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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11. Fuchsia Part 1

"What's up, loser?" Gary grinned. His arms were crossed and he had a cocky smile on his face. Wartortle stood by his side with a similar pose. "Where are the other losers?"

"We were separated." Ash scowled. He didn't like thinking about the circumstances of their separation. It always made him see rushing water and bright, ethereal light.

Gary smirked. "Guess they got a bit of common sense and dumped you. I know I would have, if I were stupid enough to go with an idiot like you in the first place."

Ash clenched his fists, but didn't respond. He would just sound like an idiot and add more fuel to Gary's fire. Besides, it looked like Gary was exaggerating his personality to try and get a rise out of him.

"Huh." Gary stated, the smirk vanishing. It was replaced by a superior sneer. "Looks like you actually managed to evolve one of your pokemon. Good job. Did it take you this entire time?"

He frowned in annoyance. "I don't have time for this. What do you want?"

Gary uncrossed his arms. "Let's see how much worse you've gotten. How many badges do you have?"

"Four."

His rival snickered. "Six. All from actually beating the gym. How did you get yours? Are you one of those losers that have to clean a gym to get its badge?"

Ash frowned. "No. Are you one of those losers that had to go to the minor gyms so that you can actually win?"

Gary colored in annoyance. Ash thought he might have hit a nerve. "No! You know what, let's battle. I've been needing a good laugh."

The trainer coldly smiled. "This is going to be pretty funny, isn't it?"

His rival sneered, but didn't say anything as he led Ash to a large, circular clearing a little further into the forest. Ash glanced around it, noting anything he could use to his advantage. There was nothing. It was just an average, empty section of the forest.

"How many have you got?" Gary growled. He snickered when Ash answered. "Only five? I had that many in my first week. Whatever, let's get this over with."

Wartortle stepped forward. It had gotten larger and looked to have gained quite a bit of power since they last met. Ash grinned.

"Nidorino, do it."

Nidorino stood across from Wartortle. Both glared at each other for a moment. Wartortle's furry ears were twitching, and Nidorino's barbs had extended, leaking their potent poison.

Ash made the first move. While Wartortle had the advantage in almost every area when he had faced Nidoran, now he faced Nidorino. Nidorino could at the very least match the turtle.

"Horn attack."

Nidorino instantly charged forward, tearing across the short distance between them. Gary called out for Wartortle to dodge, but the creature had only just begun leaping when Nidorino's sharp horn slammed into it, injecting a massive dose of venom into it.

Ash grinned at the shocked expression on Gary's face as Wartortle was thrown backwards by the force of the blow.

"Ice beam!" Gary shouted. "Knock that stupid Nidorino out!"

Wartortle quickly fired a massive ice beam at Nidorino. Nidorino used the agility he had gained since evolving and leapt out of the way. The beam slammed into a tree and completely froze it, covering the trunk in a thick shell of ice and coating the leaves in a fragile layer.

"Aqua pulse!" Gary roared, clearly annoyed. His fists were clenched and his face was turning red. "Then use aqua tail!"

The turtle quickly obeyed. A large ball of water flashed towards Nidorino, but was also dodged. Wartortle then charged towards Nidorino with surprising speed, although it was clearly getting slower and weaker due to the venom injected into it.

"Thunderbolt!" Ash shouted. Nidorino quickly unleashed the bolt of lightning, striking Wartortle directly in the chest. Wartortle looked surprised for a moment before crumpling to the ground. It was returned moments later by Gary.

"That was just luck!" Gary shouted in disbelief. "You won't do so well against this one! Go, Growlithe."

Ash grinned when he saw Growlithe. It was clearly experienced and excited to battle, as the fire-type instantly set into a pose. The Growlithe yipped and jumped before spurting out a few flickers of flame into the air. He let Gary start this round.

"Ember, then use take down." Gary shouted. Ash grinned – Gary was mad and making stupid mistakes. If he was thinking, he would have remembered Nidorino's poison point. Besides, there was no way Growlithe could take Nidorino close up.

