a look of concern in his eyes.

    The night continued, and the blonde girl could feel herself growing tired from the incredibly long day. Just that morning she had won her first Pokémon Contest, and now she sat in what seemed like a den of hyenas. Every now and then, she would catch little bits of the conversations going on in the room.

    "Silph has made a remarkable recovery. I thought I lost everything when I invested with them the day before their corporate building burned down."

    "It's that new CEO."

    By now, Allie felt her head droop a little. Some of the people began to leave the room in pairs, wishing Lord Dante a good night as they went. Allie felt a hand begin stroking her hair, and recognized it as Dante's. Strangely, she felt a sudden and overwhelming desire to rest her head on his shoulder. As she did, her eyes began to close and the room went out of focus.




    Meanwhile, on one of the club's public floors, May had found her way into a casino. A brass plaque on the wall touted it as part of the original Game Corner from which the original Team Rocket had gained much of its revenue. May quivered at the thought of the kind of person who would post something like that as a bragging right.

    As she walked through the casino, she could sense the fresh oxygen being pumped through the vents to keep the gamblers awake and eager to risk it all. The professional coordinator approached one of the tables. Blackjack.

    May gasped.

    On the tables, where there should have been chips, were Pokéballs. She heard the dealer's voice announce:

    "Your Primeape against my Gigalith. Here's the card! Ooh, so close, but that gives you twenty two. Bust! That's your loss, but I'm sure you can win Primeape back if you go one more round."

    It was a front. The Dante Club was nothing more than a front for stealing Pokémon. The man who lost the game swore unhappily, but pulled out another Pokéball.

    "Excuse me, miss." May felt a strong hand on her shoulder. She turned around, and came face to face with a tall security guard in a suit and sunglasses. "If you'll please come with me, I would like to ask you a couple of questions. Come along now."

    The coordinator had little choice in the matter. She was forcefully guided through a door, which until now had been concealed against the wall. The secret passage sloped downwards, eventually culminating in a dimly lit office space. The guard pushed May violently down into the chair and leaned against the desk. She tried to fix her dress, but the man placed his boot on her knee and began pushing. She winced, trying not to give him the satisfaction of knowing she was in pain.

    He spoke in his deep and savage voice. "Now, explain to me how you entered this facility without an invitation, May. Or perhaps we should begin by checking you for recording devices, shall we?"

    He knew what she was doing there. But as his hands stretched towards her to search her for the earpiece hidden in her pocket, she knew there was little she could do.

    "We'll call the boss and see if we can get this all straightened out."




    Author's Note:

    Yes, I realize it's been about 4 months since my last update. The good news, is that I wrote the entire remainder to the Dante Club Arc. That means that all I have to do is post it, so there won't be a never ending cliff hanger like last time. This is the first of four short chapters that include a lot of revelations about the story. It was either 3 long ones or 4 short, so I chose 4. It's about 13,000 words total. The Pokemon themselves have a large role in the next couple of chapters, this was just kind of setting up for those.

    Even if everyone who originally read this has left, I'm going to continue posting. Hopefully I can attract some new readers to replace those my hiatus has lost. Let me know if you're still reading, and tell me what you think of this arc.

    Planned Updates: Tuesday, Friday, Tuesday

    I'll put a new chapter up on each of those days. After that, I'll write the next arc. This "clustering" process will mean that I'll strategically place hiatuses to be between different arcs. So no more random cliff hangers.

    For anyone who likes the Pokemon games, a group called TheSpeedGamers are catching all 649 Pokemon and raising money for ACT Today. Check it out, it's a fun thing to watch.

    Review/follow/favorite! Oh, and Twitter Warasff. I like hearing back! Thanks!

  8. #33

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    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 22: In the Inferno

    The Story So Far: Ash Ketchum has joined Allie Dogwood on her quest to become the Pokémon League Champion, a title he currently holds. During their adventure, the companions have learned that evil is stirring in Kanto. In Celadon City, Allie and Ash met up with Ash's old friend May. She told the companions about a place called the Dante Club where coordinators were mysteriously disappearing. The three trainers gained entry to the club, and each set about on their own dangerous quest...




    There may not have been alcohol in her drink, but Allie suspected that there was something else mixed into it. She had just sat up on a couch she couldn't remember laying down on in a room she couldn't remember entering. There was no headache, just exhaustion. She looked around, trying to gain her bearings.

    The room appeared to be some kind of office, but it was much larger and more well decorated than most. In the middle of the table sat a cherry wood desk, engraved with images of Houndoom, Dusknoir, and Darkrai. The room wasn't fully lit, but Allie could make out several walls full of books. It smelled very sweet, like the club room did earlier when she met Dante.

    "Welcome back to the land of the waking."

    Allie turned in the direction of the voice just as Dante stepped out of the shadows.

    "How did we get in here?" she asked him.

    "You fell asleep in my arms a mere hour ago. I brought you here to my office so you could rest more peacefully."

    Allie didn't really believe him, but she nodded anyway.

    "Allison, your skills in contests are impressive. I have only known for a short time, but you are absolutely beautiful and majestic. Would you," he paused, trying to build tension, "like to stay with me here at my club and be involved in the contests every week?"

    So this was it. This was what happened to the missing contest winners. They were brought to the Dante Club on the pretense of it being a prize for their victory, and then the master of the club found ways to keep them there. Allie now had the evidence she needed to shut it down, and yet…

    "Of course, my Lord Dante," she replied almost robotically.

    As soon as the words were out of her mouth, he smiled a wide, hungry smile. Why she had said it, she didn't understand. It was if something had compelled her to agree to his demands. She attempted to correct her momentary error in judgment.

    "Lord Dante, I wish to stay with you forever." Allie couldn't believe that these were the words coming out of her mouth. It was like it wasn't even her who was speaking. She sounded like Kore, obsessed with the man standing in front of her. But Allie wasn't. Was she? He was somewhat handsome after all. Tall. Dark. Proud. And unlike Ash, he actually treated her like she was worth something.

    Ash.

    Allie was there to help him and May bring the club to its knees, and yet there she was, agreeing to be a part of it. Ash Ketchum, who had been there for her during her gym battles, who had helped to train her on top of Mount Moon, who had faced the Creature of the Cape to give her time to get away.

    Allie wasn't sure why she couldn't control her own tongue, but she managed to give a fake smile just in time for Dante. He walked forward, picking her up in a hug, and spun her.

    "I am so glad to hear that, Allison."

    It feels so good to be held, thought Allie. She wrapped her arms around Dante's neck in return.

    Their moment was interrupted by a ringing noise. Dante put the girl down and took out a black and red XTransceiver.

    "Pardon me, for just a minute," the club owner excused himself.

    Allie took the opportunity to fix her outfit to make herself look as good as possible for her new friend. She overheard bits of the conversation, though was not overly concerned with the topic.

    "You actually caught her?" Dante exclaimed. "Excellent. Perhaps you guards aren't completely worthless. What was she doing here? Never mind, I'd like to interrogate her myself. I'll be right there.

    "Allison," Dante spoke again, turning to the excited girl. "I will be right back. Stay right here and make yourself comfortable."

    "Of course, my lord."

    Dante tickled her under the chin playfully. "And stay beautiful."

    "Of course, my lord."

    At the exact moment he left the room, Allie came to her senses. What was she doing? This wasn't like her at all. Dante was a criminal. Shame replaced eagerness quicker than a Sceptile with a Quick Claw. She had a job to do, and it wasn't to flirt with an evil man who was trying to take advantage of her.

    Allie saw the desk in the center of the room and approached it. There was nothing on it but several memos written in a shorthand she couldn't read. Sitting down in the tall, cushioned armchair facing the desk, she began rifling through any unlocked drawer she could find.

    Finally, her fingers found a manila folder marked with the current date. As the girl opened it, she saw sheets of paper similar to the one she had filled out when registering for the Dante Cup. In fact, several of the names were familiar to her from the day's contest. She saw the forms for the alluring Satine Lin, the dangerous Damon King, and the arrogant Lucian Andrews. Damon and Lucian had large red X's across their papers. Satine's age was circled on the paper, with a question mark beside it.

    Then she saw hers. Allison Geary was highlighted at the top. Her false age and gender were circled, with checkmarks next to them. Allie's feeling of dread and disgust grew worse as she realized just how the contest had been rigged. Not only that, but it meant that Dante had picked her out from the very beginning. So creepy…

    Allie went back to the drawer, desperate to find more proof of his misdeeds. She had to be careful that Dante wouldn't return before she put the files away, but he shouldn't be back for some time. If he was interrogating some poor girl for entering the club illegally, he should take a while…

    May...

    The thought hit Allie like a train. Dante had just left to confront one of her friends, while Allie had done nothing to stop him. Keep looking. Keep focusing. Still time left. Still plenty of chances. Ash is still out there to protect her.

    A paper caught her eye. Allie thought it must be a sort of check:

    Paid to the order of: Lord Dante de Tali IV

    Amount: $1,000,000.00

    From the account of: R

    Re: Investment


    Lacking pockets, Allie stuffed the check inside the front of her shirt, and began putting everything back in place before the owner of the desk returned.




    "Excuse me sir. May I see your invitation?"

    Ash stiffened as the guard locked eyes with him. The two men stood in the corner of slow-dance room, each staring the other down. Jessie had gone to the bathroom to clean up her makeup after crying into Ash's arms. Learning of James' horrible death under Mount Moon had unhinged her a little, so she had asked for a brief moment to herself after answering all of Ash's questions.

    "I'm afraid I must have dropped it somewhere," Ash replied dangerously, relying more on threat than on lie.

    "I'll need to be seeing it, sir, or I shall be forced to make an inquiry into your entry," the guard retorted, equally frostily.

    "Oh, dear, oh, dear," Jessie's voice returned from behind the newcomer. She walked beside Ash and wrapped her arms around his shoulders seductively. "You know I love you, but I do wish you'd use your brain sometimes instead of your attitude," she said, rather loudly. Craning her head slightly so as to be looking at the guard, she pulled a slip of paper from a hidden pocket in her dress. "Jane Goddard, plus one. In this case, my fiancée. He's too busy acting tough to remember that we got in with the same invitation. But, I do love him anyway." Jessie turned towards Ash and gave him a glare that told him both to stay quiet and never speak of this again.

    "Miss Goddard, are you aware that your fiancée is the Pokémon Master and Kanto Champion known as Ash Ketchum?"

    The guard knew. Ash's cover was blown. How?

    Jessie gasped and jumped away from him. "You said your name was Dave! What else have you been lying to me about?"

    Ash recoiled as she slapped him across the face way harder than she needed to in order to prove her point. Someone was still slightly bitter about getting launched into the sky hundreds of times, no matter how much she claimed to have changed.

    "Erm, Miss Goddard? Perhaps a drink will calm you down. Go get yourself something at the bar. On the house. I'll keep an eye on this liar for you."

    Jessie agreed, knowing as well as Ash did that any other response would endanger her also. Ash watched anxiously as she walked away, hoping that she would make it out of the club safely.

    "Come with me, Ketchum. Don't want to create a scene, now do ya? Or risk anyone getting hurt?"

    Allie and May were still in the club. He couldn't jeopardize their safety. He followed.

    After they passed through a door hidden behind a fake painting, the guard tied a blindfold around Ash's eyes to prevent him from seeing where they were going. The champion tried to keep a mental map of where they were by how far they walked before turning. Finally, Ash was shoved unceremoniously into a room and his head hit hard against a cinderblock wall. It was much colder down here than it was on the dance floors.

    "So, this is the great Ash Ketchum. I must say, I've always hoped to meet you, but I would have preferred you to be a patron of my great club. We offer many incentives to our most powerful guests." It was a different voice than the guard who had brought him there. Ash couldn't see the voice's owner through his blindfold, but he was able to deduce who it was. "My name is Lord Dante de Tali the Forth. I am the owner of the magnificent building in which you are, as well as the sponsor of the Celadon City Contest."

    "As well as a criminal, kidnapper, and manipulator," Ash added with a growl.

    "I prefer 'master' manipulator. It makes me feel so much more powerful," the voice got higher with glee. "Also Pokémon dealer, don't forget that title."

    "You sell Pokémon?" Ash asked, disgusted.

    "I win them from their trainers in my casino and distribute them in bulk to the highest bidder," Dante replied. "It's quite simple. And profitable."

    "That's illegal. What good does it do to tell me all of this?"

    "Oh, it doesn't. I just like to boast, and you won't be leaving here alive anyway, so I see no difference what you know."

    Ash felt something wet trickled down his face and onto his lip. He tasted it: blood, from when his head hit the wall.

    "How did you find me?" Ash demanded, his resolve to ruin the vile man renewed.

    "Let's just say a little birdie told me," giggled Dante. "Pain can be a great method of getting answers."

    Ash roared and tried to stand up, but somebody hit him over the head with a blunt object and he collapsed to the ground again. "I'll kill you if you touched a hair on Allie's head!"

    "Allie?" Dante paused, thoughtfully. "You mean Allison Geary, my new pet? She's with you? I suppose I'll be forced to train her extra vehemently."

    Ash was already bleeding severely, but he forced his way up again. This time, he lifted his hands just in time to block the baseball bat, and figured out where its user must be standing. He tacked his target to the ground.

    Dante's harsh laugh echoed from behind Ash. "That's not me. And I when I said little birdie, I meant May. But thank you for informing me of Allison's divided loyalties. Correcting that should be fun. Maybe not for her..."

    Ash heard a door slam, ripped off his blindfold, and found himself all alone except for the unconscious guard he had just tackled. The room was tiny, cinderblock, and had just a single steel door. It must have been a sort of prison. The champion tried the door, but it was bolted from the outside. He reached to his belt and pulled out a Pokéball.

    "Good thing they didn't take you guys away from me," he told it. "A little iron door shouldn't be much of a match for you, Garchomp."




    In another of the dark, hidden passageways, Jessie adjusted her dress to make full use of her feminine charms, before wobbling around a corner and falling into the arms of one of the club's guards.

    "Excuse me sir. I seem to have lost my way, and the room seems to be spinning." Adding a French accent as an extra touch, Jessie acted as helpless and innocent as she could. If there was one thing she and her team had been good at, it was fake personas.

    "Oh, of course miss. Allow me to show you back to the main… urgh…"

    The guard collapsed to the ground, suffocated by the chloroform clothe Jessie had slipped over his face as soon as he had turned to lead her back to the club. Luckily, she still had some toys around from her days as a criminal.

    It was weird to think about how much she had changed in ten years. Back then, it had all been about pride, glory, and gold. Back when James and Meowth were around. She was different now, but she liked to think that all the adventures they had been on together influenced who she was now: not perfect, but a lot wiser to the world. She couldn't believe she was helping Ash, but he was a connection to her past. To James. And perhaps it was a chance at redemption.

    Jessie opened the steel door, and found a brunette in a magenta dress strapped to a chair. May's eyes opened slightly, then wide in terror as she recognized the face of a former Team Rocket member. The girl had a gag tied around her mouth, and apart from a bruise on her cheek, didn't seem any worse for the wear. She let out a high pitch squealing sound that was only partially stifled by the gag.

    Jessie tried to calm her. "Quiet down, twerpette, or the rest of them will come running. Long story short, I'm on your side now. I've already run into Ash, but he's in trouble. They took him away for questioning. I've been looking for you, since knowing that twerp he'd sacrifice himself as long as you're in danger."

    She pulled the gag away. By the look in May's eyes, Jessie knew the coordinator still didn't trust her, but there wasn't really much choice.

    "They used an Alakazam read my thoughts. They found out about Ash because my mind wasn't strong enough to protect him." May shook, while Jessie put her arm around her soothingly.

    "It's not your fault. We'll go find Ash and help him out. He'll just be relieved that they didn't hurt you that badly."

    "Are you really Jessie?" May asked suspiciously. "She'd never help us. Where's James."

    The woman with red hair scowled. "People change. People leave. People die."

    May was smart enough not to argue any further. She brushed herself off and followed Jessie back towards the main club, leaving the room empty apart from the fallen guard.

    The footsteps were the first indication of the coming danger. Allie listened to them as they deliberately approached the hardwood door. The dark man opened it and stepped back into his office. For the briefest second, Allie noticed that the sweet smell was back. Allie's mind immediately registered how strikingly handsome Dante was standing in the doorframe.

    "Focus Allie," she thought to herself. "He's only trying to manipulate you again."

    A tiny voice inside her head countered. "What if I want to be manipulated?"

    "I don't. He's a criminal, and I have to help prove it. I've got the proof now."

    "But if you give the evidence to Ash, you'll never see Dante again. Is that what you want?"

    The first voice wavered once again, no longer entirely resolved to put an end to the Dante Club. What was with the man, that she could be totally against him when he wasn't around, but instantaneously developed feelings for him as soon as he appeared? She felt sick of herself.

    Dante interrupt Allie's conversation with herself. "Everything was fine while I was gone, I presume?"

    "Yes, very fine," Allie said too quickly. The club owner looked at his desk for a moment, and Allie felt her heart skip a beat.

    "Confess it to him, Allie, he'll forgive you," contended the traitorous part of her own mind. "Then you can stay with him."

    She tried to figure out if she had forgotten to put anything away in the desk, but she couldn't remember under pressure. Finally, Dante looked up and Allie had to hold in a sigh of relief.

    "Wonderful," he told her. Dante came very close, and Allie could feel herself tingling with anticipation. He put his arms around her waist and pulled her tightly against him. "I'm sorry I had to leave. It's so stressful being in my position. But if I wasn't, then I suppose I wouldn't have met you."

    Allie felt herself blushing despite her best efforts. She couldn't let him take advantage of her like this, but there was something enthralling about him.

    "And I'm glad I met you, master."

    She wondered where that came from, but it seemed like it was the right thing to say. She shivered as his hands ran up and down her back.

    "Allison, there is something I wanted to show you." He bent over and easily lifted her into his arms. "Let's go see it."

    They were silent as Dante carried her out of the office and to an elevator. Allie saw him press a button and felt the elevator begin ascending. As the tacky music played, the two people simply stared into each other's eyes longingly. Dante stepped out with the girl in his arms, and Allie suddenly felt very cold. She broke eye contact to check their surroundings.

    The elevator had deposited them on the very roof of the Dante Club. They were in the open air, and without the heat of the club, Allie was freezing in her negligible clothing. The darkness made it nearly impossible to see more than a few feet. But what was more, the air was fresh and clean out here. The sweet smell was gone. Allie looked up into Dante's eyes once more, only to notice that something seemed to be missing.

    Gone was twinkle in the man's eyes. The shadows obscured his expression, but Allie thought the smile and kindness had left too. She was suddenly reminded of the incredible danger she was in.

    "Is everything alright, my dear?" he inquired. His voice sounded concerned, but there was something less believable about it now.

    "No, I… I'm fine," she lied. There was no inexplicable temptation to call him master anymore. "I'm just… just a bit cold."

    "Don't worry, I'll make this quick," Dante assured her mysteriously. He lowered her to the ground and watched as she struggled to regain her balance. "Follow me, please."

    Gone even were the false pretenses. He hadn't offered her his jacket or asked her to hold his hand. It was like stepping out of the elevator had suddenly frozen their relationship. Relationship? The only relation Allie had to him was that she would be the one to bring him down. All the thoughts of staying with him disgusted her now. Even the second voice in her head remained silent.

    Allie could barely see where she was going in the black night. The cars on the street below sounded distant, so they must be really high up. Dante stopped suddenly and Allie walked into him.

    "Sorry," she mumbled, quickly and insincerely.

    "Don't worry about me," the man assured her. He clapped his hands three times, and lights came on around them.

    They were standing in the middle of a rooftop garden. There were all kinds of flowers and vines growing everywhere. Allie looked around in amazement at the great variety; there were at least as many flowers there as in Erika's gym.

    "Like it?" Dante asked.

    "They're beautiful."

    "As are you."

    Although it wasn't the first time Dante had said that, this time it made Allie feel very uncomfortable.

    "These flowers are uniquely genetically altered varieties," Dante explained. "I had them created so that they could thrive on my roof without a greenhouse to keep them warm. They also have certain aphrodisiac properties about them…"

    "Really?" Allie laughed nervously.

    "Indeed. By combining their pollen with the correct proportions of Roselia's sweet scent, powdered Beautifly wings, and Shuckle pheromones, I can create very powerful cologne. So powerful, in fact, that it causes uncontrollable infatuation in every female in the room. Of course, it stops working as soon as I leave a room, and it's not working now that we're outside in the fresh air."

    Allie simply stood there in shock. He was telling her the exact way in which he had been manipulating her all night, which couldn't be good. If he no longer had any use for her, what was next?

    "Pokémon have such magnificent abilities. Do you remember the drink I gave you this evening? It was laced with a Bellosom's sleep powder."

    Allie gasped, taking a step back. She knew there had to be something extra in the drink. It was all coming together now, but it still didn't make sense why.

    "Over time, the combination of the sleeping drink and the cologne gives some females an unhealthy obsession with me. If they are around me long enough, they tend to develop a psychological dependency on my presence. You must have met Kore, right?"

    "…Yes," Allie whispered, still stepping away from the monster in front of her.

    "Lovely girl. Very fixated on me. You'll be like that soon, too," Dante grinned evilly.

    Cowering, Allie replied, "I'll never be like that."

    "You already have been, my pet. Mere minutes ago, don't you remember? I only brought you out here so I could observe your free will for one last time before breaking you. It amuses me. Most girls don't even get this chance. You can consider yourself special," he laughed.

    "I'll get out of here and we're going to take you down." Allie tried to be brave, but her courage was fading.

    "'We?' Ha! You're friends are already rotting in my prison. I'll deal with May after I finish training you, but I'm afraid I have no use for Ash."

    He knew. Somehow he knew everything about what Allie was there for. He had been one step ahead of them the entire time. Allie decided to make one last ditch attempt at bravery. She tried to remember how Ash spoke when trying to intimidate the Black Charizard Gang, but she knew she didn't have the authority in her voice that he did.

    "Just try to break me. I escaped the Creature of the Cape, survived attacks by vicious Mightyena, and survived a mountain falling on me. Your time is limited. Even if we fail, someone else will catch you."

    Dante paused momentarily, and for a second, Allie thought she had fazed him. Then he laughed, a colder and crueler laugh than Allie had ever heard. "We both know that you're just trying to stay strong, and we both know how easily you'll break under me."




    Author's Note: CLIFFHANGER! Don't worry, you'll get the next part on Friday! Nothing disturbing, don't worry. I don't like to get too horrible to my characters. Thanks to Hawk2012 for your encouragement and reviews.

    Remember to review/follow/favorite/tweet WarasFF! See you Friday!

  9. #34

    Default Dante Saga Conclusion

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 24: When the Flames Die Down

    In the heart of the burning Dante Club, Allie desperately searches for her Pokemon, but the battle isn't over yet. Ash, meanwhile, meets with a mysterious man claiming knowledge of May's location and the answers the champion seeks. This is the end of their journey into the darkness of... the Dante Club.




    Lucian's bike lay burning in the club lobby. Allie had her sleeve covering her mouth so she could breath in the smoke, but it was becoming more difficult as she made her way to the depths of the building. There were so many secret passages, but finally she found what she was looking for: the changing room where she got dressed in the horrible outfit.

    The door was hanging open so Allie snuck in. There were fewer flames in this part of the building, but the heat and smoke were incredible. She found her blue dress and the Pokéballs sitting on a chair in the corner. She released Squirtle, and was so relieved to see his smiling face. He leaped into her arms and they embraced.

    "I told you I'd come back for you."

    "Squirt Squirtle Squirt."

    At that moment, there was a huge explosion from an upper floor. Allie took it as their cue to leave. She grabbed a canvas bag and stuff her things into it.

    "Come on Squirtle, we need to get out of here," she told him.

    They took off down the hallways and Allie tried to remember the way out. Luckily, her memory was mostly intact and they only took a couple wrong turns. Every now and then Squirtle had to douse flames popping up in their path. By the time they reached the lobby, the whole path to the door was entirely blocked by fire.

    There was a subtle cackle echoing through the room. Allie screamed as she felt arms grab her around the waist. She saw Squirtle get tackled by something large and white. The tiny turtle and his attacker crashed into a burning wall and rose to fight.

    "Welcome back," a cruel voice whispered in Allie's ear. "I knew you couldn't stay away from me."

    The voice was more than just familiar. It was Dante.

    Allie struggled to break free, but she couldn't break his grip.

    "What do you want from me?" Allie asked desperately.

    "Revenge. You did this to my beloved club. This place is burning, and we're going to burn with it."

    "We can both escape if you let go," she argued. "What's the point of us both dying?"

    "There is none, don't you get that? Death is meaningless, and yet all around us. But at least you'll die with me. Vigoroth, attack with focus punch!"

    "Withdraw, Squirtle!"

    The white sloth slashed at Squirtle, but the turtle had already curled up in his shell. The force of the attack knocked Squirtle across the room, and Allie winced as the shell collided against the wall with a horrible crack.

    "Squirtle!" she cried.

    The man holding her from behind laughed coarsely. "You had the option of staying with me forever. You would have been so happy being my pet. But you chose this."

