Traveler

Ash Ketchum has been determined to become the best since he was a toddler. He has his eyes set on a charmander, but a twist of fate led him to the humble Nidoran. Note: Mix between anime and the games.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8466693/1/Traveler

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7. Celadon Part 1

A bright light woke him up. Ash was confused when he finally became aware again – he couldn't remember anything other than the jumbled feelings of fear, awe, and horror. Where was he and why was he put here?

He tried to remember the last few moments before he'd fallen asleep. Although he could remember the maelstrom of emotions, he couldn't remember the event that caused it. His mind suddenly snapped out of confusion and he remembered everything.

The destruction of the St. Anne, the heroics of his pokemon, the horrible burning that came when he was plunged underneath the surging waves – everything. Ash's eyes snapped open, ignoring the gunk that glued them shut. It stung for a moment, but he didn't care. He needed to make sure his friends were safe.

Ash pushed himself up with trembling arms and looked around. He was in a hospital. The room was stark white and bare aside for an IV connected into his arm. Nobody else was around.

He tried to pull himself out of his bed, but the action prompted an immediate wave of nausea. A small device connected to his body through several transparent wires began to beep, but Ash found himself feeling too sick to pay much attention.

As he waited for his dizziness to fade, a Nurse Joy slid into the room. Even in his sick state Ash had to raise an eyebrow at that. Most Nurse Joys opted to stay with the pokemon centers. Not many chose to heal humans as well.

She looked cheerful as she saw him, although she looked ready to put him back to sleep if he started acting up. Ash glanced at her as she sat down on a chair beside his bed.

"Good morning!" She said brightly. Ash just stared at her with bleary eyes. Nurse Joy wasn't fazed. "I guess you're wondering why you're here, huh?"

"Yeah." He coughed out. His throat wasn't dry or raspy, but it felt as though he hadn't used it in a while. "Where are my pokemon? What happened to the ship? How did I get here? How long –"

The Nurse Joy shushed him. "Calm down, Mr. Ketchum. I'll answer all of your questions. I just need you to stay calm."

Ash took a few deep breaths and looked at Nurse Joy. She nodded and smiled at him when he appeared ready.

"Good. Now," she said, glancing at a clipboard, "all of your pokemon were found on you. Your seadra managed to get you to the surface. We found you washed up on a beach a few miles from Vermillion thanks to your pidgeotto. All of the others were safely in their pokeballs."

He let out a sigh of relief. Nurse Joy scanned the clipboard again.

"They're currently in holding right now – when we tried to release them they were too wild for us to control. All of them tried to escape and get to you. We'll get them back to you as soon as we think you can safely be around them." She reassured the trainer when she saw Ash's worried face. "We just didn't want them hurting themselves."

The trainer nodded and waited for her to continue. Her face was grim and sorrowful as she told him the fate of the St. Anne.

"The St. Anne was sunk." She said with a bowed head. "It was somehow destroyed, but the police don't know what caused it. Did you see whatever did it?"

Ash's eyes stared off into space as he remembered the humanoid figure encased in the orb of energy. He didn't know what it was, but it had destroyed the ship in a single attack.

"Yeah." He choked out, overcome by the painful memory. "I saw it, but I don't know what it was."

Nurse Joy looked at him with regretful eyes. "I'm sorry we have to drag this up, but the League needs to know what happened. Whatever did this can't go unpunished."

He nodded and calmed down a little. "It's fine. But do you know what happened to my friends? They were on the ship with me but we got separated."

The Nurse read over her clipboard again before zeroing in on the relevant information. She glanced up at him.

"Information from your pokedex says that you were travelling with Amelia Franklin and Jonathan Lindon. Is that correct?" She asked. Ash nodded. He was a little surprised that his pokedex had survived the experience, but not amazed. It was built to be incredibly durable.

"They're safe." She said reassuringly. He let go of some of his tension and collapsed back onto his bed. "It says here that they were found at a small town in the Seafoam Islands. They were completely fine."

He nodded thankfully. Just as he was about to ask his next question, she answered it.

"You've been here for a day." She said calmly. Ash was relieved – he was afraid that he'd been unconscious for a week or more. He certainly felt like he had. "We hooked you up to an IV as soon as we got you in. You'll be free to go in a day or two, depending on your condition. You didn't suffer any major injuries aside from a minor concussion and bruised nose. It's a miracle, really."

Then something she'd said before dawned on him.

"You said a seadra pulled me to shore?" He asked slowly. Nurse Joy nodded. A wide grin split his face – Torrent had evolved! Even though he didn't like the horrible circumstances that had forced it, he was glad that he and Torrent were close enough for his friend to evolve to save him.

Nurse Joy must have understood his excitement. "I guess your horsea evolved, then?" She said drily as he continued grinning. Ash nodded, although he quickly stopped. His face and neck were sore.

"Alright then." She said when she looked over the rest of the clipboard. "That's it for the medical questions. Are you okay with seeing the police right now? We don't want you to have to go through anything you aren't ready for."

