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Time Will Heal All Wounds

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Ash let out a sigh as he rubbed his head in an attempt to get rid of the thumping feeling in his right temple. It wasn't uncommon for any impending headaches to rear their ugly heads in this way, especially not after having been exposed to pressure and plenty of people. So the teen knew how to deal with those.

What he didn't manage to immediately come to terms with was that life just wasn't willing to go his way. Not that he minded his friends and those he considered to be as close as family having a party in honour of his achievement. No, it just was that he didn't really feel like he had achieved anything in the last tournament, as he had been so close to victory and yet...

Yeah, Ash was disappointed, of course, because he knew that both he and his Pokémon had given their all and even more. But the niggling little voice in the back of his head wouldn't let him forget that there was always something more he could've done. Good thing that Gary, who suddenly had gotten some sort of epiphany, momentarily managed to distract the teen from himself.

"I've been thinking and… I think it might be the best for me to stop being a trainer. I won't abandon my Pokémon, but I see now that I should be investing in a better future for myself and follow in my grandfather's footsteps."

At that, Professor Oak had jumped up and had hugged his grandson close, happy to be able to pass through his life work (or so he actually said). Personally, Ash wasn't too sure whether Gary would be sailing the same ship the Professor was on but that wasn't his issue. And frankly, he was happy for this interruption as it pulled away some of the attention from him. Any kind of breather sounded good to him and so, the black haired teen was quick to take this opportunity to go and have some fresh air outside.


 "Pi?"

Of course, it didn't take long until Pikachu came bouncy towards him, coming to sit next to where he had sat down in the grass. Ash actually had to smile when his starter didn't waste much time in jumping on his lap either.

"Don't worry, buddy, it was just getting a bit stuffy inside."

"Pikachuuuu~?"

"Yes, really. I'm not going to sulk about having lost, we can always do it again if we want to. You know we can."

"Pikapi..." the Pokémon sighed and curled up in a ball, ready for a snooze.

The teen simply petted his starter, enjoying the feeling of the soft, yellow fur on his hand. He knew this peacefulness wouldn't last long and so decided to savour it as long as he could. His friends would surely start to wonder where he'd gone off to and Arceus forbid if they thought he was actually a bit bummed. Ash wasn't going to deny that he wasn't the slightest bit dejected but their ways of cheering him up were... original, to say the least.

"What're you doing out here?" a voice suddenly asked.

It did cause Pikachu to suddenly jump up as well and cast a rather dirty look at the offender. Misty only managed to look amused by that, though, so the Pokémon soon laid down again, glancing at his trainer for a bit.

"Did I disturb something?"

"Just Pikachu's nap. Did you need me for something?"

"..."

"What?"

"Just checking whether you were actually being serious there, Ash," she answered dryly. "Just so you know, we didn't come here to see Gary get all the attention."

"Oh, good!"

"That's what I thought as well. Besides, we're missing you already too."

"Aww, really?" Ash grinned. "I was just here for the fresh air, actually."

"Well, then we'll open a window or something." Misty answered simply and went back inside.

Seeing that the girl was rather adamant about this, the teen figured that either something was wrong, or that they did actually miss him. Both occasions seemed rather alien to him, but his friends never ceased to amaze him. So Ash followed swiftly, carrying Pikachu in his arms since the Pokémon had just fallen asleep again.


Once back inside, the boy had to smile when he saw that every possible window was actually open, with the mesh in front of it to keep small intruders out. It was already feeling a whole lot less stuffy as well.

'Must be because Professor Oak already left.' he thought amused and went to sit at the table his mother had dragged over from the kitchen earlier today.

Pikachu did give him a sleepy look as if to check whether a) his trainer was still there and b) that he knew where they were sitting. Ash thought it to be rather cute and as such started petting the Pokémon. But this apparently seemed to be the right timing for Iris to zoom into his location and slide into the chair next to him.

"Please tell me you weren't outside to sulk because someone got more attention than you?"

"Hey, hey, don't give me that! I'm not that big a kid!" the boy answered, pouting at the unfair accusation.

"I can't tell you how pleased I am about that." she sighed. "There's... quite some characters present and if you weren't feeling up to entertaining us, this would be a disaster of global proportions, I can tell that much."

'You're one of them though, buddy.' Ash thought, smiling at his own cheekiness.

"I'm feeling fine, Iris, no worries! In fact, you all forget that one of my rivals basically eliminated himself, so my chances of winning something have actually increased."

"That's not funny, Ash. I didn't know you'd be so depressed about this."

"I'm not. I'm completely fine, just watch."

The teen was amused he could almost feel the purple haired girl's gaze burn holes in the back of his shirt as he went around to chat with his friends. May and Max were pretty much the easiest to get along with, as the girl was very similar to himself and the younger boy was pretty much a sponge and only a few months away from actually becoming a trainer himself, so he couldn't get enough information from the older trainer.

Gary, Cilan and Brock had hit off as well, with Tracey just bumbling about, since all the cooking experience he had was practically centred around Pokémon only. It was only thanks to Professor Oak's other assistants that he had been eating properly. The only one who seemed to have disappeared somewhere was Dawn, but the teen figured she had just gone to the bathroom or something. Nevertheless, everyone was smiling when he went to sit back at the table anyhow.

"There, do you think I could've done that while depressed?"

"I've only got you in common with them, so what do I know?"

"Well, then why don't you amuse me then? I'm completely free and seeing that Pikachu is actually tired, I'm good to be sitting down for quite a while."

"Alright, I've got plenty of stories to share with you." she said, grinning from ear to ear. "Hope you're sitting comfortably."


Iris could be pretty funny when she wanted to be and the time had flown as she told her stories about the Pokémon and experiences she had in Unova. It had been interesting enough for Dawn to come sit with them and eventually the rest came over as well. Ash was happy to see that the girl was able to talk to his other friends since there was only so much he could amuse her with.

But his current focus was on Pikachu, who had just stretched in the most adorable way possible and it made the boy feel rather fuzzy inside.

"Hey, buddy." he said softly, gently scratching the Pokémon's favourite spot. "I haven't told you how proud I am of what you performed. We might not have won, but remember what Lt. Surge said at the time? That a Pikachu would never reach its full potential unless they evolved? You sure showed everyone how wrong they were to believe such nonsense, so... let's escape to the kitchen and find you a bottle of ketchup, okay?"

All sleepiness had instantly left Pikachu, who was all ears and ready to leave for the kitchen. Only his trainer knew what he actually liked so when they sneaked off, the Pokémon knew he was in for a treat. And it was rare for Ash to just give him any ketchup outside of dinner, so he'd take this opportunity with both his little paws.

The teen was more than happy to give his faithful starter a treat, so if that meant he'd raid his mom's ketchup stock, so be it. Yet, as the two were standing in the kitchen -which looked pretty empty thanks to the unoccupied area the table left in its wake-, Ash couldn't help but overhear the conversation in the living room.

"Hey, did you see that?"

"Yeah, it was super cute! I've never seen Ash do that with Pikachu before!"

The boy actually scowled at that, but just silently, as he didn't want to disturb his starter. He did this with his Pokémon all the time, Pikachu included, so what if they were the ones who weren't paying attention to what he did, huh? Ash sighed and rubbed his forehead, calming himself so he wouldn't get riled up at a conversation he shouldn't even have heard. Still, he vowed to give all his Pokémon some attention tomorrow, so that no one needed to doubt he didn't care for all his friends.


When moving back into the living room, Ash noticed that this couldn't actually be called a party at all. If anything, this was more a get together with plenty of food, happily provided by his mom. She was over the moon with pretty much everything he achieved during his journey and for that, he loved her, even if Ash hadn't told her everything. If he had, from the Legendary encounters to the issues he'd fixed, his own life on the line most of the time... Well, she would've tied him to his bed before he could finish his first story.

Either way, there was also the chance she wouldn't believe him, which was the issue Ash had with Professor Oak. But come on, whoever had the instinct of pulling out their Pokédex when the Pokémon, be it Legendary or not, was aggressively barrelling towards them? So no, he didn't have any evidence and the regions he'd had his adventures in rather not give away the locations of the mythical beings, so the chance of them affirming his stories was nil.

Repressing a sigh, the teen decided to focus on the delicious food that his mom had placed in front of him, once he had sat down. It wouldn't do to dwell on things he couldn't change after all, but it seemed like there was something direr he'd need to address on the table right now. Considering Misty was in front of him, he could see her only playing with the food on her plate and actually being pretty silent. If that wasn't a red flag in itself, the fact that he instantly caught his mother's gaze shortly after, meant that his first official friend had something on her mind.

So, as soon as he was able to free himself from the massive washing up job, he made a beeline to talk to the girl.


"Hey, Mist."

"Oh, hi..."

"What's up?"

"Nothing."

"Sure?"

"Yes, Ash, I'm fine."

"Please don't lie to me?"

If anything, Misty couldn't look any more torn, but Ash needed her to show her character again. Being silent didn't suit her at all, so... But the boy was ever so surprised that she grabbed him in a hug, that he actually stiffened. Yet he was quick to grab a hold of her as well, knowing something might be off.

"Mist, talk to me."

"We're facing a screening tomorrow." She answered, letting go of him.

"Who's 'we' and what's a screening?"

"The Gym. And a screening is literally the result of a complaint."

"Eh? Why? Did your sisters mess it up again?"

"This afternoon, while I was here, apparently."

"Of all the times the League actually decides to act quickly, it needs to be with your case, huh? But seeing this is partly my mistake as well, let me join you tomorrow."

"Oh, Ash, there's nothing you can do. And neither can I."

"I see..." The black haired boy said, looking a bit dejected. "Still, there's nothing they can involve you in, right?"

"No, but they can take away my sister's Gym rights and then I won't have any free time left."

"Ah..."

"I should actually be going too since they'd arrive early in the morning." She sighed. "Gosh, this is such a mess."

"Here, Mist, take Staraptor. She's big, powerful and will be able to take you to Cerulean in a matter of minutes." Ash said, already taking the Pokéball off his belt.

"Really?"

"Yup. Come on, I'll release her outside so she knows what's up."


"Oh, Ash, she's beautiful!" Misty gushed.

Staraptor puffed up her chest in response and already looked ready to fly her admirer to wherever she wanted to go.

"Isn't she? And it helps that I've flown over Kanto with her, so she knows the way. Don't you, girl?" Ash said, stroking the feathers underneath the Pokémon's beak.

"Starrrrr~"

"Can I send her back with her Pokéball, then?"

"Why don't you come to deliver it yourself when that screening is over? That way you can tell me what it resulted in."

"Alright, I will then. Thank you, Ash."

"No problem, Mist! Safe flight and good luck!"


With Misty's issue pretty much out of the way, Ash went back inside the house, where he was amused to see poor Tracey now trying to catch up with a pretty complicated conversation about Pokémon stats which Gary was discussing with Brock. Max was on the couch watching Pikachu make a spectacle of himself as he was mostly covered in ketchup. Iris was trying to look interested as May talked about an upcoming coordinating, which Dawn was following intently. And Cilan was amusing Delia with a very detailed review of the dinner they just had had. He had been praising her to the moon and back when Gary suddenly called out to Ash.

"Hey, Ash?"

"Yeah?"

"What would you have done if you could've chosen a different starter based on nature?"

"Euuuuuuhm..."

Ash purposely drew out his response, as he needed a bit of time to think about that question. It seemed to bring some sort of comfort to Tracey as well.

"I... don't think so. I mean, Pikachu was pretty much a major pain in the butt yet-"

"Pikachu pi!"

"Oh, come on. You're not going to tell me you were nice. You gave me the stink eye right as I released you and electrocuted both Professor Oak and me straight afterwards. I had to wear rubber gloves to even get you out of the laboratory so that you couldn't shock me. Well, you did anyway, but..."

The Pokémon managed to look a bit guilty underneath all the ketchup.

"But to answer your question, Gary. I don't know. I didn't get a choice when I got my starter but even then... What would the point be? Find a Pokémon that's perfectly compatible or...?"

"No, it's said that some natures are better for defence, some for attack... You could make a perfect Pokémon."

Brock scoffed at that.

"Perfect Pokémon? In what way?" the boy asked, slightly confused as he turned to look from Brock to Gary and back.

"Strength. Or speed. Defence. You know, the stats."

"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather first get to know their personality because before you know it, your perfect Pokémon might punch your face in if they don't like the look of you." Ash answered, making Tracey chuckled. "You've been looking into that Pokémon school project again, haven't you?"

"Their calculations are mostly spot on."

"Calculations? Gosh, try getting your Umbreon trained to those. Pokémon always rely on instinct."

"True, but if it's in their nature to react in the best way?"

"Yes, but what is the best reaction? Not every situation is solved by attacking something, or running off..."

"Maybe you're right..."

"But anyway, is stubborn one of the natures? 'Cause if it is, I know it raises attack."

"No, it's not really one of the selected natures." Gary answered amused, knowing the boy was referring to his Pokémon.

And then Max suddenly had gotten a laughing fit as Pikachu's ketchup bottle had somewhat exploded.

"What about stupid then?" Ash suggested cheekily as he walked off to get a wet cloth to clean up the mess.

The three boys had laughed at that and looked on as their friend returned from the kitchen.

"Biting at the end of the bottle isn't really the best way to get to the bottom bit, buddy." the teen chuckled, already trying to remove as much ketchup from his whining starter.

The boy was already happy his Pokémon hadn't used his tail, or else the ketchup would've been everywhere. While it would have been funny to see his mother act like she didn't care, he'd try to avoid it because all the trouble Pikachu caused eventually became his responsibility. But as he went to wash out the cloth, Ash managed to knock himself out in the most bizarre way possible.


"How could this even have happened?" Delia sighed, her hands on her cheeks as she didn't know what else to do with them.

A loud thump in the kitchen had made the three oldest teens run into that room, finding their friend knocked out. He still had the cloth in his hands and seemed to have rolled over just before he lost conscious, as Ash was laying on his side. If Brock wasn't so worried, he might have commended the teen for his good instinct but honestly, with the girls looking like they were going to cry any second now...

"Is he okay?" Dawn asked with a wavering voice, the first to kneel down next to the unconscious boy.

"Yeah, I think the thump we heard was him hitting his head against something. I can feel a bump on his head." Brock said. "Can someone get some ice or something?"

Delia shot into action, seemingly happy there was something she could do. While none the teens had expected their friend to get hurt -in his own house, for goodness' sake!-, it seemed like the woman had experience in treating bruises and the like, because some cold compresses were ready and waiting. When she brought one over, no one even dared to ask the reason why she had so many.

"He must've slipped over something." Cilan said instead, watching on as Brock gently laid the compress on the unconscious boy's forehead.

"But there's nothing here to slip over, not even a wet spot or a wonky tile!" May exclaimed, gesturing towards the pristine kitchen.

Seeing how Mrs. Ketchum was looking all over, as if the culprit of her son's unfortunate little accident was hiding under the floor tiles, Brock was hoping that Ash had already slipped. Because if there was a reason for the teen's accident, even he would need to suppress the urge to strangle whatever it was.

"Oh, dang, is Ash bleeding?" Iris asked, just far enough not to see anything.

"Of course not, Brock said he felt the bump!" Dawn exclaimed. "He wouldn't have missed blood on his hands!"

"I didn't hear about that-"

"Girls, can you just... shut up for a minute or so? And get out of here? I think Ash would like to be able to breath when he comes to."

The girls glared at Gary, who didn't seem impressed by it. At least they took the hint and left, because the kitchen really wasn't big enough for nine people, one of them laying on the floor. Not to mention Pikachu, who was sitting on the cabinet looking... undecided.

"S-should we get him from the floor? It's... going to be bad for him to lay down on it when it's so cold, right?"

Gary was definitely startled, not having seen the short boy with all the commotion. And it didn't help that Max looked really upset. All the teens present, even Delia, understood all to well what kind of Hero Ash might be in the boy's eyes... heck, even better than a Hero, because the black haired teen displayed all his natural flaws like medals.

"Of course, Max." Tracey wheedled, stepping in between the boy and the unconscious trainer. "Let's lead the way for the others, okay?" he added and gently guided Max out of the kitchen.

But Delia was quite ready to leave just yet. Because there was a notebook in her hands and the look in her eyes betrayed that she wanted to rip it to shreds.

"Do you... think Ash might have slipped over this?"

"That's Tracey's sketchbook." Brock said, looking up at it.

"I clearly remember having seen it on the table, because it was in my way the whole time. Why is it here all of a-"

Before the woman could even finish her sentence, the resident Mr. Mime happily walked past with the dishes. Which had been on the table prior to his cleaning. They could only stare as they saw the Pokémon move plenty of stuff Delia had told him not to touch. And then he went as far as to put a neatly folded towel on the bottom of the staircase. Good thing the staircase was actually visible from the kitchen door, where the woman had been standing, or another accident might be soon to follow.

"Mimey!" Delia exclaimed, moving out of the kitchen to take the offending object away from the dangerous spot. "You know I appreciate your help, but please remember the things you can touch and those you can't, like other people's stuff. And don't put anything on the floor or the stairs!"

"Mime!" the Pokémon agreed happily, only to hang his other towel on the railing and continued on his merry way.

"Un-be-lievable." the woman sighed, rubbing her forehead in irritation. "One of these days..."

"Don't worry, Mrs. Ketchum, Ash has a hard head, we know that from experience." Cilan offered. "He'll be fine."

Needless to say, Delia hadn't looked convinced but had enough manners not to talk back to the well-meaning boy. But that didn't mean that she didn't keep a very close look on how Gary and Brock carried her son towards the biggest couch in the living room. And not too long after the teen had been gently deposited in the soft piece of furniture, Ash blearily opened his eyes, squinting at the light.

An audible sigh of relief could be heard and the mood in the room lifted almost instantly. Pikachu was quick to jump up the couch and snuggle against his trainer's stomach. But Brock didn't like the look of confusion on his friends' face.

"Ash? Are you okay?"

"... Brock?" the teen answered, frowning even more.

"Yes?"

"... Where did you get those extra heads from?"


Delia had looked like she really wanted to strangle Tracey, who meekly accepted his sketchbook. While it was clear that there was nothing really wrong with Ash, except that he was suffering from some common symptoms of a concussion, she was very displeased her son got hurt in the first place. The teens were slightly dubious when she turned to them, but it seemed like Ash being awake was stopping her from combusting an a explosion of accusations and what not.

But thanks to their travels, everyone knew the boy was a trouble magnet... chances were that he never even told his mom what happened to him and the people he travelled with. No one blame him for it now, though, seeing how Delia behave when she just had a whiff of trouble. Yeah, they were worried about Ash too, but they knew he had lived from worse accidents.

"So... Who's going to sleep where?" was the question that broke the ice a bit.

The only issue was that it was a hassle to give all the teens a place to sleep... and get them to leave Ash and go to bed. Oh, Delia would have loved to camp around the coach, but young Max had a point in saying that sleeping on a floor, even in a usually warm place such as Pallet, was a bad idea. Thanks to the big emotions this accident had awakened in everyone, they just couldn't get to a conclusion.

"Come on, kids." Delia sighed. "There's no use in arguing. You can't all fit in this living room and I'm not letting you sleep on the floor while there are available beds. Besides, we're only making Ash's headache worse, so come to a conclusion, please? Or I'll do it for you."

"O-okay, why don't we do it this way?" Dawn suggested carefully. "Brock and Cilan can stay here, since they have the best knowledge on what to do should anything else happen to Ash. And then May and Max can go sleep in Ash's room, since he's got a cot hidden somewhere. Iris and I can do to the spare bedroom and then Tracey can go sleep in the bed in the attic."

That seemed more than reasonable and so the group nodded, despite the fact that Tracey seemed dubious about the desicion. But with Delia being in the mood she was, he didn't have the guts to talk back.

"Alright, let's do it that way, then, if you're all agreeing on it." the tired woman sighed, somewhat happy there was still someone who had the ability to think clearly present in the group. "You all know where the bathroom is, so go brush your teeth before you go to bed, okay?"

"Okay!"

"I'll just go home, then, Mrs. Ketchum." Gary said, nodding at Delia. "Call me when there's anything I can do."

"I will, though I'm sure Ash is okay now."

"Alright, see you all later."

The colourful group dispersed around the house and soon Brock and Cilan found themselves alone with the boy who didn't quite seem to know what to make off this whole situation. Delia had brought them some blankets, so they could keep warm throughout the night.

"... Brock?" Ash asked, when he saw his friend with the blanket.

"Yes, Ash?"

"Was it me... or was mom a little scary?"

The teen couldn't help but chuckle as he covered the young trainer with the cosy fleece blanket.

"Yeah, you're right. But that's what mothers are for, right?"

"Mmm..."


Tracey was slightly displeased as he moved to the upstairs, annoyed because his sketchpad was pretty much ruined and that he had to go into the stuffy attic. Little did he know that this was the place that Ash actually used to store pictures along with other souvenirs of his travels there and usually occupied it during rainy days. It was rather cheery and most of all clean, since the teen did respect the trophies he had neatly stored on the shelves. And well, if he was cleaning those, there was no reason to stop there, or so Ash figured.

Needless to say that the teen was bewildered when he noticed that the attic was nothing like he imagined. Tracey actually smiled because this room actually felt more like the friend he knew then the boy's own bedroom. In a way, he felt rather privileged to be here and figured that he'd have something to look at in the case that he couldn't sleep.

Downstairs, the girls were getting ready but still had one main thing in mind.

"Oh, I do really hope he's fine." the blue haired girl sighed. "Mrs. Ketchum looked so worried... I doubt that she'll be getting any sleep."

"He's simply a bit concussed, Dawn, it'll probably be okay. And really, he recognised Brock straight away, so that means there's no damage or anything."

"... Really? You seem to know quite a bit about medical things, huh?"

"Of course." Iris said proudly. "I've always watched plenty of TV shows and those kinds of ailments really interest me."

"Still..." Dawn insisted. "If there's a crack in his skull, we wouldn't notice."

"I doubt whether he would have woken up so fast if that was the case."

Dawn really couldn't bring herself to keep listening to Iris' explanation about her dubious interest and theories she had and so, focused on Ash and the accident. Her heart had worked in overdrive when she had seen him laying there, unmoving... and oh, so pale. The teen usually was such a bundle of life, almost constantly bouncing towards another adventure and she loved that about him.

And when she had met up with his old and new friends, it was clear that this was what attracted them as well. So, seeing how worried and deadly serious they had become when it turned out he was hurt, the girl felt like Ash might have to do some apologising tomorrow. And with Mrs. Ketchum, the lovely woman and good host, suddenly turning into a goddess of vengeance... Tracey's sketchbook probably had two holes in the cover, that heated her stare had been.

If anything, Dawn would really like it if she would wake up tomorrow and that everything would be fine. That they could all smile and joke around again, with Ash being his good, old, radiant self again.


Her rest had been filled with really bad dreams and so, Delia soon found herself getting out of bed, even at this ungodly hour. Yes, five in the morning wasn't usually the hour she got out of bed, but she wanted to make sure her son was okay... and hadn't suddenly passed away while everyone was sleeping peacefully. The woman shook her head, trying to get rid of these gloomy thoughts, very much influence by the dreams earlier.

'It'll be fine.' she thought, trying to calm herself as she wrapped a nightgown around her and went down the stairs. 'I'll just go downstairs, have a cup of coffee and see Ashy sleep peacefully.'

But her heart rate skyrocketed when she found the couch her son should've been in... empty. And cold, meaning he hadn't been in this for hours.

"... Boys?" the woman asked, already leaning against the nearest couch, feeling rather faint.

The uneven, sudden voice startled the two boys, of course, but what had truly woken them up was how dire and emotional the one word had sounded. Bewildered, Cilan threw his blanket off him and locked eyes with the empty couch. A string of courses left his mouth as he shot up and started calling out the teen's name as he started checking all the rooms. Delia didn't have the strength to tell him off for the cursing, but it helped wake up Brock as well, who quickly got the gist of what was going on.

"Oh God no!"

All the ruckus had woken all the other teen and since they all instigated their own search. However, how faint Delia might be feeling, she suddenly didn't lose her mind, and as such, called Officer Jenny. Seeing the well-meaning children being guided back into the house was rather sad, because they were highly upset but...

"The only thing you lot are going to find is hypothermia or a pneumonia." she chided. "If I didn't know you were all worried, I would think you all to be utterly crazy, lofting around in your pyjama's like that."

"But we need to find him!" Tracey exclaimed, even though he's the one the Officer is actually pushing forward the most.

"Not like this and not when you're going to be in the way of professionals."

"Oh, so you're a professional?"

The woman never even deemed that worthy of a response and so, all the teens had been left at Delia's household. Though, thanks to Professor Oak, who literally was wearing his lab coat over his own pair of pyjama's, Delia stayed put. That much couldn't be said about Pikachu, who straight up shot out of the door after having looked heartbroken by the statement that his trainer was missing.

The whole of Pallet Town got a nice, early wake-up call as well, with the G-men arriving with rumbling jeeps and helicopters. In fact, it made so much noise, not even the Beedrill felt the need to come and see what was making it. But no one there minded, as all the residents knew the boy well and felt for the woman. Ash was all she had felt fro her immediate family, safe from a few people abroad. Thanks to them, the teens staying at the house got some breakfast, even thought they weren't really hungry. And Delia got a lot of support from the busybodies there too, seeing there was nothing to gossip about. Everything was on full display for everyone to see, after all.

And around about ten in the morning, someone came to Pallet, on a Pokémon she had borrowed... only to land in a place that had turned into a war zone overnight.


The girl couldn't give to cents about being stared at and she dared either of those G-men to come stop her from going to the house where two, armed men, were waiting at the door. They too glanced at her, but thanks to her expression looking nothing short of apocalyptic, they didn't say or do anything to stop her from going into the house. The door opened too fast as well, which did nothing good for her mood.

"What the hell happened?" she asked, tilting her head to the side, showing she absolutely didn't have a clue what was going on.

Staraptor, who was warily glancing around, seemed anything but comfortable and when Pokémon showed unease, you better hold onto your hats, because it wouldn't be good.

"Ash. He... He's gone, Misty."

The girl didn't even need to turn around to check whether Staraptor was still there, as the squawk and gust of wind behind her was proof enough that the Pokémon had just left. See whether the G-men could stop this one from trying to get to Ash. Now Brock, who had been the one to open the door, looked horrible and...

"W-what? How?!"

"I don't know!" the teen answered, swinging the door fully open so that the girl could enter.

"Misty." the familiar voice of Professor Oak said urgently. "Promise me you won't make a scene and I will tell you what we know so far."

"H-how can I not make a- Heck, hasn't that ship sailed? The whole town has been invaded, I-"

"Need to calm down. Please, Misty, there's nothing you can do now. You can trust the G-men."

"Screw them! What's keeping you from going there yourself and-"

"Been there, done that." May sighed, her voice hoarse and eyes red and puffy. "Officer Jenny came to get us out of the woods."

Misty deflated visibly, so Professor Oak gently laid his hand on her shoulder.

"Call you sisters, Misty, and sit down."

The sitting down part was the only thing that she actually seemed to have heard and so the Professor went to call the Waterflowers, knowing that Misty would remain here until Ash was found. Or even longer.

"S-so..." the red-haired girl said, swallowing hard as her feelings were doing multiple 180°'s. "What's happened?"

"We think he walked out, not really knowing where he was going, thanks to that concussion of his... making the possibilities of where he went endless." Iris answered, sounding strangely clear-headed. "He might just even thought to simply sit somewhere... or might have mistaken the front for his bedroom door."

"So.. that could mean... that if he went out, Ash would automatically turn to the right." Brock said, sounding as if he had an epiphany. "That rules out him having gone to the left side, where all that was waiting for him was water!"

"Very sensitive." Misty all but growled as Dawn started crying... again.

"Look, you can try and tell one of those G-men at the door that but... for all we know, he's just sitting somewhere in the woods, wondering what's going on, with a thumping headache." Tracey said and sounded too desperate to actually be believable. "The G-men will find him and we'll have Ash back with us soon enough. Let's just... stay here. There's nothing we can do except being send back inside anyway."

On that, they all agreed, as the experience of being manhandled once was enough to convince them that they were in the way instead of helping. Not that they liked the idea of letting Ash be found by strangers... but the G-men were professionals and so, they would let them do their job.


Outside, a red-haired man sighed as he looked at the cap in his hands. It looked familiar and he was pretty sure that it would lead them to solve this case. Only, the cap wasn't enough. He needed the rest of the kid and soon, because there was blood on it.

"I suppose we at least know what way he went, right?" he asked, looking at the large range of trees to the right of Pallet.

Of all the places, the kid went into Route 1. And according to were this cap was found, he was even further in, having walked straight into Viridian forest. Taking into consideration that the wind was blowing towards them, it would make sense. What didn't quite add up, was that a Kanto native had just strolled into one of the most dangerous places this region could offer. Granted, it would've been worse if he'd gone to the Victory Road... but that was something Lance didn't want to think about. Not that it would've been the first time he'd need to squeeze himself through one of the Diglett created holes to rescue a lost trainer.

"Yes, sir. I have found a witness who claims she has seen a boy walked past here around half past 11." an assisting officer said, looking up from his notebook.

"... Who?"

"Nurse Joy from Viridian Pokémon Centre, sir. She saw him through the window of the room where she takes a break. Said window is pointed towards Viridian forest as well."

"Right, I suppose we can put up the trailer in front of the entrance and one close to the exit, so no one can come out or in of the forest without our knowledge. Also, if you can call the Arcanine squad? We might need to have them scan the area if the boy is unconscious or hurt."

"Yes, sir."

And with that, the officer left, leaving the man with his thoughts. For now, he needed the confirmation that this cap actually belonged to the missing boy. And while that posed a risk of upsetting the mother of the teen, he needed to know.


The front door was closed, of course, but considering things, it was a development Lance could only applaud. And when he knocked, it opened instantly, but that was to be expected.

"M-Mr. Lance?"

"Hello, Miss Waterflower. Would you mind if I came in for a bit? I have some news to share."

"N-not at all." the girl answered, moving out of the way instantly. "Do come in."

"Thank you."

Once inside, the man sighed. He had instantly recognised the disarray caused by a disappearance. These kinds of environments weren't strange to him any longer, being in the G-Men business for so long. But if there were any cases Lance didn't like, it would definitely be the missing person ones, especially if minors were involved. Or that it was someone he had known quite well.

"Mrs. Ketchum?" he asked, carefully approaching the woman.

Delia didn't look up right away. She probably only would have if Ash himself had come in but that absolutely and unmistakeably wasn't the case... If anything, it seemed like she was a bit dazed as her reactions were rather delayed.

"Mrs. Ketchum, we had found something." Lance urged, putting the cap straight in her view. "Can you tell me whether this belongs to your son? I know he wears a cap but I remember it being a different one, so I'm not sure whether this is his."

The woman looked at it and gently pulled it towards her. Her eyes started watering as she put it close to her chest and nodded.

'That's a yes.' the Champion thought.

"T-these caps are all he's got left of his father, Lance..." Delia answered, looking at him the kind of worry only a mother's eyes could have in them. "Along with some pictures but... h-he would never live it down if he was missing one."

"So... If there was someone who'd try to get it back from me...?"

Now everyone in the room looked at him, thanks to that statement. But this was the development he needed their help with.

"Y-you... think he's still out there?" the woman asked.

"I do."

"W-why wouldn't my baby come back to me?"

"Whoever was after this cap, ran away as soon as anyone approached."

"Ash would never run away from anyone."

That was Gary, who definitely knew that his childhood friend wasn't a coward or easily startled. With or without the concussion.

"Look, we need to take into account that he is hurt. This could cause a panic reaction." Lance answered, slightly annoyed because he wanted this case fixed as fast as possible.

Ash was known and liked in the League, which was dangerous territory. One mistake, and the forest would be full of well-meaning people, who were basically walking in each other's way.

"Then what do you suggest?"

"That I could use this cap to see whether we can trap whoever is after this. For all we know it could be Ash."

"There's no way he'd be foolish enough to try and get it from G-Men." Iris mumbled. "He might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he's not aggressive by nature either. There's a lot a concussion can cause in a person but..."

"C-can you please stop that, Iris?" Dawn sniffled, who only recently stopped crying. "I get you know a lot about it, b-but..."

"I'm sorry." the girl said quickly. "I'm sure Ash has just found a kindred soul to help him get back the cap. If he's... as adamant as Mrs. Ketchum says he'd be to get that cap back, it might be that a Pokémon found him and that that was actually the first thing he asked. Maybe even the only thing. Ash's always been straightforward..."

Lance nodded, glad that someone at least saw sense. It definitely explained the monstrous power that the being had performed as it played tug-of-war with one of his Dragonite... and nearly won the game as well. There was only so much adrenaline could do and the traumatologist on site had already advised them to find the boy as quickly as possible since he might not have much energy or life left.

"But at any rate, please stay calm and try worry too much."

"I'll try, Mr. Lance." Delia sniffed. "But Ash was already so out of it yesterday..."

"I get it, Mrs. Ketchum. I'll do my utmost best to make sure I can return your son to you."

The man took a deep breath before leaving the house, with the thankful look of the woman had sent him, following and making him even more uneasy than before. He just hoped that the purple haired girl was right about the Pokémon thing because that meant the boy was still alive to ask for help. If he wasn't... well... Then that'd be a bit of a problem.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

"S-sir, there has been a development." a rather pale member of his crew reported, somewhat messing up his salute.

"Yes?"

"We found a severed leg, cut up in a way that... made us not even try and preserve it."

Lance frowned and dropped everything he had been busy with.

"Show me."

"Yes, sir."

The crew member took him quite deeply into the forest but despite having seen quite some bloody cases, the sight of this leg made the man's stomach churn. It really looked like someone had been incredibly angry and worked it out on the severed body piece... and that was very disturbing. What was even more weird was that while there was plenty of blood on the grass and ground, there was no trail of it, ruling out the possibility of Ash having been dragged off somewhere... But that also excluded the fact that a Pokémon did it.

'Unless it flew up or teleported.' the man thought, brow frowned in deep thought. 'But what kind of flying or psychic type would be so cruel to mutilate someone this way?'

"Forensics are busy determining the blood type, but so far, they have concluded that the material around the parts is jeans and that the foot has a very badly tied sport shoe on."

"Typical trainer outfit, I would say." Lance answered, definitely not going to bend down to get a closer look. "But we need to get those Arcanines in here now. Even if there's no trail of blood, the possibility of the kid having been healed on the spot is depressingly low. Which means we need to hurry."

"Yes, sir!"

The Champion briskly marched towards the centre of their set-up office, their head quarters. By the time he got there, Lance got the confirmation that the blood and leg were Ash's blood type and that the remains of the outfit matched the description of the boy's clothes. Delia was probably a crying mess by now, but the man felt like doing so as well. He would never have thought to ever see this happen to someone as carefree as Ash and it hurt more than he was willing to admit.

'Why is it always the ones I like that get the most hits?' he thought grimly and went outside.

He could hear the familiar sniffing of the Arcanine, which was a blessing for his own nerves. If the kid was missing a leg, then the chances of him being in shock were extremely high. Even if he didn't leave a trail of blood, the Pokémon could detect whiffs of the teen's scent in the air and -bless them and their nose- detect teleportation. These beast were his salvation in many ways and Lance prayed to every God listening that they would do it yet again. If they didn't find the boy within an hour, chances were he wouldn't make it.

"The Arcanine Team has joined, sir."

"Good." the Champion said and stuffed the cap, which had been on his mind prior to the gruesome discovery, under his vest. "Let's go."

As he approached the group, met with many curious, sniffing noses, Lance wondered why he had ever let himself be talked into doing missing person and Pokémon cases. Mr. Goodshow had advised him to relax with his Champion duties, but this on the other hand, would cause a lot more grief to him than snotty-nosed trainers.

"Sir!" the leader of the group greeted.

"I wish there was time for more elaborate greetings but we don't have it. The victim is a fourteen year old, possibly in shock and unconscious. He has lost a high amount of blood, so let your Arcanine have a sniff at the sample we've prepared and go."

"Yes, sir!"

The group of large, fierce looking but thankfully obedient Arcanine sprung into action when their trainers gave the signal to start moving. And soon after they had a sniff at the sample, they shot off, their trainers swiftly following with trackers.

"Call in with medical assistance and put them on standby."

The man closest to Lance nodded and hurried off, disappearing in one of the large vans that were part of their mobile head-quarters. With a sigh, the Champion let his shoulders drop, trying to get rid of some of the tension. He knew that there was no reason why he would go trudging into that godforsaken forest, knowing fully well he could be face to face with a Beedrill all of a sudden. And if he didn't know anyone else but another Arcanine would be in the way of the search team, he would have let loose Flygon... though the dragon was mostly skilled in finding dead people...

Lance sighed and pushed the negative thoughts from his head, figuring he might try and pick his co-workers' brains while he was here anyway. There still was this Pokémon who had it out for the cap and while they hadn't noticed anything, it might still be near. Yet, as the man turned around, he noticed that the Pokémon was extremely near. This wasn't the first close encounter, so Lance didn't really panic and stupidly enough, the first thought that popped up in his head was that this creature shouldn't even be here in Kanto.

"Rufflet, Air Slash!"

The trickster Pokémon got blown away, slamming into the side of the closest van. It looked like it was down for the count, but Lance wasn't going to underestimate it and let it be. After all, this was the thing that had almost ripped one of their vans in half, to try get this cap... And heck, this Pokémon was able to transform into different species, so in the man's eyes, the Zoroark was a prime suspect. So, he quickly called Salamence out his Pokéball, instructing it to hold the Zoroark captive for now.

Said dragon eyed the unconscious Pokémon for a bit, snorted and, as per usual, went for the most effective solution and went to lay on top of the strange creature. Salamence was very aware of its own weight so it snuggled itself nicely on top of the Zoroark, which groaned as it woke up, now also aware of the dragon's weight.

"Thank you, officer, that was a clean and fast intervention." Lance commented, nodding at the man whose Rufflet had gone to sit down on his shoulder.

It and its trainer looked rather proud, but for now, the man wanted to concentrate on the weird Pokémon, which seemed to be getting aware of the predicament it was in. However, that didn't mean it was going to go down without a fight. With plenty of vigour, it started squirming to fight its way from under the Salamence. Considering that his Pokémon was having some difficulty keeping the Zoroark at bay, Lance decided to intervene.

There was no way that a Pokémon as strong as this one had no sense at all. Even if it only was an opportunist, it wouldn't be this persistent without a good reason, right? So the man decided to face it.

"Hey, you, listen." The man said. "I know you can understand me, so look at me."

The Zoroark did look at him and grew still, but didn't look happy. Its lip was slightly raised in a silent growl, so the Johto Champion wasn't going to underestimate it.

"You found someone, didn't you?"

The Pokémon didn't budge and was currently trying to stare down the man in front of it. But Lance wasn't having it, already used to worse treatments from his own Pokémon.

"You found someone who asked you to bring this back to him, right?"

This time, he got a growl, even though the man wasn't sure whether it was a confirmation or just a sign of aggression. However, Salamence was giving it the stink eye and the Zoroark didn't seem to be born yesterday either, already looking calmer than before. Considering things, Lance figured the growl might fit in the confirmation option and hoped it wasn't just him and his wishful thinking.

"I need to get to the boy. I know he's hurt and that he needs medical attention really soon, so please take us to him."

The Pokémon blinked and growled again. It didn't seem aggressive any longer, but that didn't mean Lance suddenly understood Pokémon language fluently.

"Look, was that a 'yes' or a 'no'? Just… nod if it was 'yes'."

Zoroark nodded and squirmed again. One of its paws had gotten from under Salamence and was now greedily reaching for the man's vest as if it knew that the cap was there. Lance sighed in annoyance, as his mind translated this action into 'there's not much time'.

"I'm trusting you with this, as you're our only lead. You can have the cap, but let us follow you."

The Pokémon nodded again, so the man gave it the cap. As soon as the Zoroark had a good hold of it, it shot off, but seemed to wait by the tree line. Lance recalled Salamance and called out Flygon, who was the fastest in his whole team. The dragon sniffed as it turned to its owner with a confused look.

"No time, buddy, we're trying to find a boy, so keep your focus."

The Flygon snorted, which apparently was some sort of sign, because the man nodded.

"Yes, blood. Follow me."


The Zoroark was definitely leading the two somewhere and coincidentally, it was in the complete different direction where the Arcanine had shot off to. So the probability that the Pokémon had taken Ash somewhere and teleported somewhere totally different was very high. Which meant that it must have been running away from something, since this kind of escape route that only those with a really sensitive nose could track. And Pokémon like the one Lance imagine capable of cutting off someone's leg as cleanly as the one they had found, with sharp cutters and pinches, were mostly bugs... who had no sense of smell at all, only hearing.

His feet had the amazing ability to still keep following something when his brain was busy with something completely different, which was why he bumped into the Zoroark. It gave him an even gaze, seemingly not minding it... but then the Pokémon jumped over another bush... and that was when Lance saw the boy they had been looking for, along with the bird Pokémon that was reported to have run off after having heard the news that their trainer had gone missing.

"Oh, thank Arceus!" he exclaimed, wrestling his way through the shrubbery.

But as the man got closer, swiftly followed by his dragon, he could see that the boy wasn't moving at all and... His hand automatically found its way to his own alarm signal, which would alert medical personnel and fellow G-men that he needed assistance. It was only a matter of time before people would flock towards this spot, so Lance tried to calm himself with the thought that help would soon arrive.

For now, the man figured he might as well go through the DR ABC measure he and his team commonly used when they found someone injured. It would probably not mean much to Ash, but it would do wonders for Lance's nerves... and no one would be able to deem him unprofessional either.

So far, it seemed like D(danger) wasn't anything he should be concerned about. No one would come past the defensive looking Zoroark or Flygon, who had been affected with its trainer's worries. With led him to the R(response), which was clearly a superfluous measure, as Ash was clearly unconscious. And because of that, Lance refused to touch him, because heaven knew what other damage was hidden underneath the bloodied material.

Gently snaking a hand around the boy's wrist and one just underneath his chin, Lance went and to see whether A(Airway), B(breathing) and C(circulation) were okay and heavens above, it was. He sighed in relief when it seemed the boy was simply unconscious. Still, both his hands were covered in blood now, since it was everywhere... He was just about to sit down and turn away for a second when he was nose to nose with one of the Arcanine.

One lick told Lance enough, the Arcanine had detected that he was in shock, which was strange, because the man felt rather clear-headed. But, being a G-men Leader or not didn't mean you suddenly were unaffected by emotions... so the man let the Pokémon do its thing. There was no stopping them, because these Arcanines were trained to do this, so yeah, he got licked for a while.

Until its trainer got out of the bushes, at least and along with him, a whole mass of people joined in. Lance was happy to be able to detach him from this situation for a bit, because it was getting to him. He was good at stomaching these kinds of events, but he would have gone straight home if there wasn't a report desperately waiting to be written. Thankfully, the most dire part about this case was over and done with... even if the Zoroark had mysteriously disappeared and somehow managed to get Ash's cap in Flygon's claws without the Pokémon even noticing it.

The dragon didn't make too much of an issue out of it and basically handed the cap over to Lance, who gently took it. The man knew he was going to have to tell Delia that her son had been found and hand her this cap again... But he was tired.

"Ah, hello there, long time no see!" a person asked, too cheerful to actually have been part of the team.

The man turned and resisted the urge to groan.

'Why me?' he thought.

This... 'researcher' was more a bother than a help but thanks to his fatigue, he made a really big mistake, namely telling where the boy's mother stayed.


Inside the house, of which the occupants were completely unaware of what was occurring outside, the teens amused themselves with talking a bit about the past. It helped calm down Pikachu and Delia, who both looked ready to blow up at any given moment. The Pokémon had come back to the house, not having been successful in finding his trainer and boy, did that give him a bad mood?

So if all of the ones present in the room needed to strain themselves to act a bit more happy than they actually felt, they'd do so, if only it'd save them from being roasted by a very stressed Pikachu. Max had tried to touch the Pokémon but had quickly taken distance from him after seeing the all too familiar electrical current on Pikachu's cheeks.

"It'll be fine, Pikachu, Lance is one of the investigators there is, so if there's anyone you can trust to find Ash, it's him." the boy said, trying to calm him down a bit.

It didn't look like it was working, though and Max couldn't help but frown.

"He's met Lance, Max. So Pikachu realises that as well." Misty said softly, having decided to stick around.

After all, she had come to Pallet to bring Ash the good news of the screening, so she had plenty of free time. And with her sisters having gotten a good scare, they were sure to do a good job, or at least better than before. They understood, though, because the women did like Ash plenty. Next to understanding, they were worried as well and would've joined their sister, if only they hadn't realised they wouldn't be able to contribute to anything by coming to Pallet as well.

"Eh? When?"

"When we were travelling. Ash, Brock and I accidentally bumped into some business with Team Rocket."

"T-Team Rocket? Aren't they super scary?"

"No, they're bumbling idiots, the lot of them." she sighed. "After all, who'd be so stupid to actually force a Magikarp to evolve, after all."

"Ah..."

The youngest of the group had plenty of sense to know that Lance probably was the one to calm or even capture the enraged Gyarados. Those Pokémon were bad enough just by normally evolving, leaving trails of havoc far beyond the borders of Kanto. And judging from the fact that he never actually saw Lance use any Gyarados, meant that either the man never caught it, or that it still was seriously unhappy after all this time.

"Wonder why such a hotshot suddenly made it his daytime job to hunt for lost trainers, though?" Gary huffed.

"He's a friend of my husband," Delia said curtly. "And if I ever hear you say that my son isn't important enough again, you're not setting foot inside this house anymore, understood?"

"Y-yes, ma'am..."

Seeing the red-haired teen visibly shrink a bit was oddly satisfying, though only because most in the room thought him to be pretty mean. But Gary had a good sense of humour, which was good to have around at times like these. However, no one missed the little piece of information Ash never had talked about.

"So... Does that make Ash's father a really strong trainer? Like... A champion?" Max asked carefully, not wanting to get the worried mother's wrath on him as well.

"Kanto doesn't have a Champion, Max." Gary answered.

"No, not anymore, no." the woman answered. "Ash is all I have left, s-so..."

If the mood hadn't been below sub-zero before, it certainly was now. The implication dropped like a brick, making the teens in the room feel really bad at every jab they had given at Ash's expense after he'd told them it was his dream to be a Pokémon Master. Of course, he'd want to be, if only to be like his father... Or at least find the man.

Those who lived in Kanto knew that their Champion had just disappeared from the surface of the earth, while those not from the region only had heard rumours and gossip. Yet, if the pain Delia was facing now, was only a fraction of what Ash might've felt after having lost his father, then maybe their friend might not have always been as happy-go-lucky as he had appeared to be.

Especially Gary looked a bit pale now and if the occasional glance towards the door was anything to go by, he was probably plotting his escape. In a moment where no one was looking at him, the red-haired teen had actually moved towards the door and opened it not too long after. He hadn't expected someone to actually be standing there, though.

"Bonjour." the man said happily, even lifting his little hat in greeting. "Is this where I can find Madame Ketchum?"


So yeah, Gary hadn't been able to escape, but he was kind of glad he hadn't. The man who amicably introduced himself as Étienne, a local busybody to the police and G-men, did tell them that Lance had send him, to tell them about what had happened and what still was going to happen. No one minded anyone who brought news, be it good or bad news, because they wanted to know how Ash was doing. It was clear he knew something about his state, as he had the cap with him, which he handed to Delia...

Yet, instead of talking about the black haired teen, Étienne started telling them about kinetic energy, an force left behind when Psychic Pokémon performed any kind of psychic move. The energy field would actually vary in strength, depending on the power of the attach that had been performed. And, of course, there were Pokémon who left such a big field behind by simply appearing, even though they were of a mythical status and rather rare to spot on this earth.

"Mind you, when that kind of Pokémon do come visit us, I usually end up in the arms of the local authorities, gaining me my status." the man said with a smile, lighting the mood a bit. "I'm not usually very welcome, so I do feel the need to tell you that Lance wasn't pleased to see me... Which is why it's me who's explaining this to you."

"Why, sir?" Dawn asked confused.

This strange visitor seemed to be rather okay to her, so why would they be so averse to him?

"Lance is a man with his feet on earth, Miss, he doesn't believe in this, as he so aptly calls it, 'psychic mumbo-jumbo'. However, he's now massively also displeased that my kind of explanation finally makes sense to him."

"Oh..."

And then Étienne told them about how bad this kinetic energy actually was for people. Apparently, when the powerful Psychic Pokémon appeared, the field they released was already bad enough to make people nauseous, or lose consciousness... or, if the field was strong enough, kill or mutilate them. He gave them a series of rather terrible examples and occurrences. Right now, it wasn't that unimaginable as to why people didn't really like him, though... the man was just being really crude.

"But... Is Ash affected by this energy, sir?" May asked carefully. "Is that why you're telling us this?"

"Yes, indeed. Unfortunately so, though. He's also very much alive, only, since he is not conscious, there's no indication to how badly the kinetic energy has affected him mentally. What is extraordinary in his case, is that the energy didn't seem to affect his body negatively, even though I could feel the field so well and I wasn't even near. Have you been notified his left leg was separated from the rest of his body?"

The teens admired Delia's calm attitude, as she simply shook her head.

"No, sir. You're the only one who has told us anything so far."

"Ah, do not worry, Madame, as I said, your son is okay!" Étienne answered happily. "Though it is incredibly fascinating what happened yesterday, late in the evening. It was truly unique and I'm so happy I was there to record it."

He had had the nerve of actually drawing a plan and mark where Ash had been standing as, according to his hypothesis, two or even more portals had opened up and had affected the teen. Adding the detail on how one of the portal might've been so strong, it could've ripped off the teen's leg, none of the people in the room were amused. In fact, it was rather strange to see Brock fight with the urge to strangle the man.

"… I-I don't know how to feel about your fascination, sir." Delia uttered, looking rather upset. "I truly appreciate your explanation but…"

"I understand, I truly do. But maybe you can find comfort in the fact that your son survive a confrontation with the Legendary Pokémon, which I believe to be the most active pair to argue in our dimension, Palkia and Dialga. And I do believe he was healed by a well-meaning being that did not have any idea how a human person is actually build."

The woman stared at him and apparently, that forced the man to explain himself even further. He did repeat the boy was alive and that the being actually restored his leg, or at least, up to the knee-joint, however screwed it now looked... But he also added that there was no articulation and that the blood flow to it would be an issue as well. And if the innocent Pokémon, which he even guessed to be a Mew, noticed he had a concussion or any head injury, it might've done some irreparable damage to the boy's brain.

Needless to say, when the man left, most felt slightly panicked. They couldn't really phantom what had happened, as the explanation had been so long and just so confusing. In fact, they still didn't know anything about what had actually happened. And that's when Gary went to get his grandfather, to see whether he help could get some colour back on Delia's face.


"Kinetic energy, you say, hm?" the man repeated, looking thoughtful after having heard the full story.

"Yes." Brock nodded. "This man, Étienne, I believe, he said something about Ash getting healed by a Mew."

"Ah… Yes, I can see how that could be some sort of issue." The professor said. "But you shouldn't worry too much about it. I know who you're talking about and I've noticed first hand that he loves a bit of drama. For one, the best example of what kinetic energy does to a person is Étienne himself, since he's been searching for these fields and come into contact with them more than he should. He's so out of touch with people and only focussed on the science part... that he has a habit of making people feel bad or worse than they were already feeling... Which is why several people don't like him, Lance included."

"I don't blame him." Misty huffed. "Look at Pikachu, he's ready to murder someone."

The old man had to repress a sigh and stop himself from telling her that the Johto Champion didn't like the researcher because kinetic energy was a killer kind of force. At one point, the League had been chasing Étienne, as they had thought him to be responsible for the deaths. However, since it still happened, even with the moody man locked up, they were forced to let him go... and as an apology, he got free range to meddle into affairs that had anything to do with the psychic fields. So Lance hated Étienne's gut, because there was nothing he could do to stop him now.

"Now, now, calm down, everyone. Psychic Pokémon aren't the best healers on this planet, but they make do. Plenty of them have had practice on themselves already, so honestly, Ash is better off healed by a Mew or whatever Pokémon it was, than bleeding to death." Professor Oak said, pointedly ignoring the looks he got for that last, crude remark.

"C-can't you get any more information through the League?" the overly worried mother asked. "I-I mean, is it even normal that we get some kind of charlatan to tell us such sensitive news? To add minors in this investigation?"

"I doubt it, Delia, the League won't really know, as Lance can really be similar to a vault whenever he wishes to be. And I have a feeling he's going to be very annoyed at this moment, considering he's probably heard the same thing from Étienne as you all did, which is information he can't use or needs. And from what I know, the hospital will always call you firstly, Delia, when they're done with their tests. The best thing you can do is to calm yourself and wait until an actual professional has given you their opinion on the matter."

"Is that really all we can do?" Iris asked, disbelief etched on her face, not at all happy with that kind of answer.

"Remains to be seen. It pains me to say it but Étienne knows his stuff. When he predicts trouble, there will be some. After all, he's part of the trouble, so he should know." the man said amused. "Let's just now be glad that Ash is found and in the best hands he can be right now."

"Yes…" Delia sighed, a small smile on her face. "You're right, Professor."

Professor Oak nodded at her, happy to have been able to ease some of her worries. One of these days, though, he'd go and face Lance about the difference of allowing someone to meddle and that of giving someone the task of actually sharing sensitive information with the family of the victim when they aren't trained for it. Étienne was valuable, but not as a psychologist or anything that involved the human emotional spectrum. He was already bad enough to face when you were in a happy mood, completely healthy so the Professor knew Delia might not feel up too much more now.

However, it was important that she was okay because she had several teens that depended on her and her care right now. Alright, so they had all travelled and had been wonderfully independent... but with this emotional luggage, they'd probably not manage. And really, they were of vital importance, as the man assured them countless times because Ash might not actually be okay right away.

Even if he was bodily healthy, he did probably go through something traumatic, if the loss of his leg was anything to go by. That there were plenty of people around him, to distract and to give him the confidence and courage he'd need to relearn how to walk, with the aid of a prosthetic leg, was mightily important if they wanted Ash to be somewhat the same as he used to be. If anything, he'd already been a handful, so if they weren't careful, he'd turn into an armful. Professor Oak wasn't too sure whether Delia would be able to handle that, though...

That being said, the visiting teens were also helping the woman handle the emptiness that she would have been faced with because of her son's disappearance. It also gave her something to do while they were playing the typical waiting game that was always involved with any kind of hospital business. And at the same time, Delia was there to keep an eye on the kids, while they could keep an eye on the woman as well, one of the advantages of social control. It would keep them all from doing something really stupid... like calling Lance or anyone from the League, for example.


Whilst Delia was trying to recover from the shock of the news she had just gotten, a doctor was trying to get his patient as comfortable as possible.

"Doctor, do we need more pillows?" one of the nurses asked, looking at him as the boy was being hooked up on different machines.

"I believe we are good for now." he answered and then turned to the man next to him. "Sir, as a therapist, can you explain why he's not waking up? From what I gather, he's reacting positively to the IV substances and blood transmission."

"I'm not sure, there is a possibility that the concussion the boy was suffering from prior to having been exposed to the cold air and suffering from a shock is still affecting him. That being said... I'm very convinced that whatever healed his leg, whilst all wrong, has also done something for the concussion. And I pray it's not anything bad."

"But we can't perform an MRI unless he's awake."

"Well... Allow me to test whether or not he will wake with this little trick that's commonly used to see whether a patient is truly in a coma."

The doctor raised an eyebrow but stepped to the side, giving the therapist room to do whatever he was planning. Now, the trick the man had been talking about consisted of an act which involved the person performing the action, to press their nail in between the space of the germinal matrix and the cuticle of the patient's thumb. It could be used on any finger, but this digit was the most accessible, hence why it was so commonly used. That being said, this action caused the patient a lot of pain, but from the doctors' viewpoint, it was for the greater good.

Oh, and did it work. As soon as the therapist put pressure on the sensitive spot, the boy's eyes snapped open. However, the man hurt the boy just a little too much and so, the teen recoiled heavily and as a result, slammed his head against the railing of the bed. Of course, the nurse, doctor and therapist reached out to help him, but this all seemed to give the hurt boy too much stress and-

*BOOM*

The three nurses that had been standing a bit further away got a rather nice show, since the explosion was a bright blue one, fading out in purple and pink... only to clear away to reveal three figures covered in soot. In fact, most of the room was pretty blackened, especially the area around the bed.

"... Well, that's not a mistake we'll be making twice." the doctor said, wiping away some soot from around his eyes and mouth.

"D-doctor." one of the nurses giggled. "You might want to wipe away the rest too, you look like a reverse coloured Pancham."

The man rolled his eyes and simply sacrificed a handkerchief to save his reputation. However, no matter how much fun the nurses had with this, Ash was giving the blackened people a terrified look, still curled up on himself.

"I'm so sorry." the therapist sighed and moved away to see whether the soot would come off if he patted on his coat.

The answer to that was 'no', as now his hand was black as well.

"S-sorry." the boy squeaked, surprising everyone in the room.

"Aaaah, so you talk, hm? What's your name?"

"Name... S-so sorry."

"... What?" the man frowned, briefly turning to the doctor.

"Sorry." the teen repeated, still looking petrified as he looked down at his hands.

"Alright, can someone take the boy to a different room and call the cleaners? I'm going to call the boy's mother, so we can go from there." the doctor said, briskly turning around and leaving without waiting for an answer.

The therapist hurried after him, though.

"What now, doctor?"

"Now? I suggest that we both clean ourselves up." the man answered dryly. "And after that, I'm going to call the boy's mother and pray to any available God that the strange case amnesia that he seems to be suffering from still enables him to recognise her."

"So that she can calm him down?"

"Not only that, but for the consent to get some tests done. The problem with someone who forgot how to talk or rather, seemingly unable to pronounce words prior to having heard them, is that you can't ask if they're hurt or in pain."

"Ah... Shall I call the police?"

"Lance? Go right ahead, sir, and allow me to wish you the best of luck. I don't know what's gotten into the man, but he seems to have gotten the 'Papa bear' syndrome when something involves the boy. I've contacted Mr. Goodshow to advise Mr. Lance to find some help for that."

"Maybe I can offer some help for that, hm? Either way, he needs to know."

"Indeed."


When he went back to his office in the League, Lance found himself stuck with a very moody but smart Pokémon. It had seemingly gathered that he would go to Ash one day and as such, stayed with him and followed. This all made perfect sense to the man, but he would have preferred it if the Staraptor would stop glaring at him right now. Lance was already frustrated before the Pokémon started displaying this annoying behaviour and knowing that there wasn't anything he could do, he was pretty much at the end of his rope.

"Listen, I know you don't like me, but I'm not to blame for anything that happened to your trainer. And I can't guarantee your safety, so I can't let you go either. All I ask from you now is to keep calm and please stop glaring at me. I'll do my best to get you reunited with him, okay? Just... give me some time."

The Staraptor puffed up its feather and turned away. It was nestled in the chair right in front of his desk, so really, it was kind of stupid that the Pokémon had decided to pick this spot if it would do nothing but try and ignore him. Lance sighed and shook his head... but well, the bird had at least stopped glaring, so that was something. However, as soon as he decided it was the perfect time to reread his report, the telephone on the other side of the desk rang.

"There really is no rest for the wicked..." he grumbled but answered nonetheless.

When it became clear that he was talking to the doctor in charge of Ash's file, Lance got a rather dry look on his face. The Staraptor, who was giving him an even stare, could see a little twitch on the side of his right temple.

But well, it wasn't every day that a therapist called to tell you about the fact that, apparently, his patient had the ability to blow up. It seemed like Ash had been in a bit of a panic and had been out of it when it happened, but still, this was too strange.

"He's not going to blow up on me when I'll go talk to him, is he?"

"Of course not, Mr. Lance, he even apologised. And really, I was in the middle of the blast and I'm still talking to you, which should be enough to convince you that the explosion isn't harmful."

Alright, so Lance was okay with a little bit of soot but... then the man told him that it seemed like Ash wasn't aware it had happened, seemingly able to protect himself from the explosion without knowing. But the Champion still didn't like this news, he really didn't need any more mumbo-jumbo in this case.

Everything was made a little worse when it became clear that the boy had severe issues communicating, yet seemed to understood what was being said. Having a conversation with him was near to impossible, making the man doubt whether it was a good idea to even go see the teen. But as Ash had become very meek and merely curious, the therapist ensured him that nothing would be able to happen and that, if Lance played his cards right, the boy would still be able to answer some questions. There also was a chance that he might have to fight with Ash's mother to get in, if she found some kind of issue with his presence but the man doubted that.

"Is he okay, though?" the Champion asked.

"We really don't have a clue about that, sir. And really, it would be ill-advised to sedate the boy now, when he's already so confused. We would rather have him surrounded with people he knows before we start any test. I'm also convinced that the boy would be able to tell us if he was suffering, so seeing that this isn't the case, we have plenty of time."

Lance wished he could say the same as the League expected a full download on what had happened to the kid... And heaven knew what was going to happen if he wasn't able to deliver that information in time. A surge of annoyance went through the man as the conversation ended and heard the receiver in his hand crack. With

With a sigh, he laid it down, knowing that Mr. Goodshow definitely didn't want him to use yet another phone as an outlet for his anger again.

"But why is nothing ever easy!?" Lance all but exploded, startling the Staraptor, who squawked indignantly. "Don't you start on me! This is all such a mess, why couldn't any rogue Pokémon just attack him and be over with it? No, instead, he ended up being trapped in something that wasn't even supposed to happen, making friends with a completely random Zoroark which isn't supposed to appear in Kanto at all... And look where we are now! He can explode, like... Why?!"

There was no answer to that and really, the Pokémon just looked a bit more pissed than before. There was a knock on the door, though.

"Yes!?"

"Hello, Lance." Mr. Goodshow said dryly. "I found a visitor for you, as he was getting a little lost."

"Now?" the man groaned.

"Yes, now. He says he has vital information so that you can complete your file on the boy's accident."

Now that was something Lance could only applaud, but it seemed like Mr. Goodshow's sixth sense picked up something he would rather have kept a secret.

"I'll let him in now, but I do see why I got that call a while ago. You're going to talk to someone, whether you want it or not."

"Yes, yes..." the red-haired man sighed, knowing that Charles wanted everyone in good shape.

And that also meant the mental part, of course. Now, Mr. Goodshow wasn't the kind of person to make too big a deal of things like that, but Lance knew he would hear off whatever he decided soon enough. The man was quick to disappear behind the door again, probably making way for the other visitor.

"... Hello, Mr. Lance..." Étienne said as he came peeking out from the doorway. "Am I interrupting anything?

"Oh god..." Lance sighed and sank back in his seat.

"I'm truly sorry to bother you again, Mr. Lance, but I wanted you to add this to the boy's file. I've neatly typed out all the information I could find about the energy field that appeared and put it out as understandable as possible."

"I get it, sir." The Champion said, knowing that this was important to add to the file and that this would've been a hassle to do it himself. "And I am thankful for it."

His comment brought a smile to the researcher's face, even if the man had been looking amused from the start.

"I am aware I must be quite the annoyance to meet in every case, so I thank you for your patience yet again."

Annoyance was a slight understatement. Not only did the man have as much tactfulness as an onion, but he also appeared at the worst time, had the worst manner of explaining and usually, when the man came out of the woodwork, it meant that the victims of the case were probably dead. The dragon trainer knew this wasn't Étienne's fault, but just his whole person had been so… strange and associated with so many deaths… Well, it shouldn't be surprising that Lance didn't like seeing him prance around of an investigation. But he was useful in his own way so it wasn't all bad having him around.

"Right... I... actually have a question for you, Étienne."

"Many things actually come to people when they say it out loud."

"... I suppose so. Though listening in on people is a sign of bad taste, you know?"

"I'm sorry."

Not that the man looked apologetic, but it was something.

"Do you know anything that could cause someone to explode when in a state of panic?"

Étienne actually looked so bewildered that Lance felt ashamed for asking the question. However, a smile soon found its way back to the man's face again.

"Why, I would have to think about that. Are you expecting me to answer this question from my vast knowledge of mumbo-jumbo?"

"Don't test me."

"I won't, then. To answer your question, if anything, it has little to do with kinetic energy, but more rather that you have a very young Aura user who's feeling rather scared."

"... Children with Aura explode?"

"As some plants have become poisonous to stop predators from eating them, the same with Aura users. It's not been long since they were hunted, remember?"

Lance didn't remember it at all, in fact, he had never even known. But he was already in his 30's, so it couldn't have been in those few decades. And his father never told him about it so this century was ruled out pretty soon as well.

"I don't."

"Oh, well, a good 7 centuries ago-"

"That's a long time, Étienne."

"Is it really? On a planet that's several million years old?"

"That's not what I asked."

"No, indeed, I apologise." the man said, nodding slightly. "Is it the boy that...?"

"Yes."

"My, he's become a rather interesting case. In itself, the energy shouldn't have been able to call out such an ability, so he must've at least had Aura before this accident. Still, I've never truly seen anyone with Aura before, so who knows how the kinetic energy has affected it?"

Lance gave the researcher a calculated look. There were so many ways this could actually go wrong but Étienne was pretty much one of the few people who had the knowledge about these kinds of things, gathered from his own dubious interests and cases... And since Ash could actually defend himself in a way Lance didn't mind the researcher to be subjected to… The man went for it.

"Would you like too?"

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

"I have to say, Mr. Lance, I truly have no idea what effect kinetic energy has on Aura, so I might not be as useful as you think."

If anything, Lance was inclined to believe it. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, which usually was his motto in life and in many cases. Besides, Mrs. Ketchum had been so nice to actually tell them which hospital and room number the boy was in, even going as far as making sure the two men would be able to enter. Yes, she had been dubious when she had heard the researchers name but after having asked Lance to promise that he'd make sure he wouldn't be all creepy around her son, she allowed it.

The Champion really liked the woman, though was mostly impressed with how sturdy she was. Country women weren't to be underestimated, or so he figured -if they could tell a doctor what to do through the phone-.

"Don't think so little of yourself, Étienne. I may have associated you with bad luck, but that doesn't mean I bear you any ill will. Instead, you might get the chance to learn something out of this case."

The researcher nodded vigorously, happy to be able to do so.

"Thank you, Mr. Lance. It's rare I get to meet a survivor of such an accident."

"Mm-hm." the man hummed, not looking up from the road they were currently driving on. "Do you actually know what Aura is?" he asked a bit later.

"Oh yes, I do. It is basically the force of life, isn't it?" Étienne answered. "Do you know how he's using it?"

"Protection, I think. Must've learned it somewhere or so..."

"Are you sure?"

"I wouldn't know, now would I? You're the one I'm relying on to have the knowledge of these kinds of things, you know?" the man remarked, looking to the side where the researcher was sitting.

"Well... As little as I know about Aura, protecting yourself is more an instinct than something learned. For a user, it's basically the third option next to flight or fight."

That would make sense, considering the teen must've felt someone holding him and not feeling well enough to fight... but to explode? Lance would research as to why children with Aura suddenly were born with the ability to explode.

"May I ask… Has the boy attacked anyone?"

"Not per say. He exploded after a nightmare."

Lance could feel Étienne's stare. As he glanced at him, making sure he didn't risk driving off the road, he could see the man was looking at him with a slightly opened mouth.

"He has!? Is he okay?!"

"According to the doctor, he seems completely unaware he did anything. So I'm guessing he's fine."

The researcher fell silent at that.

"Something you've never encountered?"

"… I will blame it on the Aura."

Lance chuckled and focused on driving for a while.

"I do say... This Aura might be why a being like Mew would've even noticed him, you know? New-born and young Pokémon often have it as well, to protect themselves from predators. And I can't see Mew having any ill intentions towards anyone, especially not offspring."

"So it mistook Ash for a baby Pokémon?" the red-haired man asked, entertained by the mere idea.

"I don't see any other way why such a Pokémon would come here. Even if it was a copy of the original Mew, it's still very odd."

"But to find Ash in Viridian forest? It must've been there already but still, it's so... odd..."

"Why not? There's plenty of spaces to hide in between the trees for them to have a safe nest where no one will find it. And if the vastness of the forest wouldn't do the trick, I bet the Beedrill would've been enough reason for any human or Pokémon hunters to rethink their plan. Mew tend to be very cunning as well, so you can bet it must've had this reasoning to live or simply be there.

It wasn't hard to convince the man, because if that wasn't the case, Lance doubted the Pokémon would've been able to escape from humans for so long. He wished that the Mew could absorb all the cunningness in the world because he really didn't want to know what someone would do if they got a hold on a Pokémon such as this elusive Legendary. Kinetic fields would probably be the least of their worries if that ever happened.


Étienne felt rather privileged to be able to go and see the boy because this was so mightily interesting, he could feel his hands itching to get his notebook and started his research. However, he was quick to contain his enthusiasm, knowing fully well that there was a high probability that Lance had something behind his sleeve. Especially the blowing up part of the conversation hadn't exactly passed the researcher and well... even if the boy was able to protect himself from the blast well enough, it'd be bad for him to be involved in one of his explosions. Étienne didn't have anything to defend himself with so without knowing what kind of strength the explosion could have, he'd be staying behind Lance.

"Ah, gentlemen, I've been expecting you." the doctor said.

Lance was quick to shake his hand, but all the researcher saw was the name tag that said 'Dr. Martin', gleaming in the sunlight. What he'd give for an official card like that...?

"Are you following?" the Champion said, making Étienne snap from his daydream.

"Ah, yes, yes."

"As my colleague might have mentioned on the phone, it's best to be careful and not excite him. We've noticed now that moving hurts him greatly and we really want to spare him from such a discomfort." the doctor said, already moving along.

"Is it still one piece of bone? Are the muscles and nerves still intact and everything?" the researcher asked, looking a bit too interested in the gory details.

"Euhm... Yes, it is one complete piece of bone, extremely painful for the boy. And yes, unfortunately, the muscles and nerves are intact, if only mirrored so that they're in the same position as the right leg... not that that matters, as it'll merely be a detail in his file, but it does cause him a lot of pain. He desperately needs an operation, but he needs some more time to come to earth so that we can assure he will not panic."

"We understand," Lance said, actually wanting to keep the kid safe. "I'll... We'll do our best not to aggravate or harm him in any way."

"Excellent, please follow me into this room, then."

Inside, the mood instantly betrayed that this was an area for someone who needed rest. There was a certain calmness and silence ruling here that the Champion felt uneasy with the clicking sound his own shoes made. But that feeling was washed away when he noticed the boy was watching them with big eyes.

"Hello, Ash." Lance said softly, slowly coming closer to the bed so he wouldn't startle him.

"Hi."

"Hello there, little one. It's good to see you!"

Seeing that the teen actually did cringe because of the much harsher voice, Étienne made a mental note to be a bit less enthusiastic. But it seemed like Ash wasn't too scared, as he merely turned his head to look at the researcher who'd gone to stand at the other side for some reason.

"Hi, hello!"

That caused the man to blink and look up at the doctor.

"Yes, he's learning from you as we speak." said person answered amused. "So watch out what you're saying."

"Is this a disorder?"

"I wish it was."

Needless to say, Étienne had a field day when the doctor explained that the Mew, or whatever had healed the boy's leg, had also tried to heal his head injury, causing some sort of change in his brain. After having done an MRI -bless Mrs. Ketchum and her blind faith in hospitals-, they noticed that his brain hadn't technically changed but upon having measured his brain activity, it seemed that the teen's brain reacted a bit differently. When they had a look at his brain waves, it became clear that the function of some parts of his brain had shifted.

When they had performed the test, Ash had only been able to listen and utter small words, so all they could see was that he used a whole lot more of his brain than an average person of his age. They would need to do some more extensive tests, but mainly after they'd fixed his leg, for the pain response was worrying present in the brain waves. And there was no faking that kind of reaction, that much was sure.

"So he basically had a case of amnesia?" the researcher asked, looking up from his notebook.

"Not quite, it would be more resemblant to a reboot than amnesia. He's perfectly able to make associations, which are clearly made up from experience. Also, if you haven't noticed, he's actually not butting into our conversation because he's remembering manners. Believe me when that is not always the case with an amnesiac." the doctor answered as if it was the most logical thing in the world.

But somehow the explanation even made sense to Lance, which surprised him as he never understood much of cerebral afflictions and the like. Yet this would be a very wicked case if he ever needed to explain this to the ever so nosy President of the Pokémon League. Because no matter what way you looked at it, the costs for everything the doctors did was for the League's account. A trainer, whether they were at home or not, was always ensured if they had a legal trainer card. And Ash certainly had, so the League's insurance counted. Even worse, he was outside, so there was no debating whether this was an accident or not. In fact, it was such a memorable one, Lance would write it down in his agenda with a capital 'A'.

"So..." he summarised. "Ash is slowly relearning how to use what he still remembers?"

"Exactly." the doctor answered.

"Well, that's a good thing, isn't it?" the researcher said happily, smiling brightly at the boy in the bed.

Ash stared at him for a bit before hesitantly copying it.

"Oooh, that's a pretty face, little one, keep it up!"

That at least got a giggle from the teen, which pleased everyone in the room. It was clear that Ash just needed some proper TLC to find his footing again, though it might take some time. The doctor did tell them that the boy's mother was underway, along with another guest, so they could have a chat about the operation and possible therapy.

"Therapy?" Lance asked. "Is he having nightmares?"

"Oh yes, sometimes. The worst one was when he woke up the first time, and afterwards, when he was moved to a different room, he had several more without any explosions, thankfully. Though the traumatologist you've kindly lend us thinks that he'll feel better about all this when he's able to talk about it."

"... Can I try something?" Étienne asked.

"Of course, go right ahead." the doctor answered and took a few steps back. "Don't mind me, I only have one other spare lab coat as the other one is being washed as we speak."

The researcher stared at the still smiling boy for a bit and released that, if he wasn't careful, he might just have an explosion coming his way.

'Eh, I'll take my chances.'

Pulling out his notebooks, the man flipped several pages up until he ended up at the drawing he had made a bit earlier. Étienne didn't think this would scare Ash to the point where he'd feel the need to defend himself but well... he had other notebooks, just in case. When he showed the drawing to the boy, he responded rather positively, looking at it with great interest. In fact, Ash held up his thumb as he pointed at the drawing.

"Ah, thank you." the man said, charmed by the silent compliment. "Do you know Palkia?"

"Palkia, yes!"

"Have you seen it recently?"

"No."

Étienne felt a bit bummed out because of that, but turned the page to another drawing.

"What about this one? This is Dialga."

"No."

The man visibly deflated but didn't seem to want to give up yet and presented the notepad and pen to the boy. He didn't want to be too pushy, but if talking about the accident would help him, then he'd want to have his own advantage to it as well.

"Can you draw me what you've seen in your nightmare?"

Ash instantly reached out to grab the two objects and gingerly drew something on it. The doctor looked on, quite impressed by the boy's speedy learning. After all, they had just shown the child how to draw shortly after first and only test they had been able to perform already, yet here he was clearly drawing some kind of tube, a funny looking stick figure with long hair and some kind of feelers… And to the researcher's great delight, there was also something that could pass as a Mew.

"Well, well…" Lance said, smiling as the boy looked rather chuffed with his drawing. "Can I have this, Ash?"

The boy instantly passed the two objects on to the man.

"So you've seen a Mew, have you?" Étienne asked, obviously interested, as the young trainer nodded. "How was it?"

"Euhm…"

Ash looked around as if he was searching for something and eventually grabbed one of his sheets, petting it with his other hand.

"… Soft?" the man guessed.

"Soft!" the boy beamed, much to the other's amusement.

"Alright, I got what I wanted to know."

"So do I," Lance said, passing on the pen and notepad back to the researcher over the bed. "This got a whole lot interesting, hasn't it?"

"If you're sure he wasn't hallucinating." The doctor piped up, having peeked at the finished drawing as the Champion had been inspecting it. "Let's not forget he might have been seeing things due to the concussion he was reported to have prior to the accident."

"Of course. But there is no harm in checking, is there?"

"I suppose not."


Seeing that Ash felt a bit uncomfortable with the men talking over him, Lance had decided to amuse the teen with a story. At least until a soft knock on the door alerted them that the other, expected visitors had arrived. To the doctor's delight, Pikachu was there with them as well, instantly jumping onto the bed and snuggling into the teen's side. Ash was quick to grab him close as well, clearly remembering his starter.

In a way, this was endearing, but the Champion had a bit of trouble getting over the fact that this was the Pikachu who had been looking so murderously on the side of the couch, not wanting to be touched by anything or anyone. Whether it was Ash who had been able to convey that he wanted his Pokémon with him, or that Pikachu had just decided he was coming, no matter what anyone said, he wasn't sure. It was cute though...

In fact, it reminded Lance that he had another of those moody Pokémon sitting in his office, waiting for some news. So while Delia had instantly zoomed into the bed, it was a good thing that Professor Oak had decided to come along as well. The Champion didn't waste a second to tell the man about it, but somehow, the older man had the Pokéball with him already.

"Misty told me that Staraptor had gone to search for Ash, so I figured she might be around. Good to know her instincts were developed enough so that she found him too... If you could, recall her and send her back to my laboratory? It'd be much appreciated and I'll surely treat her for her great reaction."

"... Sure." Lance answered, refraining a snort.

That Pokémon nearly had scratched his eyes out so... maybe he'd need to lure it outside and subdue it with the help of his own Pokémon or something for the bird to actually listen to him.

Once Professor Oak was coming closer to the bed, he got met with Étienne, who wanted to know whether he knew about these kinds of drawings.

"I don't suppose you know who these are?"

"Well... One of them is quite obviously a Mew, so the theory that he got healed by one could be correct." the man said, taking the notebook in his hand so that he could study it for a while.

"We had that covered as well... It's the other things that worry me."

"To be honest, Étienne, I'd have to check." Professor Oak answered.

He did tell the researcher about the lesser known ways that Legendary Pokémon appeared on this earth, even though they weren't sure whether these Pokémon actually came from a portal or straight out of a different dimension. In more rare occurrences, people were able to take pictures of Legendary or unidentified Pokémon appearing, which were usually sent straight to one of the regional Professors, who shared it with each other. And yes, Professor Oak had seen one of those tunnel-like portals before, even though these were even rarer.

"Please keep this, Professor." the man said, ripping the page out of his book. "This is way out of my league, so... maybe you and your colleagues could shed some light on this."

"Ah yes, of course. Did... he draw this?"

The Professor made a rather vague motion towards the bed, where Delia was currently coddling her son, who didn't seem to mind that one bit.

"Yes, it's apparently veritably nightmare material."

"Tch, that's no good. Is there a therapist available?"

"There will be. But he can't talk too well, apparently, he's forgotten how to say things."

"Oooh, well, I have plenty words he can have. And with all his friends near, he'll have a field day, I suppose."

"Well, if they all show up, I'm sure the kid will be a genius in no time." Lance grinned, butting into the conversation, yet happy that plans to help the boy were being discussed already. "But anyway, I should be going. Do call me when you've learned something new about this, won't you?"

"Oh, yes, of course. Can I keep this?"

"Absolutely."


Delia was too busy talking to her son, telling how much she had missed him and how happy she was to see him again, to notice Étienne or Lance leaving. Pikachu hadn't seen them either, purring happily in his trainer's hold, the only thing the Pokémon had wished for all this time. Alright, so his trainer had only been away for a few days, but it still hurt. And knowing that Ash was hurt, pained Pikachu as well.

"I can't believe you can still smile so happily, sweetheart. I'm so happy you can." the mother sniffed, becoming emotional because of the sheer relief she felt with seeing her son again.

"Mama, love you." Ash said, looking more than satisfied and cozy in the presence of the two individuals he trusted the most.

"It's 'I love you', Ash." Professor Oak corrected.

"Ah yes!" the boy nodded and looked back at his mother. "Mama, I love you."

The woman actually did shed some tears because of that.

"Oh, sweetheart, I love you too. You can't imagine how worried I was when you had disappeared." She sobbed.

"But he's back now, isn't he?" the man said, knowing he needed to supply the boy with words.

"Yes, I'm back." Ash said, seemingly having caught on to the man's intention.

Good thing the man was a willing mentor.


Delia had to smile at the reaction of the teens when she had told them about Ash and his current condition. There had been a short while of silence as the group processed that their friend might have some issues, but once having been reassured that he would have no problems relearning what he'd forgotten, their enthusiasm quickly returned.

"So Pikachu stayed, huh?" Misty remarked, amused but yet a bit relieved they could talk freely without facing the risk of getting electrocuted.

Though it was a useless statement, as everyone knew the Pokémon wouldn't leave his trainer alone. Not now, anyway, finally having gotten access to what he wanted, namely being with Ash.

"Yes, he did." Delia answered nonetheless. "Outside the fact that we probably wouldn't have convinced him to come back home with me, it seemed like the doctor figured it was good for Pikachu to be with Ash, as some sort of emotional support."

"Can we go visit him?" Max asked, even though everyone had that question in mind.

"Not yet, his doctor only made an exception for Lance as the man needed a statement from Ash but well... considering he's unable to tell him anything clear for now, it's been delayed a bit."

"Oh..."

The woman knew that they wanted to see and help him, but she also understood that Dr. Martin didn't want to take any risk. Ash would be either too happy or just too tired to talk to them. With him still being sedated, as whatever remained of his leg caused him a lot of grief, there was no telling how he'd respond to any kind of stimuli. It was already good he seemed well enough after the visitors he'd already gotten, but still... And of course, she approved of the idea to operate him as soon as possible, because she had seen how much it hurt him.

And the fact that, once that leg was okay enough, they'd leave him to rehabilitate at home, played a part of her having approved so quickly. That was something to look forward to and while the woman told the teens everything there was to tell about her son's condition, she did want to keep his return a secret. If there was a chance to take one of them with her to the hospital, she'd take it, but so far, that too was no option.

"Think he'll like it if we'd read him a book? There's plenty of words in those, right, so it'd be good for him."

"Chances are, dear, that he would fall asleep eventually. They're still giving him quite the dose of sedation." Delia answered calmly, with a warm smile. "Though it'd be good to just give him a book."

"Ash? Read?" Gary asked. "Mrs. Ketchum, this isn't meant to disrespect him, but I've never seen Ash with a book, except the League yearbook."

The teen had a point, but still, that didn't mean that he needed to say it out loud.

"It's not as if you've been near him all the time. And with the remarks you've been giving, I can hardly imagine him enjoying his time around you." Brock answered, in a dry tone that showed he was rather unhappy with Gary at the moment. "In fact, I'm not surprised he'd go out of his way to never read in front of you if you ever made one of those remarks about his reading in his presence."

"Am I even welcome here?"

"For someone who gives so many remarks, you've got the tolerance of a tamato berry in a cold climate, Gary." Cilan said, in an eerily similar tone Brock had just used.

"Look, I'm sorry! But who here hasn't made a mistake when saying something to Ash they shouldn't have?"

"But we're not saying anything bad about him right now." the green haired teen persisted. "And I'm glad you're sorry, but you shouldn't say it to us."

"Yeah well, I'm not allowed in there, am I?"

"Kids, kids, can you lighten up a little?" Delia sighed, sounding a bit exasperated. "You can tell Ash about your feelings later, okay?"

The teens begrudgingly agreed and focused on something else. It seemed like someone had suggested they'd make something for their hurt friend, so in a way, the woman was happy that there was something to draw away their attention.

She was immensely aware that Gary might be the only one who didn't quite fit in the group, as he wasn't Ash's friend. But if anything, her son looked up to him, that much she knew. In a way, the black haired boy had long since made up his mind about his friend and had decided not to be too bothered by any remarks or crude statements that came his way.

But well, for now, with everyone close to each other for the time being, they'd need to make do. And yes, they were all teens, with plenty of emotions to annoy each other with. Really, Delia thought that Gary would've been the peacemaker, being the oldest... But it seemed he wasn't the wisest, as Brock and Cilan seemed to be an awful lot better at it. Good thing her son had such good friends.


Back at Lance's office, Étienne was getting ready to leave, having aided the Champion in calming the Staraptor. The Pokémon was already being transported back to Professor Oak's lab right now, so everything turned out to be pretty fine.

"This seems a pretty straightforward kind of case, Mr. Lance. With the exception of the rather weird portals that need a bit of closer inspection, everything can be easily explained. But not by me, so... I guess you won't be needing my services any longer." the man said, having already gathered his coat and bag.

"Remains to be seen, actually. From what Professor Oak managed to explain to me, those kinds of portals, how few they'd been spotted, appear high up in the sky. So who knows whatever Pokémon is involved in this."

Lance could see that the researcher was torn between wanting to go find another interesting case that was probably already happening somewhere, or finding out what actually happened with the charming, young trainer, whom Étienne really liked. Still, he did know that the man was an expert in that kinetic mumbo-jumbo, he wasn't a Pokémon Professor. Besides being interested, there was little he could add to in this situation. While the researcher had learned that Aura was perfectly able to coexist with the kinetic energy and that Mew were pretty bad healers, yet rather quick to come to someone's aid, there were limits to his usefulness.

"I... could leave my number, if that would help?"

"That'd be greatly appreciated. Who knows what we'll end up discovering?"

Étienne nodded and was quick to give his card to the Champion. Yes, he had made cards, however, he had never been able to hand some out. This was actually the first time and he was so pleased that he actually got some appreciation. The man had spent years trying to convince people he wasn't just seeing things, raise funds to help with his investigation and find same-minded people, possibly even enthusiasts to give him some credibility. However, all the doors had closed rather quickly whenever he said that the presence of Pokémon alone could be negative for trainers.

Oh, how quick the League had been to snuff out his research, even while he had made sure to tell them that weak starters didn't even have the power to make a kinetic energy. And really, weren't the kids who met a strong Pokémon early on in their journey screwed anyway? But well, this wasn't the time to get annoyed about that, he actually had made a -Arceus forbid- good impression. Yet he was well on his way to screw that up again.

"Thank you for this, Mr. Lance. Though I have something to share with you."

"Oh?"

With the biggest, shit eating grin the Johto ever had witnessed, the researcher informed him that there were very little trainers with Zoroark, considering they were notoriously hard to handle. Wild ones in Kanto were even more rare, as they weren't familiar in the area and Viridian forest was full of Beedrill, who were too aggressive... And well, adding up the chances of seeing either of those, there was a higher probability that the Pokémon Lance had order his Salamence to lay on would've been a transformed Mew. Now, whether it was a copy or not, that didn't truly matter. If anything, copies of a Mew were perfect, so if you'd fight against it, it'd be just as bad.

Needless to say, Lance wasn't amused by that, but Étienne was.

"You're pretty lucky it didn't blast you into another dimension, Mr. Lance."

"Yes, thank you."

"Oh, you're very welcome. Try not to stiffen next time we meet, okay?

"I'll try."

"Good. See you later then." the man answered amused and left, looking far too pleased to the Champion's liking.

Lance sighed deeply and figured, as he pinched the bridge of his nose lightly, that this had been Étienne's lack of tack again, rendering him victim to his own mind. Good thing the man had become a researcher and not a criminal or his mind games could've been Lance's doom.


Late in the evening, Delia had set herself with a book about how to deal with people who experienced phantom pains. Dr. Martin had told her about it and so she wanted to study up on it. So far, she was at the part where the human body was still able to imagine that a body part was still there and that it could feel pain in it, even if the part that remained was completely healed. And apparently, it all became just a bit worse when the body and mind experienced the same kind of trauma.

Considering her son had had his first appointment with his therapist, who had him pretty much draw all the time, by the way, he definitely would be such a case. And as such, the woman wanted to know what she was up against so she'd be able to prepare herself and the house for his homecoming. However, just when she could turn the page to see what kind of effect massages had on phantom pains, the phone rang.

She nearly flew towards it, praying to all Gods (who know how many there actually were, huh?) that the shrill ringing hadn't awoken any of the teens that finally had gone to bed.

"Hello?"

"Good evening, am I correct in assuming you're Mrs. Delia Ketchum?"

The woman blinked, somewhat shocked, yet charmed to hear the deep voice. It wasn't like any kind she'd ever heard before, so yes... it was unique.

"Y-yes, that's right. How can I help you?"

"I'm an official from the League, Mrs. Ketchum." the man (or so she figured) answered, smoothly and sounding rather relaxed. "I'd like to inquire about the condition of your son."

"Euhm... I'd... be pleased to tell you anything but... Shouldn't you contact the hospital instead?"

"They will not tell me anything, Mrs. Ketchum, personal information is never shared with anyone who isn't next of kin or family. Especially not when it involves a minor."

The woman blamed her tiredness for finding this very odd, yet she really couldn't imagine that it could do anyone harm to tell someone from the League how Ash was doing. After all, she would never tell anyone his exact location. Not that Delia could, because she was always lead to the room by one of the nurses... Knowing the room number still didn't mean you could easily find your way through that maze.

"Well, he's woken up after having been unconscious for a few, probably due to high emotions, or so the doctor told me."

"Ah, excellent. Has the accident caused him to have any lasting afflictions?"

"... Yes, he has a particular case of... a syndrome where brainwaves were affected by something not really human and his leg isn't..."

"Yes?"

"Well, it was partially restored but in a way that left the surgeons scratching their heads. They're actually going to operate him first thing tomorrow morning, but I've been told it could take quite a while before my son will be able to be well enough to start practising walking around with... prosthetic help." she continued. "But sir... What is it you actually call me for today?"

"Administration, Mrs. Ketchum, as simple as that. There is a possibility this accident might require us to revise his trainer card."

"R-revised?!" Delia repeated, already panicking as she knew her son wouldn't survive without his precious Pokémon. "Please, sir, I beg of you, don't take away his trainer card!"

"No such thing, Mrs. Ketchum, do not worry." the man answered, sounding rather unimpressed by her panicked outburst. "The... higher-ups have the interest to know whether he remains to be handicapped."

Instead of wondering who these 'higher-ups' were, the woman struggled to digest the heavy term that suddenly was placed on her cute, lively son...

"Mrs. Ketchum?"

"O-oh, sorry, I was... distracted a bit. Are we going to get some notice when this revision will take place?"

"Of course. I'm sorry if I alarmed you, Mrs. Ketchum, this was not my intention."

'Sure, it wasn't.' she thought dryly but decided not to voice it.

"Well, unless you have any other questions...?"

"No, I do not. Thank you for your cooperation, Mrs. Ketchum, you will be hearing from me shortly."

And with that last sentence, the call ended, leaving the woman completely befuddled and staring at the receiver for longer than necessary. Her mind reeled with the information she had just learned and... that odd voice... Really, if she had gotten 5 Pokédollars for every time this person had said her name, she'd be filthy rich too. He probably thought he was being respectful but...

"Mrs. Ketchum?"

Delia needed a few seconds to noticed that the voice she'd just heard hadn't come from the phone she still had in her hands, no, instead, it was Brock. He was now awkwardly lingering in the middle of the living room, in a rather stylish grey pyjama. She had apparently taken a bit longer those few seconds if the look on his face was anything to go by.

"Did... something happen to Ash?" he asked, trying to guess what had happened, seeing that there was no response from her.

"Huh...? Oh, no, no, dear, he's fine. It was just... Never mind, it's nothing you should need to worry about."

"Are you sure? I mean, you can trust me."

"I know I can, it was just... a really strange call I just received, that's all."

"Oh?"

It seemed like Brock wasn't willing to go back to bed yet and that amused her. However, as she had turned to look at him, she also noticed the clock behind him, causing her amusement to fade. It was well after 11 so...

"F-from the League." she stammered, slowly coming to the understanding that something was wrong with this whole situation.

"At this hour?" the teen asked, frowning as he seemed to be aware what time it was. "There shouldn't anyone there at this time of day. It's not as if the League pays overtime, or so my dad keeps complaining about."

"Ah..."

"What did they want to know, Mrs. Ketchum?"

"They, euhm... asked about Ash and his condition. Said they would be revising his trainer card if he was to remain h-handicapped."

"Really now? Without a notification in the mail?" the boy remarked dryly.

"I... think I'll call the League... or even Lance tomorrow, Brock."

"I'd do the same, Mrs. Ketchum. Just to be sure, you didn't tell them where Ash was?"

"No, I just said he still was in the hospital, I didn't specify where of which one."

"Mm..."

If Delia hadn't been sure about calling Lance in the morning, Brock sure helped in making her sure now. Still, who on earth would want to know something about her son now? When he was in such a bad condition too?

'They better not have any bad intentions.' the woman thought as she ushered the stray teen back into bed. 'I don't care whether this is someone who's working overtime or some gangster, but they'll never hurt my baby boy.'

She'd follow anyone who'd hurt her son without having a medical reason for it to the end of the earth. Needless to say, with those thoughts in her head, she wasn't up for a night with any rest.

However, unbeknownst to her, a creature, far younger than Ash yet smarter than most on this earth's plane, flicked its tail in annoyance. Human technology and emotions were still terrains it'd need to study on but... What it had learned today was something that angered it immensely, as there was nothing it could do. With the next flick of its tail, the creature was gone.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

With a sigh, the woman put the receiver back on the hook. She'd already spend hours trying to get into contact with the League administration, however, all they had been doing was redirecting her to services she hadn't asked to be send through to. All Delia wanted to do was to speak with someone who knew whether there had indeed been someone to call her so late in the evening and whether everything was still fine with her son's trainer status.

Apparently, the League personnel couldn't be bothered by the worried woman's questions, so yeah... However, if she ever got her hands on a number that would actually send her through to an administration member, by Arceus, would she file a complaint. A good loud and clear one, as revenge for having let her listen to Vivaldi's Spring (commonly used as tune for waiting time there, apparently) for so long.

"Is everything alright, Mrs. Ketchum?"

"No, not really." she sighed. "I'm not sure whether the administration in the League only has incompetent Mankeys or simply insensitive, half asleep people in service. Arceus knows why they wouldn't want to help me... God forbid they'd actually be spending their days doing something useful!"

Gary could only stare at her, as he saw an odd resemblance in this reaction of how Ash usually got annoyed. Both actually were a rare occurrence but as far as he could hear, it was justified annoyance.

"My... grandfather is on route as well, he just got stuck with your neighbour for a bit. But, if he arrives here, I'm sure he could help you with a direct number of the League service you wanted to contact."

"... Why didn't I think of that..." the woman said, sighing again and rubbing her forehead with clear annoyance. "Thank you, Gary, it'd be wonderful if he could do that."

"It's no problem, I'm sure he'll be here in a few minutes... Though, is there something specific you needed to know from the League? Maybe I can help?"

So Delia told him about the strange call, late in the evening, even describing the voice, the person's knowledge of the accident and everything. And Gary's expression got just as dubious as Brock's yesterday, which was somewhat amusing to watch.

"It's not actually the League's Administration's job to notify you about that, Mrs. Ketchum. If a trainer card is to be revised, it must be an order given by Mr. Goodshow himself and they'd tell you well in advance. If anything, I'm sure Mr. Goodshow would first ask for Mr. Lance's opinion on the matter, instead of asking someone from the administration office to come bother you that late in the evening."

"... Really? Wouldn't it be logical if Ash were to remain handicapped that they'd...?"

"No, that would be a review of his condition. If anything, that'd be added to his file, but a revision is... it's basically a cancellation, Mrs. Ketchum. It's a punishment for trainers who've gotten at least three serious complaints on their card."

"I didn't know that."

"Mrs. Ketchum, are you sure it was the League calling? Did you look at the number?"

"Euhm... 098 or something..."

The red-haired teen was quick to inform her that League numbers, from the elite trainers, to all services and even Mr. Goodshow personal, rather elusive number, all started with 0500, to make sure no mishaps happened. Delia was completely befuddled at that, as she had never heard about that before. But just as she wanted to ask why that hadn't been publicly announced, Professor Oak came in, with a pretty large, stuffed Pokémon toy in his arms.

"A very good morning, Delia." the man said merrily. "Your next-door neighbour has kindly left me with a present for Ash."

"It's wonderful!" she exclaimed. "I'll have to thank him when I see him."

"Please do! This is a very high-quality plush toy, in the form of a Togekiss even. Apparently, it's able to sing, but the activation seems adult proof."

"I'm sure Ash will have plenty of fun figuring out how it works on his own, Professor," Delia answered, somewhat amused by his serious look as he scanned the toy for any kind of button. "At any rate, I need a small favour..."

"How can I help?" was the instant question, which she appreciated.

So the whole story was repeated again, but Professor Oak gently put the plush toy to the side to come sit next to the woman. If anything, he looked rather subdued, a reaction that felt oddly eerie in this case.

"You're a sweet woman, Delia, but no one works at the League after 5 o'clock. They work from 9 to 5, not a minute longer, so don't expect anyone to call or pick up a phone after one minute past 5. I've noticed first-hand."

"Well yes, that was what I was thinking as well but... I just answered that call because I thought it was the hospital, as they would be preparing Ash for his first operation early in the morning... I just thought... And I really couldn't risk not answering someone from the League, could I?"

"Mm... I somewhat understand. Now, what did you want me to do?"

"I… initially wanted the administration's number but…"

In the end, Professor Oak convinced her to call the G-men and yes, he did have a number straight to Lance he could give her. Dubious phone calls would be something that would interest him as well, especially if the caller asked questions about Ash. Not that the man thought they were out to hurt the teen, but still, you needed to be careful these days. Ash was rather well-known, so it could just be a reporter, thirsting for a story.

