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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5. Vermillion Part 1

They walked into the gym warily. The group had just gotten back from checking in at the Pokemon Center in Vermillion and were disturbed by the sheer scope of the injuries the pokemon there had been put through. None of them were irreparable or life threatening, but for it to all have happened at a single gym was worrying.

Hopefully the journey to Vermillion had toughened them up enough to where they could beat Surge without suffering much damage. It had been a difficult journey – the weather seemed to be against them, and events such as storms and frigid cold had slowed them down – and they had been quite glad when they saw the sunny city of Vermillion.

Ash had spent most of the time battling the myriad of trainers that were travelling down the same road. Most were coming from Vermillion – Surge had frightened most potential challengers away as the tales of his newfound brutality became more famous amongst the Kanto trainers – and were happy to challenge him.

All of his pokemon were almost ready to evolve. Nidoran had been training particularly hard since he was the only one of Ash's pokemon to have a real chance against Surge and was showing many of the signs that showed he was about to evolve: longer barbs, stronger poison, and slightly more aggression.

Plume's plumage was growing more colorful and her crest was starting to lengthen. Her body was also growing tougher and more powerful. Torrent was showing the hints of the barbs that would emerge when he evolved into a seadra and was becoming even more aggressive.

They had also trained after they made camp and had eaten. Ash was relentless in their journey, to the point where even Jonathan and Amelia had stopped attempting to keep up.

Now they were in the gym that would pose their first true challenge. Brock had been a trial by fire, the Sisters had been formidable, but Surge was going to truly test their mettle. Everything Ash had worked for would be put to the test.

It was dark in the gym, much like it was in Pewter City. Unlike Pewter City's gym, however, this gym looked more like a warehouse than a gym. There were no environmental factors he could take advantage of other than the plain square of dirt that they would be battling on and was extremely plain.

He noticed that there were two tall trainers standing near each other. Both wore clothes meant to highlight their ruggedness and tough looks. They both sneered at the group as they walked in. From in between them a gigantic, shadowy figure stood in the darkness. The figure stepped forward, revealing it to be the instantly recognizable form of Lt. Surge.

Ash looked up at the massive man in astonishment. He knew that he and his friends were hardly tall, but he'd never seen anyone so mindbogglingly huge before.

Lt. Surge was at least twice the height of Ash and had about ten times the bulk. His two gym trainers – both imposing in their own right – looked positively tiny in comparison. And apparently, judging by the smirk he wore and the clothing that showed off his ridiculously large muscles, his personality fit his appearance.

"So," he growled as he stood between the two gym trainers, "which of you babies are first? Maybe you runts will put up a challenge."

Ash stepped forward and stared Surge in the eye. He felt rather ridiculous as he stared almost directly upward, but kept a defiant glint in his eye. Surge wouldn't cow him.

"I'm first."

Surge looked down at him in disbelief before bursting into laughter. Ash glared up at the man and clenched his fists as the gym leader roared in laughter for what seemed like an eternity. The two gym trainers joined him.

Then the laughter abruptly stopped.

"Oh. You're serious." Surge said. A grin split his broad face. "Alright, runt, let's get this going. One on one. First to knock the other's pokemon unconscious wins. Surrendering is an automatic forfeit."

Ash nodded and continued to glare at the man. One of the tough looking gym trainers led him to one side of the arena while the other led Jonathan and Amelia to an area walled off with clear plastic. Surge took the other side of the arena and withdrew a pokeball.

Surge laughed as he tapped the button to release whatever pokemon was in the ball. Ash withdrew Nidoran's ball and did the same, resolutely staring at the scarlet energy that was beginning to coalesce into the form of a pokemon.

A few seconds later he was able to identify the pokemon. It was a large, powerful looking raichu that had an arrogant smirk on its small face that matched that of its owner. Surge knelt down and scratched the electric type behind the ears before pointing at Nidoran's small form.

"Wreck it."

The raichu bared its fangs and beat its tail against the ground. Ash saw small arcs of electricity sparking out of its yellow pouches as they began to glow a bright white. He wasted no time in giving Nidoran an order.

"Confusion! Dodge that attack if you can." He shouted. Nidoran's ears twitched in confirmation of the order. His eyes glowed a bright pink and Raichu was slowly raised into the air before being slammed into the ground.

Raichu was too tough to be badly hurt by the attack. It seemed more annoyed by the psychic assault than anything and glared at Nidoran when it had pulled itself back up.

"That's the best you can do?" Surge laughed. "Raichu, finish this. Use thunderbolt! Follow up with mega kick and mega punch if it's still up."

Ash gritted his teeth as Raichu's electric sacs glowed a bright white before quickly releasing a massive surge of electricity. The electricity formed into a bright yellow bolt that surged directly at Nidoran, striking him before Nidoran could try to avoid the attack.

"Use focus kick." He shouted. Nidoran didn't confirm the order in any way other than tensing up as he focused his energy.

