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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17. The Sevii Islands Part 1

Ash froze and stared at the Champion with an awed expression on his face, finally realizing why he had thought he recognized the man. He'd watched every single one of the Champion's rare battles against unlucky challengers for the past two years, awed at the sheer power his pokemon displayed and imagining himself battling the legendary trainer.

For that was what Lance was to the majority of Kanto. As the Champion he was their greatest protector, the leader against terrorists and crime syndicates like Team Rocket and their ilk. He was the greatest trainer of both Kanto and Johto, the best of the best. Lance was a heroic figure, rarely appearing on camera when not battling or when giving a report on the most recent cell of Team Rocket that had been destroyed or arrested.

He had never actually thought he would meet the Dragon Master, not anywhere outside of Indigo Plateau. Ash tried to say something to the idol of almost every trainer in the Indigo League, but the words caught in his throat and died.

Lance didn't seem to have that problem. He gave Ash a grin and held his hand out. Ash shakily shook it, doing his best to keep from looking stunned.

Ash noticed that Lance's large hand was covered with thick, calloused skin. It looked like the Champion trained himself along with his monstrously powerful pokemon.

"How's it going?" Lance asked amicably, not appearing to be the powerful force he truly was. "Sorry about messing with you yesterday, but I try not to broadcast my real identity when I'm incognito."

"Of course." Ash stammered with wild eyes, still barely believing that he was talking to Lance. Steven was a former Champion, yes, but Ash hadn't been bombarded with tales of Steven's heroism for the last seven years. Lance was much closer to home.

Lance nodded and turned to Steven, still grinning. "When are we leaving? We need to get to the Sevii Islands as soon as possible."

Steven looked thoughtful for a moment. "I say we leave the hotel as soon as possible. The boat is already waiting, so we'll be able to leave quickly. I've already showed the authorities here my authorization, so everything will be cleared out."

"Good." Lance said, nodding in satisfaction. "Those Rockets need to be stopped as soon as possible." His voice suddenly shifted into a joking manner. "You know, Steven, we could get there in just under an hour if we flew on my dragonite."

The Hoenn Champion frowned and went pale. Ash thought he almost looked queasy. "No thank you. I'd prefer for my feet to stay firmly on the ground, or at least on something solid. I remember that last time – I was sick for hours."

Lance laughed loudly and turned his attention to Ash. His face lost the wide grin and became much more serious. "How good are you at battling, Ash? Steven's told me that you'll be able to hold your own, but I'm still not comfortable bringing an eleven year old on this mission."

Ash snapped out of his daze. "I've fought Rockets before. I cleared out all of the grunts in that base in Celadon."

The Champion raised an eyebrow. "That was you? Good work."

"I already told you that. Ash was on the St. Anne as well. He'll be fine." Steven said as he leaned back in his chair. Ash noticed that Blaine was watching the interactions with keen eyes, observing every little movement and noise. "Rockets are hardly a challenge. I expect that Ash will be able to hold his own perfectly fine. He won't be a burden."

Ash felt a surge of thanks towards Steven for backing him up. He could understand why Lance would be nervous about bringing him along, but Ash knew that he would be able to keep up. He had to. Pierce needed to be served justice and Ash wanted to be one of the people that brought it to him.

Lance seemed a little more assured and slightly more confident, but still looked troubled. "I guess I can't say no. Just stay safe, Ash. Team Rocket isn't very powerful without terror on their side, but they are dangerous. I'm sure you know that better than anyone."

The trainer nodded with a frown on his face, recounting his run-ins with Team Rocket. Lance didn't need to tell him that.

Steven looked at Ash. "You should probably start packing. We'll leave the moment you're done."

Ash nodded and rushed off. He was far too anxious to get to the Islands and find Pierce to waste any time. Besides, he didn't want to hold the Champions up.

He noticed that Dazed was staring at him when he ran in. Ash smiled and nodded at her before he quickly gathered anything that he had left out. Most of it was fairly minor, consisting of things such as his extra pair of clothes that he had washed. They were dry, so he went ahead and stuffed them in the bag.

That was about it, really. Blaine had provided him with everything else he would need, so Ash never had to pull it out of his bag. Just to be sure, though, he searched the room one last time.

Dazed was looking at him oddly, so he hurriedly explained himself as he slung his pack around his shoulders and tidied up a bit.

"We're heading off to the Sevii Islands." He said as he passed her by. Her eyes widened. Apparently she recognized the name. "There are some Rockets there that we're helping to take care of."

His friend's eyes flickered a bright blue when he mentioned the Rockets, but she seemed more curious than anything else. Ash glanced over at her as he gently called out Nidorino's name. The exhausted poison-type was still asleep and didn't seem to want to get up.

He sighed and lightly poked his friend. Nidorino instantly leapt up. His horn was leaking a bead of poison and his barbs stood up on end. Nidorino's sensitive ears were standing at attention and he growled before looking at Ash.

"We're leaving, buddy. Do you mind going into the pokeball?"

Nidorino grunted and shook his head. He only paused to lightly butt his head against Ash's stomach before the trainer recalled him. A moment later Dazed disappeared in a flash of scarlet light as well.

Now that he had everything he needed Ash left the room. The three League officials were muttering and whispering to each other when Ash walked in but quieted down soon after.

"You're already done?" Steven asked in a surprised tone. "I thought you would be gone for quite a while."

Lance grinned and got out of his chair. "Not everyone is like Wallace, Steven. Most people don't have to bring four outfits and makeup everywhere they go."

Steven sighed and shook his head, although Ash could see a smile tugging at his lips. Ash thought that the Hoenn Champion seemed much more relaxed than any other time he had seen him. The Champion was always polite and pleasant, but there was always a tenseness and wariness about him that had lightened somewhat in the presence of the Indigo Champion.

"Well, let's get going." Steven said. He looked over at Blaine. "Thanks for helping us out. I'm sorry if we were a burden."

Blaine smirked. "It was no problem. It's not often that I get such prestigious guests." He swiveled and focused his eyes on Lance. "But if a certain someone wants to repay me with more than the bare minimum of funding, that would be great."

"See about actually telling trainers where your gym is and we'll talk." Lance replied easily, not batting an eyelash at Blaine's sarcasm. "Ash here is probably the only trainer that will be showing up at the Conference with the Volcano Badge."

The gym leader rolled his eyes. "I'm not about to be swarmed by a bunch of weaklings that aren't worth my time. I didn't become a Master just to crush newbie trainers that think they're half-decent."

Lance smiled. "Glad to see you haven't changed any, Blaine. Good luck with the gym."

Blaine shrugged his farewell off and left the building, leaving the two Champions and lone trainer alone. Steven looked slightly confused at Blaine's abrupt departure, but Lance seemed used to it.

"Don't worry." Lance said in an attempt to explain things to Steven. "That's downright friendly for him. If he didn't like us he'd give us a riddle."

Steven still seemed unsure, but figured it didn't matter. "Let's get going. It won't take too long to get to the town, but we need to be getting to Knot Island before sunset."

With that they left. Ash didn't feel too uncomfortable with the Champions, although he didn't think that he would be joining in their small talk anytime soon.

XX

An hour later Ash found himself on a small, fast boat in the middle of the ocean. The Champions had managed to bypass all of the customs and regulations for exiting ships with a flash of their identification, so they'd left Cinnabar barely thirty-five minutes after leaving the hotel.

An old, quiet sailor was in charge of getting them to the Sevii Islands. He wore a League uniform and refused to talk to Ash when the trainer had walked into the cabin. Ash wandered around the small ship for a while before returning to the deck. They had wonderful weather and he was determined to enjoy it.