The phone number, or so Gary checked, had mysteriously disappeared from Delia's phone, as it should normally had been displayed in it. But there was no doubt that this happened, as Brock had been quick to voice that the call had actually startled him awake, as he'd been sleeping on the makeshift bed in the neighbourhood of the living room. So yeah, this was a very strange situation, one that the Professor wanted to see solved.

But he didn't leave before he told Delia to never call the League again, unless she had a direct or a complaint number. In the latter case, the League would act rather quickly, but in the former... well, if Professor Oak didn't have Lance's number, he'd have a higher chance of speaking to the man by actually going to the G-men building and wait for him to pass by. And the same counted for the League's administration office, if not a bit worse.

The woman was completely oblivious to the man's internal conundrum and had wanted to follow him to his laboratory, but was slightly hesitant as it was nearly lunchtime... yet quickly decided which was more important. And Professor Oak agreed, finding this call worrisome enough to give it priority. His appetite had taken a few steps back and lunch was really the last thing on his mind, so he quickly told her they'd be getting some lunch for everyone later, but that they needed to contact Lance first.

She agreed, and as they left, Ash's friends amused themselves with making a collar for the plush toy. It had a pretty big neck, but they managed anyway. If anything, they could write some messages so he could read them, as none of the teens were allowed to go see him. So this indirect way of sending their well-wishes was the next best thing.


"I'm kind of worried, you know." Iris then said, as she paused writing her part on the card for Ash.

They were all doing something and the collar was getting a bit too elaborate, but Gary was sure that this was their black haired friend's kind of humour. Considering he did know him the longest, they just went for it. But that didn't mean they all had some pretty heavy questions on their mind.

"About?"

"That operation. So soon after he woke up, it's..."

"Because he's hurt," Gary answered instantly. "Delia said so."

Yes, they all had heard about how he couldn't move without hurting himself and when that crazy researcher had told them how whatever was left of his leg, was so... mutilated that he needed the operation or he'd never walk again... Yeah, they all realised it'd be a long time before Ash would be able to live his life somewhat normally. They were glad that Pikachu was back with him, though, as they too had Pokémon out of their Pokéball to provide some comfort.

Cilan and Misty had taken to this situation the worst, with the green haired connoisseur condemning himself for not having heard the teen go outside, despite being such a light sleeper that sometimes the wind would wake him up. And the girl was just distraught, as she kept wondering whether he wouldn't have gotten so hurt if she hadn't taken Staraptor from him. Yeah, so Professor Oak had taken Ash's team with him upon arriving here, except for the bird Pokémon, whom the teen had somehow 'forgotten' to add to the pile of Pokéball.

Brock had vehemently denied that having the Staraptor there with him would've changed anything, because Pikachu was still there and he didn't notice anything. But then again, he couldn't argue with her argument that no one had taken off Ash's belt, as he had just been laid in the couch to avoid moving him too much, with that possible concussion... so, in fact, he should've had one Pokémon to defend himself with, for whatever reason he even went outside for.

If anything, she felt guilty and as did Cilan, so those two could be seen doing odd jobs or just generally anything that would help Delia. It was a rotten situation and the teens just hoped that they'd hear from Ash soon, so that he'd be able to tell them he was fine and why he'd gone outside. If they could just know something more, that would be enough for them to rest at ease. And for that reason, they were making the enormous collar, to reach out to him and hope he'd reach out to them. Their friend was notorious for being ignorant in contacting them but they hoped he felt that this was special enough to answer.


It was noticeable that Lance hadn't been happy hearing someone that wasn't supposed to be interested in his case ended up calling Delia, going as far as to question her about boy's situation in the guise of being someone in service of the League. And it showed as there were two officers present around Ash's room when both she and Professor Oak had gone to see how the boy was after his first operation. One outside and one inside which... bothered the woman. It wasn't as if the teen seemed to mind, though and the officer did leave when the two adults entered.

"Are you comfortable with that, Ash?" the Professor asked, looking down at the boy who was lying down and looked a lot less enthusiastic than the last time they'd met.

"Eh...? I... It is fine. Think so, yeah."

"Does he talk?"

"No."

"Look, sweetheart!" Delia suddenly said happily, deciding that she didn't want to put the focus on that issue. "Tony went to get a gift for you."

Ash looked tired as he glanced at the plush toy but managed a smile anyway. He reached out it as well and seemed pleased when touching it.

"Soft."

"High-quality plush, Ash, take care of it." Professor Oak added, having caught on to the woman's intention.

"Mm..."

It was painfully obvious that teen wasn't feeling well, but the plush seemed to be appreciated. As the Togekiss was hugged close, a gently melody came out of it, much to Professor Oak's chagrin, but to Ash's absolute delight. He looked incredibly pleased, which was a good change from the listless expression he had prior to having the plush toy in his arms. And it seemed like he'd seen the collar as well.

"Can you read what it says, sweetheart?" the woman asked as she saw him take off the intricate construction that looked absolutely horrible on the plush.

"I can read this." he answered simply, amusing himself with the different cards and whatever trinkets were on it.

"Do you think you could write something back to them? They're... missing you terribly."

Ash turned to stare at her with a rather blank look before he gently shook his head, as if he was trying to focus. After putting the plush toy in the empty spot where the rest of his leg should've been (a rather painful moment for the two adults), he reached out to grab sheet after sheet from the night stand next to him. When the teen had collected all of the ones he'd apparently laid there, he presented the pile to his mother, with a smile on his face.

"Write back to them." he said, nodding as if he really wanted her to take them as fast as possible.

'And here they were thinking you wouldn't actually be thinking of them, huh?' Delia thought amused and accepted the bundle.

They'd have a field day with it and it seemed like he was able to write just fine too, by the looks of it.

"Did someone help you write this, dear?"

"Mm, the therapist did. She's nice."

"I'm glad. Oh, Ash, dear, your friends are going to be so happy with this."

"Yes, I hope... euhm..."

"They are?" she guessed.

"Yes! I hope they are."

The woman could help but feel so chuffed with this but Professor Oak had other things on his mind. Yet, to him, he didn't see a son, but a boy that looked very unlike the one he had gotten to know. The one he remember ever having had an adventure with so many years ago. It was painful to watch but even more when Ash suddenly turned to look at him with a worried look.

"... Okay?"

"Are you, Ash?"

"... Sorry." the teen said, casting his eyes down. "I... can't... Need help..."

"None of that, lad, you're keeping yourself well. If you weren't in a hospital bed, I wouldn't have known there was something wrong with you."

The boy looked so unimpressed that the man had to stop himself from barking out a laugh.

"Oh, Ash, you'll be fine, give it time."

"Time, hm?"

Seeing Ash leaf through the collection of small drawings, not really having turned to the two adults after that one glance at the Professor, Delia got a bit worried for him. But according to the doctor, this 'aversion' could be the result of the teen's stress at not being able to communicate properly. He probably figured that the less he said or even turned away, no one would confront him about his inability to communicate. The therapist had gotten the brunt of the behaviour issues that came from that kind of stress, but said person didn't mind, as he was there to fix whatever was ailing the boy.

However, Professor Oak did his job well as he entertained Ash with a story about how murderous his Pokémon were acting and how the man feared they'd try to smuggle themselves into this hospital, in a far less evident way, probably causing a lot of trouble. Considering that they knew their trainer was hurt, thanks to Staraptor telling a most horrible story, if their reaction was anything to go by, they'd have to see him with their own eyes to believe he was fine.

"Pokémon and friend? Can they come? Please?"

"Not yet, Ash, you'll have to be patient. All in due time." the man answered. "Besides, I have a feeling your friends might need these first before meeting you." he added, making a gesture towards the papers Delia was holding.

"Oh..."

Seeing that her son looked plenty disappointed, the woman cast a rueful look at the Professor, who seemed to be at a loss.

"Sweetie, they're so worried about you that the doctor wants you to be strong and healthy. So that you can face them because they'll surely hug you to death. Be happy this bar is in the way, or I would've smothered you already." she said, a small smile creeping on her face at the end of her sentence.

That at least managed to cheer him up, but still, the two adults left with a lot less good feelings than last time, that much was sure. The officer also went back into the room, probably to take his place at the door again. And Delia absolutely didn't know how to feel about that.

Oh, at least the teens were insanely psyched about the fact that Ash had been planning to talk to them, actually telling them everything they wanted to know and more. Brock had taken it onto himself to read his long message out loud, so everyone could hear it at the same time. So did Delia, who actually had some trouble keeping her tears in, as her son gave a very detailed story of what exactly happened and that no one was to blame.

He had been called outside, by something that had tricked him into believe it was something else... And then they had attacked him, the smaller one cutting off his entire leg as if it was no effort at all... Once the biggest of the two released him, yet not with the intention to let him go, another portal opened with a very angry Mew shooting out of it, hurling the weird beings into the arms of what Ash believed to be a insanely mad Giratina, but he wasn't sure. The shadow looked like it could've been, but he had never seen the being so angry before. In fact, the Mew had been too, which had been odd as well.

But then again, everything felt odd, especially after the Mew told him, mentally, that it was going to try heal him. Funny how that turned out, but Ash was thankful nevertheless. He seemed to be aware that, despite his leg not being healed that well, he still could've bled to death and then he'd be lost forever. So yeah, he was happy to still be writing this and still being able to guess that his friends were getting in each other's hairs... or blaming themselves for something they couldn't have helped with at all.

Cilan felt a bit singled out at this stage, but as the teen instructed Misty, since she had already gone in the attic before, to get the 'silver' box and have some fun with the lot of them. He knew this was hard on them as well, but they'd need to make do. In fact, with his therapist hounding him to write down stuff, he'd use this time to write notes at them, even though there wasn't much that happened in that hospital.

With the teens all joking about the past and actually listening to each other, it seemed like Ash had just been able to guess what was ailing his friends from a distance. But Delia was sooo proud of him, for having singled out little Max, who was the one who basically was stuck with no one of his age pool to talk to, with the secret message that would keep the young boy invested for quite some time too. But that was good, because it'd keep him busy with books and the internet, just to find out what Ash meant with the message. And with the youngest active again, it seemed like May felt a whole lot less responsible and well...

Everything seemed absolutely fine now, which made Delia feel a whole lot better about this whole situation. Maybe it would all would end up okay, after all...


Ash sighed deeply, feeling rather... weird. It felt strange to be unable to remember full sentences and just be treated like an infant. Oh, yes, it was exactly the behaviour the teen hated with a passion but he didn't have the heart to get angry at the nurses. He realised that they meant well and really... what was he going to do, hm? Sigh angrily?

Yeah, now that he thought of it, that was something new, being able to pinpoint how people's emotions, especially those around him. Ash wasn't sure how to deal with all the information that came with it because... how did you react to a Champion who suddenly seemed to have extremely fatherly feelings towards him? And that researcher had just been looking at him with undisguised fascination, like a butcher staring at a high quality piece of meat. His own mom was feeling just like expected... but then Professor Oak had pretty much the same feelings as she did, while Ash had always thought he didn't care...

Suddenly feeling something else in the room snapped the boy from his thoughts. When he looked up, he didn't see anyone else but his snoozing Pokémon. After all, it was seven in the evening, so most of the nurses were going home for the night, only leaving some around for emergencies and what not. So either something really weird was going on or he was just getting confused. Ash figured it was the sedation and sank back in his bed.

The nurses wouldn't let him watch TV, since they were really scared of him taking over what was being said and well... Not even the boy was looking forward to talking like a newsreader. But well, no TV or books did limit his way of entertainment and Pikachu seemingly hadn't slept after the accident until now, so it wasn't surprising to find that the Pokémon was sleeping like the dead.

"Ash?"

Even if his name had been called out so many times today, it still startled him greatly because noonewassupposedtobehereand-

"Please, do not press the alarm button."

The boy blinked and turned, impressed that somehow his hand had managed to go towards the little alarm button on itself. However, as he pulled back his arm as if the small device had stung him and stared at the being that slowly emerged from the shadows.

"You probably do not remember me but... believe me when I say I al here to help."

"... Help? Help me?" Ash asked softly, his eyes getting wider when he recognised the being as a... an euhm... Oh, Arceus...

"Yes, I will help you relearn how to speak. I refuse to cut into your sleeping time, so allow me to demonstrate how I will appear as an actual visitor in the day."

Yeah, seeing the being shapeshift into an actual person, that wasn't creepy at all, right? Ash had half a mind to wake up Pikachu and press the alarm but then again...

"I am sorry, I did not mean to scare you." the transformed Pokémon said, rather obviously reading the boy's mind. "I would teleport away and they will blame my appearance on your fatigue."

The look on the boy's probably appeared to be incredibly vexed by that and made the strange visitor smile.

"I am sorry. Promise me that my appearance will remain a secret between the two of us and I will spend all the time we have let today teaching you. I will also come back in the early morning and then leave to meet up with your mother for I assume she will have questions."

"I promise."

"Good, friend. Allow me to explain my history with you and afterwards, I shall start my lesson."

"Allow."

"Excellent."


Delia was still feeling rather chuffed the next day, because the teens at her house had finally stopped arguing over breakfast. And that was a incredible feat, even if they seemed to have made a front against poor Gary. She wasn't going to bother with the social constructs of teen and would rather focussed on making her son happy. Imagine her surprise when she saw her son give her a 500GW smile when she came into his room. The G-men officer had apparently gotten aqcuianted with her son as he gave the boy a nod and went out, to give the two some privacy.

"Hello, sweetheart! I'm so glad you're so happy! And I bet you'll be even happier, now that I've been officially promoted as messenger between you and them. They seemed to have come to an understanding and have written you a letter." she said, not the slightest bit deterred about her son's happiness, and reached out the envelope.

"Ah, they're okay again? I'm glad, that means you've got one thing less to worry about." he answered, not losing one bit of his smile as he accepted the letter.

The woman blinked, befuddled at the sudden wave of...

"Honey, you're suddenly talking a whole lot better!"

"I know! Uncle Finley thought me lots of things yesterday!"

"Uncle...?" she repeated dryly.

"Mm-hm, he's super nice and he's so smart, mommy!"

With her son as happy as he was and talking so fluently, why, Delia would've expected herself to be feeling a whole lot better about this strange uncle. However, that one phone call ended up in her mind again and she'd hate it if some sort of stranger came to her son with some dubious intentions... And it was purely coincidental that she nearly bumped into one of the officers, so she could ask him about the odd situation that was going on.

"Pardon, Ma'am." he said, actually moving aside when she nearly walked into him.

"Oh, I'm sorry. You're... very well camouflaged in that grey suit."

The officer smiled and nodded.

"Euhm, sir, can I ask... Have you see this... uncle Finley my son told me about?"

"I do, as a matter of fact. I remember having seen him yesterday for the first time and well, the therapist was very impressed with how quickly he managed to make such a positive effect on little Ash."

"Great, sir, I'm pleased that my son is doing fine... But Ash doesn't have an uncle, to begin with. Not from mine... or my husband's side."

"... Well... Then we have a very odd Samaritan who's clearly helping this kid."

"I think you were placed here to check if weird people were entering or not, though."

"His name is Finely, that much we know. His story seems to fit well, as he was able to give a detailed story about where this boy lives and how he met him. Ash confirmed it too."

"That doesn't mean I need to like that my son possibly has a stalker, sir." Delia said, trying to be as calm as she could muster.

"S-stalker? Mrs., are you sure? This could just be a helpful friend of your son-"

"Goodness! Fine, then I will stay here until I see this uncle Finley and I will tell him loud and clearly I never want him close to my son if he doesn't have a good explanation for how he got the information and why he's here. And if it is with harmful intentions that he's here, I will contact your superior, is that understood?"

"Absolutely, Mrs.!" The man nodded, seemingly not even feeling the slightest bit threatened, even though he was looking slightly red in the face. "Let me notify the doctor that you will stay here."

"There is no need for that." A deep male voice suddenly said, on that sounded familiar to the woman.

The officer turned around instantly.

"Ah, Mr. Finley! Mrs. Ketchum was looking for you. Maybe… it's best if you two talk this out for a bit."

"Absolutely, I was counting on meeting the fabulous woman who raised such a great son!" the person said amicably, dressed in a very nice purple suit, with hat and all. "Come, Mrs. Ketchum, please join me inside the room."


Once back inside, though, Delia was pretty much ready to call the police, if only Ash hadn't been let out this exited squeal at seeing the man. Looking at him from up close, there was something... that made her believe he wasn't completely human to begin with, even though she already mentally chided herself for thinking that way. However, the woman would never have thought to ever see someone who made looking perfect so weird... but well, here he was.

"Ash, do you know him?" she sighed, rubbing her forehead as she leaned on the bar of the bed, feeling a bit faint and tired because of all this.

"Yup! He firstly wiped out my memories of him, but then I helped him and another of his kind, so now he's here to help me." the teen answered happily.

"... Wiped...?"

"Do rest assure I do not mean your son any harm, Mrs. Ketchum. I'm merely here to help."

It then dawned on Delia that this was the same voice she had heard, remembering it from before, from that call... She didn't know what to think about all this, but… the man in front of her seemed to be telling the truth. He just sounded so strange and his pronunciation was immaculate. It made her ashamed of her own lingo sometimes, yet at the same time, this was the first time she had ever heard anyone talk like that. No wonder her son learnt so fast if this was his teacher… It even put professor Oak to shame, for sure.

"What's your real name?"

"Ah, what's in a name? I regret to tell you that I was born with a name that my maker formed with pure envy of another being... but I have grown to dislike it. My... species is called like that, but I am me. So I've grown a tendency to give myself names." he answered calmly. "You know at least two, don't you, Ash?"

"Yes, Mewtwo, uncle Finley!"

The woman didn't have a clue what her son meant with 'Mewtwo' but figured she'd go and ask Professor Oak after this. But she had way more questions, ones she wanted to be answered right here and now.

"So... What does this mean then? Why are you here, or rather, why have you even called me at that ungodly hour, knowing it'd result in me being so worried?"

"I was trying to gain information, Mrs. Ketchum. I... Can you promise to keep my secret as closely to your heart and as far away from your mouth as you son has already done?"

"Of course."

"Promise me."

"I promise, sir."

"... Very well." the man nodded.

And so Delia was informed that 'uncle' Finley wasn't as human as she thought he was. It had cost him a great deal of effort to make that phone call, but thanks to his psychic powers, the being had gotten access to everything the woman wasn't willing to verbally share with him. But he hadn't thought his harmless need to help the boy who had made him aware the world wasn't as bad and had basically saved him from himself, would cause the woman to feel so bad. Yes, it was hard to be a human, especially after having despised them for so long but... that didn't mean he wasn't trying to make a good effort.

"... and as such, I apologise for having worried you." he ended his explanation.

"A-ah, it's nothing really. Even though you should know that you can't just tell anyone you're family, simply to get into this room. There's no way I wouldn't have found out about all this, especially not with Ash's sudden improvement, which I really need to find a proper way to thank you for..."

The man nodded, feeling slightly relieved about this woman, who seemed to be lost in thought for now, and her reaction to his intrusive behaviour. He might be pretty mighty as a Pokémon but taking on a human shape already took a lot of his concentration. The officers were easily swayed with a little help from his psychic powers, but they wouldn't be enough to convince Delia. And with how much kinetic energy had flowed through the youngest in this room, nothing would ever be enough to sway him from what he believed was the truth, with our without Aura.

"Can I just ask… Are you a Pokémon then?" Delia asked, looking up again.

"Yes. Your son is a great person and I had a favour to repay."

"Are you the one who has healed his leg?"

"No, absolutely not." the man replied stiffly. "If it had been me, I would've done it a whole lot better. I've seen… how humans look. Externally and internally."

"Then it was a Mew?" she asked, conveniently skipping past the rather gruesome ending to Mr. Finley's comment.

As he turned to look at Ash with an inquisitive look, the teen was quick to tell him that it was him who told everyone that, as he still remembered. The man frowned at that but seemed relieved that official instances had been brought aware of a serious danger.

"In what way dangerous, sir?" Delia asked.

"The other dimensional beings are one of the greatest threats this earth could possibly face, Mrs. Ketchum, for they have been brought up in a way that learned them to have very little empathy, for someone else and each other... And they are unusually aggressive, which is why your son is here."

"I... see..."

"Do not worry too much, for all you need to do, is keep Ash save inside in the evenings. Until... those beings have been taken care off."

"Oh, you can be sure that he won't be outside for now." she huffed, putting her hands on her sides. "Not without me and several Pokémon, that is. And really, there needs to be a miracle for him to suddenly be walking so soon, so..."

"Good. Be careful as you go, Mrs. Ketchum, should you go outside without protection. These... things do not qualify to be called a Pokémon."

"... Such as yourself?"

"You wound me!" the man exclaimed. "I will admit that I needed Ash's help to realise how I felt about myself and my place in the world, but now that I do, I am honoured to be one."

"So then what are those other beings?"

In a way, Delia wished she hadn't asked. No, she didn't want to know that there was someone, somewhere, who managed to open a gateway to let these destroyers in, letting them into this and many other worlds. Or that they preyed on those with special gifts, to use them to cause even more destruction. Though it seemed like the man hadn't known that Ash had Aura, for he told her that they were preying on someone with compassion.

Those beings had captured a young Mew and used its powers to call in empaths and the like, yet considering the young Pokémon used Aura instead of it's still developing psychic powers, Ash must've felt drawn to it, despite being injured or greatly confused. Since that explanation sounding descriptive of her son's character, Delia knew something like this must've happened.

"Is there any way we can defend ourselves against this kind of threat, then?"

"You do not have to, Mrs. Ketchum. The guardians of the region will teach them to stay in their own world with ways even they can understand. I, for one, will not allow them to touch any inhabitants of Kanto."

Delia knew what he meant with those 'guardians', figuring he used that title so he didn't have to call them Legendary. But she also had seen first-hand that these Pokémon's favourite past-time was arguing and fighting with their counterparts. If they were suddenly working together, or at least working against the same enemy, well this might just be a threat that was indeed well over people's head...

"Alright. I believe you. Though you shouldn't doubt that I'll do everything I can to keep my son safe."

"Indeed, but thank you for understanding, Mrs. Ketchum. Let me... leave a keepsake of myself with him. It will protect him from being approached by those beings."

"... I'd be a fool to refuse any help, so please do. Arceus knows I can use all the help I get."

"Yes, that's right. For your son isn't just my friend."


Later, Delia had seen that the Pokémon had already left that 'keepsake' with her son, who was wearing the simple, silver bracelet around his wrist. Yet, if this Finley was indeed as mighty as Ash later told her, then... well, she didn't really know what to think about all this. Yes, the accident had been weird, but she never would've expected the explanation as to why it even happened to be even more odd.

There also was a niggling feeling in the back of her head, as if there was something she'd forgotten, but couldn't remember for the life of her... Still, her son was happy and doing better than ever, so the woman had just gone home, to deliver the messages he'd written to his friends. Delia would be more than pleased to have some time to think about what had happened today, preferably over a nice, strong cup of coffee.

She had come to the conclusion that, while this situation might've turned out a whole lot different that she had expected, it wasn't as if anyone got hurt. But yes, it was still food for thought and it kept her busy for quite some time. Even as Professor Oak had come over, to simply be nosy, she wasn't all there.

"My, Delia, you're daydreaming a lot these days, aren't you?" he commented, sneakily pouring his 'coffee' in the conveniently placed potted plant's sand.

"What makes you say that, Samuel?" she asked softly, looking up from her cup... she'd been stirring in for too long already.

"You've put salt in my coffee, dear. And if you keep stirring like that, you'll end up with a leakage from your cup."

The woman quickly retracted her spoon and stared at the man with a rather horrified look.

"Oh, goodness! I'm so sorry, let me-"

"It's okay, Delia, I'm not thirsty anyway." the Professor said quickly. "Instead, why don't you tell me what's on your mind? Maybe I can help you."

"I'm sorry, Samuel, it's just..."

"Yes? " he urged.

"It seems my family has gotten a bit bigger today, as we've gained an uncle today."

"Come again?"

"He was just there, right registration and all, or so the G-men officer claimed. He also seemed to do a whole lot of good for Ash, oh, Samuel, he's doing so much better now-"

"Not to burst your balloon or anything, Delia, but neither you or Red or any of your parents have a brother to be an uncle to you or Ash."

"I know that, but... His name is Finley and he'd actually very nice, being so calm and patient with-"

"Delia!" the Professor exclaimed, raising his voice to get her full attention.

"Yes!?"

"Who is this Finley? Please tell me you didn't let a complete stranger run over you like that?!"

"Apparently a good friend of Ash's." the woman replied dryly, not knowing how to calm the man like Mr. Finley had done with her.

"Delia, Ash has dozens of friends! I remember a time where he'd considered the stones in my driveway friends as well!"

"Yes, but..."

"Is Finley actually his name?"

When Delia stuttered that the man had only given himself names, Professor Oak couldn't help but sit back in his chair and give her a very dry look. He'd nearly crossed his arms over his chest but figured she wasn't to blame for all this, as this situation would make any mother confused.

"How does this not remind you of the excuses of an A-class fraud is completely beyond me, Delia. And no, don't start on me, because Ash could very well become friends with a fraud, I know how he is. And you're just like him in that way!"

"Professor...?"

"Yes, Delia?"

"... Have you ever heard about Mewtwo?"

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

Ash could only stare as the physician amused herself with poking his left leg, apparently wanting to check whether everything was okay, or something. He already told them it didn't hurt or feel bad any longer, in fact, it seemed like he was already used to this. That even surprised himself, but Mewtwo and his inspirational talks really caused the teen to want to burst out of this hospital and go run around, doing stuff. But well, with one and a half leg, it'd be pretty useless, wouldn't it?

As the woman continued her treatment (against scar tissue or something), Ash's thoughts went to his mother's reaction when having returned with the knowledge of who lovely Mr. Finley actually was. He really admired her calmness, to be honest, in fact, she looked a little bit too acceptant.

"I really wish you told me about that." she had said in that particular disappointed way, making her son feel all kinds of things.

But what could he have done, with Mewtwo having made him forget about it? And she, along with Professor Oak, told him his stories didn't make sense, or that it was his imagination playing games with him, so what was there to tell? He was about to sigh but then a sharp pain drew his attention to the matter at hand. With a pout on his face, Ash realised the physician had just pinched his arm.

"I wasn't aware there was scar tissue of there as well?" he asked, staring at her.

"Just checking you were still here, Ash. I... have trouble believing you're not complaining more."

He stared some more because the teen wasn't quite following.

"Besides some sensitive parts, you're pretty much... healed, boy."

"Oh, but I heal pretty fast actually. I've never been sick for longer than a day, you know?"

The physician now gave him a long hard look.

"Excellent, then. What do you say of trying to walk, hm?"

"I'm... still missing a part, actually."

But as she disappeared for a bit and returned with a couple of bright yellow crutches, there was little he could complain about. Well, yes, about falling, but the physician was there to catch him whenever it happened. And after a couple of tries, Ash actually got the hang of it and stayed upright for half an hour, something he was rather proud of.

"Well done, Ash." the physician said, giving his shoulder a light squeeze. "You're a fast learner, aren't you?"

"Oh, but I'm just as good at forgetting things, actually."

The woman smiled broadly and actually chuckled as he started smiling as well.

"Go and have a rest, Ash. I don't want you to overexert yourself."

"Ah yeah, can I have a bit of help? I've got a feeling that backing up isn't going to go as smoothly as I'm imagining it."

"Of course."


While the physician had gone to report about this very positive outcome to Dr. Martin, another specialist was mulling over the fact he'd been a stupid, old coot for so many years that he feared it might be too late to change.

Yes, Professor Oak was condemning himself for having ignored the stories for so long that the young trainer had simply stopped coming to him to tell them. If anything, Delia asking about Mewtwo should've given him a big enough hint to realise that Ash might just be as excellent a trouble fixer as he was a trouble magnet. How else would someone explain why Mewtwo, of all beings, would've come to help him relearn how to talk? Being man-made, the being detested humanity, yet had made an exception for Ash.

And somehow, it made sense to the man, who'd seen angry Beedrill calm down when the teen, then a toddler, had come bouncing towards them, arms in the air and giggling like mad. Delia still hadn't forgiven him for just having stood there, gaping at how the 3-year old was hugging rumoured killer Pokémon. Funnily enough, the Beedrill literally buzzed off and didn't bother the child any longer.

The piece de resistance were the answers he'd gotten from his colleagues, though, after he had sent them a copy of Ash's drawing. Funny how Professor Juniper had been the first to react.

'Dear Professor Oak, if anything, you shouldn't be surprised about the fact that Ash has met Legendary Pokémon prior to this accident. In fact, Aura or not, chances are that this Mew just simply knew him and helped him because of that. I don't suppose that dark shadow he drew in the corner could be Zekrom? For we both know the Pokémon came to Ash twice, without any good reason.' she had written in response.

And that had made Professor Oak doubt his own ability to distinguish fantasy from truth, which was a very uncomfortable thought. But then again, it had been the same way with the shiny Pokémon Ash caught, which had caused quite the ruckus in the laboratory. Most of the assistants didn't believe the news, but apparently the young trainer had suspected it and the Noctowl was very good at staring people down, so no one actually dared to touch him, to check whether he was painted or something. A good rain season had made an end to the argument, with the drenched Pokémon still staring at them, in all his shiny goodness.

But the Professor was ashamed he had also thought the Pokémon had been... well, cheated. And now again, with the boy's stories being confirmed little by little, he told himself that he'd apologise to Ash next time he'd see him and actually offer him a listening ear for his stories... if it wasn't too late to get the teen to talk about them that is.

Then suddenly, a 'ding' from his computer alerted the man that he'd gotten another response to his message but... Just one glance at the newest addition was enough to make Professor Oak realise that they were well in over their heads with this case.


"Mom, can you ask whether my friends can come visit me again?" Ash asked, looking up at her from the bed.

Delia smiled at him, because he looked rather adorable, propped up against the railing of the bed and the plush Togekiss. But she refrained a sigh, because her son would always ask this question. And what was even worse, when she got home, the woman got the same question from the teens there.

"Of course I can, sweetheart, though I think we'll be getting the same answer again."

"Maybe so... But they've been doing so many tests and all I get to do is wait and it so boooring~" he sighed, flopping on the pillow, which squeaked in protest. "And this pillow is more a whoopee cushion than anything else. Why's it made out of plastic?"

"To keep germs away, dear. They're easy to keep clean as well."

"... Great..."

The woman held in her giggle at her son's exasperated expression.

"Oh, sweetheart, don't be like that. I'm sure the doctor will be decent enough about this."

"Well, we'll soon know if he is, actually." the boy then answered, making Delia frown.

And when there was a knock on the door, not a second later, she raised an eyebrow at her son, who shrugged.

"His shoes make a funny noise when he walks."

It was only because the doctor actually entered the room that the woman didn't make a comment on how on earth Ash actually knew the man was coming because as far as she noticed, those shoes didn't make a single noise. So unless the teen had gotten some otherworldly ability to see people come in through the wall, he would never have known Dr. Martin was even coming.

But well, the news that her son was actually on the way to be discharged soon caused her focus on the little incident to fade. Ash was really happy to hear that his friends could visit him now as well, considering he hadn't reacted negatively to any of the nurses and doctors when going through some tests. In fact, thanks to the physician's report, the doctor had agreed to let him go through some special training, so that the teen would be able to leave the hospital with confidence that he'd be able to walk.

The hospital was still negotiating with the League insurance to provide a prosthetic leg for Ash, but so far, it was as if they were talking to a brick wall. Personally, Dr. Martin thought those people to be rather heartless, for the League would instantly revoke a person's trainer status if they noticed the trainer wasn't capable of travelling or caring for his Pokémon. And that would leave the boy with Pokémon he couldn't fight with, simply care for, which was... well, considering all the nurses knew he wanted to be a Pokémon Master, it'd be a really cruel ending to his dream.

"Doctor, is something the matter?" Ash asked, startling the man, who had been checking the fluid bags on the IV.

It seemed like Delia wasn't at all surprise by the sudden question, but she was watching her son nevertheless.

"With my kind of profession, there is always something the matter, Ash."

"Yeah but... I nearly thought a nurse had put something bad in that bag because your face looked like... well, somewhat apocalyptic."

'If only you knew, boy.' the doctor thought but was amused by the remark.

"There are some issues with your case, Ash, but not with the fluid bag, let that be one worry less," he answered. "It's... more the League that should be your main focus."

"Oh, the League!" Delia exclaimed. "No wonder you got that kind of expression on your face. Are you trying to get some information?"

"Euhm, no."

Dr. Martin told them the story of how the insurance company was being a pain in the butt about the negotiation for the prosthetic, yet it didn't seem like Ash was impressed by the League's muscles rolling.

"Mom, I don't suppose you've got my transceiver with you?"

"Ah, yes! I do!" Delia said, perking up as she grabbed her bag to take the device out of it and hold it out towards her son. "Here, dear, I nearly forgot I had it with me."

Ash simply nodded in response, but his attention was mostly focussed on the transceiver.

"Is this enough for a prosthetic?" he asked, having just pulled up his bank account... or rather, one of them.

Good thing the doctor was holding onto the railing of the bed, as he'd never had suspected that being a trainer would've left the teen with this much money.

"Yes... Yes, it is plenty, Ash. H-how did you even...?"

"I participated in a few tournaments." the teen answered simply, deactivating his device again. "Never thought to check what they actually give me for it, but I got this epiphany when I came home from Unova. Not that I expected that I'd be using this money to replace my leg, but it was still too much to have a massive candy raid with as well, so... Next best thing, I suppose."

"Quite so, Ash."


The woman had been somewhat amused to see the befuddled doctor scamper off, to go and give the green light to have a prosthetic leg made for her son, but even more when she saw the reaction of the group of teens that heard the news that they could finally visit their friend. Right now, they were making a list of who was going to visit with who and deciding who'd go first with a game of rock-paper-scissors. So far, Misty and Brock had gotten lucky and would be the first to visit.

That suited Delia just fine as she could get along with any of the teens. Taking a few of them with her was the least of her worries, but the reaction of her son to seeing his friends again might leave the doctor to reconsider his decision. However, the man seemed to be totally convinced that Ash was doing fine and the mother was more than willing to believe him.

Even more, she thought that this time to think had done plenty of good for her little boy, if the influence of the delightful Mr. Finley was anything to go by. It was clear that Ash had been thinking about his life and that was something Delia could applaud. However, she soon figured she should've better taken his transceiver home with her again, for she got a rather annoyed visitor at her door.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Ketchum." the man said curtly. "Is there a chance I could talk to Ash?"

"M-Mr. Scott?" she asked, not only sounding but looking surprised at seeing the rather short and curly haired man in front of her door.

"Simply Scott will do. Now, about Ash?"

"Yes, about him. Euhm... You can talk to him, but you'll have to change location. He's had an accident, you see?"

"One that affected his mental capacities?"

"... Excuse me?" Delia asked affronted.

"Look at what he's sent Anabel."

Without waiting for any kind of response, the man held out a picture of the said message... Which made the mother wonder why the man was here, looking all agitated. Asking the girl to be careful when going out late, wasn't that bad, was it? And considering what Mr. Finely had told Ash... If her son knew this Anabel had a special talent, then this was actually the right thing to do.

"I don't see what's so wrong about wanting to be careful?" the woman asked, raising an eyebrow at the man.

"He didn't just send it to her," Scott answered as he stuffed the picture back in his pocket.

"Yes, and? Maybe he wants them safe as well."

"They already are safe, Mrs. Ketchum, they're just not feeling like it right now. This message caused a whole lot of people to start to worry and it's made not only my day a lot worse."

"And how is this my son's fault? Do you realise that I too thought he was safe before he had his accident? That he'd give them this advice for fun and giggles?" Delia bristled angrily, agitated about the man's need to make everything about the League and its elite trainers.

And if there was something she'd had plenty of complaints about, it was the bl00dy League, that much was sure.

"M-Mrs. Ketchum-"

"He send this to them to make sure they didn't fall into the same misery as he did a good two weeks ago, sir, so don't you tell me it wasn't well-meant! Besides, everyone affected with this case knows it could easily happen again, for there are beast who roam around, preying on those with abilities and lure them towards a trap that's meant to kidnap them, to take or do things to them no one knows." she continued. "My son paid dearly for his compassion, Mr. Scott, so keep in your poison, for he probably just wanted to warn those he thinks are in risk of attracting those creatures! So they wouldn't end up handicapped like him?!"

The man took a step back, startled by the outburst... but even more when his angry mind processed what had just been said.

"I-I... Where exactly is Ash, Mrs. Ketchum?"

"In the hospital, somewhat bored, but definitely a bit traumatised and scared for the health of his friends."

Scott seemed to deflate where he stood, which was very visible to Delia as well. But she wasn't ready to forgive him just yet.

"Really...?"

"Yes. I'll give you his exact location, but I'm calling the doctor so that I'm sure there's someone to kick you out should you go out of bounds."

"A-ah, yes... Sorry, Mrs. Ketchum." the man wheedled. "I didn't know."

"There's a lot the League doesn't know, I'm afraid. And it's not me you should be apologising too either."

And with that, the woman disappeared behind the door, leaving the startled man alone for a bit. But in all honesty, Scott was feeling a bit scared now as well and instantly made a beeline to the hospital as soon as Delia gave him the right location.


His bravado he'd displayed earlier had melted completely when he made his way to the hospital. Yes, so Ash was still in the pediatrics ward, which was completely normal considering the kid was still 14 but... the cheery drawings on the walls, of smiling Pokémon like Plusle, Minum and the like... No, it wasn't doing much for Scott, who usually avoided hospitals like the plague. If it wasn't for his curiosity, he'd never have set foot in this building but when did anything ever go to plan?

All he'd wanted to do was to scare off Ash from sending any direct messaged to Anabel, because she was so sensitive, it wasn't even funny. And she was important to all the Frontier Brains, so basically, the young trainer had messed up... if there wasn't a good story behind his action, which, Scott feared there actually was. Chances were that the teen could give him lot less agitated version of what happened to him, unlike his mother, that is. Though the man feared he might've been a tad bit insensitive, yet blamed it on him not knowing he'd even need to be sensitive.

Having gotten faced with Mr. Goodshow himself, Scott made sure he made a call to the man as well, if only to already calm him down as well. There were plenty of elites who had reacted negatively, so while the Frontier only had a few trainers to deal with, Charles got the whole lot breathing in his neck. So yeah, Scott needed him to know as well, but if anything the man was a whole lot more skilled in working with children, telling him to go find a toy for Ash, to at least get him to warm up to his presence. After all, if a mother, who left her son to walk around in several regions with no other guidance than some friends, suddenly got worried, they might need to be a bit careful.

So, armed with a Mankey plush, as Scott knew the teen had had before, he went to the room... only to find someone he didn't particularly like to see, still fuming as he was being restrained by a G-men officer and being told off by a doctor.

"Mrs. Ketchum told me to be wary of a short, curly-haired man, while I suddenly find a lanky sod like you bellowing your lungs out at a well-meaning child?!" Dr. Martin exclaimed, clearly agitated. "Do you know what he'd been through, you crazy idiot?"

"Putin de merde, let me go! Then I can at least go and apologise!" Étienne answered, just as annoyed as the doctor.

"Never. Mr. officer, can you please drop off this piece of work outside? I don't want him to come into this hospital again unless he'd suddenly become a patient."

"Sir." the G-men officer nodded and simply carried the protesting man away.

But that caused the doctor to turn and yes, he did sigh and rub his forehead at seeing Scott.

"It's you, isn't it?"

"A-ah... yes, I suppose I am. Though I can assure you I'm not here to question him."

"Sure." Dr. Martin answered dryly. "Just know that the kid's not having a therapist for fun and giggles. And that there's another officer inside who can surely carry you out of this hospital as well."

"I promise I'll do my best not to rile him up."

"Mm-hm, we'll see. Also, introduce yourself, he might not remember how to say your name." Dr. Martin said simply and walked off, mumbling something about having to get the therapist again and how some adults were imbeciles.


Wanting to keep true to his word, Scott went in with the Mankey plush op front, making sure that the teen would surely see that he meant well. However, upon entering the door, where the man nearly bumped into the other G-men officer, he could see that Ash gave him a look only those who'd seen something terribly wrong could give. If anything, Scott initially thought Giratina itself had spawned behind him for the boy to look at him like that.

"Hey, Ash." the man said, trying to be cheery.

"H-hi... Sorry, I'm not... having a good day."

If anything, Scott was inclined to believe it, by the look of things. Ash was so pale and he looking like he'd burst out in tears any second now. And well, that, along with Pikachu giving the man a murderous glare from under the blankets, caused whatever was left of his anger to shrivel away and die.

"Remember me?"

Ash stared at him and shrugged.

"Yeah, you're probably mad at me for sending that message to... euhm... A..."

"Anabel." Scott finished for him." And my name is Scott, pretty much the one to raise the whole Battle Frontier, but that doesn't mean I'm playing babysit on them. I'll be frank and say that, yes, I was annoyed at first... but now I'm here in front of you..."

"Sorry, I never meant to cause them to worry that much, I just wanted them to be safe and not-"

"None of that, boy, they're adults, they should be able to manage." the man grumbled, now annoyed with the reaction of the Frontier Brains rather than Ash's message itself. "Look, I've got you something. Remember who is it?"

"... 's A Mankey, right? They like to steal hats and onigiri... Or were it doughnuts...?"

That didn't make any sense to the curly haired man, who just lifted the plush over the railing. The teen looked rather pleased with it which was a nice change from the rather ghastly expression that had been omnipresent on his face earlier.

"Thank you, Scott. I... suppose I could tell you why I send those messages but please, give me some time."

"I've got plenty, Ash, take as much as you need. I don't want you to rile yourself up and that's not only because your doctor is a very agitated man at the moment, so... if I'm asking too much, or if I'm making you remember things you don't like, tell me."

The boy simply smiled and nodded ever so slightly, looking marginally better than a few seconds ago. Yet as Scott heard what happened, he felt this strange urge to strangle one or two elite trainers. Fortunately, he was able to keep his expression neutral enough for the pale teen, making there would be no reason for Ash to lose it all of a sudden. And thankfully that didn't happen, but the man ended up thanking him for the messages, something he'd never thought he'd do.

Once back in the League, Scott made sure to calm everyone done, with plenty of gusto in some cases as well. He wouldn't stand for Ash to get any negative response, because what he did went far beyond what the League had done for him. So, basically, they were in his debt, something that made Mr. Goodshow and plenty of elites frown. Yes, Scott had chosen to make this a big meeting, because he wanted to be effective and efficient. And now, no one could say they weren't told either, which usually was their excuse.


The only thing that had kept Ash busy this week, was the nice lady who had come to make measurements for his prosthetic leg. Not that the boy care for the silence, after all, his biggest problem right now was getting buried alive in plush toys. He didn't get any extra visitors, except for his delightful friends, but gifts kept finding their way towards his room. It was driving the nurses nuts trying to find space to put them in.

Agatha had sent this huge Gengar plush, which had glow in the dark eyes and smile, along with a carefully written thank-you note pinned to its body, which the woman put there as there had been little to no people who'd ever minded to worry about her well-being. This pleased Ash immensely and really, the Gengar was his favourite toy by far, as it scared the night nurse every single time she passed. And because it was so big, it sat in the empty space at the foot end of the bed.

But all in all, the teen still found himself with plenty of time to think, which wasn't necessarily a good thing, actually. The nurses often just appeared before him for some odd reason and if that happened, they looked somewhat worried. Dr. Martin called it excessive, uncontrolled maladaptive daydreaming, a disorder that had probably come forth from his traumatic experience, for it might explain the need to escape reality. But those words didn't mean anything to him and Ash would simply keep it with 'zoning' out. It was easier to remember and it made him feel less bad when he did get too caught up in his own head.

"… You seem to have quite the collection going here…"

Ash jumped up when he suddenly heard the soft, male voice, which did seem quite close by. But well, he probably had zoned out again.

"Oh, sorry, I didn't know you were resting."

"No, no, it's okay, I wasn't really... Euhm, could you...?"

"My name's Morty." the man answered, clearly not bothered with it.

Changes were that he knew what had happened and probably didn't want to settle for a plush toy or something.

"Right! Sorry, Morty, I do remember you, it's just..."

"It's fine, Ash. I've heard about what happened, so it's all okay."

The boy nodded, somewhat pleased his visitor was such a chill guy. He'd always know that the Johto Gym Leader had been this way, but his calm presence made Ash feel more at ease. And he was already so happy he didn't need to rake up the incident again as well so that his therapist didn't need to tell him off for doing so again.

"I actually came here to thank you, Ash." Morty continued. "My Pokémon are very sensitive and did tell me something was wrong, but you were first... And it saved someone from the creature you told us was coming since we were able to broadcast the message to stay safe in the evening."

"Oh, Gods, really? I hope no one got hurt?"

"From what I heard, the girl's parent's Pokémon jumped in to save her, though it seems like the Legendary Dogs jumped in to fight along. Whatever creature it was, it wasn't its best day, that's for sure. Though the girl is feeling rather blessed now."

Ash smiled and nodded, happy he at least did his part.

"But anyway... How are you feeling, Ash?"

"Depends, actually. I usually don't have many off-days, but when I do..."

"Did you have one today?"

"No, yesterday. But I still feel half-asleep for some reason."

"I can imagine this is hard on you. Not only from emotional viewpoint, but also from the physical one, considering the doctor told me you're a bit differently than others internally or something. So maybe you're getting the brunt of the emotional luggage this event brought with it." the man said in a very gentle way, somewhat hushed too. "From my viewpoint, I'd rather not have you talk about this accident at all."

"... Really?"

"Yes, that's... my gift, sensing someone's pain. If you're interested in it."

"Oh, I'm very interested." the teen said, perking up. "Is it something you were born with?"

"No, I've gained it from being near my Pokémon. I... You can probably see I've changed."

"For the better, though, Morty. I really like your outfit."

"Ah, in that case..."

Morty had gotten a smile on his face all of a sudden, but Ash soon joined in when he noticed the man actually had brought a Mismagius poncho with him.

"Oh, wow! It's so soft too!" the boy gushed, gingerly taking the gift. "Thank you so much, Morty."

"You're very welcome. I'm glad you're happy with the design, but my own Mismagius was rather adamant about this."

"I love it."

"Good! Figured I wouldn't bring you another plush toy, but now I'm pleased I didn't because there's no besting that Gengar. It's ridiculously... life-like, isn't it?"

"Mm, it has already scared plenty of nurses as well, with the glowing smile and eyes."

Morty nodded, amused by the plush Pokémon as well.

"Though I've got another gift but... I've left it with your mother, so you can discover what's inside when you go home."

"Ah, that's so mean! I could be stuck here for months at the rate this is going!"

"... Really?"

"Yeah, they're... I'm..."

Ash seemingly didn't know what he needed or wanted to say and simply made a rather desperate gesture towards his left leg... which Morty only now noticed was a lot shorter than the right one. And the pain that came from the teen was nearly flooding all his senses, making his dizzy as if he'd just spend too much time in a round-about carousel. It was disorienting the man as well.

"Don't, Ash, please. Let's... just talk about something else." Morty said quickly, eager to change the subject.

"... Such as?"

"Euhm... What will you do when you get out of the hospital?"

"Hug every single one of my friends. Properly, without this railing in the way."

"Alright, and after that?"

"Then it's my Pokémon's turn, for sure."

The man chuckled, happy to see the enthusiasm return. The air got a bit clearer for him as well, which was an added bonus.

"I suppose I shouldn't have doubter that you actually saw Ho-Oh, hm?"

Ash blinked at the sudden remark, with a subject that was even more random. Still, considering Morty had just gone out of his way to come here, stay here and buy him a present...

"Eh, that's okay. Plenty of people always wrote off my stories as part of my imagination, so I'm not bothered by it anymore. Still, what makes you say that now, of all times?"

"I just... feel guilty, I suppose. Even here, while no one's expecting you to do anything, you still went out of your way to make sure that those you suspected were at risk, were told about the danger and it's just... Well, I'm not the only one who thinks that it's really cute."

The teen gave him a look of disbelief, but he couldn't help blushing at the sudden praise. And his reaction only proved the man's point even further.

"And it's also part of why you're being smothered with gifts, Ash. We've all been looking out for ourselves for so long, that it's... knowing someone else did it for once was actually earth-shattering for the most of us."

"I... didn't think of it that much, Morty, honestly. I just... didn't want any of you to get hurt, b-because it was so scary and..."

The Gym leader sighed and took the boy's hand.

"Listen, Ash, don't worry about it any longer. We're all safe since the issue's know and we'll stay that way. Because of you so, it's all fine."

"Thank heavens." the boy whispered, looking all too close to start to cry all of a sudden.

The floodgates didn't really open as easily as the man had initially expected, though, but he especially took care of that when the Gym Leader told him how he had started out with his unconventional starter. Soon, Ash was pretty much crying with laughter, but so was Morty, not only because the boy's laugh was somewhat contagious, but also because the man still got the giggles of the memories of his faithful, yet more than playful Gastly.


Ever since Delia had ever heard of her son getting this traumatologist, she'd been itching to see him and today, she got the chance. But imagine her surprise when the man came towards her when she went to visit her son too.

"Good morning, Mrs. Ketchum. I've got some news for you."

"Oh?"

She'd already seen he was the traumatologist since it was stated on his name tag but still...

"Your son is completely ready and waiting for you to come collect him. And... it wasn't just me who decided that." the man added as if he was expecting the question.

Delia had wanted to ask about that, yes, since she still thought it'd be Dr. Martin to come tell her this news. But then again, he was a busy man and Ash wasn't his only patient...

"... Can he come home with me? Really?"

"Absolutely. My patient has adapted extremely well to walking with those crutches. And we do believe that being around people will instigate him to walk even more."

"Goodness!" the woman exclaimed, completely bewildered yet feeling really enthusiastic about this. "Is there something I need to know? How to care for something or...?"

"Mrs. Ketchum, Dr. Martin will tell you everything you need to know. I've also got a list of medication he needs to take, with a daily schedule on it as well."

Delia accepted the list, but after a quick scan over the contents, she couldn't help but frown. There was a name she recognised, as her own father had taken it for years, as it had been subscribed to relieve stress and sedate him...

"Are you sure he's fine?" she asked, looking up from the sheet.

"There's nothing more this hospital can offer him and as I previously stated, being around people will help him, emotionally, but also physically."

'Well, if that's the case...' Delia thought dryly as she folded up the list and neatly put it in her purse.

If the hospital wanted to get rid of him, who was she not to welcome her son back home, huh? And considering he'd been able to calm his friends from a distance, having him close by would be even more effective.

"Please go see him, Mrs. Ketchum, you'll see that he's good to go."

In a way, the woman didn't even doubt that she'd be good to go home if she'd been stuck here for so long as well but, that didn't mean her son was well enough to come along. And when they met again, with Ash giving the man a dubious enough look to make Delia smile, it became clear that the nurses had only just told him he'd be going home as well. With all the plush toys stuffed in plastic bags, they soon were on the route towards the bus stop.

Yes, it was less than ideal and the teen looked about ready to topple over by the time they got there. He only got on the bus with the help of the very helpful driver, who even helped him off the bus again as well. Delia had her hands full of bags and already had difficulties keeping herself upright with the added luggage, so she couldn't even offer any help to begin with. By the time they actually arrived home, Ash was a total wreck and had no other option but to take a nap.

Good thing his bed was completely built and ready on the ground floor room, which was meant to become his bedroom. Even while the area wasn't complete yet, as the other teens were still working on it, it'd have to do for now, as the teen simply needed a cozy place to sleep in.

"Is this okay?" Delia asked, worrying as he kept groaning.

"I... this just isn't... one of my days, I swear." Ash sighed, deciding to lay down on his stomach as it seemed to be the most comfortable position right now. "Thought I told them I wasn't feeling up too much this morning..."

"Don't think about that, sweetie, you're perfectly safe here and I'll make sure some of your Pokémon come over to cuddle soon, okay? Just close your eyes for a bit, I'll be here when you wake up."

"Okay..."

It barely even qualified as a whisper, but Delia had heard in nonetheless. She thanked all heavens that the other teens were somewhere else because her son needed the rest. The woman wasn't a stranger to hospitals and knew that the day you got out of one was the hardest to endure. Especially now, with the less than ideal transportation home, there was a chance that Ash would only be able to wake up to eat something and would simply fall asleep again afterwards.

She could only hope that tomorrow would be better, yet to her great dismay, someone suddenly rang the doorbell. Though Ash didn't even budge from the sound, Delia shot outside the make-shift bedroom to go and have a good chat with the person who rang instead of knocked, which was the usual course of action.

Needless to say, Professor Oak wasn't amused to see the woman with that kind of expression on her face open the door, but upon closer inspection, it might be that the man just was in a bit of a pinch with the Gliscor having him in an arm lock like that.

"Arceus help me, Delia, get this Pokémon from me and take it with you to hospital. I was really wrong in assuming they'd be the slightest bit subtle in trying to get to Ash."

"Oh, but he's here, Samuel."

Gliscor was inside before either adult could say anything else.

"... He is?" The Professor asked, seemingly needing a bit more time to understand what just had been said.

"Yes, dead tired, but Ash is home."

"Goodness, Delia! Is he okay?"

She couldn't help but snort in response and shrug, in a way that told the man that she didn't know the answer to that either.

"I see... Well, should I get reinforcements from the lab? I've got plenty of volunteers to give him some hugs."

"I'm sure you do, but he really needs some sleep. In fact, he's currently doing so... But I'm not sure whether anything to distract him from his issues will help him now." Delia answered. "But that being said, if he's got his sights set on wanting to see his Pokémon, I bet you'll see him."

"I bet I will. But I'll also bet that you'll have your hands full nonetheless."

"Probably," she said with a smile, completely prepared for that already. "Thank you for bringing Gliscor, though. I'm sure Ash will be happy to see him when he wakes."

"Bring, huh?" the man chuckled. "I'll come around tomorrow again, though, see whether he's gotten a bit... better."

"You're very welcome to."


Delia had been sitting next to him for a while, just to notice that her son was pretty much dead to the world, even with Gliscor laying on him like that. The Pokémon seemed comfortable enough, though and the woman figured Ash wouldn't wake up from the cold either. But she couldn't blame him for his tiredness and with her knitting, she was getting pretty cosy as well. Thanks to the house being devoid of activity, it was also really calm as well.

But Delia had thought about the teens and whatever they had been doing outside, as she had written a note for them to be calm when they entered. They could be rather... well, not exactly wild, but it wasn't silent either. At any rate, she really wanted her son to sleep well, because Arceus knew he needed it really badly. Good thing the note had been there, because the door opened like they'd usually open it, which was, as to speak, slammed open. But then they seemingly had noticed the little letter and then became all hushed all of a sudden, which was somewhat amusing. And not much later, the door gently opened and Tracey's head came poking from around the corner.

"Oh gosh..." he whispered. "He is here..."

The woman nodded and got up from her chair. She knew they would have questions, but this room wasn't the place to answer them, that much was sure. So yes, when she came out of the room, 8 pairs of eyes stared at her in bewilderment.

"Yes, I know, it's really sudden, but he's fine. If anything, Ash's just tired, so, hence why I asked to be silent."

"But, Mrs. Ketchum... What about the prosthesis?" Brock asked. "Weren't they going to take care of that?"

"Yes, Dr. Martin told me that they'll notify us and that someone will come to the house to deliver it."

"Oh..."

"Why don't you all tell me where you've gone to, huh?" Delia asked amused.

And that's when she got to know that they had gone to the bakery nearby, to order something nice for the boy to eat when he came home. But as far as she could see, Ash wouldn't be eating much, which the woman also told them.

Good thing too, because when evening rolled by, dinner went exactly like she had predicted. Which was why no one truly reacted badly to the teen nearly falling face down in his plate of food, instead of actually eating. Gliscor, who had stubbornly attached himself to the back of the chair, had taken it onto himself to keep his trainer upright and took on the task with pride and gusto. Though it didn't seem like Ash actually realised what was happening, but he did seem to have seen Gliscor as he had smiled at the Pokémon, which made said creature really happy. And then the teen looked really bewildered at the purring Pokémon on him, so the group figured he might not even have recognised Gliscor at all.

Iris had made a comment on how sedation could make someone so woozy, they wouldn't really be able to act normally, especially not with the stuff hospitals pumped in them... and no one doubted it. Especially not Delia, since she knew this would happen. Still, that didn't mean like anyone in the house felt comfortable with this.

"It... feels like he's not actually here at all, doesn't it?" Misty had asked softly, just before she went to bed.

"No, dear, but know that tomorrow will be better. For us and especially Ash." Delia answered warmly, understanding and appreciating the concern.

"Alright... Are Gliscor and Pikachu with him?"

"I wouldn't be able to convince them to leave right now, so yes, of course."

"Good." the girl nodded, seemingly satisfied with that. "Then I suppose I can rest at ease now as well. Goodnight, Mrs. Ketchum."

"Yes, sleep tight, Misty."

With that, every teen was off to bed, but the woman decided to linger a bit. She decided to go and check on her son for the last time today before she'd retire for the day as well. Upon opening the door, in a more than gently way, both Gliscor and Pikachu turned to look at her, which made Delia smile.

"Keep him safe for me, will you?" she whispered.

"Scor."

"Pi."

If she hadn't been amused before, Delia certainly was now. But if anything, seeing how possessively the two Pokémon reacted when it came to Ash's well-being, made her feel a whole lot better about going to bed today. Because she was pretty sure that once she came down the next day, her son would still be there, with those two guarding him like that.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

The teen blinked as he slowly took in his surroundings, which ended up being a slow process as the medication he took really affected his concentration. He was pretty aware there was something sleeping on him and considering he was home, there was a big chance that it was one of his Pokémon. So, with that train of thought, he tried to look around in this room and noticed his plush toys were haphazardly scattered throughout it, as if no one actually had had the time to place them properly.

Knowing his mother would've been worrying about his lack of reaction (Ash really couldn't remember yesterday for the life of him), she might just have dumped them somewhere, out of the way. But it seemed like the Pokémon on top of him had noticed he was awake and so, the teen got licked pretty quickly. And there was only one of his dear friends that would do that.

"Gliscor~" the boy said happily.

Considering a purring sound came from the Pokémon, Ash figured he was dead on with his guess.

"Could you get off me for a bit, buddy? I want to see you properly."

Gliscor seemed to think that was a reasonable request and moved off the teen in seconds, but stared at him with his signature smile and an expectant look in his eyes. Usually, his trainer didn't hug his Pokémon, as he didn't like hugs, from people or Pokémon. But today, it seemed like he wasn't going to push anyone away and boy, would the Pokémon take advantage of that. When Ash held out his hands, Gliscor more than gingerly fell into them, pushing the teen back onto the bed. And the young trainer couldn't help but giggle when his slightly crazy friend started rubbing their cheeks together.

"I've really missed you, Gliscor." the teen sighed, as he pulled the Pokémon close and buried his face into his shoulder.

If anything, that action only strengthened the purring, something that amused the young trainer. Though the sound made Ash wonder why they suddenly had started taking up this habit. Pikachu had displayed the same behaviour when they were reunited in hospital. In fact, thinking about it now, they might want to make sure he knew they had missed him, or wanted to show him that they had been worried about him... Or even worse, that they were making the noise because they were happy that he hadn't abandoned him...

He wondered what time is was now as well, since he couldn't imagine that Gliscor had been here since yesterday. Surely he must've had remembered meeting this enthusiastic creature, right? So maybe, Professor Oak was still here so that he could ask about this strange sound. But, if Pikachu's reaction to being woken up was anything to go by, it was still morning. Early as well, since the Pokémon even refused to get up.

With a sigh, the teen relented and laid down again, Gliscor happily snuggling against him. Ash had the full intent to think about what he'd plan on doing today, but thanks to the warmth of the Pokémon that pretty much surrounded him, he was lulled back to sleep again.

It was a good few hours later, when Delia had woken up, with the full intentions to go check up on her son, that he actually woke up. She was more than pleased to see he was still there, but somewhat worried to notice that her sigh of relief had woken him that quickly.

"Sweetheart?" she asked softly

"Mom!" he exclaimed elatedly. "I'm home? Did the hospital let me go?"

"Yes, sweetie, they did. How are you feeling?"

"Well... huh... Kinda okay, I guess? I mean, I'm really having some issues with concentrating and... is this the back room? You know, the one we used as storage space? Where did the washer and dryer go?"

The woman smiled warmly and simply shook her head, not at all bothered by his jumbled sense of attention. She had suspected him to be somewhat confused, so if anything, it amused her slightly.

"Don't worry about that, sweetie, let's just focus on getting out of bed," Delia said. "Now, do you need some help?"

"Nope, I've got this, just watch!"

Much to the mother's surprise, it did seem like Ash managed alright, just like he had said. She wasn't sure whether this vigour had something to do with the promise of a lovely breakfast or that he was just trying to show he could still be independent, trying to ease some of her worries. Seeing that his actions did have that effect on her, Delia couldn't help but look on with a loving smile on her face, appreciating his effort.

Then again, the lovely nurses probably had taught him how to manage during his daily routine, trying to give him something to do. Still, Ash was the kind of person you couldn't teach anything to if he didn't want to be taught, though. Professor Oak was the living testament to that, probably having gained a few grey hairs from the few days he had been trying to force some knowledge onto the boy. It hadn't been appreciated by Ash at all but well...

"Hey, mom, do you have a safety pin or something?" the teen asked all of a sudden, snapping the woman's attention back to the situation at hand.

"I suppose I do have some but why do you... oh..."

Having been thinking of other things, the mother's heart broke a bit at the sight of the unused pant leg, which was simply on the floor in an awkward angle... Ash didn't seem to be bothered by it, though, probably consciously having put on a pair of trousers, which looked rather soft too.

"Let me go get them for you, dear, I'll be right back."

Despite her own misgivings towards the effect of the safety pins, Delia noticed her son simply attached the excess pant leg to the top part. In a way, she was somewhat iffy, because it clearly showed his disability... but then again, she figured he had done this to make sure he wouldn't trip over it. Ash wasn't the tallest, so yes, the pant leg could be a potential hazard... yet the woman felt so bad that this had to happen to her sweet baby.

"I... I'm sorry, mom." the teen then said, ever so softly.

Considering there wasn't any other kind of noise in the room, except for the innocent wall clock, Delia heard it as clear as day.

"Whatever for, sweetie?"

"... This." he answered, waving at his missing leg. "You've been staring for a while and I know I... but I never..."

"Oh, Ash..."

While she knew her son didn't appreciate any hugging, the mother felt a mighty need to do it anyway. She never intended to make him feel like he should apologise, because nothing was his fault to begin with.

However, feeling her son grab onto her, Delia figured she had done a fine job in making him feel like there was something he was guilty off and as such, he was unsure what he'd need to do, letting her do whatever she wanted. And this worried her, for Ash never truly enjoyed hugs, or at least, ever since his father left. The gesture probably felt really patronizing to him, because people didn't want anything to do with him at the time... but still kind of wanted to express they felt for him. And it had meant nothing to the 6 year old at the time, except that he realised later on that no one truly cared.

"Mom-"

"Shh, sweetie, it's okay. Don't worry, it'll all be okay, I promise."

"... Can... we stay like this for a bit? Please?" he asked softly.

The woman didn't answer verbally, but held him close like he wanted. She realised she needed this as well, so... maybe he felt the same way about this situation as she did. The realisation of that fact struck Delia hard and she was rather glad for this moment. After all, her son had been raised with the idea he only had his mom left, so...

No, breakfast could definitely wait a little longer.


The two had eventually found their way into the kitchen, feeling somewhat better now the air between them had cleared. Now, as she was undisturbed due to her worries having been eased, Delia went ahead and made her special pancakes for her son and his friends. It still was blissfully silent in the house, so the latter group would get their share later... however, for a moment, the mother had thought that her son had fallen asleep on the table, considering how little noise there was.

But no, the boy was awake, silently grooming Pikachu who was enjoying it very much. His face was one of bliss as his trainer carefully let his hands roam through his fur, looking for anything that didn't belong there. Gliscor was on the back of the teen's chair, looking at the action in fascination. All this amused the woman greatly, though she needed to disturb the moment to give the three their breakfast.

"Oh gosh, mom~"

"Are they good?" Delia asked, not having tasted them so...

"Border lining illegally delicious," Ash answered, only briefly looking up from his plate to send a smile her way.

The two Pokémon weren't making any sound either, too concentrated on their meal, so the woman figured that those who stayed silent, agreed nonetheless. So, feeling rather pleased that her pancakes had been a success, she started on her own share.

Now, if only the other teens would come down in a bit, then it'd be the start of a really good morning, for she had some plans. However, a sudden loud rumbling alerted that there already had been someone awake and ready to come down... but did so in a less than ideal way. And really, the noise had startled Delia but she was more surprised to see how fast her son was to shoot out of his chair and was out of the door before she realised he had just pulled one of his crutches towards him... without touching it.

Unaware of his mother's confusion, Ash made his way over to the staircase. He'd fallen of the thing more than once, so he recognised the sound of someone falling of it as soon as it rang out, but the questions here were, which one of his friends had just fallen off and how badly were they hurt? Shuffling closer to the staircase, the young trainer quickly recognised the familiar green haired teen and saw he had a pained expression on his face.

"Cilan! Are you okay?"

"O-oh, Ash... Good morning."

"... Are you sure about that?"

"I'm okay, Ash, don't worry. I... think my tail bone just got acquainted with my vocal cords."

"Sounds to me you should be taking on some anatomy lessons, Cilan." Ash chuckled and held out his free hand to help the fallen teen.

He only realised now that he had only taken one of the crutches, meaning he'd need to be careful. One gave him enough stability to stand, even if it had taken some training, but considering Cilan hadn't thought twice about accepting his help, Ash was thankful that the nurses had taken the time to teach him this.

"Is everything still in place?" the boy asked, now that his friend was upright again.

"I think so, yes. This unfortunate event will probably leave a bruise... but well, one bruise never defined the quality of the berry, huh?"

"... Sure." Ash eventually answered, after having stared at the green haired teen for a while. "Come on, let's get you some breakfast. Maybe you'll be making more sense afterwards."

Now, despite feeling plenty embarrassed about his comment and how it had just passed by his friend, Cilan appreciated the pancakes as they made him forget the situation earlier. And with Ash bringing a smile to his face with ease, he didn't even think about it after his first bite from the delicious breakfast. However, the door of the kitchen was pulled open fully and Misty came barrelling into the kitchen, her hair the wildest mess possible.

"What the fuck happened?" she demanded, looking like some kind of deranged Amazon as she did.

"Morning, Mist." Ash said, unfazed by the strange behaviour, but also preventing his mother from telling the girl off by speaking up. "Sorry to have woken you up, but Cilan didn't really plan on falling down the stairs. Euhm... you're looking a bit rough 'round the edges too, so unless you want to use your hair as a fork to eat breakfast, I'd suggest you find a brush."

The girl's mind seemed to take its time to process what the teen had just said, but when the implication of her looking like a wicked Abomasnow had landed, she folded her hands over her head and stalked back out.

"... Whoa, that sure was a sight, wasn't it?" the boy grinned, finally sitting down as well.

He'd been standing up to make sure Cilan really was okay, because the stairs in this house had this nasty curve that could really do some damage and well... He didn't think the somewhat older teen was the bravest of his group, but if Cilan wanted to keep Ash from worrying over him (which he would), he could well hide something from him. So when his friend sat down and didn't even grimace, that was the sign for the young trainer that he was okay enough.

"Y-yeah." Cilan said, meekly glancing at the side where Delia was standing, looking rather moody all of a sudden.

"You know I don't like swearing in this house, Ash." she said. "And I'll still tell her off for it too."

"Go ahead, mom. I just figured it'd be better if Misty was awake for it."


Misty did come back and looked a whole lot less beastly than before when she returned to the kitchen. Delia wasn't the kind of person to make a whole scene about some profanity, but the girl apologise so... what was there to be moody about? Soon enough, all the rest of the teens followed as well, drawing the mother's attention to making some more pancakes. Considering that they hadn't really had a treat like this, they were pretty enthusiastic ,which made this morning meal become very animated. Considering Ash was done eating, he could talk freely, which was good, seeing so many of his friends had questions for him.

"Do you want to make slime with me?" was the only one that surprised the young trainer, though.

"... Slime?" he repeated dryly.

"Yeah, it'll be fun!" Dawn grinned. "We've done it before, haven't we, May?"

Seeing the brown haired girl nod enthusiastically, Ash couldn't help but be slightly dubious about the whole concept. He wasn't particularly fond of any kind of sticky business, so he certainly wasn't looking forward to it. Thankfully, Professor Oak had come by as well, seemingly having promised to come see whether the teen was actually okay. And to Ash's great joy, he had brought Noctowl and Bulbasaur along.

They weren't allowed to stay, though, as the Professor didn't want to burden Delia with yet another two mouths to feed. But the teen didn't care about that and made sure his Pokémon knew he loved them, which was all they actually cared about. They would be the ones to calm down all his other friends, so Ash wanted them to see he was perfectly okay.

"Professor?" the teen asked, seeing the rest of the group was arguing about what they should do today, which left both Professor Oak and him with nothing to do.

"Yes, my boy?"

"Is it normal that Pokémon purr?"

"Purr?" the man repeated. "Well yes, that means they're just really happy, Ash. I suppose it happens when you show appreciation or some sort of affection?"

"Pikachu did it as soon as he saw me again in the hospital."

"Yes, extremely happy then. That being said, I'm also glad to see you're okay, my boy. You've got plenty of people worried, you know?"

"I do." Ash sighed, looking a bit dejected. "I never wanted this to happen, Professor, I swear but I..."

"Don't worry, Ash, there's nothing you could've done. And I swear, once this rowdy bunch has left, I'll help you get back to your feet completely, okay? And... if you have any stories you'd like to tell me, go ahead."

"... Did they give you grief, Professor? For not believing me?"

"Yes." Professor Oak sighed. "My colleagues did, even those that didn't know you."

"Oh?"

"Mm, consider Professor Sycamore and Professor Kukui friends, for they are rather invested in you, so..."

"Will I still be able to travel, Professor?"

"All you need is another leg, which is on its way as we speak, my boy. You'll be fine, keep faith."

"... Then I will. Thank you, Professor, this means a lot to me."

The man nodded, pleased he still had some kind of credibility with the special teen. Yes, Professor Oak had by long realised there was something about Ash that he had been ignoring all this time. Especially the part where Étienne had told Lance that those strange beings, which they now had identified as Ultra Beasts (even though next to nothing was known about them), been attracted because of Aura was interesting.

The power in itself wasn't rare, for Aura was what flowed through pretty much everyone and anything, as it was the force of life... but in Ash's case, it must've been prominent enough for those otherworldly beings to be attracted to him. And if the boy did have such a strong Aura, then it was rather normal for him to see those Legendary Pokémon, right? It was commonly known that they could feel the force and would seek help if the source was strong enough.

Little did Professor Oak know that this wasn't the case, in fact, it was the other way around, as the Legendary Pokémon sought out the source to protect it. But the man couldn't know that, no... Yet, the hidden Mew, lurking and watching the household carefully. It didn't particularly like the meddling old man and it would make sure that he would be dealt with accordingly. It wouldn't let this human control their Chosen, for they needed him to be safe, not burdened by beliefs of those that didn't know or care about the laws of nature.

A small growl escaped the normally playful Legendary Pokémon. Half of their issues consisted of simple miscommunication in the Pokémon World itself, but the other half definitely revolved around humans not being able to mind their business. This, again, was a prime example of their meddling, but this time, they'd nip it in the bud. The Mew knew someone who could convince the boy not to accept any shady requests, after all.


"Hey, mom?"

"Yes, sweetie?"

"When Morty came to visit me in hospital a while ago, he told me he had left part of his gift here. So the first was that Mismagius poncho, but I'm super curious to see what the second bit is."

"Ah, that's right!" Delia exclaimed. "Good of you to think about that, Ashy, I nearly forgot all about it. Let me go get that box."

Now, when his mother left, Ash was completely alone in the house for now. Dawn, May and Misty had gone to the shop for some stuff for to make slime, whatever that even had as ingredients, while Brock had flown back home for a bit... and Cilan and Max had joined Professor Oak for a little tour around the lab. So, considering he had time, he sighed deeply and let his happy expression go for a bit.

He was happy, but he wanted to make sure no one thought otherwise and as such plastered the expression on his face. Ash was already happy he hadn't started to zone out again, probably because there was so much activity around him, but well... Professor Oak's request had started to sink in. Not that it was an actual request, but the teen felt this pang of worry every time he thought about being taken seriously. He'd be endangering all the Legendary Pokémon he knew if he told the man everything, wouldn't he? And why would the Professor even believe him... why now all of a sudden?

His train of thoughts was interrupted when his mother came in the room with the box, which was neatly wrapped in gift paper. It was bright yellow, which was plenty to grab his attention and really, it was rather big as well. Morty had looked thankful, but the teen never had thought he'd be such a materialistic kind of person.

"There we go. I've thanked him plenty for it too, since this really surprised me, Ash. Also, is there any Gym Leader you haven't befriended?"

"Nope." the teen answered happily, feeling rather proud of that.

Even thought that time at Erika's Gym... Yeah, that had had the potential to turn into a hot potato, but thankfully, it hadn't. And really, there wasn't anything special about the girl, except her extremely good sense of smell. At any rate, it wasn't anything those strange, aggressive creatures were looking for, so he hadn't even bothered to send her anything.

"That's really good to hear," Delia said warmly and gave him the large parcel. "Careful, it's rather heavy."

"Mm-hm."

For now, the box had his full attention, which she understood, of course. She too was curious as to what the contents were, but as the boy unwrapped it, the woman couldn't help but think that Mr. Morty had possibly misjudged her son's character completely. But then, as she looked at her son's face, the elated expression was nothing she'd ever... Maybe the man knew Ash better than she had expected.

"It's a puzzle, isn't it?"

"Yep! It depicts the legend that a fire destroyed this tower, where the Gym used to be. It's said there were three Pokémon left inside the building when it burned down, but then Ho-Oh swooped in and gave the three a new life, giving them the power to become the three Legendary dogs." the teen answered, still in awe. "Look at this, mom!"

Yes, Delia wasn't going to deny it was an epic picture but really... 100.000 pieces? Ash never even finished a 500 piece puzzle, so chances were that he'd be staring at the box for most of the time. But it seemed there was a note taped to the side too, which made the teen smile a 500 Gigawatt smile, for the first time since coming back home.

"Mom, did Dr. Martin tell you what was wrong with me?"

"Sweetheart, there's nothing wrong with you." she sighed. "He's told me what's different about you."

"Same thing." Ash shrugged, but change the subject almost instantly. "But anyway, I'm going to put this in my room and start on it tomorrow, because Dawn will be following me around to make that slime business and I don't want those nasty things around this box."

The woman chuckled and shook her head.

"Go right ahead, dear. I'm sure Mr. Morty will still be just as pleased if you start it tomorrow."

"Of course!"


Ash had seemingly spend all his enthusiasm on the puzzle or just the unwrapping of it, because he looked really disinterested at the ingredients to make that slime. It really amused Brock, who went to sit at the table just to see the black haired teen's face during the process. It all got a bit worse when Dawn mentioned he'd need to put his hands in it.

"For real?"

"Yep. It's super fun, you'll see."

"No."

"Huh?"

"I'm going to beat this with this spoon until it becomes whatever a slime's supposed to be. I'm not going to touch it."

"Well, that's fine as well." Dawn shrugged, her own enthusiasm not dimming. "Let's get started."

So yeah, Brock hadn't been disappointed because Ash's expressions were gold. It was clear he really thought this to be gross, especially since his was so green and clear, a choice the blue-haired girl had made for him, so now, it just looked like radioactive snot.

"... Is this normal?" the teen asked, holding up the spoon which now had the ball of gravity-defying slime stuck on it.

"That's perfect! What do you want to add to it?"

"Euhm..."

In the end, adding in the fake snow made the slime become rock hard, no matter how much lotion Dawn put in it, which nearly made Brock fall off his chair in laughter. However, considering Ash wanted the snow in it, they'd just redo the slime and leave it white, so it'd be like a cloud. If anything, that pleased the black haired teen a lot, considering green wasn't his colour at all. So yeah, he ended up with a nice slime this time but... instead of it looking like a cloud, it made him think of that one time at Mt. Silver, with all the nice snow and how cosy it had been, seeing all the wild Pokémon, with his mother and father by his side...

Next thing Ash knew, was Brock frantically waving in front of his face and that his mother had a hold of his shoulders.

"... Huh?"

"Ash, are you okay?"

"Y-yeah, what's wrong?" the boy asked, looking around.

By now, all the stuff to make the slime was gone from the table too, only May was now mixing some kind of foam into hers, looking rather distressed as she was looking everywhere but at him.

"You weren't answering at all, sweetie, just staring at the slime..."

"Oh, mom, Brock, everyone, I'm so sorry!" the teen exclaimed. "I forgot to tell you about me zoning out from time to time!"

"... What? Why?" the older teen asked, staring at the young trainer in disbelief.

So Ash told them about the disorder the doctor told him about and how he couldn't really help it. He probably messed the name up, which made Brock look even more worried, which, in turn, made the boy feel even worse.

"I promise I'm fine." he persisted. "It was just that this slime reminded me of something-"

"Right, this was a really bad idea." Dawn huffed and reached out to take the white slime away from the teen.

"No, no, I like it! I made me think of that time, when I first saw snow! Mom, you remember, don't you, that day dad took us both to the base of Mt. Sliver?" Ash said quickly, possessively taking the slime and looking for his mother for support.

Said woman was flabbergasted that her son remembered something that was just... such a long time ago. And she could swear that the doctor never told her anything about this. Maybe he had just forgotten to mention it, as the boy was such a strange case but still...

"Yes... I do remember that. But... Are you sure this is okay, sweetie?"

"Yeah, it only happens when I've got nothing to do. I've had it plenty of times in the hospital too, which is why Dr. Martin even had me tested for it."

"Mm." she just hummed.

"Call him if you don't believe me, mom, I swear it's the truth."

"Well, keep playing with the slime then, sweetheart, because it's exactly what I'll be doing."


Once the doctor confirmed the teen's story, Delia didn't really become any happier, especially not when it became clear that Ash couldn't help it and that there was nothing they could do about it. That it was his mind that wasn't stimulated enough and, as a response to the trauma he had gone through, started to daydream to keep active. So no, the slime wasn't to blame in any way of form and in fact, the doctor even said that it was good for him to have something to knead and keep himself busy with. So if anything, Dawn had done a really good thing for Ash, something the girl took into her stride.

But the man also pointed out that the teen should walk around, so while the woman had been thinking of changing her plans for this early evening, she figured she might as well go through with it. After all, her son like fairs plenty so if she could make him exercise while having some fun, it'd be an extra advantage. It wasn't hard to convince any of the teens to come along, so they were in for a nice treat as well.

And really, Ash enjoyed the company of his friends and the fair, but he was somewhat saddened to see it was all crazy rides and those places with claw machines, where you were pretty much guaranteed not to win anything. But despite Delia's misgivings toward gambling and anything that stimulated young people to spending more money on... well, things that were barely worth one tenth of what you were putting in one of the claw machines, she did allow the group to enter one. Only one, though, and not more than five tries to get something.

So yeah, amusement ensured, or at least, it was from Ash's viewpoint. And of course, with someone like Misty's temperament, there was bound to be some sort of argument to come into existence. However, Delia was quick to snuff it in the bud, distracting the girl rather easily.

"Gosh, this is hard..." May whined. "And I'm usually so lucky too."

"Don't worry, it's not the end of the world if you don't win anything. In fact, we're not even sure those key chains you're going for are anything decent, so maybe you're better off not having them in the first place." Iris said, having come up empty as well.

Max had seemed to have some luck on one of them, but it was a phone case... and no one in the group actually had a phone. Xtransceivers, yes, but an actual phone was way too fragile to carry with you on a journey. And those new phones didn't always have connection in the woods so yeah, worthless to any decent trainer.

"But it's so cute~"

"... Do you want me to try?" Ash asked, having kept an eye on his friends.

"Can you? I mean, you're not going to fall over, right?"

"... Thanks, Iris," he said dryly. "Instead of making remarks, make yourself useful and hold this."

Pushing one of his crutches in her hands, the black haired teen made his way to the machine and well... Whether he managed to hit pay-out (that little thing that gave hope to people who had been playing for hours, giving them an automatic win) or that this was his dumb luck which normally only activated in life-threatening situations had suddenly shown up, he didn't know. Yeah, so Ash had managed to get a good grip on one of the key chains, the snowman Pikachu May had been aiming for... but somehow, the clip part had been attached to three others and the sheer force of those four being dragged to the side, pushed several others down.

"Holy..." the purple haired girl uttered.

Yes, once May succeeded in getting Ash's winnings out of the machines, they counted a grand total of 10 key chains. Or rather, mascots.

"Heck, these are bigger than I thought... They looked so small in the machines..." the young trainer said, still somewhat bewildered by this experience.

He normally never won anything and now, so suddenly... Well, Ash wasn't going to let himself be bothered about it, because all his friends were happy they now had a key chain. Considering most of them were Pikachu, or at least Pikachu shaped, he had choice between two, namely an Umbreon with a purple top hat and Golbat wings or this round Pokémon he didn't recognise with a Zubat 'tattoo' on its side and a rather cute kind of hat. Feeling too curious about the mysterious Pokémon, the teen took that one and happily attached it to one of his belt loops.

While his friends were still gushing on about the fantastic win, Ash found himself getting really sleepy, probably due to the medication he took. However, they had only been there for a little while and some of the teens still wanted to go into several rides... so yeah, he let himself be dragged along, not wanting to make people think he didn't enjoy their company.


Thankfully, they hadn't been too crazy kinds of attractions and really, the young trainer nearly had fallen asleep in the Ferris wheel. Thanks to Dawn and her talking, he had been able to keep his head up a bit and concentrate... but there was no telling whether he'd be able to keep himself awake during this movie the girls had gone to rent out. Ash really couldn't care that a Politoed and an Arcanine had a forbidden love relation, nor the drama the movie kept adding onto their misery.

At any rate, he must've dozed off for a bit because when his focus was back on the screen, it was playing out static. A few of his friends were huddled around the DVD player, so if anything, the teen figured something must've happened.

"What's wrong?"

"Oh, you're finally awake?"

"That's not what I asked, Iris." Ash answered patiently.

"The movie stopped playing all of a sudden and the DVD player doesn't want to open," Dawn responded, looking a bit panicked. "Gosh, I hope there's nothing wrong with the disc, or we'll be in trouble..."

"Guys, stop worrying. Pull out the plug of the DVD player and hand me the remote of the TV, please?"

The blue-haired girl was happy to oblige and quickly came his way.

"Is this something that happened before?"

"Plenty of times. Let's give the device a moment to rest, it'll be fine after a few minutes."

"I hope so. We were nearly at the ending."

'Oh, thank heavens.' the teen sighed internally.

But really, after those 5 minutes rest, the DVD player started up just fine, as did the DVD. But Ash wasn't that stupid to give a remark on it, which would be useless because most of his friends' attention was on the movie anyway. So, his mind started to wonder again, as not even the ending could interest him. He started making up who his mysterious key chain depicted and quickly settled for a bird and/or grass Pokémon, which would evolve in this huge and mighty form, somewhere in a place that somehow ended up looking like Fiorre in his mind, a region he'd recently read a book about.

To be honest, the young trainer might be miles off the truth, so he figured he might as well go bother Professor Oak about it later. After all, the man had offered himself to listen to his questions and stories, right? So why not take up on his offer and do exactly that?

Ash was just in time to see Dawn put the DVD back in the box too, having zoned back into reality on a great moment. He didn't want to worry his friends even further, because it had taken the whole fair experience to make sure the girls didn't keep an eye on him when he wasn't paying attention. The teen knew they only meant the best for him, but he didn't like being spied on. And really, his mood dropped to freezing level he noticed Brock glancing at him from the corner of his eye...

So, when his mother announced it was bed time, he jumped up and happily bid his friends goodnight, which did cause some more attention to be aimed at him but it seemed like Ash could still be pretty fast when he wanted to be and with Gliscor and Pikachu following him, no one truly wanted to get in his way. However, there was someone persistent enough to go and talk to him... later on, of course, when the teen had calmed down a bit.


"Sweetheart?"

The boy sighed when he heard his mother's soft voice at the other side of the door, something he'd been expecting after his... rather fast retreat to his room.

"Yes, mom?"

"Can I come in?"

"Of course."

The woman was quick to come into the room, gently closing the door behind her. She too was in her pyjama's, a rather nice mauve and lavender two-piece, so she must've guessed he had been upset and gave him some time.

"Are you okay, sweetie?" was her next question, which confirmed Ash's suspicions.

"Tired. And a bit nauseous from that weird round-about ride." he answered simply, which was about 70% the truth.

"Oh, do you need something for nausea?"

"Mom, that's really nice of you, but I'm taking so many pills already, I can feel them rattle when I jump up... So no, thanks, I'll be fine. I just need some sleep."

Delia did smile thanks to his dry comment but came to sit next to him on his bed. Considering he was wearing a two-piece pyjama as well, with the bottom part being a pair of shorts, she got an excellent view of whatever was still left of his leg.

"Alright, sweetie. Did everything go okay?"

"... What do you mean?"

"Dressing yourself and the like."

"I'm completely ready to go to bed once I've massaged my knee, so yeah, it worked out fine. Same as this morning, actually."

"Do you want me to massage you?"

Figuring that this was just his mother wanting to sate her curiosity, he simply handed her the tube of the gel the doctor had given him and sat back. She would've still done this whether or not she wanted it, so yeah... Still, as she started the massage, the teen was somewhat happy she had offered, because her hands felt really good. Ash started to understand why Pikachu like being rubbed so much.

"Is this okay?"

"Absolutely. Carry on." he almost purred.

The woman smiled and continued her ministrations. She was pleased that she could do this for her son and was able to have a good look at what his leg now looked like without making Ash uncomfortable. It was just mostly like a burn, incredibly soft and very pale. That shift in colour was actually what distinguished this scar tissue from the normal part of the teen's leg. After all, being outside all the time, her son was somewhat tanned, but he had a darker skin colour than her anyway.

Delia wasn't too sad about that, as she treasured her natural ginger hair and all the assets it brought with it. But she wanted to be sure that Ash would feel the same way about himself and that he wouldn't be too moody that someone worried over him. However, it seemed that he was comfortable and... maybe he knew he had been a bit quick in his goodbyes. It had made the teens worry, of course, and even wonder whether they were doing any good for them. However, tomorrow was another day, so yes, they'd make the best of that as well.


Despite the wonderful massage his mother had just given him, the black haired teen found himself unable to sleep. It wasn't as if he didn't feel the need, no, on the contrary, he wanted to sleep, needed it even. But it seemed like this was one of these cases where he was simply too tired to sleep. He'd had that before, but this definitely sucked big time. But, as he opened his eyes, Ash was very startled by his surroundings, which looked very unfamiliar to him. But this definitely still was his makeshift bedroom he was in, though, no doubt about it, considering he could hear his Pokémon snore peacefully.

In a purely childish instinct, he pulled his sheets over his head but... it was dark underneath those covers as well, so it didn't fix anything. Yeah, the blackness felt even closer now, so if anything, it was even worse. With a groan, the teen pulled his blankets away from over his head, exposing himself to the whole room again. Yeah, looking around now, in the pitch blackness that was his new room, Ash realised he was very creeped out by the dark.

"Scor?"

Slightly startled by the sudden sound, the young trainer looked straight into the glowing yellow eyes of the now awake Pokémon.

"Ah, buddy... Sorry if I woke you up. I'm just... not feeling too comfortable in the dark."

Said Pokémon whined and decided to hug the discomfort straight from his best friend. However, of course, that didn't work, because Gliscor was just as dark as the rest of the room. It just had been his eyes that had been small beacons that distracted the boy from the darkness.

"That won't work, Gliscor, I'm sorry." Ash said, as he gently pushed the Pokémon away.

Of course, that drew another whine from Gliscor, but he retreated nonetheless, yet saddened his well-meant initiative had failed to ease his trainer's worries. The teen himself was getting more and more stressed and figured this feeling would only get worse if it stayed dark. So he lit the light on the rickety table that acted as bedside table for now.

As soon as the light washed over the room, the unsettling feeling the boy had felt went away. Sighing in relief, Ash propped himself up but got hugged by Gliscor again, who seemed to need to be reassured his trainer was okay.

"I'm fine now, buddy, but thanks for keeping an eye out for me." he said softly, gently rubbing over the Pokémon's head. "It's just... It's as if those beasts that came after me made me a bit more sensitive to the dark or something..."

"Gli..."

Gliscor probably knew what had happened, because Ash had told Pikachu the full story so his partner could well have told the other Pokémon. But that was fine, if anything, the boy didn't mind his Pokémon knowing, for they'd understand what those beasts were a whole lot better. In the Pokémon world, there was always someone stronger than the other, so if he told them he was scared of a powerful beast, possibly a Pokémon, they were able to relate to the feeling.

Seeing that Gliscor had fallen asleep again, despite the light being on, the boy sighed and slid from underneath him. Sleeping didn't seem an option now, with those thoughts of those beasts roaming around in his head over and over again. The prospect of being enveloped in darkness seemed so alien and scary to Ash that all tiredness had just left him. So, with nothing else to do, the teen went to sit at the small desk, devoid of anything but the little jar that contained the slime he'd made with Dawn and May earlier today.

Kneading into it, he started to feel a bit better and the repetitive motion calmed him down as well, yet not nearly enough to make him fall asleep. But it was better than nothing, Ash figured, resigning in the fate that he might be kneading the night away. While he wondered if this slime might actually get ruined from too much pulling, a being silently entered the room.

"Consider me surprised to find you awake, friend." the deep and gentle voice said.

Ash turned around, of course, and a large smile made its way on his face seeing his visitor.

"Mewtwo, hello."

"What is ailing you for you not to sleep?"

"Memories, Mewtwo. I... don't think the dark is doing too much for me."

"There is nothing to fear in the darkness unless you have a secret even the pitch black cannot hide." the Legendary Pokémon answered.

"Well, this isn't going to be a battle of pity, for both our memories have bad parts in them we'd rather forget, but the point remains that we can't."

"... Indeed. Before I will try to aid you... Tell me, young friend, did something strange happen to you today?"

Ash thought for a bit and while he wanted to say that he usually never laid awake, his strange luck with machinery today caught his attention. His mom never really let him close to anything electrical, because that could have disastrous consequences, but today, he even fixed the TV and DVD player. Not to mention that claw machine...

"Yeah... Actually, seems like I'm not that big a disaster with technology after all... Or at least, it seemed like I was really lucky today."

"Ah, so that is what I feel... Let me explain, friend. Considering you can't sleep, deem this something like a bed time story... or something to think about instead of the darkness."

Of course, the teen was all ears when the Pokémon started, as he was so used to learning from it that it felt like a second nature to pay attention to this great teacher. So Mewtwo's story about Aura and its history actually stuck in his head and it'd stay there for a long while.

Because the Aura Guardians people all knew, were only one of the several types of Aura users there had been. Thanks to the last Pokémon war, where Aura users had been a part off, most of them had been hunted down, killed or had gone into hiding, vowing to never (visibly) use their Aura again. Because of that, the knowledge of the art had gotten lost, to all but the Pokémon, who carried the traditions down anyway. And no, you didn't need to practise the life force to see or feel it.

"So... How did you actually get to know about this story, Mewtwo?"

"I looked into the mind of a researcher once."

"... Oh..."

"He lived, don't worry."

"..."

Undisturbed by the teen's dry look, the Pokémon continued, explaining that thanks to that war, the different uses of Aura had nearly gone extinct and thanks to being hunted down from a young age, children gained the ability to cause explosions around them that would hurt anyone but them. That struck a nerve with Ash, for he knew he had Aura and that this might be the reason why the doctor kept inching away from him when he got upset.

"I... think I might've done that. And I've met this Aura Guardian, at the Tree of Life."

"Yes, Cameran Palace was one of the traditional training spots for Guardians, so it doesn't surprise me. I'm still pleased they haven't bowed down to the stigma that comes with an Aura users town..."

"Yeah but... Does that mean I'm an Aura Guardian too? Because I've used Aura then too."

"Lucario uses Aura as well and can be hardly considered a Guardian, can it?"

"... Alright, I'll shut up now." Ash conceded.

The Legendary Pokémon seemed amused and continued the story by saying that Aura was a well versed power in the past and that Ash today had probably used Aura on those machines. Upon the teen's frown, Mewtwo stated that there was a particular kind of user that could practically strengthen all other users, which was called an Aura Source. And yes, they had the ability to make an element do their bidding, varying from the control over the weather... to the more modern practise of machinery and metal.

The people who were Aura Sources had been protected and have been a valuable companion to any Aura user, for they made Aura Seers able to look into the past or the future, made Warriors able to topple the largest Pokémon over their shoulders as if they were dealing with a mere Caterprie and enable the Aura Guardians to span protective fields that would protect entire cities from a whole herd of stampeding Rampardos.

Ash had no idea who that Pokémon was, but was impressed nonetheless. No one ever gave him a second look when he passed by, unless they had a nasty comment ready for him so that he actually was this special, made him feel rather fuzzy. Still, he had questions.

"So... They're not going to hunt me down, are they?"

"No, friend, consider yourself in an age where people have learned that the force of life will strike back when it's being threatened. Though, should anyone get any ideas, you are protected."

"Thank you, Mewtwo."

"My pleasure, young friend. Are you interested in learning the uses of being an Aura Source?"

"Will it help anyone?"

"Of course. Remember that I told you that all Pokémon keep the traditions of Aura in high regard, so adding that into the fact you can aid them with your Aura... Why, any Pokémon will be pleased to get your aid to escape a deathly trap, friend. Not even mentioning that any kind of machinery is completely powerless against you... should you be trained."

"Yeah, well, I wanna be trained. You don't want to know how many idiots are brewing plans to capture any kind of Pokémon with some machinery and what not as we speak."

"Excellent. Consider me your teacher then."

"Oh, Mewtwo, thank you, I-"

"On one condition, though." The Pokémon said quickly, interrupting the teen.

"Which is?"

"You're not to tell that old Professor anything."

"Nothing? Like, I can't even ask him what this Pokémon is?" Ash asked, pointing at the key chain which was lying a bit further on the floor, surrounded by the rest of his plush toys.

"It is a Rowlet, a flying/grass type from Alola. It will grow into Dartrix, which has the same typing. Its final evolution is called Decidueye, which will receive the grass/ghost type upon evolving."

"... Wow..."

"Try your computer, friend, it will serve you a lot better now, simply by your mere touch. We will... work on doing things from a distance tomorrow, shall we?"

"Here...?"

"I shall kidnap you to my island and bring you back here before a second has passed in this world. I wouldn't want to make anyone aware of what we are doing, hm?"

"... Okay." Ash agreed, knowing he shouldn't tell his mom about this or she'd strap him to a chair.

Big chance Mewtwo would take him along, chair and all, but well... There also was another teensy little detail that he might want to make him aware of.

"It's not going to make any difference whether I'm not able to stand unless I'm using my crutches?"

"You won't need to stand, I have chairs of my own. Though I foresee your leg to have returned to you by the end of the week."

"Really?"

"Yes, look forward to it, my friend, though the road to become 'normal' again will be harder than anything I can show you in the ways of Aura."

"... I'll take my chances."

"Excellent." the Legendary Pokémon answered, looking pleased. "Now, I shall take my leave."

"Ah, okay. I'll euhm... try to sleep a bit."

"Why don't you show some attention to the wall, then?" Mewtwo said mysteriously and promptly disappeared.

Ash wasn't impressed, which showed as he stared at the spot where the Pokémon had been previously standing at with a dry expression on his face.

'If it isn't a fan of weird riddles, I don't know what is.' he thought, figuring he was better off trying whatever the Legendary being had suggested.

While he was a bit mystified about how he could show the wall some attention, he figured he might as well try to think about a possible solution while he was in bed. It took a bit until the young trainer eventually laid his hand on it... which suddenly lit up the room.

With a completely befuddled expression, Ash gazed at the light blue, glowing figures which had suddenly shown up all over the ceiling, walls and floor. It were clear depictions of all kinds of Pokémon, some prehistoric, some those the teen had met before, some he didn't recognise... and of course, the Legendary Pokémon watched from above as he gazed up in awe at their depiction.

He loved all this and of course, the pictures caused his disorder to come into play again. Though that wasn't harmful at all, because his maladaptive daydreaming served as a big enough distraction for the teen to eventually start to snooze, thinking of wonderful things and not much later, just plainly fall asleep. The figures faded as soon as the boy's hand became lax and lost contact with the wall, but as Ash turned in his sleep, his foot ended up against it, making the images to reappear. Not that the young trainer was awake to notice this, because he was peacefully dreaming about far away regions, with wonderful Pokémon and all kinds of Aura users.


Having woken up from a blissful dream, Ash made sure to check for any background sounds to know if there was someone awake in the house already. Not that he didn't have a clock in his room, but his mother was the kind of person who came out of bed when she was rested and rarely set her alarm clock. In fact, the only case the teen had ever witnessed her wake up for something specific, it had been to catch the boat to Cinnabar for this convention of bakery and all kinds of goods.