    Vigoroth looked exhausted. Its hair was singed from the flames, and there was a look in its eyes like it was about to pass out.

    "Use focus punch again, Vigoroth. End it this time."

    Allie watched helplessly as Squirtle tried to stand. As Vigoroth's glowing claw approached her starter Pokémon, Allie braced herself for the worst.

    "Please Squirtle, use hydro pump. You can't give up!"

    In the heat of battle and the flames of the battlefield, however, Squirtle was powerless. It must have been her imagination, but in her partner's final minutes, he looked almost like he was glowing. Allie flinched as the attack was about to hit. She heard Dante let out a scream of rage and opened her eyes.

    Standing where Squirtle had been a moment before, was a Pokémon of similar appearance. Its skin was slightly darker, and had furry ears and a longer tail. Allie realized immediately what had happened. Squirtle evolved!

    The focus punch was deflected against his improved shell, and Vigoroth was directly beside him now. Just like Allie ordered him to do during the Pokémon contest, a stream of water came pouring out of his tail hole.

    "Wartortle!" it grunted as the aqua tail attack crashed down on Vigoroth.

    Allie managed to free her elbow at the same moment, and swung it backward as hard as she could. Dante grunted as it collided with his gut. Allie ran toward Wartortle and stood next to him. Vigoroth had fainted on the ground next to them.

    Now that Allie could see Dante, she could tell that he wasn't in good shape. The arms and legs of his suit had been badly burned, and he was stepping toward her with a limp.

    "Allison, you won't get away from me. I am your master!" Dante's expression was wild now. His hair, initially so well combed, was flying in all directions. Something of his sanity had vanished.

    Allie heard a rumble and saw a chandelier falling from the ceiling, just above Dante's head. She looked away, but heard the crash of it hitting the floor. When she glanced back, there was nothing but a burning wreck of the chandelier where he stood. It was over.

    "Come on," she told Squirtle. "We have to get out of here. Douse the flames blocking the entrance." She looked around the room and saw the bike she had borrowed was destroyed. Oh well, it served its purpose. Allie also noticed Vigoroth's collapsed form. There were flames moving toward it, and she was suddenly moved by pity. It wasn't Vigoroth's fault that it served Dante. It was no different than Kore, who had no choice. She walked over to the white sloth and hoisted it onto her back. Wartortle gave her an odd look. "I can't just leave it," she explained.

    Wartortle continued to look concerned, but realized she wasn't going to change her mind. He picked up the bag with Ruby's Pokéball and Allie's dress so Allie didn't have to carry so much.

    They emerged from the building just as a tough guy with red hair walked past the entrance. He noticed them, and started shouting for paramedics.

    "There's more survivors. Someone come help this girl," he ordered. "I can't stay, I need to get to the Pokémon Center." He turned to her. "Everything's going to be alright," he said comfortingly. "I'm Chopper, do you remember your name?"

    "Allie. Allie Dogwood."

    Chopper's eyes lit up. "Holy Croagunk. You're Ash's friend aren't you?"

    "That's me," Allie said as paramedics swarmed her.

    "Everyone, get away from the girl! I'll take care of her." He looked back at her. Allie was uncomfortably aware that her minimal clothing had burned to even less material. "Ash told me to escort you to Fuchsia City right away. He said he'll meet you there, okay?"

    Allie nodded. Someone threw a towel over her and she was grateful to be better covered.

    "Gnarly." Chopper snapped his fingers and more people in leather and chains appeared. Some lifted Vigoroth off her back and another took the bag of her things from Wartortle. The gang led Allie out past the police line to where about twenty five motorcycles were parked. Chopper swung his leg over one with a Zapdos design, and helped Allie up behind him. She put her arms around his waist and held on tightly as the bikes started and moved into formation.

    Allie found that she couldn't stay awake any longer, and fell asleep before the gang of bikers even reached Cycling Road.




    "Welcome, Ash Ketchum."

    "Where's May?"

    "All in good time, I assure you that she is fine."

    "What do you want?"

    "Straight down to business, aren't you?"

    Silence.

    "Very well. Let me first tell you that the organization I represent had nothing to do with the events of tonight. Although we had invested in Dante's operation, that fool was not a part of our organization."

    "And what organization is that? Are you with Team Rocket?"

    "No. You destroyed Team Rocket years ago. No, we are Rocket Nation."




    "This is Selena Skystar reporting from Celadon City where earlier tonight, the renowned Dante Club caught fire and burned to the ground. According to police, the club had been operating as a site for Pokémon gambling, a highly illegal pursuit. This information comes to us directly from the undercover investigations of Kanto's very own Ash Ketchum. Reports say that Ketchum and Steven Stone of Hoenn faced off against Dante de Tali IV on the roof. The building was rigged with explosives that went off when de Tali began losing, but thanks to the valiant efforts of rescue crews and Ketchum's brave associates, the club was safely evacuated. We will continue our coverage of this event as more information becomes known. For PNN, I'm Selena Skystar."

    Allie awoke to the news report playing on the Pokémon Center television. Sun shone in through the window.

    She remembered arriving at the center early in the morning. Chopper had carried her into the room and said goodbye. He told her that a nurse would be there in a little bit to help her change and treat her injuries. Allie must have fallen asleep before the nurse arrived, but she was wearing warm flannel pajamas and her arms and legs were bandaged. Her outfit from last night was little more than charred rags sitting on the dresser.

    There was a knock at the door, and then Nurse Joy's smiling face poked into the room. "Good morning. How are you feeling?"

    "I'm alright. A bit sore," Allie answered. "Thank you for taking care of me."

    "Oh, it's no problem." She wheeled a cart into the room. There was a tray of fruit and cereal on top, which the nurse placed on Allie's bedside time. "Make sure you eat up. You need to regain strength."

    Allie thanked her, and took a bite of a muffin.

    "Your Pokémon are downstairs recouperating. You can see them later today. Vulpix and Wartortle are feeling good, but your Vigoroth is still in intensive care for its burns."

    The trainer was startled, having forgotten about the Pokémon she saved from the building. She hadn't seen it since the bikers took them to Fuchsia City. Truthfully, she had expected someone else to take care of it.

    "That's not my Vigoroth. It was just one of the Pokémon who almost burned in the fire."

    "But that's not good. If you're not its trainer, who is?" Joy wondered.

    Allie gritted her teeth. The answer, of course, was Dante. Vigoroth was like Kore, it must have always been treated like his slave. He even made it battle in the fire, where it would have surely died. She couldn't abandon it. But neither was she sure about having it on her team. Nevertheless, Vigoroth was only alive because of her. She had to take care of it; it was her responsibility.

    "Vigoroth can come with me," Allie relented. "It isn't my Pokémon, but I can take care of it for a while."

    "Excellent. It will be lucky to have a trainer such as yourself." Allie smiled modestly at the compliment. "One more thing before I go," Nurse Joy smiled. She pulled a small parcel from the medical cart. "This package was left for you last night at the front desk."

    Allie thanked her, and took the box from her hands. Joy told her to call if she needed anything, and left the room with her cart.

    The trainer set about opening the gift. She set the bubble wrap aside, planning to play with it later, and looked into the container. Inside was a beautiful purple XTransceiver. Her mouth opened a little in surprise. It was sleek and shiny, newer than even Ash's. The blonde girl eagerly turned it on and watched the menu pop up for the first time. She only had it on for a couple of minutes when it started vibrating in her hands. A message appeared on the screen, and she began scrolling through it.

    Dear Allie,

    I was so glad to hear you made it out safely. I should have never put you in that position. I'm so sorry. Steven told me to let you know that Kore is okay. She is slightly unstable, but should recover her true personality over time. May is also okay, I have seen her and she is doing fine. To my knowledge, Dante is dead, however, his body has not yet been recovered. All of the club patrons were successfully evacuated thanks to the help of May and another former acquaintance of mine. The gambled Pokéballs survived the fire and have been recovered. Trainer IDs are being used to return them to their proper owners. You were a hero tonight, Allie.

    Unfortunately, for reasons I cannot say, I will not be able to travel with you for awhile.


    Allie's heart fell. What did he mean he couldn't go with her? What had happened to change his plans? She continued reading, desperate to find reason behind his abrupt departure.

    You're probably not happy with me, and I'm not pleased with myself. But for now, it's out of my hands. It's for your good. You must believe that I do not do this willingly. Please find another traveling companion so that you don't have to go alone. This world is more dangerous than ever. I have other duties I must take care of. We will meet again.

    Please accept this XTranceiver as a gift from me. While I won't be able to contact you often, I may be able to provide occasional guidance. This is the latest model XTransceiver, and includes messaging, maps, video and voice calls, a camera, and many other helpful apps. It can even be upgraded as necessary.

    Thanks for everything Allie. I promise we'll meet again.

    Ash Ketchum


    This was it. The first leg of her journey was over. Ash was gone. For now. Maybe he'd be back. She should find a new companion, like he said. But Ash Ketchum was hard to replace.

    But the journey wasn't over. She looked at her jacket hanging on the bed post. The Rainbow and Boulder badges shimmered. Six left. The journey wasn't over, even if Ash's role in it was over. For now.

    She moved to the side of the bed and let her legs dangle over the edge. The burns were wrapped tightly, and she winced. Last night, the girl had been so intent on finding her Pokémon that she hadn't even noticed the danger and pain. Now though, it stung, but wasn't one of her worse injuries since her journey started. The journey that wasn't over.

    She hugged the purple device against her chest. Ash's farewell gift. They would meet again. And she would be prepared when they did. And she couldn't find him, she'd be all that more determined to make it to the Indigo League to face its champion.




    Author's Note: Thus concludes the end of the Dante Arc! And the end of Allie's travels with Ash (for now?) I know this chapter was a little short, but it was mostly to wrap everything up. Allie finally got another Pokemon (but still needs to catch it) and there's finally been an evolution!

    REVIEW QUESTIONS: You guys have been pretty good about reading and following, but I'd really love some feedback on this arc. What did you think about these last couple of chapters? How do you feel about Ash leaving, and who do you think should take his place? I've already dropped some hints, but maybe I'll add a third member of the party if you guys think so. What do you think about Dante and "Rocket Nation," and do you think they could/should be connected? Now's your time to help me improve this story, all you have to do is review.

    Remember to sign up for story alerts, because I don't know when the next cluster of chapters will be finished. I'm thinking of sometime in late July, but it could be earlier or later. I'll also let you know on my profile page and on Twitter warasff. Really like the story? Favorite it! And don't forget to review! Thanks!

    In Allie's Future: A new companion, the Fuchsia Gym battle with a twist, to Cinnabar Island and beyond!

    In Ash's Future: ...?

    Cheers!

    -Waras

  10. #35

    Default Chapter 25

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 25: Two New Troubles

    Rays of sun cut through the trees surrounding the Pokémon Center's training grounds. Novice trainer Allie Dogwood stood on the dirt field with a bag of flying disks lying at her feet. Allie's childhood friend Vulpix and her newly evolved Wartortle crouched beside her.

    "Ready…" she announced. "Set...

    "Now!" Allie yelled.

    On her signal, she began throwing the disks in the air as fast she could. Wartortle unleashed his signature hydro pump to blast them out of the sky, as Ruby breathed flamethrower at her targets.

    When the trainer ran out of disks, she looked at all ones scattered across the field. All of them were either soaking wet or singed. Thinking back to a week ago when she first started using the disks to train, she recalled how Wartortle and Ruby allowed their attacks to collide and simply create steam. Their coordination, accuracy, and teamwork had increased significantly since then.

    She congratulated her Pokémon, and then raced them to pick up as many disks as possible. It was a technique she had learned from her mentor, Ash Ketchum, the Pokémon League Champion. He taught her to train beside her Pokémon instead of just directing them, in order to help both them and her to grow.

    Ash.

    It had been nearly two weeks since that bitter night in the Dante Club. After she escaped the manipulative mastermind of the Pokémon gambling facility, Allie had been brought to Fuchsia City by the Bridge Bike Gang. It was there that she received his message that he would be unable to meet up with her for the time being.

    At first, Allie had been hurt and stunned. He had been with her for so long and now he was gone. It wasn't the first time they had parted ways, but something about the way it happened this time seemed more permanent. But instead of dwelling on her friend's departure, she had devoted all her time and energy to becoming a better trainer.

    After stuffing the disks back into a bag, Allie led her team back to the Pokémon Center. The autumn air was unseasonably hot, and Allie's sports bra and shorts were soaked with perspiration. She twisted her ponytail into a bun to get it off her neck, then pulled several loose strands of hair off her forehead.

    In the weeks since the Dante Club incident, Allie and her Pokémon had been training as hard as they could for the battles ahead of them. Fuchsia City, filled with Pokémon trainers visiting for the gym and Safari Zone, was the perfect place to be challenged to a battle. Allie had won a couple, but she had also experienced her first real defeats. The losses were disappointing, but she felt encouraged by how her battle skills were developing. It was one of the trainers who beat her that suggested using flying disks to train her Pokémon.

    As she, Wartortle, and Ruby approached the Pokémon Center doors, they could see some kind of commotion through the windows. Rushing inside, the three team members saw couches torn to shreds and overturned flower pots littering the floor. As Allie stepped toward the center of the lobby, a white shape darted past her and through the revolving door before she could react.

    Groaning as she recognized the shape, Allie walked over to where Nurse Joy and several Pokémon trainers were panting. Ruby and Wartortle began examining the damages to the room.

    "Nurse Joy, what happened? Are you guys okay?" the blonde asked worriedly.

    Joy slumped into an armchair, clearly exhausted. "Nobody's hurt, thankfully. Your Vigoroth managed to get out of its room. I tried to catch it, but it has such boundless energy. I must have chased it around the room a dozen times, but it just kept tearing up the furniture."

    "I'm sorry." Allie quickly apologized. "I didn't realize what was happening, or I'd have come to help sooner."

    "It's not your fault, dear," Joy tried to ease her guilt.

    But it was her fault. Vigoroth was only in the Pokémon Center because of her. Allie had pulled Vigoroth from the burning Dante Club after sympathizing with how it was treated by its owner. Its recovery at the center was the reason Allie had spent so much time in Fuchsia. The girl had infrequently checked on the sloth during her stay at the Pokémon Center, but she had yet to make an emotional connection with it. Vigoroth was wild, aggressive, and just plain mean. It wasn't the fault of the Pokémon, but Dante had trained it poorly. The responsibility for the Pokémon fell to Allie now.

    "We better get after it," Allie sighed, resigned to the chase. "Ruby, can you follow its trail?"

    The red fox nodded, and put its nose to the center floor tiles.

    "We'll get it back," Allie assured Nurse Joy.




    But Allie was far less confident about that statement five hours later as she and her Pokémon wandered the Safari Zone. Ruby's nose had led them all through Fuchsia City until they reached a tall chain-link fence. A "No Trespassing" sign was posted, so Allie and her Pokémon found the entrance and entered the area. A friendly Pokémon ranger serving as receptionist took Allie's admission money in exchange for a handful of specially crafted Safari Balls. He had explained they were to protect the area from the over catching of Pokémon.

    "And don't be stupid in there," growled a grizzled old man in a wheelchair as the ranger explained the zone's rules.

    "Sorry about him," the ranger mumbled. "Kaiser's got a good heart, but not a whole lot of trust. She'll be fine, Kaiser," he told the old man.

    "I don't need my legs to protect the Safari, so don't make me come in after you," Kaiser glared at her.

    Allie thanked the men and hastened after Vigoroth.

    Now, deep within the Safari Zone, Allie glanced at her XTransciever. The sleek, purple device given to her by Ash was displaying a map of the zone. According to it, Allie sighed, they had been walking around the perimeter for a while. They were following Ruby's nose, but it was beginning to seem as if Vigoroth was simply running around in circles.

    Her eyes drifted across the current terrain. They were walking across an expansive prairie, with few landmarks except a river they were following. "It's really nice out here, isn't it?" she observed.

    "Wartortle tor," her starter Pokémon mumbled, gazing starry eyed at the pristine water.

    "We'll go for a swim as soon as we find Vigoroth, I promise," Allie assured him.

    Wartortle's ears and tail wagged with inclination at the words.

    Allie smiled to see her first partner so happy, and, distracted, nearly tripped over Ruby. She stumbled and barely stopped herself from landing on the fox Pokémon.

    "What's up, Rubes?" Allie asked. "I'll groom you later too, if you want, and you can sunbathe while we swim." The Vulpix's ears and nose were twitching intently, and Allie quickly realized that Ruby was preoccupied with something other than jealousy. "What's wrong?"

    A noise like rolling thunder gradually filled the air. Allie's eye followed Ruby's line of sight to see an immense cloud of dust gathering in front of them. From the river to the far horizon it stretched, getting incrementally larger by the second.

    It took Allie only a few seconds to realize that waiting for the cloud to arrive would be a huge mistake. "Come on!" she shouted to her team, beckoning them to follow her. They began running as fast as they could to get past the far flank of the cloud, but soon realized the futility. By this point, the lead Taurus were materializing in front of the cloud.

    Caught in the middle of a stampede, Allie and her Pokémon quickly realized that they were in trouble. They frantically looked around searching for anyway to avoid the oncoming herd, but no solution presented itself. The far side of the stampede was impossible to reach, and the close side reached all the way to the river.

    "Get in the water!" a voice shouted from across the river.

    Allie didn't even take the time to look for the source of the voice. Hoisting Ruby over her shoulder, Allie yelled for Wartortle to follow them. The Taurus stampede was getting uncomfortably close, and even the small red gems in their foreheads were becoming visible. Allie, Ruby, and Wartortle leaped into the water just in time.

    Surfacing with a gasp for air, Allie swam toward Wartortle's shell and held on. Her Vulpix had climbed onto her head to avoid the water as much as possible.

    Wartortle pulled them free of the current, and the three clambered up onto the far bank as best they could.

    Exhausted by the moment, Allie collapsed on her stomach on the silty shore.

    "Are you okay?" a voice asked from above her.

    The blonde haired trainer hacked up a lungful of water. Looking up at the figure above her, she realized it must the owner of the voice which had called her into the water. Her eyesight was a little blurry, but she took the boy's hand gratefully.

    "Thank you," Allie grinned. "We might have been flattened if you hadn't called out to us."

    "You're welcome, but be more careful," the boy warned her.

    For some reason, Wartortle was baring his teeth toward the newcomer, and Ruby was growling softly. As the boy helped Allie to her feet, she saw his face clearly for the first time and hers darkened with recognition. Bracing herself for the inevitable confrontation, Allie took a step back.

    Lucian Andrews, the arrogant coordinator she had faced in the Dante Cup finals, recognized her just a moment later.

    "You," he muttered, a sneer creeping across his face.

    "Hi Lucian," Allie greeted him with a false air of friendliness. Being kind was worth a shot, even of her hopes weren't too high. Her hand went behind her back to calm her Pokémon.

    The last time they met, she, a first time coordinator had beaten him in a major contest. Though it was in fact a front for Pokémon smuggling and human abduction, Lucian hadn't known it at the time and took a large bruise to his even larger ego.

    "Allison Geary... I hope you enjoyed your victory in Celadon City. I heard on the news that the entire contest was invalidated for the illegal activities of the sponsor. Empty victory after all," he scoffed.

    "Um, actually I go by Allie," the girl admitted, not wanting to lie and give him any more reasons to be unpleasant. "And my last name is Dogwood. Nice to meet you. Properly, this time. But I really need to be going now," she said, remembering suddenly her pursuit of Vigoroth.

    She began to turn around, but the boy grabbed her wrist.

    "Where's my bike?" Lucian demanded.

    Allie stared at him vacantly. "What are you talking about?"

    "Don't play games," he snarled. "You knocked me over and stole it the night of the contest. I saw you. Don't deny it. Just because you beat me in a contest doesn't mean I'll let you keep it."

    "I have no idea," Allie began to insist. But then she remembered the night. Having escaped the club on the steel wings of Steven's Skarmory, she rushed back the evil building to rescue her Pokémon. On the way, she had "borrowed" a bicycle from a stranger. Or, at least, someone who had looked like a stranger in the darkness.

    "Actually, I… er… thanks for that," she said awkwardly. "It really helped me out that night. If I hadn't run into you, I might have been too late."

    "Too late for what? Actually, don't answer that, I don't especially care. I need my bike back. I had to walk all the way here from Celadon City."

    Allie, who had journeyed across half of Kanto by foot, wasn't moved by the coordinator's plight. However, as the bike had been abandoned in the heart of the burning club, she didn't really have any way to return it to him.

    "Can we meet up later to discuss this? I really need to be going. What if I give you my number?"

    The girl heard Ruby growl softly and looked down to see her two Pokémon facing a nearby bush, battle-ready. She noticed a slight shaking as if something was behind it.

    "Allison… Allie… or whatever name you go by… You're going to get my bike back or I'm going to the police," Lucian insisted, growing more impatient.

    "Unfortunately, Lucian," Allie said, not moving her eyes from the bush. "I won't be able to do that. I'd really love to, and I'm sorry about borrowing it. I really needed it and I'll make it up to you. But right now, I'm really busy."

    "What authority gives you a right to act like you're more important than anyone else? The bike was mine, and now you won't even listen to me."

    Working very hard to overcome the urge to punch Lucian, Allie's eyes remained trained on the bush.

    "Answer me!" Lucian shouted, grabbing Allie's shoulders and turning her toward himself. The moment Allie's back was turned to the bush, she heard a primal roar.

    "Tortle!"

    "Pix!"

    The trainer broke free of Lucian's grip just in time to see both of her Pokémon leap away from Vigoroth's claws. Rage burned in the sloth's eyes as it jumped at Allie. She dodged it barely, but Lucian, who was standing behind her, didn't react quite so quickly.

    "What the-" Lucian yelled as the wild Pokémon knocked him over. "Get it off!"

    Vigoroth glowered at Allie from where it sat perched on Lucian's chest. A sharp black claw hovered over the boy's windpipe threateningly.

    "What's it doing?" Lucian gasped. "Help me!"

    Allie shushed him with a glare. "I tried to warn you. Don't move, I'm going to try something."

    "Wasn't planning on it, blondie."

    "I can leave if that's what you want," she hissed back.

    That convinced Lucian to finally shut up. Allie directed her attention to the more pressing issue.

    "We don't want to hurt you," she tried to explain to Vigoroth. Gesturing at her Pokémon, she continued. "We just want to help, you don't need to be afraid of us. You still have some bad injuries from the fire. Come back to the Pokémon Center with us so that you can be healed."

    The savage white Pokémon growled. Allie saw the battered body and realized how far it still had to go in its recovery. Burnt patches of fur and were evident from the final battle at the Dante Club. But as Allie looked at Vigoroth, her attention was drawn to its trembling claws. For the first time, she noticed long red scars stretching from each claw to the shoulder. From the faded appearance of the scars, Allie knew they had been there since before she battled it. Vigoroth's fear of humans, its injuries, and its savage nature made sense now. It had been abused.

    "Just like Kore," Allie thought, remembering the poor girl she helped save from Dante.

    She knelt down and extended her hand to the rampaging Pokémon. Vigoroth backed away from her hand, moving its claw closer to Lucian's throat. Fear danced in Lucian's eyes, and Vigoroth's, too.

    "It's okay, I'm not like your old master, I promise. Ask my Pokémon if you don't believe me."

    Wartortle took her cue and inched forward. "Tortle, Wartortle tor," he said happily.

    "Groth!"

    "Pix, vul vulpix," Allie's second Pokémon added.

    "Vigoroth!"

    Ruby and Wartortle looked at each other, nodded, and approached Allie. In unison, Wartortle hugged one leg and Ruby rubbed against the other affectionately.

    "See? We're a family, and we want you to be part of it," she explained as she patted her Pokémon on the head.

    Allie tried to approach again, and this time Vigoroth didn't shy away. He stared at her hand as it moved toward his head. The trainer sighed with relief as her new Pokémon let her place her hand on his head.

    "That's so sweet. Can you get this beast off me now please," Lucian added unhelpfully.

    Ignoring him, Allie reached into her pocket and pulled out one of the Safari Balls the ranger had given her.

    "You're really hurt, Vigoroth. Go in this Pokéball we'll take you back."

    Vigoroth's disposition changed instantaneously. He leapt at Allie with terrifying speed, slashing at her face. Reacting as quickly as she could, Allie dropped the Safari Ball and shielded her face with her arms, trying to get away. Wartortle and Ruby began readying attacks, but were stopped by Allie's command.

    "Don't attack, or he's never going to let us help him," she insisted. "Let me handle it."

    Vigoroth sprung at her again, but this time she was ready.

    Allie rolled to her left, spun around, and tackled the Pokémon. She managed to catch it by surprise and pinned it to the ground.

    "Wartortle, the ball!" she shouted.

    The blue turtle dove for the fallen camouflage sphere. Allie rolled over, allowing Vigoroth to get on top of her. Vigoroth drew his claw back, ready to strike at her throat. Allie watched as the claw fly toward her face, and then…

    A flashing red light enveloped Vigoroth, and the Safari Ball Wartortle had thrown landed on Allie's stomach. All present stared as the ball shook back and forth. Allie held her breath out of fear that the slightest movement would cause the ball to break.

