When One Door Closes, Two More Open

On the first day of his journey with his rebellious starter, Ash befriends a Spearow and a Rattata. Ash is seriously injured by Pikachu after saving the young spearow from a Thunderbolt, but the Spearow, her flock, and the Rattata save his life. With not one but two new starters, a strange new ability to understand Pokémon, and a calmer and smarter attitude, a new journey begins.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10779528/1/When-One-Door-Closes-Two-More-Open

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16. Psychic Time, Part 2

"Oh, awesome! You're in my class!" Soul said happily as Ash showed him his schedule during dinner. It showed that Ash had one class which lasted from nine thirty in the morning until eleven. The rest of the day he had free, and he planned to spend it training hard for his rematch with Sabrina, which would be in a week.

"While you're in class tomorrow, I think I'll check out the shops. Karen said there was a really nice mall here." Misty said, nodding towards the dark haired girl who was holding her Pikachu in her lap.

"My class doesn't start until one. Mind if I come with you?" Seth asked, feeding her Cyndaquil a French fry. "I really need a new pair of sandals. I accidentally set fire to my old ones." she admitted with a sheepish smile.

"Not at all. That sounds like fun." Misty told her, smiling. It would be great to spend time with another girl for once, and she and Seth had a lot in common.

"I heard there's a Breeder's convention going on for the next few days. I'm going to check it out." Brock said. "There's even a cooking contest and I think I'll enter some of my recipes."

"That sounds great, Brock." Ash told him after swallowing a bite of his cheeseburger. "If the contest is still going on when I'm out of class, I'll come check it out." He looked at Soul. "Speaking of class, what's the class like? Is there anything I need to know?"

"Don't fall asleep during meditation." Soul told him, his sheepish smile telling them that he had done exactly that.

Ash hid a laugh. "I'll try not to. Do I need to bring anything?"

"No, just yourself." Soul replied. "One good thing about Psychic school; you never have to take notes."

"How long have you been at Psychic School?" Brock asked Soul.

"Not very long, just a few…" Soul stopped talking and looked at Espeon, his eyes widening, then looked behind Ash. Ash turned to look where Soul was staring, but Soul stopped him.

"Ash, what do you think of this CD?" Soul said a little too loudly as he put some headphones on Ash's ears. The song 'Peanut Butter Jelly Time' burst out of the CD player. Aidan covered his ears and Trevor rolled his eyes. Judy just looked amused.

Wincing, Ash tried to take the headphones off. "Um, it's…"

"Yeah, it's an annoying song. Keep your mind on the lyrics." Soul whispered quickly. "Don't look now, but Ulrich was watching you." Despite Soul's warning, Ash's eyes flicked to Ulrich, who was sitting by himself in the table furthest from them with his Houndoom, Umbreon, Gengar, and an Alakazam next to him, but the cloaked boy's eyes were on his Pokémon, not Ash.

"Well, right now, a lot of people are staring." Trevor muttered, noticing the other psychics looking at Soul strangely.

"Soul, what's…" Ash started but Soul cut him off.

"Keep your mind on the song lyrics. He snoops." Soul whispered.

"Um, what we were saying wasn't that…"

"No, he snoops in people's minds. Reads them without permission." Soul whispered. "Dawn sensed that he was reading your mind since you came in here. I know you'd prefer to keep your thoughts secret, so I decided to warn you."

"In the most subtle way possible." Seth said sarcastically as Judy and Misty gave Ulrich a glare.

"Hey, at least he's warned now." Soul retorted.

Seth rolled her eyes. "Next time just say "Ulrich is reading your mind. Block him out with an annoying song." You'll make less of a fool out of yourself that way."

"Well, this way Ulrich doesn't become suspicious." Soul argued. His Espeon rolled her eyes, used to her trainer's antics.

"Soul, you're such a bad actor, you'd make a Slowpoke suspicious! And he's a kid like us, not a career criminal or something." Seth pointed out. "Why's it matter if he knows we don't want him reading our minds?" Soul couldn't think of a comeback to that.

Ash had barely heard the argument, thinking about earlier today. When he had been frightened of Karen's Pikachu and all the psychics had been watching him, had Ulrich read his mind? And if he had, did that mean he knew about what had happened with Ash's former starter? Did a complete stranger, one who had no regard for people's personal thoughts, find out one of his worst memories?

"Ash, you okay?" Soul asked, feeling that Ash was a little panicked. Judy took Ash's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"Hypothetically, if Ulrich was to find out something someone wanted to keep secret, would he tell everyone or blackmail the person with it or something?" Ash asked in a whisper. He remembered what Soul had said about the song lyrics and tried to think of them.

"No." Tay said in her soft, whispery voice. Ash jumped, having nearly forgotten the quiet telekinetic was even there. "Ulrich may be cold sometimes and he doesn't respect people's private thoughts like he should, but he's not petty or mean, not like that. He's a pretty polite guy; he just likes to keep to himself."

"And if he tries to do that to you, he'd have to deal with me." Misty said. "Mind reading is nothing compared to my Misty Mallet." She pulled her mallet from out of nowhere.

"Nice!" Seth said, impressed. "I've got to get myself one of those."

Soul's eyes were wide "Where is she keeping that- never mind, I don't want to know." He turned back to Ash. "I'm sorry for freaking you out. I just…"

"No, I'm glad you told me he was doing it." Ash reassured him. "And let me know how to block him out. How'd you figure out to do that anyway?"