The Champions had retreated to somewhere within the ship, so Ash was left alone. He didn't mind that much. There wasn't much he could contribute to whatever they were discussing and they would tell him later anyways.

Despite his excitement at being allowed to travel and fight with the Champions, Ash couldn't help feel a bit nervous. Aside from the obvious problem of Pierce – Ash realized that he didn't know anything about the Executive's actual abilities aside from the fact he was more than willing to kill his opponents – Ash didn't know what he would be doing.

It was clear that the Champions would be performing the riskiest operations. Ash wasn't sure if he was ready for the consequences of that anyway. He knew that, although the Champions would do their best to avert it, there was a high possibility that some of the grunts would be injured or even killed when dealing with Champion-level pokemon.

But he could help. He could at the very least make sure no one tried to attack the Champions from behind or do the things that the Champions didn't have time for. His pokemon were strong enough to do that.

He suddenly turned around. Ash could hear Lance and Steven's voices coming up behind him, although they weren't loud.

"We need to debrief you." Steven said suddenly, coming and sitting in one of the chairs that surrounded a small, shaded table. Lance took the last. "You don't need anyone to tell you that fighting Team Rocket is not a game. You've had more experience fighting them than most trainers."

Ash nodded.

"So I'll hurry on to the important things." Steven stated. "There are a few rules for you to follow. One: avoid direct danger whenever you can. I want you supporting and preventing Rockets from flanking us. The main action is too dangerous when dealing with our pokemon. Two: follow any command we give you, no matter how odd it may seem. Three: be careful."

He nodded again. All seemed like common sense. Steven continued.

"We are coming here to purge all Rocket activity in the Sevii Islands. There are a few League teams in the area already, but Pierce is considered dangerous enough and important enough to call us in. It doesn't hurt that all of us have a few bones to pick with him." Steven said with a dangerous smile. It was out of place on the normally calm man's face. "There is another member of the Indigo Elite Four taking care of the situation on Floe Island, but she's gathered some information on the Rockets."

If the Elite Four member was a she, Ash assumed that it was Lorelei. He didn't think that Agatha would be much for battling in the field anymore, although he knew that she was still a monster when it came to battling.

Lance began speaking now, his tone far more serious than it had been at the hotel. "There have been reports of four major operations. The first is on Knot Island, where a group of grunts have taken control of the town. The second is on Floe Island, where they've been interfering in the Icefall Cave and capturing Lapras. The third is on Knot Island as well, where they've been snooping around Mount Ember."

"Where's the last one?" Ash questioned after Lance didn't speak for several moments. The Champion had a frown on his face and looked troubled.

"We don't know what it is, really." He admitted, clenching his fists. "Their main base is known to be somewhere on Chronos Island, but we haven't had luck in finding it. The Rockets are just too strong there for the League forces to fight through. Even Lorelei can't battle her way through. That's what we're for."

Ash nodded, a little surprised. The Elite Four were by far the most powerful trainers in both Kanto and Johto. Even the winners of the Conference each year were oftentimes unable to defeat one of their members, although they tended to be around the same skill level. Each member of the Elite Four was practically a small army.

Lance grimaced. "Most of our forces are away from those islands as well, mopping up the Rockets that they have defeated. Not many of them can be spared for the liberation of the other islands, so, aside from a few scouts, we won't have much support. The one's that will be helping us won't be much for battling either."

He stayed quiet, letting the Champion speak. Ash had gotten over a bit of his awe at being around Lance, but he couldn't bring himself to interrupt the man.

"We're shutting down and investigating a few of their operations the day we arrive." Lance continued, slipping back into his official tone. "Knot Island will be where we land, so I'll be heading to Mount Ember to defeat the Rockets there. Steven is a bit more conspicuous than I am, so he will be heading to Chronos Island after we exit the ship."

"What am I going to be doing?" Ash asked, getting a little excited over the coming experiences. They would be dangerous, but he just wanted to fight Team Rocket.

"You'll be taking back the town on Knot Island." Lance replied. He looked pleased with Ash's objective. "It's a small town, but important. There are only a dozen Rockets holding the town, so it shouldn't be too difficult to do. When you beat them, I'm sure the townspeople will be glad to detain them. I'll be sending any League trainers I find to the town as well, so feel free to explore the island once you're done."

Ash's interest peaked at that. He knew that the Sevii Islands contained many pokemon that were found only in Johto, although the tropical climate also allowed pokemon rare in Kanto such as tangela to be somewhat common in the islands. It would be nice to see if he could add an uncommon pokemon to his team.

"How much longer until we get there?" Ash asked. He knew that the Sevii Islands weren't too far from Cinnabar, and they had left quite early. Still, he would like to know just how long he would have to complete his task.

Steven glanced at his watch. "I'd say another hour and a half. We're making good time."

Ash nodded and sank back into his chair. The Champions continued to make small talk for a while before falling silent themselves, each of the trainers thinking about the coming conflict, thinking of what they would do and how they would react to threats.

They sat in silence for a long time, but eventually Lance stood up. He shrugged his muscular shoulders and stretched.

"We should all start getting ready." He said. "Ash, get moving. You don't want to be tight in the middle of a battle. Not around Rockets, anyways. They'll be aiming for you."

Ash nodded and stood up, although he felt a little self-conscious as he began to walk around, stretching his arms and legs and loosening up. When he noticed that the Champions were doing their own exercises, he lost the slight feeling of awkwardness.

He tired of the exercises quickly and was glad when he felt the blood flowing through his body again. Lance told him to keep on walking around the ship. They were able to see the faintest outline of Knot Island and its massive, dormant volcano that rivaled Cinnabar's in size.

Ash made sure to keep on moving and took the time to let Nidorino out of his pokeball. His friend eyed the calm, glittering ocean with distrusting eyes – a sentiment that Ash could understand perfectly, even if he had gotten over some of his trepidation regarding the sea – but followed Ash around and practiced a few of his attacks.

Just as the island grew near enough to where they could make out finer details, Lance came over. "Your Nidorino looks strong for the amount of time you've been training. What other pokemon do you have?"

"A pidgeot, seadra, hypno, magmar and golduck." Ash recited, naming his friends in the order he got them in. He frowned at the mention of Golduck. He had meant to trade the water-type out for Bruiser before he left Cinnabar, but had gotten caught up in the excitement. Hopefully Bruiser would understand, although he hoped that he could find somewhere to trade his friends out in the islands.

Lance's approving nod grabbed his attention though. "A decent team, especially when you gain more experience. I'll go ahead and tell you that Kingdra are particularly impressive, although I might be just a bit biased." He laughed. "Still, that should be more than sufficient for beating the grunts."

Ash grinned in return before he realized he had a question. "How am I supposed to reach you two when I'm done? Do I just wait around for you to come back?"

"Steven will take care of that." Lance assured them. He turned his head to the island, which was getting steadily closer. Ash estimated that they had about ten minutes before landing. "He has all the communication system ready, you just need to join it." The Champion looked over at the island again with a frown. "Sorry, Ash, but I've got to go. I can't leave the ship when it lands. I'll attract too much attention with my friend."

He nodded. "Alright. Good luck."

"You too." Lance replied with a grin. He reached to one of the pokeballs on his waist and released the pokemon within. Ash's eyes widened when it took the massive, hulking form of Lance's famed dragonite.

