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Thread: Beyond Life and Death II: Guardians of Fate (PG, Amourshipping)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Power Chamber

    Default Beyond Life and Death II: Guardians of Fate (PG, Amourshipping)

    Hey, guys! I promised you to have my current story up on here this week, and here it is. If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is a sequel to the first Beyond Life and Death, which is already on here, as well as over on under my profile of the same name.

    I only just uploaded Chapter 3 to this morning, so I will bring all three of those over here, and from then on I will be updating this concurrently with that version of the story, so if you enjoy it, you're free to follow it on whichever site you choose.

    As always, I hope you all enjoy!

    Author: necris14

    Pairing: Amourshipping, Shiningsunshipping

    Rating: PG

    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8

    Chapter 1: Kalos's Curtain Call

    "Now, Pancham, use Stone Edge!"

    "Pan-cham!" The small Pokemon cried, gracefully tumbling forward in mid-air before slamming its fist down to the ground, causing a dozen sky blue stalagmites to erupt from the stage a moment later.

    "Right, Altaria, you're up! Use Mist!"

    "Riiiiii!" The Humming Pokemon sang, swooping across the newly-formed pillars and spreading a thin veil of fog in its wake.

    "All right, Sylveon! Time for your Dazzling Gleam!"

    "Sylveon!" Sylveon cried, leaping forward in front of its twirling Trainer as rays of multicolored light began shooting off of its body.

    No further commands were given for a time, as Altaria, Pancham, and Braixen took their cue to dance, sliding in and out of view within the cloud of mist on the stage whilst Sylveon's rainbow-colored aura reflected off the pillars encircling them, and caused the very mist itself to take on an iridescent hue.

    "Okay, Braixen! Finish us up with Fire Spin!"

    "Braaaiiii-xen!" Braixen cried, flowing smoothly from its dance into a twirl before raising its stick over its head and spinning it quickly, causing a spiraling funnel of flames to rise into the air above them. A moment later, Braixen swung its stick down defiantly, causing the the trail of flames to surge outward all at once, blowing away the Mist and shattering the stone pillars all at once.

    "And thaaaat's it!"

    The crowd erupted with cheers as the four Pokemon and their Trainer held their final pose, with glittering motes of dust sprinkling down across the auditorium.

    As she looked out onto the beaming crowd alongside her Pokemon, the Performer, Serena, couldn't help but smile even wider herself.

    "Wow, Serena! You guys were awesome out there!" A male voice rang, causing Serena to look over at the source of it in glee. Sure enough, running up to meet her was the slightly older, black-haired, cap-wearing Pokemon Trainer that had come to be her constant companion ever since the start of her journey, complete with his ever-present companion Pikachu riding on his shoulder. "It's really too bad that this is just a Showcase exhibition. If it was the real thing, you would've won it for sure!"

    Serena felt herself smile almost automatically at his praise, accompanied by the familiar feeling of warmth in her stomach that usually came with it. "Thanks, Ash! That's really sweet!"

    The two of them were out in the foyer of the Coumarine City Showcase Theater. Given the nature of the exhibition, Serena was able to leave the backstage area immediately after her performance rather than waiting for the results and potentially more rounds.

    "Hey, you two! Don't go leaving us out of the picture again!" A second male voice rang out, causing the two of them to turn around. The source this time was a boy a little older than both of them, though it was difficult to tell by his appearance, happily walking toward them with a smaller, blonde-haired girl at his side. "You just had to get the jump on her again, didn't you, Ash?"

    "Oh, c'mon, Clemont...what are you talking about?" Ash replied nervously, eyes darting nervously between Serena and the ground.

    "I'm talking about how you ran off and left us in the auditorium claiming you had to use the bathroom!" Clemont insisted in annoyance. "I guess you couldn't wait for the last few Performances before coming to see Serena in private!"

    "Ahahaha..." Ash chuckled, the nervous look still present on his face.

    "Aw, give him a break." Serena parleyed, chuckling lightly at the two boys' back and forth. "It's not like he meant anything by it."

    "Yeah, she's right, big brother!" The youngest of the four spoke up, glaring at her sibling with an accusing look in her eye. "Just because Ash's found a wife doesn't mean you can give him a hard time! It's not HIS fault you're gonna be a lonely old man forever!"

    "Pika pika!" Pikachu chimed in.

    "Na-nana!" Dedenne agreed, resting in its usual spot within the bag slung around the young girl's chest.

    "Bonnie..." Clemont groaned in embarrasment, as Ash and Serena shared a laugh at their friends' antics. Despite the fun they were having, and the enjoyment she'd gotten out of her Performance just now, Serena couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness as she realized that this may be the last time the four of them would be able to enjoy themselves like this.

    Later that night, after the exhibition had ended, the four of them retreated back to the Pokemon Center for the day. Serena's friends Shauna and Miette had made an appearance at the Showcase to tell her goodbye, as had Ash's old rival Alain and his friend Mairin.

    The four of them had enjoyed themselves well enough as they ate dinner, but afterwards, when they had returned to their rooms and begun preparing for bed, their began to think about what the future held for them after tomorrow.

    "So, Ash..." Clemont began awkwardly, trying not to stumble over his words as the two of them laid on their beds in their room, now seperated from Serena and Bonnie. "I guess you're...pretty excited about tomorrow, aren't you?"

    "Hmm..." Ash began slowly, taking stock of his emotions for a rare moment. "Yeah, I guess so."

    "Y-you guess so?!" Clemont exclaimed in disbelief, sitting up in bed and turning to face Ash. He had been expecting Ash to agree right away. "What do you mean, you guess so? Have you forgotten what's happening tomorrow?!"

    "N-no, 'course I haven't!" Ash countered at once, shooting up in bed as well and raising his hands in defense.

    "Then why aren't you more excited about it?" Clemont insisted. "The beginning of a new journey, in a rarely-visited region you've never seen before - and with Serena of all people! You haven't forgotten that she's your girlfriend, have you?"

    "No way!" Ash insisted, waving his hands frantically. "I guess...I'm..."

    Clemont remained silent and watched his friend, equal parts interested to hear Ash talk about his feelings for once and also eager to have his fear that Ash wasn't taking his and Serena's departure seriously enough dispelled.

    "...Aaagh, I don't know!" Ash grumbled in frustration a few moments later, running his hands through his hair in exasperation.

    "Pii-ka?!" Pikachu exclaimed in surprise, having been on the verge of slumber at the foot of Ash's bed before being jolted upright by its Trainer's outburst.

    "Ash? You are serious about all this...aren't you?"

    Ash hesitated a moment before responding. "Yeah. Yeah, I am, Clemont." He answered matter-of-factly, turning to look Clemont dead in the eye as he spoke. "I guess I'm just worried that she's not gonna be happy once we get out there. I mean...she's only going because I wanted to. Is that really a good enough reason?"

    Clemont regarded his companion with awe. Even after travelling together for all this time, Ash's genuine emotion and passion still surprised him sometimes - especially when they weren't directed toward his Pokemon. It had been a little over six months since Ash and Serena had officially started 'dating', though at the time it was exceedingly obvious how little the two of them actually comprehended what that entailed. Clemont had watched the pair navigate through what he had heard were all the usual twists and turns of relationships, and while Serena's innocence caused him to never have any doubts about her intentions, there were times - like now - when Ash's denseness and sometimes obliviousness to what was going on around him caused Clemont to question his true feelings. But, again, like now, every time that something similar had occurred, Ash had ultimately proven him one-hundred-percent dead wrong.

    "Oh, brother." Clemont sighed in relief. "You never cease to amaze me, Ash."

    "Huh?" Ash frowned.

    "Listen." Clemont began, raising a finger sharply to make the importance of his words known. "Serena would follow you to the ends of the Earth. Do you understand that? I think that you shouldn't look at it as you just dragging her around with you. Instead, try to see it as her goals becoming one with your own."

    Ash's eyes widened as the sense of what Clemont was saying began to sink in. "...Her goals...becoming one with mine...? You really think so?"

    "Mm-hm." Clemont nodded. "Do you remember why it was that Serena originally set out on her journey? It was to travel around with you, the person she looked up to more than anyone. I know, because I used to be the same way when we first met."


    "Yeah, of course." Clemont answered, laughing despite himself. "The only difference for me now is that I see you as more of a rival than an idol."

    Ash was silent for a moment as he processed Clemont's words. He had to admit that a lot of what his friend had said made sense. He'd known that Serena had looked up to him when they'd first met, but he wasn't exactly a stranger to that - his old companions May and Dawn had both felt similarly when he'd first met them. But he had never fully grasped just how important he was to her all that time. But, perhaps now, he was finally starting to understand...

    "Thanks, Clemont." Ash remarked seriously after what seemed like an eternity of silence. "I think I'm starting to get it now."

    Clemont smiled genuinely at his friend. "Sure." He blinked, his face falling slightly before continuing. "You know...I'm really going to miss you two when you're gone. You' best friends."

    Now it was Ash's turn to smile. "I'm gonna miss you guys, too. We'll be sure to stay in touch, okay?"

    "Yeah, of course." Clemont agreed. "We can't have you running off on an island vacation with no supervision, can we?"

    The two of them shared a genuine laugh before finally laying back down and forcing themselves to go to sleep.

    Meanwhile, in the next room over, Serena and Bonnie weren't having any more luck falling asleep than Ash and Clemont were. They had quickly decided that Bonnie was going to sleep next to Serena, as this was her last opportunity to do so, and after cuddling up next to each other, the two had begun talking and sharing stories about their adentures together over the previous year.

    However, after talking for a while, it finally dawned on Bonnie that this was more than likely going to be the last night she spent with Serena, and the excitement began to visibly drain from her face.

    "Bonnie?" Serena asked worriedly, noticing the sudden shift in expression. "What's wrong?"

    "Hey, Serena..." Bonnie began slowly, trying to keep her emotions in check. "D'you think you and Ash will ever come back to visit us?"

    "Bonnie...of course we will. We're all friends, aren't we?" Serena assured her.

    "Yeah, but aren't you going really far away? And you and Ash are gonna be alone together. What if you forget about us?"

    "Bonnie." Serena murmured affectionately, placing a hand on the young girl's cheek. "We could never forget about you. I promise that we'll stay in touch with both of you. If Ash was alone, I could see him forgetting to call every now and then...but I'll be with him, so don't worry. Okay?"

    Bonnie remained quiet for a short while, trying to keep back the tears that she could feel building up in her eyes. "You Ash, don't you?"

    Serena's mouth opened slightly, then closed, a bit taken aback by the question. "...Yes. I do."

    "Then...I think you guys should go." Bonnie sniffed. "I want you to be happy."

    Serena's eyes widened at the maturity of Bonnie's statement. She could only imagine what the young girl must be feeling right now, but to ultimately decide on her friends' happiness over hers...

    Serena wrapped her arms around Bonnie's head and pulled her into a warm embrace. "Thanks, Bonnie. I mean it."

    "...Hey, Serena?"


    "I-I've never had an older sister, but...if I had to pick anybody besides Clemont to have in my'd be you."

    Serena could only pull her in tighter as Bonnie's tears began to flow unbidden, down her face and onto the bedsheets.

    The following morning, the four of them all got ready as if it were any other day. They showered, packed up their things, ate a quick breakfast at the Pokemon Center, and were at the pier by noon.

    It didn't take them long to find their ship - most of the vessels present were smaller ships, either for fishing or local transportation. The largest one by a sizeable margin was the one Ash and Serena had already booked passage on, the S.S. Pelipper -a transregional cruise ship whose next stop was their intended destination.

    "Well, I guess this is it." Ash announced with a sense of finality as they drew up to the loading ramps for the Pelipper. He turned to face Clemont and Bonnie as Serena drew up beside him. "Thanks for everything, you guys. It was a lot of fun!"

    Clemont shook his head. "That's my line. Thank you for everything, Ash - because of you, I feel like I can finally live up to my duty as the Lumiose City Gym Leader. I'll never forget this journey for the rest of my life!"

    He and Ash shared a determined look and shook hands firmly, as Serena and Bonnie shared a hopeful look.

    "I-I remember. Don't worry." Bonnie assured her, blinking a few times quickly before summoning her courage and pushing back the tears. "I'm not gonna cry!"

    Serena smiled down at her sadly. "I'm gonna miss you. Dedenne, you take good care of Bonnie, all right?"

    "Ne-ne-ne!" Dedenne agreed confidently.

    "And I promise - " Serena began, holding her pinky finger out to Bonnie as she spoke. " - that we'll come back. Okay?"

    Bonnie stared at her outstretched finger with wide eyes before eagerly thrusting out her own and hooking it onto Serena's and shaking, sealing their agreement. "Okay! It's a promise!"

    Ash and Clemont both smiled down at Bonnie before Ash stepped in to regard her as well. "Goodbye, Bonnie! You take good care of your big brother, all right?"

    "Oh, please! Don't I always?" Bonnie bragged, prompting everyone to laugh. "If you ask me, it's Pikachu that's gonna have to keep an eye on you two!"

    "Piii-kaa!" Pikachu affirmed, raising a hand in agreement.

    "Don't think I forgot about you, Clemont." Serena remarked, reaching out to shake his hand as well. "It was a lot of fun travelling with you. I'm going to be telling everybody the story of the amazing Lumiose City Gym Leader, and how he's one of my best friends!"

    Clemont actually blushed at her statement, but reached out and grasped her hand all the same. "Th-thanks, Serena, but you don't have to go around making up stories about me..."

    "Oh, come on, big brother!" Bonnie scolded. "Can't you just learn how to take a compliment?!"

    They all shared another laugh together and continued chatting for a short while, but before long the time had come for them to say goodbye. Ash and Serena said their final goodbyes and made their way down the pier and onto the ship. Surprisingly, there wasn't much of a line to get onboard, though whether that was due to them talking to their friends for a bit too long and making it onboard much later than intended, they weren't sure.

    Once onboard, they made their way up onto the deck just in time for the horn to blow, signalling the ship to raise anchor. They ran to the back of the ship and, just as the boat lurched forward and began to move, caught one final glimpse of Clemont and Bonnie standing on the pier, waving frantically at them as they departed the Kalos region. Ash and Serena raised their arms to wave back as their friends gradually got smaller and smaller on the horizon, until they were no longer visible past the expanse of sea.

    Silence hung in the air between Ash and Serena as they lowered their arms, the reality of their situation finally sinking in for both of them. Kalos was officially behind them now, and neither of them could say for sure what lay ahead.

    "Well...that's it, I guess." Serena murmured softly, her slightly-above-shoulder-length hair blowing in the sea breeze. It was times like these that she was thankful she'd decided to get it cut when she started Performing.

    "Yep." Ash agreed. "That's it."

    Another cool silence hung between them for a while as they watched the sea stretch out behind them. Eventually, the newly-established atmosphere began to set in, and Serena looked over at him brightly and slipped her hand into his.

    "Well, what do you say? Should we go inside and find our cabin?"

    "Pi-kaa!" Pikachu voted, raising an arm excitedly.

    "Yeah, sounds good. Uh, one question, actually..." Ash trailed off, causing Serena to groan in anticipation.

    "Oh, come on, Ash. If you ask what I think you're going to - "

    "Hey, come on, Serena, it's a serious question." Ash pleaded.

    Serena regarded him for a moment before sighing in defeat. "Oh, all right, I'll tell you again. It is kind of funny how you keep forgetting."

    "Hey, I'm not forgetting! I never knew in the first place!"

    Serena giggled at his defensiveness. That was one of the many things she liked about him, after all - if he knew he was wrong about something, he wouldn't rest until he had found the answer. "All right, now try and say it with me."

    Ash nodded and looked at her intently, almost causing her to blush and lose focus. But she held her composure, and raised a finger triumphantly as she made her announcement.

    "We're going - to the Alola region!"
    Last edited by necris14; 19th January 2018 at 7:33 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Power Chamber


    Chapter 2: A New Start

    The journey to the Alola region was scheduled to take about a week, assuming that there were no complications, and so Ash and Serena ended up without much to do to pass the time on the voyage. They spent most of their time out on the deck relaxing with their Pokemon, which actually resulted in Ash having a couple of battles with other passengers, but for the most part, their minds were left to wander time and again back to the reality that the two of them were now traveling alone together.

    Despite both of them agreeing to go on a journey with just each other, the idea of it seemed almost too much to handle for them now that it had actually happened, which ended up leading to them making an effort to never be fully alone together on the ship. Whether it be Pikachu, their other Pokemon, or even the other passengers, they seemed to always find ways to make it so they never had to deal with being fully alone in each other's presence.

    After a few days of this, however, Serena found herself unable to sleep, her mind constantly drifting back to Ash. She couldn't decide if she was doing the right thing by keeping this distance between them, or if she was only hurting their relationship in the long run by doing so, not to mention that, as usual, she had no idea what Ash thought of any of this.

    She finally gave up on trying to fall asleep and decided to go outside for some fresh air, hoping that the walk would tire her out enough to finally fall asleep. Sighing to herself softly, she quietly climbed out of bed and stepped into her slippers before tiptoeing out of the room, taking care not to wake the slumbering Ash or Pikachu across the room. She stopped at the door and turned to regard them for a moment, watching the steady rhythm of Ash's breathing.

    "Sleep tight, you two." She whispered, smiling to herself, before delicately opening the door and stepping outside, taking care to shut it quietly behind herself.

    Unsurprisingly, she didn't encounter a single person in the halls leading out to the deck. When she got outside, she found the area similarly deserted. She walked over to the far side of the deck, grabbed the railing, and began walking along the edge of the ship, staring out at the ocean idly as she went.

    "What should I do...?" Serena thought to herself, the cool ocean breeze lightly spraying her face . "I know I agreed to go with him to Alola, but...well, how could I have said no to him? It's Ash I'm talking about!"

    She managed a small smile despite herself, and found her thoughts drifting back to the day, not all that long ago, when Ash had asked her to accompany him to the Alola region. He had received two tickets from Professor Sycamore after their help with the Zygarde incident during the Lumiose Conference, who had told them that he had been contacted by the Professor of that region asking for a couple of bright Trainers from Kalos to come and try their hand at Alola's 'Island Trials'.

    Obviously, Clemont and Bonnie weren't going to go, and Ash may have considered going by himself, but in the end he had decided to ask her to go with him. She allowed her smile to widen and her eyes softened, recalling how determined his face had looked that day.

    "Hey, Serena...?" Ash began slowly as the last of the dishes vanished from the breakfast table. They were just about to pack up the rest of their campsite and hit the road again, heading north toward Coumarine City. "Can I talk to you for a minute...?"

    Clemont and Bonnie blinked, then shared a look that said they knew better than to speak up. They were no stranger to Ash and Serena's relationship by this point, and they could tell when the two of them needed a moment alone.

    "U-uh..." Serena stammered, blushing mildly as her mind raced with possibilities. "S-sure, Ash. What's going on?"

    "W-Well, you see..." He continued, edging closer to her as he spoke. He scratched the back of his neck idly, struggling to find the right words. "I've been thinking about it a lot...this whole Alola thing..."

    Serena's eyes widened at the mention of the far-away region. They had briefly discussed what would happen if Ash took Professor Sycamore's offer and left Kalos - in fact, that was the very reason why they headed to Coumarine City now - but, nothing was set in stone yet. She continued to hold Ash's gaze, but couldn't help but brace herself for what she felt was the inevitable announcement of his decision.