Soul shrugged. "I heard the idea in some book series about sparkly vampires my sister is obsessed with. Moonlight or Starlight or something. Tried it out and it actually works if you concentrate. And if you don't like the song idea, just think a bunch of random stuff like one plus one equals two and he'll be bored enough to get out of your head. Heard that on the Twilight Zone."

"Thanks." Ash told him.

Soul smiled. "You're welcome."

…...

After dinner, Ash, Misty, and Brock discussed getting a room at the Pokémon Center, but Soul let them know there were dormitories at the psychic school. Sabrina gave them permission to stay in the school for their stay, and Seth, Tay, and Karen told Misty there was an extra bed in their room while Ash and Brock would share a room with Soul and a cyrokinetic named David. David was friendly, but fairly quiet and tended to spend his time studying or practicing with his ice powers.

That evening, Ash, Trevor, Judy and Aidan went out to spend time with Levi, Venom, and Kiara. It was growing dark, so everyone was inside and they pretty much had the place to themselves. Levi told Ash that Kiara had told him what happened with Pikachu, then reassured his trainer that it didn't change anything between them; and that the only thing that had changed was that he now wanted to blast a certain yellow rat into the ozone layer. Ash was relieved that Levi didn't pity him or act differently around him. They spent the rest of the evening playing tag and having a splash fight which Aidan stayed out of. Once it grew cold, Ash reluctantly recalled his larger Pokémon and headed for the dormitories.

The room Ash and Brock would be staying in had two bunk beds and two sets of plain dressers. Soul was already asleep on the top bunk of the first bed, his Espeon and Umbreon curled beside him. Brock was reading on the top bunk of the second bed, while David was playing a game on his laptop on the bottom bunk. Ash changed into his pyjamas and climbed into the remaining bunk, falling asleep almost instantly with Trevor, Judy, and Aidan curled up next to him.

…...

Ash woke up at eight the next morning. Brock and David were already gone, but Soul was still asleep. Ash woke him up, but Soul mumbled, "Five more minutes." and promptly went back to sleep, so Ash got ready and headed down to the cafeteria. Neither Misty or Brock were there, so Ash figured that they must have already left.

As Ash and his Pokémon ate their breakfast, they began discussing the Saffron Gym.

"I still don't get why the Ghost and Dark type moves I have didn't work as well as they should have." Trevor mused, his brain working overtime trying to figure out a solution to their problem.

"Maybe their defense is really high." Ash suggested.

"Morning." Soul said sleepily, walking over to them with his overloaded breakfast tray and his Espeon and Umbreon beside him. "What are you guys talking about?"

"The Saffron gym." Ash told him. "We lost to Sabrina and we're trying to figure out a strategy to beat the gym."

Soul sighed. "Wish I could help you, but we lost too. Her Mr. Mime defeated Dusk and her Kadabra was able to beat my Butterfree. We're trying to figure out a new strategy ourselves." He scratched his Umbreon's head and gave him a piece of sausage before doing the same with his Espeon. "Sabrina told me not to rely so much on type advantage or what we think is type advantage."

"That's the exact same advice she gave me!" Ash said, realizing something. "I think I might have an idea what she means!" He pulled out his Pokédex and checked it out. "Okay, Kadabra is fully Psychic Type, and Mr. Mime is Psychic and…Fairy?"

"Fairy type? What the heck is a Fairy type?" Trevor asked.

"Here, let me look it up." Ash said. "Okay, Fairy type is a type that was recently discovered in Kalos. They're resistant to Bug, Fighting…and Dark! That's why we were having so much trouble at the gym! And they're completely immune to Dragon Type moves. Wow, that is one powerful type."

"Are they weak to anything?" Soul asked.

Ash checked the Pokédex again. "Yeah, Poison and Steel."

"So if I can learn a Steel type move, we'll have the advantage." Trevor mused.

"In a way, but Sabrina also told us not to rely completely on type advantage. Your Hyper Fang and Super Fang are really strong, we should use those as well." Ash said. He flipped through the Pokédex. "This says you can learn Iron Tail." He clicked the link. "Okay, to learn Iron Tail, the Pokémon must visualize a metal coating covering its tail." he read aloud. "Once the tail begins to glow, practice the move by hitting the tail against a target."

Trevor nodded. "Sounds easy enough."

"I didn't know the Pokédex could do that." Soul said with wide eyes. "Maybe I can find a good strategy for us to use at the gym!" He took out his own Pokédex.

Ash smiled. "I didn't either until a friend showed me the search feature." He showed Soul how to use the search feature and the silver-haired boy began looking through his Pokédex.

"Soul, is there a training room here?" Ash asked.

Soul looked up from the Pokédex. "Huh? Oh yeah, it's right outside. I'll take you to it before class starts."

After breakfast, Soul led them outside to the training area, which was dirt-packed with several targets to aim at and an obstacle course. It even had a small pond.

Ash released Levi and Venom. "I'd like for all of you to do some training while I got to Empathy class. Venom, I'd like for you to practice your Aerial Ace. Levi, practice your Thunderbolt and your Hydro Pump. Aidan, you can work on your Dragon Claw, and Judy, I'd like for you to work on Fire Punch. Kiara, work on powering up your Steel Wing. Trev, you can start learning Iron Tail." They all nodded.

