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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12. Fuchsia Part 2

After he defeated the Cinnabar gym, he had decided to go back to Sabrina. By then he would hopefully be powerful enough to defeat the psychic leader. If he wasn't, he would train until he was.

And when he defeated Sabrina, he would head to the widely feared and widely avoided Earth gym. Its leader, Giovanni, had a reputation for being ruthless and brutal during battles. He had a worse reputation than Surge when the electric leader was fully unleashed. More pokemon were injured battling him than all of the other gyms combined.

That was also why Ash wanted to defeat the mysterious gym leader. It was the ultimate test of strength until one entered the upper echelons of the Indigo Conference or was lucky and skilled enough to face the Elite Four. To defeat the Earth Gym was the ultimate status symbol amongst most trainers, a sign that the trainer was truly powerful.

But that was a long way from now, Ash thought. For now he just needed to focus on Koga.

He looked down at Fuschia for a few more moments before setting off. It was too late to battle – it was almost dark – but he wanted to get plenty of rest before this battle.

XX

The Pokemon Center was probably the largest structure in the town aside from the gym. Unlike the small homes and modest offices and buildings, the Pokemon Center was massive. It was the size of five or six of the buildings around it and was two stories.

Since the Fuschia gym wasn't very popular amongst trainers due to Koga's unforgiving nature and brutal strategy – the gym leader normally poisoned a pokemon and then either put it to sleep or paralyzed it, leaving it completely helpless – Ash supposed that it was for trainers visiting the Safari Zone.

He didn't really care about that, though. All Ash wanted was hot food, a shower to get rid of the dried mud and muck from the horrible journey, and a bed that didn't wasn't covered in a layer of dried, cracking mud.

Luckily, he got all of that extremely quickly. Afterwards, he let out all of his friends that were allowed to be released before collapsing into the bed. They were just as exhausted as he was, and all quickly found comfortable areas to sleep in.

Ash glanced around the room one last time, smiling as he saw the sleeping forms of his friends. The trainer felt Nidorino's large body at the foot of his bed and patted his friend one last time before lying back down. He fell asleep almost instantly.

XX

Late the next morning, Ash found himself outside of the Fuschia Gym. It was a fifteen minute walk from the Pokemon Center, but that just gave him time to examine the simple city more carefully. He liked the small buildings and architecture. Saffron was impressive, but it was just too big for his liking.

The Pokemon Center wasn't in the best condition, he noticed, but everything worked well. He had remembered to call his mother before leaving, updating her on his status. Ash hadn't spent very long speaking to her, though. He was much too anxious to challenge the gym.

Ash liked the Fuschia Gym. It didn't have the elegant beauty of Sabrina's gym, but wasn't as plain as Brock's warehouse. The building possessed a simple style that reminded Ash more of a cleaned up version of the Dojo than anything else.

He stepped into the gym. The battlefield was clearly visible in the background, although a small desk was set up in front of the door. It was occupied by a young woman, appearing to be just a few years older than Ash. She looked up at Ash and smiled.

"Hey there." She greeted casually. "I'm guessing you want to battle my father?"

Ash nodded, assuming that she meant Koga.

"Ah, the strong silent type, are you?" The girl asked with a grin. Ash stonily looked at her, not sure how he was supposed to react. Gyms were usually all business. "We don't get too many of those. Not that we get too much of anyone, nowadays." She drily remarked.

He cautiously nodded. She smiled again and stood up.

"Anyways, my name's Janine." She offered as she slid the chair back to the desk. Ash could see that she wore a martial arts uniform, although the odd purple hair in an even odder style and the cape made it seem less practical.

"Ash." He replied to her as she turned around and motioned for him to follow.

She bobbed the back of her head in a nod. "Nice name. Anyways, my father's the gym leader here. I'm training to use Poison-types just as well as he can. Usually my Aunt Aya is the receptionist since she doesn't battle anymore, but she was sick today."

Ash was a bit overwhelmed. He had gotten used to the silence of the wilderness. The only communication he had was with his pokemon, who he didn't need to talk. He understood them just fine. Even Dazed was becoming easier to read.

"That's nice." He offered, privately hoping that he could just battle Koga and get out of here.

"Yeah, my father's usually checking up on the Safari Zone right now, but you're lucky. He got back just a few minutes ago." She chattered, not seeming to realize that he'd spoken. "Good luck with my father. He'll probably beat you."

