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


40. 38

I still say that you should have let me sacrifice myself.

It was a bright and sunny day at the foot of mountains. Under the white capped peaks, small traces of snow adorned the slops, lessening as each spring day arrived. An amber eyed boy and his team of seven pokémon sat on a grassy gentle hill, enjoying the fresh air and the sunlight. A gentle breeze whispered through the grass, causing the tall patches to wave and the short stretches to ripple.

The boy was dressed in a hospital gown and a pair of jeans. He and his pokémon were sitting in a circle.

Magikarp, Primeape replied, you were out cold. There was no way for ya to sacrifice yourself to stop da crazy priest.

Then you should have sacrificed me to get away, Magikarp said from beside Primeape. It's the same thing really.

How would that have even worked? Pidgeotto asked. Should we have just thrown you at him? Or offered him a tasty fish dinner?

Whatever would have worked, Magikarp answered.

There was nothing he wanted from you, Bulbasaur interjected. There just wasn't a way to sacrifice you and get us out of here.

You mean I had to go through a near death experience for nothing? Magikarp moaned. Why do I always survive?

Magikarp, shut up, Pikachu snapped.

No, Magikarp snapped back, flopping over to give Pikachu an angry look. We just through yet another very dangerous experience that I unfortunately survived and-

Magikarp, Pikachu glared at the water type, there are electric therapies out there that can greatly increase a pokémon's lifespan. If you don't shut up I'm going to start practicing them on you.

You wouldn't dare-

Try me, Pikachu said, cheeks sparking.

Can you guys quit fighting for a bit and just relax?, Ash asked, staring up at the brilliantly blue sky. We're going to start training again soon and we don't want to overdo it.

Charizard shifted around uncomfortably, not meeting the random gazes of the group.

Yes, we shouldn't overdo the training that we're sneaking out of the pokémon center to do, Pikachu said, rolling his eyes. It's not like some of us, like some certain bipedal members of our group, should still be taking it easy back in the medical center.

Yep, Primeape said, eyes closed, smiling and nodding. It's good dat none of us are like dat.

One of Pikachu's ears twitched.

I think he was trying to say that Ash should be back at the center with the doctors, Squirtle explained.

No, he said dat no one- oh that was sarcasm, ain't it, Primeape realized.

Yes, Pikachu nodded, one eye twitching, cheeks sparking. It was.

Calm down Pikachu, Ash said, rubbing the pokémon's head. I'm fine.

Pikachu turned his glare onto his trainer.

You and Charizard are both still in therapy, he said.

And I'm basically done, Ash replied.

No, they think you're basically done, but they want to do some final checkups, Pikachu corrected. And if there was something for them to catch on those final checkups, coming out here to train could be making it much worse.

But I feel perfectly fine, Ash sprung to his feet and held out his arms. See?

No, you think you feel perfectly fine, Pikachu jumped to his own feet, still glaring. There's a difference.

Well, it's my body an there's nothing you can do to stop me from coming out here and-

"Aaron! How many times do we have to tell you to stay in your room!" Ash winced when he heard the voice of his doctor, a brunette woman, shouting from a distance that was not far enough away for his comfort.

I might have run back and messed up the pillow dummy you left behind, Pikachu admitted with a smirk.

I will have my revenge on you, Ash whispered out of the side of his mouth, as his doctor approached.

"And one more set," the doctor said, looking at some charts.

Ash complied without complaining. He didn't want her to launch into another tirade, like the one she had hit him with after discovering that he had snuck out.


"Well Mr. Autumns, it would appear that you're pretty much done here," she informed her patient. "Despite your problems with... shall we say focus, your recovery has proceeded smoothly and you should be out of here within the week. "

Ash grinned.

"Of course you will have more checkups, starting six months from now, to make sure that there are no long term issues."

Ash quit grinning.

The doctor rolled her eyes.

"Don't worry," she reassured him. "When you stop at a pokémon center in around six months just give them your name and trainer information and they'll take care of you. It won't take more than a day."

Ash nodded.

"You can talk you know," the doctor said with a grin. "I don't bite."

"Yeah, but well..." Ash, rubbed the back of his head. He didn't know the tactful way of explaining that she scared him and he didn't wish to invoke her temper.

