In a different life Ash Ketchum looks upon his world from an unique perspective.


16. 16

It was a bright sunny day, part of a long string of bright sunny days. Kanto had been having amazing weather this season. It was a fact that the three lost humans were grateful for.

"We've been searching for Vermilion City for ten days now!" Misty complained, sitting back against a tree stump. "This is all your fault Brock!"

"The map said it was a shortcut," Brock angrily retorted, "and you just made things worse with your attempts to get us back on track!"

"It should've worked. That map must be wrong!" Misty pulled at her hair in frustration. "And there's been all these spearows around! Grr! I'm sick of being lost."

Ash reflected that if they were tired of being lost, then they should've let him do the navigating and stayed quiet. Now he had to get them back on track. And none of the spearows wanted to be caught. It was annoying. He sighed and turned his attention back to the map.

"Hey, isn't that a bug-" Misty shrieked at Brock's words and jumped on Ash's back. He fell to his knees when he felt the unexpected weight, the map fluttering up into the air.

"Whoops, it was just a piece of grass," Brock held up the stalk with the seed head for the red head to see. Misty's face darkned and she started to growl. She jumped off of Ash and grabbed Brock and started to shake the gym leader.

Ah, humans, Pikachu sighed. I'll never get them.

Neither will I, Ash hissed quietly, as Misty shouted at Brock. He stood up and grabbed the map out of the air. Yes, he was a bit out of sorts, but being lost and having to deal with Brock's increased training regimen was really trying his patience. He looked back at the map and found some good news.

"Route Twenty-Four's just north of here and it leads directly to Vermilion City," Misty quit haranguing Brock and rushed back over to Ash.

"Really! And we can get to it?"

"Yep, this trail leads right to it," Ash pointed out the route on the map.

"You're sure about this?" Brock asked. "I don't want us to get even more lost."

Ash gave him a pointed stare. Brock held up his hands defensively and backed away. Ash turned his gaze on Misty who giggled nervously.

"I guess it's your turn to get us lost," she offered.

"We wouldn't have gotten lost if you guys didn't insist on all those shortcuts," Ash said, his pleasant tone failing to fully hide the anger and annoyance he was feeling.

"Alright, alright," Brock surrendered. "We'll take your route this time."

"Thank you," Ash started to fold up the map.

I've never seen you grumpy before, Pikachu commented, jumping to his usual perch on Ash's shoulder. I hope you cheer up in time for the storm.

Ash gave his pokémon a quizzical look. He hadn't seen any storm clouds around.

A spearow warned me that there was a storm coming this way from the south, Pikachu responded to his trainer's unspoken question.

"What's that?" Misty suddenly spoke up, looking at a tall rock between the group and the sun. It looked like there was something on top of it, but all the group could make out was a large dark shape looming over them, tall and menacing.

And then the moved to the side a bit and saw an orange lizard with a flaming tail sitting on a rock.

Ash didn't recognize the pokémon, so he took out his pokédex.

"Please fill out registration information," the machine beeped.

"Aaron, you still haven't registered?" Misty scowled at the boy. "You said that you'd do that weeks ago."

"I forgot," Ash said, taking the register later button.

"Charmander: A flame burns on the tip of its tail from birth. A charmander dies if its flame ever goes out." The machine informed.

"So that's what a charmander looks like." Ash had heard about charmanders from the Pallet pokémon but he had never seen one before.

"Look at its life flame. It's not in good shape." Brock pointed out. It was true, the flame on the tip of its tail was small and it was constantly wavering.

"Maybe we should catch it and bring it to a pokémon center?" Misty suggested. "We could let it go after that."

"That's a good idea," Brock replied. "Aaron, do you want to do the honors?"

Aaron shrugged and grabbed an empty pokéball. He hurled it at the fire type, only for it to be swatted away.

Now that was just rude. If it didn't like their plan it could've spoken up about it...

Ah, right humans couldn't understand pokémon.

"Do we have to battle it to weaken it for the pokéball? My water pokémon should have the advantage..." Misty reached for her pokémon.