Unfortunately, Raichu was too fast for Nidoran. Before Nidoran had completed focusing his energy, the orange mouse had scampered over to Nidoran and jumped up. Nidoran tried to attack back as Raichu neared him, but couldn't react fast enough.

Ash wanted to close his eyes as Nidoran was hit with the full force of Raichu's mega kick. His friend went skidding down the field from the power of the attack. Nidoran wearily pulled himself up and tried to prepare itself for Raichu's mega punch but was pushed back another few feet as the attack impacted.

"Come on, Nidoran, you've got to dodge!" Ash screamed. He didn't want Nidoran to be put through a beating like those pokemon at the Pokemon Center.

Surge had a wide grin on his face. "So you're little Nidoran is still standing? Not very impressive, but it's better than what I've been getting through here lately. Raichu, finish it off with body slam."

Raichu nodded gleefully at the command. It sprinted at Nidoran as the smaller pokemon recovered and slammed into the pink creature again, sending Nidoran sprawling. Ash noticed that it was slower than before and seemed slightly tired. Maybe Raichu had been poisoned from hitting Nidoran.

Fat load of good it would do him now. Nidoran was about to be knocked out. Even though he was pulling himself to his feet, Ash could see that his best friend was only one good hit away from being defeated.

"Huh." Surge grunted. "It's still up. Raichu, body slam one last time. I'm bored."

The mouse had small arcs of electricity sparking from its cheeks as it made one last charge. Ash closed his eyes as Raichu grew nearer, waiting to hear the horrible pounding sound that would accompany the powerful attack when it hit the defenseless Nidoran.

But he never heard the impact of Raichu's body impacting his friend. Instead he saw a brilliant white light that was powerful enough to be seen through his closed eyelids. A powerful roar that couldn't have belonged to Nidoran sounded throughout the gym. Ash opened them up in confusion and curiosity, wondering what had happened.

A wide grin split his face when he saw the source of the light: Nidoran, who was so infused with the light that Ash could barely make out his shape. His form was quickly morphing and growing. He quickly recognized it as evolution.

The entire gym was silent as Nidoran's transformation continued. Surge was looking at the evolving Nidoran with an indecipherable look on his face, but Ash thought he could see a hint of respect in his eyes. Both of his friends were holding their breath.

Suddenly the light grew even brighter in an incredible surge. Ash quickly shut his eyes lest it blind him. The intense light still left stars in his eyes.

When he was able to see again, he looked straight at Nidora—Nidorino, he corrected. Ash was struck by the strong resemblance Nidorino bore to his previous form. Although much bulkier and stronger looking, the basic looks of Nidoran hadn't faded.

Ash looked at the powerfully built pokemon in awe for a few moments before grinning.

"Nidorino, focus kick."

Nidorino growled in confirmation and jumped high up in the air, his previous fatigue and injuries no longer preventing him from fighting. Raichu and Surge were still too stunned to do anything, giving Nidorino a free hit on the weakened Raichu.

Ash grinned even wider when Raichu was knocked to the ground. It looked like the poison was doing its work. He knew that the Raichu was still more powerful than Nidorino – a single evolution without additional training wouldn't close the wide gap between the two pokemon, although it would definitely help to shrink it – but hopefully the poison would continue to work and keep the Raichu slow and unsteady.

"Horn attack!" He shouted. Nidorino twitched his ears – they were about the same size as they were as a Nidoran, although they looked far more proportional and less awkward on Nidorino's larger body – and charged. Ash hadn't been completely sure if Nidorino would know the move, although he was glad that he did.

The pokedex entry on Nidorino – he had looked up almost everything about the Nidoran line and memorized it – had said that they instinctually knew the attack in order to take full advantage of their incredibly powerful horn. Of course, the attack came with an added bonus when used by Nidorino. If the attack hit a susceptible area, the horn would inject a powerful poison into the foe's body. It would be much more potent than that of a Nidoran's poison.

"Dodge it and use thunderbolt again." Surge snapped, finally regaining his senses. "Keep away from it."

Although Surge had recovered from the shock of seeing Nidoran evolve, Raichu was still stunned from the powerful focus kick. It was pulling itself up, but Ash knew that it wouldn't be able to avoid Nidorino's charge.

A few moments later, Nidorino hit the slowly recovering Raichu. Ash cheered for his friend as Raichu was sent flying from the force of the attack, but quickly began giving his friend orders again.

"Focus kick again. Follow with horn attack."

Nidorino charged at Raichu again before forcing himself upwards with his strong legs. His feet glowed as he landed on Raichu's battered body. The helpless mouse was sent sprawling onto its back. Although the mouse tried to recover – Surge's wild shouts at it to get up probably helped motivate it – and had even managed to pull itself up again it was quickly bowled over by Nidorino's ruthless charge.