But he could hear some noise in the kitchen, meaning she was awake and already preparing to make breakfast. So, as sneaky as he could, Ash made himself ready for today and went to greet her. Yes, his bad mood from yesterday had disappeared completely, mostly thanks to the fantastic night he'd had.

"Morning, mom!"

"Ah, sweetie, good morning! How did you sleep?"

"Oh, amazing! I had this wicked dream about that puzzle of Morty, oh, mom, I can't put it in words, it was magical."

The woman smiled at his enthusiasm, happy that her little boy still could act like this after what he'd gone through. That he didn't end up in a massive depression like that therapist had told her about, even though yesterday had been...

"I'm glad, dear. What would you like to have for breakfast?"

"Anything's fine, mom, you know me."

"Alright, I guess I'll have a bit of fun with it then."

Knowing cooking was Delia's favourite hobby and had been close to make it her career, Ash completely trusted her to make whatever she wanted to make at the moment. And it didn't take long for the scent of cooking to lure the other teens out of their beds either. Soon enough, the same scene that had played out yesterday reoccurred, only with less questions for the young trainer.

Though, something truly strange happened when they were nearly done with breakfast. Several of the teens' transceivers suddenly went off, a rather loud and bizarre mix of different ringtones. And it seemed like they had all gotten the same message.

"Oh, God... I totally forgot about the trainer visa..." Dawn said, looking a little pale.

"Is it ending?" Ash asked, curious for he'd never really had any issues with his own travel visa before.

"It already has, actually." the girl answered. "They're giving me a fine."

"Same here." Iris stated dryly.

Seeing that everyone had gotten the same message, the black haired teen sighed and got off his chair. He knew very well that his accident was to blame for them to have outstayed the requested period, so he felt like he needed to fix this.

"Can someone tell me the number the message has been send through? I'll see what I can do."

"Ash, you can't-"

"Don't tell me what to do, Cilan." the teen snapped. "Now give me the number."

Wordless, they watched the boy put in the number in his own transceiver and walk off with one crutch.

"Wow... And I thought he was in a good mood..." the green haired teen sighed, focussing back on his breakfast.

"Don't say that, Cilan." Delia said softly. "He's probably feeling guilty they'd be punishing you for your stay in Kanto while he knows it's him you were here for."

"... Oh..."

Silence dawned over the room, with the teens just anxiously waiting for a response from Ash. In the meantime, May already got a written earful from her father, because as a Gym Leader, Norman was told everything. And yes, everyone in the League were enormous snitches, so whether the legal instances told the man about it or not, he'd hear about it nonetheless. But, just as the girl was planning to call her father, those who'd gotten the initial message, got another one. It sounded a whole lot more positive now, though, so whatever the teen had done, it must've appeased the League.

"Honestly..." was pretty much the first thing they heard Ash say when he came back into the kitchen. "Those people have been infected by the same virus as Barry. Them and their blasted fines, go see if I care."

"So... It's fixed?" Tracey asked, blissfully unaware, for he was under Professor Oak's tutelage which meant he could stay here in Pallet as long as he liked.

"No one's going to have to pay anything as long as they're leaving tomorrow." the black haired teen answered.

"Well, I wasn't going to be able to stay, either way, dad's not happy about this at all." May sighed. "I don't guess you'd be able to appease him, huh, Ash?"

"I'll gladly take him on, so send him through if he gives you grief about it."


While all those who weren't native to Kanto were thankful to Ash, they still needed to be going soon. The message they had gotten clearly still was a threat, so the sooner they'd be able to leave, the better. It took some time before they all had been able to pack their things, because living somewhere for a few months was plenty of time to make things end up in places you didn't expect them to be.

Eventually, Dawn, May, Max, Iris and Cilan said their good-byes, ready to leave, even if it felt a bit forced. There were still things they wanted to tell Ash but the teen told them he'd be keeping an eye on his Xtransceiver, just in case they felt the right time for it later on. Of course, while those five had left, it didn't mean the teen was alone. No, while Brock and Misty would take a break from their vigil, Tracey was still there.

And considering Delia figured Gary was doing nothing but cause his grandfather trouble, she asked him and the other teen to keep an eye on her son while she was going to do some shopping with friends. Ash himself was a whole lot less pleased about it but was smart enough not to voice it to his mom, or she'd be getting nasty at him for not enjoying his friends' company or something. All the teen could see were two babysitters instead of his two friends right now, but he decided to bore the heck out of them by getting out Morty's puzzle.

"Didn't take you for the type to suddenly do something that required thinking and dimensional insight." Gary said.

"That's your problem, buddy, I've got nothing to do with the image you've got of me, you know? I bet you know less about me than I know of this puzzle and I've not even taken the plastic wrapping off." Ash said, quick to answer. "Nonetheless, now you're here, I've got you something."

"Oh dear..."

"Here, I've won this last night, at the fair. I had to think of you, because you're mad about Umbreon, right?"

If anything, the red-haired teen felt somewhat embarrassed, because this key chain didn't look cheap and all he'd been doing was making stupid remarks. Even while Ash had been quick to give a jab back at him, it didn't have any malice in it so...

"Right!" the black haired teen said happily, not noticing Gary's internal struggle. "Let's get this puzzle going, shall we?"

If anything, not even Tracey would've taken Ash to be the kind of person to sit down and have the patience to sort out corners and sides from whatever else there was and just... no, it was a surprise when it appeared that the teen was doing pretty good. In fact, he had just completed the surrounding border of the huge puzzle, when he suddenly sat up.

"Ash?"

"Hm?"

"Everything okay?" Tracey asked, thinking it was a bit strange for the boy to suddenly sit up like that.

"I dunno... I f-feel a bit... Strange." Ash answered, seemingly having a bit of difficulty in getting off his chair.

This all screamed to the brown haired teen that something was wrong and boy, did he have a good instinct. As soon as the young trainer had gotten left the steady chair, he was all wobbly and eventually fell down. Thank heavens the carpet was there, though Tracey had been fast enough to catch the teen before his head made contact to the floor.

"Gary!"

Said teen came flying from around the corner, having gone to take a stroll in the garden, because he hadn't thought Ash had needed any supervision either.

"What's wrong?"

"He collapsed." Tracey answered, panic written all over his face.

Gary was quick to take his childhood friend in his arms, who gave him a helpless look, seemingly unable to do anything else. He could see the teen mouth 'help' as well but he didn't know what to do, not even when Ash's eyes rolled to the back of his head. Tracey had shot off to call an ambulance as well, which was a smart move. Not much later though, without the help of any medic, the young researcher knew exactly what ailed the teen. And all he could say was...

"Shit."

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

Delia had not returned to the house yet when it happened. As such, she didn't witness the ambulance arriving, or driving away with Ash, but she immediately grew worried when she back back to find the house in a true state of disarray. Not that anything in the interior had moved -and really, those few dirty footprints weren't the end of the world- but hearing about the incident from Gary alone had caused the woman to panic. Despite his explanation, the mention of medics had allowed Tracey to ride along in the ambulance for they feared the sick boy might start to panic at the absence of familiar faces, made Delia's stomach churn.

She also didn't like it that the brunet was alone at the hospital, or simply waiting for some news. Having sat there plenty of times, the woman knew that it could be a tedious process. It was nothing a teenager should have to endure. Although Delia still did not have the full picture, seeing your friend in such a state -it surely wasn't something Tracey would've wanted to have memories off.

Even if the cabdriver had broken several speed limits, being truly affected by her pleas to get to the hospital as fast as possible, she felt the need to relieve him from this. If anything, Delia wished she had gotten someone to teach her Mr. Mime how to teleport. At the rate her son was ending up in hospital, it'd be a good investment as well. If only her dear companion was not known to have a rather whimsical disposition. She would not trust to get her anywhere, and not because she thought he would not be able to do it but most likely, he would teleport them all to the waste land that was the Orre Desert with a smile on is face, believing he had done alright. Heaven knew if they would ever be able to get back from there.

Having thanked the cabdriver profusely, which caused him to drive off in a flustered rush, Delia quickly went into the hospital and was greeted right away. The nurse looked familiar too, which unsettled her a bit. There were usually plenty of nurses flitting about in the hallway so maybe she had been here too often and too long if they were able to recognise her straight away. Granted, Delia tended to leave an impression, which was the case for Ash too, but there were limits.

'This needs to stop.' she thought and skimmed through the many waiting rooms to see where Tracey was at.

It had been the third one, too close to the intensive care zone, where she had found the teen, waiting patiently.

"Tracey! Dear!"

"Oh, Mrs. Ketchum, I'm glad to see you."

And it showed, for Tracey's face got a bit more colour when he saw her. He usually was someone to smile rather quickly but now...

"How are you holding up, dear? Have they kept you in here for long?"

"No, one of the nurses went and explained to me what happened to Ash because of... I... euhm... panicked a bit. He got another one of those attacks on the way to the hospital and I just..."

"I understand, Tracey, and I'm sorry you had to see that, I truly am. I'll try and make it up to you but I fear I might not be able to."

"Mrs. Ketchum, please don't bother, if anything, I learned a valuable lesson today. After all, Pokémon can get stupors as well, so now that that I know how to help... No, I'm actually thankful for today and I first hand noticed that there's something actually wrong with Ash, because honestly, if his leg wasn't so obviously missing, I wouldn't even have noticed that he was sick or anything!"

"You're rambling, dear."

"O-oh... Sorry."

The woman smiled warmly, but internally, her thoughts became a whole lot more sourer. After all, Tracey had just mentioned something about stupors, which she realised it meant that there was something wrong with her son's head. And all Delia could see was Dr. Martin ensuring her that Ash's brain was okay, in fact, it was superior than those over half of this planet's population.

'Superior, my ass.' she grumbled silently.

Now, whether the nurse who had greeted her so nicely had actually told the doctor that Delia had arrived or not, the man had been quick to come get her. Considering the woman didn't want Tracey to become involved in any kind of arguments she had ready for the doctor, she let him go see her son. It was all the better that it would do the teen some good to see how Ash was doing, so yeah...

"I'm glad you choose to keep the boy out of this, Mrs. Ketchum." Dr. Martin said and (Arceus help him) even looked relieved.

"I don't want any of the children involved in this. Ash is my and only my responsibility. Which reminds me, how is my son getting seizures if he's apparently the epitome of perfection? And how all this kept his minor friend in this cold waiting room for over an hour?" the woman said sourly, not caring about the man's next of kin nonsense.

"Mrs. Ketchum, please, remain calm, for no one could've known this was going to happen. His seizures were also caused by the medication he took, so yes, I still stand firmly behind the idea I've introduced you to. As for the boy, he was rather valiant to stay here until you arrived, so with his trainer card allowing him to go wherever he wishes, there is nothing we could do to send him out."

"Oh, really now?"

"Yes. Unless anyone is causing a ruckus, we don't send anyone out."

"Alright..." she sighed, deciding to let this rest. "What kind of medicine did this to my boy, then?"

"Oh, our tests concluded that he apparently reacted badly to the Lignocaine in the salve we told him to apply on his leg every evening, so-"

Delia's face instantly became a few shades paler, which the doctor noticed, for she was sitting right in front of him. And it made him fear her reaction, because well...

"I... I gave him that last massage."

"Mrs. Ketchum, it's a simple side effect of Lignocaine, and we've been able to stabilise his condition, so really-"

"We wouldn't be sitting here if this was a simple side effect, would we?" the woman asked, her face flushing red now. "And why does this sound like the most horrible thing to do, to give him more drugs to make the drugs he's already taking not destroy him? Why would you want to poison him even further?!"

"Mrs. Ketchum, how many times will I need to tell you, that your son is special!? I've been studying medicine longer than he's been alive and I've never heard of any kind of blood vessels with the ability to transport an external salve and its components towards the brain, causing the harmless dose of Lignocaine in the salve to accumulate within the bloodstream, making the final dose of it strong enough to cause a seizure when it came into contact with the cerebral cortex."

Most of that sentence passed over her head, who simply stared at the man with a rather flat look.

"... I'm still against more medicine." she eventually, yet stubbornly, answered.

"That's why we're giving him herbal solutions."

"Ash is allergic to a lot of flowers."

"Yes, I've seen his file, Mrs. Ketchum and really, when we release him, we'll make sure to add his sensitivity against Lignocaine in it as well. For now, we are waiting for the dose to lose effect, so that we can safely test this new salve... which I'll have you have a look at before we administer it."

Despite not being a nurse, Delia recognised the plants listed and none of them was on Ash's allergy list. And yes, she knew exactly what plants sets off her son's allergy. Her neighbours always complimented her garden for its natural look, but honestly, it simply consisted of the flowers and shrubs that did not cause Ash to sneeze his head off. When outside, he rarely had any true issues -unless someone literally pushed his head in, for example, a rose Gary being a more than willing helper to test out what set of his friend's allergy in less than ideal ways, -hence the rose bush accident- not many people knew about it, seeing Ash avoided those plants like the plague.

"And...?" Dr. Martin asked, knowing fully well that a silent mother was not always a good sign.

"Yes, I suppose this could be alright." Delia conceded. "Still, are there any other medicines he's taking that could cause this kind of belated reaction? I mean, he's a traveller, doctor, or he was at least, but I'd like to know beforehand so I don't leave him alone with any of his friend only to unwillingly traumatize them."

"Ah, yes, yes, I can assure you that there's nothing else that will set him off, Mrs. Ketchum. The tests we did were thorough enough and there wasn't a negative reaction to any of the medication Ash is taking at the current moment."

"Right, so should he get ill in the future...?"

"It'd be best to come back here, so we can make sure he doesn't get any worse despite our good intentions."

That was something the woman could live with and while it could be a hassle, it wasn't as if her son became sick that often either.

"This aside, I believe I have some good news, Mrs. Ketchum." the doctor said cheerfully, closing the file in front of him.

"Oh?"

"Your son's prosthetic had been delivered and with your permission, we'll endeavour to make him acquainted with it tomorrow. On the condition, that he doesn't get any more seizures, obviously."

"Of course I give my permission for it!" she exclaimed. "This will surely cheer him up."

"Indeed so. Though, if you could, please keep it quiet for a bit longer. We're not sure how the excitement will affect right now."

"Ah, yes..."


Delia was somewhat frustrated to find her son completely fine again. After all, he was doing the utmost, trying to make Tracey laugh, probably his way to make the teen feel a little boy was in tears now, shaking with laughter as Ash did a very good impression of Professor Oak.

"You shouldn't make fun of the Professor like that, sweetie." she said, closing the door behind her.

"Ah, mom!" Ash said, looking happy to see her. "I was just trying to make Tracey smile again! He was looking so gloomy when I woke up..."

Said teen was still giggling but looked much better than before.

"I can see that, sweetie. I'm glad you're doing a whole lot better."

"Ah... Will I have to make Gary laugh as well? So he doesn't give me that look as if I'm carried away in a casket? Think he'll like some jokes about his grandpa? I mean, I've seen him early in the morning once, with this pink-"

"Ash, stop, please." Tracey gasped, a hand on his chest. "My ribs are starting to hurt."

"Alright, I'll quit it." the teen grinned, clearly amused by the whole situation. "How long will they be keeping me this time, mom?"

"Until they know that nasty medicine is out of your system, sweetie."

"Yeah, it got really weird for a while and I didn't really know where I was when I woke up. But then I saw Tracey so I knew something had happened before... Was it that bad though, that they'd keep me here for long? 'Cause if so, I'd really like Pikachu with me again..."

"I'll see what I can do. As far as I know, the doctor wants to keep you overnight to make sure you're totally okay."

"Oh, I can live with that."

Now, whether or not he could live with it, Delia had no other choice. Pikachu would probably come along tomorrow anyway, so that was not an issue. In fact, on the way home, all she could think about was that prosthetic and whether or not Ash would be able to walk with it straight away. Tracey, who was sitting next to her on the bus, took her silence the wrong way and went as far as to try and cheer her up.

"Mrs. Ketchum, he's completely fine, you know? I mean, I know you must worry about his head with that stupor the doctor must've told you about, but just go and have a look at that puzzle Ash started. He was doing absolutely brilliant."

Delia stared at the teen for a bit, having forgotten about the puzzle.

"Really now? Thank you, Tracey, I will have a look at it."

"No problem. Also, he did it within 20 minutes too, so..."

If anything, this amused the woman enough to actually stop worrying about the prosthetic for a while, or at least, until she had seen the complete border of the puzzle. It was only the outside, yes, this was a humongous sized puzzle. It was still impressive the he had managed all that in twenty minutes. Then there was the not that had made her little boy smile like that. It was still attached to the box which Ash had propped up so he could use the picture as reference...

'Doctors often overlook the human behind their file, so why don't you see for yourself what changed?' was all the man had written down.

In a way, this made Delia happy and sad at the same time. Yes, Dr. Martin was a kind person, with only Ash's best interests at heart, but he usually talked over both his patient and his patient's mother most of the time. Chances were, Ash didn't really know what made him so different from everyone else, or what had changed, so... Either Morty had guessed that a puzzle would fit the boy much better now, or just had figured this out from whatever the doctor told him. Still, whatever the reason, Ash had been really happy with this, so it was fine with her.

With a small smile, Delia put the lid of the puzzle box back where it had been leaning and got herself ready for a very silent evening. Considering Tracey had gone back to the laboratory, she had the house to herself... which felt worse than she had imagined. Especially since Gliscor and Pikachu were not acting like their cheery selves either, with their trainer being absent. Of course, the woman had gone out of her way to explain what had happened, but they didn't seem to be in the mood to be understanding. Thus, Delia was left along, the Pokémon being more interested in lying down and sleeping on their trainer's bed than watch some trivial show on TV.

But despite her own worry, the mother wasn't going to let this one little slip-up become something that'd drag her down and considering she was absolutely sure her son was completely safe and would be healthy and home soon enough, she did try to relax herself. Having settled on the couch with a cosy blanket, a nice steaming mug of hot cocoa in front of her, Delia was looking forward to some quality time to herself.

Regardless of what she had imagined the rest of this day to be, after a good hour, the woman was already bored to death and yawned more often than not. With a sigh, she pushed the blanket aside and switched off the TV. The show was not even half as interesting as she had been hoping. Downing whatever was left in her mug, Delia sighed again and resorted in just simply doing the dishes and going to bed early. Though, just as she had put away the last of her dishes, the doorbell rang, which made her frown.

'Who on earth could that be?' Delia thought as she made a beeline for the front door.

"Greetings, Mrs. Ketchum." a familiar, deep voice said.

"Mr. Finley!" she exclaimed in delight. "Hello!"

"Am I disturbing something?"

"Not at all, I was just cleaning up, actually... Though, if it's Ash you want to see, I'm afraid to say that he's not here today."

"No, quite, he won't be here for the rest of this week either, I assume. For a mere boy who looks so ordinary from the outside, I can't say I have ever met anyone who has been as unpredictable, Mrs. Ketchum." the 'man' said simply. "And yes, I meant this as a compliment."

"Oh, I know." the woman giggled.

"That aside, it was actually you I came to see, Mrs. Ketchum."

"... Really? Well, you better come in then."

That the being did, looking a whole lot more comfortable than Delia had imagined it'd be. For someone who was rumoured to loathe humans, Mewtwo was doing the utmost for some, though. Taking a seat, Finley glance around at its leisure

"You have a lovely house, Mrs. Ketchum, thank you for inviting me in."

"My pleasure, dear. Now, what is it you came here for?"

The 'man' gave her a long, hard look and just when the woman thought she wasn't going to get an answer at all, the being answered.

"I wish to ask you for your approval to train your son in Aura."

Now, Finley knew he'd be getting a reaction to this controversial statement and considering Ash's first extreme worry had been his mother's consent to be trained, he figured he might as well just step up and ask the woman herself... but seeing how pale Delia had gone, it that the teen's worry might not have stemmed from fear of uncertainty, but from genuine worry.

"Mrs. Ketchum, are you okay?"

"NO."

Finley shrunk back when the woman suddenly became a waterfall of memories. Yes, it had known that families had been hunted, their house burned down while they had been sleeping peacefully, but having someone in front of it, adding feelings to the words... that was a whole new experience. So, apparently, Delia's grandfather, who was still very much alive, had been the subject of rather serious torture and when he had managed to escape, their family had been one of those that hadn't felt safe until the peace treaty had been signed several years later.

No matter how long time ago it had happened, it was clear to Mewtwo that Delia's mother had done a great job in making this great woman feel anxious when presented to the force of life. In all honesty, was a downright shame.

"I will NEVER let anyone hurt him!" she exclaimed, ending her rage induced screaming session.

"Neither will I and I can assure you I've already been more successful than yourself. For you are a fool not to realise that your son is quite obviously an Aura user." the being snapped back. "How can you not have noticed you are more productive when he is here, woman? How can you not notice that your electric appliances only fail when he is not here? The nefarious interest this old Professor has for him?"

"Professor Oak has nothing but good intentions." Delia bit back.

"Save me your petty feelings, woman. As if Ash doesn't realise that the old man was nothing but a sad excuse of an attempt to give him some sort of father figure. But how could he ever trust someone who has never held any kind of faith in him until recently? How can you even think Ash feels good about him, when I am buried under the sarcastic, ambiguous memories he has off the man, just with the mere mentioning of the name 'Oak'? How have you not raided his place for those plentiful reports he's produced and published all over the world, each of them clearly giving away that your son has Aura if you are preparing a witch-hunt to get me to shut up about it?"

"He... He has?"

"Yes, Mrs. Ketchum, he knows. And thanks to him, the whole League knows now."

That shut Delia up alright. And while Mewtwo had thought her anger had been justified, he was just so fed up with humans and their memories of how people used to be, that all her yelling hadn't meant anything to him.

"What you need to remember, Mrs., is that the past is just that, the past. It can't hurt anyone any longer, but know that the present won't even think twice about using your son. And all I want to do, is make the boy aware of his ability and not let him live in a lie any further."

"... I just want him to be safe."

"He is, Mrs. Ketchum. Believe me that he is." Finley answered, sounding tired all of a sudden. "But you need to know that the world needs Aura users and that the people on it have changed enough to understand that Aura isn't something they should hunt down."

"Of course, most of those hunting everyone down has passed away."

"Yes. But you surely must have noticed their ability to carry children was lost shortly before the peace treaty. Or that the people simply didn't heal? That they got sick because their immune system was failing? You, me, them, we're all alive thanks to Aura and it notices those that rebel against it."

"... Is that a treat?"

"No, it's a reason why you should allow me to train your son because you should know that Aura itself supports the active users. And Ash has no other choice but to use it, considering it comes as natural to him as breathing."

Eventually, this caused the woman to cave in and allow the training... though Mewtwo could feel that she still felt strongly against the idea itself. But it really couldn't bring itself to care about the details, for the boy's life was a lot more important. The being would take a forced 'yes' any day, if it meant that everyone stood stronger against any possible, evil forces seeking to destroy them all.


In the morning, Ash found himself face to face with a very eager nurse, or, as he later discovered, the designer of the prosthetic limb. In fact, she was so overwhelming that the teen forgot about his initial fear to wear the artificial. Knowing the man, it occurred to him that this might as well be one of his therapist's ploys -who also had a tendency to simply appear somewhere and then float off again. Nonetheless, the reality soon pressed down on Ash, in the form of simple gravity.

Now, with the limb being very aesthetically pleasing (black with yellow accents had always been his favourite combination), the young trainer was pretty sure his Pokémon would love the design and accept it right away. And hearing that it was stainless steel, with springs for comfort and several other gadgets, Ash felt rather confident that the prosthetic might be able to stand up to the life of its trouble-attracting owner.

Mrs. Macy, as she had introduced herself before she went on to gush about her creation, had pretty much given him the full download of what he could do with it, which, to be honest, was more than the teen had even imagined. But, leave it to nurses to think about hidden switch-blades, huh? Never mind those weapons, though, for a thought had suddenly occurred to the young trainer... If Mewtwo's theory was right and if he really could make metal do his every bidding, well... This prosthetic was more than valuable, in many ways, especially since it would never be cut off from contact with him intentionally.

"Can I... put it on?" Ash asked hesitantly, once Mrs. Macy was done explaining.

"Of course, that's why I'm here, after all." she grinned. "Let me show you how to make this work, huh?"

Lifting his pant leg, the teen realised why the nurse had been so adamant for him to be wearing loose shorts in the thought soon left him, however, when the feeling of weight settled on his leg. It was so familiar yet so foreign. He was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions as tears blurred his vision. Ash felt immensely thankful for this chance, but at the same time, he was so scared he'd never be able to get used to this and would mess up the only chance he had to ever walk again. With all his worrying, he did not realise that his troubled thoughts had shown up on his face as well.

"Are you okay, buddy?"

"Yeah..." the boy sniffed, giving her a watery smile. "I'm just... you know?"

"Oh, I know." the woman answered, a warm smile appearing on her face. "Let's try and stand, okay?"

"Yes!"

No one would ever be able to say that Ash was a coward, because he was not. Despite the immense discomfort he felt - it was not quite painful, but it still hurt- he stood and even walked a sufficient distance. He kept standing though his leg was not able to decide whether the mechanism felt too loose or too tight. Not to mentions, the pressure on the sensitive scar tissue was extremely unsettling. The teen could already feel where he would be getting blisters if he kept this up.

"And?" Mrs. Macy asked, genuinely curious.

"I... like how it looks and it's good to be able to walk again... But will I ever be able to get used to this feeling?"

"You're not in pain, are you?"

"I had braced myself for it, but this isn't... I have to keep my leg from trying to kick it off, like... it feels alien."

"Well... Scientifically speaking, it takes about 15 tries for something to become a habit. So, maybe you can try and walk around as much as possible so that it stops feeling weird?" she suggested.

"Yeah..."

"Don't be too upset about this, Ash. I've been delivering prosthetics to people for several years and while I've seen some laugh, I've never had anyone simply popping one on and instantly run down the hallway." Mrs. Macy said softly. "Things like this take time. Give it a change to try and learn to live with it."

"I'll try."

Despite his reservations, the boy went out of his way to at least walk around his room one last time before visitor hours. With all the exercise during his previous stay in this hospital, so it was not as if his leg was that weak. After all, he had only been away from this building for a good three days. It was just too short a time for any kind of muscle deterioration to happen.

Still, his leg was a very angry red in hue when he took off the prosthetic and now the pain came. In fact, it totally destroyed whatever appetite the teen may have had. At least the nurse had gotten him a cold compress to apply on it.

"It's not unusual for you to get this reaction, Ash." she had explained calmly. "After all, the skin in contact with the prosthetic is completely not used to having contact with anything but cloth, so of course it'll complain in the only way it knows."

While that sounded reasonable enough, the teen still thought it sucked. How didn't his leg notice it was not complete, and still supported the person it was attached to anyway to make sure they would be able to walk again? Was there something in the universe that suddenly thought it did not make sense, to put something back where it had been missing from? Well, apparently so, if this was any indication.

In spite of his internal monologue turning a little sour, he was still amazed to find his mother sporting a look that he could only describe as ultra sour. In fact, the teen was so bewildered by her sudden and early appearance by his bed that he needed to take a moment to calm down. Seeing her arrive just as the visitor hours started, he guessed that she had been standing in front of the hospital, or perhaps in the lobby, for some time already.

"... Mom, are you okay?" he asked softly.

"Do you hate Professor Oak, Ash?"

"... What...? Mom, where's this coming from so suddenly"

"Answer me, please."

Considering the teen could almost see the invisible timer that indicating how close his mother was on the verge of exploding, he humoured her.

"I've got nothing against him, mom, the only thing that irks me about him is that he's incredibly loose-lipped. It's pretty much like writing your diary on a wall everyone sees, really. But hate? Don't think there's anyone I actually hate that's not on Lance's wanted list."

"Then, pray tell, why Mr. Finley says that?"

"I know Mewtwo doesn't like Professor Oak, but I don't feel the same way about him. And I clearly told that to it too.. In fact, I had been planning to go see him yesterday, but that didn't turn out all too great."

"And yet, your mind is full of sarcastic and ambiguous remarks when you think of him."

Ash raised an eyebrow and thought about this for a minute. It took a while but when he realised what the issue was, he couldn't help but sigh.

"Mom, Mewtwo's not Mesprit. It can't feel or doesn't care about feelings, so all it sees are memories. And you know damn well there's another Oak that's been lavishing me under sarcastic and ambiguous remarks during my whole childhood."

"... Oh..."

"Yeah, Mewtwo's pretty great, but it's not perfect either. Besides, whatever did it come to you for?"

"I euhm... argued with it about teaching you Aura."

"Argued...?" Ash repeated. "Honestly, mom, you have balls the size of the League. Whatever do you have against Aura, then?"

"Your great-grandfather, sweetie, he was in the war himself. He's told my mother stories and she told them to me and well..."

"The League knows I've got Aura for months, mom, and they haven't come to arrest me or you, have they? Times have changed and well... I wasn't going to tell anyone, but that wicked researcher with his kinetic energy was smart enough to guess and told Professor Oak or any of the other League snitches and Bob's your uncle."

The mother smiled at that, which was a good change from her previous expression.

"Well, Mewtwo was still going to train you, sweetheart, no matter what I said, so I just caved in. But you're making me feel a bit better about it." she answered. "Still, did Professor write about you in his published files?"

"Ambiguously, I'm sure."

"Oh, you..." Delia sighed amused, giving him a soft nudge. "Tell Mewtwo not to scare me like that next time, will you?"

"I don't have any control over any Legendary Pokémon, mom."

"Not yet, I'd assume. Professor Oak told me who Mewtwo exactly is, sweetie, so if you are the only reason why he's here..."

'Ah.' Ash thought, suddenly knowing why his Legendary friend might be the slightest bit pissed.

None of his own Pokémon truly like the Professor either, but considering it was somewhat illegal to bring all your Pokémon along on your journey, they had reluctantly conceded to stay in Pallet Tow -which also meant staying with Professor Oak. The fact that his mother had told the man that a Legendary Pokémon had taken interest in someone from his town... Yeah, the teen suddenly realised why Professor Oak had offered his assistance at all. Still, Ash didn't mind that at all and would take advantage of the offer. However, if Mewtwo didn't want him to talk about its presence, then he wouldn't, no matter how persistent his oldest friend would be.

Thankfully, Delia hadn't been hard to distract, especially not when the young trainer pulled his prosthetic on his lap, repeating the information Mrs. Macy had told him. She was somewhat worried about the effect it had on his leg, but considering the redness was already fading, Ash would probably try to walk a bit more tomorrow. Practice makes perfect, right?

At any rate, it seemed like the woman had calmed down enough for Pikachu to appear from the bag she had been carrying. Seeing him cautiously stick out his nose and have a sniff before fully emerging, the young trainer figured his mom must've looked nothing less than apocalyptic when she told him to get in the bag. Pikachu was notoriously stubborn so for him to have stayed there for so long, it was not particularly had to put two and two together. Nonetheless, it didn't seem to have been too traumatising because Ash's starter was quick to jump in the bed and snuggle into his trainer.

Pikachu could be cute whenever he wanted to be so Delia couldn't help but smile as she saw him curl up and promptly fall asleep. But well, she was easily entertained, especially when Pokémon were involved. Ash would not deny he shared this particular trait, but lately, it had been rather hard for someone to draw his attention away from something that interested him. Maybe that was something he could ask Mewtwo about when he saw him again.


Having been stuck in this hospital for three days already, Ash was getting hopeful that the end of his stay was in sight again -or so the doctor promised. By now, he could walk to the end of the hallway and back to his room without having to need to hold onto something, which the doctor was very pleased about. And whenever Dr. Martin was pleased, the teen knew he'd come up with something shifty for further entertainment. And this time, it took form of something Ash barely recognised.

"Would you like the green or the pink one?"

"... What?"

"I just thought I'd leave you to option of choice, Ash."

"So... I have the option of saying no this at all?"

"Are you averse to rope-skipping?"

"When I have a wonky leg, yeah, I do."

"Come now, have a bit of faith in yourself."

"My faith's currently voting for the floor, though." the teen huffed.

"Look, I've discussed this with the nurses and the therapist who've been helping you get used to this and we've all concluded that this seems to be the next best step. That being said, we know it might not work the first time."

"Which means you're basically going to use my natural stubbornness against me, again?"

"Exactly." the doctor answered, looking rather chuffed. "Now, which one would you like?"

"I don't care, gimme one." Ash answered moodily and easily grasped the pink one from the man's hold.

He didn't care about rope-skipping, never had in the past either, so despite knowing this was probably good for him, the teen looked really bummed as he tentatively jumped up to make the 'rope' pass.

"Careful not to stumble over your long face, Ash. Be a bit more enthusiastic."

"Sure." he all but grumbled.

As the boy did as instructed, however, he noticed that the pressure of landing was not any different than when he walked with it. Taking a good look at how the prosthetic leg behaved under his jumping, Ash was mightily pleased that there were springs easing the force of the landing. Not only did it make him more confident in his actions, but also made him feel less opposed to the overall idea.

"See? There's nothing to be scared off, Ash, Mrs. Macy really outdid herself with this when she heard that you were a trainer and paid for this all by yourself." the doctor said. "I know you're itching to move, so when this becomes tedious, why don't you ask one of the nurses to take you to the gym we have here?"

That was something the teen would could definitely do, if only to get out of that boring hospital room. And really, if he could jump properly, what would keep him from doing more?


Much to the doctor's amusement, it didn't take more than a few days until the boy had asked someone to show him the way to the Gym. He was doing much better than presumed, but then again, the League had given this hospital a notice that this particular trainer was a special case and that they would be having him take a test as soon he got released again -which was simply brutal. If Dr. Martin didn't keep Ash here and subtly direct him do some training on his own initiative and enthusiasm -which basically counted as revalidation, mind you- they would make the teen go through their test without that.

For all that he admired the boy, there was no was the doctor could not give the scarred teen that had just seen is prosthesis, or worse, without it, a chance to survive a League test. The most despicable part of all this was, they did not even deign to tell Ash about the whole matter, probably left it to his regional Professor or something. If he failed, the teen could possibly lose the right to travel, perhaps worse. Thus, if the man had needed to suffer from a few minor long faces, he thought it was still worth saving this delightful trainer.

"Ah, back already?" Dr. Martin said, somewhat surprised to see Ash walk by.

"Oh, hello, doctor! I just took a stroll through the garden, actually, I'll be going to the gym this afternoon, since mom's busy and won't be able to visit. Maybe I'll see that cool karate man again."

"Well, I wish you the best of luck with it, then." the man answered amused. "Not getting too bored here otherwise?"

"No, actually, this place is bigger than I imagined. Also, is it legal for anyone to come and peddle tickets for the National League lottery here?"

"Unfortunately, if a hospital wants to have some... more advantages to help their patients even further, it'll require some... leniency in rules. That being said, they didn't force you to do anything, did you?"

"Nah, I just had enough change with me to buy a ticket and I told him to send whatever I won to Orre." the teen shrugged, showing the card he'd gotten in return of his payment.

"Ah yes, ghastly business... I'm glad to hear they're ready to pick up the pieces and start their lives again. Also, very noble of you to be sending your winnings to their fundraiser, even if it's 5 Pokédollar, I bet they'll appreciate it."

"Well yeah, I hope so. I mean, I've seen their fundraising clip yesterday, so knowing there's not much I can do..."

"Don't worry, you've already done more than was expected of you." the doctor said, trying to comfort the teen.

"Mm... Talking about expectations is my stay here going to end with you giving me an envelope with a heart-stopping bill or...?"

"No, the League's insurance is still providing for you."

"Ah, so Mr. Goodshow himself is going to get that bill, huh...?"

"... Yes, that'll be the case, I assume."

"Hmmm..."

"Why don't you... go and seek the karate man, Ash? Who knows, he might be able to teach you something you could use for... later reference."

"Right. Thanks, doctor, you're really nice to talk to."

The man blinked as he watched the young trainer leave.

'That's a first.' he thought dryly and went to his office.

After all, it seemed like Ash had guessed the League wanted to know whether their money wasn't going to waste (how barbaric), so the doctor was pretty sure he'd end up alright. In a way, it pleased him. Though Dr. Martin wondered whether every kid from the boy's generation would be that quick to bounce back from a situation similar to what the he had gone through. Well, it wasn't as if Ash was done with the bouncing, but he was on his way to land, that much was certain. In fact, if that karate man would be able to teach the boy to fully trust his prosthetic and lean on it with his whole weight, then the doctor would consider his patient ready.


"Well, seems like I have at least been able to make one correct prediction."

Ash was somewhat startled by the sudden voice that appeared just as he was getting ready to sleep. After all, having worked out for hours with Guy -which, apparently, was the karate man's name- he was quite tired. With all the activity, however, the teen had decided to take a quick shower and well... taking of his prosthetic leg gave him a really weird feeling these days, so he would rather have it over and done with as quickly as possible.

"Mewtwo!" he exclaimed in delight, knowing there was no one around to hear them.

"I'm glad to see you still welcome me so warmly, Ash, despite having been subjected to the brunt of your mother's annoyance, mostly caused by me."

"Oh, this was nothing, Mewtwo. In fact, with some training, I'm sure you'd be able to have a civil conversation with my mom. Thing is, do you care enough to learn, though?"

"Actually, yes, I am. Your kind intrigues me."

"Well, then I can show you how to not rile people up when talking in return for everything you'll be teaching me, hm?"

"Ah yes, I would be happy to make that exchange." the being said. "Nevertheless, I would like to kidnap you today."

"Eh? Already?"

"Yes, already. But it won't be a lesson in Aura, friend, for I have been able to gain the attention of someone who will be able to prepare you for an event in the near future a whole lot better than what you yourself are capable of."

"... It's the League thing, isn't it?" Ash said slowly, absolutely not liking that both the doctor and Mewtwo were acting as if he'd get thrown into some kind of gladiator event.

"Ah, you know about it." Mewtwo commented lightly. "Don't be concerned, I merely wish for you to make the kind of impression as if you never have been incapacitated in the first place. It will not only gain you plenty of respect, it will make sure you won't get pitied on and... it'll serve the both of us much better if there is as little attention on you as possible."

"I see. Well, let me get my prosthetic leg on and put on a change of clothes, then I'm all yours."

Mewtwo waited patiently for its friend to get ready, somewhat amused humans felt a need to change fur all that often. Ah, well, just because it did not care all that much, did not mean it was going to comment on someone else's preferences. Besides, Ash seemed to be too happy right now and while that might soon change, the being liked seeing him this way. So, if Mewtwo could maintain that by simply standing here, then that was just what it would do.

"Alright, I'm ready." the teen said with a large smile on his face. "What do I do?"

The Pokémon said nothing and simply held out its paw, which Ash enthusiastically grabbed in response and thanks to his shoulder being Pikachu's usual lounging spot, the trio soon found themselves on the beautiful place that was Mewtwo's home.

"Oooh~! It's so beautiful!"

"Ah, do you like it? Despite the fact you live in a similar place, surrounded by trees?"

"Yes but... It doesn't compare, Mewtwo. Where are we?"

"This is New Island, a place I have guarded against people for many years. Though, considering that it floats and that we are in a different dimension, I will have to lessen my claim and rather state that I haven't seen a human walk in this grass ever since this became my home."

"So I'm the first?" Ash grinned.

"Yes, and hopefully the only one. Please don't be startled when you see a Pokémon with strange markings, they might become curious and come over for a sniff or something."

"I'm super cool with any kind of Pokémon, no matter what kind, colour or shape. Bring it on."

"Very valiant, my friend." Mewtwo said. "Let's see whether you'll still be feeling the same way after I present my companion to you."

"Why wouldn't I?"

The being smiled and simply tapped the tree right next to it twice. The shrubbery nearby shook a little and following some rustling, Mewtwo's guest came out and...

"... We're not even going to be fighting, are we?" the young trainer asked, looking at the lovely little Pokémon that didn't even reach his knee, then back to the much larger, but just as Legendary Pokémon.

"No, but it's a good idea nonetheless. Besides, you know each other, don't you? Why don't you give it a chance?"

"What... Leaving's still an option?" the teen asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Not exactly."

"The illusion of choice again, hm? Right, it doesn't matter, I'm here anyway. So what's the plan?"

"I have a feeling you're going to love it."

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

The nurse was a bit amazed to find the teen still fast asleep, as he would usually be awake by this time. At first, she couldn't help but frown and instantly thought something had happened to him, but when she came to have a look, the clicking of her heels woke Ash up.

"Good morning." the woman said, sounding rather pleased. "I see you've slept well?"

"... Have I? What time is it?" the boy asked, still looking rather asleep as he tried to straighten himself and rub his left eye at the same time, somewhat failing at either of those actions.

"It's 10 in the morning."

"What!?"

"You have been exercising a lot yesterday, so that might explain why you slept in. Still, I will serve you your breakfast so you can get ready for today at your own pace, alright?"

It wasn't as if Ash had a choice, so he nodded. But as the nurse disappeared to get the tray with his food from the cart parked in the corridor, he couldn't help but frown at the innocently ticking wall lock, still not believing he'd been that tired. Yeah, yesterday had been a bit beastly, as Mewtwo's companion had been a Meloetta, who basically enchanted him to dance. The teen had trusted the Legendary Pokémon, not only because they knew each other, but also because he didn't think it had an evil bone in its whole body. Well, not unless someone came around with a dark ball or some other, weird, mind-controlling machine.

Besides, it had been funny to see Mewtwo's face when it noticed that Ash and Meloetta knew each other. In a way, its expression had been eerily similar to the one his mother had sported when she had asked him if he'd made friends with every Gym Leader.

"And here I had been thinking I was going to surprise you." Mewtwo had said, a small smile on its face.

The Meloetta had simply giggled and continued her lessons. In a way, Ash had enjoyed himself, but his body had done so a whole lot less. He vaguely remembered having gone to bed in the evening and feeling as if his body was self-combusting with every move he made. Good thing Mewtwo had been right about his dimension, as not a minute had passed when it brought both Ash and Pikachu back to the hospital, giving the teen the hours of sleep he needed.

"... Ash?" a far too close voice suddenly asked, causing the teen to jump slightly.

"O-oh, it's you," he said, a shadow of a smile on his face when he saw the worried looking nurse stand next to him.

"Is it one of those days, dear?"

"Oh, no, I wasn't daydreaming, just lost in thought-... yeah, there's a difference, actually..."

"Alright, if you're sure. Be careful as you go now, though."

The boy stared at her as she left again, knowing she didn't believe a word he said right now. But how could she ever understand that he really knew the difference between the two?

'Ah well...' Ash thought, resigning in his fate.

He'd much rather eat something than discuss any kind of medicine with a nurse who clearly had the upper hand. Still, no one would need to tell him anything about his body now, thanks to what Mewtwo, no, Meloetta had made him do. The teen still had to smile at the mere thought of people in Pallet seeing him dance now, considering he was rumoured to have two left feet when it came to dancing. Granted, he didn't have a left feet any longer, so the joke was on them, but he was a quick learner and so, with the help of his prosthetic and Meloetta, he'd blow them away once the teen got the chance.

Ash cringed when someone suddenly started yelling but knew there was nothing he could do about it. Chances were that it was one of those kids that got angry because one of the nurses had turned off their TV, or something. Yeah, he'd be thankful to actually be 18 if he'd ever get into hospital again...

"Pika? Chu, chu?"

The teen looked at his Pokémon, only to see Pikachu eye the tray on his lap, clearly looking for something else than the breakfast they were already sharing.

"Pikachu, really? I've told you before they don't serve ketchup in the morning, so there's no way I'll ever be able to convince them."

His starter's face clearly told Ash that he thought this was utter Tauros crap, but rules were rules. Or at least, when it considered patients and not any filthy rich company CEO's or the League…

"We'll stop by the cafeteria later, okay?"

"Chu."

The boy gently rubbed Pikachu's head, understanding that the Pokémon was probably bored to death. In a way, if Mewtwo or his mom didn't keep him active, or if the doctor didn't allow him to walk around as he pleased, Ash would've been dead and buried out of pure boredom by now. But well, so far so good, if only he'd be able to keep himself active. Which, in all honesty, hadn't been too hard. Once the teen was done with breakfast and getting himself ready to go put the tray away, there had been a knock on the door.

It had been the doctor, who had come bearing gifts. First had been the pink skipping rope, which had caused the teen to send the man a look and ask whether the normal ropes from Pallet were listed as lethal when used for rope-skipping. Ash had been ignored as the man handed over the letter, the second gift, which stated he was free to leave the hospital, having been deemed completely healed.

The boy had looked up in bewilderment since no one had told him anything and he'd really expected some tests before they'd even...

"What gives?" he had asked.

"When a patient is able to throw grown men over their shoulder, there truly is no more need for a test to see they are fully healed." had been the dry answer.

Yeah, so Guy, his temporary karate teacher, had asked him to imagine he was fighting against someone he disliked... and while Ash wasn't the kind of person to hold any grudge against anyone, he had plenty of frustrations. So anyone who knew the teen should've been able to guess he would do something utterly stupid, yet still impressive, given the circumstances. But who could blame him for reacting this way to being attacked, when all he saw was the little, harmless-looking Pokémon suddenly turning volatile.

If anything, the boy would ask Professor Oak if he could take a few more Pokémon with him, just to make sure he could literally blast the thing back where it came from, should they ever meet again. And no, Guy telling him he was a one-woman army wasn't going to change how he felt about himself anytime soon, though he would definitely take this as a compliment. He'd met so many great people during his travels and many of them had been women, who, in his opinion, could all pose a rather big threat to the League should they ever wish to be. Still, no matter what kind of artillery someone compared him with, it'd take a bit of time before he'd feel like his good old self again, thanks to what had happened.

The seizure(s) -he still didn't know how many he had actually gone through- hadn't done him any good either, mentally speaking, since he hadn't done anything wrong and still his body revolted against himself. The doctor had told him that there always was this element called helplessness when experiencing an illness, but to Ash, his technical explanation meant nothing. Sure, the man had probably seen plenty of seizures, but the teen truly doubted whether Dr. Martin understood how weird it had felt.

'Well, whatever.' the young trainer had thought while stuffing some of his clothes back into the little trolley his mom had brought him the second day of his stay here. 'Better not question a doctor about his medical knowledge.'


Ash sighed as he switched the arm he was leaning his head on. Visitor hours had started quite some time ago, but there was no sight of his mom yet, which made him worry a lot. She had told him she wouldn't be able to visit him yesterday, but he'd heard nothing of her not being able to come get him today. In fact, Dr. Martin had told him earlier that he had called her personally and that she had said there was no problem, so...

Pikachu was really sensitive to his trainer and when he noticed Ash wasn't feeling well, he calmly laid himself on the teen's lap, eyeing him wearily. There was little the Pokémon could do but keep people away from his trainer, yet it seemed like that wasn't doing much good either. Pikachu hadn't counted on the fact that there was one man who wasn't going to be scared off so easily.

"Ash?" Dr. Martin asked softly, so he wouldn't disturb the other people around them.

"... Doctor?"

"I've had a call for Professor Oak, he says that a colleague of his will come to collect you and will be here in a few minutes."

"W-what's happened to mom, then?" Ash asked, somewhat panicking.

"Relax, boy." the man said hushed and quickly handed him a small paper bag. "The person who'll come get you will explain everything, so don't worry. It shouldn't take long, after all."

Still, the young trainer couldn't help but feel a bit neglected, despite what the doctor just told him. Hearing the bag crunch in his hold, Ash's attention went straight to it and its still unknown contents. A quick look inside let him know that it were some sweets, which the boy did appreciate, so he had taken some, just for fun and giggles... but the bag had been passed on rather quickly, to a little boy who'd taken quite a stumble and only stopped crying once he'd gotten the sweets in hand.

Ash didn't particularly have a sweet tooth and despite them having being something to keep him busy, he would rather just simply sit here in silence than feel like a complete douche bag, eating sweets while a kid was crying. But he didn't really have to sit there for too long as a rather familiar person elegantly made her way into the hospital lobby. They almost instantly locked eyes, causing a small smile to appear on her face and her hand to raise in greeting. The teen was quick to answer that greeting, but even more fast to move towards to her, realising that this was Professor Oak's colleague the doctor had been talking about.

"Hello, Professor Ivy," Ash said, a small smile appearing on his face. "Good to see you again."

"Likewise, Ash," she answered, looking as laid back as ever. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yes, all the paperwork is done and I'm itching to know what's happened so, yes, I'm ready."

"Good, follow me."

Giving a last wave at the doctor, who had clearly kept an eye on him, Ash did follow, to the bright blue car which was waiting in front of the hospital. He wasn't sure whether cars could actually be parked here, but if they were quick about it, no one would actually know. Didn't seem like there was anyone who cared, though, as they had needed some time to get the trolley into the trunk of the car – which, honestly, was ridiculously small. No officer popped up from the grass or anything when the Professor started the car, so Ash figured all was fine.

He was kind of excited too, seeing that this was a fully electric kind of vehicle, so they wouldn't be scaring off any Pokémon -much unlike Professor Juniper's roaring chimney on wheels- and he'd finally be able to sit up front, which was somewhat spectacular to him as the view was a whole lot better than what he was used to seeing in a car.

"So, is everything okay now?" the Professor asked.

"As far as I know, I'm completely fine or so Dr. Martin ensured me." Ash answered. "How's Pallet doing, then?"

"... What makes you think there's something wrong with the city?"

"Must be for my mom not to come here. If anything, I'm willing to bet that something must've caused the electricity to fail in the whole of Pallet, meaning my mom would be stuck in some kind of store."

"That's... a very good guess, Ash. Consider me slightly creeped out if you would have any idea what kind store your mother and several others would get locked up in."

"Well, seeing it would need to be sliding door, I guess she would be in the larger supermarket a bit further down the road."

"Hm." the Professor hummed, glancing at the teen from the corner of her eyes. "So that's what Professor Oak meant..."

"Oh? What did the Professor mean?"

"Would you be as adamant to get to you mother as it is the other way around?" the woman asked, instead of answering the boy's question.

"Believe me when I say I would gladly bulldoze through anything that's in my way, Professor Ivy, public services or not... In fact, I can say I've done it before, much to the regret of the League's insurance company."

She smiled and slightly shook her head.

"Charming behaviour, Ash. Now, I do hope you've got the key to your house?"

"I do. Did Professor Oak show you where I live?"

"Well, he stuck his arm out of the window and waved towards Vermillion, so that what I know."

"Right." Ash chuckled. "You might as well park at the laboratory, I can go on foot."

"I was strictly forbidden from leaving you anywhere near the laboratory, actually."

'Ah.' the teen thought and realised that a Pokémon might've been the cause for the disturbance.

And if Professor Oak figured it was something that could set off his 'trauma', then Ash would rather be left at the whole other side of Pallet Town.

"Well, I kinda live near the laboratory, I mean, if Professor Oak's arm was a bit longer, he would probably have been able to touch my home. Would you rather not leave me at the store my mother is in?"

"Do you think you will be able to charm those doors to open for you?"

"I can always try, right?"

"Indeed so, Ash." she answered amused.


In the end, Professor Ivy admitted that she had been pitifully cut off from her colleague thanks to the electric breakdown and that he had no other option but to eventually send her to the hospital. He had been calling her while having another phone to his other ear, where Delia had been crying and generally be upset over the fact she couldn't get out, so yeah, Ash could imagine what kind of mood the man must've been in.

"I didn't know the laboratory had an electric door inside?"

"Safety measure." the woman sighed. "It will protect the Pokémon Coral in case someone breaks in or if a fire breaks out on either side. But, thanks to that Pokémon, the system went into security mode without the emergency actually occurring."

"Ah... That sucks, doesn't it? Still, I'm pretty sure my mom will be a far better host for now than Professor Oak, who will remain stuck in his own home until the system is reset from the outside, by some technicians."

"Oh, they were there already, playing cards, waiting until it was their euhm… time to shine, I suppose."

Ash chuckled and nodded.

"Well, there was little else they could be doing right now, not having any power so... Oh, we're there!"

Whether parking wherever she figured they wouldn't be in the way was a particular habit of Professor Ivy, the teen didn't really know, but he was startled nonetheless. Still, he kept his mouth shut, knowing that no one was ever in the mood to have someone who would be complaining about their style of driving in their car.

"Are you sure she's here?"

"I've been carrying bags from this place as soon as I could carry some weight, so I'm pretty sure she's here. You seem to forget I've been living here all my life."

"I've never seen you in your natural habitat, so yes, I do forget."

"... Natural habitat, huh?" Ash repeated dryly, unfastening his seatbelt. "Right, let me show you how I tend to... naturally behave here."

The woman giggled and got out of the car. She really didn't think there was anything they could do to help the people in the store, however, the teen seemed to be very able to find where the doors could be manually handled. And somehow, the power turned back on as well.

"Oh, here we go!" the young trainer said cheerfully. "They must have fixed the power already."

"Seems to me that you would be an excellent burglar, Ash." Professor Ivy commented.

"And I think you would be a terrific mastermind of some criminal organisation, with your knowledge of Pokémon. But then again, everything depends on the alignment of one's character, right?"

'Huh...' the woman thought, as she noticed the boy had already locked up the little maintenance box again.

While Ash was undoubtedly right, she did wonder how the heck he knew all this. Having gotten an 'upgrade' didn't mean you suddenly got access to all kinds of knowledge, did it?

'So he must have been learning... Interesting.'

However, Professor Ivy wasn't born yesterday and knew there must probably be a very good reason Professor Oak didn't want the teen close. And even more wondrous was that the young trainer hadn't protested again it either, instead of having tried to come up with a solution that would fit both parties a lot better. If it hadn't been for the boy's Pikachu looking as comfortable as could be, the Professor would have thought he had become scared of Pokémon.

She had seen plenty of people who had been able to keep themselves civil even in the presence of one but completely freaked out when touched by one. Considering the Pikachu was on the teen's shoulder, there could be no way Ash suddenly got a phobia against them. However, knowing what kind of Pokémon had caused this event... No, Professor Ivy would be sure to keep an eye on the teen, for it would be a total waste of talent if he suddenly decided against being a trainer.

But no matter how hard she looked, the boy looked perfectly happy. Even more so when he was reunited with his mom, who was immensely relieved to see him.

"Oh, sweetheart, you're walking!"

"Wait... What?"

Professor Ivy hadn't meant to speak up, but apparently, she had done it anyway, causing both Ash and Delia to turn to her.

"Seems to me that Professor Oak didn't tell you a whole lot, did he?" the teen asked amused. "Anyway, mom, this is Professor Ivy, Professor, this is my mom, Delia."

"Oh, we know each other, but still, nice to meet you again, Mrs. Ketchum." the purple haired woman said, bowing slightly but feeling plenty embarrassed.

"Likewise, Professor. Would you like to join in for some afternoon tea?" Delia asked amused.

"Gladly."

After all, she would rather sit with the two of them, then to be subjected to Professor Oak's annoyance. Maybe she would even be able to figure out why Ash had ended up in hospital in the first place.


Professor Ivy had been somewhat bewildered to not have to pry for answers, because Delia was so proud, she had no qualms to tell the story to anyone willing to listen to it. Ash had kept himself to the side during all this, apparently not too comfortable with the subject, but remaining near just in case. The Professor was rather amused to see how protective he was of his mother, but then again, having literally sat next to the woman in the helicopter to Shamouti Island, she knew that it was a bad idea to mess with either of them.

After all, who wanted to cross a woman who was ready to strangle any of the Legendary birds with her bare hands, simply because they were near her son? Good thing the helicopter had made a crash landing or the Professor feared that she might have actually gone and do it. She also didn't think Professor Oak would have been able to stop the woman either.

All of them had been rather startled when the Professor she had just been thinking about called and sounded plenty annoyed as he started exclaiming things rather loudly through the small device. It caused Professor Ivy to pull her phone away from her ear, as it seemed the man would continue for a while as he sounded very upset. But, if Professor Oak hadn't been moody, he probably would never have been spouting the nonsense he was currently exclaiming.

"I did not let you come here to be drinking tea with someone who has other things on their mind!" had been one of the sentences that had rung out loud and clearly, which promptly instigated Ash to leave to the kitchen.

"I'm sorry if I made you or Ash uncomfortable, Mrs Ketchum. I had no idea he would react this... strongly." the Professor apologised, after the abrupt outburst came to a halt, as the man had simply ended the call without giving her any chance to react.

"Please do call me Delia, Professor. And neither me or my son are uncomfortable, if anything, I think Ash left for an entirely different reason." was the rather calm answer, a mood that Professor Ivy really enjoyed.

"Is that so...?"

Not too long after that, the teen had returned from the kitchen with a box covered up in tin foil. A nice, blue memo was attached to it and judging from the rather pleased smile on Ash's face, the woman figured Delia had been right after all.

"Please be careful when you go, Professor, there might be some cars passing by as you cross. Also, please give this to Professor Oak as some kind of peace offering." He said, holding out the gift.

"I will. Thank you, Ash." The Professor answered, carefully accepting the box. "Do I tell him to bring this back?"

"In this kind of mood, I think it's better not to tell him anything. Just trust it in his arms, he will know what to do with it."

"Alright."

Whatever Ash might say about this natural habit thing, Professor Ivy still felt as if she had just joined a Ranger who knew to appease the Pokémon living in the area. Still, it remained to be seen whether he would actually succeed in calming down the raging man because heaven knew what kind of damage the rogue creature had done to the laboratory. She and Professor Oak were good friends, so she knew that if the man was angry, he probably had a very good reason for it.

'Oh well, we'll see...' she thought and simply walked to the laboratory which was, as the young trainer stated, really close by.


As soon as Professor Ivy had left, Delia had almost felt her son look at her and yes, as soon as she had stood still for a bit, without something breakable in her hands, she got hugged. The woman had suspected that this would happen so she had been mentally prepared for it. But she wasn't averse to this, rather enjoying his company. Life had been quite hectic and whatever Mewtwo had said about her appliances failing and the productiveness issues she would face when her son wasn't home... Well, it definitely was true, having experienced it first-hand.

Right now, with Ash in her arms, she felt like she could do everything that had stopped her from going to see him and pick him up from the hospital in an hour or even less. But well, she had managed nonetheless, even if it had taken longer than anticipated. Everything had turned out somewhat weirder than she had expected and frankly, Delia was happy that her son had given something to Professor Oak, because who knew what had actually happened. The woman knew the man well, so if he was as upset as he sounded, something truly horrible must've been going on.

Ash, on the other hand, seemed rather reluctant to go to the laboratory, which he easily explained to her by saying that Professor Oak didn't want him there. Delia had frowned but figured her son must have his reasons to obey the strange request. Never mind that, she had a far better surprise for him to get invested in, one she had needed to ask her neighbour's help with, which thankfully, they agreed with.

"Why don't you go check out your bedroom, sweetie? I'll deal with the trolley, okay?"

"Oh, yeah, sure!" he answered happily and instantly went to the left, where the door to his ground floor bedroom was... or at least, used to be.

"No, sweetie, I think you better go towards the stairs to get there."

Ash turned to her, his face betraying his bewilderment, but his expression soon became elated.

"Really? Can I go back upstairs?"

"Go ahead and try, dear. The doctor cleared you for the stairs a few days ago, after all."

Now, Delia had underestimated just how well her son could walk on that leg, because he still had been holding onto the banister railing when walking in the hallway from the hospital some days ago... yet now, it seemed like he had been unleashed and that he was going to be using this newfound freedom to the max.

"Careful, sweetheart!" she called out, hearing him storm to his room.

"Will do!"

The woman smiled, knowing his enthusiasm had taken over and that he would stop at nothing to sate his curiosity. But this was his normal behaviour, which was so refreshing to see again, that she absolutely loved it. After all, her son had been already behaving so good and seeing how much care he had taken of the trolley she had carefully packed for him... No, Delia had nothing to complain about at this moment.

Ash upstairs was feeling just the same way as he looked around in his bedroom, where all his trophies, books and plush toys were reorganised on new shelves and cabinets. His bed wasn't his old bunk bed any longer either, now firmly set on the floor like the one in his temporary room downstairs. He wouldn't miss the tiny ladder, though and this one had the most delightful, shiny cover on it. It was super soft and covered in stars where the Pokémon signs were visible and Ash loved everything to bits. He also noticed he had illegally soft carpet and nice dark blue curtains which would keep the light out and...

'Talking about light...' the teen wondered, tentatively leaning a hand towards the nearest wall.

To his absolute delight, the walls and ceiling lit up with the fantastic images like they had appeared in another room on the ground floor. Alright, so Ash had been a bit bewildered when they suddenly, yet subtly shifted as if the images were getting fed up with being in the same position but he remained delighted nonetheless. All his room needed, was a bit of fresh air since it did smell as if it just had been renovated recently, so once his window had been opened the slightest bit, Ash figured it would be perfect by the time he would go to bed.

"Sweetheart?"

He jumped slightly, not having expected his mother to suddenly be behind him. Nevertheless, his smile didn't leave his face as the teen turned to face her.

"Mom! Thank you so much, I love this room!"

"I'm pleased, dear, but what was this doing in your trolley?" the woman asked, holding up the pink skipping rope.

"Oh, it was a gift from Dr. Martin."

"Why's it pink?"

"Because I don't care?" the boy suggested. "Anyway, this rope has done plenty of good for me, so let me put this in the place of honour it deserves. Maybe I'll use it again if the urge to do some rope skipping creeps up on me."

"Alright," Delia said, accepting the explanation with ease. "Care for a snack?"

"Yes! Though I'm still going to find a way to thank you for this room."

"I did very little but pay for it, dear, if you wish to thank someone, I'd advise you to go next door to find our neighbour."

"Right, then I'll find a way to thank him as well."

"The only thing that he likes is food, so..."

"Is that an offer to teach me how to cook again, mom?"

"Maybe it is." she grinned.


Delia had figured that it was about time Ash finally got to make himself some food, just in case he ended up alone or without someone who could cook whilst on his journey. Besides, if he was as smart as the doctor had said he could be, then this shouldn't be an issue. Cooking wasn't hard when you had some guts to actually roll up your sleeves and do it, so frankly, if she had been able to make her son stand still and get him to listen to her earlier, he probably could have learned it before he even started his journey. Right now, though, the woman had Ash with all his gusto and patience, which was either a recipe for disaster or miracles.

All in all, the teen had just been so chuffed with his muffins, he promptly placed four of them on a plate and went to carry them to their neighbour, before Delia had been able to say anything about it. But as she tasted one while he was away, she figured that he now at least could make muffins, which was as good a start as anything. Ash had returned pretty soon but looked pleased as punch as their neighbour had apparently liked the gesture a lot.

"I think I'm starting to like hugs, mom." he said, grinning like a fool.

"Do you now?"

"Yep."

Delia couldn't help but smile as it was quite a feat for her son to start the dishes on his own initiative, but then she figured he had always been good in cleaning up his own messes. In fact, it made her a little bit emotional, seeing her baby grow up all of sudden, so maybe it was a good thing Ash focussed on his puzzle again afterwards. He would start fussing over her otherwise and she really didn't want to saddle him up with some more guilt.

Though, she soon found that the teen was really focussed on the puzzle, as he didn't even look up when the doorbell rang. But well, the woman would have to see what was up with that later on as she wasn't planning on keeping their visitor waiting.

"Oh, hello, Samuel!" she said, already holding the door open for the man, who seemed somewhat troubled.

"Thank you, Delia. I'm sorry about this afternoon, I swear I've never seen any Pokémon react so aggressive to a simple injection for their own good. Good thing Professor Ivy showed up soon after our assistants had been able to calm it."

"You don't need to apologise if no one got hurt, Professor," Delia said amicably, closing the door behind him. "Is the Pokémon okay?"

"Very happy, since Professor Ivy is playing substitute mother at this very moment. Never mind that, though, how is Ash?"

"Well, he's made his very first muffins ever and is now very invested in the puzzle. In fact, he hasn't moved an inch ever since he went to sit at that table." she sighed.

"... I'm pretty sure this letter I have for him will inspire him to move again, but still... let me see if I can get his attention without it."

The mother wasn't going to object to that, knowing that the Professor was good in activating her son but it seems like Ash never heard him coming until he was right next to him. And when the boy finally turned, looking more confused than anything, an ear-splitting grin appeared on his face as the puzzle seemed forgotten.

"Professor! When did you get here?"

"Just now, my boy. My apologies for having worried you for having asked Professor Ivy to keep you away, but it was for your own good."

"It's not... one of them... is it?"

"No, no, Ash, in fact, if my assistant hadn't suddenly made a shifty move with the injection, nothing would have happened. Delta Pokémon or not, no Dratini is volatile in nature unless provoked. And well..."

"Delta Pokémon?" the teen asked, eyes wide and curious. "What does that mean?"

"Why don't you come see it tomorrow, after you've come back from the League?"

"... Why would I need to go to the League, Professor?"

The man simply handed the teen the letter, knowing he might get a somewhat explosive reaction to it... but he was somewhat amazed by Ash's calmness, despite the fact the boy was currently reading the contents. And yes, the chuckle that escaped the young trainer was really unexpected as well.

"Good to know the League Administration is quick about at least one thing, isn't it?" Ash asked amused, folding the letter and putting it back into the envelope. "Have you read the letter, Professor?"

"I had a separate one, explaining their decision in detail, so I only have a gist of what's going to happen."

"Then the chance of you having brought a Pokémon that could fly me to the League is very small?"

"... I'll send one over as soon as I get back, Ash. But are you sure that you can handle this?"

"I do wonder whether this will be so bad, that you and Dr. Martin are so spooked about it." the teen frowned. "Have you ever needed to do something similar?"

"No, my boy, but if you fail, you could lose pretty much everything." the man sighed, looking somewhat tired. "I've already called them and told them this was ill-advised, but the only rules they won't bend are their own."

"I won't fail, Professor. I'll do anything for my Pokémon and really, if the League lets kids leave home with just a town map and a Pokémon that can easily get them killed, but won't do so because people like yourself told it not to do so, I doubt they're expecting me to display superhuman qualities... Unless you told them something."

The last bit of that sentence wasn't even a question and really, Ash didn't need an answer to it either, considering how guilty Professor Oak looked.

"Oh, God... What did you...?"

"Nothing except for the Aura, Ash."

"Which is a pretty big deal, Professor." the teen answered, deciding not to tell him anything, just as Mewtwo had asked him. "Don't you think I know what Kanto's stance was when the war-"

"That's over. For good, Ash. You don't need to worry about it. All you need to know now is that if you've got Aura, you're a valuable person to the League."

"... Mm..."

The Professor could see that this didn't sit well with the boy, but there was nothing he could do. But really, from his perspective there was nothing Ash could do wrong tomorrow, as the League simply wanted to see what his capabilities were. Maybe they will have succeeded in having found one of the Aura teachers and see whether the teen could possibly be an asset to their team, but still, the boy was a minor, so they couldn't decide anything without Delia. And considering they knew her family, with her grandfather having been a great Guardian... No, that particular part of the test would be rather innocent, that much the man knew.


Having gotten Staraptor from Tracey, who had happily stayed over for dinner and some games, Ash was pretty much set to go to the League tomorrow. He wasn't worried, knowing that they wouldn't get past his mom, who had the final say over him and whatever they decided. But he still was going to be wary, because they still might ask him stuff and possibly let him agree with things that might come bite him in the butt a few years later on, when his mom had no say over him any longer.

'Ah, whatever, I'll see whatever they've got planned for me tomorrow, won't I?' the boy thought, all too happily nestling in his bed.

As expected, his room was smelling nice and fresh by the time he came back, so he was sure he would be having a good night. Even with the weird feeling of anticipation for what would happen tomorrow, Ash felt tired enough to know he would at least get some hours of shut-eye. He needed it actually, or else some of his medication wouldn't have any effect the next day, which would royally suck.

He had to smile when he caught Pikachu staring at him again, which probably meant he had zoned again. His Pokémon all were somewhat dubious about it, which Ash had noticed when Gliscor had snapped him out of his daydreaming phase once by licking him. It had been a bit messy, but the boy understood nonetheless. After all, he wouldn't like anyone in his surrounding to have the same issue, but that still didn't mean he couldn't help it.

"Sorry, buddy, I didn't mean to make you worry." the young trainer said and lifted his sheets in invitation. "Lay with me?"

The Pokémon was all too willing to take up said offer and shot under the covers. But the staring continued even once Pikachu was in the bed, curled up in a nice and cosy way. And Ash had no idea why his friend was staring like that.

"What's wrong, Pikachu?"

"Pikapi. Pi chu, Pika."

Now, Ash usually had a good idea of what his Pokémon said, but this message came over loud and clear. Pikachu literally had asked, 'Ash, please stop scaring us.'... and that hurt the boy more than he had thought it would.

"I'm so sorry." the teen sighed, sinking into the pillow and gently pulling his friend closer to him. "But this is just... I don't have control over these kinds of things, Pikachu. Believe me when I say I'll do anything I can to stop it but... I'm still hurt, which I know you realise. And I'll probably act a bit weird from time to time, well, weirder anyway."

That at least got a smile from the Pokémon, who gladly went in for the snuggle his trainer instigated. But when they parted again, Pikachu started staring again... just not at Ash. Turning around to face whatever his partner had seen -the teen really hope it wasn't a ghost-, he couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at the small, pink, floating Pokémon.

"Mew." it said.

"... What are you doing here?" Ash asked, now fully turning towards the strange visitor. "N-not that you're not welcome, I mean..."

The Pokémon didn't answer and merely floated downwards. It was because of that action that the young trainer saw it actually was carrying some kind of string in its paws, which it somehow wanted to tie around his wrist. Seeing the little Mew absolutely failed in doing so by itself, Ash aided a bit, though he was somewhat bewildered why it suddenly wanted him to wear this.

"Mew!" it said happily, spinning around for a bit once the string was in place.

And disappeared.

"Oh my God, how weirder is my life going to get?" Ash asked, to no one in particular. "Good thing I'm not planning to tell anyone about this, 'cause if I do, people would think I'm crazy and then they'd lock me up for sure."

The teen did also wonder if Mewtwo knew about this, but then figured he had never seen the two together before, so maybe Mew just... had an urge? To deliver string? Ash was somewhat lost on the subject and decided it wouldn't do him any good to keep thinking about it, knowing he would never be able to guess what actually happened. Pokémon were as unpredictable as humans, but Legendary Pokémon were probably the ones you never were sure about what exactly was going on inside their head.

And so, with a last mental shrug, the young trainer turned off the light and sank into the comfortable bed. He wanted to be somewhat rested for tomorrow, as he would need to go the League in the early morning, hence why Staraptor would come in handy and was kept in her Pokéball. There had been plenty of articles, published in fancy magazines with weird names, that proved that Pokémon were more comfortable resting in a Pokéball than outside, since no sound or light disturbed their slumber. It apparently guaranteed a good night's sleep and Ash's last thought of the day was him wishing he could crawl into one as well, if it'd meant he'd do well tomorrow.

Ah well, he'd see then and there, wouldn't he? One thing was sure, Ash was going to leave an impression no matter what.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

The teen was more than a bit intimidated when he noticed the League really didn't do things halfway. In fact, he had half a mind to just slowly back away from the group of rather weirdly dressed people… which his body apparently had started doing as well. Ash was pretty sure he would have been successful in escaping if only he had not bumped into Staraptor, who was still outside her Pokéball and squawked indignantly when her trainer disturbed her grooming by walking into her.

Those people surely noticed him now, since his Pokémon had been rather loud in letting him know she had not liked this at all. Unfortunately for Staraptor, this might have been one of these moments where overreacting wasn't really the way to go.

"Ah, hello."

'Fiddlesticks…' Ash thought, seeing one of the even more weird people come towards him.

They weren't just dressed in an extremely weird fashion -pretty much like a hippie if they had the habit of putting their clothes through a shredder first-, but the way they stood and their general aura -not the actual Aura- felt... off. There were all kinds of red flags going off in the boy's head, an intuition he usually followed swiftly... but how could he, as the strange visitor was closing in on him like that?

"H-hi." he answered meekly.

Seeing the person in front of him smile slightly, the boy got even more confused whether this was a woman or a man. Not that it mattered to him, but it did make his choice of greetings limited, which kind of bothered him, since he didn't want to be obnoxious and just assume things... And gosh, he would swear he once heard Mewtwo with a distinct female-sounding voice, while his weird uncle had denied that there was another Mewtwo roaming on this earth, so yeah...

But thanks to the fact that this person was the only one who came to him, the young trainer figured this was a woman because that's what people did right? Sending a mother-like figure at someone who appeared or was expected to be uncomfortable? Well, it wasn't doing much for Ash, since this person wasn't anywhere similar to his mother. And he definitely didn't think they were an Aura user either, thanks to the distinct face tattoos.

If Delia, someone who merely heard about the stories of how her family had been treated, was already so skittish to talk about it, despite not having the force of nature to her disposal, why would an actual Aura user put such easily identifiable drawings on their face? The teen wasn't going to deem this person any less for having them, since he thought it fit them rather nicely, but still... This was just really provocative and would be so easily recognised that Ash was pretty sure they weren't in the possession of Aura.

In a way, it reminded him of the situation with shiny Pokémon, which were so rare in the wild because predators could easily spot them. No one would be able to convince him that those hunting those with Aura would have any issue with finding the Aura users if they all inked themselves so clearly. But since they were here and greeted him, apparently recognising him, they sure must have something to do with it, that much was sure.

He blinked, noticing the person in front of him suddenly looked rather concerned. Panic shot through him as he realised he just had zoned out right in front of this strange person! Talk about leaving a good impression, huh?

"I-I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to suddenly-"

"It's alright, we've been notified of… your issues. Still, are you okay?"

Ash blinked again, surprised by the rather pacifying tone she used and heck, what had the League told them- gah!

"Y-yeah, I just need to... stop overthinking things." he sighed. "Should I recall Staraptor?"

"If you could, that would be appreciated. I know that you were called here to perform a League test, but we figured we might... add something to that, if that's okay with you?"

"Well, I'm here so..."

"Excellent thinking." the person said, a wider smile appearing on her face. "Come along."

Despite not trusting these people with an inch of his life, Ash decided to go along. He was surprised to now see the group up close, which consisted of... colourful characters, to say the least. In fact, there was only one without any marking on their face and they looked so depressed, the boy was sure the floor tiles would crack if this person aimed their gaze at the ground. But, it seemed like he shouldn't underestimate them, since they appeared to be pretty smart.

"You might wonder why most of this group are Lore Keepers when you were sent here to be tested on Aura?" someone suddenly says.

Ash wasn't sure who had just spoken up, but it seemed to have come from his left side. But really, that wasn't what worried him, in fact, the mere mention of 'Lore Keepers' made him stiffen. His mom had always reacted to touchy when asked about them, so he had done some research and stumbled on… well, some seriously disturbing stories about them and how they had reacted to being hunted...

"Goodness, you are sensitive, aren't you? I was hoping to ease some of your worries, but now you look positively petrified." the same, still unidentified source said. "Will it help when I say we only have good intentions?"

'As if any other creep I've met didn't use that sentence to take me for a fool.' the teen thought dryly.

But... judging from the looks he was getting...

"O-oh... I said that out loud?"

"That you did. Never mind that, let's get going."


In a way, Ash wasn't sure what he had been suspecting, but he was positive that Mewtwo, Dr. Martin and Professor Oak were to blame for his nerves. With all their subtle warnings, it had made him all stiff and uncomfortable. Yet he had no idea why his Aura suddenly behaved the way it did, just when it counted the most.

His right hand seemed completely unable to produce any kind of Aura phenomenon -which normally was his good hand-, while his left could barely make the teensiest of Aura Spheres. Even worse, the orbs weren't just marble sized, they acted like bl00dy ping-pong balls, bouncing off his hand and continued its merry way towards any direction to eventually dissipate. The teen couldn't believe his eyes but thankfully for him, his face only showed surprise. The people in the room were not really impressed and thanks to his expression, had no reason to think something dubious was going on.

"Thank you for the demonstration. If you could be so kind as to return to the lobby? We'll speak with you shortly."

And there it was, the inevitable dismissal. Ash wouldn't be surprised if he would never see them again, after this... spectacle. He couldn't help but wonder what was happening to him. Maybe it had something to do with the medication that was taking its toll on him or Mewtwo might even been completely mistaken in thinking he was anything special...

All in all, this event rendered the boy into feeling like a huge disappointment, to pretty much everyone who had believed in him. And so, he found himself huddled in one of the chairs in the lobby of the League, his arms clasped protectively around Pikachu, who kept calm due to sympathy for his trainer's situation.

He desperately wanted his mom or some other familiar face around him, because he really felt incredibly miserable. His expression must've mirror his feelings, because someone did approach him. And goodness, it was someone he actually knew! While the man seemed to feel a little out of his comfort zone, awkwardly smiling at him, it did seem he had come with good intentions. Thought the possibility that he had come to collect him so that Ash could go do the League test was large as well.

"Hey, what's gotten over you, then?" he asked, frowning as he noticed the downcast look on the teen's face.

Before Ash could even answer, though, loud shouting could be heard from a bit further down the building.

"I'm not letting a child get involved in a suicide mission simply because they still have the reaction to be able to explode! Yes, it's a great ability, but with those stupid ping-pong things, all he will be able to do is make our enemy die of laughter!"

"But his lineage-"

"I don't care whether his grandfather was the Queen of Cameron palace, I don't want him to put his life on the line just because you want him too! He's absolutely, completely useless."

"... What are they screaming on about?" Lt. Surge asked, frowning even more when the yelling moved away, even further into the building.

"Me." Ash replied bitterly.

"Oh." the man said simply. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I think so. Could you possibly help me to find something to drink? Before you take me to wherever I need to go?"

"Of course, kiddo, but don't make yourself so nervous and drink buckets of water, okay? We've all seen that you're not a bad trainer, so if you keep your head in the game, it'll be okay."

'There are a few people who will swear they've seen me perform more Aura than what I did just now, so if this is the tendency things will go today, I'm royally screwed.' Ash thought but made sure he didn't say it out loud this time.

"No, I just want to wash out the taste of their disappointment out of my mouth." he answered instead.

"Whoa, that's dramatic, kid!" the Gym Leader chuckled. "Keep your head up, now that you're back on familiar territory. You don't need those types with their mumbo-jumbo around you, so come on, let's go."

While Lt. Surge saw that he had managed to activate the boy somewhat, he was still very unsettled by the reaction the clear dismissal from those creeps had brought on. Maybe this had been a really bad idea to have called Ash here today, because he could as well have done this test at his regional Professor's laboratory, or even at home with his mother's supervision if that had been his preference. The Gym Leader remember that Professor Oak had advised not to make Ash go to the League for the test, but thanks to those Lore Keepers, no one had any choice in the matter. If the Lieutenant hadn't just seen how badly the young trainer had reacted to this event, he wouldn't have understood the Professor's warning either, but well...

Maybe this event would do the boy some good, making him do a bit better now than how he might've ended up scoring if he hadn't gone through the experiences earlier today. If he only stepped up his game a little, none of this mysterious Lore business would matter. Or he might just straight up fail, having just lost the confidence you needed for these kinds of tests. Then again, failing the test didn't mean a trainer lost everything they had worked for all those years, but it might have some consequences on that trainer's future, depending on how badly they failed.

But whether or not Ash did end up with a bad result, Lt. Surge would be sure to let everyone know what kind of Tauros crap those Lore Keepers had been exclaimed through the hallways. And he wouldn't forget to add what kind of effect that behaviour had on the kid, which might convince Mr. Goodshow to give the boy a second chance if that was needed. After all, he had just recovered from a rather bad accident and no matter what the people claimed, the League wasn't so beastly to simply claim his trainer card without giving him a fair chance to defend it. Had it not been for those mysterious people, there was no telling how Ash would have behaved, after all.

No, the man had a great deal of faith in the teen and judging from his physical abilities -which had been separately tested-, the Lieutenant figured that people might have been affecting the kid before he even came to the League. To his knowledge, no one who had a prosthetic leg for barely a week should be able to perfectly rope-skip, unless they had trained for it earlier. Which could only mean one thing...

"Kid..." Lt. Surge said softly, making Ash look up from the form he had been filling in. "We're not going to take your Pokémon away from you, you know that, don't you?"

"I know."

"So it doesn't matter if today isn't a good day, you realise that, right?"

"I won't fail." the boy said curtly and went back to the test.

The man blinked and took his distance. He had known this young trainer wasn't easy to handle when he had his mind set on something, so he would leave him be... but boy, would Mr. Goodshow be hearing about this!


"Professor?"

The man jumped slightly but calmed down when he saw the teen in the doorway. Considering the Professor had been plenty worried about Ash, he was very happy to see him. All the assistants would be glad the young trainer was back too, as Professor Oak had been anxious all day... and that anxiety had affected all the Pokémon and Professor Ivy. No one even dared to object when the man suddenly decided to go through some administration papers in the living room closest to the front door.

"Ash, my boy!"

"Professor, do you have a Pokémon who doesn't mind a good squeeze? And preferable a fur coat I can easily yell in?"

A while of silence fell, as the Professor stared at the teen for a while. He could see that Ash didn't look overjoyed but...

"I... do have an affectionate Whimsicott who will undoubtedly enjoy that kind of company but... are you okay, my boy? How did the test go?"

"Please let me squeeze something first."

"B-but-"

"It's got nothing to do with the test, I promise."

Professor Oak stared at the young trainer for a while, even trying to see whether Pikachu's expression gave something away... but nothing. The man gave in and fumbled a bit with his keys before motioning Ash to follow him. Not really knowing what to think of the strange request, or the way the teen speed walked into the room, the Professor only hoped Whimsicott wouldn't get hurt. However, after a few seconds, he could already hear some juicy purring, which only Ash could make Pokémon do.

"Ash, are you okay?"

"The League test went perfect, Professor. Koga himself even congratulated me when he had taken a look at my answers, so... And the physical part wasn't hard, it's just... Those blasted Lore Keepers..."

"Lore Keepers!?" Professor Oak exclaimed, sounding terrified and only a little surprised. "What on earth were they doing there?"

"Checking whether my Aura was any good, apparently. And all of a sudden, all I can make are these!" the boy huffed, throwing his left hand to the side in a wild gesture... leaving a bright blue orb behind.

Whimsicott seemed pretty impressed with it and happily chased the sphere, while the man followed the glowing object with his eyes.

"That's..."

"Completely and utterly useless."

"Excuse me? Were you planning on joining into those Lore Keeper's warfare, Ash? As far as I can see, you're better off able to entertain Pokémon than mingle in businesses that go far over your head."

The teen was slightly distracted by the fluffy Pokémon's disappointed whine at the sudden disappearance of the Aura Sphere, so he quickly made a new one. But as he was doing so, he realised Professor Oak had a point. In fact, it sounded eerily familiar with...

'Mew.' Ash thought dryly, remembering the blue string around his right wrist, which suddenly and very coincidentally had become unable to perform Aura.

The little Pink Legendary must have known what those Lore Keepers intentions were, or agreed with Mewtwo's statement that no human should know about his abilities. Either way, the boy understood, but he would have liked to have known about their plan to clog his Aura prior to going to the League.

"It's what they called me. And it hit too close to home, so sorry if I'm upset." he answered, not wanting to tell the Professor the whole truth.

"... Oh, Ash..."

"It's okay, I'll get over it. Besides, the League test was more important than that, so I've mostly pushed it to the back of my mind already. With you and Dr. Martin pumping me up for this test, I was already fearing I needed to climb Mount Silver in my underwear, you know?"

"Those tests can vary, Ash, so it's better to be over prepared than not at all."

"Maybe so, but my head was full of knots and it was so visible, Lt. Surge tried to calm me down. The very person who's sole idea of Pokémon battles is winning through frustrating his opponents." the teen said. "That alone tells me that you made me over worried, not prepared."

"Well... As long as you're okay now, my boy."

"How can I not, with these two cuties?"

Neither Whimsicott or Pikachu seemed to be averse to the hug Ash pulled them in. Instead, it made for a rather lovely picture, one which Professor Oak would have wanted a copy off to put on his desk. It was getting rather rare to see the boy so unguarded these days, so if supplying him with affectionate Pokémon would help bring a smile to his face, then so be it.


"Oh, hello again, Ash."

"Good afternoon, Professor Ivy. I didn't know you were still here?"

"The Delta Pokémon has calmed down, yes, but still, it really dislikes attention, so with me being the only one it allows to touch... Who knows what will it could cause after a second tantrum? We're not even sure what it'll do when it wakes up either... And besides, now that I'm here, I would like to see what Kanto has to offer." the woman answered. "How did you test go?"

"Oh, it went pretty good, actually. I didn't know that Professor Oak was telling everyone about it, though?" Ash asked, glancing at the rather busy man through the open door to the next room.

"He had to explain why he was walking around like his shoes were on fire, Ash."

The boy chuckled but just as he was going to comment on Professor Ivy's remark, a strange beeping sounded out. Considering the woman in front of him looked rather bewildered, Ash figured it hadn't been her transceiver either... until she suddenly grasped the burgundy device from out of her pocket.

"... You forgot your own ringtone..." he stated dryly.

"I've only had it for one week." she said hastily. "I need to make a call, do you mind if..."

"Go right ahead, I'm just waiting for Professor Oak to finish up since he still has something to tell me but got interrupted by a call as well."

"Thanks."

Waiting around never had been one of Ash's strong points, but he decided to endure it and check his Pikachu's fur for things that shouldn't be there. His Pokémon loved this and just like usual, lounged over his lap. By now, the teen was used to the purring, but what the boy would never truly appreciated, was the feeling of someone was looking at him. And as the young trainer looked up, he instantly locked eyes with Professor Ivy. She quickly averted her gaze, but Ash didn't and he frowned as she looked just as confused as he was currently feeling. It didn't take long until she ended the call and put the transceiver back in the pocket of her lab coat.

"Ash?" the woman asked, shuffling towards him.

"Yes, Professor?"

"Did you... make some sort of deal with the League or something?"

"Euhm... I know plenty of people but-"

"Not those kind of contacts, I mean financial ones."

"You mean if I've sent money? Where to?"

"Look..." she sighed, crouching next to his chair. "When I first started as a Professor, I was content enough to focus on the Pokémon that lived around the area of my laboratory. Then I moved on to those from Kanto and further on. I've even received Pokémon from Fiorre and Alola, but the only region that never send anything through, not to me or any other Professor, is Orre. And now, I suddenly get a call that this very region just opened plenty of trades with Kanto and Johto, thanks to you."

"Well, that's nice and all, but what did I do to make them so... happy to share, then?" Ash asked bewildered.

"My assistant claims you donated a lot of money to their fundraiser."

"Oooooh! Ahahaha, then I must've won, huh?"

"... Won what?" the Professor asked confused.

"Wait, I think I still have the..."

The teen pulled out his wallet and victoriously pulled a little piece of paper. He handed it over to Professor Ivy, who looked even more confused... until she read what was written down on it.

"You donated your lottery ticket to the fundraiser?"

"Yep. I bought it with some spare change in the hospital and told them to send whatever I won to Orre. I really wanted to do something for them, seeing what kind of disasters happened there with those Shadow Pokémon and all... No, if my dumb luck somehow ended up winning first prize in that lottery, I hope it'll help plenty of people get a shiny new home and generally be happy."

"They certainly are happy, Ash, my boy." Professor Oak said, coming out of the room he had previously been busy in. "With the amount, the goodwill of the people of Kanto and Johto provided, added with the massive amount your lottery ticket added, I bet they can Terra-form a completely knew island."

"That sounds so cool." the boy grinned. "Was it really that much?"

"Yes, Ash."

"Nice! Did you get a call from a happy assistant as well?"

"I... No, I got Mr. Goodshow himself. I don't suppose you could come back here tomorrow? Around noon?" the man asked amused.

"Sure! Besides, I still want to see that Delta Pokémon too, but since Professor Ivy said it was sleeping... And I think mom will want to know how the test went too, now that I think about it. See you tomorrow then!"

Professor Oak had to stifle a laugh when he notice his colleague's befuddled expression when the teen left.

"Is he... usually like this? How much did he actually win, though?" Professor Ivy asked, turning to the man with a rather befuddled expression on her face.

"Couple of millions. Ash would have been the richest teen in the world if he had kept it, but I don't believe for a minute he feels bad about this kind of deal. In fact, I bet he would still have given the money away if he knew how much it had been."

"Gosh. Well..."

"Don't let it bother you. Instead, I suggest you start another file for the Delta Pokémon because I predict it'll do something funny when it'll meet Ash."

"You think so?"

"Oh, I know."


Oblivious to the two Professor's gossip, Ash got a more than warm welcome home. Delia appeared to be super proud... but also the slightest bit relieved. She confessed that someone had told her about what had happened at the League, but she refused to say who. The teen wouldn't press the matter, as he could already guess who did it. Or at least think off a whole selection of people who qualified for being those kind snitches who did it 'because they wanted to help'. In fact, the whole of Pallet Town's population could be included in that category.

He didn't care, as he was happy with the hot cocoa his mom had prepared to cheer him up. Not that Ash needed it, because he was already super happy his plan for Orre had worked out so nicely. The teen hoped that the region would finally get back on its feet now, with that kind of financial support.

'I ought to look up how much I actually won, though...' Ash mused, mindlessly stirring a spoon in his cup of cocoa.

"Sweetie?"

"Yes, mom?" he asked, looking up.

"Do you think you could do some shopping for me?"

"Of course! What do you need?"

"I've written it down on a list and laid it with the bag in the hallway."

"Alright, let me just finish my drink and I'll be off."

Now, the boy had this hunch that his mom had just send him out to sate most of the Pallet inhabitants' curiosity, but he didn't mind. After all, Dr. Martin told him that, the more he walked around, the more comfortable his prosthetic leg would become. Considering it still felt a little weird, especially on uneven ground, this would be more than good practise. After all, most of the pavement in Pallet was grass or sand, two of the most uneven kind of surfaces on earth.

Ash hadn't really suspected to literally be called into the shops, though, getting coupons and what not shoved in his hold. He liked it, that wasn't the issue... but it felt so weird to suddenly be treated that way. In the past, they would just nod or use the least energetic greeting the people could think of and be on their way. At the time, the teen had suspected they were just judging him because of what happened with his father. But then Professor Oak kicked him out of one of his classes and so from there, Ash always blamed himself and his rash character for it.

'Ah well...' he thought. 'They'll still think whatever they want about me, prosthesis or not.'

Still, when someone came to push a T-shirt in his hold, Ash got even more dubious.

"This is from a new collection we just got in and when I saw this moody Pikachu in the breast pocket, I instantly thought of you. So please, have it."

Good thing Pikachu made such a weird noise in response to the implication of him being 'moody', or else the boy would still have been staring at the girl.

"A-ah... Thanks."

"No problem!"

And with that, the girl stormed back into the shop. Ash still couldn't help stare at the front of the store, though, despite not really being interested in fashion. No, his head had taken him somewhere else, far away from Pallet. It wasn't until Pikachu pushed his cheek against the boy's -causing an inevitable little shock- that he got back to earth.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, jumping slightly thanks to the weak nuzzle attack. "Dangit, I really need to stop zoning out so much or else the stores will be closed when I finally get there..."

"Pikapichu!"

"Y-yeah, let's just get going."


He wouldn't be getting a discount on the groceries, but that didn't surprise him by the slightest. In fact, if the grumpy boss of this store would ever do any kind of goodwill, Ash would surely be looking outside the window to see if the world hadn't just ended. However, the teen did nearly bump into Tracey, who seemed to be zoning out in the candy section. Right in the middle of the isle too, actually.

"You're pretty lucky I didn't just run you over with my cart, you know?"

The brunette turned around, somewhat startled.

"Man, Ash, you scared me."

"Some things just are meant to happen. If my mom needs marshmallows, then I need to go into candy section."

"O-oh... Never took you for the type to shop."

"Same counts for you, Tracey." Ash said dryly. "Looking to sate your sweet tooth?"

"I don't even have one. But we're nearing Halloween, so..."

"Nearing? Tracey, it's the 30th of October."

"I know. Also, stop complaining, I'm trying to buy as much candy as I can..." Tracey sighed. "Professor Oak can be a cheapskate from time to time, you know?"

"Do I ever?" the teen giggled. "Come on, follow me, you just passed the sales especially for cheapskates."

"Oh, alright... Why do you have a cart?"

"Support. Just in case I do fall over."

"O-oh..."

That wasn't an answer Tracey had been expecting, apparently, if the deafening silence that followed was anything to go by. Ash mentally rolled his eyes at his friend's behaviour but knew all too well that Professor Oak had really pushed the teen out of his comfort zone. With Delia being the kind of coupon collecting mother, Ash was literally brought up with shopping and all the 'hacks' to get as much goodies for the lowest prize. With all the camera equipment and the sheer amount of pencils, paint and sketchbooks Tracey had, the young trainer suspected he never really focused on groceries to start with.

But well, it seemed like the brunette had some kind of faith in Ash and his ability to do mathematics. Even though he still kept eyeing the bags in his hold with wary eyes. The young trainer decided to ignore that too, because really, if you had 50 Pokédollar bags and they were at half price... why wouldn't you be able to buy four for 100 Pokédollar?

"Aren't you buying candy?"

"There are cookie ingredients and black, purple, orange and white glaze in my cart."

"Don't be so defensive." Tracey sighed. "I'm not here for fun and giggles either."

"Or so I noticed. In fact, I'm highly considering going to Professor Oak myself to ask him to never send you out to get candy ever again."

"Oh, would you?"

"Yeah, I did it for Gary, who dragged his feet so hard when he needed to do it, it created ditches in the road." Ash said simply. "I wonder what's wrong with this, though? Don't you like Halloween?"

"I don't like being told what to do by a man who's been in a wicked mood all day, that's what." Tracey huffed.

"Aaaah, so that's the problem."

"I'm surprised you didn't actually hear his screaming, Ash, he was so displeased with me even breathing, it was impossible. This is probably the worst day ever."

'Oh, you had a bad day, huh?' Ash thought but decided to keep that remark to himself.

No one except Professor Oak and his mom needed to know what had happened... even though the boy figured Lt. Surge would be telling pretty much everyone he could think off as well.

"You're never going to convince me the Professor simply turned around and jumped you. You must have done something wrong."

"... I just wanted to take a picture."

"Oh, God..."

"See?! What's wrong with everyone?!"

"Tracey, buddy, did you try and take a picture before it unleashed the attack or after?"

"W-well..."

The teen resisted the urge to roll his eyes. To think that some people called him a bonehead from time to time, hm?

"Tracey, that Pokémon was a little bit scary for both Professor Oak and Professor Ivy. And really, you and I both know that, if a Pokémon attacks and causes damage, that the one who caused said the attack is the bearer of all costs."

Tracey's eyes widened and he looked like he was going to say something, but then his mouth closed again.

"Don't worry, I don't think Professor Oak would do that to you, but considering his screaming the sacrifice you needed to bring for that forgiveness."

"Oh..."

"That being said, I'm really curious as to why you didn't just sit with the Dratini and take your time to draw it. You're so good at hand-drawn portraits, why the sudden transition to digital art?

"I did it for a contest. I was so desperate for a subject already and then that Pokémon came along… It was too good an opportunity."

'Are you sure about that?' the teen thought.

"Well, I've been told I'm kind of good with machines, so would you like me to help you?"

"Oh, would you?! Please? I mean, I was barely tolerated in there because it was a competition meant for clubs, but if we both have an entry, they can't complain, right?"

"… Sure." Ash answered simply, already glad he had saved Tracey from such snobs. "I don't have a camera, though."

"I will gladly lend you mine, just tell me what you need and I'll change the settings, 'kay?"

"Hold on, I don't even know what I need. Aren't there some kind of instructions?"

"Of course, but are you willing to read them?"

"I'm going to need to know how to work the device before I can use it to take a picture, right?"

"Yes but… you and reading…"

"One more insinuation like that and I will run you over with this cart after all."

Tracey playfully darted away but Ash wondered whether this competition was so important to have spawned such irresponsible behaviour in the brunette. He was so lucky the camera hadn't exploded when that Pokémon's attack was released, or his friend could have been blinded for life… or even worse.

The realisation of this fact was probably what caused Professor Oak's fit of rage too, and the teen wondered whether he had done a good thing in encouraging Tracey's behaviour this way. Maybe if Ash could find a fitting subject without having to risk his life, he would see he had been an idiot.

That being said, it appeared as if Professor Oak's warning had fallen on deaf ears, which was a pity. Ash couldn't guarantee that, if his mother ever got to know that his friend was the reason for her having been stuck in that store for so long, she wouldn't try and make it so that the teen would have a hard time ignoring her. And he didn't know whether Professor Ivy knew either, so who knew what was waiting for Tracey when he got back to the lab…

And in all honesty, Ash had a hard time deciding whether his friend deserved this potential punishment or not. Yeah, the boy had been really scared when no one showed up to come get him, bringing all kinds of ghosts from the past back up. Today had been a wake-up call for the young trainer in more than one way, that much was sure.


Ash had nearly ended up colliding with one of the street lanterns, thanks to Tracey's revelation. And it didn't help that most of his thoughts were filled with that competition either. The brunette would come and drop off his camera with the instruction so that he could change the settings to suit his needs… but the teen had no idea what 'needs' he had.

"Me and my big mouth." He muttered, taking his keys out of his pocket as he was nearing his home.

Tracey had simply shot out of the store too, not even offering his help to carry the more than heavy bag for a while.

"Pika! Pikachu, pi, Pikapi!"