Ash shook his head determinedly. "I'm fine. They need to know."

She sighed and nodded before walking out the door. Before she left, though, she glanced back at him. "If you need me or anything else, just tap the buzzer next to your bed. Officer Jenny will be in shortly."

He nodded again and glanced over at the table. The buzzer was a small rod that had buttons in the side. It looked like it had bed controls as well. Maybe he would play with that later.

A few moments later an Officer Jenny walked into the room. She looked a little bit taller than her sisters and cousins that Ash had seen and seemed far sterner and colder. More professional.

Her face softened when she saw him, however. She adopted a kinder look and sat down next to him.

"Hello, Mr. Ketchum. I have some questions for you about the events two nights ago." Officer Jenny said gently. "Are you sure that you're up to answering them?"

He nodded. "I want to help set this right."

Officer Jenny smiled. "Good. Then let's get underway. It won't be very long, but I need you to do your best to remember what happened. You're our only conscious witness."

Ash tightly nodded his understanding. It felt like a lot more weight was just added to his shoulders. He slowly began to go over the worst night of his life in more detail, making sure that he didn't miss anything the police could use.

"Do you know who it was that boarded and destroyed the vessel?" She asked, staring into his eyes. Harry nodded.

"Team Rocket. One of them came into my room, but my pokemon…protected…me from him." Ash said. Officer Jenny didn't seem to miss the hesitation behind his words and he grew worried. What would she do if she realized that Nidorino killed someone? "And I took his pokeball. I didn't want it getting taken back by Team Rocket."

Officer Jenny nodded. "Yes, we realized that it didn't belong to you. The zubat inside is being rehabilitated. It will be given to you once it is deemed safe, if you want to take it."

He nodded, quickly analyzing some of the benefits a zubat could bring to his team. Aside from some of the obvious uses – a zubat could lead him out of caves and provide a training partner for Plume – he wanted to give it a good home. Ash wasn't sure what Team Rocket did to their pokemon, but considering that most of them were broken enough to hurt or kill humans, it couldn't be good.

The Officer smiled a bit and wrote something down on her clipboard. "Please continue."

Ash coughed. "Anyways, one of their executives, Pierce," Officer Jenny's eyes narrowed at the name and she quickly scribbled down a few notes, "got onto the intercom and told everyone that we had five minutes to escape before he blew the ship up."

Officer Jenny just nodded comfortingly at him as he stopped for a moment. He squeezed his eyes shut before continuing.

"The Rocket that went into my room slammed my head into a wall." He said with far away eyes. The memories were flashing before him. "That gave me a concussion, I think. I wasn't able to get out onto the deck until time was almost out. I was on the deck when the ship was destroyed."

The officer had a look of barely concealed excitement. Apparently she hadn't expected this much information from him. Ash swallowed as the images ran before his eyes.

"The Rockets all escaped in helicopters." Ash said. Officer Jenny wrote notes on that as well – he knew that helicopters were rare and mostly illegal for everyone but the League. They were too upsetting to pokemon and tended to cause an increase in attacks and accidents. "But they left something behind. I couldn't really see it, but it was more powerful than anything I've ever seen."

"Do you think it was a pokemon?" Officer Jenny asked eagerly. Ash shrugged, wincing as his broken down muscles surged with a dull pain.

"I couldn't really see it." He admitted. "It was in this orb of blue light – it was so bright that it lit up the entire ocean for as far as I could see. All I could see was something that looked like a human hovering in it."

The officer sighed. "I see. What did it do?"

"It just sent this tiny beam of light at the ship." Ash recalled. "Then the ship got cut in half and I started falling. My pidgeotto caught me and pulled me to a few feet above my water, but I fell in and got knocked out. After that I woke up in here."

"Thank you very much." Jenny said. "You've been a great help to us."

Ash nodded and laid his head down. He was starting to get tired. There was a sharp beeping sound in the room, but he just ignored it. All he wanted was to rest. It was probably just something for Officer Jenny.

"It looks like you have some very important people interested in you." Jenny said drily. "Lt. Surge and Steven Stone have just arrived at the hospital. They're coming to see you."

He blinked in surprise. Words couldn't describe the shock he felt. While he could understand why Surge was here – this was his city, and it was up to him to protect it from all threats, both internal and external – he wasn't sure why Steven was here. Maybe it was because of Pierce. Steven seemed to have a personal problem with the man.

Officer Jenny stood up. "Thank you again." She said. As she began to exit the room, Ash realized that he hadn't asked something very important.

"Err, Officer Jenny?" He called out hesitantly. She paused and glanced back at him. "How many other people got away from the wreck?"

She frowned and her face lost all warmth. An expression of sorrow and regret flashed over her features.

"Aside from you we've only discovered eighty survivors. Most of those escaped in lifeboats. Only a few managed to escape using pokemon or other methods."

Ash's eyes stared past her. Eighty survivors. The St. Anne was gigantic, one of the three largest ships in the entire world. According to one of the pamphlets about it, the ship could hold up to four thousand people counting the crew. And the ship was usually filled to the brim with passengers – that meant that only about a fortieth of the people on board survived the attack.

