Symbiosis

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

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/7917071/1/Symbiosis

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8. 8

Thank Arceus, I thought we'd never get out of that forest! Ash exclaimed, emerging from the Viridian Forest, where the path widened and turned by a series of ledges leading down into Pewter City. It was a wet morning and the city below was covered in waves and surges of mist that swirled about the short buildings that jutted out all over the landscape below.

I know. That stupid samurai set us back by a week, Pikachu complained from atop Ash's head. And he insisted that everything was your fault. Despite the fact that he was the one who started the whole thing. You're not that much of an idiot.

Well, at least one good thing came of it, Butterfree said, hovering to Ash's right. Well, two things if you count Pidgeotto learning that type advantages don't always guarantee victory.

Hey, I beat that pinsir in the end, Pidgeotto replied from Ash's left shoulder. Lucky for us those eedrill recognized Ash.

But then he dragged us away and got us lost. Lost in the Viridian Forest, Pikachu continued to gripe. And we couldn't ask anyone for help getting our bearings with him around. And then there was all that-that, that stuff on the third day! I'm glad we were finally able to ditch him after the second beedrill incident. Oh, and nice timing on the evolution there Butterfree, that was a sweet save of the situation.

A butterfly does what a butterfly can, Butterfree replied modestly. By the way, Pidgeotto, is flying always this awesome? Cause it's better than I anticipated, and that's not usually the way it works.

I generally find flying to be so, it's just we flying-types don't talk about it, so other pokémon don't get jealous.

While his pokémon talked, Ash climbed up on a large rock near the ledge and took in the sight of a new city. Pewter City marked the start of unfamiliar territory and new lands. His journey as Ash Ketchum/Aaron Autumns began back in Pallet Town, but his journey as a pokémon trainer would really start here, with his first badge.

He looked down, preparing to take the ledges down instead of the path, and nearly tripped when he saw a man sitting where he had been about to jump. Ash let out a little sound of confusion as he regained his balance, causing the man to look up.

"Ah, a newcomer," the man said, in a deep gravelly voice. "Welcome to Pewter City. From the pokémon following you, I'm guessing that you're a trainer. Here to challenge Brock and get your first badge?"

"Yep," Ash replied, sliding down off the ledge.

"Well you're not going to beat him," the man told him. "He's as strong as the rock that Pewter City is famous for. Speaking of which, you want any souvenirs?" He gestured to his side and Ash noticed the shelves filled with rocks with price tags on them.

"Oh, and you owe me two yen for standing on my merchandise earlier," the man continued. Ash took a closer look at the man. He had a grey beard, a dark complexion, was a few feet taller than Ash, and was wearing a cap, which shadowed his eyes.

"I thought you only had to pay for things if you bought them," replied Ash, having never bought a thing in his life. Poison Lance had told him that it probably was going to be a problem later, but the old weedle never could figure out human currency.

"Ever hear the phrase 'You break it, you buy it'?"

"No," Ash answered honestly.

"It means you owe me two yen."

"Aww, man!" Ash groaned. While Poison Lance had no luck with currency, it was one of the things covered in a first grade curriculum, and it was easy for wild pokémon to pick up pocket change. He offered the man the money.

"I didn't actually think that'd work," the man admitted taking Ash's money.

"What'd you mean?"

"Nothing. Let me give you a bit of info. Brock uses only rock-type pokémon " the man told him.

Makes sense. The place is called Pewter city and its famous for its rocks, Pikachu said to Ash.

"Thanks," Ash replied. His mind instantly started to think of ways to overcome a team of rock-types with his own pokémon. An idea occurred to him, but his pokémon were tired. They needed some time in a pokémon center.

Course decided, Ash thanked the man and then informed his pokémon that they were headed off to the pokémon center.

Do you know where it is, Pikachu asked Ash as they hurried down the ledges.

No, but it couldn't be that hard to find. I mean, everything in a city is labeled. It couldn't be that hard to find something, Ash replied.

You idiot… Pikachu said, face-palming.

"Butterfree could you do us all a favor," Ash begged the butterfly as he sat down on a bench. He had been walking on the harsh concrete and asphalt for hours as they searched for the city's pokémon center. "Could you go and scout for the center from the air?"

