[Keep your eyes open for a link to a VISUAL AID for this chapter! Just imagine it as smaller-scaled and it will make sense.]
A guilty Brock showed his sympathy, “May… I was afraid this would happen.” He thinks back to the numerous conversations he has had with his dear Hoenn friend, and the contents of the more recent ones is what brought the Pewter City native to the conclusion that May wasn’t ready to know about her ex’s happy life. He was afraid to ask, and therefore did slowly, “So… how are you and –”
“I don’t feel like talking about that,” she interrupted quietly. Little did the Sinnoh couple know about the escape that the Wallace Cup has offered this grievous angel. “Well,” she offered hesitantly, “we’re doing better. I’m still upset about that ‘incident,’ but, then again, I’m not one to talk.” This she said reassured, but just as quickly shifted back to depressed, “Still, he didn’t want to come to the Wallace Cup with me.” This light princess continued bitterly, “He thought this one ribbon wasn’t worth the travel, because he has his own work to do, even if the travel was for me.”
Brock tries to remedy her mind, “That’s not so bad, May. He’s right about focusing on himself, too. Maybe he should also be paying attention to you, but you have to give him credit for loving what he does.”
May disagrees, “But he really, really should pay more attention to me. Ash is the most passionate trainer I know, but he always included me in his prioritized time.” She reminisces the time they shared quickly through her mind – how he would end training early to have ice cream with her on a tree stump, nature providing a romantic scenery – until she hears Brock’s response and snaps out of it.
“You can’t compare your boyfriend to Ash. What you two had is different from what you will have with any other guy. Maybe Ash has some qualities you like in a man, but it’s obvious he didn’t have the right amount, or enough balance of likeable qualities, since you two are now broken up. The question is: does your new relationship have what you need and want?”
May thinks about this, her heart and gut confused as ever, until she kindly answers with her mind, “Of course it does, and of course I’m happy.” Her powerless smile faintly twinkles, “And now I’m even happier to see Ash happy again.”
“That’s a lot of happiness,” Brock states skeptically.
“I’m fine,” May assures. “Really, I am.” Brock finally gives in to May’s exclamations, and the pals collect the trays and shopping bags, and, after looking out the window at the pink horizon, prepare for bed.
Ash stares at the ceiling, going over in his head what he’s just been told. Is that it? he thinks. May finds out I’m in a relationship, and she gives us her blessing. We went out for two years! She should have been upset about it. Did our relationship mean so little to her that it didn’t affect her? He twiddles his thumbs and presses his teeth hard against each other in his mouth. Wait, why would I ask that? Of course she wouldn’t care! After all the pain she’s put me through, it should’ve been no surprise that she’d feel nothing over my relationship.
“Don’t worry, Ash,” Dawn says as she lies beside him and begins to comfort him by stroking his valorous, black hair. “I know I overreacted a bit, and I know it upset her, but now that she knows about us, and she totally supports us – and plus she has a boyfriend of her own – I don’t feel threatened by her, and we can all get along.”
Ash is moved by Dawn’s insecurities, “Oh, Dawn. You never had to worry about her. I’m with you now. When the past meets the present, it’s only for a little while, and then the present moves on forward to a better, happier future.”
“Where did you get that from?” Dawn asks curiously.
“I think I read that somewhere in Eterna City,” he states.
“Well,” she responds, “have you ever heard of ‘history repeats itself?’”
“No,” he jokes, and then follows with a laugh, “Where did you get THAT from?”
“That’s not important,” Dawn retorts. “What’s important is how I’m gonna beat it into your pretty little skull!” At this, she jumps on her boyfriend and attacks his head with a pillow. Ash fights back by grabbing her arms and shaking them wildly as he struggles to protect himself. They both share a chorus of joyous laughter until Dawn gives up and they both pant on each other’s faces. They stop panting, and begin to exchange lips passionately, Dawn’s hand slipping into Ash’s shirt and sliding up his defined abdomen, until his shirt is pulled off altogether. Ash’s hands, meanwhile, rest on Dawn’s face until they slide down to her waist. As Dawn begins to rest her knees on her lover’s lap, she moves her foot up to his leg and accidentally pinches his calf, which causes the boy to wince in pain. “Oh, no! I’m sorry, Ash,” she cried.