"Or we could just ask it," Ash suggested. "Pikachu could you go convince him?"

Ah yes. Ambassador Pikachu, secret keeper and minion of all secret keeping trainers everywhere, Pikachu commented, before jumping off Ash and onto the rock with the charmander. Hey, what's up? He asked the charmander.

I'm waiting for my trainer, the charmander responded nervously. He said he'd come back for me here. And I'm perfectly fine, I don't need to go to the pokémon center right now.

All right, all right. They were just worried about you. I'll tell them to leave you be. Pikachu jumped off the rock and faced Ash and co.

Oh boy, time to mime playing charades. Pikachu rolled his eyes. I swear, keeping your secret gets annoying at times.

He made gestures indicating a necktie.

"A noose?" Ash guessed. He already knew what Pikachu was trying to say, but he had to act ignorant.

Pikachu hit him with a Thundershock.

Try again idiot.

"A neck tie?" Brock guessed. "Like a human would wear? Is it a human?"

He gets it and he doesn't even understand me. Pikachu nodded to Brock and then shocked Ash again.

"Oh! Is he waiting for his trainer?" Misty asked the electric type.

Cute and smart. Pikachu shocked Ash again. Oh why couldn't she have been my trainer. The pokémon nodded towards Misty.

"My own pokémon likes my friends more than he likes me," Aaron whined from where he lay on the ground. "It's just not fair."

Maybe you should get better at charades idiot, Pikachu responded, walking over to his prone human friend. Now get up and get walking.

"I'm pretty sure he's merely mad at you for guessing noose," Brock said. "What could a noose possibly have to do with the situation?"

Ash swore under his breath.

Pikachu shocked him again.

Language young man!

The pokémon center was in sight, just down the hill, when they felt the first raindrops. The trio, plus Pikachu, picked up their pace and ran to the pokémon center, small damp spots covering their clothes and their faces. They made it inside just as the rain started to pick up.

Oh yes. This just has to keep up until its night and then I can practice calling down and redirecting lightning! Pikachu was rubbing his hands wiht glee, cheeks sparking.

"Why's he so happy?" Brock asked.

"I think he just likes storms," Ash replied.

Bwhahahaha! Fear my power!

Ash briefly wondered if being able to understand pokémon was a blessing. Then he shook his head and spaced back in.

They checked in with the nurse on duty (Who wasn't a Joy. Ash was elated to finally find a pokémon center without a Nurse Joy, but the on duty nurse informed him that her shift started in ten minutes. Ash felt much despair at the announcement.), gave her their pokémon, and then put their bags and Ash's staff/walking staff in their room. After that they got some food and sat down at a booth by a window.

"Don't forget to call Proffessor Oak later," Brock said between bites. "And see if Melanie called to check up on Bulbasaur. Or if the Squirtle Squad's liason wants to check up on Squirtle."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Ash mumbled, slowly eating his food. It was a trick he picked up in the wild in order to quell his hunger.

"I wonder if the charmander's okay," Misty said, looking out the window. "I hope his trainer managed to get back in time."

"Aaron, could you have Pidgeotto check on him later?" Brock asked. "We could go make him some shelter if necessary."

"What reason could his trainer have for leaving him out there?" Misty wondered.

"Preparing a surprise party, readying an obstacle course, survival training, defense training,..." Brock began to list off all the various reasons to leave a pokémon out in the wild for some time.

"Alright, alright, alright," Misty said waving her hands in surrender, "but I've got a bad feeling about it."

The group was silent for awhile as they ate, watching the rain fall out of the window, and listening to its patter.

"... and then I told that weakling that I'd be coming back for it." The peace was broken by a braying voice with an odd accent bragging loudly.

"You think its still there?" The trio turned to see a blue haired kid surrounded by various young trainers. They were sitting on the couches in the lounge. From the way their attention was on the blue haired trainer, and from the way they deferred to him, he seemed to be their leader.