Even Ash had to wince as Raichu was sent flying, its body going limp as the combination of the powerful poison coursing through its veins and Nidorino's powerful, brutal attacks finally took its toll on the mouse.

He looked up at Surge, who looked as stunned as Ash currently felt.

"Wha – how?" He said, unable to comprehend his loss. "I lost? To a kid?"

Ash couldn't exactly blame him for being so shocked. He certainly hadn't expected himself to make such a great comeback, not when Surge's powerful Raichu had been close to knocking Nidoran out without even breaking a sweat.

Then he realized something. He had won. He had won and Nidoran had finally evolved.

"Come here, buddy!" He shouted in glee. Nidorino looked over and trotted over to Ash, who quickly knelt down and patted his head, although he carefully avoided the long, sharp horn. It was still leaking clear, potent poison. "You did great! Raichu never even had a chance."

Nidorino snorted and pushed his head up against Ash's hand. Ash smiled and patted him some more before he moved his hand upwards to scratch his friend behind his sensitive ears. He made sure to avoid the new spikes and barbs that had come with the evolution, although they were starting to lower now that the battle was over.

Although most of Nidorino's wounds appeared to have been healed by the evolution, Ash could see large bruises and mottled areas on his friend's tough skin. Apparently evolving didn't completely heal injuries. He would have to get the wounds checked out at the Pokemon Center as soon as possible.

He scratched Nidorino a few more times before he stood back up and returned his friend to his pokeball. Nidorino growled happily one last time before the scarlet energy engulfed him and brought him into the ball. Ash attached it to his belt before turning back to Lt. Surge.

Who, as it happened, was only a few feet away from him. Ash jumped in surprise – how was such a large man so quiet? He quickly calmed down and met Surge's eyes. The younger trainer noticed that Surge was cradling Raichu in one of his massive arms.

Ash half-expected Surge to punch him in the face for embarrassing him and hurting Raichu so badly. So he was rather surprised to see that the man had a wide grin on his face and held out his hand. The trainer carefully shook the gym leader's hand, wincing when Surge nearly crushed it.

"Good job!" Surge roared. "I haven't lost since I was given the order to go all out on every challenger. You've got talent!"

He smiled at the praise. But something bothered him.

"Thanks. But why would the League tell you to stop holding back? No one's getting the badge anymore."

Surge's wide grin reminded Ash of pictures he'd seen of a sharpedo. "You know those tickets for that cruise ship I have to give out to anyone who beats me? The League only wanted the best to get onto that ship for some reason. I'm not complaining. It's good to see the runts that think they can beat me get sent off with their tails between their legs."

Ash nodded, not really sure how to respond. Surge laughed again before fishing around in one of his pockets. He pulled out the Thunder Badge and a wadded up piece of paper.

"Here's your ticket." Surge said loudly, presenting Ash with the crumpled piece of paper. Ash took it carefully. It looked like it had been in that coat for a long time. "It's a little crumpled, but that shouldn't be a problem. Just give it to the guy in front of the boat. It'll be here in a few days, I think. And here's your badge. Don't lose it."

"Thanks." Ash said gratefully as he pocketed the ticket and badge.

"Alright then." Surge muttered. "Are your runt friends going to battle me? Because I've got to get Raichu to the Center. She's pretty beat up."

Ash nodded. Surge had that same grin on his face as he eyed the duo.

"They don't look like a challenge. Tell them to come back in an hour or two. Raichu'll be ready to beat their pokemon into unconsciousness by then."

The younger trainer nodded again. Surge didn't look at him again as the gigantic man swept out of the gym, carrying Raichu like a baby.

One of the gym trainer's came up to him. The other was walking over to Jonathan and Amelia.

"Alright, you've got the badge." The tall trainer growled. "Now get out before Surge gets back. He doesn't have time to babysit you."

Ash rolled and his eyes and nodded. This trainer wasn't intimidating compared to Surge. Nevertheless, he left the gym with his friends in tow.

He winced at the bright light that assaulted the group as they left the gym, but quickly grew used to it. Ash waved his friends' congratulations away as they slipped through the crowded city. All he wanted to do was get Nidorino to the Pokemon Center. His friend had done great at the gym and he wanted him fixed up as soon as possible.

XX

Ash ended up not returning to the gym with his friends. Nurse Joy had told him that they would need to hold Nidorino for several hours to make sure he hadn't suffered any complications from evolving after such a beating. She said that if bones or tissues were damaged right before evolution the pokemon could be permanently weakened from the misplaced systems, although it could be easily corrected if caught quickly.

It was extremely rare, but Ash wasn't about to take any risks with his friend. Nurse Joy would need his permission to do anything for Nidoran unless it was life threatening, so he decided to stay there just in case something needed to be done.

Jonathan and Amelia went to the gym at his urging. They were disappointed that he wouldn't be joining them for their battles, but he didn't want them to have to wait to battle Surge. He didn't think that either of them would beat Surge on their first try – he had only won because Nidoran had evolved at an extremely fortuitous time, and he was much better than either of his friends – but the first battle would show them just how far they would need to go before defeating Surge.