And that wasn't counting the thousands of pokemon that had been on board either – they either drowned, escaped, or were trapped underneath the wreckage. Many would probably never be recovered. So many people lost.

He was having trouble believing it – how could so many people, many of which he'd seen laughing and talking around the ship, just die? How could so many people just be snuffed out of existence in less than a day. Ash couldn't really wrap his mind around it. All he could really understand was the sheer horror of what had happened.

There was despair – more of it then he had ever felt. But anger was there as well, burning at the injustice of the situation and the monsters that had perpetrated it.

Officer Jenny's voice cut through his thoughts, dragging him away from his stunned realizations and jumbled emotions.

"They're almost here." Officer Jenny said, her own voice reflecting some of the maelstrom of emotions that he was feeling. "I need to go. Good luck, Ash. This must be difficult."

He just nodded and stared ahead, silently awaiting his guests. Maybe they could explain some of the details. Ash barely noticed Officer Jenny leaving the room, quietly closing the door behind her.

His attention was jolted back to the world when two familiar forms entered the room. One was a giant – bulky and powerful, with a personality to match. The other was shorter and slim, but possessed a sort of presence that couldn't be ignored.

"Hello, Ash." Steven greeted. His tone was grim, lacking most of its usual warmth. Ash could tell he was making an effort, however. Although his face could be mistaken for his namesake, it wasn't so hard as to be disturbing.

Surge was far less reserved. "How's it going, runt?" The giant asked boisterously. Despite his personality seeming the same, Ash could detect just a hint of the despair and rage that Surge must be feeling.

While the destruction of the St. Anne was a tragedy for everyone, it was personal offense for Surge. He was Vermillion City's gym leader – its protector and leader. This wasn't just an attack for him; it showed that he had failed in his duty. And if the tales and rumors he had heard about Surge's youth were true, then Team Rocket would have a hard time surviving anywhere in Surge's territory from here on out.

Ash winced as a very large Raichu jumped up onto his bed and sniffed him for a moment. He glanced at the curious mouse for a moment before Raichu jumped onto Surge's shoulder. When the pokemon was comfortable, Surge continued.

"Anyways, runt, we're here because the League doesn't understand a lot of what went on, regardless of what Officer Jenny just told you. We know it was Team Rocket, but we don't know who commanded it or how they managed to destroy a ship that large without a hundred hyper beams."

He nodded and pushed himself up on weak limbs, fighting the wave of nausea that washed over him. When he was sure he wasn't going to vomit, he started.

"I already told Officer Jenny what I remembered." Ash admitted. "But I can tell you again."

"Alright." Steven said. He didn't take a seat, but remained standing. It looked like this would be brief. "I want to know two things. Who commanded the raid and how was the ship destroyed?" The former Champion glanced at the same clipboard that Officer Jenny had brought in. "The report says that Pierce led it, but are you sure? How do you know?"

Ash quickly responded. Steven was actually frightening – he wasn't the friendly, joking man that had protected him and his friends from Rockets on the way to Cerulean City. This was the former Champion, someone who protected an entire region. And Steven was angry, even if he was good at hiding it – whatever anger at Pierce that Ash had detected previously was nothing compared to this.

"He said so over the intercom." Ash shrugged, wincing at the soreness in his shoulders. "I would recognize that voice anywhere."

Steven nodded in understanding. "And the thing that destroyed the ship? Officer Jenny didn't write much about it down. Just that it looked human and was surrounded by energy."

Ash winced. "I don't really know how to describe it. It looked humanoid – but it was floating and was surrounded by a ball of energy so bright that it lit up the entire sea. But it was just so powerful. It blew through the ship in just a few seconds."

He didn't miss the glance that Steven and Surge shared. "What is it?"

"Sounds Legendary." Surge said, ignoring Ash's question. Steven nodded, his eyes losing any hint of warmth. They were cold now – afraid. "Nothing else could have done something like that."

"Legendary?" Ash asked, a trace of panic entering his voice. Legendaries were legends for a reason – they weren't something that anyone wanted to have as an enemy.

Steven shook his head. "That doesn't get out of here, Ash. I doubt it's even true – there has to be another explanation."

He nodded resignedly. Ash wouldn't have spread anything like this around anyways. All he wanted was for this incident to be put behind him and his journey resume.

"I should go." Surge said suddenly, shifting his bulk towards the door. "There's a lot of stuff to clean up. Besides," he grinned horribly, exposing more teeth than usual, "Team Rocket is about to suffer quite a few casualties."

With that he left, leaving Ash and Steven alone. The former Champion glanced at Ash and some of the tension seemed to leave his face. Ash wondered just how much of it was a show.

"Thanks for your help. Hopefully it will help clear some things up when we get more information." Steven said. He looked at Ash for a long moment, considering him with sad eyes. "And Ash, I'm sorry you had to go through that. No one should have to face such an awful situation."