"Hey, the exercise needs both hands," the doctor chided.

Ash immediately complied.

"Wait," he said as he finished the set. "I thought you said I was done. With the recovery."

"I think you can keep doing exercises," the doctor rolled her eyes again. "With the way you keep sneaking out, you can't be worried about straining yourself."

Ash grinned sheepishly. She had a point.

After he finished his session, Ash went to go check on Charizard's therapy session.

Pokémon therapy was held in a different section of the center, in the pokémon wing. Most pokémon centers didn't have sections devoted to long term recovery for humans; in fact most didn't have long term recovery facilities for pokémon either. That was because most pokémon centers were primarily meant as hostels that offered basic medical services and military outposts in times of crisis.

Ash and his team had originally been taken to a different pokémon center deep in the mountains with much more limited resources. If it hadn't been for the antidotes that Misty and Brock had administered on site, it would have been likely that several members of Ash's team would not have made it. As it was, the staff at the first center had worked themselves to the bone to make sure that the boy and his team would make it. It was only after they were stabilized that they were moved to the foothills pokémon center.

Bulbasaur had been the best off (after Magikarp who had just been knocked out), just needing some rest after the initial antidote. Primeape had needed more doses of the antidote but other than he had been fine. Squirtle had needed stitches, along with the antidote, Pidgeotto had needed grafts for the acid burns, and Pikachu had need surgery to deal with some internal bleeding.

It was Charizard who had needed the most help.

The dragon-like pokémon had more poison in his system than anyone else. He had multiple internal injuries on top of that, a deep slash between his wings- and then there was the big problem; the medical staff had to deal with all those issues while dealing the problems with his forced evolution. And there were a lot of problems with said evolution.

His cardiovascular system had barely finished adjusting to his charmeleon body when he had forced himself to take a new form that had more muscle, more mass, and new appendages in the form of wings. His nervous system had to go through another set of adjustments to his new form, screwing with his kinesthesis, and causing random twitches. His digestive system had to adjust to the new calorie requirements and the mass of food that had to be ingested. His new muscles were underdeveloped and strained. Once the rush from evolving had worn off, all those stresses began to take their toll on him.

The doctors had been very carefully monitoring his diet and giving him supplements via IV. He had been going physical therapy for his wings and been given various medical drugs to help is cardiovascular system adjust. He had been undergoing other exercises to help his balance and they had been monitoring the state of his central nervous system to make sure that it was adjusting.

"And one and two and one and two," the therapist counted off as Charizard slowly moved his wings through the exercise. His movements were precise, slow, and evidently tiring from the light sheen of sweet on the pokémon's forehead. Ash didn't really see what was so tiring about the exercises, even with the small weights, and ordinarily that would be a concern, but it was still a massive improvement over how things used to be.

When they had first arrived Charizard could barely make his wings twitch. They had hung limp from his back, pitiful and useless. It had taken a lot of sweat, tears, hard work, and some pain to get them to the point where they could be fully extended. The dragon-like pokémon still couldn't fly, but at least he was getting there.

"And that's it for now," the therapist said. "And your trainer's already here for you. I'll let him take you from here." The man turned to Ash. "Though I'd appreciate it if you used a pokéball. The hallways aren't really a good place for him to walk around."

"Sure thing," Ash replied, turning to his pokémon who nodded. Red light flashed and sucked up the fire type.

He quickly walked through the center and found an exit. Ash went outside and released his pokémon. The two of them glance around to make sure that there was no one nearby.

So how was it? Ash inquired.

It was the same as always, Charizard answered, not meeting Ash's amber eyes.

So, nothing's changed?

Not really. Charizard continued to avoid Ash's eye.

From what I've seen you've been improving, Ash continued.

A little, the fire type answered.

Come on, Ash cajoled, I want to compare notes. You know that they've got me in therapy too. I want to know what weird stuff the humans are making you do too?

It's not that weird, Charizard snorted. You think everything your species does is weird.

No I don't.

Almost every time we go into a city you find something that your species does that you think is weird, Charizard pointed out. And when you stop back by Pallet and get a chance to talk to Poison Lance I'm sure he'll be able to tell us about more things that you found weird.

