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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6. Vermillion Part 2

They had rushed back to the Pokemon Center after it came into port and packed their things. All of them made sure that they had their tickets secured before going to the cafeteria. None of the group ate very much. Amelia had read the informational packet going around Vermillion and heard that the St. Anne would have a feast later that night. Ash couldn't wait.

Before they had left for the ship – they were going to get there a few minutes early in order to be the first ones on board – Ash had made sure to call his mom. He had made sure to call her every night while he stayed at the Pokemon Center, but figured that he might not be able to call her again for a few nights.

But now they were standing in the front of the long line that would grant them entry into the ship. He'd been annoyed when quite a few people had already been waiting in the line when the group arrived, but Ash had put it out of his mind. They wouldn't have to wait too long.

And now, half an hour later, they were finally being processed.

"Tickets, please." A tall, clean-shaven sailor said to them. Ash held out their three tickets and handed them to the sailor. The man scanned them with some sort of device. When it was determined that they were legitimate, he smiled at them.

"Go ahead. Your rooms are BD98 and BD99." He said to the group. "One of your tickets isn't from the Vermillion gym, so one of you will be staying in FC76. Directions can be found on any part of the ship. If you require assistance, there are numerous personnel you can ask for help. Have a pleasant stay."

"Thanks." The group said in unison as they took their tickets. They walked until they found a reasonably open area. Ash led them to a corner.

Amelia looked at them. "Alright." She began. "Who's going to go to the other room? It sounds like its first class, especially since Jonathan got his ticket from that researcher. Jonathan, are you going to stay in it? It's your ticket, after all."

Jonathan didn't hesitate. "Nah. I don't want to be alone."

"Well, can't we all just stay in it?" Ash asked. If it was a first class room then it should be large enough for all of them to stay in.

"No." Amelia said with a shake of her head. "All of these rooms are made for one person. The pamphlet said that passengers had to specifically request rooms that could hold more than one person. We'd be cramped."

Ash sighed. "Do you want it, Amelia? I'm fine with being in normal quarters."

She shook her head. "I'd rather not be alone. You can have it."

He shrugged, although he was slightly disappointed that he'd be separated from his friends. But he was willing to take this one for the team. Maybe he'd get more food. That would definitely be a plus.

"Sounds fine. Anyways, let's go check out our rooms and put our stuff up. You guys want to meet up here in an hour? We have nearly eight hours before dinner and I heard that there's a pokemon tournament in the lower decks."

The others grinned and enthusiastically nodded. Ash bid the others goodbye and went to find his room. A map of the ship showed him where to go and he found himself there in no time at all. It was almost at the very top of the ship – just a stairway away from the deck.

Although the entire ship reeked of wealth and elegance, the section of the ship that Ash found himself in was the pinnacle of luxury. He doubted he would ever find himself in such a nice place ever again and was determined to enjoy it.

Still, he couldn't help but feel a little self-conscious as he strode through the halls. Few people were strolling around, but those that were had clothes on that probably cost as much as everything he owned. None seemed to look down upon him, but they did give him a few odd looks.

Not that he could blame them – he did stand out in his worn travelling outfit. It was a stark contrast to the refinement and wealth that surrounded him. The stains from hard travel were much different from the perfection surrounding him.

When he did find his room, however, he was amazed. It was the nicest place he had ever been in. The carpet covering the ground was thick and soft, while there were several areas for his pokemon. Three large beds that could easily fit a nidoking in them stood to the right, while a large aquarium encircled the room. Four massive perches extended from the sides of the room.

Expensive wooden furniture was scattered throughout the room, and a large, comfortable looking bed stood at the back. If it weren't for the fact he had to meet up with his friends in a few minutes he would have tried to go to sleep in it.

As it was, he left his small bag of equipment in the room. He wouldn't need it. All he needed were his pokeballs.

XX

An hour later he found himself facing an opponent in the large stadium that had been constructed below deck. The tournament offered substantial prizes for the people that made it to the Top Four, so it had attracted almost every trainer on board.

First place received ten thousand dollars and a mystery pokemon. Ash doubted it was anything special, but it would be nice to have another member for his team.

Second place received five thousand dollars and four of the newest Silph Co. products – ultra balls. They were said to be much more effective at catching pokemon than ordinary pokeballs and were valued much higher than the cash prize.

Third place received a thousand dollars and one ultra ball. Fourth place received a thousand dollars.

Ash didn't really care about the rewards though – he just wanted to win. He was one of the first matches and found himself facing a scrawny teenager with a pinched face.

The boy didn't say anything to him, instead quickly releasing a small raticate. Ash was glad that the teenager didn't try to engage him in banter and sent out Nidorino.

Nidorino snorted when he saw the raticate but prepared to charge. His long barbs extended, dripping clear, potent poison. Ash sprang into action the moment the referee let them go.

"Poison sting." He said tersely. Nidorino opened his mouth and fired multiple white darts at raticate. Although the other trainer shouted for his pokemon to avoid, Raticate was too slow and was struck by all of the barbs.