Dragonite was a monster even for its powerful species. It stood at nearly eight feet tall, dwarfing even the Champion's large build. The dragon was covered in a thick armor of light orange scales, each about the size of Ash's hand. Its scales became lighter and more like bands on its chest and underbelly. Large, thin antennae sprouted from its large head, just a few inches above its large eyes. A small, barely noticeable horn jutted out from the top of its skull, centered between the antennae.

He noticed that, while it had become bipedal and gained limbs after its evolution from a dragonair, Dragonite still retained the basic serpentine shape. Its body was much thicker and basically formed of nothing but hard scales and powerful muscle, but the limbs seemed almost an afterthought.

Its wings were small and stream-lined, clearly meant for fast flying. They weren't as small as some illustrations made them out to be, however. The wings were just large enough to support the dragon's massive bulk and were still completely massive.

All in all, the pokemon looked incredibly powerful and nigh indestructible.

Ash realized that, considering this Dragonite was Lance's primary pokemon and the only one ever seen by the public eye, it was quite possibly the most powerful pokemon in all of Kanto and Johto. It could defeat his entire team without blinking even if they fought it all at once.

He had to admit that he was in awe of the incredibly powerful pokemon. It commanded respect and possessed an air of power and authority without doing anything at all. Ash could see why it was seen as an almost legendary pokemon. While it wasn't a force of nature like Articuno had been, it possessed an air of regal might that conveyed age, wisdom, and above all power.

Then it yawned widely, exposing large, sharp fangs, and lightly clapped Lance on the shoulder in a gesture of friendship. Lance grinned and patted his friend's hard, scaly hide before looking over at Ash.

"Ash, this is Dragonite. Dragonite, this is Ash. He's going to be helping us with Team Rocket."

Dragonite's eyes seemed to smile at him and it gave Ash a cheerful wave, unintentionally showing off its huge claws. Ash hesitantly waved back, giving Dragonite a small smile as he did so. Dragonite gave a wave to Nidorino as well, who replied with a friendly grunt.

Lance tapped it on the shoulder after they had introduced themselves and Dragonite lowered its back. The Champion easily leapt on, situating himself into a comfortable, safe area. As Dragonite tensed and prepared to fly off, Lance looked down at Ash.

"Good luck, Ash, and stay safe!" He called out an instant before Dragonite blasted off the boat at an incredible speed, its powerful legs propelling it high into the air before a few flaps of its wings, which seemed to have grown a bit while flying, took it even further. Just a few seconds later the duo was gone.

Ash groaned and pulled himself up. The powerful wind that resulted from Dragonite's wings had knocked him down. Nidorino had a similar experience. He grunted as the poison-type stood back up, clearly a bit annoyed at the experience.

"I suppose Lance has left, then?" Steven asked from behind Ash, coming up from the inner area of the ship. "He always was a show-off."

He couldn't help but grin at that. "Won't the Rockets notice a dragonite?"

Steven smiled, a bit more cheerful than usual. "They won't have time to do anything even if they do. Dragonite might look bulky, but he's quite fast. He can sense them and paralyze them with a thunder wave before they can do anything." He stated, waving Ash's concerns away. "Anyways, we're about to land, so I need to get your PokeNav number."

Ash quickly gave it to him. He had memorized the device's identification number the day he got it. It wasn't as though he had much else to do while laying in the hospital. This was the first time he had had cause to use it, though, so he had to think for a few moments.

The former Champion quickly put the number into his own PokeNav. "Good. I'll call you soon so you can put my number in. Call me if you need anything or when you're done. I don't know if Lance has told you yet, but a few Rangers and League scouts will come to assist you whenever he finds them."

"Thanks." Ash replied. "What do I do with the Rockets after I'm done with them? Lance said the islanders would probably help and that the League trainers would detain them, but I'm not sure if I want to just leave them."

"They'll be fine. You have a hypno, right?" Steven asked. When Ash nodded the Champion continued. "Just have it put them into a deep sleep. That way they'll be unconscious for a few hours and will be too weak to try to escape for the rest of the day."

Ash nodded his understanding. He'd planned to do that anyways, but it was nice knowing that it was supported by Steven. Dazed had much more powerful psychic abilities since evolving, so it wouldn't be too much of a drain on her to put a couple of humans to sleep.

Steven looked over at the island with narrowed eyes. The beach that they were landing at was less than a minute away.

"The town is easy to find. It's about five minutes if you follow the beach to the west." Steven informed him. "Try to keep a low profile and keep an eye out for any grunts. From what we've seen, they're in plain uniform."

"Why?" Ash asked, puzzled at the odd choice. It would just make it easier for someone such as himself to differentiate them from the islanders.

Steven frowned, the slightest flash of annoyance dashing through his eyes. "The Sevii Islands aren't officially a part of the Indigo League, so the Rockets are free to operate in the open. The people here are too independent and isolated to mount an effective resistance, and the Rockets have cut off most of the communication. The Rockets have nothing to fear from them and don't expect us to enter Knot Island yet."

He nodded, understanding it well enough. Ash didn't have much of a head for political stuff, so he was glad that Steven had left any of that out. But he understood tactics quite well. Steven's explanation made sense.

The boat suddenly slowed before coming to a stop. Steven glanced down at Ash. "We can't land on the beach." The former Champion explained. "The boat has to get out of here quickly. Good luck."

"Thanks." Ash nodded. A narrow plank fell from the side of the ship, sending up a spray of salt water when it landed. He carefully walked down the plank and onto the damp sand of the rough beach. His shoes got a little wet, but he didn't care that much. He would need new ones soon anyways.

Nidorino grunted and walked up beside him. Ash knelt down and patted his friend on the head before looking back at the ship. The plank had already been raised and the ship was already leaving. Steven gave him a nod before the ship began to speed up, quickly taking it far away from his eyes.

He turned and looked out at the beach. It was a long stretch, probably half a mile long. The sand was rough and gritty. Some of it was black, giving the crushed stone a much darker appearance. All in all it was about what he'd been expecting. No one had ever claimed the Sevii Islands were resorts.

Ash quickly released Dazed, Plume and Torrent. He needed Dazed to be ready at any moment, so he didn't want to waste any time keeping her in her pokeball. Plume could hopefully give him an exact number on the grunts and where they were located, although she would be good for protecting him from any sneaky Rockets as well. Torrent would be useful to keep any Rockets from trying to escape on a boat and would probably be able to take down any Rockets and their pokemon positioned around the shoreline.

While Infernus was more than powerful to effortlessly defeat the grunts, Ash didn't want to use him for this battle. Nidorino could do the same job just as well as Infernus, particularly when he was supported by the rest of his friends. Besides, Nidorino was much more discreet. Infernus tended to be quite loud and obvious.

Golduck had performed decently in the gym battle, but Ash didn't trust him enough to use him in something like this. He was too brash and arrogant to use stealth, so he would probably just attack anyone he saw.

Plume tried to call out her standard greeting, but Ash placed a finger to his lips.

"I'm glad to see you to." He said, assuring her that he wasn't being rude. "But we're going to fight some Rockets. I need all of you to be as quiet as you can. I want to surprise them."

His friend's eyes flashed with rage as he spoke of the hated organization, but she understood. Ash smiled at her and gave her instructions.

"I need to know how many there are. They're all in their uniforms, so they should be easy to spot. Just come back when you've found as many as you can." He told his friend. Plume cooed softly before blasting off into the air with a single beat of her powerful wings.

Ash watched her go for a moment before turning back to the rest of his team. "Torrent, could you go hang around the harbor? I don't want any of them escaping on boats. Just use twister or make a whirlpool on any boats they use. Just head to your right for a few minutes and you'll find your way there."