Ash just nodded uncomfortably. He didn't want to be reminded of it anymore. All he wanted to do was get on with his journey and never think about the St. Anne ever again. Not when so many horrible things had happened on it.

The former Champion suddenly seemed to remember something. Ash watched curiously as the slight man dug around in the pocket of his suit before he pulled out a small, compact device. It was a dull yellow and appeared to be able to open up.

"Here." He said, handing the small device to Ash. The younger trainer carefully took it, examining it further. It was made of a smooth material and had a large, light blue button in the center. Ash figured that it would make it open up or activate it. "This is a PokeNav. It's a product my father's company recently invented."

"What does it do?" He asked curiously. Ash had heard of something called a pokegear before, but that was supposed to still be in the testing phase.

The older man closed his eyes for a moment and began to recite something, something apparently repeatedly memorized. "The PokeNav was created in order to assist young and experienced trainers in keeping track of a pokemon's attributes and feelings. However, it also possesses a map of the region you are in and more detailed maps of your current location, although you can view other areas as well. It also serves as a miniature video phone and can keep track of up to three hundred different individuals and their numbers."

Steven opened his eyes. "Sorry about that, but my father was particularly enthusiastic about this invention. He's spent all of his time drilling that information into my head for the past few months. Anyways, this serves much the same function as the pokegear, if you've heard of those."

Ash nodded. Steven continued.

"But it also allows you to keep track of any awards or badges you've earned and can serve as a trainer I.D. Although," he said, "I don't suppose you need that feature, considering you have a pokedex. It's only just started to be distributed in Hoenn, although I have several with me."

"Why are you giving it to me?" Ash asked confusedly. "I mean, I'm grateful, but I don't see what I've done to earn it."

Steven smiled. "I'm giving it to you for several reasons. For one, you have potential. You're going to be a great trainer Ash, and soon. From what I've seen you'll be one of the lucky few that are naturals at training and battling – I want to help you along that path."

"You also seem to get into quite a bit of trouble." Steven said drily. "I know that you're pokedex has some of the same functions, but I figured that the maps would be helpful to you and the phone function is useful to everyone. Hopefully the PokeNav will help you out sometime in your journey."

Ash pondered this for a moment. "Thanks. This'll be really helpful."

The former Champion half-smiled. "I hope it will. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that I must go." His eyes narrowed and the stern Champion seemed to come back for a moment. "Our mutual friend needs to be brought to justice."

"Good luck." Ash said. He meant it – Pierce needed to be put back in prison. Although he didn't know how the man escaped custody, he needed to be put back in it.

Steven nodded a bit longer before standing up. Before he left, however, he left Ash with a few words.

"By the way, Ash, I'm looking forward to battling you one day."

Ash grinned widely, despite the pain that branched out through his face. That would be the greatest day of his life. He barely noticed when the former Champion silently slid out of his room, too enraptured in the thought of one day battling him to notice anything.

When he did realize that he was alone, Ash slowly collapsed into his soft bed, exhausted. His weight sank into the mattress, and he closed his eyes. He was asleep in no time at all.

XX

A tongue brushed across his cheek, and his eyes snapped open. It was only when the area that had been licked began to tingle from a dose of minor toxins that he realized Nidorino was in the room. Ash blinked a few times, only pushing himself up when Nidorino licked him again.

Wait. Nidorino was in here.

He grinned widely as he saw the large head of his friend looking at him, somewhat annoyed that the trainer had escaped his tongue.

"Hey, buddy!" Ash grinned. Nidorino grunted softly and butted his head against Ash's side. The trainer winced at the impact, but the exhilarating feeling of seeing his friend again blanked out the pain.

Ash scratched Nidorino's ears before looking around. He grinned when he realized that the rest of his pokemon were crowded into the small room as well. Plume was haphazardly perched on a thin metal bar which, judging from the slight bend it had, wasn't meant to hold a sixty pound bird.

Drowzee stood by his bed, staring at him with dull eyes. She glanced away when he looked at her, apparently ashamed of something. Ash couldn't figure out what – she saved his life.

The only one missing was Torrent. Ash missed his friend's absence, although he could understand why the nurses couldn't put him out – it was rather difficult to lug an aquarium large enough to hold a seadra into such a small room.

Still, he was resolved to see his friend and thank him the second he could. Torrent was the only reason he was still alive – as much as his other friends might have wanted to help him, they couldn't have pulled him to safety. Plume was too exhausted and wasn't strong enough to carry him, and the others would have killed themselves trying to swim to the shore.

In fact, he wasn't even sure the awkwardly shaped Drowzee could swim. He almost smiled at the thought, but then he realized he hadn't thanked any of them yet.

"Hey." He said softly, attracting their attention. "I just wanted to thank all of you. There was no way that I could have gotten out of that without you."

Plume preened at the praise, while Nidorino just butted his side again, softer this time. Ash smiled and scratched the large creature's sensitive ears again. Then he looked over at Drowzee – she was still glancing away from him.

Ash wanted to make sure to thank her specially – he knew she didn't like him, but she still saved his life. Maybe that spelled the end of her animosity towards him, or at least the beginning of it.