At least his starter was still feeling cheerful enough to try and lighten his mood. And really, it sounded like Pikachu had just said 'No worries! You're going to be okay, Ash!', which he appreciated but... knowing him and his inability to win anything, he would definitely shame Tracey and whatever reputation the brunette had in the photograph contest groups. But maybe that would be his friend's much-needed wake-up call.

Shrugging, the teen let himself inside the house, and promised himself that everything would be okay. It couldn't be that hard to find something nice, right? Like, there were plenty of gorgeous Pokémon who loved to have their picture taken… Yet somehow, with how desperate Tracey had been looking for a subject, Ash felt like his friend had forgotten to tell him that it needed to be a little more special than normally. All this made him sigh deeply as he went to carry his more than full bag into the kitchen, where his mom was waiting.

"Goodness, what a sigh. Is something the matter, dear?" she asked, instantly turning around when she heard him enter the room.

"Tracey wants me to take a nice picture but I don't know what I should do..." he answered, deciding to just tell her the honest truth… or at least, part of it.

Who knew, maybe she could help?

"Think about it, sweetheart, I'm sure it will come to you."

Or not.

"Sure, but that was what I was doing already. And it's not working."

"The more you worry about something, the less progress you'll make. Why don't you relax for a bit and work on your puzzle? I'll call you when I'm ready to decorate the cookies."

"Okay..."

No matter how much he thought about it, though, Ash found himself with a mind full of knots and unoriginal ideas. The puzzle wasn't helping either, since he couldn't concentrate on both subjects. So yeah, considering the one was already physically in front of him, the teen decided to focus on that. But that didn't mean Tracey's passed on issue left his mind completely. This whole case felt similar to this little piece of food you just couldn't get from in between your teeth, to be honest. But Ash wasn't one to surrender and he promised himself he would browse the internet once he had the chance.


His mother wasn't too bothered with him being lost in thought throughout the remainder of the day. She was too focused on her cookies and heck, even with her full attention of them, she still had made a mistake. So, figuring he didn't want her to feel bad about something so stupid, he offered to eat them… resulting in him now getting trouble concentrating.

Going to bed wasn't an option either, since he couldn't even keep his eyes closed. Those blasted cookies landed him a sugar rush after all… Ash groaned and pulled his blankets off him. He had taken his prosthesis off already, as the sugar rush had kicked in while he was in bed. So now, the task of trying to hop towards his desk without falling over and wake his mom was keeping him more than busy.

Not that it mattered, since Ash knew he wouldn't get any rest with so much energy still left in him. Instead, he figured it might be a good time to browse on the internet for a bit, to see if it couldn't help provide some inspiration. The pitiful answer to that was 'no', though, as he inadvertently ended up with some pictures that made him feel overdressed.

"Gah!" he exclaimed, quickly closing down his computer, not wanting to see more naked people pop up on his screen.

"Is something the matter?" a familiar yet unexpected smooth voice asked.

Ash had quickly turned around, only a little shocked at the sudden visitor. However, his mind soon supplied him with the comforting thought that only two people could do that and that one of them was currently in bed, peacefully asleep.

"I'm feeling so bad, Mewtwo. Nothing's working or cooperating, I've only made stupid decisions and I just..." He answered, rubbing his forehead.

"Let me help you with those feelings, friend." the being said and plainly disintegrated the blue string around Ash's wrist. "You should be okay now."

"Wait… Was that really was stopping everything?"

"Yes... But you were not notified?"

"All Mew did was look cute and put the string on me." Ash answered, shrugging. "Was it supposed to tell me the reason for it too?"

"That was what we had agreed on, yes." Mewtwo sighed. "Whatever happened, though, consider me pleased you're not angry with me... or Mew."

"Not really, I mean... Even without my Aura, I had this feeling I couldn't trust these people. And while I was very upset with myself at not being able to... do anything and being judged again, I understand you must have had reasons to do this to me. Besides, you can be really sure they will not call upon me unless they wish to create the first Aura Clown."

"You have natural heightened intuition, Ash, so I'm not surprised. However, I can feel you're still upset."

"Just because I respect what you did, doesn't mean I understand, thought. Everyone keeps telling me how spooky these Lore Keepers are and that I need to be glad they don't want anything to do with me but I really don't understand."

"I see." the being nodded. "Let me tell you all about it somewhere else."

"Gladly. Let me just take my leg-"

"That's not necessary. There will be no talking or dancing involved in this first lesson." Mewtwo said, actually grabbing the teen.

"... Handy." Ash said dryly, hanging in the being's arms, finding himself on the island already. "So what are we going to be doing?"

"First, I will try and ease your worries. Secondly, we will attempt meditation."

"Oh, okay. Good luck with the first one, I'm actually 14 issues in a trenchcoat."

Laughter bubbled up from Mewtwo, which caused the teen to turn to it with a delighted expression on his face.

"I found your sense of humour!" he said happily.

"Well done." the Pokémon stated amused. "Let us sit down, I will tell you something more about those Lore Keepers you met today."

"Alright!"


Mewtwo was a very calm Pokémon, or so Ash decided. Those Lore Keepers were pretty much war criminals, but at the very least, that the teen had suspected, having heard how shocked Professor oak had been and how he fiercely had protested against cooperating with them. But that they somehow waltzed their way into the League while being known for having operated on Team Rocket's side, well… that was something the young trainer couldn't understand. Their actions of the past and the present were barely legal, or so Mewtwo told him.

But the boy had no reason to doubt his friend, because he had clearly heard they had been planning a fight… and add him into their party, to make him fight against someone. Mewtwo added that the Lore Keepers today were barely shadows of what those people used to be but still, this whole experience left a bad taste in the teen's mouth.

"No wonder Professor Oak reacted that way, then. Still, how come the League still lets them in? Surely they must know what happened?"

"I have no idea, Ash. They must have their ways... And as I stated, those people might have intentions the League has no issues with. I, for one, think it is safer for you to be far away from them."

"Well, I got the clear message that they don't like me. Heck, everyone in the League building at the time probably heard them yell, so… I don't think they'll come and get me since they consider me very much useless."

"That is their loss." Mewtwo said simply. "But do not underestimate them, for they will be keeping an eye on you, nonetheless what some said or did. And considering you were already as heavily affected by the loss of Aura, I would not suggest clogging it again. So, how good are you at making friends who have a very important position somewhere... that have a lot of say in things?"

"... I excel in it." the teen stated. "I just found out I send a few million Pokédollar to Orre. They are... euhm... very happy."

"Wonderful. Let's hope they will use it for better means than to create Shadow Monsters."

"Oh, gosh, Mewtwo, it literally was a fundraiser to give people houses again. And really, Johto basically donated several building companies' services to them, so we're pretty sure something will be built. And they aren't mechanics, so that excludes the possibility of any machines being build."

"Forgive me, I have a paranoid disposition."

"I know, that's why I try and convince you of their good intentions. Besides, I have a funny feeling they will be trying to do well now, thanks to all the publicity they gained. I don't even how the other regions reacted to the fundraiser but well... They wouldn't dare, with the attention of the League on them like that."

"I believe you. And considering that the attention of the institute you just mentioned is on you as well, I will trust them to keep those Lore Keepers away from you. Now, do you have any more questions for me or can we start practising?"

"Nope, I'm all good. Let's start."

"Are you sure?" the being asked. "Meditating needs a clear, untroubled mind. Or at least, the kind I will teach you requires it."

"I'll be fine, don't worry."

Famous last words.

Ash just couldn't focus, at all. He tried to blame the cookies and the sugar rush, but Mewtwo stared at him with that look that told the teen it didn't believe a thing he was saying. But the being was a good teacher and it basically choose to do something else that didn't involve any kind of concentration or moving. And it was something Ash was rather good at, apparently.

"Look, look!" the boy said happily, somehow having managed to make Aura spheres on both his hands, at the same time.

"You truly are a weird human, friend." the Pokémon said, gazing at the glowing orbs. "I could have sworn one needed to have a calm and collected mind to do this, but well, here we are... Wonderful, Ash, how are you feeling?"

"Euhm... A bit drained?"

"Let's stop." Mewtwo said hastily, laying a paw on the teen's arm, causing the orbs to disappear instantly.

"Thanks." Ash sighed, a rather tired smile on his face. "I don't think I will have any issues going to bed now, actually."

"Mm, let me bring you back, friend. But I do hope you feel a bit better, now that you've gained control over your Aura and abilities once more."

"Yeah, I'm really glad. I will try and remember not to do much of the Aura business when I go travelling, just in case one of those Lore Keepers are lurking close by or something."

"If you can make sure you are nice and calm at the end of the day, I suppose they will not be able to do you any harm if you follow my lessons for... hm, let's just say two weeks."

"Really?" the teen asked bewildered.

"Really."

"Man... Alright, I'll do my best."

"That's all I ask."


Before Ash knew it, he was back in his room, just properly tired and ready for bed this time. He was happy for the distraction since he needed his sleep or his medication wouldn't work that well... but the teen would never have suspected Mewtwo to literally put him to bed and tuck him in.

"... You didn't have to do that."

"Let me do this. I have a dire need to know how to take care of humans."

"... Alright." he shrugged, not willing to make this a big deal.

"Do you want a story?"

"You already told me the Lore Keeper one."

"Is that truly going to make you sleep better at night?"

"It's food for thought. But I'm 14, I really don't need a bed time story."

"Oh..."

The Pokémon actually looked rather crestfallen as it used its psychic powers to levitate the sleeping Pikachu to a nice spot.

"Hey, Mewtwo?"

"Yes, friend?"

"If you could take one photograph of something what would it be?"

"... What is a photograph?"

Ash couldn't help but smile at the innocent question and pointed at the frame on his bedside table. Mewtwo gently took a hold of it and studied it closely, frowning slightly as it turned the frame around.

"How does one manage to fix a moment of time on a shiny paper?"

"Technology." was all the teen answered, because Ash didn't understand how a camera worked either. "But I could ask someone about it if you're interested. Or even look it up."

"Please do, I am interested." the Pokémon said, putting the frame back. "But very well, you ask me what moment I would personally transfer onto paper?"

"Yes, I need inspiration."

"In that case, why not look at what the earth has to offer? Humans are always in awe of what forces of nature can produce, so why not try and find some interesting events?"

"Huh... You mean, like a hurricane?"

"No, friends, like water that suddenly becomes orange, or lightning in volcanoes. Things that humans cannot explain will always intrigue them."

"... That's not a bad idea, actually."

"Think about it for a bit." Mewto said, gently patting down the bed sheets. "Now, why don't I tell you about that time a Tyrannitar who suddenly thought it was a good idea to try and hug humans."

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

The teen was still amused by Mewtwo's story by the time he actually woke up the next morning. He was pretty sure he had just a dream about it, but Ash wasn't too sure. It wasn't unusual for him not to remember his dreams but this time it might be a good thing, because his mother was somewhat dubious over the fact he had come down with this cheeky grin on his face.

She had only seemed slightly amused, but the boy was very aware his mom didn't really understand anything the doctor had told her and along with the fact he kept zoning out… No, Ash wouldn't be surprised if she thought he might just be a little bit crazy. Of course, she would never tell him this in his face so he would probably be hearing it from Professor Oak one of these days.

"Did you get some rest, sweetie?"

"I did. You know I fall asleep much easier when I have something to think about and so, I decided to browse on the internet a bit and I found this really funny story. I kind of woke up with the giggles because of it." Ash answered happily, ignoring his mother tutting her lips at the mention of him having been on the computer before going to bed.

She still had the opinion that a bed room should only be that, a bed in a room, but to the boy, his own little space was so much more. Besides, he really needed the distraction or else his mind would find other things to worry about.

"Ah, hence why you were smiling like that." She answered, her expression losing the worried touch it had been sporting since he had come downstairs.

"Yep. Any news?"

"Dear, it's eight in the morning. What kind of news can there actually be?"

"On Halloween? Your guess is as good as mine."

"Well, if you need to know, Professor Oak asked me to go get some more candy for him, considering Gary actually started inviting people to the laboratory, many of them children… He is getting worried he's going to have to send some away without candy.."

"Ah, so typical of Professor Oak… and Gary." Ash answered. "Would you like me to get the candy? I mean, the shops will be really busy and you still have those cookies to finish."

"Oh, would you? I didn't think you liked going to the shops, so I didn't want to bother you with this but..."

"Nonsense, I'm fine with shopping. Don't worry, mom, neither me or my prosthesis is made out of glass, so I'll be fine."

"If you say so. Be sure to keep the receipt of whatever you buy, okay?"

"Will do!"

Not knowing why his mom suddenly got so worried about sending him to the shops while she had no qualms in doing so yesterday, Ash figured he might just go and leave early. He hoped it wouldn't be too busy but... Well, as soon as the teen left the house, he could already see there were plenty of people outside already. The young trainer did his best to just smile and nod, while speed walking towards the general store, or else he would just be stuck talking to people. And Ash didn't mind talking, but always answering the same questions did start to get tedious after a while. Luckily for him, it seemed like those that came to him yesterday were those who gossiped the most, because people simply nodded back and left it at that. Which was great, in his opinion.

The shop was just like he had expected, busy and a bit of a mess, but not as much that it chased him away. He was on a mission and whenever that was the case, Ash just went for it. He quickly stuffed a varied assortment of bags in his cart, knowing that Professor Oak wouldn't complain as all the candy was on sale and so, he left to follow the queue to the cashier. And this was exactly the spot where everything went to hell.

The teen had no idea what suddenly came over him, but just as he put the bags of candy in the carrying bag his mom had lend him, an immense feeling of dread filled him. And really, Ash had seen so many weird things and had come so close to death, so many times... Yet nothing he had felt then compared to what he was currently experiencing. Good thing he had already paid, because well... once the teen had turned to the side, he saw a rather serene scene, but skewed, like in a horror movie.

A truly lovely lady in a floral dress was busy putting her products on the cash register and nothing really seemed off, until she lifted a box of cereal. The teen didn't dislike cereal, but sweat started to come from every pore as he saw a pitch black shadow flow out of the box and really glare at him with these blood red eyes. The pure hatred coming from them was too reminiscent of times Ash rather wanted to forget so he bolted out the store.

However, the doctor might have let him rope-skip and do all kinds of muscle training, but running wasn't his forte. In his haste to get out, added with the blind panic that had enveloped him, the boy had completely forgotten that he was unable to run. To his credit, he actually succeeded in doing it for a few metres, but after those, he ended up on the ground, painfully skidding over the stone pavement as well. Adding injury to insult, he started crying and the candy was literally everywhere.

Not that Ash actually knew anything about what was happening, as this experience caused him a massive panic attack, right where he had landed after his fall. The people around, who were quick to come to his aid, probably thought it was because he was bleeding but no... It had nothing to do with that, though the sting of his wounds might have made him cry nevertheless. But it wasn't until he was brought to Professor Oak -with the filled carry bag, because no one wanted to make the kid cry later on when he'd discover his candy was gone-, that the young trainer came back to earth.

The first thing he heard was Professor Ivy's voice, asking him to breath in and out with her and he just... blinked and looked straight into his worried Pikachu's face. He also now heard that Professor Oak was talking somewhere in the back and that some of his other Pokémon had just broken out of the Coral and had nestled themselves around and on him. As far as he could see, Gible was looking up at him from his feet, Pikachu on his lap, Swellow nestled right next to him and if the familiar smooth feeling of scaly material was anything to go by, Gliscor had curled on the other side.

"Ash, don't stop breathing, look at me." the woman instructed and somehow, Ash found himself obeying. "That's it, keep going."

This felt all very surreal to the teen who never really had been mothered by anyone but his actual mother when he had fallen down or started crying so... yeah, Professor Ivy might just have gotten a whole different image of him in these past days.


It took a while for Professor Oak to think about calling Delia that her son was at his laboratory, but he hadn't even needed to do the effort. Pretty much everyone in Pallet knew what had happened and as it had been quite the spectacle, her 'kind' neighbours had quickly told her about what they had seen. Initially, she didn't quite believe that it had been anything bad, as he could just have simply fallen down… but after arriving at the laboratory, she soon figured something else must've happened to make her little boy end up in such an upset state.

"Good heavens, Samuel, what on earth happened?!" Delia exclaimed, shooting into the room.

Ash didn't seem to have noticed her, which was another reason why she got even more worried.

"Well, what happened to him mentally, your guess is as good as mine. Physically, though, as the local busybodies were quick to tell me, he apparently ran out of the store like a madman and ended up falling, going down in a magnificent rain of candy."

"… There are worse ways to fall down, I suppose." The woman answered, trying to lighten her own mood a little.

If neither of the Professors though that it wasn't necessary to call for medical assistance, then her son might be okay, after all.

"Quite. However, Delia, while I'm pleased you're approaching this from a positive kind of view, I would highly suggest to contact Ash's doctor to tell him he might be experiencing hallucinations. From what I could gather out of his rambles the short time Ash spoke up, he claims that a dark shadow came out of a cereal box."

"A shadow? What kind?"

"A solid, black shape, with red eyes and a pretty hateful glare which send Ash here in a state of hysteria and panic, apparently. I know where the fear of suddenly appearing Pokémon comes from, but still, if Professor Ivy hadn't been here, I would have been at a loos of what to do." The man answered, sighing before continuing. "Good thing she has some knowledge on how to guide people through panic attacks."

"Mm, I'll thank her later. But… is there truly no reasonable explanation for that shadow?"

"Really, Delia, the only monsters in cereal are the sugar levels. Or those plastic abominations they include sometimes, daring to call them gifts."

"Very cynical, Samuel. How is he doing now, though?"

"Happier, thankfully, though he still looks like he's going to burst out into tears any second now." The professor answered, stuffing his hands in the wide pockets of his lab coat. "I would advise you to let the Pokémon come with you and… Please allow me to apologise for this."

"Nonsense, Professor!" Delia answered, tutting her lips. "How can you even think you're to blame for any of this?"

"I had plenty of time to get that candy myself."

"Even if that shadow was a hallucination, we were bound to find out about it someday." Delia shrugged. "This is just an unlucky coincidence, but believe me when I say he really wanted to do this for you. So, considering he did so well in the shops yesterday, I let him."

"Was he properly rested?"

"Yes, or so he claimed to be."

"Mm…"

It seemed like Ash finally had noticed his mom and was giving her a tearful look that broke her heart a little. However, call it female intuition or something else, but she turned to the Professor, simply knowing the man would try something.

"I'm taking my son home, right now. Don't even thing about letting him near that Delta Pokémon right now, Samuel, I swear…"

The man instantly held up his hands in surrender, sufficiently spooked by Delia's uncanny ability to look straight through him.

"Calm down, Delia, he's all yours. If you could just remind him to come by one of these days? I do have some messages for him, not to mention that Orre will want to have some kind of feedback on their gift."

"… Orre? For what reason are they giving my son a gift?"

"Why not ask Ash that, hm? It might help him think of something else than those creepy hallucinations."

"Mm, maybe so. Are his results of the League test among those messages?"

"Yes, those arrived with the rest."

"And?"

"Sealed shut, Delia. Privacy and all that."

"Hm, alright." she said, but didn't believe a word he just used in that last sentence.


When Ash had been brought into the laboratory, it had been clear that he had hurt his leg. To ensure that he wouldn't harl it any further, Professor Oak had taken the prosthesis off, so if Gliscor hadn't picked up his trainer as happily as he did, Delia was sure it might have been a hassle to get her son home. Gible had possessively grabbed the prosthetic leg in his mouth and eagerly followed Pikachu, who didn't dare jumping onto his trainer now either.

Professor Ivy was pleased to see how well the boy's Pokémon cared for their friend, but was surprised to find that the Gible growled at her, just because she had turned to him. That wasn't a mistake she would make twice and so, the Professor hastily moved away from the little dragon.

"Goodness." She sighed once the colourful group had left the laboratory. "You're going to have your hands full with that Gible once it evolves. Gabite and Garchomp are renowned for their lack of patience so by the time Ash's dragon becomes one, you won't even be able to breathe in the kid's direction."

"They don't need to evolve to feel that kind of sentiment towards anyone, Professor. Haven't you noticed the murderous looking Noctowl at the other side of the hallway, pissed at one of my assistants because they closed the door to ensure none of Ash's other Pokémon would escape?"

The Professor apparently hadn't but got faced with the displeased looking Pokémon as soon as she peered into the hallway. She giggled as she turned back to her colleague, looking rather charmed by the reaction.

"I understand why Noctowl feels that way. Let me go talk to him, I have a feeling that he will be a little more pleased when we straight up tell him why breaking into a laboratory isn't a good idea."

"Only because it's one of Ash's Pokémon, Professor. But I hope that the boy will be able to catch a break soon, or I will find myself with a group of rogue Pokémon, who will stop at nothing to get to their trainer."

"So dramatic, Samuel." The woman chuckled, shaking her head slightly. "Surely they wouldn't be so bad?"

"You keep telling yourself that, Professor. After all, you're going back to your own laboratory soon and I will be the one facing these issues."

"I will hope that you will be able to catch a break as well then."

"Quite."


Once at home, Ash felt himself calm down much more quicker than at the laboratory. He didn't know exactly why, but then figured his mom usually had that kind of effect on him. And with his Pokémon around and on him, how could he be worried something would attack him?

Gible had gently deposited the prosthesis right next to his spot on the couch, just by his trainer's foot and was watching everything that was going on with wary eyes. When Delia came by with a cold compress to lay on the hurt scar tissue of his leg, the Pokémon growled until she let him check what she had with her. Once it was thoroughly sniffed, he backed off.

Seeing this behaviour was rather entertaining, the woman let Gible do his thing and carried on with her actions as soon as she had his approval. After all, she had worked with dragons before, so this kind of behaviour wasn't strange. Working under Professor Oak's tutelage had done her knowledge on Pokémon behaviour a lot of good.

"Where does it hurt the most?" she asked, eyeing the stump that looked a rather angry red.

"The top." The teen answered softly, stroking Swellow who was doing her best to be loaf-shaped and fit on his legs without being in the way. "My prosthetic leg slid off that way, so…"

"Mm, this might feel a bit cold for a bit."

Ash was rather glad it did because the burning feeling wasn't pleasant. And really, there was another little issue she was overlooking.

"My prosthesis slipped off and hit my right leg, right against my shinbone."

"Let me have a look-… Oh…"

As she rolled up her son's –thankfully- loose-fitting pant leg, a large and dark bruise showed up, making the woman take a large breath.

"… We're going to need more ice."

She hurried off, but Ash stopped her before she was able to disappear into the kitchen.

"Mom? You do believe me, don't you?"

Delia sighed and went to the only side that wasn't occupied by Pokémon, so she could look straight at him.

"I do believe you saw something, dear. But it would be wise to make sure that it's nothing medically induced."

"Oh…"

"Don't worry, sweetie, I won't let them do anything to you that's not necessary. If anything, I wished you saw how much grief I gave Dr. Martin when you got admitted to hospital last time." She answered. "I'll just give the man a call whether it's possible that you get hallucinations and we'll have a look at our options from there on, okay?"

"Okay…"

Delia knew she needed to be careful with what she said because Ash was sensitive. He always had been that way but had only started caring about his own and other people's emotions recently.

'Must be an Aura thing…' she thought simply and continued her way to the kitchen.

It didn't take long before her son was fully taken care of and so, the woman wanted to know what could possibly be the reason that he got this panic attack today.

"I'll put him on speaker, okay? That way you can hear what he says."

"Okay."

Last time Delia had spoken to the doctor, he had given her his personal number, to ensure that she didn't have to wait too long to actually get in touch with him. The woman had appreciated the gesture, remembering the day she had dared to call the League administration like yesterday.

"Hello?" the familiar voice of the doctor answered.

"Good morning, Dr. Martin."

"Aaah, Mrs. Ketchum, good morning! How can I help you?"

Ash had to stifle a giggle at the face his mother pulled at being recognised so easily. After all, she had practically lived at the hospital for a while, so of course, the man would know her voice by now.

"I had a question for you, doctor. Is it possible that my son could have hallucinations?"

"Absolutely not. We made sure to not give him any NAIDs after what happened last time."

"… NAIDs?"

"Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. None of the medicine me and my team decided to prescribe to your son has any effect that could induce hallucinations."

"I see…"

"Can I ask what possibly happened for you to be asking me this?"

"Ash got a panic attack after seeing a dark, menacing shadow come out of a cereal box earlier this morning."

"Goodness… Then I suppose it was the lovely Professor that decided to instantly put the blame on the boy and claim he had hallucinations instead of focusing on Pokémon who we know have done stranger things?"

Delia turned to her son, with a deadpanned look in her eyes. The boy was just sitting there, looking bewildered at the sudden statement. And it seemed like the doctor wasn't done either.

"Please tell your son that he shouldn't let a Pokémon Professor be the judge of his health when talking about something worse than a cut or a simple bruise."

"He's able to hear you perfectly fine, doctor. But let's be clear, it's absolutely impossible for him to have any hallucinations?"

"Absolutely. There are only two ways that he could possibly have them, the first one being that he is about to experience another seizure. And the second… I trust you would have noticed if he suddenly started taking narcotic drugs too, to be honest."

"I… don't even know what that means…" Ash muttered, making Delia smile.

"Indeed so, doctor. Thank you for clearing our doubts."

"No problem, Mrs. Ketchum. I would advise you to call in some help from another side to fix that shadow problem, thought, who knows what kind of consequences this could possibly have. After all, Ash isn't the only one with the ability to notice things, hm?"


"… So…" Delia sighed, crouching down next to her son, who still hadn't moved an inch. "What's our next move?"

"Can you… possibly take a look at my back, mom? I… think that thing did hurt me when I turned my back on it when I ran off."

The woman shot forward, nearly pushing Gliscor off the said of the couch. Now, if the Pokémon hadn't noticed the concerned expression, he would probably have been annoyed with her, but seeing what she uncovered when she pulled up Ash's shirt…

"Sweetheart!"

"It scratched me, didn't it?"

"Oh, goodness…" Delia uttered, completely flabbergasted.

There was no way her son could have done this to himself and according to her neighbour -the one Ash made the muffins for, good old Tony-, he hadn't even resisted when picked up and carried to the laboratory. And really, this scratch seemed so… awkward and random it was almost impossible a human could've done it. Well, not without having destroyed the T-shirt the teen had been wearing.

"Could you take a picture for me? I mean, I want to try sending it to someone who had some serious complaints ready for me when I acted on my own when sending out those warnings. He told me that I should contact him next time, s-so…"

"Go ahead, sweetie, I have no idea what else we could possibly do. This is… nothing like I've ever seen or witnessed before. So I really don't know how to react."

"Alright, here, my transceiver. Do you know how to use it?"

"Mm, I do. Gliscor, dear, could you keep his shirt up for me?"

"Scor!" the Pokémon exclaimed and happily obeyed.

As soon the picture had been taken, the woman handed the transceiver back to her son. But Gliscor wasn't quite happy with just holding the shirt. No, no, when Ash was busy writing the message to Scott, the Pokémon snuggled against his bare back.

"That tickles, Gliscor."

The Pokémon seemed to be aware of that but decided that it was high time his trainer started laughing a bit more. And so, he started licking right where he knew the teen was the most sensitive, namely his sides. Luckily, the message had already been sent when Gliscor landed his tickle-attack, which appeared to be super effective.

"Kyaaaa! Mom! Save me!" the boy giggled, wriggling himself in all kind of corners to get away from the licking Pokémon.

But Delia took her sweet time to come and help chase Gliscor away. It was incredibly pleasing to hear her son laugh like that and it just warmed her heart. The only reason why she even stopped the Pokémon was the fact she realised he was actually still hurt.

Ash didn't even have the strength left to push himself up again and resigned to his faith of being buried underneath his Pokémon. However, there was no mistaking, he just had just as much fun as Gliscor, or else he wouldn't be smiling like that.

"Do you need a blanket, sweetie?" Delia asked, seeing her son was drifting off.

"Do I look like I need one?" was his sleepy response.

Seeing that Swellow had plenty of room to spread her fluffy self all over her trainer, the woman figured that there indeed was no need for any more. She didn't want him to grow a fever either, so instead, she grabbed one of her magazines and set up vigil in the couch opposite to the one her son was in.


Scott stared at the message he had just received from the boy who seemed to be a trouble magnet of epic proportions. It was barely half past ten in the morning and the man found himself holding back a groan. Getting such worrisome news that soon into a day was not a good sign.

Still, he was already happy that Ash had listened to his advice, because if the kid had decided to upload this picture of that creepy scratch online… Well, who knew what would happen, hm? Then again, seeing that the boy had sent him this message meant that he was okay, so with that in mind, Scott made his way towards the nearest League building.

He made sure not to move too quickly because people would instantly started thinking something terrible was going on. Yes, that they made that connotation was his own fault, because the man tended to take his time to go somewhere. However, the fact that cereal started attacking people wasn't considered normal and just the thought of any child eating any of the offending food… No, his feet instantly moved a little faster.

The nearest League building was the large cafeteria, a hall renowned for its friendly personnel and good food. But it seemed like they were going to get a complaint today, because Scott could clearly hear someone sound incredibly annoyed at what they had gotten served. He wasn't going to be bothered by that, though and made his way to the telephones by the side. These kind of lines had priority so he had a better chance of getting through to Lance this way.

As soon as he had taken the receiver off the hook, though, a rather interesting sentence sounded out, part of the rant the annoyed customer was spouting.

"Considering it is Halloween, I can tolerate the skeletons in the League's closet today, but I draw the line when I get my breakfast served with demons in it!"

Scott was quick to put the receiver back and hurried to see who was so upset. Because, heck, this sounded eerily familiar to how Ash described that cereal. And lo and behold, it was Will, in his civilian outfit, which basically meant he wasn't wearing that mask of his. The young man had a rumoured temper whenever things didn't go his way, but he was looking rather murderous right now.

"S-sir, I'm sorry, but I don't see anything wrong with the product." The girl behind the bar squeaked, shrinking under the glare the elite trainer send her.

"Of course, you don't. Do you even know who I am and why I could possibly see something you don't see?"

"Will, calm down." Scott called out.

As soon as the young man saw him, a flash of irritation crossed his face. Will seemed to deflate where he stood too.

"You're going to tell me to shut up and eat it, aren't you?"

"Absolutely not. I want your opinion as a certified psychic, to tell me what you're seeing. In detail, please."

"Err… Are you sure?"

"Very. Now, come one, speak. You were doing so well a few seconds ago."

"Yeah, well, I barely even took the tray, a solid black shape came out of the bowl and started glaring at me."

"Right…"

"What's this all of a sudden, though?" Will asked, putting his hands on his side. "Why so you suddenly care what I'm seeing?"

"Because this colourful cereal attacked a minor this morning."

If there was any similar character asset all the elite trainers of the League shared, then it was getting angry whenever children were involved in a matter. So yes, Will's annoyance double and so the man reacted just like Scott wanted him to.

"Tch, of course, I should've guessed." The man huffed, giving the bowl a dirty look. "Pick someone of your own size, little prick. I dare you to do something to me."

"Don't tempt it, Will, please." Scott sighed, seeing bubbles appear in the milk. "Just… take this bowl and carry it along. I need to get this to Lance."

"Lance? Wasn't he super busy with those hackers? Why not go to the manufacturer yourself?"

"Well, then we're going to be needing some help proving that there is indeed something wrong. Just because I believe you, doesn't mean someone else will. Now, follow me."

"Sure, it's not as if I've got better things to do, hm?"

The curly haired man decided to ignore that, not knowing whether it had been sarcastic or not. He figured Will was secretly pleased, though, finally being acknowledged. Still, Scott needed some more evidence and while he really didn't want to ask for said person's help, there was no other way. Not that Étienne would be able to do anything to him, thanks to Will's presence. So yeah, the three of them might just be able to uproot this issue that had the potential to be a national disaster.


Ash blinked as he got back to earth, feeling… not as good as he had expected to feel. The heavy weight on his chest was easily explained, since Swellow had nested herself there and was peacefully snoozing. Judging from the gentle snores around him, he figured that his other Pokémon were all sleeping as well. So all he could do was sit back and relax, because the teen didn't have heart to wake them.

Still, it gave him some time to localise where the pain he was feeling was coming from. Both his legs hurt, which was a strange occurrence, but there wasn't much he could do against that. Chances where that Gible was laying close, so moving any of them wasn't an option. Still, there was a dull ache in his whole body and the boy realised that this might be because of the strain the panic attack had forced onto him. Though, he couldn't remember what happened for the life of him, so Ash had no idea why he was feeling this way.

All those that had been sleeping soon woke up when someone rang the doorbell. It heavily startled Delia, who had been very absorbed in her reading. She jumped up from the couch and hurried towards the door.

Now that his Pokémon were awake, Ash found the opportunity to sit up again, sighing in relief when the pressure on the remainder of his left leg disappeared. Seemed like Gible thought it had been a good idea to go lay on it…

"Goodness, Tracey is awfully excited for Halloween this year. I wonder why." Delia said, moving back into view. "Still, I suppose you'll understand why he gave me these?" she added, showing the bag and the booklet.

"Oh yeah, the camera." The teen sighed, rubbing over his forehead. "I totally forgot he was going to bring it today."

"Is this for that competition? Do you already know what you're going to be photographing?"

"No, I don't. I was planning to read the instructions first, actually. I really don't want to be responsible for breaking this camera."

"Mm-hm, I understand. Fancy material, though, look at the quality of that embroidery…"

Ash smiled at his mother's comment but felt a little irked. After all, Tracey had just shoved his issue onto someone who really didn't need any more problems…

'No wonder he's so happy.' The boy thought, accepting the booklet as soon as Delia handed it to him.

"What was it that dad used to say? Never trust a device where the instructions are bigger than the device itself?"

Now it was his mother's turn to smile.

"Indeed, but maybe there's a good reason for it. Take your time reading it, sweetie, I'm going to prepare lunch."

"Okay."

Once the woman had left, Ash was left with his own thoughts and Pokémon who started to fall asleep again. He was quick to move out of their way, not wanting to get stuck under them again. But by doing so, the teen saw the magazine his mom had left on the table. It was opened on a page and something about the red moon depicted in the small article piqued his interest.

"A super blood moon…" he mused, having pulled the magazine towards him so he could read the text. "Would've been cool if that was tonight, with Halloween and all…"

But considering it was really rare, Ash figured he might as well give it a shot. Of course, this kind of phenomenon took place on an ungodly hours, but still, if he could have a good night's rest today, he would be set for tomorrow. The only issues Ash faced now was finding out whether this camera could even make pictures at night and could somehow fit a large view in this small lens… and whether his mom would be as pleased with this subject as he was.

"Hey, mom?" he called out.

"Yes?" was the rather muffled answer coming from the kitchen.

"Would you mind if I went to take a picture of a blood moon?"

"When's that supposed to be, sweetie?"

"… At night?"

"Sounds pretty logical that you're going to try and take a picture of it at that time a day, sweetie." She answered, coming into the living room again, drying her hands on a towel. "But what hours?"

"Well, your magazine says it'll start at half past one in the morning."

"Goodness. If you're willing to wake up for it, it's all fine for me, dear. It's not as if anyone else will be awake in Pallet to bother you."

"No, that was what I was thinking. Okay then, I have my subject. Now to conquer these instructions."

"Before you do, sweetheart… Professor Oak told me something about Orre giving you a gift… Does he mean the region or are there really such beastly parents to name their child like that?"

Ash chuckled and shook his head.

"No, mom, it's the region. I did something for them and I remember that the Professor told me they would want to thank me… but it seems like they're materialistic."

"Apparently so. Why don't you tell me about this kind gesture of yours over lunch?"

"Gladly!"


Ash had been really intently reading and his facial expression while doing so were very entertaining. For the boy, however, the constant giggling was more a distraction than a help, so once he gave a rather dry look at his broadly smiling mother, she had made sure to leave him to it.

His Pokémon stared at the booklet as well and of course, would rather be in the centre of attention than the piece of paper. Swellow had even offered herself as bookstand, which Ash begrudgingly let her do. The other Pokémon were not as subtle, especially not Gible, who couldn't be sneaky for the life of him.

"Guys, please, just five minutes."

Too bad that time didn't mean anything to beings that wanted to cuddle, because Gliscor kept trying to make a cut in the book with its large pincers. The teen wasn't going to let him, though, moving out of the way each time the Pokémon thought he would be hitting target. Ash knew that he basically was making the situation worse by turning this into a game, but he knew he wouldn't have the concentration needed to read this later on.

Good thing that most of the book was simply translations of other languages, so it only took a few minutes before he found what he needed. Gliscor whined when his trainer pulled the instructions out of his reach, making the teen sigh.

"I'll play with you later, Gliscor, I just need to- AH!"

Without any of the Pokémon even having moved, Ash fell straight out the couch, groaning when his butt met the soft carpet. Whether or not said carpet was there, it wasn't doing much to lessen the impact, or so the teen thought.

"Today is not a good day for falling." He sighed but figured he might as well fiddle with the camera right now.

Four pairs of eyes were watching him and were probably wondering what he was doing. In all honesty, Ash wondered about that as well and knew he was wasting precious time with Tracey's tomfoolery.

"Once this camera debacle is done, I want to start training with you again. Scott will probably know how to deal with that shadow thing and considering Professor Oak allowed me to take you all with me, I know that the result of the League test was good enough."

That suited the Pokémon fine and for some odd reason, both Gible and Gliscor seemed calmer now that they knew about his plans. So once the camera was set in a way the instruction guaranteed success, he actually instigated a real game with them.


"All set, sweetheart?" Delia asked.

"Yep!" the teen answered happily, looking incredibly cute in the Mismagius poncho. "I'll be home before eleven, is that okay?"

"Of course, sweetie. I trust you won't overdo the candy?"

"Oh no, I don't want any, I'm just going to be… well, ghosting around, I suppose. Keep everyone safe and entertained. Right, Gliscor?"

The Pokémon had all too readily agreed to joining his trainer, along with Gible who seemed to have latched onto Ash and wasn't readily wanting to let go. And well, Pikachu had an adorable pumpkin hat on, so he too joined in for the fun. Swellow was in her Pokéball, for good measure, because she didn't want to feel left out, but too many people wasn't her kind of thing.

"Scor!"

"As long as you have some fun, everything's fine for me, sweetheart. Just don't get in the way of Officer Jenny in case something does happen."

"Oh, that'll be easy, Officer Jenny is never where the trouble actually is." Ash answered with a cheeky grin readily appearing on his face. "But no, I promise, I'm going there to have some fun and err… rekindle with the people of Pallet. They don't have to see me wounded all the time, do they?"

"They don't really care, take that from me, sweetie. But I will agree with the fact you desperately need some fun. So, go, or you'll miss miss out on it."

"Alright. But if there's anything wrong or if there are a few creepy men around, you got me on speed dial, right?"

"I do."

"Good. Happy Halloween, mom!" the teen said as he pulled up his hood and went out the door.

The woman simply shook her head in amusement and went to go sit somewhere, ready to help some of the children on their trick-or-treat candy hunt. Outside, plenty of people were roaming around. Most of them were children, but there were parents in the crow as well, of course. And then there was the category that Ash could only describe as the Pallet Busybodies, which definitely included Professor Oak.

He didn't particularly want to talk to the man and so, the teen quickly slipped into the crowd. The Mismagius poncho had a nice, broad hood, which hid his face and it made him look a little taller than he actually was, making it hard for people to recognise him.

Professor Oak knew it was him, though and had seen him move away. And really, it hurt the man a lot, seeing it was becoming very clear that Ash wanted less and less to do with him. It pained him, because he didn't know why that the boy did it. Still, from the look of things, it seemed like the young trainer wanted no one near him, except his Pokémon, who looked ready to strike someone down.

It irked the man but he knew it wouldn't do anyone any good if he went to confront the teen right now, knowing that Ash could put up a scene if he wanted to. And with what happened this morning, the Professor wasn't sure in what kind of mind set the boy was.

Suddenly laughter made the man look up and when he noticed that Ash was entertaining some of the children with a story, he smiled.

'Ash, my boy, I don't know what to make of you… but you're alright, after all.' The Professor thought and moved away, wanting to see some more of the party the people of Pallet had set up.


Whether or not Ash had intended it, he still ended up with a good month worth of candy, simply because kids asked him to do tricks and when he did them, they gave him candy. Of course, the teen didn't mind but somehow it made the people giving out candy think he was also collecting it and well…

"I hope you won't be eating this in one go?"

'Curses.' The teen thought, recognising Professor Oak's voice.

He thought he had done okay, sneaking away from the people he didn't want to talk to and went out of his way to talk to enough people he did want to speak to, like Tony, since he never really thanked him for the singing Togekiss plush… But it seemed like Professor Oak had been watching him.

"I've only recently recovered from a sugar rush. It's a mistake I won't make again."

"Good. How are you doing?"

"Peachy. Nice costume, by the way. There's not a lot of people who can dress up like themselves and pull it off." The teen answered dryly.

"The more effort I do, the faker it looks. I've not forgotten Imposter Oak, Ash, I never will."

Ash chuckled, remembering the event as well. Even though it was clear as day who the imposter was, some of Pallet still gave the actual Professor a wary look when he looked a little tired or had forgotten to brush his hair.

"Did you manage to speak to your doctor?"

"Mom called."

"What did he say?"

"That Pokémon Professors should not be acting like doctors and that you should be looking at Pokémon for unexplainable events, not my mental health."

"… Did he really say it like that?"

"Yes. Maybe in a different way, but that was the gist of it." The boy answered. "Seems like I'm not taking medications that have that effect, after all. All herbal, soft and fluffy, or so my mom says."

"I see. I'm sorry, Ash, it was the first thing that came to my mind."

"Thanks."

The man sighed, knowing that this might have come out different than he intended. But there was something about the teen that made him want to grab him by the shoulders and just… tell him that whatever he thought about Pallet was false and that Red left because… reasons. Reasons that didn't have anything to do with Ash. But he couldn't, as he had promised Delia to never tell it.

"Ash will find out on his own." She had said. "And when he does, we can only pray he'll understand."

Professor Oak was almost certain that the boy who was barely looking at him now would perfectly understand. Heck, he knew that trouble followed Ash wherever he went, so the teen would know what it was to meet with Team Rocket… right?

"I'm sorry. I'm not good with words these days, my boy, you'll have to forgive me. With Tracey running amok…"

"I will blame it on the organisers of that competition."

"… You know what happened?"

"Mm, we met when I went to buy ingredients for my mom yesterday. He was looking a bit congested and was spacing out in the candy section… So I helped him out."

"Well, then you know we're not out of our misery just yet."

"Yes, we are. Because I will be in taking the other picture."

"… You're too good for him, Ash, no wonder he was so happy. No wonder my words meant nothing to him."

"Shouting means nothing to someone who doesn't realise what they did wrong. You should calmly take him aside and show him exactly how much it'll cost to repair your laboratory. And I'll let my mom tell him how nice it was to get stuck in that store… and I will tell him how I felt when no one showed up at the hospital when… Just… eerie calmness will reach someone who wants everyone to be happy far better than blind madness, because that will only make you seem unreasonable in his eyes."

"…"

"Take a deep breath, Professor, it's not as bad as it seems."

"Maybe so. Do I need to fear for the safety of Pallet or do you already have a subject?"

"I have. You won't even notice me taking the picture, Professor Oak, don't worry. I… do try not to leave too big a mark."

"I know, my boy. And really, it's rather rich that you're telling me to take a deep breath."

"Oh, please, I've only hyperventilated this morning, I'm good to go."

"That's not how it works, Ash."

"Let me be. It's… weird to adjust to all the changes I've had to go through. And I need to compromise, I want to travel and since I can't, it's going to have to be my mouth that going to do the running."

"Ah, well, maybe it's puberty, my boy."

"… Really now?" the teen asked, raising an eyebrow. "I'll let you know."

"Things like that take time. Just like anything else. So, enjoy your childhood for as long as you can, with or without special abilities. Maybe you can contact one of the elite trainers, like Anabel or even Lucian, as them for advice… Heck, even Agatha was brought up with a special ability, but her childhood has been a while ago, so she might not be of any help to you."

"I… Mm, I'll think about it."

"Please do, just tell me and I'll fix you their number."

"Oh, that's not needed, I have them, remember?"

"Ah, right…"

The conversation dimmed out, but there was plenty of sound to fill the silence that fell between the two. Ash wasn't sure what Professor Oak meant with asking for help, because he had been told there weren't many like him… And while he was sensitive, he wasn't an empath like Anabel. Heck, Lucian was great at reading while Ash barely managed to finish a book, only doing so when he truly needed it or if the subject interested him greatly. No, he had Mewtwo to look after him, so he didn't need human help. Maybe the Pokémon wasn't perfect, it was leaning close to it and Ash loved the being.

"Why don't you go for a dance, Ash?"

The sudden question snapped him out of his daydreaming and thanks to him being a bit dazed by it, he agreed. The mere thought of getting on the small, yet rather daunting stage made his stomach churn but… he did it. After all, he had stood in front of thousands of fans before so why would he suddenly be scared of some people who thought they knew him, hm?

So yes, the teen valiantly stepped onto the stage, knowing that they only knew who he was because the man with the mic -Ash figured he was a presenter, but calling him that would shame every professional presenter in the world- had called out his name. Funnily enough, the boy figured he would be okay.

The training he had done with the Meloetta suddenly popped into his mind and at the time he had been bewildered how modern the songs the lovely Pokémon had been singing were. Meloetta had done a more than a great job but… hearing the music start, Ash couldn't help but think that Mewtwo had totally known this was going to happen.

At the side, Professor Oak was warily watching the whole situation. Everyone knew the kid had two left feet and with that prosthesis and the bruises he had gotten as a result of what happened this morning, the man doubted that Ash would be able to perform. To his surprise, though, the teen seemed to exactly know when to start and… did a fine job. In fact, it was kind of catchy watching him dance the simple but effective routine and the Professor found himself moving along.

Ash seemed to have a good time, with the enthusiastic response coming from the people watching. His smile was omnipresent as he finished the curious yet very danceable song, even receiving an applause. The teen bowed and was actually about to get off the stage when the prettiest girl from Pallet got onto it and walked up to him.

"Do you… want to dance with me?" she asked.

And Ash found himself nodding to the innocent request. The song was calm and slow, so he didn't think it would be problematic to dance to… but the girl, that had the possibility to pose a situation that could turn into a hot potato very quickly. Leaf Green was apparently Gary's girl, or so he kept saying in the past. That had lessened a whole lot over the years… but still, it was risky.

"Don't worry, Gary and I haven't spoken in months. If he's going to give you grief over this one dance, you can tell him I think he's a hypocrite." The girl said as if she could read his mind.

"With your permission, I will." Ash answered, knowing he would take every opportunity to roast Gary as soon as he got the chance.

But he wasn't sure how much he would entrust to the brunette. After all, she only thought badly of Gary because they hadn't talked in a while, so who knew what her feelings were? While it was clear that the crowd thought they made a lovely couple -if the cheering was anything to go by-, Ash mainly focussed on the calming song.

Once it was done, though, the teen made a small bow to his dance partner and was quick to disappear off the stage. He didn't think he could keep up the dancing either, as his left leg was already hurting quite a bit.

'Maybe this wasn't a good idea…' the boy though, going back to his Pokémon, who had been guarding his bag of candy.

Professor Oak was still there too but was talking to someone else, a woman Ash didn't particularly know or wanted to talk to. But that didn't matter, as the teen was planning on going home anyway. It was already near eleven as well, so he would be home in time, just like he had promised his mom.

Everything considered, Ash felt rather chuffed that he had managed to have some fun. In fact, he felt like this was the first evening where he didn't need to be cheered up or had to forget something bad to be happy. And that was something to be proud off, according to him.

So, with that thought in mind, the boy was off, leaving the residents of Pallet to wonder where exactly the surprise artist of this evening had disappeared off to.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

"I'm pleased to see that this human rumour was true, friend." Mewtwo said as it had appeared next to the boy's bed, just like usual.

"… Rumour?"

"The bedtime story. You're completely relaxed, Ash, it's amazing. I will endeavour to find more."

The teen didn't have the heart to tell the Pokémon what a horrible morning he actually had today, as he had really liked the story. Maybe, if he ever got the chance, he would tell Lance about it. Might make the man's day a little better.

And really, the young trainer was bewildered to notice that the powerful Psychic-type Pokémon had no idea of what actually occurred. In the past, when it had taken the form of Finley and became his teacher, Mewtwo had always read his mind to see whether he was indeed feeling okay. And while the being had been able to tell he was calm, his psychic friend hadn't looked further into it.

"You asked me to be calm, so… here I am!" Ash said happily, dismissing the ridiculous idea, figuring it was him just overthinking things again. "What are we going to be doing today?"

"I will take advantage of your positivity and make another attempt to learn you the meditating."

"Aww, really?"

"Please understand, friend, once you know how to calm yourself, you can train by yourself."

"Wait… What? I thought no one was supposed to see me doing anything Aura related?"

The Pokémon sighed and shook his head.

"What you need to understand, Ash, is that you cannot attack anyone."

"Yeah, right. Watch me throw an Aura Sphere at anyone who's threatening me."

"That would electrocute this person until life has left them. I would advise you to only throw any Aura phenomenon at things that weren't even alive, to begin with."

"… Oh…"

"Allow me to explain, friend." Mewtwo said patiently. "Can I sit next to you?"

"Sure!" the teen said, scooting over. "Soooo… I can kill someone, huh?"

"Everyone and anything can. I have met an unfortunate soul of which a relative ran out of breath in the middle of a pile made up of the substance you humans call glitter. At the same time, I have seen very young children play with it, unharmed by the slightest."

"Yeah well, we drink water on a daily basis and still so many people…"

Ash trailed off but Mewtwo nodded, happy that the boy understood.

"Believe me when I say that deadly attacks are the easiest to teach, for it does not use any human aspect except muscles, which are the easiest to train."

"Easy?"

"Training your mind to do specific things is hard enough for humans, who have too much brain and use so little of it. It is thanks to Mew and its healing which changed you so greatly that I am even willing to try and teach you. And besides, you are young and very willing to learn."

"Oh yeah, I've actually read a book, you know?"

"… Congratulations." The Pokémon said simply. "Allow me to express one of my worries in the hopes of getting you a little more invested in this training. For you seem to forget your biggest enemy, are the Aura Users themselves."

"… Well yeah, they're trained and… Ah, right, I make them stronger…"

"Indeed. And yes, their training puts you at a disadvantage as well."

"Is there really nothing I can do against it? Like, can't I turn off that effect?"

"We can try closing off your Aura again, but I would like to hope that you notice how well that turned out for you, friend. Besides, there is no use in worrying over people who, nine out of ten times, will not even bother with you. And if they notice you are a Source, expect sudden friendships from them, for they too will realise you are not affiliated with any group for a good reason."

"But you know me and my ability to attract trouble, even though I would like nothing more than just… you know?"

"I know. But try to relax, Pokémon will potentially come to your aid and really, I am not quite done training you. In fact, we hardly started so please do not despair right away."

"Yeah but… what you just said is that I'm basically screwed unless I can spot any Aura User and get away from them as soon as possible?"

"That would indeed be the best course of action in your case."

"Then I'm still screwed because running really isn't my forte."

"Keep hope, my friend." Mewtwo said. "For you have a teacher who has made it their speciality in finding cunning ways to escape from meeting people. And it would damage my principle to never physically run from a potential opponent."

Ash chuckled and nodded, knowing he could trust his teacher on that.

"Alright, I will leave myself in your capable hands once more then." He said, grinning.

"Excellent choice. Let's get going."


In one of the many buildings that one would simply describe as a League building, two men were waiting for a phone call… Or rather, any kind of response would be welcome now, considering they had just bypassed Lance in getting some G-men to go investigate their findings. It was already getting late, so any signal was welcome.

"It a shame someone so talented has the social skills of a nugget." Will said, trying to keep the silence from becoming awkward. "How did you get to know this Étienne, though?"

"Brandon knew him before I did." Scott answered, heavily leaning on the desk in front of him. "They went to this bizarre workshop about some sort of outlandish culture knowledge… No idea what it was about, but it was probably something I wouldn't understand for the life of me. So I never even bothered to fully ask what went on."

"Still, of all people, Brandon… I'm surprised Étienne still lives."

"Then you don't know him very well, Will, he has titanium nerves. Nothing can really phase him, with what happened when Anabel joined the Frontier."

"Anabel?"

"Mm, empathic. She was a downright mess but thanks to Brandon's investigating and persistence, has become a very good trainer and now, she's completely able to live normally. Needless to say, if you hurt Brandon, you'll have something coming for you."

"An empath won't be doing much for me." Will said simply. "Though I see no reason why I should ever pose a voluntary dangerous towards anyone in the League. I was merely curious."

"Mm…"

"Could I ever get to meet them?"

"You'll have to go on your own volition. They were… or rather, still are irked by my reaction I had when Ash told everyone to watch out and keep inside at night."

"That was him!? As well?!"

Scott blinked, bewildered by the sudden reaction.

"The Ash who send that message and the one who got attacked and told me of this demon cereal are one and the same, yes."

"… That kid is something else. Where does he live?"

"I can't tell you that, because… well, reasons. And unless you want Mr. Goodshow breathing in your neck, I would stay away from the kid's trainer profile, since there's no real reason why you should be visiting his page at this current moment.

"Well, why not invite him to the League? We're going to need his statement, aren't we?"

"If we ever will be getting a response from those G-men, we probably will, yes."

Before Will could even answer, the phone rang and so, Scott grabbed the receiver as soon as his reaction time allowed.

"Yes?"

"Good evening, sir, I was wondering whether I could request the usage of a room and invite a trainer."

The curly-haired man lowered the receiver with a really bummed expression on his face, as the phone was actually on speaker. And really, it couldn't be clearer that this absolutely wasn't the message either of the men had been expecting.

"Probably, if you actually called the League Administration."

"I did but no one picked up. I patiently waited until I was sent through and then you picked up, sir." The female voice answered, clearly used to dealing with obtuse people.

"Right well, I'll write it in a mail and send it through to the League Administration with priority. Could you please give me your name, the name of the trainer you wish to invite, along with the date and particular room you would like to use and the reason for this request?"

"My name is Professor Burnet and I would like to invite Ash Ketchum tomorrow or the day after in any given room, really. I've been told he was the victim of an accident which fits perfectly in my research, so I figured it might be a good idea to tell him exactly what happened."

Both Scott and Will stared at each other until the younger man couldn't help but look away, as he started laughing.

"… Sir?" the Professor asked.

"Don't worry, Professor Burnet, I've got your message. Can I make you a proposition, though?"

"As long as I get at least five minutes to talk to the boy, I will readily accept anything, sir."

"Alright, in that case, please leave your number, I will call you tomorrow with specificities. Is that okay?"

"Of course, I am currently staying in a hotel in Celadon for the rest of the week, so as long as that is the case, I will be available to you."

That was an admirable attitude, with already told Scott that this was one of the younger Professors. But still, he was glad this call was over and done with because he was expecting a different call.

"Where do I know this Professor Burnet from…?" the older man said, frowning slightly.

"She invented the Dream Radar. You know, the device that doctors found out actually helps get people out of Darkrai nightmares?"

"Fitting." Scott stated dryly but flinched when the telephone actually rang.

And this time, it was the call they had actually been waiting for.


"Ash, my friend, I think it is a good idea to simply practise these two ways of defence for now."

"Eh? Why?"

"Because I might run out of ideas at the rate you are learning."

The boy gave the Pokémon a really confused look, but Mewtwo understood. In fact, it was pleased with the progress Ash was making and while he wasn't the greatest at meditating, the kid made up for it with gusto. Initially, seeing that the boy was bored to death with the task of merely concentrating on nothing, the being had figured it would allow to show the teen how to make a protective shield.

Aura Users had this particular habit of giving their attacks names, but the forms of defence usually remained nameless. Mewtwo would not lower itself to human standards and so, it merely gave the boy a mental projection of how to create a shield by using Aura.

And while it was impressive that Ash actually managed to perform it, the Pokémon felt a little concerned that he could call it up as easily as that. Oh yes, Arceus would be proud of his Chosen One, but somehow, Mewtwo figured that it might have underestimated how much Aura the boy had at his disposal.

But then, as the Psychic being had been so pleased that its student was doing so well, it had figured another lesson would not hurt. Showing yet another mental projection of a defensive, or rather, evasive use of Aura, Mewtwo expected the young trainer to react the same way as he previously had done with the shield…

But no, it wasn't an exact copy this time. If Ash's eyes didn't have that particular blue glow in them, the Pokémon might have thought the teen was using something else to trace just how many Pokémon there were on this island. Mewtwo couldn't care any less about knowing that, but it was a good exercise nonetheless.

Yet none of the other Pokémon were detecting anything -they were incredibly sensitive to Aura, even more to Aura Sources- as they would have undoubtedly come over for a sniff or even a cuddle. That too was something Mewtwo had wanted Ash to have experienced, however, it seems like the boy had been sufficiently spooked by the idea of getting tracked with his own Aura… and so it made itself undetectable.

"… What do you mean, only these two or you'll run out?"

"You're very apt at using Aura, Ash, to the point where I fear I might not even be good enough to be your teacher right now."

"… Okay?"

"Don't get me wrong, I hate to admit you're better at something than I am. So I will be sure to correct that and find plenty of sneaky exercises for you, which I know you will be able to use."

"And that ability? Influencing those machines?"

"Do you not have machines at home to try it out on, friend? And it is actually metal based, so not just machines."

"Mm…"

Mewtwo would have raised an eyebrow if it had one at this particular shift in mood. It could almost taste the boy's disappointment.

"I made a promise, Ash, so there's no reason why you should be getting so upset. I will fulfil it, even if I have to search every Aura idiot on this earths plane."

That at least got a giggle from the teen.

"And I'm going to be stuck with the meditating, aren't I?"

"It's the only thing so far you're not good at, so yes."

"I never was one to be sitting still, you know." Ash said.

"Do I ever? But you're never too old to learn, Ash. Why are you so averse to the fact you can sit down and just… take a deep breath and relax?"

"… I'm not against it but… adventure! I wanna go somewhere, you know? Outside!" Ash said, making a wild gesture with his arms, which Mewtwo barely dodged.

'Your Spirit Pokémon would highly likely be a Mankey, friend.' The being though, rather impressed with the endless energy the teen displayed.

"Could I possibly make your suffering a little less when I tell you there is a chance you would be able to feel your own Aura whilst meditating?"

"Really?"

"Yes, the more you try, the larger the chance of it happening."

"… It's one of your ploys, isn't it?"

"Maybe so. Or maybe I want you to understand why I feel a little powerless against you."

"Oh." Ash said simply, the implication only getting to him now.

"Don't worry, we will be okay. I shall talk to you in two days, then." Mewtwo stated.

"Oh, good, that gives me time to rest up for the Blood Moon event."

"Indeed so. Can I still ask you to train up the exercises I showed you as well?"

"Sure, I can do that. Any reason why?"

"You will find you might experience pain or discomfort if you do not use your Aura regularly. If that is not the case then it might only give you the experience of using that way of defence a bit more easily."

"Will I be able to feel that with me being sedated by medications and all that?"

"Oh, yes."

"Right, I'll be prepared, then."

"That might be for the best. I will take my leave now. Sweet dreams, friends."

"Goodnight, Mewtwo."


Ash had slept like the dead and barely noticed that his mom had come into his bedroom. He only woke up because she opened the curtains.

"Mom…?"

"It's half past nine, sweetie, time to get up."

The teen groaned but pushed his blankets off him, straight over Gliscor, who shot up in surprise. The Pokémon was clearly confused but was doing a very good impression of a very confused ghost underneath that blanket, probably without knowing he was doing it. Ash chuckled before he freed his friend from the sheets.

"Morning, Gliscor."

"Scor!" the Pokémon said happily.

"I've made some pancakes for breakfast, sweetie."

"Nice! I'll hurry up, then!"

And that the boy did, already glad that he was able to still be a little independent. Alright, so maybe he would need one of those weekly pillboxes the nurses used so that he wouldn't forget his medicine, but otherwise, Ash was super happy he could still wash and dress himself. Who knew how it would have ended if the Mew hadn't arrived as soon as it did, huh?

Still, he had a feeling he would have a busy day today and figured he would have to save his energy if he would ever make it to even wake up at one in the morning. But, when Ash came out of the shower, he couldn't help but feel as if he was coming down with the flu or some other harmless but sleep-inducing illness.

Feeling extremely comfortably numb, the teen went to grab one of his fuzzy sweaters and wore that instead of the T-shirt he had been planning on wearing. He didn't know where the sudden feeling to be cosy came from, but it seemed to be going to be today's general mood. Ash ended up taking his sweet time in getting down the stairs, which seemed to alert Delia that something was up.

"Sweetie? Are you okay?" she asked, appearing from the kitchen door.

"Mm, I'm fine. Just not feeling up to much today." He sighed, incredibly happy to have reached the last step of the stairs.

"Ah well, Dr. Martin did say you might experience 'off' days, so maybe… But how are you feeling?"

"Fluffy… Just… you know…"

The woman knew alright, already turning to get the thermometer. For all she knew, Ash was having a fever, which meant she would have to take him to hospital again. But the teen didn't seem to mind anything, not even waiting for his breakfast, making Delia worry he wasn't even hungry. Something must be really wrong if that wasn't the case.

"Here we are, put it under your armpit for me." She said, hurrying towards him with the small device, fully ready to read his temperature."

"Mm-hm…"

Ash seemed to be completely ready to plainly fall asleep on the table again if only Gliscor wasn't keeping him awake. The thermometer beeped pretty quick as well, but it displayed a completely normal body temperature."

"Huh…" Delia said. "Alright, then it's probably an off day for you."

"Mm. I think I can still make it to Professor Oak, though."

"That would be a good idea. I'm pretty sure he was still going to shove that Delta Pokémon under your nose even after that panic attack, so please go see it before he takes drastic measures." she said, knowing some fresh air would do her son some good.

"It's probably going to be relocated soon, so hence why he's probably so adamant in making me go see it as soon as possible." Ash answered simply. "Can I have two pancakes, please?"

"Of course, sweetheart!"

Still, no matter what that thermometer said or how cute her son acted, Delia's mother instinct told her something was wrong and kept a good eye on him even as he made his way over to put on his shoes and got ready to leave. Professor Oak would probably also notice it, so Ash would be watched there too but that did little to ease her worries since the man could be an airhead. Her son's Pokémon -except Pikachu, of course- were recalled in their Pokéball straight after breakfast, as per usual so…

"I'll be off now, mom."

"Be safe, dear. And call me if something's wrong, okay?"

"Will do." He said, not even bothering to raise his voice because she was right behind him anyway.

She even opened the door for him, which earned her a small smile and so, Ash was off, to go and relieve Professor Oak from whatever he wanted to tell him.


As soon as the teen had crossed the street, he couldn't help but notice the bright yellow Pokémon in the shrubbery. It stopped slithering away from the laboratory when it noticed the boy, and instead, came towards him.

"Oooh~ You're the Dratini, aren't you? Does Professor Oak know you're outside?"

But the poor Pokémon let out a mechanical sounding whine and shivered.

'Part steel, alright.' Ash thought, gently scooping up the unusually coloured Dratini. 'They're pretty much always cold…'

Good thing he was wearing the sweater, because the Delta being happily snuggled against him, appreciating the soft material just as much as he did. Now, it did mean that it was very close to Pikachu, who had perched on its usual spot on Ash's shoulder, but it seemed like neither Pokémon were averse to each other. Which was good, considering the teen was way to close in case either of them attacked.

Now that he had the little Pokémon with him -which was surprisingly heavy for how small it was-, it might be good to get to Professor Oak as soon as he could. The fresh air had made him feel a little better so he wasn't as slow as before. And really, it was clear that the Dratini had just straight up escaped, so much so that Ash didn't even need to ask. All anyone needed to notice were a pair of working ears.

"This is the second time- Don't you dare interrupt me!"

That was unmistakably Professor Oak, who sounded upset. And judging from what Ash was hearing, it probably had been Tracey and Gary who had been a little too lenient in their watch over the Pokémon last night. But that also meant that the Delta Pokémon had been outside for the whole night already.

"No wonder you were shivering like that." Ash said motherly and held the yellow Dratini close.

It purred as thanks to the gentle treatment and the boy couldn't help but feel bad for it. Heaven help the one who was responsible for this too, because it was clear Professor Oak was incredibly bothered. So much even, that he didn't stop his rant to open the door. Thankfully, Tracey was there and boy, did the teen look relieved to see him and the Pokémon.

"Ooooh~ Bless you, Ash, the Professor is going to be so happy."

"I hope so. This kind of stress is bad for his heart."

The brunette chuckled, even though he still looked a little stressed. As soon as Ash entered the laboratory, Tracey called out for the upset man.

"Professor, Ash is here and he's found the Dratini."

"Ash, my boy!" Professor Oak said happily, making a 180° turn in mood and direction pretty fast. "Good of you to have found Dratini, is she okay?"

"Warm and purring, curtesy of my sweater." The teen answered, feeling a little sorry for the young man in the back.

It was probably a trainee, hoping to become a researcher one day. But chances of this person staying here in this laboratory were dwindling into single digits. Right now, the young man was doing a very good impression of a deflating balloon, trying to take up as little space as possible.

"I'm glad you two get along. Dratini seems to have quite the attitude when something doesn't go her way, so I'm pleased that nothing happened… Or did something happen?"

"No, Professor, I'm just a little tired. I just found Dratini under the bushes, not too far away from here. In fact, if you didn't waste time shouting, you might have found her."

"Ash, don't start that on me. You shouldn't leave the door open when you're cleaning."

"Then don't let a trainee clean the Pokémon's room, especially when you suspect it to be hostile and prone to harming people." The teen said calmly, though he couldn't understand why anyone would believe the Dratini to be a danger.

Well, unless it was anyone who saw the Pokémon fry Pallet's electric network, of course.

"How will they learn otherwise?"

"He's certainly learning to have thick skin now."

The man stared at the boy and sighed.

"Dan, go back to the quarantine area and start your usual routine, please."

"Y-yes, Professor Oak."

The young man quickly moved out of the way and disappeared in one of the doorway's the Professor had never allowed Ash to go through. That being said, if it was the way to the quarantine zone, the teen was glad to never have gone in there.

"You're not going to be able to save all the trainee's that make mistakes, Ash."

"Someone once told me that you learn more from your mistakes than from succeeding. How do you think I became a little smarter over time?"

"Oh, Ash, my boy." The man sighed but smiled. "You probably have a point, but I'm under a little too much stress these days."

"… Can I relieve some of your curiosity resulting in stress if we go over the results of my League test?"

"Certainly so, I've been burning up to know what they make of you, my boy. Let's go."

Ash just had to smile as Professor Oak shuffled off. No one would be able to convince him that women were the only ones prone to mood swings, though.

"Here we go, I put the envelope next to Orre's gift, so I wouldn't be able to lose either one. A shame that Professor Ivy hasn't returned yet, I would have loved to have seen her face when she noticed you were holding Dratini like this."

"I can hold her a little longer if that would help?"

"I think a picture would be better, my boy. I fear Professor Ivy severely underestimated how strong Pallet's Pumpkin Ale actually is."

"… She got herself drunk?"

"Unintentionally, I'm sure. After all, it was one glass and she dropped to the ground like a brick."

"… Should I go check on her after this?"

"Better not, my boy. I… She is asleep in the guest bedroom and frankly… when Gary went to bring her some breakfast, he was instantly sent out of the room, followed by a rather creative string of curses. So it's best you stay here."

"Oh…"

"Don't fret, my boy and don't let her own choices ruin your day. Here, sit down and open your results." The man said hastily, pushing the envelope towards the boy.

"Let me put Dratini a little more comfortable first." Ash said and already lowered the Pokémon before he even sat down.

The Delta being whined a little, but not for long, as the teen's sweater was long enough to make sure there was plenty of fabric left for her to curl up under. And that was exactly what she did.

"There we go." The boy sighed and took the still outstretched envelope. "Oh, nice, they're letting me carry more Pokémon with me if I need to." He added when he got the first look at the letter from it.

"… What?"

"We hereby grant Ash Ketchum the feature to add up Pokémon to his team until the grand total of ten is reached." Ash read. "Wanna bet it's got something to do with my medical afflictions?"

"A-Ash, my boy, I doubt that anyone in the League can look into your medical file. Not even Mr. Goodshow will be even to do that, even if he says 'pretty please' to your doctor."

"Oh, so then I miraculously scored so well they let me do this?"

"Yes, my boy, you weren't wrong when you said you learned from your mistakes. Can I see your results?"

"Sure."

The boy handed the letter over to the Professor, who quickly took it and gingerly read it.

"I'm so proud of you, my boy."

"Yeah, but it wasn't as if those questions were hard. And they were so focused on my disability that's not really bringing me down as much as they think, that even the physical test was a joke."

"Don't sell yourself short, Ash, even if you don't have the knowledge, you clearly make up for it in instinct."

"Oooh, I've got plenty of that." The teen grinned.

"See, that's more than enough to be a-"

The phone started ringing, rudely interrupting the Professor, who answered the call more than a bit moody.

"Yes? Yes, this is Professor Oak… Yes, he's here." The man said, glancing at the boy, who tilted his head to the side slightly. "I'll ask him." He added and held the receiver against his chest. "Ash, do you have time to go to the Indigo League today?"

"Euhm… Yeah, if I leave after lunch, that should work. Why?"

"Scott's on the phone. He wants to talk to you. Personally."

"Why doesn't he call my transceiver?"

"He has, but he called here when you weren't picking up." The Professor said. "Can I tell him you'll be coming?"

"Yeah, I'll go by bus, because I'm not feeling up too much, so… Around two-ish?"

"Alright."

As Professor Oak told Scott about the boy's decision, Ash frowned and felt his pockets. He sighed when he remembered that his transceiver was still on his desk. It was probably thanks to his tiredness that he forgot to take it with him and made a mental note to go get if before he left to the League.

"So, that's that." The man sighed as he laid the receiver back on its usual spot. "I was going to tell you that having a good instinct was more than enough for any trainer, seeing as that's much better than being senseless… but well, thanks to this call, it hardly feels right, saying that now with this interruption."

"It's okay, I appreciate it anyway." Ash grinned.

"Rightly so. Here, open the gift Orre send you."

"Ah, I keep forgetting about that. Let's just…"

Ash really didn't understand why anyone in Orre would go as far as to search for a gift for anyone and he doubted that anyone there knew who he was, not to mention how old he was… So the chance of him not liking what they had sent was pretty big, yet the boy got faced with a blast from the past.

"Hey… I used to have marbles like that. Do you remember them, Professor?"

"I do, my boy, but I hardly think that is a marble. Why would there be such a chain attached to it and a strange trinket with a flat but very similar marble like medallion along with it too?"

"It's a bracelet." Ash said, holding the detailed object up for the man to see. "It's too big for my wrist, though."

"I… think it's a necklace, Ash. And they were probably notified that you were a teen because they made it so that you could make it larger."

"Wish they would've made it smaller. I'm not too keen on necklaces. They're usually hanging in my way and keep getting caught up in things."

"It's a choker, my boy."

"… They're trying to kill me?"

The Professor blinked, but then smiled warmly at the naïve response.

"No, Ash, it used to be a fashion statement a while ago but somehow it's making its return to fashion yet again. Let me demonstrate, so you can notice that it really won't be in your way."

The teen was already dubious about it, but let the man do his thing. He was already pleased that this choker thing didn't feel like ice when it touched his skin, but as he felt where the Professor was putting it, Ash realised that it would indeed be difficult to get anything stuck in it.

At the same time, Professor Oak was amazed at the simple but incredibly sturdy lock that snapped into place. He was super lucky his fingers didn't get caught in it, because judging from the sound the lock made, it seemed very unforgiving for soft material like, for example, skin.

"Well, that's not going anywhere anytime soon." He said, walking back in front of the boy. "You might have to ask for help if you're planning to put it on or off."

"Eh, I'll make do. How does it look, though? I once wore one like these but it made my head look detached from the rest of me…"

"No, my boy, it's chainmail, which allows some colour to come through from behind it. It's very nicely made, I don't think it will be easy to break at all."

"Oh, perfect! Now all I need to know what it is before people start thinking I'm actually into fashion and will have to disappoint them by saying I really don't care."

"I have a faint suspicion it's a Mega Stone, but it's really not my field of research."

"And this? What's this then?" Ash asked, pointing at the necklace.

"Well, as I said, I'm not an expert, but from what I know, Mega Evolution needs both a Mega Stone and an activator."

"Wait… So this is a Mega choker?"

"Yes, probably."

"… That sounds so wrong on so many levels."

The Professor chuckled and shook his head.

"It still is a valuable gift, Ash. Besides, I assume you'll want to go travelling soon, so why not take it with you to see Professor Sycamore and identify what Pokémon this Mega Stone is for?"

"Will do, but not this month. Or rather, not this year." The teen said and quickly continued as the Professor frowned. "You see, I need to go see my doctor in the second week of January, who'll give me the final verdict whether I'm good enough to go travelling."

"Aah, I see."

"Though I wasn't going to leave anyway, I want to celebrate Christmas and New Year in Pallet. It's been three years that I've let mom on her own after all."

"Good choice, my boy." The man said. "Come on, let's go put Dratini back in her room, so you can go tell your mom you'll be gone in the afternoon."

"Okay!"

Ash gingerly followed the man, having put the Mega Stone with the chain in his right pocket and had awkwardly stuffed the letter in the pocket at the back of his jeans. It was probably sticking out but he would put it away decently later.

Now, this was the first time that the boy actually saw the room where Tracey had bothered Dratini and man, it did look like something really bad had happened here. Ash even felt a little bad for the bend metal panes by the sides, sighing as he ran a hand over them.

Then again, Mewtwo had said his ability was not just mechanical manipulation, right? And that he could train it on his own? The teen turned to see if someone was watching him and as soon as he found that this part of the laboratory was empty, safe for Professor Oak, who was coddling the Delta Pokémon in the special heat-regulated room, he focused.

'Come on, panes. Work with me.' The boy thought, concentrating pretty hard, having even closed his eyes and sticking out his tongue in the process.

To his delight, everything that had been bend was straightened out by the time he opened his eyes again. Ash needed every bit of self-control not to squeal, that pleased he was with himself. But he knew better than to draw attention to himself right now.

"Well, I better get going if I want to get home in time. Bye, Professor!" he said quickly.

"Ah yes, goodbye, my boy! Do tell me all about your League visit next time!" the man answered, sounding a little muffled as he was still in Dratini's room.

"Will do!"

Now, as the teen went away -somehow feeling a little better all of a sudden-, there was someone who really wasn't looking forward to today. Or tomorrow. Professor Ivy felt as if her head was about three times its normal size and every sound seemed ten times louder, if not more. But she couldn't stay in bed all the time, knowing that it was her own fault for letting people convince her to consume that foul drink.

As such, the Professor shuffled downstairs, keeping a firm hand on the railing. She knew that drinking lots of water would somehow help but considering she was finally getting a little hungry, the woman happily managed to make herself a small sandwich.

Professor Ivy didn't feel like sitting down and so, she sauntered out into the rest of the laboratory. She could clearly hear Professor Oak talking to the Delta Pokémon, so that was her new destination. However, the woman wouldn't help but frown –even if it caused her headache to become a little more prominent- at the incredibly straight and even walls.

"Professor Oak?"

"Yes, Professor Ivy?" the man asked.

"How long was I in bed for?"

"Just this morning, Professor. You just missed Ash but I'm sure he'll be coming back soon enough."

"… I thought the mechanic was coming to replace those metal panes tomorrow, though?"

"… Professor?"

"Samuel, see it for yourself. It's not my hangover, I swear." she sighed.

The man did come out of the room, his face scrunched up in frowns… but his eyes grew wide when he noticed the pristine and straightened walls.

"Good Lord…"

"Are you sure a trainee didn't let the mechanic in or something?"

"No, our appointment was tomorrow and really, one doesn't change a wall without anyone noticing, Professor Ivy. In fact, I was sitting right next to this area, going over Ash's results with him so…" he said, still looking bewildered. "And I'm pretty sure they wouldn't leave without dropping off their bill, either."

"Well… whatever happened, I think it's best you cancel that appointment, seeing as it fixed."

"Yes, yes." Professor Oak nodded. "Bless the one who did this, heaven knows I cannot afford to invest any more money these days…"


At home, Ash sneezed.

"Goodness, sweetie, you really are coming down with something, aren't you?"

"No, mom, I'm fine. I think people were talking behind my back. And with my League results out in the open, I don't have to think long about who might be doing the talking."

"… You're not just saying that to go to the League today, aren't you? Because if you are sick, young man, you're staying at home."

"Mom, I'm not sick, I swear."

"Hm, alright." Delia said but managed to look suspicious nonetheless. "Any other plans, today?"

"No, I don't think I will have time or energy for anything else. Besides, it's the Blood Moon today!" Ash answered happily, nestling himself behind the table where his puzzle was placed.

It was nearing completion so he felt compelled to finish it and then he would send Morty a picture, preferable with his smug face reflected in something so the man would see how chuffed the teen actually was.

"Let's hope they won't keep you in the League for long, then. Did you already set your alarm?"

"I think I did, yes. But I'll be checking it again before I go to sleep."

"Alright."

A comfortable silence fell but as the boy was busy with his puzzle, his mind couldn't help wandering off again. Ash knew his mother was bothered that he was going away so often, even though she didn't mind him travelling. He supposed that knowing he wasn't feeling well and still get called away to an appointment he couldn't miss was his mom's limit.

'Might be time to drop a not-so-subtle hint that I'm best off at home. Scott will understand.' Ash thought, successfully placing the right puzzle piece in its designated spot.

Today was one of those days the teen wanted to stay at home as well, and he would only end up more tired and irritated. No, might be good to tell everyone willing to listen that this needed to stop if they wanted him to be okay soon.


Ash's brilliant idea of taking his slime with him on the bus actually payed off, since he felt the need to squeeze something really soon. He wished he had taken his crutches as well, if only it made people a little more gallant in like, not pushing him forward if he didn't walk fast enough. Alright, it only took one look at his face before they started apologising but honestly…

The boy was already happy to have something to poke throughout the journey towards the Indigo League. His mood hadn't been the greatest before getting on the slightly damp smelling bus, but having just felt a small source of Aura in another person on the vehicle had just… obliterated whatever happy thoughts he had left.

Yeah, Mewtwo's speech about those other Aura Users made him feel more on edge than he wanted to admit and it was really getting to him. Ash was starting to feel even more miserable than before as it started raining, causing the bus to smell even worse. If his slime didn't smell as bad as it did, he might just have been keeping that close to his face but that wasn't an option, with it smelling extremely like glue.

The only thing that was keeping the teen at bay during the long ride towards the League building was Pikachu, who was doing his best in being cute and huggable. Oh, and the Pokémon was really good at giving people poisonous looks whenever they shoved his trainer or complained when they found the boy in the handicap seat.

"Man, am I ever so glad to be out of that thing!" Ash bristled annoyed, trying to get his umbrella out of his backpack before he was completely soaked.

"Pikachu, Pikapi." The Pokémon said, purring as he pressed his cheek against his trainer's cheek.

It made the teen a little calmer, but thanks to his mysterious tiredness, his irritation was very much present still.

"I just don't get it, Pikachu, it's not as if I got a tattoo with 'HANDICAP' on my forehead. I really hate being judged like that, next time I'm pushing this card up their-"

"Pika!"

"Yeah, yeah, as if it's fun for me, huh? My head hurts, everything inside me is screaming to go to bed and this shitty weather isn't helping my leg feeling better at all! In fact, in a little bit, they'll see me limping alright."

"Pikachu, Pichu pika… Pikapi…"

"I'm gonna keep complaining until I'm inside, Pikachu, there's no amount of Pika's that can change that." The teen grumbled and yes, his Pokémon noticed all too well that his trainer was limping.

Pikachu would never understand why people were so greatly affected by changes in the weather, but he knew his trainer was acting weird. Well, weirder, at any rate. The best course of action now was to keep silent and divert his attention if anything went south.

The Pokémon couldn't possibly have known that the situation would go south so badly, it eventually went up north, though. And it completely wasn't Ash's fault either, as he had been busy getting some of the rain off his umbrella before closing it when suddenly a man grabbed him from behind.

"NOBODY MOVES OR THE KID GETS IT!" he screamed, pulling the teen inside fully and holding something metal against his cheek and…

The boy's stress level shoots up, noticing all too well what was happening, but everything inside him was opposing to it. So his instincts took over in the only way they knew and Ash... lets it happen.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

The two men had been patiently waiting in the large hall of the Indigo League. While Scott never liked to make appointments with trainers through their Professors, he figured Ash must have totally been there with Professor Oak when he called. The man would never think that someone of a Professor's status would know when or what bus he would need to take to get to the League building off the top of his head. This remarkable habit was something the younger trainers displayed, even though they usually depended on their Pokémon to get them somewhere.

"Think he'll be on time?" Will asked calmly, quite happy to sit somewhere secluded.

"That totally depends on the bus." The curly haired man answered simply, yet kept a good eye at the front doors nonetheless. "And with this kind of weather, I'm not sure how nice the experience is going to be… So let's be careful when he finally gets here."

"Oh, I remember going by bus once. I had to wear these strange braces on my legs when I was younger, because there was something fishy going on with the way they were growing or something… I suppose I don't have to tell how nice public transport was, hm?"

"Yes, but you don't have the ability to explode, do you?"

Before Will could ask him anything about that, something seemed to be happening at the front door, making both man stand up so they could see what was happening.

"NOBODY MOVES OR THE KID GETS IT!" the man dressed in black exclaimed, manhandling a strangely familiar kid.

Scott instantly locked eyes with the boy, who seemed to know where he was and before he could even say something or move an inch-

*BOOM*

Security came flying from everywhere in mere seconds, probably assuming that the man who had taken the hostage had just blown up… but the curly haired man knew differently.

"Holy… Scott, that was so cool! That was just like one of those antimatter explosion in the movies!" the Psychic elite exclaimed, sounding a little too happy.

"Yeah, but see who came with security?"

"…Oh…"

Will would recognise his Champion from miles away, so spotting him wasn't hard. But it was just their bad luck that drew Papa Bear Lance towards the person he was most sensitive towards. And oh boy, did the man push his way past anyone in his way just to get to the boy… who looked pretty fine, to be honest. Scott dared to shuffle closer, wanting to hear what was being said.

"Ash, dammit, what are you doing here?" Lance asked, looking displeased as could be.

"I-I…? Got a call?" the slightly shaken teen answered. "W-was that a gun?"

"It was, yes. You… got the terrorist, Ash, well done… I guess."

"A-a terror-?"

"Yes, somehow, there will always be people who are displeased with developments… We've found that some are not happy Orre is being rebuild so…"

Ash looked rather tragic at that, causing the man to sigh.

"Why are you here, Ash? You don't look well enough to be travelling."

"Rainy weather always makes me feel like dirt, Mr. Lance. I… But I really did get a call a-and I probably wouldn't have exploded i-if this man didn't jump me…"

Lance let out a rather odd groan-sigh and guided the boy away from the befuddled terrorist, who had several security officers on him right now. This would be the start of a bad time for him.

"Tell me who gave you a call, Ash." The red-haired man asked, as soon as they were at a safe distance.

"A-ah, it was through Professor Oak, Scott wanted a word…"

Seeing that said man was rather close to the two now, Lance was quick to spot him. That being said, Scott was definitely spooked by how the Champion's eyes narrowed. And Will was no help, actually going to speak with the man.

"What are you doing here?" Lance asked, now also giving the young elite a dubious look.

"You know that case of the demon cereal?"

"Oh, the one everyone solved behind my back? How could I not know about that?"

"Well, we thought we could do you a favour and get Ash's statement. Then the whole case would be over and done with, so you could focus on more important quests, hm?"

Lance didn't seem impressed with it, though.

"Whatever. As soon as you're done with the kid, let him go home. And Scott, I want to talk to you straight after."

"I can't, Professor Burnet asked Ash to-"

"Well, if not after than before. I'm sure neither of you would mind waiting a few minutes, right?"

Will would never talk back to someone as impressive as Lance… and Ash didn't have a reason to speak up, still far too bewildered that he suddenly felt so much better than before exploding. In fact, he never even saw the two leave or that the Psychic elite was awkwardly trying to get his attention.

'Oh, Gods… I never even had an off day!' the teen realised, getting a sudden epiphany. 'This was the thing Mewtwo mention, that I would feel bad if I didn't use my Aura!'

He certainly used it now, much to the terrorist's dismay.

"… hear me?"

Ash blinked and looked at the source of the voice.

"Excuse me?"

"I was asking if you could even hear me." The purple haired man asked, looking rather uncomfortable.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I must have zoned out again. It's euhm… normal for me, I'm sorry if it unsettled you." The teen said, smiling. "The doctor called it Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder and well… things set it off."

"Like exploding, for example?"

"Ah yeah. Sorry about that as well."

"Don't worry about it!" Will said happily. "It was rather beautiful, to be honest. Is that a special ability of yours?"

"I… suppose I can tell you about it whilst we wait for Scott to come back."

"Sure. Let's go sit over there. From what I know, Lance isn't very long-winded, so it shouldn't take too long."

"Alright."


Ash was dubious about this whole thing, to be honest. Now that his mind was less cloudy, everything started to make even less sense than before. And with the look Scott sported when he came back, the teen was sure that Lance had been quick and to the point, because heavens, he looked moody.

And then there was Will, who never even bothered to introduce himself, figuring his face was well-known enough. Luckily for him, Ash did have plenty of knowledge regarding elite trainers, but that didn't mean he particularly liked being questioned on his Aura. Good thing he had practised in talking a lot but saying as little as possible. The boy didn't like that the purple haired elite was entertained by Scott's misfortune of having run into Lance like that either.

"I didn't know you had issues with Lance?" Ash asked softly, trying to keep Will out of this as they were on route to a secluded, little room.

"I don't. It's you he's sensitive about."

"… Why hasn't anyone offered him help?"

"Oh, he's followed therapy, Ash. But he's gotten this idea in his head that he's suddenly responsible for you because he apparently knew you father and promised him he would take care of you."

The boy fell silent at that, realising that Scott might have underestimated in how honest Lance had been. It was possible for the Champion to have known his father and be close friends, so… No, Ash didn't know how to feel about that either.

"So, we just need your statement on what you saw, regarding the cereal situation and once you've signed it, I'll leave you in Professor Burnet's capable hands." Scott said.

"… I've already told you everything I know about it, I even send you a picture."

"If it doesn't have your signature on it, it's invalid, Ash." The curly haired man said simply.

"… Alright, then."

The teen was kind of hoping that this Professor Burnet wouldn't be in the same kind of mood as either of the two men because he would just leave if that was the case. Having just gotten rid of his Aura issues, he wasn't planning on letting adults work out their issues on him.

"So, what's actually wrong with you for Lance to suddenly be so protective of you?" Will asked, once the statement was signed and filed with all the rest of the papers.

"That's… very straight to the point, sir." Ash said, refusing to use the man's name -his own, pitiful attempt at getting his message across. "I'll keep it short then, as well. Lance probably found me after my leg was cut off by an unidentified being and healed by another Pokémon."

"C-cut off?" the man repeated.

"Yes. I don't really want to show it either... if that is alright with you?"

"Y-yeah, of course, Ash, you don't have to do anything of the sorts. I was just…"

"Ignorant?" The teen suggested, giving the man an even look.

"… Yeah…"

"Right, you two. Will, why don't you go have a drink, while I will take Ash to the Professor? You look like you could use something strong."

The young man didn't even answer that verbally, simply nodding once and then stalked off, to Arceus knows where.

"You didn't have to put it that crudely, Ash. Will didn't do anything wrong."

"My mom would have to say something about manners on his case. Be glad I didn't channel her or this would've been very awkward. That being said, I think I have the right to be all angles on this subject."

"Yes, but it's got no use in working that out on people willing to help."

"Do busybodies count? Because pray tell me, how did Will actually help me in any way? Besides, as you're talking about working issues out on people, you're in no position to tell me anything about that."

"… You're right. You are being very difficult." The man said slowly as if only realising who he had in front of him just now. "Ash, are you sure you're okay?"

"I would be able to tell you if life gave me a few minutes to catch my breath."

"… I get it. Lance told me to leave you alone as well."

"Yeah, he probably got that from my doctor who probably didn't quite whisper that in his ear either." The boy stated dryly. "I don't think you get how… scared I still am."

"I think I do now, thanks to the enlightening conversation with Lance just now. Hence why I've sent Will away, knowing he was only riling you up even more. Why, I don't know but…"

"As I said, busybodies. No one should be questioning me about Aura after what happened here a good while ago. Or do I need to tell you about those Lore Keepers and their echoing cries of disappointment?"

"Oh, right… I'll talk to him about that."

"Gosh, please, don't do anything. He'll try and apologise and… I don't want that. Just bring me to Professor Burnet and I'll get out of your hair… if the League gets out of mine. I promise I'll start travelling again, but I won't make it if you don't give me these two months to prepare. Please."

"You don't have to beg, I get it." The man said. "Let's just get going, the sooner you're home, the better."

"Yes."


Professor Burnet was actually just what Ash needed, a calm, soft-spoken person who finally knew what they were talking about. She made him feel more at ease as well, which she definitely noticed, if her warm smile was anything to go by. Too bad her subject wasn't... well...

"I'll try to keep this as short as possible, Ash, I see you need your sleep."

"Tell that to the person who's basically forcing me to go watch a Blood Moon tonight."

"Oh, is that tonight? How lovely, I'm sure you'll see it's worth your while. That being said, you might want to take a nap before."

"Mm…"

"Now…" she stated, rolling out a rather magnificent drawing. "My research has always been border lining with different dimensions and we were bound to find something as we advanced… And we did, a while ago. Now, my findings haven't been published, but your local Professor's email intrigued me because your experience sounded rather familiar… on some parts."

"You mean, you basically went to search for Pokémon in a different dimension?" the teen asked. "What were you trying to find?"

"Life." She stated simply. "And before you say anything, the life-forms that I think are responsible for your accident have been spotted on this earth long before I even started with the Dream Radar."

"Alright. Do they have names?"

"Yeah." The woman snorted. "But don't have too high expectations, as its the International Police who gave them these. Let me show you what I'm talking about."

And so, Ash learned that the thing that hurt his so much was called… UB04-Blade.

"I wouldn't particularly be happy with that name. No wonder they're aggressive."

The Professor chuckled and shook her head.

"I don't think they know about that, Ash. Do you recognise the other being you stated seeing?"

"Yeah, UB02-Beauty. Now that I think about it, I wasn't too scared when they were in front of me but… their whole demeanour changed after…"

"Yes?"

"It's like they had this… glowing Aura over them all of a sudden."

"What colour?" she pressed one.

"… Orange? Maybe a little more yellow? I'm not too sure but…"

"Beast Boost…" the Professor muttered. "Interesting."

"… Is it?"

"Ash, do you have any idea why they came to you?"

"Nope. There have been theories but…"

"Well, I know for sure why they must have come to you. For you, with your Aura or excessive energy, must've have felt similar to one of their wormholes… which are their way home."

"…"

"It's probably after the one accidentally cut your leg that it noticed you weren't what they thought you were and got angry."

Ash stared at her, eyes wide and his expression unable to decide whether to look sad or not.

"Ever since the accident, Kanto's invested in some shields, so none of the UB's can trace any kind of ability here any longer. So you're completely safe her now."

"Really?"

"Absolutely. I don't think I could ever convince you how unlikely it would that some of the UB's would attack people out of nowhere again… But you know now that you are safe here and pretty much every region to allows trainers to roam freely."

"Like Kalos?"

"Certainly so. My own research division is being moved to Alola, the only place without a shield, so maybe that's something to remember."

"I hope to be over this by the time I go there, Professor." Ash said, a ghost of a smile on his face. "And don't worry, I really don't think that any Pokémon is generically evil, so if you say that those UB's aren't either, I won't think any less of you. I… just might need to think about it for a while."

"That's very nice of you, Ash." The Professor answered, looking rather pleased all of a sudden. "I look forward to meeting you again, should you ever end up in Alola."

"No region's safe from me, Professor Burnet."


Or so he said. Right now, Ash wasn't feeling up too much, as he rode the bus back to Pallet. He knew that Scott and Will might've wanted to say goodbye or something, but he didn't have the energy for it. Besides, he made it clear to the curly haired leader of the Battle Frontier that he had enough of people today.

"Can I please pet your Pikachu, Mr.?"

Ash looked up and saw the little girl standing there, her stuffed Pichu plush held close to her chest. One look at his Pokémon told him that Pikachu was more than ready to undergo said treatment, so he lowered his arm, which aided his starter Pokémon to get down to the girl's level.

"It's so soft…"

Pikachu looked rather smug as he was being petted, which gave the teen a reason to smile. For now at least, because his smile moved away from his face as the girl went back to her father, who congratulated her for her politeness.

Ash had to look away from the scene, not really wanting to be reminded of what Scott just told him… but it was too late. It was probably showing on his face, because this one lady at the side was seemingly getting ready to hand him one of those paper handkerchiefs. He quickly turned away from her too and got ready to leave the bus, knowing the closest stop to Pallet Town was coming up soon.

He nearly stumbled out of the vehicle, as it had stopped a little too far from the raised path, making the drop to the actual ground plenty lower. So yeah, Ash went down on his prosthetic leg with full force, making him hiss in pain.

"You okay there, buddy?"

The teen turned around, startled as he hadn't expected anyone to talk to him… and saw the bus driver come towards him.

"A-hahaha, yeah, I'm okay." Ash said, putting up his thumb.

He wasn't actually hurt or anything, but it was as if the League had this… weird effect on him, as if it sucked all the life out of him just as soon as he went through the doors. Or maybe it was the people and their strange behaviour, both protective but still so selfish-

The boy shook his head and hurried off, trying not to cause anyone else to worry. His mom would probably know he would need a nap as soon as he got home, which was why Ash even put some speed behind his steps. And oh, was he happy to be living so close to the front edge of Pallet, saving him from having to walk through the whole of his city, who probably all remembered his Halloween accident perfectly. After all, that had literally happened yesterday…

"You're going straight to bed, aren't you?" Delia said, as soon as she got a good look at his face. "Because if you're not going to do it voluntarily…"

"I surrender." The teen said, holding up his hands. "Just let me take off my shoes first."

The woman didn't reply but stayed around, as if she expected him to just drop to the floor. However, Ash successfully got himself hoisted in his bed. He didn't bother releasing his Pokémon, already satisfied with his purring Pikachu close to him. The teen tried the meditating exercise for a bit, hoping it would get his mind of what Scott and Professor Burnet had said… but then his mom came in his room.

"Sweetie?"

"Mm?"

"What did they want from you?"

"Oh, Scott fixed that demon issue with the cereal… Wanted me to sign my statement…"

That sounded harmless enough, or so Delia decided, as she mindlessly laid her hand on her son's shoulder.

"Professor Burnet also told me about the things that hurt me. UB's, she calls them. Said they attacked me because they mistook me for their way home…"

That… wasn't as okay.

"Try not to think about it, sweetie. Focus on the smell soon, okay, I'll be making something good."

"Okay."


Ash didn't really know what his mom had cooked to smell so… overwhelming, but it seemed to be causing small miracles. Of all the people who coincidentally visited, his therapist was the biggest surprise. The teen had to stop himself from making a terribly sarcastic remark when his mom cheerfully announced the man's arrival as well because it was clear as day that she had just called him over.

"So… How are you feeling?"

"Peachy. It's not nice to hear that your long-lost father was thinking about you all along but that the person he told to stay on the look-out didn't know who I was prior to this accident and is scaring the whole League with his protective behaviour. And right, those things that attacked me apparently are totally harmless as well, it was just me who was being a big disappointment."

Ash had to bite his tongue from adding 'again' to that, but the therapist seemed to have picked up on it nonetheless. And everything he told the man was apparently all the wrong things as well. The man told him that he should let go of the idea that anyone was expecting anything of him, which the teen hardly believed at all.

No one could tell him anything, after all those adventures he had with 'adults' unable to do anything and who relied completely on the young trainers available. Besides, Ash was considering to make trouble his second name, because well… he never asked to get a terrorist flung into his neck. Alright, so the shmuck got what he deserved pretty soon but the boy would never tell the therapist about this. Not after…

"Sweetie… Please stay with me for a while, will you?" Delia asked, looking down at the floor as she shuffled towards him.

"Couch potato style?" the teen asked dryly, knowing the man must've said something to her.

"Preferably. You're still allowed to go outside, for… the Blood Moon thing and the competition but keep inside for the most part. I can't help but shake the feeling that someone will be keeping watch over us so I don't want to risk anything."

"Don't get too paranoid, mom. I'm pretty sure Professor Oak did a good job a relaying information to a certain someone already. Heaven knows who but…"

"Sweetheart… What are you talking about?" the woman frowned.

"You never knew dad asked Lance to look after me?"

Delia stared at him for a while.

"Of course, the idiot…"

"Who? Lance?"

"No, sweetie, your father. He… had some issues after a certain accident. He tended to forget pretty important things, like… well, once he woke up next to me and didn't remember me at all, until later, when I made him breakfast. Your dad probably never thought of the fact that Lance never saw you before his disappearance or that he didn't know your last name, because you have my maiden name, for protection."

"Against what?"

"Red had plenty of enemies, dear. I really can't tell you exactly why… because he never bothered to tell me."