He frowned. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Janine replied, evidently not understanding the sarcasm or just ignoring it. "Anyway, he's here –"

A shadow leapt out from nowhere and choked Janine before kicking her legs out from under her. Ash put his hand to Nidorino's pokeball, but he stopped when the figure turned towards him. He recognized the odd man as Koga.

Koga nodded at him before returning his focus to the helpless Janine.

"You're getting lazy." He chided with a raspy voice as he placed a thin, booted foot onto her throat. "You must be aware of your surroundings even when distracted. I will have to put you through more rigorous training after this challenge."

Ash blinked.

Koga took his foot off of Janine's neck and helped her up. "You cannot be a true member of this gym until you can fight as well without pokemon as you can with them. There are only twelve members of this gym. I would like to see a thirteenth soon."

"Of course, Father." Janine said almost reverently. She was rubbing her neck a bit, but didn't seem to mind the attack. "I've been getting lazy. I'll train with Bruce later."

Ash watched the odd family dynamic curiously, although he took the time to take in Koga.

The man was obviously a fighter. His tight martial arts uniform showed that he wasn't particularly bulky, but he was built lithe and strong. Ash could see that he moved with the fluid grace of a trained fighter. His fierce eyes and angular face made it all the more noticeable.

"Good." Koga replied to Janine. He turned to Ash. "Who are you, challenger?"

"I'm Ash Ketchum."

Koga nodded. "I believe I've heard about you from Surge. Good. This will be a good fight."

Ash nodded, a determined expression settling on his face. He would live up to what Surge had claimed. Koga would be defeated.

Janine stepped forward, her voice shifting into the professional tones of a League referee. She looked at Ash.

"Challenger, take your place on the battlefield."

He nodded and walked over to the nearest box. Koga quickly travelled to the opposite side.

"This will be a three-on-three battle." Janine called out as she took her own position. "The challenger will send out the first pokemon."

Ash frowned at the disadvantage, but quickly sent out Infernus. Although he wanted to use Dazed at some point in this battle, he wanted to hold her back for a while. She would definitely be his trump card should he need it. Brute still wasn't quite up to his standards. The Machoke was improving quickly, but still couldn't match his other friends.

Infernus roared as he was released onto the bare battlefield. He stamped his foot and spit a long stream of flame into the air, attempting to intimidate Koga and whatever pokemon he would send out.

Koga examined Infernus curiously. He scratched his chin as he thought.

"Your magmar is impressive!" Koga shouted, his raspy voice loud and clear even from across the battlefield. "But can he defeat my own ally?"

He released a gigantic muk onto the field. Ash gagged as the putrid, rotting odor of the pokemon hit him. It reminded him far too much of when he was trapped underneath Pierce's own monstrous muk.

Koga didn't wait for the normal formalities. He instantly began giving orders.

"Use poison gas, then sludge!" Koga ordered coolly. Muk quickly followed the orders, producing a large quantity of purple, poisonous gas from its toxic body. It then spit thick, dark sludge towards Infernus. Ash could smell the poison from his box.

"Dodge, flamethrower." Ash said. Infernus quickly leapt out of the sludge's way and blasted a massive stream of flame towards Muk. The fire burned away the poison gas, leaving the area around Muk safe. It also temporarily stunned the poison-type, dealing some damage in the process.

Ash figured that it would be easy to press his advantage. "Flamethrower, close in and fire punch."

Infernus charged towards Muk, dodging three more sludges and sending a steady blast of flame towards the putrid creature. Koga was calling out attacks, but none of them managed to land on Infernus. Soon enough, the fire-type had closed in and slammed his flame-covered fist into Muk.

He grinned when he saw Muk recoil. At least he knew that it wasn't too overwhelmingly powerful. It wouldn't be able to take hits with the power that Infernus possessed.

"Lava plume, follow with fire punch. Flamethrower if conscious."

Infernus stamped his foot to the ground, ignoring the poisonous gas that Muk had begun to produce. An explosion of lava and flame burst around it, coming up from underneath the poison-type and badly burning it. A moment later the ruthless fire-type slammed his flaming fist into the injured Muk, knocking it out for good.

Ash grinned. This was just as easy as he had hoped. Koga had a reputation for being difficult to defeat, but most pokemon weren't as powerful or as well-trained as Infernus.

Koga had a frown on his face. "I see that I will not be disappointed. You will not so easily defeat my next pokemon, however. Go, Weezing!"