Ash replies coolly, “No need to worry. It’s not like anything was gonna happen.”
“Sure,” Dawn says sarcastically. “That definitely was the message I was getting.” She climbs off of him and reaches for the remote; after that, she turns on the television to one of her soaps. She looks at Ash, “Are you gonna try to stay awake this time?”
Ash jokes, “No guarantees!” He pays attention to the show for a second until he traps himself in his thoughts again, May can react however she wants. I don’t need her emotions. I don’t need her, period. I’m over my past, and I look forward to the better, happier future. He holds Dawn’s hand as they watch her ridiculous drama, until Ash’s eyes soon after begin to flutter.
A rocky valley stretches out farther than the eye can see. Large, craggy mountains are carved out by the extinct river that once flowed through this dry, rough land. Small collections of shrubbery are barely seen, a few growing on the mountains, the most of it gathered at the base, perhaps feeding on the little water that has lingered, and remaining there with the help of the uncommon drizzles that fall upon this wasteland. The sun’s coloration during the transition from daytime to evening is unique due to the way light is reflected by the mountains, possessing a very radiant, majestic glow that covers the entire area with ease. Life is at a minimum here, except mostly around the Pokemon Center on the cliff, and the Battle Pyramid a long distance away.
In the Pokemon Center, Ash walks back and forth in his room, breaking into a nervous sweat, reflecting on his adventures for the past two years, and reviewing the decision he is about to make. After much thinking, he’s had enough of the mental torture and charges out through the doorway, until his path is blocked by Max. A confused Max sees nothing but Ash running right to him, only for the teen to suddenly halt, trip on his ankle, and fall backwards on his spine. Despite being confused over this rushed behavior, Max hurriedly falls on his knees as he wonders if Ash is okay. What occurs next is, however, completely unexpected by the glasses-wearing lad: as Ash winces in pain, a shiny trinket slips out of his left pocket and drops on the floor with a clink. Upon closer inspection, Max stands up dramatically at his discovery.
“Ash!” he exclaims frantically. “How… when… where…?” The boy was speechless as he stared at the silver ring, designed with the utmost beauty, embedded with a gorgeous ruby center, and two enchanting sapphire gems on each side. The inside is engraved with the beautifully stylized words, May Ketchum. Max finally chose a question, “Where did you get THAT from?”
Ash, having picked his self up, answered seriously, “Steven Stone gave that to me; it was a thank-you for stopping Team Magma and Team Aqua.” Ash paused for a while, and then went on, “He offered me a championship match – his father said he really owed me – about a couple of weeks ago… And I turned him down, for something much more special for someone much more special.”
Max cannot believe the words he is hearing, especially from his friend whom me met in Petalburg City; this was the same friend who emanated an unparalleled passion for battling, yet he turned down the opportunity of a lifetime for something Max would never have predicted. He finally spoke up, “Why would you do this?”
Ash said calmly, “That’s a silly question. This is the way it’s supposed to be; you spend the rest of your life with the woman who completes your soul, but to do that, you have to ask her. After two years of unimaginable happiness, I’m ready to ask. Our official ceremony can be postponed until we’re of age, but I want her to know that it’s something I want, and, this way, there would be no doubt that we are fully committed to each other until that very day, and forever after.”
Max isn’t sure what to say, for fear of Ash’s fragile heart shattering. “Ash,” he starts nervously, “are you sure it isn’t too soon?”
“It’s not too soon when I feel this way about her, and I know she feels the same,” he states.
Max is once again not so sure, “And, besides, today is the wrong day. You two were in another fight today. It’s just bad timing.” Max was hoping this fact would change things, but not even Celebi could alter the events to occur this day.
“Max,” Ash offers his comfort as he bends his knees to reach his level, “love is tricky that way. There will always be problems, but, between me and your sister, there will never be enough to end the endless love we have for each other.” He softly removes the ring from Max’s fingers and places it back into his pocket. “This day will be remembered as one of the best we have all lived,” and he picks himself up and strides away, out of the doorway, and on his way outside. Max looks into the emptiness of the room, picturing the emptiness that will soon replace Ash’s full, loving, innocent heart.