Growlithe opened his mouth and shot several balls of fire. Nidorino resolutely took them. They clearly hurt him a bit, but didn't really any real damage. Ash smiled.

"Confusion."

Nidorino glared at Growlithe with glowing eyes. Growlithe yelped as he was pulled up into the air and heavily slammed into the ground. Ash half expected it to be knocked out then and there, but Growlithe proved resilient and stood up on firm legs.

Gary didn't seem too put out with this, though. "Overheat!"

Ash blinked – where had Gary gotten the TM for that? That was one of the very few moves considered powerful enough to limit. And for good reason – overheat was capable of knocking out many pokemon in one hit, even if they generally resisted fire.

"Dodge!" He shouted. Ash didn't want Nidorino getting taken out by a cheap move like that.

Growlithe began to glow a bright red as it accumulated the necessary energy. A few moments later, it opened its mouth and unleashed a bright orange blast of flame. Ash had to turn away from it – the intensity and power of it nearly burned him from twenty feet away.

Nidorino tried to dodge, but Growlithe managed to score a direct hit. Gary smirked, apparently expecting that to be the end of Nidorino. It fell from his face when he realized that Nidorino was still standing – tired and hurt, but ready to battle for at least another minute.

"Focus horn." Ash commanded. Growlithe was too exhausted by the powerful attack to do anything. Apparently Gary hadn't bothered training it with overheat very much. It just didn't have the endurance to fight back.

Nidorino quickly focused his power before charging at Growlithe. The fire-type feebly tried to dodge thanks to its trainer's shouted commands, but Nidorino easily adjusted his course and slammed into it.

Growlithe heavily landed on the ground, clearly knocked out. Ash had to hide a wide grin at the stunned expression on Gary's face.

"Still think it's just luck?" He taunted. Gary sneered but didn't respond in any way aside from returning Growlithe.

A moment later a Kadabra appeared on the field. Ash frowned at it – it made him think of the crushing defeat that he had received at Sabrina's hands – and recalled Nidorino. He would probably be able to knock it out, but he didn't want Nidorino getting hurt or weakened.

Instead he sent out Dazed. Gary scoffed at the smaller pokemon, but Ash just smiled. Dazed had a few surprises ready.

"Psybeam!" Gary shouted. Kadabra quickly shot a psybeam at Dazed, the psychic power bending its spoon. Ash winced as the power caused a minor head ache. He hoped that this would be over with soon.

Ash didn't bother telling Dazed to dodge the psybeam. She was too slow to avoid it at such a close distance and could take the hit easy enough. As he predicted, the psybeam barely even pushed her back.

He suspected that Gary hadn't spent much time training his pokemon aside from Wartortle. Most of them seemed strong enough, but they were undisciplined and wild. They only seemed to trained with the powerful TMs Gary had used on them once and didn't have the endurance to fight for very long.

"Shadow ball."

Dazed was shrouded in a light grey aura for just a moment before she hurled the shadow ball towards Kadabra. Gary's eyes widened and he quickly called out a command.

"Reflect!"

Kadabra closed its eyes and quickly summoned a golden panel of light. Ash fought back a wince at the sudden headache it produced before focusing on the battle. He thought the skill looked similar to the orb that Alakazam had enclosed itself in, but it seemed thinner and more brittle.

Despite the attempt to protect itself, shadow ball slammed through the wall before slamming into Kadabra's chest. Kadabra was slammed onto its back, although its massive, thick tail absorbed some of the force. It wearily pulled itself up before looking at Dazed.

"Psychic!" Gary roared.

"Shadow ball." Ash ordered at the exact same time.

Kadabra was obviously having trouble using the powerful ability. It was clear that it was able to use the attack – it was slowly being enveloped in a bright orange aura – but it was doing it extremely slowly. By the time its eyes began to glow and its spoon began to bend, Dazed had formed her shadow ball and threw it.

The shadow ball knocked Kadabra out. Ash sighed in relief and rubbed his temples when Kadabra was unconscious. That headache was finally going away. He would actually be able to focus now.