Ash sighed and relaxed. All of his pokemon were out, something that he was afraid he wouldn't be able to do in such a densely populated city. A small aquarium to his side was placed in the room for Torrent, who was darting back and forth in the container. Plume sat on the back of the chair he was reclining in, cleaning herself and smoothing out her feathers. An unhappy Nidorino – covered in monitoring devices that would let Nurse Joy know if she needed to fix anything – sat by his feet.

Nidorino butted his large head against his hand, causing the trainer to idly scratch behind his friend's ears. The pokemon had been trying to tear the small pads and devices that were monitoring his functions and chemical levels off all night, so Ash was happy to give Nidorino some sort of distraction.

Plume chirped loudly – its size caused the noise to sound more like a rumble – and gently pecked Ash's hat in an attempt to get attention. Ash rolled his eyes and gently stroked Plume's bright plumage. She cooed happily at the affection.

Torrent splashed frantically in an attempt to get his attention, his small eyes focused on the bag of food that Ash had bought for him. Ash smiled and poured some food into the aquarium. The horsea quickly sucked it in through his snout before calming down.

The smile stayed on his face as his pokemon continued to vie for his attention. It was nice to finally relax and be around his friends.

XX

He was asleep when Jonathan and Amelia knocked on his door. Ash sleepily opened up his eyes and stood up, gently pushing Nidorino – who was already alert, his hearing not diminished by the evolution – off of his feet. The trainer stretched for a moment before walking over to the door. He had fallen asleep in the chair and was feeling rather stiff.

"Wait a minute." He said to his friends as they knocked on the door again. At least he assumed it was his friends. No one else had a reason to knock on his door since Nurse Joy could just call him from the video phone in the room.

Ash yawned as he opened the door, revealing the forms of his friends. He wasn't sure what time it was, but he wanted to get this over with and go back to sleep.

"What do you guys want? Did you win?"

Judging from the expressions on their faces, they hadn't. Ash wanted to be sympathetic to them, he really did, but couldn't see why this couldn't have waited till morning. And – considering that there was no light at all coming through the blinds – he doubted that it was morning.

Jonathan spoke up first. "…No. He kind of curbstomped us. That raichu of his beat Charmander with two attacks. I was actually kind of hoping that he would evolve in the middle of the battle like Nidoran did."

"That's not good." Ash muttered. "So you both lost?"

"Yeah." Amelia growled. "Bulbasaur was beaten by one thundershock! He should have been resistant to it. I guess I haven't been focusing on his training as much as I should have."

"Why didn't you use Rattata?" Ash asked curiously. "He's a lot more aggressive than Bulbasaur and you've managed to perfect his hyper fang."

Amelia frowned. "I saw what that Raichu did to Nidoran in just a few hits. Nidoran is tougher than Rattata, so I didn't think that he would be able to take a single hit without being knocked out. But I might have to use him next time. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense."

Ash and Jonathan nodded. The trainer turned back to his friends.

"Look, I'm sorry that you lost. But could you guys leave? I'm about to pass out. We can go train tomorrow."

Jonathan and Amelia agreed and apologized for waking him up before they left. Ash sighed when they left and closed the door. He wasn't sure what he would do tomorrow while they battled other trainers.

He needed to get Nidorino used to his new form if it turned out nothing was wrong. Torrent needed to be worked out – they hadn't had many opportunities to do so on the way to Vermillion, although he fought a few times in ponds or rivers –and he wanted to see if he could get Plume to evolve. She was close to it and seemed to be getting more aggressive lately.

Ash shook the thoughts away. He just wanted to sleep. All of the important things could wait until tomorrow.

The trainer ignored the bed and reclaimed his position next to his friends. In a few minutes he was unconscious. This time he wasn't woken up until morning.

XX

The group found themselves in the wilderness outside Vermillion the next day. It was rather cool outside, but it wasn't storming or freezing like it had been on the way to the city. Trainers were practically everywhere – Ash had been challenged several times since leaving the city, and quickly won all of the battles thanks to Nidorino's new strength – and he was getting annoyed by the lack of peace.

Ash had split off from Amelia and Jonathan. They had decided to spend the day battling trainers and toughening their pokemon up – both of his friends were hoping for at least one of their pokemon to evolve today – while Ash had decided to go out and search for another member of the team. He had heard that there was a wide variety of pokemon around Vermillion.

But for now he was just relaxing. He had managed to find a relatively remote area away from the masses of trainers battling each other and only had to defeat a few challengers that had wandered into his spot before he was able to take a nap.

Plume was settled in one of the sturdy branches above him and was raptly glancing around the clearing. Torrent was lazily swimming around the small pond next to the clearing he had found. A few other pokemon had been in it when they'd arrived, but Torrent had quickly driven them off.

