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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45. The Clash Part 1

Life is wonderful. Spending the last three days in Pallet Town had done a lot to remind him of that. There wasn't training or potentially lethal battles. There wasn't the pressure of traveling and fighting. Just peace and relaxation.

He looked out over the Corral. It was sunny and quiet. Most of the pokemon were napping underneath the light of the sun. In the summer they would stay in the forest where the shade and ponds would cool them, but in the waning winter they sought every bit of warmth they could.

Ash closed his eyes and smiled as he leaned onto Nidoking's side. Plume circled overhead and Sneasel ran around the vast range of the field excitedly, always after some pokemon or another. Whenever he took it too far Nidoking would zap him with a weak bolt of electricity.

The rest of the team was scattered around the Corral and Pallet Town. Ash had no idea where Dazed was. She usually shadowed him everywhere he went. Maybe she supposed Nidoking would be protection enough. Infernus was probably trying to drag Arcanine into a fight and Oz was probably at the generator Professor Oak used to feed electric-types. Torrent was probably at the lake. He liked to be near the water.

Bruiser and Seeker could be anywhere. They knew the Corral as well as Ash himself. Tangrowth was probably taking care of some of the baby pokemon or sleeping off some of the injuries he'd sustained during the battle with Moltres. His moderate burns were slow to heal for some reason, although Professor Oak and his mother assured him that they'd be fine.

Ash considered his next course of action as he bit into a sandwich his mother had made for him. Normally he'd pack something for himself but he didn't mind letting his mother help him. It was nice to not have to be responsible for once. Most of the time he had to be entirely self-sufficient, at least in regards to food and supplies. Being mothered was a nice break from that.

The Conference was coming closer. It was only a month and a half away at this point. Ash could still barely believe it. Everything he'd worked for, everything he'd gone through would reach its apex in the blink of an eye. The Conference would be his moment of truth.

He wasn't sure how he felt about it. Happy and excited, obviously. Ash knew his friends were incredible. They could achieve whatever they wanted. He was just afraid that he'd fail them. The only experience he had battling in front of a large crowd was back at the Dandra Tournament. It wasn't as bad as he'd expected and winning in front of so many people felt incredible, but there was a big difference between a stadium with a thousand people and the hundreds of thousands that attended the Indigo Conference. Let alone the millions that watched it.

Ash figured he would just pass that hurdle when he came to it. It wasn't like he could find another tournament to enter. There were definitely a few around Kanto but most of the region was gearing up for the Indigo Conference. It was the biggest event of the year. Most of the League's funding came from and went to the tournament.

The Indigo Conference was the first and oldest of the annual Regional Conferences. As such, thousands of people from the other regions flocked to Kanto in order to observe it. Almost everyone watched the live battles where the best of the best battled for ultimate victory.

And he would be in it. He'd be amongst those competitors. There was no way he'd be included in the Admission Rounds. They were for trainers who hadn't collected all of their badges or had collected them from a previous year. It let people who didn't want to spend their time traveling have a chance to enter or those who had challenged the minor gyms a test. The Admission Rounds went on until there were an even two hundred and fifty six competitors.

But what would he do in the meantime?

The obvious answer was to train. He would give his friends a long break, of course, but they could always improve. Ash had to develop strategies to counter dragon-types as well. It was a given that such powerful pokemon would appear more frequently in the upper echelons of the Conference. Ash had to be able to crush them with minimal loss on his part.

He would probably spend his last month in Pallet to train. Ash needed to take advantage of the relatively empty wilds around it. By the time the Conference rolled around the adult pokemon would begin to return to breed and raise their offspring. Ash didn't want to disrupt that process by having his rather destructive friends training around them.

Until then he would stick around Pallet Town to rest and then travel. There wasn't much of Kanto left to see, but he was sure he could find something. Ash had plans to rematch Koga and Sabrina at some point or another. He could only imagine how powerful Koga and Sabrina's primary teams would be. Alakazam would certainly be a feature of Sabrina's primary team, but Koga's was a mystery. Ash had heard that Koga liked to use foreign pokemon to augment the confusion challengers felt while battling him. They'd certainly be much more formidable than Seviper.

In the meantime he had a few rifts in the team to heal. He didn't mind a bit of dislike between his friends as long as it didn't affect their performance. Ash knew that it was impossible to expect so many different personalities to mesh perfectly. Rivalries weren't bad either. Rivals pushed each other beyond what they could achieve otherwise.

What he did have a problem with was when it was more than just dislike or annoyance. His team was a team. He wouldn't tolerate any lasting hatred.

Ash took the last bite of his sandwich and took another gulp of water before he sat up. Nidoking, who had curled up to rest while he watched a few of the Nidoran play and wrestle with each other in the tall grass, peered at him. His large ears twitched.

"Nidoking, we need to talk about Oz." He said sternly. Nidoking's eyes grew fierce and narrowed to slits. His ears flattened and a deep rumble came from his chest. "You're just proving my point. You need to calm down. She's a teammate."

Nidoking bared his fangs. Ash frowned back. He didn't like having to address his friend like this. Most of the time Nidoking was levelheaded. "You know as well as I do that Oz isn't a threat. She's fought and trained with us."

When Nidoking just growled and stayed tense, Ash tried to lower the conversation's tension. "Tangrowth likes her."

That got a sort from Nidoking. There was only one member of the team that Tangrowth didn't like: Infernus. In fact, Infernus was probably the only person or pokemon Tangrowth hadn't loved instantly.

"I don't like having these talks, trust me." Ash told his friend. "But Oz is a teammate and you need to back off. Why do you even dislike her? Because she tried to attack me when we first met?"

Nidoking slowly nodded. He'd calmed down a bit.

"I got over it." Ash pointed out. "So should you. Besides, you were there to protect me. Just like when we first fought Infernus. He was more than dangerous to me than Oz when we first met. You didn't have a grudge against him for the next month."

His friend grunted his protest and looked away. Nidoking's nostrils weren't flared anymore. The initial anger had vanished.

"I know that you've been more protective ever since you evolved. I don't mind. Knowing all the things we've run into it's probably a good thing." Ash murmured. He patted Nidoking's shoulder. "But you're taking it too far right now. Let your grudge go. Oz isn't going to hurt either of us. She's a friend now."

Nidoking grunted and shrugged. He pulled himself upright and looked Ash in the eyes. After a moment he shrugged again and nodded slowly. Ash smiled and leaned back on his friend's side. "Thanks, buddy. Just work on it."

He relaxed and looked up at Plume. She was playfully darting through the air with a flock of Pidgey and the odd Pidgeotto. They were trying to catch her but couldn't match her speed or agility, despite their smaller size. Plume had been fast before training with Lance but now she was at another level. All of his friends were. Even he was.

Ash pulled his cap down so it would cover his eyes. It was about time to take a nap. One of the best perks of lazing about the Corral all day was being able to take naps. He couldn't exactly do that on the road.

Nidoking leaned over so Ash would be comfortable before the two dozed off in companioble silence. It was moments like this that Ash had missed while training with Lance. Growing strong was nice but his connection with his friends would always be more important.

XX

"Dinner's ready!" His mother's cheerful voice rang throughout the house. Ash leapt up from the couch, which was covered in pokemon, and rushed to the kitchen. He hadn't had anything since his small lunch several hours earlier. "Come and get it!"