He hadn't faced many weezing before. One or two had been in the service of the more powerful Rockets he had fought, but weezing weren't particularly popular. Their gas was incredibly dangerous, and the smell didn't help. But he did know that they were incredibly dangerous if they released their poison and also that they were incredibly durable to physical attacks.

He recalled Infernus. While he didn't think the fire-type would have a difficult time with Weezing, he didn't want him getting poisoned. Nidorino would be a much safer choice.

Koga didn't say anything about Nidorino. He just stared at him for a moment before calling out a few random words to Weezing. The smelly pokemon puffed up a bit more.

Ash frowned. He knew Koga was laying some sort of trap. It would be best to take Weezing out from a distance just to be safe.

"Ice beam, thunderbolt."

Nidorino quickly blasted Weezing with the ice beam. All three energy beams struck their target, encasing Weezing in a thick shell of ice. Ash grinned as the poison-type fell to the ground, its gasses unable to keep it aloft when covered with ice.

His friend grunted as he released the thunderbolt. Ash had to avert his eyes, but could hear Koga's single command. He felt a surge of real panic.

"Nidorino, get out of the way!" He screamed, hoping that Nidorino could react quickly enough.

An instant later a massive surge of energy blasted out from Weezing. Ash felt a momentary, bright flash of heat and light. He had to cover his eyes and turn his face away, but looked back at the battlefield as soon as he could.

Ash sighed. Nidorino hadn't been able to avoid the explosion. His friend was laying unconscious not too far from him, his stomach exposed and his eyes shut.

He had been afraid of the possibility of Koga using self-destruct, Ash thought as he returned his friend. It was a common tactic for those that used koffing and weezing. The poisonous gasses inside of the pokemon were extremely volatile, and could be exploded at will. It didn't cause any permanent harm to the koffing or weezing either, so it was barely sacrificial.

Still, had hadn't expected Koga to use it. The gym leader generally focused more on inflicting conditions that would slowly weaken his foes or simply overpowered them with whatever pokemon he used. Ash hadn't been expecting him to use the sacrifice tactics that most trainers found annoying at best and cowardly at worst.

"Your Nidorino was too powerful for Weezing." Koga said calmly. Ash started and looked at the gym leader. He hadn't been expecting any sort of justification – normally it was only idiots that explained their strategy. "I chose to do at least some damage."

Ash frowned, but nodded. He just wanted to get on with the battle.

He didn't waste any time in choosing his next pokemon. Dazed was quickly sent out. Koga had managed to equalize this battle and Ash didn't want to give the gym leader any chance of victory.

Koga's stern expression twisted into a frown when he saw the drowzee. Ash grinned at the expression. He had Koga afraid.

Then the gym leader smiled. "Thank you, Challenger. You have given me an opportunity to try out my newest pokemon. It's quite exotic, and I doubt that you have seen it before. Go, Seviper!"

Now it was Ash who was frowning. He had heard the name before and knew it was going to be something like arbok, but he wasn't sure of the extent of its abilities. Ash didn't even know what it looked like.

It had to be a poison-type, however. That gave him confidence. Koga's newest twist didn't matter. Dazed still had the advantage.

Then Koga sent out the pokemon.

The first things he noticed were the fangs. They were at least six inches long and were a bright crimson, matching the serpent's eyes. Seviper's long body was tightly coiled, although he could easily see the power hidden in the scaled muscles. Its tail ended in a massive blade, with the black scales slowly shifting into a crimson.

All in all, it looked extremely dangerous. Ash certainly wouldn't give it a chance to get close to Dazed.

"Sludge bomb!" Koga ordered. Seviper was fast. It managed to spit the poisonous substance at Dazed before Ash could blink. "Then attack with Poison Fang and Poison Tail."

"Block that sludge." Ash ordered, knowing that the toxins would probably take Dazed out of the battle. At the very least they would make her easy prey for Seviper. "Then psychic."

Dazed created a thin, telekinetic barrier that blocked the sludge bomb. The poison slid around it, falling to the ground with an audible hiss. Ash smiled, glad that he had avoided the immediate danger.

Despite its quick reaction time, Seviper wasn't particularly fast. It was taking longer than he'd expected to wind towards Dazed, although the glowing, poison-dripping blade and fangs promised danger and pain when it finally arrived.

That wouldn't happen. It made itself easy prey for Dazed's psychic. Seviper was hurled to the other end of the battlefield by the wave of psychic force, causing immense damage to it when it landed. Ash could see that Seviper couldn't take much more.