The poison worked quickly. It wouldn't knock the Raticate out for a while, but it was already slowing it down and draining its stamina. Raticate soon charged at Nidorino with a glowing fang after its trainer ordered it to use hyper fang.

"Focus kick." Ash said lazily. Nidorino roared as he tensed up for a moment – he was much faster at focusing his energy than he had been as a Nidoran, and was also quicker at producing his other attacks – and leapt high into the air.

Raticate never had a chance. Nidorino slammed his feet into the rat, knocking it out without suffering a single scratch. When he was sure that Raticate was unconscious, Nidorino scurried over to Ash. Ash laughed and scratched behind his friend's ears.

"Good match." He called to the teenager. The teen just recalled Raticate and growled at him. Ash shrugged and went to the heavily protected side of the arena.

He watched the tournament for more than an hour before he was called up again. Jonathan and Amelia had both won their matches. They had both fought rather weak trainers, just as he had. There was a noticeable discrepancy between the trainers in this tournament. Some looked to be beginners while others were quite powerful.

His next match was against a stocky man that looked to be in his thirties. Ash smiled at him and greeted him as they took their positions at the stadium. The man smiled and nodded at him before speaking.

"You've got talent, boy, but you aren't going to beat me!" The man proclaimed. "I've been training pokemon for years! Go, Vileplume."

Ash observed the large grass-type carefully for a moment, analyzing it. It was large for its species and looked to be well-trained. Vileplume was staring at him and was tensed up.

He didn't say anything back to the man, instead releasing Plume. Plume screamed her challenge to the Vileplume as she was released and puffed up her feathers in order to look more intimidating. Ash smiled as he heard the many admiring comments made about his friend.

"Go!" The referee shouted.

Ash didn't even have to say anything. Plume forced herself up into the air with her powerful wings and easily dodged the shower of poison Vileplume had blasted at her the moment the battle began.

"Gust." He muttered. Plume heard and flapped her wings at Vileplume, sending a powerful blast of air at the grass-type. Vileplume was too slow to avoid it and was knocked over.

"Get up!" The other trainer shouted frantically. "Use stun spore!"

"Fly."

Plume quickly dived. By the time Vileplume was beginning to pull itself back up she was upon her opponent. Ash watched carefully as Plume's talons raked Vileplume. The grass-type looked to be extremely fragile in the face of Plume's sharp talons.

"Sleep powder!" The other trainer shouted. Vileplume shook its body and released a sparkling purple powder out of its flower. It slowly wafted up through the air, although it would be a while before it reached Plume.

Ash rolled his eyes. The trainer didn't seem to be living up to the boasts he'd made. While Vileplume was certainly powerful and experienced, the trainer himself was making rookie mistakes. He wasn't trying to put any strategies together and was blatantly screaming his moves.

"Gust. Blow it back."

Plume screeched and flapped her wings. The powerful wind produced swept most of the poison powder – if it weren't so concentrated it never would have worked – back at Vileplume. It didn't poison Vileplume, but the powder irritated the grass type.

"Fly. Gust and wing attack if it stays up."

Vileplume had no chance to avoid Plume's attack. The bird barreled into the grass-type, raking it with her sharp talons for a second time before flying back up and using gust. When Vileplume – who was helpless against the attack – was knocked over, Plume flew down and slammed into the Vileplume with a brightly glowing wing.

That knocked the unfortunate grass-type out. Ash smiled at Plume as she excitedly flew back to him and landed on his shoulder and nodded at the other trainer. His opponent looked annoyed for a moment before nodding back.

He recalled Plume before sitting next to his friends in the stands. They congratulated him and clapped him on the back before returning their focus to the battlers.

XX

The next few rounds went well for him and Jonathan, but not so well for Amelia. She faced a rather powerful battler – he was experienced enough to easily command a Machamp – and was promptly defeated. Amelia was annoyed at her defeat, although she wasn't very bitter.

Now they were in the Top Four. He was also facing a rather unexpected opponent – Jonathan.

They had both been shocked when their names were called out, but both were eager to face the other. None of them had ever battled each other before, so this would be a great opportunity to test each other's strength. The gloating rights for whoever won were just an added incentive.

Although he knew that Jonathan was a much stronger trainer than most beginning trainers, Ash knew he was better. Jonathan had raw power – he had seen how strong Charmeleon was the previous week, and Rhyhorn was no slouch either – and was skilled, but relied too much on that power and never implemented many strategies. Combined with the fact that he had a tendency to lose his temper and had lost control of his emotions several times during previous battles made Ash feel confident.

Ash nodded at Jonathan as they sent their pokemon out. They both sent their starters, predictably enough.

Aside from Nidorino being the most powerful member of his team, Ash also knew that the others weren't ready for a match against Charmeleon's sheer strength. Plume was fast and tough, but she wouldn't be able to stand up to his flames or fight him when the lizard was even faster than she was. Torrent couldn't fight outside of water, although his type would let him beat the fire-type in most cases.

