“Some pokemon are more commonly known for their second evolution than the original. This can be for a variety of reasons, most commonly due to how the pokemon raise their young, and what causes them to evolve.”
“Like Pikachu, right Professor?” Mallow asked brightly, and Kukui nodded.
“That’s right! Pikachu is far more commonly seen than either Pichu or Raichu. So although Pikachu is actually the second stage, it’s more commonly accepted to call Pichu the ‘pre-evolution’ of Pikachu.”
Pikachu gave the class a sideways look, for once not enjoying the way everyone was looking at him. Ash was absently petting his tail, but it wasn’t quite enough to distract him.
“Pikachu evolves with a thunder stone, right, Professor?” asked Lillie, and Kiawe shifted a little in his chair.
“They sell those on Ula’ula island.”
Sophocles groaned. “Yeah, and they’re really expensive.”
“Which is why only battle trainers usually bother to evolve their Pikachu further,” Kukui said, glancing over at Ash. “Most trainers to invest their time into pikachu are more interested in the species’ looks than their abilities.”
“Well, I am ridiculously cute,” Pikachu pointed out, and Ash smirked, gently knocking him with a loose fist while the other students went back to the teacher.
“So what makes Pichu evolve into Pikachu, professor?”
“Excellent care and affection. That’s why you so rarely see a pichu in the wild – Pikachu raise their young in large, very loving communities, with the result that wild pichu usually evolve in less than a few months.”
“Like the Valley of the Pikachu,” Ash murmured. “Cool.”
Pikachu glanced up at him, then quickly looked away.
That was how it usually worked.
Yellow eyes and black hair. A broad grin that glinted in the morning light.
“Hey there, Pichu. Aren’t you adorable?”
“Huh?” He shouldn’t have wandered off, but he’d been bored. Now this creature was looking at him. It was so big…!
“Aww! Those baby-doll eyes! You’re gonna be a real winner, I can tell.”
“I’m gonna call you Bolt. Pokeball go!”
“So how did you catch Pikachu, Ash?”
“I didn’t,” he said, leaning back against the railing. “Pikachu was my starter.”
“Starter?” Lana repeated blankly.
“Oh, I’ve heard of this!” Lillie said, and held up a finger. “In other regions, new trainers get given their pokemon by professors! They call them ‘starter pokemon’.”
“Really? A professor?” Mallow asked, covering her giggle with her hand. “That’s so weird!”
Ash stared. “Where else would you get your first pokemon?”
Kiawe shrugged. “I got Charizard for work.”
“And my brother caught Bounsweet for me,” Mallow explained.
“My cousin gave me Togedemaru,” Sophocles added.
Lana didn’t get time to explain before Lillie interjected again, “But pikachu aren’t usually starters. I read about it in a book once! A starter is usually a grass, fire, or water type.”
“Yeah, but we got…” Ash and Pikachu exchanged glances, then shameful grins. Neither of them could say their first day together had seen them at their best. “…lucky.”
“Was it a pichu back then?”
“Hm? No. I didn’t know Pichu existed until my third journey,” he said, and reached over to rub Pikachu’s head. “As far as I’m concerned, Pikachu is all there ever was.”
“And as far as I’m concerned, there was nothing before Ash,” Pikachu added, leaning into the touch.
It was all about the game. Get their attention, distract them, play them. Fake tears, Baby-doll eyes, Charm, in that order. If anything goes wrong, Thundershock and get out.
“Nice work, Bolt. Look at what you helped me score. Nice diamonds, huh?”
“This is gonna do me a nice cushy hotel for a week. Then I’m thinking we’ll hit Saffron City. There’s a casino there I think we’ll do real well in.”
It was fun.
He kind of missed his mother and father, but as each day went by, he thought about them less and less. Besides, he had a trainer now. He didn’t need family.
He spent a lot of time in his pokeball anyway. Curled up in the dark, with the faint hum of static, warm and comfortable. Sure it was lonely, but he was safe – the pokeball meant he had a trainer that took care of him.