Despite the relief he felt, he couldn't hide his smirk when he saw Gary's face. It was red and twisted into a scowl. Apparently Gary wasn't that used to losing. Maybe the power some of his pokemon possessed let them muscle their way past most trainers. Or maybe he just didn't battle as many as he should, or deliberately picked out weaker ones.

Nevertheless, Gary continued their battle. He sent out a gigantic, powerful looking Pidgeot. Ash looked at the impressive pokemon before grinning. It looked like it was time for Plume to get a good fight in.

Plume shrieked out her arrival before taking off into the air. Gary shouted for his Pidgeot to follow.

Ash was thankful for his hat as he looked up at the sky. It managed to block out the worst of the sun and let him see the battle better than Gary could. He suspected that it would be a boon – this might be the only battle he had any real trouble with.

"Twister." He muttered, trusting Plume's keen ears to let her catch the order. She heard, as she quickly launched a small tornado at Gary's Pidgeot. The Pidgeot managed to fly out of the attack's way, although it was clear that it had difficulty. Gary's Pidgeot was made for power, not speed.

"Whirlwind!" Gary yelled, waving his arms as he spoke. Ash frowned when the Pidgeot sent a large gust of wind at Plume, catching her in it and throwing her out of the sky for a few seconds before she recovered. "Now, use wing attack!"

Plume had only just recovered when the massive Pidgeot slammed into her. She was sent flying through the air, but recovered again. Ash frowned and came up with a strategy.

Just like last time, Gary's Pidgeot was just too large and powerful to take on physically. It also seemed quite well-trained and skilled, so it wouldn't be as simple of a fight as the others were. He didn't have surprise on his side anymore – Gary knew that Ash was better than him, and wouldn't be careless.

But he had managed to perfect a move that would magnify his advantage exponentially. If Plume had to win through speed and agility, then that's what she would use.

"Tailwind!" He ordered with a slight grin. Although he hadn't used this in an actual battle yet, the training he had done with Plume ensured that it would be impressive.

Plume quickly kicked up a massive whirlwind around her. Ash honestly didn't understand how it worked, but he knew that Plume could somehow make the powerful winds speed her up while slowing down and buffeting the enemy.

All he knew was that it worked wonderfully. Plume was fast before, but now she was tearing through the air so quickly that Ash could barely track her. And that meant Gary had no hope of doing so.

"Quick wing, followed by aerial ace."

Ash had to wince at how effectively Plume carried out his order. She almost instantaneously slammed into Gary's Pidgeot, slamming it out of the air thanks to the incredible speed she had already gained added with that of the quick attack. The wing attack was almost overkill.

He had to admit that Gary's Pidgeot was impressive. Had it been a fair fight, then it might have defeated Plume. Unfortunately for Gary, he seemed to think that air battles were the same as land ones. While land was mostly static and one could easily win without using abilities to alter it, in the air wind and speed were key, although bulk and power could be just as useful if one knew how to use them.

Pidgeot remained flying, and seemed to have a surprise of its own. It sent a challenging cry to Plume, showing that it wasn't defeated yet.

"Hyper beam!" Gary shouted desperately, apparently realizing that Pidgeot was already half-defeated.

His Pidgeot quickly followed the command, finding Plume and locking on. An instant later it shot a massive blast of energy, swerving it through the air in the hopes of defeating Plume.

Ash shouted for Plume to dodge, but he was too late. Despite her speed, the Pidgeot was lucky and skilled enough to catch her in the beam. She was almost defeated by the blow, but still had a little more in her.

He cheered her on as she completed the last order he gave her: aerial ace. She dove at Pidgeot from her lofty height before suddenly disappearing. A moment later she appeared behind the Pidgeot and used the attack.

Although the aerial ace knocked Pidgeot out, it seemed to drain the last of Plume's energy. She slowly began to descend, struggling to remain in the air. Ash quickly took notice of this and recalled her, thanking Plume as he placed her pokeball back on his belt.

"Good girl." He muttered. Then he turned back to Gary. "Come on, Gary. One more."