He happily followed the tantalizing smell of his mother's cooking. It was probably some kind of soup. Most of his friends stayed in the living room. The majority were too large to fit into the kitchen and he'd set out some food for the others. Ash wasn't about to make his mother prepare his friends' food.

His mother had already set the large bowls of steaming broth and vegetables on the table by the time he arrived with Dazed, Sneasel, and Seeker in tow. Ash quickly sat down and adjusted Seeker, who had latched onto his back. Bruiser was training out in the forest. He was probably miles away. Bruiser didn't like to disturb others.

"How'd your day go, honey?" His mother asked as Ash dug in. He gulped down a spoonful of soup and looked up.

"It was good." He said back. "We didn't really do much. Just hung around in the fields most of the day."

His mother smiled. "Good. All of you are looking much better. When you first got back you looked exhausted! I was worried for a few days."

"We're fine now." Ash smiled. He resisted the urge to rub at his throat. It still felt slightly raw. His voice was slightly hoarse now. Hopefully it would go away soon. "It's just nice to relax. Lance wasn't very forgiving when it came to training."

"I can see that." His mother muttered, some of her cheer gone. She lit up a few seconds later. "So I was talking to Samuel today. He already has our tickets! They're right next to the League box."

A grin spread across his face. He wasn't just happy to know that his mother would be at the Conference. He'd expected that. Professor Oak could reserve an entire box if he wanted. Ash was more excited that he'd be next to the League box when he wasn't battling. It would be nice to see some of the gym leaders again, especially Surge and Blaine. Steven would probably be there too.

"That's good. Will you be there the first day?"

"I'll try, but I'm not sure." His mother admitted with a worried frown. She nervously drummed the table with her fingertips. "There's a lot to do here, but I'll definitely be here by the time everyone starts competing. I wouldn't miss your battles for the world!"

Ash's lips curled up at that. He took another bite of food and gently pushed Seeker away when she tried to sniff at the bowl. She chattered and climbed back onto his back. Seeker quickly nestled underneath his jacket, which was far warmer than the slightly cool house.

"How's Professor Oak been?" Ash inquired as he discreetly motioned for Dazed to keep an eye on Sneasel. The dark-type enjoyed all of the bright pots and pans of the kitchen a bit too much. His mother hadn't been too happy when Sneasel had practically destroyed the kitchen while playing with various utensils. "I've only seen him once since I came back."

"He's still very busy. Between whatever the League is having him work on and that project for Silph Co. he's barely left his lab. His assistants are having to manage the Corral." His mother said with a creased brow. She was obviously worried for her friend.

"I'm sure he'll be fine. Professor Oak can do anything if he has enough time." Ash said confidently. His mother smiled at his resolve. "By the way, have you heard anything else about Jonathan and Amelia?"

His mother smiled and nodded. "They just got their last badges! Their parents are so proud. Maybe you'll get to battle them! I'm sure that would be fun."

Ash grinned. "Definitely! I can't wait for the Conf—"

A loud roar, deep and instantly recognizable as that of a Dragonite, echoed throughout Pallet Town. Seconds later Ash heard an explosion in the distance. He reflexively leapt to his feet and looked at Dazed. "Mom, stay here! Dazed, signal the others. Teleport me to the battle!"

Dazed nodded with her serious eyes. They glowed and Ash found himself standing only a few hundred feet away from his house. The psychic-type disappeared, but an instant later Dazed came back with Nidoking and Tangrowth in tow. Ash had no doubt that the rest of his friends would arrive shortly.

He glared up at the sky. Two huge dragons danced through the dark air, so fast that they were but blurs. If it weren't for the occasional Hyper Beam or Flamethrower from the pursuing Dragonite he would be unable to catch a glimpse of them.

Ash wasn't sure why there were two Dragonite battling above the skies of Pallet Town, but he knew that he needed to stop it somehow. Judging from the huge pillar of smoke that billowed up in the distance they had already destroyed something. Dragonite were too powerful to leave unchecked. They could easily do horrendous damage to his hometown if the fight continued.

One had to be Professor Oak's Dragonite. It was the only Dragonite that had any reason to be within a hundred miles of Pallet Town. Judging from its apparent age and power Ash would guess that it had claimed quite a bit of territory for itself.

If anything it would be the aggressor. Oak's Dragonite was probably one of the most powerful in Indigo. Few wild Dragonite would be able to match it. It was also rather protective of its territory if its reaction to Torrent's failed attempts at Dragon Pulse a few months back were anything to go by.

He could see that the retreating Dragonite didn't try to attack. It simply made use of its smaller size to dart away from the immensely power Hyper Beams that split the air in a great flash of light. Ash noted that it seemed to react to Oak's Dragonite's attacks before they came close. That was odd.

"What's going on here?!" A furious voice bellowed. Ash nearly flinched and looked over at the form of Professor Oak, who stood next to Alakazam. He assumed that they teleported here. Arcanine blurred next to Oak out of nowhere.

Many people spoke of Professor Oak with awe and fear. If Ash didn't understand why before, he did now. This wasn't the brilliant, kindly man that been a warm, constant presence in Ash's life. This was Samuel Oak, a trainer powerful enough to keep Team Rocket away with his mere presence.

Professor Oak had a flinty glare as he took in the battle. He pulled a pokeball from one of his lab coat's pockets and tapped the release button.

Ash couldn't help but step backward as the intimidating form of Charizard appeared. The massive fire-type stood nine feet tall and its skin was covered in a motley of old scars. Its tail flame shifted from a deadly blue to a pure white that singed Ash's skin.

"Bring Dragonite down. Don't bother attacking the other one. It's no threat." Professor Oak commanded. Charizard snorted a puff of white fire and unfurled its huge wings. The draconic fire-type had a wingspan of at least twenty feet, probably a bit more.

A gale of wind nearly knocked Ash over as Charizard took to the skies. The beast roared a fearsome challenge to Dragonite, whose fury was temporarily broken by the primal noise. Dragonite seemed too angry to forget about the smaller Dragonite's presence, however, and darted after its prey. Charizard's jaws snapped and it spat fire as it used astonishing speed to launch after the dragon-types.

"Ash, what are you doing out here?" Oak snapped. Ash realized that Alakazam's eyes had been glowing the entire time. She created a large barrier of psychic energy around the group. Nidoking stepped forward to support Ash. Tangrowth just tried to poke the shimmering barrier. "It's not safe. Get back inside. Protect your mother."

"She's fine." Ash replied. "There's nothing I can do back there."

"There's nothing you can do out here!" Oak growled. "You don't have the air power to take down a Dragonite, let alone mine."

Ash frowned. "I couldn't do nothing. They've already destroyed something in the main part of town."

"Nothing important." Oak replied. His face was still locked into a scowl. "It's too late now. Charizard has Dragonite in a Seismic Toss. Keep yourself steady."

Nidoking protectively held Ash against his chest as they watched Charizard, whose dark, massive form was surrounded in a swirl of white fire, carry Oak's Dragonite down toward the ground. Tangrowth gurgled and looped several of his vines around everyone protected within the barrier, even Arcanine.

It was a good thing that Oak had warned him. Even with the help of his friends Ash was nearly thrown from his feet when Charizard and Dragonite slammed into the ground in an explosion of dirt and fire. Nidoking clutched Ash tightly and covered most of Ash's torso.