Well... Ash rubbed the back of his head. Charizard might have a small point. But just because he had found things like dress shoes, tooth brushes, microwaves, recliners, perfumes, scissors, pens, patios, hair ties, sliced bread, DVDs, laptop computers, bubble wrap, aglets, tote bags, frisbees, door latches, metal currency, tree-houses, laser pointers, sweat pants, apartments, bowling, line dancing, rocking chairs...

Alright maybe Charizard had a point.

Not really relevant, Ash said, changing the subject.

Charizard smirked for a brief moment, something Ash hadn't seen in a while, but it quickly vanished when Ash met his eye and gave him a half grin in return.

You okay? Ash asked. You've been... quiet lately.

There hasn't been much to talk about, Charizard replied.

You mean much time to talk, Ash corrected. The boy and his team had only brief visits with each other during the beginning of their recovery, brief supervised visits, owing to the fact that several of the participants couldn't walk. And then many of them had been busy with their individual recoveries.

It's been nothing but boring exercises, Charizard said. Same as with you. I just don't want to talk about it. I'd like to go back to my bed and sleep.

Alright, Ash said, bringing the pokéball back out. Red light flashed and the conversation was over.

"You really should call your parents," Brock said.

Ash shot him that communicated his level of unamusement.

The three of them were sitting the center cafeteria, sipping on drinks and picking at the last bits of their lunches.

"If you haven't called them since before... this winter, they'll probably be worried sick," Brock continued.

"They might decide to hunt you down and drag you home," Misty added.

"I've sent them a message," Aaron replied in a surly manner, crossing his arms. "Told them I was fine."

"Lied to them you mean," Brock said, looking the younger boy in the eye.

"Not really," Ash replied. "I'm fine now."

"Trying not to worry them?" Misty asked.

Ash briefly thought about Poison Lance's potential reactions. While the old pokémon knew the risks of a trainer's journey better than anyone, and certainly wouldn't try and stop Ash from continuing, he would... well, Ash thought that Krieg being already dead was a blessing for the murderous priest.

"Pretty much," Ash lied.

"I can get that," Misty nodded. "So what are you planning to do today?"

"Haven't you finished all the books in the center?" Brock inquired.

"I've been getting books from the town library," Ash answered. "The center has a reservation system set up with them."

"So what you on now?" Misty asked before taking another sip of her drink.

"Some- uh, fantasy history?" Ash tried to guess the name of the genre.

"Historical fiction," Brock corrected. "What time period?"

"Feudal western," Ash answered, remembering the words from the summary. "It's about some clash between two- neighbors that are on the edge of their- what's the word for things like shared traditions, beliefs, and stuff?"

"Culture," Brock answered.

"Yeah, two neighboring countries on the edges of their culture groups and the clashes they have because of it," Ash said. "It's pretty interesting."

"Yeah, well, speaking of history I'm heading down to the ruins to visit the archaeological dig," Misty said. "Evidently they're discovering some carving and architecture that's only been seen before in the Mirage Kingdom in Hoenn."

"That sounds interesting," Brock commented finishing off his last bit of rice. "I might tag along."

"Maybe I should come," Ash mused.

Misty shook her head.

"The only access is by foot and you shouldn't be straining yourself yet," she explained. "Maybe next week."

"I'm ready now," Ash said, crossing his arms and sitting back.

"Not even close," Brock snorted.

"The ruins will still be here next week," Misty reassured the boy. "Don't worry about it."

So my human so-called friends taunt me with something interesting to do and then they abandon me here, Ash moaned from his bed, book lying open and temporarily forgotten.

Well they were right, Pikachu said, perched on top of the chair for visitors and staring out the window. If it's only reachable by foot-

Not you too, Ash rolled over and moaned. Seriously, I'm feeling better now.

We've been over this, Pikachu turned to his trainer. And you should listen to them more.

You're getting as over protective as them, Ash complained. Seriously. And weren't you against them coming in the first place?

No, I was the one for them coming along, Pikachu corrected. You get in too much trouble to be without them.

Yeah, but we always get out of it, Ash grinned.

No we don't, Pikachu glared at his trainer. We barely got away from that last one.

Yeah, but we shouldn't run -

You always say that and you're never right! Pikachu snapped. We keep running into situations like that and we're not strong enough to keep protecting you!


