Road to a Master

What if Delia had stepped in and made sure that Ash was prepared for his journey? After all, what kind of woman will allow her only son to travel a dangerous world ill-prepared? Smarter Ash, more prepared Ash. A mix of the games and the anime. WARNING - Chapter 5 is M-Rated for violence and mentions of rape.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11863977/1/Road-to-a-Master

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5. Cascade Part 2

That command was easier said than done as an absolutely monstrous bolt of electricity left Electabuzz's body and made its way towards Ash's pokemon. The bolt was reminiscent of an actual bolt from the sky during a storm as it was easily six feet wide and concentrated into a height of four feet as it rushed towards Ash's pokemon at a speed not seen before by Ash. Before anyone could react, Pikachu intercepted the bolt with his body as he tried to absorb the Thunder attack.

"Pikachu!" Ash cried out as his starter cried out. He could barely watch as the bolt became smaller and smaller as Pikachu was successful in neutralizing it. Pikachu fell down to the ground in exhaustion, his body sparking due to an overload of electricity. Seeing this, his remaining pokemon redoubled their efforts in attacking the ridiculously powerful electric pokemon, pushing it back slightly.

Ash was about to recall Pikachu when he started to get up. Pikachu called out his name as he charged electricity in his body. A few seconds later, he released the biggest electric attack that Ash had seen from him. He was covered in a circle of electric energy as four massive bolts of electricity originated from the circle and arced towards the Electabuzz. The resultant explosion was even larger than what it was the last time and Ash swore he saw the Electabuzz being sent flying backwards due to the attack.

As smoke filled the room, Ash spoke in awe. "Woah, what was that? Even his Thundershock, when powered by Eevee's Helping Hand, is not this powerful." He was distracted from his thought process by a beeping sound. He looked around wondering what that was before realizing that it was coming from his pokedex. He opened it and the monotonous voice from the pokedex sounded.

Pikachu, the Mouse Pokemon, and the evolved form of Pichu. It has small electric sacs on both its cheeks. If threatened, it looses electric charges from the sacs. This Pikachu is male and has the ability static. NOTE: His hidden ability lightning rod has been unlocked. Due to the constant charging of its electric sacs, this Pikachu has just learned the move Thunderbolt.

"….." Ash stared at his pokedex in shock. Thunderbolt? Really? One of the most powerful electric attacks that a pokemon can learn? One which Ash didn't expect Pikachu to learn for a few more months, at the very least, due to a lack of power? It seems like battling this powerful Electabuzz had one advantage which Ash never counted on.

Ash looked at his starter in awe. He really was the best starter that any pokemon trainer can get. Every day, he does something to make sure that Ash never regrets not getting one of the traditional Kanto starters. But this? Ash shook himself out of his awe as he saw the condition of his pokemon. While none of them were injured too badly, they were all exhausted. And it was to be expected. They were all young pokemon, not used to battling so heavily. The constant battles with the Team Rocket pokemon, followed by the battle against this monster was taking its toll on them. He hoped that the Thunderbolt was enough to take out the Electabuzz, his pokemon could not battle much longer.

He heard a cry of pain and looked in horror as his Flabebe was sent crashing down in pain. She lay down there unmoving and her body twitched as her skin turned slightly purple. Poison. Before anyone could react, a blur snatched Eevee and she too let out a scream of pain as she was beaten into unconsciousness. Pikachu and Dratini tried hitting the blur but it was too fast for them to attack. Things got worse as the Electabuzz stood up, glaring at Ash and his pokemon with hatred. It opened its mouth as it charged a beam which was orange in colour.

"Get out of there!" Ash shouted in panic as he recognized the Hyper Beam. But the beam was too quick and left Pikachu with no time to react as he was blown away by one of the most devastating attacks known to pokemon.

Dratini took advantage of the recharging time caused by the Hyper Beam attack as he sent another Dragon Rage at the electric pokemon. The attack, fuelled by his anger at the defeat of his teammates, was more powerful than any that Ash had seen as Electabuzz was sent flying away one more time.