So you admit that you're lost, said Pikachu.

I think he has, Pidgeotto joined in. But, and no offence Butterfree, why not send me? I've had more flying experience.

"Butterfree's fully evolved," Ash whispered, pretending to tie his shoe. "Hopefully people will be less likely to think he's a wild pokémon ."

It's not like they can catch us, Pikachu said. We've already got pokeballs so other can't work.

"But people could still think you're wild and attack you. Or just throw pokeballs at you. Either option can't be pleasant, so I'm choosing Butterfree"

Sure thing Ash. I'll get back here as soon as I find it, Butterfree said, rising up to begin his search. He fluttered away and Ash leaned back. Pikachu jumped off his head and onto his lap. Pidgeotto closed her eyes and rested on the back of the bench next to Ash.

"How do you know so much about human stuff Pikachu?" Ash whispered to his pokémon , glancing around to see if anyone was listening. But the people around were preoccupied with their own business and paid no attention to the trainer on the bench.

I spent a lot of time in cities. People don't really bother me cause I'm small, fast, and can zap them. I used to spend long periods of time in Viridian City and Pallet Town. I liked to hang around shops that sold electric things. Learned to hate bikes, you humans are so unobservant on those things. Nearly got run over dozens of times. Should zap them all to teach you lot a lesson. But you'd be surprised what a pokémon can learn that way.

"Makes sense," Ash quietly responded, shrugging. "You might know more about people than me."

Some things. More hands on experience, so to speak, but Poison Lance probably taught you more. I'm just along to cover for bits of your idiocy.

"I thought you came along for the training."

What training could a helpless human like you provide? …What's with that face? Oh crap, not this indignity agai- aah-ha-ha-ha, it tickles!

Ash tickled and wrestled Pikachu for a little bit, gaining the upper hand, and subjecting to tiny pokémon to terrible ticklish torture that only came to a stop when Pikachu shocked him. Pigdeotto opened an eye at the commotion, but closed it again when she decided that their antics were beneath her notice. Ash and Pikachu sat back on the bench and tried to regain their breath.

A high pitched, aristocratic, female laugh rang out.

"I know that laugh," Ash stated, freezing up.

"Having fun twerp?" Jessie asked as she and James appeared behind him.

People starting running and screaming after that.

Misty locked her bike into the empty rack and stood up. It had been nice of Nurse Joy to send someone to find it for her, while she was still recovering from the Spearow attack. What was even more kind of the Nurse Joy to inform her of that boy's plans- the boy who had saved her. Misty still needed to thank him, that's all. Never mind the blush. Stupid cheeks, blushing randomly like that. It was simple. He had saved her life, defended her from that Fearow, and then saved her pokémon and the pokémon Center from the attacking members of Team Rocket in Viridian City.

It was only polite to thank him for doing at that, and that's the only reason she wanted to see him again, thank you very much.

Her wounds were still bothering her, and she didn't want other people to see all the bandages. Her solution to the problem was to wear long baggy jeans and a sweatshirt. Her pink sweatshirt had been damaged in the spearow attack, so she was wearing a dark blue sweatshirt that was a size or two too big for her, and she kept the hood up to protect her neck, which was still sensitive.

She took out the piece of paper that had the boy's name on it. Nurse Joy had told her the name earlier, but Misty had still been on painkillers. Thankfully Nurse Joy provided with the aforementioned note, which she was supposed to give to the Pewter City Joy.

Why she hadn't read his name from there yet was a mystery to herself. The best she could explain it, was that she didn't feel like learning his name before she learned his face. She could only remember the golden brown eyes. The boy did not seem real to Misty and learning his name before really meeting him would make it worse she supposed.

A butterfree fluttered past, cooing happily to itself. Misty stared at it. It was a bug and she knew that she should be frightened, but she found that it was too pretty to be scary.

The bug-type saw her staring.

"Butterfree!" it trilled, waving happily at her.

"Aren't you a beautiful pokémon ," Misty said approaching the pokémon . "What are you doing in the city? Did you get lost?"

"Free," Butterfree replied, shaking its head. It stopped and hovered in front of her.