He was loved. That was enough.
“Have you ever thought about evolving Pikachu, Ash?”
“Yeah. There’ve been a couple of gym leaders that told me to,” he said. “I had a thunder stone for a while, but it got stolen.”
“Too bad. If you can afford it, I could buy one for you the next time I’m on Ula’ula.”
“No thanks. I like Pikachu just fine the way it is,” he said, and Pikachu looked up from where he was playing with Poppolio to grin. Ash smiled back before returning to the conversation.
“Are you crazy? Raichu’s a psychic type! Just think of all the cool things it could do with psychic powers!”
“Psychic?” Pikachu repeated, and Ash echoed him curiously.
“Is that the Alolan regional variant? Every Raichu I’ve ever met has just been an electric type.”
“Seriously? No way! Raichu’s a psychic-electric type. They’re so cool!”
“But I guess if Pikachu came from Kanto, it would be different. I hear they’re still pretty powerful though.”
“Yeah,” Ash said, “but so is Pikachu. If it ever wants to evolve, I’ll get another stone, but until then, it’s better the way it is.”
“What do you mean, ‘if it wants to evolve’?”
“Exactly what I said. Pikachu doesn’t want to be a raichu, and I’m not gonna make it become something it doesn’t want to be,” he said blankly. “I wouldn’t do that to any of my pokemon.”
“That’s right!” Pikachu said, smiling up at his trainer. They’d only talked about it a couple of times, but Ash absolutely knew how he felt.
“Why wouldn’t it want to be a raichu? They’re so much more powerful than pikachu!”
“That’s not necessarily true,” Sophocles pointed out with a smug look. “After all, you can evolve a pikachu into a raichu the very moment it stops being a pichu. An older pikachu could be several times more powerful than a young raichu.”
“You know what I mean.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Ash said firmly, cutting off the argument and warming Pikachu’s smile even more. “It doesn’t want to, and that’s all that I care about.”
“A pikachu? You evolved into a pikachu? Oh, man, this is… ugh!”
He didn’t understand. It had been such a good night. They’d had so much fun – playing with lots of people and getting lots of shiny things from people who probably wouldn’t use them nearly as much as his trainer would. It had been so good that he’d even been given a human dinner, and he hadn’t been put back in his pokeball! He’d curled up to sleep on his trainer’s stomach, and when he’d woken up, he was suddenly grown up.
His trainer didn’t seem happy though. He was pacing around the room, hands laced behind his head and glaring at everything.
“No, this is salvageable. This is still okay. You just… people still think pikachu are cute, it’s fine. You can still do the eyes, right?”
He blinked, then turned them on. His trainer smiled and knelt down in front of him.
“Great. And Charm?”
He Charmed. He was good at Charm.
“Okay… okay, this is fine. This is fine. You just look different; no big deal. Now come on, get back in your ball, we need to get out of this town before the cops start asking questions.”
“I heard you talking to the others this afternoon. You don’t intend to evolve Pikachu?”
“Not unless it wants to,” Ash replied, taking the baton Rowlet had just returned to him only to throw it again. As it shot off after it, he glanced back at the professor. “Is it that surprising? Most of your pokemon are unevolved too.”
“They’re still young. My fully evolved pokemon are a bit too big to keep around the house most of the time.”
“Oh,” Ash said. “That’s a shame. I’d really like to meet them someday.”
“Your mother told me you’ve competed in quite a few leagues. I’ve never met a league trainer that isn’t interested in evolving his pokemon.”
Pikachu tried to ignore the conversation, watching Rowlet snatch the baton out of the air and fly back to them. Normally he wasn’t particularly interested in initial training sessions, but he had even less time for debates about whether he should evolve or not.
Besides, he could tell Ash was starting to get annoyed too. He normally didn’t mind as much as Pikachu, but he’d kind of had this conversation three times today. “Sure I am. But only if it’s what they want. My Goomy wanted to get bigger and stronger as fast as it could, so I helped it grow into a Goodra. But my Bulbasaur wasn’t interested in evolving, and it’s still one of the strongest pokemon I have.”