    "The thing is...I know I've done it a bunch of times before, but I just can't see myself going off to another region alone and leaving everything behind again." Ash explained, looking at her intently as he spoke, and Serena realized that he, too, was blushing. "I's kinda funny, isn't it?"

    It took her a moment to realize that he was waiting for her to answer. "N-no, I don't think so at all! I always wondered how you were able to start over so many times."

    "Yeah, I dunno..." Ash admitted, his gaze drifting to the ground. "I never really had to think about it before. But I don't think I can do that this time." He raised his eyes back to hers, and Serena's impending fear was replaced by confusion.

    "What is he saying? Is he going to stay here in Kalos after all...?" Serena wondered, as a curious expression came over Ash's face, and he actually appeared to be nervous about what he was going to say next.

    "So...this is what I decided on." He gulped, and an anxious silence covered the area for the next few seconds until Ash continued. Even Clemont and Bonnie found themselves listening on the edge of their seats despite themselves. "Serena...I want you to go to Alola with me."

    Another silence spread over the campsite. Clemont, Bonnie, Dedenne, and even Pikachu's eyes widened in shock at Ash's request, and Serena's blush grew slowly but steadily as she realized what he had just said, until she thought she was going to faint.

    "Serena? Are you okay?" He asked when she remained silent, putting his hands on her shoulders and examining her face closely, which did nothing to help her current predicament.

    "Y-yeah, I'm fine..." She managed after a moment. "You...want me to go with you?"

    At her words, Ash smiled his typical Ash Ketchum smile. "Of course I do! I don't think I could make it without you there with me. And, Sycamore did give us two tickets, after all."

    Serena's mind remained frozen in place as she processed what he was asking. While it was true that they had technically been in a relationship for the past few months, the two of them were quite inexperienced and didn't typically show their feelings very often, and as such, their overall group dynamic hadn't really changed too much, and while she always knew that Ash did feel the same way she did, she had always just assumed that his Pokemon journey would still come first to him, just as it always had.

    "Serena...?" Ash remarked sadly when she remained silent. "If you don't wanna go, that's okay...we can always stay here in Kalos until we figure out something else - "

    "Yes!" Serena burst out suddenly, cutting him off mid-sentence, causing him to look at her in surprise. "I-I mean...I'd love to go with you, Ash."

    At her words, Ash grinned ear to ear, and although neither of them could see, Clemont and Bonnie's faces lit up, as well. "Really?! It's settled, then! The two of us are gonna be going to the Aloha region!"

    Serena smiled back and was about to join him in his cheer, but stopped short when she heard how he pronounced the region's name. "Uh...I think you mean the 'Alola' region, right?"

    Ash frowned and shot her a look of genuine confusion. "Is that how you say it? I've been trying to figure that out ever since Professor Sycamore told us about it."

    Serena stared at him and could tell that he was being serious, despite him having already said it correctly twice earlier in the conversation. And she found that she couldn't help but laugh.

    "Hey, it's not funny!" Ash insisted, as Clemont and Bonnie came walking up to join them.

    "I think it's pretty funny!" Bonnie argued playfully.

    "Ash, you said it right two times already. You mean that was on accident?" Clemont remarked in disbelief.

    "Come on, you guys! Gimme a break..." Ash sighed in defeat.

    "Serena? Serena...?"

    "Oh!" Serena jumped, having been so lost in her own thoughts that she hadn't even heard Ash calling her name. She turned to find him standing only a few feet away, his unkempt hair confirming the fact that he had, in fact, only just woken up. "Sorry about that. I was just...thinking..."

    "...Well, what are you doing all the way out here? You couldn't sleep?"

    "No, not really..." She began cautiously, still unsure of how much she should bring up in front of him. After a moment, though, she took a deep breath, and decided to go out on a limb. "I was just...thinking"

    She expected him to act surprised, but much to her own shock, it almost seemed like he'd been expecting her to say that. He merely frowned and looked away from her, toward the ocean. "Yeah...I've been thinking a lot about it, too."

    Serena silently noticed that Ash hadn't bothered to wake Pikachu up before coming out here after her, meaning that, for the first time since boarding the ship, and possibly for a very long time before that, the two of them were finally, truly, alone together.

    Ash opened his mouth once, then twice, looking as if he was going to say something before stopping short. "...Rrragh! I don't know..." He grumbled in frustration, before turning to face her. "Listen, know I'm no good at this stuff...but, when I asked you to go with me to...A-lo-la..." Ash spoke, slowly sounding out the tropical region's name as if he were reading a pronunciation guide. "I was so happy! And then we left, and got on the boat...and I was sure that the two of us were gonna have a lot of fun together. But...I's like something's been off ever since we left Kalos, you know?"

    Serena couldn't deny it, and in fact, she had a feeling she knew what the underlying cause was, too. Under normal circumstances, she probably would never have considered bringing up something like this with Ash, but she already thrown caution to the wind by even starting the conversation in the first place, and so she decided to go one step further.

    "Yeah, you're right." She agreed, nodding slowly. "I'm not totally sure what it is, but...I think I might have an idea about how to fix it."

    "You do?" Ash responded with interest, only to be met by her suddenly closing the distance between them in an instant. She slipped her hand into his and leaned her entire body against his, leaving her head resting on his shoulder.

    "Ahh...Serena?" Ash stammered, feeling his face heat up at the intimate contact.

    " know, you could do with growing just a couple more inches." She remarked lightly, smiling to herself as she indulged her feelings a bit. She could feel a blush growing on her face, but she didn't care.

    "Serena...w-what are you...?" Ash continued, ignoring her flirtatious comment.

    She shifted her head slightly to meet his eyes. "I think this has been the problem, Ash. We've been so used to being around Clemont and Bonnie that we never really learned what it was like to just Together."

    Ash blinked as he considered her comment. He had to admit that she had a point. "Y-yeah, maybe. But...what does that have to do with...?"

    "I'm not sure." Serena admitted. "But...isn't it true that this - " She stopped for a moment, squeezing his hand tightly with her own. " - feels a lot better than how it has for the past few days?"

    Ash gulped, feeling the familiar flip-flop in his stomach as Serena' s hand clutched against his own. " sure does."

    "Good. Then here's to a new start!" Serena remarked, beaming at him in satisfaction. He looked back at her with an uncertain look on his face for a moment, before leaning forward and capturing her lips with his own.

    Serena's eyes widened, but she held the kiss, which lasted for a few moments before Ash pulled back with a smile on his face. "Here's to a new start."

    Serena couldn't help but smile back, the infectious warmth she usually felt from him returning as the two of them remained there for a while longer, resting in each other's arms as they stared out at the ocean beneath the crescent moon.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Power Chamber


    Chapter 3: Old Friends, New Faces

    After Ash and Serena's intimate encounter under the stars that night, the remainder of their voyage passed without incident. Ash had to keep reminding himself to go a bit out of his comfort zone when around Serena now, but before too long, the two of them had managed to settle into a status quo that seemed to be doing the job for both of them, at least for the time being; they'd begun holding hands just about everywhere they went, standing just a bit closer to each other even when their fingers weren't locked together, and they'd even stolen kisses from each other more often than they had in the past.

    And, just like that, the week of their voyage passed by without either of them realizing it. And, before they knew it, the day of their arrival to Heahea City was upon them.

    "Wo-ow! So this is the Alola region!" Ash declared in gleeful awe, looking at the city before them after getting off the ship.

    "Pi-kaaa!" Pikachu squealed in delight, sharing in his Trainer's joy.

    "All we can see from here is the city, you know." Serena added, drawing up to her usual position right next to Ash. "Maybe you should hold back some of that energy until a little later?"

    "Aw, come on, Serena!" Ash pleaded, turning to her without losing his vigor. "We just got here! This is the perfect time to be excited!"

    Serena smiled, knowing that it was pointless to continue arguing with him when he was like this. Instead, she decided to merely go along with his delight and enjoy herself. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

    Ash caught her gaze and grinned wider, an unspoken moment of emotion passing between them before he spoke up again. "So where are we headed first? We need to go and meet with the Professor here, right?"

    "Yeah, that's what Professor Sycamore told us." Serena confirmed, reaching into her bag to retrieve her navigator, which had recently been updated for use in the Alola region. "Let's see...hey, that's weird."

    "What is it?" Ash asked, sliding his head over to peer at the navigator as well, causing their cheeks to lightly bump up against each other. Ash either didn't mind or didn't notice in the first place, and Serena, who may have been more distracted by such an occurrence a week ago, noticed it, but merely smiled and didn't say anything, enjoying the mutual contact, minor as it may have been.

    "Well..." Serena began, bringing her eyes back down to the twin screens in front of her. "It doesn't look like there's a Pokemon lab in this city. The closest thing I can find is...umm...the 'Dimensional Research' lab."

    "Sure doesn't sound like a Pokemon lab to me." Ash agreed, scanning the digital map for their destination. "Professor Sycamore said we were supposed to meet them in Heahea City, right?"

    "That's what I remember." Serena affirmed, nodding. "What do you think we should do?"

    "Piii-ka..." Pikachu groaned sadly, also scanning the map to no avail.

    "Hmm...where would a Pokemon Professor be besides a lab?" Ash pondered briefly, before quickly deciding to move on to their next course of action instead. "Well, even if we're not sure where the Professor is, we can at least head over to the Pokemon Center. Who knows? Maybe someone over there knows where we can find him."

    "Yeah, good idea." Serena replied, agreeing with his chosen course of action as usual. "Looks like the Pokemon Center is...a-ha! There it is - and it's not that far away from here!"

    "Well, then what are we waiting for? Let's get going!" Ash exclaimed, and with that, he was off. He'd grabbed Serena's hand before he took off, which in turn forced her to keep pace with him in all of his excitement, but she didn't mind. The feeling of warmth and security she got from him was more than worth it to her.

    As they raced through the city together, the two of them couldn't help but notice how normal everything looked. Sure, there seemed to be a lot of people dressed in 'tropical' clothing - shorts, floral print shirts, and the like - and there were a few Pokemon that neither of them recognized, but other than that, they wouldn't have guessed by looking at it that they were now in a remote tropical region.

    When they arrived at the Pokemon Center, which was indeed only a few blocks away from the docks, they noticed right away that it was smaller than they would have expected considering the apparent size of Heahea City. They proceeded inside, and, despite the reduced size, were greeted with the all-too-familiar view of a Nurse Joy working behind the counter, which was situated against the back wall of the open lobby. About a dozen or so Trainers were milling around the area, some of them with more unfamiliar Pokemon at their side.

    "Well, this is a little bit different..." Serena commented as the pair walked up to the counter, gazing around the room.

    "Yeah, it sure is. I guess there just aren't as many people living out here in Alola." Ash agreed.

    "Hello!" Nurse Joy greeted cheerfully as they drew up to the other side of the Nurse's station. "How may I help you today?"

    "Hi there!" Ash remarked, returning the greeting with enthusiasm. "We were hoping you could help us find the nearest Pokemon research lab."

    "Pokemon research lab?" Nurse Joy repeated back to him. "Oh, you must be talking about Professor Kukui's lab!"

    "That sounds right." Ash affirmed with a nod.

    "You see, we only just arrived here in Alola from the Kalos region." Serena explained. "We were told to meet up with the Pokemon Professor that lives here after we arrived."

    "Yes, that would be our very own Professor Kukui. He lives one island over, on Melemele Island." Nurse Joy told them.

    "One island over?" Serena said uncertainly. "But we were told that he would here in Heahea City..."

    "Excuse me?" A gentle, feminine voice cut in suddenly. "There's someone here looking for Professor Kukui?"

    "Huh?" Ash remarked in surprise, he and Serena turning to find the voice's owner. Walking up behind them was a girl that appeared about their age, sporting an all-white outfit comprised of a short-sleeved hoodie and a skirt, with blonde hair that was currently pulled back into a ponytail. "Uh...yeah, that's us. We were supposed to meet him somewhere in this city."

    "Oh, that's perfect!" The girl exclaimed happily, drawing up a few feet behind them. Her emerald-green eyes seemed to sparkle as she spoke, giving her admittedly simple appearance an air of elegance. "My name is Lillie. I know the Professor - he's been wondering when you two were going to get here!"

    "That's great!"

    "Can you show us where he is?" Serena asked.

    "Sure! Looking for you two in case you got lost was actually one of the reasons I was out here today, so it all works out." Lillie explained, waving goodbye to the Nurse Joy over Ash and Serena's shoulders as they began to head back outside. "Come on - I'll take you to go see him."

    As it turned out, the place Lillie was taking them to was none other than the Dimensional Research Lab that Serena had pointed out on the navigator. The walk there, however, seemed to take longer than their inital walk to the Pokemon Center, not to mention Ash wasn't going full speed anymore, so the three of them had some time to chat amongst themselves along the way.

    "So you're Ash and Serena, right?" Lillie asked as they made their way down one of the city's backroads. "I heard about you from the Professor."

    "Yeah, that's right." Ash confirmed. "And this is my partner, Pikachu."

    "Pi-ka-chu!" Pikachu greeted jovially, raising an arm in salutation.

    "Um, how much did you hear about us, exactly?" Serena asked uneasily, curious as to how much Professor Sycamore had given away about the two of them.

    "Well, I heard that Ash is on a journey to become a Pokemon Master, and he goes around challenging all sorts of different Pokemon League tournaments." Lillie began, looking over at Ash with something like awe. "And as for you, Serena, I hear that you were one of the favorites to win the title of Kalos Queen in a competition of your own."

    Serena blushed lightly at her positive comments. "I-I don't know about favorites, but..."

    "Aw, c'mon, Serena." Ash remarked, putting a hand on her shoulder encouragingly. "Don't be like that - your last Performance was against the defending Kalos Queen herself!"

    "Well, what about you?" Serena argued back playfully. "You were the runner-up in the Kalos League, too! You had to win a whole lot more battles than I did to get that far!"

    Ash couldn't help but laugh a little bit pridefully at her words. "Yeah, I guess we both did pretty good, didn't we?"

    Lillie smiled to herself as she watched their exchange. "You're right - if you ask me, you both sound pretty amazing. By the way...there was actually one other thing I heard about you."

    "What is it?" Ash asked, genuinely interested to hear what Professor Sycamore had said about them.

    "Is it true that you are two are...well...involved with each other?" Lillie asked cautiously. "You"

    Ash and Serena both blushed furiously in unison, but they quickly regained their composure, remembering once again their conversation on the ship that night.

    "Ah...yeah, that's right." Ash answered, nodding slowly. "But I dunno why the Professor would tell you guys that much about us."

    "I don't think we ever even officially told him." Serena mumbled under her breath.

    Lille giggled in relief at their responses. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. I was just curious, because...well...because I used to think that going on a journey with someone you cared about sounded like a great idea."

    "Used to?" Serena repeated, and she realized that Lillie's eyes had softened, and her gaze had become a bit distant. "Um...did something happen?"

    "...Yes. The person I cared about...he left." Lillie explained, her voice much softer and more delicate than it had been before. "I still hope that one day he'll come back, but..."

    "Lillie..." Ash murmured sadly, unsure of what to say to the girl.

    "I'm sorry to hear that..." Serena told her honestly.

    "...I'm sorry. I didn't mean to start talking about my problems all of a sudden." Lillie spoke up a few moments later, her attitude seeming to return to normal. "I just wanted to see if there was another pair out there that had managed to pull it off, that's all."

    Ash and Serena shared a brief look of concern for the girl before turning back to her with smiles. "Well...I don't know if we're what you expected, but, here we are." Serena remarked halfheartedly.

    "No, you two are great!" Lillie answered at once, waving away Serena's doubts. "I can tell how much you both care for each other. I think it's really sweet. And you look cute together, too."

    "Oh, stop it..." Ash teased, prompting a chuckle out of Serena.

    Lillie smiled back at the duo before casting her gaze into the sky, as they resumed talking back and forth between themselves. "Sun..."

    The now-trio continued making their way through the streets of Heahea City for a good while after that, until finally, upon emerging from an alley and rounding a corner, they came upon a large, rectangular white building a few stories or so tall, situated near the outskirts of town. Only a few glass windows were visible on the walls, and at least one strange radar-like contraption was sticking out of the roof, pointed vaguely at the sky.

    "Here we are!" Lillie announced, bringing the two of them up to the entrance, a pair of sliding glass doors that opened automatically when she approached them. "Come on, let's get inside. There's a lot we need to explain to you."

    "Explain to us...?" Ash murmured, shooting Serena a confused glance, but she merely shrugged and followed Lillie into the building, prompting Ash to do the same.

    The inside of the facility looked a lot more high-tech than anything Ash expected to find in Alola. The walls were all solid white, with a layer of glass positioned in front of them, giving the room a very sleek, futuristic appearance.

    The room they were in appeared to be the lobby, as there were a few empty sofas against the wall, as well as what Ash guessed was the receptionist across the room, sitting at a computer desk. He perked up when he saw them walk inside. "Ah, Lillie, you're back! Looks like you found the ones they've been waiting on."

    "Yes, that's right." Lillie answered back politely. "I'll be taking them upstairs to meet with the Professors."

    "Professors...?" Serena noted, taking the words right out of Ash's mouth. "There's more than one?"

    "Oh. Yeah, I guess I didn't mention that." Lillie answered apologetically as she took them across the room to the elevator. "There's Professor Kukui, of course, but there's also his wife, Professor Burnet - she's actually the one who runs this particular lab."

    "A husband-and-wife duo?" Serena thought out loud as the elevator doors slid open and they stepped inside.

    "Wow, so they're both Professors, huh?" Ash remarked, impressed by the notion. "That's pretty cool!"

    Once the elevator reached the third floor, they stepped outside, into what looked like a highly advanced office building. A few sets of computer workstations were set up in the area in front of them, and behind those was a glass-walled room with even more advanced-looking computer systems within it, along with large monitors all over the walls. The path to their left led past a series of packed bookcases to a small lounge, with a few sofas and a coffee table set up, before ending at a closed door.

    Seated on one of the sofas, however, was a tall, dark-skinned man, wearing a Professor's coat with no shirt on underneath it, and a woman of similar coloration beside him, wearing a skintight suit of some sort that was tied around her waist, as well as a simple gray tank top.

    "Oh, Lillie!" The woman spoke up upon seeing the three of them walk in. "You're back already - and you brought friends with you! That must mean - "

    "You two must be the Trainers we sent for from Kalos!" The man finished for her, jumping to his feet in delight. "Hey, I'm Professor Kukui, and this here's my wife, Burnet."

    "H-hi, nice to meet you." Ash greeted, a bit taken aback by their forwardness.

    "Nice to meet you." Serena echoed a moment later.

    "Pika pika!" Pikachu chimed in.

    "I found them asking for you at the Pokemon Center." Lillie explained, as the three of them walked over to stand opposite the two Professors. "If I hadn't been there, they might've decided to go to Melemele Island looking for you, Professor. Why didn't you tell Nurse Joy you'd be staying here for a while?"

    "Oh, yeah, that probably would've been a good idea, now that you mention it." Kukui admitted, his brilliant smile not wavering. "But it's all right now, yeah? You found them, after all!"

    "Professor..." Lillie sighed hopelessly.