Nidorino was sitting next to his leg. He had been deemed perfectly fine by Nurse Joy earlier in the morning and was happy to test his new strength against challengers. For now, however, he was content to simply rest with the others. His ears remained tense and twitched whenever he heard a far off noise.

Ash didn't notice any of this as he fell asleep, his eyes closing almost against his will as he leaned back against a tree. He didn't think anything of it – his pokemon would keep him safe from any possible threat.

XX

He didn't know what woke him up. Ash knew he didn't hear anything, but he could feel a slight itching around his nose. The trainer groaned in annoyance and opened his eyes.

Ash wished he hadn't.

A short, round creature with a yellow torso and brown midsection and legs stared at him. It had tired looking eyes and a short trunk was slightly above its mouth. Ash stared at its face for a moment in shock – it was only a few inches away from him.

Then he reacted. Ash forced himself up – making sure to keep away from the drowzee, as he had identified the pokemon – and jumped away. The drowzee stared at him with tired eyes and raised its claw. The trainer glanced away in order to avoid the drowzee's hypnosis and frantically searched for his pokemon.

There were no identified cases of a drowzee so much as hurting a human, much less killing one. They were generally extremely peaceful, and only ventured to human settlements or approached humans in order to feed – a process that took nothing but a dream from the human it found.

But Ash didn't want to be around a wild pokemon without his own being there to protect him. All pokemon were dangerous and could accidentally hurt someone without even realizing it. He didn't want to risk anything.

Fortunately, he found his friends rather quickly. Unfortunately, they were all asleep.

Nidorino was lazily sprawled on the ground, sleepily pawing the ground as he dreamed. Plume had her head buried under her wing. Torrent, however, was still awake. Ash could see that whatever the drowzee had done was either wearing off or hadn't taken full effect, as Torrent's eyes were still half-closed but were slowly rising.

"Torrent!" Ash shouted. Although for a second he feared his attempt at waking the horsea up had failed, that fear vanished when Torrent's eyes suddenly snapped open. Torrent glanced up at him questioningly, but turned toward drowzee when the creature made a loud wheezing noise.

Something within Torrent shifted. His eyes narrowed and the calm that Ash and the other pokemon had instilled into him vanished, replaced by the rage and love of battle that Ash had seen when he first captured him.

The drowzee didn't have a chance to react before Torrent fired a water gun at it. Ash took his chance to come up with a strategy and act on it as the drowzee toppled over. Torrent continued firing water guns, although the drowzee resisted them now that it was aware of the threat Torrent posed.

Ash saw his bag a few feet away from the drowzee and took his chance. He dashed behind the occupied drowzee and quickly knelt down and sifted through it, frantically searching for a pokeball. The trainer glanced back at the battle as he unzipped the section that held his shrunk pokeballs.

Torrent was being hypnotized. Drowzee was holding his arms up. Pink energy was floating off of its body and energy was forming into a transparent that gently swayed back and forth in front of Drowzee's body. The pink energy was forming into a bright purple energy. Several flew towards Torrent, striking the hypnotized horsea.

He quickly turned back to his bag and withdrew a pokeball, tapping it in order to prime it. When he turned back, he noticed that Drowzee – who looked to have been badly weakened by the brief fight with Torrent, showing that it hadn't been ready for the battle – was staring and pointing at him. Ash glanced to see what had happened to Torrent and was shocked when he saw that his horsea was staring at him with emotionless, glowing purple eyes.

Torrent was rearing his head back when Ash took his chance. He hurled the pokeball at Drowzee, stunning it for a moment as the pokeball bounced off. A moment later Drowzee was transformed into scarlet energy and sucked into the pokeball. Ash glanced at his friend and was relieved to see that he had snapped out of whatever mind control Drowzee had placed him under.

Ash didn't even bother to look at the pokeball, instead opting to shout out to his other pokemon. Drowzee's power over Torrent had been broken when it was pulled into the ball, so perhaps the hypnosis he had placed onto Plume and Nidorino had been broken as well.

His theory turned out to be correct. Nidorino sleepily got up and looked up at Ash, while Plume immediately snapped to attention and prepared to attack whatever was in the pokeball. When Nidorino realized that there was a threat his ears grew rigid and his long barbs and spines extended out of his back, dripping potent poison.

For a few tense seconds they waited. Judging from how frantically the pokeball was shaking, Drowzee didn't want to be captured. Ash moved away from the shaking ball and prepared to command his pokemon. He tapped another ball to prime it.

Finally, the pokeball stopped shaking and clicked, confirming Drowzee's capture. Ash carefully picked up the ball, but before he released the most recent addition to the team he looked at his friends.

"Get ready to restrain Drowzee if it tries to attack. Be careful not to let it hypnotize you. Knock it out if you have to but don't hurt it." He said tersely. His friends grunted in acceptance of the order.