    At last, the Safari ball stopped rocking, and Allie sighed with relief. She stood up and attached the ball to her belt.

    "I guess even without a proper battle, Vigoroth was exhausted," Allie told Wartortle and Ruby. "He needs the rest. Let's get back to the Pokémon Center."

    "You're insane, you know that?" Lucian's voice called from behind her. "Fighting Pokémon barehanded? That's crazy."

    Rolling her eyes, Allie turned her attention back to him. "You could say thank you, you know. I did just save your life."

    "That doesn't make you sane."

    "If I had Wartortle and Ruby battle Vigoroth, he could have been hurt worse. And then he would never trust me as his trainer."

    "I guess that's important."

    "It's the most important," Allie answered, just as Ash taught her.

    The sun was setting now, and the prairie grasses were bathed in orange light. Allie and Lucian stared into each other's eyes. Lucian's eyes, bright red, betrayed nothing of his thoughts.

    "So you really aren't a coordinator then, are you?" the boy asked, the memories of his bitter defeat still lingering.

    "No," she admitted. "I'm training for the Pokémon League. The only reason I won that contest was because it was rigged. It was only a few days before that May taught me how to compete."

    "May… May?" Lucian asked dumbfounded. "As in the professional coordinator from Hoenn?"

    "That's the one."

    Lucian's eyes lit up. "How do you know her? Can you introduce us?"

    He noticed Allie bite her lip before answering. "Someday, maybe. But I don't know where she is right now, I haven't seen her since the day of the contest." Her voice was tinged with sadness, and Lucian realized something must be wrong. "Anyway, I'm going to head back to the Pokémon Center," Allie told him.

    "You still owe me a bike," Lucian reminded her. "I'm not forgetting that."

    "I know you won't," she smiled. "See you around."

    "See you…"

    Lucian sat down on the bank of the river and solemnly watched the sunset. For several weeks, he told himself he hated Allison Geary, and perhaps he still did. But, there was something he liked about Allie Dogwood. She didn't seem as obnoxious as he originally thought. And yet…

    Allie Dogwood defeated him in his own game. That couldn't be allowed. His reputation was crushed.

    And he would crush her, and at her game.




    Author's Note: Hey guys, sorry this was a bit delayed. My cloud refused to let me download this chapter, so I'm a tinsy bit behind schedule. Anyway, I've moved to my new life, and am not yet sure whether that will help or hurt the frequency of my updates. Hopefully everyone understood the Kaiser cameo, if not, check out the banned episodes on Serebii. So, what's Lucian up to? And how will Allie's newest Pokemon behave now that she's officially captured him? If you guys have any ideas, send em my way, I usually like to incorporate them plus add an extra twist.

    Unfortunately, due to my end of summer schedule, the move, and other extenuating circumstances, I do not yet have chapter 26 completed, however, I will work to have it complete by next Saturday. That's my goal, oooh, goals are good, I like goals. I probably need to start having goals.

    Coming soon: Lucian's Revenge, New Friends and Foes, Ninjas, Airships, Hot Springs, Cruises, Victories, Defeats, Double Battles, and that's just in the next couple chapters alone!

    Thanks for reading, and please review, favorite, and follow the stories updates.

    -W

  11. #36

    Default Chapter 26

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 27: Drums in the Silence

    It was still dark outside when Allie woke up. Her Pokémon were still sleeping in their Pokéballs, exhausted from the previous day's training and rescue mission. It was funny how early she had been getting up recently. During the first leg of her journey, Ash always had breakfast ready and camp dismantled before waking her up. Now that he wasn't around, Allie found herself getting up earlier and earlier so that she could have some time to think before waking her Pokémon for training.

    Allie put her purple jacket on over her pajamas and left the bedroom. After descending a flight of stairs, she went to the Pokémon Center's 24 hour bistro. The small restaurant was empty, but a plate of muffins had been set out for the early bird trainers. Allie grabbed one and sat down by the window.

    Although Fuchsia was a great place for battle experience, at some point Allie knew she had to move on. Vigoroth's recovery had delayed her departure, but Nurse Joy told her last night that he would be ready to travel in a matter of days. There was, however, one thing she had to take care of.

    Looking out the café window, Allie saw the edge of the forest bordering the city of Fuchsia. And rising from the canopy was the silhouette of a pagoda style building. Haze obscured it now, but Nurse Joy had pointed it out to Allie during the first few days of her stay. Home of the legendary Koga-ryu clan of ninjas, the building also served as the Fuchsia Gym.

    For as many months as she had been on her journey, Allie still only had two badges. It seemed like she spent more time recovery from trauma than actually travelling. At least the last couple of weeks had been expedient for training. She was more confident than ever in battle, but as soon as she got her badge, it would be time to move on. In his farewell note, Ash had instructed Allie to find a traveling companion, but she couldn't wait forever to find one. At some point, she had to move on. Alone.

    But first, she still had Fuchsia Gym to conquer. And to get there, Allie would have to journey deep into the marshy forest that surrounded it.

    Sighing, Allie set down her half eaten muffin. She still wasn't keen on forests. Not since the Mightyena attacked her in Viridian had she been free from fear while walking the dark, narrow trails. While Ash had been with her, she at least knew she was safe.

    Now Allie had Pokémon to protect her, but it still wasn't the same. Their ability to protect her was reliant on her own strength and courage.

    BOOM.

    BOOM.

    BOOM BOOM BOOM.

    Allie started as drums began beating. She looked around, trying to figure out the direction from which they came. Her eyes fell again on the gym, darkened by the distance. Although the gym was so far, Allie could hear the drums loudly and clearly even from within the Pokémon Center.

    Wondering what the drums meant, Allie distractedly reached for her muffin. Her fingers tapped the empty table. Surprised, the blonde girl looked down to find the muffin was not where she put it. Instead, a girl sat across from her, grinning mischievously, holding Allie's half muffin.

    "Hey there," the pale girl said casually.

    Allie just stared at her. The new girl was dress rather oddly: a black top with mesh sleeves, and baggy pants. "Hi?" Allie asked bewilderedly. "Where did you come from?"

    "Around here. I slipped in while you were listening to the drums. Interesting sound they make, isn't it?" Something in the tone of her voice seemed deceptive. "I must be being rude again. Aunt Aya says I should stop doing that. My name is Janine. Nice to meet you, or something like that," she mumbled.

    Realizing that she, too, was being rude by staring, Allie smiled clumsily. "I'm Allie. I think there are muffins on the counter if you want more."

    Janine looked down at her hand and raised her eyebrows. "My apologies for that," she said hastily, tossing the muffin back to Allie. "I wanted to check what they tasted like before I got one."

    The blonde girl caught it haphazardly, and took a bite. Janine got her own muffin and returned to Allie's table. For some reason, Janine didn't seem to make any noise, even when walking. The drums were still beating in the background.

    "They're tasty, aren't they?" Janine said between bites. "I prefer strawberry, but these are good too."

    "Yeah," Allie agreed, still a little unsure of what was going on.

    Once Janine had finished her muffin, she spoke again. "You're a trainer, right Allie? What brings you to Fuchsia?" the strange girl inquired.

    "Yes, actually, I'm here for-"

    Nurse Joy burst into the room, her face pale and her eyes wide. Sweat trickled down her temple, and strands of red hair were coming out of her neat loops.

    "Vigoroth escaped again," she gasped for breath. "It tore its restraints off and darted past me as I went to bring it breakfast."

    Allie immediately stood up. Now that she had officially caught Vigoroth, he was even more her responsibility. "Did you see where he went?"

    "I tried to follow him, but he made it to the Fuchsia Forest before I could catch up. It'll be almost impossible to find him in the trees."

    Biting her lip, Allie resigned herself for another day of painstakingly searching for her newest Pokémon. And this time, to make the task worse, it would be in a forest. "I'll go wake my Pokémon."

    "Wait," Janine mumbled, putting her hand on Allie's shoulder. "I'll join you. You'll need my help if you want to find anything in that overgrown mess of trees."

    Joy's eyes were drawn to the oddly dressed girl for the first time. "Janine? What are you doing here? But the drums are beating. I thought you would be…" Her voice trailed off as Janine's eyes narrowed dangerously.

    "Come on, get your Pokémon and let's head out." She looked down at Allie's Jigglypuff emblazoned pajama pants. "And you might want to change into something more… practical."




    Boom, boom, boom.

    The drums beat louder and louder as Allie and Janine bushwhacked their way through the maze of vines and trees. It was so much more overgrown than Viridian Forest. The canopy allowed negligible light through.

    Though it was dark as night, everything was wide awake. Bug Pokémon chirped and buzzed, flying types screeched and called, and grass Pokémon fought each other for rare spots of sunlight.

    Because of Fuchsia's low topography, the forest was a marsh. All of the water in the area ran off into it, which made the ground incredibly difficult to walk on.

    Janine led the trek, divining a path through unknown means. It wasn't even much of a path. Allie kept tripping over protruding roots and landing on her knees. Small thorny shrubs tore at her ankles. She had to use her XTransceiver as a flashlight to see anything. But they kept going. In contrast to Allie's great difficulties, however, Janine seemed like she was flying when she leapt over fallen trees.

    "Are you sure we're getting closer to Vigoroth?" Allie asked her guide.

    "I grew up around here. I know exactly where he's going," Janine explained, leaning against a tree confidently.

    "Where's that?"

    "Shhh…" Janine hushed her. She motioned for Allie to come closer.

    A tiny amount of light was penetrating the bush Janine was pointing at, and Allie realized they must be at the edge of the woods. Janine peaked out from behind her tree. Allie followed her lead, looking through a bush.

    They were on the edge of a huge clearing, Allie realized. A single building took up most of the landscape. Built in the traditional Japanese style, the mansion was surrounded by a huge wall.

    "Follow me," Janine whispered, without even turning around.

    The two ran straight from the woods to the wall, leaning against it. Once again, Janine moved totally silently even as Allie's sneakers squished and squashed in mud. Allie felt like she was in a kind of spy movie, but Janine treated it totally seriously.

    Finally, as the girls approached the gate, they heard voices coming from the courtyard. Janine put a finger to her lips, and Allie tried to be as quiet as possible.

    "I demand to see the leader of this gym," a cold voice shouted. "This building should be condemned; it's going to kill someone."

    "You entered unannounced. Of course we have provisions in place for intruders." The second voice was feminine, and yet strong and dangerous.

    "It's a gym, I'm here for a badge. Now, I want to battle the leader," the first person insisted.

    "She's not here, I'm afraid. Do you not hear the drums? They signal a new era at this gym. You would do well to leave this place. Today is a very important day for Koga-ryu."

    A third voice interjected at this point. "Speaking of the ceremony, where is your niece, Aya? I have not seen her since last evening." The speaker was an old man, very eloquent, but weary sounding.

    "Nor have I master, but she knows how important today is. She will come."

    "I think it would be prudent to begin a search for her. Let this trainer alone, he merely wanted a badge. We must begin to prepare for the ceremony."

    "Yes, Master Tōkichi."

    Allie heard a door slide open and closed, but no footprints. So this must be the ninja clan Joy had described to her. It seemed out of chronological order, but the Pokémon Nurse mentioned that it was one of the last bastions for the traditional art.

    "Janine, you and your friend may come out now," the old man's voice called gently from inside the courtyard. "You'll need to be stealthier than that to hide from your master."

    Allie looked at the peculiar girl, and saw she was biting her lip in despair.

    "I understand your hesitations, Janine, but you know it is your duty."

    Allie heard the man's voice, no longer distant, from right behind her. She turned around, and saw a gray-haired man in robes. Shocked and surprised by his sudden appearance, she took a step back, tripped, and landed on her butt.

    "My sincerest apologies," he said with a short bow, extending his hand to Allie. "My name is Master Tōkichi. I am a friend of this clan, and the mentor of Janine. Come, let us go inside and sit. You too, Janine. I think it would be a good idea to talk about tonight."

    So this is why Janine was so oddly dressed, Allie thought. She's a ninja too. I guess that makes sense now, even if it is a little unusual. What was she doing at the Pokémon Center?

    As the old man led them into the courtyard, Allie saw the blond-haired boy who had been asking for the gym leader. For the second day in a row, she was surprised find herself face to face with the embittered coordinator she beat at the Dante Cup.

    "Hi, Lucian." Allie tried to look pleased to see him again, but things were still a bit tense.

    "Allie?" Lucian blushed under his frameless glasses. He wore the same orange jeans and black jacket as he did yesterday. "I… I didn't think you'd be here."

    "I could say the same for you," she replied with a raised eyebrow. Lucian seemed genuinely embarrassed to run into Allie this time. Why had he wanted to challenge the gym?

    BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

    The drums were right above them now, in a high tower overlooking the courtyard.

    "Follow me inside," Tōkichi instructed them. The group entered the expansive, ancient building. "The former gym leader here enjoyed subjugating his challengers to certain traps. Be careful of those as we go."

    "Yeah, learned that one the hard way," Lucian whispered to Allie. She had to look down to stop herself from laughing. It was a good thing she did, as she saw a missing floorboard just in time to avoid it.

    "Incidentally," the old man began, "And this may seem like a random question… but did either of you lose a Vigoroth? "

    Having suddenly been reminded of why she was at the gym in the first place, Allie's eyes opened in shock. "Yes!" she replied immediately. "Did you see where he went?"

    "Do not worry, young one. We subdued him with a special incense. He is completely unharmed."

    Tōkichi pushed the wall, and a secret broom closet was revealed. In the center of the room, Vigoroth lay, snoring loudly. Allie immediately pulled out the Safari ball and Vigoroth's sleeping form disappeared in a flash of red light.

    "I'm really sorry about Vigoroth. He didn't hurt anyone, did he?"

    The master waved her off, smiling kindly. "No, no. It's hard to hurt a ninja, you know. I believe it may have been our fault anyway. Our drums occasionally disturb certain types of Pokémon. Vigoroth heard them and became worked up, no one's fault." He paused, and his smile faded. "But I would like to inquire as to the scars on his arms. You don't seem to be the type to beat your Pokémon, am I correct?"

    "It was a previous owner," Allie replied, trying not to think too much about it. "I sort of adopted him."

    "Ah, I see…"

    "Just do me a favor and keep it away from me," Lucian said, memories of the attack the day before still fresh.

    The four soon arrived at a small sitting room decorated in traditional Japanese fashion. There were no sofas or chairs, but Tōkichi asked Allie and Lucian to remain there while he and Janine spoke. As soon as the ninjas walked away, the trainers sat down on the mats and stared at each other. Rays of light shone through a window facing the courtyard. It was totally silent except for the forest Pokémon and the drums. Finally, Allie decided to speak up.

    "What are you doing here?" Allie muttered awkwardly to him. "I thought you were a coordinator."

    "I thought you were too," he answered bitterly. "And then I found out that a Pokémon trainer beat me in a contest. So I decided to train to defeat you in a battle."

    "Really? Lucian, the contest wasn't fair, you should have won. I told you that yesterday."

    "You're wrong. You outperformed me, everyone saw it. The crowd went crazy for you." Allie could see the pain in his eyes as he said this. Even though he was totally pompous and egotistical, she couldn't help feeling a little pity for him.

    "Lucian… I'm sorry."

    "No, but you will be. I promise you that."

    The two didn't talk for a while after that.




    Meanwhile, Janine and Tōkichi sat on the mansion roof. It was still fairly early in the day, and the sun beat down on their backs. But it was peaceful. Even the drums beating somewhere far below sounded insignificant. The roof was one of Janine's favorite places. Her father used to take her there.

    "So, tell me about your new friend," Tōkichi inquired. He was focusing intently on Janine.

    She, meanwhile, stared absently at a Nidoran in the forest below.

    "She's hardly a friend. Just a girl I met in the Pokémon Center this morning," Janine responded unconcernedly.

    "Have you considered becoming friends with her?"

    "What's the point?" Janine scowled. "After tonight, I'll be stuck here forever."

    "You mustn't think it like that. Your role is the duty of your clan. Your father…" Tōkichi tried to say, but Janine cut him off.

    "Left," Janine scowled. "He left. I hate him for leaving." A tear rolled silently down Janine's cheek.

    Tōkichi's finger caught it, and moved down to her shoulder. "I know it hurts. His departure stunned us all. But he wanted you to follow in his footsteps."

    "Screw that."

    "Janine," Tōkichi raised his voice. "Both he and I taught you better than that."

    A gust of wind swept the rooftop and made Janine shiver.

    "It's so much responsibility, Master. I'm afraid."

    "It will be okay, dear. I promise. We're all here to support you. Even Aya."

    At this, Janine stood up and glared at the old man.

    "Then maybe she should start supporting me instead of pushing me so hard to follow tradition."

    She leapt off the roof and landed far below, completely unharmed. Tōkichi watched sadly as she ran off into the forest.

    Tōkichi sighed, and looked up at the sky. "I promised you I would look after them, Koga. I will always do so, but… girls… why did they have to be girls?"

    Janine, meanwhile, was crying in a hidden grove in the woods. The rooftop was usually nice, but she needed to be away from the mansion for a little while. Her chance meeting with Allie had resulted from a failed attempt to get away for a little while. She hadn't made it much farther than the Pokémon Center before she got hungry. Her father would never have forgotten something as simple as provisions. He was a great man, and a legendary ninja: the very model of shinobi perfection.

    "Are you okay?"

    Choking on her tears in surprise, Janine spun around to see Allie leaning against a tree. She looked somewhat uneasy about finding the ninja girl in such a state.

    "I'm sorry, I can leave if you want," Allie said, not unkindly. She began taking a step back.

    Janine shook her head. "It's fine. You can stay... How did you find me?"

    "It was getting a little awkward sitting with Lucian. We have… a bit of a history together, you could say." She sat down on a stump. "Through the window, I saw you running toward the forest. Do want to talk about something?"

    "It's… it's nothing," Janine said, turning her back to Allie.

    The blonde girl paused for a moment before asking, "Are you the gym leader, Janine?"

    "No, but I'm supposed to be," the shinobi admitted.

    "What do you mean?"

    "My father," Janine mumbled, "was the previous gym leader here. Many trainers were overwhelmed by the secrets of the gym and the skills of his Pokémon. But about a month ago, he vanished."

    Allie was completely silent, but the drumming still pounded into the girls' hearts.

    "We found a letter a few days later. In it, he says he left to become stronger. In his place… I am to become leader of this gym. That's why the drums are beating: it's to ceremonially announce my ascension to the title."

    "But then what's wrong?" Allie asked curiously. "Isn't being a gym leader a good thing?"

    "It is 'a great honor' as Master and Aya say. But they don't get it. Tradition dictates that I inherit the role of gym leader from my father. But Daddy… he left me here… He abandoned me here."

    "My father… left me too," Allie said quietly.

    Janine looked at her in surprise.

    "He was supposed to be on a research trip to some faraway mountains. I think they were in Johto," she said uncertainly. "He never came back. I was eight."

    "What did you do?"

    "What else could I do? I just kept on living my life. I took care of myself…" Allie's voice broke off, as the pain and loneliness of the past eight years came back to her. "It hurts when people leave, especially those we care about more than anything." Ash. "But there must have been a reason. I'm sure it hurt him to leave you too, but he believes in you. He wouldn't have left the gym to you if he didn't."

    "You just want me to accept the title so you can earn your badge and be on your way," Janine objected. "You don't actually mean any of this."

    "Of course I do. There are plenty of other gyms in Kanto. I could get a badge from any of them."

    Janine didn't reply.

    "I know it's hard now, but just think of how proud your father would be of you."

    "I still don't know about this, Allie."

    "You have to take the chance. Do the best you can, and don't let anything try to stop you from what you can accomplish. That's always what I've tried to do."

    "Thanks Allie… you… are a friend." Janine looked at her feet as she said this, embarrassed by her own words. "I suppose we should go. I need to tell Tōkichi that I will accept my inheritance."

    As the girls walked back to the mansion in silence, Allie reflected on Ash and her father. It was the first time she had really connected the two departures. Now that she thought about it that way, it did hurt a little, but she couldn't let Janine know how she was feeling.

    It was kind of horrible. She didn't know why either of them had left her. Her father had vanished on an expedition. But she knew even less of what had become of Ash.

    Allie's father had embarked on a journey eight years ago and never returned. What if Ash never came back either? He always said how much more dangerous the world was now, and he was bound to be in the middle of the chaos. She missed him; that had been the case since he vanished. But now… now she was scared for him too.

    "Allie, do you ever wonder if your father might be alive?"

    The blonde haired girl didn't respond. The thoughts of losing Ash were still ringing in her head.

    "I'm sorry," Janine quickly apologized. "I didn't mean…"

    "No, it's okay," Allie answered. "Truthfully, sometimes I still dream about him. Coming back. I know almost nothing about him… but I still love him. And I know he cared… cares… about me."

    Her father. And Ash.




    Author's Note:

    Hey guys, as promised (for once), here's the next chapter. Writing about ninjas in a Pokemon story seems kinda weird, but they're canon, so it's a neat chance to do something different. This is the first chapter of a two-part story, which is why there's no real exciting conclusion. I like the end though, it's got a pretty cool dichotomy which makes you wonder a little. If you didn't get it, go back and read the last couple paragraphs.

    This chapter reintroduces three characters: Aya and Tokichi from the anime, as well as Janine from the games. I never thought it was fair that Janine was ignored by the anime, but I thought bringing the three of them together could make for a pretty interesting story. See Ariados, Amigos! for more background on these characters.

    Please remember to review, favorite, and follow my updates. It really makes writing more fun. Doctor Who's on now, so ta ta.

    Will Allie finally be able to get her 3rd badge? What are Lucian's true intentions? Will we ever hear from Ash again? Find out NEXT CHAPTER!

    COMING UP: THE FUCHSIA CITY GYM BATTLE AND THE CONTINUATION OF THE JOURNEY!

  12. #37

    Default Chapter 27

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 27: Trial of the Shinobi

    About an hour had passed since Janine had accepted the mantle of gym leader. Lucian and Allie once again sat together uncomfortably in the sitting room. They hadn't talked since Allie returned, apart from a curt "hi."

    Lucian was keenly focused on his XTransceiver, but Allie was still occupied by thoughts of Ash and her father. She tried to distract herself by thinking of where she would go after Fuchsia, but it didn't work. Ash had promised they would meet again, but would it ever be the same?

    The traditional style door slid open and Janine stepped through, followed by Tōkichi and a woman Allie had never seen. All three were dressed in Japanese kimonos. Janine's hair was done up with chrysanthemums, and she smiled through a veil of makeup as she approached Allie.

    Janine gestured to the new woman. "This is my aunt, Aya," she told Allie. "Lucian, I believe you've already had the chance to meet her."

    "Yeah. Sorry about before," Lucian muttered under his breath. Allie couldn't tell if he was being sincere or not.

    "It's understandable," Aya answered him. "You wanted to challenge the gym leader. It was just unfortunate that we didn't have one at the time."

    "Why not? Doesn't every gym have a leader?"

    "Yes," Janine interjected. "And now we do."

    Lucian stood up. "Then I challenge her."

    "Patience, challenger," Aya told him. "You will have your chance."

    Lucian looked as though he were about to continue speaking, but Allie pulled him back to the tatami mats by his sleeve.

    "Traditionally, when a clan member rises to the position of gym leader, there is an elaborate ceremony," Tōkichi explained. "The drums are the first part of the rite. They are to summon clans from throughout the region to acknowledge the strength of the new leader. As there are so few of us left who keep the old ways, this is mostly symbolic."

    Now Allie understood the drums. Even now, she could hear them beating outside the mansion, seemingly getting faster as the day wore on.

    The ninja master continued. "One part of the ceremony involves a festivity in the evening, followed by a period of solemn reflection. You two are welcome to join us in celebrating Janine at that time. Food and beverages will be provided."

    After a taking a dramatic pause, Tōkichi finished. "However, there is one final tradition: the gym leader's first battle against a challenger."

    "Allie," Janine began. "If you should wish to battle me for the Soul Badge, I would be honored to have you as my first opponent. I am only here because of your advice, and I am incredibly grateful for it."

    As Allie's face broke into a grin, Lucian stood up again.

    "I came here to challenge the gym first. The only reason she's here at all is because she can't keep track of her Pokémon," the boy sneered. "I demand a battle."

    Allie looked away, humiliated. She knew he had a point about Vigoroth, but it was a horrible thing to say to someone.

    "You were here first, that's true," Aya acknowledged. "But Allie was with Janine first, and the gym leader has the right to choose her first challenger."

    Lucian was about to interrupt, but the gym leader quickly proposed a solution.

    "No… I'll battle them both," Janine replied offhandedly. "That should resolve things fairly."

    "That solution seems ideal, however, there is not enough time for two battles today," Tōkichi told her.

    "Right, that's why I'm going to battle them simultaneously."

    That took everyone in the room by surprise.

    Aya stepped forward. "Although you are a good trainer, Janine, it would be very difficult for you to conduct two battles at once, and having them both battle against you would be unfair."

    "I know," Janine replied simply. "That is why you will battle by my side in a double battle against them."

    Allie's and Lucian's mouths fell open. A double battle would mean that they would be forced to battle together. Side by side. They avoided looking at each other, each knowing what the other was thinking. Aya raised an eyebrow in surprise. Tōkichi smiled proudly from his spot in the corner, unnoticed by everyone.