Alakazam removed the psychic barrier and blew the cloud of dust away. The clear air showed Charizard and Dragonite were mostly unharmed, if dirty. Dragonite dazedly climbed to its feet, although it froze when Oak stormed up to it. Charizard's tail flame returned to its normal blue as it watched with a smug expression.

"I have told you, unless there is an established threat do not attack!" Professor Oak hissed. Dragonite looked at the sky. It clearly wanted to be anywhere but at the wrath of its trainer. "Stay calm. It was not dangerous until you attacked."

Dragonite whined and cocked its majestic head. It reached out for Oak with a huge clawed hand as it sought forgiveness. Oak gave it a steely look before the older man relented and grabbed one of the huge, dull claws. He relaxed and lost the dangerous edge that showed what Samuel Oak was truly capable of.

"Be on your guard." Oak warned as the small Dragonite descended toward them. Alakazam and Dazed's eyes flashed brightly but they didn't show any other reaction. Ash felt his skin tingle as the Dragonite gently landed in front of them, fearless of the powerful pokemon that warily stared at it.

The small Dragonite did not show any of the cheerfulness its kind was known for. It was mechanical as it reached into the small satchel that was secured to its powerful body. Ash watched curiously as it withdrew a thick envelope from the pouch.

It handed the envelope to Ash, who examined it curiously. Ash wasn't sure who would send him a letter in the first place. The only people he'd really befriended on his travels had his PokeNav number.

Whoever it was must be rather powerful or very wealthy. Dragonite were some of the rarest pokemon of all. If someone could afford to have one act as a messenger they had to be incredibly influential in some way.

"What is it?" Oak inquired. He kept a wary eye on the Dragonite. It sat motionlessly on its hind legs, eyes vacant as it awaited Ash's response.

"A piece of metal." Ash replied confusedly. He peered at the thin strip of dark metal inside the envelope before he picked it out. The moment he did a short column of light shot out and took the form of a petite woman in an odd, old-fashioned dress. Her features seemed familiar, although her hat and odd clothing distracted from that line of thought. "What is this?"

"Greetings, Trainers, I bear an invitation." The woman said in a monotonous voice. Ash, Oak and their teams stared at it with awe. He had no idea this kind of technology was available. "You have been selected to join an elite group of trainers at a special tournament hosted by my employer, who has taken notice of your skill. A ferry will take you to his home on New Island from Old Shore Wharf on the Twentieth of January."

She took a breath. "If you wish to be admitted, you must reply at once. Display this invitation at the gates. My employer awaits you."

Ash noted another piece of paper in the envelope, along with a pen. As the hologram dissipated into nothingness he absentmindedly took the pen and marked the "Yes" box on the piece of paper. He handed it back to Dragonite, who gingerly placed it into a second, smaller satchel. Dragonite stared off into space with a blank expression before it took off in a flurry of wind.

"Why did you accept?" Oak asked him quietly. He didn't seem judgmental or angry. Just curious. "You don't know anything about this mysterious benefactor."

"I don't have anything planned." Ash said with a shrug. A smile appeared on his lips. "Besides, I'd like to get used to battling in a tournament before the Conference. If there are some strong trainers there I can get an idea of where I stand."

Oak scowled. "I understand that. But speak with your mother first. If you leave for this tournament you might get distracted and be off for the next month. You have two days before you need to be at the Wharf. If you go then you should spend some more time with her."

"Definitely!" Ash agreed. It wasn't as if he was opposed to the idea of spending time with his mother. He'd been doing so quite a bit for the past few days. "Could Alakazam teleport me?"

The Professor nodded after he shared a sureptious glance with Alakazam. "You may. She needs to get out more often anyhow."

Ash grinned back at the Professor. "Thanks!" He frowned and looked up at Oak's large house. "So what have you been working on? I've only seen you once since I came back."

"Just the project for Silph Co. and something the League gave me." Professor Oak coughed. He glanced around to make sure that there were no prying eyes. There were lights on all over Pallet Town. People would come out to investigate soon. "They recovered several relatively intact devices from the Rocket Headquarters. It's fascinating technology, even if I have no desire to know what methods they used to obtain it."

"Oh." Ash remarked. He almost winced at the mention of the Rockets. He'd managed to put the thoughts of the nefarious organization behind him for the most part. "Have you found anything?"

"I'm not at liberty to tell you. I shouldn't have told you about the devices at all, to be honest." Oak shook his head. "But I'm sure Lance doesn't mind so long as I don't tell you anything that might get you into trouble. He trusts you a great deal."

Ash briefly smiled at that but he had to frown when he thought of the technology Team Rocket would make use of. He'd seen one of their labs, even if it was only for a few seconds. That brief glance was all he needed. Even now he could see the poor, broken pokemon trapped in tubes as mind-altering drugs were fed into them through needles. Infernus had almost been amongst them.

He heard confused shouts in the distance. Oak looked over at the people that had begun to mass around the smoking crater Dragonite's Hyper Beam had left behind and sighed. "Ash, you'd better get home. I'll go take care of everything."

"Dragonite, Charizard, head back to your roosts." The Professor ordered. The massive dragons dutifully took off, although both gave Oak a friendly grunt before they flew into the night sky. Arcanine barked and cocked his majestic head. "Alakazam, come with me. Arcanine, go calm the pokemon down. I'm sure they're frightened."

Arcanine gave a gentle woof before he affectionately licked Oak's face and took off in a blur of gold and tan fur. Small wisps of fire trailed behind the great canine. Ash wondered if Entei, the Beast of Fire, would look similar, albeit on a far grander scale. Its legends painted an appearance similar to Arcanine.

"Ash, I have something for you." Oak spoke up. Ash cocked his head quizzically as the Professor reached into his lab coat and pulled out a computer chip. "Put this into the slot on your pokedex whenever you get the chance. You've certainly proved yourself worthy of it."

"What is it?"

"The National Pokedex upgrade. You'll have access to the data on interregional pokemon." Oak explained. "Normally we save it until a trainer decides to go to another region, but it's common to make exceptions. Since you, Gary, Jonathan, and Amelia are entering the Conference I decided to give you the program. There will likely be foreign pokemon there and I'd like for you to have whatever edge you can."

A grin split Ash's face as he took the tiny chip and carefully slid it into his pocket. "Thanks, Professor!"

"You're welcome." Oak replied. He was grim as he turned over to the site of the explosion. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and calm everyone down."

He was distracted as Oak began to head over to the confused residents of Pallet Town at a brisk pace. The Professor was still tense and serious. Ash hoped he would become more relaxed by the next time Ash saw him. Samuel Oak was certainly impressive and imposing, but Ash found he liked the kindly Professor far more.

"Good night, Professor." He called out before Oak went too far.

"Good night, Ash." Oak responded quietly. Ash watched him walk off for another few seconds before he looked over at his house. His mother was standing on the porch worriedly. Her arms were crossed and he knew that there would be a concerned, curious look on her face.

"Come on." He told his friends. Ash grinned. "We still need to finish dinner."

XX

"So you've been invited to some special tournament." His mother asked over the table. Ash nodded as he gently stroked Seeker's fur. He could hear Nidoking devouring a massive plate of berries and food outside. "Was there anything else besides that message? Something that says who's hosting it, for one?"