As for Drowzee…well, she still wouldn't follow orders.

He certainly understood why. Charmeleon was intelligent and powerful, and possessed the speed and strength to counter most of his pokemon. Rhyhorn wasn't very good for competitive battling – she was powerful, but too dumb to follow orders and could only remember two commands at a time.

Nidorino looked surprised when he saw the identity of his opponent but quickly tensed up and extended his barbs. Charmeleon seemed to have the pokemon equivalent to a grin on his face and rapidly swished his tail around, increasing the temperature around him.

"Go!"

"Poison sting." Ash said. Nidorino quickly launched the shower of barbs from his mouth, although Jonathan quickly countered it.

He seemed very relaxed as he battled Ash. "Burn it away." Jonathan said calmly. "Then blast Nidorino!"

"Dodge. Follow with confusion."

Nidorino quickly dodged the first blast of fire that consumed the poison sting, although he had slightly more difficulty with the massive inferno Charmeleon launched at him. Ash had to hide his eyes from the bright flame and was forced to trust in Nidorino's abilities.

Ash silently cheered for his friend when the flames cleared. Nidorino was completely unscathed – he had managed to run away and dodge the blast – and was currently staring at Charmeleon with glowing eyes.

Charmeleon was helpless to resist the psychic attack. He attempted to thrash against the mental energy – mostly due to his own pride and Jonathan's frantic shouts – but failed. Nidorino's eyes flashed even brighter for a moment when he forced Charmeleon higher and higher above the ground.

"Slam him. Follow it up with a horn attack." Ash said with a grin. Nidorino's eyes flashed again as he forced Charmeleon down to the ground as hard as he could with his meager psychic ability. Charmeleon was stunned for several seconds, giving Nidorino the opportunity to charge across the short distance separating them.

Jonathan seemed to realize that he might not win if Nidorino got up close. "Blast him again! Use fire tail!"

Ash wasn't sure what fire tail was – it must have been some secret technique Jonathan had developed in the days that Ash wasn't with him – but he didn't give Charmeleon a chance to use it. As the lizard was pulling itself up, Nidorino slammed into him with incredible force.

"Get up!" Jonathan screamed. "Use dragon rage or fire tail!"

"Use poison sting." Ash commanded. "Follow it up with horn attack."

Charmeleon recovered faster this time, although not quickly enough to avoid the poisonous darts that Nidorino aimed with perfect accuracy – accuracy resulting from untold amounts of battles with other trainers and hours spent training in the forest.

But he was fast enough to stop Nidorino's second charge. Charmeleon growled and turned around as Nidorino charged at him, slapping the poison-type to the side with his incredibly powerful tail. Ash wasn't too worried about Charmeleon's temporary advantage – he was already becoming sluggish and would be exhausted and weak within a minute or so.

"Slam." Ash commanded. Nidorino's ears twitched as he moved to attack Charmeleon again, although the lizard was still too fast and slashed at Nidorino's side. Charmeleon seemed to be becoming angry, and its rush of adrenaline was letting it counteract the poison for a short period.

It only worked out in Ash's favor. The accelerated heart rate would pump the poison through Charmeleon's veins even faster than before. Soon the lizard would be slow and weak enough for Nidorino to safely engage him in close combat.

"Charmeleon," Jonathan called out with a smirk. "Blast him."

Charmeleon reared its head back, but Ash already moved to stop the lizard from engulfing Nidorino in flames.

"Horn attack."

Nidorino bravely charged straight at Charmeleon and struck him a mere moment before he would have been caught in Charmeleon's blast of fire. Charmeleon was knocked onto his back, but Ash ordered Nidorino to back off. In less than thirty seconds Charmeleon would be too badly poisoned to fight back.

Unfortunately, Ash had forgotten about Charmeleon's ability, Blaze.

Jonathan hadn't. He grinned when Charmeleon forced itself back up, its eyes glowing a vivid, bloody red. Charmeleon was wreathed in flames and didn't seem affected by Nidorino's poison or previous attacks at all.

"Charmeleon!" Jonathan smirked. "Blast him."

Charmeleon didn't disappoint. He released a gigantic, white blast of flame from his mouth. Nidorino was completely engulfed in it, causing Ash to be tempted to call the battle off. Bragging rights weren't worth Nidorino being seriously hurt.

But Nidorino surprised him yet again. Using his newfound endurance and resilience, the poison-type sprinted through the hot flame and slammed into Charmeleon, knocking the fire-type over. Ash took the opportunity.

"Horn attack!" He shouted. Nidorino's ears twitched, showing that he heard the order even above the din of the roaring crowd.

Nidorino quickly performed the attack on the downed lizard. Ash could see that Charmeleon had been knocked unconscious by the blow. Its body had only been temporarily revitalized by its ability, not truly healed.

Jonathan looked dumbfounded as he returned Charmeleon. Ash just grinned at him and waved before calling Nidorino over.

