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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20. Pallet Town Part 2

"What other pokemon do you have, Ash?" His mother asked as they passed a frolicking group of oddish. She smiled at them as the group passed. "I know about Nidorino, Dazed, Pidgeot, Zubat, Golduck and Machoke but you've barely mentioned any of your other pokemon."

"I've got Torrent, a seadra, Infernus, a magmar, and Tangela." He recounted. "Infernus is just a bit temperamental. He's the one I didn't want to release inside the house."

His mother nodded in understanding. Professor Oak frowned. "A seadra? In that case, let me take you to a pond. I'll have one of mine find the rest."

Oak whistled. The huge Arcanine that was playfully rolling on its side and letting three growlithe jump on top of it suddenly leapt up and gracefully ran over to the group. The growlithe yipped in annoyance but followed Arcanine.

Two of the growlithe ran over to Ash and his mother, playfully jumping on their legs. Both of them just laughed and scratched behind the fire-types' ears. The last tried to jump onto Dazed. She gave it a disdainful glare and caught it with a psychic, gently placing it onto the ground. Undeterred, the puppy tried again only to meet a similar result.

"Arcanine, go find that Machoke you like to play with and the Zubat he stays with. Bring them to the lake."

Arcanine barked loudly, a wave of heat carried by his breath. The massive dog disappeared as it ran quickly, its age not hindering its incredible speed in the least. Each of the growlithe ran after it as fast as they could barking and yipping as they futilely tried to catch the great canine.

Oak smiled at the disappearing dogs fondly before motioning for the group to continue. "Your Machoke has been staying around your Zubat ever since he got here. When he's not keeping Golduck under control, they're inseparable."

Ash couldn't hold back the smile that split his face when he heard that. He was glad that Bruiser was helping Seeker. She needed it.

Then he realized that Oak had forgotten someone. "What about Golduck?"

Oak's face twisted in distaste. "He'll be somewhere around the lake. That's his usual haunt when he isn't attacking any of the other pokemon."

"Has he hurt any of them?" Ash asked worriedly. Golduck had been disrespectful and haughty, but he hadn't seemed the type to attack other pokemon.

"No." Oak said stonily. "Not beyond the usual they get from their little mock battles. Most of the time your Machoke or Arcanine take care of him before it gets serious. If he had, I would have had Dragonite knock some sense into him a long time ago."

Ash nodded again, still frowning. He would definitely have a talk with Golduck. It didn't matter if the water-type liked him or not. There was no excuse for causing trouble.

After a few more minutes of walking, they left the rolling hills and entered a patch of light forest. Trees and vegetation were sparse, but what was there was completely occupied by pokemon. Pidgey, spearow and rattata were everywhere, although the rodents quickly scurried away from wherever they stepped.

His mother was uncharacteristically quiet the entire journey. Ash tried not to focus on it too much, but he couldn't help be a little nervous about it. If he had learned anything during his life, it was that his mom hated silence. It worried him, but he knew that she would say what she needed to sooner or later.

About a hundred meters into the forest, it opened up into a large lake. Ash had visited it several times before with Gary, but it had been awhile. He smiled fondly at the memories of the two playing while Professor Oak's Arcanine watched over them with vigilant eyes.

"Ah, there's our troublemaker." Professor Oak said. He pointed Golduck out to Ash. The water-type was quacking furiously on the other side of the pond, flanked by a confused looking psyduck and an abnormally large krabby. "That's his little gang. That psyduck just wandered in here one day and Gary caught the krabby a few weeks ago."

Ash frowned. It looked like the group was trying to intimidate a small, yellow rodent. Golduck menacingly stepped forward and his head began to glow, but the yellow rodent suddenly released an absolutely massive blast of electricity that dropped all three of the water-types.

"Ah, that's my Pikachu." Oak said proudly as he began to walk over to the nearly unconscious water-types. "I found him about two hours after you left. He was chewing on some cables. He's actually been quite good at keeping most of the pokemon in line."

Pikachu's ears perked up and he chattered excitedly as Oak walked closer. The rodent quickly scrambled over to Oak and climbed up the older man, settling contentedly on his shoulder. Oak smiled and scratched underneath the mouse's chin.

"Good job, Pikachu. Were they going after one of the squirtle again?" He asked. Pikachu nodded and chattered on. Oak smiled and turned to Ash. "This is Golduck's trainer."

The mouse cocked his head and glared at Ash. His small red electric pouches sparked dangerously, but a reprimanding tap on the head from Oak caused him to stop.

"He's here to help out." Oak explained. Pikachu narrowed his eyes at Ash and nodded. "Well, Ash, you should start releasing your pokemon. It'll be a few minutes before Arcanine and the rest get back."

Ash nodded and released all of his friends. Nidorino grunted softly and stuck close to him, although he grunted a greeting towards Professor Oak and his mother. Apparently Nidorino remembered them from all those months ago.

Plume shrieked out a welcome and hopped over next to Ash. She curiously cocked her head at Professor Oak and his mother before lightly nipping Ash's hat. He smiled softly and gently stroked her crest, making her chirp in happiness.

Torrent was released into the water. He kept his head above the motionless water of the lake and gave Ash a friendly rumble from deep within his scaled chest. Ash grinned widely at him and nodded, silently letting Torrent know that Ash was going to be keeping his promise.

Tangela was next. He took a moment to become aware of his surroundings, but quickly pulled Ash down into a hug with his vines. Ash laughed and patted his newest friend on his vine-covered head before Tangela let him go. When Tangela realized that there were other humans present, he waddled over and shook both of their hands with his blue vines. Both Oak and Ash's mom had much the same reactions Ash did, although their surprise covered it up a bit.

When Tangela was done greeting the humans, he waddled over to the fallen Golduck and lightly ran his vines over the water-types form. Although Golduck was conscious he was too weakened to do anything about the invasion of space other than quack in an extremely nonthreatening manner.

Last, but certainly not least, was Infernus. He roared when he was released and shot his powerful flamethrower high into the sky, disturbing a flock of pidgey resting in a nearby tree and causing them to fly away in a panic. Infernus seemed to snicker at the fleeing birds before he looked at Ash and nodded his greeting. Ash nodded back with a grin. It was nice to see Infernus again.