    "But Janine, that is highly unorthodox," Janine's aunt protested.

    "You are of the same blood as my father and I. As gym leader, it is my right to appoint an associate."

    Aya turned to Tōkichi. "Master, explain to her that-"

    The old shinobi cut her off. "I agree with Janine that it is a good idea. She is young; it will be long before she has a true successor. For now, you will be at her side as a teacher and a friend. She has much to learn, much you can teach her."

    "I still don't know about this. Koga wouldn't have allowed this," Aya expressed solemnly. "However, I will serve my clan in any way I can." She turned to Janine. "I pledge my loyalty to you, my leader."

    "Don't be so formal," Janine insisted. "I'm still your niece."

    The green haired woman nodded in acknowledgement.

    "Well then," the gym leader remarked. "Now that that's settled, I believe we should get this battle started."

    "Now?" Allie asked, still a little stunned that she would have to tag team with Lucian.

    "If we want to be done in time to prepare for the evening festivities, we need to begin," Aya explained.

    Lucian got to his feet once again. "I suppose it's now or never." He looked down at Allie. For a moment, she thought he would offer a truce. "Try not to be a burden." The boy walked past the ninjas and out of the room.

    Allie rolled her eyes and stood up. Yeah, this will go well, she thought sarcastically. Janine meant well, but she had no idea how much Lucian hated Allie. Feigning cheeriness so as not to be rude to her hosts, she beamed. "Thanks Janine, I'm sure it's going to be a great battle. Let's go!" Her words weren't very convincing, but they were better than nothing.

    The four left the sitting room and exited the mansion. The emerged once again into the courtyard, where Lucian already awaited them at the far side of the clay ground. A chalk battlefield had been drawn onto the earth since the last time Allie had been there. Looking around, she saw dozens of men and women in shinobi shōzoku. This must be the clan gathered for Janine's initiation ceremony, Allie realized.

    Their emotions were mostly hidden by steely expressions. The silent audience seemed to turn up the intensity of the looming battle.

    Master Tōkichi stood at the center of the battleground. "The inaugural battle of Leader Janine, with her partner Aya, is about to begin. They will be competing in a double battle against the team of Allie Dogwood and Lucian Andrews."

    The drums beat faster and faster as he spoke, escalating the tension in the courtyard.

    Janine reached to her sash and unwound it. Before anyone could react, she tore her silk kimono off. The gym leader was now clad in black cloth, tightly wrapping itself around her body. Allie noted with a hint of irritation that her partner seemed unable to look away.

    "You can put your eyes back in your head whenever you want, Lucian," she scoffed at him.

    The boy ignored her, but looked away all the same.

    Aya and Janine nodded to each other. Simultaneously, they released their Pokémon. An Ariados appeared from Janine's Pokéball; a Venomoth from Aya's.

    "This will be a piece of cake. Kirlia, dominate them!" Lucian shouted, throwing a Pokéball onto the field. The green and white psychic type leaped out of its ball, twirling onto the battlefield.

    "It's your turn, Ruby," yelled Allie. She reached for the fox's Pokéball, but before she could, there was a flash of light. When the light had dissipated, a different Pokémon was standing on the battlefield.

    "Vigoroth?" she exclaimed. She hadn't touched his Pokéball, yet somehow he got out.

    The sloth grunted, jumping up and down as if eager for battle.

    "Put that monster away before he mutilates someone," Lucian demanded of Allie.

    He was quickly silenced by a threatening glare from Vigoroth.

    "We haven't really trained for battle Vigoroth," Allie objected. "You're still too weak from the fire."

    She took out his Pokéball and tried to return Vigoroth to it, but he simply dodged the red light.

    "You really want to battle, don't you?" Allie realized as her Pokémon set his sights on Ariados.

    Vigoroth grunted again, nodding his head.

    "I don't know if this is a good idea… but okay."

    Tōkichi cleared his throat. "Let the battle begin!"




    Music and dancing filled the halls of Koga-ryu mansion that evening. The clan ninjas who had gathered for Janine's appointment were enjoying themselves and socializing on one of the rare occasions they all got together.

    Not everyone was enjoying the party, however. In one of the mansion's hidden nooks, Allie Dogwood sat upon the tatami floor, reflecting on the battle.

    In her hand was the glittering Soul Badge, a pink heart. Ironic. There wasn't much love in that she had learned one thing from the brutal fight, it was that Vigoroth needed a lot more training than she thought.

    Vigoroth had been highly aggressive throughout the battle: attacking and attacking and attacking. He didn't even listen to Allie's commands, and roared at Kirlia as she tried to help. Even as well trained as they were, Ariados and Venomoth soon fell to the relentless bombardment.

    But it was the end of the battle that shocked and terrified her.

    "Yeah, Vigoroth! We won!" Allie shouted, her pride in her newest Pokémon swelling.

    The white sloth began turning around, but suddenly, Kirlia danced past him. The change in his demeanor was immediate. Teeth bared, Vigoroth lunged at her.

    "No!" screamed Allie.

    Just as Vigoroth's claws were set to tear at Kirlia, the psychic type disappeared in a red flash. Allie looked over to Lucian, who was standing next to her with Kirlia's Pokéball.

    "What the hell is your problem?" Lucian demanded, looking disgusted. "You still can't control that monster."

    "I didn't, it wasn't…" Allie immediately recalled Vigoroth before he could harm anyone else.


    At that point, further conflict was avoided only by Janine and Aya coming forward to congratulate the bitter rivals. The new gym leader handed each trainer the badge of her gym. Soon afterward, the party began. Ninjas drank, danced, and chatted. Allie tried to enjoy it, but the battle still weighed on her mind. She quietly took her leave of the festivities, and found herself a spot in the corner.

    The bloodlust in Vigoroth's eyes still burned in her memories.

    Footsteps echoed down the corridor. Knowing that no ninja would have made that noise, Allie unhappily realized who was approaching. The noise stopped, and she looked up to see Lucian standing over her.

    "I noticed you were missing from the celebration. Janine's looking for you. She said something about needing a teammate for Pokémon charades."

    "Not right now, I've got a lot on my mind," she answered despondently.

    Neither one of them spoke for a moment. Finally, Lucian sat down beside her.

    "What are you going to do now that you have the badge?" he asked quietly.

    It took Allie a moment to answer. "I really don't know," she admitted. "I'm going to keep traveling, but I'm not sure where."

    "Well, when you decide…" he began. He paused as if it was taking an extreme effort to say the next words.

    "I… I want to go with you."

    "What?" The question stunned Allie. Lucian had been nothing but a jerk to her since they met. He certainly didn't have any more reason to like her after that battle. "If this is about the bike, I'll pay for it, I promise. Our winnings from the gym battle should at least cover the deposit."

    "No, it's not about the bike. Not that I'll forget about that," he added. "We only won that battle because of you. Despite the type advantage, Kirlia was getting tossed around today."

    "I didn't really do anything. Vigoroth didn't exactly listen to me, he just attacked," Allie lamented. "And he almost hurt Kirlia."

    "Yeah, you're a terrible trainer," he told her nonchalantly. "But apparently you're better than I am. As much as I hate to admit it, there are things that I can learn from you."

    Allie couldn't believe what she was hearing. "You're being serious?"

    "Completely."

    "I don't know…" the girl mumbled. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a travel companion. Still though, Lucian wasn't exactly her favorite person.

    "Think about it tonight and let me know in the morning," he told her. "I'll understand if you don't want to, but I really do think it would be in our mutual interest."

    "Okay," Allie accepted. It would be a long night of reflecting on it.

    The two parted, each with new considerations to contemplate.




    Later that night, after everyone else had gone to bed, Allie lay sleepless on the bedroll the ninja clan had provided for her.

    Lucian's question was still bothering her. It still didn't make sense to her why he would want to go with her. Did he just want to make her miserable? He did say earlier that he would make her sorry for besting him.

    But he had also seemed sincere when he tried to apologize. It was the first time Allie had ever seen him trying to be kind. He really seemed to want to go with her, and Allie did still need a travelling companion.

    There was also the deeper significance of taking Lucian with her. Allie had been joined by several companions since she left Viridian with Squirtle. Mina had been taken from her by The Creature of the Cape. Forrest left because he felt like he failed to protect the girl he loved. May trained Allie to compete in contests then vanished. But her first and closest friend was Ash. And now, even he was gone.

    If Allie took Lucian with her, he would have to fill a void that could never be filled, replace a friend that could never be replaced.

    It would be like giving up on Ash coming back, and she couldn't do that.

    Deciding that she needed fresh air to clear her mind, Allie stood up and left the bedroom. All the lights were off, so Allie once again used her XTransceiver as a flashlight. Finally, she reached the courtyard. Confetti and used decorations littered the ground, making it seem eerie in the darkness. Taking a seat on a bench, the girl returned to her thoughts.

    The same question still haunted her. Should she go with Lucian, or alone?

    She looked down at her XTransceiver. The contacts button caught her eye. The list was almost empty, since she didn't really have anyone to contact. The one name listed was Ash Ketchum. He had evidently entered his own contact information before delivering the device.

    It wasn't the first time she noticed it. In fact, she had tried to call it several times to no avail. To be fair, the girl hadn't expected much, but it still hurt that he wouldn't answer.

    If there was ever a time she needed Ash's advice, it was now. She pressed the message button, and began composing a note to him.

    Ash, I don't know if you'll get this or not. I just got my third badge, from Janine. It was a tag battle alongside Lucian from the contest. Now he wants us to travel together, but he only wants to come so that he can beat me someday.

    Allie pressed send then sighed, doubting that Ash would ever return her message. She was surprised when a few moments later, her XTransceiver vibrated.

    Go with him.

    She hastily set about typing a reply.

    But he's such a jerk.

    Realizing that she shouldn't pass up the opportunity to check in on him, she also sent:

    Are you safe?

    Now that she was expecting an answer, the wait was dreadful. She looked down at the screen repeatedly, disappointed to find the device was only shaking because of her trembling hands. When the vibrations actually came, Allie nearly dropped the XTransceiver in excitement.

    Your safety matters more. You need to be with someone. I wasn't exactly friendly when we started traveling together. Perhaps you can soften his heart too.

    Allie saw a water droplet land on the screen and realized she was crying.

    Okay, but Ash… pls be safe.

    It takes a lot to kill me. Believe me.


    Ash. Even with whatever dangerous, stupid stuff he was doing, he was still being so brave. So brash.

    I do believe you, Allie responded, breaking into an awkward smile.

    Finally, Ash's responses stopped coming. Tired and emotionally exhausted, Allie returned to the mansion and fell asleep.




    "So, are you ready to go?" Allie cheerily asked a sleepy Lucian.

    The coordinator rubbed his eyes. It was way too early in the morning. The sun was just creeping over the horizon, and the Pidgeys were only beginning to make noise.

    "Do you have any idea what hour it is?" he hissed at her from his spot on the floor.

    Allie stood in the sliding doorway of Lucian's bedroom in the gym. He, meanwhile, glared at her from his bedroll.

    "I expect this means you'll be taking me with you," he guessed. "Either that, or you're trying to annoy me out of going with you."

    "The second one," Allie joked. "If you're not ready, I'm going to have to leave you behind."

    She ducked as Lucian's pillow flew toward her face.

    "Meet me in the courtyard in ten. We'll say goodbye to Janine and the others. I still have to pick up some of my things at the Pokémon Center. Then we can discuss our travel plans."

    Before Lucian could take issue with her plan, Allie slid the door shut. Her face immediately contorted with irritation. The next few days of her travelling weren't going to be pleasant.

    As directed, the tired boy met her outside the mansion a few minutes later. Janine and Allie were already saying goodbye.

    "What are you going to do now?" Janine asked the trainer.

    "Lucian and I are going to head back to the Pokémon Center and work out a plan."

    "Thank you for everything you've done for me Allie. You are a friend of this gym. If there is ever any way the Koga-ryu clan can help you, please call on me."

    "I only told you what you already knew," Allie smiled back at her.

    "Best of luck to both of you. May the gods watch over you always," Tōkichi blessed them.

    "Thank, you master."

    "Come on, Lucian, it's time to get going."

    The coordinator muttered his thanks, turned, and started down the road.

    "Good luck with that one," Aya muttered to Allie.

    "Oh, I wouldn't worry about them," Janine grinned. "I'm sure they'll be fine." As long as someone looks after them, she thought to herself.

    "Yeah, it'll be different," Allie admitted. "There's no one like Ash Ketchum." She waved goodbye, and departed from the Fuchsia Gym. Lucian was waiting not far from the gate, but turned and walked ahead as soon as he saw her coming.

    As she and Lucian walked silently through the forest, Allie felt a small shaking coming from her pocket. She took out her XTransceiver and felt her heart leap. A message from Ash appeared on the screen.

    I thought these might be of assistance to you.

    Allie pressed the little paperclip button to open the attachment, and found two digital tickets on the SS Seagallop Emperor.

    Ash was always looking out for her, even while he was away.

    Thanks Ash, she responded to his message.

    "Lucian, I've got great news!" Allie exclaimed. "We're going for a cruise!"

    She almost died laughing at the incredulous look on his face.




    Author's Note (or novel)

    Hey Everyone! Third week of chapter releases in a row. There will be no release next week, but that doesn't mean I won't be working on the next set of chapters. Here's a tentative release schedule for the next month. Remember this is subject to change, delay, alteration.

    9/15/12 – This chapter
    9/22/12 – No Update
    9/29/12 – Across Kanto (POV shorts with various characters)
    10/6/12 – Aboard the SS Seagallop Emperor
    10/13/12 – Revision Week (Fixing old chapters)
    10/20/12 – No Update
    10/27/12 - ?
    NOVEMBER... Ash's ReTURN!

    Review Question: What characters would you like to see appear in the next chapter? I'll try to include as many of your requests as I can facilitate. The only ones I won't accept are those who I have special plans for.

    Please review and request a character that you'd like to see next chapter.

    Coming up: Multi-POV Chapter, Ocean Cruises, Returning Characters, and more!

    Next time: What's wrong in Kanto? It's getting pretty bad, and some people start wondering why.

  13. #38

    Default

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 28: All Across Kanto

    Pokémon Center, Fuchsia City

    "We're leaving tomorrow afternoon from the seaport just south of Fuchsia," Allie repeated, getting annoyed at Lucian's inability to understand. It was the third time she had explained it to him since Ash sent her the tickets an hour ago.

    They were sitting in Allie's room at the Fuchsia Pokémon Center. Since Lucian had crashed on the bed as soon as he walked in, and the only other furniture in the room was a bedside table, Allie was resigned to looking up at him from her spot on the floor. She didn't feel like standing, and she would never go near the same bed as Lucian.

    "So where'd you get the tickets?" Lucian asked again.

    "I told you, a friend sent them to me."

    "Seems kind of dubious. What kind of person would just send you expensive cruise tickets?"

    Allie wanted to scream, "The kind of person who's not a selfish, egotistical jerk!" but she managed to control herself. Instead she pleasantly answered, "An incredible friend who is looking after me even from far away."

    "Whatever. They're first class, right?"

    "Inner cabins, connected by a joining door," Allie recalled from the digital tickets.

    "He bought tickets but couldn't be bothered to get decent ones? What a tool."

    At this, Allie stood up and grabbed her backpack. "That tool is a Pokémon Master and one of the greatest people I know. You know nothing about him, or of me. Now I'm going to shower and check out. We're leaving the city as soon as I come back. And if you're not in a better mood by the time I return, I'm going to forget that there's a second ticket and go alone."

    She slammed the door on her way out, leaving Lucian wondering he had said that was so much worse than usual.




    Oak's Lab, Pallet Town

    "Are you both ready?" Oak asked as he walked into his laboratory's conference room.

    His grandson and Professor Birch were already seated in the leather chairs around a large circular table. The old man sat down between them, his usually jovial face sullen from the gravity of the past few months.

    "I haven't been able to get in contact with Ash," Gary answered grimly. "I've tried calling his number several times, and even ran a trace for its location, but nothing came up."

    "We won't be able to find him if he doesn't want us to," Oak accepted. "I wish he was here, but we'll have to make do without him." He took a stack of papers from his grandson and began reading through it.

    "That's the analysis of the object Ash found in Celadon Gym," Gary clarified for the senior professors. Oak nodded absently. About a month ago, the Pokémon champion had sent the small black piece of plastic to be tested. He found it in the basement ventilation systems of the Celadon Gym, and it seemed to be responsible for the disease and weakness experienced by Erika's Pokémon.

    "Our lab tests found trace amounts of microbial bacterial growing on the plastic," he said, indicating a complicated molecular structure in his notes. "Its structure, as you can see, is similar to that of Pokérus."

    "So it's only able to affect Pokémon," Birch theorized.

    "Exactly right," Gary agreed. "However, unlike Pokérus, it does not provide a boost to growth, but acts as an inhibitor. In the case of grass-type Pokémon, this makes them both unable to grow stronger and to produce their natural aromas."

    "Preventing Erika from being able to harness their fragrance for perfumes," concluded the eldest of the three.

    "Now we need to figure out why this was planted in her gym," Gary said, thinking hard to come up with a conclusion based on the facts he had found.

    "What about the marking on the object?" Birch wondered. He was referring, of course, to the large red R painted onto the black background.

    "I have no doubt of its meaning," Oak said solemnly to the room at large. "Nor do I believe we were meant to. We, however, have enough to worry about without pondering criminal organizations. That we have left to the younger generation."

    He turned his attention to the dark-haired man on his left, changing topics instantaneously. "What do your findings from Viridian indicate, Professor Birch?"

    "I've studied the behaviors of Pokémon for years now, and never before have I seen something like this," the middle-aged professor began. "There are literally hundreds of Mightyena in Viridian Forrest. To make matters worse, their hunting territory is expanding south."

    Oak frowned. Viridian City, home to thousands, was just south of the forest. And only a little bit further was the edge of Pallet's own woodlands.

    "Have you traced the source of the migration?"

    "That's the most concerning detail, I fear. There is no natural way for that many Mightyena to get here. Hoenn is an island."

    "Of course, but how did they get here?" Gary wondered aloud. "They can't swim hundreds of miles, can they?"

    "No. And a small feral population could never grow so large so soon," Birch explained, showing the others a population graph he created.

    "Mightyena are from the plains of Hoenn. So how did they get to the forests of Kanto?" Oak asked, baffled by the mystery. "And if they can get to Kanto, what else can?"

    The ominous question hung in the air as none of the professors could answer it.




    Gym, Pewter City

    "The challenger's final Pokémon has fainted. The gym leader has won the battle."

    Forrest returned Steelix to its Pokéball without any real show of emotion.

    "You need to work on your technique," he told his defeated opponent. "Raw strength and type advantages will only get you so far. You don't stand a chance in the league if you can't plan and execute a strategy."

    The trainer nodded gracefully, turned, and left the gym.

    "That's the last one today, right?" Forrest called to his younger brother Salvadore.

    "Yep," the lookalike answered from his referee spot at the center of the gym.

    "Thank God," the gym leader groaned, crumpling onto the bleachers. He was exhausted. While he was off traveling with Mina and the others, many trainers came to challenge the gym. Finding it closed, they resolved to come back later, and now they came in droves.

    And they left in defeat.

    "Come on Forrest, let's head back home," Salvadore suggested, walking over to him. "The twins are making lasagna. We don't want to be late for that."

    Forrest grunted, showing his total disinterest in the Italian cuisine.

    He had been like this for too long, and Salvadore had enough of it. "Forrest, ever since you came back from Cerulean, you've been really messed up. It's awful to see you like this. Tell us what happened," Salvadore begged. "Maybe talking about it will help."

    After shaking his head, Forrest intentionally slammed it into the seat behind him. They had been asking him since he returned. As much as he tried to get over Mina and be a good gym leader, the position was a monotonous chore now. And the boredom left too much time for regrets.

    "You go on ahead. I'm going to do some paperwork," Forrest told his brother, closing his eyes with anguish.

    "Come on, bro," Salvadore maintained. "Take it home and do it after dinner."

    "Salvadore, go now, please," he commanded icily.

    His younger brother's face fell, clearly hurt and concerned. "Well, if you need me, I'll be at home. Don't stay out too late."

    Forrest glumly watched as his brother walked out of the gym, before moving towards a staircase. It wasn't the boy's fault for everything that happened. He didn't deserve to have Forrest send him home in frustration.

    In the basement of the gym was a small office Forrest used for official work. Between gym battles, it was where he spent most of his time. Home was too happy, too full of his younger siblings having fun. He couldn't subject them to his depression.

    He leaned back in his office chair and turned on the small television in the corner, determined to take his mind off it.

    The image of a young black haired woman appeared on the screen. Once upon a time, he would have admired her hourglass shape, her sleek hair, and her bright green eyes. Not now. He watched as she began speaking, totally disinterested in the news story.

    "I'm Selena Skystar, reporting here from the newly rebuilt Silph Corporation Headquarters. Ever since the fire consumed its main building three months ago, Silph has been working diligently to expand and improve its services and products.

    "The company has even changed its new slogan to match the times: Restore Our Country and Keep Evolving Together. Providing leadership through industry and progress, Silph promises to return Kanto to a time before the chaotic events which have gripped our region in the recent years."

    Forrest pressed the power button the remote before chucking it across the room in frustration. It landed at the base of a pile of papers he left on the floor. Although he wasn't much of an artist, the drawings provided a chance to remember and admire what he lost. Every paper in the stack contained the same sketch:

    Mina Danford.

    He missed her dearly, and still couldn't rest his eyes without seeing her vanishing into thin air. But there wasn't anything he could do. Ash promised to contact him if there were any leads on the Creature of the Cape. But none had come. It had been little over a month since he returned to the gym, and about two since Mina died.

    The gym leader's stomach growled and he realized sitting in the office wasn't doing any good. He decided to go home and eat, maybe even pretend to be happy.

    When he arrived outside the large house, he found Salvatore causally leaning against a tree.

    "Message for you," the younger brother said, pulling an envelope from a pocket. "A Pidgeot came. It took off as soon as I untied the letter."

    Forrest grabbed it from his hands. "Thanks bro," he said not unkindly, regretting his coolness earlier. He opened the envelope and read the contents.

    Salvatore watched as the strong shoulders sagged and the narrow eyes opened wide. A second later, the gym leader embraced him. The younger brother was stunned to feel something wet touch his face. What could the letter have said to make the stone cold gym leader cry?




    Route 19, South of Fuchsia

    "Allie, earlier when you said you were friends with a Pokémon Master, did you mean it?"

    The blonde girl looked up from her dehydrated dinner when she heard the question. Lucian was sitting across the fire from her, his eyes watching her curiously. It was the first thing he had said to her since they departed Fuchsia City that morning. He had followed her lead all day, moaning and sighing, though never speaking to her. They had stopped for the night, planning on making the rest of the short trip the following day.

    Wartortle and Ruby were cuddled against a nearby tree, sleeping soundly. Allie hadn't had the nerve to release Vigoroth after the previous day's disastrous battle. Her companion hadn't released any of his Pokémon, although she had seen him look to his belt as if he was considering it.

    "Of course I did," she replied shortly. "Why would I make something like that up?"

    Lucian had been thinking about it all day. It seemed so unlikely that a novice like Allie would be connected to so many elite trainers: May, Janine, and this Master. It didn't make sense.

    "I don't know. Who was he?"

    "A friend I traveled with since I left on my journey. We had a similar route for a while, but our paths parted a while ago," she lamented.

    "His name?"

    "Ash Ketchum."

    Allie watched as Lucian's eyes narrow with incredulity. He was truly unbelievable.

    "If you don't want to trust what I say, that's fine," she told him flatly. "It doesn't matter what you think."

    "No, I'm sorry," he hastily apologized. Lucian realized he was on thin ice now. "You really met Ash Ketchum? That explains how you met May."

    "That's right; they used to travel together too. She found us while we were in Celadon." Allie remembered the night painfully clearly. After discovering Ash and May embracing at the Pokémon Center, she had run out into the rain. Emotions had run high, and the night culminated with her volunteering to infiltrate the Dante Club. If she hadn't entered the contest, she would never have met the boy sitting across the fire from her.

    "What was it like, getting to meet them?" Lucian asked, tilting his head to one side.

    Allie realized that her new companion was trying to act interested, so she explained to him about her journey. She talked about leaving her lonely home, meeting Ash, and travelling to Pewter, Cerulean, and Celadon. There were some details she omitted. He didn't need to know about how frequently she was attacked or about Mina and the Creature.

    When she was finished with her narrative, Lucian stared at her with his mouth slightly open. He desperately wanted to challenge her story's truth; it was so wild. But as she had said, there was no reason for her to lie.

    "You really did all those things?"

    "Yep," Allie answered, returning to her dinner.

    "I've got big shoes to fill then, don't I?" he half joked.

    There was an awkward pause, but finally Allie again said, "Yep."

    "I know we didn't get off on the best of terms," Lucian admitted, his hands twisting nervously.

    No duh, Allie thought. She felt bad for thinking it, but it was the truth.

    The boy reached into his backpack and pulled out the silver case containing his most precious possessions. He took one of the rare ribbons out, a large purple one, and walked around the fire to sit next to Allie.