His friend was bruised and slightly burnt, leaving Nidorino's entire body tender. Ash wasn't worried about the damage. Even without any medical aid the injuries would be gone in a day or so. Pokemon were much tougher and healed much faster than any human. Nidorino were even more resilient than most.

"Good job, buddy." Ash whispered as he gingerly patted his friend's head. Nidorino wouldn't be seriously hurt by the injury, but he would definitely be sore for a few days. "I'll make sure to get you some food tonight."

Nidorino growled softly before Ash recalled him. Ash glanced at Jonathan as the other boy walked back to their spot in the stands. He followed a few moments later.

He didn't go back to their seats, instead opting for a closer view. Ash would be in the final battle in just a few minutes and didn't want to have maneuver through the masses of people in the stands.

XX

His next opponent was the trainer that had beaten Amelia. Ash wasn't expecting to win this battle.

Anyone that managed to keep a Machamp firmly under control – or anyone that managed to train one at all, really – had to be incredibly powerful and experienced. And this wasn't a Machamp that had been quickly evolved from a Machoke. It was massive. The Machamp stood even taller than most of its kin and looked even bulkier. There was no way it was a weaker, more rapidly evolved Machamp.

And he had nothing to fight it with. Even if any of his pokemon besides Drowzee were effective against it, they simply weren't powerful enough to face a Machamp.

The Machamp was much faster than Plume and too strong to risk sending her out against. Torrent was out of the question – he was too delicate and there wasn't any water around to begin with. Nidorino was too beaten to even consider using.

That left Drowzee. He consigned himself to defeat as he sent the rebellious psychic out. Drowzee looked bored as she stared at the Machamp, only glancing back at him once. Ash wanted to close his eyes and turn around. This was going to be quick.

"Go!" The referee shouted.

His opponent – a massive man that looked to have trained with his Machamp, judging from the absurd amount of muscle he possessed – looked at Ash with something resembling pity.

"Sorry, mate." He said with a lazy drawl. "This is gonna be a fast one. Machamp, dynamic punch."

Drowzee sat down when she heard the order. Ash just groaned in defeat as the Machamp sprang into action.

A ball of light formed around each of Machamp's fists before it charged the sitting Drowzee. It wasn't particularly fast as it ran towards the psychic, but Ash knew that it could launch punches faster than he could see.

"Hypnosis." He said. Drowzee glanced back at him once before calmly returning her gaze to Machamp. She wasn't going to listen to him, not even to keep herself safe.

And then Machamp was upon Drowzee. Ash could only track its fists for the first punch before Drowzee was knocked unconscious. Even though its attack didn't have type effectiveness on Drowzee, the punches it sent were so powerful that Drowzee couldn't resist them.

Ash sighed and returned Drowzee. He wasn't disappointed at losing the battle. It was expected when he was going up such a superior opponent. What disappointed him was that Drowzee refused to listen to him. She must really hate him.

He nodded back at the other trainer. His opponent didn't really seem happy to have won so easily – he looked like the type that wanted challenges.

The trainer glanced over at the referee, who was declaring Ash's opponent the champion of the tournament – Ash thought that the referee called him Brian. He called up Ash, the trainer that Brian had defeated, and Jonathan.

When they had all walked into the center of the arena, the referee began to announce the place they had achieved and what their prize would be.

Brian got the money and the pokemon. He released it in front of the entire stadium, so Ash was able to see what it was. Ash had to admit that he was surprised when a powerful looking scythe was released from the ball. He had been expecting some weak but rare pokemon, not one that was a valued piece of any team.

Ash was given the hefty collection of bills and a case containing his new ultra balls. The referee quietly warned him to take them to his room as quickly as possible. There were plenty of people willing to steal such rare items.

The third place contender was given the money and his ultra ball before being given the same warning as Ash. He noted that the referee didn't seem to care about anyone but the Top Two, at least judging by the disdainful glances the referee was giving to the third place winner and Jonathan.

Jonathan was handed his money. After that the referee – who was apparently in charge of the entire tournament – congratulated the winners again and thanked everyone for participating.

And after that, of course, was the mad rush by everyone to get out. They still had two hours before they needed to be at the banquet, but most of the crowd and trainers seemed to think that every second counted.

Ash and Jonathan just shrugged and stayed in the stadium. There was no way that they would be able to get through the crowd. Besides, both of them hated lines. It would be better to just wait here for a while than be trampled by the mad rush to get out.

Then Ash realized something.

"Hey." He said loudly. Jonathan looked at him, showing that he had heard him over the loud roar of the crowds talking. "How are you going to find Amelia again?"

Jonathan's eyes widened. "Oh. Damn it. I forgot about her."

Ash grinned at Jonathan's fear. The other boy was going to get a verbal chewing when he got back to the room. Amelia probably didn't like getting left in the crowd.

XX

Ash stared at the ultra balls in awe. He hadn't really thought of how they'd compare to an ordinary pokeball. They shared their shapes, but the ultra ball's design and coloring was just more…impressive, he supposed.