"Hey, everyone." Ash said. "This is my mom and Professor Oak. I just wanted to introduce you guys to them. We're going to be taking it easy for a few days."

Only Infernus seemed to have a problem with that. He snorted a great blast of fire and smoke and gave a deep rumble from within his chest. Ash just rolled his eyes as Infernus stalked over to Golduck and kicked him.

"Wait until he's able to fight back." Ash ordered. Infernus snorted again but did as Ash asked. He sat down and curled up on the sandy shore of the lake.

"They're all so cute!" His mom gushed. She immediately began to fawn over his pokemon, but made sure to keep away from Nidorino's dangerous horn and barbs. Tangela and Plume seemed happy to receive the attention, but Dazed just sat there vacantly and tried to ignore his mother. His mother didn't even try to go near Infernus, more than aware of his bad temper.

Ash just watched with a slight smile on his face. She didn't stop petting and complimenting them for nearly five minutes. As she stood up, Arcanine bounded over to them, Bruiser and Seeker coming close behind. Seeker was cradled in his large, muscular arms to prevent the sun from damaging her.

When Bruiser stopped in front of Ash, he gave the trainer a sort of salute and made a happy grunt. Ash grinned back. "It's good to see you too, Bruiser. Has everything been good for you?"

Bruiser nodded but pointed over at Golduck. The water-type was beginning to stand up, the immense damage from Pikachu's attack having healed a bit. He still couldn't move very well, but Golduck was making progress.

"I've heard about him." Ash said darkly. "I've heard that you've been doing a good job keeping him check, though. Thanks for that."

The fighting-type beat his powerful chest proudly, letting Seeker go in the process. Seeker suddenly launched herself towards Ash, slamming into his chest and making him take a step back at the unexpected contact.

"Hey, Seeker. I missed you too." Ash said fondly, lightly scratching behind her furry ears. Seeker clicked in excitement, digging her hooks into his chest. He didn't mind that much. He'd had much worse pain over the course of his journey. "You've been good, haven't you?"

Seeker chattered and clicked before crawling around him onto his back and taking her place. Ash grinned and looked over at his mom. "This is Seeker. I got her from…"

His voice faltered a bit, the pale face of the dead grunt flashing to the forefront of his memory. He shook his head and cleared his thoughts.

"I got her after Vermillion." He continued, making sure his voice stayed strong. "She was a lifesaver in the Seafoam Caverns."

"Thank you!" His mother said warmly, stepping closer to him and scratching Seeker's ears. "How did that go, by the way? You only gave me a few details. Samuel told me about his own experiences there. It must have been exciting!"

That was one word for it, he supposed. He almost said that he saw Articuno, but that immediately died. Even if Captain Stewart had said he would be fine to tell people he trusted about it, Ash just didn't want to tell anyone else. It was a private thing, something he would treasure his entire life.

"It was cold." He stated simply. The corners of Professor Oak's mouth twitched upwards as the older man's eyes became lost in memory. "There were really strong pokemon there that swarmed me, and I caught Golduck over there. Nothing too exciting."

Golduck quacked furiously at him from where he stood, but was still too weak to try anything. Infernus just snorted and lazily stood up. He casually walked over to the trembling Golduck and pushed him over. The fire-type's eyes glinted in dark amusement as Golduck toppled over, unable to keep himself standing.

Ash just sighed. He'd deal with Golduck later.

"How deep did you go down?" His mother asked curiously. Ash grinned. He wouldn't mind seeing Professor Oak's reaction to this.

"To the bottom levels." He smiled, sending an amused glance at Professor Oak. The Pokemon Professor looked stunned. His mouth was open in surprise, clearly not expecting that answer. Ash had left quite a bit out in his previous explanation to Oak. "I still had plenty of rations, but I got lucky and found a passageway that led to the surface."

His mother looked relieved at that. Ash wondered what kind of stories Professor Oak had told her. They were likely true, considering how vividly he remembered those brutal explorations, but he'd have thought that Professor Oak wouldn't want to worry his mother.

"Anyways, this is Bruiser." Ash said, changing the topic. He gestured to Bruiser as he did so. "I caught him on the way to Fuschia. He helped out a lot in the Caverns."

Bruiser grunted a greeting to Delia, who smiled and waved back. "It's nice to meet you!"

The fighting-type nodded in return, although he looked a bit uncomfortable with the conversation. Ash talked more to his pokemon than he did most of the people he came across, but he still didn't talk that much. All of them were usually so tired after travelling that they just didn't feel like making conversation.

"And I guess that's it." Ash shrugged. "I guess we can go back home now."

Professor Oak nodded. "Before you leave, however, there are a few things I would like to speak to you about. Will you be leaving now?"

Ash shook his head. "I'm going to talk to Golduck now. I'll meet you two later."

"Alright!" His mom exclaimed. "I'll go home and start cooking. That snack you had before you came here wasn't nearly enough! What do your pokemon eat, honey?"

The trainer frowned. He usually just fed them ordinary pokemon food or scraps of his own. Tangela didn't need very much pokemon food if he got enough sunlight for photosynthesis to augment his energy intake, but Ash just fed him the same as the others. It was what most trainers did. Feeding pokemon anything else could be prohibitively expensive, although thanks to Lance's gift that might change.

"Ah, you just use the trainer's diet?" Oak said amusedly. He turned to Delia and explained. "Feeding pokemon on the journey is expensive and difficult. There normally just isn't enough room in a trainer's pack or storage compartments to carry food for each pokemon. A few bags of general food is more than enough."

"Oh." His mother said with a frown. "I don't think I have any pokemon food. I usually just feed Pikachu normal food."

Professor Oak glanced at Ash. "I'll tell you what each of them would like to eat while Ash has his talk with Golduck."

His mother nodded and the two walked off with Arcanine elegantly loping alongside them. Ash watched them for a moment before turning back to Golduck with an annoyed expression. The trainer stepped towards Golduck, who had mostly recovered from the electric attack.

"What do you think you're doing?" Ash hissed. Golduck just stared at him with a sour expression, clearly annoyed with Ash. "I didn't send you here so that you could bully other pokemon and cause trouble. I sent you here because I thought it would make you happier and better-tempered."

Golduck just rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. Ash frowned and took another step forward.