Torrent snorted loudly in confirmation and flailed wildly. He had appeared in shallow water, so he had to flop around a bit before he got into water deep enough to swim in. A few seconds later he was off, sinking deep into the gently rolling waves.

"Dazed, you're going to be hypnotizing the Rockets and protecting Nidorino." Ash stated. His friend nodded, just the barest hint of excitement hiding behind her glazed eyes. "Nidorino, you're going to take down any pokemon that get too close. Plume and Dazed will help you out."

Nidorino grunted and butted his head against Ash's leg. Ash smiled and knelt, although he made sure to keep everything but his shoes off the sand. He didn't want to get sand in his clothes when he was about to fight Rockets. Any distractions might be dangerous.

He calmly waited for Plume to return, giving his remaining friends random comments. Ash wasn't really focused on the present, however. Most of his thoughts were based on strategies he could use against the Rockets. They wouldn't be very powerful, but he needed to avoid fighting them in groups. At the very least he would need to pick a few off before he did anything.

About ten minutes after she flew off, Plume returned. She gracefully landed a few feet in front of Ash before puffing her chest out. Ash smiled and nodded at her before becoming serious again.

"Steven said there were about twelve grunts. Is that right?"

Plume nodded.

"Are they all in the open?" He asked. While he was sure there would probably be one or two relaxing around in one of the few buildings in the small town, most would probably be keeping tabs on the villagers.

His friend nodded again.

"Did you see any sentries away from the rest?"

Plume chirped and nodded. "Good job, Plume! Can you show me where they are? I want to thin them out before we attack."

The great bird took off again, flying in lazy circles over their heads as Ash stood up. When he was ready to move she slowly headed in a direction. Since the forest next to the beach wasn't very dense he knew he would be able to easily keep track of her.

So he set off, Nidorino and Dazed by his side. He clenched his fists as he thought of the coming battle. Team Rocket was about to pay.

XX

A few minutes later they found the first Rocket sentry. It had taken longer than expected since Plume accidently flew ahead a few times, but all in all it was a smooth journey. Ash peered out from behind a few bushes and took a good look at the grunt.

He was leaning against a short, albeit thick, tree. An ekans was coiled up next to his foot and looked to be asleep. The grunt looked to be dozing as well. Apparently he wasn't expecting any threats.

Ash grinned. That worked out well for him. He looked over at Dazed, who quickly used her hypnosis attack. The pink swirls of energy quickly landed on both the trainer and pokemon, knocking them out for several hours.

"Good job." He said to his friend as he warily walked over. Plume hadn't shrieked or attacked, so he assumed that he was mostly alone. Nidorino was warily guarding him as he knelt next to the collapsed grunt and removed the two pokeballs from the grunt's belt. Ash returned ekans and dropped both of the pokeballs into his pack. The League could have them later.

He caught sight of Plume circling above them when he looked up and followed her. There were at least two more grunts serving as sentries, so he had some work to do.

When the grunt was taken care of, Ash set off. Nidorino and Dazed plodded behind him, Nidorino warily glancing around and twitching his ears and Dazed focusing on Ash.

XX

They repeated the process two more times. Ash's pack was almost full with the pokeballs now, so he'd put them into a storage compartment. That would make it harder for the Rockets to find them later if he got captured as well, so that was a nice perk.

The Rockets that he'd knocked out were both similar to the first in their level of vigilance. One had almost woken up from their nap, but a quick hypnosis from Dazed had kept him unconscious. They wouldn't be bothering anyone for a long time.

Now they were at the town. Ash was glancing on it from a cluster of trees that were overgrown with bushes. Nobody would find him unless they were looking in earnest.

Ash wasn't sure if this even constituted a town. While it was the only settlement on Knot Island that he knew of, it only looked to house about fifty to sixty people. He had heard that the Sevii Islands had a low population, but this was pushing it. Still, it only made sense. There was no way that the Rockets could have gotten away with taking over the town with only twelve grunts otherwise.

He could see four walking around, laughing and without a care in the world. About a dozen villagers were walking around in the area he could as well, although they gave passing grunts hateful looks and a wide berth. A few of the younger ones looked as though they wanted to attack the foreigners.

Unfortunately for the villagers, the two ekans, koffing and single arbok that menacingly hovered and sat around the Rockets. kept them from trying anything. Rocket pokemon had no inhibitions regarding the attack of human and would at the very least do serious harm to anyone that attempted to attack their handlers.

Ash was glad that Team Rocket had kept with their normal pokemon. Dazed would tear them apart. Even the arbok would be unable to challenge her new power.

He waited until the long, dirty street was almost clear of the villagers before giving his friends an order. "Nidorino, hit those Rockets with ice beam. Follow it up with a thunderbolt on the pokemon. Dazed, just use hypnosis on them. Use psybeam on any that resist."

Nidorino tensed up and opened his mouth. Cold radiated from it before he launched the three blue energy beams. Some of the pokemon detected the attack, but they had no time to do anything before the icy beams of energy slammed into three of the Rockets.

The last leapt in surprise and frantically looked around, but another weak cold energy beam slammed into him as well, the weakened version of the attack sending him to the ground in an unconscious state. All of the pokemon, unsure of what to do without their handlers' commands, looked around in confusion.

Dazed quickly released her hypnosis attack though, her evolved form's strength allowing her to put all of them into a deep sleep. Only the arbok remained awake, and the hypnosis had left it tired and confused. It reared up and hissed, but a psybeam from Dazed quickly put it down.

Ash stepped forward. Plume didn't call out at him, so he assumed the area was clear. He had told her to warn him if more Rockets approached.

All of the villagers that had been wandering around the street when he began him attack ran towards him with gleeful eyes, although a growl from Nidorino and the glowing eyes of Dazed kept them back.

"Who are you?" The first, a tall teenage girl, demanded. She didn't seem angry, just confused. "Where did you come from."

Ash didn't really feel like answering her questions. There were Rockets around and he didn't want to be ambushed.

"I'm here to fight the Rockets." He said shortly. The boys standing beside her had wide grins on her faces. "So please get out of my way. I have things to do."

She frowned and didn't let him pass, even when Nidorino menacingly stepped forward. "No way. You're way too young to battle them. They've got some pretty strong pokemon. My dad's all got beat easily."

"Mine are stronger." Ash said. He might have sounded arrogant, but he didn't care. All he wanted was for her to get out of the way so that he could do the job the Champions gave them.

"Let him through, sis." The boy on her left said. He was a few years older than Ash and was extremely tan. "If he's here to help then he's got to be strong enough. Let's just get those Rockets' pokeballs and hide them."

The teenager looked at Ash disapprovingly before letting him pass. He had an annoyed look on his face as he looked around for more Rockets. They had to be showing up soon. Ash barely paid any attention to the villagers that were running around.

Then Nidorino grunted and used thunderbolt. Once the bright flash of light was gone, Ash saw a long golbat fall from the sky. It landed with a heavy thump and was clearly unconscious, but otherwise it seemed to be okay.

"Thanks." He told Nidorino before glancing around. They'd taken down half of the confirmed Rockets and those villagers hadn't been very quiet. Ash wanted to be ready.

Nidorino grunted at him before returning to his wary state. His barbs were bristling and leaking their potent venom, clearly ready to attack anything that drew near.

Suddenly a group of three Rockets turned around a corner and saw him. They shouted in surprise and released all of their pokemon. Ash counted four ekans, two zubat, and two koffing. The one that appeared to be their leader released an arbok and a weezing. He assumed that he was the leader of these grunts.