Ash was distracted by a shout of "No, Pidgeotto!" as he turned to see Jonathan's bird pokemon was beaten the same blur that took out two of Ash's pokemon. He looked on in horror as the blur went on to smash Janine's Nidoking as well, the distraction allowing the beaten up Houndoom to slash at him with claws covered in black energy. The Nidoking roared in pain as three bloody gashes appeared on his side.

"Nidoking!" Janine shouted in anguish as she looked up at the smug face of the Team Rocket Executive.

"Did you honestly think that I have only three pokemon?" He asked. "Your efforts are amusing. Particularly you, brat." He pointed at Ash. "You even managed to defeat one of my pokemon. And you," he switched to Janine, "managed to last this long against one of my stronger pokemon, that too with me directing him. But this is getting boring now and it is time to end this charade. Victreebel, Hyper Beam. Crobat, get rid of these trainers. They're annoying."

The Victreebel that Jonathan was facing charged an orangish beam that it then sent flying. It blasted past Jonathan's Nidoran and Charmeleon (his Charmander must have evolved, Ash mused) and went towards Dratini who barely dodged the attack by a hair's breath. Any further thoughts were put to a stop as Ash screamed out in pain when he felt the Crobat bite into his skin. Looking around, Ash saw the Crobat darting around attacking other trainers as well. He was forced to turn again as his vision swam and his body gave way. He saw the Houndoom charge a Hyper Beam as well. The last thing that Ash remembered before unconsciousness took hold of him was a male voice shouting angrily, "Dragonite, Hyper Beam!"

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Ash groggily woke up to see that he was lying down on a bed. It looked like he was in a hospital room as he surveyed his surroundings. An IV was hooked onto his arm and some fluid was being put inside his body through it. He saw that the area around his neck was bandaged, causing him to frown.

'What happened here?' he wondered. The last thing he remembered was….

He shot up and immediately regretted it as pain shot through his body. He shook off his pain as he looked towards his belt where his pokeballs should be. He started panicking when he saw them missing.

'Where are my pokemon? Do Team Rocket have them? Are they hurt? Last I remember, that Crobat had taken out Flabebe and Eevee. Pikachu took on a full powered Hyper Beam as well.' Ash grimaced at the reminder of the Crobat who had so viciously bitten him. It had then gone on to attack other trainers as well. He hoped that Brock had arrived on time to save him and the other trainers.

'He must have,' he mused. 'I'm still alive and in this hospital room. I just hope he got there in time to save the pokemon as well. Arceus knows that Flabebe would need healing as well. The poison must have seriously messed up her body.'

He looked around the room and saw a glass of water on the bedside table. He immediately took it to satisfy his parched throat and started downing it. He stopped on his second sip as a wave of nausea hit him. Once that feeling went, he took small sips of water till the glass was empty.

Deciding that he'll only get answers once he leaves the room, and worried sick about his pokemon, Ash swung his legs off the bed. He tried to stand but immediately started swaying and almost fell back onto the bed. Just how badly was he injured? Once he was able to stand on his feet steadily, which itself took him almost fifteen minutes, he wondered what to do about the IV.

Before he could make a decision, the door to his room opened, and in walked Nurse Joy. She let out a gasp as she saw Ash awake and standing, before she rushed towards him to do a check-up.

"Nurse Joy!" Ash exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"What are you doing standing up? Get back to bed, now Mr. Ketchum." The nurse spoke in her usual sweet voice.

"I have to find out what happened to my pokemon!" Ash tried to argue.

The temperature of the room started to drop as a result of that statement as Nurse Joy gave Ash a sweet smile. A smile that would have sent Ash running away as fast as he could in the opposite direction had he been fit enough to do so. "Are you disobeying my order?" that smile still on her face.

"My pokemon," Ash tried to say, his worry for his pokemon overriding his sense of fear from the woman.

"Bed! Now!" She said.

Ash would have beaten that Crobat in speed as he dove back under the covers as fast as he could. Nurse Joy was terrifying him more than that Team Rocket Executive, and that guy was absolutely insane!