"Charmander? If so, serves the idiot right." The blue haired boy smirked. "The rain'll kill him if he doesn't move. You know, I should be thanked for improving the species by getting that weak idiot killed-"

Something snapped in Ash at the arrogant trainer's words. His eyes flicked blue for an instant and he erupted from his seat, intent on smiting the blue haired boy.

But Brock and Misty were faster. Before Ash could take two steps, Misty had already gotten out of her seat and rushed the trainer. He squawked at the sudden assault and then let out a choked groan as her fist sunk into his stomach. She yanked him out of his seat, kicked him in his already beaten stomach, sending him stumbling back into Brock.

The Pewter city gym leader grabbed the blue haired trainer and put him in a painful looking hold. By this time the boy's friends were getting up and reaching for their pokémon.

That stopped when Pikachu jumped in front of them, his cheeks sparking, and glared.

"Now, what was that about about getting a charmander killed?" Brock growled.

"What's going on here!" Nurse Joy shift had evidently started, because she was the one rushing over and yelling at everyone. "What could have possessed you-"

"We overheard what could be construed as a conspiracy charge to murder a pokémon this trainer had abandoned," Brock explained, cutting off the blue haired trainer before he could talk.

"We weren't talking something like that. We were just shooting the crap!" One of the blue haired boys friends protested. "You can't prove anything."

"It's your word against theirs..." Nurse Joy said replied.

"Misty, Cerulean gym trainer. He's Brock, former Pewter city gym leader." Misty said, taking out her identification. "We'd like to request your cooperation in holding the subject. Could you go call out the security machops?"

Nurse Joy's eye's widened briefly in surprise as she examined Misty's identification.

"Machop! Jamie! Get out here!" She shouted behind her. Two machops came out of the doors to the working area and stood at attention before her.

Ash wondered why the security machops hadn't helped back at the Viridian pokémon center. But then he remembered that the center had gone into lock-down and they had probably been trapped.

"Restrain him," Joy told the two pokémon, gesturing towards the blue haired trainer, "and put him in the holding room."

"You can't do this to me!" The blue haired trainer tried to escape as Brock transferred him to the machops. "They're making all this up! They're probably not real gym people, they're fakes. They've got no proof! No proof I tell ya!"

"Her id checks out," Nurse Joy informed him, "and you're only being held until we can contact a League investigator. If you're innocent then this should be over quickly."

"You can't do this to me! I'll get you for this!" The trainer shouted, his voice getting higher and more desperate. "You'll regret this!"

"Nurse Joy, we need you to prep facilities for a charmander. It will probably be suffering from starvation and heat loss." Brock told the nurse. "Aaron, Misty, grab your rain coats. We need to go help Charmander."

The two younger trainers nodded and raced off to grab their bags. Pikachu jumped back on Ash's shoulder.

Ash got his blue raincoat first, shoved it on, and then ran outside to wait by the pokémon center entrance.

Pikachu, you stay here. If we get in a fight out there you might hurt us by mistake. The pokéraised child said to his pokémon.

I did fine against the fearow, protested the electric type.

Yes, you did. But we're going to have a pokémon that's on the verge of death with us this time, more so than Misty was back then. You stay here. Since we're at a pokémon center, you can practice your lightning calling without me when the storm gets to that point.

Alright, fine.

Play it as safe as you can. Stop the instant you're feeling tired or something starts to hurt.

Yeah, yeah. I know the drill. I think I hear Brock and Misty coming. Stay safe idiot and make sure Charmander makes it bake okay.

Brock and Misty burst out of the pokémon center doors, Brock wearing a green rain coat, Misty a purple one.

"Ready?" Brock asked.

"Ready," Ash called Aaron replied.

"Lets go then," and with that the three of them took off into the rain.

It was tough going back on the dirt path; here and there enough ran had accumulated to form patches of mud which tripped up the city folk and forced Ash to watch the path closely. The sky was constantly darkening, the rain intensifying, and the cold wind was picking up, the cutting edge of the chill blunted by their rain gear.