Ash tapped the button, releasing Drowzee. It warily glanced at the surrounding pokemon before settling its gaze on Ash. He thought that it dearly wanted to attack the group, but apparently it was too concerned for its safety to attack a group of three angry pokemon and their trainer.

"Hey, Drowzee." Ash said slowly. Drowzee continued to stare at him. Its trunk twitched. "You're a part of my team now, alright. We're teammates. So don't try to hypnotize us."

Drowzee's eyes narrowed, but didn't seem to be angry. Ash didn't like not being able to read its emotions very well. It continued to stand absolutely still, but Ash knew it wasn't trying to use its powers. Even the most powerful psychics had to manifest their abilities through some way – a movement or twitch, although sometimes it only showed itself through glowing eyes or other body parts – and Drowzee was far from their ranks.

Ash slowly took out the pokedex and aimed it at the frozen drowzee. If it found annoyance with his actions it did not display them. The pokedex scanned Drowzee for a moment before giving Ash its summary.

"Drowzee. The Hypnosis Pokemon." The pokedex stated. "It puts enemies to sleep, then eats their dreams. Occasionally gets sick from eating bad dreams.

This pokemon currently knows the moves: Hypnosis, disable, confusion, poison gas, and meditate. Its ability is Insomnia, which prevents the pokemon from sleeping."

It had a good move set. Ash scanned the future moves it could learn on the pokedex and was impressed by the amount, even if there wasn't much variety. He could supplement it with TM's if he had to.

He also took the opportunity to determine Drowzee's gender. He didn't want to refer to Drowzee as an 'it' any longer than he had to. The pokedex said that Drowzee was female.

"So," he said with a smile, "do you want to go train? I want to see just what you can do."

Drowzee didn't respond in any way, instead opting to turn around and sit. Ash stared at Drowzee's back in bemusement. Had she just ignored him?

He looked helplessly at her before glancing to his friends. Torrent made some noise that Ash recognized as his growl and shot a bubblebeam – intentionally weakened, Ash could see – at Drowzee. Drowzee didn't react as the glowing bubbles hit her, instead glancing over at Torrent with glowing blue eyes.

Torrent's eyes turned blue as well and he unsteadily swam over to a rock, which he attached himself to before Drowzee released her control over him. Ash looked at Drowzee with barely concealed fear at the casual way in which she controlled Torrent.

Nidorino seemed to have had enough. Confident in his new power, he extended his barbs and charged at Drowzee with his horn lowered. Ash tried to shout at his friend to stop, but Nidorino had already been taken over by Drowzee, who didn't even bother looking at him.

Unfortunately for Drowzee, Nidorino knew confusion as well. Although it was much weaker than any true psychic pokemon's power and was only due to genetics, it still gave Nidorino the ability to resist Drowzee's ability to a limited degree. His friend refused to move, instead resolutely glaring at Drowzee.

Plume quickly moved to assist Nidorino. She screamed out a challenge for Drowzee before using quick attack, slamming into Drowzee before the slow pokemon could react and weakening its focus. Nidorino quickly broke free of Drowzee's control and tackled it – Ash could see that, despite his anger, Nidorino took care not to stab it with his horn or poison Drowzee – which knocked his newest pokemon to the ground.

Nidorino leapt back and prepared to tackle Drowzee again as she got up, but Ash intervened.

"Nidorino, enough!" He said sternly. "If Drowzee wants to ignore me, that's fine. She's on this team whether she likes it or not. But we won't force her to listen through fear or intimidation. Just leave her alone."

His friend looked down and nodded. Ash sighed and looked at Plume. The large bird had her head hidden under her wing and wasn't looking at him. Torrent had left the rock and was bobbing up and down with the waves. The horsea seemed to have a newfound respect for Ash, judging by his stare.

"Alright, let's go." Ash sighed. "I think we've worn out our welcome here. We should get some exploring in before it gets dark."

He quickly returned Drowzee – she wouldn't follow him anyways and would only slow them down – and Torrent. Plume took off into the air above the trees. Ash could just barely see the large bird flying through the branches and leaves. Nidorino nuzzled his hand, seeking forgiveness.

Ash gladly scratched behind his ears before setting off. They had a lot to do and even more to see.

XX

That night they stood in Ash's room at the Pokemon Center. He had gotten back several hours ago, but Jonathan and Amelia had just returned from their long day of battling. Both were exhausted but pleased with their efforts.

"So what did you do all day?" Jonathan asked in between bites. He and Amelia had brought their food from the cafeteria into Ash's room.

"Not much." Ash shrugged as he leaned back in the chair. All of his pokemon were in the same positions as last night, although he hadn't released Drowzee yet. He wanted her to be a surprise. "I walked around, relaxed, battled a few people. I caught a pokemon a few hours in."

Amelia and Jonathan snapped up. "What kind?" She asked. "We didn't see any wild pokemon. I think the trainers scared them all off."