"Thanks, guys. I'll meet you at noon." Ash told them. "Remember to take breaks if you get tired." He looked at Aidan and Judy as he said this. Soul released his Elekid, Pidgeotto, Ponyta, and Butterfree and asked them and his Umbreon to train as well while he and Espeon were in class. Both boys said goodbye to their Pokémon before heading back.

They nearly collided with Karen on their way to class as she zipped out of her room, her Pikachu and Meowth at her heels. Ash blocked out an involuntary twinge of fear as her Pikachu looked at him. "Oh man, I overslept!" she groaned. "My stupid alarm didn't go off again! And now I won't have time for breakfast!"

Soul took a granola bar out of his backpack. "Here you go." She smiled and thanked him, eating it quickly before they entered the classroom.

The classroom was a room almost as large as the gymnasium at Ash's old school, more than big enough for Kiara to comfortably be in. There were no desks or chairs, but there were several yoga mats and cushions. The room was candlelit and there was a faint smell of incense in the air.

Their teacher was a friendly middle aged woman with red hair who had a Kadabra with her. Noticing Ash looked confused and a little lost, she came up to him and introduced herself as Ms. Brown. She instructed him to take a seat on one of the yoga mats. Ash sat between Soul and a tall boy with curly dark brown hair named Nigel who had a Golduck seated next to him. Soul's Espeon lay beside him, and Karen's Pikachu, Siria, sat in her lap.

The class started with a guided meditation. Ash nearly did what Soul had done, almost falling asleep during the relaxing but somewhat boring meditation, but managed to stay awake. After the meditation, they started several different mental exercises meant to hone their empathic abilities, one known as Memory Sharing. Each person was to pick a partner and write three memories down on a piece of paper, then hand the sheet to their partner. Then they would think of a specific memory that was listed, focusing on the emotions they had felt at the time, while their partner was to guess what the memory was.

"Want to be partners, Ash?" Soul asked and Ash nodded. Soul wrote his three memories down before passing the paper to Ash.

Ash wrote down "Ghost story at Camp Magikarp", "Playing with my Pokémon" and "Rocket Ride at Funland," on his own piece of paper before passing it to Soul and concentrating on the memory he had chosen.

"Whoa. Definitely the scary story." Soul said with wide eyes not even two minutes after Ash had "sent" him the memory. "Must have been a good one. What was it?"

"He can tell you after class. Back to the lesson." Ms. Brown told him. Soul looked sheepish, then concentrated on his own memory.

Ash concentrated as hard as he could, but could only get the barest flicker of emotion from Soul. Mrs. Brown's Kadabra noticed and walked over.

"Ash, you're trying way too hard." the Kadabra told him. "You need to relax. Close your eyes and take deep breaths. Good. Now let your mind reach out and hear what's around you like we showed you in the first exercise."

Even with Kadabra's help, it still took almost ten minutes before Ash could get a reading from Soul, but finally, he was able to read and pinpoint the emotion Soul was sending out. Exhilaration, a hint of fear, but also enjoyment… "Riding your first roller coaster." Ash finally said.

"You got it!" Soul said. After the exercise was finished, they took a break. Class ended with a cool-down meditation and then Mrs. Brown dismissed them.

"Wow, why do I feel so tired?" Ash muttered, rubbing his head as they walked out the door.

"You're new to this and not used to using your powers." Soul said. "It'll get easier as you go."

"At least you were able to get a reading from Soul." Karen reassured him, cuddling her Meowth as her Pikachu climbed onto her shoulder. "I still can't read any emotions from people, just Pokémon, no matter how hard I try. I may just not be…Tay, what happened?!" Karen ran over to Tay, who was coming out of another classroom, supported by her friend Elena. Tay was holding her head in pain and her nose was bleeding.

"Are you okay?" Ash asked in concern. "Should I get one of the teachers?"

"It's nothing." Tay said with a brave smile. "I just used my powers a little too much today. But I was finally able to move the book across the table!"

"Tay, maybe you should stop using your telekinesis for a while if it hurts you like this." a worried Ash told her.

"Ash, telekinesis absolutely has to be trained." Tay replied. "It could be really dangerous for me if it isn't. Once I train my powers more and they stabilize, I'll be fine. Elena went through this and so did Sabrina when she was first starting out."

"Need me to get you any Tylenol or anything?" Soul asked.

Tay shook her head. "No, I'm fine now."

"Hi, Ash." Ash heard Misty call and turned to see Misty, Brock, and Seth coming up to them.

"Hi guys." Ash said. "Did you have fun?"

Brock smiled. "I won third place in the cooking contest." He held out his ribbon.

Ash smiled. "Congratulations, Brock!" He turned to Misty. "How was shopping?"

Misty grinned. "Check this out." She handed Ash a flyer.

"The HopHopHop Town Water Tournament?" Ash read.

"It starts in a month and the grand prize is the latest Super Rod, a Gold Nugget, and a set of Lure Balls. I've got to enter!" Misty said happily.

"That sounds awesome. Where's HopHopHop Town anyway? Will we be able to make it in time?" Ash asked.

"Right past Celadon, so we'll have more than enough time and you'll be able to try for your next Badge." Misty told him.

"That will be great then. You'll have time to train for your tournament, and I'll be able to train and go for my next Badge." Ash said.

The group went their separate ways after that; Ash, Soul, Brock, and Misty heading for the training field as Karen and Tay went for the cafeteria.

…...

"How's it going, guys?" Ash asked as he stepped onto the training field to meet his Pokémon and letting Kiara out.