"Oh, do you have a trainer?"

"Free," Butterfree said, nodding.

"Are you looking for him then? No, are you looking for the pokémon center then?"

"Butterfree!" the butterfly cried out nodding.

"It's right down this way" said Misty pointing down the street "I can take you there if you want."

The bug-type pokémon nodded, and the two of them went down the street. Misty was wondering what sort of odd trainer wouldn't keep their pokémon with them at all times. The butterfree seemed too happy for its trainer to be abusive or neglectful – maybe it was just an odd pokémon that liked to do things like this?

They reached the Pewter City Pokémon Center- a shorter and less grand building than its Viridian City counterpart. It was more squared, with two ramped supports, one on either side. Misty opened the door and gestured inside.

"After you," she told the butterfree. But the pokémon shook its head and turned around.

"Aren't they waiting inside for you?" Butterfree shook its head. "You mean they sent you to find the pokémon center by yourself?" Misty almost yelled, incredulous.

"Butterfree," the Bug pokémon trilled proudly. Misty was going to say more, but it looked so happy, so she dropped the subject.

It seemed terribly irresponsible for a trainer to let a butterfree do that, but Butterfree seemed to view it as a mark of pride. Maybe it was some sort of confidence boasting activity? She should probably make sure that it got back to its trainer all right. She let the door close and followed it out.

"Where is your trainer right now do you know?" Misty asked the bug-type.

Before Butterfree could respond, there was an explosion off in the distance, and people started to scream. Misty thought she could catch the word Rocket in the cacophony.

First Viridian and now Pewter City? Why was Team Rocket growing so bold?

Misty's heart raced as she remembered her duty as a part of the Cerulean city gym and as a member of the League. It was time to do battle with those that threatened the peace of the land.

"Free," Butterfree called out panicked.

"Is your trainer over there? Don't worry I'm going to going there to help. I'll find your trainer. You just go wait inside the pokemon center, someone will open the door for you-"

"Butterfree" Butterfree exclaimed, shaking its head and then starting off towards the smoke that marked the site of the Rocket attack.

"Fine, we'll both go help your trainer then" Misty called out, running after it.

It was not a good situation. Even though people were fleeing, the area was still too crowded for Pikachu to cut loose. Plus the Rockets were throwing down metal rods as they chased Ash and his pokémon , probably to stop Pikachu from unleashing coruscating yellow fury upon them. Pidgeotto had her wings full with Koffing's constant use of Smog- she was too preoccupied with dispersing the poisonous gas to aid Ash.

His best option was to find the pokémon center and hopefully Butterfree. The Rocket Trio hopefully wouldn't be prepared for Metapod's evolution. After all, they seemed rather unprepared compared to their last encounter – Ash was sure that if they had known he would be here, they would have been able to defeat him with Butterfree gone.

Ash ran through an alleyway, looking for anything to give him an upper hand, or for any sign of the police. They should be showing up soon, mass panic and exploding cars – Pikachu's fault – tended to attract them.

I still haven't seen Butterfree! Pikachu cried out. And I think Meowth's on the rooftops. Now would be a great time for an idea.

Keep running until we reach the pokémon center or the gym. Maybe run into some police officers.

That's the best you got?

It's just not my day evidently.

Ash sprinted across the street, making it out of the alley just as Meowth tried to pounce on him. Ignoring the cursing cat pokémon Ash dashed through another alleyway and then hooked a sharp right onto the empty street on the other side. News of the Rocket attack must have spread fast, but why weren't the Arceus damned police showing up?

"You should quit running little boy," Jessie's voice came from Ash's side, making him jump a few feet. Heart beating even faster than before, he looked back while engaging in another sprint. There was a walky-talky taped to the side of a building. Which meant that-… Well, crap.

Ash threw himself to the side, into a bike rack occupied by only one bike. His method of braking, while painful, was enough to stop him from hitting the tripwire just a few feet ahead. The certain fate of having to pick up his battered body was better than the uncertain fate of the Rocket Trio's traps.

"I see you can think on your feet," James said, emerging from an alleyway ahead. "In a manner of speaking of course."