"Oh… Well, if that's true, then don't worry if you find Lance at your doorstep, probably looking really awkward and with a box of stupendously expensive tea, which you'll obviously love. And with a bit of luck, it'll taste like mint so that I'll drink a bit of it as well."

Delia chuckled and shook her head.

"Well, if that's the case, I won't worry. I never had issues entertaining guests, awkward or not."

"No, true that."


But still, hearing his father was suffering from such a severe case of PTSD, along with the fact those UB's kept playing in his mind… No, Ash had set his alarm for no reason, because he couldn't find a moment of peace, with all that happened today, or rather, yesterday.

It was already past midnight, so the teen sighed and went to check if his 'gear' was okay. And just before one in the morning, Ash went out, his Pikachu fast asleep in his backpack. It was a little early, but there was no use in staying in bed when you couldn't sleep. Besides, he really didn't want to miss whatever this Blood Moon was supposed to be.

He settled in the soft sand of the beach and slowly installed himself, the light of the full moon aiding him. Ash couldn't help but stare at his surrounding which looked so strange in the dark. But that quickly got boring, so seeing that nothing was happening to the moon, the teen ended up scanning his area with his Aura a couple of times.

There was no one, or at least, not awake or active in any way, which suited the boy just fine. But boy, did he miscalculate how long it was going to take. And heck, this moon wasn't turning red, it was disappearing! Ash wasn't the type to give up, but he was getting close to just up and leave… when he suddenly saw something approach him in the badly lit water.

His eyes grew when he noticed it was actually a Kyogre that came up to him. Now, Mewtwo had told the teen than Pokémon would feel his Aura a whole lot better, so really, Ash wasn't too bewildered he had attracted a Legendary Pokémon. But he was happy it seemed to be in a playful mood.

"I don't suppose you could like… jump up from the point where the moon turns red? Underneath it, preferably?"

The Kyogre merely let out some air and shuffled a little closer towards him, causing the teen to jump up.

"Hold on, don't get too far on the sand, you won't be able to go back into the water!"

The Pokémon seemed determined to get to him, though, which caused Ash to sigh and just step into the shallow water to stop the Kyogre from advancing. Figuring the being simply wanted to touch him, probably for his Aura or something, the young trainer laid his hand on the Pokémon.

At first, it felt really cool and -unsurprisingly- wet, but not too long after the first contact, a sharp pain went through Ash's left hand, up to his arm. He pulled back, of course, and it did relieve the pain, yet marginally so… It left the teen wondering what had actually just happened. The Kyogre simply crooned in response.

"That hurt, you know?" he sighed, rubbing the hand that was starting to tingle. "What did you do to me?"

The Legendary Pokémon didn't answer, of course, but Ash was happy for the company. A sleeping Pikachu was only entertaining for as long as you could actually see something, so he ended up telling the Kyogre some stories. The moon was taking it's sweet time to disappear, giving him plenty of time to entertain the Pokémon, who seemed to appreciate his presence. And well, who didn't like it when a Legendary being started to purr, hm?

"Oh wow… The moon actually is turning red?" the teen said, staring at the half moon which was starting to become a little orange.

And that's when he noticed the Kyogre was sinking back into the sea and was just floating there, apparently keeping an eye on the sky. Ash grinned and went back to his camera, ignoring the soggy sound his shoes made as he got to dry land again.

He was in awe of what was happening above him, not really understanding how this could happen… but felt so small, nonetheless. His hand was hoovering close to the camera, ready to take his picture. Yeah, he'd take multiple, but he wanted the right moment.

So yeah, the camera kind of went off on its own, which was kind of creepy. But then again, Ash was touching the tripod, which connected to the camera, so while he was thinking of the perfect moment, the device reacted, thanks to his ability. The Kyogre was a great jumper as well, all lit up in those shiny, red lines…

If the image on the small screen was anything to go by, Tracey wouldn't be disappointed either, which was good because that meant the young trainer hadn't wasted this precious time where he should have needed to be asleep. But seeing that moon come back to its normal state again and the friendly Kyogre… No, this was an experience Ash wouldn't forget anytime soon.


Tracey was stressing out, so much that Professor Oak just let him go check with Ash. Apparently, said boy was an important factor in his assistant's stress, so if letting him go would relieve the man of a source of stress who could potentially affect Pokémon with his state of mind, the Professor would gladly send him off.

The brunette was still too worried to feel relieved that at least one of his issues was solved. He couldn't get to Ash's house quickly enough, only…

"He's still in bed, dear."

"Oh, Gods, Ash isn't ill, is he?"

"… I would've hoped you realised that my son sacrificed several hours of sleep for that competition of yours, Tracey, even going against his own doctor's advice for it."

"Ah." The teen said dryly. "Can I see him? I mean, we need to go print our pictures, like… between now and two hours."

"I'll see what I can do, Tracey. Come in and have a seat." Delia said and moved out of the way, clearly expecting him to close the door.

The brunette did, purely out of habit mostly. He didn't want to irk the lady of the house even more, even if he had done so unintentionally. But Tracey knew Ash could be an airhead and he couldn't afford not to participate in this photography contest after having told everyone he would participate with someone else... In hindsight, it had been such a stupid move, since the teen knew his friend was so hurt and needed his rest.

His eyes went to the puzzle, which looked nearly complete too, amazingly enough. But the unfinished picture had a negative connotation to Tracey, who couldn't help but remember that one time where Ash suddenly got that convulsions and-

"Morning, Tracey. Where do I go with this?"

The young assistant turned around and smiled brightly at the teen who just stood there, holding up a USB-stick, probably containing the picture. Ash was munching on one of those cereal bars, which probably was supposed to be breakfast but still…

"With me. But is that all you're going to eat?"

"I've got some more with me, in my pocket." The boy answered simply, seemingly not very impressed with Tracey's question. "I expect we're going to be away for a while, so I came prepared."

"Right, come along then."

"Okay. When is that competition going to be taking place, anyhow? And where?"

"Tomorrow and at the Pallet exhibition hall."

"Good to know." Ash stated dryly as he followed his friend outside. "I didn't even know we had an exhibition hall."

"A lot changed while you were travelling, you know?"

'Apparently so.' The teen thought and flexed his left hand, which still felt a little strange.

Really, if he hadn't taken that picture and felt this odd, Ash would have thought that he dreamt up meeting that Kyogre. It was so… surreal and the more he thought about it, the more dubious he became. Why would a Legendary Pokémon even listen to someone like him?

Aura Source or not, Ash knew that none of the Pokémon he met prior to his accident had acted this way. Yes, he had a way with them, but not anything like what happened last night. That was completely crazy, so much so, that the boy figured that even Mewtwo would have trouble believing it. If it wasn't for the fact his Legendary friend was able to look right through him, Ash might have decided to simply not tell it about this story when they would meet again.

"Ash?"

"Yeah?"

"We're there."

The boy blinked but was very startled to find a pole so close to his face. He shot back, giving the offending object a dirty look.

"Thanks for the warning."

"Daydreaming again?"

"Yeah, sorry."

"Don't worry about it." Tracey said, smiling at him as if he just hadn't been really close to making a fool out of himself… or possibly get a concussion or something.

'This pole is ridiculously placed and massive.' Ash thought but couldn't help staring at the looming building that overall looking plenty sturdy overall. 'Talk about massive architecture.'

"Come on, Ash, this way."

"Oh, alright. Been here before?"

"Yeah, I come here regularly. You know, arts and the like."

'Of course.' The teen thought, following the brunette.

Ash wasn't really the kind of person who could spend a whole afternoon in an exhibition, staring at the products of people who made things he really didn't understand. In fact, he prayed to anyone who was listening that he didn't have to stand next to his picture for the whole day tomorrow, awkwardly smiling and shaking hands with people who he didn't know.

Things got a little confusion at the point where Tracey dove into this sea of people and if the teen didn't have his Aura, he would have lost his friend in the mass.

"Holy crap, Tracey, what's the first prize for this thing?"

"Everyone gets something, so that's as good a reason for this crowd as anything, I suppose."

"Yeah but… What is that something? I mean, if they're all getting a coupon for 5 Pokédollar off some shifty store, this is going to be an uproar, Tracey. Besides, I didn't even know so many people lived in Pallet."

"That's because it's not just for Pallet." The young assistant said. "Now keep close, it's almost our turn."

Ash did keep close but couldn't help but sigh as he felt one of the cereal bars in his pocket snap, thanks to this one person roughly pushing him to the side. He wasn't hoping for some fancy prize right now, seeing how many people were entering. Even if they did like his picture, what judge could still be enthusiastic when they had already seen over a hundred other interesting photographs?

No, the young trainer wasn't looking forward to the next couple of days, not even when he managed to jokingly name his picture 'Speechless', to fit right next to Tracey's 'Nameless'. And then thankfully, after an hour and a half of standing upright, Ash was let free to go home.


Once at home, the teen really couldn't help but lay on the couch and just… stay there. His mom didn't same to care and Pikachu even less, more than happy to get hugged at petted as he laid on his trainer's lap. He occasionally went to see whether he could work on is puzzle a bit more, but his energy was completely spent.

After a very lazy afternoon and nearly having fallen asleep on his mother's shoulder during a particularly boring TV-show, Ash resorted in going upstairs and try to sleep off whatever damage this Blood Moon event had done to his sleeping schedule. Seeing as it was only around nine in the evening, the teen still tried to practise his Aura a little more, especially the shields and then finally the meditating.

He was particularly close to finally finding his inner rest, but then his mom apparently had decided to go to bed, with plenty of noise too. Yes, Ash was startled to find he had just been sitting at the edge of his bed for two hours, simply trying to meditate, but decided that it was all for practice. And really, he wasn't sure whether he hadn't succeeded in doing it because the teen had never felt so relaxed.

Not really thinking much about it, Ash simply went to bed… and that's when he had the most bizarre dream ever. He didn't know whether he was actually sleeping or not, but it was altogether so strange that the boy figured he was in another dimension.

Looking around, it became clear that he was standing on a shape made up of tiny blue dots and the funny thing was, the dots moved along as he started walking, meaning that he created his own path. Beneath him was a substance that looked like clouds but their consistency made them look a little like shaving foam. And there were tree top-like shapes coming out of them, making Ash wonder what was below these funny clouds.

The dots allowed him to go anywhere he wanted, so the teen succeeded in getting below the layer of white, discovering that it was actually all non-sticky fluff. Underneath was something that the young trainer could only describe as a swamp in a jungle-like area. He almost expected to be feeling damp and somewhat moist air… but nothing changed.

Ash soon discovered that everything was made up out of tiny little dots, which all moved in a way that allowed him to scale and reach any spot he wished to go. It all felt incredibly welcoming and the boy couldn't help but feel completely at ease here. It took a while for him to notice that there was absolutely no sound and that nothing lived here… except for the dots.

It was a funny coincidence that this world was made up of that particular shape, as circles and polka dots were Ash's favourite shapes and patterns. There had been a time in his life where everything had been slightly round and really, Pikachu had no idea how much his trainer loved his little belly and those chubby, red cheeks~

It wasn't until a sudden noise sounded out that the boy woke up from his 'dream', startled by the sound. He quickly spotted that one of his picture books on his desk had lost its battle with gravity and had fallen on the wooden surface with a smack. But still, getting back to his actual room made him feel a little conflicted. He was relieved to be back in familiar territory but saddened to have left the one place he felt totally safe in. And that's when Ash realised it…

'Was this my own Aura I saw?' he wondered, remembering Mewtwo had told him something about that being possible.

And really, if his Aura had created such a world… then it was hardly surprising that the Legendary Pokémon had done a double taken and gone to find some other ways to entertain his Aura. Ash could have sworn he had seen mountains past those trees and all these hours of trying to discover this strange world had barely taken him past the edge of this jungle.

'But dots, of all things.' The teen thought, entertained by the mere thought.

And that's when he started realising about how strange it actually was that there were no actual trees or clouds in that world that would have been made up of the Power of Life.

'What if… my Aura is just like me?' he wondered. 'I too am trying to be something I really am not. Well, not yet but… My Aura looked like an actual tree from a distance, but under closer inspection, it's all a lie… Was it trying to mimic me, or was it a message? Or is that just the way these kinds of worlds are built? Is there even a certain way or rule to form a world in Aura?'

Ash was kept sufficiently busy to just straight up fall asleep after a while. It didn't quite mean he stopped thinking about the subject, but it made everything a lot less heavy on the heart. The last thing the teen actually remembered thinking, was that he was really missing Mewtwo and its input.


The morning of the next day was confusing, to say the least. Yes, Tracey had come by again, but Ash really wasn't looking forward to this whole event. Not anymore, at least, thanks to seeing the mass of people participating earlier. Then again, his mom seemed to think that meeting people was a good thing, so yeah…

At least the brunette came knocking after the teen had eaten a proper breakfast and would be good to go for at least a few hours. That being said, Tracey had asked him to change into a little more fancier clothes, just for the sake of the competition. Ash begrudgingly agreed, but now this shirt was getting itchy.

"Tracey, have I told you about how bad I am at staying in one spot?" the young trainer asked, his Pikachu faithfully waiting next to his feet as they waited to get inside.

"Yes, but I was hoping you would make an exception for me."

Those kinds of answers always managed to cause a little twitch at the side of Ash's eye.

"You'll notice I'll be making a whole lot of exceptions today if I need to keep standing the whole time as those judges are judging-" Ash looked down at the ticket in his hand that proudly displayed they were number one hundred and four. "-our one hundred and three fellow artist groups."

He couldn't particularly care for number one hundred and five or how many numbers followed behind him.

"I've got no idea how all this works, so give it a chance, Ash. It's not going to work in our favour if we're going to be standing there, complaining all the time."

"Tracey, buddy, what you're hearing now isn't close to complaining. You'll really hear me do that if there's no chair in the neighbourhood where I can at least take a seat or something." The teen chuckled. "I'm even willing to take turns if there's only one."

"I heard they will be having some food around as well, so I do think there will be at least a few chairs."

'Well, let's hope so. Because no matter how fancy I'm dressed, I'll go sit on the floor if the need is there.' Ash though, but figured Tracey could do without moaning about something he couldn't help either.

The teen looked deadly nervous too, which the young trainer frankly couldn't understand. Alright, he was a little nervous when he participated in a tournament, but everything you felt influenced your Pokémon, so you were better off calm. And really, now, with these pictures… What was the worst that could happen? A bad print?

Ash would completely wipe his hands from that, as he didn't have anything to do with that. All he did was hand over a USB-stick and when it had been returned, everything was done and dusted. So, all that was their responsibility, not his. And because of that, the teen saw or felt no need to get worried the slightest.

"Ease up a little, Tracey. Let me cheer you up with saying that you can only gain something… or so you told me yesterday, right?"

"Yeah, but this is a big deal for me, Ash." The brunette sighed. "You see, someone will be here and their approval would mean the world to me…"

"Ah, family? Are they not feeling happy that you're working with the world renowned Professor Oak? Or is it that they got wind that you have artistic tendencies that got you in trouble?"

"… A little bit of both, actually. And yes, family. I… Don't take this the wrong way, Ash, but please don't meddle."

"I've got enough problems of my own, Tracey, so consider me convinced." Ash stated simply. "This, for example, this whole competition, I could have done without the stress and that one night where I didn't get enough sleep."

"…"

"Let's hope there's food, though, it helps me put things in perspective a whole lot easier than words."

By the time they actually got entry into the large exhibition hall, it was close to noon anyway, and then they still needed to find their picture in the mass. Thankfully, they were numbered… and as the two teens and several other people noticed, already judged.

"… The irony of all this to think that I literally spend a whole night gazing at something to move or change but managed to get an honourable mention for my sense of humour by naming my picture 'Speechless' to add to your theme of 'Nameless'…" Ash sighed, looking at his prize, namely a voucher for books -decent amount of money he would spare by using this, though. "Ah well, at least it's something useful. Maybe I can finally get all those classics my therapist has been whining about."

Tracey managed to laugh a little nervously.

"Well, I didn't think we would be judged together. Though I'm going to have to compliment you on your picture, Ash, it's wonderful."

"Indeed so." A different voice said, causing the two teens to turn around.

"Thank you, Miss. Are you one of the judges I have to thank for this honourable mention?" the young trainer asked politely.

"You're very welcome." The woman answered, in a rather strange accent Ash couldn't place. "And yes, partially. I still have one prize to hand out, so please, as my personal favourite, have this box, Mr. Ketchum."

The teen was already amused that she called him mister, but Tracey's look at the development was priceless.

"Oh? Is that a thing, picking out personal favourites?"

"It was one of the rules of this competition." The woman answered as she smiled at the black haired teen. "But ah, where are my manners, my name is Alexa. I'm normally a Pokémon journalist, but I was called in today to be one of the judges."

"Nice to meet you, Miss Alexa." Ash said, nodding slightly.

"Likewise. Can I ask whether it was a complete coincidence this particular Pokémon choose to show up at such a special timing or if something else was at play?"

"I asked, actually."

"... Really now? Are you a trainer?" Alexa asked, suddenly looking rather pleased.

"Euhm, yes…" the teen commented, feeling a little awkward.

"You must have been living under a rock to not know him." Tracey muttered, clearly dejected that he didn't really have an outstanding result in this contest.

"Or from a region I never went too." Ash added.

"Ah, I am from Kalos."

"Nice! I was planning on going there, to continue my journey."

"Ah really? That is good to know." She smiled. "A shame I still have things to do here in Kanto, or I would have been able to join you and welcome you to my home region myself."

"Oh, I'm only going to be able to go there until the second week of January… That is to say, if everything goes as planned."

"When it does, give me a call." Alexa said, fishing out her card from her bag and held it out to the teen. "I usually prefer to travel with company and I would love to talk to you some more, Ash, so please consider leaving with me."

"I would love to!" the boy answered, slightly befuddled by the sudden but welcome preposition.

The woman simply smiled and left, actually leaving Ash alone with his prize he would struggle to take home on his own. He had enough issues carrying his own weight around, thank you very much. And it seemed like Tracey had simply disappeared as well.

"I was told I would find you here, but consider me surprised you would be a participant."

The teen blinked at the red-haired man who had suddenly walked into view, looking rather pleased for some reason.

"Yeah, I keep surprising myself as well. What are you doing here, Lance?"

"I went to your house but your mother wasn't too comfortable with my presence, so I came to see you instead. I hope you're okay with me being here?"

"Oh, absolutely. In fact, if you don't mind, could you do me the favour of carrying this box? I would do it myself but in my case, being top-heavy really isn't ideal."

"My pleasure." The man said simply. "Can I just ask how you got it here in the first place, if you're unable to carry it here."

"Oh, I won it. I was a judge favourite, apparently. And I got this too." Ash said, holding out the voucher so Lance could see.

"Really? Honourable mention and a judge favourite? Which is your entry then?"

"That one." The teen said, pointing at the framed picture behind him. "I never even moved from the point I came here."

"… Can we buy certain photographs?"

"I'm sure you'll be able to pry that information out of someone here. And if they do allow people to sell or give away their picture, simply have it, Lance. It's the least I can do for you."

"Thank you." The Champion said, now definitely looking pleased as punch. "I'll hang it in a nice and visible spot."

"Oh, yes, so everyone can ask you who photographed that Kyogre, hm? I'm already looking forward to it."

"You overestimate the number of people I actually meet in my office, Ash."

"Am I?"

"Don't be so paranoid. Besides, how did you get that Kyogre to do that?"

"Communication. The rest of the League might want to try that too, it would solve a whole lot."

"Cheeky. Communication is only half of the issue, you need to find people willing to listen too." Lance answered simply, picking up the box with so much ease it made Ash feel a little ashamed.

He would really like to manage something as simple as that too but…

"Maybe so. Fancy something to eat? I'm sure you'll find someone who you can ask about the picture there."

"Oh yes, I had been planning on finding something for lunch. I was trying to persuade your mother on coming with me but without success. I do wonder what's wrong with her, because she used to be okay when…"

"Can I just ask… I don't suppose you brought tea with you?"

"I did." The man answered, frowning at the boy. "Why?"

"Was it mint?"

"… Yes?"

"Never mind my mom's reaction." Ash chuckled, knowing fully well that it was his fault she might be dubious about Lance showing up exactly like he told her he would. "Let's get going."


Highly amused by the fact his mother was clearly trying to make it up to Lance by talking his ears off, the teen couldn't help but watch their strange conversation. He didn't quite follow what they were talking about, but it was clear that the red-haired man knew what Delia was talking about.

"Would you mind if I went to the bookstore?" the boy asked, once there was a while of silence.

"Bookstore?" the woman asked confused. "What do you need, sweetie?"

"Not sure, but this coupon thing is in my way, well, not really but... I want to get it over with and seeing as you two were so merrily talking, I figured I could just go for a little walk."

"Ah, of course, you're allowed to go, sweetheart, but really, you can sit with us, if you want? I mean, we… were talking about…" she trailed off, looking at Lance for some support.

But the man didn't seem to know what to say, making the boy realise what they were on about.

"Red? Well good, but there's little I can tell anyone about him that you two don't know." He said with a small smile on his face. "Come on, Pikachu, let's go. We'll be back in a bit!"

No one stopped him and for that, Ash was happy. He didn't particularly like talking about the past, not to mention something from the past he didn't know anything about. It would only end up with him getting patronized and if there was anything that would drive the teen up the ceiling, that was it.

Once in the store, the young trainer saw that there was a rather nifty collection of books, in a nice box and all. He gave the covers a look over and couldn't help notice that there were a couple of them his therapist kept referring to, like this 'Alice In Wonderland'. Seeing he would have a lot of time to spend, in couch potato style nonetheless, Ash decided for this simple solution.

The cashier didn't really react any different to the coupon so that was one step over and done with… but one of the older, err... more 'experienced' workers came by, one who actually knew Ash, though mostly his mother… Well, let's just say that the teen was rather pissed about the way this person had overreacted. He was chuffed with his books, yes, but the looks he was getting as he passed people with those books in his arms were getting to him.

Ash was annoyed that people acted so dubious when he suddenly decided to do something he usually didn't do? They hardly knew him and like, who were they to judge him, anyway? Thankfully, once at home, he at least found two people who were supportive of his decision. Lance probably was simply pleased that these books meant that he would stay indoors for a while.

"Why, sweetheart, I've read all these when I was about your age as well!" the woman said happily. "What made you take these, though?"

"The prospect of boredom and the fact I would like to know what my therapist keeps getting at?"

"Don't let them play with you, Ash." Lance suddenly piped up. "I've… had the misfortune of getting several and well…"

"All at once?" the teen grinned.

"Again, cheeky. You know what I'm talking about."

"I do." Ash chuckled. "So you don't really need to go into details. I just want to know what he's talking about and well… the more words I see, the more I know, remember?"

"Does that still count? You're talking pretty well already."

"No one really stops learning, do they?"


Lance had stayed quite a while, though Ash hadn't really noticed. He had seen the man leave, yes, but that was only him looking up from his book, and simply smile and wave. Minimal effort but maximal effect.

"He's going to come back, isn't he?" Delia asked once she went to sit with him.

"I think so." The teen answered simply.

"Did you ask him?"

"Hardly. I couldn't have made it more clear to anyone that I wanted to be left alone these past few days."

"Hm… Well, as long as people aren't going to start talking, I suppose it's all fine."

"They're already doing so." Ash said dryly. "Or did you think no one was going to notice me with books?"

"… Hardly the end of the world, I would suppose."

"For you, maybe but for others, unbelievable, I'm sure. Anyway, mom, let them talk. No one is expecting you to listen, so let them waste their breath."

"Oh, so you would like calling Lance your dad?"

"… What?!"

"Yes, that's the kind of talk we're going to have to suffer from, Ash, sweetie. When an unmarried man comes into a house of a… well, I'm as good as a widow, right?"

"Maybe, but Lance isn't actually unmarried, remember?"

"… He's not?"

"Nope. With his jobs keeping him busy, I hardly think he's going to be showing up here often enough for people to even remember he showed up. Alright, Lance is memorable enough, but I do think he knows there will be talk as well… Which makes me fear it's not him who will show up next time."

"Spare me, Ash. I couldn't keep a straight face when Lance showed up here with that tin of tea this morning." Delia sighed. "Who knows what he must've thought?"

"He told me. Straight up awkwardness."

"Ah…"

"As I told him, communication fixes a whole lot of issues." The teen said.

"Well, why don't you communicate what you would like to have for dinner?"

Ash couldn't help but notice that this was the second time today that an adult shut him down after mentioning the fact that talking to each other would help with some issues. He answered his mother, though, appreciating she asked for his opinion… But boy, did this world have issues?


"Good afternoon, friend!" Mewtwo said happily. "You continue to amaze me, because you look absolutely calm but your emotions somehow cannot decide between sadness and anger."

"People." Ash answered dryly, making the Legendary Pokémon snort in understanding. "How did your search go?"

"Wonderful. I have many things to teach you now but please… tell me why you feel so… what is that... with your hand?"

"Huh? This one?" the teen asked, holding up his left hand, knowing that if something was wrong with any of his hands, that one would be what Mewtwo was noticing.

"Yes, that one. What did you do?"

"Touch a Kyogre?"

"… Touch? How did you-? You know what, never mind, allow me a second to lament in the fact that you are unbelievable, Ash." The Pokémon sighed.

"It swam up to me during the Blood Moon. What was I supposed to do? Ignore it?"

"No, but Kyogre do not usually swim up to people. Aura Source or not."

"Yeah well… it did. And it was friendly too, it caused me to win this wicked camera that came with a tripod and everything. I'll show it to you one of these days."

"Please do, I am intrigued. Also, put the Kyogre out of your head, friend. It may have left its mark on you, but I doubt that you will ever see it again."

"Mm, maybe." The teen shrugged, looking at his hand but seeing no difference. "I was wondering, Mewtwo, that silver bracelet you put on my right wrist that day in the hospital. What does it do?"

"In a way, it is very much like putting a bookmark somewhere. It allows me to find you very easily, wherever you are."

"Ah, okay. Just wondering."

"That is perfectly alright. Being curious is a good thing, friend, do not stop asking questions."

"In that case… Are you interested in knowing I saw my Aura?"

"Absolutely! Tell me everything!"

The teen did, going into great detail of what he suspected was the cause that he had been able to see it and told Mewtwo about his experiments and well… everything he had seen there. It was only after his whole story that Ash realised something.

"Wait a minute… You could just have checked all this with your Psychic powers, couldn't you?"

"This was more entertaining. And it would not have allowed me to hear your apt description of what you saw, instantly drawing a connotation with it as a result. Why exactly are you not proud that your Aura is a whole world?"

"Because it's all dots?"

"Are you not happy with that?"

"I love polka dots."

"Then why would you complain?"

"I'm not complaining, I just don't understand? If Aura is the Power of Life, why isn't it alive? Why is it pretending to be something it's not?"

"Oh, but it is very much alive, Ash. And you are forgetting that everything on this earth is made up of components, called atoms." The being answered. "Neither you or your Aura are pretending to be anything, but you both are developing. What you saw was an incomplete world, not one trying to be something it's not. But you knew that, did you not? You have been thinking about it for as long as I was absent."

"Yes." The boy sighed, knowing there was no use in lying to his Legendary friend. "I came to that conclusion earlier…"

"Do not ask questions you already know the answer to, it is not very polite and usually a waste of time."

"Barely ten minutes passed since you literally asked me to never stop asking questions, Mewtwo. Now what am I supposed to do? All I wanted was reassurance, that nothing was wrong with me and you are the only one I can turn to for that, the only I can trust to understand-"

The being had grabbed the teen in a hug, so roughly that Ash stopped talking, mostly out of surprise.

"I'm not planning on leaving again, friend." Mewtwo said softly.

"… Thank you so much, I… Where would I be without you…?"

Feeling the young trainer snake his arms around its body, the Pokémon couldn't help but feel very wanted, something it had rarely felt before. And so, even though Mewtwo would never admit it, the being lowered its head until it reached the boy's forehead… and purred.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

"Listen, kid, either you're gonna tell me where that Kyogre is or else-?"

The reporter who had grabbed Gary by the front of his shirt suddenly discovered a new use for slime when it ended up on his face.

"Let Gary go, you creep!" Ash shouted.

The boy's aim hadn't suffered from anything, so yes, the man ended up leaving, if only to find a mirror to get the slime out of his eyes and all the other sensitive spot where you didn't want that sticky business at. The red-haired teen was anything but happy about this development, though glad for the help he had just received from the more than unexpected corner.

"Thanks, Ash… I really don't get what they're getting so aggressive for. I mean, it's kind of obvious there's no Kyogre here, right?"

The Pokémon Coral was big enough for to house several Legendary Pokémon, because Professor Oak would never lose hope of ever having one to study, but no… You could see that there was no extra-ordinary rare Pokémon was here. Well, unless you counted the glittering Noctowl... but his poisonous glare was convincing enough to get people to leave him alone.

"No, but I'm sorry. This is all my fault, thanks to that picture… Curse that Blood Moon and all the misery it brought with it. My sleeping schedule is all over the place and now you are getting bothered by the aftermath as well."

"This is in no way your fault, Ash," Gary said, shaking his head. "It's just that there is a lack of people who still understand the meaning of 'no' and 'I don't know'."

"Maybe. How is Professor Oak taking this?"

"Eh, you know…"

Ash knew because the man wanted to see the Kyogre as well. And yes, the teen had seen the little vein twitch in the Professor's left temple when he had explained what had happened during the Blood Moon. Minus the fact that the Pokémon apparently had left an invisible mark on him, though.

"Mm… Let's hope they'll realise there's nothing for them to grab here."

"Hah, that'll be the day." Gary chuckled. "Don't worry, Ash, it'll be fine. But will you be?"

"What do you mean?"

"The slime. I've seen you poking it so much, I know you're going to miss it."

"O-oh… Eh, I'll call Dawn or May, to ask how to make one again. Can't be that hard, can it?"

"Probably not."

Ash sighed as he saw Gary leave and decided to just go home as well. The familiar sense of fatigue was getting to him again and well… his mom was getting at the end of her tether. They had tried everything to get his sleep routine back on track, from tea to hot cocoa, minty body rubs and incense. This all calmed him down when he was in bed, but the boy just couldn't help waking up so many times during the night. He appreciated the incense then, though, as it drew out memories to keep him busy during the time he was awake. But otherwise, nothing helped him get a full night's sleep.

Delia wasn't averse to her son taking naps, but she had drawn the line after she had been looking for him the whole afternoon, only to discover he had squeezed himself onto one of the windowsills and had simply fallen asleep there, behind the curtain. Oh, the woman had found him alright, getting a freight along with it. Since then, the teen was forbidden to take a nap anywhere else but the couch or his bed, where she could see him. And well, while this story amused Mewtwo, the being had no idea what exactly was wrong with his friend, so it was no help for his issue either. Didn't mean the Pokémon wasn't doing the utmost to tire him out to the point he would have expected to at least sleep eight hours.


The teen resisted a groan, as he realised he was awake again. With his Pokémon out in the open, there was little he could do in his room, but it seemed like nature was going to entertain him tonight. Ash could hear the far away rumble of a thunderstorm and so, decided that he could try out his camera. He had been tinkering with it and it thankfully wasn't that different from the device Tracey had lent out to him, giving him a good idea of how to work with it.

The young trainer wasn't the most sneaky either, with his prosthesis leaving a distinct 'thump' on any surface… unless he wore socks. So, seeing it was two in the morning, Ash decided to spare his sleeping family from the noise and put on a fluffy pair -he couldn't see what colour it was, but who cared, really?-, now completely ready for his own little storm chasing. Or rather, waiting for the storm to come to him.

His attic window provided him with an excellent view of the light show, which didn't bring rain or hail with it, oddly enough. Ash figured it might be a Pokémon's doing, but seeing as he wouldn't risk getting wet, he opened the window and gingerly recorded the beautiful lightning bolts raining down. The teen wasn't too worried when the storm came closer, realising that Vermillion's Power Station would draw in the lightning strikes anyway.

It would give him a beautiful show too because Vermillion wasn't that far away from them. Staraptor could get him there in five minutes tops. Fuchsia was the closest, though because if you would be allowed to swim in the water in between Pallet and Fuchsia, outside the predestined Water Route 21, you could get there in a few minutes as well. Or at least, to Route 18, which wasn't all that long either.

But boy, while Ash's theory played out exactly like he had imagined it would do, the storm struck with a vengeance while it was on its way to the Power Station. This one wicked bolt came down right in front of him, or rather, it felt that way. The hair on the teen's arm was on end but the rest of him was just as shocked, thanks to the clap of thunder following straight after. Ash realised that his camera had been running, recording this whole and this annoying little voice in the back of his head supplied him with the info that he was so lucky to not have started swearing.

But the boy couldn't care less about that, now more worried about the fact he could see where the lightning bolt had hit. It had been on Route 18, which normally wouldn't be that worrisome, but it hadn't rained here for a while, making the ground and the plants dry and… Yes, the wind was picking up, bringing the orange glow to life. Ash couldn't get down fast enough but got the fright of his life when he ended up walking into his mother. He really had to bite his tongue not the scream out.

"Mom! What are you doing here?!" he exclaimed.

"That thunder woke me up, Ash." The woman stated simply, apparently having heard him stumble down the stairs. "Now why are you walking around like your shoes are on fire?"

"It's not my shoes that are on fire, it's Route 18!" Ash exclaimed. "I couldn't sleep and so I tried to record this storm, but the lightning was super close and-"

"Go recall your Pokémon, dear, they're awake anyhow. I'll go see how bad the situation is on Route 18."

The boy was still full of adrenaline and so, he shot into his bedroom. His apocalyptic expression was enough to convince his normally carefree Pokémon into their Pokéball. Nothing could convince Pikachu, though, but Ash was used to that by now. He just grabbed that one hoodie where his starter could sit in the hood and put it on, over his pyjama's. It probably looked ridiculous but the teen really couldn't care about that.

Not when his mom was coming down the stairs, screaming that they should be getting out of this house as soon as possible, when someone was desperately ringing the doorbell at the same time. Things got really confusing for the boy, but he clasped his camera close in one hand and the other firmly around his mother's arm. He never noticed that he was brought to Professor Oak's lab, thinking too much about the raging inferno which had been dancing in the background, behind his home. The wind's direction was all over the place too, hence why they were probably evacuated. They were the one's closest to the edge, after all…

But everyone from that side of Pallet was brought to safer places, because well… only those in the Pallet cemetery wouldn't have been woken up by that thunder. Ash couldn't help but wonder who was taking care of the Pokémon that had been surprised by the sudden fire, though. His mind supplied him with a rather pessimistic, but realistic answer, which brought tears to his eyes. And it was in that state that the boy stepped into the laboratory.


"Delia, I'm so sorry." The man said, as if the woman didn't realise that her home was in the direct line of fire.

Even her Mr. Mime was looking solemn, probably the only time in his life that he understood what the heck was going on. Talk about small miracles at bad times…

"So am I. But there's nothing we could've done against nature's ways."

"… What?"

"Ash apparently saw it happen." She said but frowned when she noticed her son was crying as he held his camera close. "Gods, is there some place he can rest?"

Professor Oak could see that the teen wasn't taking this situation all too well and promptly called for help.

"Tracey! Take Ash to your room and stay there with him unless I say otherwise."

"Okay, Professor!" the brunette said, already happy he could be of some use.

"Professor Ivy, if you can, could you-"

"You don't even need to ask, Samuel." The Professor said, swiftly following the two.

Unfortunately, Tracey's bedroom was the one usually for the guests… and had a lovely view of Ash's house and the burning inferno behind it.

"… Should I close the curtains?" the teen suggested doubtfully, as he too was unsettled by this situation.

"I don't think he sees a thing right now, Tracey." Professor Ivy said, gently easing the teen down the bed.

It was partially the truth as the young trainer was too much out of it to give an answer or visually see anything. But that didn't mean he couldn't see what was going on, though. His Aura provided him with plenty details and in hindsight, Ash would call himself the biggest idiot in the world to even use his power in a situation like this.

But right as the woman was trying to get the boy to lay down, a strange feeling went through him, causing him to jump up and throw the window open in no time. Once he had access to the outside, Ash let out the most unearthly squeal either of the two present in the room had ever heard. Tracey, who had jumped up to go after his friend, fearing for a second that the teen might just try to jump out of the window, was heavily startled and slammed the window shut again.

"Ash, what the h-"

*SSSSSSSSSSSSSQQQQQQQQQQQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL*

The sound was so loud, they could feel it reverberate through the house. Everyone was probably as startled as Professor Ivy and Tracey… but the former a bit more, because she realised that -thanks to it sounding so eerily familiar to the sound Ash had just produced- it was an answer. And it didn't take long before her mind supplied her with an answer as to whom this call belonged too, helped by the heavy raindrops that started to fall all of a sudden.

Tracey wasn't born yesterday either, but he was staring at the ceiling as if Arceus itself had shown up there.

"R-rain…? He called a…"

"Yeah… Yeah, he did. " Professor Ivy said, also very impressed by the event that had played out in front of them just now.

She was a little less impressed when Ash felt into a dead faint, barely missing the sharp edge of one of the cabinets thanks to Tracey's quick interference. While the brunette had no trouble getting the teen to the bed, the woman was torn in her mixed feelings.

Should she tell Professor Oak about this… or not?"


The heavy rain had washed away all the flames and made sure that the soil was plenty moist to prevent another fire from flickering up. And despite the loud call, there were plenty of people who had no idea what actually had happened. Most didn't even know how this fire had started, but somehow, Professor Oak was befuddled to find that Ash was the answer to both of these questions.

"Are you sure, Professor Ivy?"

"Yes. But Arceus help me, Samuel, don't you dare tell anyone else, because I will find you." She said, staring at him with this look that made the man sure that she wasn't joking. "Ash was suffering a great deal, so much that he… fainted after calling that Kyogre."

"Professor, I won't tell anyone. Who would even believe me, for starters? And secondly, I have nothing to gain from betraying Ash's fickle trust. He hardly tells me anything at all these days, which I can't blame him for but… I refuse to lose your trust as well."

"Well… Good. Maybe you should ask him for the video he made of that fire, that would at least calm Lieutenant Surge down."

"Wait, what? Did he tape it?!"

"Or so his mother told me when I took the two of them home." The woman answered.

"If it's all the same to you, I would rather go ask him right now, before he deletes it. There could be vital information on that video." The man said. "I knew he saw what happened but… goodness…"

"If that's you asking to keep watch over your laboratory, consider it done. But be careful, who knows how Ash is feeling now…"

Professor Oak nodded, but to be honest, Delia was far too happy for anything serious to be wrong with the boy. She seemed to be busy with cleaning her house and from what the man could see, Mr. Mime was having the time of his life.

"Where's Ash, Delia?"

"In the garden. Lamenting over what's lost, probably." She sighed, pausing her mopping for a while. "I told him that everything would grow back but well… At least the news that the fire never reached Fuchsia lightened his mood a little because heaven help us if he found out anything had happened to the Safari Zone."

"Indeed, but I fear that Ash would not be the only one who would be downcast, should that have happened. Nevertheless, I have things I need to talk to him about."

"If you could be so kind to go 'round the back? Less chance of slipping, I would say."

That was a subtle hint that she didn't want anyone to walk through the part she had already cleaned, so Professor Oak chose to heed her warning. Ash had probably chosen to sit in the garden for the same reason, but he soon found out that the boy was doing anything but lamenting, though.

"Gliscor, come back here! And give that back!"

The Pokémon had nabbed the boy's cap, probably to cheer him up. At least the boy was moving…

"Ash, my boy!" he announced, causing Gliscor to turn around and get tackled by his trainer.

"Gotcha!"

Thankfully, the Pokémon was a good sport and took the defeat in stride, even though there had been a bit of cheating involved.

"Hey, Professor. Did mom send you here as well?"

"Mostly because I wanted to talk to you, my boy."

Ash did indeed have the answer to what had happened, but Professor Oak could have done with the boy's wicked tricks.

"If mom doesn't want me to go through the inside, then I'll go through using the outside." The teen had said and just scaled the wall until he reached the open window of his room.

The young trainer always had been this kind of rascal, but you would think that losing a vital part of your body would at least stop actions like these, wouldn't you? Well, apparently, Ash had a lot more faith in his prosthetic leg than everyone had expected. But it got Professor Oak what he wanted, a lot quicker than he imagined and that was something he could only applaud.

While the boy had followed him back to the laboratory, Ash never suspected to suddenly get questioned by several people who had promptly decided to go there as well. It probably was Professor Oak's fault, because he had already told everyone he had visual evidence of what had occurred last night before he even went to Ash.

"So?" Lt. Surge said, narrowing his eyes at the man, who had stepped in front of the boy.

"If I had known it was such a sensitive matter to draw you lot here, I would have waited. But as you're here… Ash, would you do the honours of uploading the video on my computer?"

"A-ah… Yes." The teen said, quickly moving away.

"Now, let's all stay calm and go to the living room…"


Ash didn't envy Professor Oak. After all, he wouldn't want to be under the inspecting gaze of either Koga or Lt. Surge, no matter if he had the answer to one of their questions. Right now, all the teen wanted to do was make another slime. Thanks to time zones being an actual thing, he figured he better wait until it was kind of a respectable hour before attempting to call any of his friends.

However, before he could even go and get his transceiver, which was laying on his desk, forgotten again, he got a visitor, from not too far away.

"Brock!" the teen stated delight, practically skipping towards his friend.

"Good to see you too, Ash." Brock chuckled, barely having crossed the threshold of the house.

He undoubtedly had talked with Delia before entry, so Ash was pretty sure he would get a whole speech about self-preservation and how he should forget about this fire…

"What brings you here?"

"I wanted to see how you were doing, Ash, I too heard about this accident. And when the news states that there was a Pallet native who recorded what happened, I just knew it was you."

"Ah… Do you want to see?"

"No thanks, I've seen enough outside, which was pretty creepy. Besides, I came here to talk and really… Gary told me something about you having rescued him with some slime, so…"

Ash couldn't help but grin as he noticed the rather large bag in Brock's hand. It looked pretty full and heavy, so he was already looking forward to this.

"You're going to help me make some?" he asked hopefully.

"If my little sisters can make it, so can I!" the teen stated valiantly. "Mrs. Ketchum, can we use the kitchen?"

"Of course, dear, just be careful, okay? I just cleaned the place."

"Will do, mom!" Ash chuckled and skipped towards the kitchen.

"You're walking a whole lot better, aren't you?" Brock asked, upon entering the room.

The black haired boy blinked and turned to his friend, looking a little confused at the sudden statement. Or was it a compliment?

"Yeah?"

"No one's ever said that to you before, have they?"

"No? I mean, I fell really badly, like, not too long ago, so I don't think anyone in Pallet ever even noticed I was doing 'better' when all they were seeing was worse… Though the doctor made me rope-skip before I was even released, that scared he was for that League test."

"Was it that bad?" the teen chuckled, though he could see the answer on his friend's exasperated expression.

"Not really. Though they made me rope-skip straight from the start. You should have seen Surge's face when I successfully pulled it off!" the boy grinned.

"Boy, that's some instructor to have. How did you score?"

"Well enough to be allowed ten Pokémon in my party, apparently." Ash stated proudly, looking mightily chuffed with it too.

"Really? That's…"

"Amazing? Because it means I can take strong Pokémon with me to make sure I won't get stuck anywhere! Like, I could take Charizard and trust him to catch me, should I fall anywhere high, I could take Tauros, to carry me, should my legs fail… I'm really looking forward to going to Kalos!"

"You've obviously been thinking about it. When are you leaving?"

"I'm not until I get the all clear from my doctor." The teen shrugged. "I don't doubt that I'll have good results… but this fire and everything's that happened is just…"

"I get it. Let's make some slime, that way you have something to squeeze."

"Sounds more than good."


While the teens were busy making a mess of themselves with their slime project, there was a little more serious occurrence in a nicely decorated room in the League. Not the Indigo League, per say, it was the building no one but the elites and a select few actually knew. And this time, it had been Lance who had been called in for a chat with Mr. Goodshow himself.

"Lance, I need to talk to you about Ash."

"So much for secrecy." the man sighed, rolling his eyes.

He should have expected that nothing could be kept from under the President of the Pokémon's League watchful gaze, especially when it considered young, talented trainers. And heck, Charles got all the right facts so really, it would be a miracle if he wouldn't have been able to make out what had happened. Thankfully, the man had no bad intentions whatsoever, hence why Lance even came here today.

"You can't call out a Kyogre that vocally and expect no one to hear it. Alright, so most of the Pallet people didn't hear it, but I wouldn't suspect anything less from people whose home was being threatened by that fire."

"And?"

"Well, Ash apparently also saw what happened and has probably saved the whole city of Fuchsia, including the Safari Zone."

"You can hardly ask me to punish him for that." the red-haired man said, leaning back in his chair in a rather nonchalant way. "Or is that why you called me here?"

"I've noticed you've taken up the role of caretaker. I think it's more than that."

"Oh?"

"Your lack of reaction to the news that Ash called out a Kyogre disturbs me. You, of all people, should know that Legendary Pokémon aren't to be trifled with."

"And neither is Ash." Lance shot back, rather quickly. "I'll make sure of that. Now, of all people, surely you can't be so stupid as to not have noticed the picture in my office? The same one that caused me to get some officers to guard Professor Oak's laboratory?"

"..."

"The boy just told me he asked the Pokémon, okay? So what if they're just friends?"

"That still makes this a deal as big as the size of the League!" Mr. Goodshow exclaimed. "I know you're good in acting as if you don't care, but I know you better than that."

"Was that what you wanted to tell me today, sir? That I should be considering a career in acting?"

"One of these days, Lance..."

"Today is not that day. If you think I haven't... announced his future arrival to some important people who have eyes everywhere where the kid goes, then you're sorrily mistaken. Also, haven't you noticed how many times I've been called? By Steven, nonetheless?"

"Ah... His euhm... vacation planning, wasn't it?"

"Very coincidental, though, isn't, that he wants to leave as soon as Ash leaves?" Lance said and narrowed his eyes.

"I can assure you he doesn't know it from me... Unless he's very good at riddles."

"You should really get to know us better, sir. Steven is the best at solving puzzles, he's an archeologist, for goodness' sake."

"Yes well... The more eyes on the kid, the better. Who knows if Kalos has some enormous Legendary Pokémon that suddenly wants to become friends?"

"I have a feeling one Legendary will be enough for Ash to maintain. Should they become such close friends."

"Quite." Mr. Goodshow said, blissfully unaware of the plans a certain Pokémon was making, somewhere far away from their current location.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

Aaaah, Christmas… Ash remembered the event fondly, since he would have his mother's undivided attention on him at all times and who didn't like getting present? But his memories were getting little dents in them because now that he witnessed Pallet getting ready for this year's edition, he couldn't help but notice that it looked… a little fake.

Winter in his hometown wasn't really anything else but a sudden chilly wind showing up, really. Thanks to its sea climate and neighbouring volcano island called Cinnabar, Pallet would never have any kind of weather like… let's say Mt. Silver. Now that was Winter!

However, the residents had an idea of what snow looked like because they all remembered that one time it had started snowing out of the blue and they all thought it to be so idyllic… Typical Pallet mood, of course, because the fact that the world had actually been on the verge of ending had gotten lost as the story had been passed on. So now, the people were just adding fake, spray-on snow to every spot they could get their hands on.

Ash had been mildly amused when he watched people drag spruce trees around and about but slightly apprehensive about how people suddenly started talking to him. Most of it were well-wishes but… he didn't quite believe in them. Yes, yes, he would apologise to Jirachi later, but heck, if those wishes worked, his leg would have grown back a long time ago.

But come on, how could he trust these people? They dared to claim their dream was world peace, but Ash had seen them going at each other's throats all the other weeks of the year… What was the truth? He was aware a special kind of mood affected everyone in this period, but there were limits to how 'jolly' he was himself. Or maybe this was him over thinking things again… Anyway, whatever strange mental affliction Christmas brought along, a little after New Year's day, the Pallet residents would unearth their -figural- battle axes once more to start bickering about the New Year's Festival, just like usual.

"You're looking deep in thought, sweetie."

His mother's soft voice snapped him out of his daydreaming and caused him to turn to her.

"Oh… Yeah, I was just thinking about Christmas."

"Are you excited?"

"… More a little creeped out, really. Why do people in Pallet change so easily, mom?"

"What makes you say that, sweetie?"

He told her what he had been thinking about, but also added how strange it was that people had two, or even more, faces. The teen had noticed this a while ago but the more he perceived his hometown, the more glaring shortcomings it started to show.

"I mean, a wish only works when you're actively working towards the goal you wished for to make it come true, so… what have they done to make my health better? Or are lies and gossip suddenly to be considered medicinal?"

"They're just bored, sweetie, don't mind them and whatever they say." The woman said, smiling warmly. "But you're right in what you say about wishes. Hence why the saying goes 'be careful what you wish for' exists."

"… Like dreaming for a white Christmas? I mean, I've travelled through snow before and I'm pretty sure Pallet wouldn't be able to handle actual snow at all. Imagine how fun it must be with all the roads clogged up with people whinging about the bad weather when everyone needs to do their Christmas shopping."

Delia chuckled and nodded.

"Indeed, that's a fine example. I would try and say that you shouldn't overthink things, but honestly, since you started reading those books, you seem to have become unable to. So… Why not help me get our own decorations from the attic? I promise I won't add fake snow."

"Alright, it's good practice for me as well." He said, getting up from the couch. "Do I bring all the boxes with the 'Christmas' label?"

"Yes, please. I'm going to start cleaning a little, so we're fully prepared."

Ash simply nodded in reply, knowing fully well that he shouldn't disturb his mother whenever she was getting ready for something. Last time, he had asked her something when she had been gathering her tools and he nearly had gotten a rock hard and stiff mop in his face. So no, that was a risk the teen wouldn't take and as such, silently went upstairs.

"Alright, Pikachu…" he said as he reached the attic. "Let's try and find those Christmas boxes."

"Pi?"

The Pokémon had -of course- followed him upstairs and was now standing on… a thing. Ash couldn't see what it was for the life of him, but that was typically the kind of stuff on that side of the attic. The other side was his little area, one Tracey apparently liked a lot.

"Go for the musty smelling ones." Ash chuckled.

That had been the right thing to say because Pikachu dove straight into the pile of boxes. It did force the teen to follow him but hey, Ash would blindly trust a Pokémon's sense of smell. And it paid off, as his little buddy had found their target.

"Aha! Those are the ones we need. Now to figure out how I can actually reach them without having to squeeze myself through that little hole."


Oooh, the boy was so pleased when he could carry those heavy boxes down the stairs without having to need to ask for help. It wasn't easy, but these days, Ash would take pride in the fact he could independently get around and about, creating mischief just like he used to. That stupid incident with Lance and that camera box just wouldn't leave him alone… And while it had been clear the man hadn't minded doing that, never before had the teen felt such a desire to be swallowed whole by the floor, that mortified he had been.

Even if he used helping his mother as a secret guise to practise a little more, Ash never wanted to show such clear weakness again. Call it his manly pride -if that actually was a thing- but he didn't want to look so pathetic ever again. In fact, the teen was happy it had just been Lance and him, or he would never live it down. Granted, Pikachu had been there too, but the Pokémon had seen his trainer in all kinds of ways before, especially bad ones, so he really didn't bother. Friends didn't care about things like that, right?

"… Mom?" he asked, blinking as he reached the ground floor to suddenly be met with a tree that wasn't there when he had brought all those other boxes downstairs. "Did you cut down one of the trees outside?"

"Uprooted, actually. I would never cut down a tree, dear, that would be such a shame. Besides, I'm going to put it back once we're done celebrating."

"… Well, you're one of the best gardeners in Pallet, so I suppose you know what you're doing…" the teen stated dryly.

"Of course, I do. It will only be here for a little while, sweetie, so it won't be that big a deal. Besides, this blue spruce has been my trusty Christmas tree for a while now, so I know it can take this kind of treatment."

There was no way Ash was going to argue against a person who could uproot a tree on her own, so he simply shrugged.

"I suppose plenty of mulch will do the trick when putting it back?"

"Good guess, sweetheart." The woman answered, smiling widely. "Maybe I will be able to make a fine gardener out of you after all."

"… I'll be looking forward to it." he quipped and went over to put his box with the rest. "This was the last one, mom."

"Ah, okay. Give me a second, I'm almost done cleaning this area."

"I'll just… linger here, I suppose."

Delia nodded and continued whatever she was doing. Ash had no visual on it, but from the look of things, his mother had successfully moved an entire closet on her own, simply to make some room for the tree.

'If only she wasn't so girly, mom could have participated in one of those strong men competitions.' He thought wryly.

So yeah, he wasn't going to make a single peep about anything. Besides, the teen noticed that the way people celebrated Christmas had changed so much since the last Christmas he had spent at home. His mom probably wasn't looking for any constructive criticism from his part either, seeing his view on this particular holiday clearly was a little outdated.

She seemed to have been doing quite fine on her own all these years prior to this year's Christmas if any of the pictures she had sent him were anything to go by. So unless his mother had heavily decorated this one corner of the house and chose to stand there to take her selfie, with the rest of the house barren, Ash figured she would be just fine on her own again. But that didn't mean he suddenly liked this whole display of bad taste.

"Okay, I think I'm done with the cleaning." She said, appearing from behind the tree. "Can you check those boxes for me and find some fairy lights?"

"Sure. But aren't they called Christmas lights?"

"Same thing, really." The woman answered, shrugging. "It's just become this thing that people use this decoration outside of any holiday, so they've made up another name for them."

"Oh… I didn't know fairies were an actual thing, though?"

"Mm, I remember that Professor Oak came to tell me about it. They discovered Mimey is a part fairy too, you see?"

Ash blinked and turned to the oblivious Pokémon.

"No, I… I'm not seeing it, actually."

Delia chuckled and shook her head, giving him a little poke in the side.

"Don't worry about it. I heard it was discovered in Kalos, so you can ask the regional Professor when you get there."

"Professor Sycamore? By the time I leave, I'm gonna have a whole list!"

"And I'm pretty sure he'll be just as pleased as any actual Professor to answer all your questions."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Of course, dear, don't worry. Now, pass me those baubles, will you?"


Ash had flopped down on his bed, letting out a big sigh as the soft mattress welcomed him back. He didn't remember that this decorating would be so tiresome but here he was, more than happy to have a lie down on his bed. However, there's truly no rest for the wicked, as soon turned out when his transceiver went off. He dragged himself towards his desk and sighed again when he noticed May had sent him this incredibly innocent message…

'Do you want to join in on our Secret Santa this year?'

The teen had three reasons to say 'no' to her; one: he was really tired; two: the shops were nearly closing and three: even if he sends out a gift, it would never arrive on time, since tomorrow was literally Christmas Eve. He only had one reason to say 'yes' to her though, which was because he didn't want to make May sad… And so Ash did it, the idiot he was.

Leave it up to the girl to work his heartstrings with a single message and curse his own mind for tricking him into believing she would be heartbroken if he didn't participate. Still, he figured she was pretty psyched to organise these kinds of group projects, so maybe she would have been a little sad… Either way, his transceiver proudly displayed that he had sent his confirmation, so there was no going back now. Talking about that device, Ash noticed he would have to send it in for repairing or buy a new one soon because there were a little too much dead pixels starting to show. Or rather, not showing at all.

He was getting good at guessing what was being sent to him, but that was a good thing because May soon messaged him back with a whole scenario of what needed to happen. Leave it to her to know when which shops closed too since she had just made up a whole travel plan for him. Heck, May had even included a little permission slip for free shipping, which was kind of cool. However, Ash was already mentally preparing for some prodding or -heaven help him- sneaky, ambiguous comments, seeing his mom would undoubtedly ask what he was going to do… And mothers always seem to know their children's weak spots.

"Mom?" he called out as he descended the stairs.

"Yes, sweetie?" she answered, appearing right next to him, as she had been decorating the wall right next to the staircase.

"… More lights?" the teen asked, gazing at his mother's handiwork.

"You can never have enough lights."

"Ah… Well, is it okay if I leave to do some shopping?"

"I was planning on heading out as well, so if you want some company…?"

"Not really, I'll be heading out of Pallet." He said.

"Oooh, you're getting something for a friend." The woman grinned deviously. "Who is it?"

Ash was a little unnerved she had made the mental connection of him not wanting to buy anything from Pallet to avoid gossip so quickly.

"… Dawn? It's for a Secret Santa project May suggested. She gave me a plan to follow so hence why I'm not getting anything in from here."

The boy actually showed her the message he had gotten… but that omnipresent smile was working on his nerves.

"Ah, Dawn? She's a nice girl, isn't she? So thoughtful and kind…" Delia said, winking at him. "Do you need some tips?"

"Nah, I'll be fine," Ash said quickly, making a rather hasty move towards the front door. "I'm going to have to hurry, though, or the shops will close after all. Bye, mom."

"Okay! Take care, sweetie!"


'That was a close one…' the teen thought as he flew -or rather, glided- towards Johto on Gliscor's back.

He figured that one of the downsides of not being ill or wounded was that his mother's embarrassing comments had made a comeback. And after seeing that her son had gotten used to the underwear remarks, she went straight to the other subject that could transform Ash's head into a tomato in seconds. Yes, girls.

Ever since he had danced with Green, she had become convinced that her little baby was growing up after all -not a compliment towards Ash honestly but hey- and was surprisingly romantic. And he didn't have the heart to deny it, even though the girl in love with him would still have to paint herself in neon colours and use a speaker to shout 'I LOVE YOU!' before he would actually get the message. And then Ash would still ask her to repeat herself, thinking he had misheard her. Yep, just because he had learned how to dance didn't mean he was any closer to becoming a 'Don Juan' all of a sudden.

Gary was no help either, as he was far to amused by this situation, even though he knew Ash was still as dense as Osmium. And just to give an example, that material was so dense, that if you dropped a teaspoon of it on earth, it would embed itself deeply into the ground, to never be visible to the naked eye again.

Next to that fact, the teen couldn't really bring himself to care about relationships, for he didn't even know how to make normal friends in the first place. People either liked him or hated his guts. That was the black and white world Ash had grown up in and it had left him befuddled when talking about relationships. And yeah, his mother and her airport novels had left her expectant for something her son had no plans for, just of yet, so her prodding wasn't surprising. They were both emotional disasters and the boy couldn't wait for his mom to realise he wasn't going to buckle and fit into her stereotypical view of a difficult pubescent teen.

"Pi?"

Ash blinked as he looked at this starter. Pikachu would never normally snap him out of his thoughts, knowing that his trainer liked to daydream… so unless his expressions had been less than pleasant, the Pokémon wouldn't have interrupted him like that. But seeing as Pikachu was pulling a face, the teen figured that was exactly what had occurred.

"Don't worry, buddy, I was just thinking." He said. "Humans are so weird and you can't really tell what their thinking."

The Pokémon simply answered by licking his cheek, an action that always cheered up his trainer. It had the wanted effect on him, but it would take some more licking to keep his troubled thoughts away. Or rather, it would have if Gliscor didn't choose that moment to make a 360° turn.

"What the- GLISCOR!" Ash exclaimed, quickly grabbing a hold of the flying Pokémon and Pikachu.

The horizontal turn succeeded in changing his expression all too well because now, the teen looked a little queasy. And heck, Gliscor had the gull to be laughing and yes, Ash knew because he could feel the Pokémon shaking.

'Oh, laugh it up, you purple gargoyle.' He thought.

The Pokémon was still sounding pleased and honestly, the teen had to give it to him, he had forgotten his troubles for a while.

"Please don't do that when I've got a bag with me?"

Gliscor purred in response and with that, Ash knew he and his purchases would have a safe flight… if he didn't let himself get swallowed by his thoughts again.


"What the…?"

The teen couldn't believe his eyes when he saw a massively sized group of people, chanting… or was it called carolling? It was only after Gliscor had landed that Ash figured it was a choir but honestly… He hadn't expected to see this after having deposited his package for Dawn at the postal office. It was probably being carried off but… this choir, though…

These were all people from Pallet, that much was sure, as he recognised their faces. Like the blonde woman up front, that was most definitely Mrs. Cathy, one of his mom's friends who came over to 'discuss' the developments in the town at the end of the week. Ash would have liked her if she didn't suspiciously stop talking whenever he came around… but honesty -and he didn't state this out of spite or anything- the woman still sounded out of tune when she kept her mouth shut. Hearing her sing was not a treat.

But well, Ash quickly went inside the house, unwilling to keep listening to the 'singing'. His Pokémon couldn't get into the house fast enough as well, seemingly enjoying the sound as much as their trainer did.

"Ah, Ash, my boy!" suddenly sounded out, making the teen look up.

"Professor? What are you doing here?"

"Merely visiting, really. How are you liking the background music?"

Just as the man had asked that question, the singing reached a particularly high note, making the teen cringe.

"Euhm.. It kind of reminds me of what my Tauros do in the morning, you know? When the sun comes up?" Ash answered doubtfully, not knowing how the Professor would react to his remark. "Classical isn't really my thing, though."

"Ahaha, maybe so, my boy. But honestly, 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas' can hardly be considered as a classical piece of music."

"O-oh, that's what they're singing, huh…?"

Professor Oak couldn't help but laugh at the befuddled expression the boy sported when turning to look out the window. He could understand that all this was very alien to the boy, but it was good to see Ash was taking it in his stride.

"Yes, one needs to develop a particular kind of taste to appreciate this kind of singing. For now, I will thank my patience that came with my age which enables me to tolerate this." He answered with a smile on his face. "Now, I see you've done some shopping?"

"Oh yeah, I participated in the Secret Santa thing and I figured I could find something for mom while I was there. I mean, I must've been a terrible bother for her this year, so the least I can do is actually give her the signal I care, right?"

"Too right, my boy, I'm sure she'll appreciate it."

But honestly, the Professor was pleased Ash was a little active again, as this Secret Santa project could literally have ended in disaster. He was getting a little old for such kind of drama, but with Tracey and Gary participating in it, it was hard not to hear what they were saying. Most of it was the kids telling each other off, but Brock had been a little annoyed at everyone when they had said Ash might not be up to the task. Well, the man was glad the teen handed them their opinion back and participated.

"Right, let me just put this under this tree. If there's still any room…"

Ash was starting to think that it hadn't just been his mother who had started to bring in presents. The tree had been barren from any kind of gift and now, it was pretty much fully booked. He had barely been able to nudge his own, decently sized box in an inconspicuous spot. However, he ended up bumping his foot against one of the presents and it made a most horrible 'thud'.

"Ash! Are you okay?" Professor Oak asked instantly.

"Yeah, it's just my left foot that hit this box." The teen said simply, moving out of the way already. "Mom certainly went all out with her shopping."

"They're not all hers, my boy, the one you just ended up smacking your foot against is from one of your friends, for example. But are you sure you're okay, Ash?"

"Professor…" he sighed, giving three knocks on his prosthesis, making a rather metallic noise ring out.

The man made a rather odd noise, but the teen decided to forgive him. After all, it was just yesterday when someone from the other side of his hometown had come over and literally bend down to the level of his leg and asked if he really had gotten his leg cut off. Being subtle wasn't an easy to find characteristic in some people these days, so Ash was already glad Professor Oak was still decent about it.

"Right, I'm gonna go up for a bit. Will you be staying?"

"I just arrived, my boy, your mother is making me some coffee."

"Ah, okay, see you later then." The teen said and disappeared up the stairs.


"So... What do you make of him?" Delia asked, having come sit with him in the living room.

"He's got every right to be confused about how awkward everyone is around Christmas. I've seen the craze get worse and worse over the years and it's barely tolerable, so let's not forget how strange this must be for Ash."

"Mm… You didn't get any snide remarks send your way?"

The Professor chuckled and shook his head.

"No, Delia, not at all. All his comments were justified as well, if I'm totally honest. Besides, he's bound to pick up something from all the reading he's been doing, which you can clearly tell by his creative insults."

"His therapist said it was good for his cognitive thinking. And it would stimulate his brain to make logical conclusions or something." She answered, not looking all too convinced.

"I see, well, I-"

Before the man could finish his sentence, he got greatly startled by Gliscor, who suddenly shot up from where he had been peacefully sleeping. The Pokémon had gone all rigid and was staring at the hallway with an uncharacteristically serious expression. It unnerved both adults and it really didn't help when a very ominous kind of whine sounded up from what they assumed to be Ash's room.

"… Was that Pikachu?" Delia asked, her eyes wide and frightened.

And then a loud stumble could be heard, as if something relatively heavy had just tumbled to the floor. Professor was quick to get out of the couch, recognising all too well that these noises should not occur in Ash's room at all. And with the boy's health at risk, having something falling on him could have disastrous consequences.

"Delia, stay here. Stay alert just in case I need help, okay?"

The woman nodded, clearly unnerved, but the man didn't have time to worry about her. He ascended the stairs as quick as his age allowed him and heck, he was just in time to see a bright blue flash disappear from the teen's room. Something had been there, he was sure of it!

But to his horror, he saw that Ash was on the floor, clearly unconscious and laying at an odd angle. It didn't take long for the Professor to connect to dots on what happened, seeing there was a little bit of blood on the edge of the nightstand, right where the unconscious boy was laying. A quick observation from the quickly growing bump on Ash's right side of his face and some other details, he figured his young friend wasn't in any danger and was just in need of a band-aid for the small cut and some ice… and probably some company.

"Delia!" Professor Oak called out, turning back to the hallway.

"Yes!?"

"Can you give my laboratory a call and ask for Ash's Glalie to be sent here? I'm afraid your son managed to knock himself out with his nightstand."

"Honestly…!" the woman called out, as she shuffled off.

Seeing as Gliscor had come crawling into the stairs as soon as the passage towards it was free, the man had a more than willing carrier to get the unconscious trainer towards the ground floor. Even if the boy's prosthesis was the heaviest part of him, Professor Oak had become unable to carry any teen up or down the stairs a while ago. It was just one of those things he had needed to come to terms with…

But seeing how animatedly Pikachu was talking to Gliscor, even Delia was convinced that the Professor had been downplaying what had actually happened. Thankfully for the man, the evident thumping at the door signalled that Glalie had arrived and would stall the woman's intense questioning for a few minutes.

Once the ice Pokémon had nestled on the couch and was definitely enjoying the contact with his trainer. Ash was still knocked out and heavily leaning onto Glalie, his quick colouring side of his face resting against the smooth coldness.

"Are you okay like this, Glalie?" Professor Oak asked.

"Gla, gla." The Pokémon answered and purred.

"So what now, Samuel? Are you going to tell me the truth or will you continue blaming Ash, just like before?"

"I'm not blaming Ash for anything, Delia." He said calmly. "All I saw was a blue flash and your son on the floor. And I didn't want to be jumping to conclusions before Ash actually gave us his side of the story."

"… Alright…"

"It's nothing short of a miracle that he didn't break his skull. Only a little more to the side and his eye socket would have gotten the full brunt of the impact."

"Look, a miracle already and it's not even Christmas yet." The woman huffed.

The man didn't blame her for being displeased, really. As Pikachu was no also telling the story to Glalie, who actually stopped purring straight away, Professor Oak knew it wouldn't be good news… and then Ash woke up.

"Easy, my boy." He said, gently pushing the teen back onto his Pokémon.

"P-Professor?"

"Yes, Ash, I'm here. You took quite the stumble, hm?"

"I… I don't remember…" the teen uttered, looking pretty confused.

"Then what do you remember, sweetie?"

Delia's appearance had cause Ash to suddenly reach out to her and a pang of guilt went through the man, who got slapped into the face with the realisation that this boy was still so very young… The woman didn't seem to mind that her son clung to her like that and gently rubbed his back.

"Mom, t-there was another one in my room." He sniffled.

"Another one of what, sweetie?"

"Those UB's… I-I recognised it from the paper Professor Brunet showed me. It reached out to me, mom, I was so scared…"

Delia looked up and stared straight into the man's eyes. And yes, from the look in her eyes, Professor Oak realised that this was probably going to be the first Christmas spoiled by an extra-dimensional Pokémon.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

While Christmas wasn't really ruined, it wasn't quite the most wonderful time of the year for the Ketchum family. Having quietly celebrated the eve of the Holiday in the Emergency Room, where the medical staff nearly tripped over their own reluctance of having to work that day, it was understandable that the jolliness of the situation had reached an all-time low. Delia understood why the mood inside the hospital was even colder than outside, of course, but she merely wanted to be sure that her son was simply suffering from a simple concussion and wouldn't be bleeding out from an internal injury while she was asleep…

Oh, her internal doom and gloom generator had been working over-time and Professor Oak's reaction hadn't done her any good either. Before she even had decided to go to the hospital to get her son checked up on, he had stated it would be better if he was put somewhere safe, where these Pokémon wouldn't be able to reach him. It hadn't been wise of him to suggest that, though, because if there was anything that made Delia unreasonable, taking her son away from her was definitely it. Ash was a good boomerang, so when he left on his own, she was pretty sure he would return to her.

But no one would ever be allowed to take him away from her and heck, even if she had to defend her son from those Ultra Beasts herself, she would never leave him to be put in some godforsaken institute somewhere in the middle of nowhere! Besides, if that creature had rounded into him right in his bedroom, why wouldn't it be able to find Ash somewhere else? No, Professor Oak's idea had been snuffed out straight away and the man had been incredibly irritated about it.

"I don't think it's a good idea to not give him his Christmas presents, Delia. He'll think it's a punishment." He had said, making Delia roll her eyes.

"It's not supposed to be a punishment, I just would like him to actually be aware and not see his gifts double when he opens them."

"He won't understand."

"I'm not going to argue about it. We'll open them when he feels better and that's final."

The Professor wasn't emotionally stunted in any way and had understood that he had overstayed his welcome. He wasn't going to start to argue in the presence of the hurt boy either, so he had left, without even offering some actual help. It had been a clear sign to Delia about a lot of things but for now, her son's health was too important for her to follow the man and give him a piece of her mind.

The medical staff's verdict was unanimous, though, Ash was completely okay. He was concussed, yes, but thanks to his quickened healing process, he should be fine in the next few days if he took it easy. That was a given, for the teen often slid in and out of consciousness, blissfully unaware as he slept but rather confused when waking up. He didn't really move much during the first day, which made this Christmas the most relaxed Delia had ever witnessed.

It was the day after that was the hardest on Ash because his awareness had returned… and with that came complaints, which were righteous, yet no one was to blame for anything that had happened. Which seemingly annoyed him as well.

"The light's so bright." He groaned.

"Do you want a pair of sunglasses?" Delia offered, at the end of her wits, for all the curtains were already closed.

Any darker and she would be at risk of tripping over something since it would be too dark for her to see her surroundings.

"The dark hurts too…"

The mother's worry turned into slight amusement, for she realised her son was just whining for the sake of it now. She had been told that light-sensitiveness might occur, so this wasn't surprising.

"Do you want another ice-cube?"

"Yesss."

Ash's fascination with ice-cubes was proving to be his and Delia's saviour right now. She was blessed with a son who was so worried about dropping it on her precious carpet, he didn't make a single peep while amusing himself with it. Not only did the ice-cube keep him silent, it apparently helped with his headache, so double bonus.


Thankfully, by the time the second day of Christmas had passed, Ash was as good as healed and his normal, curious self again. He was still a little silent, but Delia figured he was thinking about the reason why he had gotten the concussion in the first place. And that wouldn't do, so to get his mind of this brooding, she figured they might as well put away from of the more obvious Christmas decoration.

The lights stayed, of course, because New Year's eve was upcoming and that was still a party, right? A whole lot of them were intertwined in the heap of presents as well, to keep it a little festive but honestly, Ash was happy the decoration went back upstairs. It was dusty and it all made him sneeze… And no, he didn't dislike Christmas all of a sudden, in fact, the teen hadn't decided whether what happened was a good or bad thing yet. He and his trauma were still 'discussing' the matter, internally and rather heated.

"Hey, sweetie, look what I just found!" Delia said, making the boy turn towards her.

He frowned when he saw the book in her hands, but the woman simply giggled.

"You don't remember? You used to carry this around you all the time before you went on your journey."

Ash was intrigued, so he at least took the book from her. But eventually, it ended up on his desk, as the teen had other things to worry about. Like Professor Burnet's wonky theory, for example. In fact, the boy had wanted to call the woman, but too his dismay, it seemed like the dead pixels had taken over. Yes, his transceiver had finally broken down, causing him to groan loud enough for his mom to hear.

"Mom, can I use the videophone to call Professor Burnet?" he asked, seeing as she had literally come into his room anyway.

"Of course. Is something wrong with your transceiver?"

"I think it wasn't just losing control over its pixels after all."

"Ah… Well, feel free to give the Professor a call with the videophone, sweetie. Just mind that you keep calm, okay?"

"Alright."

He merely had some questions but honestly, making phone calls was very much out of his comfort zone. It was different than with a transceiver too because no one actually saw your face when you contacted them with it… But he needed the answers and considering his mom clearly wanted him to remain calm, he needed them now, or he would remain restless. So, with his heart thumping in the back of his throat, Ash dialled Professor Burnet's number.

"Good morning!" her cheerful voice answered.

'Time zones.' The teen instantly thought and straightened a little.

"Yes, hello, Professor Burnet."

"Ah, Ash Ketchum, hello. You look…"

"Bruised?"

"Y-yes. What happened to you?"

"Oh, I'll get to that, don't worry." The boy said, sounding eerily neutral. "Can you connect a name to a pure black Ultra Beast, with claws as big as me?"

"… That would be Necrozma you're describing." She answered, clearly getting the gist of why he had contacted her. "I should have known this wasn't going to be a regular chit-chat."

"Quite. Can I just… shoot your theory about those UB's having found me by accident out of the sky? For my own, pitiful feelings?"

"Feel free to do so." Professor Burnet said meekly, looking uncomfortable. "Where did you see it?"

"My bedroom. I fainted and the right side of my face got acquainted with the edge of my bedside table, hence why I look like a gobstopper which only got licked on one side."

"My, my, you have a colourful way of sounding displeased, Ash. I do hope you don't hold me accountable for what happened?"

"I'm not that pitiful. I just wanted to know a little more about the creature, that's all."

"Well, there's not a lot I can tell you. The people in Alola are the only ones who know about it and even then it's still all myths. But from the stories I heard, it leaves a rather spooky impression."

"No kidding. But is that because its face is unfortunately shaped or because it does something creepy when showing up?"

"The former, I assume, for there are no actual traces of attacks anywhere. I… would understand if you told me to shove this theory somewhere as well, but in my opinion, Necrozma would have been called a Legendary Pokémon should it have come into existence on this earth. It is very coincidental that this particular UB came to see you, Ash, for it has distinctive, other behaviour patterns." The Professor said. "For example, most of the stories state that Necrozma is constantly on the lookout for light, seemingly having lost or consumed the former source it had. In the oldest tales, it even swallowed a sun, but in the newer tales, it seems a lot calmer. And you know, it's funny because all those that see Legendary Pokémon usually have a high Aura reading, but so do those who saw Necrozma."

"… Of course. Aura." Ash sighed, rubbing his forehead. "I should've known."

"That being said, you must be quite the beacon, to draw Necrozma away from Alola to Kanto."

"You have no idea, Professor. And I'm not going into detail about it either."

"Good, I wouldn't know what to do with the information anyway!" Professor Burnet stated happily. "Can I still wish you a happy New Year, Ash, even with all that has happened?"

"Of course, same to you, Professor. Thank you for clearing up some of my suspicions."

"My pleasure. Until we meet again!"

"Yes, goodbye."


Ash was feeling rather odd as he trudged back to his room. This was all a little too coincidental for his liking, especially the fact that seeing Legendary Pokémon, or rather attracting them had a direct link to Aura, which he had plenty of. But then again, he had seen so many special Pokémon already… And then his gaze went to the little book, innocently laying on his desk.

He had this niggling feeling that he had forgotten something, because why else would his mom have a book he used to carry around everywhere? Ash wasn't materialistic, but once he had claimed something, he would care for it. Unless it was broken, of course, like his transceiver, because it had no use keeping it.

The teen sighed and grabbed the book, realising he was just procrastinating and making his thoughts side-track. That wouldn't do him any good, so he merely sighed once more and opened it. Ash couldn't help but frown as he kind of recognised this story, even though it was written in really bad handwriting, which definitely was his. But this was ages ago! He remembered it now, it was that time before Professor Oak started acting so strange when he told him about the Pokémon he saw.

It had become a habit for the -at that time, much younger- man to kneel down and ask him what Pokémon he had seen that day. Usually, the answer would be that he had seen a Pidgey or a Caterpie in his mom's garden. Sometimes, it would be a little more worrisome, when the little boy had noticed a Beedrill roaming around, outside the edge of the forest. But even more rare, was when Ash would answer, not with a name, but a description.

At first, Professor Oak had been amused but later on, it became clear that he wasn't pleased, at all. In fact, these stories had probably aided in the man's decision to exclude the boy from his classes. For Gary, this was a right hoot, because he had another reason to belittle his rival but to Ash, it had probably been more than a little traumatic. Not that the teen remembered how it had happened, but it could well be the reason why he had stopped writing stories at all, for all the ones he had in his hand had something to do with Legendary Pokémon.

"… But that means…" he muttered, staring at Pikachu who was grooming himself. "… Necrozma. Professor Burnet said it was just as much a Legendary as all ours, just from a different dimension."

Ash could get that those Pokémon were attracted to his Aura, but while it made sense as Mewtwo and that Kyogre had done just the same, he didn't know why they did it. What made him so special that he could possibly get a Dialga squeezed in his room? There was no actual answer, no, but as the teen noticed, some Pokémon apparently were really persistent in coming to see him.

"… You're back." He said, feeling eerily calm as he found the Legendary Ultra Beast hovering in his room.

Well, part of it, anyway, since Necrozma was too big to fit in his room. But Ash frowned as he got no actual answer from the being, who appeared to simply be watching him. Now that the boy could get a good look at it, it was very obvious that this Pokémon didn't have any ill intentions, for its claws weren't even visible now.

"I'm not scared of you any longer. It's okay, you simply startled me."

The young trainer blinked when he suddenly got a mental message… which didn't make any sense. It sounded a little like the sound of those creepy radios people used to try and communicate with ghosts and Ghost Pokémon before they actually discovered that those usually had nothing sensible to say.

"I… don't understand."

The strange signal dissipated and honestly, while Necrozma's face remained still, its bodily expression looked a little forlorn. And having worked with Pokémon for a while, Ash knew there was only one way to fix that.

"Can you lift your left claw if you understand me?"

The creature did so, being charmingly mindful that it didn't knock something over as it did.

"Alright, so your left claw is the signal for 'yes' and the right is the signal for 'no'. Is that clear?"

Necrozma's left claw waved at him, so Ash figured it got the gist of what he meant and just executed his plan.

"Sooo… did you find me because I'm a beacon of Aura?"

Another yes.

"Do you want a hug?"

Seeing the raised claw didn't lower, the teen took a deep breath, told his trauma to go shove itself in a hole somewhere in the back of his mind and went to give the Ultra Beast a hug. Call him crazy, but Dr. Martin had told him to embrace his issues and seeing that Necrozma was one of them, Ash might as well humour himself and the Pokémon. And it was so satisfying to hear it purr~

No, the teen didn't regret it and besides, now his curiosity was fully sated, to the point where all his actual questions got answered and his suspicions were all confirmed. Professor Burnet was right after all because this smooth, black Pokémon was not the slightest bit like those two menaces that had hurt him so badly. But he swore to keep this a secret because he remembered how well people reacted to news about Legendary Pokémon.

So no, Ash wouldn't tell anyone about this purring creature, especially not after the Pokémon had been able to convey a single clear word to him before it left. And fit exactly in the Professor's theory as well, so she could be proud of herself. Because Necrozma had called him 'Beacon', probably having learned it from the boy when he had said it earlier.


The young trainer was mystified, really. In his hands was a shiny, new transceiver, which felt incredibly modern if the way his ability reacted to is was anything to go by. It meant that it probably was going to be really fancy… but he was sure that this gift had been sitting under the tree before he even told his mom anything about his transceiver issues. Not that he wasn't thankful because this was really cool, but also very odd.

"That's weird…"

"Mm-hm, Lance is very lucky yours broke down recently. I told him it was a big risk, but well, it seems like it paid off."

"He's actually going to treat me as if I'm his nephew or something, isn't he?"

"Don't be so surprised, sweetie, you're pleasant to be with. Even more, now that your bruise doesn't look so painful any longer." She smiled, ruffling his hair.

"If you say so." He mused and unboxed the transceiver. "Oh cool, it's yellow!"

"Why don't you give him a call later on, so you can thank him for it?"

"I will, I will. Why don't you open the gift I got for you?"

"Alright." Delia giggled and slid the round box towards her. "You didn't wrap this yourself, did you?"

"No, the lady was adamant that it should be nice and all, which I clearly couldn't, in her opinion, so yeah..."

"I see."

The woman was secretly pleased her son had gotten her a gift, but as she unwrapped it and saw it was actually something fashion related, she couldn't help but worry a little. However, once she got the lid off the box…

"Remember that one time I tried to do the laundry when you were away?"

Delia couldn't help it as she started giggling when lifting the incredibly soft sweater out of the box. She had indeed missed a jumper like this as these usually were made from Mareep wool and those Pokémon didn't reside all too well in Kanto. And while she had forgiven her son for his eager attempt at doing the laundry, which had actually destroyed the delicate sweater, this was a very nice surprise and it made her incredibly happy.

"Oh, sweetie, this is lovely. Thank you so much!"

Ash didn't mind she bear-hugged him, on the contrary, because his mom only did it when she was happy. And he had been able to mimic the action when he found out she had gotten him this super cozy sleeping bag. Now that the teen felt nice and fluffy, though, he decided to give May a call, to thank her for the massive collection of Pokéballs she had gotten him… Only to discover that he had an immense amount of missed calls, now that he started up his new transceiver.

"Oh bother." He sighed and just started with May, since she was the one who had apparently tried to reach him the most.

Dawn came a close second, though, which was normal, considering he had done his best for her gift.

"Ash, gosh dangit!"

The teen blinked at the answer.

"Hello to you as well, May."

"Please tell me your transceiver had issues and that you didn't deactivate it purposely?"

"My old transceiver doesn't have any issues any longer, that much is sure. I got a new one for a really late Christmas present, though, so I'm all good."

"Thankfully so!" May exclaimed. "Did you like your gift?"

"Yeah, that's why I called. I do hope I can use those Pokéballs, though, I mean…"

"Of course! Use that box for something else as well, for all I care, I wanted to give you something you would actually use, you know? So please, use it."

"Alright, I will then." Ash chuckled. "Where did you get this though?"

"My dad's got connections." She said simply. "What's your favourite of all those Pokéballs?"

"The Cherish one. It's so… fancy and flashy. I've never seen it in use, to be honest."

"It's pretty new, or so I've heard. What Pokémon would you catch with it?"

"Heck if I know, but if the opportunity arises, I'll definitely use it. As a matter of fact, I'm going to clip it to my belt right away."

"Alright, good to hear. Are you going to call Dawn next?"

"Yup, why?"

"That bottle is a beast, Ash. It must've cost a fortune."

"Not really, since it's all synthetic. The lady who helped me pick seemed all too happy about me not judging it and it smelled incredibly nice. I would like to think I did a good job at it."

"Ooh, you did. Or have you never been sniffed all over by every single Pokémon in the neighbourhood when you smell like food?"

May had a point, for the perfume he had send over to Dawn was literally the scent of cotton candy. And the girl was very much over the moon with his gift, which became apparent when she spent the first few minutes of their conversation thanking him. Ash was befuddled, because he hadn't known that it caused her to get her Pokémon's attention with it, making it a great help for training them. It probably was just his 'dumb luckTM' but honestly, the teen was just pleased everything had worked out, though. With this year's Christmas being so strangely stressful in many ways, he had worried more than he thought he normally would have. But all is well that ends well, right?"


It took quite a few times before Ash actually managed to get a hold of Lance, but he didn't mind that. The man probably had more important businesses to attend to but it was kind of painful to hear how stressed he was when the teen finally reached him.

"Take a deep breath, Lance, it's just me. I'll keep it short too if that'll help you."

"There's no need, Ash, continue at your preferred pace."

"Really…? I thought you were quite busy?"

"I have little use for family drama, honestly." Lance answered simply. "How are you doing?"

"Oh, I'm doing fine! Just peachy! I actually wanted to thank you for the transceiver."

"Ah, so you did get some use out of it?"

"Of course, even if my older one hadn't broken down, I still would have used this. I mean, it's yellow, what's not to like?"

The man chuckled, succeeding in making Ash believe he wasn't actually being a nuisance. For some reason, the teen found it harder to believe adults these days, especially since he couldn't see their faces. You were never sure they weren't lying to you, just because they didn't want you to feel bad.

"Hey, Lance, I've been wondering... Can I ask how the demon cereal case went, though? I mean, I've been curious about that ever since Scott refused to tell me anything about it when I went to give my statement."

"Refused? That's odd."

"Scott is odd."

"True, true," Lance answered amused. "I can tell you what happened, though, because I had to read through the file. You see, that particular batch of cereal boxes that caused all that trouble had come from a large storehouse, in charge of sending out goods to smaller stores. It was put aside in a smaller room where a Darkrai got trapped along with the Kanto order of cereal boxes. I don't suppose I have to tell you it wasn't happy?"

"I wouldn't be either, really. But what was causing those creepy illusions, then? And why didn't the Darkrai escape when those cereal boxes were sent out?"

"It was so stressed out it was actually oozing nightmare essence, which landed on the boxes, a fact you should realise the consequences off. And well, the boxes get pulled through the floor and the trapdoors underneath slide close pretty quickly, apparently. I have to commend Scott and Will's thorough investigation, for having researched that as well."

"Wait, so the Darkrai was still in there when those two came into the room? If so, they're so lucky to have made it out of there to make that file in the first place."

"So I have told them. But they both had Pokémon out, so I guess it would've been fine if that Pokémon had chosen to attack them."

"Utter Tauros crap." Ash huffed. "Unless the whole League worth of trainers was behind them, with their whole teams out, then I would state they would've been fine. I'm already surprised to hear Scott actually had Pokémon to send out."

"Valid point. Still, this wasn't my case, so who knows what they were thinking."

"Well, I still think it's stupid that they wouldn't simply admit that the Darkrai escaped as soon as they opened the door. Chances are that it saw the exit and just went for it, despite having to pass through them or simply knock them over to escape. So yeah, they probably saw it, but there's no appeasing a pissed Legendary with only a few Pokémon and good intentions. I'm really unimpressed that they made a more heroic version of what actually happened as a report."

"Mm-hm. You see to know a lot about a Darkrai, though?"

"I fought against one, remember? I know it can pass through pretty much everything but actual structures, like concrete and metal. Also, don't change the subject."

"Don't blame me, it wasn't lenience from my side. It was probably Will's idea since he is still pretty pissed the two of them got a bucket and a mop shoved in their hands, to clean up the nightmare mess the Darkrai left. I believe my Superior had a good laugh at that and allowed them their little moment of fame."

Good thing Lance wasn't able to see the teen face, because he rolled his eyes pretty hard at that. What was it with people and their imaginary pride? And why was it allowed for them to boast about having been in front of a Legendary Pokémon, while it was a no-go for him to say anything about that subject?

"Well, whatever. At least I know that the Darkrai is okay."

"Funny how you didn't ask if there were kids involved, though."

"No children should have been awake that early, especially since it was a weekend."

"But you were?"

"I had, and sometimes still have trouble sleeping."

"Ah…"


Adults and their double standards were probably going to be Ash's demise one of these days. Right now, though, he was having enough trouble keeping his spooked Pokémon under control.

"It's okay, buddies, it's just fireworks. It'll stop after a while."

Or so he had said. The new year started half an hour ago and people were still shooting fireworks, so yeah… He and his mom had just drunk a far too sweet kind of alcohol-free 'champagne' and after a few kisses made a brave attempt to actually go to sleep. But Ash hadn't even been able to change into his pyjama's, because Gliscor had shot towards him and well… The Pokémon was huge and even if all his other Pokémon hadn't been released and hadn't come to snuggle against his side, the boy still wouldn't have been able to change his clothes, simply because Gliscor didn't let go.

"While small, humans can be incredibly noisy." Mewtwo's deep voice suddenly sounded out, making the teen smile.

"You've heard nothing yet. Though I'm not downgrading what an actual waste of money this actually is. But well…"

"Recall your faithful partners, friend. I need to talk to you and I can do without these annoying background noises."

Ash wasn't going to let that opportunity pass by, but at the same time, the fact that Mewtwo wanted to talk to him worried him a little. Surely nothing was wrong with it, right?

"Have a seat, friend." The Pokémon said, plopping down on the grass already.

"Thanks." The teen said, purely out of habit. "I'm glad to see you again, Mewtwo."

"I feel the same way, friend. Though you seem to have a generally happy disposition. Did something good happen?"

"Ah, I just kinda remembered that some of my other Legendary buddies used to come by to say hello."

"That is good to hear. I have heard complaints about that but I did not act yet, for you had other worries more important."

"… They still came? How come I didn't see them?"

"Seeing is only part of the whole experience, it is merely the fact that you stopped looking for them that annoyed them."

"Oh heavens… I didn't ignore you, did I?"

"Ash, I have only existed for five years."

The teen blinked at that, causing the Pokémon to sigh.

"Not everyone with mindreading abilities has had the luck of having woken up surrounded by scientists. Hence why I probably sound a little older than I actually am."

'And it's probably also why Necrozma couldn't speak. I can suspect that no one ever had the urge to teach it anything, with how silent it can sneak up on you.' Ash though.

"That's alright, though, isn't it? Where would I have been without you and your amazing knowledge?"

"You flatter me, friend."

"It's the God honest truth, though."

"Very well, I will accept your compliment, then." Mewtwo said, nodding. "Now… I wanted to make a request, friend."

"Oh?" the boy asked, feeling that Mewtwo was not feeling comfortable at the moment.

And it confused him because the Pokémon had become such a strong, constant presence in his life, that it felt very alien to suddenly see it suffer from such a weak, human emotion.

"I wanted to ask you if I could come with you."

It was only after Mewtwo repeated his name in a rather careful way that Ash figured he had been staring at it with his mouth slightly open.

"You… want me to catch you?"

"Yes."

"… But what about your home? Won't you miss this island? Your friends?"

"Friends?" the Pokémon sighed. "They tolerate me, that is all there is to our relationship. This island has never been my home, more rather, it has been a constant reminder that I have no home, for this is the place I was made yet it never provided anything for me…"

"I-I didn't know that. Gosh, Mewtwo, are you sure, buddy?"

"Yes. Unless you have an objection?"

"Of course not! What kind of objection could I have with having my best friend stay with me? Especially when you are so unhappy here… I… No, I don't have any objections, Mewtwo, I just want to be sure that you're certain about this."

"Yes. I have never felt so much at home before, I do not want to lose you."

Ash couldn't help but feel emotional, especially since the implications of this hit him like a sledgehammer. Funny how the fact that he would become the owner of a Legendary Pokémon was the last of his worries, though.

"Alright, I'm more than happy to care for you, Mewtwo. Though it feels mightily strange to offer you this." He said, holding out the only unoccupied Pokéball on his belt.

"… This ball looks strange. Are you sure it works?"

"Yeah, I am. It's called a Cherish Ball."

Mewtwo looked up at the boy and a small smile found its way on its face.

"Cherish, hm?" it repeated softly. "What happens next, then?"

"Just push the red button."

A sparkly red mist drew his Legendary friend into the Pokéball, which felt really strange to Ash. He had seen it so many times, yet it seemed like this felt different. Was that because of Mewtwo or were his own feelings messing with him? The teen didn't know and really, seeing that the Pokéball didn't even jiggle once, giving the 'ping' of a successful capture straight away, he was too busy making sure his heart didn't jump from his chest out of pure happiness to care about anything else. Until Ash realised something.

"… Was the capture not successful?" Mewtwo asked, upon having been called out.

"Very. But I doubt I'm going to be able to swim my way home. Can I get a ride back to my own home, please?"

"O-oh, yes, of course!"

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

Anyone who would claim that having a Legendary Pokémon would give you an automatic win, would have words with Ash. Alright, so he was lucky that Mewtwo and him had become friends before it got captured, but that didn't mean that the Pokémon's own issues had miraculously disappeared. It hadn't really proven to be such a problem the first day but… well, things happened. Sticky things.

"Mewtwo, it's a comb, not a lethal weapon."

"I do not trust it."

"It's not going to hurt, I promise."

"..."

"Mewtwo, it's called grooming. You've probably heard about it and most definitely done it yourself, right?" the teen asked, trying to find a clean spot on the Pokémon so he could give it a little pat. "I'm just trying to care for you, buddy, that's what friends are for."

The Legendary gave the comb one last wary look before turning away and nodded ever so slightly.

"Fine then. But if I feel something-"

"As if I haven't gotten any practise." Ash scoffed. "Pikachu trained me to be a gentle groomer, I can tell you that."

While that seemed to appease Mewtwo a little, it was clear that the Pokémon had issues as tall as Mt. Coronet -which, for your information, estimated to be the highest of mountains of all the regions. And Muk was to blame for making this problem come to the surface, for the Pokémon had been very much in the way when Ash had gone to take his newest friend to meet his older friends. Though the teen didn't really talk to Muk about it, because he was happy to work through this issue while he was still at home. In fact, he had given the Poison type a little more attention so he wouldn't feel bad about all this.

Considering his other Pokémon had received Mewtwo with as much gusto as you could expect, he was really proud of all of them. Most people would freeze up when faced with a Pokémon Champion too, even if they were quite willing to socialise. Though Ash's Pokémon definitely shared at least this one characteristic with him, namely bravery. Especially Gible, who even tried to bite Mewtwo's tail as if it didn't even realise the danger of the act. Though there was something strange going on, of which Ash hadn't thought of when going to Professor Oak.

"Why don't you think about why your most favourite Professor didn't know you were with me while I get this sticky goo off you?" the teen asked as he got out some soap.

"New Island has a strange way of disrupting communication. It is probably something Team Rocket left behind that is the cause of it. Either way, is it something that worries you?"

"Yes, because I never thought about the fact your registration would show up on Professor Oak's screen as soon as I captured you. Though I'm pretty sure he would have stormed the house if he had known… Yet I'm worried that the notification was delayed and will show up one of these days, completely out of context."

"You are leaving to Kalos soon, though, are you not?"

"That's not going to help us, because there's a nosy Professor in every region, I can assure you. And news about your capture could be a big thing for them, you know?"

"I will convince them to make the 'thing' a lot smaller. Now, what is that translucent thing you have there?"

"… The soap?"

"Yes, what does it do?"

"Ah, well, it apparently has some kind of chemical reaction that makes grime, grease and sticky things neutral and as such, easy to clean off delicate surfaces. It smells nice too, here, why don't you have a sniff?"

Mewtwo was a curious creature to start with, so it quickly went to sniff at the bottle… and sneezed, giving the bottle a wary look afterwards.

"That is a strong scent."

"It will get less, I promise. I'm not going to dump the whole bottle worth of soap on you, Mewtwo."

"Mm."

Seeing the Legendary Pokémon sit in the tub with all those bubbles around it was kind of funny. And the rather stormy expression on its face didn't help Ash in trying to keep a smile off his face. He didn't want to laugh at Mewtwo's misery, because it was painfully obvious that Team Rocket had left its mark on the poor creature. It didn't deserve to have been mistreated as badly as it had been, so the young trainer would do the utmost to keep it happy. Even if his main quest would be to make the Pokémon used to having someone to fall back on and get cared for.


The boy stared at the huge, straight wall right in front of him. As if he wasn't already tired out from the running, cycling, rope skipping, stretching and other Gym exercises, his last assignment to complete Dr. Martin's test… was wall climbing. This smooth, red surface with rather deliberate indentations in it was unlike any wall Ash had ever seen and with the burning sensation in his right leg very much present and pulsing, he didn't really feel like going through with this. Not to mention how the sensitive skin under his prosthesis would react to all this when he got home later.

"Are you giving up?"

The tone the examiner used was neutral enough, but the teen had long discovered that his drive came from spite instead of enthusiasm. So any kind of subtle undertone could set off his annoyance, especially when he was tired and moody already.

"If I fall, know I'll be aiming myself at you." He all but growled.

"Dully noted." The man stated. "Do you want some help with the protective gear?"

"Screw that gear." Ash huffed and stormed towards the wall.

"H-hey, wait, you really need to wear this!"

"As if people wear that stuff when they're doing it outside."

The examiner could only stand there and watch as the teen scaled the wall, thinking to himself that, yes, professional rock climbers did use protective gear as well. Though, looking from the speed the kid got up that wall, the man couldn't help but think the gear would hold him back.

"So… What do I do now?" the boy asked, looking down from the highest spot he could get to.

"… Coming down would be a good start. Also, when you get down here, I'm going to have to tell you about safety procedures."

"Can I just stay up here instead?"

"No."

Ash audibly sighed but started descending the wall nonetheless. The man noted that he didn't backtrack on the path he had taken to get up that as well, which was even more dangerous. But that seemed to be the kid's second name if first impressions count.

"You seem to have some experience with rock climbing?"

"I've scaled a lot of things already. Trees, mountains, volcano's… people. But now I can add crappy, artificial walls to my climbing resume as well."

"But this is the first experience with your prosthesis, right?"

"Yes, it is."

"And?"