Bulbasuar won't say anything, but I know he's feeling bothered, Squirtle's been feeling down lately but he won't show it but I've seen him when he thinks no one is around, Primeape and Pidgeotto keep talking about what they could have done better, Magikarp- is Magikarp, and Charizard's been bothered and you know it too.

Ash opened his mouth to reply, but couldn't think of anything to say.

And I know you're not going to stop your journey but can you at least quit making things needlessly dangerous, Pikachu sighed. Please.

I- I've never really tried to do anything to make it more dangerous, Ash replied. I know chasing after Krieg was stupid, but it was only a heat of the moment thing. Every other time I've tried to do the right thing, but not in a stupid way. I-I've never thought that any of you were lacking in any way. I know that something's been bothering Charizard but he's not telling me.

Something's always been up with him, Pikachu grimaced a little. I'm glad we got him away from his old trainer and that's he's with us... but that jerk reeeaally messed him up.

Well, a little, but I thought that he's been past it, Ash admitted. Especially after he evolved. The first time that is. Honestly I thought his current funk was because he couldn't fly yet.

Butterfree, Pidgeotto, and now Charizard. Pikachu shook his head. It seems like most of us are reaching for the skies. I'm almost starting to get envious of those winged jerks. You know, you can fix that by finding me those hooved flying types and a chariot...

I still don't know what goes through your head, Ash grinned a little.

Pure, concentrated awesome, Pikachu answered. And a lot of power.

The electric type's face grew serious once more.

Ash. I know you've been thinking about this and I don't know why you've been flip-flopping on this, but you might want to tell Misty and Brock your secret, Pikachu told Ash.

No, Ash shook his head. I'm not going to.

Why? Why not? Pikachu pleaded. Why don't you want to tell them?

Ash had numerous reasons. Even if his secret was more secure than he had first thought, he still didn't want to let his secret get out and endanger the team and his friends. He didn't want Misty and Brock to get more overprotective. He didn't want things to change between him and his human friends, maybe for the better, but possibly for the worse.

And he didn't want them to know that he hadn't trusted them. Ash didn't want to admit that to his two close friends of his species, the first he had made in a long while.

He didn't want to see their faces when they learned that.

Maybe he was running away, playing it safe, but that was what people kept telling him to do anyway.

It's just not time yet, Ash finally answered. And it's safer if I don't. They can't let slip what they don't know.

Pikachu jumped off the chair, scampered over to his trainer, and jumped onto his shoulder. He put on paw on the side of his trainer's head.

Are you sure, he asked the human. They could be a great help. And you wouldn't have to hide around them anymore.

I'm sure, Ash replied after taking a breath.

Alright, Pikachu sighed. If you're sure I'll drop it.

Good, Ash smiled. And while they are my friends, I don't agree with them on a lot of things. I think we should gather up the team and show them that I can reach places on foot by going into town for the good food.


Misty and Brock stood before excavated cave, the entrance framed by the rocky brown foothills and the small boulders scattered about. Behind them were the tents where the archaeological team was staying, with fabric occasionally flapping in the breeze. In front of them was the start of the dig with the flags, ropes, and stakes that marked the various finds. The two trainers could see a crumbling column of an odd design and people examining it. Others were coming to and from the entrance, some carrying bits of pottery and other items, some talking excitedly, gesturing and writing on clipboards.

One of these people, a woman with blue-purple hair dressed in an outdoor khaki uniform, noticed the two trainers approaching and got up. She walked over to them and offered her hand.

"Hello, I'm Eve," she introduced herself. "You must be Misty. And this is?"

"This is Brock," Misty explained. "I'm sorry I didn't register him ahead of time, but I hoped only one addition-"

"It's alright," Eve reassured the gym trainer with a smile. "No one else is coming today. We've got plenty of room."

She led them into the ruins.

"Has your friend done any of the reading?" Eve asked Misty.


"No, sorry," Brock shrugged. "Coming was a bit of spur of the moment thing."

"Well, then I guess I can give you the cliff notes version." Eve began to lead them into the cave. "We've found a partially buried city state. It was originally built in a natural hollow, but was abandoned after there was a rock slide and cave in combination that buried much of the city. The cave was sealed up soon after and more rock slides obscured the entrance."