Something about the design just exuded an air of professionalism and elegance. Of course, that could just be an illusion created by his mind due to the fact that he was holding something that was more valuable than what most people owned.

He was dragged from his thoughts by Nidorino. His friend was relaxing on one of the beds – a potion bought at the built in Pokemart had healed the worst of the damage, although Nidorino was still exhausted – and stared at the door with erect ears.

Ash hastily put the ultra ball back into its case and placed the case under his bed. Nidorino didn't seem particularly worried, but it was better to be on the safe side. A few moments later he heard knocks on his door.

Nidorino still didn't seem worried, but Ash glanced at him and Plume. They both became more alert and looked ready to attack if anything happened.

He looked through the eyehole and relaxed. As he had expected, it was just his friends.

Ash let them through. They greeted him before continuing whatever argument he'd interrupted.

"Look, I'm telling you that it's not my fault!" Jonathan growled. Ash noticed that he had surprisingly nice clothes on. They weren't formal, but they were much nicer than the travelling clothes that Ash wore. "It's not like I could have run through the crowd just to find you."

"I know that." Amelia said. "But it's still annoying. It took me ages to find my way back to the room."

She was wearing nicer clothes as well, although they were in better condition than Jonathan's.

"Where'd you get those clothes?" He asked. Jonathan sighed as he was interrupted.

"My sister sent them to us through the PC." Amelia replied before looking around the room. "Wow, this is really nice. I kind of wish that I'd picked it."

Jonathan nodded in agreement. "Are you sure that you want to come to dinner with us? If I kept this room I would just sleep until we got to Vermillion. That bed looks great."

Ash grinned. "I'll get to enjoy it later. Right now, though, I'm starving. How much time have we got?"

Jonathan checked his watch. "We've got fifteen minutes. We should probably get going. I don't want to be late."

He shrugged. Although he would have liked to get his mom to send him some better clothes, he supposed it didn't really matter. Ash was a trainer. What difference did it make if he actually looked like one?

Ash quickly returned his pokemon and placed their balls on his belt. He walked over to his bed and pulled out the case that held his ultra balls. Even though he was sure that the room was secure, he just wanted to be careful.

"I'm ready." He announced as he picked up the case and captured it with one of his spare pokeballs. The pokeball could be reused later if he needed it. Besides, those ultra balls were much more important.

Jonathan nodded. "Let's go, then. I'm starving."

Ash could definitely sympathize with that. He kept up admirably as they raced to the banquet room, happily awaiting the opportunity to gorge on everything he saw.

XX

The banquet turned out to be one of the best things in Ash's life. It turned out that they had a practically unlimited amount of food to eat, something that he took full advantage of. Plus, it turned out that he wasn't alone in wearing dirty travelling clothes. Quite a few of the other trainers were dressed similarly to him.

He and Jonathan were honored along with the other high-placers in the tournament. Although none of them were acknowledge directly in the captain's brief speech, Ash hadn't thought that they'd be mentioned at all. The tournament was just a way to keep everyone busy, after all. It wasn't really competitive or important.

After about two hours, however, most people began to clear out. They were tired and full and had no desire to mingle anymore. Their group stayed in the banquet hall and continued to excitedly look around and talk to other trainers.

They all split up after a while, although at ten o'clock they all met back up at the entrance. By then Ash was exhausted and wanted to return to his room. He'd had an exciting day and wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.

But he wanted to say good night to his friends first. They were both still full of energy and were bouncing all over the place.

"Hey, Ash!" Jonathan called when he first spotted him. Ash smiled and waved back at him. Amelia was coming from his other side. They both arrived at him around the same time.

"What's up?" He asked. Jonathan looked rather pleased – the short boy had a wide grin on his face and had something in his pocket.

Jonathan grinned wider. "I just bought a pokemon off this guy. It was only five hundred dollars."

"Really?" Amelia asked with peaked interest. "What is it?"

"A magikarp." Jonathan said proudly.

Ash stared at him.

Amelia ended up being the one that broke the silence. "A magikarp?!" She sputtered, wildly waving her hands in the air. "You bought a magikarp? Why would you waste the money?"

Jonathan looked offended. "Hey, shut up! He's going to evolve into a gyarados soon, and then we'll see whose talking."

"It'll still be me." Amelia said drily. "That stupid fish isn't going to evolve. Magikarp take forever to train and you don't have the patience for it."

The boy growled in annoyance but didn't respond to Amelia's jab. Ash took the moment to interrupt their little spat, although he had to admit he didn't understand the decision either.

"Hey, guys, I'm going to bed." He said with a yawn. "I'm tired."

Both of them stared at him oddly, their argument forgotten.

"Really?" Jonathan asked in bemusement. "It's only ten. We were going to go explore the rest of the ship. Are you sure you don't want to come?"

Ash shook his head. "I'm fine. Just really tired. You guys go on without me – I already feel like a dead man walking."

Amelia shrugged. "Alright. I guess we'll see you in the morning, then."