"Return your pokemon and hand them over or we'll attack!" The leader shouted, clearly thinking that their numbers would be an advantage. He didn't seem unconfident in the least. "You can't win this."

Ash smiled and glanced over at Dazed. "Psychic."

Dazed's eyes shined luminously before a huge wave of telekinetic force erupted from her body. Ash saw her stone pendulum glow a bright blue as well and swing forward in the air as she used her power.

The uncontrolled blast roared through the air, carrying dust and loose objects on the road in its wake before slamming into the group of Rockets. His enemies were sent flying backwards before they landed heavily on the ground about ten feet behind them. None of them got up.

He turned around and nodded to his friends. That was nine of them. Only three Rockets were left to find, although he would have to look around and ask the villagers if there were any more just to be sure.

This was even easier than he'd expected it to be. He'd hardly expected a challenge since most Rocket grunts were barely trained and expendable, their real power lying in numbers and simple fear. They were obviously unaware of how to battle. If they were they wouldn't have clumped themselves together like that.

Maybe there would be trouble if there was an Executive directing the operation since they were highly trained and had a strong, varied team of pokemon, but apparently Knot Island wasn't important enough.

Suddenly he heard a loud, piercing cry from Plume and looked upward. His eyes widened and he jumped back as a feral looking zubat swooped down onto his former position with bared fangs, its rage too powerful for the minor burns the sun was giving it to dissuade it.

Another followed it, this one's fangs clamping down just a few inches in front of Ash as he jumped away again. They both fluttered up into the air on their purple, membranous wings and looked as though they were about to attack him again.

He kept his eyes on the twin zubat as he began to order Nidorino to use a thunderbolt. But Plume suddenly dived down from her lofty position, flapping her wings once to cause a huge, powerful gale of wind. Both zubat were dragged down to the ground and slammed into the earth by the attack, easily knocked out despite their aggressiveness.

"Thanks!" He called out to Plume as she swept past his head and began the climb back into the sky. She gave him a loud cry of acknowledgement as she sped upwards before disappearing into the light blue air.

Ash looked around and saw that a few villagers were coming out of their homes and small buildings and looking at him curiously. They didn't seem sure of what to make of him as many looked pleased with the piles of unconscious Rockets but looked at him oddly.

Nidorino suddenly perked up. His large ears twitched suddenly and he snorted at Ash. The trainer ignored the villagers' curious stares and glanced down at his friend.

"What do you hear?" He asked quietly, not wanting any of the villagers to overhear him. Ash didn't exactly like their stares. It put him on edge.

His friend just nodded towards the water and slowly trotted towards it. Ash jogged behind him, followed by Dazed's surprisingly quick shuffle. She stopped for a moment as they passed the Rockets they had just defeated and used hypnosis on the bunch before following Ash again.

They reached the small harbor in no time. It consisted of a single large boathouse with a company's emblem prominently placed upon it, a small beach, and four vessels bobbing outside the boathouse on the slow waves. A large building that looked modern and quite out of place in the small town stood proudly on a small, sloping hill.

Ash only had eyes for the small, fast-looking boat with the Rocket symbol starting up and racing away. It only had a single occupant, but Ash was unwilling to let the grunt escape.

"Thunderbolt!" He ordered, hoping that Nidorino had trained enough to be accurate at this kind of range. Nidorino confidently stepped forward and began charging the thunderbolt up, but his services were suddenly no longer required.

The boat was suddenly blasted upward by a cyclone of water erupting beneath it. It carried the boat high up before the swirling water lost its power and collapsed into the ocean, carrying the rapidly spinning boat with it. Ash could see the grunt's confused expression before the boat landed, causing a huge amount of water to spray into the air.

Ash blinked at the sudden display. He certainly hadn't been expecting that.

A small, spiky blue head made him realize just who had helped him out. His friend bobbed up and down in the waves before diving beneath. The grunt suddenly flew out of the waves gently lapping the beach, carried by a fierce blast of water.

The grunt was completely drenched and sputtered as he looked around with wild eyes. Ash nodded to Dazed. She promptly hypnotized him, causing the confused grunt to collapse onto the sand.

"Thanks, Dazed." He said to his friend. While Dazed blinked her response, Ash shouted out to the ocean. "Good job, Torrent!"

Torrent leapt into the air once before disappearing into the ocean again. Ash was happy to let his friend enjoy the time in the sea. He'd played his role and wouldn't get a chance to be in the ocean for a long time when they returned to Kanto.

Ash watched the ocean for a few more moments before heading back to the town. There were two more grunts to find before he could relax. All Ash could be thankful for was that they weren't able to escape. Plume would easily take them down if that happened.

When he walked back onto the central road, he noticed that everyone had vanished. Ash looked down at his companions as a flash of nervousness went through him. "Get ready."

Nothing happened for nearly a minute. Ash constantly glanced around the deserted street, wondering just what had convinced the villagers to retreat. He suddenly saw a small flash of blue light before he was frozen and held up in the air.

Ash's eyes widened and he tried to escape the trap he was in. He hovered nearly five feet into the air and a light film of blue energy covered his vision. Ash couldn't even move a muscle. He was completely trapped.

Nidorino roared in fury when he realized what was happening and quickly fired a thunderbolt underneath Ash. Ash didn't hear anything yelp or scream at the attack so he assumed that it missed. Actually, he couldn't hear anything very well. Everything seemed muted.

Suddenly he was blasted through the air, the telekinesis speeding the throw greatly. Ash couldn't help but shout in surprise as he rapidly approached a very hard, very solid stone wall, but he felt a powerful yank in his navel and his organs lurch as he suddenly came to a complete stop.

Ash's eyes watered in pain as everything in his body attempted to keep moving forward, but he just breathed as deeply as he could and blinked a few times until the pain was mostly gone. He suspected that he would have a few bruises tomorrow.

He noticed that he was mere inches away from the rough stone. Ash felt a burst of adrenaline infuse him as he realized that something had psychically attacked him and thanked Dazed for somehow stopping it as he was gently lowered to the ground.

When he was able to he scrambled up and looked towards the battle, ignoring the lingering pangs that shot throughout his entire body. He saw that a lone Rocket grunt was yelling at a large arbok and average looking drowzee as they battled Nidorino and Dazed.

Nidorino was protecting Dazed from the arbok, jabbing its hard scales with his sharp horn and dodging its own lightning quick strikes. Ash noticed that his friend was dominating the snake, jabbing at sensitive spots that would weaken it in the long term and easily knocking the serpent away when its powerful jaws snapped too close.

Dazed was turned towards him, trusting Nidorino to protect her. A small, glowing barrier protect her from the drowzee that was intently staring at his friend with glowing eyes. She blinked at him when he stood up and stumbled closer. When he was fine, albeit rattled and slightly out of it, she turned towards the drowzee with furious eyes.

Ash blinked away some more of the pain and watched the battle, ignoring the Rocket as he gave his pokemon commands. His friends were far too powerful for the Rocket to overcome. Arbok was almost defeated and Dazed was about to enter the fray as well.

Dazed stared at the drowzee and waved her hand as a small, focused aura of psychic energy covered her. Drowzee was quickly enveloped in the same sort of aura and froze, completely unable to move thanks to the great power of Dazed's disable.

The psychic-type suddenly exchanged the blue aura for a light grey one as she prepared a shadow ball. Ash watched in surprise as it grew larger and larger until it seemed that Dazed could put no more power into it. Her shadow ball appeared large enough to knock out several psychic-types at once.