“You have a goodra?”
“Not anymore. It went back to take care of its family in the wetlands.”
“You had a goodra? You released a goodra?”
Now Ash was definitely annoyed, but he was trying not to show it. For his part, Pikachu made sure his smug smile was pointed toward the ocean. He had the best, kindest, most wonderful trainer in the world, and he knew it. No matter what anyone said.
“That was a move! You learned Quick Attack?”
He couldn’t understand. It seemed like ever since he grew up, he couldn’t do anything right anymore. He was trying. He wanted to make his trainer happy.
“What did you forget? Huh? What did you forget? Show me the eyes!”
He turned them on, but his trainer didn’t smile.
“Charm, Bolt, show me Charm.”
So he did.
He… he pulled back a little, not quite sure how to explain. It just… he still figured he could do it, but… wasn’t he – wasn’t he a little old for that now? And it hadn’t really been working that well lately anyway. No one really believed –
“Bolt! Show me Fake Tears!”
They weren’t fake, and his trainer pressed a hand to his eyes. “It’s okay… it’s just one move. He can still Charm, he’s still got the eyes, it’s fine. We’re fine.”
He didn’t feel fine.
“You wanna register Pikachu’s ball? Why? We’re not in a league.”
“It izz important that I have a full record of all of your pokemon! If we ever become separated, I will be scannable and retrievable, no matter who finds me.”
“Okay.” Ash rolled off the futon to crawl over to his backpack, and Pikachu lifted an ear in mild interest. He knew Ash carried his pokeball – it was a human rule, especially when they were going outside Kanto. But it had been a long time since he’d seen it full-sized.
He held it out to Rotom, who buzzed with displeasure.
“You have been keeping thizz at the bottom of your bag? That izz not how you’re suppozzed to take care of a pokeball!”
“Yeah, well, it’s not like I use it that much,” he said. “It’s registered and I get it serviced every year to make sure it still works. I don’t need to take better care of it.”
“We’d get rid of it if we were allowed to,” Pikachu agreed, and Rotom spun around to frown at him.
“Thizz izz your pokeball! Your preshrrious home! My databanks say you shrrrould care about it!”
“Well, I don’t. And it’s not my home,” he said, turning his head away.
“Aw, leave it alone, Rotom,” Ash said, raising the ball again. “Are you gonna register this thing or not?”
He was used to spending a long time in his ball, but… this had been too long. He didn’t usually feel hungry in his pokeball, but… it had been so long… All he was doing was resting, but he was starting to feel tired all the time, only aware of the empty pool of his stomach. It had been too long.
But the last time he’d been out, the way his trainer had looked at him…
It didn’t matter. He was hungry. He needed to at least eat a little power, if he could find some.
He pushed himself out of the ball, and immediately lifted ears and tail in shock.
He’d expected a hotel, or a road, or…
He didn’t know what this place was. It was all white and metal, with lots of electric cables, and he could smell all sorts of unfamiliar pokemon. What he couldn’t smell was his trainer. Even when he turned and sniffed at his ball, the scent of him was… old. Faint.
How long had he been in there?
Pikachu normally slept beside Ash; either curled up on his pillow or tucked against his side. But after pulling his blanket up to his chest, Ash reached over and picked him up, shifting him onto his stomach where they could look at each other.
“Today was kind of annoying, huh, buddy?” he asked quietly. “I wish people wouldn’t bug us so much about stuff. You still don’t want me to get a thunder stone, right?”
“Definitely not,” he said. “And I don’t want to start getting in my pokeball either.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think so. Still, I figured I should ask.”
Pikachu looked down at his feet, thinking about stuff he didn’t like to think about. He flicked his tail a few times, then said, “I’m really glad you’re my trainer, Ash.”
He smiled back, reaching up to hold his hand and rub his thumb over it in a gentle pet. “I’m really glad you’re my partner.”