"Hey, Drowzee." He said slowly. She looked over at him, her dull eyes glazed with interest. "Thanks for protecting me from that golbat. I know you didn't have to."

She looked at him carefully, her face not revealing anything. Well, Ash didn't think it did, anyway. He couldn't claim to be an expert on the facial expressions of Drowzee.

"So," he began hesitantly, "do you want a nickname? All the others have one."

Drowzee considered it for a moment, the intelligence that Ash knew to be there working quickly behind her beady eyes. A bit later, she slowly nodded. Ash grinned widely, glad that she seemed to have gotten over her anger at being captured.

Giving her a name was a lengthy process. Drowzee was far pickier then any of his other pokemon and treated most of his offers with distaste. Some seemed somewhat acceptable, but she still didn't accept them. Nevertheless, he filed them away in case they couldn't agree on one.

"How about Dazed?" He ventured. Personally, he thought it was a stupid name. But Drowzee seemed to have a liking for names that he considered odd. Besides, even if he thought it was stupid, it still fit her. Her glazed, beady eyes and dull expression did nothing to dispel that assumption, even if he knew it to be false.

Strangely, however, she seemed to like it. Her trunk swayed slightly as she nodded almost imperceptibly, Drowzee's eyes losing some of their glaze. Ash smiled. Even if it wasn't his first choice, it seemed that she liked it well enough.

"Alright!" He said happily. "Dazed it is."

Dazed sleepily nodded before returning to staring at the wall. Ash shrugged, deciding that that was all he was going to get from her.

Instead, he returned to speaking to his other pokemon, lathering them with affection that both he and they had missed during his time away from them.

XX

Ash had a smile on his face as he left the hospital, feeling the hot sun on his face for the first time in four days. While the hospital wasn't the worst thing he'd ever experienced, it was certainly one of the most boring. Aside from a few long conversations with his mother, who had been understandably terrified, and his pokemon almost nothing happened.

He had been released just an hour ago. Although the doctors wanted him to stay an extra day, he had refused. Every one of their tests had said he was fine, and he wanted to get out and continue his journey. If he had to he would just take it easy for a few days.

His friends would definitely be glad to be venturing into the wilderness again. They had been getting antsy in the hospital – last night he had been forced to return them to their pokeballs after they'd gotten a little too rambunctious.

It didn't take him long to reach Vermillion's gates. The hospital was only about five minutes away – conveniently placed in case someone had gotten injured in the wilderness and needed immediate assistance. Vermillion was pretty small, anyways, so it wasn't an inconvenience to the populace.

Ash smiled as he stepped outside of the safe boundaries of the city. Even if he wasn't even close to being away from the urban area, it was still nice knowing that he was able to do this.

He had made a new plan during his stay in the hospital. While he had originally intended to challenge Koga after they docked at Fuschia City, that plan had fallen through. Now he was going to Celadon. Erica wasn't supposed to be very difficult, so it wouldn't be too stressful.

After that he was going to head to Saffron, and then to Fuschia. When he defeated Koga he would have to get to the Seafoam Islands if he hadn't caught another water pokemon before then. Although Torrent was much more powerful now, he still wouldn't be able to do much against Blaine in Cinnabar.

That was Torrent's only real drawback – he couldn't fight outside of water. Kingdra were capable of learning to levitate in the air – it was something to do with their dragon abilities – but Ash didn't see Torrent evolving again for a long time. So Ash would have to find another water pokemon if he wanted to stand a chance against the experienced Blaine.

But for now he needed to focus on his journey to Celadon. It was best to focus on the present, not the future.

Ash released Plume and Nidorino. Nidorino softly grunted and carefully butted his head against Ash's leg. He grinned and patted his friend's head. Plume screeched out her welcome and lightly pecked Ash's shoulder before taking to the skies.

He stood there for a moment, looking at his pokemon. It was great to be around them in the wild again. Another head butt from Nidorino brought him back to earth.

"Alright, guys, let's go."

Nidorino growled and followed Ash. Ash put one hand on the PokeNav, silently reminding himself to call his mom soon. She had been terrified of him going back out to the wilderness, but he promised her that he would call every other day. The PokeNav had played a good role in getting her to let him continue his journey.

Celadon awaited him.

XX

It was three days later when he ran into that Misty girl. Ash had battled countless trainers on the road – plenty of people were travelling between Vermillion and Celadon, after all – and had won most of them. There were quite a few experienced trainers, however, and he lost several times.

Overall, however, he was happy with his friends' success. He knew that there were lots of people better than him – he had only been a trainer for a few months, even if he was naturally talented at battling. Still, he was more than holding his own against the more experienced trainers. They might have won, but it made his pokemon grow more and more powerful from the experience.

So he almost didn't notice it was her at first. She was fishing at a small pond by the road in a way reminiscent of the first time he had encountered her. If it weren't for his habit of challenging everyone he came across he wouldn't have known it was her.

"What are you doing here?" He asked bemusedly, confused as to why he kept finding her in random places. Maybe she was following him.