"Get your act together!" He said sternly. "I didn't care that much when you disobeyed or caused trouble around me, but I won't let you cause trouble for Professor Oak. He has too much on his hands to bother with you."

The water-type quacked nonchalantly and looked away. Ash had enough.

"Listen to me." He commanded in a dangerously calm tone. Golduck slowly turned his head to him but kept his rebellious, haughty expression. "I've had enough of your attitude. I caught you, so accept it! Maybe I would let some of this slide if you actually had the power to back up your attitude, but you don't! Any member of this team could beat you in a battle, so shape up!"

Golduck's eyes and forehead glowed brightly with psychic energy as rage from his offended pride bubbled inside the water-type. He flashed towards Ash and spit a high-powered jet of water directly at the trainer's head. None of Ash's pokemon were prepared or ready to intercept the dangerous attack.

Ash's eyes widened as he saw Golduck move and he tried to duck to the side, but he knew that he wouldn't be able to dodge the water gun. It was fired at a force powerful enough to cut through steel, he had no idea what it would do to him.

He suddenly felt the light, furry weight on his back vanish and heard a high-pitched shriek before he felt a spray of water that left intense, stinging pain all over his exposed skin, but he didn't feel any of the horrible pain he'd been expecting. Ash slowly opened his eyes and suddenly grew furious.

Seeker was crumpled on the soft soil just a few inches in front of him, her small form bent inward from the force of the water gun she had taken for him. He could see blood oozing from her soft blue fur. Ash froze for a second before looking at Golduck with pure rage.

"Knock him out." He said flatly, too furious for any emotion to enter his tone. Ash knelt down and carefully picked up Seeker, cradling the small zubat to his chest. The trainer was gentle as he placed her back on the ground, taking care to leave her in a position that he could examine her injury.

The center of her body had a large, bleeding hole in it. It wasn't deep, but Seeker wasn't made to take a serious hit. She was fragile. Around the hole her blue fur had been torn off by the high-pressure blast, exposing leathery skin that was extremely light mix of purple and grey.

Ash calmly took one of his super potions from his bag and glanced over her bleeding wound again. Seeker was in danger. The super potions would stabilize her, but she needed serious help.

"Plume!" He called out as he sprayed the super potion onto Seeker's wound. The skin began to knit together at the edges, but the important thing was that her bleeding had mostly stopped. It would only be temporary, however.

His friend shrieked and gently landed next to him, taking care to avoid kicking up any dust. Her eyes were initially fierce, but they softened as Plume looked at Ash and Seeker.

"I don't have her pokeball." He explained to Plume. "I need you to find Professor Oak and give her to him. He'll know what to do."

Plume chirped sadly in response and raised one of her massive talons for Ash to place Seeker into. Ash gently put the unconscious zubat into the outstretched talon, making sure that Seeker was secure in Plume's grip before he let the brave zubat go.

His friend immediately took off, slower than she normally would thanks to the precious luggage she bore but still faster than he could have gone. Ash watched Plume go for a moment before he turned back to the scene of the battle with furious eyes.

Golduck was unconscious. Nidorino had his horn lowered to the water-type's throat, although he was completely motionless. Ash frowned at that, but knew that he was lucky Nidorino hadn't gone any further. If he had been hurt, Ash shuddered to think what would have happened.

Infernus looked down at Golduck with a disgusted expression. He placed a burning foot upon the water-type's chest and caused the earth around him to explode upwards, hurting the unconscious Golduck even more. The fire-type would have done more, but Ash walked over and shook his head.

"Leave him. Tangela, stun spore." He commanded in a stony voice. "Dazed, keep him hypnotized if he wakes up. I'm going to get his pokeball. The rest of you stay here."

Dazed nodded, her eyes blazing a bright blue. Ash nodded at her before he ran off, sprinting madly across the forest. Rattata skittered before him, leaping out of the way of the frenzied trainer as he tore through the woods.

His vision was a blur as he raced out of the forest and across the large, open fields of the Oak Corral. Ash was barely aware of where he was, only that he needed to get to Professor Oak's laboratory and make sure Seeker was safe and then get Golduck's pokeball.

After what seemed like an eternity of running, he arrived there. His mother was waiting outside for him with a concerned expression on her face. She caught him as he tried to run by and looked into his eyes.

"What happened?" She asked worriedly. "Pidgeot just brought zubat back! Professor Oak just sent her to Viridian City."

"I hurt Golduck's pride." Ash said bitterly, wheezing and breathing deeply. His bruises and sore muscles had decided to remind him that he was still injured. Dull, aching pain wracked his front. He'd known that Golduck was angry and volatile, but he didn't think Golduck was that dangerous, that sensitive about his pride. He had never said anything that would really offend Golduck before, and certainly not so bluntly, but this was unprecedented. "He tried to attack me with a water gun. Seeker flew in front of it."

His mother put her hand in front of her mouth, horrified. "But Zubat was badly hurt. How much power did Golduck put into his attack?"

Ash frowned. He knew that even as bad as the injury was for Seeker, it would have been far worse for him. Even the weakest, most fragile of pokemon could take attacks and damage that humans couldn't fathom. What was a bad wound for Seeker would have been lethal for him.

"All of it." He replied as a scowl twisted across his face. "Where's Professor Oak right now?"

"I'm here." Oak announced as he suddenly opened the door. He looked furious, although the Professor reigned his emotions in. The older man glanced at Ash with a frown. "What happened?"

"Golduck tried to attack me with a water gun." Ash said, repeating what he had said to his mother. "Seeker blocked it."

Oak sighed and looked down. "I've been afraid something like this would happen. Once I saw her injury I knew that Golduck was responsible." He reached into his pocket and pulled out Golduck's ultra ball. "I took the liberty of getting his ball."

"Thanks." Ash said shortly as he took the ultra ball. He clenched it tightly, causing the blood to drain from his fingers. "I've got to go get Golduck."

"I can help with that." Oak replied. He placed two fingers into his mouth and whistled. A few seconds later Arcanine came tearing up from the fields, his tongue lolling out happily. "Arcanine, take Ash to the lake. Go as quickly as you can."