"No." Gary sneered. "I'm done here. I don't know how you've been beating me, but you have to be cheating somehow."

Ash had to hide a smirk as Gary stormed out of the clearing with a face red from rage. As his rival turned his back to him and walked back onto the road, Ash couldn't hold back one last quip.

"Smell ya later!" He called to Gary, snickering all the while. It felt good to win.

He quietly left the clearing a few moments later. While beating Gary was fun, he had a journey to attend to. The journey to Fuschia City was a long one – the terrain was rough and could take anywhere from two to three weeks, depending on the weather.

So it was best to get started.

XX

The first week of his journey led him to Vermillion. It was a standard journey – a few wild pokemon attacked or investigated him, and he fought them off. None were any that he wanted, although they provided a fun break from the trained pokemon he usually fought. Both were prevalent on the road from Saffron to Vermillion.

Aside from wanting to get a shower before embarking on a journey that would be at least two weeks, Ash also needed to stock up on supplies. He had just used the massive amount of spare food and essentials to get him by during the journey to Vermillion and needed to restock.

Along with the usual food and necessities, Ash also bought supplies that might be needed for the mountains and harsh conditions. He didn't want to be stuck somewhere and wanted his journey to continue smoothly.

He bought ten new pokeballs as an afterthought. While he didn't plan on catching many pokemon, they would be useful if he needed to outrun something and needed a bit of time. And if he did end up catching any pokemon, the pokeballs would be able to serve their intended purpose.

Ash had thought about going to battle Surge, but opted not to. The areas that he would be traversing over the next few weeks would be draining on his pokemon. Even the regions a day away from Vermillion would be harsher than the norm for Kanto. He didn't want any of his friends being tired out. And he didn't think Surge would be so easy to defeat this time, not after the lucky win Ash had gotten.

In addition to his trainer-based activities, he took the time to call his mother. While the PokeNav worked extremely well, he wasn't sure how well it would be able to work out in the wilderness of southeastern Kanto. He just wanted to let her know his plans and not to worry.

When all of that was over, he went to bed. He was going to have a long day tomorrow.

XX

He left the Pokemon Center early. Ash wanted to stop relatively early at night and see just how far he had gotten. Progress would certainly be slower than usual thanks to the rugged terrain and bad weather that plagued the southeastern reaches of Kanto.

Ash quickly made his way through the bustling city. Even in the early morning, it was full of people laughing and talking as they made their daily commute. He watched them with minor interest as he passed by, wondering how could they live in such a large city.

The trainer shrugged it off as he finally reached the gates. Several trainers passed him by, joking and making odd gestures as they walked in. He glanced at them for a moment before stepping out into the wilderness.

Nidorino and Plume were quickly released. They greeted him affectionately before taking their usual positions. He smiled and set off down the worn dirt trail.

Fuschia City awaited him.

XX

Nothing remarkable happened for the first nine days of his journey. The roads were mostly empty in the areas he travelled in, and most wild pokemon either ignored him or were too busy surviving to bother with a single trainer.

Ash had seen glimpses of the powerful pokemon that roamed the mountains he was currently hiking through: onix, geodude, graveler, and machop were common sights. They always ran away or hid when they became aware of his presence, however, so he never really got to study them.

He resolutely trekked down the rocky path. It was slowly declining in quality as he went further into the mountains. Although there were quite a few small towns and villages in this area, most were too busy with their own lives to maintain the roads. He'd only stopped in one so far, and they'd been quite hostile. Apparently they liked their solitude.

A storm was brewing. Dark clouds had slowly begun to encroach on the mountains, although they hadn't yet begun to release their water. Ash wasn't looking forward to the time when it finally poured down rain.

Aside from the obvious annoyance, it would also cause the narrow paths to become slick and muddy. If they got too dangerous, he would have to slow his pace down or even stop for a while until it became safer.

Even as he thought about the potential dangers of the rain, he felt a raindrop fall onto his nose. Then another. And another. Soon enough a light, steady drizzle was falling from the sky.