"I could ask the same thing about you." She retorted. Ash saw her pull a pokeball off of her belt. He grinned and readied Nidorino's ball. Nidorino was probably tired from all of his battles, but he would be up for this. "Whatever. Let's battle."

He wasn't surprised when the familiar form of her Starmie appeared, gem glowing with anticipation. Ash silently tapped the button that would release Nidorino. Misty's eyes narrowed when she saw the large creature, but she didn't say anything.

There was a tense standoff for a moment as the trainers retreated to a safe distance. Misty made the first move.

"Psychic!" She cried. Ash frowned, but didn't need to tell Nidorino to dodge as Starmie glowed a bright blue. Nidorino easily jumped out of the way as a light wave of telekinetic force blasted towards him.

"Poison sting. Follow with horn attack." Ash muttered, too low for Misty to hear. Nidorino quickly moved to carry out the order, firing several of the thin, poison-secreting barbs at Starmie. When they stunned Starmie for a moment through their powerful venom, Nidorino charge at Starmie with his horn lowered.

Starmie had no chance to dodge, despite its trainer's frantic shouts to dodge. Nidorino slammed into the creature's gem, sending small cracks threading throughout it as his powerful attack met it. The Starmie seemed as though it would recover for a moment, but the bright light of its gem faded a bit.

Ash was actually disappointed as Starmie collapsed. While he knew he would win the battle – while he was sure Misty had trained quite a bit since her last defeat, he and his friends had become exponentially more powerful – he had expected it to take longer than a single attack.

And, if Misty's shocked face was any indication, she had as well. Ash frowned again before congratulating Nidorino, who seemed pleased with defeating the Starmie yet again. The display seemed to snap her out of her stunned state, but Ash rejected the proffered wad of money with a shake of his head.

"I only take money from actual battles." He said in annoyance, perhaps more harshly than he had intended. "Train more."

Misty's face morphed from shocked to angry. "I have!" She shouted. "But apparently I'm not a fanatic about it like you!"

Ash just glanced at her. "What're you talking about?"

"You must have been training all day for the last few weeks." She retorted bitterly. "Last time your pokemon weren't much more powerful than mine. Now your Nidorino knocked Starmie out with one hit."

"Eh. He evolved."

Misty just glared at him. "Evolving doesn't do that much. You have to have been doing nothing but training him."

Ash just sighed. "Not really. Anyways, I'm leaving. This wasn't much fun."

His opponent just glared at him. "Fine. I'm going to beat you next time."

He smiled, although he was feeling a bit annoyed at her. After this, he doubted that she would ever catch up. "Looking forward to it."

Nidorino growled at Misty as they walked by, continuing on their journey. Ash glanced at him disapprovingly but didn't say anything. He was more caught up in his thoughts than he was on the world.

He didn't understand why the battle was so easy. Although he had beaten her every time before, it had always been somewhat of a challenge. This couldn't even really be called a battle. Maybe it was just because he'd gotten to know Starmie's weak point, but had evolution really made Nidoran that powerful?

Only a few of the pokemon he'd faced on the journey so far had been knocked out by a single attack. He'd just considered them as weaker pokemon belonging to new trainers, although he might have to reexamine that theory. While Misty was hardly a Master or incredibly powerful, she wasn't weak. She was certainly better than most people their age.

This really wasn't a big deal, but he saw it as a sort of symbol – he was moving forward, growing more experienced and more powerful. He almost couldn't believe that it was just because he and his friends had grown in strength – he half-believed it was just to luck.

Regardless of the motivations underlying his thoughts, they stuck with him as he travelled down the road with Nidorino at his side.

Celadon awaited them.

XX

Ash was tired and dirty when he finally arrived at Celadon. The journey after he'd defeated Misty had been harsh and draining. Although it was short – the route between Vermillion and Celadon was one of the shortest in Kanto, at least between two major cities – the way around Saffron City was full of forests, which were in turn full of beedrill and other annoyances.

While he would have stopped in Saffron to challenge the gym leader there, Sabrina, he knew that he didn't stand a chance against Sabrina yet. She was one of the gym leaders that ensured that rookies and unprepared trainers didn't go to the Indigo Conference. Although not as brutal as Surge or the gym leader at Viridian, she was one of the most powerful trainers in Kanto.

He was advancing by leaps and bounds, but he knew that he wasn't ready for the kind of firepower that Sabrina had at her disposal. Even the thought of facing her famed Alakazam made him shudder. Ash had watched her fight a challenger with an umbreon one time on TV.

Even though the umbreon couldn't be directly harmed by its psychic attacks, the Alakazam and Sabrina had used a loophole: it picked up one of the large pillars that dotted the stadium and smacked the umbreon with it, knocking it unconscious. Despite the great power picking up the pillar must have taken, Alakazam didn't even appear drained.

But he could defeat Erica. She wasn't known for being a particularly powerful gym leader, although she was still competent. Still, she would be weak to Nidorino, Plume, and any of her poison-types could be taken care of handily by Dazed.