Arcanine barked and licked Oak's face before he lowered himself to the ground. Ash quickly found a comfortable position on the great dog's back. A moment later Arcanine took off at an amazing speed. The rolling hills and large laboratory vanished in just a few seconds.

Ash had to duck his head to protect it from the wind buffeting his form. He wound his hands into Arcanine's fur and held on with his legs as best he could. The physical strain it put him through was brutal, but he didn't have to keep it up long. In just a more seconds they arrived at the lake, which was eerily calm considering the events that had just taken place.

The powerful canine barked as he slowed to a trot before finally stopping. Ash leapt off Arcanine's back and onto shaking legs. He scratched Arcanine's large ears and thanked him before turning to his friends.

He glared at Golduck's unconscious form before he returned the problematic water-type. Ash didn't even know what he would do with Golduck. There was no way he would use him again after this, but he didn't even want to own Golduck. No other trainer should be put in danger by the water-type, so giving him to the League was out of the question.

"Let's go, everyone." Ash said with a sigh. Most of his pokemon still looked furious, although Dazed seemed to have calmed down some. She normally had the coolest head of any of his friends, so he wasn't surprised.

Ash returned all of them, but frowned when he realized that he didn't know where Plume was. Only Bruiser remained out and seemed even more furious than the rest. He was eying the ultra ball Ash held with pure hatred, his huge hands clenching tightly.

"She's going to be fine." Ash said soothingly, although he didn't even know if that was the truth. Bruiser was probably the closest to Seeker out of all his friends. He knew that he needed to help calm the fighting-type. "Professor Oak sent her to the Viridian Pokemon Center. They'll make sure she's safe."

Bruiser calmed down a little at Ash's words, but still looked like he wanted nothing more than to snatch Golduck's ball from Ash's hands and snap it. Ash didn't bother rebuking Bruiser. He wanted to do the same thing.

He sighed again, feeling all of the weight from the past few days. They hadn't been easy, and as he stared at the ultra ball in his hand he felt that they wouldn't be getting any easier tomorrow.

XX

They ate at Professor Oak's house that night. All of his friends were quieter than normal, but didn't seem quite as furious or upset as they had earlier. Ash was happy about that. Bruiser remained sullen and upset, but Ash knew there was nothing he could do to help that.

About an hour after Professor Oak had sent Seeker to the Pokemon Center, Ash got some news. Seeker would be fine, although she would have difficulties flying for a few days. She also wouldn't be able to grow fur in the area that the water gun had struck. All in all it was better than Ash had expected and managed to lift his mood a bit.

Right now, however, they were eating. Ash had practically devoured every plate put in front of him, eager to taste his mother's cooking. It was just as good as he'd remembered.

Nidorino was eating from a huge bowl of vegetables and fruits and seemed quite happy from what Ash could see. Plume, who had simply stayed in Professor Oak's home while Ash went to the lake to retrieve Golduck, had a large amount of standard, albeit expensive, pokemon food. Ash supposed that his mother wouldn't want to prepare a caterpie for his friend.

Dazed simply stood in the corner, keeping a watchful eye over Ash. She got her sustenance from his dreams every now and then, so she didn't have much to do.

Torrent was in a large aquarium. Professor Oak had poured some sort of odd mixture of pokemon food and an unknown substance into it, which the seadra happily sucked in through his snout. The water-type was restless as the others ate. Ash assumed that Torrent was anxious to evolve and join the rest of the group on land.

Ash actually didn't know how Infernus ate. The fire-type simply took a bag of pokemon food from Professor Oak and went far away. He could usually go about a week without food before needing more, so Ash didn't have many opportunities to discover that information.

Bruiser had the standard pokemon food as well as vegetables, much like Nidorino. Tangela only ate a few of the dry brown pellets before becoming bored. He was going around and running his vines around everything, apparently fascinated by Professor Oak's home.

But he didn't focus on his friends that much. Ash talked and laughed with his mother and Professor Oak, but his real attention was centered purely upon the ultra ball that sat innocently in the center of the large, expensive table.

When Professor Oak saw him staring at it, he shifted the focus of their conversation. "What are you going to do with him, Ash? The League will take him if you have no other option, but I don't think Golduck would work well with another trainer."

Ash nodded. Golduck wouldn't work well with anyone. "I don't want to give him to the League, but I'll never use him again, not after this."

It was his mother who expanded upon one of the fledgling ideas he'd come up with.

"Why don't you send him back to the Seafoam Islands." She suggested as she began to pick up the plates. "Not many trainers go there, and the ones that do are capable of handling him. It works out for everyone."

Ash's eyes lit up at that. He'd had an idea like it before, but he'd focused on other solutions. "That's a great idea! Can you transfer it to the Pokemon Center there, Professor Oak?"

The older man nodded seriously. "Of course. I have to agree, this is the best solution. If we release a pokemon as temperamental and powerful as Golduck into the wilderness around Pallet, all sorts of problems might ensue. But he'll be balanced out in the Caverns."

Oak stood up and took the ultra ball off of the table as Ash's mother went off to the kitchen. "I'll make arrangements immediately. By the way," Oak said softly once Ash's mother was away, "I don't mind if you wait until tomorrow to follow through on your promise. You've had a stressful day."

Ash nodded in thanks as Oak left, carrying Golduck to his fate. He shook his head. He had actually forgotten all about speaking to his mother about some of his more dangerous activities. But he was still thankful to Oak for giving him some extra time. Like the man had said, Ash had had a stressful day.

He sighed and looked over at his pokemon. Most of them were finishing up their food. They'd gorged themselves and would probably be sick later. Ash had only given them a little bit more food than usual onboard the ferry. His mother had given them a feast.

Tangela suddenly pulled on his sleeve with one of his bluish vines. Ash looked down and smiled at the grass-type, although he noticed that Tangela's wide, friendly eyes held a touch of concern. He yelped in surprise as Tangela suddenly pulled him into a hug, but couldn't help his widening smile at his newest friend's display of affection.

When he pulled back from the hug, Ash realized that he should stop moping. Seeker was hurt, but she would be fine. Golduck was being released. The problem was mostly solved, even if he couldn't help but feel guilty over Seeker's injury.

But he had to look to the future. What was done was done. There was nothing he could do to change that, but he could make sure nothing like that ever happened to his friends again.