They scrambled and ran up hills, weaving between patches of mud, sliding, running, and stumbling down the downhill sides. They splashed through puddles and through mud, water and wet dirt sticking to their shoes, pants, and in Misty's case, bare legs.

The growing darkness made it difficult to navigate; Ash was forced to slow the group down from time to time to make sure they hadn't missed the trail south to the clearing.

"There," the child cried out, pointing to a gap in the trees. In the fading light, he could barely make out the dirt trail.

The trio dashed down it, heedless of grace in their attempt to save Charmander's life.

Pikachu sat on the roof of the pokémon center, waiting in the rain for the storm to grow strong enough to produce lightning. He didn't mind the water or the cold wind, he was a wild pokémon who wasn't weak against water. He'd been through worse. And besides, warmth and shelter were only a couple seconds away if he needed a break.

He could just wait in the warmth and shelter, but where was the fun in that?

One of his long ears twitched. He thought he could hear a commotion in the center down below.

Yep, definitely a commotion. He could hear the sounds of fighting, orders, a door splintering, some grunts, and call to get out of there.

The electric type looked down with interest, waiting for the agitators to come out. A bit of light spilled out into the prematurely dark evening as a group of trainers and some of their pokémon rushed out of the center.

"You okay Damion?" One asked. Pikachu squinted, trying to get a better look at who he was talking to. It was the scumbag who had abandoned Charmander.

Lightning flashed off in the distance. Pikachu looked over to where it had struck as the thunder rumbled in, anxious to begin practicing. But he knew he had to wait until Damion and his friends were gone.

"No! Those bastards, who do they think they are!" The blue haired trainer shouted. "I'll make them pay for that! Did you guys kill those machops?"

"No, we could barely hold them off," another one of his friends admitted. "And they knocked out most of our pokémon too."

"Then we'll have to get more," growled Damion. "Stronger ones. And then we'll come back and kill the nurses and the machops for this. And we'll have to get that bitch who hit me and that bastard gym leader."

"Do you really think we can could up against a gym leader? Or even a gym trainer?"

"Not to kill them shit head. We just need to hurt him in some way."

"What about that kid who was with them? He didn't seem to be connected to any gym. He might be a newbie that they're baby-sitting."

Was he hearing what he thought he was hearing. Pikachu started to growl.

"Yeah..." Damion started to tap his chin. "Yeah. That'll do. We'll kill him."

Pikachu's face was covered by a dark glare that seemed out of place on him. His cheeks sparked dangerously.

This being had threatened to kill Ash.

There was only one proper way to deal with it.

Damion's earliest memories were of his mother. He remembered how she always smelled of fresh bread; how her eyes would sparkle when they caught the light; how her blue hair would shimmer in the sun. He remembered her holding him tight when nightmares plagued his sleep, when his childhood fear of the darkness got to him, when he was sick, or when his father was in one of his rages.

He remembered her face as his father choked the life out of her.

"Help me bury the bitch." Damion remembered smelling the alcohol on his father's breath as he forced his young son to help hide the crime.

He remembered his father's fists, breaking bone and bruising flesh. He remembered all the bottle of western liqueur and of sake. He remembered being forced to clean up the drunken messes or face his father's wrath the next morning.

He even remembered the days before the man had turned to the bottle and crime. The man who had laughed with and played with him, who had held his mother tenderly.

Damion considered that man another victim of the drunkard.

The blue haired boy remembered what the drunkard always said to him when he thought his son was being defiant.

"If you want to force your will on the world, be sure to have the strength to back it up boy. Otherwise the world'll kill ya in the end."

He usually backhanded the boy after that.

Damion took the saying to heart. When he was of age he stole some pokéballs from his father and ran away. He would form his own pokémon team and his own gang. He would become stronger than the drunkard and would kill the man for what he had done to his family. He would become strong enough to force his will on the world so that nothing like the death of his mother would ever happen to him again.