He nodded tiredly and began to walk away. Before he left he heard Jonathan quietly ask Amelia a question.

"Are you sure that creepy Drowzee of his isn't screwing with his head? He's never this tired."

Ash frowned and ignored Amelia's retort. He rubbed his temples with his head. There was nothing wrong with him, he was just tired.

XX

He didn't know how long he was asleep in his bed. All he knew was that he was having very pleasant dreams, consisting of beating Gary, becoming Champion, and then becoming the most powerful Pokemon Master in the entire world.

His fantasy world was shattered by a loud knock on the door. He lazily opened his eyes and blinked a few times to unglue them. Ash yawned and stood up, ignoring the urge to climb back into his bed and ignore all external influences.

Ash figured it was just a crewmember coming to tell him it was morning or that they were going to be docking soon. The knocking sounded too heavy and powerful to belong to either of his friends. He stood on his toes to peer into the small glass.

He couldn't really see who it was, although he could see that they were wearing a black uniform. Since most of the crewmembers did wear dark-colored uniforms – he's only seen the actual sailors in white – he clumsily opened the door. Besides, he really just wanted to go back to sleep.

The trainer yawned again and looked up at his visitor. He was about to greet them when the words died in his mouth.

He stared at the Team Rocket grunt in confusion and terror for a moment before trying to run to his pokeballs. Ash barely made it into the room when the grunt grabbed him by the neck and slammed his face into the wall. The trainer grunted in pain as a short spike of pain flashed through his nose, although he didn't think it was broken.

Ash could feel hot liquid draining from his nose onto his face. He groaned in pain and tried to stand up, but his vision was swimming and blurred with tears. His muscles were weak and shaky from the stunning blow and he collapsed back down to the ground.

The trainer had to struggle not to fall unconscious. His vision was turning black at the edges, but he could see the grunt kneeling in front of him to take the pokeballs off of his belt. Ash tried to struggle, but his body stopped obeying his mind. He was helpless as the grunt carefully began to reach for the pokeballs.

Suddenly, the grunt turned his head as a fearsome roar erupted from the side. Ash saw that the grunt tried to take one of his own pokeballs, but was tackled to the ground by an enraged, protective Nidorino. He could see Plume screeching in the background and Torrent thrashing wildly in the aquarium in an attempt to escape.

His vision dimmed, but he saw Nidorino – fearsome and angrier than Ash had ever seen him before; his horn and barbs were dripping the clear, powerful poison in dangerous amounts – attacking the grunt. Ash tried to call Nidorino off, but his vision dimmed as the blow finally took its toll on him.

XX

Ash was confused when he was finally woken up. He couldn't remember what happened to make him feel so bad, although he could recall fuzzy images and memories of terror. The trainer felt weak as he pushed himself up. A large, coarse tongue was licking his face and he wanted to get away from it – the spit tingled and burned a little bit.

He opened his eyes and realized that Nidorino was licking him. Ash smiled as best he could and shakily patted his friend. Then he realized that he was leaning up against a wall and that he was very sore and very tired. Plus there was some hot liquid covering his mouth.

The trainer also became aware of his pokemon huddled around him. Even Drowzee was standing above him, staring him in the eyes. Ash smiled at her and stood up on trembling limbs. He curiously checked his pokeballs and realized that they were all still there. Torrent was huddled as close to the glass of his aquarium as he could.

Ash frowned and tapped Torrent's pokeball. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he just noticed that the ship was shaking a little bit. He looked around the room to see if anything strange was happening when he noticed a body on the floor.

He stumbled over – he was aware of Nidorino closely following him to support him – to the body and knelt to see if whoever it was needed help. They didn't look to be breathing, and they were face down. Ash couldn't tell if they were hurt or not or if they were a member of the crew. Although the figure seemed oddly familiar somehow, Ash couldn't remember where he'd seen him.

The trainer nearly fell over when he knelt, but Nidorino carefully kept him from falling. Ash nodded his thanks to his starter pokemon and felt the unconscious man's pale, exposed neck. It was oddly cold, and then Ash realized it.

That man was dead. Ash's eyes widened in horror and he tried to pull himself away from the cold, limp corpse. He stumbled again, but Nidorino carefully held him up with his long, wide body. Ash breathed quickly and loudly as he stared at the corpse.

Then he noticed signs of a fight. Blood was on the carpet around where he woke up – he wiped his mouth and saw with horror that his sleeve was stained red, explaining the slight metallic taste on his lips. The door looked to have been forced open and more blood stained the thick, lush carpet around the corpse.

"What happened, buddies?" He asked in a tight, terrified voice. Ash looked at Nidorino and saw that his pink face had traces of blood and that his horn was stained red, although the clear poison was beginning to dissolve it.

"What did you do?!" Ash tried to scream, although it ended up as an awkward, choked out sentence. Nidorino didn't seem ashamed at all and slowly walked over to the corpse, tucking his horn underneath the body and flipping it.