(Nothingness; everything is pitch-white; nothing can be seen nor heard, as if the universe ceased to exist, and this is what is remained, if this could be called “remains.”
A male voice can be heard, “No……… this……… can’t… be…”)
“Aack!” Ash speedily picks up his upper body from the bed, sweat pouring down his face, as if his eyes were flooded rivers. He looks outside the window and sees the darkness of the night, with a crescent moon hanging in the middle of the stars. He looks down beside him and sees Dawn resting soundly. He struggles to maintain his focus on her due to the guilt he feels for his latest dream. He stares forward, through the television, which has now become a passageway to his innermost thoughts, A better future; a better, happier future. After at last calming down, he lies down and returns to his rest.
The next morning, May, excited for the contest, and a new beginning with Ash and Dawn – individually and as a couple –, abruptly opens the couple’s door to share her enthusiasm, but her passionate spirit fades at the sight of the her friends asleep and cuddling for what seemed the liked the entire night. May quietly closes the door. As she fights back tears, she heads outside of the Pokemon Center to the battlefield for practice.
Ash walks through the front door as he reacquaints himself with the paradisiacal surrounding of the Valor Lakefront, which he welcomes with a yawn and stretching of the arms. Dawn and Brock follow behind him. They all head to the battlefield and see early-bird May commanding a Blizzard from a Glaceon. Ash and Brock are puzzled at the sighting of this new Pokemon, so the latter investigates, “Hey, May, where did you get that Pokemon?”
May turns around, the wind around her suddenly picking up to gently pull her hair out of her vanilla face. She giggles, “What’s the matter, Brock? You don’t recognize my Glaceon?”
Brock his confused, but, after some momentary thinking, Ash comes to the rescue, “Oh, I know!” he exclaims confidently, Dawn’s presence being the source of it, “That’s your Eevee!” Brock repeats Ash’s understanding “Oh.”
May giggles again, “You’re right, Ash. Before I docked here at Lake Valor, I stopped by Snowpoint City.”
“Hey!” Dawn adds, “My friend, Zoey, is from Snowpoint City!”
“That’s great!” May rejoices. “Then you could probably ask her, and she would also tell you how there is this special place where, if you train your Eevee, it evolves into a Glaceon. I thought it would make for a nice surprise when I return to Johto.”
“That’s so cool!” Dawn says amazedly. “So are you using Glaceon for the appeals round?”
“No, Dawn,” May responds politely, “Glaceon will be saved for later. I’ll be using my Wartortle.”
“Whoa!” Ash exclaimed with surprise. “Your Squirtle evolved? Can I see?”
May giggles, “Sure,” she teases, “at the contest.” Ash feels awkward about the response. “Don’t worry, it’ll be soon. But didn’t you say you’d show me your Buizel today?”
Ash smirked, “At the contest; don’t worry; it’ll be soon.”
After some final practice was squeezed in, the gang was dragged by May to the shopping center for some last-minute shopping. Ash, bored by the crazed purchasers and vendors surrounding him, heads to the check-up booth a few feet away to see who his competition is. Just as he is about to ask the receptionist, a voice calls him, “Hey! Are you competing this time around?” The voice was familiar, but, to Ash, unable to be assigned to its person, so he had no choice but to turn around and see who it was.
“Zoey?” Ash exclaimed. “You barely made the deadline to sign up.”
Dawn heard this within the depths of the sales, and yells, “Zoey!” as she runs towards her best friends, arms flailing about to embrace her.
Zoey is pleased by this reception, “Hey, Dawn! I’m glad to see you here.”
“I’m glad to see you, too,” she replied. “So are you entering the contest?”
“Of course I am! It’s not everyday you get to compete with coordinators around the world, and, with all the variety, this contest will definitely help show me how much I’ve grown as a coordinator.”
May appears, with Brock beside her, and interjects, “Oh, you must be Zoey. I’m May, from the Hoenn region.”