Koga didn't seem particularly worried. "Use Sludge Gas!"

Seviper quickly followed the order. First it spit a massive amount of poisonous, purple sludge into the air – Ash was amazed it could even store that much in its body, although pokemon and their abilities were always a mystery. It was heading towards Dazed, but Ash figured that there wasn't enough to break Dazed's barrier.

Then Seviper opened its maw and released a large stream of hot flame, hitting the sludge with perfect accuracy. The sludge quickly shifted into a gas form, surrounding Dazed and forcing her to breathe it in. No barrier would protect her from it.

Ash began to panic – he hadn't expected anything like that. Dazed didn't seem to take too much immediate damage from it, but he knew that it would probably slow her down and begin to drain her soon.

"Get out of there!" He shouted. His order snapped Dazed out of her trance and she quickly heeded his command. Dazed used some of her power to blast the toxic gas away, although it was an imperfect process. There was still plenty spreading throughout the battlefield.

Koga ordered Seviper to go after Dazed. Ash felt a sinking feeling in his stomach at the thought of Dazed being anywhere near the long, sharp fangs and gigantic blade. He was almost ready to forfeit the match. Dazed just couldn't handle that kind of physical damage.

"Use psychic on it when you can. Block anything it attacks you with!" Ash ordered, too worried about the stumbling, weakened Dazed to shorten his orders. She slowly nodded and turned her squat form to face the serpent. It was halfway across the battlefield.

"Flamethrower." Koga commanded. Seviper's stream of flame quickly raced across the field towards Dazed, although she managed to raise a telekinetic shield to block it. The heat still did a bit of damage, but it was far better than the alternative.

She sent a psybeam in response, proving to Ash that she was weakening. Dazed was always good about following orders. The psybeam meant that she was too tired to use a psychic.

Seviper took the beam. It knocked the serpent back a bit and stunned it, but Seviper quickly continued winding towards Dazed. The serpent dodged a second psybeam and sent another flamethrower in response.

Dazed's fragile barrier shattered beneath the onslaught, allowing the full force of the flamethrower to hit her. Ash had to turn his face from the intense blast of heat. The sinking feeling in his stomach only got worse.

When he turned back, Seviper was just about to lunge at Dazed. Dazed looked ready to collapse, but pulled herself up from the position the flamethrower had forced her into. Ash quickly called out for her to use a psybeam. He didn't think that she had the focus required for a zen headbutt.

Her psybeam lacked any of the usual intensity. It barely affected Seviper, only serving to annoy it as it swiped its blade – which was glowing a bright purple and leaked massive quantities of poison – at Dazed. The blade easily injected the poison into her, and Ash got ready to forfeit. He wouldn't put any of his pokemon through this.

Then Dazed unleashed a massive wave of psychic power, hurling Seviper back. Ash blinked and stared at Dazed as she stood upright and began glowing, the power now suffusing her banishing the effects of the toxins.

A wide grin slowly split his face as he realized what was going on. This battle wasn't over – Dazed was evolving!

He felt a brief surge of thanks towards whatever gave him such a great piece of luck, but soon began to simply observe Dazed's transformation. Dazed was glowing so brightly that he had to shade his eyes – and even then it still caused a decent bit of pain and an overwhelmingly strong urge to snap them shut – but he forced the pain back and got the best look he could.

From what he could make out, her form was rapidly shifting and growing, although sometimes reverting back to the form of a drowzee. Gradually, however, she stayed in the taller, leaner form of a hypno longer and longer before reverting back.

After nearly a minute of this, the white energy suddenly intensified beyond belief. Ash remembered the great surge of light that had nearly blinded him when Nidoran evolved and turned his head. Even with the warning, the white light that burned with the power of a sun could be clearly seen through his eyelids.

Then it disappeared. Ash rubbed his eyes for a moment before opening. He still saw stars, but now he could see somewhat decently. The first thing he did was look towards his friend.

Dazed was far taller and more human-like than she had been as a drowzee. Her previously rotund form was now tall and lean. She now had fully yellow skin, the murky brown of her drowzee form having completely vanished. Two cat-like ears had sprouted from her head, and her eyes were just as sleepy as before. A large nose had appeared in place of her trunk, although it was roughly the same size as the trunk had been. Dazed had also grown a long, white mane of fur. It seemed longer than the other members of her species, but Ash remembered that the pokedex had said females had longer manes.