"I've got more faith in it than my actual leg if that's what you're asking. It's not hurting as much and definitely not feeling like buckling, unlike the other."

"Right, let's get you to a chair."

Ash simply followed, knowing that if the effort he had put into their exercises wasn't enough, he would just be best off staying at home. This test had been worse than a session Mewtwo usually made him go through, which was really weird, considering the teen had totally expected to be over prepared again.

'Maybe these people have high standards, or they just knew what kind of a trouble maker I actually am and prepared themselves for it.' He though.

But judging from the fact the examiner had deposited him here in this waiting room and that it took a long while until they came to get him, Ash figured he might have given them a lot to talk about… and feared he might have overdone it a bit. His suspicions were confirmed when he was taken to another room, which was apparently his doctor's office.

"Ah, Ash, come in and sit down!" Dr. Martin stated happily, looking up from his papers as the examiner slipped out of the room, just when the teen had gotten through the door.

"… Hello, doctor." He said, nodding ever so slightly.

"Well, let's just start by saying you've exceeded all our expectations." Dr. Martin suddenly stated. "I have a feeling you weren't aware that this test was supposed to test out your boundaries, instead of trying to get a high score."

"That's for you to guess and for me to know." The boy stated in his own cryptid way -Mewtwo was really rubbing off on him.

"Indeed. Allow me to congratulate you because I've rarely seen anyone bounce back from such a trauma with as much enthusiasm as you've displayed."

"I just need to remember why I ended up in this position, really. The desire to run follows quickly."

"… I see. Have you been able to talk about that with your therapist?"

"Of course, and with others as well, hence why I'm sitting here so calmly," Ash answered. "It really only ever was a series of unfortunate events, so if Arceus is graceful with me, such a coincidence should never happen again."

"I will help you hope for that, Ash. At any rate, you've regained a good and healthy state of body, so consider me pleased your revalidation went swimmingly." The man said, indeed looking rather chuffed. "I have very little too tell you, but considering you've done such a good job, giving you the green light to leave this region seems like an obvious thing . Though it might be interesting to tell you about the new function your trainer card has gained."

"Gained?"

"The Pokémon League has implicated standard procedure on your profile, considering you've breached their carefully constructed norm, as you're on leg short of what they consider to be the profile of a normal trainer. So now, they've added you to their special care section because they have to stop touching wood and hope you will never really get into trouble again."

"I could never guarantee that anyway." Ash snorted. "Things… happened why I'm around. I can't help it."

"As expected. Hence why you'll be getting a very boring letter from them, where they will tell you that you're under their insurance twice, simply because they deem you at a higher risk than anyone with two working legs." Dr. Martin answered. "It's not all boring, though, because of the League's action, I could implement some comfort in their guidelines for you. You see, should you be in need of medication or a medical intervention, you can simply show your trainer card to them. Only licensed doctors and nurses can enter that particular part of your profile, but it will show them your medical file."

"Why is it that only licensed medical personnel can gain access to it? What's in that file that would make it so interesting for other people to try and break into it?"

"Weaknesses, Ash. Such as your medical plan, Lignocaine allergy and details of your prosthesis. Also, if there's every anything wrong with your prosthetic leg, the contact info of the designer has been included in your file as well."

"Alright, that's handy. Do you know why I'm actually insured twice, though?"

"It's a normal procedure, really. At the start of your journey, your mother will have needed to sign a paper to give her approval of the 'Basic Trainer Safety Insurance'. It's basically a measure to protect and aid young trainers, in case they get involved into an accident. When it becomes clear that the trainer will have lasting consequences from the accident, the Pokémon League will issue a 'Hospitalisation Insurance', which will help the trainers get the special care they need."

"I've never heard about that before, though."

"It's a little-known fact and believe me when I say that the League is rather secretive with their rules and implications of measures. All I know right now is that the second insurance will give you a benefit with your medication, considering I deemed you dependant on them."

"Secretive?" Ash chuckled. "In what way is that logical, like, isn't it interesting to let people know what consequences there are when they get hurt? I mean, I would've liked to know about that."

"There aren't a lot of people who think of it that way. It's more something that they don't like to think of until it actually happens." The man answered. "Though, I agree with the fact they should be a little more open with their information because if it wasn't for Mr. Lance, I would never have succeeded in achieving what I have been able to."

"… Well, then I think I'm very lucky that he decided my case was worth his time, then."

"Indeed. Mr. Lance can be pretty creepy when he wished to be. And while I'm sure the League Administration might react a little nonplussed about his interference, nothing strange will pass Mr. Goodshow's watchful eye.

"… Would they have used my as an outlet to get back at Lance… simply because he embarrassed them?"

"Of course. Though rest assured, Ash, Mr. Goodshow is an honest man."

"But not immortal. I never thought anyone could be that pity… I hope someone remembers to give those people a little less power, or else there will be a whole lot of unhappy trainers, who don't even deserve such treatment."

"It's not as beastly as you think. And the League administration's power is a pending subject for conversation. It will take time, though."

"Nothing's ever easy, is it?"

"Quite."


Delia felt a little worried about this particular letter that had arrived just before her son send his message that he was coming home. It was a big and heavy letter, delivered from the Pokémon League with priority… It probably was very important too, because she had to sign for acceptation as well. But really, the timing of its arrival bothered her, as Ash might already be a little bummed out by that test. And even if he wasn't, the look on his face before he even left told her that he had been stressed. However, there was no use in hiding her concern, as the teen noticed that something was on her mind as soon as he saw her.

"Something wrong, mom?" he asked, closing the door behind him.

"The League send you a letter, dear. It looks… eerie." Delia confessed, giving the letter on the table a doubtful look.

"Whoa, they're quick! Dr. Martin just told me they would be sending me some paperwork." Ash said, rounding in on the envelope, not looking particularly worried. "Gosh, it's big, isn't it?"

"Hence why I was worried. Do I need to sign something or…?"

"I'm not sure, really. Dr. Martin said it was going to be some boring things about insurance, but I can't help but feel like this is a little more important. I'm probably going to be giving this a thorough read-through, so they can't spring something on me later on."

"Of course, sweetie, tell me if there's something I need to sign, hm?"

"Sure, though I think there's no escaping the League Administration's rules. In fact, if you signed for acceptance, you've probably sealed the deal already, so all we can do is suck up our annoyance and deal with it."

"Those people." The woman sighed, rubbing her forehead. "Of course, they should be involved in this…"

"No worries, mom, Mr. Goodshow will have been looking out for me. And I scored really high on that test, so they're bound to have noticed I don't really need much care, right?"

"Ah, yes, how was that test?"

"Ridiculous. I think I've used muscles I didn't know I had in the first place. It's like they knew I end up in so much trouble… but I kind of over did things a little. Dr. Martin was impressed, though."

"Good, good." Delia giggled. "Do try to be careful when you get to Kalos for me? Please?"

"I can try, but as I told Dr. Martin as well, I can't guarantee anything. For all I know, those three idiots that have been following me around for years are already in Kalos right now, wondering where I am."

"… That's not making me feel any better, dear. Do your best to avoid any confrontation with those people, for you're never sure what Team Rocket is up too."

"True. I can promise you that I'll do my hardest to avoid them and if I do need to talk to them, I'll deal with them swiftly."

"Thank you, sweetheart." She said, smiling at him.

Ash was pretty much aware that her worry came from the fact she didn't want a repeat of what happened to his dad , so he could only try to appease her. Though really, Team Rocket didn't really scare him that much, or at least, not those three he kept seeing everywhere. The bad ones, those that had mistreated Mewtwo so badly, now those were the ones the teen would avoid at all costs. Ah well, the chances of anyone other than Jessy, James and Meowth showing up were so small that Ash wouldn't want to waste any time even thinking about the fact.

Not when this big envelope from the League was lying there so innocently. The boy couldn't help but think that this thing was a little too big to actually contain only insurance papers, but he could only be sure of the contents if he actually opened it and looked at them. To his surprise, there was indeed a whole lot more than just insurance in that envelope, as in the way that there was another envelope in it.

You know that particular feeling when you got bad news? That slightly burning sensation in your face? Your heart not beating regularly any longer and your stomach lurching ever so slightly? If not, lucky you… But it was exactly what Ash was feeling right now when he noticed the League had literally deemed him to be an… invalid? Despite the fact he had done so good on his last evaluation test, they still think he's not okay? Had he not shown enough vigour to… Leaving the boring insurance paper to the side, the teen took that one envelope and got up from his chair.

"Mom?" he asked, already silently thanking Arceus for his voice not breaking. "I'm going to Professor Oak for a bit."

"Okay, sweetie!"


"He's not here?" The boy asked, barely keeping his panic at bay

"No, Professor Oak has gone to meet with Professor Elm. He should be back on Wednesday."

He hadn't contacted Alexa yet, so it wasn't as if there was a date set on his departure from Kanto… But Ash couldn't help but feel as if his issue couldn't wait until the Professor returned. Honestly, though, a little initiative from the brunette would've been nice too, you know?

"I… I really need help, though, Tracey. Isn't there one of the assistants here who knows about trainer administration?"

"I suppose so. But why not ask Gary? I'm sure he'll help you."

The boy wasn't so sure about that, though and really, last time he had seen Tracey and Gary, they could barely keep their conversation civil. So why his friend would even suggest this was a mystery to the young trainer. And knowing the redhead and his mysterious feelings towards him, Ash wasn't sure whether Gary would feel compelled enough to come help him. Pubescent mood swings and all that, only, his childhood friend had been born with them…

"A-alright." The teen said anyway, as he wanted to get over this problem as soon as possible. "Where is he?"

"Upstairs, but I'll go get him for you."

"Thanks."

The young trainer was happy that the brunette helped him -though that probably stemmed from Tracey's wariness of the boy's prosthetic leg- and went to sit in one of the less uncomfortable chairs in the common room of the laboratory. It didn't take long before Tracey passed by again, cheerfully announcing that Gary would be coming down in a few seconds, so Ash allowed himself to relax a little. However, he stopped feeling relieved when he started noticing that these seconds were the longest ones in his life. In fact, it was a quarter past four, a magnificent hour and three quarters past the time Gary was supposed to show up, that his actual salvation calmly walked into the laboratory.

"Oh, hello, Ash… Is everything okay?" the woman asked, blinking when she saw him sitting there, trying to take up as little space as possible.

"Daisy! I-I don't suppose you know anything about trainer administration?" the teen all but squeaked, having been turned into a nervous wreck during the wait.

"Of course. Let me get myself a cup of tea and we'll go over it together."

Considering the assistants here lived off tea and coffee, the laboratory had a pretty fast system for heating up water. Seeing Daisy didn't have to long for the hot water and had a pretty good idea of what flavour she liked her tea to be, the woman was quick to saunter back into the common room.

"Now, what's the problem?" she asked calmly.

"The Pokémon League send me something following my last evaluation from my doctor. I euhm… had a little accident?"

"Ah yes, I know about that. They insured you twice, didn't they, because of your prosthesis?"

"Yes. B-but now I got this and I just don't know what to do with it." The teen said, holding out the envelope.

"Okay, let's see what that's all about."

She wasn't very affected when the adapted trainer card came sliding out. The collar and registration papers for a Poké-help, now that was something that made her a little sour. Daisy could see that Ash was a little more sensitive, but honesty, with having survived something so traumatic, it was already a miracle he was sitting here so calmly.

"Oh look, they gave you a new trainer card. Can you give me your old one, so I can deactivate that and make this one become your official one?"

The teen stared at the green and gold card but eventually got his normal, white one out of his pocket and handed it over to her.

"Thank you. I know this might not be nice for you, but can you try and get Pikachu to wear this?"

And the woman was right, if Ash's expression as he took the yellow collar was anything to go by. The words 'Do not pet me/Poké-help' had been printed on it, repeating themselves over and over, which couldn't make the message and use of the collar more clearer.

"O-okay." He stated meekly.

It only took a little while to activate the new card, considering the Pokémon League was aware it had been issued out. And it seemed like Ash had been able to get the collar onto Pikachu, so that was all good too.

"I promised to make him his favourite food." He said, as soon as he caught her stare.

"Which is?"

"Tamato berry Pokéblocks. With some strong ketchup..."

"There's a big chance that you'll be getting a benefit which will make several products completely free for you, you know? Like berries?"

"Really?"

"Mm. Let's go through this registration of Pikachu as your Poké-help and see what's up with the rest of these papers. Also, what did you win to get a green trainer card, Ash?"

"… The Orange League? Is that something they would acknowledge? Or the Battle Frontier?"

"Ah yes, yes, both were clearly accepted. I was already wondering what those five gold stars in the bottom corner signified."

"What's the golden border, though?"

"Your second insurance. Did your doctor say anything about an addition to your trainer profile?"

"Ah yes, he did."

"Well, that's a sign you have a medical section on it, that's all."

Though it seemed like the Pokémon League was pretty serious about Ash's safety. He had gotten a chip in his trainer card, so they would be able to trace him as soon as an emergency call came in and he had to have a full team –at least five Pokémon and Poké-help- with him at all times. Starting from now.

"Why don't you go and pick some buddies to join you, Ash?" Daisy asked. "I'll go over the boring bits and select what's important for you to know."

"Okay. Thanks, Daisy."

"No problem."


Ash did think it was a problem, though, especially when it became clear he was deemed to be dependent on stuff, when he had worked his whole life to become independent. It hurt and while his five new companions in his team were happy to join him, the boy couldn't help but feel let down by his Pokémon Professor and his grandson. With the treatment the two were putting him through, Ash highly considered to take his business somewhere else, really. In fact, if Professor Sycamore was half a decent man, the boy would straight up ask him if it was possible.

Really, though, the Pokémon League had responded pretty good to his situation and the Poké-help was standard procedure. While Ash had some questions about the fact someone thought it was a good idea to give Pikachu the right to defend his trainer as he saw fit, he had no doubts about the fact his starter would keep him safe. The teen was pretty sure that the League would soon see it was a mistake to give his dear friend to right to fire off attacks, without having to answer for it too, but that wasn't his problem, was it? He never asked for this, so if their decision put anyone and anything that just as much moved at risk of getting zapped… Well, their fault, not his.

Besides, Gliscor, Glalie, Infernape, Krookodile and Heracross seemed more than ready to beat anything that threatened their trainer to pulp. With their training on New Island -yes, an idea Ash had come up with recently-, they could be very dangerous if they wanted to be, so the boy was perfectly protected. Not to mention his stowaway in his pocket, which no one but him knew about, cosily hidden in the Cherish Ball.

The trainer card had some stunningly attractive advantages too. Thanks to the branding it received -the border in the most unhappy, murky looking gold he had ever laid eyes on-, Ash's purchases in any Pokémart would be at reduced price and many things, like potions, berries and plain vegetables would be completely free, just like Daisy had predicted. Still, he literally had to give up his freedom to get this, because that chip didn't sit well with him. Who would stop anyone from checking where he was, hm?

Ah well, they had done their best in not getting in his way, Ash figured and if they were so concerned for his medical file not getting a security breach, no one would get access to that chip in his trainer card either. So, he sucked up whatever comment or feelings he had about all this and got on with it. There was no need to complain now, for his mom had sighed for approval when she accepted the package.

"Ah, sweetie, did everything go okay? You were gone for quite a while." Delia asked, when she noticed him coming through the front door.

She had the insurance papers in hand and had most likely been reading them.

"It was… a whole lot to digest." The teen answered truthfully. "This whole thing took longer than expected, but at least it's over and done with. What are you doing, though?"

"Reading this nonsense. The Pokémon League is very good at repeating themselves with only the slightest variation." She sighed. "They stated you got the minimal of the care they are willing to provide but that future evaluations can make the care vary."

"They're making me go through this again?"

"Not any time soon, I'm sure. Your travel pass has been issued automatically, so I believe they know you're on the verge of leaving. Oh and before I forgot, Alexa called!"

"She did?"

"Yes, she asked if you could send her a message if it's okay that you leave on Wednesday. I told her you probably wouldn't have any issues with that, but she wanted to hear it from you."

"Alright, I'll go and contact her then. Are you okay with me leaving in pretty much a day? Because today is almost…"

"I'm perfectly fine with whatever you decide, sweetie. We have so much experience in packing bags and the like, you could have still left today if you wanted."

'I'm kind of done with today, though.' The teen thought.

"Nah, that would have been a little too soon. Anyway, I'll go make my leave official. And afterwards, I'll start to clean up my puzzle. It will only be in the way and since it's complete, it's got no further use, lying around like that."

"… Morty never answered your message, did he?"

"Maybe not, but that's fine. He's probably busy, you know? Or his Ghost Pokémon hid his transceiver somewhere he can't find it."

Delia already giggled at the mental image of the situation which made for a perfect exit moment for the teen. It was already bad enough he would have to be thinking about the Pokémon League's decisions, that it should be pestering his dear mother as well. So, that he could go upstairs with her laugher in the background was a signal he had managed to leave her blissfully unaware of the mess that today had been.


Mewtwo had been right all along, meditation was key to a calm and collected mind. Ash had to keep repeating it throughout the whole of Tuesday, that jumbled up his thoughts were, but in the end, he had managed to get everything back in a row. He got to terms with Professor Oak's missing presence, knowing that Mewtwo's capture would remain unnoticed for a while longer and that he wouldn't have to answer for it at least after he came back from Kalos.

And Gary could just go stew in his own ego, for all Ash cared. He wasn't planning some secret and nasty come-back at the teen, because he wasn't a bad person. Also, the redhead was only succeeding in pushing the boy further and further away, which would only end up in his disadvantage. If a future Pokémon Professor wasn't able to put themselves beyond petty feelings of the past, then that was Gary's problem, not his.

The boy even found something positive in the collar Pikachu wore now, because now that the Pokémon was officially registered as a Poké-help, there was a heavy bounty placed on the crime of even trying to steal him. Also, Ash knew Team Rocket had a heart somewhere inside of them, so maybe they would be put off by the fact they were going to steal a little Poké-helper. If not, maybe the fact they could end up in jail for just touching him without Ash's permission would help them see some sense.

Yes, the teen had managed to stop his mom's strange way of packing luggage trying to get to him, as the concept of 'a bag is not supposed to weigh more than the person carrying it' was rather foreign to her. With him not having made an argument about it and merely helping his mom, the bag got packed in relative peacefulness –with the exception of Delia's fussing about- and Ash realised he hadn't felt as good as this in a long while. But maybe that had something to do with the absolutely delightful Dialga he met.

What Dialga, you ask?

Well, Ash had merely gone to the woods, to find an open spot where he could treat his Pokémon to some food. He didn't know what kind of taste Mewtwo liked the most, so he had chosen this moment as a little test to make as many Pokéblocks of different flavours. His other Pokémon got some as well, but the boy already knew what they liked, of course.

The six had thrown themselves on the food, as expected, hence why Ash had called them out after having made the Pokéblocks… but his Legendary friend was a little doubtful. Until it found out that the little cubes could taste like anything, which made the Pokémon try all the kinds. Turned out that Mewtwo liked its food much alike its sense of humour: dry and a little bitter.

Anyway, that meant there were a lot of Pokéblocks left, which not all his Pokémon could finish off, considering they just had their fill. Initially, Ash had figured he could just leave the food here, for the wild creatures of the forest to come and take it… and then the Dialga had shown up, unannounced and quite randomly. It seemed more than willing to take care of the remaining cubes, which charmed the boy a lot.

It was strange, but the young trainer highly suspected he knew this particular Dialga. You know, the one that had been foaming at the mouth because it had mistaken Palkia to be in its territory, but that they were both in a different dimension thanks to Arceus awakening? The Pokémon had simply poked its head out of a portal, which it probably had done not to get noticed, for it surely would have towered over the tree tops and it had been noon, so plenty of people were up and walking around.

He wasn't sure how any of the inhabitants of the surrounding cities would react to its presence, but when it became clear Dialga was able to purr, the boy was so delighted, he couldn't care less about them. Ash thought he had seen a Beedrill or two appear at the edge of the open spot, but he couldn't see them later on. Of course, the creatures might have just taken one look at the mighty being and left it at that, knowing that this wasn't a battle they could win.

The lovely Legendary had let the teen touch him without much fuss as well, which was quite the experience for Ash. And when it had sunk back into the portal, not leaving a trace, the young trainer got reminded that he had another Legendary friend he should say goodbye to. Oh man, and when it turned out the lovely but much smaller Kyogre -it probably was a young one- was waiting for him when he came to the beach, an omnipresent smile settled on his face.

And it was still there after it became clear that Alexa had chosen the worst moment and day to travel to Celadon. The city was filled to the brim with people, thanks to the winter sales still ongoing and schools ending at twelve in the afternoon that day. Woopty doo, right? But Ash didn't care, he was happy for the opportunity, especially since he had a Kalos native willing to lead him around for a bit.

Pikachu was doing an awfully good job at glaring at everyone as they got inside the airport, which amused and worried Ash at the same time. He calmly petted his starter, giving him the signal he should relax a little, which the Pokémon did instantly. But this brought him to another issue, namely the fact that the teen didn't have an idea how strong his Pokémon were, Pikachu in particular. As mentioned before, his Pokémon had been send to New Island for a while too and Ash had spent some time grooming them and generally making them happy…

However, he hadn't fought with any of them in a battle yet. Mock ones, yes, but his Pokémon were friends and friends didn't hurt each other -Gary, take notes. Ash didn't mind and he knew he would find a ready opponent in Kalos soon enough… but he would take a good look at them to see whether their Pokémon could take a serious attack. For his Aura Source ability, which he couldn't disable unless he wanted to seriously hurt himself, strengthened all Pokémon a little. Mewtwo stated it could feel a difference in how it strengthened it, now that it was caught, so maybe the Pokémon he owned benefited a lot more from it than those of strangers or wild ones.

'Ah well.' Ash thought, undisturbed by the idea. 'Pikachu usually had some kind of accident at the start of a new region, so maybe this is karma… To let him start at full strength and maybe even more.'

"Hooo, that was something, wasn't it?" Alexa giggled, startling the teen a little as she nestled herself in the seat next to him.

The boy blinked, figuring that he had been daydreaming again. He couldn't remember boarding the plane for the life of him, let's not even mention getting on it and taking a seat.

"Ah, yeah. I'm always amazed how many grey Galvantulas crawl from under the floor tiles to go and find stuff they think they're entitled to get." He answered, but as the teen noticed the woman's bewildered expression he quickly apologized. "I'm sorry, that was probably very rude."

"Don't worry, I was notified of the fact you have an opinion like a sledgehammer." She answered happily. "It's just surprising to actually hear it. It's refreshing, though."

"Oh, is it? Most people blame puberty and let it wash over them." Ash grinned. "Maybe it's best you don't take me too seriously as well."

"And miss out on this teenage creativeness? I would rather embarrass myself listening to you than anyone with a degree."

"Where does that sudden trust come from?"

"Anyone who has gotten the respect of Pokémon is worth listening to, or so I think."

"… You sound like a Gym Leader."

"Well, I'm not, but my sister is." She giggled.

"You've obviously been listening well." The boy said. "What Pokémon type of Gym does she have?"

"Ah, are you questioning me?"

"… Not intentionally. I was merely wondering, because it's usually the more gentle type Gym Leaders that say things like that."

"Gentle?"

"Yes, like Grass or Bug type Gym Leaders. While the latter can be enthusiastic, they tend to be very observant of their opponent, just like Grass type Gym leaders. I always thought it had something to do with how nature bound the Pokémon of that kind were, but maybe it's because of how many weaknesses' those Pokémon tend to have."

"… Well, I'm not saying anything. You're just going to have to find out about it by yourself."

"Of course, of course, that's the whole point of going on a journey, isn't it? Finding out things? Exploring? Adventure?" the teen asked enthusiastically. "Man, I'm so excited to go and see what Pokémon there are in Kalos."

"I have one I can call out, if you would like that?"

"Yes! I-I mean, of course! How can I say no to that?"


Alexa's Helioptile was purring away a storm during the whole ride, as the teen gave it a good and proper rub down. The woman was really pleased to see that someone could finally sate her eager Pokémon, who loved to be groomed, hugged and what not. Too bad the flight ended, because that meant that Ash stopped his ministrations to get up. But the Helioptile was adamant and stuck around, knowing there was bound to be another time where it could receive some more attention from the teen with the wonderful hands.

From the moment Ash stepped out of the airplane, he could already smell the difference between his hometown and Kalos and oh~ He couldn't wait to get outside. Alright, the steep staircase leading down was a little scary, but his attention was pulled away from it when he saw two identical, yet unknown Pokémon. They were doing a little aerial dance above the end of the stairs, which was kind of cute.

"Hey, Alexa, do you know what kind of Pokémon those are?"

"Of course, I do. They are Spritzee."

"How cool!"

If only those Pokémon hadn't caught his attention like that, though. For otherwise, he might have been looking where the pushy Helioptile was standing. But now, he only noticed that his heavy prosthesis was going towards the spot where the Pokémon was sitting.

"Oh, God!" he exclaimed, maneuvering his leg out of the way, but the action caused him to fall backwards and hit the top landing at full force.

"Ah, Ash!" the woman exclaimed. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah…" he groaned. "I just don't know what's hurting the most, my smashed tailbone or my bruised pride."

"Come on, let me get you up." She giggled.

The boy appreciate her help a lot, because he noticed the landing was actually steel -much to the regret of his butt- and that the little indentations wouldn't stop him from slipping. So taking in account he had his vulnerable leg to take care off, Ash carefully let himself be guided down the stairs. Still, Alexa seemed to be a little spooked because she didn't let go of his arm until they both were on terra firma again… inside the lobby.

"I take it you know about my situation?" he asked dryly.

"Of course. It was pretty much the first thing your mother told me. And well, I noticed Pikachu pretty fast, you know?" she answered. "Now, take a seat."

"Thanks." Ash said, as if his backside wasn't hurting.

"I'm going to give my sister a call. Anything I should ask?"

"Ah yes, is she the first Gym Leader I should go to? Can you ask her that?"

"Of course. Wait here for me, okay?"

"… Sure." He said.

His mom had probably meant well when she had told the woman about his issue, but it seemed like it only succeeded in making Alexa more and more worried, as she saw Delia's explanation fold out in practice. But this wasn't even near how bad Ash had actually been, in fact, the teen hadn't felt so good in ages, thanks to the meditating and lovely Pokémon on this earth's plane. Also, talking about the Pokémon, the huggable Helioptile was still there, yawning as it stretched a little.

"Gosh, you're so cute." The boy chuckled when the Pokémon came to him automatically, after it noticed him looking its way.

The purring being was making the teen very curious to see what Kalos had to offer, especially regarding the different Pokémon here. Maybe there were some he knew already, but that was fine, because he loved them all. Also, if they all were as lovingly and happy to be snuggled like this Helioptile, who was purring so loud that people around them were turning to look for the source of the noise, he would be set.

"You must have godly hands for Heli to act so lovingly towards you."

Ash looked up, a little startle by the sudden voice that had disturbed the little cuddle session… and saw Alexa stand not too far from him, smiling widely.

'Oh, God, how long did I cuddle with this Pokémon?!' he thought, panicking a little, because he totally zoned out again. 'And what kind of nickname is Heli…?'

"A-ah, sorry, I didn't see you there."

"That's perfectly alright, Ash. In fact, it seems Heli's finally been cuddled thoroughly for once, which is a rare occurrence." She said, giggling as her pleased as punch looking Pokémon crawled onto her shoulder and happily butted its head against her cheek. "Too bad I can't repay the favour you've just done for me."

"… What do you mean?"

"I asked my sister whether she was the first Gym you should go to and she said yes…But it seems like she's not in the Gym right now."

"Oh, that's okay. I kind of wanted to explore Lumiose City anyway. And I have a lot of things I need to ask Professor Sycamore as well, which will probably take a while… I probably won't be able to find whatever City your sister's Gym is at right away either, since I don't know the way."

"There's a map at every city. And her Gym is in Santalune City." Alexa answered. "But why not go to the Lumiose Gym?"

"… But you just told me your sister said I should challenge her Gym first? Are there no requirements in Gyms in Kalos?"

"R-requirements…? That's a thing?"

"Well yes, it's like a difficulty level."

"Ah… Well, I'm not a trainer, so…"

"Oh, but that's okay! You've already been a massive help, Alexa, since no one ever welcomed me in a region this warmly. And besides, you don't have to be a trainer to have a kind heart and to care for Pokémon, both assets you clearly have, or else Helioptile wouldn't be as happy as it is now." Ash stated quickly.

Alexa's face lighted up almost instantly and blushed a little, as a reaction to his passionate outburst.

"Thank you, Ash." She said. "Come, let me show you Lumiose in a more detailed way."


"… This city is huge…" the teen uttered in awe as he was faced with the digital map outside of the airport. "How will I ever be able to find my way through this?"

"Most travellers used the Prism Tower as a navigation point. And it's pretty huge too, making it hard to miss."

"I bet the Gym's really close to that, then?"

"Of course, in fact, it's in the Tower."

"Figures." He snorted in response.

"Will you be okay from here on?"

"Of course! Thank you so much for everything, Alexa. I hope I'll see you again."

"I'll be hanging around Santalune, so we're bound to see each other again. In fact, I can't wait to see a battle of yours."

"Let's hope I can live up to your expectations!" Ash answered happily. "Until then?"

"Yes, see you!"

They shook hand and after that, the teen turned around, walking towards the gate that would lead him to one of the lanes which would lead to the centre of this huge city. It didn't bode much good that Lumiose City proved to be a circle within a circle within another circle, with nearly identical streets crossing diagonally over the rings in a web-like way… But well, he wasn't in a hurry and getting lost was one of the best ways to get to know a city, right?

Ash was completely unaware that he had left a rather good impression on Alexa, though. She stared at his back as he moved away and then turned her head towards her Helioptile.

"He sure is something, isn't he, Heli?"

"Optile!" the Pokémon nodded enthusiastically.

"Good luck, challenger." She said and well…

When the teen turned as if he heard her, all she could do was smile and wave. He returned the gesture, smiling in such a way, that Alexa was happy he was so far away, so that he couldn't see her blush.

'That boy… His enthusiasm is making me feel so embarrassed about my own drive, it's ridiculous.' she thought and then turned to go her own way.

None the wiser about his nonplussed temporary guide, Ash continued on his merry way and got one of his theories confirmed. Namely that there were a lot of Pokémon he already knew here as well, but still… there were so many new creatures and they all looked so awesome! In fact, the teen had blatantly looked over the tower Alexa told him he couldn't miss, just because he saw this amazing, feline Pokémon, who looked just as pleased to see him… so yeah, that didn't bode much good, did it?

However, once Ash had noticed the Prism Tower, nothing could stand in his way to get there. He stared up at the huge structure and gaped a little in awe.

"This is so awesome, Pikachu."

"Chu~"

"… Think we can kind of visit this place? Because I don't think Professor Sycamore is going to know how many badges you need to challenge every Gym."

The Pokémon nodded eagerly and with the knowledge that any normal Gym leader would appreciate a little visit, the teen continued his trek towards the obvious entrance of the impressive landmark. However, once inside, he quickly deducted that this was an Electric type Gym, which was kind of obvious with the electricity shooting through tubes and all that… But that didn't make him any happier, because he had memories from all the years he had been travelling. And having been faced with plenty of Electric type Gym Leaders, he was already internally praying that this person would be nice and fight him without requiring him to solve a particular issue before the challenge.

"Euhm… Excuse me?" he called out, as he couldn't go inside the Gym any further and figured there was bound to be someone or something listening.

"Welcome to the Lumiose Gym." The screen stated, springing to life.

"… Thanks. I was wondering if you could tell me how many badges I need to challenge this Gym?"

"How many do you currently have?"

"None, I've been in this region for-"

"NONE!?" the screen screamed, much to Ash's surprise, as it cut him off pretty rudely. "You need to have at least four badges or more to even consider challenging the Lumiose Gym! I request you try again later!"

The teen quickly learned he should be more careful when accepting any request in Kalos. Because the Gym Leader -or whoever was in charge here- shot of an attack towards him, which only landed because it had taken the boy by surprise, yet didn't do any damage. No matter how well Pikachu had trained him to be resilient to Electric attacks, there was no stopping the cowardly trapdoors opening underneath his feet, causing him to fall down in this weird slide that spat him straight out of the Gym… Way too high about to ground to be considered healthy too.

'Oh man!' Ash groaned internally. 'Today's a really bad day for falling! The universe is dead set on letting me start this journey with a broken tailbone, isn't it! Oh, God, please, anyone listening, try and make this landing any softer…'

Much to his surprise, he did end up falling into something soft, which definitely didn't feel like brickwork. While his behind was still a little 'meh' from his entrance in Kalos, this was a whole lot better landing that he had expected.

"Are you okay?!" a voice sounded out and the owner of it appeared when the thing Ash had fallen in deflated.

"Yes! Thank you so much for saving us!" Ash said, happily accepting the outstretched hand the blonde boy had offered.

"Brother, look, a Pikachu."

The teen had to commend the boy for his reflexes, because he grabbed the Pikachu out of the girl's grip super-fast and pushed the Pokémon back into the young trainer's arms.

"Bonnie!" He hissed. "You're not allowed to grab a Poké-help like that!"

"Ah, it's okay." Ash said quickly, already seeing the girl was not pleased with being scolded like that. "After all, she saved Pikachu, so if he's okay with being petted, I am as well."

Pikachu was a little spoiled but even he realised that he would have gotten seriously hurt by this high a fall. So, he jumped from his trainer's arms and went to cuddle with the girl for a bit.

"So… Is there anything you can tell me about this Gym?" the teen asked, pointing at the Prism Tower.

"Ah, you got thrown out, huh?"

"Worse. It never let me finish what I was saying. So unforgiving… I would say the Gym Leader was a robot instead of an actual person."

"The Lumiose Gym leader is kind of tough, actually!" the little girl piped up. "Weren't you asked for the number of badges?"

"I asked first, because I just wandered in there for information… But while I was telling it I had none, whatever is in control there, endeavoured to electrocute me and well… Here I am."

"None?" both the boy and girl asked, in unison too.

"Cut me some slack, I've only landed in Kalos half an hour ago." Ash answered holding up his hands, as Pikachu jumped back on his shoulder. "I was just sightseeing and got curious about this Gym."

"… Excuse me, but where are you from?"

"I'm from Kanto, Pallet Tow, to be precise. My name is Ash and I'm in Kalos to continue my Pokémon journey."

Yes, notice the lack of mention of his dream here. It wasn't as if he didn't want to become a Pokémon Master any longer, but saying it over and over again, when it had been so long ago that he had actually won anything… Pretentious wasn't the right word for Ash's feelings either, but he… was bothered. He was still going to be the best, don't get him wrong, but he knew now that it would take time and a whole lot of work to get there. But honestly, that was no one else's business that his, right? And he was already having difficulties keeping himself safe today, despite his good intentions of not making his mom worry.

By the time his thoughts filtered back from the fact that he would rather be a living Pokémon trainer, than a dead Master, he noticed that the two Kalos natives -or so he assumed- had brought him to a little area filled with some trees and flowers… Yeah, it was nice and it succeeded in bringing a smile to his face.

"We will introduce ourselves as well, then." The boy said. "My name is Clemont and this is my sister, Bonnie."

"Nice to meet you, Bonnie and Clemont." He answered, nodding as Pikachu greeted them in his own way.

"You and Pikachu are so close!" Bonnie said, apparently really fond of his starter.

"Well, we have been together for a while already, haven't we, Pikachu?" the teen stated. "He was my first ever Pokémon, so it makes sense that he should be joining me on this journey… But what about you two? Are you trainers as well?"

"A-ah…"

"No, no, we've only started out, your see?" the girl answered happily.

"… I see. Must be nice to be travelling with family. "

"But you and Pikachu are always together, right?"

Ash had to hand it to her, Bonnie had managed to point out the biggest perk of being a trainer. She might be a little young, which showed in the way she had grabbed Pikachu that quickly, but it was the truth. You were kind of stuck with your family, but your Pokémon family consisted of those you picked yourself. In Ash's case, most of his family picked him, but he kind of liked it that way.

Though her strange knowledge of these little things made him a little dubious. Why on earth had they been so surprised he had no badges yet when they were only starting out too? And yet she lacked the common sense of not bothering an electric Pokémon, like a Pikachu…

"Bonnie doesn't have a Pokémon yet, so she adores the idea of walking around with them." Clemont said.

"Oh, I totally understand!" the teen answered, enthusiastically trying to cover up he nearly zoned out on them. "I couldn't wait until I could become a trainer either!"

"I know right! You totally understand!" Bonnie cheered… as if her brother had suddenly become a reluctant trainer.

'Stop overthinking this, Ash, not everyone is so complicated as you are.' He chided himself.

"So, Clemont, what kind of Pokémon do you have, then?"

"Ah… I euhm… have one I got earlier." The blonde boy said, getting the Pokéball out of his pocket.

'Alright, not reluctant, maybe but little confidence? Doesn't seem like he's going to be a good opponent with the Pokémon he's got in the Pokéball right now.'

"Can I see it?"

"… As in a fight?"

That… hadn't really been what Ash had meant. And a look of hesitance crossed Clemont's face again. Also, one look at Pikachu told him that his starter didn't want to fight a meek opponent like that. His starter wasn't underestimating whatever Pokémon Clemont had, but nothing screamed awkwardness that challenging a hesitant opponent. Whether it was a show or not, those were not the fights his dear friend wanted to fight.

"Doesn't have to be." Ash answered happily and petted Pikachu on his shoulder, drawing a purr from him. "While I'm a trainer, I do like to normally explore Pokémon and befriend them… If that's okay to you?"

"Y-your Pokémon purred?" the blonde asked, eyes wide.

"Ah, yes, that's… a thing of mine."

"Does that work with any Pokémon or just yours?"

'Ah.' The teen thought happily. 'He's asking all the right questions.'

"Why don't we go and test that out?"


The eager Pokémon that was very much shaped like a Buneary but couldn't be more different at the same time, gingerly pushed its head against the boy's hands.

"Well, I was going to ask you for permission to touch it, but that seems a little unnecessary right now."

"Bunnelby usually isn't that happy to be touched…" Clemont uttered, looking pretty bewildered by the sudden willingness in his Pokémon.

"Oh, is that its name?" Ash asked. "Can you tell me a little about it?"

"Euhm, yeah, it's a Normal type. Its strength is in its ears so you might want to be careful of…"

The teen couldn't see what he needed to be careful of. The little Pokémon was being so nice and once Ash's hands had been sniffed thoroughly, the Bunnelby relaxed completely… and purred in its own way, namely by moving its teeth over each other, creating a rather peculiar noise. But the blissed-out expression on its face conveyed that he was right in assuming the Pokémon loved being scratched behind the ears.

"Seems like this is a spot it can't reach on its own all too well."

"Or maybe you have particularly warm hands." Clemont said.

No matter what kind of hands had, Ash considered himself lucky for his reflexes in them. Because out off the blue, this net came flying towards them, looking anything but natural. The boy's ability quickly found the energy source for the blue mesh and deactivated it, causing the gadget to lose its function. Seeing it was on its way down towards him anyway, the teen grabbed it and kept it with him. For he already knew who was responsible for this.

"That's dangerous!" Clemont exclaimed, having run towards his Pokémon as well.

"Who are you?!" Bonnie called out.

Despite having heard the Team Rocket motto for so many years already, Ash still couldn't help but feel like he should just let them finish it. Besides, they tended to get angry if interrupted so maybe that's why he felt this way. But that Clemont was attracted to Meowth, that was something that bothered him.

"That Meowth just spoke!" he exclaimed. "That's amazing!"

"Yeah, if it wasn't so full of tommyrot, that might have been amazing." The teen stated and turned to Pikachu to give it a meaningful look.

The Pokémon grinned as it got the message alright and posed itself ready to fight.

"Euhm… Guys?" Meowth muttered hesitantly. "Is it me or is the twerp lookin' a lil different…?"

Before anyone could say anything, Ash threw the gadget towards the group, along with the command for Pikachu to land a Thunderbolt on it. Though he had not suspected it would cause such a big explosion and he found himself wondering whether he actually had said Thunderbolt or Thunder. Ah well, it got rid of Team Rocket alright, who seemed to be flying off in disbelief that the attack actually landed.

"That was so cool!" Bonnie cheered.

"You know them, Ash?" the blonde boy asked.

"All I know is that they have been trying to steal my Pikachu for years."

"Your Poké-help? Isn't that illegal?"

"It's a recent thing… But they're criminals for a reason. You might not want to get affiliated with them."

"Well no, I'll try. Why did you attack them that way?"

"You didn't see that Wobbuffet, Clemont?"

"Gosh, I did. Mirror Coat, then."

"Yup. That was a powerful little net, though, what an explosion."

"I would think it was Pikachu's attack that did it, though." Clemont said dryly.

"Well, either way-"

"Froa…~"

Ash blinked and turned towards where he had heard the sound come from. It took a while until he could spot whatever had made the noise, but to his dismay, it seemed like Pikachu's attack had made a casualty that didn't belong to Team Rocket.

"Oh no!" he exclaimed and ran towards the fallen Pokémon.

"Ah, it's a Froakie."

"It's a water type, isn't it?" the teen groaned as he picked up the obviously hurt Pokémon.

"Well yeah."

"Just my luck for it to get hit by Pikachu's attack. I'm so sorry, Froakie, we'll take you to a Pokémon Centre."

"I think it's better to bring it to Professor Sycamore's laboratory!" Bonnie piped up. "It's closer than any Pokémon Centre around."

"Alright, lead the way. The sooner it gets help, the better." Ash said and followed the girl.

'Oh, Froakie, I hope you're okay… I'll never forgive myself for my negligence. I should have known Pikachu's strength, should have at least checked it.' He thought as he ran after Bonnie.

Here's to hoping Professor Sycamore wouldn't be mad at him.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

"What the…! What are you doing with that Pokémon?!"

"Euhm…"

"Are you a thief?!"

Yeaaah, this really wasn't the way Ash had envisioned his first meeting with this supposedly friendly and smart Professor would go, but here he was, with the very annoyed man in front of him. Where ever this insults came from, the teen didn't know, because what criminal carried their look to the police? So why would a Pokémon thief come inside a Pokémon Professor's laboratory and call out to them for help?

"No, I'm just an idiot with redeemable qualities." He answered, trying to stay calm so he wouldn't mess this up any further. "Does Froakie have a trainer?"

"Apparently not, seeing you've come here with him."

That was the last straw for the teen, who was already pretty fed up with today already. In between moody Professors and petty, unreasonable Gym Leaders, Ash's personal issues resurfaced again and as such, he was in no mood to start discussing ethics with the obviously bothered man. The teen was pretty sure he would need to release some Aura somewhere, or at least do something drastic because his feelings were getting the best of him.

"Well, fine. I get it already." He huffed, making a vague motion with his hands, deciding at the last moment not to flip the Professor off. "I'm leaving. Bonnie, humour me and stay here until your brother comes back, okay. I don't want you running down the streets on your own."

"Where are you going?!"

"Finish my sight-seeing. I didn't travel all the way to Kalos to get judged by… half asleep Professors, so I'm not staying around when that's the case. So, bye Bonnie."

"… Bye…" she uttered, watching the teen retrace his steps and going towards the door.

Clemont didn't know what to say either when he stumbled through the doors of the laboratory and noticed Ash coming towards him.

"Oh, hey, Ash." He sighed, leaning on the door frame, trying to catch his breath.

"Yeah, bye, Clemont."

The teen blinked as the obviously annoyed trainer passed him and stepped outside.

"… What happened here?" the blonde asked.

"Seems like he's a little sensitive." Professor Sycamore said simply. "Why don't you two come along to see how Froakie's doing?"

While Bonnie and Clemont happily agreed with that, Ash moodily stalked off into the curved streets of Lumiose. Whatever positive mood set he had when landing here, had diminished pretty much completely and now he was even feeling a little bothered because he didn't know what had gone wrong for him to feel this way.

"Talk about a blockhead, alright. Was it so hard to actually answer me…?" he muttered. "I was simply meaning to apologise for hurting Froakie, that's it."

It wasn't as if he had hurt the Pokémon on purpose or that he looked like a thief. How many thieves had little girls at their sides too? Also, screw Professor Oak and his statement that he would have a friend in Professor Sycamore. The man had included Professor Kukui as well but if the man was in any way similar to the one of the Kalos region, Ash wasn't looking forward to meeting him either. Also, how was he supposed to know about his Mega stone now, with the man he had hoped to talk to being such a pain in the backside? And didn't he need a different Pokédex as well?

"Pikapi. Chu."

The teen looked up, because the fact that Pikachu had called out to him with his personal nickname, must have had a definite reason. Why the Pokémon was even pointing at the ice cream salon Ash didn't know, considering there was a pretty long like in front of it and he was already at the end of his patience.

"Ice cream isn't going to fix any of my current issues, Pikachu."

"Pi, Pikachu, pi, pi, cha chu, Pika?"

That sounded so much like: 'Well, you don't know unless you try, right', that it made Ash roll his eyes and sigh.

"Well, okay, then. But only because this is an exception."

"Pika!"


Ash was just standing in line, waiting, like all the others in front and behind him. His mantra 'Think happy thoughts, Ash.' wasn't doing a lot to keep his annoyance in but it kept him busy without causing him to start daydreaming and potentially lose his precious spot in line. He wasn't aware there was someone behind him who was very interested in him, but was keeping back because of… well, the teen still looked a little pissed, to be honest.

After good three-quarters of an hour, it finally was his turn to appear in front of the obviously tired, but still surprisingly cheerful man. Ash had half the mind to literally stand there, acting as if he couldn't decide so that the man could have a breather but could have other, unwelcome after effects. Like beastly people who thought their time was more precious than someone else's, who could potentially act out against the poor ice cream seller.

"A… vanilla soft ice, please." He eventually said.

"Coming up right away!" was the happy answer and all too soon, Ash had his prized and pretty delicious looking ice cream in hands.

It wasn't a very inspiring creation, but the teen wasn't the type to go for blue ice cream or anything out of the ordinary anyway, so this was fine. And it was soft enough so Pikachu wouldn't get his tongue stuck on it either. But there was one little detail that would make Ash reconsider ever going here again, was the price. It felt bad to use the expression: 'It almost cost him an arm and a leg', seeing he only had one actual leg to spare, but it fit so perfectly.

Ash only went through with it because it was pretty much the first, good thing that happened to him here in Kalos and that he was basically treating himself for at least having acted decent enough. Though, before he could even think of starting his first lick at the sweet treat, this Garchomp stormed passed him, waaay to close for comfort. The boy could only blink and stare at the enraged behemoth, his mind not having caught up with what had just happened.

"What the heck…?" he uttered.

He figured he should be grateful an relieved the dragon hadn't run into him, because the consequences of that would've been… well… But his 'happiness' was pushed to the side pretty soon when the teen could hear the crying of a little girl, who hadn't been so lucky. Initially, Ash was fearing she was actually hurt, but the smashed ice cream cone in the process of melting soon proved to be the only reason why the girl was crying -thankfully. Not a single part of his mind protested when he pushed his still untouched ice cream in her hands.

"Here, have mine, it's vanilla, just like yours."

The girl blinked at him through her tears and quickly took the treat, as the apparition of another ice cream was enough a shock to make her stop crying.

"I-I'm scared." She sniffled, holding the ice cream close to her.

"Ah, don't worry~ Pokémon can have this ability to get a little euhm…" Ash only paused to pull a weird face and make an equally strange noise, which succeeded in making the girl giggled before continuing. "- strange, really. It'll be over in a bit, I'm sure."

"O-okay."

"Where's your mom, though?"

The boy had to take a step backwards because when he straightened, the woman was right there.

"Thank you so much, sir!" she wheezed, taking both his hands and shaking them just a little too hard.

"N-no problem, ma'am." He answered a little awkwardly

He had severely underestimated mother's ability to round in on their children but honestly, what kind of miscreant would you be let a scared child cry? But heck, more importantly, this rogue Pokémon was on its way to the Prism Tower…

"Do you want to bet it's going to King Kong its way up that tower, buddy?" Ash asked as he started going towards the impressive landmark as well -at a safe distance from the Garchomp, though.

"Pi?"

"You don't remember that movie where this Primeape got huge thanks to this experiment gone wrong and started raging around? It also climbed into the biggest tower it could find, which is a pretty funny coincidence if you think about it." The teen chuckled. "They've recently made this new version, but took an Alolan Pokémon for it. A Passimian, I believe it was."

Small talk was Ash's way of dealing with stress, so Pikachu nodded… but was worried because he knew his trainer would be going to do something stupid. And when they reached the Prism Tower, it was clear what needed to happen.

"Oh man, it's scaling the outside of the tower…" the boy sighed. "Ah well, this Garchomp's behaviour totally puts my Gible's attitude into perspective, doesn't it?"

"Pikaaa…"

"I know, I know."

But these kinds of things were just the job for him, really. Was at dangerous? Was it incredibly stupid? Did it need an immense amount of selflessness and courage? If the answer to all these questions was yes, then it usually was his time to shine. He regretted having to break his mother's promise to stay safe so quickly, but there was no helping it. Who else was going to do something else than going to stare at the rogue Pokémon from a safe distance?

"Let's go."

"Pika!"

As he and his faithful partner sprinted towards the base of the landmark to look for an entrance he wasn't risking to get electrocute and kicked out off again, Ash couldn't help but doubt whether he would ever be able to see this Gym as anything but a bloody nuisance. Oh yes, he probably jinxed himself from the start, thinking he could just go into this Gym without having to fix anything. Funny how he was doing exactly that, only three hours into his Kalos journey. And heck, if he wasn't careful, it could very well end here, because the Garchomp absolutely didn't sound happy.

He found the usual entrance alright, but as he started circling the base of the tower, he noticed there was a very inconspicuous looking door, probably for maintenance. It seemed to have an intricate lock on it, but hey, electronics had no secret for the teen. No key needed when you had the ability to just threaten that lock a little, causing it to open by itself. It was kind of funny but apparently, this act seemed to have impressed a not entirely welcome guest.

"What are you doing here?" the teen asked, giving the Froakie who had jumped on his right shoulder a dirty look.

"Fro!" it called out, pointing at the tower and going towards the top of it.

"Wait… You're just using me as a lift?"

A deadly silence fell. If there wasn't the distinct sound of faint explosions coming from the top of the Prism Tower and the chatter always associated with a gathering of people, Ash would have expected chirping of some kind.

"Fine, then!" he all but growled, seeing the determined expression on the Pokémon's face. "But if you're so certain you want to stick around, you better hang on tight. This is going to be wild, I can already tell."

"Fro!"

'Well, at least it's got guts.' The teen thought as he slipped inside the building. 'The last thing I need when confronting an angry Pokémon is another angry Pokémon, though. When this is over, I need to have a good talk to Froakie…'

And with that last thought, Ash disappeared out of view, ready to see what on earth was bothering that angry dragon up there.


It just wasn't Professor Sycamore's day, was it? He was already feeling a little guilty because he lashed out to that trainer earlier today, only to discover that Froakie was obviously looking for the boy, once the Pokémon had been healed. The man didn't know what to think about the blonde girl's story either, where the teen had dealt so swiftly with those criminals… who ended up in his laboratory!

Augustine trusted his assistants with his life and more and as such, had left them to look after his Garchomp and Froakie. But who could have imagined that any criminal would be so cruel to come into a Pokémon laboratory, to steal Pokémon… Just the fact that they were clearly looking for strong Pokémon was a reason for concern, but it was stupid too because Professor Sycamore usually dealt with sick or hurt or Starter Pokémon here. The only extremely strong Pokémon here was Garchomp… which they had under control in no time.

It was very worrisome, especially since it seemed like it was hurting the normally patient Pokémon enough to strike out against them. The Garchomp blasted Team Rocket straight through the ceiling, which made the Professor doubt whether they actually had any control on him from the start. Unfortunately, the device around the dragon's neck was still active, no matter how for the attack had flung those criminals. And it was still causing the Pokémon grief because he lashed out at the slightest sound. When Garchomp jumped out of the laboratory, the man had felt relieved for five seconds. And after that short period, he started to realise what a disaster this was.

"Mon Dieu, quel misère…" he muttered as he passed the posh houses of Lumiose's middle and widest lane. "I'm doomed if my insurance doesn't cover this…"

Garchomp's attacks had left a clear path of destruction, which made it painfully easy to follow its trail. Above his head, Professor Sycamore could hear a helicopter, but by the sounds of it, had difficulties getting closer to the scene because of the Pokémon kept sending Hyper Beam attacks at it. He was pretty late to get there, or so it seemed when he saw how many people had already gathered to look at what was going on. Officer Jenny had plenty of trouble keeping everyone at bay, but he could come forward, for it was his Garchomp who was running amok.

"O-Officer…" he breathed out, very much out of breath. "How's the situation?"

"Bad." She answered curtly. "I take that this is your Garchomp?"

"Yes, it is. Some criminals called Team Rocket have put this… this thing around his neck, in an attempt to control him but their wonky machinery backfired on them and now they're nowhere to be found…"

"And we're stuck with Garchomp in this state." She said, finishing his sentence for him.

"Err… yes."

"Great. I don't suppose you have any idea who that kid is?"

"Kid? What kid?" the man asked alarmed.

"Take a look." The officer said, handing over her binoculars.

Professor Sycamore could only watch as he noticed the familiar teen inch closer to the still aggressive Garchomp, who fired several Hyper Beams towards him. However, in some, miraculous way, the attacks missed and it seemed like the kid got the upper hand. In fact, the Professor promised himself he would totally make it up to the boy because the way he flung himself towards the dragon proved he had so much guts… More than all the people on this square had together.

"He seems to be on the winning side." He said, handing the binoculars back.

"Praise Arceus, if that's the case." Officer Jenny answered.

But when the man and woman turned back to look at the top of the tower, they understood the sudden, collective gasp that came from the audience. Neither of the two needed the binoculars to see that the boy had just thrown himself off the tower, just after something yellow had fallen off the edge.

"Oh NON!" the Professor cried out.

But then…

"Bordel de putain de merde!" the man swore and wildly looked around. "Where did he go?"

The Officer quickly got out her binoculars and searched around… but the boy seemed to have disappeared in mid-air.

"I don't know, Professor, I swear I saw him drop like a brick!" she exclaimed, panic clearly hearable in her voice. "Oh no, you don't think a Pokémon did something?"

"I didn't see anything, though?"

"Ah, there!" Bonnie's voice cried out, though Professor Sycamore couldn't remember her having come stand next to him for the life of him.

Startled, the man looked at where she was pointing and indeed saw the teen sag onto the ground, in an eerily similar manner as a puppet on strings tended to fall down. He did seem to have succeeded in catching the yellow thing that had fallen down, but the Professor couldn't get to the boy soon enough, to check whether both the kid and whatever had fallen down were fine. He didn't know exactly what had happened and frankly, that didn't interest him as much as the trainer's health. After all, it seemed Garchomp had calmed down, because he came jumping down the tower pretty soon, Froakie on in his hold. However, while the Pokémon seemed relatively meeker than before -yeah, no kidding, he nearly blasted the whole city to pieces-, he looked okay.

The boy, on the other hand, didn't seem alright at all. He even cringed when Professor Sycamore gently touched his shoulder, turning to him with strangely dilated eyes, staring at him as if he had just seen the Professor grow a second head right there and then.

'Merde, he is in shock.' The man thought and simply scooped the kid, Pikachu and all, up in his arms.

It wouldn't do for the saviour of his Garchomp to suffer from the effects of his brave act on a cold, hard floor when there was a perfectly good and comfortable bed available in his laboratory. There was bound to be one room that wasn't destroyed, right?

"P-Professor? Is he okay?"

He looked down to see the little girl and her brother.

"Yes, yes, he will be. With a little rest, your friend will be right as rain."

"Thank heavens." Clemont sighed.

"Why don't you come around in tomorrow? I'll be sure to keep him until then, so you can see he's okay with your own eyes."

"Okay, Professor!"


His assistants were a little befuddled that they suddenly got a human subject in front of them, but even Professor Sycamore felt a little out of his comfort zone. Not because of the boy, since he didn't utter a single word and clung to his Pokémon for dear life. No, it was because Steven Stone himself came flying into the laboratory.

"No sedatives!" he cried out, sliding into the room in a rather dramatic pose.

The man could only look at the Champion leaning on the doorframe, now trying to catch his breath. Granted, he had the glass of water and sedatives in his hand, because that was the most efficient way to help someone get through shock, especially when surrounded by complete strangers… but still…

"Please, put down the pills. He goes into epileptic seizures when in contact with sedatives containing Lignocaine and his doctor believes codeine could have the same result!"

Professor Sycamore blinked and did put the bottle of pills on the table.

"Then what do I do?"

"Incense." Steven wheezed, putting one hand on his chest and producing a small box of incense sticks out of his pocket with the other. "Oh gosh, I need to work on my condition more. Hoh, I thought I was fit but heavens, was I mistaken…"

"Thank you for your help, Mr. Stone but-"

"Mr. Stone would my father, please. I know I'm getting older but it's okay to call me Steven."

"… Steven, then. I… hope it's okay if I ask you some questions?"

"I would be worried if you didn't. Diantha doesn't look like the type to come inside in a… similar manner like I just did."

"Quite." Professor Sycamore said. "Who is this boy?"

"Ash Satoshi Ketchum. Hasn't Professor Oak notified you yet?"

The black-haired man felt a strange desire to smack his hand on his forehead.

'Augustine, tu es un connard.'

You know, Professor Oak might have called but he had just been too busy following his crazy Garchomp around. Gosh, the hours they had spent, making up theories about what could have made the boy attract those Ultra Beasts… The Kanto Professor had been a little reluctant to give away information -privacy and all that- but Professor Sycamore clearly remembered having been excited by the mere prospect of meeting the teen… and somehow, when the kid was right in front of him, in his trademark Samaritan way, he still managed to botch up their first contact in an extremely bad way.

"Not that I know of." the man sighed. "Is he… vengeful?" he added, pointing to the teen in the couch

"I wouldn't say so, no."

"Good. How did you get here so quickly, anyway?"

"I was able to use my father's private jet, after Lance euhm… urged him that it was really urgent."

"… Is this kid a national treasure?"

"Worse, he's Lance's nephew."

"What?"

"Not in blood, apparently, but yeah, you've got the son of Kanto's missing Champion on your sofa, so Lance is a little spiky when it comes to how Ash is usually treated. Though we all know him and want to see him safe." Steven said happily and then turned to look at the teen, which made his expression a little more doubtful. "Euhm... He's kinda falling asleep pretty well on his own, isn't he?"

"Good." Professor Sycamore huffed. "Leave him be. But you're telling me this is Red's…?"

"Yes. Officially, I swear." The man answered. "Lance has never been happier, so he might not even be mad if he hears you've been a jerk to his little nephew."

"He's been mad at me ever since I gave him the evidence that the smallest Pokémon in this world can end his big dragons. In a way, this will make little difference."

Steven just laughed at that, remembering the day Lance got into that meeting with this thunderous expression on his face all too well. He had trouble keeping in his mirth when the man announced his bad mood was caused by the fact fairies existed then, but the mental image of the situation still managed to bring a smile on his face every time."

"Right. Anyway, let's get this kid into bed."

"Yeah, let me help you. He's a little heavier than he's supposed to be, after all."

"… What's that supposed to mean?" the man frowned.

"You think a stainless steel prosthetic leg doesn't weigh anything?"

"He climbed the Prism Tower with a prosthetic leg?" the Professor uttered, sounding a little constipated all of a sudden.

"You didn't know? Geez, did you even talk to the kid?"

"No, I called him a thief and he left."

"A thief? What did he supposedly steal, then?"

"I… thought he had stolen that Froakie, the one right next to him… But maybe it was wishful thinking because as I took the Pokémon out of his arms, Froakie's trainer had called in and told my assistant they were letting it go."

"Ah, miscommunication. Sounds familiar. Anyway, you'll have time to talk to him and have a proper conversation, I'm sure."

"I hope so."


Ash became very aware that his surroundings were not really matching up to his actual memories right now. The distinct smell of lavender was a scent he usually only could smell when his mom left the back door open in summertime, which she totally never did after that one accident with Mr. Mime, who took the hoover outside during one of his vigorous cleaning sessions.

It also didn't add up because the teen remembered having arrived here in Lumiose and jumping off that tower all too well. So why he was suddenly smelling lavender, wasn't making any sense to him right now. Until the teen opened his eyes and was confronted with the bedside table, which had the lightly smoking incense sticks on it. They were literally put in an ordinary drinking glass, so that told the sleepy boy to this was probably a practical man's doing. So, there was a big chance he was in Professor Sycamore's laboratory, which didn't really make any sense either, until…

'… That was his Garchomp, wasn't it?' Ash thought as he turned his attention to the rest of the bed.

Pikachu was curled up, right next to his arm and as far as the teen could see, his bag was propped up against a desk a little further in the room. He wasn't undressed, which suddenly made the strange heat he was feeling make sense too, but somehow his shoes were missing. Ash couldn't see where they had been placed, but that really wasn't important right now.

"Buddy?" he asked softly.

Pikachu jumped up instantly, seemingly not having been asleep at all, and came over to nuzzle his cheek.

"Pikapi~" he purred.

"Hey, Pikachu. You're okay?"

By the looks and sounds of it, the Pokémon was absolutely fine, which pleased the teen. Because, you know, it made having jumped after him totally worth it.

"Alright… Time to go and check out what we've missed, hm?"

He pushed the cover of the bed off him and sighed deeply when it proved that it had insulated his body heat a little too well. This comfortably numb feeling had settled in his body, which told him it was high time he got out of the warmth, or he would be getting a fever out of this. The strange tiredness settling in his whole being was probably the result of that, so the boy couldn't get active soon enough. Still, considering he was so near to Professor Sycamore, this could be a perfect opportunity to ask the man about the Mega Stone he had in his possession.

The teen was a little doubtful whether he should put on his shoes or not because he was inside… but then figured he wasn't in Kanto and that the Profession also had been wearing shoes inside. He took the risk because he wasn't wearing the right socks to be walking on and not be at risk of slipping. Also, it became rather obvious that everything in this building was well-insulated because as soon as Ash opened the door of the room, the sound of construction work bulldozed him.

"… Whoa…"

His position gave him a great view of the main hall, where this hole in the façade of the laboratory, which was already being repaired. This proved that the Garchomp actually belonged to the Professor, because none of the houses Ash passed had damage inside of them, or at least, not to this extent. Now that he was a little used to the loud noise, he dared to venture out of the door, already happy he had decided to put on his shoes again because there was a lot of dirt and debris everywhere.

"E-excuse me? Could you tell me where Professor Sycamore is?" he asked carefully, knowing the man was there to do construction work, not acting like a building layout plan.

"Go straight through in that hallway, sonny." The builder said happily, only pausing his work to point in the right direction.

"Ah, thank you, sir!" Ash answered and bounced off the rest of the stairs.

He wasn't the best in coordinating his location, but a straight hallway had little options to go wrong in, right? To his relief, he arrived in the room which definitely looked like a common seating area. Only, it was completely devoid of people.

"H-hello?" he called out.

And got jumped on by Froakie. Granted, the Pokémon wasn't heavy, but its sudden arrival did startle the teen a lot. It was looking at him with these big eyes as it sat clung to his shirt… and well, Ash knew the creature would stick around. He didn't particularly care about that, in fact, he kind of liked the Pokémon… but he wanted to know how Professor Sycamore had been able to identify Froakie from the end of the hallway he just passed.

"Ah, Ash, you're finally awake."

"Euhm, yeah. Who… told you my name?"

"A few people, but it was Steven Stone giving me your full name."

"Steven?!" Ash exclaimed, his expression one of disbelief.

"When you have an uncle like Lance, you should not be surprised to find he would move heaven and earth to ensure your safety. And it was good that Mr. Stone arrived when he did, or else you would have been in the hospital, experiencing seizures." The Professor said, sounding pretty calm for someone whose Pokémon was responsible for nearly destroying the city. "Can you tell me what exactly is the reason for that?"

"Oh, so I've apparently been healed by a Pokémon who doesn't know anything of human autonomy at all, so my brain works a little differently. We found out about my Lignocaine allergy soon after I was released from my long stay at the hospital, but yeah…"

"That's not a convenient allergy to have when you have the habit of jumping off buildings."

"I would jump off anything for Pikachu, any day." The teen replied obtusely, while his starter Pokémon happily nuzzled his head against the boy's cheek.

"… Of course. Take a seat, Ash, I really want to talk to you. But first, allow me to apologise for my rudeness earlier."

"Yes, I'm also very sorry, Professor. I should have known something was up with this Froakie but I let my own feelings cloud my judgment. Also, I unknowingly brought Team Rocket here as well."

"The latter is not linked to you, Ash." Professor Sycamore said as he sat down. "Mr. Stone told me that the trio had been sighted weeks before your arrival today and that this was bound to happen, considering they had the plan and machinery ready. Also, before I forget, Mr. Stone left something for you."

Ash couldn't help but smile when the man produced a keychain from his pocket. It was the kind of thing that was so ugly, you instantly liked it. What was important, though, was that there was a little note with Steven's phone number on it, along with the fact the man had discovered that the keychain animal was actually an Aipom after he had bought it. Good to know the Hoenn Champion had a healthy sense of humour.

"I'm so going to put this on my backpack." He grinned, putting the note and keychain in his pocket.

"I'm glad you like it. Mr. Stone would have liked to stay, but he apparently had another engagement he needed to go to. He promised to be back, so it would be great if I could persuade you to stay the night."

"Of course, I would be happy to. After all, I have several questions for you."

"Oh?"

"Mm, what happened with Froakie for you to have been able to recognise him so quickly? Professor Oak has seen my Pikachu an immense amount of times, but if I'm not there, he cannot link my starter to me."

"… He is a peculiar Pokémon, Ash. I can see he's drawn to you and if I didn't see how… practical and immense your love of Pokémon is, I would not have been able to understand. Because Froakie has always been meant to go with a starting trainer, to leave on their journey… but he always came back on his own or was returned. While I sadly mistook you for a thief, Froakie's trainer called in to say they were letting it go."

The blue Pokémon looked a little guilty as it moved a little closer to the boy, leaning against Ash's arm. The teen could only look at him with a sympathetic expression on his face. After all, Froakie's case hit home pretty close, you know? Ash had much experience with Pokémon who had been left behind, like Charmander, Chimchar and Tepig, who had all proven to be such delightful and utterly enjoyable Pokémon –yes, Charizard had needed a serious talking to, but he was okay now. It was enough to prove to the teen that the trainers had been the issues, not the Pokémon.

And honestly, if Ash hadn't gone out of his way to show Pikachu how he felt, if he hadn't fought for his starter as hard as he did… would he have ended up like any of these trainers had with Froakie? That he had to call to Professor Oak, saying that his starter had run off…?

Yes, this situation hurt the boy a lot, especially because he wanted nothing more for Pokémon and their trainers to be happy. And he would love to take Froakie with him… but if that would be the case, he needed to be clear about his feelings with it and tell it the truth. It deserved nothing less than that, because the teen would hate for it to feel cheated on by him and whatever had attracted the Pokémon to stay with it. Though, if proved the Froakie had followed him because of his Aura, he was going to scream. However, unless proven, he gave the creature the benefit of doubt.

"So… What now, then?"

"It's a free Pokémon now so… Though it looks like it wishes to join you."

"Alright. If that's the case, Froakie, I'm going to need you to listen to me for a bit." He said, making sure he could look the Pokémon in the eye. "You remember I told you that, if you were sticking around, you should prepare yourself? Well, let me tell you, that counts all the time. If you come with me, you're going to have to get stronger, because I'm going to be needing to be able to count on your support at all times. I… attract too much trouble and I would rather die than leave a mess behind when I know I can help. So… Are you still with me?"

"Froakie!" it exclaimed, a determined look in his eyes.

"Good. Though, I warn you, Froakie. You better not run away from me, because I will come after you and I will find you… And afterwards, we will be having a long conversation about what you want to see in a trainer and we will set out together and travel until we find that trainer, because I want to see you happy and I would hate for you to feel like you couldn't talk to me about your feelings."

"Amen to that." Professor Sycamore said, slightly taken aback with the passive, yet passionate, aggressive proposal.

"I'm sorry if I came on too strong. I have a habit to pick up expressions from books and movies, which probably already have strong connotations… stronger than I meant them to have. But the message is clear and that's all that matters."

"Indeed so, Ash. Froakie seems to have gotten the gist of it too, if his reaction is anything to go by."

Yes, the Pokémon had jumped onto the teen's lap and was currently snuggling into the young trainer's stomach. Then again, the Professor understood, because if he was a Pokémon and he saw someone do the things the teen had performed, he would definitely act the same way.

"I'm glad I managed to inspire you, Professor Sycamore." Ash said dryly.

"A-ah…" the man uttered, feeling a little powerless when he realised he had said that last comment out loud.

"Though I think I can still expect a phone call from someone who probably doesn't see it that way."

"Oh?"

"My mom."


Shortly after Ash had said it, the call did come in. And considering the teen instantly had to tell his mother not to cry, Professor Sycamore allowed him his privacy and went to work in a different room for a bit. He was already trying to decide what to have for dinner, when the boy returned.

"Oh, boy, that was something…"

"Is she okay?"

"How can she, with me being… me?"

"I'll rephrase my question, are you okay?"

"… That tower was higher than I suspected, Professor…"

"We didn't see you fall all the way, though. What happened?"

"You didn't see that?"

"You disappeared shortly after you caught Pikachu, Ash. We didn't see a thing." The man said.

"So that's why mom was so… Well, let's just say I've got all the right friends in all the right places."

"You don't have to tell me that." The Professor said. "I've never got a foreign Champion barrelling towards me like that before."

"Hah, yeah… You would not have like to get the friend that saved me… 'barrelling' towards you, let's be clear on that. Froakie's not the only one I attracted and just because I love every Pokémon, no matter what… those I meet, tend to stick around." The boy shrugged. "I would have liked to think it would have saved me whether or not I gave it some fresh Pokéblocks. But then again, I would still have done the same, even if I ended up… You know…"

Oh, the Professor knew. He felt a little disappointed that Ash didn't trust him enough to tell him the name of the Pokémon which had saved him, but at the same time, the teen seemed awfully considerate. So maybe there was a good reason for his silence and heck, maybe Steven's little smile had meant something more than just being annoyingly cheerful when he had stated Ash attracted Pokémon like mad.

Why would the Champion even tell him that? Unless it was about Legendary Pokémon, there was no reason to be… Surely the kid didn't spawn those kinds of Pokémon around him? Then again, Ash just had stated he didn't want that 'friend' come at him in a way similar to how Steven had and Professor Sycamore was really convinced he didn't want a Legendary Pokémon that near to him. Especially not enrages ones… Oh, God, was this foreshadowing?! Was he going to get pounced on by one of those creatures because he bothered-

"I don't like the way your face changes, Professor. It means you have the wrong idea about my Pokémon magnetism." The teen said, as if he had been able to read the man's mind.

"What's the right idea to have about it then?"

"If they appear, they single me out. When one of those Ultra Beasts came back, it only did it at the moment I was completely alone again. While I would understand why it would not want to be greeted by my mom, it makes sense because it was drawn to me." Ash answered. "And Pokémon do not think like people, in the way that they literally do not care about you when it is me they have come for. My personal feelings do not matter to them, not enough to make me able to convince anyone but those with human cognitive emotions, to strike out in my name or for my honour… I don't particularly have the latter, but well… Now you can rest at ease."

The Professor could only stare at the boy, who seemed unimpressed by his display of emotion earlier. The explanation made perfect sense, because it was the god honest truth. Pokémon did think that way, but it was so strange that someone as young as the teen knew about this. Some Professors and assistants only discovered about that halfway into their research. And no one talked about it because to people, this was material as insensitive as it came.

However, the way Ash's answer had been so objective and straight to the point, no abbreviations and so unlike all the other answers he had already given, Professor Sycamore suspected that he was mimicking the person who told him this. Which was mightily interesting to the man.

"Who told you that?" he asked.

"I ended up discussing this with a friend of mine. They gave their input and I gave mine… and this theory is what we came up with."

"Interesting. I just asked because you didn't sound like yourself just now."

"I'm sorry to worry you, Professor."

'No explanation whatsoever.' The man thought amused. 'I'm going to have to grill Professor Oak about the boy's unwillingness to explain himself.'

It was funny because when dealing with trainers, it usually was the other way around. Most couldn't shut up about themselves, so to find someone who wasn't willing… was strange.

"Well, was there anything else you would have like to ask me?"

"Ah yes, I have a Mega Stone I would like to know a little more about and if you could tell me a bit more about Fairies, that would be nice." Ash said, seemingly coming alive again, or rather… himself again, instead of the broody, mysteriousness possessing him earlier.

"A Mega Stone?" the Professor asked. "Do you have it with you?"

"It's in my bag upstairs."

"Alright, go get it. In the meantime, think about what you would like to have for dinner and I will get you a copy of the thesis I wrote about Fairy types."

"Thank you, Professor. Also, I'm not very picky about food, so anything will do. I don't want to give you any trouble."

'Well, at least he didn't say that anything is fine.' The man thought and shrugged. 'Let's see how he feels about my salads, then.'


Ash absolutely had no particular dislike towards any kind of food. He had favourites but as long as it wasn't dirt or garbage, he would eat whatever was in front of him. After all, the teen had eaten everything he had cooked when he barely started out making food and that had already been border lining garbage, so a salad with strange spices wasn't the end of the world. Besides, there was a rather funny piece of bread available and jam, so honestly, it was okay.

"Does this bread have a specific name?" he asked.

"It's a bun."

"… Bun as in Buneary?"

"You've eaten bread before, haven't you?"

"Well yes, but it never had this shape. It reminds me of the small loaves we bake by steaming them, but this isn't as jiggly…"

Professor Sycamore was mildly amused by the boy's behaviour, mostly because his assistants usually steered away from whatever he made. Though it seemed like Ash's Pikachu had worse eating habits, because the top of all those Pokéblocks on the Pokémon's little plate, seemed really spicy. It even looked like it was steaming a little…

"So, that Mega Stone of yours…" the man said. "Can I see it?"

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot." The teen answered and got the choker out of his pocket. "I did a little research on the subject myself, but none of the Mega Stones I found matched this one. I mean, the Salamance one seemed to get the closest, but this is more pink and blue than red and blue…"

Ash already knew that something was up with the stone when Professor Sycamore seemed to get this really intense look in his eyes. He seemed to have to think too deeply to remember what Pokémon this stone belonged with… and then the man stood up.

"I need to confirm something." He said and left before the boy could say something.

"Boy, oh boy… Wanna bet it's like, the only Mega Stone that exists for a Legendary Pokémon?" Ash chuckled softly, as he rubbed Pikachu's head.

"Pikapi, chu ka…"

"There is more than one Legendary Pokémon that can mega-evolve, Ash." The Professor said, surprising the boy with his swift return. "It's incredibly uncommon to find those Mega Stones, though. Before I tell you which one you have… Where did you get yours?"

"It was a gift from Orre, who wanted to thank me for donating such a big sum of money to rebuild Orre after the Shadow Pokémon infestation."

"How much money?"

"I haven't got a clue. No one ever told me."

"The value of this Mega Stone, a Mewtwonite X is nearly priceless, Ash."

It was a bad moment for the teen to have taken a bite, just after having answered Professor Sycamore, because he found himself almost choking in it. The boy couldn't help but violently cough, but the man was quick to come to his aid.

"Goodness, I'm sorry, Ash."

"It's *cough* okay…"

"Don't say that, because it's not. Here, drink a little."

"Thanks." Ash sighed, gratefully taking the glass. "Oh, man, is it really?" he added, after he had taken a sip.

"Yes. It's among the rarest Mega Stones in the world. There is another, called Mewtwonite Y, but for some reason, those are not as rare as the X."

"That's so amazing~" the teen wheezed as he took the choker and put it on. "I had a feeling it was special but not that it would be that this awesome."

"Just… let me say that you need to have a perfect bond between yourself and the Pokémon before Mega Evolution works. Because any kind of issue will get enlarged and the Pokémon might attack you."

"Perfect, hm…?"

"Yes, absolutely perfect. You euhm… only recently got a good view of what happens when a Pokémon loses control, so know that having a Mega evolved Pokémon getting out of control is even worse."

"Nothing short of apocalyptic, I am sure. Team Rocket and their buffoonery only succeeded in getting Garchomp to use Hyper Beam, because it is just a mindless move, typical of TM. Other moves, for example, Draco Meteor, they have too many emotions attached to them, because it is such a hard move to master. The Pokémon will start to remember those times where they had their trainer cheering on them, knowing that they had some back-up, someone who believed in them… When angry, those are things a Pokémon can't think off… But what kind of memories does a Legendary Pokémon have, but scorn because everyone around them tried to catch them on sight, or worse?"

"Again. You did it again." The man accused.

"Did what again?" the teen asked confused.

"You didn't sound like a teenager again."

"Ah, fine! I'm sorry if I don't want to publicly shout this out on the streets but I had to relearn how to pronounce every single word after the accident. So I just didn't pick up on words, it's also certain styles of speech. I… had several teachers and the doctor taught me a lot too. So yes, there's a really big chance I tend to sound like someone else, because that's how I was taught to pronounce words."

"I… That's a thing?"

"I'm not a thing, Professor. And yes, it happened and now that I've told you, you can totally ask Professor Oak about it. I know he doesn't like to talk about me because he's promised me not to… but now that I've told you it's okay, he probably will."

"I'm so sorry, Ash. I really can't help but try and understand why you're…"

"Please don't. I… You're a researcher, Professor, of course, you would feel the need to try and understand any subject that intrigues you. But I'm not available for your research." Ash said, getting up from his chair. "Thank you for the food, Professor. Is it okay if I go upstairs now?"

"A-ah… Yes, of course. Take care."

"Thank you. Goodnight, Professor."

"… Goodnight, Ash."


The teen flopped down on the bed, feeling totally useless and just… tired. He had not meant to be so guarded around Professor Sycamore and the man was probably wondering whether he had just invited a crazy teen inside his laboratory. However, neither Froakie or Pikachu seemed too bothered… or either they had both seen enough today to determine he was crazy before he started acting like it.

'Ah, whatever…' Ash groaned and started feeling up his internal pocket to get out the only one he knew would get his issues.

Because the fact he didn't feel comfortable talking about his own issues was completely Mewtwo's fault, to begin with.

"… Friend?"

"I can't believe I thought that all my issues would suddenly evaporate when coming to Kalos. I feel like… like they got highlighted!"

"Friend, please, I cannot follow if you do not tell me what happened."

That was something the teen was used to and as simple as his explanation made his day sound, it was just as good that Mewtwo had access to the full range of emotions that repeating his experiences brought with it.

"Ash, I have told you before, if you are going to want to be happy as the person you are shaping up to be, you are going to have to let go the fact that you care about people's opinions. Do not feel bad to cut someone off because you do not own anyone anything. Respect and being friendly is one thing, but telling them your life story because they merely wish to satisfy their own curiosity? Snuff that their interest in the bud if they have not made themselves trustworthy enough. Any decent person knows what 'no' means, after all."

"You make it sound so easy, Mewtwo."

"It is. I cannot ask you to shut down your human morality, but understand that respect comes from both sides. Besides, did you ask the Professor anything about his personal life?"

"Of course not."

"Well, apply that to your own feelings, friend, and see that the man has been rude all along."

"Not always."

"You have not been unhappy all day, yet you look pretty miserable in general to me."

"Right… I'll euhm… suck up my own annoyance then."

"There is no need to store it. Let it go, for the past is in no position to hurt you."

"… Makes sense. I'm pretty good at forgetting, anyway."

"Letting go and forgetting is not the same thing, friend. I have let go of my anger towards humanity, but I have not forgotten it. And I may have forgotten the pain Team Rocket caused me, but I have not let go of my grudge against them."

"Right, I'll try and think about it for a while, see what I can do…"

"Please do, your internal rest is important to me. Though consider me pleased that I can feel you cheer up when I'm around."

"You're surprised that I like you, Mewtwo?" Ash asked amused. "Really now…"

"Have you ever felt that you are not enough? Not worth existing?"

"The former, yes, the latter, not really."

"Why not?"

"That's not important right now. Tell me why you wouldn't be worth existing, Mewtwo." The teen said. "You've helped me plenty of times, so I should at least try and return the favour."

"… It is probably a little…"

"Let me help you, Mewtwo."

"It is… my name. And the way I was created."

"Yes…?" the boy asked carefully.

"I'm never going to be a Mew."

"I couldn't be happier about that for several reasons, actually." Ash stated dryly.

"But I was intended to be one, friend. I'm… a failed project."

"I wouldn't say failed, because who are you comparing yourself with? The Mew? That would be stupid, because I don't compare myself with anyone who's called Ashley either."

The Pokémon blinked at that and actually smiled after a while of thinking.

"Is that so?" it asked amused.

"There's such a difference between you and a Mew, even those idiots Team Rocket consists off realised they couldn't put the two of you in the same species. Too bad they were so unoriginal with their names, but sometimes, there are some things you just can't help and have to accept it."

"Have I told you I really like you, Ash?" Mewtwo asked softly.

"Right back at you. Also, I have something that could help you realise one of the major differences between you and Mew." The boy said and bounced towards his bag. "You see, there was one thing that Professor Sycamore managed to tell me and I feel like this will definitely prove that at least one of your insecurities is untrue."

"Consider me intrigued."

"Tadaa~"

Mewtwo stared at the marble that was swinging slightly in front of him.

"Is it meant to hypnotise me?"

"Eh? No, no, here, put it on."

"Why?"

"It's your Mega Stone, Mewtwo."

"My what?"

Ash sighed and repeated everything he knew about Mega Evolution. And while it was all theory, it looked like Mewtwo could imagine everything put out into practice already.

"That's possible? To evolve?"

"You turn back after the end of this battle, but this is something Mew can't do. So, you're different."

"And different is good?"

"Different is awesome!"

"Are we… going to work on making this Mega Evolution possible?" the Pokémon asked.

"Of course. All we need to do is make sure that we in full sync, which will mean a lot of work, but I managed to do it with Pikachu… and I feel like we match up pretty good already, so I think we have a head start. Besides, we've got all the time in the world to experiment."

"Indeed, we do." Mewtwo said and finally took the necklace from the teen's hands. "How do you think I should wear this?"

"I think it's best if you wear it double, because it's really long and will be in your way otherwise."

"Alright. Let me just…"

The Legendary being managed to do it by itself, and somehow, Ash imagined that this chain had always been meant to be worn like this. It looked just so good on the Pokémon, he couldn't help but smile at the sight.

"You're looking great, Mewtwo."

"You look pretty nice with yours too."

Ash had completely forgotten he was even earing the choker, but he still grinned wider than any other time anyone had complimented him on how it looked. While it was still felt strange to get as close to his Legendary friend as he got with Pikachu -probably because of the fact they could communicate much better, it felt much more human-, the teen felt like it wouldn't take long before they could attempt that Mega Evolution. However, he wanted to be absolutely sure Mewtwo wouldn't flip out on him… but right now, that were worries for later. Because if there was one difference between Mew and Mewtwo that Ash liked, was that the later was perfectly shaped to receive and give hugs.


Professor Sycamore wasn't so sure about what he was supposed to ask the Kanto Professor anything, especially because the older man looked a little bothered. So apparently, Ash never even said goodbye to Professor Oak and even while that was his own fault for not being there in the first place, he clearly still felt dubious about the whole subject.

The Kalos native understood that the man was shocked, because he only had realised the teen wasn't in Kanto any longer because he saw Ash jump of the Prism Tower on TV. While Professor Sycamore thought that to be a little strange, he never commented on it. After all, he only knew he had the actual trainer from the Ultra Beast accident in front of him when a Champion had sent another Champion to him.

Begrudgingly, Professor Oak told him a little about Ash, like the fact his journey started anything but ideal -which probably was the reason he cared so much about Froakie- and how much he suffered from this accident. The man was also interested to know how the boy was feeling right now, but Professor Sycamore had to tell him the teen had gone to bed. He told him he had given the kid his thesis about Fairy types, which made a frown appear on Samuel's face.

"I'm not sure whether it is a good idea to have given him such easy access to that information. You see, while he might never have an actual Fairy type, he will probably think of a devastating attack against them."

"Ah… Well, I think he was quite able to think of those kinds of attacks, if I can believe the little girl he managed to impress today. In fact, the explosion his Pikachu was so powerful, neither the girl or her brother believed that Ash had called out a Thunderbolt and not a Thunder."

"Team Rocket again?"

"Unfortunately so. He blamed himself instantly too."

The Kanto Professor clicked his tongue and shook his head.

"Those people are unbelievable…"

"No kidding. Those two kids also told me that Team Rocket was out to steal Ash's Poké-help, which is completely insane when you realise what kind of penalty those people could face."

"Poké-help?" Professor Oak repeated.

"Yes, his Pikachu, right? It's got this rubbery looking collar around him, that states it's a Poké-help."

"Oh my God, what did I miss…? No wonder Ash never waited for me to when he left to go to Kalos…"

"… Professor Oak, are you okay? Should I call the boy down to talk to you?"

"Heavens no, leave him be. Know that Ash is persistent enough that you will undoubtedly end up as friends one of these days, but that one of his tricks is disappearing so that both parties get a moment to catch their breath. He'll come back on his own, Augustine, be sure of that, just… don't remind him of what happened. You wouldn't like to be faced with your failure every time either, would you?"

"Oh, yes, if you put it that way." The man shrugged. "Well, I hope it will be okay tomorrow, because I really want to hear what he has to say about my thesis. I've noticed he had some very good theories about Pokémon and general themes, so I'm very willing to talk to him about that someday. Also, have you noticed he got a little creepy when giving these… strangely objective answers?"

"Ah yes. Has he told you about his memory issues?"

"Indeed, I'm aware of it."

"It's a peculiar case, but Dr. Martin has been very happy to have been working on the boy's case. Said it was a challenge, but well… It was very bad for Ash's self-esteem, so it was good that we managed to all help him regain as much a vocabulary as possible."

"You've all done a very good job. But then I suppose it was you who he was mimicking those two times?"

"Mimicking? What was he talking about?"

"One was a theory about why Pokémon are so attracted to him alone and the other was about why he figured that Mega Evolving a Legendary Pokémon without a good and strong bond was an incredibly bad idea."

"You've identified what his Mega Stone is?!" Professor Oak asked, suddenly sounding a little urgent.

"Euhm yes, it's a Mewtwonite X."

A while of silence alerted Professor Sycamore that this was kind of a big thing, apparently. Or else his colleague wouldn't have reacted this way.

"Professor…?"

"Augustine, promise me you'll never repeat to anyone what I'm about to say, okay? Ash hasn't spoken to me about it any longer, so it's a closely guarded secret, for both him and me. I don't want to lose the boy's trust any further, but I believe that it's important you know this."

"I promise, Samuel. I'm completely alone in this room, everyone's gone home or to bed."

"Good. Because there was someone else who helped Ash and I've been painfully aware that it has been a much greater influence than all of us."

"… Professor Oak, are you trying to tell me that he…"

"Yes, Ash and Mewtwo are very close friends."

"Putain de merde…"

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

Ash woke up a little earlier than he would actually have suspected, considering how ridiculously comfortable this bed was. Yet somehow, his limbs felt as if he had performed a serious work-out yesterday when all he had done was fall. Alright, so maybe the fact he had climbed the Prism Tower to the top had something to do with it, but well… He wasn't going to think about that right now.

Today was a whole new day and from the looks of it, it would prove to be a long one. His dreamless sleep had left him hanging at four thirty in the morning, which gave him plenty of time to do all kinds of things… but not the right time. If he made any kind of noise, he was sure he would wake up someone and Ash really didn't want to get verbally assaulted today.

So, instead, he carefully slipped out of his bed and decided to look around in his room a little. The light of his transceiver was enough for him to see and all too soon, the boy found another door, of which he was sure wasn't an exit. He didn't know where it led to, but it soon proved to be an ordinary bathroom. Although, ordinary… this was bigger than the bathroom back home. And well, there was no one who would complain if he went and took a bath, right?

So that's exactly what the teen did, taking plenty of time in the bubbly goodness too. But you could only remain in water for a limited time unless you wanted to come out all wrinkly and really, Ash didn't want his leg to be too sensitive so that he couldn't get his prosthesis on. All too soon, he found himself sitting on his bed, playing some games on his transceiver to pass the time. He was already thankful that his Pokémon hadn't woken up, because that meant he had been silent enough. However, after a good while, at a quarter to six, there was a soft knock on the door.

"… Yes?"

The door opened cautiously and revealed Professor Sycamore, fully dressed in his lab coat and all.

"I euhm… got the message your transceiver was active, considering you're not really supposed to be on our internet line."

"O-oh, I'm so sorry, I never realised that!"

And yes, that successfully woke Pikachu up. Or at least, one ear perked up, to check out what the noise was.

"Sorry, buddy." Ash said quickly, before more than the ear would raise.

His starter could have one heck of a morning attitude and he wasn't willing to put up with that in front of the Professor.

"It's okay, Ash, really." The man chuckled. "But seeing you're awake, would you like to help me with my morning rounds?"

"Do I ever!" he answered, quickly bouncing off the bed and scooping his sleepy starter up in his arms. "Could you put Pikachu in my hood for me, please?"

The boy was wearing a hoodie, so the task of placing the Pokémon in the hood was ridiculously easy. And call Professor Sycamore suspicious, but it really seemed like the whole design of the hoodie was made especially for carrying small Pokémon around that way. The hood seemed cushioned and the ridiculously comfortable looking Pikachu's weight wasn't pulling the fabric either, which looked… pretty funny once you realised that the hood would be somewhat choking the boy otherwise.

"That's a weird sweater."

"It's a hoodie." Ash corrected instantly. "I got it of Wish, for like, five Pokédollar or something. Feels a little cheap and itchy, but Pikachu likes to sleep in it, so I guess it's fine."

"Right." The man chuckled. "Come along, then. I hope you're good with baby Pokémon?"

"I love them!"

"Perfect. You see, Cosette has called in sick, so I'm one person short of my usual morning staff."

"I would happily fill in for her, Professor. Tell me what to do and I'll do it."


And he did, better than Professor Sycamore could have managed on his own. He loved Pokémon with his whole heart but he just wasn't capable of keeping seventy little Pokémon amused on his own. Ash, however, seemed perfectly in his element and went to sit down in the middle of them, whilst introducing himself and starting a story. The Pokémon were glued to his lips, staring at the boy while he told them about everything and nothing.

Yes, the Professor was listening to it as well, as he checked if the Pokémon's rooms over for errors in the system and things like that. Everything worked mechanically, but young beings were curious and a ball of hair could easily cause a malfunction in any kind of machine. Still, it seemed like today was a good day because nothing seemed out of the ordinary this time.

Ash didn't skip a beat and lured the group to the outside area where they would spend the rest of the day. And it was there where he ended his story, with something that seemed familiar to Professor Sycamore. Though he couldn't remember where he had heard about a flying pyramid before, he was already pleased everything had gone so swimmingly.

"You certainly have a way with Pokémon, Ash." The man said as he saw that the baby Pokémon had spread out and that they were probably reciting the boy's story to the older ones.

"I know, Professor Oak said the same thing. But as I've said to him as well, there's a chance they just feel comfortable around me because I'm an Aura Clown and that I'm not really scared of them either. Balance, I suppose."

"… Aura Clown?"

"Mm yeah, I can juggle Aura Spheres. Do you wanna see?"

"Maybe later." The Professor said quickly. "Does anyone know about it?"

"Oh yeah, I was tested by Lore Keepers and the whole lot."

"… What did they say about it?"

"That I was useless and that the enemy would laugh themselves to death if I appeared in front of them."

"That's so…? Did you get a chance to say anything about it?"

"No, but maybe that's for the best because my opinion is that they should remove their heads from the unfortunate spot it got stuck in and see that Aura is the force of Life, not the force of pitiable vendetta's against the past." Ash answered dryly.

"I see." The man chuckled. "Well, that nasty business aside, can I thank you with some hot cocoa for provided services?"

"Oh yes, thank you. Can I just ask, Professor…? How do you keep this glass dome intact?"

Both gazed upwards at the spotless glass ceiling, but Professor Sycamore couldn't help but sigh.

"We don't." he answered.

You see, Wingull weren't deemed to be the smartest birds around but with the regulation that all glass domes should be made out of mirror glass, so no one could look into the room below it, it only got proven they might not be so stupid after all. The Pokémon loved water, that was commonly known, but after having flown against mirror glass several times over, they got the tendency to bring a rock to check whether it was water or not. The Pokémon would just happily fly over and drop their personal rock down on the reflective surface. Needless to say, the attack was harmless for any kind of liquid yet disastrous for large, glass panes… Like the ones currently above them.

"Oh…"

"Do you have a similar issue in Kanto?"

"Of course, every region where you can find Wingull has that issue. I'm surprised you didn't know about that, considering this recent show that showed Mr. Goodshow proudly presenting the newest Diamond Dome in Unova, but that the massive glass dome got shattered before the show was over. Their censor beeping wasn't long enough to shield the viewers from Mr. Goodshow's swearing either."

The man chuckled and shook his head in response. His young visitor had a particular way of making an event sound pleasant even though it probably wasn't when it actually happened. No wonder the baby Pokémon had liked listening to him.

Suddenly, a horn sounded out, making the man jump a little. Ash didn't seem to be so surprised, though as he merely took a look at his yellow transceiver on his wrist.

"What kind of ringtone is that…?"

"It's a foghorn. Defog wasn't discovered in any of the move pools of the Kanto Pokémon, so I grew up hearing this sound." The teen answered simply. "Ah, I got a message from Steven…. Where is this Musée Diamante?"

"I can give you a digital map of the whole of Kalos if you want it." The Professor supplied helpfully. "Do you need to leave now?"

"No, at eleven, so I still have four hours… Unless this museum is that far away?"

"Barely fifteen minutes, actually."

"Still, I would really like the map because I'm not really that good in navigating myself around spots I don't know. I mean, I've got Gliscor with me so he can go and take overviews of the town, but even he doesn't know where we are… So that's only useful when we're surrounded by forest, so we can potentially locate a town or something."

"Of course, come along, I'll go get you the map. And would you like a new Pokédex as well?"

"Yes, please."


"Hey, Professor? Can I ask you something?"

"Yes, Ash?"

"I've been wondering about that Mega Evolution…"

"Oh?" the man asked, already intrigued because he remembered all too well what Professor Oak had told him last night.

"The way you referred to a Pokémon acting out like Garchomp did when the Mega Evolution failed if the bond between the trainer and Pokémon bothers me a little. Because I clearly saw that whatever your Garchomp was going through, was causing him pain… Does that mean that Mega Evolution potentially can hurt a Pokémon?"

"That's… a very good question, actually." The Professor answered. "None of the trainers who Mega Evolve have asked me that, so I never really… thought about it."

"A pity." Ash said, looking incredibly disappointed. "Because that is exactly what would stop me from even using Mega Evolution at all."

"I-I have Mega Evolved Garchomp successfully, Ash and I can't say I ever noticed any kind of pain or symptom of discomfort."

"So you haven't researched the possible effects on Pokémon when having unsuccessfully or successfully performed a Mega Evolution?" the teen asked. "Even though it's actually a bit more important than the fact they can evolve further than normal? Unknowingly hurting your Pokémon just for the sake of making it even stronger? This puts me off, Professor, immensely even, because it makes any trainer using Mega Evolution equal to the original Team Rocket's ideology."

"… Listen, Ash, I can see you feel strongly about the subject. And yes, I'm all for theory right now, because that's the basis of all things to put in practice, including the after effects. I know it doesn't sound very humane, but that's just how research goes." The man answered. "However, if you're so concerned about it, why not try and contact the Kalos Champion Diantha? She has successfully Mega Evolved her Gardevoir plenty of times, so I'm sure she will be able to give you a satisfying answer."

"Hm… Alright."

"Otherwise… Why don't you help me out with finding out more about it?"

"How intriguing that might be, I'm missing two vital keys to actually Mega Evolve myself, Professor. The Pokémon and the right Mega Stone. And are you really sure I would be up to go and ask anyone about the subject?"

"You're a bright young man, Ash, with a big heart. Just the right material for an assistant, I would say."

"… You are actually serious…" the young trainer asked, slightly dubious.

"Absolutely."

"I would happily check what consequences Mega Evolution has on Pokémon, Professor, though I can't guarantee any results. If I do manage to find someone willing to answer, I will send you everything I can get from the trainer and Pokémon, but keep in mind Pokémon quickly notice it's not wise to lie about their health. Not to me, anyhow."

"Chuuu…"

A low moan came from the boy's hood, which made the Professor smile.

"It's for your own good, Pikachu, what kind of trainer would I be if I didn't care about you?"

The Pokémon just crawled out of the hood and nuzzled his cheek against the boy's cheek. Ash just chuckled softly and rubbed his starter's fluffy head in response.

"Right, I'm probably have to go and fill out some paperwork to at least give you some protection, hm? How about you come by after you met up with Mr. Stone?"

"Sounds good. Do I need to sign for anything? Because I'm not actually at a legal age to…"

"… You've never gotten assistant paperwork before? I thought you were one of Professor Oak's study trainers?"

"There's a chance he settled that with my mom, but he never brought it up with me. Just kind of said he was going to keep an eye on me, but that's it."