"Honestly, I was expecting the realization to hit a few seconds later," Jessie added, emerging from an alleyway on the other side of the street. "But it's nice to see that we where right about you having never been here before. You wouldn't know the shortcuts to the pokémon center like we would."

Oh, so they had been going the right way! Just that it was the wrong way, as it turned out.

"Well, 'Aaron'," Meowth began, leaping off a rooftop to land in between Jessie and James. "Are you finally done playing the mouse in this game? Ready to come with us and become the top cats?"

As if to punctuate his question, Jessie and James began to throw a collection of metal rods around the area. Where a rod hit it stuck and the other end opened up into some bizarre shining metal flower.

Dammit, Pikachu cursed. I can feel those things. I won't be able to use Thunder or Thunderbolt with them up.

"Alright then Pikachu" Ash whispered, standing up and walking walking away from the bike rack and into the middle of the street. "Show them your Thundershock then. And don't let it up when you get them."

Aye aye Captain Idiot! Pikachu responded, before jumping off his trainer's head. He landed on the lane lines in the middle of the road and let loose writhing tendrils of buzzing electric power. Most of the yellow bolts earthed themselves in the metal rods, but others hit buildings on both sides of the street, causing stone and motor to break and fall.

One bolt hit the bike rack and coursed through the red bike parked there. Yellow energy encased the bike as current flowed through it. Electric power turned to heat and began to twist the handle bars. Rubber tires began to melt, the black material began to loose its form, dripping and pathetically spreading over the ground. It made a small sound- inaudible over the electricity- that resembled a pained dying squeal.

Spokes were fried in an instant and began to deform and break apart, turning into a tiny ashen snowfall. The seat of the bike briefly caught fire and was consumed by the heat and flames. Heat turned the bike's red body a black and caused it to become a malformed parody of its former shape. Pikachu's accidental strike utterly destroyed the bike, ruining it beyond all hope of repair.

Not that he cared. He hated the damn things.

Meanwhile, Team Rocket danced and dodged as Pikachu's attack tore up the street, electric tentacles gouging holes in the street. There were too many for their counter measures to stop, even if they made it so that Pikachu only had the most tenuous grip on the control of his attack.

Thinking quickly Jessie grabbed Ekan's pokeball. Ducking a electric blast, she held the ball close to her face and whispered to her pokémon .

"I need you throw an Acid attack at that pikachu when I release you. I don't care if it won't connect with all the electricity he's giving off, just use the attack."

She twirled out of the way of a bolt that scarred the street where she had stood. Jessie hurled Ekan's pokeball onto a rooftop behind Ash and Pikachu.

Ekans appeared from within and immediately let loose a blast of Acid. The electric cornea surrounding Pikachu vaporized it, but the sizzling sound startled both him and Ash. Pikachu's attack halted and he and Ash stood back to back keeping an eye on both the Rocket trio and Ekans.

"I know what you're up to," James said slyly. "How wonderfully cunning."

There you guys are, Koffing said from above. Thanks for the signal, the burning Acid was easy smell and follow.

"It was simplicity itself; after all Koffing would be sure to recognize the gas given off by burning Ekans' acid," Jessie replied.

Dammit, Ash swore under his breath. Now he had to deal with threats on both sides, Pidgeotto was still dealing with Koffing's gas (as windstorms battling toxic clouds all over the city showed), and Pikachu could not hit worth a damn right now. Butterfree should have been around here, the bug-type must not have found the pokémon center yet. But, considering the current situation, Ash didn't think even Butterfree could turn the situation around. He really needed the police to show up, or for a gym leader to intervene.

"Now, twerp- Ohsweet Arceuswhy!" James screamed as a red shoe appeared between his legs. He fell forward, curling around the wounded area. A boy in a dark blue sweatshirt concealing his face with the overly large hood stood behind James.

"You'll pay for that brat!" Meowth snarled, raising his paws, claws extended. But before he could make good on those words a String Shot bound his paws together. The Scratch Cat pokémon jumped back, looking around in surprise.

Leave Ash alone you flea bitten tom! Butterfree yelled from above.

Deciding to be cautious, Jessie grabbed Meowth and James and retreated a small distance from the stranger. She kept one eye on the newcomer and Ash while she helped James up.