He noticed that she didn't have the pendulum that all hypno possessed. Perhaps she would have to fashion it herself somehow. Ash didn't pay much attention to it, however. Even though she would be weaker without the pendulum, Dazed's psychic powers would still be amplified.

Koga still seemed a little bit shocked, so Ash decided to take advantage of it. Seviper was angrily hissing at Dazed, but seemed too well-trained to make a move without its trainer's command.

"Psychic!" He called out. Dazed's new ears twitched and she stared at Seviper. Ash could see a bright blue light emanating from her face – presumably from her eyes – and that Seviper was now surrounded by an icy blue aura.

Koga quickly recovered and tried to call out orders, but Seviper was helpless to do anything but futilely struggle against the psychic power controlling it. Dazed then released a massive blast of telekinetic force, sending Seviper flying across the battlefield and into the invisible barrier surrounding it.

Ash blinked, in awe of how powerful the attack was. He knew that drowzee and hypno's power was mainly held in defense against psychic and elemental attacks, but the offensive power displayed by Dazed was impressive. It was probably just related to the overall boost in power she received from evolution.

Seviper couldn't handle the powerful psychic assault. It weakly tried to struggle back up and return to the fight, but Koga recalled it.

Koga looked at Ash. "You did well. It is clear that your drowzee cared a great deal for you in order to evolve. You have proven worthy of the Soul Badge."

"Thanks." Ash replied. He walked out of the box before jogging over to Dazed. She was only an inch or two taller than him, but it was odd. As a drowzee, he had towered over her.

"You did great!" He said with a grin. Dazed had no mouth now, but he could see in her eyes that she was smiling. His tone shifted to one of concern. "Are you alright? You took a real beating out there. Is the poison gone?"

Dazed slowly nodded. Her eyes no longer seemed exhausted as they had as a drowzee, Ash noticed. Instead they merely seemed sleepy.

He smiled again and patted her on the shoulder. Dazed stiffened at the contact, but quickly relaxed. Ash turned to Koga, who had left his own box and was patiently waiting for him.

Ash walked over. Dazed stayed in her position, blankly staring into empty space.

Koga had a badge case out and was in the process of removing one when Ash walked up. He patiently waited for Koga to give him the badge.

"I can see that Surge was not exaggerating." Koga said as he handed Ash the badge. Ash examined the badge for a moment. It was in the smooth form of a fuschia heart. "There's still many months left before the Conference. Should you continue advancing at this rate, I believe that you will do very well."

Ash nodded. "Thank you."

Koga nodded. "I expect you to return here in several months." The gym leader suddenly smiled widely, exposing his teeth. "I want a rematch, and I will use my true team against you."

That made Ash grin. "I'm looking forward to it. I'll return when I'm ready." He promised. Koga nodded.

"Very well, then. But for now, I must leave. Janine requires training, and there is much to do. I bid you farewell."

Ash said his own goodbye before leaving the gym. He returned Dazed – who was still staring into space with glazed eyes – and hurried to the Pokemon Center. Even though Dazes seemed perfectly fine, he wanted to get her checked on. It was best to get it over with – that poison might cause minor complications in the future.

He reached the Pokemon Center soon enough. Unfortunately, there was no one at the front desk at the moment. Ash frowned and picked out a seat. It might be a while.

XX

Ash didn't have to wait too long. After about ten minutes, a tired, worn-down Nurse Joy emerged from the back. She was clearly exhausted, but managed to keep a surprisingly sincere smile on her face as he stepped forward.

"Hello! How may I help you?" She asked. Ash coughed before answering. He had been congested for the past few days, probably a result of the horrible weather and the many different areas he had passed through. It wasn't a problem though. Not yet, anyway.

"Some of my pokemon were hurt at the gym. Also, my drowzee just evolved, but she had just taken a pretty bad beating and breathed in poison before she did." He replied. "I just want to make sure she isn't going to have any problems."

Nurse Joy clucked her tongue disapprovingly when he mentioned the gym. "I've told Koga a million times to stop using poison so much. He's giving me more work than I can handle." She growled to herself. The nurse's tired face shifted from the annoyed look quickly, however. "You made a good choice. That poison might be in your drowzee's system. Just leave your pokemon with me. They'll be cleared as soon as I can work with them."

Ash nodded his thanks and handed over the necessary pokeballs. He would probably get Nidorino and Infernus back in just a few hours. Nidorino might need a potion or two, but he was tough. Once he was conscious he would be ready for battle in a day or so. Infernus hadn't even been hit, although he might have been mildly poisoned by the contact with Muk.