They continued into the cave and the two trainers could see evidence of more structures within.

"Recently some of the locals from the town were looking for rock type pokémon in the area and during a battle with one, managed to reopen the entrance-"

"Let me guess, a graveler used Self-Destruct," Brock muttered.

"I think that was the case," Eve confirmed. "But in any case, the entrance was dislodged and the locals stumbled across the beginnings of the city. Word got out about the discovery and the Allied Regions Archaeological Society set up this dig."

As they came further in, they came across another, more intact, column. It was somewhat unusual. The easiest way to describe it was to say it was a stack of eggs with the rounded tops and bottoms cut flat off. As designs went it wasn't too outlandish, but not one's typical ancient ruin. Said column was also covered in vertical stripes of patterns, carvings, and hieroglyphs.

"This was one of the first things that caught our interest," Eve told them after noticing their gaze. "While there are many civilizations who used that column design, there was only one that used those carvings."

"The Mirage Kingdom," Misty stated.

"You've done the reading," Eve smiled. "Yes. And further in the cave we found the 'Egg Towers' that are used in the palace of the Mirage Kingdom and several other places in the city state."

"Egg Towers?" Brock asked.

"It's probably easier to show you." Eve said, leading them further on.

They came into a larger cavern and Brock got his answer. There was a structure shaped like the upper three quarters of an egg, with a circle of small openings near the top Sections of the once smooth exterior were corroded, roughened, and crumbling to the point where one could see the floors once behind the walls.

"It's not quite the same as the modern architecture of the Mirage Kingdom," Eve explained. "They've renovated several times and rebuilt sections of their city with more modern materials and have added more window sections. But the basic structure is the same. And despite their isolationist tendencies, the Mirage Kingdom has always been forthcoming with their historical data."

"But isn't the Mirage Kingdom in Hoenn?" Brock asked. "And a rather small state, with no records of an empire?"

"Yes, and that's what's so interesting," Eve said nodding. "We've got information on the Mirage Kingdom going back further than we've been able to date this site and there's nothing to indicate any expansionist periods. We have no idea why there's another city state that shows evidence of a pre-Acorn Age Mirage Kingdom culture."

"Acorn, acorn age," Brock muttered to himself, trying to remember what that term referred to. It took him a few seconds to recall it. Acorn Age referring to the age of civilizations after humanity had discovered how to use acorns (or Apricorns as they were sometimes called) to capture pokémon, by using them to construct the first primitive pokéballs, and spread the invention.

"We've successfully excavated several of the adjacent caverns, "Eve continued to explain. "And we've been requesting a scholar from the Mirage Kingdom, but they might not want to send anyone down. In any case it's been an exciting find."

She turned back to them.

"So what do you guys want to have a look at?"

Misty and Brock glanced at each other and shrugged.

"Let's see what you're currently working on," Misty answered.

Eve led them to the main cavern. Inside lay several more crumbling towers and buildings, surrounded by more rope and more flags, with scaffolding everywhere. Bits of sunlight shone in from a cave ceiling puckered with holes, and braced by yet more scaffolding. Rocks of various sizes, from pebbles to boulders, were scattered all over the subterranean city.

The archaeologist led them to the largest building, in the center of the city.

"If this place follows the same layout as the Mirage Kingdom then this should be the temple-palace, where the priests and the royal family lived," Eve explained. "We've been clearing away the rubble and were just about to begin trying to enter today."

"What obstacles are you expecting to run into?" Brock asked.

"Well, this dates before the first Split in this hemisphere, so we think that they might be using some psychic residue that they used as a primitive guarding curse," Eve said as she started to examine the door. "We'll be bringing up a couple of abras to take a look. They might also be using primitive battery defenses so we'll be bringing up some ground types."

"Didn't know that archaeology could be so dangerous," Brock said, taking a closer look at the door. It was covered with runes, carvings, hieroglyphs, and had an odd looking wheel with spokes in the center. There were grooves running vertically that passed over several of the designs. Brock noted that those lower designs were the only ones that were colored.

"Ancient cultures could be pretty ingenious," Eve also began to look at the door. "I think we'll give a crack at opening this without having to break in. There might be a puzzle, or a code, or a password on here."

Misty also began to examine the door.