"How long until the police or gym intervenes?" she asked her partner in crime.

"Records indicate that we have… rgh, a minute before the gym leader should get here. And it should be a minute and a half for the police to get through the foam we used to seal them in the station," James answered, grimacing as he stood up.

"Plenty of time then. Ekans Acid the new brat!" Jessie called

"Koffing Sludge the twerp!" James ordered.

Before either purple poison pokémon could react a spinning purple shape slammed into Koffing, knocking him into James, rebounded into Ekans, and then coming around to knock Ekans into Jessie. The Rocket humans caught their pokémon .

Ouch, Koffing complained.

Did anyone get the name of that star that hit me? Ekans asked, dazed.

The starmiecame down to hover next to the boy in the blue sweatshirt.

"Don't think that you've won simply because you got the drop on us!" Jessie, shaking a fist at the newcomer and taking a step forward into a- puddle?

There hadn't been a puddle there a second ago.

With growing apprehension Jessie looked down and saw water flowing around and past her foot, to pool around the entire Rocket group. She followed the path of the water and saw a golden startyu quietly spraying a stream of water onto the street. With quick, deft movements of its upper arm it made a couple more sprays and then there was a trail of water leading from right by Pikachu to the Rockets.

Ash noticed this as well.

"Pikachu, I think you know what to do," Ash said to his pokémon .

Pikachu smiled evilly.

With pleasure! And with that there was a battle cry, a buzzing sound, and a bright yellow light. Pikachu's attack followed the path of the water, evaporating the stream as it sped along faster than human comprehension. Electricity finally reached the Rockets who screamed as they were once more electrocuted.

But the power of Pikachu's attack betrayed its purpose and it when the water was gone the attack died as well. Jessie, James, Meowth, and the other pokémon were still standing, signed, but still on their feet.

"Koffing, escape maneuver alpha! We'll get 'Aaron' later!" James ordered. Koffing immediately started to pump out smoke that dissipated seconds later.

But those few seconds proved to be enough for the Rocket trio to vanish.

"They got away again! Dammit at this rate they'll never get arrested," Ash complained. He turned to the boy who had helped him out.

Here he was. Misty recognized the golden brown eyes and the Pikachu that scrambled up his trainer to rest on the boy's head. Beneath the hood Misty could feel her cheeks heating up, and her stupid knees were going weak. There was absolutely no reason for her to be acting this way. She just had to thank him for rescuing her that day, that's all. She had sorta just re-payed him now, helping him with the Rockets like that ...even though it was her duty as part of the Cerulean gym.

This should be no problem, just walk up to him and say 'thanks for helping me with those spearows and that fearow'. That was all.

Oh, he was walking over to her now.

Ash walked over to the strange boy that had helped him. From the clothes that the other boy was wearing, Ash guessed he was one of those 'mysterious types' that Poison Lance had complained about.

Why was he wearing such baggy and concealing clothes anyway? That was a bit weird. Still, the boy had helped out of a sticky situation with those Rockets, so Ash needed to thank him.

"Thanks for the assist there," Ash began happily, extending his hand. "I was having trouble with those Rockets. You're a swell guy to help like that."

...

...

The world was still for a moment.

Ash, you poor, doomed, idiot.

And then the 'Female Fist of Fury' grabbed the front of Ash's jacket and began to viciously shake the poor confused trainer.

"Guy… Guy? Guy!" a female voice shouted at him. "I'm a girl, you idiot!" Misty said, pulling back her hood.

Ash thought that the turquoise eyes and the brilliant red hair seemed familiar, as he was shook and insulted for the crime of mistaking genders. Poison Lance had warned him that it was rather offensive to do so. He probably had this coming.

Good grief you humans and your sense of smell, Pikachu complained. Even a slowpoke would've known that this was Misty, the girl we saved.

Oh right, that's why she seemed familiar.

'Course she wasn't acting like the girl they had saved- quiet and unmoving.

He should probably apologize before he got a headache.

"Sorry" Ash said deadpan. His apology didn't seem to mollify the girl. Instead it seemed to make her wrath grow.