    "Ash, Serena, thank you both for coming out here on our invitation." Burnet remarked warmly. "I've also got to apologize to you for what may have been some slight misinformation on our part."

    "Misinformation? What do you mean?" Ash asked, thinking back to what Lillie had told them outside about having things to explain to them.

    The two Professors shared a guilty look with each other before gesturing to the couch across from them. "Well, you should have a seat. It'll probably take a while to explain all of it."

    Ash and Serena blinked, sharing their own look of confusion before taking Burnet's advice and sitting on the sofa behind them. Lillie smiled at the sight of them together and took her seat on a third, smaller couch, by herself.

    "Professor Kukui, what's going on...?" Ash began worriedly, as Pikachu climbed down from his shoulder and planted himself in Ash's lap instead. "I figured we were coming out here to take the Alola Pokemon League challenge."

    "Well, yeah, we do have one of those, all right, though it's probably a little different than the ones you're used to." Kukui answered, he and his wife reclaiming their seats before he continued. "But that's not actually why we asked for you to come here. You see, cousin - "

    Before he could finish, however, a loud crashing sound was heard from what sounded like one room over, followed by a male voice grumbling loudly, and Ash could swear he knew the voice from somewhere.

    "What was that?!" Serena exclaimed, her eyes shooting over to the door behind the two Professors. The two of them merely laughed, however, as if this kind of thing were a normal occurence.

    "Oh, it was probably just our assistant." Burnet explained calmly. "He's actually another of the Trainers we asked to come help us out, same as you two - but, well, we haven't been able to find enough for him to do lately, so he's just been helping us out around the lab."

    "There's another Trainer here, too?" Ash asked in wonder, his eyes being drawn to the source of the noise as well.

    "Yeah, you see...there's not exactly a whole lot of Pokemon Trainers here in Alola." Kukui admitted, scratching the back of his neck pointedly. "Most of them decide to leave when they finish their Island Challenge, so other than the Captains and Kahunas, and of course the Elite Four, there aren't that many Trainers we can just ask for help with things like this."

    Neither Ash nor Serena understood much of what he'd said, but his words did serve to make them more curious than ever as to what they were actually being asked to do here. But, before another line of dialogue could get started, the door behind the two Professors suddenly burst open, followed up an older teenage boy stumbling into the room with a stack of boxes in his arms. He had dark, spiky hair and wore olive-brown pants and a forest-green shirt underneath a dull orange, sleeveless vest.

    "Rockruff, I swear, if you make me drop these boxes one more time - !"

    "Oh, hey there, cousin!" Kukui acknowledged, cutting off his dangerous-sounding threat mid-sentence as a small, brown, canine-esque Pokemon scurried out into the room as well, barking softly at their 'assistant' as it did so. "You're just in time to meet the other two Trainers I was telling you about, from the Kalos region! Say hey to Ash and Serena!"

    The boy turned to look at the young couple, even though Ash was already staring at him in disbelief, not quite believing what he was seeing. Even Pikachu seemed to be dumbfounded. When he realized who he was looking at, he grinned, the anger he'd felt just a moment ago suddenly vanishing like the wind.

    "Hey, what's up, Ash? It's been a while!" Brock exclaimed, waving a greeting to them with one hand.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Power Chamber


    Chapter 4: The Guardians' Trial

    "Brock?!" Ash gaped, his mouth hanging open in disbelief as the former Pewter City Gym Leader grinned back at him. "Wow, I can't believe it! What are you doing out here?"

    "Pii-ka?!" Pikachu chimed in, echoing his Trainer's surprise.

    "Same thing as you, I guess." Brock answered, lowering the boxes he was holding to the ground. "Seems like Professor Kukui sent out an invitation intended for strong trainers from some of the other regions, inviting them to come here to Alola. I don't think anybody else from Kanto was going to accept the offer, but my brother Forrest really wanted I decided to come in his place." Brock's smile widened as he regarded his old friend, noticing how close Ash was sitting to Serena. "And it looks like it's paying off. So, Ash, who's your new friend here?"

    "I'm Serena. It's nice to meet you!" She introduced herself politely.

    "No, the pleasure's all mine, Serena." Brock replied smoothly. "But, what made you decide to come all the way out here with Ash? I mean, I can understand him answering the invitation, but..."

    "O-oh, well, you see..." Serena stammered, feeling her face flush at the question. She knew that Ash would chime in for her if she needed him to, especially given that he and Brock were apparently old friends, but she wanted to be able to say it herself. "It's because...I'm actually Ash's girlfriend."

    "You don't say?" Brock answered, putting a finger to his chin and examining the two of them. His tone gave away the fact that he had guessed their relationship before even asking. "I could've sworn Ash didn't even know what a girlfriend was the last time I saw him - "

    "Hey, knock it off, Brock!" Ash protested over the sound of Serena's laughter. "Anyway, the point is, the two of us decided to come out here together. So what's the deal with these invitations?"

    Ash shifted his gaze over to Professor Kukui, eager to move the conversation away from the topic of his and Serena's relationship.

    "Well...ah, where do we begin...let's see here..." Kukui began, not quite able to decide on the simplest way to explain things.

    "How familiar are you two with Alola's Island Guardians?" Burnet interrupted, cutting off her husband's stammering.

    "Island Guardians?" Serena repeated back, Brock taking a seat and settling in as he prepared to hear the story for a second time.

    "Well, I guess that answers my question." Burnet replied with a chuckle. "You see, here in Alola, there are four major islands that make up the region - Melemele Island, Akala Island, Ula'ula Island, and Poni Island. And on each one of these islands lives a guardian Pokemon that has protected the land for as long as we can remember."

    "Piikaa..." Pikachu murmured softly, already in awe of these supposed Pokemon. Ash and Serena continued listening intently without making a sound.

    "There's Tapu Koko for Melemele Island, Tapu Lele for Akala Island, Tapu Bulu on Ula'ula Island, and Tapu Fini for Poni Island." Burnet continued. "I guess you'd call them Legendary Pokemon - they're very rarely seen, and have a great deal of power. They even choose the kahunas for each island - similar to what you'd call a Gym Leader overseas."

    "Wow - the Pokemon choose the Gym Leaders?!" Ash remarked in shock.

    "Yes - and typically, that's the only time we ever hear from them." Burnet answered, shifting her eyes over to Kukui knowingly, prompting him to pick up from there.

    "Right, which brings us to the reason I brought all of you here." Kukui continued, gesturing in a sweeping motion to Ash, Serena, and Brock. "See, a couple of months ago, something really odd happened all of a sudden. There were reports of some folks seeing Tapu Koko appear around Verdant Cavern, an important site for the Island Challenge on Melemele Island. Then, the next day, Ilima, the Captain of the Trial on Melemele Island, disappeared." He paused for a moment to let the information sink in before continuing. "We never found out what happened - but the things that've happened since then have given us a pretty good guess."

    "You see, Ilima wasn't the only one - in fact, he was just the first." Burnet explained, picking up yet again from Kukui. "Ever since that day, more than half of our Captains and Kahunas have disappeared. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that were able to figure out why. It seems as if the Island Guardians have gone out of control, and have somehow begun hunting down and abducting the Trial-givers here in Alola."

    "But why?!" Ash exclaimed. "I thought you said they were supposed to be the guardians of the land!"

    "They are." Burnet confirmed, nodding. "But something's happened to them. What, I couldn't say."

    "But...why would they be going after these...Kahunas of yours?" Serena asked, trying to make sense of the Professors' story.

    "There's only one reason we can figure." Kukui answered knowingly. "All of the Trial-givers here wear what's called a Z-Crystal. They're mystical stones that allow a Trainer and Pokemon to connect their emotions and unleash a super-powerful attack, called a Z-Move."

    "Wow...Z-Crystals, huh?" Ash remarked, a faint twinkle of wonder glimmering in his eyes. "Sounds a lot like Mega Evolution!"

    "Yeah, the concept is similar." Kukui confirmed with a smile. "Anyway, the point is, whatever is causing the guardian Pokemon to go berserk like they have been must have something to do with the Z-Crystals. Which brings us to why we sent for all of you."

    "As we've already said, Alola is a bit short on Trainers - other than the Trial Captains and Kahunas, there really aren't too many we can call on. Even our current Champion the moment." Burnet explained, a touch of sadness in her voice as she shot Lillie a quick look. "And since the Trial-givers themselves are the ones being targetted here..."

    "We decided to go out on a limb, and reach out to our friends in the other regions to see if there were any Trainers willing to come out here and give us a hand!" Kukui finished, a bit too cheerfully given the subject matter. "I apologize for not being straight with you in my invitation. I thought it'd be too hard to explain unless you were here in person. But you're here now! So...whaddya say?"

    Ash and Serena shared a concerned look, neither of them giving an answer right away. The two of them weren't necessarily strangers to encounters with Legendary Pokemon, and they couldn't just abandon Kukui and Burnet in good conscience when they were directly asking them for help.

    "Well, I guess you've already decided, haven't you, Brock?" Ash asked despite himself.

    "Yup." Brock answered with a smile. "If I ignored this and went back home, I don't think I'd be able to live with myself. I've got the time, and they could really use some help."

    Ash looked back to Serena one more time, and she responded with a dazzling look of support that told him that no matter what came their way, they could overcome it as long as they were together. He beamed back at her, squeezing her hand briefly before turning back to the Professors to deliver his answer.

    "Yeah, of course we'll help!" Ash responded enthusiastically. "What better way to explore the Alola region than to go looking for some Legendary Pokemon?"

    Kukui and Burnet sighed in relief, releasing a breath they hadn't realized they'd been holding. Even Lillie, who'd been silent this entire time, smiled at his answer.

    "Thank you, cousin!" Kukui replied with renewed vigor in his voice. "And after we're finished with all this, you'll be free to try the Island Challenge for yourself if you feel like it!"

    "Yeah, sounds good!"

    "Pi-pi-pikachu!" Pikachu exclaimed in delight.

    ", what exactly are we supposed to do first?" Serena asked curiously. "I mean, you said Brock had already agreed to help you,'ve just got him here moving boxes around for you."

    "Oh, no, this isn't...I was just helping them out around the lab. Old habits, I guess." Brock answered sheepishly.

    "Brock's done lots of work for a bunch of different Pokemon Professors over the years." Ash explained to her quickly.

    "Well, so, that's the thing." Burnet remarked. "We're not quite sure what prompts the guardians to attack - like we said, it's been two months since Ilima disappeared, and there's only about eleven Trial-givers among all the islands. If they had gone after all of them at once, they would've captured them all a long time ago."

    "So, for now, we just want you to stay in the city and wait, at least for a few days." Kukui explained. "Akala Island here has three Captains, led by the Kahuna - and out of those four, only one Trial Captain is left - in fact, the Kahuna, Olivia, was just taken about a week ago. The last remaining Captain is a girl named Mallow. She's supposed to be staying here with us so we can keep an eye on her, but..."

    "Mallow's a little bit stubborn about these things." Burnet finished. "She agreed to stay here in the lab with us, but during the day she can't stop herself from going out into the woods and such."

    "It's okay, though." Lillie assured them, speaking up for the first time since the story began. "Whenever she goes out, I just send my Trumbeak to keep an eye on her. If anything happens, it'll come right back and let us know!"

    "Oh, wow - Lillie, you mean you're a Trainer, too?!" Ash exclaimed in surprise, not having realized it before.

    "Yes, that's right." Lillie confirmed with a smile. "Though I only just started recently..."

    "Oh, that reminds me!" Kukui jumped up with a start. "I meant to give these to you when you got here. Even if you're not officially Trial-goers yet, it's only right." He reached into his coat and produced a pair of bright red tablets, the screens shaped oddly like a Pokemon's face. "These are your Alolan Pokedexes. They're actually not quite complete like that, but, well, I hope you'll accept them anyway!"

    "Oh, wow, this is awesome!" Ash squealed in delight, he and Serena accepting the devices at once.

    "Thank you very much, Professor!" Serena responded politely, to which Kukui merely chuckled.

    "Oh, don't worry about it - it's the least I can do to repay the two of you!"

    Later that day, after the fanfare over the whole ordeal had died down, Ash and Serena decided to go and explore the city in lieu of anything else to do for the moment. Brock declared himself as going along, although Lillie elected to stay behind at the lab and do some work there.

    And so, the three bade her and the Professors farewell for the time being before heading back into the city proper, this time with a third companion at their side. Even though Ash seemed perfectly comfortable with him, Serena couldn't quite bring herself to be at ease around the older Trainer, if only partially because she felt like he was ever so slightly getting in the way of her being alone with Ash.

    The first thing that came to mind for them to do, however, was to call their homes back in Pallet Town and Vaniville Town and let them know that they'd arrived in Alola safely. To accomplish this, they decided to head back to the smaller-than-expected Pokemon Center from before.

    Much to Serena's relief, Brock quickly peeled away from them once they arrived, apparently besmitten with the Nurse Joy behind the counter. Ash merely laughed at his antics as if it were normal, though, which put Serena's mind at ease, and the two of them proceeded to the video-phones together.

    "...So, anyway, Mom, we're doing just fine here in Alola!" Ash concluded at the end of his story, having briefly summed up the events of the last week to her - leaving out the details involving the rogue Legendary Pokemon, of course.

    "I'm glad to hear that, honey." Delia responded smoothly. "Serena, do keep an eye on Ash for me, would you? I know how much of a handful he can be."


    "I will, Mrs. Ketchum." Serena agreed sweetly, over the sound of Ash's protests.

    "Thank you. Now, you two look out for each other, okay? Can you promise me you'll do that?"

    Serena gazed at Ash affectionately. "Of course we will. Isn't that right, Ash?"

    "Yep, we sure will!" Ash nodded back warmly. "We won't take our eyes off each other! I promise!"

    "Now, now, Ash." Professor Oak chimed in, poking his head in from the side of the monitor. "I know how you and Serena feel about each other, but let's not go out of control, here."

    "What do you mean, Professor?" Ash responded with a blank look on his face. "It's like I said - "

    "Let's just leave it at that, all right?" Serena interrupted with a pleading voice, prompting Ash to stare back at her confusedly.

    "By the way, Ash, were you planning on sending back any of your Pokemon from Kalos?" Oak asked curiously. "I know how you are when you go off to a new region. There's plenty of room here for Talonflame and all your other friends."

    "Actually, Professor, about that..." Ash began slowly, trying to figure out how to covertly explain the nature of their situation to him. He had indeed been planning to leave all of his old Pokemon behind in Pallet Town as usual, however...the situation with the Legendary Pokemon made him think that he should hold on to them for at least a little while longer. Pikachu alone probably wouldn't be enough to help out in this instance. "I was thinking I'd like to keep everyone with me this time, at least for a little while."

    "Oh, is that so?" Oak remarked in surprise. "Well, if that's what you want to do, then that's fine. Just give me a call if you change your mind!"

    "You bet, Professor!" Ash responded at once, thankful that he wasn't prying any further.

    After hanging up with Delia and Professor Oak, they then dialed Serena's mother Grace back in Vaniville Town.

    "Hmm...?" Grace murmured curiously after answering, examining the monitor for a moment before perking up. "Oh, it's you two! How are you, Ash, Serena?"

    "Hi, Mom! We're doing great!" Serena responded happily. "We just wanted to let you know that we're here in Alola now, and everything's fine so far!"

    "Well, that's good to hear!" Grace remarked. "Now, Ash, you're making sure to take good care of my Serena, aren't you?"

    "Uh, yes, ma'am!" Ash replied nervously as Serena frowned in embarassment. "I sure am!"

    "Come on, Mom! I'm not your 'little girl' anymore..." Serena murmured, a hint of defiance in her voice.

    "I know you're not, dear." Grace responded tenderly. "I've known that ever since I watched you perform in Gloire City. But I still worry about you. Especially now that you've gone off to another region - and practically by yourself!"

    "No, I'm not all alone." Serena corrected. "I've got Ash here with me. And that makes all the difference in the world!"

    Grace was silent for a moment before flashing Serena a proud smile. "I see. I guess I don't need to worry about you, after all. You kids take care of each other, all right?"

    The pair nodded to acknowledge her request, and hung up with her a few moments later after saying their goodbyes. As Ash got up to go and find Brock, however, Serena grabbed his arm.

    "Hey, Ash?" She began, stopping him short. "Can we talk for a minute?"

    "Sure, Serena. What's up?" He asked curiously.

    "'s not really a big deal, but...what do you think of that story about the Island Guardians?"

    "Oh, yeah...that. Well, it's not really what we signed up for when we decided to come out here, but we can't really just turn them down. It's like Brock said; we've got the time, and they need our help."

    Serena regarded him with pride in her eyes. It was times like this that she saw Ash's true character shine through, behind all his sometimes child-like naivety and ignorance. There was more to him than just his love for Pokemon and battling; he was a kind and honest person, and Serena had seen that in him ever since the first day they met. It was one of the many reasons she had developed a crush on him in the first place. And she believed it was one of the reasons she was in love with him now.

    "Wait, that isn't right..." Serena found herself thinking, catching herself in that line of thought. Although the two of them had confessed their love to each other during the incident with Korrina six months prior, they had quickly realized the depth of feeling that the famed 'L word' implied, and mutually agreed to refrain from using it to express their feelings to each other in the future for a while. It led to some awkward situations from time to time, but they firmly believed that it was better than abusing a word that they didn't fully understand the implications of.

    "Serena? Are you okay?" Ash asked, examining her closely as she got lost in her own thoughts. Ash's voice managed to snap her back to reality, however, and she looked up at him with a renewed feeling of pride, deciding once again to worry about the use of the 'L word' later.

    "Yeah, I'm fine." Serena answered happily, climbing to her feet so that she was standing face-to-face with him. "In fact, I'm better than fine - I'm great, because I've got you here with me."

    She reached out to clasp his hands in hers, and the two of them drew close to one another, resting their foreheads against each other tenderly. Pikachu took his cue, as he usually did, and clambered down off of Ash's shoulder, waiting a few feet away on the ground until the two of them were finished.

    "I'm just glad that you're happy." Ash murmured softly. And in that moment, Serena didn't need any fancy words to express her feelings - she knew that Ash understood her intent without them, just as she was able to understand his.

    She could have stayed like that for an eternity, and she may have tried to had Brock's voice not rung through her ears at that moment, bringing her back down to reality.

    "You know, I had a feeling that this would happen to Ash one day, but seeing it with my own eyes is a different story." Brock remarked, causing the two of them to separate quickly, though not as quickly as they may have done in the past. Ash also made a point to keep one of Serena's hands held in his own.

    "W-well, what did you expect?" Ash shot back playfully, a slight stammer to his voice to match the faint blush appearing on his face. "You already know about me and Serena."

    "Saying that I know about it is a bit of an overstatement." Brock corrected teasingly. "You guys are gonna have to tell the whole story here. If you agreed to follow Ash all the way out here from Kalos, then you're either crazier than he is or you're someone really special."

    "Hey, what's that supposed to mean?!" Ash protested, causing Serena to giggle at Brock's playful jab. She briefly considered playing along with him and taking another jab at Ash, but, possibly due to the moment the two of them had just shared, she decided to respond to Brock honestly instead.