He took only pokémon that were strong or had the potential to become strong. Same with pokémon trainers. They were all just starting out and the journey was a long one. Damion compensated with numbers, both with pokémon and with humans. He didn't want the drunk's liver to fail before he could carve it out of his living body after all.

Charmander, Damion had once thought, had the potential to become strong. But it failed to live up to its potential. Whether it was because the fire type was soft, or because he just wasn't meant for Damion's training methods didn't matter.

So Damion had left the lizard behind. And he decided to teach it one final lesson. Life was cruel, and humans were bastards. When enough time had passed, it would realize what Damion had done and his final lesson.

And if it failed to learn the lesson...

It would be warm before it died. Damion remembered something about when freezing to death, suddenly feeling warm was a sign of imminent death. And it would dream too. Dream that he returned for it most likely. It would be a good, kind, gentle death. And the lizard would remain innocent of the evil nature of the world. Let it die like that.

It was a better fate than most got.

Not that Damion cared of course. He had washed his hands of the matter.

If he had to laugh at its death to convince himself of that, then he would do so. And ignore the horrible feeling beneath.

As for the pokémon center that had imprisoned him, the nurses and the machop, he would teach their part of the world that they didn't have the strength to force their will on him. He would kill them all and thus part of the world.

He wasn't strong enough to kill gym members yet, but he could show them they lacked strength as well. He would kill their friend and leave his body for them to find. Let them regret their actions and learn their lesson.

He looked up into the storm. Yes. Let them all learn. Let the world learn. Let the drunken bastard learn.

His vision went white, lighting overwhelming his senses, there was a deafening crack, like the shattering of mountains, and he found himself lying on his back. His body felt like it had been scorched by the flames of Moltres and he stared blankly upward for a second.

Then he started to force himself up. All around him, his comrades and their pokémon were scattered. Some groaned and moved. Others were still.

What had happened?

Damion heard a noise. He looked up, at the pokémon center roof. He could make out a small shape, but nothing else in the dark of the storm.

"Pika pi." Those were the last words Damion ever heard.

His world went white once more and then everything that he was fell into nothingness.

Ash sat a flicking dot of orange through the trees ahead, where he could hear voices.

You're going to die anyway, so just surrender and let us eat you while you're still warm! A spearow's voice.

No! Go away before my trainer gets back and hurts you. Charmander's voice.

Shrieks and caws.

"Pidgeotto, go protect Charmander!" Ash shouted, throwing the pokéball. There was a blaze of white light in the darkness and then Pidgeotto appeared. She immediately flew forward towards the light. He could hear the sounds of her wings beating and the spearows crying out in fear and pain.

Get out of here you. Ash's pokémon cawed. He's a trainer's pokémon and we're taking him to the pokémon center.

"Good job Pidgeotto," the trainer told his pokémon, as he and his human friends arrived in the clearing. "You can return now."

And dry off, the flying type commented before becoming red light.

"Nice job Aaron," Brock said as he examined the charmander. He had been trying to shield his tail fire with a large leaf with minimal success. The fire was close to going out and the charmander's body was racked with chills.

"Someone's going to need to shield the flames while I carry him," Brock moved to pick up the fire type.

"On it," Ash said, whipping off his rain coat and using it to protect the small fire. Instantly the heavy rain began to soak through his clothes, allowing the cold wind to chill him to the bone.

"Aaron," Misty began worriedly, but she left her statement die unsaid.

"Fine. Then lets hurry." Brock lifted up Charmander and Ash made sure the life flame was protected. Ash and Brock took off back down the path first, Misty following closely behind. She kept an eye on Aaron, her face carefully neutral.

It was getting too dark to see properly. The only reason they knew that they were still on the path was the lack of tree trunks to the face. Brock and Aaron had to sacrifice speed in order to keep Charmander safe, but they both knew that clock was ticking for the fire type. It grated on their nerves and they wished to sprint all the way back, but both knew that it was infeasible.

When they reached the end of the trail and the beginning of Route Twenty-Four they paused. Nobody remembered which way they had cone and it was too dark to make out the landmarks.