"No." Ash shook his head with a frown. He rubbed at his eyes. It was late. "Just that he's apparently a fan of battling. It sounds like he's pretty rich, though."

His mother didn't say anything. She just frowned and drummed her fingers against the cool wood of the table.

"And you're leaving in two days?" She finally asked. Ash nodded. "Have fun. Be careful."

"I will." Ash said uneasily. His mother sounded a bit subdued. "I'll be back soon, though. It should just be a quick tournament. There's no way that the host could have invited too many people. The invitation implied that he was pretty selective."

His mother perked up at that. "Great! Are you just going to stick around Pallet Town until the Conference, then?"

"Probably." Ash shrugged. "I don't want to get caught up in anything when the Conference is right around the corner. Everyone needs to be in the best shape possible."

"Good, good." She commented idly as she focused on pushing Sneasel away from a bright spoon on the table. The dark-type hissed and ran off somewhere, probably to bother Dazed. "Do you mind helping me around the house for a while tomorrow? Professor Oak is coming over for lunch and I don't want the house to be too messy."

Ash nodded. He remembered quite well that he'd hating helping around the house before his journey, but now it would be a nice break. He'd learned the importance of cleaning up over the course of the journey. Besides, it would be a way to spend time with his mother. Ash felt slightly guilty over leaving so soon, even if it was for a good reason.

The two talked for a bit longer as Nidoking finished up his meal. Ash couldn't hear the voices of the townspeople anymore so he assumed that Professor Oak had deftly handled the situation. When Nidoking carefully lumbered back into the house his mother took note of Ash's slight exhaustion.

"You don't look so good. You should go to bed. I know you want to be ready for that tournament." She smiled brightly. Ash almost protested but shrugged it off and adjusted Seeker so that he could stand up.

"Good night." He said as Seeker chattered happily on his shoulder. Bruiser stepped into the room in concern to check on Seeker, although he shrugged and walked off again once he realized she was just getting excited.

"Good night. Sweet dreams!" His mother told him cheerfully as he headed off. Ash glanced back and saw that she was staring at a wall. She had a look of deep concentration on her face, mixed with a hint of concern. He furrowed his brow confusedly and figured he could think more on it tomorrow.

XX

The next day passed quickly. Although Ash enjoyed the time he spent with his mother, Professor Oak, and his team, he was almost singlemindedly focused on the tournament. It was all he could think about. He had to go. Ash even began to carry the message around with him just so he wouldn't lose it.

He pretended that he didn't see the odd looks Dazed gave him. Her eyes always pulsed with energy whenever she saw it. Ash figured she was just trying to investigate it. Dazed had gotten obsessed with technology since they'd gotten back to Pallet. For the last few days she'd been taking light bulbs and other small inventions and disassembling them. Ash had even set aside a small pile of objects for her to toy with. The only problem was that Tangrowth or Sneasel sometimes tried to take them. Tangrowth just wanted to see what they were, although Sneasel's actions were based on spite for Dazed.

Their lunch with Professor Oak didn't turn up any important information. Oak mostly spoke to his mother, although he showed a keen interest in Ash's plans for the Conference. Ash supposed that Professor Oak might be able to help while Ash did his last training for the Conference. At the very least he could battle some of Oak's pokemon. They'd probably be more manageable than Lance's monsters.

As for the rest of the day, he spent it with his team. He enjoyed being close with them again. Training with Lance had certainly brought them closer, but it wasn't the same as relaxing and communicating with his friends. Ash was just glad that all of his friends had fully healed and relaxed from the brutal month of training.

He did have to spend an hour or so with Infernus. His friend was too powerful for Ash to leave alone. Arcanine would be able to handle just about anything, but Ash ensured that Infernus could control the vast power at his command. Just because Arcanine could fix any accidents didn't mean Ash would be lax with the security with Pallet Town.

But right now he stood in front of Professor Oak's large house. The Professor watched him with an impassive gaze as Alakazam stood beside him. Alakazam's eyes glowed as she presumably communicated with the Professor.

It was time to leave.

Professor Oak's face grew grave and he stepped up to Ash, who had to look up to meet the older man's eyes. "Good luck at your tournament. I'm sure you'll do well."

Ash nodded stoically. It was about what he'd expected from the older man. Professor Oak had been solemn and agitated the last few days. He wasn't sure what it was, but he didn't like it. Normally the Professor was capable of remaining friendly even under stress. If this kept up it might be an indicator that he was having trouble with something.

As Alakazam levitated forward so that she stood in front of him, Ash glanced down at his house. It was barely visible from here, but he could vaguely make out his mother waving a goodbye to him from the porch. He'd already bade her farewell, but he waved back with a grin.

He turned back to Alakazam after a few moments. "I'm ready."

She didn't acknowledge him, but her eyes pulsed with psychic energy. Ash didn't have time to blink before he found himself hundreds of miles away. He looked around. The city he was in wasn't particularly large, although it was well-developed. Large buildings towered high into the sky and a long beach stretched far into the distance, although it was rather empty at the moment. Not many people went on vacation in the middle of winter, after all.

Ash realized that he was right in front of a large building with a domed roof. Several dozen ships and boats were docked on the pier outside of it, so Ash assumed that he was where he needed to be. One of those ships would take him to New Island. He absentmindedly reached into his pack to reassure himself that the envelope was still there.

He felt a few raindrops. Ash frowned. That was odd. He'd looked up the weather here for the next few days. It was supposed to be bright and sunny. He shrugged it off. It was just rain.

"Thanks for the help, Alakazam." He smiled gratefully. Alakazam nodded, although she did not instantly teleport away. She looked slightly pained, as though a great weight was on her thin shoulders.

Her eyes flashed. It was my pleasure, Human.

Ash's eyes widened and his mouth gaped as he felt the gentle voice in his head. He'd only had Mewtwo speak to him mentally before and that had been more akin to a mental gutting than actual communication. Alakazam's voice didn't hold any of the age that her physical form revealed, but sounded smooth and youthful.

Prepare yourself. Alakazam warned. Your future is clouded.

She teleported away almost instantly, as though she couldn't stay around after that. Ash frowned. He'd heard a similar statement before. But from who? Sabrina? He couldn't remember what it meant. If he remembered correctly she had used it before the attack on the Viridian Gym. But that would mean –

His body slackened and he blinked. Ash's skin tingled. What had he been thinking about? Something Alakazam said. He was still amazed that she'd deigned him worthy of hearing her "voice".

He shook his head, which felt heavy. Ash shrugged off his confusion and walked into the large building, his invitation clenched tightly in his hand.

XX

The building was filled to bursting. There were dozens of trainers, most at least several years older than Ash, milling about and laughing with each other. A few surly trainers stood in the corners, quiet and serious. They were a stark contrast to the chattering mass of people, most of whom seemed to know each other. Ash figured it just came from being a skilled trainer. Elites gravitated toward elites.

He checked the time. There was still about fifteen minutes before he needed to go sign in. Ash gazed around the crowd to see if he recognized anyone amidst the horde of trainers and their pokemon.

None.

Ash sighed and slipped through the crowd so he could be close to the desk. He just needed to get his ticket for the ferry to New Island and then he would be on his way to the tournament.

He glanced around the crowd again as he waited in the line. Ash recognized quite a few of the trainers, even if he didn't know their names. The strange master of New Island had attracted a good crowd. Several of these trainers had made it to the upper echelons of last year's Indigo Conference, although he thought he saw several placers from a few years back. They must have been as intrigued about the mysterious tournament as he was.