"I think I finally got Fire Punch down." Judy said happily. Her fist lit up with flames and she hit the target, causing a huge scorch mark. Aidan had made some real progress on Dragon Claw and Venom had mastered Aerial Ace. Levi's Hydro Pump and Thunderbolt had improved and he had also done some speed training. Kiara had mastered Steel Wing and could keep the coating around her wings up for as long as she needed.

"How's Iron Tail going, Trev?" Ash asked.

Trevor sighed. "Not so well. I can't get it to stay powered up for long." Trevor's tail glowed for a minute, but it quickly faded away and Trevor groaned in frustration.

"You'll get it eventually, Trev." Ash said soothingly. He picked up the Rattata. "Time to take a break. Let's get some lunch." Trevor reluctantly agreed and the group headed for the pool area, where Brock had decided to cook some hot dogs on the grill and give the Pokémon the rest of the food he had made for the contest.

…...

The afternoon passed quickly with more training and hanging out with the other psychics. Ash battled a few times, winning against Tay and Elena, but coming to a draw with Ulrich. Ash still wasn't sure what to think about the cloaked mind reader. Ulrich was polite to him and seemed a little more friendly than he had yesterday, but he still seemed to study Ash like he was trying to figure something out. Ash used Soul's tactic of jumbling his thoughts a few times, but wasn't sure how good he was at it.

Judy continued to work on her Fire Punch and had started working on Aerial Ace again. Aidan practiced Dragon Claw and Levi alternated between his moves while working on his speed. Venom tried out the obstacle course, and Kiara was trying to learn Drill Peck. But Trevor was having a lot of trouble with his new move and getting increasingly frustrated. Both Ash and Judy had to practically force him to take breaks, something they had never had to do with Trevor before. Ash hoped Trevor would go back to his normal relaxed self soon.

…...

The next day, Ms. Brown took the empathy class to the Pokémon Center to help out Nurse Joy, saying that this was a chance for them to use their powers for a good cause. Admittedly, Ash used his Pokémon speaking power(as much as he could without raising suspicion in people not from the psychic school) more than his empathy ability to find out what the injured and sick Pokémon needed, but Ms. Brown didn't comment and Nurse Joy praised him on how gentle and caring he was with the Pokémon. Soul, Karen and Nigel did well with the Pokemon too, Nigel being a lot of help as he could project a calming aura, soothing stressed, frightened, or angry Pokemon. Finding out that Ash, Nigel, and Karen were interested in Pokémon care and breeding, Nurse Joy gave them each a copy of the book Pokémon Care And Breeding.

But that afternoon, Ash's worry for Trevor overcame the good mood from the morning. Though Trevor was making some progress with Iron Tail, he still was having a lot of trouble powering it up. The Rattata had become so fixated upon learning the move, he was exhausting himself and barely taking any rests. He was acting irritable, didn't want to play their usual evening game of tag with them, and didn't even make a joke when Ash blushed upon seeing Misty in her new swimsuit.

The next day, Ash woke up at five in the morning. Judy was cuddled up next to his side and Aidan was sprawled across his feet, but Trevor was missing. "Trevor?" Ash called softly.

"What's the matter, Ash?" Judy mumbled sleepily.

"Have you seen Trevor? He's not here." Ash asked.

"No, I was asleep." She sat up and looked around. "Where would Trevor be at this hour?"

Aidan heard them and woke up. "Maybe he's in the bathroom." he mumbled.

Judy shook her head. "No, he's not in there. Door's wide open and I can't see him."

Ash got out of bed and looked around the dormitory. He didn't see Trevor anywhere but the door was open a crack. "That's weird." Ash was beginning to get a little worried. "Where would Trevor wander off to this early?" He walked down the hallway, followed by Aidan and Judy. "Trevor?" he called.

As he passed the cafeteria, he suddenly bumped into someone. "Oof! Sorry!"

"That's okay." a boy's voice said and Ash looked up to see that it was Ulrich.

"By any chance have you seen Trevor, my Rattata? I can't find him anywhere." Ash asked.

"He's in the training area practicing Iron Tail. He's been at it since before I got there and he's exhausted and really frustrated. I was actually about to come find you." Ulrich told him.

"Thanks." Ash told him, running to the training area with Judy and Aidan behind him. Trevor was near a target, his tail glowing. He went to hit the target, but the glowing stopped. He growled in frustration. "Trevor?" Ash said, walking up to him.

Trevor whirled around in surprise. "Oh, hi Ash. What are you doing up?" he asked in a tired voice.

"Looking for you." Ash said. "Why are you out here practicing Iron Tail at five in the morning?"

"Couldn't sleep and I need to get this move mastered." Trevor told him.

"Trevor, you need to sleep." Ash insisted. "You're exhausted."

Trevor rolled his eyes. 'Ash, I'm fine. You worry too much."

"Trevor, you need to take a break." Ash protested.

Trevor glared at him. "I. Am. Fine. Leave me alone!" he snapped irritably.

Ash had had enough. "No, you are not! You're obsessed with this stupid move!" he yelled. "You're irritable, you're exhausted, and you're too darn stubborn to take a break! Well, I'm making you take one! I'm your trainer and you need to listen to me! And if you don't, I…I won't let you battle in the gym!"

Trevor looked at him in shock and so Aidan. Their normally timid trainer had never raised his voice or scolded any of them before. Even Ash looked shocked a little at what had come out of his mouth. Judy gave Ash a smile, proud of him.