    "It's not really about me - I'm not all that special." Serena admitted meekly, causing Ash to look over at her in surprise. "It's Ash who's special. My journey in Kalos changed my life, and it was Ash who invited me to go along with him in the first place. Without him, I wouldn't be the person I am today!"

    Ash gaped at her words, having not expected such a serious reply from her. "Serena..."

    "Wow." Brock replied after a moment, smiling in approval at her heartfelt words. "I dunno how you did it, Ash, but this girl's definitely head-over-heels for you. Great job!"

    He shot his younger friend a thumbs-up, but Ash still had Serena's praise ringing in his ears, and didn't respond right away. "Yeah..." He murmured after a moment, glancing at Brock before turning his eyes back to Serena.

    Brock eyed the two of them, clearly picking up on the tension in the air, and decided to finally shift the topic away from the couple for the time being. "Anyway, I guess you two are gonna need a place to stay, right? Seems like Professor Burnet doesn't have enough space for anybody else at her lab right now, since Professor Kukui and Lillie are both staying there. So I've already got a room here at the Pokemon Center. You guys are free to stay with me if you like."

    "Oh, really?" Serena replied, seeing as how Ash was still slightly out of it. "That'd be great. Thank you!"

    "Don't mention it." Brock answered with a smile. "Me and Ash go way back, remember? The two of us staying together will be just like the old days!"

    As Brock turned and began to walk off, presumably to show them to his room, Serena went to follow him before noticing Ash's expression.

    "Ash?" She prompted, causing his eyes to gravitate to hers, jolting him back to reality. He held her gaze for a moment before grinning at her in a very Ash-esque manner.

    "Yeah. Sorry about that - come on, let's follow him!"

    And, just like that, he was back to his usual self, pulling Serena alongside him as he took off after Brock. And Serena found that she couldn't help but smile even wider at him.

    I hope to be able to update again before Christmas, but just in case I get too busy, Merry Christmas to everyone!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Power Chamber


    Well, as I predicted, I did end up getting busy over the holidays, and so this one took a little longer for me to get finished. I hope it was worth the wait for you guys!

    Chaper 5: A Tropical Tag Battle!

    Ash and Serena ended up taking Brock up on his offer to stay with him, even though there was only one additional bed in the room. The arrangement did leave Ash sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag, but, compared to some of the other conditions he'd been forced to sleep in before, he decided that it wasn't really that big of a deal.

    The following morning, they decided to head out into town and do some sightseeing, at least until they were called upon again by Professor Kukui.

    "Wow - hey, Serena, look at this!"

    "Aww - they're so cute!"

    Brock couldn't help but smile as he watched Ash and Serena play off each other so easily. He had always wondered if Ash would ever finally find someone that was on the same wavelength as he was, and it appeared that it had finally happened. And, after all of the time that he and Ash had spent travelling together, and the fact that he had sort of come to see Ash as another of his younger siblings, he found that seeing Ash finally get paired off with someone made him feel quite happy himself.

    "This place is huge!" Ash gaped, staring in awe at the large clothing store he had just pointed out to Serena.

    "Piii-ka-chu..." Pikachu agreed, equally as dumbstruck as his Trainer.

    "Supposedly, this is one of the biggest clothing shops in the whole Alola region." Brock added, granting him a grateful smile from Ash, appreciating the fact that his encyclopediac well of knowledge seemed to still be intact.

    "Yeah, I can tell." Ash replied jokingly, regarding his older friend with a sly grin. Despite the years that had passed since travelling together, it was apparent that nothing had changed between the two of them, a fact that both Trainers were grateful for.

    "We've just gotta go inside and look around!" Serena insisted after admiring the products on display in the windows for a moment longer. She grabbed Ash's hand, an action that Brock still hadn't quite gotten used to seeing, and began to drag him inside the store.

    "Y-yeah - sounds like fun!" Ash managed halfheartedly, shooting an uneasy look to Brock. Before Serena could make it inside, however, the familiar voice of a female interrupted her.

    "Hey, Ash, Serena!" The voice rang, causing Ash, Serena, and Brock all to turn in search of its owner. They were met with the sight of Lillie running down the street toward them, one hand raised in a wave, and accompanied by a green-haired girl wearing a salmon-colored shirt beneath a short pair of overalls that didn't even go down to her knees. "We've been looking everywhere for you guys!"

    "Hey, Lillie!" Ash remarked, returning the greeting in earnest as Serena was forced to stop in her tracks and put aside the potential bounty within the clothing store for the time being.

    "Good morning..." Serena greeted as well, trying her hardest not to sound disappointed at their new friend's timing.

    "I wanted to introduce you guys to Mallow!" Lillie explained as she and her leafy-haired companion drew up near to the other three. "She's a Grass-type Trainer, and one of the Trial Captains here on Akala Island."

    "Hey there!" Mallow uttered happily, regarding the foreign trio with a smile on her face. She noticed Serena's hand, which was still clamped firmly over one of Ash's, and let out a soft giggle. "I guess you two would be Ash and Serena. I heard about you from the Professor!"

    "Oh, really...?" Serena replied uneasily, managing a giggle of her own despite herself. "Seems like he's telling everyone about us..."

    "And that means you must be Brock!" Mallow declared, zeroing in on the former Gym Leader. "Sorry I haven't dropped in to say 'hi' sooner, but - "

    "Oh, don't you worry about that, Captain Mallow." Brock uttered smoothly, his voice a full two tones deeper than it had been mere moments before, and Ash could tell at once that Brock had changed even less than he'd thought since the last time they'd seen each other. "You see, I used to be a Gym Leader back in Kanto, before passing on the title to my younger brother. With a Trainer as strong as me around, you don't have to worry about being captured by those Island Guardians - "

    Before Brock could finish, a while light erupted from his backpack, and a Toxicroak flashed into existence between himself and the Grass-type Trainer, causing Brock to retreat from his advance at once.

    "Croak." Toxicroak remarked straightly, and Ash recognized the deadpan expression on its face in a heartbeat.

    "Oh, wow, it's a Toxicroak!" Ash exclaimed in wonder. "Does that mean your Croagunk evolved?"

    "Y-yeah, it sure did." Brock confirmed nervously, backing away from the Toxic Mouth Pokemon with timid steps. "Now, listen, Toxicroak, I told you to stop doing that - "

    "Croak." Toxicroak interruped, brandishing a glowing purple claw as if that was all the counterargument it needed.

    "Uh...Ash?" Serena whispered, somewhat confused by the strange course of events playing out before her eyes. "Do you know what's going on?"

    "Yeah, don't worry about it." Ash explained quickly under his breath. "With Brock around, this kind of thing happens all the time."

    "If you say so..."

    Amidst the apparent argument between Pokemon and Trainer, Mallow couldn't help but burst out laughing. "Wow - you must be some Gym Leader to carry around a Pokemon like that with you!"

    "...Huh...?" Brock murmured in confusion, and even Toxicroak stopped and turned to face Mallow. It certainly wasn't the first time it had happened, but the moments when girls responded to his flirting with anything beyond a blank stare were still few and far between.

    "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Gym Leader from Kanto!" Mallow exclaimed in delight, clearly entertained by Brock's antics. "I'll feel a lot better knowing that you're here with us."

    "Y-yeah...right." Brock replied, recalling Toxicroak back into its Poke Ball as he spoke, still clearly thrown off by Mallow's attitude.

    "But seriously, I really have to thank all three of you for agreeing to help us out like this." Mallow continued, extending her gaze to include Ash and Serena in addition to Brock. "For Lana, Kiawe, and Olivia...not to mention the others who've disappeared across the other islands..."

    Neither Ash, Serena, nor Brock recognized the names she listed off, other than Olivia, whom Kukui had previously explained was the Akala Island kahuna, but they could tell from her tone that they must have been the other Captains that had already gone missing. "They were all my friends - they are all my friends! I wanna help them, but there just aren't enough of us left here in Alola to do the job...especially with Sun gone..."

    "Sun?" Serena asked ignorantly, causing Lillie to twitch anxiously and look away. "Who's Sun?"

    "Oh, you hadn't heard yet?" Mallow asked, waiting a moment before accepting their silence as a 'no' and continuing. "Sun's the Champion of Alola, the last person who won the entire Island Challenge. He's the strongest Trainer I've ever seen!"

    "Wow..." Ash uttered in awe, his mind immediately constructing a scene of what it would be like to battle another regional Champion like Diantha or Alder.

    "Oh, yeah - Professor Burnet was talking about how the Champion of Alola isn't here right now. Is that right?" Brock asked, recalling their lengthy conversation with the two Professors the previous day.

    "...Yeah, that's right." Mallow confirmed, and even her jovial face fell somewhat at those words. "He helped us out a lot with some stuff that was going on during his Island Challenge, and we were all super proud to make him our Champion! But then...he just up and left, a little while after gaining the title."

    "...That's not true." Lillie spoke up, causing Mallow to look over at her in surprise. "He didn't just leave. He said...he wanted to go and explore the rest of the world, with his Pokemon at his side. I don't think he liked the idea of being stuck here watching over the trial-goers all the time..."

    "But Lillie..." Mallow countered slowly. "He kinda did just leave us. If he'd have been here, maybe none of this would even be happening right now...I mean, the two of you were the ones who stopped all that stuff that was happening last time, right? How can you - "

    "Mallow." Lillie interrupted softly, shooting the green-haired girl a smile so false that even Ash could see through it. "Please...don't. It's not his fault. If it's anybody's fault that everyone's's mine, for not being stronger."

    "Ugh, Lillie...I don't know why you stand up for him." Mallow remarked sadly. "Anyway...all I was saying was, thanks for coming out here and helping, all of you."

    "Yeah, of course!" Ash replied at once, waving a hand in the air dismissively, eager to shift the mood. "It's no problem. We're happy to help out!"

    "Pii-kaa!" Pikachu chimed in agreement.

    "Say..." Brock piped up, regarding the solemn-faced Lillie for a moment as an idea began to form in his head that would take their minds off the heavy manner of their situation. "What would you guys say to a battle between four of us? I think it'd be a great way for all of us to get to know each other better."

    "A battle?" Ash echoed, getting fired up at once. No matter what uncomfortable situation he was in, a casual battle with friends always seemed to be able to take his mind off things. "Yeah, that sounds great!"

    "Sure, why not?" Serena agreed, shrugging hopelessly at Ash's predictable excitement. She knew there was no sense trying to talk him down once he was like this, and it wasn't like she didn't enjoy battling to a certain extent herself. Plus, she could tell that Lillie was feeling off after the mention of the mysterious boy Sun, and if being around Ash had taught her anything, it was that Pokemon battles were one of the best ways to distract yourself for a while.

    "A battle, huh? Sure, sounds like fun!" Mallow agreed as well, after a moment of consideration. "But only on one condition - Lillie's gotta be my partner."

    "What - ?!" The blonde replied in shock, fully aware that she was by far the most inexperienced of the Trainers present.

    "Come on, Lillie - it'll be fun!" Ash urged. "Brock's used to being a judge, so it's no big deal if he has to sit out."

    "Gee, thanks, Ash." Brock replied sarcastically, placing his hands on his hips in mock annoyance.

    "Come on." Serena urged softly as well, eager to get the girl back to her usual attitude. "I'd really like to see what kind of Pokemon you've got!"

    Lillie looked up gratefully and found that she couldn't turn down all of their earnest pleas. "Well...all right, then, sure, if you really want me to. I'll battle with you all!"

    After relocating themselves, spending a few minutes following Mallow to a battlefield deeper within the city, the five had situated themselves appropriately, with Ash and Serena on one side staring down Mallow and Lillie on the other. Brock had taken his place off to the side, roughly in the middle of the field.

    "This battle will be a two-on-two Tag Battle, between the teams of Ash and Serena, and Mallow and Lillie." Brock announced, in a very official-sounding way that harkened back to his days with Ash, when he would regularly referee battles between the boy and his other companions. "Each Trainer will be allowed one Pokemon each, for a total of two Pokemon per team."

    "Just relax and have fun, Lillie." Mallow murmured under her breath. "We're all your friends here, remember?"

    "Right." Lillie replied with a smile, grateful for the girl's support.

    "You know, this might be the first time we've battled as a team like this." Serena noted, a hint of gleeful pride in her voice.

    "Huh...yeah, I think you're right." Ash responded with a grin. "Well, there's no one I'd rather be teamed up with than you."

    That comment alone made her smile from the bottom of her heart. Even though comments like those had become more and more commonplace ever since they'd gotten together, she never got tired of hearing them. It was times like these she wished they had a better handle on that elusive 'L-word' of theirs, so that she would have some way to express her feelings back to him. But, just as she'd done with every instance of this type of thing in the past, she pushed that feeling aside, and settled on a few less powerful words for the time being. "Thanks, Ash - you're my favorite partner, too!"

    "Pi-kaachu!" Pikachu groaned, feigning a bit of jealousy.

    "Aw, don't be like that, buddy." Ash reassured him. "You're my next-best choice for sure!"

    "All right - if both teams are ready, then let the battle begin!" Brock declared, swinging a knifehand down at a right angle to signify the official start of the match.

    "'Kay, Hawlucha, I choose you!" Ash exclaimed at once, rearing back and tossing one of his Poke Balls, mere moments before Serena did the same.

    "Sylveon, let's go!"

    "Luchaaaa!" Hawlucha roared, happy to be free after its fair amount of time in relative captivity.

    "Sylveon!" Sylveon chirped, shaking its head groggily as Hawlucha spread its wings.

    "Hawlucha and Sylveon, huh?" Mallow remarked, briefly sizing up the pair of Pokemon before throwing her own Poke Ball. "All right, Steenee, let's get cooking!"

    "Okay, Snowy! Come on out!"



    "Huh?" Ash cried in surprise, his eyes widening at the frost-blue Vulpix that emerged onto Lillie's side of the field. "Is that a Vulpix?!"

    "Yeah." Lillie answered, somewhat meek before Ash's overwhelming awe. "From what I've read, the Vulpix here look different than the ones you're probably used to, right?"

    "Yeah, they sure do." Ash remarked, nodding as he pulled out his new Pokedex. To his continued surprise, he found that the Pokedex screen displayed the white-and-blue variant he was seeing now instead of the red-and-brown one he was used to, just as Lillie had described.

    "Vulpix, the Fox Pokemon. These Vulpix have adapated to live in the harsh cold of Alola's mountains, and can exhale air colder than negative fifty-eight degrees. When they get warm, they spray the air around themselves with ice from their six tails to cool themselves off."

    "There are quite a few Pokemon that'll have different forms than you're used to, here in Alola." Mallow explained.

    "Wow. I didn't know that the same Pokemon can have different appearances like that!" Serena exclaimed in wonder.

    "The Alola region sure is amazing!" Ash agreed.

    "What's your Pokemon, Mallow?" Serena questioned, pulling out her own Pokedex as well and pointing it at the vaguely plant-looking Pokemon standing before the green-haired Captain.

    "Steenee, the Fruit Pokemon. Steenee love to bounce around energetically, and other Pokemon are naturally attracted to their lively appearance and pleasant aroma. The sepals on their heads developed to protect their bodies from predators."

    "Wow - it's so cute!" Serena cried in adoration, gazing starry-eyed at the opposing Pokemon.

    "If you two are finished, then it's time to battle!" Mallow declared, a touch of cockiness in her voice. "Steenee, let's start with Magical Leaf!"

    "Snowy, you use Ice Shard!"

    "Sylveon, use Protect!" Serena called out at once, prompting Sylveon to leap in front of Hawlucha before summoning a small, teal-colored forcefield around itself.

    "Oh, wow - look at that!" Mallow cried excitedly, speaking partially to Lily and partially to herself. "Her Sylveon knew to protect Hawlucha without even having to be told!"

    Lillie merely looked on with a slight frown as the barrage of ice and leaves collided harmlessly with Sylveon's Protect, leaving both opposing Pokemon untouched.

    "Don't worry! We've got you covered!" Serena remarked, winking toward Ash as she spoke.

    "Great - thanks, you two!" Ash responded with a smile. "All right, Hawlucha, jump high, and use X-Scissor on Steenee!"

    "Lucha!" Hawlucha responded, crouching down for a moment before making one of its signature sky-high leaps, then rolling into a spinning dive aimed at Steenee as its claws became charged with light-blue energy. "Haaaaw-lucha!"

    "Snowy, quick, stop Hawlucha with Aurora Beam!" Lillie ordered.

    "Steenee, you use Magical Leaf again!"

    "I don't think so!" Serena cut in, gesturing to her own Pokemon. "Sylveon, use Dazzling Gleam!"

    "Sylveeee-on!" Sylveon chimed, gathering up a sphere of rainbow-colored light with its feelers before firing the orb toward Lillie's Vulpix. The Aurora Beam stopped it short, but the impact also knocked Vulpix off its feet.

    "Snowy!" Lillie cried, gritting her teeth.

    "Steenee, keep going!" Mallow ordered, watching the Magical Leaf attack get blown away by Hawlucha's spinning X-Scissor. Steenee obliged and kept up the barrage, but to no avail. Hawlucha finally slammed into Steenee a moment later, sending it flying back to Mallow's feet.

    "Now, use Karate Chop on Vulpix!" Ash called, and Hawlucha ran forward, its right fist now glowing white, poised to strike at Lillie's Pokemon this time.

    "...Snowy, wait for it!" Lillie cried after a moment of hesitation. She knew that if she just fired off another attack without thinking, Sylveon would only intercept it again. Instead, she waited, watching closely until the last possible moment before Hawlucha struck. "Get, use Icy Wind!"

    "Piiiix!" Snowy screeched, rising from the ground at the last second and blasting Hawlucha with a flurry of frigid wind from its mouth.

    "Hawlucha!" Ash uttered, watching in shock as his Pokemon was quickly covered in a thin layer of ice.

    "That's our cue, Sylveon!" Serena cried, a determined look flaring up in her eyes. "Jump, and use Dazzling Gleam on Steenee!"

    "Sylveee-ooon!" Sylveon chirped, bounding up as high as it could before once again gathering up the motes of light around it and firing them at Steenee in a concentrated orb.

    "Okay, Steenee, now use Rapid Spin!"

    "Stee-neee!" Steenee obliged, launching into a twirl in place that also served to make the sapels on its head spin around as well. When Dazzling Gleam collided with it, the impact was shrugged off by the spinning motion.

    "What? It didn't work?!" Serena said, clearly surprised by the unconvential method defense.

    "Oh, wow...I didn't know you could use Rapid Spin like that!" Ash remarked in admiration.

    Mallow heard his comment and smiled, raising a hand toward Hawlucha. "Now, use Double Slap on Hawlucha!"

    Steenee then jumped forward, both of its hands beginning to light up white as it continued to spin. It moved to strike Hawlucha with each hand as they came around, the second attack sending the Wrestling Pokemon sailing through the air before landing a few feet away from Sylveon with a thud, the thin shell of ice around it shattering as it hit the ground.

    "Snowy, quick, use Aurora Beam!" Lillie called, aiming to hit them before Hawlucha could recover.

    "Sylveon, use Protect!"

    Just as it had at the start of the match, Sylveon jumped in front of Hawlucha protectively just as the multicolored beam of frost streaked through the air toward them. Just before it impacted, Sylveon's teal-colored forcefield shimmered into existence, diverting the attack away harmlessly for the second time.

    "Now, use Swift!"