All in all, this would be like facing Misty again. Except easier.

Still, he was going to the Pokemon Center. It was too late to challenge Erica and he couldn't wait to get a hot shower and even hotter food. His friends would appreciate it as well. He hadn't packed a surplus of supplies like he usually did due to the comparatively shorter journey, so neither he nor his pokemon had been able to eat as much as they'd have liked.

It was a short trip to the Pokemon Center. He moved quickly through the empty streets, focused only on getting signed in. When he reached the Center, it only took a few minutes to get a room.

Ash went to the cafeteria first, getting food for both him and his pokemon. He didn't bother staying in the vacant cafeteria, instead taking the trays up to his room.

When he was in the room – he glanced around it, noting that it was exactly the same as the other rooms he'd gotten – he set down the trays and released his pokemon.

Nidorino snorted at Ash before he tore into the food Ash had placed on the floor. Plume chirped before carefully pecking at the small pellets. Dazed just looked at it for a moment before levitating a portion of the food to her.

Ash was conscious of the lone member of their group that wasn't out. He walked over to the aquarium that dominated an entire side of the room and tapped Torrent's pokeball, releasing the seadra.

He just stared at the larger, powerful form of his friend when it materialized. Torrent still looked a lot like he had as a horsea, only more mature and angrier looking, although the determined, dangerous look in his eyes was still there.

Torrent was several times larger than he had been as a horsea, and far bulkier. The small, thin scales on his chest had fully developed, leaving a jagged crest of armor over him. His small "wings" had grown into large, spiky appendages and his tiny, curled tail had grown larger and more powerful looking. Ash also noticed that the small nubs that grew on the side of his head had become angular, sharp looking fins.

All in all, Torrent's appearance now fit his personality: a dangerous fighter that loved nothing more than the thrill of battle. But it also showed the strength that he had developed just to save Ash.

The seadra glanced at him for a moment before butting his head against the aquarium. Ordinary glass would have broken from the force, but the Pokemon Center seemed to have anticipated the power some pokemon held – the glass didn't even have the hint of a crack.

"None of that." Ash chided gently. Torrent obeyed and sank back a bit. "And thanks a lot. You saved my life. There's no way we would have gotten to safety without you."

Torrent puffed his scaly chest out a bit, as though he were saying "I know." Ash laughed and poured some of the food specifically for water pokemon into the aquarium, which Torrent quickly gobbled up.

Ash spent a bit more time with all of his friends before taking a shower and then going to bed, exhausted but no longer dirty.

XX

The next morning, Ash found himself standing outside of the Celadon Gym. It was…unique. The gym had been designed to resemble the flower of a gloom, with the noxious scent to match. He assumed that it was produced by actual gloom, as he knew that it was the favored pokemon of Erika.

Ash quickly ascended the steps and walked into the gym proper. The atrium appeared to be a greenhouse, albeit a stylized one. He knew that the gym held several greenhouses as well as a perfume manufacturing plant, so this was just to solidify the atmosphere.

While it was certainly nice, he wanted to get out of it as soon as possible. It wasn't only due to his need to battle Erika either – the disgusting smell the gloom produced a foul mixture of rotting trash and decaying flesh, was even more prevalent inside the gym. He reminded himself to get nose plugs if he ever returned to the gym.

He quickly hurried to the receptionist, a teenage girl that was reading a magazine. She laughed at him when she noticed him – Ash had given into the stink and was doing his best to cover his nose with his hand.

"First time here, huh?" She asked. Ash nodded. "It'll get better in a few minutes. Anyways, I guess you're here to battle Erika."

Ash nodded again. She glanced down at a clipboard and picked up a pencil. He could see her cross a few things out before she looked up again.

"Looks like it's your lucky day. There aren't any other challengers scheduled yet. You can just go on through. She'll be waiting in the garden. Just go in the door to your left."

"Thanks." He coughed out before following her instructions. The door took him into a small hallway. Ash kept on walking and ended up in a large garden with all manner of grass-types. Most seemed to scurry away when he appeared, although a few of the more powerful or curious ones just stared at him.

He felt a little uncomfortable under their intense gazes and ignored it as best as he could. Ash walked a little bit deeper into the garden in order to try and find Erika. She wouldn't be too difficult to find.

Ash wandered around a bit before he finally found her in an area by the stadium. She was sitting by a small artificial pond, surrounded by oddish, a large gloom, and a bulbasaur. He was instantly reminded of Amelia's and winced, although he put it out of mind. Now wasn't the time for reminiscing.

"Oh, hello." She said calmly, carefully setting an oddish down before she stood up. Ash glanced at her for a moment, taking her in. The best word to describe was elegant – everything about her seemed dignified, from the careful, graceful way she moved to her aristocratic tones. "I suppose you're here to battle me?"

He nodded. She smiled and walked over to the battlefield. Ash followed and noticed that, contrary to what he had expected, the battlefield was completely plain. There were a few plants scattered about it and ordinarily hard, tightly packed dirt was replaced with dark, loamy soil, but that was the full extent of the modifications.