"Right, well, that's negligence from his side. It is a verbal agreement, but an insurance document needs to be filed in."

"Negligence, huh?" Ash snorted.

"Yes, I will definitely talk to him about that next time I called him."

"Oh, you called him? How was he doing?"

"He called me and yes, it was because he had just arrived home and only knew you were in Kalos because he saw you jump from the Prism Tower on international TV. He was very worried when he was notified of your Poké-help status."

"If there's any tendency in my life, Professor, then it's important men in my life uncannily disappearing when I need them the most. So, believe me when I say that I did go to Professor Oak but that both senior and junior let me down in an… unbelievably annoying way. I'm sorry if I sound so bitter about it, but it was bad."

"I believe you, Ash. I noticed the Professor sounded strange yesterday, so I knew something was up. And I'm sorry for what I said yesterday and the questions I asked. They were out of bound and probably the last thing you wanted to hear from another Professor."

"It was probably both our euhm… pitiful attempts to save face, I think. Big emotions usually leave that mark on people and there were plenty of emotions yesterday."

"Yes, indeed. Why did you go after Garchomp, Ash? You didn't know he belonged to me, did you?"

"No, I only knew he belonged to you after I woke up here later. But Garchomp had spooked a little girl and had stepped on her ice-cream and she just… she was crying so hard that I promised her that everything would be okay. And I'm kind of a person of my word so I just…"

"Climbed the Prism Tower with a prosthetic leg?"

"Hey, I've done weirder things with both my legs still intact and really, my prosthesis is so much more awesome than my actual leg."

"No drawbacks then?"

"… Of course, there are. But I mean, my whole body has drawbacks, so heck, at least my left 'foot' doesn't hurt when I accidentally hit the bed when having come back from the loo at night…"

"Take your time becoming the person you want to be, Ash. I can only tell that, from what I've seen so far, you're going to be pretty awesome, Aura Clown or not."

"Aww, thank you. I think you're pretty cool too, Professor."

"Thank you, I do try my best."


The teen felt a whole lot better knowing he had managed to finally have a good conversation with the man he had looked forward to meeting. While he wasn't sure whatever the heck Steven wanted from him, in a museum no less, Ash would take this event in his stride. Besides, he did want to thank the man for his help in not making him iller than he had already been.

The digital town map worked wonders for the boy too, who quickly located the museum with its help. It looked a little plain, in the mat black, plastic finish, but heck, it was a life-saver to Ash, who could get lost in an ordinary house if the walls had similar colours. So, he just went ahead an entered the museum… Just missing the sign that the 'Musée Diamante' wasn't really a museum, to begin with.

"Good morning, sir. How can I help you?" a lady asked.

And honestly, even Ash noticed she was incredibly well-dressed. He actually looked around for a bit and found himself in a stunning room, filled with… of course, stones. Precious ones, of course, but still…

"I… was told to meet Mr. Steve Stone here?"

"Ah yes, please have a seat over there, sir. I will notify him of your arrival."

"Thank you."

If there was anything that made the teen feel uncomfortable, then it was sitting in such a grand and impeccable looking museum/shop while he was literally there dressed in jeans and a five Pokédollars hoodie. But well, he was just a trainer and Steven would have told him if there was a dress code required, right? Not that he could pull a tuxedo out of his bag, but heck, he had a few better-looking shirts in his bag.

Still, they weren't giving him any judging looks, so the teen figured he wasn't being that big an eyesore after all. Steven took his sweet time showing up as well so Ash simply took out his transceiver and did some research on this Mega thing he was supposed to help Professor Sycamore with. He wasn't really pleased with how eager the man had been, but maybe he was just getting a little paranoid… But well, the only one he could Mega Evolve was Mewtwo, so you can probably imagine why he felt a little uncomfortable with his current assignment.

His discomfort had brewed a wicked plan to punk the Professor, though, just in case the man was expecting him to be giving away the fact he was the owner of a Legendary Pokémon. Ash wanted to see whether any of his other Pokémon friends could Mega Evolve and possibly go and find the Mega Stone for them himself. However, the price of these things was just absolutely ridiculous… And while most of the starters could evolve, the teen wasn't sure whether he would even want to Mega Evolve Charizard. Sceptile, maybe, but there still was the fact of character in play and Ash wasn't sure whether he would ever be able to stop Sceptile if he really was affected by the heat of battle.

No, he wasn't sure whether he actually wanted to Mega Evolve at all… until he noticed that Glalie was also a potential candidate. The Pokémon was so jolly and such loving, the teen was pretty sure that the Mega Evolved Glalie would still playfully freeze everything and be cuddly. So yeah, it sucked a little to notice that the Mega Stone for his friend was all the way in Hoenn, but he wasn't obligated to anything. And Ash hadn't even gotten the chance to speak to his buddies yet, so maybe it was best to at least check whether anyone was even interested before continuing his search.

"Busy?"

The owner of the sudden voice should be thankful for the teen's reflex to instantly put his hand on Pikachu's head, to appease the Pokémon, or they would have been fried crisp really quickly.

"What the actual heck are you trying to achieve here?" Ash asked, giving the pleased as punch looking, blue-haired man a hard look.

"Don't be like that. I literally called your name several times over."

"And yet you still ask me if I'm busy? From that close by? How badly do you want to get electrocuted?"

"Your Pikachu wouldn't attack me. He's not allowed to do that anyway." Steven said lightly.

"Oh? Did I imagine that one sentence in the Poké-help contract that gave my starter the right to attack anything that might cause me any kind of discomfort, then? Or would you like me to remove my hand?"

Considering Pikachu was giving the man a dirty look from under his trainer's hand, Steven chuckled and straightened.

"Whoa, that's quite the attitude you two have there. Is that the thanks I get for having helped you earlier?"

"I can't imagine Lance going through the trouble of telling about my allergies and keeping silent about the only obvious issue I actually have, which is zoning out at the most uncomfortable, inconvenient moments possible."

The man stilled for a while and got a strange expression on his face. To Ash, it wasn't clear whether he had just been a little too annoying for the man's liking or if this was just Steven's thinking face.

"A-ah… That daydreaming thing does that?"

"Yep."

"Oh… My bad, I did know about that."

"It's okay. After all, I am thankful for your intervention yesterday." The teen said. "If there's ever anything I can do for you...?"

"That's cute." The man chuckled. "I'll keep it in mind."

It really seemed like Steven didn't have the slightest idea about Ash's situation but in a way, that pleased the boy, since it meant that no one important knew about it… and as such, wouldn't gossip about it.

"Oh, it's rare to see such a young boy here." Another voice said. "Are you perhaps looking for a gift?"

The young trainer looked at the person who had just spoken up and noticed that she looked pretty fierce in her outfit, which almost looked fairy-like. In a way, the way she stood there so confidently reminded him a little of Cynthia… As if there wasn't really anything that would rattle her and well, this really convinced him that this visitor might just have the same status as Steven. Though he could always be wrong, right?

"Oh no, no, I was invited in here, Miss. Besides, none of the women in my life need any kind of jewellery to convince anyone that they are precious."

"… That's incredibly sweet of you, boy. What's your name?"

"I'm Ash Ketchum, Miss."

"Aaah, hence why you looked familiar." She said and reached out her hand. "My name is Diantha."

"Ah, so you are the Kalos Champion!" Ash stated happily, gladly accepting the handshake. "Would it be okay if I asked you some questions?"

"Oh, here we go…" Steven sighed, standing in the background.

"Yes, thank you, Mr. Stone, for your opinion, though I can't remember having asked for it. Let the boy speak, for goodness' sake." The woman said, giving the man a sharp look.

"Well, I know when I'm unwanted, I'll just-"

"P-please don't leave." The teen said all of a sudden, grabbing Steven's sleeve in a quick motion.

"What's wrong?" he asked, but then saw the boy looking at the ground. "Ash?"

"W-why is my shadow not in front of me w-when the l-light is behind me?"

The two Champions looked down and indeed, the boy's shadow was not corresponding to his position. In fact, as soon as the woman turned to look at it, it moved away from her.

"Yeaaaah, let's just not figure out how that's possible." Steven said and simply picked up the shaken teen. "Let's go somewhere else."

Diantha was really quick to follow, especially since Pikachu growled at whatever had just possessed his trainer's shadow.

"My… Was that possibly one of those Ultra Beast?" she asked, as soon as they were outside.

"I couldn't care less, frankly." Steven answered. "Are you okay now, Ash?"

"Yeah, I think so."

Now that he was back on the ground, he couldn't help but at least check whether his shadow was in the proper position. Now, it pleased him, but he just feared that his reaction might have taught whatever was in his shadow to never make the same mistake again… making him unable to even identify it was there to begin with.

"You don't look relieved, though."

"Because I'm not. Never before has anything bothered me when I have company, so either this means that whatever that was, was too young to realise this… or wasn't here for me… or just simply didn't care whether you two were with me. And not even the Ultra beasts did that. So yes, this worries me."

"… The way you put it makes it sound so creepy, Ash." Steven sighed, really looking uncomfortable.

"A-ah, I'm sorry, I'm just not really comfortable with people or Pokémon popping out of nowhere. It's a... euhm… little fright I ended up with and I just can't help but to go all stiff and while I know Pikachu's capable to protect me, I just grab onto the first person near and well… I'm really sorry about that, Steven, I didn't mean to-"

"Nonsense, I wouldn't be much of a Champion if I couldn't protect you, right? While Lance just sent me to make sure no one ended up poisoning you, the fact I can help you a little more is just a happy coincidence. So no harm done, I assure you." The man stated happily.

"Indeed, Ash, whatever that was, wasn't your fault, right? So let's just leave that behind… In fact, why don't I treat you to an ice cream? I saw you gave away the one you bought yesterday and I can't really let anyone leave Lumiose without having tried its famous ice cream, can I?"

"Would you?"

"Of course. Come on, let's go. You can ask me all your questions as we wait in line, okay?"

"Okay~"


The ice cream didn't last long, especially not because it was rather warm in Lumiose and Ash really liked the taste of it. And Pikachu helped all too willingly, so hence why there was no trace left of the ice cream cone when the teen got back to Professor Sycamore's laboratory.

"Aaah, Ash, hello again! What did Steven want from you?"

"He just wanted to see whether I was okay, actually. But I also met Miss Diantha in the museum, Professor, so I ended up being able to ask her some questions."

"Do you still have doubts about the Mega Evolution?"

"A few. I think I'm going to have to find the Mega Stone of any of my own Pokémon because even my thirty Tauros differ from each other in character, so I need to experience it myself to be able to give you a good answer. I would know whether one of my Pokémon was hurting straight away."

"Well, have fun finding a Mega Stone at all, Ash. It's quite the search, apparently." The Professor said amused. "Though, why do you have thirty Tauros?"

"A little accident in the Safari Zone. Still, they're cool so I kept them. Professor Oak's lawn has never looked better either."

"I can imagine so, yes." He chuckled. "Come with me, Ash, I have a Pokédex for you."

"Awesome." The teen said and quickly followed the man.

His surroundings became pretty familiar, as they went into a part of the man's laboratory which they had passed this morning already.

"Here you go. I was told to unlock the interregional modus for you as well."

Ash blinked as he accepted the square device.

"Does that mean I can point it at any Pokémon and it will recognise it?"

"Indeed so. So don't hesitate in doing so, considering you claim to be such a magnet for Pokémon."

"Funny you should mention that, actually. Do you know of a Pokémon that can possess someone's shadow?"

"… Well, an actual Shadow Pokémon is unable to perform anything like that, so I guess Marshadow is the only one that matches your description."

"Oh, right. Nice. Is it a Legendary Pokémon?"

"Yes, it is. Did you see it?"

"No, I didn't. Consider it my own curiosity, Professor."

"Alright, I shall then. What are you going to do now, though?"

"Do what I came here for, of course. I'm off to a Pokémon Centre to register myself into this year's League and then I'm going towards Santalune, to get my first badge."

"Of course. How is Froakie taking everything?"

"I've had a chat with him last night, just to make sure we're… on the same page, but I feel good about him. Is there a forest around Santalune or something?"

"Yes, actually. Santalune Forest."

"… Of course. Well, good, I hope we can find a nice spot there and do a little training. I was hoping to have found some time to train with Froakie before tackling the Gym, so yeah. He looks like a fighter so I might actually use him in the battle. I like his sticky things, it works sounds like it would work good when trying to disable Pokémon with leaves and/or wings."

"Alright, you sound completely ready to go." The man chuckled and got a little card out of his pocket. "Know that if there's anything you discover about Mega Evolution, send it through to this e-mail, okay?"

"Okay, I'll try and remember that."

"Good. All I can do is wish you the best of luck, right?"

"Yes, thank you for your hospitality, Professor Sycamore."

"My pleasure."


The familiar thrill of adventure and challenge made Ash so happy. He couldn't wait to actually be having his first battle in Kalos -Team Rocket's bumbling attempt to capture Pikachu yet again didn't count- and see how Froakie would handle his training. Because honestly, the Pokémon was going to have its arms full with the others who already knew how Ash trained them and well… there was a vast canyon of experience between them, one he wanted to cross as fast as possible, without hurting Froakie.

'Hmm, I do think I should give Steven the thumbs up about that Marshadow, though.' He thought as he activated his transceiver, to send the man a message.

Little did the boy know that both the two Champions were a little worried about him, though. While Steven had been unaware of the fact Diantha had been in the 'Musée Diamante', he was somewhat happy she had been there. Lance had told him that things like that strange shadow could happen, but honestly, he himself hadn't believed it… until it happened in front of him. The blue haired man would have like to save Ash the freight, but the strange occurrence had saved him time trying to convince the Kalos Champion that the kid might need a little more supervision than the usual trainer.

"… So, he says it's just a Marshadow." Steven said, giving his own device a dry look. "This kid is unbelievable."

"He does strike me as the type who would not be surprised to find Arceus in front of him."

"Knowing Ash, he would probably high-five it and carry on, most likely. Still, Diantha, what are you going to do about it?"

"Me? Nothing, of course. He seems quite capable of handling himself, actually. Did you see how fast the boy recovered from that scare? He analysed it, learned from it and moved on, exactly what you should be doing as well."

"Lance is not going to be happy."

"You're going to have to get used to the fact that Mr. Lance doesn't exactly scare me, Steven~"

"Ah, but have you ever seen him unhappy? He's not doing so well, with his wife's relationship with her 'personal weight coach' out in the open."

"Ah, really, why did the doctor even bother to cut Ash's navel cord from the beginning of his life, then? Keeping the boy within bounds is a disaster waiting to happen, Steven, you know that better than me."

"Don't be difficult, Diantha. You know what Cynthia said."

"But I also know that she definitely needs to take a distance of those Lore Keepers, Steven. They are driving her mad."

"… You go tell that herself."

"Oooh, watch me invite her and do so, under the pretence that I wish to speak to her about business." Diantha said sharply. "Just because Fairy types are fickle, does not mean I am. So watch your words for threats, Steven. Or watch me roast every single Lore Keeper I meet. Literally."

"… Nice. Please do so, we are all worried about Cynthia's well-being."

"Good. Also, give me Ash's number. If Cynthia is so worried for him, then maybe that goes both ways. It would do the woman a bit of good to see a familiar face and a good, thought-through opinion of something."

"As long as you don't put any words in his mouth, I'm all for the idea, Diantha. Just… be careful, in case one of those Lore Keepers follow Cynthia here."

"Religion is a choice and I stand firmly with that opinion. Everyone can believe in whatever they want and the elites of Kalos back me up on that idea. So, any Lore Keeper is welcome in Kalos, as long as they keep their influencing mouths shut. Or else I shall send through the notice that they won't even get through customs at the start of their journey here."

"Sounds good. Let's hope this will end up in our advance because if those Lore keepers end up gaining numbers, I'm not sure what will happen. And it would be a shame if they would get Cynthia and Ash on their sides."

"They will never succeed in seducing the boy, I'm sure. He thinks too much, I saw him take everything I said apart when I started explaining to him what Mega Evolution was about and answered his really good questions. That Lore Keeper nonsense wouldn't get to him. Or at least, not the way they would like it. Or do you think anyone would like a boy clearly in a belated question asking phase to pull your theories apart from the seams?"

"If you do end up executing this plan, please have a camera around and active?"

"Of course."

Now, as the two Champions were discussing another Champion's well-being, there were two weary children, who found themselves at Professor Sycamore's laboratory. Only to discover the man had completely forgotten about them.

"Oh no! I forgot to ask him to stay until you came around!"

"He left already?!" Clemont exclaimed.

"A good two hours ago, yes. He said he was going to a Pokémon Center and then to Santalune City."

"Ah, maybe we can-"

"Professor Sycamore!" a cheerful voice announced, as the door of the laboratory opened.

"Yes?" the man asked, looking up at the newest visitor.

"I came to get my first Pokémon." The girl said happily.

"Ah, right, I'll be with you shortly-"

"I also wanted to ask about the boy who jumped from the Prism Tower."

"… Right…"


Ash was blissfully unaware of all the attention and was just making his way to Santalune City. His own rhythm of walking was a little faster -his mom always complained about that and many of his travel companions had mentioned it- so he advanced a whole lot quicker. And this time, thanks to the handy dandy map he had, he wasn't going in the wrong direction.

"Aaah, we're already going good, aren't we?" he said, seeing they were already halfway through their journey to their first Gym. "What about a little break? It's past lunch time already anyway."

"Pika!"

Soon enough, all his Pokémon surrounded him, though most of their interest went to the newcomer, who puffed up its chest and took the attention as well as any small Pokémon could. Yeah, looking at the colourful group, Ash couldn't help but smile at how amazing they were. He had spent ages wishing he could own such incredibly looking Pokémon like he saw on TV at the time… And now that he had them, he couldn't be happier.

Just as the young trainer wanted to ask his Pokémon how they were doing, just as a simple check-out, something fell on his head. Confused, the teen bent down to investigate what it was that just dropped on him and discovered it was just an ordinary, but not yet ripe berry. It still felt rather solid, but there was no mistaking it, something had launched this towards him because there were no berry carrying trees around them. However, as he straightened again, still giving the small fruit a dubious look, something else fell straight into his arms.

"… Oh no, what happened to you?" Ash asked, looking at the hurt, unknown Pokémon in his arms in surprise but also startled look.

But the small, yellow creature in his arms was unconscious, leaving the boy to guess whatever had happened to the cute visitor. All he could do now was to provide the Pokémon with some much-needed care and hope that some potent berry potions would be enough to help it. If not, then lunch would have to wait because they would need to get to a Pokémon Centre. However, just when the teen had laid the creature onto a soft blanket, he got bombarded by yet another Pokémon.

"What the heck is going on?!" Ash exclaimed, briskly turning around with the hurt being in his arms… and was faced with a really angry looking Beedrill. "… Oh…"

He could see that there was more than one unhappy Beedrill but don't ask him how many. And having been raised in an area where these Pokémon basically attacked people willy-nilly, the young trainer had grown to fear these creatures. However, he wasn't alone and the drop in temperature told him that Glalie was near and just as unhappy at the evident threat as the Beedrill were. And if the growls coming from behind him were anything to go by, none of his team members were pleased by this interruption.

Still, Ash had to hand it to the usually aggressive Pokémon, they had more sense than most of the human idiots who suddenly became mad at a random person. For they took one look behind him and decided that whatever the two smaller Pokémon had done, wasn't worth the kerfuffle and left it at that.

"That was a close one…" the teen uttered as he watched the Beedrill disappear into the trees. "Man, thanks for the back-up, everyone."

Gliscor, who had been right behind him, purred at the attention and Glalie seemed pleased as punch. It wasn't until Ash turned around that he saw his other Pokémon's chuffed faces. However, his attention was pulled to the one in his arms, who shifted a little. He blinked as turned to look at it and smiled when he saw two beady eyes look at him.

"Comfortable?"

"Fletch!" it stated happily.

"Let's get a good look at you and see what those Beedrill did to you, hm?"

The Pokémon didn't object to anything and from its behaviour, Ash could notice it was actually very tolerant for a wild creature. It was young so the chances of it being pre-owned were slim… So the Pokémon probably really liked him.

As he started making food for all his Pokémon, taking special care of Froakie, seeing he was new and all that, the funny newcomer mixed into it pretty natural. It had started singing a little and well, from that point, even Gliscor let it perch on his shoulder.

"Hey, Froakie, you like the same Pokéblocks as a good friend of mine." Ash grinned, figuring that now was the best time to introduce the two… or three.

"… Fro?"

"Do you want to meet it?"

"Froakie!"


'Yeah, that went as well as expected.' Ash chuckled as he put away the rest of the Pokéblocks and started cleaning up their camp.

The only result that came from Froakie and Mewtwo's meeting was that the much smaller Pokémon had currently resorted in staring at his new trainer with an even more inspired look in its eyes. The same could be said for the bird Pokémon, who was perched on his hat and wouldn't budge.

"I take it you're coming along with me?" he asked.

"Fletch! Fletchling!"

"I have a funny feeling that there is something else that makes Pokémon wish to remain with you that just the attraction your status as Aura Source has, friend." Mewtwo said, having resorted in leaning onto Glalie because the enthusiastic Ice Pokémon didn't leave it alone until he could sit next to it.

"Whatever it is, I don't mind, Mewtwo. Why?"

"I remember you having asked me about a remedy against the boost you give everyone, thanks to your Aura."

"Yes, and you answered I couldn't help it."

"You would not have been able to, indeed, if only the issue stemmed from your Aura. From what I have been able to feel, it is most likely a result of your character." The Pokémon answered. "For you have the practical way to love everyone and as such, your Aura chooses to benefit them all as well."

"It's… going to be very hard for me to stop liking Pokémon, buddy, even if they're opponents. While they can sometimes do stupid things, I just feel so much better around them and… Well…"

"Please never stop liking all of us, friend. It is one of your assets which should remain untouched and is respected beyond humanity. But that does not mean you cannot stop yourself from learning how to curb your Aura from trying to replicate your feelings, by simply making the mental decision not to wish to share it. I can imagine you do not want to give your opponent a benefit as great as that when you can learn to stop it, no?"

"Of course! And not just because of official League fights, what if I can't stop it when fighting against those three idiots from Team Rocket? Or whatever natural occurring shmucks already run around in Kalos?"

"… Indeed, that would be one of those instances one would like to avoid happening…" Mewtwo mused. "Why not try it out on the Pokémon nearby? I am sure they would understand. Or not, that is fine too, as long as you can knock them unconscious."

"Yeah, not here. There's pretty much all Beedrill and they're not happy with me as is, so no… I had plans to go and have a stroll through a forest."

"Excellent. You seem irked by the idea already, so I do not think it will take that long for you to manage to reign in your emotions."

"Huh, yeah, emotions." Ash chuckled. "Right, we still have plenty of daylight left to travel but I'm not taking any risks. Besides, I'm worried about that one over there, seeing it's not waking up."

"The small one?"

"Yes."

"It is playing dead."

"… Eh? Why would it…? Am I scaring it?"

"No, it is its nature. Also, did it get any food?"

The boy simply went and laid three neutrally tasting Pokéblocks near the towel and turned his back to it.

"Ah, there it went." Mewtwo stated amused.

"Well good. I'm glad it's not too hurt because you can never be sure what those Beedrill did, with their poisonous barbs and what not…" Ash sighed. "Anyway, the sooner we get to Santalune, the faster I can drop off most of my stuff and travel to that forest."

"Of course. Thank you for letting me get some fresh air today."

"As far as I'm concerned, you can accompany through the forest. All we can find there are starting trainers who will not recognise you and if they do, who is going to believe them? And we're going to be moving, so even if they recognise you and if there is someone willing to come looking for us, they won't find us."

"I see you have high hopes for that forest."

"… I won't have any hope for the whole of Kalos if even the forests here let me down. Come on, there have to be at least five trees in order for anyone to call the place a forest, right?"

"We shall see."

Ash couldn't help but roll his eyes after he had recalled everyone but Froakie and the newcomer. Mewtwo had this way to make him doubt everything and he was the fool who always fell straight into its mind games. Well, whatever, he couldn't afford to waste any time right now and simply wanted to get to know his new Pokémon a little better. And he had a brand new Pokédex he could try out on them.

After having successfully 'scanned' Froakie, Ash discovered that this device gave a lot more information about the Pokémon than any other Pokédex had ever given him. It gave him access to check Froakie's move pool, which told him he had another special attacker in his team, which was good to team up with some of his physical attackers, like Heracross. However, seeing the Pokémon hop along as they walked, Ash couldn't see what was so Hasty about this particular Froakie. Oh, and it was a male apparently, which was totally fine to the teen.

Now, when he tried it on the other, the teen only got Fletchling's name and description. Which basically meant he could only ever know this kind of information when he had captured the Pokémon.

'It would be a little unfair to get such a good look at your opponent, wouldn't it?' the boy mused.

"Do you want to come along on my journey, Fletchling?"

The Pokémon's head appeared over the rim of his hat, who was still perched on top of Ash's head.

"Fletch!" it exclaimed happily.

"Alright, are you going to go into the Pokéball willingly or do you want to fight?"

Fletching blinked at the teen tilted its head sideward, probably not understand how it should answer. So, to solve this, Ash got out an empty Pokéball and held it out in front of the Pokémon. Now that was an action it understood and soon, the Fletchling disappeared into the ball. However, while the capture was successful, the teen called out his newest addition to his team again. He still needed to know what Fletchling could do, right?

It was easier said than done, because the Pokémon went straight back on top of his hat, making it difficult to get the Pokédex into a good position to 'scan' it. Though, imagine Ash's surprise when he noticed Fletchling was actually Naughty and a physical attacker.

'… Oh well, a bullet is small as well but does a lot of damage if aimed at a good spot. So as long as we make sure she packs enough punch, Fletchling's going to be okay.' He thought.

Her ability was nice too, seeing it nothing could lower her defence. And that was good when you literally used your body to hurt other Pokémon, so if they could work on that as well, that would be a great start. However, he was amused to see that only Mold Breaker, Teravolt and Turboblaze were the only abilities able to undermine Big Peck's effect.

"Let's not go after a Zekrom or Reshiram just yet, hm?" he chuckled, putting the Pokédex back in his pocket. "Besides, what are the odds of either of them appearing here, anyway?"

As if on cue, a loud thunder sounded out, making all four of them jump.

"Oh man, I should just keep my big mouth shut. Come on, Froakie, keep up."

"Fro!"


Once inside the Pokémon Center, Ash got greeted with an exact replica of the nurse in Lumiose but that fact had stopped startling him a long time ago. He was already glad to be in here and not outside, where the wind was howling and the rain was coming down in buckets.

"My, what a sudden thunderstorm." The nurse sighed, yet her smile remained, unwavering as ever.

"Yeah~" the teen wheedled. "The weather can be really strange. Euhm… Could you take a look at my Pokémon?"

"Of course!"

The woman was surprised to get so many Pokéballs in front of her, but if you weren't paying close attention to her expression, you would never have spotted it.

"Can I have your trainer card, please?"

"Sure~"

Ash had just casually slid his card over the counter, not really minding anything. The thunderstorm outside was clearly reaching its peak, making the doors of the Pokémon Centre rattle ominously.

"Geez, this wind really feels the need to prove itself…"

"Don't worry, we are used to this kind of severe storms. You see, sometimes, the wind comes straight from Ambrette and drags the water saturated clouds inwards, towards us. And with the cool wind from Snowbelle bumping into that warm front, we usually get some violent weather. It the reason why our forest thrives so lusciously, with all the heavy rain and natural pruning."

"Ah, alright, that makes sense." The teen said. "I was already worried some angry Pokémon was at play."

"Oh, no, no, nothing of the sorts, I assure you. I take it you are going to stay the night?"

"Yes, that was the plan. Though I also wanted to go and have a stroll through the forest, yet that seems like a bad idea now."

"Not really, the air is really fresh after a storm like this, so why not wait out until the storm has passed?" she said. "I would advise you to wear some boots, though, if you go through with your plan. The ground might be a little soggy."

"Oh, I've got some with me, no worries."

"Alright." The nurse said and slid his room key and trainer card towards him. "You have room 137, let me know if there's anything you need."

"Thank you. When will I know my Pokémon are available again?"

"You will be notified, don't worry."

Ash didn't particularly feel anxious, so he just nodded and left. What he did feel, was the effect this kind of bad weather had on his left leg, making him very thankful for the upcoming while of peace and quiet. While the teen was surprised to discover that he actually had a ground floor room, he couldn't be happier to see it was huge, didn't have a bunk bed and had a comfortable looking couch placed in front of the window showing the immensely bad weather outside.

"All you trainers outside in this weather, I feel for you." He sighed and deposited his bag near the couch.

He flopped onto the bed and after a bit of wrestling with his left leg, was able to take off his prosthesis so the boy would at least be able to take a nap without having to fear waking up with another injury. And before you ask what could be so bad about it, a stainless steel leg responding to a sleep twitch wasn't good news for any part of your body. At the time, Ash's shine bone had been the unlucky victim when he had forgotten to take off his prosthetic leg… but the event had caused a very memorable bruise, so the boy remembered it all too well to make sure it would never happen again.

The rain was still beating down on the windows as the teen slowly drifted off in a comfortable state of snoozing. He didn't fall asleep, because Ash wasn't tired, yet this kind of weather always made him feel fluffy and cuddly. The fleece blanket on the bed -hypo-allergenic fleece, probably- was contributing to that as well. Yet a sudden snap sounded out and pulled him out of his fluffy mood straight away. And the beeping that suddenly came from everywhere followed straight after.

"What the…" he whispered, straightening as he tried to locate where the sound was coming from.

He quickly discovered that this was nurse Joy's 'notification' she had told him about, so he heaved himself out of the bed and stumbled towards the red blinking light. There was this button underneath it, so taking the boy's slightly annoyed mood in account, he just pressed it, hoping the noise would stop.

He could only blink when it appeared that this buttoned opened a door he totally hadn't noticed before. And the same nurse from earlier appeared in the doorway, smiling at him.

"Ah, did I wake you up?"

"Not really. Though I hope it's not common to use this as a wake-up alarm?"

"Not at all." She giggled. "I just figured that it would be wise to reunite you with your Poké-help as soon as possible and used this emergency door."

"Oh… Hence the alarm?"

"Yes. It should normally only activate during an emergency or if you pressed the aid button."

"Is that this way in everything Pokémon Centre here in Kalos?"

"This procedure is standard for every Pokémon Centre in this world, Ash." The woman answered. "I'll just leave all your Pokéball here on this cabinet if that is okay with you?"

"Yeah, sure."

Pikachu had bounced inside the room and straight onto the bed a while ago, practically as soon as the door had opened, so all his Pokémon were all with him again. The thought alone made the boy feel a whole lot more comfortable, however, a particularly loud thunderclap made him cringe and give the view out of the window a doubtful look.

"Will you be okay on your own?" the woman asked, clearly having seen his panicked reaction to the loud noise.

"Y-yeah, I'll be fine. I… can call out some Pokémon in here?"

"Of course, Ash."

"Thanks. Can I just ask… Is this a special room?"

"Yes, of course. I figured you would be most comfortable with his considering you might have trouble keeping upright in the bathroom."

The teen blinked.

"Ooooh, does it have bars?"

"Yes, this is the only room that has this extra function. All the rest are more high tech and have gadgets that would only keep you away with their humming."

"Thank you, Nurse Joy."

"No problem. Do I need to come and get you at a certain time? Maybe when the storm ends?"

"Ah, if you didn't see me leave after seven, I would like you to come to get me, nurse. If that's no trouble for you?"

"There is no one here but you, Ash." She said. "It's the benefit of being the Pokémon Centre of the second stop, so I can take good care of the people who end up here."

"I have a feeling you will have a lot more people to keep an eye on by the time this storm ends, though."

"Eh, it'll be okay."


Or so she said. Because Ash could hear the storm ending, just because of the sheer amount of people coming in the Pokémon Centre, having been surprised by the bad weather and who decided to take shelter to continue their journey later, when the rain stopped. However, the teen didn't particularly care and made sure his Pokémon knew what his plans were before starting to make them some food.

Ash wasn't really hungry right now either and figured that his discomfort during this storm had chased off his appetite. And he wasn't in the mood to cook anything for himself either especially since the rooms in Pokémon Centres had a sink and a microwave, limiting your grand cooking skills to ready-made food. Cooking outside wasn't an option either, since everything was wet and soggy, not even leaving him any room to go and sit on the ground.

"Ah, you're leaving?" the nurse asked, having spotted him as he passed.

"Only for a little. I don't want to spend the night in such a damp environment. It would only result in me getting a cold or worse."

"Oh, you would be surprised how fast it will warm up again."

"Soon enough for me to find firewood?"

"No, not that fast." She answered. "There is a really good, little restaurant around here though if you're looking for a fast meal. But I think it's not opened yet."

"That's okay, I'm not hungry yet either."

"Don't forget your medication, though."

"Trust me, I won't." Ash said, giving her a dry stare. "I can feel the effect of it straight away when I haven't taken any of my medicines."

"Alright, then you're good to go. I'll see you around?"

"Of course~"

He was going to have to pass by her again and who knew in what state they would be returning from that forest, huh? But well, the teen was just happy that this Nurse Joy was so professional that she didn't make a big deal out of his disability. It felt good to be only treated a little different, something the nurses from the hospital he had been treated at weren't so good at.

"Pi?"

"Yeah, let's get going." He said and started walking.

The Pokémon Centre was packed with people now, just like Ash was used to. However, he kind of liked it when the building had been so empty when he came here but that would probably be a one-off or something. If the Nurse Joy's didn't reach their targets or if an inspector came by and saw that they didn't have anything to do, the Pokémon Centre would likely be closed, just like the one in his hometown been at risk off. However, Professor Oak had shown up as the strong man and had literally sent the inspector away with several, well-deserved threats. No matter how nice Professor Sycamore had been, Ash really couldn't imagine him intimidating anyone. Although, maybe if Garchomp showed up behind him, like his own Pokémon usually did…

'Ah, he would manage.' The teen thought amused as he left the Pokémon Centre. 'Though definitely not as a strong man. Maybe as a smarty pants or something, cheating on whoever was talking to them with their own words or tricking them into believing things.'

However entertaining his own thoughts were, they couldn't stop him from noticing that Santalune Forest was actually a pretty decent one, a fact that definitely pleased him. But he waited to push that fact in Mewtwo's face until he had advanced a little further into the woods because with this many people around, the Pokémon would be at a big risk of getting spotted.

As expected, though, Mewtwo wasn't the slightest bit bothered by the fact this forest was indeed worthy of its name. It didn't waste much time in pointing out the reason why they came here, which was to train Fletchling and Froakie a little and get his Aura issue under control. Ash found himself a little annoyed for some reason and ended up controlling his generosity faster than expected. Or at least, as far as Mewtwo had expected.

"Friend, is something wrong?"

"I'm looking for a cold spot. I'm getting itchy in these damp surroundings." The teen said, moving through the forest at a pretty fast pace. "And when I'm itchy, I get moody."

"I see. Is it wise to travel this deeply in the forest when the day is nearly coming to an end? Also, you have not eaten anything and you still have to take your medication."

"… And here I was thinking I left my mom in Kanto. Mewtwo, please, don't worry, I'm just going to take a look at that spot over there."

"Whatever will make you sleep better, friend." The Pokémon stated dryly.

However, Mewtwo could see that Ash was going in a very peculiar direction, which would only result in him accumulating a whole lot of mud on his boots. It was funny, though, because it almost seemed like the boy was being attracted to something. Which would be pretty amazing, because this was one of Mewtwo's own gimmicks. It remained to be seen just what was attracting the teen to that spot, but it was rather charming to notice that Ash liked the Legendary Pokémon so much, that his Aura started mimicking behaviour the boy never even known about.

And the Psychic creature couldn't help but feel like there was a lot of potential to be found in that idea, especially since its friend's Aura source would never deplete. So if this idea also appealed to the teen, they could experiment as much as they liked, without any risks… and that was something Mewtwo liked. Boundaries were a human concept anyhow and if you simply called them guiding lines, there was a whole lot more movement in 'being human'.

"Screw you, fence." Was the statement that snapped the Pokémon out of its thoughts.

Ash had just pulled out this fence and set it at the side before advancing into the grass. At a certain point, he crouched down and started digging.

"You are pretty good at planning your activities." Mewtwo said.

"It's the storm's fault that I ended up leaving so late. I would have left as soon as I got there but I got stopped by some freak weather and this Nurse Joy was so kind, I ended up following her advice."

Ash hadn't even pause to look at him and yes, Froakie, Fletchling and Pikachu were giving the teen the same confused look. But he wasn't stopping, no, in fact, they all learned their trainer had surprisingly good digging skills.

"Ah, I found a thing!" he exclaimed proudly, straightening from where he had dug a pretty impressive hole.

"It looks like a mudball."

"Yeah well, I'm taking it with me. If it's a mud ball, it's a special one, I can feel it."

While Mewtwo was pleased with the confirmation that Ash had been drawn to whatever was hiding in the mud, it didn't feel so good about the destruction the teen had caused. The mudball wasn't that big, so either the boy would need to hone his searching skills, or stop digging such great holes.

"Right, I'm going to get me and this mudball cleaned off and then I'm going to eat!" the young trainer said, as he stabbed the fence back where it had been standing.

"Before that, about this destruction…"

"Yes?"

The Pokémon could only stare at the spot that previously had looked so… destroyed, but looked as if nothing happened. There was no trace of Ash's digging work to be seen. Even the grass looked undisturbed, making the Pokémon wonder if its friend had just regrown grass on his own.

"Let's get going!" the teen said. "I can't wait to see what kind of surprise is in here."

'The biggest surprise here, friend, is you.' Mewtwo though, but followed.

After all, it wanted to know what was inside that thing to draw the boy to it… And if it was valuable, then maybe it was a good skill to master. For now though, its friend's health was its highest priority, which was why it never spoke up. But oooh, it would. Later, when Ash was over the excitement of his 'treasure'.


Bonus: (This happens while Ash is training in the forest)

A boy and two girls wearily stumbling into the Pokémon Centre, exhausted, soaked and hungry. In between those Beedrill, the hard to catch Dedenne and that thunderstorm, neither of them would be able to decide which event had been the worse… but that the journey towards Santalune had been a bad time, was something they would all agree on.

"We made it~" Clemont sighed, sagging into the couches, not even minding the soggy sound his backpack made when sitting down.

"… Oh goodness… I look like a sewage monster!" the brownhaired girl exclaimed as soon as she saw herself in one of the Pokémon Centre's many reflective surfaces.

"But at least we made it here!" Bonnie cheered happily, the only one with plenty of energy left. "Hello!" she said, bouncing towards the nurse Joy.

"Good evening. How can I help you?" the woman said calmly.

"Can we stay here for the night? We travelled aaall the way from Lumiose to here, through that rain and wind!"

"Of course, sweetie, but I'm going to need at least one trainer card to register you."

"A-ah, okay, I'm coming…" the blonde boy sighed, pushing himself off the couch and coming towards the counter. "Oh man, I'm going to feel this trip tomorrow…"

"And we still haven't found Ash either." Bonnie added. "I hope we didn't pass him."

"Are you looking for Ash Ketchum?" Nurse Joy asked, as she accepted Clemont's trainer card and inserted it into her computer.

"Yes! Is he here!?"

"I registered him in this Pokémon Centre in the afternoon, just before the storm started. But where he is at the moment, I don't know, because he left to explore this town as soon as the rain stopped."

"Must be nice, to be able to travel so fast…" Clemont sighed as he put his trainer card away. "I don't suppose it's possible for us to leave him a message?"

"Of course. Here, write down it down on this paper. I don't know when he will be returning, but if he comes back late, I'll leave it for my colleague who will be taking over my shift today."

"Ah, thank you, Nurse Joy!"

Clemont did his best to convey his need to make Ash wait for them -mostly because there was no stopping his sister once she had a goal in mind and he just couldn't keep up with her and Serena- but tried to keep it short. No need to worry anyone, right?

"I think this should do it." He said, sliding the pen and note back towards the woman.

"Excellent! Now, I think it's time for you to go and take a bath because you won't be travelling far with a cold, now will you?"

"Yes! Thank you for your help, Nurse Joy!" Bonnie exclaimed and dragged the other, still whimpering girl -her hair was a mess- along through the rest of the Pokémon Centre.

The nurse nodded and couldn't help but smile as she saw the group walk away, into the hallway that led to the rooms.

'To be young again.' She thought and put the note for Ash on top of a pile of paper.

Even if the boy didn't come back before ten, the hour a colleague would be taking over her shift, the other nurse would surely notice the small letter. So, the woman took a broom to mop up the trail of water the three teen had left, a content smile on her face, knowing that tomorrow would have new challenges. Though she hoped she didn't have to mop those up as well.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

Ash already felt a whole better with a full stomach. Whatever effect this storm had on him, had disappeared completely, though, the trek through that forest had been enough to almost drain him from most of his energy. And it was already late, though that had the advantage that the restaurant Nurse Joy had mentioned before was opened by now. He was in luck too, because they had these delicious noodles and broth available, which had warmed him up and filled his growling stomach soon enough.

The owner was probably regretting the 'all you can eat' function he introduced to the teen because Ash was pretty sure he had consumed all the noodles the man had prepared for that particular night. Not that there was a line of people waiting to enter the restaurant, but still…

'Well, whatever, I want to know the contents of my mudball.' He thought and started going back to the Pokémon Centre.

The mud on his boots had already dried up and had mostly fallen off as he had been on his way back to the city, so he didn't even leave any residue on the crisp white floor of the building as he entered. Though the nurse behind the counter didn't seem to care an awful lot, as she didn't even look up when he passed. He had his Pokémon Centre room key in hand, so he wasn't trespassing...

'Strange.' The teen thought but decided not to make any comment on the character change.

There was always a chance that this was a different Nurse Joy and he didn't want to risk annoying the woman. Even if this was the same person as before, something really bad might have happened for her to be behaving this way… and then it was better to leave her alone. So, trying to be as sneaky as he could -it was already half past ten now so really tired trainers had probably gone to bed by now-, Ash went inside his room and into the bathroom.

Imagine his surprise when he uncovers another marble out of the mud, this time, an orange and blue one. The boy has absolutely no idea who could use this particular Mega Stone but that didn't matter, because he could always try and trade it for Glalie's stone, right?

"Ash." A sudden voice said, really close to him.

"Gya!" the teen exclaimed and unwillingly threw the stone up in the air, as a panic reaction. "Oh nonononon-" he said in crescendo, grasping to catch the Mega Stone before it would fall on the ground and shatter.

However, after a while of juggling, with the stone slipping out of his hands -as it was still wet- every, single time, a purple energy surrounded it and levitated the object in the air. Ash blinked and followed the energy… to see Mewtwo stand there with a glass of water and his medication levitating right in front of it.

"Take it. Now."

The teen knew better than to argue with the Pokémon, especially since its expression betrayed there was no room for discussion.

"… Thanks." he said, after he had taken his last dose of meds for today.

"While I am pleased that whatever drew your attention in that forest is something useful, your health is more important than any stone, how powerful it might be."

"Wait, you're saying that I was attracted to that forest, thanks to the Mega Stone, all the way from Route 4?"

"Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. And if you cannot control this attraction, I will be forced to take this stone away as well."

"Keep it for now, then." Ash sighed, realising that Mewtwo wouldn't be acting this way if there wasn't a valid reason for it. "I'll deal with it tomorrow, after the Gym Battle."

"Good. I will put it away as you take your bath, so you can focus on the fight in relative peace. I can imagine that your own nerves are already hard to bear, so let this be one worry less."

"Mm, yeah. Thanks."

As the creature shuffled out of the room, the teen couldn't help but think that he needed a good talk with it again. He could already envision how bad a situation where he would be lured somewhere could get, but how did Mewtwo know about this? And why did he suddenly start doing this, like, Ash hadn't realised he had been rounding in on a Mega Stone…

'Whatever.' He thought as he went to get his pyjama's… but then he stopped, at quite a random spot. 'Did Mewtwo just release itself from its Pokéball?'

His curiosity brought him back to the other space in his room, where his backpack was and where it became apparent that his powerful friend had also recalled itself again. It's Cherish ball laid on the bed, ready to be put back in the secret spot of his shirt again too.

"That's handy." The teen sighed, doing just that.

As he got his pyjamas and massage oil for his leg out of his bag he realised Mewtwo had probably gone away to make sure it wouldn't be available to tell him where the Mega Stone had gone, but honestly… That trek through the forest was taking its toll and a bath sounded really good right now. So yeah, the boy resigned to his fate and dragged himself into the bathroom again, this time to go clean himself from the events of today.


The nurse didn't know what to expect when she suddenly got a call from the most renowned Professor of the whole of Kanto, demanding to speak with someone she wasn't even sure she had seen.

"Please, sir, it's barely five in the morning." The woman stated.

"It's really important that I speak to the boy now."

"I can't go and collect him, sir, it's illegal for me to trespass a room without a trainer's permission. Only if the emergency bell has been activated, I will be allowed to enter."

"Goddammit. Tell him to call me, then?"

"There are over fifty trainers here at the moment, sir, I don't even know who you are wanting to speak to. I would advise you to call the boy yourself, on a private number."

"I have, but he's not picking up."

"Then it's probably a sign he's asleep, sir. Maybe it's best if you try again later, but right now, I'm in no position to be any use of you."

"… Fine. How late is it right now?"

"A quarter to five, sir."

"Alright, I'll try again later."

"Thank you, sir. Have a good day."

"I darn well hope so."

The Nurse Joy rolled her eyes after ending the call. She always wondered whether people actually thought she knew everyone by name here, especially taking in account that she sometimes got faced with trainers she never even had seen enter of getting registered in this Pokémon Centre in the first place. To add injury to insult, the Professor hadn't even given the boy's full name, probably a little overcome with emotions to think of such a detail.

While the woman wondered what was going on with this trainer to have caught the attention of such a famous person, she knew that this wasn't any of her business. So, if she would see this 'Ash' -even though the Nurse had no idea what he looked like-, she would tell him to give the Professor a call. But chances of that were really slim.

"Bothersome people that early in the morning?" a soft voice asked, so calm that it hardly even startled her.

"You have no idea." The nurse chuckled and turned to the early riser. "Up already?"

"Yeah, I have too much energy."

"I wish I could say the same. Are you leaving?"

"Yup, I'm going to euhm… smell how fresh the cosmos is in the morning, I guess."

"I don't know about the cosmos, but the air is very pure, thanks to the plants and trees around."

"Good, I'm probably going to be hanging around for a while then, explore the sleeping city that is Santalune or something." The teen shrugged. "I don't suppose you know when the Gym opens?"

"Whenever the Gym Leader wakes up, I suppose."

"… Great. Are there really no rules of common decency in the Gyms of Kalos, or did I get spoiled by the fact every other Gym in the rest of this world has?"

"Ooh, that's a stab towards some very important people, you know? Do you not have any preferences?"

"If I do, I haven't let them get in the way of my career." The boy answered simply.

"Valid point, I'm sure. Why don't you bring that up with Viola herself?"

"I will, then."

Just by the tone the trainer used, the woman knew that the Gym Leader would have a problem on her hands. Or at least, that he would actually talk to her about it, that much was clear.

"Alright, is there anything you need?"

"Nope, I might come back to have my Pokémon checked over, after the Gym battle, but I won't be using another room in here."

"Alright, which room were you occupying?" the nurse asked.

"137." Ash answered, putting his key on the counter.

"Okay, thank you for staying here~"

"Thank you, Nurse Joy!" he said happily and left…

Leaving the woman completely unaware of his name… and there was a note for him. The nurse wasn't at fault here, though, because this was her workplace and not a personal desk. She couldn't possibly known about the small note when it had been hidden underneath an emergency file of a Pokémon that had come in around midnight... Yet another event that meddle with the teen's reunion.


It was around seven in the morning, when Ash had seen everything there was to see about Santalune City -it was so different from Lumiose yet so eerily familiar at the same time- that he got a call. He was unaware that there was a very interested acquaintance nearby and could hear every word he said as he answered the call.

"Hello?" he asked, a little bewildered that it was a video phone conversation which popped up on his screen.

"Ash! Why didn't you tell me!?" the familiar man exclaimed, appearing in a miniature size on the teen's transceiver.

"Professor? What do you mean?"

"The Pokémon, of course! Did you think I wouldn't get notified of its capture?"

"… Are you talking about Fletchling, Professor? Because that's the only Pokémon I captured yesterday."

"It was today, at three in the morning!"

"Your three in the morning, or mine?"

"… A-ah…"

"It's yours, isn't it? Do you think I was prancing around in an unknown place in the dead of night? Do you think any nurse here would let me leave or stay out at that time a day? With the regulations the League placed on me, I'm pretty sure a search party would come looking for me if I wasn't back around eleven or if they found me missing that very same day."

"… Oh." The Professor said simply. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you then, Ash. I don't know whether Professor Sycamore told you but I feel really bad about it."

"Consider yourself forgiven, Professor, I can hardly tie you to a tree and tell you to stay put when there are so many people demanding your attention, right?"

"Well yes, but still, maybe I could have made it a lot easier to bare for you."

"I don't think so. Though, Daisy did a really good job and I've already noticed I can really benefit from the Pokémon League's regulations. It's not all bad, after all."

"Daisy? Why did she… Wasn't Gary there to help you?"

Ash was about to snort and give a very snarky reply to that question when a sudden beep sounded out. It clearly came from Professor Oak's side, though and judging from the look on the man's face -his transceiver screen was just too small to get a good visual on his expressions-, the reason for the sound didn't make much sense to him either.

"What on earth is going on…?"

"Professor, are you okay?"

"Yes, yes, my boy, it's just… I got a notification that Gary captured several Alakazam."

"Ahahaha, that's a good one. Man, Professor, that Delta Dratini's attack must have ended up doing a lot more damage than just to the walls of its enclosure."

"Are you saying I couldn't find them?"

Ash rolled his eyes at the familiar voice.

"Gary, why do you always pop up at the time when I really have no need or desire to speak to you."

"Screw you, Ash. I was busy at the time Tracey asked me to go downstairs and help you. I didn't even know what your problem was or why you needed help but I already knew you would never understand that something else could be more important than you."

"Professor Oak, did you just hear me ask for Gary's opinion because I sure didn't."

"Don't be mean, Ash." The man said, though looked entertained with the conversation anyway.

"You should realise that what you're doing isn't going to get you anywhere. And just the fact that you blame me for not being there when you needed me, tells me that you're still the same old, snotty-nosed kid I grew up with." Gary huffed, appearing in the screen and looked as unhappy as he sounded.

"Oooh, Gary~ Do me a favour and get your hearing checked, because I never even mentioned your name anywhere, to anyone. And it's about time you realise that the more you whine about my desire to travel, the longer I will keep this up, just to annoy you."

"Grow up."

"Oh, I will, because I can let go of pitiful feelings of the past." Ash said, not very impressed by his childhood friend's feelings or remarks. "Now go play with your imaginary Alakazam, I was talking to the actual Professor Oak, not you."

While it was clear the older man was amused by this, as the chuckle in the background indicated, the redhead sure as heck wasn't.

"Prepare yourself for the day when my grandfather isn't here to protect you, Ash."

"Only if you will prepare your face for the day I will rub my success in it, Gary."

"Yes, yes, that's enough, you two." Professor Oak said, gently pushing his grandson out of vision.

The teen could hear that the man said something to Gary, but he really couldn't care less. That idiot was literally the least of his worries right now, so why the redhead had even thought it would be a good idea to listen into this conversation and just assume it was about him…

"Is he gone?" the young trainer asked.

"Don't make it any worse, Ash."

"Oh, so this is my fault, hm? Well then, Professor, if you would be so kind as to notify me a week in advance of your retirement so that I can make preparations to move my Pokémon to a Professor of my choice in time."

"I'm not that old, so don't start making plans just yet." The man answered quickly. "Besides, your Pokémon are happy here."

"I'm sure they are."

"... Look, Ash, I know you're not a vindictive person, but I can't help but notice the striking similarity between my past with Agatha and Gary's with yours."

"That's not really a compliment towards yourself, Professor." The teen commented slyly. "Can I try and bring this train wreck of a conversation back to the reason you called me, though? The fact your faulty machinery just put me at risk of getting hunted for a Pokémon I don't possess?"

"A-ah, yes, well… I can't remove it from your profile, but I can hide it."

"Do whatever you can, Professor, because if something happens to me because of it, you will have to answer for it to my mom."

"You're going to have to stop using your mother as a treat, Ash."

"Alright, then you get to take it up with my orphaned Pokémon and explain to them exactly why they're being released back into the wild."

"… Creative. Now I can't decide which one is worse."

"It's not your decision to make anyhow. Please do whatever you can to make me less attractive to criminals. Or didn't you get the memo that Team Rocket is in Kalos?"

"I did, unfortunately. Alright, I'm sorry to have bothered you… and if it means anything, Gary is sorry as well."

"I'll probably never hear it from him, so I'll take it. Thank you, Professor Oak, for understanding."

"My pleasure, my boy. Try to have some fun, hm?"

"No problem~"

Ash had the strange desire to throw his transceiver away somewhere because he had been having fun… before the man called and let his grandson spoil his good mood. While it was already a relief that he wouldn't be seeing the redhead here, meaning he wouldn't be subjected to his whimsical moods, it was still a bother Gary felt the need to explain himself when no one asked a question.

"Whatever, I'm not going to let some punk walk all over me like this."

"As expected. Good to see you again, Ash~"

"Alexa!" the teen exclaimed, cheering up instantly. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough. How are you doing?"

"Pretty good, actually. Santalune is a really nice city to walk around in."

"Isn't it?" Alexa grinned, happy that the boy liked her hometown. "Are you going to challenge my sister today?"

"That was the plan, until I heard from one of the Nurse Joy's that she is a wanderer and that no one really knows when she'll open the Gym or whether she'll actually be there."

"A-ah, yes… My sister does travel to some places occasionally. I swear she usually sticks to a scheme."

"… She's still not here, is she?"

"No…" Alexa sighed. "But I'm sure that she will be back in a while so why don't we have a battle?"

"Wait, you are a trainer?"

"I-I have Pokémon, yes and I've done a bit of training with my sister but I never went on a journey like you. I've just picked up my Pokémon from several daycares where they had been left as a baby or just straight out abandoned and we just… you know?"

"That's perfectly fine to me! I would be happy to have my first actual fight in Kalos against you~"

"Alright, let's go to one of the fields, so we're in nobody's way."

"Lead the way!"


"Clemont, wake up!"

The blonde boy was startled enough to jump up, but was still disoriented thanks to the rude awakening.

"Wha?"

"It's noon!"

If he wasn't awake before, he ruddy well was now.

"What!?"

"It's noon!" Serena repeated, as she hurriedly gathered her things to get ready for today. "We overslept!"

Or at least, the two of them had, because Bonnie was sitting on her bed, completely ready and with a big, teasing smile on her face.

"I've never even slept in this late…" the blonde sighed, getting up now as well.

Honestly, though, it wasn't as if it was a crime to sleep, especially not after the tiring day yesterday. So Clemont wasn't overly worried… until he realised why they even had come this way in the first place. There was no way that Ash would have stuck around for this long, especially since he would be challenging the Gym…

"Goodness." The Nurse Joy said. "I was already convinced you three had left!"

"… He's gone, isn't he?" Clemont asked dryly.

"Well yes. It seems like he had no idea you were here at all, because he was startled when I told him you had arrived here last evening, after having trailed him. It probably means that my colleague failed to give him your message, but I never even stopped him from leaving, because I thought you had all left this Pokémon Centre already!"

"Oh no… How long ago was that?"

"Ash came back around half past eight, for me to check over his Pokémon after his fight with Viola. They were barely hurt at all, so it didn't take long for me to return them to him… and then he left, figuring he would find you outside…"

"Perfect timing, as per usual." The boy sighed, looking a little dejected, seeing as their plan had failed magnificently.

"You might still catch up to him, though, since he said he was going to train, as he would be going back to Lumiose, to get to Cyllage City."

"Alright! Let's go!" Bonnie cheered.

"Please take these, though." The nurse said, handing three packets over to Clemont. "At least eat some lunch underway, seeing you have already missed an important meal today."

"A-ah, yes, thank you!"

The sandwiches were a welcome source of energy and honestly, the blonde boy didn't know at what time Ash woke up to have already defeated the Gym Leader of this town by now… But it must have been early. There was no discussion of the success of the charismatic teen, though, because they could hear people talk about it in the Pokémon Centre and outside.

"It wasn't smart of Viola to interfere when he was about to send out his Pokémon, wasn't it? I mean, the look on that Glalie's face mirrored his perfectly and I knew right there and then that she was in over her head." A young boy giggled.

"I know, right? Look, I've got a picture of its face~"

Clemont couldn't help but feel bad about having missed the fight and by the sound of it, Bonnie felt that way too.

"Aaah, I wanted to see that!" she complained, loudly for plenty of people to hear.

"Bonnie!" he hissed.

"If any of you have a profile on Pokévision, you can easily find Viola's official Battle Channel. She keeps a log of all her fights, so you can see it again if you want to." Someone said, clearly trying to keep the younger girl quiet.

"Ah, that's good to know." Serena wheedled. "We'll have a look at that in a bit, okay, Bonnie?"

"… Okay. But I want to see one of Ash's live fights too…"

"Of course, let's get going~" Clemont said quickly, while the brunette soundlessly mouthed a 'thank you' to the helpful trainer.

As soon as they were back on route 4, Serena fulfilled her promise, though mostly because Bonnie just wouldn't shut up about it. Granted, from the way those other trainers had been talking about the fight, it clearly must have been a sight worth seeing, but still… The brunette made sure that the sound of the device was dimmed a little too, because neither of them wanted to meet up with those Beedrill again.

Once had been plenty and heck, they had only gotten away from those Pokémon because of that storm. Neither Clemont or Serena knew for sure whether Bunnelby and Fennekin could handle those Beedrill on their own anyway, so why tempt faith again? Besides, Dedenne wouldn't be much help either, in fact, the blonde had needed to bite his tongue when he had seen the Pokémon's stats, as he had scanned it straight after its capture. It was better off being a friend to his sister than a fighter, that much was sure. But hey, at least they were alive and en route, right? And with a stroke of luck, they would even find Ash before he arrived in Cyllage City.


Ash sighed as he stretched his arms above him, attempting to get the kinks out of them. Sitting on the ground without back support always resulting in making his arms feel really heavy, but you didn't have much choice in seating in a such a tree-filled place. And leaning onto a tree wasn't an option either, because that meant you had a dead angle… which was a really bad idea when you knew there were these Beedrill hanging around, who still hated your guts from yesterday.

Oh well, Gliscor and Glalie were out of their Pokéball, simply because the former wanted to cuddle and the latter was there to review how his first Gym Battle here in Kalos. Ash was super enthusiastic about Glalie's performance, having downed that crazy Vivillon so quickly he could notice Viola's surprise and horror. Yes, she had chosen the Pokéball, as some sort of experiment she thought he was suited for. While the boy wasn't surprised that Alexa had told her about it -even though he was a little miffed that she had refused to say anything about her sister earlier-, he wondered why the woman hadn't mentioned that he had as many Pokémon with him because of medical reasons.

Gossip never bothered them as long as all the participants got their facts straight, but alas… That usually wasn't the case and that's probably also the reason why Viola took that risk. And she had been lucky she hadn't called Infernape out, or worse, Gliscor. Because those two were incredibly sensitive to their trainer's emotions and at the time, the Gym Leader's behaviour had rubbed him the wrong way. By now, the teen had learned how to swallow his annoyance when anything went against his ideology, or put a limit to his opportunities, though, and in lieu, had focussed on how well Glalie had channelled his energy.

So maybe it had been a good thing Viola had acted this way, because now he knew that this empathy bond had reached all of his Pokémon. Heck, Glalie hadn't even playfully frozen anything as it came back to him at the end of the fight, demanding a hug to know he was okay, which was strange.

"Well, buddy, I'm massively proud of your performance today."

"Gla gla~" the Pokémon purred happily and went to nestle himself under the boy's arm.

"Are you in the mood for a little story, Glalie? Because I discovered something really amazing a while ago and I think you'll be interested?"

"Gla?"

"See this? This is your Mega Stone."

The Pokémon's attention was definitely piqued as it stared at the screen of the yellow transceiver and listened closely to the boy's explanation of the wonderful thing called Mega Evolution. However, as Ash happily told his ice friend everything he knew about it, he didn't know that there was someone near who felt a mighty need to make this human happy. And so it listened closely as well, figuring that if it stayed near for a while, it might get an idea on how to get in the boy's favour even further.

Ash definitely got startled when Mewtwo suddenly appeared, the Mega stone in hand. But he was delighted as well, welcoming the Legendary Pokémon with a hug and thanking it profusely for reasons the hidden visitor couldn't hear. Though it knew that this was the reaction it wanted when appearing in front of this particularly nice human as well… So it left, with the full intention of making the glowing teen happy.

"My friend, I am glad you were able to keep your thoughts on your fight and not the stone. It proves that it is just your curiosity that draws you to something, not your interest in the subject."

"Oh, there's a difference?" Ash chuckled, gently holding the Mega Stone in his hand.

"Absolutely. It means you can still run after you were drawn to something placed there by people with nefarious plans, once you figured out what it is."

"… I've been meaning to ask, Mewtwo… How do you know? And why are you so worried?"

"Team Rocket has tried many ways to regain control over me, friend. They did not shy away from dubious morality and made me act… Well, I regret everything I did then. Hence why I endeavoured to make you immune to this, for I do not want you to end up in the same position I once ended up in."

"I will never let them get to you again."

"You went as far as to lie to Professor Oak, friend, I know you are protective of me. And it pleases me more than you can imagine, because it shows that our bond is better than we both suspect."

"I never lied to him because; one: I didn't catch you today; two: he never directly asked whether I caught you; three: just because I caught you, doesn't mean I actually 'possess' you so yeah… Not telling isn't lying."

"Sly, my friend, very sly." Mewtwo grinned. "I like it a lot."

"Talking about sly… How did you manage to hear me through your Pokéball? And since we're on that subject anyway, how did you become able to release yourself from it?"

"I have a mighty need for emergency exits, friend. Does it bother you?"

"Absolutely not." The teen said simply. "I was just wondering about it, since it interests me. Pokémon are a whole lot more awesome than I had imagined when starting out on my journey and especially their way of learning and adapting to new situations is just… well, we would be in a whole lot of trouble if people could do the same, that much is sure."

"And what if I told you that you could potentially have the same learning curve as me?"

"… Trouble, like I said."

Mewtwo looked at the boy with an amused look in its eyes, but Ash knew already what this meant.

"I wasn't imagining this extra bond with my other Pokémon, was I? I'm actually learning from you? Like, actually mimicking?"

"Yes, you are most definitely doing so. Does it bother you?"

"Eh? You're so awesome, Mewtwo, how could I object to becoming more like you?"

"Ah, you flatter me." The Pokémon said, looking incredibly pleased. "Shall I start by showing you some things I think you could be capable of?"

"Yes!


Professor Sycamore couldn't help but stare at the chuffed teen, who was holding out yet another Mega Stone. Alright, so Ash didn't know which one he had just found, but he had managed to acquire one in such a short time… which was phenomenal.

"Ash, where did you find this?" he asked, carefully turning the marble in his hand, to check if it was a real one.

"A little outside Santalune forest. It was late already, but this storm had foiled my plans to train earlier… So yeah."

"Goodness… Well, congratulations, Ash, you're the proud owner of a Heracronite now."

"For real!?"

"Yes, really. I have a good idea of how the non-Legendary Mega Stones look, so this is most definitely the one for a Heracross."

"I have one!"

"Ah, do you? That's a funny coincidence."

"Funny? It's awesome! Heracross is going to love this!" Ash exclaimed enthusiastically.

"If your Pokémon is half as happy about this as you are, you won't have any issues with convincing it to test out some of your theories, I'm sure."

"Of course! And he's got the perfect character for it too!"

"… What do you mean?"

"He's so relaxed and carefree, there's little to no chance that becoming a little more powerful will rise to his head. If he was as bold as Charizard, I wouldn't even think about the idea of ever Mega Evolving him. I would probably just sell the stone, to be honest..."

"Is that so? What about your bond?"

"I love Charizard to death, Professor." The boy sighed. "But he would grow over my head. I could barely control him when he became a Charizard, so no… I don't need his head to get any bigger."

"Alright." The man chuckled. "Do you want me to go and get you something to put this Mega Stone in so your Heracross doesn't need to hold it?"

"Ah yes, please. Though, do I need another one of those stones to successfully Mega Evolve?"

"… What do you mean?" the Professor asked, frowning.

"I've got the choker and the actual Mega Stone for Mewtwo, right? Do I need another of these to Mega Evolve Heracross?" Ash asked, pointing to his accessory.

"Aaah, no, no, Ash. What you are wearing is actually a Key Stone, not a Mega Stone. They can come in a variation of colours, so just because yours is a little paler than the common ones, doesn't make it any less useful. If I remember correctly, Champion Diantha has one similar to yours. So you don't need another Key Stone, it will respond to all Mega Stones."

"Cool! Alright, then I just need to mentally prepare myself and Heracross for it."

"Indeed. Stay here while I find something to put the Mega Stone in, okay?"

"Okay~"

Professor Sycamore couldn't help but feel very amused when seeing the boy act so happy. It was kind of funny how smart and stupid, happy yet serious Ash was, basically a perfect pubescent boy… and yet he bewildered the Professor so much, for reasons the man didn't understand. But well, he was specialised in Pokémon, not people, so maybe that's why the kid's behaviour left him scratching his head.

He could appreciate someone who put their Pokémon's safety first, though, seeing so many trainers simply decided their bond was 'good' enough… and ended up hurting themselves and/or their Pokémon, just because of their selfish ideas or plain old stupidity. He himself had thought about it but Garchomp had been adamant in trying it out as well, so he didn't have to think twice in Mega Evolving his partner Pokémon. Right, so the first time had failed magnificently, and only because he had been an idiot. So, that Ash wanted to take as much time to prepare for it, was a smart move and so he wouldn't push the boy to go beyond what both he and his Pokémon were comfortable with.

'Ah, this should be good.' The Professor though. 'It's just as dramatic as the choker as well, so they'll match.'

However, as Professor Sycamore went back to where he had left the teen… he found the place empty.

"… Where did he go?!"

"Professor!"

The man blinked and turned around, to see Sophie run towards him.

"What's the matter, Sophie? Did something happen in the laboratory?"

"There have been explosions in the Prism Tower!"

"Ah, merde… Again? Comme c'est bizarre…"


"This blasted building." Ash cursed, gritting his teeth. "I hope I see that Gym Leader, so we can kick their butts to Unova!"

"Pika!"

The Pokémon was firmly perched on the boy's shoulder, giving their surroundings a dirty look. Pikachu had Lightning Rod and was surprisingly bouncy, so honestly, he hadn't cared about being electrocuted when they had been thrown out of this Gym. But the person in charge here would have to answer for having tried to hurt his trainer.

Ash's mood went sub-zero when he suddenly rounded in on the same hallway he had ended up in earlier… Though this time, the doors were open and he could see a very familiar figure on the ground.

"S-stop it!" a brunette exclaimed and went to stand in front of the downed boy despite the stutter in her voice. "You cheater! You took two turns at once of the allowed one turn!"

"He lost." A robotic voice said, the same unforgiving tone which had answered the teen when he had been here the first time. "Commencing electric shock."

"No, stop it!" Bonnie cried out, even though she was in a safe distance.

However, as soon as the robot started booting his electric attack, Ash jumped in front of the girl, knowing that he could withstand a Thunderbolt or two. The attack landed and while it wasn't that painful, it was a lot more powerful than the first one he had received. The robot might not have known it was loading Pikachu up, though, as the Pokémon was on the boy's shoulder.

"Cute." Ash said, though barely able to hide a wince. "Your turn, Pikachu."

"Pika!"

With plenty of gusto, the boy's starter Pokémon created a powerful Thunderbolt attack and soon enough, the unforgiving bolt of lightning erupted from Pikachu's body and hit the robot, who clearly wasn't able to handle that much energy. After it made a few very curious and weird sounds, it crumpled to the floor.

"… You okay?" he asked, turning to the girl, who clearly was bewildered about his sudden appearance.

"Ash?!" Bonnie exclaimed, upon which the brunette flung herself around the boy's neck.

"This is the second time you've saved me."

"… No… problem." The teen said, awkwardly patting her back as he came to the realisation he didn't have a clue what the girl was talking about. "Are you okay?"

"Thanks to you." She said, releasing him.

"Alright, good. Euhm… What was going on here? And why is Clemont unconscious?"

"Citroid hurt him." Bonnie sniffled, coming over now as well.

"Wait, wait, is this the Gym Leader?" Ash asked, pointing at the slightly smoking robot. "And why the heck did you all even come in here for? I thought you were starting trainers?"

"N-no... My brother is the Gym Leader."

"… I'm not following but heck… let's get Clemont off the floor first. Did he get hit by one of that crazy robot's attacks?"

"Mm-hm." Bonnie nodded.

"Right, then we need to take him to a doctor, because if he's unconscious, then-"

Just as Ash was bending over to check whether the boy actually was down for the count, Clemont shot up and ended up head-butting the black haired teen's face. The young trainer recoiled instantly and grabbed his poor, abused nose, as if to shield it from further attacks.

"He's up." He groaned, sounding a little muffled thanks to his hands on his face.

"Are you okay, brother?!" Bonnie asked, quickly running towards Clemont, who appeared to be a little woozy.

But honestly, this hit on Ash's noise had resulted in him becoming slightly dazed as well. And when he removed one hand, the teen could see he was bleeding.

'Nnnggh, I hate this place.' He thought, panicking a little because he couldn't reach for his pockets without getting blood all over his shirt and pants. 'Screw this.'

And so, the teen started walking towards the exit, hoping that the nearby Pokémon Centre could help him. Because in this state, he wouldn't be able to help Clemont or anyone else.

"Keep calm, friend. Your guardian Professor is outside, trying to catch his breath."

Ash blinked as he heard Mewtwo's voice in his head. This too was one of the being's new tricks but it was gosh dang handy, for the teen was on the verge of erupting before. A colourful string of curses still filled his mind, but that wouldn't bother anyone around him.

"I made a hasty exit from Professor Sycamore's lab, so there is a big chance he might have followed me once he realised I was gone. Do you want me to go get him so he can help Clemont?"

"Ah yes, please! He's not looking too flashy." The oldest girl said.

"… Alright." Ash sighed, already on the move.

He just couldn't believe he couldn't stay out of trouble when both Clemont and Bonnie were around, even more, he couldn't stay out of trouble and not get hurt. Heck, if someone ever would be complaining about him being a trouble magnet, he would introduce this trouble duo to them. Goodness, he had such a good day yesterday too and here he was, probably going to give Professor Sycamore a heart attack, thanks to all this blood streaming down his face.

At least it was useful Mewtwo had supplied him with the knowledge the man was even here, because Ash wasn't sure whether he would make it to a Pokémon Centre in this state. Not that he was that hurt, it was just that his sight got a little woozy ever so often.

"Hey, kid. Are you okay? You're swaying all over the place."

"Walking straight is for the weak." Ash grumbled, pausing for a bit, or else he would run into the huge man in front of him. "What are you doing here, sir?"

Pikachu took that moment to jump on his trainer's shoulder, but he was glaring at the stranger too.

"Checking on my children, that's what I'm doing here."

"… All three of them?"

"No, Clemont and Bonnie. Serena is a friend of theirs."

"Oh… Alright." The teen said, moving aside so that the man could pass.

"Good reflex you got there, kid. I like your style"

The boy just let out a non-committal noise as he stumbled along the path back outside. If he wasn't in such pain, he might have been thankful for the comment but now the teen wasn't so sure whether he would've been able to scare anyone off in this state. So yeah, he didn't want this friends to get hurt even more, thanks to some weird stranger, but that man had been huge... so it had probably been an automatic response or something because there wouldn't have been much the young trainer could have done to stop someone that big from entering the Gym. Ah well, at least he had been right about one thing, namely that Professor Sycamore was very startled seeing him.

"Mon Dieu, what happened this time?!"

"Clemont head-butted my nose." Ash said dryly.

"… Right." The man said, knowing that this couldn't possibly be the boy's fault.

Thankfully, as a Professor, his standard equipment included large tissues, so he quickly fished a couple out of his large lab coat's pockets. He gently peeled one of the teen's hands off and hissed a little when he saw all the blood.

"Seems like he has a hard head, hm?"

"No kidding." Ash answered, taking one of the tissues to clean off his hands a little.

"Well, from what I can see, it's not broken, just a little bruised."

"Good, then it will probably heal by itself."

"Yes, but it will be a very colourful sight for the next few days."

"Well, at least it's not itchy." the teen shrugged.

"No, that's true." The man chuckled.

"Can I ask… Do you know Serena?"

"I do. She started her journey three days ago and was looking for you, just like Clemont and Bonnie and so, she decided to travel with them to find you." Professor Sycamore answered. "But they never met up with you until now, hm?"

"No… The name sounds so familiar to me, though. It's like I've heard it somewhere before…" the teen said, frowning but regretting that almost instantly as the action hurt a lot.

"We did meet in the past." The girl said, coming out of the Gym now as well, followed by Bonnie and then the father who was carrying Clemont. "That's why I was looking for you."

"… I'm still not following…"

"That's okay." She giggled. "Maybe this will help you remember."

And that's when she presented the only piece of League merchandise Ash was missing from his father's collection. Yeah, he had used it when he was little, but that was because his few memories of his dad had still been fresh then… But later on, the collection had become his treasure, because all he remembered from Red was how happy he made his dear mother so yeah…

Still, he hadn't been giving these handkerchiefs out willy-nilly either and heck, he didn't want to frown but the teen couldn't help it as he had to dig really deep in his memories. His thoughts almost instantly brought him back to that terrible year, where he had been thrown out of Professor Oak's class. So if he met Serena somewhere, it must have been in one of those summer classes before that year.

"Ah! You're the girl with the straw hat! You hurt yourself after you got spooked by a Pokémon, right?" the teen said, getting a sudden epiphany.

"Yes! I'm so glad you still remember~" Serena said happily. "I wanted to give you your handkerchief back, but it was already too late and I couldn't find you after that."

"Thank you for having returned this nonetheless, Serena. This means a lot to me still."

"Ash…" Clemont uttered, turning a little in his father's arms. "I'm so sorry for having hurt you. I never meant to…"

"You can repay me later. I don't want to win a badge from that crazy robot, I want to fight against the actual Gym Leader." Ash answered.

"I can that much for you." The blonde teen grinned weakly.

"Sounds good. All I need to do is get through Cyllage and two other cities in one piece and then I'm good to go."

"We would really like to join you on your journey, though. Could you wait for us this time?" Serena asked.

"Sure~ Though I'm really wondering why neither you or Clemont got the idea to leave your transceiver number with that nurse in Santalune City because I never even knew you were looking for me until yesterday, where the nurse said you had already left but clearly hadn't... Then I could have called you and could have discussed a meet-up or something."

"Ah…"

"Right, I'm going to take you with me now, Ash." Professor Sycamore said, when he literally had to grab the teen's arm to steady him.

"Okay." Was the simple answer.

"You can come with us, Serena." The man said. "That way you have some company, eh, Bonnie?"

"Ah, will you stay with me?" the little girl asked.

"Of course~" Serena answered happily.

"Good, then we're all set. Though, this time, I will remember to keep him inside until you three arrive."

"Thank you, Professor!"


It was just as good that Professor Sycamore wasn't squeamish, because Ash had lost a lot of blood. Yes, injuries to the head always bled a lot, especially if no one had tried to stop the bleeding or if no pressure had been applied. The man called it the 'Drama Queen Syndrome', but that didn't make it official or anything, but still… it felt apt to call it that way. And it was good that his 'patient' was so calm, because this situation could have turned into a hot potato really soon.

"Are you feeling okay?"

"Dizzy." Ash sighed as he rubbed his forehead. "Do you really think I could start travelling tomorrow?"

"Mm, I don't know, I may have underestimated the situation a little." The man said, disposing of the blood-soaked tissues. "If you're still dizzy tomorrow, I will call a doctor, okay?"

"Oh, okay."

"I really don't think anything's broken, though, but again, a bruise can hurt a lot as well."

"It feels like a bruise too. This is going to suck big time once I'm in bed, my whole face hurts…"

"I'm not able to give you a sedative either, Ash, so you're just going to have to lay on your back and sleep that way."

"Wonderful…" the teen groaned.

"That being said, I do have some actual incense to help you sleep."

"Yes, please. Anything that helps is welcome. And I like the smell of incense."

"Alright, I'll give you some later. All this aside, though, I have had this in my pocket for a while now." The Professor said, taking the Mega stone and its fitting out of his pocket.

"I completely forgot about that." Ash sighed. "Where do I put this on Heracross?"

"Anywhere it fits, I suppose."

"… Let's see, then. Can I call him out?"

"Of course. I've not seen many Heracross either, so I would be delighted to see yours."

Ash didn't particularly know why Professor Sycamore would think his Heracross would be any different from the ones he had seen before but hey… His Pokémon would probably even like the attention, so the teen called him out.

Heracross proved to be as carefree as the boy had stated earlier, though he did seem to instantly notice that his trainer was in pain. One of the Pokémon's dainty claws ghosted over the teen's face, right where the main source of the pain was, showing clear worry… which was a sign there was a really good bond between the two.

"I'm fine, Heracross, it's nothing that can't heal on its own." Ash said, apparently having seen the Pokémon's concern as well. "But that's not what I called you out for… Look, I found something for you~"

Ash had most definitely been talking to his Pokémon about Mega Evolution because stars appeared in Heracross' eyes. It garbled something, which the teen seemingly understood.

"Yes, really. I didn't know your kind was included in the possible candidates to Mega Evolve, but aren't you happy we trudged in that mud yesterday?"

The Pokémon was happy, yes, and as such, started to nibble at the side of the boy's hat in a rather endearing way.

"Ahaha, stop that, Heracross, it tickles~"

When the creature did indeed back down, Professor Sycamore couldn't help but feel very impressed with the teen's Pokémon. There were clear signs that they were incredibly emotionally developed and obeyed perfectly, out of respect and not fear. Alright, Heracross might not be the biggest, but he looked good. His shell was smooth and shiny, his eyes clear and attentive… and he had a really dangerously broad horn.

With any other bug Pokémon, like Beedrill, having things to stab each other with was the way to go. But Heracross stampeded and rammed into each other, meaning that a sharp, thin horn would snap and leave the Pokémon unprotected against a potentially lethal attack from its opponent. No, Professor Sycamore was happy that the teen took the initiative to put the bracelet on Heracross' horn, because he didn't really want to be in its line of fire.

"Fits like a glove!" Ash stated happily and admired how interesting it looked.

"Let's hope it won't sink down on the horn, or it's at risk of getting smashed, should you use him in a fight and not Mega Evolve him."

"It can't slide down, Professor. It's that high up Heracross' horn because that's the only spot where it fits."

"Oh."

"Besides, Heracross tend to take really good care of whatever their horns are adorned with, so watch him prance about, dancing around his opponents. It will probably confused the heck out of any Pokémon who doesn't know how Heracross act but hey, that can only work to our advantage."

"Probably." Professor Sycamore chuckled, already able to mentally imagine just how one of those battles could go. "Well, I'm glad he's happy with it."

"So am I. Here's to hoping I will find a quiet spot to rekindle with his abilities and Mega Evolve him."

"Expecting trouble?"

"Definitely!" Ash stated. "It's not like I blame either Bonnie or Clemont for what happened at the Prism Tower, but if all our troublemaking habits accumulated, then travelling together would be disastrous! Poor Serena would be in over her head!"

"Whoa, wait, are you saying you're going to deny their offer to travel together?"

"No, I will tell them the truth, so they can choose their own fate. Things happen when I stay in one spot for too long, Professor. I… I can't prove it to you right now, but you're bound to notice it when it happens."

"Come now, Ash, I get it that you're young, but you make it sound like the world is going to end." Professor Sycamore sighed. "Isn't that a little too drastic?"

"Professor Oak never wanted to admit it either, so I won't be able to convince you unless you saw it with your own eyes."

"Mm-hm, calm down, Ash. If something happens, it will and not necessarily because you're there. So take it easy okay?"

"… Okay."


Professor Sycamore sighed as he laid down on the sofa, trying to calm himself down a little. He didn't quite know how to feel about the fact that Ash's biggest worry had actually happened, taking him for a bumpy, but intriguing ride. The whole day had proven to be rather interesting, really, with the teen waking up with a spotless face, as if the injury to his nose had never even happened. And then the three kids, who were totally planning on starting their journey with Ash later that day, arrived with macarons.

Everything had gone to hell from that point on, really, with those blasted criminals from Team Rocket successfully capturing him. The Professor was pretty sure they would not have succeeded in catching him if the young trainer had been in the neighbourhood, though. While Bonnie and Serena had tried to free him, they too proved to be powerless against the three Team Rocket agents and had been taken along to this shoddy place they called their secret base. The man felt as if the building could collapse at any minute really and as such, had given them the information about Mega Evolution, like asked. He had hoped that they would release him, so that he could free the two children and take them with him, but alas…

Their only gain was capturing Pikachu and as long as those three didn't get that particular Pokémon, they would be stuck in those unforgiving bonds they were captured in. Funny how Pikachu ended up coming to them, with a very displeased looking Ash following closely. Clemont had joined as well and hurriedly came to release them, starting with the Professor, so that he could free someone else.

"He's not happy. Not happy at all." The teen had whispered hoarsely, eyeing the silent trainer out of the corner of his eye, who was staring at the criminals as they recited some kind of motto, just like that time with Garchomp.

"Neither am I." Professor Sycamore had answered, but he knew that this wasn't what Clemont had meant.

That devil-like, little smile on the black haired trainers face had been enough to make everyone wary of the situation. It wasn't until Team Rocket's computer had made this particularly strange noise, that they noticed what was going on. Oh, the man couldn't help but smile at the memory of purple-haired man's face when he discovered the download bar was going backwards instead of forwards~ And then out of nowhere, the arm of whatever was hidden under that cloth came down on the table, crushing it and everything on it, including the laptop.

Debris was sent everywhere and Clemont had shielded Chespin just in time before it could get hit by anything flying around. However, that wasn't the end of it, since Pikachu still hadn't done his part. It didn't take long before he launched a powerful attack, without any command.

Professor Sycamore didn't want to imagine that the Pokémon was already so used to blasting off these idiots that he already knew what attack Ash was going to call out, though. While the teen was only mildly annoyed at the end of this event, mostly aimed at the incredible lack of security in the man's lab, it was still visible that he was on edge.

As such, the Professor was happy that he could hand Chespin over to Clemont, seeing the two had bonded through this unfortunate happening anyway. Oh, he needed to stop himself from giving those four every Pokémon he had, knowing now that there had been some reason to be found in Ash's worries, after all. However, maybe it was best that they remained mostly unaware or he feared that they might never leave in the first place. And the man really didn't want to spook these four, clearly talented children in staying at home.

So all he did was put on a smile and wish them the best of luck, hoping above all hopes that they would overcome what was waiting for them in their future. Funny how that was a shared sentiment, for Ash felt the same way about all this right now. However, he wouldn't be much of an Aura Clown If he couldn't help people overcome heavy sentiments, right?

"Just a head's up, guys, so none of you gets spooked when I potentially lose my left leg for some kind of reason." The teen said. "It's a prosthetic leg, so it can actually detach rather easily."

Oh, he got their attention alright but really, his disability was the Mamoswine in the room. He couldn't not tell them about it, so this was as good a time as any.

"What…?" Clemont asked, frowning.

Instead of answering, Ash merely lifted his leg and give a few knocks on it. The action left a metallic ring, making their eyes widen.

"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHHH?!"

"Shhhh! Do you want the whole route worth of Beedrill in your necks?" he hissed, instantly bringing a finger to his lips in an attempt to sign they should definitely quiet down.

Just the mere mention of those Pokémon was enough to shut the three up, though, so the teen knew something must have happened when they had been trying to follow him to Santalune.

"Oh, did you meet them on Route 4 as well?" he chuckled.

"We did." Serena stated dryly.

"A-Ash… When did this happen?"

"Almost a year ago, Clemont."

"B-but then… You climbed the Prism Tower with it?"

"Yep."

A while of silence fell, though Ash didn't mind. He still remembered the different reactions of all his other friends, with Max being the only one who wasn't giving him any grief or trouble or pity about it, so yeah… He left them some time to think about it.

"That's so awesome!" Bonnie said eventually, making the boy blink and turn to her, to see her standing there with stars in her eyes.

"Is it?"

"Of course!" Clemont grinned. "Can I see it?"

"Even better, I can hand my prosthesis over to you as soon as we set up camp for the night~"

"A-ah…"

"Ash, how did this happen?" Serena asked, her face riddled with worry and concern.

"Oooh, I can tell you all about it. You see, I had just come back from the Vertress Conference, but during the party of my homecoming, I ended up falling from the stairs and got this massive concussion… and I sleepwalked straight into Viridian forest. I apparently disturbed two, at that time, completely unknown kind of Pokémon, who were really dangerous and well, one of them ended up cutting off my left leg~" the teen answered. "Then this Mew appeared and tried healing both my leg and head but it doesn't know much about human anatomy so I literally ended up with two right upper legs and a really strange brain, but well, it's better than nothing … Oh, and Champion Lance was the one who ended up finding me as well, so there you have it. Unless you want to hear about the months I spend rehabilitating in the hospital?"

"N-no, that's okay…" the girl said meekly.

Ash couldn't help but be amused by how silent his three friends had suddenly become. Alright, so Bonnie didn't seem to care an awful lot, but maybe she was a little young to understand the implications of what he had just told them.

"… How much of this story is actually true, Ash?" Clemont asked softly, after a little while of walking.

The two girls were walking up front so they really couldn't hear it, but the teen couldn't help but chuckle.

"Everything, Clemont. I don't know how to prove it, but if something really bad happens, I'm pretty sure Lance would come here, so while I pray nothing will happen, you would still get the opportunity to ask him."

"… Really?"

"Oh yes, he's a very protective uncle of mine."

"Uncle?"

"Yep."

"… That's… pretty cool."

"Thank you, Clemont. Can you tell me what happened with the Beedrill, though, because you all paled when I barely even mentioned them?"

"I… We were on Route 4 and there was some trouble so… I had this machine to call for help, but all it called were Beedrill. Like, a lot of them."

"Beedrill do have the tendency to arrive in swarms, so any noise would've done the trick. However, where did you get that device from?"

"Ah, I made it."

"Oooh, you're a scientist?" Ash asked, stars in his eyes.

"… I am, yes."

"I love technology~ You have to show me something!"

"When the moment arises, I will!" Clemont said proudly, looking a whole lot happier than before, meaning that Ash succeeded in his task for at least two of his new friends. The teen proceeded in telling him everything about Citroid, the crazy substitute Gym Leader, of whom Ash couldn't bring himself to care about., but that was okay. As long as Clemont was happy and felt comfortable, everything was fine. How he could make Serena worry less about him, the teen didn't know yet. But hey, this was only the start of his journey, so only time could tell what was going to happen, right?

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

Wide awake…

That was the state he was currently in while lying in his comfortable sleeping bag, trying to find some rest. Never before had he ever minded sleeping outside, but at this very moment, Ash felt like he could strangle every leaf that rustled in the wind. It wasn't as if he didn't want to sleep, quite the opposite, actually, but he found himself unable to stay still or calm.

The sleeping bag wasn't at fault either and for a while, the boy used his happy experience of having received it as a Christmas present as a source to daydream. This usually succeeded in making him drowsy enough to drift off to sleep… But as he snapped out of his thoughts, the teen noticed that only a few minutes had passed and that he wasn't drowsy or sleepy at all.

'Gosh dangit…' he thought and pushed his fluffy cover off him.

Ash figured that this feeling might have something to do with his Aura, seeing he was at a loss at finding any other reason for his restlessness. There were several issues with checking whether this was indeed his Aura, though, one of them being that he didn't trust himself to go too deep into this forest. He was skilled at getting lost, but then again, if he didn't go deep into the shrubbery, it would put him at risk of waking his friends or even startling them with how powerful these Aura releases tended to be. Then again, he had taken off his prosthesis, which was still lying next to his sleeping bag in the camp, so he couldn't go far anyhow.

The last problem Ash could think off was that he didn't know how to command his Aura to release its excess energy. That time with Scott and Will had been accidental, as the sudden appearance of that criminal had scared him… but that left him at a loss on what to do to find his peace again, seeing that there was nothing to frighten the boy here.

'This sucks big time.' He thought as he looked around the clearing, scratching his upper arm for a while.

His whole skin was getting itchy, now that he had actually gone to scratch that arm. Ash huffed in annoyance and plopped down on the ground. He would just have to deal with this by himself, as there was no way he would be calling any of his Pokémon out at this time a day. The boy wouldn't like to be woken up just because 'someone couldn't sleep' either, as if he could do something to help them with it, so yeah… He would try to meditate for a bit.

Ash hadn't thought it would have worked, however, it seemed like that had been exactly what his body had needed… Or rather, what his Aura wanted him to do. It had been a while since he had gotten faced with his own world which his massive pool of Aura had created, but now he was back. And noticed how much it had changed, just like Mewtwo had said it would do. While everything had been made up out of round shapes and orbs, this time, it was all solid.

He remembered having been really impressed as he walked around because this experience felt so real it wasn't funny. Like, Ash was convinced that he could actually live here and not notice the difference. Well, he would miss his Pokémon and family… but he felt at home here. Which was logical, but this was his Aura, after all. And to think that it had wanted to show him how well it had developed was pretty cute, wasn't it?

Needless to say, the boy was very relaxed when he woke up from his meditation and didn't even bother getting annoyed because the forming dawn on the ground had made his trousers wet. He hobbled back to the camp and nested himself back in his sleeping bag, feeling very content and at peace. So much so, that he fell asleep almost as soon as he laid down. And his Aura was happy too, momentarily making the teen glow a little, before subsiding. It was just as eager to please as its source, so yes, now that it had seen that it had done good, it was thrilled to bits… and happy that it could get even stronger, knowing that its source would not object to change, especially good change.


Seeing Ash had slept really good, it didn't really matter that he had only been asleep for three hours. And as Bonnie, Serena and Clemont had woken up by the smell of the soup he had been preparing, they had been quick to decide that he could be in charge of breakfast, that Serena would do lunch and that Clemont would do dinner.

The black-haired teen was completely fine with that settlement, as he was happy to be of help and well, his natural biorhythm had seemingly settled on waking up so early, so he might as well get some use out of that, right? Right now, after they had paused to have some lunch, they found themselves enjoying some free time at a picnic bench they had found.

"… Aren't you breaching the limit of the amount of Pokémon you can carry?" Clemont asked when Ash had taken off his jacket, showing his belt with Pokéball.

"Ah, no, I'm allowed to have ten Pokémon with me. And seeing that Pikachu is my Poké-help, he doesn't count, even though I can still use him during normal battles, as well as emergencies... So yeah, I can carry up to eleven Pokémon. Also, I always have to carry at least five Pokémon with me, so that's the amount I left Kanto with."

"So you've got more Kanto Pokémon with you?" the blonde teen asked, looking excited at the prospect.

"Not really, Pikachu is the only Kanto native species I have with me. I met Heracross in Johto, Gliscor and Infernape in Sinnoh, Glalie in Hoenn and Krookodile in Unova."

"Eeeh! I wanna see!" Bonnie exclaimed.

"Of course, you're going to see them. Plenty of times too, I'm sure." Ash answered, grinning as he took Infernape's Pokéball off his belt, being the first on it to be released.

In the past, he used to throw all of his Pokéball at once, but ever since he had gotten Bayleef stampeding towards him, several of his Pokémon had taken on that same habit. The teen could handle at least one Pokémon, but five was a little too much. Especially taking in account that Heracross was madly happy, Glalie always tended to ram towards him, Gliscor would pounce on him as soon as he laid eyes on his trainer and honestly, there was no telling what kind of behaviour both Infernape and Krookodile would be displaying upon seeing their teammates dog-piling Ash.

So yeah, one at a time would have to do, so that he could at least prepare himself and have a breather in between, should any of his Pokémon decide to jump him. While everything had gone okay, in the sense that Infernape had just come over and had gone to rub his head on Ash's leg -the right one, mind you- for a while and that Krookodile had just sat right next to him, looking mightily chuffed for no particular reason,… until Glalie came out.

Good thing he had released his icy friend a little further from him than the others because the Pokémon acted just like the teen had expected. In a flash, Glalie had started barrelling towards him, giving Ash barely enough time to jump over him, so that they wouldn't bump into each other.

"Not that fast, you!" he exclaimed, stopping the overzealous Pokémon with his hand before Glalie gained even more momentum.

"Gla gla~" the Pokémon stated happily and proceeded to float towards his trainer in a more gentler fashion.

"Well… I was about to ask why you called out your Pokémon separately, but I guess I just saw the reason for it." Clemont chuckled. "Are they always this enthusiastic?"

"Absolutely." Ash answered, a wide smile on his face as he gently rubbed Glalie's head. "It's not like they want to hurt me, but Pokémon love is just… a little too rough for my liking."

"I can understand why you feel that way. Did you call them out in a specific order?"

"You mean, I left the most enthusiastic one last? Not really, though they will probably jump me. All my Pokémon tend to do that, just not as hard as Glalie… Or Bayleef."

"I see. Are they nice?"

"Of course. Take a look behind you."

Clemont did and couldn't help but smile at the sight of the fire Pokémon pulling odd faces to entertain his little sister. Even the Dedenne was giggling at its actions, so it that didn't prove they were friendly, nothing would.

"You've spent a lot of time raising them, haven't you?"

"Mmm… I wish I could say that I did everything I could, but I'm hoping to make it up to them."

"… What do you mean?"

Ash didn't really answer verbally but just hummed and pointed at his leg.

'Oh.' The blonde teen thought and figured he would never really understand what the experience must have felt like.

He didn't particularly want to go through something similar, mind you, but Clemont felt bad that he couldn't understand what his new friend had gone through. From the looks of how his Pokémon were acting, there was a chance that he really scared them, which was why they would stick around so close to him. And then Ash released his Gliscor.

"A-aahh… I-It's really big, isn't it?" the young Gym Leader asked, staring at the Pokémon who was looming over him.

All the teen could see was a large, black figure -the sun was behind it- with these two glowing, yellow eyes, staring at him.

"Yeah, he's pretty large for his kind. But isn't he lovely?" Ash all but purred and heck, the Gliscor responded immediately.

Needless to say, the Pokémon looked a lot less intimidating when he had gone to cuddle with the black-haired teen. Still, even when the Heracross came out and cutely started to nibble the boy's sleeve, there was still this underlying threat that all these beings could all be very dangerous. And having seen how happy their trainer was around them yet how spiky Ash was around actual people was enough to convince Clemont he should never get on the teen's bad side.

However, Bonnie was completely clowning around and the black-haired trainer never really showed any sign of being bothered by anything she or either of them did. The blonde teen didn't want to think that Ash was just tolerating them… but it soon turned out that his new friend had a completely different set of feelings for them.

Clemont had never gotten such a positive response to his inventions and while he was chuffed it didn't explode like usually was the case, Ash had complete faith that his device was correct in its translation of what the two visiting Pokémon had just said.

"Our stuff is your stuff, hm?" he repeated, raising an eyebrow at the Pancham. "Are you sure about that?"

"A-Ash, there might be something wrong with the machine." Serena said quickly. "Maybe they just want some food, having asked Chespin to share its food…"

The teen turned to her but quickly went back to the two Pokémon, who seemed to be a little unsettled.

"I'm going to give you two a second chance, okay? You see, if you are keeping up appearances of being sweet, little Pokémon, trying to hide that you are actually deceiving little creeps, allow me to tell you that there is a friend of mine nearby who hates that kind of behaviour. And unfortunately, I agree with that sentiment. So, think before you speak this time, or I will let my friend show you two just how he feels about this."

The Pancham were a whole lot nice in their answer this time, merely asking for some food, simply because they were hungry. Ash backed off and gave them the food… but as the two Pokémon dragged themselves back into the shrubbery, it was clear that it had been Infernape who had been the one to set off this mood. The fire Pokémon dragged himself towards his trainer, looking really dejected.

"It's okay, buddy." The teen said, picking up his Pokémon as soon as it was close enough.

"Is he okay?" Bonnie asked.

"Yes, yes, he's just a little sensitive to hearing negative things being said confidently. His reaction matched perfectly with the translation Clemont's device supplied us with, so I knew something fishy was up."

"Aww… It's okay, Infernape, they're gone now." She said, gently stroking the Pokémon's tail.

It was the only part she could reach and Infernape seemed to enjoy this added comfort anyway. He curled his tail around her hand and chattered happily.

"… Pikachu, two o'clock."

Before any of the three could ask anything, the Pokémon shot off his Thunderbolt… and made contact with the flying balloon, quite obviously belonging to Team Rocket.

"Whoa!" Bonnie cheered.

"Ash! Do you have an internal radar or something?" Serena asked, clearly impressed by the swift intervention.

"Yes, I can indeed detect idiots for really far away." He said simply.

"… You know, most of the time, I can't tell when you're being serious or not."

"Good."