"Let's see," Eve looked at the top carvings. "Let the life- uh run, let the light - or is it kindness?- know, let the -pattern, sequence, life order, universe story- be told? We need a more complete translation."

Misty took a look at the grooves. When they reached the middle of the door they branched out and began to spread around more symbols further down. Just from eyeballing it, it was almost like...

"Do you know the Mirage Kingdom creation myth?" Misty asked, deciding to work her hunch.

"Well the short version is that their ancient myth believed that divinity was originally wrapped in an egg, and then it hatched, starting the universe. The shards of the divine egg were made into the world. People and pokémon rose from the leftover yolk. Mirage Kingdom found a living fragment of the shell and they must venerate it." Eve answered. "Why?"

"Because I have an idea," Misty replied, grabbing a pokéball. "Do you mind if I try something?"

"Depends. Does it seem likely that you'll damage the door?" Eve asked in return.

"Hopefully not. Go Starmie!" White light blazed and the purple star pokémon came out. "Starmie, can I get a gentle Water Gun at the top of that groove, one over from the last on the left."

Starmie complied and a gentle stream of water splattered over the top of the door. It began to flow down the groove. When it hit the midway point and the groove branched out, the water began to flow over the colored designs. The water became discolored and then continued to flow downward until it disappeared into some colored grates at the bottom.

There was a groaning sound and then a creaking as the city woke up for the first time in over a thousand years. The wheel began to spin and the door began to slowly slide open, dust of the ages billowing off it as it did so. Minor tremors flowed beneath their feet and gears groaned as the door slid.

Before the could open fully, there was a loud grinding sound and the door slid to a halt, leaving an opening just wide enough to admit a person.

"Good call," Eve remarked, moving towards the opening. "I take it the word 'run' was key?"

"Run is close enough to flow," Misty shrugged. "And then there were the grooves. It was worth a try."

"And it worked, even after all these years," Eve knelt to examine the door. "If I had to guess, I'd say it is some sort of primitive battery-operated mechanism, using saltwater as a switch. I wonder if the other grooves activate other mechanism. They can't be there for security, not with them out in the open like this. People would have seen how to open the doors each time they were opened."

"I don't really know," Brock said, also shrugging. "Do you want to take a look inside?"

Misty recalled her pokémon and the three humans entered the building. They came into a dark hallway, covered in the dust of the ages, and the small lives that spread without maintenance. Just a ways down the hallway split into three sections. Two ways led to stairways and the center way led into a large chamber, which the three decided to look into first.

It was obviously a place of worship; the walls were covered in murals, degraded and obscured by age, leaving nothing but steaks and blurbs of color from floor to the ceiling far above. There was a brown stone ziggurat dais in the center of the room, and in the center of that there was a brown stone podium, and in the center of that there was a brown stone basin. A single stream of light came in through the hole in the ceiling falling next to the podium; in ancient times, before the city was buried, the dais was probably illuminated for most of the day.

Misty saw a bit of color in the basin, a small flash of white. Brock and Eve began to examine the murals; Misty approached the basin, curious as to what she saw.

She stepped up the dais and looked within. There was simply an egg; a white egg speckled with hollow triangles of dull red and blue. Misty reached for it and ran one finger of it, taking off a layer of dust and revealing brighter colors beneath.

It was still warm. Misty put her hand on the egg. She could definitely feel it.

The egg was still alive.

"Hey, guys, take a look at this," Misty shouted, hand still on the egg. Brock and Eve headed over.

"An egg?" Brock tilted his head, examining it. "How could there still be an egg?"

"Put your hand on it. It's warm," Misty told them. "I think it's still alive."

"Some species can do that," Eve remarked, as she and Brock put their hands on the egg. "Lay an egg that lies dormant for centuries or even millennium. The question is, did the people of this place put that there or was it simply a wild pokémon? Can either of you identify the type of egg?"

"No, sorry," Misty said, lifting up the egg to examine it more.

There was a loud rumbling the moment the egg left the basin. Dust fell from the ceiling, the ground shook, and there was a loud roar that echoed through the city. The three of them grabbed onto the podium to keep their balance, Misty clutching the egg to her chest.

"I know he's not here," Brock shouted over the din, "but somehow I still blame Aaron for all this."

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