He went back to his room. It was a little bit dirty and had an odd, musty odor pervading the air, but Ash didn't really care. Compared to the conditions he had been sleeping in for the last few weeks, however, it was wonderful.

Since it would be a while before he could get his pokemon back, he would only be paying his room a brief visit. He needed to collect his pack, which held all of his money. While his friends were being healed, Ash was going to go down to the harbor and see if there were any ferries that he could take to the Seafoam Islands. He wanted to get out of this city, so he might as well get all the arrangements out of the way.

XX

Before he left for the harbor, Ash went to the Pokemon Center's small library and computer room. He sat down at one of the PCs and quickly placed a large portion of his money into a slot on the side of the PC. It quickly transferred the money to his trainer identity, which meant that he could use it anywhere and didn't have to worry about it being stolen.

Once he had put most of the money onto his account, Ash logged off and went to the main desk. Nurse Joy was gone, but one of her assistants had taken her place. She was only a few years older than him and was just as exhausted as Joy was – the girl was currently face planted into the desk and snoring softly.

Ash lightly tapped her shoulder. When the girl resolutely stayed asleep, he sighed and shook her shoulder. That woke her – the girl instantly snapped up and looked around with wild eyes.

"I'm awake! I'm awake! I wasn't sleeping!" She said frantically, eyes quickly glancing around before settling on Ash. When she saw him, she visibly relaxed. "Oh, sorry. I thought you were Nurse Joy. Anyways, how can I help you?"

"I'm going to be heading to the Seafoam Islands soon." He explained. "Do you know where I could find a ferry?"

The girl looked thoughtful for a moment. "There's a ferry leaving for Cinnabar in a few days. You could probably buy a ticket. It would be expensive, though." She warned. "It's a long trip, and there have been a few gyarados in the area as of late."

"Thanks for the tip, but money's not an issue." He said with a shrug. "Could you tell me where to get a ticket?"

"Give me a minute." The attendant said. Ash nodded and patiently waited as she scrounged through a few flyers and pamphlets sitting on the table. Soon enough, she found what she was looking for and handed it to Ash. "Captain Stewart. This will give you the information to find him. Do you need anything else?"

Ash shook his head. "No, but thank you."

"We hope to see you again." The attendant replied as he left. Ash was too focused on reading the flyer to acknowledge her. He only looked up to exit the Pokemon Center.

It took a few seconds to decipher the writing on the crumpled piece of paper, but it gave him everything he needed to know. Ash quickly folded it up and put it into his jacket's pocket, just in case he needed it in the future.

Now that he knew where he needed to go, he headed off. Ash wasn't in a hurry. He had plenty of time.

XX

Half an hour later, Ash found himself at the harbor. He felt uncomfortable around the ocean, no matter how calm and peaceful it looked. The memories of churning, icy water and the drowning ship were always at the forefront of his mind. Ash did his best to ignore it, but he only had limited success.

It didn't take long for him to find a sailor that could point him to the ferry he was hoping to catch – the Roaring Wailmer. An odd name, he thought, but who was he to judge. He named one of his pokemon Dazed.

Ash felt somewhat awkward as he waited on the dock by the gently rocking ship. He tried to stay in the very center of the wooden pier, but that was just attracting more odd looks. Eventually one of the sailors on the Wailmer casually leapt off and walked up to him.

"Ya need something, kid?" The large man asked in a scratchy voice. It sounded like he had been swallowing extremely coarse sand. He had on a long overcoat and had a pipe in his mouth. All in all, he appeared to be the stereotypical grizzled sailor.

Ash nodded and straightened up his posture.

"I need to buy a ticket for this ship to get me to the Seafoam Islands. Can you tell me who to talk to?"

The sailor laughed. "That would be me, actually. Captain Stewart of the Roaring Wailmer at your service. Anyways, tickets are two thousand each."

Ash winced at the steep price but nodded and began to count out the money. The only other vessel going to the Seafoam Islands and then to Cinnabar was a bit more than sketchy, and appeared to be barely seaworthy. Each of the three sailors he had spoken to since arriving had warned him away from it as well.

"Hold on, kid." The Captain said, placing one of his calloused hands up in the air. "I'm just messin' with ya. It's only a thousand. And before you shell out that kind of money, you should know the dangers. The route to the Seafoam Islands is tricky, and I don't want you getting into a situation you can't get out of."