Then lightning struck to their left, briefly illuminating everything. Before the thunder reached them, lighting struck again. And again.

Ash knew which way the pokémon center was after that.

"This way!" The pokéraised child shouted over the din of the storm, over the wind whipping the plant life, over the pounding of the rain, and before the arrival of the thunder.

It was worse going back then it had been leaving. Mud was everywhere, forcing them to slog up and down hills, slipping and sliding, desperately struggling to hold onto the fire type and keep his flame shielded. The fire type would occasionally moan about being cold, or muttering something nonsensical. Ash struggled to stop his coat from being ripped out of his grip or out of position by the wind, all the while trying to keep his shivering under control.

Arceus, he hadn't been so cold since he had been lost in the snow when he was five or six. Poison Lance had been beside himself with worry and hadn't let Ash out of his sight for weeks. The child wondered what the weedle would have to say about his current situation if he was with them.

What in the name of all the legendaries are you doing! I could have woven some covering in seconds. Get over here, I'll have to make you a raincoat now.

Of course they might not have been in this situation if the old pokémon had been with them.

Another wave of shivering wracked Ash's body. Charmander wasn't the only one who needed to reach the pokémon center soon.

He recognized this hill. It was the one with the pokémon center at the bottom. They were almost there.

Lightning flashed again by the center, the bolt twisted into an unusual shape. Now Brock and Misty knew that they were close.

It was difficult to resist the temptation to cover the remaining distance in a mad dash, but they managed. Misty ran ahead of the two boys and opened the door to the center. Brock and Ash ran inside to find Nurse Joy waiting, with a couple of chanseys carrying stretchers nearby.

"Give him here," she ordered. Brock complied, while Ash fell back against the center wall, sliding down to collapse into a shivering heap. "You two, grab him and take him back with us," Nurse Joy continued, indicating Ash. "We'll be keeping him under observation as well."

Ash felt two pairs of arms slide under his shoulders and gently lift him up. His constant shivering made it difficult for Brock and Misty to keep their gentle grip. But they helped Aaron hobble after Joy and the pokémon center pokémon.

Nurse Joy took no chances with the health of her patients, both the pokémon and the human. Two chanseys knocked themselves out using Healing Wish to revitalize and temporarily stabilize the pair. Another chansey stood on duty, ready to use Healing Pulse if necessary.

Ash was stripped, rubbed down with heated blankets, and then wrapped up in heavy comforters. He was given a cup of hot chocolate and told to wait.

Charmander was hooked up to some machinery and put into a special chamber meant to treat fire types. There was a chansey monitoring him the whole time the machine went to work on him. When the medical staff decided that the treatment was over he was moved into the bed next to Ash.

Brock and Misty stayed for a bit, before Ash shooed them away, telling them to go get some sleep.

Pikachu fell asleep next to Ash's pillow, and the pokémon center staff had all turned in for the night. Charmander and Ash were the only two awake beings in the room.

Ash rolled onto his side and looked at Charmander.

So, you going to be alright? He asked the fire type.

Yeah- Did you just speak properly?


Why'd you have Pikachu do all the talking earlier then?

Have to keep this a secret from other humans.


Long story. But are you going to be alright?

I think so. I'll stick around til the morning to make sure.

Only until the morning? Where are you off to after that?

Back to the rock. I've got to wait for my trainer.

Ash took a second to think about what he was going to say next.

I'm not sure if Damion's planning on coming back.

What do you mean!? And how do you know his name!?

We ran into him at this pokémon center. We overheard him talking about what he did to you. He was talking about how he left you there and how you thought he was coming back.

He was planning to return!

No. He was discussing whether or not you had realized he wasn't coming back in time to get out of the rain.

You're lying!

How do think I learned his name. He and his friends were talking in the lounge.

You're lying! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!

I'm telling the truth. He wasn't planning on coming back for you.

You're lying! Charmander was shouting now. You have to be!