“No, I mean it,” he said. “I… before I met you, I…”
“You didn’t exactly have the easiest time of it before we met,” Ash interrupted him. He stared, and Ash shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t know exactly, and you don’t have to tell me anythin’ you don’t want to. But I kind of worked out that somethin’ must’ve happened. And your pokeball wasn’t like the others Professor Oak had. There’s gotta be a reason you didn’t want to come with me in the beginning. I mean, aside from me not having any idea what I was doin’. I wondered if maybe you had someone you’d rather be with.”
“I asked Professor Oak once, you know. About where he found you?” he said softly. “He said he found your pokeball when he was feeding the water pokemon. And then he found you out of it a couple of days later, eating his computer wires…” He lowered his gaze off to the side for a few moments, then came back to give him a tiny smile. “I can’t imagine why anyone would throw your pokeball away. Ever since he told me that, I’ve been kind of waiting for someone to come up to me on the street one day and yell at me for stealing their favourite pokemon. I still don’t know what I’m gonna do if that ever happens. I mean… if you wanted to go, I’d… I guess I’d…”
He could see tears in Ash’s eyes through the darkness, and Pikachu could feel the burn of them in his own. He pushed his way out of Ash’s hold and crawled up his torso until he could curl up on his chest, pushing his head into his trainer’s neck.
“I’m never going anywhere,” he said firmly. “We’re partners. And no one is going to take that away.”
“Hey… I know you.”
Pikachu looked up from the pastry he’d been about to grab off the dining tray, and then froze.
Yellow eyes. Black hair. That smile.
“Bolt. Now how the heck did you get all the way to Sinnoh?”
He put his plate down on the dining cart and turned to face him. “You.”
“I’ve heard of pokemon following their trainers across regions before, but this is crazy. Look at you – you’re like a completely different pokemon,” he said, and started to reach out. Pikachu snapped out a spike of electricity and he yanked his hand back with a surprised gasp. “Hey, easy now. It’s me. Don’t you remember?”
“Oh, I remember,” he ground out.
“I guess it was good I let you go when I did. You’re not really the cute type anymore, are you?”
“I’m adorable!” he snapped, sparking even brighter. “Just because you can’t see –”
“Hey, Pikachu, hold up!”
He jerked as he was suddenly picked up from behind, Ash’s familiar aura setting him completely off-guard as he was curled into warm arms. He blinked, mind blank.
“Sorry about that. My pikachu doesn’t always get along with strangers that well,” Ash apologised.
The man blinked. “Your pikachu?”
“Yeah, it’s my partner,” he said brightly. “I’m Ash, from Pallet Town in the Kanto region.”
“Pallet Town,” he repeated, and met Pikachu’s eyes. “Huh. Nice to meet you. My name’s Crane.”
“No, it isn’t,” Pikachu snapped, and Ash paused before smiling at him again.
“Nice to meet you, Crane. Sorry if Pikachu scared you before.”
“Takes a little more than an electric rat to scare me,” he said, smirk only widening when Ash stiffened at the insult. “You know, you really shouldn’t let that thing run around on its own. Some people think of rodents as pests.”
“This is a pokemon cafe,” he pointed out, his tone as flat as it ever got when the world wasn’t in danger. “Letting pokemon run around and get their own food is kind of the point. Even mouse pokemon.”
“I guess so. I should get going anyway. Pleasure to meet you, Ash. Pikachu,” he added pointedly, and Pikachu growled at him.
They watched him walk off, Ash turning a little so Pikachu had to lean around to see. “Is it just me, or was he kind of a jerk?”
Pikachu grinned. “Definitely.”
Litten didn’t like Ash. It didn’t seem to like most humans. And Pikachu could understand that – it was hardly the first pokemon they’d met to have trust issues, and Ash hadn’t exactly made the best impression on it, the first few times they met.
But that would change. Pikachu curled up, watching the kitten pokemon glare at his trainer. It’d see soon enough – they all did, in the end.
Not every human was nice, Pikachu knew that better than anyone. But some of them were. Sometimes you got really lucky, like he had.
He smiled and settled down to wait. All it ever took was time.