"Is it the gyarados?" Ash asked. "A few people have already told me about them."

Captain Stewart shook his head. "The sea serpents? They aren't a big deal. I've got one of my own, and a few other surprises for the nasties. No, I'm just talking about the sea. Its prone to storms and freak weather this time of year. Lots of corsola colonies set up as well. I won't have much trouble, but I figured a kid like you should know of the dangers."

"I'm fine with it." Ash replied. He held out the money.

The Captain grinned, his scraggly beard waving in the salty wind as he did so. He pulled a slightly soggy ticket out from his pocket and handed it to Ash, taking the money in return. "Glad to see some of you kids still have balls. Get here in two days at about eight in the morning. Everything will be ready by then."

"Thanks." Ash replied. He looked at the small ticket for a moment before placing it into his jacket pocket. It would be safe there – he always had his jacket on, and this way he wouldn't forget it.

Now that his business was done, he marked the location of the Wailmer on his PokeNav's map function. After that, he began the journey back to the Pokemon Center. Hopefully he could at least get Infernus back.

XX

Nidorino had more severe injuries than he had expected, but his friend would be ready to battle in just two days. He was tough.

Infernus had been mildly poisoned, but his own high body temperature had been more enough to destroy the tiny dose he had been given. Nurse Joy gave him an antidote just to be sure that all traces would be removed. Ash planned on taking him out to battle some of the trainers that hung around the area. The magmar needed to get rid of some of his aggression.

Dazed was covered in all sorts of medical scanners. Small pads were placed on her chest, apparently to check on her respiratory functions. Ash couldn't pretend to know what all of them were for, even if he had picked up a healthy amount of pokemon medical knowledge over the past few months. Steven had been adamant in making sure he knew the basics.

Ash was glad that all of his friends would be alright, but he had been hoping to test Dazed out on some of the unsuspecting trainers in the area. She had potent abilities as a hypno. He wanted to see just how powerful they were.

Since Nidorino and Dazed couldn't leave the Pokemon Center, however, Ash opted to stay with them. He could battle all he wanted tomorrow. Right now he would be with his friends.

He shrugged and looked around his small room. Nidorino was too exhausted to stay awake and, despite his best efforts to stay awake by Ash's side, had fallen asleep next to Ash's feet. Dazed was staring at the sleeping poison-type. Ash didn't know if she was merely watching Nidorino's dream or taking a bit of sustenance from it.

Torrent was restlessly swimming around in the large aquarium, head butting the nigh invulnerable glass every now and then. When it failed to even crack, he would angrily glare at the transparent material before returning to his swim. Ash knew that there was a large lake to the northeast of Fuschia, and he would definitely be taking Torrent to it tomorrow. His friend hadn't had many chances to battle or even swim over the past few months.

Plume was haphazardly perched on the back of his chair. She had finally realized that she was too heavy to perch on Ash's shoulder anymore – it had only taken four or five times of her massive bulk knocking him over to impress that fact into her head – but still tried to perch as near to him as possible. Ash just made sure to lean his weight forward in the chair a bit to balance it. He liked being close to Plume.

Infernus and Bruiser were too large and wild to have in the room. Bruiser was still just a bit too wild, although he was far calmer and more peaceful than Infernus. He also didn't have full control over his massive strength, although the restraining belt Bruiser wore helped. That led Ash to believe that he had only recently evolved from machop.

As for Infernus…he would probably get bored and burn the entire Center to the ground. Infernus was still far more aggressive than even Nidorino, and only Torrent's lust for battle matched his own. Combined with the fact that Infernus enjoyed exercising the great power at his control, and it added up to mean that he was best kept in a pokeball in a city.

Ash smiled as he thought of his friends, but it morphed into a thoughtful frown. He wasn't sure what he could do today. There weren't any books, and Ash wanted to stay with Nidorino and Dazed in the room.

Then he remembered the pokedex. He hadn't been looking at the wonderful little device as much lately, although he still checked up on entries that he wanted to investigate. Ash had probably read every entry in the pokedex he could at least once, but he figured that he might as well read it again.

He never knew what he might encounter in his journey, after all, and he would like to be ready.

On that note, Ash withdrew the pokedex from his jacket pocket and flipped it open. He decided to start at the first entry he could access: bulbasaur. It would be a long road from there.

XX

The next day he took his friends out to battle. Nidorino was healed enough to walk around with him, and Dazed had been cleared completely.