Beg Ash. Beg, Pikachu advised.

"Sorry!" Ash said, this time putting feeling into the apology. The fact that the feeling was fear instead of remorse didn't matter, right?

"Well, you better be bub," Misty replied tersely, releasing Ash. "So you're Aaron?"

"Yes."

"Well," Misty began… then bowed lowly. "Thank you for saving me Aaron."

Say 'You're welcome', Pikachu instructed the stunned Ash.

"Uh, you're welcome. But it was just what anyone would've done," Ash told Misty, blushing and rubbing the back of his head. Honestly, you weren't supposed to do things like that to be thanked, you were supposed to do them because they were the right thing to do. Receiving praise for doing the right thing was kind of confusing.

Misty studied the boy as she straightened up. His clothes were traveled stained, and his Pikachu looked tired. There were some bags under his eyes, and his blush highlighted some of the dirt on his face. It was obvious that he had been traveling for a while; probably the reason he had so much trouble dealing with the Rockets.

"Free," Butterfree trilled, obviously worried as it hovered near its trainer. Aaron patted the butterfly pokémon on the top of its head.

"I'm fine Butterfree. It'll take more that to get me" Aaron reassured his pokémon . "But you were a lifesaver back there, distracting them along with Misty."

"Butterfree!" This time it was a happy trill.

Well he seemed to be a nice boy and he obviously had a deep bond with his pokémon if Butterfree was any indication. Pretty modest too.

Something brushed against her leg. Misty looked down and saw Aaron's pikachu standing by her feet, looking up expectantly.

"Awww, aren't you adorable?" Misty cooed, reaching down and picking up Pikachu.

I told you she would finde me adorable, Pikachu smugly told Ash.

Misty noticed Aaron's strange expression as Pikachu adorably said its name.

Calling him Aaron seemed... wrong somehow. It seemed wrong when Team Rocket had called him that, as if they were lying poorly when addressing him so. The best Misty could describe it as was that the name didn't fit the boy. Which was ridiculous, Aaron was just a name and the boy was just a boy- despite what rather annoying parts of her mind insisted. There was no reason to think that his name didn't fit.

"Chu," Pikachu said, tiredly. Misty noticed that Pikachu was just as traveled stained as his trainer.

"You should probably get to the pokémon center," Misty told Aaron, handing him back his Pikachu. "And what was with letting your Butterfree go look for it alone like that. Something could've happened to it."

"Nah, Butterfree can take care of himself. 'Sides, he wanted to go. He's currently in the best shape out of any of us, 'cause he just evolved a few days ago."

"It's still irresponsible. What if Team Rocket had run into him?"

"He helped kick their asses as a caterpie, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have been able to handle him now."

"You've fought them between Viridian City and now?" Misty asked surprised by this. No wonder he seemed so tired.

"Once. I can tell you about it at the pokémon center if you want." Ash offered.

Oh Ash, you sly dog, Pikachu sniggered to Ash's puzzlement.

"Okay," Misty answered. It seemed like this should be an interesting story. And that was the only reason she was going. Really. No other reason whatsoever.

"Right, I still have to pick up Pidgeotto, she's still dealing with Koffing's gas clouds..."

Not any more. Thanks for the light show Pikachu, it showed me where to find you guys, Pidgeotto said, alighting on Ash's shoulder.

"Guess not," Ash said shrugging. Misty seemed a little nervous for some reason.

"You and Butterfree should probably get in your pokeballs now," Ash told his pokémon . "It'll be easier on the pokémon center staff if they only have to deal with Pikachu constantly out of his ball. "

Sure thing Ash.

Alright, I need to rest my wings anyway. Dealing with all those gas clouds was hard.

In twin flashes of red light, Pidgeotto and Butterfree were returned to their pokeballs. Misty didn't look nervous any more.

"Could you revitalize my po- Nurse Joy? What are you doing here?"

"I work here," Nurse Joy answered Ash from behind the desk and taking his tray full of pokeballs and Pikachu.

"But what about Viridian City? I thought you worked there?"

"Oh, that's where my little sister works, she's also named Joy. By the way, she said nice things about you Aaron. And she wanted me to remind you to fill out your registration information on the pokédex if you haven't already and call Professor Oak."