"This shall be a three-on-three battle." Erika called out when they had taken their positions. "The battle shall continue until one of us either surrenders or our pokemon are knocked unconscious or rendered unable to battle."

Ash nodded and placed a hand on Dazed's pokeball. While Nidorino would likely have just as easy a time defeating the grass-types, he suspected that Erika would start out with her powerful Gloom. Nidorino or Plume would still have been able to defeat it, but he wanted Dazed to get in some more experience.

He released Dazed when he saw the gym leader release a pokemon. When the red light coalesced into the form of their pokemon, his expectations were fulfilled. Erika's large, powerful Gloom was sleepily looking at Dazed, meeting the drowzee's dull gaze with its own.

Surprisingly enough, the appearance of the gloom didn't empower the noxious scent that pervaded the area. Ash was thankful for that – he was just beginning to get used to it.

Erika began the battle. "Stun spore. Continue with acid and sleep powder."

"Dodge, follow with confusion."

Despite Dazed's awkward shape, she was still able to avoid the attacks of the Gloom. Ash made a mental note to avoid that part of the battlefield – the stun spore and sleep powder was neutralized, but the acid would still be somewhat dangerous.

Ash grinned when Dazed stared at the Gloom's half-closed eyes. He doubted that the Gloom would be able to stay conscious after this powerful attack. If it did, it would be easy pickings for Dazed.

The attack went just as planned – Dazed raised a clawed hand at the Gloom and took control of it. Ash grinned as the Gloom was suffused by a large blue aura of light. A moment later the Gloom was yanked high into the air by psychic power and slammed into the ground.

He expected the battle to be over then – while the actual slam might not have done that much, being in touch with psychic power weakened and hurt poison-types.

But the attack didn't seem to do as much as he had hoped. Gloom pulled itself up quickly and stared at Dazed in annoyance. Its eyes were fully open now.

"I've trained my dear Gloom to be strong against such attacks." Erika shouted, her loud tone contrasting with the soft, quiet image she put up. "Now, petal dance!"

Ash didn't have to tell his pokemon to dodge as Gloom began to rapidly spin, firing out dozens of sharp, pink petals. Dazed was too slow to avoid many of the petals, however, and was hit by almost all of them. She put up a psychic barrier to protect her from some of the damage, but it still weakened her greatly. The trainer knew she wouldn't be able to take much more damage after being hit by such a powerful move.

"Hypnosis!" He cried. Dazed quickly followed his command, raising her arms into the air and staring at the Gloom. Pink energy floated off of her body and floated at the opponent, transforming into purple blobs as they hit Gloom.

Erika wouldn't let him win that easily. "Sunny beam!"

Despite the energy Dazed was focusing on subverting the Gloom's will and putting it to sleep, Gloom stayed strong and followed Erika's commands. Ash was impressed with its willpower – Dazed was pretty good with hypnosis, so it must have been incredibly strong to resist the psychic attack.

Unfortunately, he realized what was going on. Gloom was using Sunny Day, intensifying the sun's rays and making a particular, potent attack readily available.

"Hurry up, Dazed!" He shouted as cold realization swept over him. "It's about to use solar beam!"

Dazed certainly got the message. Ash watched with bated breath as the drowzee produced more energy, focused entirely on bending Gloom to her will before it could unleash the devastating attack. Eventually it seemed that she had succeeded – Gloom's eyes were beginning to close, although bright white energy continued to gather in its flower.

"Focus, Gloom." Erika said calmly. Despite the soft tone, Gloom was snapped back into reality by its trainer's words. Still, Ash could tell that it wasn't fully there, as it only seemed able to focus on gathering energy.

And then it released the power it had gathered. Ash shouted at Dazed to dodge as Gloom focused the energy into a powerful, blinding beam of energy. He had to focus on Dazed, but could still trace the bright beam at the sides of his vision.

It soon became clear that there was no need. Although Dazed hadn't succeeded in putting the powerful Gloom to sleep, she had succeeded in disorienting it. The Gloom still had the ability to use the devastating solar beam, but couldn't properly aim it.

Ash shrank back when the wildly aimed beam flashed towards him, but the barriers in front of him stopped the attack, albeit with a small degree of difficulty. He soon returned his focus to the battle and decided to take advantage of the Gloom's temporary distraction.

He figured that it was time to use an attack that he had been working on with Dazed during the journey to Celadon. They hadn't quite perfected it, but it was still more than powerful enough to knock out Gloom. Even if Gloom was resistant to psychic attacks, it was exhausted from the solar beam and the failed hypnosis.

"Psybeam!"

Dazed calmly gazed at the weakened Gloom as she focused her energy. Ash grinned at Erika's frantic pleas for Gloom to dodge it – that meant she was scared.

His grin widened as he saw a beam of multicolored energy blast from Dazed's eyes. It worked perfectly, and struck the Gloom with a great deal of psychic power. For a moment the Gloom remained standing, staying resolute in the face of its defeat. But then its strength failed and it collapsed to the ground unconscious.

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