Ash sighed. It looked like this wouldn't be a pleasant journey. He supposed that he should find a cave or some other shelter for the night – it was already nearing nightfall. Sleeping in a pleasantly dry place and waking up in the middle of a swamp wasn't the best experience.

Although it took a while, he eventually found a large, dry cave that had more than enough space for him and his friends to comfortably sleep in. It was dark, so he released Infernus. Thanks to Magmar's intense tail flame, there wasn't a great need for wood.

Strangely, however, Infernus was wary as he took in the environment. He quickly whipped his head towards the back of the cave and spit a massive blast of flame into it. Ash leapt back and yelped in surprise.

"What did you see?" Ash asked. He was afraid that they had stumbled into a swarm of zubat or something. That would be more than dangerous enough for Infernus to attack.

Then he got his answer. A shrill, angry cry alerted him to the fact that there was something else in the cave. Something that was much larger than a zubat.

Infernus roared and blasted flame at the source of the cry again. Ash was able to watch this time and saw a large, humanoid shape in the midst of the flames. It was sprinting towards Infernus, taking long leaps and bounds instead of humans' quick, choppy movements.

"Flamethrower." He ordered, settling to the back of the cave. Ash didn't want to get caught in the middle of it.

The fire-type gladly accepted the order, unleashing yet another stream of flame at the humanoid figure. It seemed to hurt whatever it is, but didn't knock it out. Ash began to get worried when it finally came within striking distance of Infernus and launched a brutal, yet graceful, punch into Infernus' chest.

Infernus easily took the blow, but it clearly made him angry. Ash decided to take control of the situation before Infernus lost his temper and burned everything around him.

"Fire punch!"

Ash grinned as Infernus launched his powerful fire punch into the side of the humanoid's head. It sent the creature sprawling onto the ground, although it quickly recovered and kicked Infernus' legs out from under him.

He had a good feeling of what the creature was. From the general shape and fighting style it was using, it seemed to be a machoke. That meant he needed Infernus to use his fire abilities to their maximum potential – machoke were dangerous foes in close combat and could unleash a huge amount of damage.

Infernus might be tireless and practically indestructible – as Ash had learned in the times when he had to battle the powerful pokemon - but he wouldn't be able to beat a machoke at its own game unless he cheated.

"Flamethrower!" He shouted. Infernus growled and quickly followed the command, unleashing the massive stream of flame when the Machoke was preparing to punch it. Machoke – Ash was able to confirm it in the light of the flame, thanks to the hulking body structure and subtly reptilian face – stumbled backwards from the flames before recovering a bit.

"Fire punch."

The Machoke quickly dodged the burning fist and retaliated with another chop to Infernus' stomach. Infernus just snarled and blasted another cone of flame at the fighter. It hit Machoke squarely in the chest and made the fighting-type shield itself from any further flames.

Infernus quickly launched another fire punch, knocking Machoke back into the stone walls of the cave. Ash put a hand on a pokeball and got ready to throw it. He briefly thought of using one of his ultra balls, but figured that a pokeball would be more than sufficient. Machoke weren't powerful enough to necessitate one.

Machoke would be pretty useful to the team, and it was strong enough to stand up to Infernus for more than one hit. At the very least he could train it to match up with the rest of his team. He needed a fighting-type to balance things.

"Flame burst." Ash shouted. The roaring and crackling of the flames was drowning out some of the noise he made, so he had to raise his voice. Infernus quickly followed through with his order, roaring and stamping his foot down. Flames exploded from his mouth and bathed Machoke.

Machoke's muscular form sunk to the ground from its position on the wall, clearly unconscious. Ash grinned. It was nice fighting these pokemon. Unlike that monster of a Rhydon, Machoke was actually capable of being defeated. Machoke was powerful, but not ridiculously so.

"Good job, Infernus." Ash called out before wiping a few beads of sweat from his brow, just now realizing how hot it had gotten. He'd have to remember to not use Infernus so much in enclosed areas. Infernus caused his flames to blaze up in response. "Get ready. I'm about to catch it and revive it."