Ash sighed and palmed Nidoking's pokeball as the line started moving and he took a few steps forward. He didn't like being around crowds. He'd feel better if Nidoking was out. If any of his friends were released, really, although he didn't want to let them out around so many other pokemon. Aside from some of their temperaments, Ash doubted the atrium could hold anyone else. It was packed.

The trainer unconsciously gripped his invitation tightly in his fist. It soothed him, even if he didn't realize it. Hopefully things would get better once they were actually on the boat.

XX

Ash had a death grip on the ferry's railing. His knuckles were white and he shook. He looked out into the night's abyss with unseeing eyes, locked in the past.

Vast, powerful waves leapt up, icy and inescapable as the St. Anne slowly sank into the infinite ocean. Lights died as people and pokemon died. A –

"You alright, kid?" A short, burly trainer who looked to be in his late teens interrupted him. Ash blinked and shuddered as another wave crashed into the side of the ship and made it tremble from the force. "The sea's a little rough."

"Yeah. I'm fine." Ash said flatly. He was covered with cold sweat as his mind flashed back to the last time he'd been on a ship in such stormy weather. If he could have moved he would have, but Ash felt like he would hurl if he so much as twitched. "I just don't like the ocean, is all."

"Can't say I get that. My team's mostly water-types. Gyarados would love this!" The trainer snorted. Ash didn't reply. He just stared at the water that almost slipped over into the ferry. This storm was awful.

He had no idea where the storm had come from. They'd set out about an hour earlier and the weather had been relatively calm. It was still drizzling but until a few minutes ago it had stayed stable. All of a sudden the rain began to pelt the ferry and the winds howled and crashed into the ship with the din of a hurricane.

Now it was even more intense. The storm continued to grow even more powerful at a dangerous rate. Ash just hoped that they could make it to New Island before the relentless force of the pounding waves would be too much for the large ferry. He didn't want to so much as touch the icy water that crashed and leapt a dozen feet into the air in a deathly cacophony.

Ash supposed that they had another hour to go. New Island was pretty far away, judging from the map he'd seen, but the ferry was rather fast. Not nearly as fast as a Seagallop Ferry, but still capable of covering a respectable amount of distance in a relatively small amount of time.

He just hoped that the ferry could hold out until then. Perhaps the storm would break.

"What's your name?" He asked in an attempt to distract himself from the gaping maw of the black sea.

"The name's Fergus." The teen grinned. He wasn't perturbed in the least by the raging storm. Ash wondered how much time Fergus had spent on the sea to be this at ease. Ash wished he could be half as calm as the teen. He could feel a slight waver in his voice whenever he spoke. He hated it, he had faced much worse than this storm. "Yours?"

"I'm Ash." He said. Fergus reached out a hand to shake, which Ash quickly accepted. Fergus' grip was strong, although Ash did his best to match it. "What kind of team do you have? You said it was mostly based around water-types."

Fergus' face lit up at the mention of his team. It was obvious he cared deeply for them. Ash had seen the same enraptured expression on the faces of other strong trainers. He was sure that others could see the same on his own face. When he actually talked to people, anyways.

"Man, they're awesome!" Fergus exclaimed with an excited smile. "My starter is a Golduck, and she's amazing! She hadn't lost a battle since the last Conference." He said wistfully. "Barely got knocked out in the Top Sixteen by a Raichu. That thing was crazy!"

Ash perked up. "You've been in the Conference?"

"Just about everyone that got invited has been in at least one." Fergus said with an easy shrug. He glanced around at the dozens of milling trainers. "I recognize most of these guys. I beat a few of them last time." He puffed his chest out in pride. "Well, my team did. I just gave them pointers."

"What's it like?"

"The Conference? The best thing in the whole world!" Fergus declared. "It's kind of weird at first, what with everyone watching, but when you win and you hear a few hundred thousand people cheer for you you'll never forget it. Even if you lose you've proved that you're tough just by making it that far."

Fergus eyed Ash's interested expression speculatively. "You're a rookie, right? And you're going to the Conference?"

"Yes." Ash replied to both questions.

"I'm guessing you must be pretty good, then. Everyone on this boat is. Maybe we'll get a chance to battle in this tournament." Fergus said excitedly. "At least you'll be ready for the Conference. Everyone there is on a whole new level from what you get used to on the road. They're tough enough to beat eight gym leaders or fight their way in. My first battle in it a few years ago was a shock. I got used to steamrolling everyone around my city and didn't know what to expect. Still won, though."

Ash grinned at that. Fergus was definitely strong if he managed to get into multiple Conferences. Not to mention that he said he'd reached the Top Sixteen. "So, aside from your Golduck, what other pokemon do you have?"

"Well, I've got this really badass Gyarados. Raised him up from a little Magikarp I caught on my fifth day training. Let me tell you, it sucked raising him. He was a tough little guy, though. Did his best to Splash all of our opponents into unconsciousness, even if they usually laughed themselves to unconsciousness before he could do anything." Fergus rambled, lost as he waxed about the prize of his team. Ash listened intently. The other trainer was definitely powerful if he could control a Gyarados, let alone raise a Magikarp into one. "—then I have a Vaporeon, who came from a litter my sister's Jolteon had. She's pretty –"

Fergus' face suddenly paled and he reached for a pokeball as he pointed and cried out a warning. Ash, confused, turned to look out at the sea and felt ice course through his blood. The storm's wrath had finally made itself known. A wave, at least seventy feet tall and wider than Ash could see, loomed high above the ferry.

Everything slowed down but Ash didn't feel any faster. It just prolonged the horrifying moment. He shouted out a warning to the others even as his hand reached down to his belt. Screams erupted around the deck as the other trainers heard the warnings.

He hesitated and his fingers danced over Plume and Torrent's pokeballs. Who to pick? Plume could fight the gale easily, but he wouldn't be able to help –

The wave crashed into him even as he picked up Torrent's pokeball and clambered to release his friend. Ash saw a dozen flashes of red light before the ferry was dragged deep into the depths of the churning ocean by the overwhelming power of the wave.

Everything went black for a moment as the air was ripped from his lungs. He felt a brief moment of horrible pain before he began to flounder upwards. Ash couldn't see anything. The ferry's lights had been instantly ripped out.

Deep, bone-chilling cold seeped into his clothes. He felt gnawing fear rise in the pit of his stomach as his mind leapt to the last time he had been in this situation.

Blackness everywhere. The two halves of the St. Anne, split perfectly in half by the Creature's beam of energy, sank inward into the ocean. He was trapped in between them, but the waves passed him around like he was nothing. Plume screeched before he recalled her. She was afraid. He was afraid.

He was pulled under. Ash screamed for air. Blackness was everywhere around him. The ocean pressed upon him from all sides, an infinite mass that would take him and everything he held dear deep into it. Nothing –

Ash burst into the air. He greedily sucked in life, no matter that it made his lungs feel like he had breathed in ice. The trainer did his best to stay above the ruthless waves. Torrent had to be out here. He knew that he'd released him.

"Ash! Get up here!" He heard a voice yell above the howling din of the winds. Ash saw a monstrous sea serpent wind over to him, a familiar figure atop it. The trainer tried to swim over to his salvation and grasp Fergus' outstretched hand, but the strong current suddenly yanked him back into the icy abyss.