    "Thanks for letting me come with you. I know I can be… a bit difficult sometimes. It's just my nature." He took hold of her hand and let her feel the smooth silk of the ribbon. "But I want you to know that I am committed to making this companionship work."

    Allie gazed into his fire-red eyes, scarcely believing what was happening. Surely he was only trying to make sure she didn't leave him, wasn't he? He couldn't really care that much about being friends. Could he?

    "This is the first ribbon I won here in Kanto," he explained as their fingers traced the soft fabric.

    She remained frozen as he stood up and pulled the hair tie from her ponytail. He ran his fingers through her blonde hair, caressing it softly. He gently pulled it back together. Taking the ribbon, he tied it around her hair, recreating a ponytail. The girl recognized a coordinator's grace in a boy she once thought singularly arrogant.

    "I want you to keep this for now. Someday I'll need it back to compete in the Grand Festival. But for now, while we travel together, I want you to look after it, as a sign that I do want to you to trust me."

    "Lucian, I…" she tried to say.

    "Just don't let anything happen to it, okay?" the boy pleaded.

    "I won't. I promise I'll take care of it. Thank you."

    The two stared at each other awkwardly for a minute, and then Lucian quickly looked away. "You still owe me a new bike."




    Gym, Fuchsia City

    The Fuchsia Gym was nearly deserted the night following the party. The many ninja had returned to their homes. Only Janine, Aya, and Tōkichi still occupied the expansive building. It had been a long day cleaning up the courtyard, and then the old ninja master insisted that Aya and Janine battle each other for practice.

    The ninjas had turned in early in order to rest for the following day's training. The mansion was dead silent. Only a single shadow darted through the hallways, avoiding traps, and emerged into the courtyard.

    In the forest, a Noctowl hooted softly. The species had spread from Johto several years ago, and now populated the southern forests of Kanto. Even from a distance, its red eyes spotted a dark purple ponytail leaving the gym. Indifferent, it turned its attention to potential prey below.

    As the girl ran through the gate, she suddenly sensed a presence behind her.

    "Do you still think you can evade me, Janine?" Tōkichi's voice came from the shadows. "I taught you everything you know, not everything I know." He stepped into the moon's light. His robes were striking in the darkness, and his face bore an unreadable expression.

    Janine realized she shouldn't have expected to get past him. Tōkichi was like an uncle to her; only her father knew her better. Koga had sent her off to train at Tōkichi's dojo in Johto, just as he had done with Aya.

    "You knew I was going to try to leave."

    "I did. It was inevitable. Your father thought the same."

    "My dad?"

    Tōkichi pulled a piece of paper from his robes and presented it to the girl. "Before he departed, he left this for you. I'm sorry I had to wait until now, but I gave him my word."

    Janine took the letter and unfolded it. The handwriting was indeed her father's, and her heartbeat sped up as she read the words.

    My Beautiful Daughter,

    You have done well to have received this letter. Master Tōkichi was instructed to only give it to you once you accepted the mantle of gym leader. For your courage and strength in the face of despair, I commend you.

    I know the day will come when you have the desire to wander. You are of my blood, and are not one to remain in one place. You should go out and see the world. Seeing and experiencing will broaden your horizons and help you become a better leader. In your place, Aya will manage the gym.

    Before I left, I made Aya and Tōkichi promise to make sure you accepted your inheritance before allowing you to traverse the world. If they have pushed you too hard, it is my fault. They both care very much about you. As do I.

    It pains me to know how angry you must be with me. I am sorry that I had to leave. I know that you will be an incredible gym leader and an incredible woman, just like your mother.

    With love always,

    Dad

    Janine held the letter in her trembling hand for several minutes. She was only brought back to reality when a tear fell on the paper.

    "You were all looking out for me, even while I thought you were forcing me to become gym leader against my will."

    Tōkichi's eyes shone with pride. "There is an amazing world out there to see. Run to it, and forever do your best. And remember always: you are loved."

    Janine wrapped her arms around the old man. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear, fighting to control her tears.

    "Go."

    "Thank you, for everything. Tell Aya the same for me."

    "I will, child."

    "Then, goodbye."

    Tōkichi watched as she walked off into the darkness of Fuchsia Forest. She was truly one of his special pupils, and had a bright future ahead of her.

    "Koga, you've raised an excellent child," the master said, looking to the stars. "Thank you for allowing me to be her teacher."




    Author's Note:

    Sorry about missing last week. I got tied up right before I went to post.

    This chapter was really enjoyable to write. There was much more variety, and a chance to cover the emotional, important stuff from many individuals instead of just the events of one small group. What do you think of the style? How about Lucian's promise of loyalty and trust? Does he deserve it?

    I have finally decided on the official ending details of the story line. So far, I've just been vague, but now I'll be able to start addressing the events of three years ago… not for a while yet though.

    NEXT TIME: Adventure and Peril on the High Seas! Lucian, Allie, and… shuffleboard?

  14. #39

    Default Chapter 29

    They Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 29: Aboard the Emperor

    Soon, my girl. Soon, you will belong to me. The shadowy, steel face of The Creature of the Cape glared at her from the darkness. Its glowing eyes pierced into Allie's soul. She wanted to scream, wanted to run, but she couldn't do anything except die.

    Allie awoke in a cold sweat. She hadn't had that dream in months, not since arriving in Celadon. The busyness of earning her second badge and preparing to infiltrate the Dante Club had left her too tired to think about what happened that night at the cape.

    It was a horrible dream to have. She was feet away when Mina had disintegrated before her eyes. Only through Ash's and Forrest's intervention had she escaped the same fate. The girl managed to push most of the memories of the incident out of her mind, but that dream brought the vivid terror of the night back.

    Allie rolled onto her side, and her hand came in contact with bare skin. It wasn't her own.

    Someone else was in her bed.

    Anyone but Lucian, was her initial thought. Of course, there were worse bedfellows, The Creature and Dante among them, but Lucian was the only person who seemed likely. Maybe she left the door between their rooms open accidentally.

    Not sure whether the person next to her was awake or asleep, Allie decided she should try to slip out of the bed right away. She gently moved the covers off her, and slid toward the side of the bed.

    As soon as her feet touched the ground, the other figure leapt up. Taken by surprise, Allie tripped backwards and landed by the door. She watched passively as a body stood on the bed, looking down at her. In the darkness, she couldn't see anything but a dark silhouette.

    "It's a bit early to wake up, isn't it? I thought cruises were supposed to be relaxing," a familiar voice came from the darkness.

    Allie, still slightly overtired, felt like she should recognized the voice, but she couldn't figure out from where. Definitely not Lucian, so that at least was a relief.

    "How did you get in here?" the blonde-haired girl asked from the floor.

    "Family secret."

    Allie crawled backward to the wall and, reaching one arm up, found the light switch. She was both astonished and delighted to see Janine, gym leader of Fuchsia City, standing on her bed. The ninja looked well, although slightly underdressed for polite society.

    "What are you doing here?" Allie asked incredulously. She suddenly felt wide awake. "I thought you were staying at the gym."

    Janine grinned. "I decided that getting an idea of the world would help me to become a better gym leader."

    "But how did you find us?"

    "That's simple. You mentioned it to Nurse Joy when you left Fuchsia. I decided to follow along. I caught a boat out here, and slipped on deck last night."

    Allie raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that illegal?"

    "Not for me," Janine replied, pulling the heart shaped Soul Badge from her pocket. "I spoke with the captain when I arrived, and he told me that it would be an honor and an asset to have a gym leader on board. He's a weird old man, though. He kept saying how dangerous the waters are these days."

    "Oh."

    In the silence that followed this ominous claim, the girls realized that they hadn't moved from their places.

    "Perhaps we should talk outside," Janine suggested, picking her outerwear off the floor. "The sunrise will be soon, and it's supposed to be very pretty from the ocean."

    Allie nodded her head. "Agreed."

    They got dressed and headed outside. It was still dark out, but they could hear the crashing wake of the waves far below them. The two walked to a spot at the bow of the ship, found two lounge chairs, and sat down.

    "How has traveling with Lucian been?" Janine asked curiously.

    Allie laughed weakly. "Oh, it's a whole different kind of adventure, that's for sure."

    "In a good or bad way?"

    "Different. Just different. He's as different from Ash as he could be."

    The cold, salty breeze buffeted their faces.

    "You mentioned Ash Ketchum before you departed my home. Were you familiar with him?"

    "We were travelling companions," Allie explained. Most people reacted with surprise or disbelief when she told them, but Janine just nodded knowingly. Of course, she came from a family of gym leaders, so it came as no surprise to Allie that the ninja girl was familiar with her mentor.

    "The way Lucian screamed at you after the battle, I was astonished when you left together."

    "Me too," Allie said thoughtfully. "Our first night traveling, he gave me one of his contest ribbons." The purple silk prize was still sitting on the bedside table in Allie's room. "It's kind of weird. Sometimes he acts like he cares, but other times he's just a jerk."

    "How so?"

    Allie recounted of how a little girl had run into the coordinator during the first day on the ship. Lucian had screamed at her, bringing the excited girl to tears. He had only stopped when Allie knelt down to comfort the crying girl. After the child had left, Lucian at least had the grace to act ashamed when Allie glared at him.

    "So will you continue to travel with him?" Janine wondered.

    "I gave him my word I would," the blonde girl sighed. "I just wish he wouldn't act so cruelly. Ash was cold, but he was never cruel."

    "For what it's worth, I plan on traveling too. Perhaps one companion more would make him less intolerable?"

    Allie's eyes lit up. "You want to come with us?"

    "Only if you'll have me."

    "Of course," the trainer agreed excitedly. "That would be awesome." Janine was her first female friend of the same age since Mina, it would be great to have someone who understood what it was like being a girl trainer.

    "It's settled then. Incidentally, where is this ship heading?" Janine inquired.

    "Cinnabar. Cinnabar Island."

    As the sun rose in the east, it draped orange over the massive volcano far, far in the west.




    The SS Seagallop Emperor was the newest and finest ship in Kanto. Owned by the same company which revolutionized ferry service to the Sevii Islands, the Emperor was the company's first endeavor into the cruise industry.

    The hull of the ship was painted whitest white, decorated with images of Lapras, Dewgong, Kingdra, and Emploleon. When Allie and Lucian first saw it in port, they had been awestruck by the majesty of it. Allie had never even seen the ocean before, and adored the way the ship rose majestically out of the water. Even Lucian, who claimed to be an experienced traveler, was amazed by the beauty of such a humongous ship.

    It was the fourth day of a weeklong cruise to Cinnabar Island. After watching the sunrise, Allie and Janine decided to head back to bed, although this time Janine used a bedroll on the floor.

    In the room next door, Lucian pulled a red polo over his black swim trunks. He ran a comb through his dirty-blonde hair, the same way he did every day to get the perfect flow. Checking himself out in the mirror, he decided he was all ready to meet Allie.

    Although the gift of his precious ribbon had eased tensions and brought them closer, he and Allie were still very uneasy around each other. They hadn't really spent much time together, as the girl enjoyed spending time at the ship's practice battlefield and the boy preferred spending time at the ship's entertainment venues.

    But today was different, he decided. If they were going to be partners on a journey, they needed to spend some time together.

    Not even he understood why he kept trying so hard for her. She beat him in a contest, and carried his weight in a gym battle. And yet, there was something pure and likeable about the girl. It wasn't that he had feelings for her, but he did want to spend time with his first ever traveling companion.

    Sighing, he grabbed a canvas bag containing towels, sunscreen, and his Pokéballs. He cherished his Pokémon, but didn't usually take them everywhere like Allie did. This led to several awkward moments over the past week where Allie suggested letting their Pokémon play, and Lucian had to respond that he left them in his room. Minor disagreements had already arisen between the two on the best way to raise Pokémon.

    He stepped out into the hallway and made for the door next to his own. He knocked three times. While he waited, he admired the ship's interior design. Beauty was something he could understand.

    When the door finally opened, it was not Allie who stepped out. Lucian's usually pasty face glowed red as Janine stepped out, no more dressed than how Allie had found her.

    "Uhhh…"

    "Hello again, Lucian." She tilted her head, not entirely sure why he was embarrassed. Her life had always been so sheltered within her Pokémon gym, and didn't fully understand certain social conventions. "Is something the matter?" she asked the boy.

    "Um… no, of course not," he murmured, not wanting to have to explain. "What are you doing…"

    "Here?" the ninja finished. "I have decided to accompany you and Allie for a while. I hope you don't mind."

    He actually didn't know how he felt, but he was sure that he'd say something regrettable if he responded now, so instead he just asked for Allie.

    "Hold on just a moment," Janine told him, disappearing back into the room.

    A few minutes later, Allie stepped into the doorway, tired and groggy in her pajamas. "Sorry," the girl apologized regarding her appearance and exhaustion. "I had an early morning wakeup call." She gestured behind her with a thumb.

    "I see. You'll have to tell me about it."

    "What's up?" Allie asked, trying to be more of her peppy self.

    "I was wondering if you wanted to spend the day with me on the Lido deck." Either his friend didn't understand the terminology or was too tired to recognize it, so he added, "The pool. Both of you are welcome, obviously."

    "Okay, sure," she responded, again surprised by the effort he was putting into their companionship. "I just need to get ready. Do you want to meet there in an hour?"

    "Alright," Lucian accepted. "I'll see you then."

    As Lucian turned and walked back down the hallway, Allie reentered the room.

    "I guess we're going to spend the day with Lucian," she told Janine. "He wants to hang out by the pool. Are you up for it?"

    "I don't see why not," Janine responded from where she sat stretching on the floor. "I've never really taken a vacation."

    Allie began digging through her backpack for supplies, when she realized the one article of clothing she forgot to pack.

    "Did you bring a bathing suit with you?" she asked the ninja girl.

    "No. There isn't much of a need for one around Fuchsia."

    "I don't have one either," Allie admitted. As a little girl, she used to love to swim in the abandoned quarries near Pewter City. That was before her father left though, and she rarely used her suits after that. "I guess that can be our excuse to go shopping."

    "Ooh, exciting," Janine purred, leaping to her feet.

    There was no shortage of stores on the gigantic ship. The girls found a trendy shop selling beach gear, and had fun picking through the selection. They would have liked not to have been under the time constraints, but Allie had promised to meet Lucian.

    And so it was that, still early on in the morning, Allie and Janine met up with Lucian on the Lido Deck. Allie had selected a light purple strapless bikini, complete with a dark purple bottom that reached her shins but had a sharp cutout revealing her thigh. For once, her hair hung freely down her back. The gym leader wore a lavender two piece, which recalled her usual ninja outfit.

    Lucian greeted them with a minimal smile. "Hello," he said pleasantly. He gestured to a set of three lounge chairs his bag was leaning against. "Shall we?"




    Even in the morning, the Emperor's Bridge was alive with activity. Officers and crew members rushed about checking the ship's position and status. As the ship's captain entered with his morning tea, the crew saluted him. He waved them off so they could get on with their duties.

    He was an old man; he didn't have time for excessive formalities. His tea trembled in his wrinkled hands, but once he sat down in his captain's seat, he was as strong and bold as always.

    When one of his men approached him, the old captain stood up.

    "Captain, we've found something unusual on radar," the young officer told him.

    "Well, speak then, boy," the wizened old man ordered. Even in his old age, he could command a ship better than anyone in the world. This was to be his final journey, however, before he reentered retirement. The maiden captainship of the Seagallop Emperor was a retirement present given to him by the cruise company: a tribute to his decades of service. Then, he could finally relax in his seaside cottage and enjoy his final years.

    "The radar is displaying some unusual shapes, sir. Pokémon, sir," the lad added hastily.

    "We're in an ocean: a living, breathing, growing environment. Of course there's Pokémon."

    "Captain, I know. But look at the shapes." The officer handed his captain a printed image of the radar.

    The old man's grip on the paper tightened as he recognized the contents. "But we're in Kanto. And there are so many." Recognizing his show of uncertainty might be perceived as weakness, he hastily passed the papers back to his officer. "Keep an eye on the radar. If the shiver comes any closer, send an SOS to the mainland."

    The officer saluted and began to walk away when he remembered another question. "Erm, sir? What should we tell the passengers?"

    "Start clearing the lower cabins. If the threat becomes imminent, keep all the passengers at suite level. Gather any trainers in case we need their assistance."

    "Sir." The officer walked away to alert his crew members of the situation.

    "Peeko! Come to me, my darling!" the captain shouted. A Wingull awoke from its perch next the map table. It stretched its tired wings. The old bird was even farther along in its lifespan than the ancient captain. "I need you to take a fly over the starboard sea. See if you can spot anything out of place in the waters."

    The Wingull nodded weakly, but the look in Peeko's eyes was as determined and loyal as always.

    "Thank you, my darling," he called as Peeko flew out an open window. He had imagined his final cruise to be relaxing, enjoyable. But in truth, there was little fun in captaining a simple voyage. Still, he reflected as he stroked his long white beard, the coming hours might be a little too exciting.




    Although the end of typhoon season was not generally the best time to cruise, the Weather Institute of Hoenn had predicted beautiful maiden voyage for the Seagallop Emperor. And for once, the weather men got it right.

    The sun blazed in the bright sky above the majestic ship. And on the ship's Lido Deck, Allie, Janine, and Lucian lay sunbathing. Allie was enjoying the warmth and relaxation, but was truthfully very bored. She had been enjoying spending time on the Battle Deck, and would have been perfectly content to spend all her time there. But today she had agreed to spend time with the others.

    The others were enjoying their time in the sun much more. Admittedly, they needed it more than Allie. Although the blonde girl was fairly light skinned, Lucian and Janine looked pasty beside her.

    She rolled onto her stomach to give her back a chance to get some color. Lucian was on her right, and as she turned, their eyes met.

    "Enjoying the sun?" the boy asked, not unkindly.

    "Mhm," she replied, acting satisfied.

    "It'll do well for you," he said. It took an admiration for beauty to be a great Pokémon coordinator, and he tried to demonstrate this for his companion. "A darker tan will bring out the color in your hair. You should try it more often."

    "What?"

    "Tanning more would be good for your appearance," Lucian clarified, still oblivious to his mistake.

    "What's wrong with my appearance?" Allie's eyes narrowed dangerously, but the sign went unnoticed by the coordinator.

    Lucian propped himself up by the elbow. "I'm just saying that you could look better if you were more devoted to your appearance. You looked pretty fine during the contest, but you almost never put any effort into your style. You're good looking when you try." This time, as soon as he finished, he face filled without horror as he realized what he had said.

    Allie's boredom seemed to have shortened her fuse. She stood up and glared down at her companion. "Lucian, I'm not one of your Pokémon that you can dictate the looks of. I'm a Pokémon trainer. I spend most of my time training in the countryside. Forgive me for not looking pretty enough to travel with you." She stood up and began stomping off. When she was a few feet away, she turned around and shouted, "And if I wanted you to judge my appearance like I was in one of your superficial contests, I'd let you know, okay?"

    The coordinator watched regretfully as Allie left the deck. Most of the passengers around him were staring by now.

    "That could have gone better," Lucian said to Janine, who too was staring at him from across Allie's empty spot. "I didn't mean it in a bad way!"

    The gym leader rolled her eyes and walked to the pool then waded in.

    Allie, meanwhile, found her way to the spot on the bow she had sat with Janine at sunrise. She lay down on one of the lounge chairs. Most of the passengers were off playing shuffleboard or enjoying the pool, so the bow was rather empty. The girl found that she enjoyed the isolation. It was a lot nicer to sunbathe when it was for her own enjoyment rather than because Lucian asked.

    She knew she shouldn't have gone off on him, but the coordinator was out of line. It was like he only occasionally spoke his mind, but when he did, it hurt.

    Regardless, Allie was finally enjoying the relaxation part of the voyage.

    Until, that is, a siren pierced the silence. It was incredibly loud, and Allie had to cover her ears to keep them from hurting. She could hear speakers crackling to life, and then a voice came on.

    "All crew members report to the bridge. All passengers to the upper decks. If you are an experienced Pokémon trainer, please meet by the life decks. This is not a drill."

    The voice proceeded to repeat the announcement several times before finally cutting off.

    Allie reluctantly stood up and left the bow. What kind of emergency could they be facing? It wasn't like there were any icebergs in this part of the ocean. She remembered hearing tales of ships sinking in the sea south of Kanto years ago, but the details were mysterious. Surely they weren't about to sink.

    As Allie gathered with the ship's other trainers, she spotted Lucian on the other side of the deck. Unwilling to speak with him, Allie remained where she was. The group around her was about forty strong.

    At the front of the crowd, Janine and a bald old man with a long white beard stood on the deck's raised edge.

    "Thank you all for coming," the old man spoke. A Wingull swooped down and landed on his shoulder as he began talking. "I am the captain of this ship. It is my duty to inform you all that there is currently a large group of Sharpedo approaching the ship. For those of you unfamiliar with nautical Pokémon… even a single one could sink us."

    Murmurs and panicked voices followed this proclamation.

    "Now, Sharpedo aren't native to these waters. Therefore, the Seagallop Emperor set sail without the safeguards a ship in Hoenn would have," the captain explained. "I can't say why they're here, but we're the only defense this ship has."

    More concern rose among the trainers. Allie looked out to the horizon, where the ocean met the sky, and recalled meeting other Pokémon who didn't belong in Kanto. The scar on her arm tingled where the Mightyena had torn at it.

    "I implore you to help us protect our ship. While my officers and I fight the Sharpedo in the sea, the rest of you must fight any which attempt to attack the gunwales. This ship's not small, but a Sharpedo could launch itself right up to where we are now. If you don't want to help, go back with the rest of the passengers."

    A few people shifted uncomfortably where they stood, but no one wanted to back away from this challenge. The ancient captain pointed to the ninja girl beside him, still clad in her bikini.

    "This lass beside me is Janine, the gym leader from Fuchsia City. You can challenge her to the battle after this is done," he growled at the trainers whose eyes lit up at the opportunity for a badge. "She's volunteered to coordinate the defense of the decks. Follow her lead, and we'll remain safe." He paused as if he was finished, before adding, "Today may be a dark day. But with your help, we shall prevail. Godspeed, trainers."




    Author's Note

    Sorry I missed last week's release. I originally meant to do this as a single chapter, but it got a bit long. Therefore, next week's chapter will have all the excitement this one was supposed to have. Unless the ship sinks and everyone dies. Probably not. The revisions will take place over Thanksgiving so that I have more time to devote to them. My profile is always updated with the latest plan.

    Updated Schedule:
    10/20/12 – Sharpedo Ahoy!
    10/27/12 – Landfall

    If you have a moment, I'd really appreciate a review. Even something small to let me know you're reading. Thanks.

    RESPONSE QUESTION: What's your favorite character or myth from the Orange Islands?

    Next Time: Sharpedo attacks… still more enjoyable than a conversation with Lucian.

  15. #40

    Default 30

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 30: A Battle At Sea

    The captain of the Seagallop Emperor was soaked with the spray from waves breaking against the ship. He and the rest of the crew stood at the base of the ship, ready to defend their vessel from the Sharpedo threat. They floated together on the back of a dozen Wailmer, preparing to direct their water type Pokémon in battle. Water licked their boots whenever a wave crashed against the Wailmer. Only the captain rode a Wailmer of his own, and was trying to coordinate a defense against the coming attack.

    The fate of the SS Seagallop Emperor hung in the balance.

    "Sir," a voice came through the captain's radio. It was the young officer he left monitoring the radar. "They're right below you."

    The old man held the radio to his lips and spoke softly into it. "Thank you, officer. You've been invaluable to this crew."

    "Thank you, sir. Good luck."

    The captain reattached the radio to his belt. "My friends, it's been a pleasure," he said to those around him. "If this is our last stand, let's make it one to be sung of in the shanties."

    High above the sea level, Allie and Wartortle were also preparing for the coming gauntlet. Most other trainers had all of their Pokémon out and ready for battle, but Allie's team was limited. Ruby was weak to water attacks and Vigoroth would just as soon destroy the ship himself, so Wartortle was her only option.

    "Are you ready?" she whispered, kneeling beside her partner. "This isn't going to be like a normal battle."

    Wartortle nodded confidently, grinning a wide smile. He had grown up so much from the shy little Pokémon Allie started with. She was proud of his new courage; it made her feel stronger at times like these.

    Allie looked across the deck and saw Lucian. There were about five trainers defending this deck, and at purely by chance, he was one of them. They hadn't spoken since he had told her she needed to work harder at her appearance. Allie hadn't been offended per say, as she didn't care that much. All the same, she really didn't want to talk with him right now.

    He turned around and they made eye contact. Great, thought Allie as he began walking toward her.

    A huge tremor rocked the ship, throwing all of the trainers to the floor. Allie struggled to her feet amidst what felt like an earthquake, and was immediately flung against the railing of the ship. As she grasped the rail to help her keep her footing, she looked down at the raging sea below.

    There was barely anything to be seen apart from sea foam and mist. Evidently, a massive battle was occurring. The captain had said that the trainers would only have to defend the ship if the Sharpedo tried jumping, but what if the crew failed to defeat them?