"Alright," Ash replied, a little dazed. Wasn't it confusing to have two identical people sharing the same name? And have them both go into nursing pokémon ? Maybe it was another one of those human things that he needed to discreetly ask about. He wondered how the other pokémon centers told the two Joys apart.

"Why do you have to call Professor Oak?" Misty asked Ash, as they headed away from the desk and towards the video phones. "I thought beginning trainers only had to do that when they reached Viridian City."

"Officer Jenny had to call him to confirm my identity since I hadn't filled out my pokédex yet. Going to have to do that soon. Oak confirmed that I'm me and then asked Jenny about the situation, and I had to tell him about the spearow thing. Then Oak asked me to check in periodically during my journey 'cause he thinks it'll be interesting. "

"Oh. Well, judging from what I've seen so far, he's probably right. I mean you've beaten Team Rocket operatives a couple of times, including saving a pokémon center, and then there was that spearow thing..."

"I'm an idiot," Ash yelped, smacking his head. "I forgot to ask if you were okay! Have you healed yet? Did I break any of your bones break 'cause of my stupidity?"

"Don't worry," Misty replied, "You didn't break any of my bones. A lot of the cuts are still sore, which is why I'm wearing these baggy clothes, and covering my neck. Plus I got some monster bruises."

"I'm sorry," Ash said downcast. "If I hadn't dropped you they probably would've been not so bad."

"Oh, yes. I expect a much better performance from you next time you save my life," Misty replied, rolling her eyes. "You were being chased by a flock of spearow, and then there was that fearow. I think dropping me once and picking me back up is okay when running away from a situation like that."

"Actually it was when Fearow used Mirror Move on Pikachu's Thunder and blew us up."

"... You're apologising for dropping me during an explosion?"

"Well... yeah. If I hadn't dropped you, you wouldn't be hurting as bad now." Ash answered, downcast.

"Aaron, you idiot, if you hadn't picked me up in the first place I probably wouldn't be alive to hurt! So I'm going to thank you for dropping me. Because the fact that you dropped me means that you had picked me up and tried to save me first. So thank you for dropping me, okay?"

"... Okay."

"Anyway should I leave you alone for your call to Oak?"

"Uh..." Ash thought about it for a moment, and then decided that she could probably cover any of those little human things that he missed. "No, you can stay if you want. Do you know his number, I can't remember it."

"It should be in your pokédex."

"Oh, right thanks."

He opened the pokédex. A mechanical voice sounded out the second he did so.

"Welcome new trainer! This is a pokédex, a digital encyclopaedia of pokémon information. New trainers are reminded to fill out their registration information as soon as-"

"Yeah, yeah. I need Oak's number," Ash told the machine.

The machine told him and Ash punched it into the video phone. Thankfully, Ash had picked up some books on video phones, and while the mechanics of their operation were a little over his head, he at least learned how to use the technology.

There was a buzzing sound and then Oak appeared on screen.

"Aaron my boy," the pokémon professor said. "Got any new stories to tell?"

"I can't believe the Viridian City pokémon Center didn't tell him about your part in stopping the attack," Misty complained as she ate a rice ball. Ash mumbled in agreement as he ate some jerky.

"I mean, he usually has gym and police reports forwarded to him. He should've at least seen your name on your statement. Good grief, I feel sorry for the poor sap that kept the former champion out of the loop," Misty continued. "Ever since that family was murdered, he's been a real tightass about that stuff. You did give a statement, right?"

"No," Ash replied, crumpling up the bag that had held the jerky. He was going to need to gather some more food soon. Or get money. One of the two. Now that he was a pokémon trainer, he couldn't just steal things any more.

"Didn't they ask you for one?"

"Who?"

"The police."

"Didn't see them. I left right after that stuff."

"Why?" Misty asked. "I mean, you could've gotten a medal for that… Should've too," she finished, fighting another stupid blush. What was with her today?

Ash blushed. Really, what was with people praising him for doing the right thing. You would think that doing the right thing was a rarity throughout all of existence or something.