His eyes burned as salty water flooded into them and he let out all of his air as he gasped in shock. Ash's lungs burned from a lack of oxygen and his vision dimmed, but he fought with all of his might against the indomitable current. There was no chance of success for his small, weak eleven-year-old body, but he fought as hard as he could nonetheless. Ash wouldn't accept death.

A current sucked him deep beneath the roaring surface of the ocean. Ash was helpless to resist, but his limbs were weak. His vision blurred further and his body screamed at him to breathe and satisfy the overwhelming desire for oxygen.

Ash closed his eyes at last. He resisted the urge to breathe, but finally –

His ears could barely detect a furious roar, haunting and desperate in a way he had never heard before, echo through the vast expanse of the sea's depths before an overwhelmingly powerful force wrapped around him and forced him upward.

Air. Blessed, cold air. He greedily sucked in huge gulps of the precious substance and couldn't bring himself to think about anything else. The aching fire in his body slowly dimmed and died as his blood was returned to life.

Torrent burst out of the raging sea beside him, death in his scarlet eyes. He displaced the water around him with terrifying ease until Ash was close enough to hold onto the great beast of the sea. The Kingdra's eyes flashed with the regal power inherent to his kind as he regarded the raging seas that had nearly killed Ash.

The Kingdra rumbled his fury and stared intently at the ocean as Ash desperately clung to his neck. Ash watched in awe as the ocean, so powerful and indomitable, suddenly stilled as its true master made himself known. Torrent's chest puffed out as he impressed his will upon the nearby ocean, the raging expanse nothing compared to the Kingdra's rage.

Ash gazed past the pattering rain as the ocean calmed in their immediate vicinity, the roaring waves reduced to gently lapping splashes. Torrent's eyes did not glow with power as Dazed's did when she exerted her will upon the world, but he was all the more terrifying for it. He had not reached for his true strength in this monumental task.

Torrent was not yet done. The immediate danger had passed but Torrent would not let the sea threaten Ash. He rumbled again and his eyes narrowed to slits as the monumentally powerful Kingdra used the strength bestowed upon his kind.

The ocean spun around them. It rose up where Ash and Torrent were and elevated them above the smooth sea, but Torrent continued to focus. Ash couldn't help but look in awe as all the water a hundred feet around them was pulled up into a vast cyclone hundreds of feet high. It whirled around the duo, who were left in a relatively peaceful zone guarded by the twister.

Ash held onto his friend even tighter as he regarded the mighty cyclone that rose higher than he could see. It blended into the black sky and clouds, the walls of dark, frozen water so high that Ash could believe they met with the cloud. The cyclone commanded by Torrent was so vast that it seemed like the entire world to Ash. He couldn't see outside of the cyclone into the raging storm that Torrent did not command, but he could imagine the massive waves collapsing futilely into Torrent's own twister, doing naught but increasing its size and strength.

"Torrent…there are others. We have to help them." He said dizzily, still not fully recovered from his brush with death. Torrent regarded him sadly, but shook his great head. Ash frowned and leaned into his friend's thick, plated scales. They were cold and wet, but comforting at the same time. "No…we have…we have to…"

He collapsed into blackness.

XX

Ash's eyes snapped open. He remembered a wave, the icy ocean, and Torrent. Where was he?

His eyes had to adjust to the blackness of night, but he soon realized where he was. He was still aboard Torrent, who resolutely manipulated the ocean and his personal hurricane to force the duo through the ocean. Ash wondered where his friend was trying to take him.

"Torrent?" He asked quietly. The dragon-type started but did not lose his focus. Torrent simply peered back and dipped his head to Ash. "Do you know where you're going?"

A nod.

"Are you heading back to shore?"

Torrent shook his head. Ash frowned. "Where, then?"

The dragon-type shut his eyes. A large part of the wall of rushing water ahead of them became empty as the liquid that made it up was displaced.

He held in a gasp as he saw what had to be New Island. It wasn't a very large island, but what was on it was incredible. A massive fortress lay upon the carved rock, which had canals that allowed thin, smooth streams of water to cascade down into the ocean. Ash could make out a huge door at the base of the fortress. Three towers, connected by delicate arches, jutted out from the ground. Windmills were placed atop each tower.

Ash eyed the structure. It was beautiful, even if he'd never seen anything like it before. While it had a strange, dark architecture it was elegant and smooth. He doubted anything had ever been built like it. Whoever owned it must be incredibly rich.

He immediately felt guilty for focusing on that after the fiasco he'd just gone through. People had probably died unless they escaped through some miracle and here he was thinking about how wealthy someone was.

"Did you find anyone else?" He asked. Ash felt his dread solidify when Torrent shook his large head. He clenched his fist and leaned his face into Torrent's cool scales, which were mostly dry aside from flecks of moisture yanked up from the cyclone. He felt an odd, horrible suspicion. "Did you look?"

Torrent didn't respond. Ash just felt his chest constrict. He felt awful now. He couldn't judge Torrent. Torrent had only done what a monarch was supposed to do. He had looked after Ash at the cost of all others.

But he couldn't help but feel anger. Who knew how many people had been stuck down there, locked in that ferry as it was yanked deep into the ocean and filled with thousands of gallons of freezing water?

And Torrent had left them just to save Ash.

He clenched his teeth and looked up at the sky. They were in the eye of the storm. There were no clouds above them. That meant they had to hurry. If they didn't they would get stuck in the deadly storm as it passed over New Island. New Island was their goal. It was shelter.

Hope burst inside of him. Maybe the owner of New Island could help. The trainers were supposed to be his guests. They'd have to do something.

Ash suddenly smiled joyously as he realized something else: at least some of the trainers had to have water or flying-types! They were strong. They'd have some way to get themselves out of there. There was no way they wouldn't be able to handle the storm!

They had to.

"Torrent, let's hurry." He said quietly. Ash was hopeful for the fates of the other trainers now, but he knew he had to get to New Island as soon as possible. Even if he was sure most of them were fine, there had to be some that needed help. Help that the master of New Island would be able to give.

Torrent nodded and closed his eyes. Ash could only imagine that he was becoming one with the sea, a sentient extension of the great reservoir of water and life. He couldn't feel them gain speed, but he could see New Island grow closer at an astonishing rate.

He had a determined expression on his face. They had to hurry. Everyone on that ferry needed his help.

XX

Torrent had allowed his cyclone to collapse back into the ocean with a roar akin to thunder several minutes ago. Now it was just him and Ash.

Ash held on tightly as Torrent levitated up to the shore. His friend showed no sign of fatigue from maintaining the cyclone for at least an hour. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised. Torrent was truly monstrous in terms of raw power.

"Thanks." He nodded to Torrent as he clumsily slid off of his friend's back. Torrent dipped his head and rumbled back.

He froze the moment his feet touched the ground. A bolt of energy flowed into his body and made his skin tingle. It wasn't quite painful but it wasn't comfortable either. The closest thing Ash could liken it to would be a pins-and-needles sensation.

The air practically hummed with restrained energy. Ash had felt it before, a subtle sensation in the air, but it was obvious now. It felt like invisible lightning arced through the air but also as if a light pressure encased his entire body.