He smiled and glanced over at his friends, who were curled up or leaning back, completely sated from the absolutely immense amount of food they'd consumed. It was time for him to relax just like his pokemon were.

It was a vacation, after all.

XX

The next morning, he was sitting in his living room. He'd just finished breakfast. Professor Oak had brought Seeker over to him. She was still unconscious, but she was healed. Ash just had to wait for her to wake up.

Nidorino was comfortably curled up next to him on the couch, contentedly taking a nap. Ash just patted him every now and then as he kept watch over Seeker's tiny, unconscious form. She had been placed on a soft pillow on the small table in front of him.

"Are you okay?" His mother asked in concern. She was sitting across from him reading a book. Ash could see that it had a happy-looking Mr. Mime and Jynx on the cover.

"Yes." Ash replied, wincing at his stony tone. He really needed to start talking to people more often. After so long in the wilderness with only minimal contact with other people – mostly just challenging other trainers and either taking or giving money depending on the victor – he had a little bit of trouble with his tone of voice. "I'm fine."

His mother frowned and leaned forward in her chair, carefully placing her paperback onto the table. "Are you sure? I know you've been through a lot on your journey. The St. Anne…" She began, trailing off as Ash's fists clenched.

"I'm fine." He repeated. Ash wanted to end the conversation right then and there, or at least direct it into a less serious topic, but he realized that now would be the best time to follow through on his promise to Professor Oak. Despite his resolve, Ash still had a bit of trouble in actually saying the words. "But there's probably some stuff I should tell you about."

"What is it, sweetie?" She asked, her eyes wide and concerned. That seemed to be the emotion she expressed most for him these days. Ash couldn't say he blamed her. "Did something happen on your journey?"

The corners of his mouth twitched upward. Ash couldn't even begin to say how much had happened on his journey.

He'd made two friends and lost them in less than two months. He'd made the closest friends he'd ever have in the form of his pokemon. He'd witnessed the destruction of the St. Anne by an unknown entity with more power than he could imagine. He'd taken down an entire Rocket base on his lonesome. He'd encountered the legendary Articuno a scant four months into his journey. He'd battled an international criminal and won.

But he didn't say all of that.

"A few things, actually." He began somewhat nervously. "You know what happened on the St. Anne, but I guess I never told you about what happened in Mt. Moon, or in Celadon, or in the Sevii Islands."

His mother frowned, clearly not liking where the conversation was taking them. "What do you mean?"

"Well, did you ever hear about that Rocket hideout that got busted in Celadon City?" He said, scratching his head. His mother nodded slowly.

"Samuel told me about it. He heard something from his contacts in the League, something about a new tra—" She froze and turned furiously calm eyes on Ash. "You didn't."

Ash wished he could melt into the couch at her blazing glare. "I did."

"Why!" She exclaimed, not shouting but coming very, very close. Her face was turning an odd mixture of red and white from the fear and rage she was experiencing at the same time. "You saw what they did at the St. Anne! You nearly DIED!"

He shrank back even more, silently hoping that Dazed would come by. Then he could just have her put him to sleep until his mother's rage passed over. Despite his feelings, Ash still managed to reply to his mother.

"That's why I did it!" He said back, doing his best to keep his tone level and calm. "I found their hideout and alerted the police, but I had to fight them. I was strong enough and I couldn't let them keep on doing what they were doing!"

"That's what you called the police for!" His mother shouted, finally losing a bit of her control. She stood up and waved her arms furiously as she continued. "They would have handled everything. They didn't need your help, it's their responsibility to fight the Rockets, not an eleven-year old's!"

Ash frowned and kept his cool. His mom had the reaction he'd expected. He didn't want to make the situation worse. "But I did it and I was fine."

"But what if you weren't?" His mother hissed. She looked like she was going to say more, but suddenly paled as some of his words hit her. "Wait, what did you mean when you were talking about Mt. Moon or the Sevii Islands? Did you attack Rockets there too?!"

He nodded steadfastly. "Yes, I did. Well, in the Sevii Islands at least. We just ran into them at Mt. Moon."

"And why didn't you tell me about this?" His mother asked in an icy tone. Her arms were crossed and she was breathing deeply. Ash could tell that she was doing her best to calm herself down and it seemed to be working. Now his mother had regressed into her tranquil fury, not the rage from earlier. "Why didn't I hear about it from Jonathan or Amelia's parents?"

"Well, I didn't think about it." Ash confessed. His week of travelling with Steven had caused him to put the Rocket situation behind him, as had his first talk with his mother. "I don't know why they didn't tell their parents."

His mother sat down, her eyes still iced over with anger as she glared at him. Ash really wished that he could vanish into the air. What was worse than her shouting was the disapproval and disappointment plain in her eyes. That made him feel guilty and put a lump in his throat, much worse than the glazed, indifferent state that her shouting put him in.

"Tell me what happened at the Sevii Islands." She said in an eerily calm tone. Ash was well-aware of her unflinching, hard gaze as he began.

"I went there with some friends." He started, taking care to avoid mentioning the Champions. That wasn't a detail his mother would appreciate. "We went there and helped some fighters out. The Rockets got expelled from the Sevii Islands and I got away with just a few scrapes and bruises."

While that was a bit watered-down and he was stretching the truth a little, he hoped that it would be enough to please his mother. Well, she wouldn't be pleased by the news, but she'd be marginally less furious with him.

Unfortunately, she cut to the issue that he really didn't want her to breach. "Who were these "friends" of yours?" She questioned, fixing him with her hard stare.

"Just some people I met during my journey." He replied, trying to worm his way out of the question. Ash knew that he wasn't doing much more than postponing the inevitable, but at least it was something.

"Who are they?" She said again, clearly not fooled. Ash sighed and leaned back in his chair, trying to get as far away from his mother as possible.

"Lance and Steven." He said, hoping that his mother wouldn't realize just who he was talking about. While there weren't many Lances in the world, there were plenty of Stevens.

Unfortunately his mother did connect the dots for one of the names. "Lance?" She asked, surprise marring her fury for a moment. "As in the Lance? Champion Lance?"

Ash nodded slowly. His mother's right eye twitched. "And where did you meet the Champion, might I ask?"

"Steven." He replied, looking past his mother in order to avoid meeting her eyes.