"Oh, well," Misty sighed. "So, have you-" A growl interrupted her. "No, better question, aren't you going to have more? You sound like you're still hungry."

"I'm good. I'll get some berries after my pokémon are ready."

"Why don't you buy- oh, let me guess, you were planning on getting your badge first and using the advancement to get supplied for the next city, but Team Rocket delayed you."

"Advancement?"

"You know, the cash you get for earning a gym badge. The stuff that supports League tainers, especially when they're starting out."

"Actually I was just planning to forage for food until my pokémon and I could find some quick jobs. Didn't know you got money for getting a badge." Actually that would make things much easier. He would actually be able to buy things for once, or at least things that were worth more than pocket change.

"Didn't you learn about advancements and stuff in school?" Misty asked concerned. All League member entities were supposed to give their children a basic education on current politics and League practices.

"Must've been sick that week," Ash lied quickly.

"I'll give you the quick run down. Back when the League was just forming, it's true pokémon trainers had to support themselves and their teams by taking the odd job here and there until they settled down or became a League official of some kind. But as the League realised the need to grow they also needed to come up with a way to support the glut of new trainers and weed out those with potential to become top level trainers and those trainers who would be best suited to finding a job in some community that they and their pokémon could do."

She took a pause and continued.

"Since a trainer needed gym badges to compete in the regional tournament already, and earning one was a sign of either being a strong enough trainer to defeat whatever pokémon the leader fielded or having the qualities valued by that gym, the Kanto pokémon league decided to award trainers with a sum of money to support themselves until their next gym battle."

"Wait," Ash interrupted. "You're talking like you don't need to beat a gym leader to get a badge."

"It would be completely unreasonable to expect every trainer with potential to defeat a gym leader," Misty answered Ash. "After all, gym leaders are trainers who have proven themselves to have the required strength to guard a region and act as the League representative for that region. They're stronger than most pokémon rangers, or even many of the League agents. What they do is ensure that each trainer has a minimum level of strength and the right qualities to advance. Many times, they'll put together weaker teams for trainers to battle, so that the challengers have a chance at victory. However, some of them don't do this. It's because if you beat a gym leader, at least in Kanto, you're guaranteed the gym badge. Some leaders don't feel like being forced to do that with trainers they feel don't have the necessary qualities."

"Anyway, back to the subject of advancements. Every gym in Kanto gives them out, including both the eight main gyms and the smaller League gyms. And because of our close relationships with the Johto, Hoenn, Unova, and Orange Islands regions, their Leagues do the same things. Actually, the Johto and Kanto Leagues might be merging soon – an official announcement will be made next year about the decision. If it happens, it'll be the first step towards all the regional Leagues in this part of the world joining. I mean, the first steps were taken a couple of decades ago in the Treaty of Sootopolis, where they allowed trainers from any of the five regions to be able to compete in the conferences and tournaments of any of the others. That's why Lance can be the Kanto champion and be from the Johto region. I mean, yeah he had to take the oath of loyalty and everything-"

"So I can compete in the other regions? Cool!"

"Only if you get their gym badges. So how are you planning on fighting Brock."

"I've got an idea-" His stomach interrupted his mouth with another growl.

"Here. It sounds like you want this more than me," Misty said to Ash, handing him a rice ball.

"Thanks." Ash began to greedily consume the rice ball.

Misty stood up and stretched.

"Well it's been nice talking to you. What's your last name. "

"Autumns" the reply came between mouthfuls of rice.

"Mine's Waterflower. Hopefully I'll run into you again sometime. Just without Team Rocket or spearows."

"Alright!" Ash responded happily, giving a closed eye smile.

Misty left the pokémon center after delivering the note to Nurse Joy. She wanted to get back to Cerulean City and take a couple weeks off up there. Fix her damaged equipment and finish recovering from the spearow incident. Then take to the road again.

She walked down the ruined street, not really noticing the destruction caused by Pikachu. Misty looked around for where she remembered the bike rack to be-

What was that long twisted and burnt hunk of metal? Right where she remembered the bike rack being-

Oh. And her bike.

Wow. Completely destroyed.

It took a few seconds to register.

What could've... Of course.

"Aaron Autumns! You owe me a new bike!"

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