Trevor sighed, both ashamed and a little embarrassed. "Ash, I'm sorry. You were right and for once…I was wrong." Wow, did he hate admitting that. Trevor hated being wrong.

"So, you'll take a break and get some sleep?" Ash asked sternly.

"Yes, mom." Trevor joked and Ash cracked a smile, glad his Rattata was starting to act like his old self again. Ash picked Trevor up and the Rattata suddenly discovered how tired he really was. Yawning, he shifted himself to a more comfortable position and fell asleep in Ash's arms.

Ash smiled and walked out of the training area and heading towards the pool. Careful not to wake Trevor, he sat down on the pool chair, putting Trevor on his lap and gently stroking the Rattata.

"You really care about them, don't you?" a voice said and Ash jumped, looking up to see Ulrich, his Houndour, Alakazam, Umbreon, Gengar, and Noctowl with him.

Ash nodded. "They mean everything to me."

Ulrich nodded, giving Ash a small smile. "I feel the same way about my team." He let out his Charizard, and Ash let out Kiara, Levi, and Venom.

Ulrich's Gengar, Tony, grinned. "It's time." he said.

Venom's eyes lit up. "Awesome!" He flew off to join the Gengar.

Ash sighed. "What are they planning?"

Ulrich shrugged. "Not sure. But since Tony's been singing "The Song That Never Ends" in his head and Venom's singing some song he made up himself about being the king of hilarious mishaps or something, I'm guessing they're up to no good. Probably planning some dumb prank." Ash just shrugged and rolled his eyes, used to Venom's craziness.

Ash's Pokémon and Ulrich's began playing and talking, eventually drifting away from their trainers. As soon as Ash's Pokémon were out of earshot, Ulrich turned to Ash. "Can I talk to you? Alone?"

"Um, sure." Ash said nervously, carefully lifting Trevor off his lap and placing him gently on the pool chair, taking off his vest and using it to cover Trevor like a blanket before following Ulrich.

"I'm going to be point-blank about this." Ulrich said bluntly. "The first morning you were here, when you were wondering if I had found out your secret…. I had. I know what happened with your former starter." Ash stiffened. "Look, I'm not going to tell anyone and I'd never stoop so low as to blackmail you. Your secret is safe with me."

Ash looked at him, trying to determine whether he was telling the truth. Finally, he decided he was. "Thank you. What happened…isn't something I want to be spread around."

Ulrich let out a dark laugh. "Believe me, I understand. I understand better than you know." He looked Ash right in the eyes. "You're not the only one who was stabbed in the back by their starter. I was too."

Ash's eyes were wide. "You were? But isn't your Charizard…"

Ulrich shook his head. "Like you consider Trevor and Kiara your true starters, I will always consider Alleria mine. But she was not the Pokémon I started out with. The Pokémon I started out with…was a Bulbasaur." Ash nearly shuddered at the pure loathing in Ulrich's voice as he said this.

"I was like you once. I thought all Pokémon were good inside and I thought I could make that Bulbasaur my friend. But that little bastard absolutely loathed humanity and me especially. I tried everything I could-just like you did." Ulrich said as he "heard" Ash thinking of his own attack. "But a few days after we started out on our journey, that worthless piece of trash attacked me, then destroyed his Poké Ball and ran off like the coward he was, leaving me this as a parting gift." He pointed at an X-shaped scar under his right eye. Ash was speechless as he stared at the boy whose past had so closely mirrored his own, feeling a wave of sympathy and understanding.

"After my starter betrayed me, I made my way back home to Stable City." Ulrich continued. "And on the way I literally bumped into Alleria, then this tiny golden Charmander who was kicked out of her own colony just because she happened to be a different color than they were." He looked at his black Charizard, who was quietly talking to Kiara and Judy. "I gave her some food and healed her wounds. She grew to trust me and I her. Both being betrayed by the ones who were supposed to care for us, we knew what the other was going through. We decided to stick together and help each other grow stronger. We vowed that someday we would find and take revenge on the ones that hurt us and to be there for one another when we do."

Ash was quiet as he thought over what Ulrich had said. Ulrich looked at him strangely. "Ash, there is something I don't understand about you. Your starter hurt you, even worse than my starter hurt me, yet you haven't thought about revenge once. I've barely even heard any anger at your starter from you. Why?"

Ash thought for a few minutes, trying to sort through his feelings. Was he angry at Pikachu? Truthfully, he knew he was, though he pushed it away when it came. Did he want revenge, even a little? Maybe in the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind he did, but he wanted to move on more. Finally, he looked at Ulrich and gave his response.

"I want to move on with my life, focus on what's really important; my friends and my Pokémon. Honestly, I don't want to see Pikachu ever again. I want to forget about him and what he did to me."

"But you'll never forget." Ulrich said softly.

Ash sighed, knowing Ulrich was right. "No, I won't. It's as much a part of me as my powers, especially since that's what unlocked them. But for as horrible as it was, good things came out of it. I've got the most wonderful Pokémon in the world as my teammates, two amazing best friends as well as several new ones, and a second family in the Spearow Flock who saved my butt and helped me even though they didn't have to. And until Pikachu decides to change, all he'll have is his hatred." As Ash said this, he felt some of the hurt Pikachu caused begin to heal.

"You can just let go of what he did to you and move on that easily?" Ulrich asked incredulously. "You don't want revenge at all?"

Ash remembered a quote he had heard somewhere. "They say the best revenge is living well and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to be the best friend and trainer I can be and enjoy my life with the ones who actually care for me."