    Even as Allie watched, ship shook violently. It seemed that the shark Pokémon were ramming the bottom of the boat. Just as she was about to turn around, a speck above the water caught her eye.

    She pushed away from the edge just in time to keep from losing her head. An enormous Sharpedo had leapt from the water below, its sharp teeth tearing at where she had stood just a moment before.

    The large water type landed on the deck and started thrashing about violently. Lounge chairs and cocktail tables were smashed and crunched by the mighty fins and powerful jaw.

    Unable to stand up because of the tremors, Allie tried to crawl like a Krabby away from her attacker. The small red eyes locked onto her, and the Sharpedo moved toward her faster.

    "Tortle!" the trainer heard, and a blast of water hit Sharpedo in the face. The water, though ineffective, was enough to stun the Brutal Pokémon long enough for Allie enough to get back to where the other trainers stood transfixed. Lucian moved towards her and helped her to stand. Her bare midriff tickled as he put his arm around it to keep them both stable. Now wasn't the time to get in another fight, so she ignored it.

    "Use psybeam, Kirlia. Escavalier slash at it," Lucian ordered, pointing with his free hand.

    Kirlia's technique seemed to have no effect on its target whatsoever. Escavalier also made a bold attempt to attack, but the rough shark skin left scratches on its lances and armor.

    The other trainers were unable to pull themselves together, and so their Pokémon stood by uselessly. They clearly weren't very experienced, Allie noted disappointedly. She was so used to danger at this point that it had practically become part of her daily expectations.

    Wartortle was still blasting water at Sharpedo, but the monstrous shark was fighting the current more and more successfully. Lucian's Pokémon, too, maintained their assault to no avail.

    "Someone do something!" Allie shouted. Somehow the only trainers with the courage to battle were stuck with Pokémon that were ineffectual.

    Just as Sharpedo opened its jaw to lunge for the trainers, there was a bright light and the noise of a Pokéball opening. In the mist and confusion, Allie and her companions couldn't tell what had happened.

    "Rooooth!" Allie heard the roar through the pandemonium, and recognized it at once. She instinctively reached to her belt, but felt only the hemline of her swim skirt. Her Pokéballs were in her bag across the deck, and somehow, one of them had opened.

    Vigoroth had again inexplicably broken free from his Pokéball, and had launched itself onto Sharpedo. He gripped the dorsal fin and slashed at his opponent from above, but roared in pain as the rough skin began to affect him.

    "Be careful, Vigoroth!" she shouted. "Don't use physical attacks!"

    The trainer didn't think her words would do any good, given that the white Pokémon wasn't keen on obedience, but she couldn't watch him in such agony without trying to help. She was proved wrong a moment later, however, as a loud bellowing came from Vigoroth. It was thunderous, and all the trainers covered their ears in discomfort.

    "What's it doing?" Allie yelled. She didn't even know he could use such an attack.

    "The move's called uproar," responded Lucian over the painfully loud sound. "Watch what it's doing!"

    Visible sound waves came pouring out of Vigoroth's mouth, directly at Sharpedo. The water type flailed in agony, but Vigoroth was unyielding.

    Finally, under the combined assault of Allie's and Lucian's Pokémon, the Sharpedo finally collapsed. Slakoth hopped off victoriously, slashing his opponent's soft underbelly for good measure.

    "Enough, Vigoroth, you won," Allie tried to calm him. She had feared this would happen again. "Come over here and we'll treat your injuries." In addition to the usual scars running up a down his arms, his stomach and hands were in bad condition from holding on.

    He ignored her sympathies, but did leave Sharpedo alone. He found himself a broken lounge chair to rest on, and closed his eyes. Not even his trainer dared approach at the moment; he was always unpredictable after battles.

    "What were the rest of you doing?" Lucian hollered at the other trainers. "She could have died. What good is being a Pokémon trainer if you're so thoroughly useless in an emergency? Your Pokémon would have been more useful if they weren't looking for directions from cowards like you!"

    Allie gave her companion a look that silenced him at once. He knew he had taken things too far yet again, but still felt his severity was vindicated.

    "I know battles like these are scary," Allie told them all, much more calmly than Lucian. She held up her arm to reveal where the Mightyena had savaged her at the start of her journey. "I've faced things like this before, and they aren't fun or exciting. But danger is part of this world now, and we have to accept it and face it for the sake of everyone around us.

    "There are thousands of people on this ship, and right now, they're depending on us to protect this ship. We're Pokémon trainers with responsibilities to do good in a world filled with bad. If anything else gets onto this ship, we need your help or we might not win next time."

    She paused, looking at the small group around her. Apart from herself, Lucian, and their Pokémon, there were two scared preteens and an anxious looking adult scientist. Perhaps they had seen Pokémon battles, but this was something else.

    "We need your help. For the sake of everyone on this ship, and for yourselves and your Pokémon, please help us."

    She took a step away to let them consider their desperate position, and Lucian followed her.

    "Allie, your scar, I never…" he whispered, unable to complete the sentence.

    "It isn't something I think much about," Allie admitted. "I got it trying to meet Professor Oak for a Pokémon. Ash was the only reason it wasn't worse."

    "About what I said earlier," Lucian began, looking to his sandaled feet remorsefully. "I never meant to insult you."

    The girl still wasn't sure how she felt about the issue, but she decided to wave it aside. It was so trivial compared to their current situation, and really kind of petty anyway. Allie opened her mouth to forgive him, but was cut off by her own starter Pokémon.

    "Wartortle, wartortle!"

    The turtle Pokémon's frantic cry returned everyone's attention to the matter at hand. He was at the deck's edge, pointing down. Wartortle leapt back toward his trainer as soon as he had everyone's focus.

    Just seconds later, another five Sharpedo landed on the deck, each one larger and scarier than the original. They glowered at the trainers as if daring them to run.

    Without turning around, Allie asked the trainers behind her: "Are you with us?"

    No words answered her call to arms, but she heard each of them step next to her in turn.

    "Let's do this," she said, as Vigoroth hopped off his throne to do battle yet again. "Go!"

    All at once, the deck became fluid in motion once more, this time on a greater scale. Each trainer led his or her Pokémon together against one of the giant menaces. If it wasn't for their experience level and type disadvantages, they would have had a total advantage. Unfortunately, the brutal Pokémon were aggressive enough to keep the fight fair despite being outnumbered. Allie hadn't ever seen a Sharpedo before, but these seemed larger than the ones in books.

    An even fiercer battle thundered at sea level.

    "This will not be another Saint Anne!" the captain roared. The adrenaline of the fierce battle had brought vigor and youth back into his old bones. There was an excitement he hadn't felt for a long time. "Wailmer, water spout! Knock them out of the sea!"

    A huge jet of water sprung from in front of his Wailmer, sending half a dozen Sharpedo hundreds of feet into the air.

    Janine fought equally hard on the bow deck. She dodged Sharpedo attacks gracefully, while Ariados used its string shot like a lasso to whip them back into the sea. The fight wasn't going well, and Janine noticed that these creatures seemed to be unnaturally large and hostile.

    She wondered why they were behaving as such. Could they belong to someone? Or were they experiments gone awry?

    Now wasn't the time to think about it, the ninja remembered, as a close call almost cost her a leg.

    Back on Allie's deck, the trainers' Pokémon were holding their own.

    Vigoroth and Escavalier each used their arms to defend against the onslaught of teeth. Wartortle was preoccupied using hydro pump to block any other Sharpedo that tried to jump up.

    Allie heard a sickening crash from behind her. She turned around to look, and was shocked by what she saw. Part of the deck had been bitten away by an especially violent Sharpedo. The railing and wood flooring were gone, and nothing remained but a jagged hole leading to the ocean below.

    "Allie, look out!" Lucian screamed.

    Allie had never heard his voice quite so panicked. She whipped back around to the main battle and was horrified to see another Sharpedo coming straight at her.

    She tried to evade it, but the monstrous water type was too fast. Had its jaws been open, she would have been torn to shreds. But Sharpedo had adaptations other than their teeth. Allie screamed as her exposed skin made contact with the rough blue scales. Her face, her chest, her legs burned with pain. She could feel blood trickling onto her new bathing suit.

    The collision didn't stop the Sharpedo, which kept going, and took Allie with it. The girl was knocked back, and lost her footing. She braced herself, for she had seen what was coming next. The spot behind her had no railing. It took only seconds for them to begin falling.

    Falling, falling, falling.

    The drop was a long way down, all the way to the ocean below. They had been fighting on one of the highest decks, and now they were falling past the painted face of Empoleon, then the curled tail of Kingdra.

    Falling, falling, falling.

    They finally crashed into the cold ocean water. Sharpedo disappeared for a moment, and Allie swam to the surface to catch her breath. The fall had winded her, and the salt water stung as it entered her abrasions. It was the pain that first reminded her of the danger she was in. Her stomach, arms, and face were chaffed and bleeding into Sharpedo invested waters.

    Without her Pokémon, she was like a raw feast of meat for the ship's attackers. It didn't take long for them to come.

    Huge fins were circling now as she struggled to keep afloat. The Wailmer and sailors were all occupied fighting other Sharpedo. Allie was totally stranded from everyone else.

    This is it, Allie thought. This time, I'm actually done for.

    The fins turned toward her. A dozen red eyes peered out at her from the water level, all staring hungrily at her.

    The girl had faced many dangerous scenarios before, but this time, no one was around. Knowing the inevitable horror was coming, Allie closed her eyes. She didn't want to watch as her body was torn apart.

    The wait felt like hours.

    Allie was waiting.

    Waiting for the teeth to come like daggers.

    Waiting for the end to come.

    Waiting for the storm of horrors.

    Thunder cracked and lightning hissed. A storm? Allie didn't remember seeing any storm clouds in the sky. Opening her eyes to steal a peak, she saw the second bolt descend upon one of her attackers. A third and a fourth struck others.

    She felt an electric tingling in the water from the electricity, but it wasn't passing straight into her. There was such control, power, and precision to the thunderbolt. Allie had only ever seen one Pokémon capable of such attacks.

    But how could it be Pikachu?

    The four Sharpedo struck by the thunderbolt sunk into the water, unconscious. The ones remaining around her made the smart decision to retreat into the deep water below. Comforted by their withdrawal, Allie was finally able to relax.

    She floated for a while, wondering what was going on around the rest of the battle front. When would someone figure out where she was? Did Lucian see where she fell, or was he too preoccupied battling the invaders? Were her Pokémon alright without her? She hoped so, but wasn't able to help them from here. Another Sharpedo might come by any moment, but for now, she was safe.

    Especially if Pikachu was really here somewhere, as unlikely as it seemed.

    "Up we go, lass."

    A strong arm hoisted her out of the water.

    "Looking a bit worse for the wear, aren't we?"

    It was the old captain, employing strength beyond his age to pull her onto his Wailmer. He, too, was soaked with water and blood. Allie was shocked when he waved to check that her eyes were in focus. The bloody hand was missing a couple of fingers: just fresh stubs remained. The old man noticed her staring and chuckled weakly.

    "Just a flesh wound, lass. Nothing ta worry about. The salt water will slow the bleeding. We should get some medical treatment though."

    "They're all gone?" Allie asked the captain.

    "A couple bolts of lightning struck near you, and the others just left. The sea shines in our favor today."

    A miracle, Allie though in amazement. She collapsed on Wailmer's back and stared at her damaged body. Patches of skin were missing all along her front and her bathing suit had some rips, but all things considered, it wasn't too bad. If a couple of fingers were just a flesh wound, then she was totally fine.

    As soon as they were back on board, they were greeted by the ship's cheering passengers. Allie's Pokémon were there. Somehow, Wartortle had even convinced Vigoroth to come. Their Pokéballs were pressed into her hand by one of the trainers she fought beside, the pale scientist. He smiled at her before slipping away into the crowd.

    Allie returned her Pokémon to their balls, thanking them for their efforts. She looked up and saw Lucian pushing toward her through the revelry. He was covered in sweat and sea grime, and Allie almost made a comment about putting more effort into his appearance. His grin stopped her; he seemed genuinely glad to see her.

    "Allie, I'm so relieved you're okay," he said. "I can't believe you survived that."

    "I'm a lot tougher than you give me credit for. I've faced worse."

    "But how did you get away from those things?" he interrogated her. "And it was such a long fall."

    "I got lucky, I guess," she told him as she was hurried away by a medic. "We'll talk later."

    She, of course, had her own theory as to how she survived. Those thunderbolts had to have belonged to Pikachu, but why wouldn't Ash have revealed himself if he was onboard? And why would he be on the Emperor?

    Later that night, after her wounds had been treated, Allie had confided her beliefs in Janine. The gym leader was battered herself; one of her eyes was blackened from some shrapnel and a hard fall had left her with an obvious limp.

    "You really think Ash is on this ship?" Janine repeated to make sure she had understood correctly. It was an unlikely scenario, and Janine was a bit dazed anyway from getting knocked around.

    "I just can't believe that was a coincidence," Allie admitted. "He gave us the tickets, so he knows we're here. I know it sounds impossible, but he kind of is that way."

    "Impossible?"

    "Yeah," Allie laughed.




    The Violet City Institution was a dismal place, even on the best of day. But in the dark, thunderstorm, it was almost terrifying. Located on the outskirts of the city, far, far away from the happy residents, the Institution was home to many miserable mental patients. It wasn't the nice, modern, psychiatric hospital. It was an asylum, in the worst sense of the term.

    And on this night, one man had infiltrated the building, despite electric fences and bars on the windows. He was cloaked in black, and a dark hood obscured his face.

    By jiggling a final lock, the trespasser made his way into a dark room, padded with soft foam on every edge. According to the records he had seen, this was the right place.

    "Thought you might come looking for me," giggled a young woman in a bed. She looked far older than her mid-twenties. Her hair, once beautifully blonde and curly, was greasy and filthy. She wore the robes of a patient, but the cloaked man knew her to be one of the most dangerous women alive. Or at least, she once had been.

    "How did you know?" the stranger inquired, not actually expecting a competent answer.

    "News travels, even in here. You'd be surprised how many Team Rocket members have been locked away here over the years. Most of them are here because they outlived their usefulness. Some of them did actually lose their minds. Others needed to be silenced."

    The man was impressed by her competence. "And you?"

    "I'm a psychopath." The woman giggled again.

    "You're Domino, the Black Tulip of Team Rocket."

    "Impressive. I know who you are too. I know all about what you've been up to."

    "That will do for introductions." He returned to his main purpose in being there. "What do you know of the Mount Quena Operation?"

    "I remember absolutely nothing. Eight years ago, we found ourselves near Purity Canyon, with no recollection of why we were there. We returned to base."

    "Did anyone ever remember what happened? Did Giovanni?"

    The young woman's face broke into a huge smile. "No, not that I'm aware of. I do miss that man."

    "I don't," growled the other. Domino took his warning without question.

    "How do you still know about the operation, if you had all forgotten it?"

    "Although all of our footage and data had been wiped, along with our memories, I still had a feeling something important had occurred," she bit her lip, as if she wasn't sure if she should go on. "After Team Rocket fell, I spent some time working with psychics, but they just told me there was something powerful blocking my memories, and they were unable to help me recover them. I concluded the operation involved a powerful psychic Pokémon, most likely legendary.

    "Since I knew we were near Mount Quena when it happened, I decided to go back and investigate. I took a trip to Johto to see what I could find there. The next thing I knew, I was here in bed. I've been here for months."

    She leaned closer to him and started whispering secretively. "I've heard the news. The monster that took the Danford girl and all the others… I would bet that's the same thing that got me."

    "I know. That's why I'm here."




    Author's Note

    I fell ill again over the last week, so sorry for the minor delay. This chapter's action should make up for the serenity in the last one. Plus there's the mysterious Domino segment at the end, which was a total surprise.

    Remember, I reserve the right to be evil to my characters :P

    I'm not sure when my next chapter will be, but I expect to do one at the beginning of November, and one at the end, with a revision of older chapters over Thanksgiving.

    Blogging – I've started a tumblr to use as a place for extra author's notes, sneak peeks, and bonus content. The name of the blog is "Beyond the Journey," and the link is warasjourney.tumblr.com. I'm trying to be pretty active on it, and all extra information regarding the story will go there. Should be worth a look if you're enjoying the fiction. All info regarding November releases will be available there and on my profile.

    Thanks for reading, and please leave me a review to let me know how I'm doing and what you'd like to see. -Waras
    Last edited by Waras; 24th October 2012 at 8:31 PM.

  16. #41

    Default

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 31: Two Heated Battles

    On the hillside of Mount Silver, a small cabin stood in the middle of a grove of trees. Apart from the smoke rising from the fireplace, there was no way to find it. The building was miles from any city and wasn't connected to any roads or power lines. It was totally isolated from all human existence.

    I suppose this is why no one has ever found her, a young man reflected, stepping out silently from behind a tree. After taking his leave of Domino, he had decided that he needed to do more investigating. The trail had led him here.

    He calmly and silently walked to the cabin. Without knocking, he pushed the door open and slipped in. The cabin had only one room, and it was relatively small. Heat radiated from a fireplace next to the bed, and a small wooden desk was the only table. Two chairs sat on either side of it. Across the room was a woman dressed in a black robe. Her long, magenta hair was fading to gray, but it still left no doubt that he had found the correct woman. She was oblivious to him, cleaning dishes in a corner of the room.

    "Miyamoto," he spoke gently.

    The woman dropped a plate and spun around to face the intruder.

    "How did you find me?" she whispered quickly, suddenly very alert. Her blue eyes were surrounded by the wrinkles of time.

    "It wasn't easy, but I have more resources than most." He noticed her glancing at a fire prod leaning against the wall. He walked toward it and picked it up before she had the opportunity to use it as a weapon. "I'm not here to hurt you."

    "Do you know what you have done, coming here? Even if you aren't here to kill me, someone else will be soon."

    "Team Rocket has been gone for years," the young man reassured her. "And I'm no friend to them, anyway."

    "Ha," the woman chuckled, her wrinkled hands trembling. "You might think they're gone."

    "I wasn't followed," he promised her. "And I would sooner die than reveal your location. You're a brave woman, to have been here so long."

    "So you know my story?" Miyamoto asked, returning her attention to a water pot on the stove.

    "Not all of it. I'm here to learn more."

    The aging woman sighed, and pulled two tea cups off a shelf. "It's a long, sad story. But if you've come all the way here, I suppose you deserve to hear it. Let's sit down."

    The two sat down on either side of the table. Miyamoto poured her visitor a cup of tea before starting her story.

    "I had my daughter when I was at a young age. I knew I could never be the right kind of mother to her. I joined Team Rocket in order to provide for her. I became an elite agent, and eventually, they assigned me the most important missions."

    "Like what?"

    "Years ago, I was assigned to track down a rare Pokémon."

    "Mew?" the visitor guessed from his research into Miyamoto's past.

    "Yes. After years of searching, I met Mew in the Andes Mountains. I tried to convince it to come with me, so that I could go home to my daughter. It refused, and rightly so. I knew what Team Rocket wanted to do to it, but I needed to take care of my daughter." Her hands trembled violently. "There was an avalanche. I would have died without Mew's protection.

    "After that, I swore never to hunt another Pokémon. I bought this cabin from a hiker, and I've hidden here ever since. To avoid suspicion, I continued reporting to Madame Boss from time to time."

    "Giovanni's mother?"

    "Yes, his mother." Even after all the years, she couldn't bring herself to use their names.

    "Miyamoto, what did Team Rocket want with Mew? Did they mean to sell it or experiment on it?"

    "I… I can't speak about it. I'm sorry," the old woman apologized. "There is a lab on New Island. If you go there, you will find the answers you seek."

    "New Island? I've never heard of it."

    The blue-eyed woman laughed. "If you found me, I'm sure you can find it. Search the seas south of Cinnabar Island."

    Cinnabar. The Emperor will have made port by the time I arrive.

    "I've always wondered what was happening in the outside world. Is there any chance you've met my daughter? Her name is…"

    "Jessie." The man looked to a shelf containing a photo. A little girl with long red hair looked down at him. "We've… met. She's doing very well. You'd be proud of her."

    "I always have been," Miyamoto smiled sadly.

    Her visitor stood up and looked around. "I need to be going.

    "Now that you've found me, I must leave this place," Miyamoto lamented. "My life is no longer safe here."

    "I can offer you protection."

    "No one can. I'm safer on my own. I always have been," Miyamoto responded.

    "Good luck with everything," the visitor said, standing up to take his leave.

    "Thank you, and may Mew watch over you. If you ever see my daughter again… please tell her I love her."

    "You have my word."




    The SS Seagallop Emperor's loud horn could be heard across the port island. Hundreds of people came to watch the conclusion to the magnificent ship's first journey. The passengers were collecting their baggage then making their way to the exits.

    "Before you go, I want to thank all of you for your efforts aboard the Emperor," the captain said, shaking each of their hands in turn as they disembarked the ship. "Without your help, we may not have made it through."

    When Allie reached him, he held her hand for a moment. "Cinnabar Island is famous for its hot springs. Not so much as Lavaridge Town in my dear old Hoenn, but they're remarkable springs all the same. It would probably be good for your injuries to relax in them." He took out a slip of paper and handed it to Allie. "The company gave me this for my retirement, but I think I'll catch the next ferry to Hoenn. You keep it."

    "Gull," Peeko chimed softly.

    "Thank you so much," Allie replied graciously thanked him, accepting the gift.

    As soon as they stepped off the ramp, Allie spotted a Pokémon Center. They made their way toward it, but a massive swarm of people blocked their path.

    "What's happening over there?" Allie wondered aloud. They found an empty bench on the corner of a street and sat down.

    "From what my father told me, Cinnabar Island's been a tourist attraction for years," Janine explained.
    "Apparently, it's so bad that even the Pokémon Center is more of a hotel."

    "There's a gym here, right?" Lucian asked, using his Xtransceiver to search for a map.

    Allie realized she didn't actually know. "I'm not sure. Ash just sent the tickets; he didn't say why he thought we should come here. Is there one, Janine?"

    "I know there used to be," the gym leader replied, twirling the end of her scarf. "A man named Blaine ran the gym for years, and when the island became overpopulated, he moved it to the inside of the volcano."

    "In the volcano?" Allie repeated, amazed. She gazed up at the massive landform towering over the rest of the island. While on the ship, the medics had instructed her to remain still to avoid further damage to her chaffed skin. Although the trainer in her would have preferred to work with her Pokémon, she knew it was a bad idea. She spent most of the remaining trip alternating between her bed and a lounge chair. Watching the volcano grow larger on the horizon had become her favorite activity.

    "Yes, but I'm not sure how to get in, or even if it is still there," Janine said apologetically.

    The trainers stood together in the mass of travelers, completely overwhelmed by the crowded city. Their cruise had been a success, and, with one notable exception, very relaxing. The Sharpedo hadn't returned, so they enjoyed a nice end to the trip. Now though, they had no idea what it had led to.

    Lucian was the first to speak again. Without looking up from his Xtransceiver, he asked, "What did the captain give you?"

    Reminded of the captain's paper, she took it out of her pocket. "'Redeemable for one complimentary night at the Big Riddle Inn,'" Allie read aloud.

    "Hopefully it's a nice place," Lucian commented unnecessarily.

    "I'm sure it is," Allie tried to say, but she stopped as a passerby approached them.

    The newcomer stared at Lucian, and for a moment, the boy was so focused on Xtransceiver to notice. Finally, the coordinator looked up to see the girl standing over him. She wore a black bikini top with jeans, a large brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Her curly red hair cascaded down her back. Allie felt like she looked familiar, but wasn't sure where she would know her from. Lucian, however, certainly did know her. His face transformed immediately into a scowl when their eyes met.

    "Samantha." Lucian's voice was more unpleasant than usual.

    "If it isn't Lucy," she taunted him. "Long time no see. Strange to see you here in Kanto."

    Lucian stood up, his gloved hands curling into fists. "I go where I please, Sam."

    The girl grabbed the Xtransceiver out of his hand and pushed him back down onto the bench.

    "Still using this old thing?" Sam laughed obnoxiously. She reached into her pocket and made a show of pulling out a shiny device. It looked similar to the Xtransceiver, but more streamlined and high-tech. "This is the new Silph Jet, and it far outclasses any Xtransceiver. I bought it with my contest winnings." She emphasized the last two words, to Lucian's fury. "Not that you'd know anything about winnings, considering you lost the Dante Cup to an amateur."

    Allie tried to protest, to explain the circumstances of her victory, but Lucian's hand tightened around her wrist. She took the hint.

    "You've changed so much since the old days, Lucy. You used to have all the fancy gear. Without it, you're even more of what you always were: a loser."

    "Shut up, Sam," Lucian growled.

    "Oooh, getting mad at me again, are you?" his acquaintance purred cruelly. She turned her attention to the girls sitting to Lucian's right. "You two should ditch this loser right now. He's the worst kind of person.

    "Get out of Kanto, Lucy," she finished, throwing his Xtranseiver back in his lap. "This is my home, and I will drive you from it."

    Samatha turned around and vanished back into the sea of people. The three sat in total silence for several minutes before Janine voiced the question on the girls' minds.

    "Who was that?" she asked offhandedly, trying to downplay what had just happened.