Ash felt his blood run with ice and fear choke his lungs. He'd felt this before at the Viridian gym, albeit on a smaller scale. He recognized this sensation. Mewtwo was here. Mewtwo was here and he was defenseless.

He expressionlessly recalled Torrent, who vanished in a light hum and flash of scarlet light. Ash went for Plume's pokeball. She could let him escape and find help. He knew where Mewtwo was. He had to contact Lance.

"My master requires your presence." A smooth, monotonous voice droned. Ash snapped toward the sound, only to realize that the woman that had been in the message had appeared seemingly from nowhere. His fists clenched and he ignored her.

As he prepared to release Plume and take off, the woman's eyes flashed a horrible, icy blue and the pressure around him magnified. He found himself paralyzed and helpless to resist as the woman returned to her previous state and stared at him with blank eyes.

"My master requires your presence. Come with me. The other guests are waiting." She said. Ash felt a hint of something else in her words. Not a threat, but a power. He felt his limbs respond to her command of their own will. His body followed the mysterious woman even as his mind screamed for help. Plume's pokeball was useless at his waist.

His body moved mechanically, as though an unskilled puppeteer were pulling on his limbs' strings. He felt his gait become smoother and more natural as time went on, although his skin began to burn. Ash was frozen in fear and simply tried to take everything in. There had to be a way out. Lance had to know of Mewtwo's fortress.

As they approached two massive doors of some strange, shiny black substance that Ash had never seen before the woman stopped. The doors swiftly creaked open through no visible effort and revealed a massive, beautiful room that was incredibly open. A strange, spiraling ramp travelled high into the largest tower and behind it was a wall of a mysterious, amber-like substance that shimmered when Ash looked at it. There were several large fountains in the room, each of which were surrounded by experienced pokemon.

Ash's attention was focused on the very center of the room, which held several tables that seemed as though large chunks of granite had been yanked from the earth. Their edges were irregular and looked rough, but the crystalline surface of the tables had been polished and smoothed to perfection. They were beautiful, even if the fear Ash felt kept him from properly appreciating it. He couldn't admire something when it was all part of a trap, even if he didn't quite know what the trap was at the moment.

"Here we are. Make yourself comfortable. Please release your pokemon and join the others." The woman looked at him blankly. "My master will be with you shortly."

He felt dread at that, but couldn't resist as his body took him to the table. Ash felt greater autonomy now, however. Mewtwo seemed to have taken his focus off of him.

Ash mechanically stepped forward, guided by another presence. He looked around through his own will. All of the fountains were surrounded by pokemon, of course, but their trainers were what he was interested in. He had to warn them.

There were only three trainers. One was Fergus, which brought both joy and horror to Ash. It was good to know that Fergus was safe from the storm, but he was in a far worse situation now. Fergus had placed himself in Mewtwo's domain and now he and the others were at the Creature's nonexistent mercy.

He recognized the other two trainers from the ferry and from the Conference last year. Ash didn't know their names, but both had made it into the Final Rounds. They were rather skilled and had potent teams, if Ash remembered correctly.

One was a tall, confident man that looked a little older than Fergus. He had dark hair and quick, intelligent eyes that always seemed to be smiling as he talked to Fergus and the other trainer, who was a woman of about the same age.

The woman had made it to the Semifinals, Ash remembered. She was quite formidable, although one wouldn't think it at first sight. Although she had the edge to her eyes that most powerful, experienced trainers seemed to have the woman looked rather cheerful. Ash could tell that she was experienced but her cheerful laughs and apparent friendly personality obfuscated that.

"Ash!" Fergus exclaimed. "You made it!"

"Yeah." He smiled. It would have been better if all of them had been forced back. Ash tried to give a warning, but found that his mouth wouldn't respond to his demand. He gave up. "My Kingdra got me here safely."

"A Kingdra? Nice!" Fergus said, impressed. "I bet Gyarados would love to fight it."

A cough from the older teen. "Fergus, aren't you forgetting something?"

"Oh, yeah." Fergus shrugged unapologetically. He pointed over at the young man and then the woman. "That's Corey and Neesha. They're pretty tough, but I think I'm gonna beat them this year."

"In your dreams." Corey snorted arrogantly, although there was a smile on his proud face that took the bite out of the words. "While you've been playing around on the beach I've been roughing it out in the Fuchsia territories!"

Neesha rolled her eyes and primly crossed her arms. "Oh, stop bickering. Ash here probably has no idea what's going on."

The two males shrugged. Corey looked over at Ash as he lightly stroked the absolutely massive Pidgeotto by his side. It was even larger than Gary's and looked like it had enough raw power to take a Hyper Beam without flinching. Ash figured Plume could beat it, however. Her speed was a huge advantage and she was no slouch in regard to power herself.

"Do you know if anyone else made it out?" He asked quietly as he took a seat next to Fergus. The others didn't look uncomfortable at the question. In fact, they looked overjoyed.

"That servant said that the owner of this place already sent word to the city." Fergus grinned. "I picked a few up with Gyarados. One of the guys had an Alakazam that teleported everyone to the city."

"I picked a few up." Neesha offered. "They just flew away on the back of someone's Charizard. Nobody was really injured. Most people had some kind of water pokemon that could get them out of there. Rescue boats are going to pick anyone stranded."

Ash breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't believe for a second that Mewtwo would actually contact the city, but at least some of the victims were able to escape. Still, he cursed the fact that he wasn't able to tell the others about Mewtwo. Anytime he even wanted to drop a subtle hint he found that his body wouldn't respond to his commands. It made him feel helpless.

"Anyways, I figure you should meet our pokemon." Fergus said with an excited smile. Adoration shined in his dark eyes. He pointed over to one of the fountains, the one with the large, vicious-looking Gyarados. "There's my team."

He glanced over. In and around the fountain were five tough looking pokemon, although none of them were hostile. There was Gyarados, of course, but also a Tentacruel, the Vaporeon Fergus had waxed on about, Fergus' starter Golduck, and a Nidoqueen. Ash smiled. Nidoking would definitely be interested.

"Say hello, everybody!" Corey called out. Ash looked over to Corey's team as he heard a cacophony of roars, grunts, and hisses. He saw a Venusaur, Scyther, Hitmonlee, Sandslash, and a particularly huge Rhyhorn.

"Here are my pokemon!" Neesha motioned happily to her team. The Wigglytuff that was eating an apple from her plate dropped its snack and happily bounced over to the others, which consisted of a Dewgong, Ninetales, Vileplume, and Blastoise. Ash remembered seeing the Blastoise and Ninetales in her Conference battles. "Aren't they precious?" She crooned.

Ash smiled. He felt his hand go down to his own pokeballs. He mustered up all of his willpower to resist and break the mental grip that forced his movements but failed. Ash didn't want to let his friends out into this.

His friends appeared in rapid succession: Nidoking, Plume, Torrent, Dazed, Bruiser, Seeker, Tangrowth, Sneasel, and Oz. Infernus appeared last in a flash of fire. He had a brutish smirk upon his face as he regarded the others, although he didn't do anything aggressive.

"Nice." Fergus remarked as Ash's team looked around their surroundings curiously. They could each feel that something was wrong. Nidoking's ears were perked up and his fangs were bared. He flanked Ash and glared around distrustfully, although his hard gaze softened and lingered on Nidoqueen. "Looks you're a power kind of guy."