    Mallow and Lillie's eyes both widened, surprised that Serena would call another attack when the smoke from Aurora Beam had scarcely even cleared yet. They both called for their Pokemon to dodge, even though they knew that they probably didn't have enough time to do so.

    "Hawlucha, you okay?" Ash asked worriedly, as Sylveon launched a golden flurry of star-shaped projectiles toward both Steenee and Vulpix.

    "Lu-cha!" Hawlucha confirmed, clenching a fist energetically as it rose back to its feet.

    "Great!" Ash sighed in relief. "Then let's get back in there!"

    He cast his eyes across the field as the smoke from Sylveon's Swift attack cleared. It seemed to have hit both opposing Pokemon, and Ash's smile widened as he prepared to call for his next attack.

    "Wow - you two are good, all right." Mallow declared suddenly, brandishing the large black bracelet that was on her wrist as Steenee drew up beside her. "Looks like I'm gonna have to show off my Mallow Special!"

    "Uh...maybe that isn't the best idea right now - " Lillie began, but the Grass-type Trainer wasn't listening; she had already brought her arms together and shot them into the sky, performing a vague impression of a budding plant, which Steenee mimicked, as both her bracelet and Steenee began humming vigorously with energy.

    "Okay, Steenee, let's do it!" Mallow cried excitedly, keeping her arms held high like tree branches as a vibrant green aura flowed smoothly from her Z-Ring into Steenee. "Use Bloom Doom!"

    "Steeeee..." Steenee chimed, twirling around slowly as its aura of energy began to expand outward at a rapid pace, leaving what appeared to be fields of flowers in its wake.

    "Hey, what's it doing...?" Ash inquired, unsure of how to respond to the strange actions being taken by both Mallow and her Pokemon.

    "Is that an attack?" Serena asked, possessing no more knowledge on the matter than Ash did.

    "NEEEEEEEE!" Steenee roared, the energy around it suddenly erupting into an explosion. The shockwave travelled right up to the edge of the faux-flower meadow, catching both Hawlucha and Sylveon in the blast radius.

    "Hawlucha, no!"


    When the smoke cleared, both Pokemon were lying unconcious at their Trainers' feet. The attack only seemed to have moved forward from Steenee's body, however, and as such, Lillie's Vulpix was still standing, apparently untouched by the attack.

    "Both Hawlucha and Sylveon are unable to battle! The winners are Mallow and Lillie!" Brock declared, raising a hand to signify the end of the match.

    "...Come on back, Hawlucha." Ash spoke softly after a moment, recalling his Pokemon back into its Ball. "You did great out there. Take a nice, long rest, okay?"

    "Sylveon, return." Serena said, following suit with Ash. "You were amazing. Thank you!"

    "You guys battled well together." Mallow remarked heartily, Ash noticing that both Steenee and Vulpix had already been recalled as the two girls strode across the battlefield, their Pokemon nowhere in sight. "I guess I should've expected that!"

    "Not as well as you." Ash shot back playfully. "Hey, so what kind of attack was that, anyway? The one that you and Steenee used to finish us off?"

    "Oh, that was a Z-Move." Mallow answered nonchalantly. "Didn't the Professors tell you about those?"

    "Well, yeah, a little bit, I guess, but seeing them in person is totally different!"

    Everyone shared a good laugh at Ash's child-like excitement over what had just defeated him in a battle. As the group continued talking, however, something far up in the sky managed to grab Serena's attention.

    "Huh...?" Serena murmured softly, looking up as she witnessed what she could only describe as a portal begin to open up in the sky above them. "Hey, what's that...?"

    "What?" Mallow responded, her eyes shooting up to the sky as well. When she realized what the strange phenomenon in the sky was, her expression turned to anger. "Oh, no - !"

    "What? What is it?!" Ash demanded, all five Trainers now looking skyward as what appeared to be a single Pokemon emerged from the wormhole. It was mostly pink, and seemed to have the majority of its body encased in a shell, with only its head and two stubby arms sticking out of one end, with the rest of the shell resting atop its head.

    "For it to appear now, of all times - I knew it had something to do with Z-Energy!" Lillie declared, her eyes not leaving the mysterious Pokemon floating high in the sky. "I hope you guys are ready for a fight!"

    "You don't mean - !" Brock began, only to cut himself short as he looked down to Lillie, who nodded to confirm his suspicions. His mouth dropped open, and he gazed back up at the shell-clad Pokemon in horror. After a moment, it turned its own gaze down on them, and swooped down toward Mallow without a second thought.

    "It's Tapu Lele!"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Power Chamber


    Chapter 6: Grappling with a Guardian

    "It's Tapu Lele!"

    Lillie's voice rang through the air as Ash and Serena could only watch in stunned silence, not quite processing what had just happened quite yet. The Guardian of Akala Island wasn't waiting for them to figure it out, however, and dove straight down toward the green-haired Trainer standing near Lillie, whose eyes were also locked on the Legendary Pokemon in disbelief.

    "Go, Steelix! Use Iron Tail!"

    A gigantic flash of light followed Brock's cry as he released his partner directly between Tapu Lele and Mallow. Steelix wasted no time in whipping its tail around once it emerged, aiming to swat the opposing Pokemon out of the sky with its serpent-like body.

    "Come on, Ash, snap out of it!" Brock urged worriedly as Steelix's attack narrowly missed its mark, Tapu Lele having dodged to the side just in time. The pink, shell-clad Pokemon then swerved around the imposing Iron Snake Pokemon and prepared to make another pass on Mallow, who instinctively took a few steps back from Steelix. "This is what we're here for, remember? It's up to us to try and stop that thing!"

    "Yeah, you're right!" Ash remarked, his signature fire back in his voice now that he had snapped out of his momentary trance. He glanced over at Serena and locked eyes with her, reaffirming to himself that she was still nearby.

    "I'm ready!" Serena assured him, producing a Poke Ball from her bag and stepping up beside him. "Braixen, I choose you!"

    Ash managed a small smile despite himself before throwing a Poke Ball of his own. "Talonflame, let's go!"



    As Tapu Lele circled around and dove toward Mallow again, all three Pokemon took their places to stop it this time.

    "Talonflame, use Flame Charge!"

    "Talooon-flaaaame!" Talonflame cried, flapping its wings to gain speed as it put itself on an intercept course with Tapu Lele, cloaking itself in an aura of fire as it sped across the sky. It slammed partway into the Island Guardian's shell a moment later, clipping it with its attack before speeding off to circle around and wait for further instructions.

    "Braixen, Hidden Power!" Serena called, Tapu Lele not appearing to be at all fazed by Talonflame's attack.

    "Braiii-xen!" Braixen sang, whipping its bow-tied twig wand out of its tail and twirling it around before brandishing it like a sword, pointed directly at Tapu Lele. A flurry of energy-filled orbs materialized in a circle around the Fox Pokemon before shooting off toward the shell-clad opponent before them.

    Ash saw an opportunity to catch Tapu Lele between a rock and a hard place, and decided to take it on a whim. "Talonflame, quick, use Razor Wind!"

    Talonflame obliged at once, shifting to a hovering position as its wings became engulfed with white energy. After a moment, it swung them down dliberately, generating a series of razor-sharp blades of wind that shot straight toward Tapu Lele.

    The Island Guardian's eyes shot back and forth between both oncoming attacks before coming to a sudden stop in midair - and promptly withdrawing back into its shell. It tucked its head and hair in neatly so that none of its body was visible from the outside, and then simply hung there as the two attacks collided with its outer layer.

    "Huh?!" Ash remarked incredulously, surprised that it wouldn't even try to dodge the oncoming attacks.

    "Is that Withdraw?!" Brock uttered in disbelief, rather taken aback that a Legendary Pokemon would be making use of such a simple move. Neither of them had long to wonder about it, however, as it emerged from its protective shell a moment later and continued its descent toward Mallow.

    "Now, Braixen, use Flamethrower!"

    "Braiii-xen!" Braixen sang, pointing its wand at Tapu Lele once again. A stream of fire burst forth from the tip of the stick a moment later, streaking through the air and slamming into Tapu Lele's exposed face before it could react.

    "Good shot, Braixen! You got it!" Ash exclaimed happily in a celebratory tone.

    "No - it shouldn't be that easy." Brock remarked disdainfully, a serious expression on his face. "The people of Alola call these things Legendary Pokemon, after all, remember?"

    As if on cue, the signature pink shell-clad Guardian shot through the smoke from Flamethrower a second later, now close enough to Mallow to reach out and grab her if it tried to. For a brief moment, Lillie prepared to run out in front of her friend in some vain attempt to shield her, but as it turned out, there was no need.

    "Steelix, use Gyro Ball!" Brock roared at once, causing his Pokemon to follow suit, once again striking with its tail, though this time the tip of said tail was whirring around like it was hooked up to a motor. It slammed into Tapu Lele head-on and sent the Legendary Pokemon sailing back across the battlefield and into an alleyway, out of their sight.

    The group was silent for a moment as they all took a much-needed breath, each of them watching the alleyway with anticipation.

    "Do you think...that got it?" Ash asked meekly, as Talonflame finished its circle around the area and landed on the ground in front of him.

    "Piiikachu." Pikachu replied, which, to Ash, sounded an awful lot like 'I don't know'.

    "Well, Tapu Lele is a Fairy-Type, so it should be weak to those Steel-type attacks." Lillie explained briefly, her tone not entirely convinced. ", I don't think it's finished already. The Island Guardians are some of the strongest Pokemon in the entire Alola region."

    "Lillie's right." Mallow nodded, swallowing for what felt like the first time in hours. Beads of sweat dripped down her face as she remembered what had happened to Olivia and the rest of her friends, and she realized just how afraid she was of having the same thing happen to her. "I think Tapu Lele is just getting started."

    "Come on, let's go after it!" Brock rallied, glancing at Ash and Serena for confirmation. They both nodded back in unison and took off down the alleyway, their Pokemon following not far behind.

    Lillie watched them go, gripping the straps of her backpack in frustration. "I have to help them...even if my Pokemon are no match for Tapu Lele, I have to try..."

    "Hey, Lillie, we should go, too - we don't wanna be left here without them!" Mallow urged, before taking off after Ash and the others herself. Lillie watched her go for a moment before following suit.

    "It's a good thing nobody else is around here right now..." Serena noted, as the three of them, plus their Pokemon, made their way through the narrow alleyway. The space wasn't too much of a problem for just the three of them; it was certainly wide enough for people to walk through, and as far as their Pokemon were concerned, Braixen was even smaller than they were, and Talonflame was simply hovering overhead. Brock's Steelix, on the other hand, was a different story.

    Fortunately, they emerged from the sidestreet only a few moments later - and found Tapu Lele lying in a small crater, right in the middle of the road.

    "What was that you were saying about nobody being around?" Brock remarked warily, noticing a good number of passerbys that had stopped and were staring at the Land Spirit Pokemon in awe.

    "Oh, no..." Serena murmured. "If we have to fight it in a place like this, all of these people here could get hurt!"

    Ash caught on to her concern at once, and ran out into the street between them and Tapu Lele, turning to regard the onlookers at once.

    "Hey, everybody! You all have to get away from here, it's not safe!" Ash announced, which only served to stoke the crowd's curiosity.

    "Not safe?" One of the onlookers questioned. "But isn't that Tapu Lele, the Guardian of Akala Island?"

    "Yes, it is, but something's wrong with it!" Serena insisted, stepping out into the street as well, with Brock following right behind her. "Please, listen to us, you all have to get away!"

    "But isn't it supposed to a blessing to be allowed to meet the Tapu?"

    "Yeah, that's right - and I heard that Tapu Lele's scales have powerful healing properties, too!"

    "You don't understand!" Brock boomed over the steadily-growing chatter of the surrounding crowd. "This Pokemon isn't well right now - it tried to attack one of your Trial Captains!"

    "He's right!" Mallow spoke, as she and Lillie emerged from the alleyway and joined the trio in the street. "The Tapu isn't well right now - it's out of control! So please, listen to us, and get far away from here!"

    There was some mild banter between the civilians before the seemed to decide that either Mallow was right, or that it simply wasn't worth the trouble to argue with a group of five Pokemon Trainers about it anymore, and the crowd began to steadily disperse.

    "Hey, thanks, Mallow." Ash said sheepishly, smiling at her in gratitude. "I don't think they were gonna listen to just us."

    The green-haired Trainer met his smile with one of her own, and was about to reply when she saw a shape rising up behind Ash's shoulder.

    "Hey - behind you!"

    They turned around at once, only to be met with the sight of the shell-clad Guardian Pokemon rising up from the ground slowly. Then, in an instant, its head snapped forward, and its eyes shone a brilliant pink, as a similarly-colored wave of energy shot out from its body.

    "What is this?" Serena asked to no one in particular, watching as the entire area around them turned a strange shade of distorted pink. The effect was centered on none other than Tapu Lele, who erupted with an explosive aura of amber-colored energy a moment later.

    "It's Psychic Surge, Tapu Lele's ability..." Mallow explained, keeping her eyes locked on Tapu Lele. "But that energy field around it...that's Z-Energy!" She shifted her gaze to Lillie, her fear showing through to her younger companion.

    "Yeah, you're right..." Lillie agreed, guessing her friend's question but unable to provide an answer for it. Without a Z-Crystal, it should have been impossible to produce the energy typically associated with them. The only exceptions that were known were the Totem Pokemon, and that had already been more or less confirmed to have been the Trial sites themselves that were awash with Z-Energy as opposed to the Pokemon within them.

    "Z-Energy?" Ash repeated blankly, looking at his companions for assistance.

    "That's what you used against us in our battle, wasn't it?" Serena asked, remembering the game-changing burst of energy that Mallow and Steenee had used to win against herself and Ash.

    "Yeah, but you shouldn't be able to produce it without a Z-Crystal!" Mallow answered worriedly, reaching for one of her Poke Balls. "You know what - I've had enough of this. I'm gonna help you guys out - "

    "It doesn't matter what kind of energy its got!" Ash cut in eagerly, swinging his arm out and gesturing at Tapu Lele. "Talonflame, use Flame Charge!"

    Talonflame obliged, once again cloaking itself in an aura of flames as it rode toward the Island Guardian. But just before it made contact, Tapu Lele locked its gaze on the approaching Scorching Pokemon, and caught in a brilliant golden beam that suddenly sprouted from its arms. The Extrasensory attack acted like a tractor beam, suspending Talonflame in midair helplessly.

    "Talonflame!" Ash cried, watching in shock as Tapu Lele swung its arms to the side and ceased its attack, causing Talonflame to get launched straight into a nearby building.

    "That's it! I'm not just gonna sit here any longer - !" Lillie thought, but she was cut off by a loud screech from Tapu Lele as it once again retreated into its shell, flipping over in midair after it was fully withdrawn.

    "What's that...?" Serena asked, once again to no one in particular, just as Tapu Lele slammed its shell down into the ground. And, the next thing they knew, they were all thrown to the ground hard, as if being forced down by an unseen force.

    "Wh-what is this - ?!" Ash demanded, Pikachu sliding off his shoulder and hitting the ground as well. "Is this an attack?!"

    "Y-yeah, I think so!" Mallow answered in exasperation, trying desperately to climb back to her feet, but to no avail. "All of the Tapus have a special move that only they can use called Nature's Madness - and they're all really powerful!"

    "Then...this has gotta be Tapu Lele's Nature's Madness! It must be a Psychic-type move!" Brock declared, managing to get back to his knees before being thrown to the ground again. Even Steelix was being forced to the ground, in all its grand stature.

    As they all struggled against the psychic onslaught, Tapu Lele emerged from its shell and righted itself in the air, eyes glowing a vicious pink. It then held its arms out and fired a second Extrasensory attack straight at Mallow, which none of them were able to defend against.

    "Mallow!" Lillie cried, forced to watch in vain as the concentrated golden beam struck Mallow continously, Tapu Lele holding her in its grasp until the Grass-type Trainer was literally knocked out cold from the strain.

    Tapu Lele drew closer and closer to Mallow, not stopping the attack until it was right next to her, at which point it reached down and grabbed her limp body, positioning it roughly on the rim of the bottom half of its shell. Then, it simply looked up to the sky, and as if on cue, a portal identical to the one that it had arrived out of burst into existence.

    "!" Lillie grunted, trying in vain to fight against the psychic force holding her down. She watched helplessly as Tapu Lele flew off toward the portal in the sky, taking her friend along with it.

    "Come on...move...move...!" Ash spat angrily, gritting his teeth as he tried over and over to rise to his feet, only to be thrown back to the ground every time. He looked up and saw Pikachu suffering from a similar fate only a few feet in front of him, as well as Talonflame, pinned to the ground across the street. "Darn it...! Pikachu, use Thunderbolt!"

    "Pika...!" Pikachu choked out, taking a moment to gather its energy even as it was being forced to the ground. "Pikaaa-chuuuu!"

    The Electric-type attack went off all the same, though Pikachu was unable to aim it at anything in particular, and so, it ended up arcing off into the sky harmlessly, not even coming close to hitting its intended target. Tapu Lele spared a glance back toward Ash, eyeing him oddly for a moment before continuing upward.

    "Argh...Steelix, use Stone Edge!" Brock ordered frantically, taking Ash's cue and betting on the slim chance that one of their attacks could knock Tapu Lele off course - and possibly even stop its Nature's Madness attack in the process.

    "Steel..." Steelix mumbled, mustering all of its strength and drawing its head up off the ground by a few feet before slamming its chin back down, using the psychic force pulling it down to its advantage. "Steel-iiix!"

    A series of blue-tinted stalactites shot up out of the ground at once, travelling forward in a linear fashion away from Steelix's head. This actually put the attack right in line with Tapu Lele' flight path, but all it took was a quick reactionary ascent from the Island Guardian to dodge Steelix's last-ditch effort of an attack.

    "Mallow..." Lillie heaved, desperately reaching around behind her in a futile attempt to grab one of her Poke Balls. She was forced to watch helplessly as Tapu Lele flew straight into the wormhole, taking the unconscious Mallow with it as well. "Please...come back...!"

    As soon as the Island Guardian had vanished, the psychic hold it had on all of them was released, as well as the Psychic Terrain that it had created to battle them under. As Ash and the others climbed to their feet, kneading their muscles to alleviate the strain that had been put on them over the last few minutes, Lillie remained on the ground, fists clenched in solemn frustration.

    "Lillie..." Serena began softly, making her way over to the girl and placing a hand on her shoulder gently. She wasn't quite sure what to say to her; by all intents, herself, Ash, and Brock had failed in their job to protect Mallow.

    "Piiika..." Pikachu murmured, a shroud over its usually cheerful face.

    "Zeeen..." Braixen chirped softly, looking back and forth between Serena and Lillie, wishing that there was something it could do to cheer them up.

    "I'm sorry, Lillie." Ash said finally. "We were supposed to protect her, but we couldn't do it. That Tapu Lele's a lot stronger than I thought it'd be..."

    "I'm sorry, too." Brock added roughly. "I'm the one who went on about how I used to be a Gym Leader, but I wasn't able to do anything at all to that thing."

    Lillie was silent for a long while, trying her hardest not to cry. This was the first time that she had been a direct witness to one of the Tapu attacks - not to mention that Mallow was easily one of the Captains she was closest with - and watching her friend get taken away right in front of her was hitting her harder than she expected.