    "Fellow coordinator from the contest circuit," he growled. "She thinks she's all that just because of her older sister." He paused, reflecting on his memories. "I don't really want to talk about her right now."

    Janine still looked curious, but Allie decided it was best not to inquire further for the time being.

    "I guess we're going to go to the inn," the blonde decided. "It's getting too hot out here with the sun." She quickly searched the location on her own Xtransceiver. Regardless of what Samantha said, she had no need or desire for a Silph Jet. Her device was still new, worked perfectly fine, and most importantly, was a gift from Ash.

    And so, the three companions followed the directions for about a mile to the very base of the volcano. It towered over them now, and directly between them and it, a small building stood. When they entered, a tall man with long ginger hair and sunglasses greeted them. He was clearly the owner: a Cinnabar local taking advantage of the tourism. Allie presented him with the coupon, but his face fell immediately.

    "We don't have many rooms left, I'm afraid," the man apologized. "Every year, more and more tourists come. These days, even my humble inn is full."

    Lucian began to protest, but Allie interrupted him. "No, that's alright. Do you know any other places where a group of trainers could stay?"

    "Trainers?" the local noted, looking at the Pokéballs attached to their belts. "Well, there is one room, but it won't be very comfortable. I'm sure the three of you won't mind."

    "That's awesome," Allie replied graciously. "We'd be happy to sleep on the floor if we had to." She gave Lucian a warning glance when he rolled his eyes.

    He pulled a small chain from his pocket. "Well, here's the key. Go up the stairs and it'll be the last door on the right."

    Allie took the key, and turned to her companions. They were about to go to the room when Lucian had a sudden thought. "We've heard that there might be a gym on this island. Do you know where it is?"

    "The gym's long gone kids. Been that way for close to fifteen years now."

    "But what then happened to Blaine?" Janine wondered. "I met him several years ago at the Pokémon League, and he still seemed to be a gym leader then. Incidentally," she smiled, walking closer to their host, "I am Janine, daughter of Koga, and leader of the Fuchsia Gym."

    The man's eyebrows rose at this revelation. "I'm honored to have such a high ranking guest in my humble inn. If there's anything you need, please just ask."

    "Well, we would appreciate some help with our bags," Janine finished, holding out her own for him to take.

    Allie was a bit perplexed that Janine would use her title to get help, especially since they only had a single bag each.

    "Of course," the owner laughed awkwardly, accepting Janine's satchel. "I can take those, too."

    "Oh, no, I can-" Allie began to protest.

    "I'm sure it's no trouble for our gracious host," Janine cut her off, and so Allie relented.

    "Absolutely none," the man huffed, struggling with the combined weight of their gear.

    They followed the struggling man up the stairs and to their room. As soon as Allie pushed the door open, he tumbled into the room, too weak to carry the gear. He quickly stood up and brushed the dust off his robe. He started to leave, but Janine stood in the doorway with an unimpressed expression.

    "Now that we have privacy, can you please tell my friends who you actually are?"

    A frown crept across the man's face, but the dark sunglasses hid the look in his eyes.

    "How do you know who I am?" he asked the purple-haired girl.

    "A wig may fool most of your guests, but a ninja knows a disguise when she sees it," was the response.

    Sighing, the man tugged at his hair. It came off, and Allie and Lucian finally realized it wasn't actually attached. He removed the glasses next, and his small dark eyes glared at the girl who identified him.

    "Who are you?" Lucian demanded, taking a step closer. "Why did you hide your identity?"

    "I'm Blaine, of course," he said quickly, disgruntling Lucian. His voice was harsher now, and it made him sound more critical. "If not for Janine, you would've never figured it out. You're lucky she was here."

    "You're the gym leader," Allie realized, her hand going to her mouth in surprise.

    "What kind of gym leader hides his identity from challengers?" Lucian scoffed. "He's a coward."

    "He's a fan of mysteries and riddles," Blaine said of himself. "And as gym leader, he is allowed to test his challengers however he wants. And so far, trainer, you're failing."

    Lucian was about to fire back, but Allie again tried to calm him. The boy crossed his arms and rolled his eyes. He was still clearly ill-tempered from their encounter with Sam.

    "I'm Allie Dogwood, and this is Lucian Andrews," she introduced them. "I guess you already know Janine." The ninja girl bowed her head in acknowledgement. "We'd like to challenge you in a gym battle."

    Blaine put a finger on his chin, considering the request. "I don't get many challengers, mostly just tourists. Perhaps I will do battle, but on a condition."

    "What's that?"

    "You will have to find the entrance to my gym, without Janine's help," the gym leader instructed them, his gaze lingering on his colleague.

    Janine had the grace to agree to the condition. Blaine put his disguise back on and pushed past her. They saw him still fixing the wig as he walked down the hall.

    "That was unusual," Allie whispered, closing the door.

    "Indeed," Janine agreed.

    Lucian was still too busy fuming to contribute to the conversation.

    They looked around the room and understood why Blaine had told them it wasn't particularly cozy. It was more of an attic than a room. Perhaps it was part of Blaine's test. There weren't any beds, so the trainers would have to use their sleeping bags on the concrete floor. Lacking windows or an adequate light source, the room was dark. It would be a rather uncomfortable stay.

    "On the positive side, I noticed there were hot springs out back," Janine suggested.

    The others agreed, so Lucian went down ahead of them to change into his swim trunks. That left Janine and Allie in the room to change into their bathing suits. The cruise company had altruistically replaced the ones damaged in the Sharpedo attack with identical new ones. Several minutes later, they met near the front desk, and were awkwardly aware of Blaine watching them keenly.

    Once outside, boy and girls went to opposite sides of the divider and began stripping. All the other inn guests were out on the town at this time of day, so they had the spring to themselves. Towels wrapped around each of their bodies, they slowly entered the water.

    Allie's body tingled as the hot water cleansed the patches of damaged skin on her chest and face. The feeling was incredible. A soft moan from Janine indicated that she felt the same.

    "Enjoying the water, ladies?" Lucian's cackling voice traveled over the barrier. Apparently he had heard the gym leader.

    "Yes, it's very nice," Allie said calmly, ignoring the crudeness.

    Janine, meanwhile, had drifted to the edge of the spring, grabbed a bucket, and filled it with water. "We shouldn't be so selfish, Allie." A mischievous grin was plastered across her face. "We should share what we have." She swung the bucket, and the water flew over the divider.

    They heard Lucian whimper a few seconds later as the hot water splashed over his head. "Totally unnecessary," he grumbled.

    Allie saw Janine raise an eyebrow and mouth the words, "Totally necessary." They both started laughing.

    "Whatever," Lucian shrugged, lowering his shoulders into the water.

    They were quiet for some time, just enjoying the spring. Eventually, Allie decided to ask about Samantha. She instinctively felt like Lucian wanted to talk about her, he just didn't know how.

    "So Lucian," she began delicately. "Who was that girl earlier? You said she was a coordinator."

    There was absolute silence for several minutes, and Allie began to regret her question. Just as she was about to apologize, a response came.

    "Do you remember how I said you were the first person I traveled with?" Lucian finally asked. "I lied. Sam Natochenny was."

    "Back when I was twelve, we traveled together. We had met the year before at the Grand Festival in my home region, Sinnoh. I had entered a couple contests, but didn't win enough ribbons to compete. Sam was in the same situation, so we watched the festival together. It was… incredible.

    "We decided to travel together in Hoenn, competing in contests. It was great until the first time we faced each other." The boy made a miserable noise. "Until then, one of us had always lost before the final round. I lost the contest. And I lost my self-control. I screamed at her. I don't even remember what I said or how I justified it.

    "Anyway, after that, we went our separate ways. Every time we met during contests, she beat me. Sam's a great coordinator, but she doesn't seem to enjoy it as much as she used to. It's my fault she's bitter like that, and as much as I hate to admit it, I deserve everything she says about me."

    It wasn't the first time Lucian had expressed his sensitive side, but it was the first time Allie could understand the reason for it. This girl was why he promised Allie he would work so hard for their companionship. Their friendship had ended so badly that both were still carrying the scars from it. At least Allie and Ash had parted on good terms. The trainer found herself wishing that none of her friendships would ever end in such mutual betrayal.

    "You mentioned she had a famous older sister?" Janine recalled.

    "Her sister, Solidad, is one of the world's top coordinators. She's even better than May," the coordinator explained.

    The name meant nothing to Allie and Janine, who never followed contests. But if Solidad was better than May, she must be an incredible coordinator.

    "I'm really sorry Lucian," Allie said softly.

    "It was a long time ago. It really doesn't bother me anymore," he lied again.

    A sudden splash interrupted their conversation, showering them all in hot water. When they looked up, the barrier had fallen away from the center of the spring, leaving Lucian and the girls staring at each other awkwardly.

    Quick as a flash, Janine grabbed a pebble from the edge of the spring and flung it at Lucian's face. The small rock hit him directly between eyes and he was temporarily blinded.

    "Gah!"

    "Turn around!" the girls yelled at him.

    "Fine," he grudgingly consented, not eager to be hit by another stone.

    They changed back into their swimsuits, then turned around and let the boy do the same.

    "What happened to this place?" Allie wondered aloud once they were all standing together again.

    The whole scene had changed. The Gyarados fountain on the girls' side, which had been acting as a little waterfall into the spring, had shifted position. A large chunk of the volcano's side, which had formed the back wall of the spring, was gone. And of course, the gender specific sides of the spring were merged by the absence of a divider.

    "Looks like you found the secret entrance," Janine hummed pleasantly.

    "Excellent," Lucian grinned and started to walk into the passage.

    "But Janine, Blaine said you couldn't help us find it," Allie protested, grabbing Lucian's arm to prevent him from entering.

    "I didn't."

    "But the entrance, how did it open?"

    "It seems to be connected to the Gyarados statue. When you pull down on the statue, the volcano opens up," Janine explained.

    "But I didn't touch the statue," Allie reminded her.

    "Neither did I."

    "Can you two please stop worrying about who pressed the button and come along? I'd like my badge sooner than later," Lucian grumbled. His sensitive self again disguised, the boy resumed being obnoxious.

    "Alright, let's go I guess," Allie agreed, leading the others into the tunnel.

    As they entered the volcano, a Pokémon watched them from the bushes near the spring. Its round eyes sparkled mysteriously before it disappeared into the shadows.

    The group, meanwhile, descended deep into the heart of the fire mountain. The walls radiated heat, and the trainers felt like they had gone from a hot spring to a sauna. Finally, the volcanic tunnel opened up into a massive room. There were torches along the walls, illuminating a huge pit of lava with a metal battlefield suspended above it by chains.

    "I guess we found the gym," Allie said as she looked around.

    "You have indeed found my secret gym." A harsh voice from the other side echoed throughout the room. Allie knew immediately that it was Blaine. His disguise was nowhere to be seen. "Which of you will be my first challenger?"

    Allie started to step forward, but Lucian put his arm in front of her. "I'd like to go first, if that's okay. I don't want to win because you weakened him for me."

    Even though she thought that an unlikely scenario, Allie agreed. "Alright, good luck."

    He winked at her and said, "Never need it."

    As he stepped into the challenger's box, Blaine motioned for Allie and Janine to go to rock ledge near the middle of the field which evidently served as the gym's observation area.

    "Janine, would you care to act as referee?"

    The young gym leader, who had performed the task many times in her father's gym, nodded and approached the very edge of the pit.

    "The battle between Lucian Andrews of…" she hesitated, not knowing exactly where he lived.

    "Hearthome," he told her.

    "Lucian Andrews of Hearthome City will challenge Cinnabar Island's Gym Leader Blaine. Each trainer will use…"

    "Three," Blaine injected.

    "Three Pokémon will be used by each trainer. Only the challenger is allowed substitutions," Janine finished.

    The battlers each released their first Pokémon. The coordinator sent out Fraxure, a Pokémon which Allie had never seen him use.

    The battle was over fairly quickly. Fraxure devastate Blaine's first two Pokémon through a strategy only a coordinator would use. Allie felt like she was watching a contest. The tactics of both trainers were evidently very well designed. Finally, Blaine sent in Magmortar, and Fraxure was defeated by a well-timed Giga Impact. Kirlia fared better, using psychic to repeatedly bring the huge fire-type to its knees.

    Before Kirlia finished Magmortar off, however, Blaine hollered, "Enough!" His challenger stared at him suspiciously. "The battle is over. You've proven your skill, and will be presented with the Volcano Badge for your effort. Well done." He signaled Janine.

    "Blaine has declared the battle over," the newer gym leader announced. "The challenger is victorious. The next battle will be between Allie Dogwood of Pewter City and Leader Blaine of Cinnabar. Challenger, please approach the battlefield.

    Allie walked from the observation area to the challenger's end of the arena. As she went, she passed Lucian.

    "Congrats Lucian," she whispered.

    "He's a lot stronger than Janine," Lucian warned her. "Good luck."

    "I don't need luck either," the girl replied, grinning.

    When she reached the rock overlooking the battlefield, she turned her attention to the gym leader.

    "Are you ready, trainer?" Blaine called from across the pit of lava.

    "Always!" Allie responded instinctively. Her face was covered with sweat from the heat of the volcano, but she clenched her fists defiantly.

    "Then let our battle… begin!"




    But she didn't win. Blaine's Magmortar, still weak from its battle with Lucian's team, had defeated all three of her Pokémon without trouble. Vigoroth, despite his fighting spirit, fell from lack of experience. Ruby's flamethrower was no match for Magmortar's fire blast. Even Wartortle, whose type gave him an advantage, was defeated through Blaine's superior tactics.

    Her Pokémon had the power to win; Allie knew it. Wartortle, at least, should have won. It was her weakness as a trainer that cost her the battle. If she had been better able to counter Blaine's aggressive strategy, perhaps she would have won.

    Janine tried to comfort her, but Lucian couldn't overcome his pride enough to avoid smirking. He had finally surpassed her as a trainer, it seemed. He had earned the badge, and she hadn't. Allie had waved them off, told them she would be fine, but she wasn't sure if she was.

    That night, Allie sat in the hot springs alone, letting the warm water soothe her damaged skin. It was just a battle, she kept telling herself.

    The full moon cast light across the inn's rooftop, and Allie found herself staring at a single spot on the roof. There was something there. A Pokémon, perhaps?

    Not that it mattered.

    The Pokémon turned around, and Allie caught a glimpse of a jagged tail.

    It can't be. I must be getting overheated, she thought, attributing the appearance to the hot springs. Yet as she continued watching, a cloud partially covering the moon moved. In the increased moonlight, there was no mistaking the long ears, thunderbolt tail, and mousy face.

    Pikachu?

    She stood up hastily and wrapped a towel around herself. Pikachu glanced down at her, and leapt off the roof, away from the girl.

    "Wait!" Allie shouted, pursuing Pikachu to the front of Big Riddle Inn. She saw a shadow running down the deserted road in front of her, and ran after it. It was hard to see in the dark, but every few minutes, she caught a glimpse of the yellow Pokémon, silhouetted in the darkness. The girl kept running until she reached the main street of Cinnabar Island. Even at night, the plaza was packed with tourists. Catching sight of Pikachu's tail disappearing into the mass of people, she continued on.

    How peculiar she must have looked, dashing through a crowded town in nothing but a towel. And yet, what she wouldn't give to see Ash right now. She ignored a group of laughing teenage boys. She saw a Silph Jet's camera light flash beside her, but paid it no attention.

    She felt a hand on her shoulder. "Allie?" a familiar voice spoke from behind her. Her slim body trembled with anticipation as she turned around.

  17. #42

    Default

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 32: A Trainer's Burning Heart

    After her devastating loss to Blaine, Allie Dogwood saw a Pokémon she knew must be Pikachu. She pursued it across Cinnabar Island, not caring that she was wearing only a towel in the massive crowds of tourists...

    The girl felt a hand on her shoulder. "Allie?" a familiar voice spoke from behind her. The girl's slim body trembled with anticipation as she turned around.

    "Ash!" she cried, absolutely overjoyed. She flung herself into his arms and buried her face in his chest.

    "I guess you must miss him."

    Allie looked up immediately and was horrified to see Lucian Andrews's face. She pushed herself away from him, but tripped over the street curb and fell into a gutter. Frantically trying to fix her towel from the wet ground, she suddenly became painfully aware of the hundreds of people around her, many of whom were laughing at her.

    Her face burned with shame and embarrassment. She began to cry, desperate and alone. Allie felt something land on her body, and realized it was Lucian's black jacket. She pulled it over her shoulders, grateful to be able to cover herself.

    "Clear off, all of you." Lucian's voice was powerful and authoritative, and the people around him felt its impact. They immediately dispersed, casting sidelong glances at the unfortunate girl.

    Unbeknownst to Lucian, Samantha Natochenny, his old rival, smiled sadly in the crowd before vanishing into the night.

    As soon as they were all away, the coordinator knelt down and helped his companion to her feet. "Are you okay?" he whispered in her ear.

    She shook her head. She had completely broken down. It had escalated so quickly that she had no idea what happened. One moment she was in the spring, recovering from her defeat, the next she was running through town. Despair and hopelessness had directed her rather than her own mind.

    "Please tell me this is a bad dream," she moaned, once they were off the main street and there were less people around.

    "I wish I could without lying," the coordinator answered.

    When they arrived back at the Big Riddle Inn, Lucian helped Allie up the stairs and into their room. Despite the warm humidity of the night, Allie allowed him to place a blanket over her as they sat down on the floor.

    "I can't believe I did that," Allie mumbled, covering her face with her hands.

    "What were you doing out there?" Lucian asked concernedly. His eyes were filled with an unmistakable sincerity that wasn't usually there.

    "It was so stupid. I… I followed Pikachu," she confessed.

    "Pikachu?"

    Although she knew he'd likely ask that question, the tone was far different than she expected. Instead of being condescending or confused, Lucian seemed intrigued.

    "Ash's Pokémon," Allie explained, hiccupping.

    "Interesting."

    The girl didn't know what he meant, but she nodded anyway.

    "I thought I saw Pikachu near the inn, so I tried to catch up with him. I wasn't paying attention to where I was. I just kept thinking about losing to Blaine and the possibility of seeing Ash again. I can only imagine how stupid I must have looked. I don't know if I can continue travelling anymore."

    "No, Allie," Lucian interrupted her before she could further despair. "You lost control of yourself, and that's not good. But I've seen you train and battle; you're strong enough to keep going. Who cares who saw what happened out there? Someday, you'll be able to beat them all in a Pokémon battle. They'll remember you for your accomplishments, not for your mistakes."

    Even though Allie felt like Lucian was just saying it to make her feel better, his words did kind of comfort her.

    The coordinator stood up. "I'm going to get Janine. We'll bring you some hot cocoa. Is that alright?"

    She nodded meekly from the floor.

    "Lucian, why did you say it was interesting that I saw Pikachu?" she asked when he was almost out of the door.

    The boy turned around with a contemplative expression on his face. "Because I saw a Pikachu too," he explained.

    Allie was shocked by what he said. Was it possible?

    "There was one playing around on the men's side of the hot spring, but I didn't think anything of it. I always heard how rare they were, but that was the second time I've seen one in the past week. There was one in the Safari Zone, too. I was trying to catch it when I saw the Tauros approaching you. In a way, it was because of that Pikachu that I found you."




    Videos of the Cinnabar Island "Towel Girl" began appearing on the Silph's new video sharing service not long after the incident. A man watched them miserably, and then sent an email to one of his colleagues. Within minutes, every video of Allie on Cinnabar Island was permanently erased from existence. Satisfied with this deed, the black-haired young man resumed his work.




    "How are you feeling?" Janine asked as she walked into Allie's room. As soon as Blaine found out what happened, he moved the blonde girl to one of his inn's nicer rooms. Instead of sleeping in the attic, Janine and Lucian had taken turns standing outside the room, making sure she was okay. It was almost nine in the morning, and Allie had just woken up. This was the first time any of them had spoken to her since Lucian left her side to get help. She had fallen asleep before they returned.

    "I'm much better," she promised, taking a bite of an apple. "What are you guys doing today?"

    "Lucian and I decided to go to the Pokémon Lab," the ninja explained. "We would invite you, but Blaine thought it would be best for you to avoid the busy part of town for now."

    Allie frowned unhappily, but knew it was true. After last night, she didn't even want to be seen in public. She looked around the room glumly, acquainting herself with what she expected to be her surroundings for the rest of the day.

    "Do you want to talk about what happened?" Janine asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

    Although Allie was glad for Janine's support, she had already said most of what there was to say to Lucian.

    "I lost it for a little bit," said Allie simply. "If not for Lucian, I'm not sure what I would have done."

    "It was lucky you let him travel with you."

    "Yeah," Allie said wistfully, starting to believe that it was more than fate that had brought them together. Had Pikachu really led Lucian to her? Was Ash still protecting her from afar? "I guess I'll see you later then?"

    "Yes. Take the day and rest up. We'll see you this evening." Janine waved and departed.

    After showering, Allie sat around her room for a while, bored out of her mind. There was nothing to think about but the previous night and the possibility of Pikachu bringing her and Lucian together. One thought was depressing, the other improbable.

    Deciding that she would be miserable if she had to spend the day inside, Allie pulled her jacket on and left the room. She walked downstairs to the lobby, but Blaine was nowhere to be seen. She walked out back to the hot springs for some fresh air.

    She stared at the volcano. Just to the right of the hot spring, there was a narrow switchback trail winding its way up the rocky face of the volcano. Even though she was tired and needed to be resting, she had a sudden urge to climb it. It wasn't a good idea, but she felt like she needed to prove to herself that she could still accomplish something. And so, she started the uphill hike.

    On her way up, she thought about the past few days. Her trip to Cinnabar hadn't been as much of a vacation as it could have been. The cruise had been attacked by non-native Pokémon, she lost the gym battle, couldn't find Pikachu, and ran around town in a towel. Not a particularly pleasant week. Still, it was a comfort that Lucian was finally being kinder.

    Had Lucian actually seen Pikachu, or was he just trying to comfort her and protect her sanity? The boy had seemed rather confident, and he wasn't the kind of person who would lie just to make her feel better. On the Seagallop Emperor, Allie thought she had been saved by a thunderbolt resembling Pikachu's. But it wasn't really likely that Ash and Pikachu were aboard the ship, was it? And she wondered if she actually did see Pikachu last night, or if she simply saw what she wanted to.

    Her group kept seeing traces of Pikachu, but why would he be around them without joining them? And was Ash there too, or was he somewhere else entirely?

    She finally made it to the summit. She could look in the volcano's crater and see lava boiling below. The view was incredible as well. Based on the sun's position, she figured she was facing north. Far across the sea, she saw a peninsula with buildings on it. Though she didn't know it, she was facing Ash's hometown of Pallet.

    "You shouldn't have come here," a gentle voice told her. "You were through a lot last night. You should be resting."

    When Allie turned around, she was staring at Blaine, dressed in his hippie disguise. His voice was disguised to be lower pitch than it was usually.

    "I needed to do something," the girl admitted. "I couldn't just sit around. I've spent so much time recovering since I started on my journey. I guess I just wanted to keep pressing forward."

    "So you made your way to the mouth without words," he reflected, referring to the volcano's rim. "Maybe you need the recovery because you keep pressing yourself so hard."

    The trainer was silent for a moment, considering his words.

    "But if I don't work harder, how can I ever win be the best I can be?" she wondered as a warm breeze tickled her face.

    "If you work yourself to death or lose the joy of training Pokémon, what good is working hard?" the gym leader asked her. "Moderation is important to training as well. And there's no shame in losing a Pokémon battle as long as you try."

    "But I got beaten so badly."

    "You're a new trainer, right?" he asked knowingly. He didn't wait for her to nod before adding, "You've still got ages to improve."

    She didn't answer right away, so Blaine continued.

    "Everyone loses sometimes. Even the Pokémon League Champion was defeated by me the first time we battled. Now he can beat me with just his Pikachu."

    "Ash?" she instinctively asked.

    "Ash Ketchum, the very same."

    Even Ash lost battles. The idea seemed perverse to Allie, who had come to idolize him as the greatest trainer ever. Then again, it was ten years ago that Ash fought Blaine; he was six years younger than Allie at the time. As she reflected on it, the fire returned to her eyes. She knew what she had to do; what Ash would do.

    "Battle me again." Her words were filled with a confidence she thought she had lost.

    "I thought that we just agreed that you should be more careful in your ambitions," Blaine replied without emotion.

    "I know, but this is something I really need to do."

    "Your Pokémon need rest."

    "And they'll be better by tomorrow."

    "You should take time to train."

    "It isn't my Pokémon who were too weak. It was me."

    "How are you different now?"

    "I faced defeat."

    They stared at each other unflinchingly. Finally, the corners of Blaine's mouth rose under his false moustache. "There is no other answer you could have given that would have made me accept your challenge. Tomorrow at noon, we will again battle in the heart of the volcano. Come prepared."

    "I will," she resolved as the leader turned toward the edge of the cliff.




    When Allie reached the entrance to the gym the next day, she found Lucian and Janine waiting outside. She had told them anxiously about her impending rematch the previous night at dinner.

    "Ready?" she asked them grinning.