That's when Ash saw the mask and scarlet R on the grunt's shirt. Team Rocket.

He gulped and sat down, cradling his aching, sore head in his hands. Ash was on the verge of tears – he had just been attacked and Nidorino had killed someone in his defense. Did that mean it was his fault that the man died? Would Nidorino be put down by the League? That would be the worst thing in the world. Nidorino was one of his best friends.

Ash couldn't really blame Nidorino, though. Even if he was horrified by his friend's actions, Nidorino just acted on his instincts and protective urges. He thought he was doing the best thing.

Still, he felt the distinct urge to vomit. Nidorino walked over and supported him as he wretched, throwing up the banquet all over the beautiful carpet. Ash was ashamed of himself and felt the urge to cry as his blood mixed with the vomit.

He pulled himself up again and slowly moved away from the smell, heading toward the open door. Ash was stopped by a growl from Nidorino. The pale boy turned back to his friend with red-rimmed eyes and tried to see what Nidorino wanted.

The pokemon was poking a pokeball on the grunt's waist. Ash looked at in horror for a moment, realizing what Nidorino wanted him to do. He gulped and slowly walked over to the body and knelt when he was close.

Ash took the pokeball with shaking hands, making sure not to touch the body. When it was over he scrambled away from the body as fast as he could and stared at it for a moment. Nidorino insistently rubbed up against him and roused Ash from his stupor.

He carefully clipped the pokeball to his belt. Ash was sure that it was illegal, but he wanted the pokemon inside of it to be safe. The League would probably take it up soon anyway.

Ash took another moment to recall Plume. She would just get excited and there wasn't much she could do right now. He took a deep, rattling breath as he looked at the body. He needed to call the crew. They would know what to do.

As he stumbled over to the phone – taking care to stay away from the blood, corpse, and vomit – the ship's small shakes suddenly increased by many magnitudes and threw him off his feet. Ash grunted in pain when his body slammed into one of the walls, although he slowly picked himself up.

"Attention, my dear friends." A cultured, oddly familiar voice said over the intercom that was in every room. "This is Rocket Executive Pierce. To those who are currently resisting our acquisition of your pokemon and valuables, please desist or you will be killed. To my men and the rest, I suggest you hurry up. This ship will be destroyed in five minutes. Tick tock."

Memories of Pierce flooded through Ash's mind – his refined cruelty and deceptively elegant manner at the forefront of it all – and the trainer realized that the Executive wasn't kidding. This ship would blow up in five minutes. He had to get out of here – he was sure that his friends would be fine. They were strong enough to escape Team Rocket.

"Nidorino." He choked out. His friend's ears twitched and he looked at the trainer. "Help me out of here. This place is about to blow."

Nidorino nodded and stayed a little bit ahead of Ash, ready to fight off any threats. Ash recalled Drowzee. She wouldn't be much help, especially since she wouldn't listen to him.

Ash slowly forced himself to walk out of the room and into the hall. His swirling vision and a strange ringing in his ears slowed his progress immensely, and he was nearly run over by a swarm of panicked people when he stepped out of his room. Nidorino leapt back and gently pushed Ash back into the room.

"Thanks." He muttered through a dry throat. Nidorino growled when he saw a Rocket grunt and two minor poison-types chasing the crowd, but didn't intervene. When they'd passed, Nidorino slowly walked back outside and looked for threats.

Ash slowly stumbled after his friend, taking a few moments to steady himself when he got tipsy. He was beginning to feel terrified – time was running out and he still had no idea how he would escape. Maybe there would be life boats, but they were probably already leaving with whatever passengers they could get.

He silently raged at Team Rocket for giving everyone such a short amount of time to escape. Ash was sure it was intentional – Pierce probably wanted to kill as many people as he could. Still, he wasn't sure how they would destroy the St. Anne. Probably a hyper beam of some sort.

Soon enough, the duo found themselves slowly climbing the stairs that would take them to the deck. Ash was silently glad that he'd picked the suite. If he hadn't there'd be no way he would escape. Jonathan and Amelia were probably already out – Charmeleon could easily blast a hole through the steel walls and give them a way out. He wasn't sure how they could swim away though – it was storming and they didn't have a life boat.

They would find a way, he assured himself. They were strong enough.

As they finally climbed out of the stairs – Nidorino tackled the door open, snapping it off its hinges – Ash realized that it was storming much worse than he'd feared. It was almost completely black, the darkness only chased away by the electric lights and brief flashes of lightning.

He really didn't want to go into the ocean during such terrible weather, but he didn't have a choice. Suddenly, his attention was attracted to a large, bat pokemon swooping at him, briefly illuminated by the lightning. Ash tried to call out for Nidorino, but his voice was drowned in the raging storm.

Ash's vision went blurry again – the rain and loud thunder weren't helping his headache – but he felt a pokeball snap open and release a pokemon. He managed to make out a short, squat form before the lightning flashed again.