Ulrich stared at him thoughtfully. "Ash, you're a very strange kid, but I respect your conviction, even if…" He was cut off by the pool door suddenly opening.

THUNK!

SPLASH!

"It worked!" Venom yelled happily. Startled out of his sleep, Trevor jumped about a mile in the air and Ash and Ulrich looked over to see that Gideon was covered in plastic wrap, soaking wet and standing under a bucket that was attached to the door by what looked like a piece of string.

"Of course it did." Ulrich's Gengar said smugly. "We thought of it after all."

Ash turned to Ulrich in confusion. "You're the mind reader. What just happened?"

"We couldn't decide between the 'plastic wrap covering the entryway' prank or the 'bucket of water over the door' so we decided to go with both." Ulrich's Gengar replied before Ulrich could answer.

"Ash, I can't believe you missed that! That was awesome!" Venom exclaimed. Ash just put his head in his hands, rolling his eyes at his weird Beedrill.

"Hey! Who thought it was smart to mess with the King Of Pranks?" Gideon demanded, yanking off the plastic wrap.

Tony laughed. "You, the king of pranks? There's only one king of pranks around here and that would be me." The Gengar struck a ridiculous pose, reminding Ash of Venom.

"You tell him, Tony! Don't let him steal your title!" Ulrich's Umbreon cheered.

"Sasha, don't encourage him." his Houndoom grumbled.

Sasha pouted. "C'mon Edmund, don't be a spoilsport."

Being able to talk to ghosts, Gideon could understand what the Gengar was saying, though he couldn't understand the others. "Well, your reign has now ended." he taunted.

Tony raised a metaphorical eyebrow. "Is that a challenge?"

Gideon grinned. "You and me. Prank war. Whoever lasts the longest gets the title of King Of Pranks."

"Oh crap. Is that guy a total idiot?" Ulrich muttered. "No one challenges Tony to a prank war! This is going to end in disaster. Or at least be really annoying to clean up. And yes, Ash," he said, answering Ash's unspoken thought. "You might want to get a crash helmet."

…...

Empathy class, training, and dodging various pranks filled the next several days. Both Gideon and Tony were determined to win the prank war and they tried every trick in the book. Hot sauce in drinks, cans of Pokemon food that actually had the springy "snakes" in them, hair dye in the shampoo, whoopee cushions, banana peels… Venom actually had to pull Ash out of the way of a tripwire that was connected to a homemade catapult that fired cream pies during the second day of the prank war.

It finally ended two days before the rematch. Tony had talked Xero's Galvantula into helping him set up a prank on Gideon, but the Galvantula popping up out of nowhere only succeeded in scaring the arachnophobic Xero and Misty, sending them running. Misty jumped into Ash's arms and Xero ran into Soul, making both boys stumble backwards and collide with Seth, who was sleeping in a beach chair near the pool and Ryu, a tiny and timid redheaded mind reader who had arrived earlier in the day and was being shown around by Ash and Soul. All six ended up tumbling into the pool with a loud splash.

"Who's the dead person who dunked me while I was sleeping?" Seth yelled. Gideon had been laughing his head off until he saw Seth's expression, then he looked terrified. Ryu quickly swam away from her and hid behind Ash.

"Someone thought it was funny to set a huge spider-bug thing on us!" Misty growled, climbing out of the pool.

"It was Tony!" Gideon yelled, pointing to the now very nervous Gengar.

"That's it! This stupid prank war thing has gotten way out of hand! I've gotten a can of rubber snakes exploding in my face, had to dodge flying pies and now this!" Seth yelled, fire surrounding her fists as she came out of the pool. Misty nodded, taking out her Misty Mallet. After getting her hair dyed green with dye that was thankfully temporary and being terrified by a giant electric spider, the prank war was getting on her last nerves.

"Uh-oh." Ash murmured as Judy helped him and Ryu out of the pool. Soul's Espeon lifted Soul up with Psychic and Xero's Galvantula gave Xero an apologetic look as she lifted him out with String Shot.

"I think we should….RUN FOR OUR AFTERLIVES!" Tony yelled as an enraged Misty and Seth chased him and Gideon. Both Gideon's Dusknoir and Ulrich gave each other a long-suffering look as they rolled their eyes.

Sabrina walked in. "Hey, hey…all of you.. Knock it off!" she yelled, lifting them all up with her telekinesis. "Misty, Seth, there's no need to resort to violence; you're scaring the new kid." she told them, pointing to Ryu, who was hugging his Cyndaquil, half hiding behind Ash and Judy. She glared at Gideon and Tony. "Gideon, Tony, this prank war is OVER! It's a draw, so shake hands. If you've got to duke it out, do it outside the school!" Gideon and Tony looked at one another and reluctantly shook hands.

"Never a dull moment." Sabrina muttered as she passed Ash.

Ash sighed, then turned to Ryu. "Welcome to psychic school." he told the little boy.

…...

Later that evening, Ash played chess with Elena, though his mind wasn't fully on the game. He had progressed well with his empathy training, and was more sensitive to emotions, especially those of his Pokémon, Brock, and Misty, who he was more attuned to as he had traveled with them.