"A Drowzee." Ash stated proudly. "She tried to eat my dreams while I took a nap and put my pokemon to sleep. We managed to beat her though and caught her pretty easily."

He pulled out Drowzee's pokeball and tapped the button, releasing the sullen pokemon. Jonathan and Amelia jumped back when they saw the creature, although they soon began to examine the frozen pokemon with interest.

"It…doesn't look very happy." Amelia stated. Jonathan nodded in agreement. "Does it move?"

Ash shrugged. "I know that she moves, but she won't obey me. She just stands there."

Amelia hummed. "Did you try battling it again? Sometimes they only respect you if they're badly beaten by one of your pokemon."

"No." Ash said sharply. "I'm not going to hurt Drowzee unless there's no other way. There's another way to get her to respect me. I just haven't found it yet."

His friend shrugged and backed down. Jonathan spoke up.

"All of our pokemon got a lot stronger. Charmander evolved and Rhyhorn is finally able to remember more than one command." He stated proudly. "Plus Rattata and Bulbasaur evolved!"

Ash raised an eyebrow. "Three of your pokemon evolved in one day? That's incredible!"

"Yeah." Amelia responded. "They were all really close to evolving. All they needed was one extra push. Tomorrow we're going to beat Surge. Are you going to be there?"

"Of course." Ash said. "Nidorino is completely fine and I don't think I can do anything for Drowzee anytime soon. Besides, I already missed your first match. I want to be there when you both win."

His friends smiled. "Alright then," Jonathan announced, "we're going to leave. We need to get some rest before going to the gym. See you later."

"Bye." Ash said. His friends left the room. He was quiet for a moment before going to shut the slightly ajar door and turning back to his pokemon. "So, are you guys ready for bed?"

Nidorino was already asleep – he was exhausted from the long day of travelling and the numerous battles he had taken part in – so couldn't respond. Drowzee just continued to stare at the wall, completely ignoring him. Plume chirped and fluttered over to his shoulder, causing him to sag a bit before recovering from the additional weight. Torrent was sleeping in his aquarium.

Ash gently stroked Plume's bright plumage – eliciting a pleased chirp from the bird – before pointing at her large perch. She quickly followed his order and fluttered over to the perch. He smiled at her before heading to bed.

He suspected that tomorrow would be an exciting day.

XX

The next morning they found themselves in the gym. Ash had immediately gone to the observation box after greeting Surge. Jonathan followed him since Amelia had won the coin flip that would determine which of them got to battle Surge first.

He made idle chatter with Jonathan, although he only really paid attention when the battle started. Ash stopped talking when the two gym trainers that constantly flanked Surge joined them in the box.

Amelia sent out Ivysaur – who looked to be about average for the species – first. Ivysaur squared itself as Surge sent out Raichu – who, Ash noticed, hadn't lost any of its arrogance from its defeat. Raichu looked to still be injured from his match with Nidorino, as he was limping and looked far weaker than it had when he fought it. Nevertheless, Raichu and Surge projected confidence that couldn't be matched.

Ash quickly identified Amelia's strategy. Ivysaur wasn't very fast, but was reasonably durable and could take quite a bit of punishment from Raichu's electrical attacks. Although he was being pummeled by Raichu at first, Amelia had Ivysaur inflict numerous status conditions – she used stunspore, leech seed, and poison powder on it whenever it came near – before finally going on the offensive.

Even with the disadvantages, Raichu nearly beat Ivysaur due to Surge's experience and skill and its own brutal power. It remained standing for five minutes after the status conditions were inflicted on it and only seemed slightly slowed down, although it was clear to see that Raichu had lost much of its stamina and strength.

It still fell after a particularly damaging technique that Amelia seemed to favor – picking her opponents up with vine whip and either slamming them repeatedly into the ground or hurling them across the arena – forced the badly weakened Raichu into unconscious.

Ivysaur collapsed the moment the battle was over. Ash could see the bruised, discolored patches all over his body as well as singed areas left from the lightning Raichu had used. Even though Ivysaur was moderately resistant to it and Raichu had lost much of its power, Raichu was still powerful enough to cause major harm with only a few of its attacks.

Amelia quickly collected her badge from Lt. Surge – who looked annoyed at her strategy and victory – and joined Ash in the observation box. Jonathan gulped as Amelia walked in, although Ash and Amelia both wished him luck.

Jonathan sent out Charmeleon. The lizard was large for its breed and seemed to have kept the same personality it had had as a Charmander. It was just as docile and didn't seem to have gained the aggression that Charmeleon were famed for.

When it saw the small Pikachu Surge sent out, Charmeleon bared his teeth and forced his tail to blaze up. Ash glanced away from the bright flame for a moment before returning his gaze to the battle. Pikachu didn't back down from Charmeleon's challenge, instead opting to glare at the lizard and release small arcs of electricity from its cheeks.