“Nice to meet you, May,” she says.
Brock explains, “May is currently competing in the Johto region but came here to compete for the Aqua Ribbon awarded in the Wallace Cup.”
“You see, Dawn,” Zoey states joyfully. “This is what I meant.” Then she says to everyone, “Let me get signed up and we can all get ready for the contest together!”
“Eek!” Dawn cried.
May and Zoey turned worriedly, wondering what caused Dawn to yell like that. They turn to see sitting in front of a mirror, her hair uncombed and sticking up on the top of her head. “My hair!” she whined. “Everything is ruined! I can’t go out like this!”
May, dressed in a mystical veil containing a green gem, an orange, short-sleeved, fancy shirt that ends above her naval, and a matching, stylish skirt, and Zoey, dressed in her usual royal red suit, both shrug off the blue-haired girl’s meltdown and assist her with this minor malfunction. As they comb her hair and reassure her of her talent and potential, Dawn, dressed in her pink, elegant dress, looked nervously at Piplup. May offers, “No need to worry. Right, Dawn?” Dawn nods diffidently.
Meanwhile, Zoey, seeing that May has handled the situation, enters the next room, where the other contestants are waiting, including Ash, who is dressed in an extravagant, black suit worn around a white, defined vest and a camouflaged, high-class tie with complimenting dress pants and a black gentleman’s hat. She approaches him, “Hey, Ash! How is everything going?”
Ash excitedly responds, “Great! I can’t wait until this thing starts! I can’t wait –” but Ash doesn’t finish his sentence, for from the dressing room enters a mermaid-like figure, donned in majestic, Mediterranean attire that captures her beauty and sex appeal perfectly. It is a beauty only of this magnitude that could ensnare Ash’s words and his heartbeat, and then pause them, until it wishes to free them from its enchanting prison. When Ash was finally let free, he stutters, “I c-can’t wait… for the contest.”
Zoey turns around and glances at May, and then, after a moment, turns her gaze back towards Ash. “I see,” she says. “So that’s the girl you dated before Dawn,” she says with a grin, but then her tone gets more serious. “How are you?”
“Oh, I’m fine,” Ash replies embarrassedly.
“Are you sure?” Zoey asks. “It’s never easy to deal with an unwanted past.”
Ash looks at May for a second, but then looks at Brock, at the corner checking out the crowd of attractively dressed women, and finally returns to Zoey, “My friend told me to do what I always do – charge through it.”
Despite Ash’s grin, Zoey takes this in with uncertainty. She then, with deep consideration, offers her own opinion, “I think charging through is only part of the solution.”
“Huh?” Ash asks startled.
“Don’t let your past force you to charge through your life,” she explains. “You have to enjoy your surroundings, too. Make sure you stop to take a look.”
“Huh…” Ash considered. And it suddenly dawned on him, Maybe that’s why I’ve been having so much trouble dealing with May showing up. Maybe that’s why I had that weird dream last night. Of course! I’ve been approaching this the wrong way. How could I ever avoid what was a part of my life for two whole years? “I never looked at it that way.”
“Yeah,” Zoey says with a smile, “it’s like a contest, minus the big finish.”
“Hey, you’re right,” Ash states. He stares at the pokeball in his hand, sealed in a capsule with a lightning bolt on it, and then looks back up at Zoey, “I’ll be right back; there’s something I have to fix.” And before Zoey can respond, Ash runs, with pokeball in hand, out of the room.
“And now, everyone,” Marian, the M.C., shouts through her microphone to the audience, “Please welcome our next contestant! All the way from Pallet Town, this coordinator is raring to go! Here is Ash! Ketchum!!!!”
The audience cheers at the top of its lungs as Ash steps into the arena. He gives the crowd more of a reason to scream as he slowly makes his way to the water, thus creating a nail-biting anxiety for everyone watching, whether it’s for the frenzy that is the arena, or his friends watching through the television, except for one callous boy with violacious hair, looking intently at his well-dressed foe through the monitor.