Ash's Pokémon too had greatly improved. Judy had managed to master Fire Punch and was progressing well with Aerial Ace. Levi had strengthened his Hydro Pump and Thunderbolt greatly and improved his speed and maneuverability. Aidan had almost gotten his Dragon Claw mastered, and Kiara had mastered Drill Peck. Venom had Aerial Ace completely mastered and was now working on Endeavor. And Trevor had strengthened his moves and finally gotten Iron Tail to work, though he still had some trouble charging it up. Ash would need to time it carefully, but it could still be used in the battle the day after tomorrow.

Ash thought of the battle he had lost. It had been the move Future Sight that had hit the hardest and nearly fainted Levi in one hit. How was he supposed to prevent it?

"Your move, Ash." Elena said, nudging his arm.

Ash nodded and moved his chess piece, still thinking of how to avoid the Future Sight attack. Then an idea came to him. "I've got it!" he said aloud.

Elena looked at the board. "No, Ash, that's not checkmate." She moved her knight with her telekinesis.

"No, I meant about my battle with Sabrina." Ash told her sheepishly. "I might have found a way to get past Future Sight."

"Really? Let's hear it." Elena said and Ash told her. "That's a really clever idea, if you have Levi do it fast enough. My Meditite knows Future Sight if you wanted to test it out. We could have a mock-battle."

"Thanks." Ash told her, smiling.

She smiled. "You're welcome. And by the way…checkmate."

…...

Ash took a deep breath as he walked into the gym. It was finally time for the rematch between him and Sabrina. Trevor was nearly bouncing on his shoulder, eager for the battle to start. He, Ash, and Levi had trained their butts off. Their moves were much stronger and their new strategy worked very well. Ash had been careful not to do it or think of it around Sabrina, just in case she read their minds.

They stepped into Sabrina's room. "Ready for our rematch?" she asked. "I can see Trevor is." Ash nodded and they stepped onto the battlefield.

"This will be a two on two battle between Sabrina, the Gym Leader, and Ash, the challenger. Trainers, release your Pokémon!" the referee called.

"Mr. Mime, to the battlefront." Sabrina said calmly.

"Trevor, go!" Ash called and Trevor leapt off his shoulder, taking a battle stance. "Use Hyper Fang!"

"Reflect." Sabrina commanded calmly. Mr. Mime put up a psychic shield that blocked some of the damage, though Mr. Mime was still hurt by the powerful attack. "Now Psychic." Mr. Mime grabbed Trevor with his psychic powers, then threw him in the air.

"Use Shadow Ball on the ground to slow your fall!" Ash called, and Trevor shot the purple balls of energy at the ground, giving him enough lift to adjust and land on his feet. "Now use Quick Attack to get close!" Ash commanded, giving Trevor a thumbs up, their secret signal to begin to charge up Iron Tail. Trevor's tail began to glow as he ran towards the Mr. Mime.

"Hit him with Magical Leaf!" Sabrina called.

"Destroy them with Thunderbolt!" Ash commanded and Trevor shot out a bolt of lightining, incinerating the leaves. All the while, his tail was getting brighter and he was getting closer to the Mr. Mime.

"Now, Iron Tail Whip!" he called. Ash had thought up a new move combination which combined Iron Tail with Tail Whip, creating a damaging move that also lowered the foe's defense. Trevor swung his glowing tail at the Mr. Mime, destroying his shield, lowering his defense, and causing a great amount of damage with the super-effective move. But though severely weakened, Mr. Mime wasn't out yet.

"Psychic!" Sabrina called and Mr. Mime threw Trevor across the room. Trevor landed hard, but got up quickly. "Now give him your strongest Psybeam!"

"Dodge it and use Shadow Ball!" Ash called. Trevor barely got out of the way in time, then hit the Mr. Mime with a strong Shadow Ball. Mr. Mime staggered, close to fainting.

"Psychic!" Sabrina called again and Trevor was lifted into the air.

"Use Thunderbolt to make it let you go!" Ash called and Trevor hit the Mr. Mime with a Thunderbolt, making the weakened Mr. Mime let him go. "Now Quick Attack followed by Hyper Fang!" Trevor rushed at the Mr. Mime before it could dodge or put up a shield, sinking his fangs into it. It yelled in pain, fainting.

"Mr. Mime is unable to battle! Gym Leader, release next Pokémon!" the referee called.

"Kadabra, to the battlefront." Sabrina said, releasing her Kadabra.

Ash looked at Trevor, who was panting, his little legs shaking. "Trevor, return! Go, Levi!" Trevor climbed back on Ash's shoulder as Ash released his Gyarados.

"Use Crunch!" Ash called and Levi leapt at Kadabra.

"Psychic." Sabrina said and Kadabra lifted Levi into the air.

"Use Thunderbolt to make him let you go!" Ash called and Levi struck the Kadabra with a strong Thunderbolt. Kadabra staggered backwards but was far from out.

"Future Sight." Sabrina said very quietly to Kadabra so that Ash couldn't hear. But Ash had been on the lookout for this very thing and saw it when Kadabra's eyes glowed. But he pretended he hadn't noticed.

"Levi, use Thunderbolt!" Ash called.

"Reflect." Sabrina said and Kadabra put up a psychic shield, which protected the Kadabra from most of the damage. "Now Psybeam."

"Match it with Dragon Rage!" Ash called and Levi shot blue flames from his mouth which counteracted with Kadabra's Psybeam, causing a small explosion that damaged both Pokémon. "Now Thunderbolt!" he called, needing to keep a distance for his plan to work.

"Reflect." Sabrina said calmly and Kadabra strengthened his shield, blocking most of the damage.