    Janine frowned and responded apologetically. "Blaine asked us to remain out here. He would like to battle you without an audience."

    Lucian placed his hand on Allie's shoulder in a rare sign of friendliness. "You'll do alright. You're good enough to beat him. I know it."

    "Thanks guys," Allie said appreciatively. She pulled them both into a hug, which Janine responded to in-kind and even Lucian returned reluctantly.

    As they watched the girl descend into the passageway, Lucian sighed.

    "You've been a lot nicer to her recently," Janine commented, leaning against the Gyarados statue.

    "Why does it matter to you?" he snapped spontaneously, his critical personality returning. He looked away awkwardly as he realized that he had gone too far again. "Sorry. I guess you're travelling with us too."

    "I am," the ninja replied stiffly.

    "I just feel bad for her. She must feel like I did when I lost in the Dante Cup. I joined her so that I could see her experience my frustration, but things changed."

    "You changed."

    "I don't know if I'd say that, but Allie's a hard person to cheer against," Lucian explained as he twirled a Pokéball in his hand. "I thought I'd be thrilled to see her lose to Blaine, but I was just happy I won. I started to gloat, but realized I didn't want to anymore."

    "You changed," Janine repeated, this time more certain.

    "Maybe," the coordinator grunted back. "But anyone would have felt bad seeing her the way she was that night."

    "You changed," the other said for a final time, knowing she spoke the truth.




    Allie felt a drop of sweat fall from her bangs to her nose. Her concentration was absolute. The battle was intense, and far more evenly matched than the previous. The girl had learned from her mistakes and was responding quicker to Blaine's aggressive and adaptive tactics.

    Each trainer had two Pokémon remaining now. Ruby had fought hard, managing to defeat Blaine's Growlithe. She had been unable to outpace her evolution, though, and fell to Ninetales' fire spin. Not long after Wartortle joined the battle, he was hit by a Will-o-wisp attack.

    "Wartortle, finish this with aqua tail!" Allie shouted, her voice reverberating against the warm rock walls of the volcanic chamber.

    Ninetales tried to leap away gracefully, but even with its speed advantage, the blue turtle managed to hit it with the stream of water erupting from his tail-hole. The large fox reeled in pain, and collapsed near the edge of the battlefield.

    "We did it!" Allie cheered. She watched as Wartortle turned around in apparent triumph, then fell flat on his face. Will-o-wisp's burn had taken its toll on him.

    The trainer immediately blamed herself for forgetting about the burn, but there had been nothing else she could do at the time. She returned him to his Pokéball, whispering thanks to the red and white capsule. Then, aware that she had only one Pokémon left, she released Vigoroth.

    The gym leader pulled another Pokéball from the pocket of his lightweight shirt. From it burst the fiery behemoth which had defeated Allie's entire team two days earlier. Magmortar and Vigoroth stared at each other on the field. Both trainers resumed calling orders to their Pokémon

    "Vigoroth, attack it!" Although the sloth started attacking, he was strangely cautious. Allie noticed he wasn't taking the chances required to win such a close battle. Comprehension came at last when Allie saw a look of absolute terror in her Pokémon's eyes as it dodged flamethrower.

    He's afraid of the fire, Allie realized. Last time, Allie had been so focused on the battle that she didn't notice his fears. This time, he had lasted long enough for his trainer to witness the terrified expression on his face every time a fire attack came near him. It made sense, of course, Allie thought as she remembered the blazing inferno the Dante Club was reduced to. She had pulled him from the burning building, but he still sustained serious burns. If not for Allie, he would have been buried in the rubble.

    "Vigoroth, keep dodging, but listen to me," she ordered. His ears twitched, a sign she took to indicate that he was listening. "I know that you're scared. So am I. Fire can be terrible. But we need to face our fears. For me, that's defeat and failure.

    "I lost, and I acted stupid as a result," she admitted to herself and to her Pokémon. "But now I'm not afraid to lose. We lost two days ago, and now I know how I have to deal with defeat. And you, you can deal with fire the same way you deal with everything: fight it with everything you've got.

    Just as she said this, Vigoroth dodged a fire punch and countered it with a slash. Magmortar roared in pain and stumbled toward the edge of the suspended metal battlefield.

    "Keep it up!" she cheered, before continuing. "We haven't been together long enough for me to know your full potential. I suppose I don't even know mine. But I do know that you have the fighting spirit required to win this battle."

    Her voice, proud and determined, resonated throughout the room. The echo gave her an idea.

    "Magmortar, end this!" Blaine shouted from the other side of the battlefield.

    "Use uproar, Vigoroth!" Allie countered, remembering how effective it was against the Sharpedo.

    The white sloth opened his mouth and bellowed as loud as he could, creating an echo that reverberated throughout the whole room. His trainer was forced to cover her ears, and Blaine did the same. But Magmortar, who had been preparing an attack, was unable to cover his ears with his cannon-like arms. An expression of pain covered his face, and he toppled backwards into the magma, unconscious.

    Vigoroth immediately stopped his attack, and nodded to Allie. She returned him to his Pokéball, incredibly proud of his courage. The gym leader walked around the lava pit and approached Allie.

    "Allie Dogwood," Blaine started, "You've won this battle, and come very far as a Pokémon trainer in the few days I've known you." A piece of metal glinted as he pulled it from his pocket. "You're not done losing. None of us ever are. But you've overcome one of the hardest parts of battling: fear of failure. This Volcano Badge now belongs to you," said Blaine as he handed the younger trainer her prize.

    Allie pinned the flame-shaped badge to her tank top. She planned to move it to her jacket collar with her three other badges as soon as she got back to her room.

    She and Blaine walked back up the tunnel, discussing the intricacies of the battle. About halfway up, they found Janine and Lucian waiting eagerly to hear the results. They grinned when they saw the badge shining on Allie's chest. Lucian patted her on the back, and she gave him a hug.

    "Thanks for the other night," she whispered into his ear.

    He nodded and said, "Any time."

    After they finished congratulating Allie, Blaine told the companions he'd buy them dinner at a famous local restaurant. Even after her rough night, Allie felt happy enough to go out on the town. They took the gym leader up on his offer, and continued walking up the volcanic tube.

    As the trainers and gym leaders stepped out of the volcano, they were temporarily blinded by the bright sun. But as soon as their vision returned, they saw a Pokémon standing on the far side of the hot springs.

    It was Pikachu.

    The unmistakable Pokémon stared back at them, seemingly taken by surprise.

    "Pikachu?" Allie asked, shocked.

    There was no mistake this time. The yellow Pokémon's astonishment hardened into reluctant resolve. He nodded, and then gestured for them to follow him.

    This time, he didn't run to get away from Allie and her friends. He walked at a pace that made it easy to follow him. They travelled through the streets of Cinnabar Island until they reached a giant hotel. They ran up the staircase until they reached the top floor. Lucian and Blaine were panting, but Janine was in better shape and Allie's excitement alone kept her going. Finally, Pikachu stopped in front of one of the doors and knocked. The little mouse closed his eyes solemnly.

    "It's open," a voice called from within.

    Allie Dogwood pushed the door open. When she stepped into the dimly lit hotel room, she felt her heart miss a beat. Her mouth fell open, and her legs seemed like they would give out.

    Ash Ketchum, Pokémon Master and Indigo Conference Champion, stood before her wearing an expression of genuine surprise on his face.

  18. #43

    Default

    The Journey Never Ends

    Chapter 33: Return of the Master

    After Allie won her rematch against Blaine and earned her fourth badge, she and her friends had emerged from the volcano to find Pikachu waiting outside. It was evident that Pikachu had not expected them to return so soon. Although he was taken by surprise, the electric mouse reluctantly escorted them to a hotel in downtown Cinnabar. He stopped in front of a certain room and knocked on the door.

    "It's open," a voice called from within.

    Allie Dogwood pushed the door open. When she stepped into the dimly lit hotel room, she felt her heart miss a beat. Her mouth fell open, and her legs seemed like they would give out.

    Ash Ketchum, Pokémon Master and Indigo Conference Champion, stood before her wearing an expression of genuine astonishment on his face.


    In the silence that followed Allie opening Ash's door, Janine tugged at Blaine's and Lucian's sleeves. She nodded her head at the elevator, and they took the hint. The two gym leaders and coordinator slipped away to the lobby in order to give the two reunited companions a moment alone.

    "Ash," she whispered in amazement. After so long, it was strange to see him. His hair had grown longer and wilder than Allie had ever seen it. Despite the heat of the island, he was wearing a black cloak in place of his usual sweatshirt and jeans.

    Allie had never seen Ash so surprised. It was clear that he didn't know she was coming. "Allie, how did you…" He saw Pikachu standing at Allie's feet. He shot his Pokémon a look that said, "I'll talk with you later." Pikachu looked down, abashed.

    The girl wanted to wrap her arms around his neck and hold on to him. And yet, she didn't. He was on the island and knew she was, and yet had made no effort to contact her. "Why didn't you tell us you were here?" she asked accusatively, crossing her arms.

    "I meant to," Ash lied, glancing away. He really had wanted to see Allie, but thought it would be a terrible idea given his mission. Even now, he felt bad hiding the truth from her, but it was better that she didn't know. When it was all over, he'd tell her everything. "So much has happened that I just can't explain right now."

    Allie stepped closer to him, her eyes narrowing.

    "Ash, I want the truth. Where were you?"

    The master felt the girl's soft hand seize his wrist, and smiled slightly, recognizing the strength she had gained in his absence.

    "Allie, so much has happened. Most of it would put your life in danger if you knew."

    "What about your life Ash? Aren't you in danger?"

    Ash's sad smile grew. "Yes. But it's my duty to take those risks."

    No, you stubborn idiot, Allie wanted to scream. Your life matters too much to just throw it around. "We're companions Ash. Why do you keep doing things alone?"

    "Because of what happened at the Cape and the Dante Club. My journey is more dangerous than yours has to be, and I can't keep dragging you into dangerous situations."

    "We're companions, Ash. Our lives are connected no matter what happens. I've been in danger even when you aren't around. I feel safer when you are."

    A shadow passed across Ash's face. But you aren't, he reflected miserably.

    "So you're not going to tell me why you left," she assumed.

    "It was something I needed to do. That's all I can say. As for me leaving, you need to know that I never abandoned you – that I would never abandon you."

    "The tickets and text messages," she remembered. Seeing the electric rodent still hovering in the doorway, she realized something else. "You left Pikachu to look after me didn't you?" she figured out.

    "I did."

    This truth hit Allie hard. That Ash would send his constant companion to watch over her while he did his mysterious work alone proved that he really had been taking care of her from afar.

    "Congratulations on your victory," Ash added, his eyes pausing on the shining Volcano Badge still pinned to Allie's tank top. "It took me two tries to defeat Blaine," he chuckled.

    "Same for me," Allie admitted meekly. The two shared a short laugh.

    Ash touched her face where the abrasions from Sharpedo were still evident. "How?"

    "I told you. I just can't stay out of trouble, even when you're not around," she laughed. When Ash smiled and rested his hand on her shoulder, the girl decided to ask a question. "Blaine invited us to dinner at a popular restaurant. I know it's bad manners to invite someone else, but under the circumstances, do you want to come?"

    Ash looked into her eyes. The light blue spheres were pleading with him. It was a look that moved even his hidden heart.

    "I'll meet you all there once I finish a few things. I won't be too long." He felt the power of Allie's gaze intensify, and added, "I promise I won't leave without telling you."

    The smile he received made his answer worth it.

    "Alright then. See you in a bit."

    Ash waved and turned back to his work. There were dozens of papers on his desk. They were the reports Oak had been sending him. Even though he hadn't responded to them, the champion analyzed each and every one as it arrived.

    "Ash?"

    The champion turned back around to see Allie still leaning in the doorway. He raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement of her query, and she came running toward him. She threw her arms around him, and he reciprocated the embrace.

    "I'm glad your back," she whispered into his chest.

    Ash couldn't respond. It was all he could do to keep a tear from escaping his eye.

    Allie and her friends were already waiting for their meals to come when Ash arrived. Blaine, dressed once more in his disguise, stood immediately and bowed in a show of respect. Ash greeted the old man whom both he and Allie had lost battles to. They shared a laugh about old times, with Ash ultimately challenging Blaine to a battle once things settled down.

    Next, Janine approached the champion and explained that her father had gone on a journey and left the gym to her. Ash nodded as she spoke, then congratulated her and wished her luck as gym leader. The purple-haired girl beamed when he told her how much she reminded him of Koga.

    Lucian stood next and shook Ash's hand. "So you're the one who's been looking after Allie while I've been gone," he chuckled. "Well done. I wasn't nearly as good at keeping her out of trouble." It wasn't exactly a true statement; Allie had faced danger with both of them. But Lucian smiled, happy that he had been able to contribute to the companionship. Ash also complimented him on his contest skills from the Dante Cup; although the champion wasn't a coordinator himself, he had witnessed enough of his friends' contests to recognize talent. Allie laughed and told Ash to stop before Lucian's ego grew any larger, and the coordinator elbowed her playfully.

    "Coffee and tea, for the sirs and misses," a waiter said, pouring the warm beverages into their glasses.

    "Thank you," said Blaine, sipping his drink.

    The others continued their conversation, with Allie and Lucian elaborating on the events aboard the SS Seagallop Emperor.

    "I really regret sending you those tickets now," Ash lamented, shaking his head. "I feel bad that you were in so much danger."

    "There's no need to apologize," Lucian laughed. "It was still a good time. Except for when I learned not to suggest tanning to Allie."

    The girl gently hit him in the head, smiling. She had long forgiven him for that transgression, but was glad he learned his lesson. He was a nice boy when he wasn't been obnoxious or rude.

    "But why Sharpedo?" wondered Ash. "There shouldn't be any near Kanto. I'll see if Professor Birch will look into it before he returns to Hoenn."

    There was a crash from the end of the table. Allie screamed when she saw Blaine writhing on the floor, clutching at his throat. His tan face was turning a ghostly shade of white.

    Ash ran around the table and kneeled beside the older man. He checked Blaine's pulse, then sniffed the coffee.

    "Drapion venom," he told them quickly. "Janine, you know what to do. Pikachu, stay here and keep his heart going."

    The ninja nodded, and bent down over the Cinnabar Gym Leader. She began ordering the waiters and waitresses to bring her various spices and herbs from their kitchen. They hesitated at first, but moved a lot faster when Lucian intervened.

    "This man will die if you don't help him," the coordinator shouted at all of them. "Do whatever Janine tells you to."

    The restaurant staff began hurrying around, trying to gather the necessary antidotal ingredients. Lucian himself dashed to the kitchen to help, but turned around before he disappeared behind the swinging doors. His eyes met Allie's, and then they both watched as Ash ran out of the restaurant.

    "Go with him," Lucian advised her. "He needs someone like you right now."

    Allie needed no further convincing. Lucian and Janine would take care of Blaine. Her place was by Ash's side, whether he knew it or not.

    She watched as Pikachu used his electricity to shock a heartbeat back into Blaine, and then vanished in pursuit of her teacher.

    Ash, meanwhile, was already outside of the restaurant. Blaine alone had drunk the coffee, suggesting the poison was in the drinks. The observant champion had noticed the waiter duck out the front door a moment later, but didn't realize why until Blaine collapsed. He cursed himself for failing to be alerted by the suspicious behavior then.

    He looked around, but it was hard to locate his target in the busy street. It was only when he saw a commotion a few hundred feet down the road that he knew where to look. He dashed toward where everyone was gathered, pushing past other trainers and tourists as he went. Reaching where the waiter had crashed into a ramen stand, Ash stood over the mess. Noodles were everywhere, and the waiter was one the ground, holding his leg in pain.

    "FEEEEEEEERRRAAAAA," came horrible noise from the sky.

    Ash looked up and jumped out of the way just in time to avoid being clawed by a Fearow's talons. From behind him, the massive bird had descended upon the crowd, sending tourists fleeing. A figure dressed in black rode upon the Fearow's back. The fake waiter stood up and tore off his garments, revealing a uniform Ash found far too familiar. It was a Rocket uniform.

    The assassin laughed hysterically at the horror on Ash's face. He grabbed hold of one of the Fearow's talons, and was easily lifted off the ground by the powerful Pokémon. Fearow began flapping its wide wings even harder, and disappeared into the sky.

    Ash released Pidgeot from his Pokéball, intending to pursuit the assailants. In the corner of his eye, he saw his blonde companion appear out of the crowd.

    "Allie, stay," he barked, mounting his Pokémon.

    "I'm coming too."

    The champion turned around to glare at her, but the adamant expression on her face overpowered his resolution. He prayed it wouldn't be a mistake.

    "Get on."

    Ash helped Allie onto the giant bird. She sat in front of him, snug as the first time she flew with Ash. His long black cloak covered them both, keeping their body heat in. Pidgeot raised his powerful wings and began to ascend.

    Last time Allie had ridden Pidgeot, she and Ash were flying toward Mount Moon for a day of training. Then, their flight had been relatively leisurely. Now, Pidgeot's wings beat rapidly, propelling them high into the sky. Allie watched as the ground fell away, then the clouds vanished beneath them. She had never been so high in the air, but in Ash's grasp, she felt secure.

    "Do you see anything?" Ash called over the noise of the wind.

    Allie scanned the sky. There was nothing below her to the left, but to her right…

    "There!" she pointed at a small black speck far below them.

    "Got it. Pidgeot, go!" the young man ordered, tapping the large bird's side with his heel. At once, they entered a steep downward dive.

    Ash coughed as most of Allie's ponytail flew into his face.

    "Don't let go!" he instructed her as their target became progressively nearer. "Sky Attack!"

    At once, their speed became considerably faster. A harsh white light appeared around them, and they spiraled downward at their quarry.

    Pidgeot rammed into Fearow at full speed. By now, they were only a few hundred feet above the ground, which was lucky for all four riders. The force of the impact had thrown them all from their mounts. The mysterious strangers quickly tugged on their black vests, and parachutes appeared as if from nowhere.

    Ash and Allie weren't so well equipped.

    "Grab my hand," Ash shouted to Allie. She couldn't hear what he said, but he was frantically grabbing for her wrists. Their hands finally found each other, but their descent was hardly slowed. Ash let go of one of Allie's hands for just a second to get a Pokéball. He threw it to the rapidly approaching ground ahead of them.

    The ball, with less air resistance and a faster initial velocity, reached the ground just in time. Garchomp erupted from it, immediately aware of the situation. With just seconds left to act, the sand shark leapt into the air and caught both trainers. The three rolled as they landed, but Garchomp took the worst of the impact.

    Pidgeot was still high above, preoccupied with his duel against Fearow. The assassins' parachutes had successfully deployed and were slowing their descent. They were still high above Ash and Allie, but their trajectory would make them land right next to the trainers.

    Allie stood up, brushing dust off her tank top. They were certainly no longer in downtown Cinnabar. They were standing on a beach. It was long and wide, and she couldn't see an end to it.

    "Where are we?" the girl asked.

    The champion finished checking Garchomp for injuries, then returned him to his Pokéball. He pulled his Xtransceiver from a pocket and checked the map.

    "About seven miles away from town. This must be a part of the island that hasn't been developed yet."

    "How did we get so far?" she wondered, astonished at the distance they had covered.

    "Pidgeot flies really fast, not to mention the air currents we probably caught on the way down. We were getting pushed by them for a while."

    They looked around at their new surroundings. A giant wall of gray stood in stark contrast to the long sandy beach. "Look there," Allie pointed at it.

    Ash turned to see. "It looks like a warehouse of sorts," Ash guessed, taking a picture of it on his Xtransceiver. "But according to the map, there's nothing but beaches out here."

    "It's enormous," Allie whispered, stunned by the size of the warehouse.

    "It is. I wonder what's hidden inside."

    Allie looked in his eyes, trying to guess what he was thinking.

    "Nevermind," the champion said distractedly. "Look."

    The assassins were finally approaching the ground, about a hundred feet nearer to the warehouse. They cut their parachutes quickly and began running toward the metal structure.

    "Stop," Ash shouted.

    They turned around slowly as if they didn't know what to do. Now that they were not longer trying to escape, it was easy to see the uniforms they wore. Each had a black shirt on, with gloves and boots. There were slight variations to the cut of uniforms, so Allie could tell even from the distance that one was a girl. Embossed on each of their shirts was a giant red R.

    The man reached to his belt and released a Krookodile. The giant maroon crocodile immediately roared as it burst from its Pokéball. A cloud of sand obscured the grunts as Krookodile dug its way under the ground.

    Allie realized that it was using dig, but Ash didn't react. She tugged gently on his sleeve to make sure he was paying attention, but he hushed her. All the while, his eyes never broke contact with the people standing across from them.

    The Pokémon could emerge from the ground at any time. Pidgeot was still too preoccupied with its battle against Fearow to help. Ash waited.

    His well-trained ears suddenly picked up on a noise from beneath him. He leapt back, pulling Allie with him. There was a blinding flash of light as Ash opened a Pokéball.

    Their dodge was just in time. A fraction of a second later, Krookodile erupted from the ground, snapping at them with his gigantic mouth.

    Now, however, Bulbasaur stood between the trainers and the overgrown lizard. As it moved to bite them again, Bulbasaur unleashed a furious vine whip attack.

    The attack was so brutally strong. Allie could hear the snap of the vines against Krookodile's scaly skin and shuddered at how it must feel to be hit by a vine whip. She couldn't even imagine it.

    Finally, Bulbasaur relented. Using his vines to lift Krookodile off the ground, he threw it into their air. Krookodile hit the sand with a crash, unconscious. Immediately afterwards, Bulbasaur's vines stretched across the beach, grabbed the Rockets by their waists and pulled them to where Ash and Allie stood. They landed next to Krookodile, dazed and trapped.

    Just a few seconds later, Fearow crashed to the ground, overwhelmed by Pidgeot's strength. Pidgeot was familiar with battling Fearow; it had fought several off while defending his flock.

    Ash and Allie approached their captured opponents.

    "Go over and see what she knows," Ash told Allie, indicating the female grunt. She agreed and walked away.

    With her distracted, Ash got down to business. He crouched down next to the man, glaring at him dangerously.

    "What are you doing here?" Ash asked in a deadly quiet tone. "And why has Rocket Nation moved into the open?"

    "I was following orders."

    "From who?"

    The Rocket didn't respond. Ash decided that it was time to increase the pressure of the interrogation.

    "Why did you poison Blaine?" Ash demanded, his boot crushing down on the grunt's windpipe.

    The man grunted with pain, but a sneer still crept across his face. "The gym leader? We didn't realize that was him. Unexpected bonus."

    Of course, Ash realized. The coffee had been served to all of them, and Blaine had been wearing a disguise. It wasn't the fiery old man they meant to kill. It was him.

    The trainer dropped to his knees, not taking his eyes off the would-be assassin. He whispered something in the man's ear so that Allie couldn't hear. The smirk left the man's face at once.

    "Who are you?" Allie asked her hostage more calmly. She was upset about the attack on Blaine's life, yet couldn't muster the rage of her companion.

    "We are Rocket Nation, little girl. Soon, everyone will know our name."

    It was strange that she called Allie "little girl." Although the blonde trainer would resent such a title under ordinary circumstances, the fact that the Rocket Nation operative was about the same age made it all the more insulting.

    She decided to be more proactive in the interrogation. Instead of just asking what Rocket Nation was, she said to the grunt, "Tell me what Rocket Nation is."

    "You should ask your friend," she said under her breath. "He knows more than he says."

    The comment made Allie look back over to her companion. She watched for several seconds as he talked quietly with the male, then suddenly started beating the helpless man's face with his elbow. Blood flew everywhere.

    "Ash, stop!" she cried, shocked at his sudden lack of restraint. He wasn't listening. She ran over to where he stood and shoved him off of his victim.

    Her friend glared at her with a look in his eyes that she had never seen. Was it anger? Rage? Pain?

    Fear?

    As quickly as the look appeared, it vanished. He straightened himself up.

    "Bulbasaur, sleep powder," he commanded. He had acquired an immunity of it over the years, but his startled companion hadn't. He stepped behind Allie and covered her nose with the hem of his cloak.

    The two Rocket Nation members fell asleep where they lay. One was still covered in blood, his nose bent sideways. Their fallen Pokémon lay next to them.

    "Come on," grunted Ash, moving past the sleeping enemies. He had Allie by the wrist and was half pulling her along in his haste. They approached the giant warehouse and slowly crept toward one of the few windows. Ash at first held Allie feet away from the window, but his grip slowly loosened in stunned indifference.

    Allie leaned up against him, and managed to get a peek at what he was staring at.

    Inside the warehouse was a gigantic ship. Roughly the length of twenty Wailord, several stories high, the magnificent ship took up almost all of the space in the building. It wasn't a ship like the Seagallop Emperor, though. The red and black steel construction was outfitted with jet engines, rocket boosters, and wings. Near the back of it, a black tower overlooked the entire rest of the ship.

    Allie had never seen anything like it, and judging by the astonished look on his face, neither had Ash.

    The words painted on it turned Ash's blood cold.

    Rocket Aircruiser Ubume.




    Hi everyone. Hope you're enjoying the story. If so, please let me know what you think of it with a quick review. Thanks! -Waras

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