Ash lightly tossed the pokeball at the unconscious creature. It quickly caught the fighting-type. Machoke had no chance to resist.

He opened his hand up, causing the ball to float up to his hand. Ash glanced at it for a second. Although he could tell that Machoke wouldn't be as rebellious and angry as Infernus had been – it hadn't attacked until Infernus did, for one –, he expected Machoke to put up some sort of a fight.

So he released Dazed and Nidorino. They would both be powerful weapons against Machoke.

They wouldn't have any trouble with a single fighting-type. Ash relentlessly drilled all of his pokemon at night – they weren't battling very much, so he either set them against each other or made them practice for several hours – and they had all mastered their TMs.

Dazed had finally managed to perfect psychic since they set out from Vermillion. He'd had her use it in one of the scarce battles they were forced into, and it was just as powerful as he had expected. Although it was incredibly powerful and she had mastered it, he used her weaker attacks more often. Psychic drained her rather quickly, although he hoped that that weakness would be overcome when she evolved.

Nidorino still couldn't learn drill horn, but he had instead become incredibly proficient at both ranged and close combat. He was more than capable of hitting far away targets somewhat accurately, and had also begun to improve the power behind his TMs.

Of course, Nidorino still favored physical fighting. That was what he was built for. His tough hide, sharp horn, and powerful venom made him Ash's best physical battler. Nidorino could even match Infernus, although it was always close.

So a lone Machoke would be child's play.

Ash smiled at his friends as they materialized and accepted whatever affection they decided to give him. When they were done, he held out the pokeball. Both of the new arrivals understood and prepared to battle if necessary.

Machoke was unconscious when it was released. Ash took the moment to scan it with his pokedex.

Machoke. It began. The Superpower Pokemon. Its muscular body is so powerful, it must wear a power-save belt to be able to regulate its motions. Because it is so dangerous, no one has ever removed the belt.

This Machoke knows the moves: Focus energy, low kick, karate chop, low sweep, seismic toss, revenge, vital throw, and submission. Its ability is Guts, which causes it to become more powerful when hurt or put under an effect.

Ash figured that it would turn out to be pretty useful. Machoke would definitely be getting up in the thick of things, so it would be useful for it to be able to get an extra bit of power in tough situations.

He checked Machoke's gender after that. Ash didn't like to refer to any of his pokemon as "it" when they actually had a gender. Machoke was a male.

After he had all the information he wanted, Ash took out one of his revives and kneeled by the unconscious pokemon. He carefully snapped the diamond-shaped container over Machoke's mouth, releasing the restoring powder.

When Machoke stirred, Ash stood up and backed away. He didn't want to be too close to Machoke if he was angry. Ash didn't think that he could take a hit from something strong enough to lift boulders with one hand.

Infernus tensed up when Machoke wearily pulled himself up and looked around. Ash glanced at him and motioned for the fire-type to relax. Nidorino would be more than sufficient to protect him and he didn't want Machoke to be intimidated.

Machoke didn't take long to realize that there were several pokemon around him. He quickly tensed up and looked as though he were about to make a run for it. Ash stepped forward, serving to both attract Machoke's attention and to hopefully calm it.

"Don't worry." He said in a soothing tone. "We aren't going to hurt you unless you try to hurt us."

The fighting-type looked at him with narrow eyes. He didn't lose the tension in his body, but didn't look as though he were about to attack or flee. Ash smiled.

"Good. Look, I caught you. You know what that means."

Machoke snorted and nodded. Ash noticed that he slackened and let himself lean back on the cavern wall with crossed arms. He guessed Machoke realized that he couldn't escape or make any real attempt to fight back.

Now that he was sure that Machoke wouldn't cause any trouble, it was time to start making peace with his newest friend. Ash didn't want to go through the same troublesome process he had with Infernus.

"I don't know if you're upset with me right now or not, but if you are, you'll get over it." Ash said confidently. "You're one of my partners now, and I promise that I'll do my best to make you as strong as you can possibly become. As long as you don't cause trouble and do your best, you'll get stronger than you could ever have imagined."