"And who's Steven?"

"Former Champion of Hoenn." Ash said, still not looking at his mother.

She sighed and buried her face in her hands. "I'm going to have a long talk with Samuel about this." His mother said, voice muffled. She pulled her head up. Ash noted that she just looked tired and sad all of a sudden. Her anger had broken. "Ash, why didn't you tell me about this before?"

"I was afraid that you'd make me stop my journey." He admitted. "I thought that you'd think it was too dangerous."

"I'm not going to make you stay home." His mother sighed, still appearing to be exhausted. "Travelling makes you happy, and you'd probably just run away the second I turned around."

Ash couldn't help a light smile at that. "Probably."

"Just…just try not to do things that dangerous again." She told him tearfully. Ash was surprised at the sudden mood change, but didn't to fight when she stood up and walked over to engulf him in a rib-shattering hug. "I worry enough without knowing that you're fighting Rockets."

He nodded and awkwardly patted her back. She just squeezed him tighter, making him cough a bit. His mother didn't relent however, and Ash was almost afraid that he'd have to get Nidorino to help him get her off.

She suddenly released him and held him by the shoulders. Ash met her eyes as she continued speaking. "We'll talk about this later. I just need time to think."

Ash nodded again and watched his mother as she stood up and walked to her room, regret for putting her through this welling up inside of him. He didn't regret what he did, though. He'd helped to strike major blows at Team Rocket and had saved many pokemon and humans in the process. It was worth it, even if he didn't like making his mother worry.

He collapsed back onto the couch again and just stared ahead, but a light chattering suddenly grabbed his attention. Ash's eyes widened as he stared at the shivering, terrified form of Seeker.

The trainer gently picked her up and nestled her in his arms, drawing his brave pokemon in tight to his chest. She struggled for a moment as she grew more aware, but Seeker stopped when Ash whispered to her.

"Shh, it's me." He said softly, doing his best to comfort his meek friend. She looked up at him, her attention drawn by his familiar voice. "Thank you so much, Seeker. You saved my life."

Seeker chattered something in return and struggled to get out of his arms. Ash gently placed her down and watched her tired, awkward struggle to climb onto his back. When she had finally managed it, Ash smiled and looked back at her.

"I'm sorry you got hurt." He said softly, moving his arm back so that he could gently scratch behind her furred ears. "It should never have happened."

The zubat chattered something in return and licked his cheek, causing Ash to smile briefly before it shifted into a frown. "I have some bad news for you, though."

Seeker whined and grew tense. Ash comfortingly pet her, taking care to be gentle.

"It's nothing too bad." He said soothingly. "You'll just have a bit of trouble flying for a few days and won't grow fur where you got hit. But you'll be as good as new soon!"

Ash smiled again when Seeker chattered loudly into his ear. He resumed his petting of her. "Of course, I bet you don't fly anyways. From what I saw you just have Bruiser carry you everywhere."

Seeker shrieked indignantly and lightly nipped at his neck. It didn't draw any blood, but it made Ash aware of her displeasure.

"Alright, alright!" He laughed. "I believe you. But you'll need him to do that for the next few days. You need to take it easy."

He glanced down at Nidorino, who had woken up during their talk. His first friend was still lazily laying down, but his ears were twitching with interest. "Hey, buddy, could you go find Bruiser? He'll want to know Seeker's awake."

Nidorino grunted a reply and stretched before lightly leaping off of the couch. He was still a little stiff, but he was moving much better. A few seconds later he had left the home through the open door, his keen ears guiding him to Bruiser.

Seeker chattered a bit more into his ear. Ash's smile held strong as she remained clutched onto his back. He didn't say anything to her, but was content with petting the meek pokemon that had taken a potentially lethal attack for him.

The calm setting was disrupted as Bruiser came in. His small, beady eyes were wild with joy when he saw Seeker awake and something Ash recognized as a wide smile split his reptilian face. Ash gently pulled a squirming Seeker off of his back and handed her to Bruiser, who took her and placed her onto his own back with gentleness unexpected from such a powerful pokemon.

Bruiser grunted something to Seeker, who chattered back excitedly. The fighting-type stared at Ash with respect and pounded his chest before leaving to another room. They couldn't go out into the sunlight. Zubat were sensitive to the sun at the best of times. At the moment she was in no condition to brave daylight.

Ash suddenly stood up as Nidorino plodded into the room. He gave his friend a smile before he walked into his mother's room. Nidorino followed slowly behind, still a tad unsteady.

"Hey, mom, I need to ask you something." He said as he walked into the plain room. It was perfectly neat, just like the rest of his house. Everything was well-organized and spotless.

His mother was sitting on her bed reading a book. She looked stressed and her face was a bit blotchy, although she was doing her best to hide it. Ash frowned when he saw the state she was in, feeling guilty for causing it.

"What is it?" She asked a bit tightly, as though there were something in her throat. Ash cocked his head at her in concern before he spoke.

"Do you mind if Bruiser and Seeker stay here while I'm gone?" He requested. "Seeker won't be able to fly and will need special care for the next few days. Bruiser won't be happy if they're separated, and I'm sure that he could do something to help you out."

"Of course!" She answered with a smile on her face, cheer dominating her tone. "I'm sure he'll be useful and I'd be glad to help her out. I owe her as much as you do."

Ash nodded thankfully at his mother before turning to leave. Just before he left the door, Ash glanced back. "Are you alright?"

His mother waved his worries away. "I'm fine." She said nonchalantly. "I just have to think for a while."

The trainer frowned again but left. His mother was strong. She'd be fine.

Instead of returning to the couch, Ash left his small home. He felt a little bit happier and smiled as he took a pokeball off of his belt and examined it.

He had a promise to keep.

XX

About fifteen minutes later Ash found himself at the lake. It was calm and placid, the water still and smooth. Dozens of pokemon were hanging around the lake this time of day, mostly just pidgey and rattata looking for water and shade. A few of the pokemon from the Corral were wandering around and playing, but he didn't pay them too much attention.

Only Nidorino, Dazed, Plume and Tangela accompanied him to the lake. Ash didn't want to disrupt Bruiser and Seeker's play and doubted that Seeker was really up for travel yet anyways, even if Bruiser did protect her from the sun. Infernus was lazing about in a small field that he'd turned into charred wood and ash.