This strange ninja boy had left its mark on Froakie. Or rather, his Frogadier had, with its quick moves and graceful attacks. It had made the Pokémon a little reckless and so, the small Water Pokémon figured that the only way of getting stronger, was to try and outbrave Ash's older and inevitable, stronger Pokémon.

He didn't know that these five -six, actually but Froakie wasn't stupid enough to go and challenge Pikachu- were quite apt at dealing with young Pokémon and as such, acted along with it. Especially Krookodile was amused, seeing as the Water creature had chosen him, specifically because he thought that he could actually win this.

The result of their mock battles was clear though, and much to Fletchling's amusement, Froakie was quite obviously in over his head. That didn't mean the little Pokémon gave up, though and soon enough, a little kerfuffle broke out because of it.

Ash hadn't been watching his Pokémon, though, for he was busy trying to get Pikachu to hear him just like he could hear Mewtwo. Yes, telepathically. The teen didn't think he would be able to, but if his Legendary friend thought he could, he would at least try it. Besides, it would be a really good feature which would give him some very important benefits during a battle. Didn't seem like this practice was working in his favour, though, seeing how confused Pikachu was.

All his faithful starter could see, was his trainer acting like a weirdo, staring at him like that. It was clear that Pikachu couldn't hear anything… which sucked, or so the teen thought. His friends had probably been confused as well, seeing him act like that... But they had asked to join him so they better let him be the strange person he was.

He was just about to give up on his 'telepathic' abilities when an actual fight broke out between Froakie and Infernape. In the few seconds that Ash had visual with the group, he could already tell that the Water Pokémon's behaviour issues were the cause of this scuffle, which made him a lot angrier than he normally would have been.

'STOP IT!' he… actually called out, without having opened his mouth.

And it was clear that his Pokémon had heard him, seeing that the fight stopped instantly and Pikachu actually jumped, as he had been startled by the sudden noise. However, it didn't seem to limit to Pokémon…

"Whoa! That was loud!" Bonnie exclaimed.

"What was?" Clemont asked, looking up from the machine he had been tinkering at.

"You didn't hear that?"

'… Advantage, my ass. Everyone hears me.' Ash instantly thought but then reconsidered. 'But wait a minute…'

Bonnie seemed to be the only one who had heard anything... if the reactions of the other two were anything to go by. And it worried the teen, especially when you took in account that he had spoken through his Aura. Either Bonnie had a really good connection to nature, or she too had Aura. She was good with Pokémon, so that would explain that her 'power' would be heightened by nature. So if the boy's abilities as an Aura Source had strengthened her, making her own Aura powerful enough to notice it… Well, then maybe she wasn't the troublemaker here, or at least, not by choice.

'I should have known that I was the main reason for all those issues, though.' He thought as he stood up to go and see just what Froakie's problem was.

He figured that he could always talk to Bonnie about it later… but maybe she didn't have a clue and honestly, Ash wasn't sure whether he wanted to out his abilities to Clemont and Serena just yet. However, if it would prove that she started attracting Pokémon as well -seeing Legendary Pokémon were really sensitive to it, no matter how small-, he would definitely talk to everyone about it. He would be pained by the fact he might have to leave to ensure their safety… but well, he would see about that later, if any explanation was needed at all.

"What's going on here?" Ash asked, pushing the matter to the back of his mind, trying to ignore Bonnie insisting she had heard something in the background.

Froakie looked guilty as heck, even looking away as his trainer approached. Fletchling, however, was quick to jump on his arm and extended a wing towards the Water Pokémon, chirping accusingly.

"Did you challenge them?"

"… Froa…"

"Hmm… Well, I can appreciate some guts, so I'm not going punish you for trying to challenge Infernape. Next time, though, come to me if you want to train to get stronger. I love training you all, in fact, lemme go find a stick. I'll be right back."

As the teen left, even Infernape gave a small, consoling pat on the Pokémon's shoulder. And well, it really didn't take long before Ash came back, a really sturdy stick in his hold. Froakie couldn't help but swallow once he realised that all the other Pokémon had taken distance as well... Yeah, this might just have been a bad idea.


"Where did you learn those tricks with that stick, Ash?" Serena asked once they were back on the road… a whole lot later than they had expected, thanks to the young trainer and his overzealous Pokémon.

"Oooh, I've met many trainers who had weird ways of training their Pokémon. I even met one who put weights on his Pokémon, so that their muscles were incredibly well-developed." Ash said, never even answering the girl's question.

It was deliberate, as he couldn't tell her the truth, seeing the teen hadn't learned this trick from any trainer. No, this had been one of Mewtwo's training regimes and seeing as it had very fruitful results, the boy swore he would implement it in his trainer. It would be good when dealing with eager Pokémon, like Froakie, who was currently asleep in his arms.

"Eeeh? Is that legal?"

"Of course! It doesn't do much for Pikachu, who pretty much uses special attacks, but I did some training for Iron Tail and Volt Tackle. Besides, how else can you train muscles?"

"… I think there are a lot of scary trainers…"

'And you're one of them' was left unspoken. Ash didn't seem to notice as he merrily continued, but the three knew what they had seen. In fact, Serena would never look at sticks the same way ever again. And then there was the fact that Bonnie had clearly heard him call out to Froakie and his other Pokémon to knock off their fight… while both she and Clemont hadn't heard a thing. Oh, Serena was quite willing to believe that the little girl wasn't lying. Call it her female intuition, but there was something about the boy that made the hair in her neck stand on edge.

If it wasn't for his grudge against that Team Rocket, she might have considered him cool but right now, he was just scary, if you asked her. But as per usual, opinions were not set in stone and Serena soon found out that Ash wasn't as dangerous as she had initially thought. It happened just after they had seen this radio observatory, right when Clemont had just finished explaining its use.

"Hey… Isn't that Meowth?" the black-haired teen asked, pointing at the figure on the ground.

He was near the Pokémon in seconds and for a moment, Serena thought he would actually hurt the Meowth, seeing it quite obviously was the one Team Rocket… but he merely picked up in a really gentle way.

"He's so scratched up…" Bonnie sighed as Clemont tried to fix the Pokémon's wounds as good as he could.

"… I think he did this himself, though." Ash stated, lifting one of Meowth's claws, showing that there was some blood on it.

"Why would he do that?!" she exclaimed.

"Ssshh, Bonnie, it's okay. There's plenty of reasons but let's not judge him before he wakes up and tells us his reason."

"Okay…"

"And why are you so lenient all of a sudden?" Serena asked, raising an eyebrow.

"What do you mean?"

"You hate their guts."

"And since when did you become the expert on my emotions, Serena? First off, I would never strike down any Pokémon, especially not one who's already hurt from the start." Ash answered. "Secondly, I don't hate Team Rocket, I just wished they would grow a brain and realise that there's nothing extraordinary about Pikachu, like, if they went to that place in Alola where you can't move a foot without the risk of touching a Pikachu and find a nice one down there, they would be in the clear already. I know these guys aren't bad, but I need to give them the message that stealing my Pokémon isn't okay. And if I don't deal with them swiftly, I will put Pikachu's life, my promise I made to my mother and Team Rocket's freedom at risk."

"… I… Okay. That would make sense." She said, a little bewildered at the answer.

It was illuminating and solved quite a few mysteries… but in a way, it brought along even more questions than the ones the answer had cleared up. The girl wasn't sure whether Ash was in the mood to answer any of them right now, though.

Meowth had given them a valid explanation for his wounds and as weird as it was to see the black-haired teen calm near the 'criminal' Pokémon, things were about to get weirder. In between that creepy Malamar, Madame X, the seemingly zombified remaining Team Rocket members and Meowth intervening and fighting against the two simply because their ideology didn't match, she couldn't decide what was worse. Maybe the fact that they had successfully captured Pikachu won for being the weirdest fact today.

Ash was beside himself, yet seemed eerily composed as Clemont pulled out this strange, Pikachu-like machine, apparently able to find the boy's starter. While Serena was wonder why and when the heck the blonde teen had even build this, the black-haired trainer gently laid a hand on the robot.

"I'll be counting on you then." He said softly.

"Of course you can!" Clemont exclaimed happily. "My 'Fully Automated Pikachu Chasing Machine' can detect Pikachu's electric energy and find it anywhere~"

Even Bonnie looked doubtful that it would work, but honestly, they didn't have another lead. And seeing that the machine was actually drawn to something, they just followed. It kind of went downhill right then and there and honestly, right now, Serena could only remember having split up in groups of two. She knew they had successfully infiltrated the radio observatory, but don't ask her what happened afterwards.

All she knew right now, was that she had been under control of the creepy Malamar to end up here. Judging from Bonnie and Clemont's reactions, they too had been lured here by the Pokémon… leaving Ash alone to deal with whatever had happened. He seemed to have gotten Pikachu back, but he was wincing as he stepped back from Madame X… or rather, the controlled officer Jenny.

"Ash, are you okay?" Serena asked, trying to look for a way down from where they were standing.

"Yeah." He answered. "But only thanks to Clemont's machine, though."

'Well, hurray.' She thought as she successfully found a way to the boy.

"Didn't seem like it did a good job, though."

"It bombed the Malamar, which broke its concentration and released Pikachu. Good enough for me, to be honest."

'Oh, God, it was Pikachu who hurt you…'

"Yes, yes, it was."

"A-ah, I didn't mean to say that out loud."

"It's okay." Ash said, smiling for a bit.

What wasn't okay, was that the Malamar wasn't defeated. It had this really creepy room set up and the promise that it would come back was something that made the group of friends a little quieter than before. Serena desperately wanted to make a joke or something to lighten up the mood, but Ash beat her too it.

"I should totally call my mom…"

"Whatever for?"

"Well, she told me I would get one of these huge lollipops the day Pikachu flew."

The girl couldn't help the snort escaping from her, seeing that the Pokémon had indeed flown up thanks to Malamar's psychic powers. When Clemont finally understood the gist of the joke, his own particular way of laughing only ended up making her laugh even harder.

"Ash, you clown!"

"Yup~"


One of the benefits of waking up early, was that you had a really long day. Considering that they had gone to bed at ten last night, Ash was already fully up and running at around four. So, what better to do than to release Mewtwo and have a chat? Outside of the Pokémon Center where they were staying at, of course.

Again, the Nurse Joy here didn't seem to care an awful lot that he was up already and just greeted him as if she didn't have to stay up all night, just in case something happened. Ash really admired these nurses a lot but didn't quite know how to tell a grown woman that without sounding weird. His mother's friends had always started giggling when he said it and told him he was being cute and things like that… So yeah, he didn't want to fluster the poor woman either, hence why the teen nodded politely and wished her a good morning before he exited the Pokémon Centre.

"Ah, friend~" Mewtwo purred once it was released. "How are you doing?"

"Good, good, but as per usual, I have questions."

"And I will do my best to answer them."

"Right… So I managed to talk to my Pokémon through my Aura, but only when I was pissed. And one of my friends heard me."

"I see. Well, your friend clearly has some kind of Aura. There are a few people nearby who have it… How old is this person?"

"She's eight."

"Mm, you would be best to keep her away from Lore Keepers."

"Oh, you can feel her, then? Is she at risk? Should I tell her?" Ash asked.

"No, it is a precaution more than anything, really. You heighten her Aura by being near, but please remind yourself that anything you do through Aura, will be noticed by any Aura user, trained or not."

"Yeah, I noticed. But it's not as if I can actually learn telepathy. So this will just have to do."

"Indeed, indeed." Mewtwo nodded. "It still is a feat that will surprise many, Ash, including me, for you are pretty talented at learning. Consider me pleased that you can indeed talk through your Aura at all, even if you need to be under the influence of 'Big Emotions'."

The teen couldn't help but smile at the mention of one of his euhm… memorable expressions, of which the Legendary Pokémon had heard plenty of, that time where Ash had forgotten how to pronounce words. 'Big emotions' had been his way of telling anyone that he was feeling something but wasn't sure what it was.

"Very funny."

"It is a very good expression, Ash, believe me when I say I am not making fun of you." Mewtwo said, sounding and looking pretty earnest as it did. "And is it not fitting for the clownish persona you adapted when concerning Aura?"

"Maybe so."

"Look, friend, I am very pleased with how strange a person you are turning out to be. It is very fun to be mysterious, especially when your mere presence confuses those out to hurt or use you."

"… Mewtwo, please don't tell me you orchestrated this purely out of an old fear of those Lore Keepers?"

"Absolutely not, I assure you. No, my friend, all this is your doing. Out of all the tricks, of which I supplied you with a demonstration, you choose the telepathy. And allow me to tell you that learning this skill will confuse everyone with Aura immensely."

"Well yeah, 'cause they can hear me just fine when I do it."

"Exactly. They will wonder why you even went through the trouble of learning such a hard skill which is basically useless for you to use it in their presence."

"I really couldn't care less if they were present, though." Ash shrugged. "It's for all the others who don't have Aura."

"Indeed. But consider this, friend, Aura users have been feared for a while. How will they react to someone who does not care?"

"Is it bad that I can foresee trouble because of that?"

"I think that you like trouble, my friend." Mewtwo grinned. "Or you would not have made the choices you already have."

"Yeah, I think I do." The teen chuckled. "That being said, how will I deal with a second little troublemaker?"

"Does your young friend do that?"

"Absolutely."

"Only when you are there?"

"Nope. She was on the verge of getting electrocuted without me there. She got her brother in trouble too."

"Hmmm…" Mewtwo hummed. "I cannot tell you how to teach the child some control, because you know just as well that every Aura is different. Yours was easy because it is just like you… But with younglings, who do not have their own personality yet-"

"Let me stop you right there, Mewtwo. Bonnie has a lot of personality."

"… Well. Then there is only one option left."

"Which is?"

"I need to see her."


Ash wasn't in the mood to go and have a look at this Chateau. Yeah, the battle aspect made it a little more attractive but not enough to let the teen forget his own training regime. Froakie and Fletchling still needed a lot of work and he needed to rekindle his bond with Heracross as well so that they could attempt this Mega Evolution and see whether it was worth the effort.

He was bothered with that thing Bonnie was involved in as well and wonder what the heck was going on in Mewtwo's mind to even suggest meeting her. Ash didn't know the girl well enough to ensure she would keep her mouth shut when it counted and until he did, there would be no meeting at all.

"… Are you sure you don't want to come, Ash?"

"Yes, Clemont, I don't want to expose anyone to my Pokémon training."

"Do they need it, right now?"

"We're almost in Cyllage, Clemont, yes. Also, when else will I be doing some training? And isn't this the perfect time, so that you have something to do while I'm busy?" Ash answered.

"… Alright. Promise me you'll join us there later, though."

"Gah, alright! This better be one heck of a chateau, or else…"

"What other chateaus have you already visited, then?" the blonde teen asked.

"Haunted ones." Was the deadly serious answer.

"Oh my God." Clemont breathed in.

"Yep. Pikachu and I nearly died in one too so-"

"Wait, what?!"

"Yeah, this chandelier dropped on me and Pikachu, and then this Ghastly, Haunter and Gengar pulled out our souls-"

"S-stop it. Please tell me you're not being serious."

"Alas, I can't, because that would be lying. Don't worry, Clemont, I'm not dead. You can ever check my pulse if you need to-"

The blonde boy did actually grab Ash's wrist and seemed to deflate in relief as he could actually feel a pulse.

"I-I'm sorry if I made you remember something bad, Ash, I didn't mean to…"

"It's okay, buddy. I don't have a chateau trauma, so that's not why I'm not joining. I just have a lot of work with my Pokémon and if I can keep you all out of harm's way, then that a chance I won't pass up on."

"I didn't think of that."

"That's only because you've never seen Gliscor fight before. He swoops all over the place, like the daredevil he is… And seeing his instinct is grabbing small, easy-to-carry prey with him, Bonnie is at a really big risk of getting taken. Not that Gliscor would eat her, but still, I don't want to give her the trauma of being carried off somewhere in such a speedy way that she barely has the time to scream, you know?"

"… If you put it like that…"

"So, am I excused out of your little excursion?" Ash asked hopefully.

"For now, yes."

"Good." The teen said and continued on his route to the outside, leaving Clemont behind to explain to the two girls why he had left at all.


"I don't believe for a single moment any of his Pokémon would touch us when he's there." Serena sighed as they were walking towards the Battle Chateau. "I mean, he only looked at that fight between Froakie and the other and they broke up, so tell me why he should fear for Bonnie's safety when he has such control over them?"

"I heard him say something!" the youngest of the three exclaimed.

"Mm, Bonnie, I'll talk to him about that later." Clemont answered, a little bummed out that the brunette had chosen to whine about this the whole way. "Besides, what do we know about his way of training? You all remember that stick, right?"

Of course, they did. None of them could ever trust at any stick again, especially not after having seen how versatile and painful it could possibly be, when Ash had used it.

"I still think he's keeping us at arm's length."

"Serena, please, let it go? Let's talk about it when Ash is there to hear it. We can't criticize anyone for being secretive if they're not here."

"… Fine."

Just as they had almost forgotten about the teen, thanks to how grand the building was, Serena couldn't help making a comment about their eccentric travel companion, reminding them of their issue again.

"Moh, Ash's training session we saw yesterday was more exciting…" she sighed.

"I am not surprised, really." A female voice said, responding to the girl's remark. "Having Ash here would be like letting a Tauros inside a china shop."

"… Aren't you the Santalune Gym Leader, Viola?" Clemont asked.

"That's right." The woman answered happily.

"What are you doing here?"

"Oh, I come here regularly, actually. Pokémon Battles here are a little more gentle, excellent for my bug types. Hence why I'm a Duchess here."

"… The mood is kind of different from that in a Gym, yes." The blonde boy answered simply, looking back at the battlefield.

"Anyway, where did he go?" Viola asked.

"He's training somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Pokémon Centre that way."

"… Is he mad or something? Or am I wrong in thinking you're travelling together as a group?"

"You're not wrong, Viola, he's just…"

"Whimsical." Serena answered. "I don't suppose you could talk to him about it?"

"I can try." The woman said. "But I can't guarantee anything, seeing we didn't exactly part as friends, to begin with. Too bad my sister's out of town as well, he would probably answer to her."

"… Really? What did she do to get his trust?"

"My sister is really honest and careful. However, she will always try and ask direct and interesting questions, leaving the subject of her inquiry open to interpretation. It's all part of her profession, I'm sure, but even if you are dealing with a person who picks a certain detail from your question and answers that, you will at least get an answer. And communication, no matter what subject, is still the best way of creating a bond between people."

"… But he seems so unreachable…"

"Really?" Viola chuckled. "I think that's one of your issues, euhm… what was your name?"

"Serena." The girl said curtly. "What do you mean, my issue?"

"If you're afraid to ask questions, you can't expect anyone to simply start talking about what you want to know, Serena. Ash was more than willing to talk to me, even if he was a little pissed at the end of our battle. However, he was more civil than any other angry opponent, so I know he's not as unreachable as you think he is."

"… Well fine, I will talk to him when I see him."

"Good. Give him my regards, will you? And tell him that the Gym Leader of Cyllage is expecting him."

"We will~" Bonnie said happily.

"T-thank you for your advice, Miss Viola." Clemont stated after the two girls were already going to the door, bowing ever so slightly.

"You're very welcome, fellow Gym Leader."

"… You know me?"

"Of course. We never met face to face but I would recognise a cutie such as yourself straight away." She grinned, making the teen blush.

"A-ah…"

"It did help that Ash kindly send me a message with your description, also stating that you had a conundrum of some sorts."

"… So he did know about this? Why didn't he come talk to Serena himself, then?"

"It would be a little creepy to start answering questions when no one is asking anything, wouldn't it?"

'He really doesn't need to do that to be creepy…' Clemont thought dryly.

But still, this had been a very illuminating conversation and honestly, Viola had a point. However, the blonde knew that it would be futile to annoy Ash right now, seeing he pretty busy but as soon as their friend would come back, they would talk. Now if only Serena would be able to be patient and wait until Ash was finished, then all would be well.


The girl barely had been able to contain herself to stay inside the Pokémon Center and not go and try to find him herself. The only reason why she stayed put was that there was a really big chance that she wouldn't even be able to find him and probably would get lost. Still, as soon as the teen came in, Serena nearly pounced on him.

"Ash, we need to talk."

"Sure~" he said happily. "I just had a really good training session, so I have plenty of time to sit down with you guys and get to know you a little better."

"Good. Come with me, Clemont and Bonnie have been guarding a spot for us to sit."

Ash wordlessly followed and refrained from sighing. Of course, the seats they had chosen just had to be surrounded by people. Ah well, the chances of anyone knowing anything about Aura or Maladaptive Daydreaming were slim, right?

"Ah, hey Ash! Were you able to train a little?" the blonde teen asked happily, upon seeing the young trainer.

"Hey, Clemont! My Pokémon did incredibly well, so much so, that I will probably be making treats for them today. Man, Froakie jumped over this tree with ease today, he's so amazing~"

"Be sure to tell him, seeing he's so sensitive to how his trainers think of him."

"Oh, I did, so he knows how proud I am. He was all flustered when I recalled him too." Ash chuckled. "Anyway, how did your trip go?"

The teen hadn't thought he would get a complete description of how different those battles were from his, but Clemont provided it nonetheless. But as the boy told him about the Battle Chateau, he couldn't help but think that it would have been a waste of time. Alright, so fighting was one thing, but they didn't need to bend themselves in all kinds of angles to have a proper battle. That just wasn't Ash's style, for he would hate it that he couldn't use his surroundings as an asset. And the risks of having people stand that close by… No, he was happy he hadn't gone with there.

"Also, Viola said that the Gym Leader of Cyllage was waiting for you."

"Really?! Awesome! I think I'm going to give Froakie a chance to fight, then. The experience will do him a lot of good."

"What about Fletchling?" Serena asked.

"Eh, she's good for now. Viola's Surskit was enough to convince her to train a little more. Besides, I have this strange feeling that the next Gym is going to be a Rock or Ground Gym, just with how bold the Gym Leader is, telling me they're waiting for me."

"Not a Steel-type Gym?"

"That would be a surprise, seeing that's usually reserved for a little more experienced Pokémon. I don't think… Yeah, most of them had a Steelix… Though it's not uncommon for a Rock or Electric-Type Gyms to have some kind of dual type involving Steel…" Ash mused.

"You must have gone through a lot of Gyms to know the character of the Gym and Gym Leader." She said, pretty impressed by his deducting.

"Eh? I've been a trainer for almost half a decade so-"

"Just say five years, Ash." Clemont groaned.

"…- so, I do have a good idea that while most of the Rock-type Gym Leaders are nice, dependable yet bold opponents, while the Electric-type Gym Leaders are eccentric, sensitive and usually have some sort of issue going on."

"That's mean."

"But the god honest truth. I had to battle an elite four member of the Sinnoh League before Volkner even wanted to accept my challenge. Lost his motivation, or so Flint said, but at least the blonde fool got some kind of inspiration from our battle. And then, Lieutenant Surge, a decent man if you get to know him, but he nearly killed his opponent's Pokémon in an official League match. Pikachu had to beat his ass for him to finally see that he was being unreasonable… And while I will blame his PTSD for his behaviour, it was a big issue-"

"Okay, okay, I get it." The blonde sighed. "Dang, Ash…"

"What's your favourite kind of Gym Leader, then, Ash?" Serena asked, deliberately changing the subject.

"Hmmm… That's a difficult question, Serena. I… think Ghost or Psychic-type Gyms are my favourite ones. Not only are the Pokémon awesome, they're just so honest and… awake."

"Woke?"

"… Awake, right?"

"It's slang, Ash."

"Slang, Serena?" the teen repeated, deliberately drawing out the 'a' to tease her. "Alright, they're woke."

"Oh, you. I thought that was a common thing to say." She sighed.

"I'm definitely going to be using this from now on."

"… Well, good to know I can still teach you something, then."

"Of course! In return, can I tell you a story about Aura in exchange?"

It really had been meant innocently, you know? Ash had never been planning on telling them anything about himself or even involving Bonnie in his explanation. But he also hadn't been counting on this one particularly agitated person who suddenly came to vent his frustration about Aura… And all the hate he spew was aimed directly at Ash, who seemed to withdraw a little, pushing himself in the corner of his seat.

"Friend, allow me to talk to you so that you can avoid listening to that hateful creature. You would do best in relaying your full emotions to your friends afterwards, for they will be more likely to believe you than some random stranger spewing bile everywhere. Also, seeing that the girl you talked about yesterday is so close to me and I still cannot feel anything, I have a suspicion that her Aura is abysmal, even with your ability in play. Though that does not quite mean she is powerless, for she can hear it when you speak through your Aura and as such, probably feel it as well. Be sure to explain to them what Aura is, seeing as you do not have a negative or positive connotation with it…"

Mewtwo's rant had successfully diverted his attention because Ash had never even noticed the Nurse Joy arriving to chase off the angry man.

"Sir, I'm going to need you to step away. You are disturbing my clients."

"They need to know the truth!" he exclaimed, pulling his arm away from the woman's grasp. "Besides, the kid is not even listening, he-"

"Is crying." The nurse stated curtly.

The man briskly turned back to the table… only to see that the boy was giving him the most fearful look he had ever received in his whole life. And the glistening bead rolling down the boy's cheek was proof that he definitely had scared him.

"I-I'm sorry."

Ash didn't say anything and instead, turned away. This was a clear dismissal in Nurse Joy's eyes, who grabbed the man's arm with a little more force and steered him away from the group. Once the two adults were gone, Serena quickly grabbed the teen in a hug, seeing she was the only one who could, as she had chosen to sit right next to him.

"Don't let an idiot like that ruin your day, Ash."

"I-If people like him opened their mind half as often as they open their mouth, we would all be in a better place." The boy answered, a wry smile on his face.

This at least managed to draw a chuckle out of the girl and Clemont started smiling because of it as well. Bonnie, however, looked really confused.

"What was he saying?" she asked, bewildered by what had just occurred. "I didn't get any of that!"

"A-ah, I'll try and explain it to you, Bonnie." Ash said. "Euhm… Aura is actually a force very similar to gravity, attraction, momentum and a lot of other naturally occurring phenomena. It's basically the reason why everything on this planet, and probably other dimensions too, is alive."

"But isn't that good? Why was that man angry then?"

"Because people discovered that some of them could control this force. They knew right then and there that things were bound to go wrong, but honestly, there was no one against it yet, since Aura is a peaceful and natural thing… For a really long time, Aura users lived in relative peace, until things turned south really quick. And that's what that man was going on about." The teen answered. "You see, a few generations back, a war started out, for the simple reason that they thought Aura was creepy and unnatural."

"Someone must have done something, though. Because if this Aura was as innocent as you say it is, then no one really could have found any fault in it, right?" Clemont asked.

"Of course, as soon as you involve people in it, there's bound to be one rotten egg in it, who spoils the whole situation for the others... But honestly, Clemont, Aura is as innocent as gravity… as long as you don't throw anyone from a great height, which makes gravity become a killer. And seeing humanity has a steadfast tendency of lumping good and bad together, it's no surprise that the good Aura users, like the empaths and healers, started fleeing and that the Aura Knights started making themselves ready to defend their people. The Aura users have been hunted for years and it made many victims, some who didn't even have any control over their Aura at all. Now, this hunt has been terminated for at least a generation, but the hate in most Aura users' hearts still remains, especially those who know their history. And as such, they have tried to gain numbers and prepare for another war, wanting to be ready for it this time, when it comes."

"… So, was this man someone who hunts down Aura users?" Bonnie asked.

"It's illegal to hurt anyone because they have Aura these days, so I'm guessing that he was a family member of someone who has been struck down by one of the Aura Knights. I… I can't imagine how any of those fights would go, because the things I can do are not… Well…"

"So you do play a part in all this?" the boy asked.

"Not much, I'm afraid. The Lore Keepers, the main ones preparing for that war and scouting people, took one look at me and deemed me utterly useless. So unless you're really scared of people juggling, I won't be much of a threat to you…"

"Wait, what?" Serena asked, turning to him. "You can juggle with your Aura or…?"

"The sphere's, yes. Pokémon kind of like to play with them too."

"Are they harmful?" Clemont asked, definitely intrigued.

"No, they just are a little static, so if you touch them, your head will stand on end… But that's all that happens."

"I wanna see that!" Bonnie exclaimed.

"A-ah… Not here, please." Ash said. "Maybe when we get to our room."

"Yes!"


When the teen actually gave Bonnie the Aura Sphere, later in the day, Clemont almost knew for sure that there was more to Ash's Aura then he let on. It wasn't as if the young Gym Leader was an expert, but he did know that creating those spheres took time… and his friend did it so fast an effortlessly, it was highly likely that he could do a little more than just juggle with his Aura Spheres. However, seeing the teen act so nice to his sister, who could be a real handful, and how affected his had been by that ranting man… No, there wasn't an evil bone in Ash's body.

And they soon noticed that the young trainer acted a whole lot different, now that he knew he could trust them… or that his 'secret' was out in the open. At any rate, he had opened up, which was exactly what Serena had wanted.

"So… I know that our target is Cyllage, but would you guys mind if we went to Ambrette first?" the teen asked, as he sat with them as they ate their breakfast.

He had finished his breakfast a few hours ago, which really didn't surprise the others any longer.

"Not at all!" Serena said. "I had been wanting to ask you the same thing, Ash! There's this aquarium I've always wanted to see it and seeing we were going that way, it would have been a great opportunity, right?"

"An aquarium!" Bonnie cheered. "Let's go!"

"Easy, easy. Eat your breakfast first." Clemont sighed.

"Okay!"

"I've been meaning to ask, Bonnie… This Dedenne… Where did you find it?" Ash asked.

"Ah, it came running and hit a tree right in front of us. We took care of it and then it decided to stay with us."

"… Do I know you, Dedenne?"

"… Nene…" it nodded, giving him this look as if it had regretted running away from him.

"Well, I don't know what path you guys were on at the time, but Dedenne had run from me after I had given it some food."

"Aww, man, we were so close!" Clemont sighed. "I'm sorry I'm so slow!"

"But… You have this bag of machine parts on your back, so of course, you're going to be slower than us." Ash said. "Unless you're a bodybuilder underneath that tracksuit of yours?" he added, grinning.

"Not really." Was the dry answer.

"Hey, keep eating!" Bonnie exclaimed. "I wanna go soon~"

"Yes, yes, Bonnie.."

Ash couldn't help but look on in amusement. He wondered whether he had been the same bouncy kid as her when he was young… but at the same thing, figured he probably hadn't been so cute, or else Gary would never have bullied him… But maybe that wasn't the issue, for Ash had heard one of Professor Oak's assistants say that Gary had lost all his followers because he didn't like those girls.

Well, the teen didn't understand why the heck those followers had left him alone because of that, because it was pretty obvious that Gary didn't like him either and he kept coming back for more anyway. Maybe this was one of those things that went over Ash's head again because his mother had rolled her eyes when he had told her about it.

"They're just jealous, Ash." she had said.

And he still didn't get it, because why would those assistants be jealous of someone who didn't have any friends but old, goody-two-shoes Ash? And heck, he really didn't see a good reason why anyone would want to be a family member of Professor Oak that bad, because all you got out of that was pity or not-always-so-innocent questions about him. You never mattered, just your last name was important. And if you couldn't live up to people's expectation, whoa boy…

Also, Ash had seen Professor Oak wake up and holy Miltank, he really didn't want to see that ever again. Imagine hearing a noise at night and opening your bedroom door to see Professor Zombie waddling through the hallway. Man, he knew he didn't sleep much anyway, but he wouldn't sleep at all if he ever saw that… In fact, he had to shiver at the mere thought of it.

"Are you okay?" Serena asked, already cleaning up the table.

"Ah, yeah, I just thought of something."

"Oh, okay. Hold on for a second, we're almost ready to leave."

"No problem~"


Soon enough, they found themselves on route to Ambrette, which really wasn't that far, considering they had these handy-dandy, digital maps. They provided them with a very sneaky route to the seaside town… but that didn't mean that the group knew why Ash had even wanted to come here. But they would know soon enough, now that they knew that the teen happily answered any question.

"So… Why did you want to go to Ambrette, Ash?" Clemont asked. "Is there anything you want to visit there?"

"Ah, I'm hoping that there's a bit of sea visible."

"You want to go to the beach?"

"Not necessarily, but the sound of waves really reminds me of my hometown. You see, Pallet Town is a seaside town as well." The teen answered with a small smile.

"Are you homesick?"

"… Maybe a little."

"Alright!" Serena exclaimed, startling everyone. "It's decided then! We're staying in Ambrette for today! And if we don't get the chance to visit the sea, we most definitely will tomorrow!"

Just hearing Ash chuckle was worth the risk of attracting Beedrill, really, since the teen hadn't smiled much yesterday, after that imbecilic idiot and his unwanted, poisonous opinion. While Ash's story had been similar, it had been nicer to hear that the pest's explanation. And honestly, if the boy was trained in it, all of them -especially Serena and Clemont, since Bonnie couldn't care less- would rather believe him than a bloke who's story came from vengeful parents, who got the story told by even more bitter parents…

"Thank you." The young trainer said happily. "I hope that the aquarium will live up to your expectations as well."

"As long as there is a tunnel, I will be satisfied." The girl stated.

And oh boy, did she get her tunnel. It even managed to impress Ash, even though he had seen plenty of aquariums during his life already. His mom used to take him to them, seeing as they were the only thing that could keep him calm and silent at the same time, as he stared at the creatures in fascination. Today wouldn't be any different either.

"Whoa…" Clemont uttered, in awe of the construction.

"So pretty!" Bonnie exclaimed, rushing forward in the tunnel. "So many Pokémon!"

Yeah, the three spend most of the time telling the girl the name of the Pokémon she was pointing at, but it was so worth it, seeing Bonnie's elated expression. And she remembered whatever they told her, which was good.

"Wait, do they have a Wailord here?" she suddenly asked.

"I hope not." Was Ash's initial answer.

"… Why not? You don't like Wailord?"

"It's not that I don't like them, Bonnie, they're just so… Oh, dang!"

The teen shot backwards, gazing above him with a look of horror. It wasn't until the others looked above them that they understood why Ash had reacted that way. A dark shadow started appearing over them, clearly showing off how massive the creature above them was.

"Is that a Wailord?" Bonnie exclaimed in delight.

"Y-yeah, it is." The young trainer answer, giving the huge Pokémon's underside a doubtful look.

"What's wrong with it for you to be looking at it like that?

"This Pokémon can weigh up to four hundred kilos, Clemont. Water pressure works different than actual gravity, but do you know how big and powerful the wave its sheer body mass creates is? If this glass isn't sturdy enough, we're all gonna be very wet and miserably flat really quickly."

"You seem to know a lot about structural design, hm?" a voice suddenly said, definitely scaring Ash, as he jumped back to a spot where he was definitely under the Wailord.

It was no wonder that he was startled, seeing the tunnel had been devoid of life, with the four being the exception…

"Here's to hoping the engineer who created this structure did too." Was the teen's answer, making clear that his sense of humour wasn't scared off.

"Of course, she takes pride in this creation. You can rest assured, this Wailord has been living here for many years already." The man said, clearly an employee here.

"Still… Who even wanted to see the underside of Wailord…? Of all things…" he said, staring towards the Pokémon's ribbed underbelly.

"There are always curious people. And we are the only ones able to supply it to them." Was the very professional, yet typical answer.

Ash had half a mind to tell the man they had already bought tickets and that he didn't need to make any more publicity for an aquarium they were already in.

"Right." he said, having made the choice to stay civil -blame his puberty. "Thank you for the information, sir."

"No problem. And if you've seen enough here, the Piplup are walking around at this very moment."

"As if we could ever get enough from the belly of a Wailord, right?" Ash sighed, rolling his eyes when the man had left.

It wasn't as if anyone could see it, though because it had gotten pretty dark in the tunnel.

"… How big is this Pokémon?" Bonnie asked, apparently getting a little scared.

"Around fourteen metres. That's almost fifteen Bonnies on top of each other."

"That's silly." She giggled.

Maybe it was, but at least it got that look off her face, so Ash didn't particularly care. And seeing Serena was enjoying herself with those Piplup, he was pleased that the girls were enjoying themselves. The Magikarp were pretty cool too, even though he had seen so many of them already. That particular one that came up to the window was pretty sweet too and that day, Ash discovered that Magikarp could smile.

Before he even knew it, though, his friends had suddenly decided to try and find the director of the place. Ash knew that he probably had missed a whole conversation, heck, they had come back to find him and now he was getting a whole story about a 'golden' Magikarp, in different parts, all mixed up. Bonnie was a little excited about the whole thing, seeing as she was bouncing all over the place.

"… A golden Magikarp? Like, an actual gold Pokémon?"

"Yup! There was this statue of it on the balcony."

"Huh… Well, he might just have seen a Shiny Pokémon, though."

"Is that gold?"

"Myeah, it could go for gold, though, in daylight, it probably would have been a yellow one. They shimmer, though."

"Pretty! I hope we get to see it."

"Wait, we're going to fish?"

"I don't know~"

'… Right…' Ash thought, simply following the girl.

Even if they didn't see that Magikarp -which was highly probable, seeing that the ocean was humongous and the Pokémon could literally be anywhere- he could always go and ask Professor Oak to send Noctowl over for a bit. With a bit of imagination, parts of his lovely Pokémon were gold too. And heck, if he needed to call the man, he just hoped that Gary's mug wouldn't suddenly appear in the screen again, though.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

Despite all their enthusiasm -maybe not Ash's because he had a pretty good idea on how elusive shiny Pokémon were-, they didn't manage to find the golden Magikarp. Well, they had seen a glimpse of something but honestly, the sunlight had made whatever they saw as black as night. Ash thought he had seen something shimmering, but he wasn't a hundred percent sure that it was the typical glitter-action of a shiny Pokémon or drops of water reflecting the sunlight.

To his surprise, Bonnie didn't seem to be too bothered by the fact they hadn't seen it… but for all the wrong reasons. She suddenly claimed that the man had obviously been lying to them, which Ash thought to be unfair.

"You do realise that shiny Pokémon exist, don't you, Bonnie?" he said. "Because if you don't, I have caught one."

"Eeeeh!?"

"Don't be too surprised. While they are very rare, I've seen a couple of them already. In fact, I think that one Druddigon in Unova was the last one I've seen, so who knows, maybe we'll meet one of the shiny Pokémon in Kalos as well."

"That would be so cool, wouldn't it?" Serena said happily, still pleased as punch by the fantastic experience the aquarium had provided. "Ash, could we possibly see that Pokémon of yours sometime?"

"Of course, as soon as we reach a Pokémon Centre, I'll give Professor Oak a call and ask him to send Noctowl over." The teen answered.

"Yay!" the little girl cheered, but after that, a little while of silence fell.

It caused Ash to be able to hear the waves a little better, seeing that the whole route towards Cyllage was basically all beach line. Oh, the sound was wonderful to him and he found himself enjoying this silence a lot. Little did he know that Serena was watching him closely and was sooo pleased to see that little smile appear on his face.

"Is something the matter?"

She blinked and saw that the young trainer had caught her staring. Her mind was shooting off all the possible answers she could use as an excuse but the one that actually left her mouth was…

"Iwasthinkingaboutdinner."

The speedy answer had taken the teen off-guard and now she had his full attention.

"That's… random, but okay. Do you… need inspiration or something? I can do things with seaweed…?"

"You eat seaweed?!" she exclaimed, her own blundering answer forgotten.

"Well yeah. That's not customary here, I take it?"

"Absolutely not. I can't even see myself picking up those dead things at the beach and eating them." The girl said, already shivering at the thought of doing so.

"Not like that! First off, if they're about to rot, that's a no-go! Unless you're out to make sake with an euhm... acquired taste or something, there's no need to have something fermenting in your food. But if you see some washed up by the tide, all you need to do is make sure its edible and thoroughly clean it, to get the nasty bits out."

"... Sake?" she repeated.

"Alcohol. You know, that's what fermenting does, make alcohol?"

"Oh... Gosh, I didn't know that. I don't even think you can get seaweed in another way here in Kalos."

"I don't think so." Clemont piped up. "I've been to the beach plenty of times and I've always seen the same black goop, which proved to be inedible."

"Well, then it's probably imported or something because it was on the menu of that one restaurant in Santalune." Ash shrugged.

"Really? Did it taste good?"

"Dunno, I choose something to warm me up... And the soup was cheaper, so there was that too..."

"Oh man, you're all about soup, aren't you?" the blonde sighed. "Aren't you afraid you're going to turn liquid one of these days?"

"Well, you guys are all about sandwiches, aren't you? You would eat them at any time a day, aren't you afraid you're going to turn square one of these days?"

"… Every time I think, Clemont, stop retorting to Ash, because he'll always come up with a comment better than yours and you won't be able to answer it… Yet every time, I do it again…"

"The definition of madness is doing the same thing twice but expecting different results~"

"… Thanks."


Upon going to the beach for lunch, the four ended up meeting two researchers, who turned out to be very friendly, seeing the went out of their way to help Ash's poor, poisoned Pikachu. After having helped the Pokémon, they introduced themselves as Lindsey and Eddy, both Marine Archaeologists, looking for a ship which had sunk a while to the strong currents in the area, it's exact location had never been pinpointed.

When the suggestion to join in this expedition had been made -Ash hadn't been paying attention all that well-, he was not amused by it, at all. He wasn't aqua-phobic, but diving this deeply gave him bad memories... ones he would rather keep hidden for his friends. Also, there was only one escape route from a submarine, which was a number too little and too deadly for the teen to be comfortable in. So when Clemont pulled out one of his handy-dandy machines to determine who would go along with Lindsey... he lagged a little, purposely causing a draw.

"Soooo boring!" Bonnie exclaimed.

"Don't be like that, there's no helping this…" Clemont said. "Maybe it's best if we play it again?"

"Why don't you and Serena team up?" Ash suggested quickly. "I have to talk to Bonnie anyhow."

"But I want to go!"

"… You don't want to stay with me?" he asked, pulling out his best puppy eyes.

Boy, did they work! He had totally been acting hurt, but the boy never thought it would make Bonnie's attitude do a one-eighty degree turn. She quickly skipped over to his side and grabbed his arm.

"Of course, I do! Is there something you want to show me?"

"… Yes, as a matter of fact, I think I do." He said, but then turned to the other two. "Are you okay with that?"

"Sure~" Serena said happily. "Have fun above ground, you two!" she added.

"Bonnie gave me a great idea, so I'm sure we will." He answered and with that, started walking away from the group.

There wasn't a more ideal moment to explain to the little girl why she had been the only one who heard him that one time. And honestly, Ash was in the mood to do some cooking, like actual treats. Nothing better than a simmering fire to convince his treacherous thoughts he wasn't underwater so that he wouldn't be reminded by that one time he hadn't made it back to the surface in time...

"Shouldn't we go and stay near Mr. Eddy?" the little girl asked, snapping him out of the depressing thoughts that were still creeping up on him.

"Mm, I don't think that's a good idea, Bonnie. I mean, there's a chance that the submarine will be controlled by Mr. Eddy, so if that's the case, it's best to leave him to it. And even if that's not the case, he will probably be watching along what Miss Lindsey is doing through a camera or something... I think we would only get in the way being there, breaking his concentration or worse."

"Oh… What did you want to tell me, then?"

"Remember when I said I had Aura?"

"Yes?"

"I think you have some too."

"Really!? Then I'll be as cool as you when I grow up?"

Leave it to a child to flatter you when you were trying to be deadly serious. No matter what, Ash just couldn't keep a straight face now.

"I think you're already pretty cool, Bonnie, so Aura or not, you're going to be amazing."

"Then I'm going to be a trainer like you and big brother!"

"Seeing how relaxed Dedenne is near you, I can already tell that you're going to be a good trainer, Bonnie. Getting a Pokémon's trust is one thing, but getting it to sleep on you when you're moving around… Well, it took Pikachu a while before he allowed me to do that."

"Really?"

"Yes. But then again, I've had Pokémon who caught themselves as well and some who literally fell asleep on me without any of that, so it all depends on the situation and character of the Pokémon."

"Brother says Dedenne is Naughty but…"

"Is that so?" Ash chuckled.

"Is Dedenne not okay?"

"Why would you say that, Bonnie? Have you noticed any kind of problem with your little friend? Is it sick?"

"No, no, brother just looked so strange when he looked up from his Pokédex… And now you're laughing too." The girl said, pouting a little.

"I'm not laughing because of Dedenne, Bonnie, I just think Naughty is a funny word. And well, as for Clemont's reaction… I can already guess why he pulled a face like that, but the thing is, are you interested in hearing the reason for it?"

"Yes! I wanna know, so I can tell Dedenne it's okay."

"Oh, but it is okay, Bonnie. I think your little friend is going to surprise a lot of people." Ash grinned. "You see, there are three types of Pokémon: those that use their body to bump into each other, those that attack from a distance and those who use moves to make the other a little… crazy. Now, every Pokémon had four vital parts that show you which one of the three they are and they are called Attack, Defence, Special Attack and Special Defence."

"Okay?"

"Pokémon like Pikachu and your Dedenne are usually all about Special Attack, seeing that they use energy and usually don't touch the other Pokémon. However, being Naughty means that little Dedenne has more Attack and little Special Defence and will have to touch their opponent. And dodge attacks any Electric-type Pokémon shouldn't need to evade."

"… So that was why brother looked at Dedenne that way? Because it's not a good Pokémon?"

"Nonsense! Every Pokémon is a good Pokémon, Bonnie. You just need to take into account that your brother is a Gym Leader and has a certain view of how Pokémon should be to… bloom, I suppose."

"So… My brother is the problem, not Dedenne?"

The boy laughed at that, because honestly, yes, that was the case. There were no wrong Pokémon on this earth, just people with the wrong idea.

"Maybe. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't give up on Dedenne, okay? After all, there are plenty of attacks it could use, I mean, Iron Tail, Super Fang, Wild Charge… and heck, isn't Dedenne part Fairy? It can learn Play-Rough, so you can send it out against Dragon-type Pokémon and still get away with it." He said. "You just need to train it enough, if you want to use it in a fight, but honestly, every Pokémon needs some training. I don't believe there's such thing as a 'perfect' Pokémon or a 'perfect' person, so both we and the Pokémon need to make do with who we all end up with."

"Can you tell brother that too, Ash? So that he doesn't make any other Pokémon feel bad?"

"Sure thing~ Now, do you want me to show you a really good cure to make Dedenne happy again?"

"Yes!"

"Come on, then!"


It was already late in the afternoon when Serena and Clemont reunited with the two. Seemed like their underwater excursion hadn't been as much 'fun' as the girl had envisioned it to be, but honestly, seeing that his friends were safe and without harm was enough for Ash. No need to delve into details of how the submarine had nearly sunk, right? Even if Bonnie was playing with Krookodile in the sand a little sand...

"Those Dragalge were pretty awesome but…" the blonde sighed, looking a little miserable.

"Yeah, they were a little aggressive." Serena sighed.

"Hardly a wonder they act like that, with a name that sounds like someone's choking..." Ash stated and passed down a plate with some Pokéblocks. "Here, why don't you two try these and tell me what they taste like."

"Alright." Clemont chuckled, taking one of the colourful treats off the plate. "What is this supposed to taste like?"

"Not telling. I don't want to spoil the surprise now, do I?"

"Sure." He grinned and ate the thing in one go. "… Holy…"

The blonde's eyes widened considerably.

"What is this!?"

"A Pokéblock." Ash answered. "Do you like it?"

"A lot! What's it made off?"

"Just berries and a little mapping out of what flavours go together well." Was the simple answer. "Do you want to try one as well, Serena?"

"Of course! Are they similar to Poké Puffs?"

"Eh? Never heard of them." he said. "I've not tasted anything similar to a Pokéblock either. Is it like a Poffin?"

"... Never mind, I don't know what a Poffin is, either. I'll let you taste one!... Tomorrow, though, because I'm beat." She sighed but then put the treat in her mouth. "… Alright, no, this isn't like a Poké Puff at all. Oh, man, Ash, how did you make this?"

"Not all my experiments come out successful, but if they do end up being edible, it's usually something like this." He answered, looking pleased his creation had been appreciated.

Not that it had mattered that much, because his Pokémon had already proven to have been happy with how it tasted. And they weren't exactly made for people to eat, so honestly, Ash had just let them taste this to make them feel included. It seemed to have worked alright so far, which actually pleased him more than any compliment on his cooking skill –even though an abysmal amount of that skill was enough to successfully make some Pokéblocks.

"So, is that all you two have been doing? Making candy?"

"They are Pokémon treats that just so happen to taste good for our taste buds, buddy." The teen said. "And Bonnie asked me a particular question, so I spend quite some time explaining the IMDUCPC to her."

"The what…?" Serena asked, sounding a little baffled.

"The International Moral Debate on Unethical Categorisation of Pokémon Characteristics." Ash stated. "It's a global discussion that has been going on ever since a case came to light where a Pokémon had been deemed useless based on the stats the Pokédex provided.."

"… I'm going to get it simply because I pulled a face when I scanned Dedenne, aren't I?" Clemont asked dryly, while the girl still looked bewildered.

"Not really, I just wanted to make you aware that as a Gym Leader and a brother, it wasn't really that nice."

"I'll apologise to it."

"That's not necessary, just be there for your sister when she starts training and tell her the truth, not your opinion."

"Alright, I can do that." The blonde said, seemingly already happy that he got off this lightly.

"What actually happened to the Pokémon, Ash?" The girl asked. "You know, the one you said was deemed worthless?"

"Oh, it ended up with a very nice but influential lady who took care of it with no intention of ever use it as in a fight. It got diagnosed with a depression early on but with some tender love and care, it ended up living a happy life. The lady wasn't pleased though and as such, the discussion started." Ash answered.

"I never knew about that... or the effect these stats had on anyone, Pokémon or people alike. I never thought any less of Fennekin because it's Gentle. I mean, I thought that it would only have an effect on behaviour but not…"

"That's exactly what everyone should do, Serena, I mean, it wouldn't be fair if we started being so picky with friends, first asking for their nature before deciding whether we wanted to be friends or not."

"No, that would be a little stupid." She giggled. "Still, what does it mean, being Gentle? Would anyone discriminate on Fennekin?"

"No one but the trainer who caught it can see what nature your Pokémon is, actually. But being Gentle will raise Fennekin's Special Defence and lower its Defence. Right now, it's typical opponents would be Special Attack based Pokémon, so it's not bad to have extra Special Defence to counter against it." The black-haired trainer said. "What does it evolve into, though."

"That would be Braixen and then Delphox." Clemont said. "Fire-Psychic."

"Aaah… Well, then it might be good to work on Speed as well, Serena and get your starter to dodge instinctively. Or just plainly avoid using Fennekin against any ground or Rock types, because nearly all of those attacks are physical, exactly what your Pokémon is weak against, in both stats and natural type weakness.."

"I didn't think it would be this… profound." Serena said. "I think I'm going to write this down, though."

"It's useful to know." Clemont agreed. "There are those who go straight against morality and start breeding the right Pokémon and just… release the others who don't fit their plan. That too is one of the discussion points of IMDUCPC."

"That's horrible!" she exclaimed.

"It is." Ash nodded. "Hence why I didn't like it that Dedenne was being judged less because its stats wasn't like a typical Electric-type's stats."

"Where do people even find this information?"

"Do me a favour, Serena… Take your Pokédex, find your Fennekin's registration and scroll down."

The girl blinked but did just that.

"Oh…"

"Don't forget to have some fun during training, though. I mean, having a good bond between trainer and Pokémon helps things get not that serious, but it's never fun when you overdo it."

"… Like trying to hit them with a stick?"

"I wasn't trying to and I never hit him." Ash defended. "And if you have a better idea to train agility, you're welcome to implement that in your own kind of training. I, however, am going to stick with the stick, because it's cheap, you can literally do it anywhere, it's not as harmful as rocks and seeing that Froakie goes to find sturdy sticks by himself these days, I'm guessing it wasn't as traumatising for him as it apparently was for you."

"It was scary to watch."

"And hence why I even left you guys to go to that Battle Chateau so you didn't have to witness something like that again."

"… You make too much sense for my tired mind." She sighed. "And we still need to make dinner..." Serena added, groaning a little.

"I… can always make something if you would like? I mean, I promise it won't be soup."

"It's settled then~" Clemont sighed happily.

"Alright, then you two stay put, I'll be taking Bonnie with me to go and find some ingredients to use~"

"…"


Ash still had troubles keeping a smile off his face when thinking about how little faith his new friends had in his cooking skills. By now, they should have known he had different eating habits than them, but the dish he had made wasn't bad or outlandish at all. No, both Serena and Clemont were just hesitant to try it because he had gone to get the ingredients straight out of the woods.

Bonnie had cheerfully eaten the lukewarm pie, probably fully trusting the dish seeing she knew that everything was okay, seeing she plucked the fruit used in it herself. It was only after she had gulped down another piece, that the two had even started on theirs.

'Ye of little trust.' Ash had thought, entertained by how fast the pie was disappearing.

Still, while the three had eaten and had quickly fallen asleep after they had made up camp a little further away from where they had eaten dinner, the teen found himself awake again.

'What is it about being unable to sleep every time I find myself outdoors?' he thought, trying to keep as calm as possible.

There was no use in becoming all annoyed again, because that way, he wouldn't find any rest. And this time, he could feel that he was actually tired and that his Aura was at ease… So what was keeping him up? Was his fear of the dark still so deeply embedded in him that it made him uneasy without him even noticing it? Was that actually a thing?

The boy was snapped out of his thoughts when he heard a noise. It sounded familiar, hence why his interest was piqued… But don't ask him what it was. It wasn't until he straightened, already pushing his sleeping bag off him, that Ash realised that something or rather someone was calling him. He had gingerly put his prosthesis back on and was about to walk off -yeah, he really couldn't care less that he was walking around in his pyjama's- when a soft voice sounded out.

"Ash…?"

The teen blinked and suddenly noticed that Bonnie was sitting up as well.

"Ah, did I wake you?" he whispered, quickly darting over to her.

"No, I can't sleep." She answered. "What were you doing?"

"Not sleeping, hm? Did you perhaps hear my friend as well?"

There was little to no chance that the girl had actually heard anything and that it probably was the sugar in the pie that had left her with too much energy to sleep, but hey, he got her attention straight away.

"Friend?" the girl asked, eyes wide.

"Yes. Would you like to come with me to see it?"

Bonnie nodded fervently, quickly getting out of her own sleeping bag. Ash still couldn't get over how adorable her pyjamas were, even though he had no idea which Pokémon it was supposed to depict. However, that wasn't important right now, seeing that the teen really needed to watch out where he was going, now that he had the little girl to care for.

Of course, Ash was carrying her, with all these dangerous hills and falls… and possibly sleeping Beedrill laying around and about. No, he would keep her safely in his hold, since his Aura enabled him to see where he was going, no matter how dark. It was only logical he would use his ability now that it wasn't seeking attention or wanting to vent off some steam, hm? And as long as Pikachu stayed near the camp, the teen would be able to find it again.

Seeing his starter had the uncanny ability to sleep through the heaviest of thunderstorms, even while sleeping outside in that very same storm, the young trainer was pretty sure that his starter would remain still for quite a few hours longer. Plenty of time for Ash to go and introduce Bonnie to his friend who was possibly younger than her.

"Is it a Pokémon?" the girl asked softly.

"Yes, it is. And I bet that you're going to be the first person in Kalos to have ever seen it."

Even in the dark, the teen could feel that Bonnie was excited. He was so pleased that she was such a nice girl, young enough to still be able to look at things with wonder, yet not old enough to fully understand and ask annoying questions.

Soon enough, the familiar beach came in sight and it was thanks to the full moon, that Ash could see that his assumption was correct. The Kyogre had come to visit him, all the way from Kanto. Or… had it followed him? Mewtwo said something about the mark on his left hand being an imprint, but the boy hadn't thought that Legendary Pokémon actually needed to imprint anyone. Come on, who in the right mind -which basically ruled out every criminal already- would ever feel compelled to bother any Legendary Pokémon? Though, no matter whether the imprint was needed, he felt a little flattered that the Kyogre had chosen him for the job, should Mewtwo's theory be correct.

"Is that it…?" Bonnie whispered.

"Yes, this is my friend. Are you scared?"

"No, because you're here." She said, keeping a good hold on him.

While he wondered what he had done to gain the little girl's trust, the teen still felt mightily chuffed that he did. Children should be free and see as many wonderful things as they could possibly get to… so if Ash could make Bonnie's childhood a little more memorable, he would go for it. Also, while plenty of people would run at the sight of a Kyogre, this one waiting for them a little further down the beach was a young, playful one, so what could possibly go wrong?

"Alright. Let's go a little closer then… Tell me if you're not comfortable, though, okay?"

"Okay~" she said happily, shifting a little in his hold to find the best position.

As they were going towards the large creature, it let out a soft cry. Bonnie seemed only a little startled but was probably more curious than anything. And as soon as they were right in front of Kyogre, it lit up the markings on its skin, making the surrounding water glow, showing off how awesome the Pokémon was.

~Miss you~ was the fleeting sentence that went through Ash's mind as soon as he had touched the being.

Seems like his left hand was indeed linked to this Pokémon, hm? While interesting, the teen couldn't help but feel relieved that neither the Kyogre or Bonnie were making a big fuss. This could have turned into a hot potato quickly, but it seemed that the youngest barely realised the girl was there and that Bonnie was just too impressed to react.

"I missed you too, buddy. Did you swim all the way from Kanto to here?"

Another croon and this time, it drew the girl's attention.

"How did you meet?" she asked.

"Aaah, that's actually a good story." He grinned and knew that the large Legendary being really couldn't care what he was saying, so what better time for some stories than right now?

Still, it was around two in the morning and even before Ash had managed to tell the girl about the lightning bolt that nearly caused this fire in Fuchsia, Bonnie had fallen asleep.

"I've got to go now, buddy. Go try and sleep a bit as well, okay?"

The Pokémon merely pushed its large head against the teen's hand and started sliding back into the sea. With one last croon, it disappeared in the inky water… but Ash knew it would be back. Yes, he could almost feel it, but honestly, he didn't care. If this little one wanted some attention, the teen would happily provide it.

So, with that thought in mind, Ash happily went back to the camp. Bonnie never moved an inch as he tucked her back on her sleeping bag and it really didn't take long until the teen himself drifted off to sleep. In fact, as soon as he had laid himself in a comfortable position, he was off to dreamland.


"We made it to Cyllage!" Serena exclaimed happily.

"Alright, where is this Gym Leader!?" Ash asked, briskly turning from side to side.

He had slept wonderfully and both him and his Pokémon were feeling ready to go and battle, so this Gym Leader better hold onto their hat. You see, if the teen became passionate about something, he could also talk to his Pokémon. After all, he had given a pretty good motivational speech to Froakie and Pikachu this morning, so if he could continue to feel this way about the oncoming Gym Battle, they would be set. While it was a shame that his explanation about his abilities had been overshadowed by Bonnie's own problem with Dedenne, she didn't seem to be too bothered about hearing him while no one else could. She probably just thought that Aura was the whole reason for it, which wasn't exactly true... but it wasn't untrue either.

"That way~" the brunette giggled as she looked up from her digital map and pointed in the right direction.

"Alright!" the teen answered and started power-walking towards the Gym.

"What Pokémon are you going to use, Ash?" Clemont asked, already glad that they weren't running.

"Froakie and Pikachu."

"… If it's indeed a Rock-type Gym, why even bother with Pikachu?"

"Hah, there's no need to worry. Pikachu's got no trouble dealing with type advantage Pokémon, Clemont. You of all people should realise there's more to Electric-type Pokémon."

"Yeah, I should, shouldn't I?" the teen grinned.

"… Is this that thing we talked about yesterday? The Nature thing?" Serena asked confused.

"Eh? Pikachu is as Hardy as his kind comes, so no." Ash answered. "If I'm right and this Gym Leader does use the type I think they'll be using, then you'll definitely notice what I mean."

"… Alright."

The girl couldn't help but feel like both those two were talking in a secret language, only understandable by other trainers… which wasn't fair, because she was one as well, right? Right?

Still, once they entered this Gym, Serena noticed that Clemont had been right in saying that the mood was different from the Battle Chateau. There was a mood of expectation and… excitement here, that she had never experienced before. It made her stomach churn just standing here, so how must that make Ash feel?

Didn't seem the black-haired teen was too bothered about it, though, seeing he had an unwavering grin on his face. Even as this huge climbing wall or rather, tower got into view, the boy was still looking as ready to fight as before.

"… Do we have to climb that?" Clemont asked hesitantly.

"We'll get to know about that soon enough." Ash said and cupped his hands to his mouth. "HEY, UP THERE? ARE YOU THE GYM LEADER?"

The call got the man's attention, who turned and nodded.

"That's right, I am Grant, the Gym Leader of Cyllage Gym." he answered.

"Good! I'm here to challenge your Gym."

"In that case, climb up!"

"Really?!" Serena exclaimed.

"The battlefield if up here, you know~"

The black-haired teen couldn't help but feel really bothered about the fact Grant was teasing them. It wasn't the smartest thing to do and judging from the looks he was getting from his friends, they knew that as well. Now, from the slight chance that Grant didn't know about him -Viola was a tattle-tale, to begin with- it was still rude to think that anyone could climb a wall. But figuring that he did know who he was, seeing that Pikachu was so rare and obviously present, it was a pitiful act, one that made the boy determined to undermine whatever prejudice the man had.

"The Cyllage Gym is a Rock-type Gym. I have all challengers climb up to this battlefield on their own so they can experience the wonderful world of rocks." The man continued.

Despite all the experiences the teen had already had with rocks, 'wonderful' wasn't exactly it. In fact, he hadn't been too impressed when his mom had taken him to go visit Pewter for the first time... and he remained unimpressed by the dreary place years later.

"D-do we all have to do that?" Serena exclaimed, her face full of worry.

"Don't worry, there is an elevator as well. You can choose whether or not you want to use the wall or the elevator, I won't think any less of any challenger just because they refuse to climb the wall~" the man said. "So, challenger, what will you do?"

"I'm gonna climb this thing, of course." the black-haired stated, never one to back out of such an obvious challenge.

"A-Ash, are you sure that's okay?" Clemont asked, even though he could see that nothing would convince the teen to back down from this challenge.

The teen wasn't even looking at him and it didn't seem like he had heard the question… so the Gym Leader's challenge had successfully riled him up, for all the wrong reasons, probably. He too had heard the teasing tone but it didn't seem like a good idea to lure anyone with a prosthetic leg up a climbing wall like this, without any protection either. However, knowing Ash and how little you noticed of his disability... And he had climbed the Prism Tower with relative ease too, so maybe Grant didn't know...

"Wonderful, I like your enthusiasm. I'll see you on top, then." The Gym Leader said and easily made his way to the top of this 'mountain'.

"Hang on tight, Pikachu." Ash said, glaring at this wall as he turned his hat backwards. "Things are about to go down, I swear…" he added, a lot softer, so that only his starter Pokémon could hear it.

"PIka!" Pikachu agreed loudly, putting his little fist in the air.

The teen didn't even bother waiting for any reaction from anyone behind him and just started climbing. He wondered whether Dr. Martin had this Gym in mind when setting up Ash's last evaluation, but if he hadn't, this would just be an uncanny coincidence. And honestly, the young trainer had half a mind to check in with the man and thank him for having added that particular test in the last check-up.

"There, I climbed it." The teen sighed, as he crawled over the edge of the last wall.

"Excellent. What did you feel like when climbing?"

"… Pissed?"

The man barked out a laugh and extended a hand.

"I am Grant, the Cyllage Gym Leader. Your unusual answer entertains me, challenger, let's hope that the fight will do the same."

Ash just grunted and shook the man's hand. If only he hadn't teased him, maybe he would've liked this man but honestly, right now, all the teen wanted to do was fight. Consider him bewildered by the fact the referee called out that he could use all his Pokémon on hand. Like… really?

"All of them?" Ash asked.

"Yes, I would like to see the strength of your team."

'Yeah, yeah, hence why I won't be needing all eight of them. How difficult is this Gym going to be for this rule to be in play? Is it like Lt. Surge's? Or worse? Surely Viola would've said something if it was that bad? Right?' the boy thought, panicking a little.

But honestly, there was no need to panic. Thanks to all the training he had put Froakie through and his experience with fighting against Onix -it seemed like every Rock-type Gym liked to use one-, the Water Pokémon proved to be agile enough to dodge and used the Rock Tomb attack in its advantage. Grant seemed surprised, but the teen sure wasn't. After all, Froakie was such a determined Pokémon that he had all too readily undergone the training, if only to become similar to that Frogadier.

"Inventive, Ash. I can see why Viola warned me about you." The Gym Leader said, once his Onix had been defeated. "But how will you deal with my second Pokémon?"

From the start, the young trainer could see that Froakie would be in trouble. After having scanned the unknown Pokémon, Ash realised that it probably had high attack stats… which was bad for his little, blue friend, because he would probably get mowed down by one single attack. However, Froakie visibly wanted to continue, something the teen admired.

"If you're sure, Froakie, so am I."

'Besides, that Tyrunt reminds me of Bonnie's pyjama's.'

If Froakie had been feeling any tension, it was gone by now. Ash could even see the Pokémon relax, which really seemed to confuse the Gym leader. But the teen wasn't going to let himself be bothered about that, because this was the reaction to the ability he was expecting after all.

No matter how much jokes, though, Froakie hadn't been fast enough to dodge the Rock Tomb, which had come faster and from a lower direction than before, making it harder to evade. Ah well, it all went within the scope that Ash had figured it would have gone… But he would use a different tactic with Pikachu.

"Well fought, Froakie." He said, gently scooping his fallen Pokémon up in his arms.

"Froa…" the being sighed.

"Don't worry, Pikachu will avenge you."

The Electric-type Pokémon all too readily jumped on the field and while Grant didn't seem too impressed by its arrival, he didn't seem to underestimate it… yet went for another Rock Tomb.

'It's not moving at all.' Ash thought, as he saw his Pokémon dodge the rocks, flying in his direction. 'Pikachu can probably outspeed this thing with ease too… but let's see what else it can do and if we can get it to move.'

"Pikachu, get in close."

As expected, the Gym Leaders switched tactics instantly.

"Use Bite!" Grant exclaimed, as soon as Pikachu got near the Tyrunt.

However, Ash's starter was way too fast for his opponent to actually get bitten but a devilish grin settled on the black-haired teen's face, as a devious plan folded out in his mind. As soon as the Electric-type Pokémon was at a decent distance, the man called out for another Tomb Rock, which apparently was his favourite move.

"Pikachu, Iron Tail on the rocks!" Ash called. 'Get one stuck in its mouth!'

The Pokémon deftly deflected all of them and after the fifth or sixth rock, one finally got lodged in between the Tyrunt's dangerous jaws.

'Get in close and hit the rock out of its jaw with a backwards Electro Ball!'

And yes, Grant's reaction speed was quick enough to call out for his Pokémon to Bite, to try and get rid of the rock, but he would never beat Pikachu to it. Just as the Tyrunt started biting down on the stone, Pikachu's tail slammed it out of its mouth... and because the Pokémon had prepared itself to have to bite down on something dense, its mouth closed a lot quicker now that the rock was out of it… which caused the Electro Ball to get stuck there.

*ZAP*

Pikachu knew instinctively that his opponent was beaten, but the face it had pulled when it realised it was chomping straight on the ball of pure electric energy had been so funny, he had gotten the giggles.

"Ah… T-that was… Very impressive, Ash." The Gym Leader uttered, recalling his clearly defeated Tyrunt, who had been laying a little further down the field, with some smoke coming off it.

"Thank you. I initially had wanted Froakie to soak your Tyrunt, but there's always another way." The teen answered, unable to stay mad at the man because Pikachu was still giggling. "Thank your walls for the added determination Pikachu felt to defeat your Pokémon, though."

"… Excuse me?"

"It was very mean to send Ash up that wall!"

Both Ash and Grant were startled by Bonnie's sudden appearance, but Clemont was quick to pull her back.

"Bonnie!" he hissed.

"I… am becoming aware I'm missing a piece of vital information to understand this euhm… global annoyance with my behaviour or the walls, Ash." The Gym Leader said, looking serious but also a little confused.

The teen didn't blame him, seeing that he was bewildered by how Bonnie had been affected by his annoyance as well. It was eerily similar to how his Pokémon reacted… Was this the effect of being an Aura Source…?

"Well, why don't you ask Viola about it then?" Ash said, deciding to use the same cheeky, teasing tone as the man. "Seeing she can warn you about me and all that? Never mind this, though, can I get my badge?"

"Y-yes, yes, of course."

Grant looked even more befuddled now, but the teen was in no mood to explain himself. Now that he had his badge, he was planning on rewarding his Pokémon, making sure they would be properly hugged and so forth… But as far as he was concerned, this chapter was over and done with. No hard feelings towards the Gym Leader, because it seemed like he didn't know about his challenger's disability, despite whatever Viola had said… Yet either way, it shouldn't have mattered whether or not the Gym Leader knew or not, really, seeing that there was no real reason to keep disabled people from participating in any Gym. And Ash would have hated being sent to that elevator, so there's that to consider as well.

"Are you okay?" Serena asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Sure! This was just another Gym fight, so no worries~ Pikachu got a good laugh out of it as well and hey, now that I remember, did you see how one attack mowed down Froakie?"

"Euhm… Yes?"

"That's what I meant when I said that Fennekin would be better off avoiding physical fighters like that."

"A-ah… Really? Is one attack enough to…?"

"It might be a wild guess, but that particular Tyrunt probably had an elevated Attack stat… or has naturally heightened Attack and an elevated Defence stat. But yeah, one attack basically KO's Pokémon without much Defence."

"Heavens… You didn't let Froakie go through that just to show me that, right?"

"Of course not!" Ash replied, sounding and looking indignant. "Froakie clearly wanted to fight and this was just a normal battle, Serena, you… You can't always win two battles with the same Pokémon?! Unless they're unusually overpowered, that is… Like Pikachu often times seems, hence why Team Rocket is after him like that."

"Oh, okay. Sorry, I was just wondering."

"You just seemed interested in your Fennekin's stats yesterday, so hence why I thought it was a good idea to mention it."

"It's… enlightening, to be honest. Just not in a good way, you know?" the girl said hesitantly. "I'm not sure whether Fennekin's the right Pokémon for those kinds of fights…"

"It's your full right to make such decisions, Serena. Professor Sycamore gave you a starter Pokémon, but he never mentioned what you should start with. Travelling, yes, but towards what goal? That's up to you to decide. Just know that Pokémon will follow their trainer to the end of the world, so think carefully when you speak in their name because they will accept it as the truth… Well, unless you have a difficult one with a mind of its own, like Froakie has."

"Have you ever chosen to not make a Pokémon fight? What kind of Pokémon do you prefer?"

"I don't mind a little character, you know? It makes for a wonderfully colourful, little family." Ash grinned. "And yes, of course, I have! Young ones, or those that were better off living free… and then one who was more a comedian than fighter…"

"Really? Do you still have it?"

"No, I gave it to a Gym Leader, to cheer her up."

"Did it work?"

"Amazingly so. And it was only my gut instinct who told me to do what I did, so honestly, Serena, follow your own instinct. If my mom can flaunt her 'female intuition', then so can you."

The girl giggled and nodded.

"Hey, if anything, with how stylish you dress and how elegant Fennekin is, I bet you would be a great Coordinator."

A while of silence fell and for a moment, Ash thought she was actually considering the idea, until…

"What's a Coordinator?" She asked.

"You don't know what a… Oh, man, I should've known this too would be different in Kalos. I'm sorry, Serena, it's a thing from Hoenn where they showcase their Pokémon… or something."

"I'll think about it." Serena said with a small smile on her face. "So, you think I'm stylish, huh?"

"Well yeah… Unless your mom picked your outfit?"

"She didn't!"

"Well, then~"

The girl just rolled her eyes at his answers. Still, she would take the compliment, even though Ash probably didn't have an idea about style. But he was a good trainer and that was all that mattered. Now if only she could decide on what she wanted to do with her life, then they would be settled.


Ash was confused at how quickly moods could change. His own was the prime example, because he felt so deceived… How had such a big, striking Pokémon managed to pry one of his very first Poké Puffs out of his hands as quickly as that? And had eaten it just as soon as it got possession of it, again, so quickly?

"I'm sorry, my Slurpluff gets drawn to sweet food. It says that your Poké Puffs are so-so."

The blue-haired girl had appeared from nowhere and had quickly introduced her as Miette… but the teen found himself wondering why this stranger had tried to anger Serena by misinterpreting what her Pokémon had said. Just by the way the Slurpluff had turned to the girl, Ash knew something fishy was going on. After all, it was very possible that this had been a perfectly tasty Poké Puff -not that he would know…- and the Slurpluff just didn't like it because it didn't like that particular taste.

This was all perfectly normal, really, but he didn't like how quickly Miette had covered up her lie -yes, it was a lie- with acting sweetly.

"Well, why don't I treat you to some really taste Poké Puffs?" she said and while Bonnie jumped at the change, the boy felt a little… meh.

"Why doesn't she train her Slurpluff so it doesn't take people's food in the first place…?" Ash grumbled, taking a little distance from the group, seeing as he could feel an argument between Miette and Serena brewing.

He had seen how quickly girls could get in each other's hair, as he had seen it happen in his hometown… Sisters who basically had shared over half of their lives together could suddenly turn against each other and well… If Ash hadn't known Gary, he would've thought only girls would be able of such a mood switch. What he didn't count on, though, was that Miette had heard him.

"Oh? An overprotective boyfriend coming to the rescue?"

"No, but I am an annoyed, hungry person who's getting a little fed up that people are willing to forgive their own misgivings but will give others grief over something that only exists in their head."

"… That's the most elaborate 'no' I've ever heard."

"Well, then I'm glad you're listening." He sighed. "What are you doing here anyway, except bothering us and trying to pick a fight with Serena?"

"… I'm here to participate in a Poké Puff-making-contest."

"Well, go do that, then, instead of bothering us." Ash huffed and turned his back to her, stalking off.

"Dang, Ash." The blonde chuckled as soon as he had caught up. "You told her off really good."

The multiple footsteps alerted Ash that Serena and Bonnie were also following but well…

"I'm getting a little sick of people using my own denseness against me, Clemont."

"Eh? You don't seem dense to me."

"Then I've got you fooled." The boy sighed. "The whole subject just… goes over my head. I really don't understand anything about it."

"Well, if that's the issue, maybe you just need to experience it, hm? I'll gladly lend Bonnie to you so she can find you a bride, Ash." Clemont chuckled, giving him a little pat on his shoulder. "There's nothing more obvious than having a small girl proclaim your non-existing love to someone."

"… What?"

"Oh yeah, you've never seen her do that, hm? Well, she thinks I'm… unable to care for myself, so she's looking for a bride who will look after me."

"I feel like Bonnie and my mom would be instant friends, then." Ash chuckled. "Still, don't worry about the bride, we've got you covered for now."

"Thanks." the teen chuckled. "Though, if I'm honest, I don't think Bonnie would want to find someone for you. She… works in mysterious ways, but you seem to have impressed her to a degree that she probably thinks you'll be fine on your own."

"Of course, I've got my Pokémon, after all."

"Yeah, and that's what makes you extra-cool to her, or rather, to all of us." Clemont said.

"C-cool?" Ash spluttered. "I'm so not… Like, there are so many, much cooler people, like any of the elites and the Champions… Heck, even the day-care people are amazing-"

"But they're not here and they don't put up with us."

"… But I'm so rude."

"As I've noticed, you only do it when the opportunity arises." Clemont said, adjusting his glasses. "And it's incredibly funny to hear, even more since you're seemingly going out of your way not to swear. Whether that's because of Bonnie or Serena, I don't know, but it's hilarious."

"Well, I'm glad it amuses you. I euhm… was never taught to swear and having seen my mom glare at Professor Oak that one time he spilled hot coffee on himself, which actually justified his cursing, was enough reason not to do it… Adding to that the fact that the one who helped me relearn my entire vocabulary, was better at using insults than swear words, it's no wonder I don't have the habit, I suppose."

"… Relearn?"

"Oh, didn't I tell you that I had this strange sort of retrograde amnesia? I forgot how to speak after the accident that landed me this prosthesis."

"No, you never told me about that, no…" the blonde teen mused. "Man, you deem too little of yourself."

"Maybe so." Ash shrugged.

"Sooo…What are we going to do now?" Bonnie asked, so loud that it actually interfered with the conversation up front. "Are we gonna go look at the contest or…?"

"I don't know." Serena sighed.

"Why don't you show me how to make them, then?" Ash asked, stopping so the two girls could re-join the group.

"Yeah!" the little girl cheered. "We could go on a picnic!"

"Sounds good to me." Clemont grinned.

"Really?" the brunette asked hopefully. "Then we will be needing some berries!"

"Alright, to the marketplace then!"


The group had a rather good time in the forest, with the cute Swirlix -Ash was completely captivated with their teensy, little feet that appeared out of the fluff that was their entire body- coming to see what they were doing. Serena felt a whole lot better when proven that her Poké Puffs were enjoyable after all, seeing that the wild Pokémon had come to have a sniff at them. Of course, she had reached out one of them to the Swirlix and to her delight, the pink Pokémon even started quarrelling about who would get what piece.

It was cute and really peaceful and yes, the girl found herself enjoying this a lot more than she initially expected. That Ash was so willing to learn and good at what he did was a plus and together they end up making a laughably huge Poké Puff for dinner too. Yes, it had been a good time and as they were heading towards Lumiose again, they had no idea that Team Rocket was disturbing the Poké Puff contest. No, instead, they all helped Serena set up her first Poké-vision video, where she showed how to make that huge treat.

They had been able to get to Lumiose in a relatively quiet way, seeing that Ash still wanted to train a bit and had no qualms in doing it while they were on the road. It wasn't that dangerous so no one commented on it and it was keeping Bonnie busy, so that was a plus. But that didn't mean they never got to know the trouble that had happened, causing the entire Poké Puff-making-contest to be disbanded.

"Oh man, Team Rocket's fallen to an all-time low." Ash chuckled, looking at the newspaper Serena had acquired earlier.

"… How do you know Team Rocket has anything to do with it?" the brunette asked, frowning. "It doesn't say in the article, does it?"

"Stealing all the Berries, including those in the forest? That sounds totally like something those three would do." He said, looking rather amused. "I mean, I don't know why they would do something like that, but if I had to guess, it was probably Jessy doing it for the honour or some bizarre, other reason…"

"Honour?" Clemont chuckled. "Really?"

"Yeah, they don't really work for Team Rocket, they just… think they do, I suppose. But they really aren't the actual Team Rocket, I mean, I would never stick around if I noticed that it's not the three I know. And they're not always bad, you know? I mean, if they would just… think logically for once, they would realise that they're better off outside of Team Rocket than in it, but then again, I figure that you can't actually ever leave a criminal group… But still, I hope they'll find something they're actually satisfied with their lives. Because I don't think that owning every berry in the whole town and forest is something to be satisfied with. Well, not unless you've got a heard of Pokémon to feed, that is."

"Hm… That's interesting. Maybe we could try and tell them that next time we meet." Serena said.

"I doubt that they would believe me. After all, remember that you at first didn't believe I didn't hate them, so why would they listen to either of us when they probably don't know we only want the best for them?"

"… Oh yeah…"

"Forget it, we're probably stuck with these losers for the rest of our journey." The teen sighed as he folded up the newspaper and laid it to the side. "Anyway, why don't I go and give Professor Oak to ask him if he can send Noctowl over for a while?"

"Oh, yes, yes!" Bonnie said, starting to bounce on her seat.

"Easy! Or you'll knock your drink off the table." Clemont said and gently eased her a little further in her chair so that her arms weren't so dangerously near the mug.

Ash couldn't help but smile fondly as he got off his chair. He was already so used to these morning rituals -though with how early he was awake, it often seemed as if they were having lunch- and knew that he would miss these three if this journey ended.

'Hey now, you've only got your second badge, man.' He thought, trying to cheer his own mind up.

There was plenty of time to make some more wonderful memories, after all, so there was no need to get so depressed. Besides, for once in his life, it seemed like he didn't need to wait for a videophone to be available, so that was a plus. Initially, Ash had dialled in part of Professor Oak's phone number… but then he figured his friends would understand if he made them wait a little longer, just so that he could call his mom first.

"Sweetie!"

Her smiling face came on screen almost immediately after a seconds or so.

"Whoa, mom, were you waiting for me?"

"No, I was just standing here~" she said happily. "How are you doing, sweetheart? Is Kalos treating you well?"

"I'm doing pretty good, mom, I won my second Gym Badge yesterday." He answered proudly, getting his badge case out of his pocket and showing it to her.

"My, my, you've been busy, haven't you? No issues so far?"

"None that had to do with my prosthesis, no. Gym Leaders here seem really rude, though, if that's anything I can say. Also, it took me some time to warm up to Professor Sycamore too."

"Ah yes, but your therapist also said that 'Uncle Finley' caused you to have a heightened level of understanding, so if poor Professor Sycamore was mentally prepared for a fourteen-year-old, he might have been a little surprised with the kind of answers you've given him." She answered, raising an eyebrow when she mentioned Mewtwo's nickname.

It made Ash frowned a little, because there was no reason for his mom to not say 'Mewtwo' out loud. Unless...

"Not to mention that he is naturally very curious, a given aspect of a Professor, really, while you, Ash, aren't easy to question." a voice suddenly piped up.

"… Oh, Professor Oak, I didn't know you were there." The boy said dryly, now seeing the man in the background.

"Merely visiting your mother, my boy, don't worry."

"I'm not, I was just about to call you to send my Noctowl over for a bit, hence why I reacted that way. Figured I should call mom first, which proved to be a good decision."

"You still don't want to face Gary, do you?" The Professor chuckled.

"Maybe so." Ash answered simply, leaving the subject open.

He wasn't planning on humouring Gary and making a big deal out of whatever was left of their friendship. The redhead just wasn't worth it, as far as Ash was concerned.

"Well, I will have to disappoint you, though, the earliest I can send Noctowl over is tomorrow or maybe even later, depending on when the electricians are done. You see, there's maintenance on-going on my machines, just like you suggested."

'Oh, right, the Delta Dratini, I almost forgot.' Ash thought. 'I wonder how it's doing.'

"I can almost see you think about him, my boy. Why not give him a call?"

"Eh? Who? The Delta Dratini? Did Professor Ivy give it a transceiver?"

The Professor gave the teen a bewildered look but then started chuckling.

"I'm sorry, I… thought you were thinking about someone else."

"Not at all." The teen said simply, though knew fully well who the man was talking about. "Shame I can't get to Noctowl, though, I was looking forward to seeing him again."

"Indeed, it is a drawback. Then again, you're not the only trainer with this issues, so… did you need him for a battle?"

"Not particularly, no."

"Ah well, then you can just call me later."

"I suppose I will have to, if I remember to. You know me and my ability to get side-tracked."

"Do I ever?" the Professor chuckled. "Right, I'll leave you to it, then."

"Yes, thank you."

Because well… Ash had dialled his mom's number and not Professor Oak's, so yeah, he kind of wanted to talk to her instead of someone who had an unhealthy habit of trying to get inside someone's head. Not that the man could, he wasn't like Will or Mewtwo in any way, but if he could, there was no telling what would happen…

Ash's mind wasn't always a good place to be in and while he was influenced by the cheerful innocence of his travel companions, there was nothing keeping him from his own, dark thoughts at night. Even Mewtwo had never talked to him when he got in such a downward spiral...

"Sweetie, are you okay?"

"A-ah, sorry, I zoned out for a little." He chuckled nervously.

"Still?"

"It hasn't been happening too much, mom, really. I… have met some friends who keep me busy too and well…"

"That's good, sweetie." Delia said. "As long as you're having fun, hm? And if there are any of those Gym leaders bothering you again, tell me, I'll come to straighten them out for you."

"They're not that bad, mom." Ash giggled, already able to imagine the bewildered faces on both Viola's and Grant's faces if she went after them. "I was probably thinking a little too hard, you know?"

"Still, be careful, okay, sweetheart? I only want what's best for you and for you to have fun with what you're doing. If it's not… Well, I would rather have you come home."

"Don't worry, mom, there's more to a journey then just Gym Leaders and their moody blues. You know that in every region, at least a few of them will have issues, so I should've realised Kalos wouldn't be any different either. Still, one of my friends is a Gym Leader, so I know that there's at least one decent Gym in the whole of Kalos~" Ash said. "Also, another friend of mine had taught me how to make Poké Puffs! I'll make some for you when I come back home."

"Ah, I'll look forward to that!"


The teen was pleased and displeased at the same time, really. He liked that he had been able to leave his mother comforted by the fact he was doing okay… but that thing with Gary… Professor Oak was probably blowing this up, just to get the two to talk about whatever, really. At heart, he was one of the biggest tattle-tales in the whole of Kanto, so it wasn't that much of a far-fetched idea.

Still, he was in no mood to talk to the redhead and honestly, Gary was probably projecting some worries of a completely different problem onto him, because he didn't do anything to make the teen so annoyed. Or at least, not that he remembered, that is. Maybe Gary interpreted something different than Ash himself did? Had he scratched his neck with his middle finger or something?

'Whatever.' The teen thought, going back to his friends' table.

Just before he reached it, though, his transceiver went off, making him jump a little. His travel companions had seen it happen, so he possibly wouldn't be able to dodge any question they could have about the message. However, it was kind of a strange one where the boy himself had questions about.

-How many tickets do I need to get for your little group?- the message read.

Ash blinked as he realised that it had come from Lance. Also, he didn't know whether the man was making fun of him by assuming he had several friends around him or that it had been innocently meant, but it was still a strange question to ask.

-Four. What are we going to be doing, though?- he sent back.

-Figured you would like to see a Champion Battle, with your interest in Mega Evolution, seeing Diantha uses one. Come to this location around eleven, I'll be there waiting for you with the tickets.-

'Oooooh!' the teen thought and quickly scurried over to the table, where his friends were looking at him with big eyes.

He had probably been weirding them out with all the faces he was pulling, but honestly the teen was surprised and feeling all kinds of things, right now. To think that Lance was here, in Kalos and that he would finally get to see anyone Mega Evolve their Pokémon, Diantha of all people was sending chills up his spine.

"Hey, do you want to go watch a Battle featuring Champion Diantha?" he asked, a blinding smile on his face.

"Of course!" Serena exclaimed. "When?"

"Today at eleven, so you might want to finish up soon." Ash answered happily.

"How did you get to know about that, though?" Clemont asked, as they speedily started cleaning up the table.

"My uncle Lance got us some tickets~"

"C-Champion Lance? He's actually here?"

"Yes! I can't wait to see him!"

While his excitement was shared through all of them, consider Clemont a little unsettled, though. He had met plenty of people, but no one as eerily honest as Ash. Even more, the truths he told everyone were unbelievable as is so whether the teen took pleasure in creeping everyone out, or whether he did it unconsciously, the blonde boy didn't know… But having a person why didn't lie around him, wasn't as refreshing as he had initially thought. And one day, Clemont would have a serious conversation with the boy… one which may be rapidly approaching as well.

( … to be continued…)

Chapter Text

There was no way around it, they had been lucky. The hall where you could get tickets was packed with people who still wanted to watch the battle but couldn't, as all the tickets were sold out. It sucked that so many people were there, meaning that they already had trouble not to lose each other, let's not mention the fact that they were actually looking for Lance as well.

Ash had simply picked Bonnie up, though, and had linked his other arm with Serena's, who blushed a little at the action but realised it was a necessary action to not get separated from her friends. After a meaningful look from the teen, Clemont had done the same with the girl, though she didn't seem as befuddled by being in contact with him... even if she was still blushing at the time.

"I take it you have experience with guiding a group through a mass of people?" the blonde teen asked, having forced his way through the crowd and found himself not too far from the black-haired teen.

"Oh, absolutely, but it's rare to see this many people in such a small place. You should see the Indigo League building, Clemont, you could easily fit tenfold the amount of all these people here in one corner!" Ash answered happily, deftly making his way through the public, dragging his friends along with him.

"Do you also know where we're supposed to go?"

"Oh yes, yes, I do know-… Ahaha!"

"What's wrong?" Serena asked, a little confused that the teen started to laugh.

"Lance figured it was a good idea to go incognito on us." Ash answered, sounding incredibly amused. "Man, that's a risky move, dressing like that. I've never seen him in something else than a uniform with or without some kind of cape, we might have missed him completely!"

"Really?" the girl in his arms giggled.

"Yep. Let's see if he's easily spooked, hm?"

From here, neither Serena or Clemont could spot anyone who looked remotely familiar to the Champion, but then again, they never saw him in real life before. The brunette hadn't ever even seen a fight and seeing the man steered away from journalists, he never really appeared on TV-shows or anything. So they hoped Ash was right and that he wasn't about to scare the heck out of a stranger.

"Heya!"

The man swirled around, looking a little startled. But he quickly relaxed, though, even smiling when he saw Ash's smiling face.

"You beat me to it, hm?"

"You're going to need something more than a rude T-shirt and glasses to hide from me~" the teen grinned.

"I should have known." Lance sighed. "Euhm, hello there. I'm… Lance."

"N-nice to meet you, Mr. Lance." Clemont said, totally succeeding in awkwardly shaking the man's hand. "I-I'm Clemont."

"Hello, I'm Serena." The girl said cheerfully, choosing to wave instead of making this even more uncomfortable.

"And this is Bonnie." Ash said as she waved at Lance as well.

"Nice to meet you all." Lance said, seemingly happy that this was over and done with. "Let's get going, okay?"

"Okie-dokie!" Ash said, not skipping a beat as he linked his arm with Serena's again and followed his uncle, leaving Clemont to stumble along again. "So… What are you doing here in Kalos?"

"Mainly trying to track Team Rocket. I suppose you've heard about them and what they did yesterday?"

"They really sent you here for something simple as that?"

"It's… not as simple as you might think." The man answered. "It's… euhm… a little complicated to tell you the whole story, but just know that I'm definitely here for a good reason."

"I never doubted that in the first place, Lance, I was just curious."

"Mister, why are there no glasses in your glasses?" Bonnie suddenly asked.

Ash couldn't help but snort, because yes, Lance's 'incognito' outfit didn't make much sense. To give you an idea of just why this confused the teen so much, it seemed a little as if the man had walked straight out of a magazine or bought a whole outfit straight from the store. It all just added up a little too well, from the 'glassless' glasses to the tight, black leather pants -which were pretty shiny too, as if they were plastic- and the casual T-shirt with 'IDK. Google it.' on it.

Not that there was anything wrong with it, the outfit just seemed a little… strange. Now, as Lance wordlessly took the glasses off his face, folded them and stuffed them in his pocket, Ash just knew something was wrong.

"Who are you trying to fool, then?"

"… Good friends of yours." Lance answered, making the teen frown.

"Huh?"

"Never mind, let's just get going."


"Are you okay, Lance?" the teen frowned, still in complete disbelief that he had literally lifted Clemont and put him in a different seat just to sit next to him.

Like, Ash kind of understood that the man might not like every teen, especially not one he just got to meet a few minutes ago… But to go to such drastic measures… Yes, Lance hadn't even asked or made an argument about it, he had just plucked the blonde boy out of the seat as if Clemont was some kind of plush toy.

"Sure. Why wouldn't I be?"

"That wasn't very nice to Clemont, though."

Seeing the teen was now sitting next to him on the other side, pouting a little, Ash did feel like he should at least defend his friend a little.

"I'm… not good with dealing with teenagers."

"… You could just have asked, you know?"

"Don't be difficult, Ash."

'… Alright-y, then.' The teen thought, blinking at the clear dismissal.

He couldn't help but feel that something was going on, which was making Lance a little weird. Because honestly, he was just asking questions, right? In fact, just knowing that the man wanted him to keep quiet was making Ash antsy, since this came from a person who had told him to keep speaking up… Meaning that something was definitely wrong here.

And then he realised that his odd uncle -possibly even stranger than Mewtwo if you asked Ash right now- was left-handed… exactly the side Lance was so persistent to sit next to the teen for. Did this mean that he wanted to communicate without being spied on?

Yet so far, even as some time passed, filled with some rather useless information being called out through the speakers of the arena, the man hadn't made any move whatsoever. And it irked the teen, so much that he started playing with his own hands -because of the lack of slime or anything else he could squeeze or rub- to calm himself down.

Consider the teen befuddled when Lance suddenly handed something over to him, which Ash didn't know its use for. It was a cube, with switches and gears on it… was that a joystick? While it interested him, the small device also confused him.

"Ah, is that a fidget cube?" Clemont suddenly piped up.

'Oh…' the teen thought.

"Y-yeah. I euhm… hope this won't bother you?"

"Of course not!" was the rather cheerful answer.

So yeah, now he had something to keep his hands busy… but now his mind was trying to get around the fact the man had this with him. How had he known that this might be useful? And where did you even get a thing like this? He didn't even have the chance to start daydreaming, because right in front of him, a nice, full-grown adult with black, slightly curly hair came to sit… filling in the small view Ash already had of the field.

Yes, it was Professor Sycamore, clearly with some kind of device in his hand. And there was no way the teen would be able to change seats, with Lance being so adamant about sitting in that seat. So yeah, the boy merely closed his eyes and tried to use his Aura to see what was going on. Alas, he wasn't very good at tracking people and the only ones he could find, were his friends next to him. Pikachu's presence was overwhelming too, so chances were that he wouldn't be able to see any other Pokémon, with or without his Aura. Great.

One yawn became two yawns… And even with the announcer commenting on whatever was going on in middle of the arena, the teen steadily started falling into a slumber. His mind was busy wondering what it should think of what was happening, his finger was gently rubbing the indentation of the fidget cube… Last thing he registered was how nice and warm he was suddenly feeling, but afterwards… nothing.


Lance hadn't dared to move an inch once the teen had leaned against his arm. It was only after the applause and seeing Ash jump up, that he realised the boy had simply fallen asleep. And it was then that he noticed the offending head full of hair straight in his 'nephew's' vision.

'Yeah, well, I'm going to use this to my advantage, though.' The man thought and sneakily lifted the teen onto his lap, making use of the sleepy state Ash was in. 'Have fun entertaining some kids, Professor~'

He quickly tapped Professor Sycamore's left shoulder, causing the man to turn to Clemont and as soon as it was clear the Professor had recognised the blonde teen, Lance carried his 'nephew' off. Seeing there weren't any voices or footsteps following him, the man figured that he had been successful, but hey, he was a good G-men, after all, so being sneaky was one of his assets.

"… Lance?"

"You okay there?"

"Mm… cozy."

"I need you to be awake, though."

"Oh?" the teen asked, lifting his head up from the man's shoulder.

"Diantha and Steven thought of a little plan… And I don't particularly like it, but I also agree that something needs to happen."

"Eh? What's going on, Lance?" Ash asked, now fully awake.

"Hungry?"

"… Not really, I mean… Why? What's happening, Lance?"

"Nothing. Forget I said anything. We're just… going to have a drink and afterwards, I'll take you back to your friends."

"Where are they?!"

"With Professor Sycamore."

"… Why don't I know that? He was right in front of me! Did I zone out again?"

"No, you were asleep, kiddo. Please, stay calm." Lance asked, who started to look a little stressed out.

"Then please put me down."

"Alright."

Pikachu seemed pleased to be back on the teen's shoulder and honestly, Ash was happy to be back on the ground as well. He appreciated the help, but the man had actually sort of kidnapped him, which wasn't as nice. The boy wouldn't be surprised if Clemont would end up calling him on his transceiver, but then again, it seemed like the blonde never gave his own device much attention, so it could take a while before he would take that option.

"Where are we going?"

"A little café. There are some people who would like to see you."

"You could just have said so, Lance, instead of taking me along like this."

"As if you would be able to explain why Lucian, Cynthia and Diantha would be waiting for you in a private building."

"… If you put it like that…"

"I do. Are you satisfied now or do you have more questions?"

"None I couldn't ask either three of the people willing to see me." Ash answered simply. "I mean, consider me befuddled that they are waiting for me in the first place, so yeah… I hope I can fulfil whatever they're expecting from me."

"We're not expecting anything, Ash. Just… be yourself. Cynthia just needs a familiar face around."

"I can do that much."

"Good, that's all I ask."


Despite Lance's desire for him to remain calm, the teen couldn't help but feel a little 'meh' about the fact that he was being led to an unknown place, meaning he couldn't really escape without getting hopelessly lost. Yes, yes, blame Mewtwo for his sudden desire for exits, but Ash felt strange about today.

"Remain vigilant, friend. I do not think your Aura will allow you to be influenced, but stay true to your instincts."

'What makes you say that, Mewtwo?' the teen thought, startled by the sudden revelation.

"Merely the fact that showing one's emotions has proved to be a fact of honesty, friend. While I know you are true, not everyone will do so from the start. And besides, letting one's feelings out will make for a more amusing time than remaining silent and compliant."

'Alright-y, then.' Ash thought but felt even more confused now.

His face was an open book anyway, but if he would have to need to open his mouth accordingly… Well, that could have consequences far beyond what the teen was comfortable with. While adults were generally amused by his antics, it was kind of worrisome that his Legendary friend reminded him of this… As if something or someone was going to set him off, some way or another. Now, Lance was highly unlikely to cause any kind of negative emotion within him, seeing Ash knew he owed his life to the man's quick thinking. And t