Just as the drowzee escaped from the disable it was struck by the ruthlessly powerful shadow ball. It squealed in surprise as it was blasted backwards by the immense blast of energy, unconscious before it hit the ground.

Dazed silently stared at Nidorino for a moment. Ash narrowed his eyes at her with confusion before he noticed Nidorino suddenly freeze. Arbok managed to strike him once, but his tough, leathery hide kept the needle-sharp fangs from penetrating and the venom was a mere annoyance.

Nidorino moved. He roared and charged the surprised arbok, jabbing his horn brutally into its stomach before tossing it to the side. The arbok squirmed and struggled for a few moments before Dazed sent a thin, weak psybeam into its side.

Ash didn't say anything, although he looked at the fallen arbok with concern. It wasn't too bad of an injury for such a fierce battle, but it wouldn't be able to battle for a week. When he looked over at his friends, however, he had to intervene.

"Nidorino, stop!" He shouted desperately, surprised and slightly fearful at his friend. Nidorino was menacingly advancing on the grunt, horn lowered and a thick bead of poison balling at the tip. His intentions were clear.

Nidorino growled at Ash and continued to advance, the aggression and rage that fuelled him in battle as a Nidorino keeping him from heeding the trainer's command. Ash scowled as Nidorino took a light jab at the grunt who just barely scrambled away from the enraged pokemon.

"Stop!" He shouted, finally reaching his angry friend. "Nidorino, back off!"

His friend suddenly stopped, allowing the grunt to escape to the wall and cower. Dazed glared at the grunt and disabled him, preventing him from doing anything else. Ash frowned at Nidorino.

"I know you want to hurt him." Ash said slowly, letting Nidorino calm down a bit more. "I hate them too. But you can't kill him! I don't want you to be a killer, even if you are protecting me."

Nidorino grunted and looked away. Ash recognized it as Nidorino being slightly ashamed, although he suspected that it was more due to the fact that he had ignored Ash's commands rather than trying to attack the grunt.

"Please." Ash continued. "Don't try to kill him. Just let Dazed knock him out."

His friend grunted softly and sat down next to Ash, his face lowered. Ash sighed and gently patted his friend on the head, forgiving him. He couldn't fault Nidorino for trying to do it, not after everything Team Rocket had done.

"Dazed, hypnosis." He said, realizing the grunt was starting to move. Dazed quickly complied and sent the grunt into a deep sleep. She continued to look around the area, although her weak physical senses limited her somewhat. Aside from her hearing and smell she didn't have much to go on. Still, Ash trusted her to protect them.

"Look, buddy, no more attempted murder, alright?" Ash asked with a small smile, trying to make the situation sound less serious. Nidorino glanced away from him but nodded. He figured that he could accept that. "Anyways, there's one more Rocket to find. Be on the lookout."

With that they set off, the issue mostly behind them. As they walked down the street, Ash realized he hadn't thanked Dazed yet.

"Thanks for saving me." He told his friend as they walked down the empty street. Dazed nodded sharply, her eyes smiling a bit. Ash made small talk for a bit longer before he noticed that Nidorino was tensing up and his ears were twitching. "Do you know where the last Rocket is –"

Ash spun around with a panicked expression when he heard some sort of battle cry coming up from behind him. He flinched and raised his arms to protect himself when he realized that the last Rocket grunt had somehow snuck up behind them. The grunt was just a few feet away and was wielding some sort of small metal club.

It was also headed directly towards Ash's head. He tried to lean backward, but the man was too close and the blow was going to land. Ash thought for sure everything was going to go black, and when he just stayed like he was he opened his eyes. The trainer never even realized that he'd closed them to begin with.

The Rocket was frozen, shut down by ethereal, raging blue energy. Ash released a shuddering breath that he'd held and stepped back, his entire body shaking as he realized how close to death he'd come.

Dazed looked furious. Her normally inscrutable expression was alit with what Ash could easily recognize as pure, unadulterated rage. The stone pendulum was vibrating and shaking from invisible surges of energy tearing through the air and Dazed's eyes were bursting with energy.

Nidorino was worse. His fangs were bared and the barbs on his back stood straight up, secreting more poison than they ever had before. He lowered his horn but seemed to think better of it. Instead he roared furiously and glowed with incredible power before sending a monstrously powerful surge of electricity into the grunt.

Ash could just watch dumbly as the grunt tried to spasm and twist and turn as the thunderbolt coursed through his body. Unfortunately for the grunt the disable still worked, trapping him in the psychic stasis. Nidorino roared again and prepared to leap at the man, but Dazed made her move first.

Her pendulum swung upwards, forcing a small rush of wind to follow it as a side effect. Dazed's blazing eyes shined even brighter for a brief moment before a surge of psychic power blasted from her body, carrying the grunt with it and slamming him into the side of a house several dozen feet away.

Although the disable had dissipated in the force of the psychic attack, the grunt was too injured and stunned to try to run. He did manage to shakily pull himself up, however. At that, Nidorino roared and charged, but even as the grunt looked in fear at the raging poison-type, a huge gale of wind slammed him into the hard stone again as a terrifying shriek sounded through the air.

As Plume dived down towards the beaten grunt with her sharp beak and razor talons, Nidorino charged with murder on his mind and Dazed slowly shuffled towards the hated Rocket, Ash snapped out of it. He shakily called out to his friends once, but the adrenaline pumping through their system and the blood pounding in their ears prevented them from hearing him.

He called out again in a slightly firmer tone. When they continued to race towards the Rocket, he found the fire that every good trainer had.

"Enough!" He shouted, not letting any of the shakiness and nervous energy that ran through his body pervade his tone. His friends slowed but did not yet stop. "All of you, STOP!"

They ground to a halt. Nidorino stopped charging just a foot away from the man, his horn lowered and the aggression and desire to destroy that was normally held back by Ash's friend fully released. Plume screeched at the Rocket as she swerved away just an instant before she would have raked his torso with her huge talons and blasted back into the sky. Dazed simply stopped and turned to Ash, her eyes still glowing but with rationality returned.

Nidorino growled at the man before turning away, lowering his head as he looked at Ash. Ash had no idea where Plume was, but imagined that she had a similar reaction. Dazed simply used hypnosis on the murderous Rocket before slowly shuffling over to Ash's side.

"Please, just calm down." Ash said tiredly. Nidorino grunted in apology and sat down in front of him, keeping his head lowered and his eyes away from Ash's. Dazed stared at him with an inscrutable expression, but Ash thought he saw a little guilt in her eyes.

"No more of that." He said, almost pleading with them. "Let's just get the villagers and throw the Rockets somewhere safe. I want to go relax somewhere around the island."

His friends nodded and still looked a little ashamed. Again, Ash thought that it was for disobeying orders, not for almost killing a man.

It didn't bother him that much, though. He'd managed to stop them and hopefully they wouldn't try anything like it again, even if he was attacked. His friends needed to get in control of their emotions, no matter how protective they were of him.

Ash sighed and walked off, his friends flanking him. He set off to find the villagers. They would be able to watch the Rockets for a while.

XX

Most of the Rockets and villagers were in that large, modern building he had seen before. Although Ash didn't spend much time with them other than telling the mayor that they needed them to watch over the Rockets. He didn't really know anything about restraining people other than using hypnosis on them, so he trusted the villagers to find a way. The League scouts and Rangers that would be coming later would be able to ensure their security anyways.

He, however, was wandering around outside the town. Ash didn't really want to stay and listen to the thanks or glares of the townspeople – apparently a few hadn't minded Team Rocket all that much, despite the fact they had essentially taken over the town and threatened the villagers daily – so he left after finding Torrent and returning the water-type.