While he knew it wasn't as powerful as Raichu, Ash could tell that this would be a difficult battle. That Pikachu was a fighter and wouldn't back down until it was beaten senseless.

Surge made the first move. "Quick shock."

Pikachu blurred towards Charmeleon with a quick attack and struck him before using a weak thunder shock. It didn't do much damage, but it stunned Charmeleon for a second. The mouse used the opportunity to skitter away.

"Dragon rage!" Jonathan shouted. Charmeleon blasted Pikachu with purplish flames, although the mouse dodged the attack due to Surge's warning.

Surge continued to use the quick shock combination, something that exasperated Jonathan and caused him to begin losing his temper. Ash groaned when he saw Jonathan finally snap. It was likely what Surge had been waiting for.

"Blast that Pikachu!" He shouted to Charmeleon. Charmeleon waved its tail around in the air and caused its flame to grow large. Ash took his hat off as the temperature grew much higher and could already feel the sweat coming.

Ash saw that Pikachu was being forced to stay away, although it was still firing thunder shocks at Charmeleon at the behest of Surge. When the air grew hot enough to keep the Pikachu from stunning Charmeleon with another quick shock, Charmeleon reared his head back.

An inferno erupted from its maw. It wasn't focused and wasn't a specific attack – the lack of control and lack of concentration made it weaker than a flamethrower or other concentrated fire attack – but it was still powerful and engulfed a wide area.

Charmeleon continued spewing fire around the gym for nearly thirty seconds. Ash was completely blinded by the powerful flames and had to cover his eyes. The temperature was becoming nearly unbearable, although it wasn't dangerous in the least.

The inferno finally ended. Charmeleon looked completely exhausted but still searched the area for Pikachu. Ash quickly found Pikachu, its small form unconscious. It would be fine after a rest, but for now it looked awful. Pikachu's fur was singed, but didn't seem to have any outstanding injuries from being caught in the blaze.

Ash put his hat back on and stared at the tired Charmeleon in awe. He didn't know if even Nidorino could stand up to the raw power that Charmeleon had displayed. Nidorino was certainly powerful and versatile, but Ash doubted that he could defeat Charmeleon easily in a straight fight.

He was quiet as Jonathan triumphantly claimed his badge and shook Surge's hand. Surge seemed to respect those that defeated him with power more than those that had done so with status conditions and trickery.

Still, he wasn't sure how Jonathan would have fared against Raichu. Pikachu was obviously well-trained, but it wasn't the kind of pokemon that Surge seemed to work best with – overwhelmingly powerful and fast enough to avoid most attacks. The mouse took a bit longer to react to Surge's commands as well and didn't blend well with Surge's strategy.

Oh well, a win was a win. Ash congratulated him as his friend returned. They were quickly herded out of the gym by Surge's trainers and returned to the Pokemon Center. Ivysaur and Charmeleon might have won, but they were both exhausted and – in Ivysaur's case – battered from their opponents.

The rest of the day was spent eating and relaxing. Jonathan and Amelia both went over their individual battles and gave each other recommendations on how to do better. Ash spent most of the time thinking about how he could get Drowzee to respect him. He wanted the psychic type to warm up to the team and fit in.

And until Drowzee respected him, it would be alienated from the rest of his adoring pokemon. Ash really didn't want that.

They had a week until they could board the St. Anne and travel to Fuschia. He was going to make the most of this free time.

XX

The next week went by extremely fast, almost as if it happened at an accelerated rate. None of the group trained particularly hard, instead opting to relax and enjoy the rare peace.

Amelia and Ash made sure to secure their tickets in a safe place. Jonathan did the same with the ticket that had got from Bill and sold the other ticket for a good bit of cash. The St. Anne was a very famous vessel and there were plenty of people willing to pay a lot for the opportunity to be on the ship.

They still trained, of course. Few of the trainers that hung around Vermilion were willing to battle them again due to the rapidly growing reputation and skill of the trainers. Not many people had defeated Surge since he was cut loose by the League, and when people realized that they were the ones that had defeated him, they either challenged them or left the area.

No more evolutions took place, although Plume and Torrent were obviously nearing the limit. They were growing in power rapidly and were becoming stronger and more efficient with their attacks.

Soon, however, they wouldn't be able to improve. There were limits on how powerful unevolved pokemon could become. Their bodies just weren't capable of growing past a certain point.

At least that was what an old, experienced trainer – he was one of the few that had defeated Ash – had told him. Ash remembered the words, although he wasn't completely sure about their veracity.

But today the St. Anne had arrived at Vermillion. The group had watched it come in early in the morning, although they left when they realized that it would be a few hours before they could get on it.

The St. Anne was an impressive ship, even if Ash knew absolutely nothing about boats. He couldn't have imagined a ship being so massive. It was dozens of times larger than even the pictures of wailords that he had seen, or even gyarados. The trainer couldn't understand how it managed to float.

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