    "...It's okay. It isn't your fault." Lillie murmured sadly, finally climbing to her feet after allowing herself a few moments to process everything. "If anything, I should be thanking least you tried to protect her."

    A dreary silence crept up between all of them at her words, as neither Ash, Serena, nor Brock knew how to respond to the girl. Finally, Brock decided to speak up. "...I think we should get back to the Dimensional Research Lab. We have to tell Professor Kukui and Professor Burnet what happened here."

    "Yeah, you're right." Ash agreed, taking a moment to make sure that Pikachu was all right before crossing the remainder of the street and producing Talonflame's Poke Ball. "Come on back, Talonflame. You did great."

    "You return, too, Braixen." Serena said, pulling out Braixen's Poke Ball as well.

    "Steelix, you take a rest, too." Brock finished, pointing Steelix's Poke Ball at it. And, three flashes of red light later, the three Pokemon had vanished back into their capsules.

    "Come on." Serena prompted, holding her hand out to Lillie. "Let's get going."

    After making their way back to the Dimensional Research Lab, the group wasted no time in recounting their encounter with Tapu Lele to both Professors. To their surprise, however, neither of them seemed to be particularly upset, or even surprised, at the way things turned out.

    "I thought we detected an anomaly in the space around Heahea City a little while ago..." Professor Burnet remarked, referring to the strange portal in the sky that Tapu Lele had summoned to come and go from the city. "We call them Ultra Hormholes, by the way. This isn't the first time we've seen them - but the Tapu shouldn't have control over them like that..."

    Professor Kukui was silent at first, putting a hand to his chin as he processed the fact that yet another Captain had now disappeared. " Mallow's gone, too, then..."

    The trio of foreign Trainers looked at the ground in dismay. Brock was the one who spoke up first, feeling more responsible for their failure than even Ash or Serena due to his age. "I'm sorry, Professor. And after all the trouble you went through to bring us out here..."

    "Hey, I don't blame you guys for losing to the Guardian Pokemon - if any of us could defeat one of them, we wouldn't be in this mess, would we?" Kukui remarked, almost laughing despite the situation in an attempt to cheer them up. "But, listen...this means that there aren't any more Captains or kahunas left here on Akala Island. We need you to head over to Ula'ula Island next. There's actually two people with Z-Crystals left over there - the island kahuna, Nanu, and one of the Captains, a young girl by the name of Acerola."

    "Now that Mallow is gone as well, there's only one other Z-Crystal holder besides those two still here in Alola, and she's on Poni Island." Burnet explained. "I know the Tapu are powerful - but please. Protect Nanu and Acerola with everything you have."

    Ash, Serena, and Brock all shared a look of silent agreement before turning back to the Professors in unison.

    "If you're still willing to trust us, then, of course we'll help you." Brock answered confidently. "We'll watch over those two over there until you two can figure out how to stop all of this."

    "Mallow was our friend, too." Serena added sadly. "We won't let the same thing happen to anyone else!"

    "Yeah, you can count on it!" Ash finished dramatically. "The next time one of those Guardian Pokemon shows up, we'll take it down for sure!"

    Lillie couldn't help but be reminded of Sun when she saw the resolve practically emanating off the three of them. They had the same kind of drive that she saw in him - the drive that had inspired her so much back during Sun's Island Challenge. And seeing it displayed so prominently in these Trainers, as well - she couldn't help but want to be a part of their journey, even if only briefly.

    "I want to go, too!" Lillie spoke up all of a sudden, somewhat surprising even herself. The whole room looked at her in shock, but it was Professor Burnet who spoke up to address her first.

    "Lillie? Are you sure?"

    The blonde nodded in response. "Yes. I know I'm not very strong yet, but...I have to do something to help. Hau, Gladion, and even..." She took a deep breath, steadying herself before continuing. "...even Sun; they're all gone. There's no one left but me. I'm not just going to sit here and watch as my friends are taken away right in front of my eyes!"

    "Yeah, I'm right there with you!" Ash agreed, pumping his fist at her supportively.

    "Me, too. I'd love for you to come along with us!" Serena added.

    "Well, I guess that's decided. Welcome aboard, Lillie." Brock said simply, nodding his agreement as well.

    "Pika! Pi-kachuuu!" Pikachu chimed in, greeting their new companion in his own unique way.

    Lillie blinked, having not quite expected such an earnest reply from all of them. As she saw all of them beaming at her, however, she found that she couldn't help but smile herself. "Yeah - thanks, you guys!" It was at that moment, however, that she realized she had forgotten something in her eagerness to go and stop the Island Guardians. "O-oh, um..."

    Both Professors were already smiling back at her knowingly by the time she turned to face them, a slightly guilty look on her face. "I think I know what you're gonna say, cousin, and don't even worry about it."

    "Huh?" She responded, not understanding Professor Kukui's nonchalance. "B-but..."

    "You stopped being my assistant a long time ago." Kukui remarked seriously. "I've been letting you stay with me all this time because you're my friend."

    Lillie found that she could only beam at him in response, a gesture which he met with a brilliant smile of his own. "Now, you kids get out of here - I'll get you all passage to Ula'ula Island as soon as I can, but in the meantime, try to go and enjoy yourselves! I know you could use some fun after what you've just been through."

    "Professor..." Lillie stammered, finding herself at a loss for words. "Thank you."

    She bowed politely to him, and after Ash, Serena, and Brock exchanged a quick series of farewells with the Professors, the four of them were off, each of them as eager as the next not to fail the next time.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Power Chamber


    Chapter 7: Pledges, New and Old

    After dismissing themselves from the Dimensional Research Lab, the group of now-four made a brief attempt at returning to their exploration of the various stores in town, but quickly discovered instead that none of them were in the mood for having fun anymore, given the encounter with Tapu Lele earlier that afternoon.

    Instead, they resorted to finding a middle-of-the-road restaurant and eating their fill for the time being, with Brock stepping forward to pay everyone's bill this time, partially due to his lingering guilt over being no more effective at stopping Mallow's abduction than his younger companions.

    At the very least, however, the universal distraction that was food seemed to work its magic on all four of them, and before long they had begun chatting amongst themselves. It wasn't hard to find things to talk about, given that Brock hadn't seen Ash in years, and none of the others even knew each other at all, excluding Ash and Serena - and, in fact, their relationship ended up being one of the first things that was brought up as a topic of discussion.

    "So, Ash, if you don't me asking, how long has this little situation been going on?" Brock asked, his eyes dancing between Ash and Serena suggestively, just as the former finished a gulp of his drink. Lillie took a sip of her own beverage and remained silent, equally eager to hear the history between the two, though not as willing to admit it.

    "Ahaha..." Ash chuckled nervously, scratching the back of his head in embarassment. "To tell you the truth, I feels it's been forever."

    "Forever?" Serena echoed back in mock frustration. "Oh, I'm sorry - I didn't realize it was such a chore to spend time with me!"

    "Huh?!" Ash remarked in utter confusion as Serena put on a rather convincing pouty-face. "Th-that's not what I meant! Come on, Serena..."

    Serena maintained her facade for a minute as Brock and Lillie laughed at their antics. It wasn't often that she allowed herself to be hard on Ash for anything, really, so when the situation arose, she pressed herself to take advantage of it.

    "But seriously..." Ash said, a hint of exasperation in his voice when he turned back to Brock and Lillie. "We've been together a long time. I met up with Serena right after getting to Kalos, and that's when I found out that she had actually come looking for me! Turns out, we actually knew each other when we were kids!"

    "When you were kids?" Brock repeated back. "Wait, so you two had actually met before running into each other in Kalos?"

    Serena nodded in response, enjoying the chance to indulge herself and venture back down memory lane for a while. "Yep, that's right - I had actually gone to one of Professor Oak's Pokemon summer camps over in Kanto! Though Ash didn't remember me at all until a little later..."

    "Yeah, that sounds like Ash." Brock confirmed with another laugh, as Ash looked away under a shadow of guilt. "Well, then...what was your first date like?" The older trainer continued, fully aware that he was prying into their business, but interested to hear more about them all the same. "I still can't quite wrap my head around this whole 'Ash has a girlfriend' thing..."

    "Yeah, I don't think we could at first, either." Serena admitted, laughing despite herself, while Ash merely smiled in agreement and blushed. She looked over and met his eyes as she shought back to what would've been considered their first official 'date'. "Well...I guess it would be the day of the festival in Coumarine City? You know, with the Pledging Tree?"

    "Oh, yeah!" Ash exclaimed, as if he'd just remembered the events of that day and couldn't wait to share them with everyone. "That was a special day for us and our Pokemon."

    "Right...and I think that's why it sticks out to me all the more."

    "The Pledging Tree?" Brock repeated back ignorantly, mirroring the look of confusion that was also present on Lillie's face. "What's a Pledging Tree?"

    "Well, it's this gigantic tree on the outskirts of Coumarine City, back in Kalos." Ash began eagerly, gesturing up toward the ceiling with his arms to demonstrate the unusual size of the tree in question.

    "Mm-hm. And once a year, the city holds a festival where Trainers give their Pokemon presents by the tree..."

    "...Okay, Bonnie, it's up to you! Have fun taking care of them!" Ash remarked, having just released his entire roster of Pokemon out onto the street, fully trusting the young girl to watch after them.

    "And since I'll be making my presents, I can help Bonnie watch them, too! We're all gonna have a great time!" Clemont added as he released his own Pokemon into the mix, as well.

    "De-ne-ne!" Dedenne chimed happily.

    "'Kay, ready? Follooow me!" Bonnie said excitedly in a singsong voice, cheerfully skipping off toward the Pokemon Center with the herd of Pokemon and her big brother in tow.

    Ash and Serena gazed after them as the left, only to catch a glimpse of Bonnie turning around and winking at them slyly as the automatic doors shut behind her, leaving the couple all on their own for what seemed like the first time since...certain recent events.

    "...Ready to go?" Ash asked easily, trying to stave off the uneasiness he felt at suddenly being alone with her by doing his usual thing and simply moving forward.

    Serena tried to answer, but instead found that her voice got caught in her throat, and she could only muster an affirmative grunt instead. As the two of them set off down the street together, Serena made it a point to stay in step with Ash; she'd already discovered that she enjoyed the small feeling of pride it gave her to walk alongside him in public. When she went to reach for his hand, however, she found that her own hand froze up, and she was unable to follow through on what should have been a simple gesture to the person that was supposed to be her boyfriend.

    "So, what are you looking for?"

    "I-I'm not really sure yet..."

    Their attempt at small talk betrayed how nervous and inexperienced the two were when it actually came to spending time alone together, despite the fact that they were, in fact, supposed to be in a relationship with each other.

    Ever since that day a few weeks prior, when the two of them had confessed their feelings to each other, interaction between the two had become tense and stiff, like neither of them knew how to act around the other anymore. Serena had hoped that going off to find presents for their Pokemon together would serve as a good excuse to potentially break down that barrier, but so far, their 'date' didn't appear to be going as planned.

    "Hey, what's that...?" Ash remarked quizzically, spying a small stall against the side of the street, lined with what appeared to be a series of caged-up Pokemon. They strode over to the storefront together, both of them secretly glad to finally have something to talk about.

    "Are those...Pokemon in those cages...?"

    "That's exactly right, miss." The broad-shouldered shopkeeper responded, his deep, guttural voice matching perfectly with the large arms protruding out from his sleeveless gray tank-top. He chewed the bamboo sprig stuck in his teeth thoroughly as he looked down at them apprehensively, as if he were sizing up whether or not they were actual customers. "I've got Pokemon from all over the Kalos region for sale here, and then some. Between me and my partners, we bring in species from all over the place."

    "'For sale'?" Ash echoed back to him, a hint of disdain rising in his voice. "What do you mean, 'for sale'?"

    Serena bent down and looked into one of the cages, and sure enough, a live Swablu was there, peering back at her helplessly from the other side of the bars. It looked thin, like it hadn't eaten in a few days. "Are you...selling these Pokemon?!"

    "Of course." The man affirmed casually, as if that should have been obvious. "You wouldn't believe how many Trainers come by here looking for a Pokemon that they couldn't find out there on their own. Or how many parents I see, picking up a new pet for their kids." He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "Pokemon catching isn't just for Trainers, you know. Even you kids should know that much."

    Ash looked around at some of the cages with Serena, mulling over the man's words for a moment. A small part of him had to admit, there was some truth to the idea. Even if he personally believed that a Pokemon should be discovered and caught on your own, he couldn't discount the fact that there were many to whom this kind of service was a welcome convenience.

    And yet...

    "Yeah, maybe you're right." Ash confessed - though his tone didn't lighten in the slightest. He knelt down and inspected another of the cages, and found a passed-out Electrike lying at the bottom of it. "But the way you're treating these Pokemon is wrong!"

    "Huh?" The man grumbled incredulously, like he couldn't believe what he had just heard.

    "Yeah, he's right!" Serena agreed, still crouched near the cage with the Swablu in it. The tiny blue Pokemon inside seemed to be looking out at her expectantly, like it was waiting for her to take it home. "It doesn't matter what kind of business you're running, there's no excuse for treating Pokemon like this! It's not right!"

    "Hey, listen, you brats." The man rumbled, taking a step forward threateningly, despite the fact that there was a countertop between them. "The only thing that isn't right around here is how much my rent costs in this crazy city. You really think I care how happy my merchandise is when I sell 'em? As long as they're still alive, that's all that matters to me."

    "Merchandise..." Serena murmured sadly, looking back down at the Swablu with a clenched fist. "That's not what they are..."

    Ash gritted his teeth at the man angrily, about to say something back, when the man cut him off. "Now, are you gonna buy anything or not? Cause if not, I'd suggest getting out of here and leaving my store alone."

    Serena glared daggers at the man, but finally decided that there was nothing they could do. "Come on, Ash, let's go."

    She turned to walk away, eager to put the store and the sad state of all its captive Pokemon out of her mind, but Ash remained behind for a moment, scanning the cages quizzically before finally setting his sights on the Swablu that Serena had been looking at.

    "What are you, deaf?" The man bit sharply, slamming his hand down on the counter. "I said either buy something or get lost, kid!"

    Ash looked at the man one final time before turning and running after Serena, an idea slowly forming in his mind.

    "Yeah, good riddance..."

    Their shopping during the rest of the afternoon was rather uneventful in comparison; they looked around at a bunch of shops, tossed a few ideas back and forth at each other, but couldn't quite find anything that felt right for their Pokemon. Just as Serena had finally worked up the courage to try and hold hands with him, he edged out of her grasp just as she was reaching for him.

    "Hey, Serena, I think I saw a store back there that looked really cool." Ash explained quickly, pointing to some random direction behind him and quickly stepping away from her. "I'll meet you back at the Pokemon Center, okay?"

    "Wha - ? But, Ash - !" Serena called, but he was already gone, leaving her standing there alone in the middle of the street, and she couldn't help but pout a bit as she realized that he had just ditched her on what was supposed to be their first date. "...Do you have to go so soon...?"

    Meanwhile, as Ash frantically retraced his steps through the streets of the city, he couldn't help feeling immensely guilty for treating Serena the way he had, even if it was ultimately for her sake. "Oh, man...I could have at least come up with a better excuse..."

    When he finally found his way back to the imposing Pokemon hunter, he swallowed hard, cast his pride aside, and strode right up the counter.

    "Well, well, look who it is." The man grinned devilishly, entertained by the fact that Ash had actually returned. He looked around, noticing that Serena wasn't with him this time, and fingered the sprig in his mouth pointedly. "Where's your little girlfriend, huh? She get lost or something?"

    Ash glared at the man, but said nothing back. There was nothing he could do to stop this man's actions, immoral as they might have been, and so had decided to merely do what he could for at least one of the captive Pokemon instead. "...How much are they?"

    " you want to buy one of them after all, do you?" The man chortled, putting a hand to his chin as he regarded the young Trainer. "Well, a Trainer like you should know that no two Pokemon are created equal - so the price depends on which one you want."

    Ash looked around at the cages again, wishing there was something he could do for all of them, but instead settled on the one he'd originally come back for. He walked over and knelt down in front of the same Swablu cage that Serena had been looking at, the tiny Pokemon inside once again peering out with pleading eyes.

    "This one." Ash answered in a low voice.

    "Huh...Swablu, eh?" The man remarked, regarding Ash with increased interest. "That's the same one your friend was looking at earlier, isn't it?"

    "...How much?" Ash repeated, trying to keep his temper in check.

    "Hmm...well, being a Dragon-type and all, that one wasn't particularly easy to catch." The man boasted, even though Ash was fully aware that Swablu didn't become a Dragon-type until it evolved into Altaria. "Not to mention that I know you're only buying it for your girlfriend, and, well...let's just say I don't particularly like you two."

    Ash wanted to bite back a retort at him, but he maintained his composure, for the sake of both Swablu and Serena. The man closed his eyes and thought for a long time, so long that Ash almost spoke up again, before finally giving his answer. "One hundred thousand."

    Ash's eyes widened in disbelief. "O-one hundred thousand?!"

    "That's the price, kid. To be honest, I shouldn't even be letting you shop here, after how you trash-talked my store earlier. But, business is business - plus, I think that one's on the way out, anyway, so you might be my last chance to actually make something off of it."

    Ash gritted his teeth in frustration - at the absurdly inflated price, the nonchalance with which the man spoke about his Pokemon's terrible living conditions, the fact that he was allowed to get away with things like this in the first place - all of it. He clenched his fists angrily, a flurry of words he so desperately wanting to say flooding through his mind, but he pushed them all down, thinking once again of Serena to calm his flaring temper.

    The price was steep to a ridiculous degree, but he could afford it - if he decided to forego his savings for the next six months. His mother usually sent him money every now and then, and it was simply up to him to manage his spending accordingly, usually with the help of his friends. But even he knew that this was way out of his price range. But even so, he found that he couldn't simply walk away and leave Swablu alone with this man for another day.


    The man smiled at Ash's submission, and produced a key and a Poke Ball from behind the counter. "Very good. Now all you have to do is pay up, and these two will be all yours. One thing, though; you'll have to actually catch it in that Poke Ball yourself. That whole six-Pokemon-only rule doesn't fly for businesses like this, so instead I just keep an stash of empty Poke Balls on hand."

    Ash hesitated one last time, eyeing the two items in the man's hands, before finally submitting to his fate and reaching into his backpack to produce his large sum of savings. It would take pretty much everything he had on hand to cover a purchase like this, far more than he could ever remember spending in one place before.

    Once he had finished paying the Pokemon hunter, Ash snatched the cage key and Poke Ball out of his hands, eager to have Swablu freed and be finished with this store.

    "Hey there, Swablu." Ash greeted softly as he swung the small prison open. The thin, sickly-looking Pokemon regarded Ash curiously, taking a cautious hop forward toward the outside. "It's okay. You're gonna come with me and my friends now, all right?"

    "Yep, it's all here, all right." The man confirmed, having just completed the counting of Ash's payment. He turned back toward the young Trainer and whistled. "You sure got a lot of cash on you - I didn't think you'd be able to afford that thing."

    Ash ignored him, picking Swablu up in his arms and stashing the spare Poke Ball in his backpack for the time being. "You're actually a gift for my friend Serena, okay? So, I'm gonna have her catch you...if that's all right."