Ash just wanted somewhere that he could be alone with his friends. He still needed to call Steven and tell him that he was done, but he didn't want to do it somewhere that it could be listened to.

Although there were plenty of good spots – one of the beaches had plenty of rocks to sit on that would keep him away from most of the sand and one field he had found had a good view of the area – he eventually settled on a small meadow. There were a few butterfree flying around, but he didn't bother them and they didn't bother him.

He and his pokemon found their spots quickly. Even Infernus was released, despite the fact that he immediately incinerated the area around him with a roar. Plume quickly blew them out, however, so little harm was done.

The only one that he felt any hesitancy about releasing was Golduck. Ash hadn't let him out since the gym battle and didn't particularly want to break that streak. He just wanted to relax and not have to deal with arrogant, obstinant pokemon.

But once the rest had settled down – Nidorino by his side, Plume in the tree he was sitting against, Dazed sitting in an isolated area with blank eyes, Torrent angrily flopping around before finally carving a tiny pool to sit in with his powerful water gun and Infernus curling up on his blackened, ash-covered section of grass – Ash released Golduck.

His newest teammate looked around haughtily before quacking in annoyance. Golduck looked at him with an annoyed expression, clearly wondering who he was supposed to be fighting.

"I didn't release you to fight." Ash said tiredly from his comfortable position. Nidorino grunted and glared up at Golduck from beside him, a little spark of electricity jumping out of his horn. "We're relaxing right now. I just wanted to congratulate you on your first gym battle. You did well against that rhydon."

Golduck rolled his eyes and ignored Ash's admittedly forced praise. He sent one last glare at the trainer and his pokemon before wandering off to the opposite side of the meadow, as far as the water-type could get without Ash returning him. Ash just sighed at the display and dug around in his pack for his PokeNav.

He saw that he had a message sent to him from an unknown number. Ash figured that it was Steven, so he saved the number and called it back.

It took a few rings and beeps before Steven picked up. He was panting and there was a lot of crashing and screaming in the background.

"Ash?" Steven asked in a guarded tone. "Is that you?"

"Yeah." Ash quickly replied before worriedly asking his own question. His hand was clenching the PokeNav tightly as he heard another massive crash. "I'm just calling to tell you that I'm done. All of the Rockets are being guarded by the villagers. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." Steven said shortly. "But I have to go. I'll see you in a few hours."

Ash nodded, even if Steven couldn't see him. "Alright, but –"

He made out another explosion in the background, much closer than the one's before it, before the call was cut off. Ash frowned and stared at the PokeNav for a moment before putting it away. There was no denying that he was worried, but he trusted Steven. You didn't get to be a Champion by being weak, after all.

That still didn't calm the worried thoughts about the former Champion as he leaned back against the hard bark of the tree, doing his best to relax. He couldn't help it – Steven was, if not quite a friend, a good person and a mentor. And, unlike Lance, Ash hadn't seen Steven in action. Ash didn't know how he'd compare to the legendary Indigo Champion.

But his frenzied thoughts slowly relaxed and disappeared into nothingness. Ash fell asleep soon after his thoughts began to slow, finally drifting into unconsciousness about ten minutes after his call to Steven. The experience of his mind slowly shutting down despite his recent experiences was almost surreal.

XX

Something poked him. It was slightly silky, but at the same time firm and almost rough in places. Ash barely recognized it as being strange and grumbled at it to go away, still tired and wanting to return to sleep.

It curiously poked him again. Ash scowled and covered his face with his hands. He figured it was Dazed poking him. She had a habit of picking up odd obsessions every now and then, discovering new curiosities and then discarding them a day later. The trainer thought that she had become newly enamored with the sensation of touch. It had happened before.

"Go away, Dazed. I'm trying to sleep." He grumbled, still very weary. Ash didn't know what had happened to make him this tired, but he knew some sleep would cure it.

He was poked again. Ash finally opened his eyes, too annoyed to let Dazed keep on poking him.

Ash wasn't looking at Dazed.

Instead of the large, yellow furred form of his friend, Ash saw a short round pokemon curiously staring at him. Its true form was obscured by countless thick, blue vines. Two curious, bright eyes peeked out from beneath the shadows created by the vines and blinked at him. Red, boot-like feet shot out from the mass of tangled vines, keeping the creature raised off the ground.

He blinked at it. It blinked in return, curiously waggling its vines around and trying to poke Ash again. Ash ignored the pokes and just stared at it.

Ash had seen this pokemon far too many times in his pokedex to not recognize it. Tangela were odd, memorable pokemon, so it was somewhat difficult to forget. Aside from that there had been a small population of the curious grass-type on an island a few miles south of Kanto. Professor Oak had teleported Ash's class to the island there once to observe them.

The trainer looked around for his pokemon. All of them were snoozing aside from Dazed. She was watching him carefully but wasn't moving to stop the tangela. Ash knew that tangela were incredibly passive and friendly, so he didn't particularly care if Dazed let it nearby, although he would have liked a warning. Dazed would protect him from anything dangerous.

Tangela curiously poked his body with its vines, still curious about Ash. The trainer quietly took a pokeball from his pack. There were several in the first storage compartment at all times, which helped since he wouldn't have to worry about differentiating the captured Rocket pokemon from the empty pokeballs.

"Hey there." Ash greeted quietly, not wanting to startle the curious pokemon. Tangela jumped up a little in happiness before wrapping one of the long, prehensile vines around Ash's hand and trying to shake it.

Ash laughed as Tangela shook his hand, helping to assist with its task. Tangela cocked its head at Ash – the only reason Ash could tell was because the large, friendly eyes were skewed at an awkward angle.

He wondered where it had picked up the human gesture of shaking hands. Ash assumed that it had observed a human doing it, or might have even had a trainer before. It didn't really matter, but it made him a little curious.

Tangela made a happy noise that Ash couldn't describe very well – it was some mix between a squeal, grunt, and chirp – and shook Ash's other hand.

"What are you doing here?" Ash asked. He didn't expect much of a reply since this was a wild tangela and the breed weren't the smartest pokemon in the first place, but he had to laugh at the odd hop the grass-type did. It was a nice change from some of his new pokemon. Most of them were moody or reserved.

Tangela didn't seem to fully understand the question, but cocked its head and made the noise again, much louder this time. Ash suddenly heard a roar and saw that Nidorino had awoken to the sight of Tangela standing over Ash. His friend quickly jumped up and prepared to charge.

"Nidorino, no!" Ash cried. Nidorino started at Ash's order and looked at him quizzically, although he never let his focus on Tangela break. "It's harmless. Tangela won't hurt us."

The grass-type made the happy noise again, although it looked ready to flee in the face of the angry Nidorino. When Nidorino didn't attack, Tangela curiously ran its vines over Nidorino's body. Nidorino jerked back, causing Tangela to look downtrodden for a brief moment before looking at Ash.

Ash, however, was thinking. Tangela was comfortable around him and his team. Tangela's species were also capable of dealing a great deal of damage in a battle thanks to the versatility and protection their vines gave to them. They also evolved into an incredibly powerful grass-type – a type in which Ash was lacking.

He didn't plan on catching Tangela without its permission, however. Battling it was a perfect possibility, but fighting such a friendly pokemon felt…wrong somehow. But he figured he could at least get an understanding of its basic abilities.

Tangela cocked its head at him when he took out his pokedex and aimed it at the pokemon. Ash had to keep the searching vines away from his pokedex while it scanned Tangela.