The wind from Future Sight began to blow, but this time Ash was ready. "Levi, use Bounce!" he called and Levi used his tail to spring himself into the air, the ball of psychic energy missing him. He landed on Kadabra, knocking the Psychic Type to the ground.

Sabrina gasped. "What?" Even she hadn't seen that coming.

"Now Crunch!" Ash called and Levi used Crunch, knocking Kadabra out.

"Kadabra is unable to battle! The winner is Ash Ketchum!" the referee called.

Sabrina treated Kadabra with a Revive and Hyper Potion and the Kadabra shakily stood up, nodding to his opponent in respect. "Very good, Ash." Sabrina said warmly. "Your observational skills won you the match. You actually surprised me with that trick, and it's nearly impossible to surprise me." She handed him the Marsh badge. "Continue to keep up the good strategies, and remember, defensive and status changing moves are your friend. Not all matches can be won with sheer physical power."

Ash nodded. "Thank you." he told her.

Sabrina smiled. "Mrs. Brown says you're doing extremely well with your Empathy training. You're free to go, just keep up the mental exercises to keep you from being overwhelmed by it now that it's come out a little more. You should have a slight power increase when you reach your teenage years; it happens to most psychics. If it becomes overwhelming, feel free to come back."

"Thanks. For everything." Ash said sincerely.

"No problem. Happy to help. We psychics have to stick together."

Ash ran up to Misty and Brock, who congratulated him on winning his badge. Later, Soul battled Sabrina as well, and Ash cheered as he won his Badge using his Ponyta and Umbreon. It had been an extremely tough match, but Umbreon staggered through and won the match with Dark Pulse. The little group treated their Pokémon at the Center, then headed back to the Psychic School.

…...

"Good luck on your journey, buddy." Ash told Soul, shaking his hand. He had found out Soul, Karen and Ulrich were all ready to head off on their journey. "I hope I'll see you again sometime."

"You will. We'll be battling each other at the Pokémon League. So it's not goodbye, it's just "see you soon." Soul said.

"Do you guys have to go?" Ryu asked with a pout on his little face. The eight year old boy had become Ash's little shadow since Ash was the first to greet him and show him around. Ryu had also become attached to Brock, as the former gym leader had been his hero and would sit and watch him cook or ask Brock all kinds of questions about being a gym leader. The little boy was scared of Misty though, even though she apologized for scaring him and tried to talk to or play with him.

Ash knelt down to his level. "I'm afraid we do, buddy, but don't worry, we might see each other again someday. And once you're old enough to be a trainer, we can have a battle. How's that sound?"

"Good." Ryu said, smiling. "And I'll train really hard!"

Karen came out with her Pikachu, Siria, on her shoulder. "Hey, Soul, you ready to go?" she asked.

"Yep, just saying goodbye to Ash." Soul said.

"You guys traveling together?" Brock asked.

Both Soul and Karen nodded. "Yeah, we thought it would be fun." Soul said with a slight blush.

"It was good seeing you again, Ash." Karen told her neighbor.

"You too." Ash said, then looked at Siria. The Pikachu kept still and relaxed into a non-threatening position, knowing Ash was scared of her. Ash hesitantly raised his hand, then after a moment, placed it on Siria's head, gently stroking her. Siria leaned into the touch and began purring. Ash smiled, relaxed a little, and petted her some more before pulling away. Judy smiled, proud of Ash.

Karen grinned. "Told you she was friendly. She loves being petted. You've just made a friend for life." Ash smiled at that. "See you at the Pokémon League, Ash." Karen said. Soul clasped Ash's arm and the two walked away after a last goodbye.

"So what made you do that?" a voice behind Ash asked. Ash jumped and turned to see Ulrich.

"Do what?" Ash asked, confused.

"Petting that Pikachu, even though you're scared of them." Ulrich clarified.

"Well, I need to get over my fears sometime, and it's not Siria's fault my former starter attacked me. All the other Pikachu in the world are not to blame for what he did, and it's time I realized that and stopped being scared for no reason." Ash said softly.

"You're not exactly scared for no reason, there are bad people and bad Pokémon out there." Ulrich told him. "Be careful not to trust too easily. It could get you hurt."

"I know and I'll be careful." Ash told him. He held out a hand to Ulrich. "Good luck on your journey. I hope you find what you're looking for."

"You too." Ulrich said, shaking his hand. Ash briefly wondered what it would have been like for both of them if they hadn't been betrayed by their starters. Oddly enough, he remembered the dream he had a few months back with the multiple versions of himself, especially the older version of himself who had won the Kalos League and was doing something called the Master Challenge with Pikachu at his side.

Ulrich raised an eyebrow. "Master Challenge?"

"It's nothing. Just a weird dream I had." Ash told him.

Ulrich nodded. "I'll be looking forward to battling you in the Pokémon League. And maybe in the Master Challenge too, if they ever decide to make it." he joked. He mounted his black Charizard. "Goodbye for now, Ash."

"Goodbye, Ulrich." Ash said, waving as Ulrich flew off.

Seth gave Misty her Pokegear number. "Just in case you ever want to hang out."

"I'll miss you, Seth. It was fun hanging out with another girl." Misty said, looking a little sad. "Oh, I got you something." She pulled out a mallet that looked similar to her own. "It's even fireproof. Just in case Gideon ever drives you nuts."

Seth beamed. "This is awesome! Thanks Misty!"

The group said goodbye to the others, then headed down the road, off to their next adventure.

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