Drowzee was protecting him. Shock and glee raced through him in equal measure as he saw Drowzee raise its clawed hand at the pokemon – a golbat, he could see now – and stare at it with powerfully glowing eyes that illuminated the area around him. The golbat bared its fangs at Drowzee as a blue glow suffused its large form.

The psychic took control of the golbat and slammed it into the ground, immobilizing it. Nidorino had realized something was going on at that point and charged the golbat, slamming into it with his horn and knocking it unconscious.

Ash looked at Drowzee with awe for a second before she returned to her pokeball. Nidorino roared at him, reminding Ash that they were still in danger.

Their progress continued to be painstakingly slow, and Ash was beginning to consider returning Nidorino. Pokemon couldn't die in their pokeballs – they were essentially frozen in time, and, even if the pokeball broke, it would just release them. Nidorino was a strong enough swimmer to get to land if he had to, and if not he would be recovered from the wreck.

Before he could do so, however, he saw nearly a dozen large helicopters with a crimson R on them take off into the sky. Ash clenched his fist in anger as the Rockets escaped, leaving him and who knew how many others to die in this wreck. Tears burned at his eyes, but he didn't let them run free.

Suddenly an immense power made itself known. It was impossible to describe – it made his drenched skin tingle and cast a bright, icy blue light throughout the area. Everything for miles was illuminated in the eerie light – Ash could see several lifeboats making their way through the crashing waves and a large, serpent like pokemon arcing its way through the waves. A gyarados.

Then he was drawn to the source of the light – an impossibly bright blue orb that hung in midair. A humanoid figure hovered in the middle of it, although Ash couldn't make out the details. He knew that it was the source of the great power.

And it soon displayed its power. Before it had been passive – only tingling and illuminating and causing the waves underneath the figure to leap impossibly high – but now it was active. Ash screamed as the tingling turned into a single moment of intense, invisible burning as the light grew brighter and brighter until it seemed like a miniature blue sun.

He recalled Nidorino the moment he wasn't stunned by the pain. His friend wouldn't die like this.

A tiny, bright beam of energy split off from the main ball of it and flashed towards the ship. It hit the bottom part first and quickly traced upwards, destroying and cutting a clean, precise line through everything it touched.

The figure glanced at its handiwork for a moment before flashing away, leaving nothing but a bright trail of icy blue energy and hundreds of dead men. Ash glared at it hatefully for a moment before he was thrown from his feet.

With a great groan, the ship began to split. It slowly began to be submerged into the raging ocean, the bright lights of its cabins and deck being extinguished as the St. Anne died.

Ash finally began to cry as he began to slide down the deck. He shut his eyes as a bright flash of light erupted through the darkness. For a moment he thought he was dead, but he was still falling, drenched, and freezing.

Then a pair of talons pulled him up by the neck of his jacket. Ash's eyes glanced up in shock and saw Plume struggling to pull him away from the sinking ship, although even the large bird was struggling to do so. He was tempted to recall her, but he knew that she would just pop out again.

Plume carried him for a distance until he was off the ship and then began to slowly lose altitude through a mixture of exhaustion and strategy. Ash felt the neck of his coat began to tear from the force being exerted on it, but by then he was only a few feet above the clashing waves.

Finally, his jacket couldn't handle the stress and tore. Plume screeched in terror as he was swallowed up by the crashing waves, but he quickly recalled her. Even as he was pulled under Ash knew that she wouldn't survive in this storm for long.

He was too exhausted to struggle against the powerful waves, and he could barely keep from expelling the air he'd gulped in and breathing in deadly water. Ash closed his eyes against the sting of the salt and winced as the waves passed his body around.

As his lungs started to horribly burn, he felt a pokeball shaking. Torrent looked at him from a few feet away and determinedly swam over to him, obviously wanting Ash to grab him. Ash didn't do it – he was too heavy for Torrent to move.

But when Torrent started thrashing in annoyance, the exhausted and suffocating trainer retained enough of his intelligence to grab on to the water-type's small body. Torrent surprisingly managed to pull him to the surface, albeit slowly and with a great deal of difficulty.

Ash's eyes snapped open when he could feel cold air on his face and he gratefully sucked in as much air as he could, breathing in quick, deep breaths. The burning in his lungs abated and he could feel something besides his mad desire for air.

"Thanks, Torr—" he began to mutter. Suddenly, another wave crashed down on him. Ash gurgled as he was pulled under the waves, and Torrent tried to get to him again. The trainer could see that Torrent was being thrown around by the waves worse than he was – horsea weren't meant to be swimming in the middle of a massive storm, after all. Torrent should be safely connected to a rock.

He saw a bright light illuminate the water for a single moment, but he couldn't see what it was. His vision was going blurry and he couldn't focus on anything. Ash's lungs burned and he couldn't even move himself anymore.

As his vision dimmed, he couldn't find it in him to keep fighting for air. He slowly began to relax, giving up on the frantic, painful struggle.

His vision finally turned black and he lost all consciousness. But before he did so, he felt a large, spiky force pushing him upwards. Ash barely registered it before blacking out.

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