"Tangela, the Vine Pokemon." The cool, monotone voice stated. "It is shrouded by blue vines. They are covered in a growth of fine hair and are moving at all times. If broken, they grow back within a day.

This Tangela knows the moves: Ingrain, sleep powder, vine whip, absorb, poison powder, sludge bomb, bind, mega drain, stun spore, giga drain and leaf storm. Its ability is Chlorophyll, which allows it to move much faster in sunlight."

To be frank, Ash was stunned at the amount of moves Tangela knew. It had some incredibly powerful grass-type moves behind it, and many of its attacks would bring down other pokemon easily through a mix of sheer power and status ailments that would befall them.

He glanced at the pokedex and saw that Tangela was a male.

But he also realized that Tangela had been trained before. He'd scrolled through the list of moves that they were able to learn enough times to know they couldn't learn sludge bomb naturally. It had to have had a trainer sometime. The only way it could've learned sludge bomb was if it was given a TM.

Still, that didn't mean he didn't want to catch it. Tangela would be an awesome addition to his team. It would certainly be a nice contrast to the surly, haughty Golduck.

"Hey, do you have a trainer?" He asked slowly, hoping it would have enough time to comprehend his question. A few seconds later Tangela shook its head, although Ash could catch a note of sorrow within its wide eyes. Tangela returned to its normal self a few seconds later, almost as if the question had never happened.

"Well, do you want to come with me and my friends? I think you'll be a good addition to the team." Ash asked, still keeping his words slow and simple. Tangela blinked and thought for only a few seconds before it cheerfully nodded, causing all of its vines to sway and bounce.

Ash grinned and stood up. He noticed that Nidorino was watching with just a little bit of interest. Dazed was still observing from afar, but she seemed to smile at him before he turned his attention to Tangela. The rest of his team was asleep.

He extended his arm out once he stretched and got some of the stiffness out of his body. Tangela was shorter than him, but quickly raised a vine and shook his hand. Ash grinned, but yelped in surprise when Tangela yanked him in for a huge with its other vines.

The trainer couldn't help but laugh once he'd gotten over his surprise and returned the hug. Tangela felt rather odd. Its vines were spongy, but possessed a hardness and firmness to them that showed the power they held. In addition it was almost slippery thanks to the fine hairs on its body.

A few seconds later Tangela released Ash, beaming up at him with bright eyes. Ash smiled and showed Tangela the primed pokeball he'd pulled out previously. "Do you know what to do?"

Tangela nodded and hopped up and down in excitement. In the middle of its leap, Tangela suddenly snapped a vine out and grabbed the pokeball, taking it from Ash's hand and tapping it against itself before being sucked in.

The ball quickly clicked, showing that it had succeeded in its capture. Ash sighed when the ball suddenly disappeared. He'd forgotten that he was past the limit.

Oh well. He needed to return to the town anyways. Lance and Steven would probably be there soon since it looked to be sunset or so. Besides, he needed to make sure that the Rangers and League officials had gotten there and secured the Rockets.

XX

It was silent when he got back to town. There were plenty of people in the streets, but most looked reserved and withdrawn. They ignored him as he passed by, causing him to be a little more cautious. He thought that most would have been excited over the Rockets being defeated.

He kept Nidorino out as he walked through the streets. Ash noticed that some of the villagers had their own pokemon out as well. Most were common – rattata, raticate, sentret and furret were the ones bounding beside most villagers – while others were somewhat rarer, such as the odd tangela or kingler.

Ash assumed that the pokemon had been confiscated by Team Rocket once they arrived. They wouldn't let anybody have a pokemon. Even if it was weak, a single pokemon could be devastating if fighting for its trainer or family.

Soon enough he arrived at the large building that dominated the entrance to the town. Small concrete steps led him up the small hill to it. It seemed to be the town's Pokemon Center as well since quite a few villagers with pokemon or pokeballs were walking in and out. Ash tried to avoid them since quite a few looked furious.

The interior was warm and homey despite the impressive size. It was jam packed though, so Ash had to work his way through the thick crowd. Everyone seemed to be clamoring for their pokemon to be checked out first. Ash couldn't blame them. If Team Rocket had gotten their hands on one of his pokemon for any amount of time, he would be furious.

All in all it seemed to be an average Pokemon Center, albeit an incredibly large one. It seemed to serve quite a few more functions than healing pokemon, however. Quite a few people standing above the rest and taking orders wore suits and seemed professional. They were also serving the rest and looked to be in charge, so Ash figured that they were the leaders of Knot Island.

He managed to slip through the throngs of people and enter a room that had a sign labeled "Trading Room". Not many people were over there, so he was able to make pretty good time. A large machine dominated the interior of the room, taking up nearly a quarter of the available area. Ash assumed that it powered the trades between the Sevii Islands and the other regions.

Nobody else was in the room and it looked particularly well-maintained. The rest of the interior looked like it hadn't been well looked after, so he was somewhat surprised. Maybe the Rockets had used this area as their base. It would make sense since they would have to stay in a fortified location with easy access to more pokemon.

The trading room was brightly lit and several monitors and trading machines lined the walls. Ash walked over to one of the monitors and sat down. Nidorino curled up beside his feet in a position where he could easily watch the door. His ears were stiff and alert as Ash punched in Professor Oak's number.

While he was waiting on the Professor to pick up, Ash released Golduck. The water-type glared around at the monitors before settling his annoyed eyes on Ash.

"We aren't battling." Ash sighed. Golduck rolled his eyes and seemed to sneer at Ash. The trainer just frowned. While it might have been bad that he didn't mind letting Golduck go for a while, he couldn't help it. He just couldn't get the water-type to work with him. Even Infernus had been manageable in the beginning.

"I'm sending you away." Ash said flatly, not bothering to sugarcoat it. It wasn't permanent anyways. He just needed to get another member of his team to grow. "You did well in your gym battle, but you won't train or work with me. I'll bring you back eventually, but for now I want to train someone else."

Golduck seemed to smirk, not displeased at all by the news. He almost seemed happy. Ash sighed and looked at the monitor as it clicked on, showing Professor Oak staring at Ash from his desk.

"Ash?" Oak asked, surprise etched onto his face. Ash smiled at the Professor and nodded.

"Hey, Professor Oak."

"What are you doing in the Sevii Islands?" Oak questioned, almost angry. Realization slowly dawned on his face. "Wait, you didn't really go along with Steven, did you?"

Ash nodded. "He wanted my help."

"Why would you go?" Oak asked, voice rising as his face grew red. "He told me what you were doing. It's dangerous! Team Rocket is dangerous! You should know that better than anyone." The Professor said, his tone growing softer when he saw Ash scowl. "Please, just come back. Those two are Champions. They don't need your help."

The trainer frowned. He could see where Oak was coming from – he knew Team Rocket was dangerous! – but he knew what he was doing. He knew that Steven didn't need his help, but at least he could do something.

"I have to stay here and help." Ash said firmly. "They might not need me, but at least I'm doing something. I can take care of myself. Did you ever hear about the Rocket base in Celadon."

"Of course." Oak replied, his frown still present. "A boy managed to sneak in and –" The Professor's face paled and his hands began to shake. "Ash, what did you do?"

Ash frowned. "I did what I had to. I found a Team Rocket base and took it down."

Oak's eye twitched. "You attacked a Team Rocket base! Alone? What possessed you to do that!"

"St. Anne."

The Professor sighed and relaxed back into the chair, looking very tired all of a sudden. "I understand what a horrible experience that was for you, but you can't keep on attacking Team Rocket. They're dangerous and won't hesitate to hurt you. You know that!"

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