"Yeah." Ash smiled thinly. Plume hopped over to Corey's massive specimen of a Pidgeot and clicked her break a few times, clearly curious. The other bird cocked its head and chirped deeply, which sounded completely out of place on such a massive bird. "They definitely aren't slow."

Ash felt a light, soft weight settle on his chest. He looked down to see that Seeker had buried herself into her jacket. She squeaked and nestled closer to his warmth. She wasn't oblivious to the danger.

Sneasel hissed at her, despite Bruiser immediately cracking his knuckles, and settled onto Ash's shoulder. Ash silently thanked the little dark-type. He felt some of the infinite pressure vanish from his body as the dark-type energy began to course through his body.

He tried to say something to the others about Mewtwo's presence, but he encountered the same problem as before. Frustrated, Ash looked over to Dazed in the hopes that she could help him. She was frozen. Her eyes pulsed with energy and her pendulum quivered and leapt without any effort on her part.

"Is your Hypno alright?" Corey asked in concern. His eyes were locked onto Dazed as her entire body vibrated with the vast amounts of energy that had settled in Mewtwo's fortress.

"I don't know." Ash lied, despite how much he wanted to tell the truth. The voice that came from him seemed mechanical and void of all emotion. "I've never seen her like this before."

"Hmm. Maybe the host will have someone on hand who can check it out." Neesha said concernedly. Wigglytuff, who had bounded back over, patted her arm.

Ash suddenly froze. His mind felt as though something prodded at it. The feeling was slow and uncertain. It lacked the overwhelming power of what he would expect from Mewtwo, so he wasn't sure what it could be.

He slowly turned to Dazed, who stared at him intently. Could it be…?

Trainer-Friend Ash. We must leave here at once. The Blight is here. You can feel it.

His mouth hung open as the svelte mental "voice", which sounded like that of a bored young woman, echoed dimly in his head. He stared at Dazed with eyes, barely able to believe it. She had finally spoken.

Yes. I have spoken. It is irrelevant. Fight the Blight's influence. We must flee.

Before Ash could say anything, Dazed's voice wavered.

It is too late. The Blight comes.

Ash gasped in pain and surprise as all of the light in the room was sucked away, replaced only by the frozen glow of Mewtwo's power. He was brought to his knees as a pillar of pure light erupted in between the odd helix ramp. The other trainers gasped and clutched their heads as well.

The woman slipped into existence in front of the winding ramp. Her eyes reflected the light that radiated with infinite power, but Ash thought he could see the glow from within her iris as well.

"My master comes. Your reckoning is here." She intoned monotonously. Her eyes pulsed with raw power as she stood frozen, locked into place by her "Master's" energy.

From his kneeling position Ash could see a dark shape, almost humanoid but markedly different, descend in the pillar of pure blue light. It was a mere silhouette, the features of the Creature obscured by the column of power's radiance, but it was threatening. Its eyes melded into the icy blue, twin orbs in the silhouette's dark form.

"What…what is that thing?!" Corey wheezed. He was doubled over and could only helplessly watch as Mewtwo descended to the ground. Ash gnashed his teeth angrily. Sneasel hissed and clutched to Ash's shoulder as the oppressive psychic energy pressed upon him.

Greetings.

Ash heard the roar of Mewtwo's voice whisper inside of his skull. It echoed and ached, but it did not cause the fierce jab of pain he expected from its voice. The others clutched their heads but they did not scream in agony. They looked more uncomfortable than anything else.

The weight lessened as the column of icy light dissipated into nothingness. Ash tried to struggle to his feet but it was impossible. His muscles were locked into a kneel.

He managed to fight the influence just enough to raise his head. Ash glared at the hated figure that had haunted his psyche for most of the past year.

Mewtwo didn't have its armor anymore. The sleek, black metal was nowhere to be seen, probably cast aside when it destroyed the Team Rocket Headquarters. It was bare of all human devices now. Mewtwo had light gray fur that was so short it almost appeared to be skin. A strange cord arched up from the base of its spindly neck to attach to its head. Ash figured it funneled blood to the brain to increase Mewtwo's efficiency.

Now that he could see Mewtwo without a stormy night sky or the sleek armor obscuring the Creature it was even more intimidating. It wasn't very impressive physically, but it was just so different from anything he'd ever seen. Mewtwo's vaguely feline features appeared quite human at the same time, its narrow eyes dark and aware with an expression that seemed too human for Ash's comfort.

The bipedal stance it adopted was also disconcerting. Several of Ash's friends were bipedal, of course, but none of them could be mistaken for human. Even Dazed had her mane and odd proportions that would throw any mistakes about her species off. If Mewtwo were obscured in shadow or bright light it could be mistaken as a tall, somewhat odd-looking human. Until one saw the tail, anyway.

Its thin, weak arms were tense with anticipation. They sprouted out from a bony chest that didn't appear unhealthy, but simply natural. He wondered if Nidoking's horn or Sneasel's claws would be able to penetrate it.

Ash held no illusions about how this would end. Mewtwo had to die. It had to. It was between Mewtwo, the trainers, and their pokemon. There could only be one winner. One survivor. The other side would be ended.

I am Mewtwo, Master of New Island and soon the entire world. I am a monument to humanity's sins.

"Why are we here?" Neesha hissed, eyes screwed shut in focus. Her face was twisted in anger. "What are you doing?"

Mewtwo's mouth upturned maliciously.

You are here because each of you are valuable to me in some way. You are strong. You survived my storm and fought your way to shore. You are worthy of survival. Some of you have skill, some pokemon I have interest in, and some have answers.

Its eyes did not look at Ash but he could feel the pressure around him intensify. He was mystified as to what answers Mewtwo could possibly want. Ash knew some things about the League, but not that much. He was friends with Lance but it wasn't as though Lance had told him everything in their month together.

"What do you mean, survival?" Fergus snapped out. His boisterous voice was dampened with the effort it took to speak. Mewtwo's presence was overpowering. "Did you make the storm?"

Indeed. It is one of many. I have created eight hurricanes larger than any this world has ever seen. Two for each of the League Regions. Many will die. You will not.

Mewtwo was not disturbed at the prospect of so much death. Ash could feel that in the words that screamed inside of his skull. This was nothing to Mewtwo.

You are worthy of life. This storm is not for the strong. It is for the weak that are fit only to be slaves.

Ash grit his teeth. He felt the weight begin to lift from his shoulders. The others struggled to their feet as Mewtwo allowed them to rise.

Corey was the first to act. He snarled as he leapt to his feet and pointed at Mewtwo, who observed him with bored eyes. "We won't let you destroy the world! Go!"

Scyther vanished in a blur of green. It was too fast for Ash's eyes to track, but he locked onto Scyther's green body as it was suddenly frozen in place inches from Mewtwo's chest. Scyther was held in stasis, helpless as Mewtwo regarded it with idle curiosity. Mewtwo enveloped all of the humans and pokemon in a nearly invisible layer of psychic power. It was more than sufficient to freeze them in place.

An impressive specimen. You are fortunate that I do not wish to kill you. This Scyther will live.

Mewtwo's eyes pulsed and the Scyther suddenly disappeared. Corey cried out in horror, but Ash watched with a faraway expression. He knew that there was nothing they could do. Mewtwo was too strong. If Lance himself couldn't defeat Mewtwo with the help of the Elite Four and the ACE trainers then there was nothing they could do.

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