He couldn't help the fond smile that split his face when he thought of Infernus. The fire-type had behaved himself quite well. Aside from spitting a few weak flames towards pokemon that were too curious or too close, Infernus hadn't even gotten in a fight.

That probably wouldn't last long. Ash had seen Infernus eying Arcanine with a measuring eye, apparently judging the old canine to be a worthy foe. He'd actually be interested to watch that battle. Arcanine had been on Professor Oak's powerful team many years ago, after all.

But right now he was focused on Torrent. The seadra was aggressively darting around in the lake, scaring away goldeen, magikarp and the odd staryu. Torrent didn't want anything disrupting his evolution.

Ash stared at the massive Dragon Scale in his hand. It was surprisingly light for its sheer size, but still held an impressive weight. He lightly rubbed his thumb over the rough surface of the dull yellow scale, taking care to avoid the sharp edges and tips.

He glanced up when Torrent gave an anxious rumble, impatient for his evolution. Ash grinned and walked over to the water, kneeling by the lakeside and offering the Dragon Scale to Torrent.

The seadra glanced at Ash with eyes full of gratitude and respect before he reverently touched his spiky head to the Dragon Scale. Ash watched with a small smile on his face as Torrent kept his head to the Dragon Scale.

Ash frowned after about ten seconds. Torrent still wasn't glowing or showing any of the tell-tale signs of evolution. He almost wanted to ask his friend if something was wrong when Torrent suddenly dived underneath the water, splashing Ash.

He coughed and spit up some of the lake water that had gotten into his mouth before watching the lake with worry. Ash wasn't sure if this was normal or not. He resolved to go to Professor Oak if Torrent stayed under for more than a minute.

Wide fingers suddenly tugged on his jacket sleeve. Ash turned his head only to see Dazed standing behind him, her eyes fixed upon the water. When she insistently pulled on his sleeve again, Ash knew that she wanted him to get back.

A little confused, Ash nevertheless followed her until he was a few feet away from the water's edge. He suddenly realized that the entire area had gone completely silent. No pidgey chirped or sang, no rattata squeaked or hissed, no pikachu nipped or squealed in their play.

He looked around and froze at what he saw. Hundreds of pokemon were surrounding the clearing, more arriving every second. Countless pidgey lined the trees, a few sparrow and fearow interrupting the unbroken group every now and then. Nidoran and their evolutions were flocking to the lake, guided by a silent, reverent Nidoqueen.

Arcanine silently leaped into the area with serene grace, leading two dozen uncharacteristically quiet growlithe behind them. The great dog lowered his head but kept his eyes on the water, the normally friendly eyes glinting with an emotion Ash couldn't decipher.

Ash glanced at the shore of the lake and realized that countless water-types were leaping out of the water. They all congregated according to species, a dozen staryu and a single starmie leaping back to give goldeen and a few isolated seaking space. Close to fifty horsea leapt out of the water, which had begun to tremble and vibrate. The horsea seemed as awed as Ash felt. Their small heads were lowered to the water, doing their best to see what was occurring within.

As the last of the pokemon arrived, the lake suddenly surged, small waves beginning to form inside of it, lapping the shore with slowly increasing force. Ash just watched silently, perfectly understanding the incredible awe that the pokemon around him felt.

He had to avert his eyes to the ground for a moment as a small glow lit deep within the lake, bright enough to penetrate from the very bottom. Ash managed to catch a glimpse of Nidorino staring at the water as well, just as enraptured as the others were.

But he almost immediately returned his eyes to the small, glowing form of his friend. It was growing more and more intense, the bright light slowly spreading throughout the entire lake. From the heart of the lake, the immense amount of energy Torrent was producing grew more and more powerful, causing the waves to grow larger and stronger, crashing into the shore with increasing force.

Ash ignored the water that was soaking him, keeping his eyes firmly focused on Torrent. By now the glow had spread through almost the entire lake, making the clear water seem as though it were made of molten silver. The light was almost too intent to look at, but Ash held on as long as he could.

Just as he thought he would have to avert his eyes once again, the impossibly white light vanished. Ash blinked a few times. He still saw stars, but they had regressed enough to where he could actually make out the world.

The waves slowly calmed down, no longer crashing against the shore with unmatched fury. It seemed that with the incredible power released by the evolution, the invisible storm that had swept the area vanished.

He glanced around, noting that the pokemon were still silent and motionless. Ash figured that he should follow their lead.

And then a vast whirlpool formed in the middle of the lake, a huge funnel forming in an instant. Ash's eyes widened as the water churned and swirled impossibly fast, the huge tunnel of churning, foamy water reaching all the way to the bottom of the lake.

Ash was aware that his mouth was open. He'd known that Torrent would become more powerful after evolving into a kingdra but this…this was beyond his wildest dreams. Torrent struggled to make an ordinary whirlpool before, let alone one that could engulf an entire lake.

The pokemon around him remained as quiet as before, even as the whirlpool suddenly died down and the lake returned to its ordinary state at an unnerving speed. He continued to stare at the newly murky water, its clarity marred by the dirt and sediment Torrent's whirlpool had pulled up.

He almost jumped back when a huge cyclone of twisting water erupted from the center of the lake, thousands of gallons of water swirling in the vortex. The cyclone sped towards him, but Dazed and Nidorino remained calm. Dazed even placed a calming hand on his shoulder, one of the few times she actually touched him. Ash was too stunned to notice.

Just as the perfectly maintained cyclone of water would have begun to soak the land and ravage the earth, it collapsed with perfect precision into the water, making a huge splash of water that was mostly maintained in the lake. Ash had to cover his head to keep from being soaked, but when he looked back up he was more than aware of the powerful new creature before him.

Ash examined the kingdra levitating above the calming water with a mix of curiosity and reverence. Torrent stared down at him in return, his expression inscrutable.

The kingdra before him was much larger than Torrent had been, standing at least two feet higher as he levitated above the smooth water. His body was streamlined and elegant, yet had not lost a bit of the power Torrent had possessed as a seadra. A crest-like fin lined the kingdra's cheeks, and the belly scales were far more compact, smooth and interwoven instead of the rough, overlapping scales of a seadra.