I'm not. He's being held here for for what he did. Right Pikachu, Ash asked, knowing that the shouting probably had woke Pikachu up.

Actually, he and his friends overwhelmed the security machops and escaped, Pikachu replied, the only lie being the last word in his sentence. No need to worry Ash or hurt Charmander. You can ask the chanseys and machops later.

No! Charmander was screaming now. You're lying! He wouldn't do that... no. His voice was a whisper now. Why would he do that? He said I could get strong.

Ash sighed. He didn't really get humans or scumbags. How was he supposed to understand the motivations of a human scumbag?

I don't know. Maybe he thought you were better off in the wild. Maybe he was just an idiot. Maybe he was planning on coming back for you in a year or so, after you had to fend for yourself in a new environment. You aren't from around here, right?

No, I'm from by Rock Tunnel.

He could have been doing some survival training then. I don't know. I'm not him or a psychic, so I can't tell you what was going through his head. All I know is that he put your life in danger and wasn't trying to do anything about it.

Shut up, Charmander hissed. He rolled over so that he was facing away from Ash. Damion... Pikachu was able to pick up on the grief filled word and the following subdued sobs thanks to his long ears. Ash wasn't able to.

Damion might've had what he thought were good reasons for what he did. I don't know. But, personally, I think he was wrong. You were out there for how many days, stuck on that rock without food, and then you managed to last that long in the rain before we came and got you? You might need some work, but in my book, you're pretty strong.

Do you mean that? Charmander sniffed, still facing away from Ash.

Of course.

But I lose all the time. I couldn't even handle those spearows.

I don't know about your other matches, but you had been through a lot before the spearows tried to eat you.

I've lost to grass types.

And I know a bulbasaur who's fought off groups of fire types. You probably just need a better trainer then Damion. I know some people who could help you find one. Either Professor Oak, or some people in the League.

Or you could just take him, Pikachu interjected. He's a great trainer, despite being an idiot, the electric type told Charmander. And there's the side benefit of being the only human that I know of how can understand us.

Pikachu! Ash scolded. That's-

Would you take me? Even though I'm weak? Charmander asked, rolling over to face Ash again. His eyes were wide and watery, tears leaking down his face.

If you wanted me to, but- Ash was interrupted by a flying hug from the fire type.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I promise you I won't stay weak. I'll get strong!

If that's your goal, then I'll help you, Ash said, resting his hand on the fire type's head. Welcome to the team I guess.

"And we still don't know where Damion got off to," Brock complained. "Or any of his friends. The only thing we found were some pokémon tracks leading away from the center, and none of their pokémon were big enough to ride."

Pikachu nodded. He had used the opportunity to practice using his ability to control and direct electricity to maximize the destructive potential of lightning. Repeated attempts had eventually turned even the bones into ashes that were carried away by the wind.

A fitting end for anyone who threatened his trainer's life.

"And I still can't believe Aaron managed to catch Charmander overnight," Misty fumed

"I didn't catch him," Ash protested. "He ran and got one of my pokéballs himself. He wanted to come with."

"That's not what I'm complaining about," Misty said, crossing her arms and turning her head away from him. "I'm complaining about your unbelievable luck. Pokémon are just throwing themselves at you to join your team."

"Misty, its not that uncommon for pokémon to do that from time to time. Aaron's just on a streak." Brock said. "But we should be focusing on Damion. He's probably got a grudge against us-"

"I've already sent word to my sisters," Misty said, waving away his worries. "They'll be sending word to the League and then some ranger or investigator will be sent to track him down. Instead we should be worrying about how to get to Vermilion city faster. I think I've found a shortcut-"


"But Aaron-"


"Come on-"


"If she's got a shortcut," Brock began.



"No more shortcuts. We're taking this route to Vermilion city," he growled, gesturing with his staff, " and we're not deviating, not taking any more shortcuts, tricks, or hidden paths. I've had enough of you two complaining about being lost for now."

And with that Ash Ketchum, called Aaron Autumns, marched down the road to Vermilion city, Brock and Misty following behind him.

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