Machoke look interested, but still kept its lazy pose. He just looked at Infernus and nodded with a bored expression. Ash figured he was asking if he would be better than the Magmar. The trainer voiced it, and received a nod in return.

"I can't answer that." He admitted. "I don't know if you'll be as strong as Infernus, but you'll definitely have a better chance than if you just stayed out here and trained in the wilderness. So, are you willing to work with us?"

The fighting-type looked surprisingly thoughtful for a moment before shrugging and nodding. Ash grinned.

"Awesome!" He exclaimed, gleeful that he wouldn't have to worry about Machoke trying to attack him in his sleep. Fighting-types generally tended to be honest and upfront. Machoke probably wouldn't break his promise, although Ash would still be careful. "Do you want a nickname? All of my other friends have one."

Machoke shrugged and nodded again, apparently not caring that much. Ash sat down and started to come up with names. He would throw them out to Machoke whenever he thought of one, although the fighter tended to quickly shake his head.

After a few minutes, the rest of his pokemon got bored with his attempts. Infernus went to the back of the cave and curled up, his bright tail flame leaving just enough light for Ash to be able to see. He was obviously bored.

Dazed just turned to stare at the heavy rain pelting the ground outside, lost in thoughts that Ash couldn't hope to decipher.

Nidorino just curled up next to Ash, still somewhat wary of the Machoke. Ash absentmindedly patted his friend's tough, leathery hide as he brainstormed, so used to being around Nidorino that he didn't need to look in order to avoid the poisonous barbs.

It took nearly thirty minutes to find a name that Machoke found acceptable. Ash had generally focused his nicknames around subjects applicable to fighting-types.

Both of them found Warrior to be dull and unimaginative. Machoke had quickly shaken his head when Ash suggested Champion. Ash almost suggested Brute, but he knew that it didn't describe Machoke at all. Hulk was almost accepted, but Machoke eventually shook his head. Goro just popped into his head from somewhere, but he didn't like it that much. Countless others were passed between them, always rejected after a brief moment of thought.

Ash was starting to grow weary and tired when they finally picked upon a name that Machoke liked: Bruiser. It didn't carry negative connotations like Brute, didn't seem to be a title that Machoke hadn't earned, and it was more original than Warrior.

So, Bruiser it was.

"Alright, Bruiser." Ash said, trying out the new name. "I don't know if you're tired or not, but I am. So, pick somewhere to sleep. I can put you in your pokeball if you'd rather be in it, but I won't make you go in."

Bruiser shook his head. Ash was surprised that he could – his grey, tough neck was so thick with muscle and hard skin that it looked like it couldn't move. He nodded in response to Bruiser's answer and started pulling out his sleeping mat from his pack.

As he did so, he looked at Bruiser, who still hadn't moved. He just stared at Ash curiously, judging him in some way that Ash didn't understand.

"If the storm has let up by morning, that's when we'll leave. We need to get a move on," Ash said, ignoring whatever Bruiser was staring at him about. He didn't want to feel self-conscious. "Get some rest in. Tomorrow's going to be a long day.

Bruiser nodded and looked around for an unoccupied spot. Ash watched him curiously until the fighting-type found an area to his liking and sat down, leaning on the cavern wall and relaxing. It seemed as though he was asleep the moment he closed his eyes.

Ash returned his focus to his own mat. He brushed as much of the dirt and muck from the road and cave as he could before laying down on it. It was a little chilly inside the cave, so he stood up and moved by Infernus. Nidorino loyally followed, curling up when Ash had gotten back into a sleeping position.

The steady crackling of Infernus' tail flame and the pattering of the rain outside put him to sleep quickly.

XX

The next morning, the storm still hadn't abated. Ash had decided to tough it out anyways, but the moment he stepped out of the cave he realized that it was impossible.

Overnight, the storm that was still surging through the mountains had turned the hard, packed trail into a mudslide. His shoes were almost completely engulfed the moment he stepped outside. There was no way that he would make more than a few miles in this weather.