    Swablu looked up at Ash without making a sound, still seemingly impressed by simply being in the outside world again. Without another word to the shopkeeper, Ash turned and ran off, heading back toward the Pokemon Center and hoping that Serena hadn't finished her own shopping spree yet.

    "Hey - tell your girlfriend I said hi!" The hunter remarked one last time, laughing at his own tasteless joke.

    Later that night, after a particularly troublesome encounter with Team Rocket, Ash and everyone else had gathered up at the Pledging Tree for the festival. Ash had been busy the entire rest of the day, as he'd had to go back and explain the situation with the Swablu to Clemont and Bonnie, and then go out again and find his own Pokemon gifts - although, he'd managed to pick up a second gift for Serena along the way, so, there was that. And Serena, while still slightly disappointed that her 'date' with Ash hadn't gone as planned, had still managed to find suitable gifts for her own Pokemon.

    After they'd all given out their normal gifts, and everyone seemed happily distracted by them, Ash finally turned to face his girlfriend nervously. "Hey, Serena...I wanted you to have this."

    "Huh...? What is it?"

    Ash held out a small, square-shaped gift box to her, an act that legitimately surprised her. Even in their original plans for the day, she'd never expected to actually get her own present from Ash. She took it from him and promptly opened it up, and was met with the sight of a simple, elegant blue ribbon resting in the center of the box.

    "Oh...Ash, thank you!" Serena remarked sweetly.

    Ash smiled back at her, but still looked like there was something else he wanted to say. "Actually, that's not all...see, when I went off on my own before, I was actually looking for something..."

    He turned back toward the crowd behind them, and Serena followed his gaze; together, they watched as Clemont and Bonnie walked up to them, a tiny, frail-looking Swablu cradled tenderly in the young girl's arms.

    "Huh...?!" Serena uttered in disbelief, prompting Bonnie to flash her a brilliant smile. "Is that...? Ash, but how?!"

    "I'm sorry I ran off and left you alone." Ash confessed, blushing lightly as he spoke. "I know you were excited about today. But when I saw how bothered you were by all those Pokemon that were caged up, I knew I had to do something. I might not've been able to buy all of them, but I thought I could at least get you one."

    "Yeah, and if I know Ash's finances like I think I do, that means we won't be able to rely on him to pay for anything for a long time..."

    "Aww, come on, Clemont! Don't worry about it so much, it'll be fine!"

    As the two boys chattered back and forth, Serena eyes remained locked on the small Swablu, totally blown away by what Ash had just done for her. She slowly reached down and plucked the tiny Pokemon up from Bonnie's arms, and it blinked curiously when it realized that Serena's face had replaced Bonnie's above it.

    "Hi there, name's Serena." She murmured softly, trying her best to make the Pokemon feel at ease. "I'm gonna take good care of you from now on, okay?"

    Swablu stared up at her curiously with its wide, black eyes, until finally, it seemed like something clicked in its mind, and it appeared to smile back at her. "Bluu - !"

    Serena almost gasped when she heard the Pokemon speak; it was the first time it had made a sound since she'd first seen it in the cage. Bonnie squealed in delight at the high-pitched chirp, jumping up and down excitedly. "Awww! It's sooo cute!"

    "Oh, by the way..." Ash spoke up, turning back to face her after apparently finishing his brief chat with Clemont. He held out a Poke Ball toward her as he spoke. "This is yours - it's for Swablu. I think you've still gotta catch it yourself."

    She nodded in understanding and took the capsule from him. "Well, what do you say, Swablu? You want to come along with us?"

    Swablu regarded her with that same curious look in its eye for a moment before letting out another cheerful chirp and nodding happily. Serena smiled and tapped the Poke Ball to it, at which point Swablu disappeared inside the Ball with no struggle.

    "Ash, thank you." Serena repeated after putting the Poke Ball away with her others, walking up to him now that her hands were free. "For the ribbon, and for Swablu...I didn't even get you anything."

    Ash grinned at her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Aw, don't worry about it. You weren't supposed to get me anything. If you ask me, just having you around is the best gift I could ask for!"

    Clemont and Bonnie glanced at each other and chuckled under their breath at Ash's abrupt praise. Serena didn't mind one bit, mostly because she knew that his abruptness merely meant that he was speaking what was on his mind, honestly and truly. She put her own hands on his shoulders and leaned in as well, briefly toying with the idea of giving him a proper kiss, but ultimately deciding against it due to how many people were around and instead settling for a peck on the cheek.

    When she pulled back, the two of them kept their faces close, looking into each other's eyes lovingly as the lights of the Pledging Tree nearby illuminated their features. They both felt their faces burning, as they weren't all that used to doing this kind of thing yet, much less with so many people around, and yet neither of them seemed to care all that much, either.

    "Serena...I..." Ash said softly, catching himself before saying the 'L word', as they'd been calling it lately. He had never fully understood what it meant, even though he'd said it to her already, and thus the two had recently decided to stop using it for the time being. "I'm really glad you decided to come along with me."

    "Yeah. I am, too."

    "...Wow. Do you still have that Swablu?" Brock asked as the two of them finished telling the story. It had started out with mostly Serena doing the talking, but then Ash had taken over to fill in during the portion where he'd gone off on his own, and they's sort of finished it out together.

    "Yep, I sure do - though its evolved into an Altaria now." Serena confirmed, putting a hand to the ribbon on her chest as well. "And this is the same ribbon that Ash got me back then. I've been wearing it ever since!"

    "That story was amazing!" Lillie remarked enthusiastically, flashing both Ash and Serena a brilliant smile. "I'm glad you have such a sweet boyfriend, Serena! I don't know about that part with Pokemon hunters, though..."

    "You'd be surprised what kind of stuff people will do for money." Brock said knowingly in a dark tone, as Ash blushed at Lillie's compliment. "Though you might be right about one thing - I don't think you'd find any Pokemon hunters out here in Alola. Everyone here seems to respect Pokemon, and nature in general."

    "That's probably because of the Tapus, and the Aether Foundation." Lillie explained.

    "The Aether Foundation?" Ash asked ignorantly as he took a bite of the nigh-forgotten sandwich in front of him. "What's that?"

    "Oh, it's a big organization here in Alola that focuses on the preservation of Pokemon...and, well..." Lillie continued, hesitating a moment as she brushed a strand of blond hair out of her face. " family actually owns it."

    "Piiika?!" Pikachu squealed in disbelief, its own shocked expression mimicking the faces of its human companions.

    "Your family owns it?!" Serena repeated back, as if to confirm the words she'd just heard.

    "I guess we haven't really gotten a chance to hear much about you yet, Lillie." Brock remarked, the realization dawning on them that they really didn't know too much about their new companion at all. "Would you mind sharing?"

    "Oh, there really isn't much to know about me." Lillie insisted, waving her hands frantically in front of her in an attempt to dismiss their curiousity. "I didn't even start on a Pokemon journey when I was ten like most kids do...I was too scared of even touching Pokemon back then to do anything like that."

    "I can understand that." Serena said encouragingly. "I didn't have a reason to go on a journey when I was ten, either. I didn't start on my journey until a little bit after that."

    Lillie nodded to her in understanding before continuing. "But...some stuff happened about a year ago that started to change my mind. I ran away from home with a Pokemon that I thought the Aether Foundation wasn't treating very well...and then, a little while later, I met Sun for the first time..."

    "There's that name again..." Serena noted to herself silently. "This guy must be pretty amazing for her to keep bringing him up like that."

    "...Anyway, a lot of things happened during Sun's Island Challenge, and I was there helping him out for most of it. At least, I thought I was helping him out, but when I look back on it now, I think I might have just been in the way..."

    "Hey, you shouldn't say stuff like that, Lillie." Ash remarked, further boosting the aura of support she was feeling from the three foreign Trainers.

    "Yeah, Ash is right." Brock added, shooting her a warm smile. "If this guy Sun you keep talking about is anything like you say he is, I'm sure that he never thought of you as a burden."

    Their kind words and actions continued to impress her; she may have been from Alola, where most people had a pretty neighborly disposition to begin with, but even that didn't quite cover the level of rapport she was receiving from these three people who, by all rights, should have been treating her as a total stranger. Her mouth hung open for a bit as she processed their words, eventually culminating in a grateful smile that she couldn't help but display.

    "Thank you for saying that, all of you. It...means a lot to me."

    "Yeah, no problem!" Ash responded at once, his fist shooting out toward her as he spoke. "I mean, we're all friends now, right?"

    "Pika pikachu!" Pikachu agreed, licking the remnants of the ketchup feast it had been enjoying off its face and planting its own stubby fist alongside its Trainer's.

    "Right - of course we are!" Serena joined in as well, joining her clenched fist to Ash's opposite Pikachu.

    "Just like the old days, huh?" Brock mused from across the table, locking his fist in across from the other three. Lillie gazed at their knuckle-lock strangely for a moment, once again surprised that they would think to include her in something like this.

    But when she glanced around the table and saw all of them smiling back at her so invitingly, she found that she couldn't resist. Thrusting her uncertainty aside, she held her own fist out eagerly, locking it into place between Brock's hand and Ash's, and completing the uneven circle that they had been trying to form.

    "All right - from this moment on, we're a team!" Ash declared exuberantly, and with that, they all raised their hands to the sky in delight, as if to signify the unwritten pact that had just been sealed.


    Mallow hit the cold, hard floor with a loud and painful thud, the impact simultaneously waking her up and making her aware that she had been knocked out in the first place. The first thing that she felt was the cool, sheer texture of the floor she'd been thrown down on. Which, having spent her entire life in Alola as she had, was quite the alien sensation to her, and she was immediately put on guard by it, a feeling that was no less punctuated when she began to remember what it was that she had been doing just before being knocked out.

    "Does that mean I was captured, like the others?"

    She pushed herself up off the ground and climbed to her feet, ignoring the dull pain in her legs, and looked around. She could immediately tell that she was nowhere even remotely close to Alola - on all sides, she was surrounded by tall, imposing skyscrapers, all modeled in a similar fashion of black and silver. Most of them - maybe all of them, she couldn't really tell - had some sort of odd prism-shaped crystal on the top that seemed to vaguely point toward the sky.

    As for the sky itself, there didn't seem to actually be one here - at least not one that she could recognize. Above the heads of the skyscrapers sat an eternal curtain of blackness that stretched out in all directions. Even if had been nighttime, she should have at least been able to see the moon, a few stars, or even a layer of cloud cover, but here...there was just nothing.

    There was also one skyscraper that towered above all the rest, with a disc-shaped roof littered with what appeared to be triangular spotlights shooting off in all directions taking the place of the strange prisms that topped off all the others. Before she had a chance to examine it more thoroughly, however, a pair of adult-sized people dressed in funny-looking space suits approached her, which in turn alerted her to the fact that there were quite a few of these oddly-dressed people standing around the edges of the street she had appeared on.

    "Well, well. It's about time we found another one." The first one spoke, a somewhat deep, male voice accentuated by an odd warble.

    "That makes, what, eight of them now?" The second one added, this one higher-pitched and more feminine-sounding, though accompanied by the same strange warble as the first. "We're so close to our goal..."

    "H-hey, just who are you two?!" Mallow said in a challenging voice, instantly deciding that these people at the very least knew something about what had been happening to her friends, and were possibly even the ones behind it. Either way, she was smart enough to at least be on guard around them. "And where am I? What's going on here?!"

    "Oh, look, Rhodo, she's aware of herself." The female one remarked, as if they had only just noticed that was conscious.

    "Indeed, Alisma - I suppose the Guardian Pokemon's attack did not last as long as we thought it would, this time." The male voice, apparently named Rhodo, answered. "No matter. Tapu Lele, if you would, please incapacitate this Trainer once more so that we can deliver her to Megalo Tower more easily."

    Mallow let out a sharp breath at their words, but she didn't have time to do much else - almost at once, the pink, shell-clad Island Guardian appeared behind them, as if it had been floating somewhere nearby all along, and fired another Extrasensory ray at her without hesitation.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Power Chamber


    Chapter 8: Confessional Redux


    "...Yeah, I know..."

    "...Ciiidue! Decidu-eye!"

    "I said I heard you, Decidueye!"

    The raven-haired Trainer sighed in exasperation as his partner continued hanging over his shoulder, staring at the letter in his hands expectantly. Not that the fully-evolved Alolan starter Pokemon was capable of reading it, but it knew the gist of what the letter said already, so that was a moot point to begin with.

    "...You really think we should go back?"

    The boy continued staring out at the horizon as he spoke, searching halfheartedly for a sun that hadn't quite risen yet. It was so early in the morning that the Olivine City lighthouse was still lit, with the brilliant yellow spotlight that the boy knew was powered by a particular Ampharos was shining out toward the sea dutifully.

    "Come on, Sun, what's wrong with you?" The boy said out loud in mild frustration, peering down at the invitation from Professor Elm for what must have been the millionth time. It was a simple letter, inviting presumably whoever the Professor decided to give it to to go and start a new journey in Alola, which was admittedly a rare opportunity for most. His adoptive home region was typically seen as more of a tourist spot than anything, which, aside from driving up travel prices to visit the area, also meant that it wasn't exactly the first pick when it came to regions that foreign Trainers would think to travel to.

    Only, Sun knew Professor Kukui. This didn't seem like the type of thing he would do on a whim, especially not now. Admittedly, he hadn't been home in a while, but as far as he was aware, they still had their hands full trying to find replacements for Ilima and Mina, who were both quickly approaching twenty years of age - which, according to tradition, meant that they would no longer be able to serve as Captains for the Alolan Island Challenge. Not to mention Hala, who was by far the oldest of the current kahunas, still running around like he was half his age, and Nanu, who had never wanted to be a kahuna in the first place, and actively shunned his role whenever he could.

    All of this led Sun to believe that something else was going on back in Alola, and that, whatever it was, they could probably use his help. After all, he was technically the current Champion, even if he'd done his best to hide that fact ever since arriving here in Johto.

    "Ciiiduuu..." Decidueye chirped softly, looking at him expectantly.

    "I know, pal, all right? I hear you..."

    He sighed heavily once again and let his hand fall to his side. He had decided to come to Johto after hearing that both Gladion and Hau, his friends and rivals from back in Alola, would be setting off on new journeys themselves, both of them aiming to get stronger. He had defeated both of them on his journey to become Champion, but after hearing that they were leaving Alola to get stronger, it hadn't taken long before his own sense of adventurous self-improvement had kicked in, as well - not to mention the fact that sitting around watching other Trainers take the Island Challenge wasn't exactly what he'd planned on doing after finishing his own journey.

    And there was one other reason why he'd left, as well, one that wasn't quite so easy to pin down with words - a reason that had a lot to do with a certain blonde-haired girl he'd met during his journey. He still hadn't found an answer to that one, which was part of the reason why he was so hesitant to return.

    "Cidueyeeee." Decidueye murmured, pecking at the hand dangling uselessly at his side, the letter still loosely clasped in his fingers.

    "Ow! Hey, stop it - !" Sun protested, withdrawing his hand closer to himself and backing away from his partner.

    "Eye?" Decidueye prompted, looking him straight in the eye.

    A long silence hung between them as Trainer and Pokemon stared each other down, until finally Sun was forced to concede.

    "Okay, okay, fine!" Sun relented at last, at which the dark, serious expression that had hung over his Pokemon's face melted away at once in lieu of a satisfied smile. "Geez, pal, you really don't know when to quit..."

    "Ciduue! Deciduuu-eye!" His Pokemon squawked excitedly as Sun stroked the feathers on his head.

    "Yeah...that's right." Sun remarked softly, shifting his gaze back toward the horizon. He saw the sun this time, eagerly beginning its climb up over the horizon, and casting rays of light across the ocean all the way up to the beach. "We're going home."

    The remainder of the evening passed without much consequence in Heahea City. Ash, Serena, and Brock stayed another night in Brock's room at the Pokemon Center, while Lillie opted to continue utilizing the free room at the Dimensional Research Lab, after being given the okay by Professor Kukui, of course. The following morning, they checked back in with the Professor, who told them that it would probably still be another day or two before he could get them all a ride to Ula'ula Island.

    This left the four of them without much to do yet again. Ash's usual sense of adventure was significantly dimmed by the looming threat posed by the Island Guardians, not to mention Mallow's abduction the previous day. The reality of these events, however, led them to decide that they should probably brush up on their battling tactics, lest their next encounter with one of the Tapus go the same way as the first.

    And so, they found an empty field surrounded by trees just outside the city proper, and decided to spend the rest of the day training with each other, not only to improve their own battle tactics, but also to familiarize themselves with the others' Pokemon.

    "Talonflame, Hawlucha, Noivern, come on out!"

    "Everyone, you come out, too!"

    "And us, too!"

    Ash, Serena, and Brock all respectively released their entourage of Pokemon into the clearing, a sight which Lillie observed with awe.

    "Wow..." Lillie gaped in wonder, as Pikachu scrambled down off of Ash's shoulder to join the group on the ground. "No wonder you guys were given the Professor's invitations."

    "Pan-cham, pan!" Serena's Pancham boasted, accepting the compliment graciously. It was still wearing the pair of sunglasses Serena had given to it when they had first met, and Ash doubted that it was planning on parting with them any time soon.

    "Lillie, this is Pancham." Serena explained quickly, stifling a giggle at Pancham's brash antics. "And that's Altaria - and you've already met Sylveon and Braixen. Everybody, say hi to our new friend Lillie!"

    Serena's team all uttered cheerful greetings toward the blonde-haired girl, who beamed back at them in response before producing three Poke Balls of her own. "I guess it's my turn now. Come out, everyone, and say hi!"

    Three simultaneous bursts of light later, a trio of creatures had appeared at her feet: an Alolan Vulpix, which they had already learned was named Snowy, a black-and-white bird Pokemon with a long, orange beak, and what appeared to be a free-floating, upright ring of flowers with a face attached to it.

    "Oh, wow. Never seen those Pokemon before!" Ash sang gleefully, he and Serena both producing their Pokedexes and pointing them at Lillie's Pokemon.

    "Trumbeak, the Bugle Beak Pokemon. Trumbeak often store the seeds of berries they have eaten in their beak. These seeds can then be fired at their enemies in a swift burst."

    "Comfey, the Posy Picker Pokemon. Comfey attach flowers to themselves with fluids from their own bodies, and the aroma that these flowers then produce is known to have a healing effect on both humans and Pokemon alike."

    "Awww - it's so cute!" Serena squealed, bending down to feel Comfey's flower ring.

    "Feeee!" Comfey purred, clearly enjoying the treatment.

    "Trruuum." Trumbeak chirped in a low tone, almost appearing jealous at the attention that Comfey was receiving. Pikachu, meanwhile, ran right past it and approached Snowy.

    "Pika pika?" Pikachu asked expectantly.

    "Vuul-piiix." Snowy replied nervously, looking down at the ground.

    "Pan-cham!" Pancham remarked loudly, walking up to the two of them and placing its hand on its hips. "Pan-pan-cham!"



    And with that, Pikachu and Pancham bounded off together, leaving Snowy alone for a moment before it took off after them. As Ash watched them run off together, his eyes caught Brock's group of Pokemon, and he quickly looked them over to see who his old friend had brought with him to Alola.