His first stop was the groups of trainers that hung around the roads into the city. They generally preyed upon newbie trainers or anyone that looked like they could beat. Ash tested Dazed out on them. She performed perfectly – her psychic powers were greatly amplified and easily eliminated most foes they fought. Some did quite a bit of damage to her, however, and she was knocked out once.

Ash gladly paid the prize money to the trainer that succeeded in defeating Dazed. The trainer had a powerful gengar and more than deserved the win. Besides, he still made quite a bit and learned just how far he could push his friend.

After that he moved onto another road, where he let Infernus battle. Although Infernus quickly overpowered most opponents, he had a few battles that posed a great challenge to him. An espeon and feraligatr were the most powerful foes, and Ash actually had to reassert his authority over Infernus when the enraged magmar began to try to take things a bit too far with the foes. That disappointed Ash a bit, but he realized that it would take a lot longer to fully fix some of Infernus' worst habits.

Torrent enjoyed the battles at the large lake. He proved that, despite being unable to battle very much over the past month, he was still more than able to keep up with the rest of the team. Ash couldn't wait until Torrent evolved into a kingdra and was able to take part in battles on land.

All of his other pokemon got in several battles as well. Bruiser performed admirably, although he still had difficulty in fights where he couldn't simply overpower the foe. Ash would have to remember to focus on training Bruiser's technique more.

Plume continued to show off her speed. While she didn't have access to many powerful moves, the sheer force and speed that she put behind them more than made up for it. All Ash would have to work on was mastering some of the most advanced moves that pidgeot could learn, although Plume would have to become far more experienced and powerful before that could occur.

By the end of the day, all of them were tired and ready to return to the Pokemon Center. They were all pleased with the day's outcome, however. It would be the last bit of battling they could get in for a few days.

Ash quickly fell asleep, although he remembered to call his mother and set several alarms before he collapsed into bed. The last thing he felt was Nidorino jumping to the foot of the bed before he fell into unconsciousness.

XX

He dragged himself to the dock early the next morning. Ash gave a groggy goodbye to Nurse Joy before leaving. She'd helped him out a lot during his stay.

It was horribly cold. Fuschia was in one of the colder regions of Kanto to begin with, but it was still summer. Maybe a cold front was coming in, although it might just be the early morning chill. Whatever it was, it made Ash wish that he had a much thicker jacket.

Ash had been sleeping in the past few days, so the trip to the dock was brutal. He wanted nothing more than to go back to the warm bed he had just left at the Pokemon Center and find another way to the Seafoam Islands.

Still, he managed to get himself there. He arrived nearly half an hour early, and had woken up an entire hour before that. Captain Stewart was waiting outside the ship, which was clearly ready for travel. The small crew was lazing about the ship, apparently having completed their work.

The Captain looked completely at home in the freezing weather. He removed his long pipe from his mouth when Ash walked up. There were only four other people waiting with him, all looking as miserable as Ash.

"Ahoy there!" He said cheerfully, blowing a long stream of smoke out of his mouth. Ash blinked. "I'm glad to see you, kid. You'll definitely be getting your money's worth – we're going to be sailing straight past a storm. Nothing dangerous, but it'll be fun."

Ash tiredly nodded and grunted. Stewart just laughed and turned to one of the other sailors. He was too tired to listen to their talk, and stared with trepidation at the cold, churning ocean. The Captain only interrupted him from his thoughts once in order to tell him the safety plans. At least that meant that Ash wouldn't have to focus when the Captain gave explained them to the rest of the passengers.

He dearly wanted to find any excuse to get away from the sea. Ash was sure he would try to stay inside and away from actually having to see the sweeping waves, but that didn't make much of a difference. The best solution would just be to sleep through the entire trip or not know that he was in a boat to begin with.

Thirty other people showed up before they boarded. The sailor that checked everyone's tickets just waved Ash through, telling him to pick whatever cabin he wanted. Apparently seeing him converse with the Captain was enough proof that he had a ticket.

Ash felt his heart pounding as he walked onto the smooth wooden deck of the ferry and almost fell over as the boat rocked. He found his sea legs soon enough, however, and managed to make his way to the first cabin he saw without falling over.

He quickly locked the door when he went in and set his pack down. Ash released Nidorino and Dazed before collapsing onto the thin, uncomfortable bed. The trainer barely noticed the springs lightly jabbing into his back before falling into unconsciousness. All he felt before blacking out was Nidorino settling at the very foot of the bed.

The Seafoam Islands awaited him.

 
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