Ash is one step away from action, until his mind stops time, and, row by row, the crowd disappears. Ash is to himself, in a white space resembling his dream from the night before. He asks himself, “Any last piece of advice?” He thinks about this for some time, until, directly in front of him, a mermaid-like figure appears in front of him, with hair like an autumn meadow, and eyes like the summer sky. “I know, Ash; I just have to let go.” With this, the figure, white smile and all, suddenly disappears, and the crowd, along with Marian and the judges, suddenly reappear, loud as ever. Ash takes his final step.
He tosses out his pokeball, and cries adamantly, “I choose you! Buizel!” The weasel comes out in a battle stance, “Bui BUI!” The capsule creates its effect, releasing small bolts of lightning. Buizel punches the bolts with perseverance and creates an electrical, dynamic impact with each blow. Ash doesn’t miss a beat, “Buizel!” he cries passionately. “It’s time to charge through! Aqua Jet, let’s go!” Buizel spins through the air like a turret and propels itself forward at extraordinary speeds by releasing through its fur a gush of water that sends it flying straight into the water. Here, Buizel shows off his agility as he zigzags through the water as if he were colliding with invisible walls floating on the pool. For every zig and every zag, Ash remembers an individual conflict in his life – Pikachu being injured by a flock of Spearow, losing at the Silver Conference to Harrison’s Blaziken, moving on after a nasty conclusion in Kanto – and how he had to charge through them all, but he couldn’t do it without his friends.
“That’s it, Buizel!” Ash commands, “Take your time! Enjoy your surrounding!” Buizel comes to an abrupt halt directly beneath the surface of the water with the assistance of its well-groomed floatation sac. Marian comments on the beauty of this furry ring around Buizel’s neck, and how the weasel shines in the water. “Alright, Buizel,” Ash prepares himself. “It’s time for the big finish! Sonicboom!” “Bui BUI!” Buizel wags his twin tails majestically in the water, charging the energy there until a forceful wind shoots out and breaks the surface tension, giving room for Buizel to skyrocket out of the water and into the pleasant air, with the sun shining on his glistening fur. The crowd goes insane, and Marian applauds Buizel’s power and poise. The weasel concludes with a back flip, landing and posing beside his valiant trainer. The crowd again yells their support.
“Well done, Ash and Buizel!” shouts Marian through the microphone, loud enough to disrupt its frequency. Ash looks at his Pokemon, mentally thanking the weasel for what it has done for him this day.
As Ash heads back to the waiting room, he sees Dawn, more nervous than he had ever seen her, heading down to the arena. She stops him, “Ash, that was a great job! I’m so proud of you!”
Ash, feeling freer than a Pidgeot, takes Dawn swiftly by the arms and gives her a tender kiss. After releasing the stunned girl, he replies, “I know you’ll do even better.”
She looks at him warmly, and, with heightened confidence, rapidly paces to the arena. Ash continues his way to the waiting room, where he is welcomed by the praise of his friends, including May.
“Wow, Ash! That was terrific!” Brock exclaimed.
“Your Buizel looked amazing out there!” Zoey chimed in.
May offers her compliments, “I’m so proud of you, Ash!” Ash gives all of them an appreciative nod, saving the last one for May, whom he also offers a hand shake. Brock’s face is motionless at this, but Zoey simply thinks, That’s right. Don’t let anyone stop you from enjoying your surroundings. May completes the gesture, and they both shake their hands firmly, yet also caringly.
“Up next, from Twinleaf Town…” Marian begins, her voice transmitted through the television.
“Oh, look!” Zoey pointed out. “Dawn is about to start!” The gang begins to crowd around the television, everyone except for Ash, who is smiling at the corner. He finally feels free – not from love, but from hate. He feels the hate has dissipated through his soul, and the new beginning he wanted when he first made his mark in the Sinnoh region can finally begin. The question is: where will this beginning end? Ash seemed to have definitively answered that when he gave Dawn a kiss before her performance, but the answer is once again unclear, as he reaches into his suit pocket and pulls out a silver trinket, with a ruby centerpiece, surrounded by embedded sapphire gems, while looking up at the mermaid girl with the graceful wind, and the heart of an angel.