    "I see you've still got your usual team with you." Ash remarked, glancing behind him at his Steelix, Toxicroak, Crobat, and Forretress.

    "Yeah, I guess you could say that. I was actually going to bring Marshtomp and Ludicolo along as well, but some of my younger brothers and sisters like playing with them a lot, so I figured I'd leave them at home this time." His eyes drifted over to Serena's Sylveon, and he began to regard it curiously. "Say...Serena, that's a Sylveon, isn't it?"

    "Hm?" Serena replied, turning away from her ongoing conversation with Lillie to face the older Trainer. "Yep, it sure is. Why do you ask?"

    "I've heard rumors about an evolution of Eevee that only occurs when it completely trusts its Trainer, but I've never actually seen it myself." Brock explained, clearly impressed that Serena had one for herself. "What did you say you were doing on your journey in Kalos?"

    "Oh - I was a Pokemon Performer!" Serena answered back excitedly, clearly elated at the opportunity to speak about such a topic again. Judging by the look on Brock's face, however, he wasn't familiar with the term.

    "It's kinda like a Pokemon Coordinator." Ash stepped in quickly to explain. "Pokemon Performers participate in the Kalos Pokemon Showcase, which is sorta like a Pokemon Contest - only at these performances, there aren't any real battles."

    "Oh, I see." Brock remarked, nodding in understanding.

    "Yeah...but I only made it to the final round of the Master Class Showcase in the end." Serena admitted, a touch of regret in her voice. "See, the Master Class is the final Showcase competition of the year. I wasn't able to win..."

    "Wait - you made it to the final round?!" Brock exclaimed in disbelief. "Serena, that's incredible! Even Ash has trouble making it to the final round of the Pokemon League sometimes! You must be an amazing Performer."

    "Hey!" Ash retorted in mild irritation.

    "Well...I don't know if I'm all that, but thanks, Brock." Serena replied sweetly.

    "You wouldn't mind if I asked to battle with you, would you?" Brock asked, the curiosity from before still present in his tone. "To be honest, I'm interested to see what a team of performance-oriented Pokemon can do in a battle."

    "No, I don't mind at all!" Serena answered at once, her Pokemon joining in with cries of affirmation behind her - sans Pancham, that is, who was still off frolicking in the field with Pikachu and Snowy. "You ready to go, Braixen?"

    "Braaai-xen!" Braixen chimed in response a second time, following her as she mirrored Brock and stepped away from the group.

    "So you're using Braixen first, huh?" Brock remarked, taking his place across from her on the imaginary battlefield. "All right, Crobat, you're up!"

    Crobat screeched modestly in understanding and flew over to its Trainer's side. Serena didn't recognize the quad-winged Pokemon, but decided that there would be time to check its Pokedex entry later, opting to focus on the battle instead for the time being.

    "All right, Braixen, let's start with Hidden Power!"

    "Crobat, stop it with Air Slash!"

    Both Pokemon launched their attacks almost simultaneously, and as such, both series of projectiles ended up colliding with each other perfectly, causing damage to neither side.

    "Now, Crobat, use Poison Fang!"

    Crobat began chirping loudly and dived toward Braixen with its mouth open wide.

    "Braixen, dodge it!"

    Braixen complied at once, deftly spinning to the side just as Crobat's attack was about to connect, causing the Bat Pokemon to pull up desperately at the last second.

    "Wow - that was some dodge." Brock complimented, as Crobat circled back around the field. "Now, use Cross Poison!"

    "Use Fire Blast, Braixen!"

    Braixen obeyed once again, sending out a massive stream of fire hurtling toward the purple X-shape now speeding toward it through the air. When the two attacks smashed together, they produced an enormous red-and-orange explosion that rained down onto the battlefield like fireworks.

    "I've gotta admit, you're pretty good, Serena!" Brock remarked in admiration.

    "Thanks - you're aren't so bad yourself!"

    As their battle continued, Lillie found that she, too, was enraptured by Serena's battle style, due in large part to the absence of any type of Pokemon Contest-type of event in Alola.

    "Wow...her Pokemon move so gracefully." Lillie breathed in awe, as she and Ash looked on from the sidelines with the rest of their Pokemon. "Is that what all Pokemon Performers look like?"

    "Yeah, I guess so." Ash answered with a shrug. Truth be told, he had been around so many different Coordinators and Performers in his travels, he had grown rather accustomed to watching their unique styles in action. Instead, his focus was now locked on Serena herself, and as he witnessed the elegantly effective form with which she and her Pokemon fought, he was reminded of the many Pokemon Showcases she participated in during their journey in Kalos...and suddenly, he began to feel guilty for taking her away from all of that.

    Later that afternoon, just as the sky was beginning to darken and burn amber, Ash found himself sprawled out on the grass all by himself, staring up listlessly at the sky. Pikachu was still off playing somewhere with Snowy and Pancham, while Crobat and Trumbeak had joined Noivern, Talonflame, and Altaria on a relaxing flight around the area. The day had ended up being more of a play-date in the field rather than an afternoon of training, but it didn't seem to bother any of them too much. And, as far as he knew, Brock, Lillie, and Serena were still doing some form of training without him.

    Serena...the girl that had single-handedly changed his life, and altered his perception of what he thought he knew about himself. He had never even considered finding a girlfriend before meeting her. It wasn't that he held no interest for girls - he saw pretty ones all the time - but simply that his dream of becoming a Pokemon Master and continuing his journey had always been the foremost thought in his mind. His ongoing quest had pretty much eliminated any potential girlfriend candidates simply because he never stayed in one place long enough to develop that kind of relationship with anyone.

    As far as his former travelling companions went, he was fairly certain that none of them had ever seen him in that way, either. They all had their own dreams and goals to pursue, just as he did. Which was why he was continually surprised by Serena's willingness to follow and support him, seemingly in lieu of her own goals. She had told him some things that he didn't fully comprehend back when they had first started journeying together, something about how she had decided to leave home solely so that she could meet him. He hadn't really understood the implications of that back then, and he wasn't sure he did even now.

    But even so, as the two had them had gotten closer and closer while travelling through Kalos together, he'd certainly begun to notice that she treated him differently than the other girls he had known. And then, during the incident in Shalour City with Korrina, he'd witnessed her quite literally put her life on the line to save Pikachu. After that, Ash had never been able to see her quite the same as he had before - and it had only been a matter of time after that before he finally admitted to himself, and later to Serena as well, how he felt, feelings that had only gotten stronger with time.

    He loved having her around. She was fun and energetic, not to mention clever; she often convinced Ash to see things from a different perspective than his usual approach. She also had a flair to her that reminded him of Dawn, but she seemed more grown-up than his old friend from Sinnoh. It had also taken her a while to figure out her own dreams, like another of his old companions, May. But she quickly revealed that she had been more talented than any of his friends prior to setting out on her journey, and between her skills at cooking, dancing, performing, and being in front of a camera, as well as her ease at getting along with Pokemon, she was eventually able to find her own goal.

    But Ash's favorite thing about her was how kind she was. He didn't use the word very often, but she was probably the sweetest girl he'd ever met. She was always making desserts for all of their companions and their respective Pokemon, not to mention she was unfailingly loyal to her own Pokemon partners, and she was always able to cheer him up when he was feeling down.

    It wasn't often that Ash's thoughts drifted this far inward, but now that he had started down this particular train of thought, he found that he couldn't get away from it, and eventually, he began to come to the conclusion that he'd only tugged on the fringes of before, particularly when he was debating over whether or not to ask Serena to come to Alola with him: he didn't want to leave her side, not ever. In his mind, she had become just as essential of a companion as Pikachu was, perhaps even more so. And when he realized this, the notion almost scared him.


    Serena's voice made him jump; he wasn't sure how long he had even been out here, and he certainly hadn't heard her approach. She giggled when he jolted upright and twisted around to look at her.

    "Ah...hey, Serena. What's up?" He stammered as she looked down at him happily, her hands clasped behind her back.

    "Oh, nothing. I was just wondering where you'd gone and wandered off to." Serena answered innocently as she folded the bottom of her dress and sat down next to him. "You know, Lillie's a pretty good Trainer, considering she's only been one for a few months now."

    "Yeah, I could tell she was really close with her Vulpix from our battle the other day." Ash answered truthfully, despite the fact that he was still heavily distracted by his previous train of thought. "...What are Lillie and Brock doing now?"

    "They're still training." Serena replied. "Brock was really getting into it - I think he blames himself for Mallow being taken away like that..."

    "Yeah...I think you're right." Ash remarked, his gaze falling as he recalled Brock's initial infatuation with the Grass-type Trainer. However, despite his attempts to distract himself by engaging in her conversation, he found that his thoughts kept drifting back to the topic he'd been thinking about prior to her arrival.

    "Hey, Serena? ...Are you really okay with all this?"

    "Huh? What do you mean?" She asked, looking over at him with an inquisitive frown.

    "...I dragged you all the way out here to Alola with me, and even got you involved with all of this." He answered, his own frustrated gaze avoiding her eyes. "I never really stopped and asked what you wanted to do. Your dream was to be a Pokemon Performer - how can you do that when you're just following me around?"

    Serena eyed him for a moment strangely before fully catching on to his concern.

    "I chose to come with you, Ash - you didn't force me to." Serena answered, giggling softly at the notion of Ash being so uncharacteristic as to actually drag her along with him somewhere. "You did ask me, remember? And's true that I love performing. I almost can't wait until I get the chance to do it again! But...there's something I love even more than that."

    Ash watched her apprehensively as she drew her face up beside his, nudging his hat out of the way as usual and letting their foreheads rest against one another.

    "And that's being with you."

    When she leaned in to kiss him, confident in the fact that nobody was around, Ash didn't protest. He felt the familiar feeling of warmth flare to life in his stomach, and as it spread throughout his chest and began to dull his thoughts, he found that his awareness of the world around him narrowed as well. When a gust of wind blew through the field, taking Ash's dislodged hat with it a few dozen feet, he fond that he didn't even care enough to get up and chase after it.

    When they finally broke apart, Serena looked up at his unkempt mane of hair, noticing at once that his hat was suddenly missing.

    "Um...I think you lost something." She chuckled softly, a faint blush sprouting to her cheeks. Ash, however, didn't answer, instead holding her gaze and putting a hand to her cheek tenderly. "...Ash?"

    A rush of thoughts continued to stampede through Ash's mind, and he struggled to get his next few words out - though he knew all the same that they needed to be said. "Serena...I...

    "...Ash, don't say it..." She remarked sadly, causing Ash's brow to furrow at her interruption.

    "Why not?" He replied, a sense of stubborn pride in his voice now. "I know what we've been talking about, but - "

    "Then why would you want to say something like that?!" Serena bit back, a little harsher than she intended. She immediately caught herself and turned her frustration down a notch before continuing. "I told you before...if we say something like that and don't really mean it, then it's all for nothing..."

    "Yeah, well, if that was the case, then maybe I never should've said anything to you in the first place back in Anistar City!"

    "Wh-what are you...?!"

    "I don't understand a lot of this stuff, okay?! I told you I loved you back then because I didn't know what else I was supposed to do!"

    "Well, I don't understand any of it, either!" Serena cried, tears coming to her eyes now. "All I know is that I...I never want you to leave me alone! But if we say something we don't really mean, or understand, then..."

    "But I do mean it." Ash said definitively, clamping his hands down on her shoulders and bringing his face directly in front of hers. He gazed into the sapphire-blue eyes that he had grown to love so much and continued. "I may not always understand a lot of this complicated stuff, but I know what I feel toward you. These feelings are just as strong as anything I feel toward my mom, or Pikachu, or anybody else. If that's not what love is, well...then I don't think I could ever really love anybody."

    As Serena stared back into the copper-colored orbs that she had always admired so much, she found that all of her own suppressed feelings came bubbling to the surface in response to his words. She agreed with him wholeheartedly, of course. The only reason that the two of them had opted to refrain from saying that they loved each other for so long was, honestly, sort of a precaution that Serena had heavily suggested that they put into practice in response to Ash's knee-jerk confession. And they had both agreed that the original confession itself probably had a lot to do with the Anistar City sundial affecting Ash's emotions to some degree, coupled with the fact that he had believed at the same time that Serena was about to be killed.

    But for the last few weeks, and especially since coming to Alola with him, she couldn't deny the elevated level of attraction she had felt toward him. No...attraction wasn't really the right word. The more she struggled to put her feelings into words, the more she began to gravitate to the one word that she had declared off-limits to them, just like Ash.

    "Serena." Ash said, her name rolling off his tongue so naturally that it made Serena's stomach flip, so much so that she could swear she was back in Santalune City, introducing herself to him for the first time. "I love you."

    She couldn't fight the blush that burst onto her cheeks as he spoke, but she didn't really want to, either. Deciding to trust in his confidence and her own feelings, she swallowed her old, stubborn objections to the idea, and decided to forge ahead on this next step of their relationship together with him, instead of continuing to fight back against it.

    "Y-yeah." Serena answered, finally accepting her feelings for what they were. "I...I know you do. I think I've known for a while...but I was too scared to admit it."

    Ash continued watching her with expectant eyes, though a proud smile was now present on his face. In the next moment, Serena looked up and met his blazing eyes with a determined look of her own.

    "I love you, too, Ash Ketchum."

    The two drew closer for another kiss, one which they were able to share for a good while as the descending late-afternoon sun shone down upon them. After they broke apart again, however, Serena's mind, now having cleared one hurdle that had been ever-present for what had seemed like forever, immediately moved on to the next fear of hers.

    "Hey, Ash...?" She began softly, lowering her head to rest on his lap, a move that visibly surprised the dark-haired Trainer. The two of them were rarely this intimate with each other, if ever, though he supposed that perhaps this was simply part of moving forward in their relationship, and chose not to comment on it.

    He looked down at Serena's head after a moment of silence, which was now facing away from him. Her hat had loosely tumbled off of her head to rest in the grass by his legs, leaving her mane of honey-blonde hair as the sole part of her head that he could see. "What is it? What's wrong...?"

    She gripped the fabric of his jeans tightly with one hand before answering. "Can you promise me you'll stay with me...? Not just for this journey, or even whatever comes next. I mean...forever...?"

    Serena immediately regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. They had just decided that it was okay to say they loved each other, and now here she was, coming out with a request like that! But she maintained her silence, knowing that anything she said would only make the situation more awkward.

    Ash didn't respond for a while, leaving the two of them to watch the billowing plains before them, each lost in their own thoughts, as Ash's stray hat lazily tumbled across the surface of the grass a few yards away.

    Ash wasn't entirely familiar with the level of commitment she was asking for, and though she didn't show it, Serena wasn't, either. Both of them were being spurred on almost entirely by their emotions at this point. But even so, he found that he couldn't find a reason to deny her - especially after the exchange that had just occurred between them, and his own recent thoughts on the matter. If there was anyone he would be comfortable spending the entirety of his foreseeable future with, it was her.

    And then, when he remembered what she had said to him just minutes before, and the look of sadness that had been present on her face when she said it, he knew that he only had one choice.

    "All I know is that I...I never want you to leave me alone!"

    "...Yeah." Ash responded, after what seemed like an eternity. Serena's eyes widened and her mouth dropped open as she rolled over to look up at him from below. He glanced down and met her gaze with his own, reaching over to brush her hair out of her face and behind her ear before he continued. "I promise, Serena. Wherever we go from here, it'll be together. Uh, I long as that makes you happy! I don't like seeing you cry..."

    He scratched his cheek and chuckled softly as he finished, apparently growing a bit self-aware of the way he was acting and getting embarrassed. Not that Serena minded in the slightest - his message had been received by her, loud and clear.

    "...Oh, Ash..." Serena breathed, taking one last moment to admire his expression before reaching up and throwing her arms around him. "I love you!"

    "H-hey - waaaah!" Ash cried, throwing his arms out in a vain attempt to keep himself upright as Serena's weight threw him off-balance, causing him to topple over backward a moment later. Serena clung to him the whole way down, and when he looked up at her resting her head on his chest, he couldn't help but smile back at her. "Yeah - I love you, too."

    The two remained like that for some time, enjoying the peace that had come with finally admitting their true feelings for one another, as well as the comfort and security that they both felt from the other's presence and proximity.

    "Hey, Ash, Serena!" Brock's voice rang all too soon, shattering the little world that the two of them had been living in for the past few minutes. "I think we should start heading back to town now - that is, if the two of you aren't too busy!"

    Serena sprang to an upright position immediately, where she saw Brock standing about a hundred feet away at the edge of the trees, watching them with a great degree of interest.

    ", we're not busy at all!" She answered at once, her voice shaking a little.

    " might be right." Brock said back as Lillie walked up beside him, a playful smile present on her face as well. "After all, I wouldn't really call taking a nap on your boyfriend 'being busy'."

    "Give them a break, Brock." Lillie remarked cheerfully as Ash sat up beside Serena, who promptly turned to him despite her embarrassment and began brushing bits of grass out of his hair. "After all, they are helping us out a lot just by being here. The least we can do is let them have some time alone together sometimes!"

    "Yeah, you've got a point there." Brock conceded before sighing to himself. "I sure wish I had a beautiful girl to spend my lonely afternoons with...uh, by the way, Ash...where's your hat? And yours is missing, too, Serena..."

    "Oh, uh..." Ash stammered, searching for a reasonable excuse as to how his favorite accessory had been allowed to just disappear. "Well, I guess it just kinda blew away while me and Serena...were..."

    Brock raised an eyebrow at him suggestively as Ash trailed off, not wanting to admit what the two of them had actually been doing at the time. The tension didn't last long, however, as just then, Noivern sailed through the air between them, followed quickly by Altaria - and both of them were wearing their respective Trainers' hats.

    "H-hey, Altaria, come back!" Serena wailed, and Ash noticed that Talonflame, Trumbeak, and Crobat had landed behind them during the commotion, only now they were joined by Hawlucha, as well. It didn't take him long to deduce the prank that had been pulled by their Pokemon.

    "Well, I guess that's what you get for leaving your stuff laying around." Brock remarked playfully amidst Lillie's laughter.

    Ash frowned at him and looked over to catch Serena's eye. "Come on, let's go after them!"

    "Yeah!" Serena agreed at once, nodding in response before taking off alongside him.

    And off they went, hopelessly chasing after their two Flying-type Pokemon as they rose back into the air, chuckling at themselves as they watched their Trainers attempt to catch up with them from over their shoulders.

    There's no real way to write-in a classic end-card moment from the anime, but I always loved those, so here's my attempt at creating one, haha.

    Also, I was originally planning on having Ash and Serena come to terms with their feelings a little bit later in the story, because one of the big reasons I had that little bit of confusion between them in the first place was to backpedal a little from the ending of the original story, in which I've kind of regretted that I just had the two of them come right out and confess to each other at the end. In that story, I had originally wanted to have them both be a little bit more naive and ignorant of how relationships and 'love' works, but in my hurry to get that one finished with over those last few chapters, I sort of had to throw out that idea in favor of a more definitive ending. So, my way of fixing that was by introducing the idea that you've been seeing thus far in the story. But, as I was writing this chapter, I realized that there isn't really a good reason to keep them from maturing in their relationship any longer - especially with how the later parts of this story will play out.

    Anyway, thanks as always for reading, and also for the reviews from my regular crowd! I'll see you guys next time!

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