So he sighed and went back into the cave. It looked like he would be stuck here for a while. That mud made it way too dangerous and pointless to even try to go. Coupled with the heavy rain still pelting the ground, he couldn't see any point in soldiering through it.

Ash released his friends once he had dropped his pack to the ground. It was already soaked. He was extremely thankful for Infernus when the fire-type materialized. The cave was already acquiring a noticeable chill, but Infernus' tail flame helped to banish it. A quick burst of flame into the cave heated it enough to be comfortable.

The others looked at him questioningly, confused as to why they were already released.

"Storm's too bad. Can't travel today."

Ash frowned as he answered their wordless question. He had hoped to get out of these empty mountains and make some serious headway on his journey to Fuschia. According to the PokeNav's map, he was only five days from Fuschia. It would probably be more than a week now, thanks to the mud and this delay.

Oh well. He couldn't change the weather. It looked as though he would have to make the best of this miserable situation. His pokemon could still dramatically improve through training, although the cramped quarters of the cavern would inhibit the training somewhat.

He turned to his pokemon with a grin on his face. They wouldn't be getting out of training today, even if it wouldn't be too difficult.

This was going to be fun.

XX

The next morning, he and his friends were ready to go. None of them were drained from the workout, which merely consisted of them using their most powerful moves over and over. They were shot into the rain, so he couldn't see how strong they were. But that wasn't the point – what mattered was that it worked on his friends' endurance. He wanted them to be able to use any of their moves at any time, no matter how tired they were.

He was just glad that the storm had finally broken up. It had stopped raining late last night, so he could at least try to make some progress. The mud would make it a miserable experience, but he would still be moving forward.

Ash left early in the morning. The weather was notoriously volatile in these parts, and he didn't want to get trapped again. That cave was horribly boring – he and his friends ended up trying to sleep the moment training was over just to kill time.

The sun was bright and hot when he went outside, which made him squint. It also made everything even more miserable. Thanks to the heat, the massive amount of water deposited by the rain was starting to evaporate, causing horrible humidity. Ash had been sweating even before he left the safe confines of the cave.

In addition, the mud was still thick and deep. Ash frowned when it tried to swallow his foot, although he was able to pull it out with a yank. He dearly hoped that the rest of the path wasn't this bad.

Before he began, he released Plume. All of his other friends would be bogged down in the mud, and he would like to have at least one of them out if he ran into trouble. Plume would be more than powerful enough to deal with any threats he might encounter.

He stared at the long, winding path ahead of him with trepidation. Although he knew it wasn't the case, he hoped that part of it would have magically avoided the immense storms wracking the region.

Ash shook his head out of those thoughts. He had to deal with it, so he might as well not complain. A moment later he set off into the muddy area.

Fuschia awaited him.

XX

He arrived at Fuschia six days later. The storms had left almost the entire area soaked, so for the first two days his journey was hot, humid, and muddy. It was one of the most miserable times he had weathered so far. Most wild pokemon had become highly active after the storm, so he also had to be on constant vigilance.

But he had finally arrived. He was on a hill that overlooked the small, secluded city. It was far less ostentatious than Celadon and Saffron, and its private nature provided a nice contrast to the large, sprawling cities he had recently travelled to.

The buildings were pretty small. There was nothing really outstanding about the place, although he could see the confines of the massive Safari Zone from his viewpoint. It was gigantic in comparison to the small city that stewarded it.

Ash wasn't sure he was going to visit the Safari Zone. He wanted to get all of his badges as quickly as possible so that he would have plenty of time to train his existing team and possibly find new members that wouldn't be weak in comparison by the time of the Conference.

He had planned out his route. After defeating Koga, he would head towards Cinnabar Island. Ash decided to take the sea route instead of travelling all the way around Kanto. Fuschia had several ferries in its small harbor, so it wouldn't be too difficult to find transportation.

During that time, he would try to stop in the Seafoam Islands. He wanted to find a water-type that could operate on land as well, although one of the rare ice-types would be great as well. Ash didn't have anything that could hope to counter one of the powerful dragons, which he was sure to see if he made it to the advanced stages of the Conference.

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