A large, beautiful fin erupted from the kingdra's back and his snout had become thinner and smoother. It was lowered at him as the kingdra continued to examine him. His tail was still curled up, but far less compactly than it had as a seadra. Instead it was long and sweeping and much more powerful.

Elaborate horns branched out from the back of the kingdra's head, giving him a wise, regal appearance.

All in all, the kingdra was beautiful, yet the beauty was balanced by the sheer power it exuded. Torrent was now regal and elegant, having grown out of the rough, brutal looks he had possessed before. A new wisdom and air of power engulfed him and glinted in his scarlet eyes.

Ash could barely believe that his little horsea had become this mighty beast of the sea.

Torrent slowly levitated until he was in front of Ash, looking down at him with an inscrutable expression. His eyes were narrowed and glinted with an emotion Ash couldn't fathom.

The trainer was nervous as the powerful kingdra inspected him, measuring him with his intense gaze. Ash had heard of pokemon that didn't respect their trainers after evolution, having grown too powerful for them to command. But he had a greater fear with Torrent. Kingdra were given wisdom when they evolved, knowledge that added a new air to the inspection.

He didn't know what he would do if Torrent suddenly realized that Ash had been a bad trainer in some way. Ash didn't think he had been, but kingdra were intelligent. Torrent would realize things that Ash would overlook.

Torrent suddenly puffed out his chest, proving that habits didn't die with evolution. Ash wanted to flinch as the kingdra grew even larger and more powerful, but he reigned the urge in. He wasn't weak, and he wouldn't let Torrent think that he was.

The tension was palpable. Torrent was inscrutable, and the silence was overbearing. Ash didn't let his gaze slip from Torrent's eyes though, his brown meeting Torrent's scarlet eyes. He could see a new air of regal power within them, accompanied by tempering wisdom.

Dazed's hand tightened almost imperceptibly on his shoulder as Torrent suddenly moved, actually changing his high posture for the first time since evolution. Ash didn't flinch and simply watched as Torrent lowered himself to Ash's level, remaining just an inch above the earth.

Ash noticed that Torrent was still almost a foot taller than him. He stopped focusing on that detail when Torrent closed his eyes. The trainer couldn't help but stare at his friend, now aware of even more details that had changed with evolution such as the lighter hue of his scales and the obvious hardness each possessed.

He clenched the Dragon Scale tight, barely realizing he still held it even as the edge cut into his hand. Torrent was still unmoving and Dazed's hand was growing tighter.

And then Torrent bowed, dipping his powerful body in front of Ash's. The trainer was breathless as Torrent remained prostrated before him, barely believing it. Only Dazed's light tap was enough to get him to move again. He touched Torrent's head and walked closer to the powerful form of his old friend.

"Thank you." He whispered to Torrent. The kingdra gave him a low, happy rumble in response before he pulled himself upward, pausing only to lightly headbutt Ash affectionately.

Ash stumbled back but laughed, making the first real noise since Torrent had began his evolution. The noise seemed to break the spell that had enraptured the pokemon around the lake. They all chirped or squeaked or howled for several seconds, creating a painful amount of sound.

He winced and covered his ears, but noticed that Torrent straightened up and held his head high, clearly appreciative of the roaring cacophony.

And then it ended just as soon as it had begun. The clearing once again became quiet, if not silent. The forest was full of soft noises and rustling as the pokemon returned to their previous activities. Rattata returned to their burrows, pidgey created howling winds as they flew away, the water pokemon created splashes as they returned to their lake.

Soon only Ash and his friends were left. He stood by Torrent and looked up at his new friend.

"Well, you can come on land now." He grinned. Torrent looked down at him with scarlet eyes, curious as to what Ash was doing. "So, no pokeball for you for a while. Let's go."

Torrent rumbled happily as he and the other pokemon followed Ash. Ash slowed only to put the Dragon Scale back into his pack. It was a trophy for him now.

He walked as fast as he could back to his house, a wide grin stretching his face all the while. He couldn't wait to show Torrent to his mom and Professor Oak.

XX

The next day he was walking around the Corral with a bored expression. He only had Dazed walking with him. Nidorino had gone over to the herd of nidoran. Ash noticed that he only had to growl and extend his barbs to get the nidorino guarding the herd to back off.

While he was concerned for his friend – he wouldn't be able to protect himself well if the nidorino decided he was a threat – Ash didn't stop him. Nidorino knew his limits. Besides, Nidorino needed to mingle with his own kind. Arcanine would intervene if things grew too intense.

Torrent was down at the lake. While he could easily live on the surface now, he still preferred the water. He was more powerful there, even with the incredible power he wielded on the surface. Ash couldn't wait to test him out in battle.

Plume circled high above him and Dazed. She had gone off alone earlier and seemed bored when she returned. Considering that her feathers were slightly ruffled and she had a few scratches on her, Ash assumed she had been searching for a battle. It certainly hadn't been fulfilling, though. Plume was more antsy now than when she'd left.

Tangela was lying out in the sun about fifty feet away. A few curious rattata had ventured up to them and nudged the grass-type with their heads. Ash grinned as Tangela suddenly moved a few vines, causing the nervous rodents to squeal loudly and scurry away, although Tangela caught them with his bluish vines and began to tickle them mercilessly.

Infernus was…somewhere. Ash hadn't seen him at his burnt field, so he honestly had no idea where the fire-type had gone. He knew that he would find him in a few hours, however. The fire-type never ventured too far from Ash.

Bruiser and Seeker were staying at his house. The machoke had taken it upon himself to guard Seeker from all threats while she recovered and refused to leave her side. Ash just made sure to spend about an hour with them whenever he went home.

Ash couldn't help but smile. Despite some of the unpleasantness that had happened with Golduck two days ago, he was happy. Everything was calm and peaceful, and nothing could ruin his day.

Even the weather was happy. The sun was bright but not too hot, there were just enough clouds in the sky to provide shade, and there was plenty of wind to keep everyone cool.

As he had thought before, nothing could ruin this. It was idyllic and perfect, and he was going to take the chance to really rela—

"What's up, Ashy-boy?" A snide voice suddenly asked from behind him. Ash froze and turned around with disbelieving eyes.

It looked like someone could ruin his perfect day after all.

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