"There. Was that so hard now?" She asked, back to her sweet and kind persona. She started doing Ash's check-up, taking his temperature, his blood pressure and a couple of tests with some machines whose function Ash had no idea of. She finished with unwrapping Ash's bandages to check the wound that Crobat had given him. She tsked and went to the drawer to take out a bottle. She turned back to Ash, and started speaking.

"Most of the poison from your body has been removed by the antidote that I have been giving you through the IV. This," she pointed to the medicine in her hand, "is a potion of sorts that can work on humans. Fair warning, it will burn. A lot." With that said, she applied the potion on Ash's wound.

Ash screamed out in pain as the wound sizzled and burned. The pain was intense and continued for a few minutes as Ash rolled about trying to find some release from the pain. Finally, just as Ash was on the brink of losing consciousness again, the pain lessened and finally settled at a constant, dull throbbing. He looked at the wound to see that the area was red and that the wound had closed to form a scar on his body.

"The pain will remain for a few hours. It should be gone by the time you leave here. The scar will remain with you for life, though. There's nothing that I can do for that," she said, her voice sympathetic. She sounded genuinely sorry for the pain that Ash was going through.

Ash smiled at her, and said, "It's fine, Nurse Joy. I don't mind the scar. Thank you very much for saving my life. I doubt I would have survived had it not been for you." Ash bowed his head in respect to the pink-haired woman whose entire family was dedicated to the art of healing.

"Oh hush, you." Nurse Joy scolded gently. "There's no need to say that. I was just doing my job."

"Nonetheless, you saved my life. If there is anything that I can do for you, let me know." Ash was adamant about this. He owed the nurse more than he could imagine. He owed her his very life. If there was anything she needed, Ash would make sure he would do his best to get it done. He owed her that much.

"The sentiment is appreciated, Mr. Ketchum, but unnecessary. Now, I have other patients to see." Saying that, she turned around to leave.

"Wait, Nurse Joy!" Ash said. "What other patients? Is anyone…" Ash could not complete that statement.

"No one is dead, Mr. Ketchum," she smiled. "Some are injured, but they all should make a full recovery."

"Thank Mew," Ash sighed in relief. "And what about my pokemon?" he asked tentatively.

"No permanent injuries to them, either. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get going. Also, are you up for visitors? Someone wants to meet you." she asked.

"Yeah, sure." He replied in a daze, not really caring about anything other than the fact that his pokemon were fine.

Nurse Joy left the room leaving Ash alone for a few minutes. Ash spent the time reliving the battle, and cursing his stupidity. He really should have listened to Brock. The whole time, Archer was toying with them. As soon as he got serious, the battle was over in minutes. And his pokemon had been gravely injured as well. Ash grimaced at that, guilt gnawing through his body. His pokemon, his precious family, injured because of his recklessness. He had charged through blindly, believing that he could beat Team Rocket just because he had taken care of a couple of grunts with ease. Such arrogance, he thought in disgust. And he used to mock Gary for his arrogance. At least, he never got his pokemon inured by his cockiness. Before Ash's thoughts could go on a further spiral, the door to his room was opened and in walked three people.

The first two were recognizable to him as he had met them. The first was Brock, his normally cheerful face solemn. The second was Janine, a similar expression on her face.

The last was also recognizable to Ash, not because he had met him before, but because of who he was. After all, which trainer worth his salt could not recognize him? The first thing one noticed was how massive the figure was. Not only tall, but he had muscles to balance it out. His hair was next, as he saw that the man had light red hair, almost pink in colour. Then came his clothes. He wore combat boots and a he wore a blue suit that had patches of crimson on his chest and stomach area. And of course, the cape. Who would not see the cape? Black on the outside and crimson on the inside. The Champion of the Kanto and the Johto regions. Lance.

"Hello there," he spoke cheerily. His voice was authoritative, and Ash immediately recognized the voice as the last thing he heard before he fell unconscious back in the cavern. "How are you feeling now?"

"Sore," Ash replied truthfully. He turned to Janine, and asked, "What about you? Did the Crobat get you as well?"

"No," she shook her head. "Thankfully, Lance and Brock had arrived with reinforcements by then."

Ash noticed how Janine referred to Lance so informally, but didn't comment on it. There were more important things on his mind at the moment.

"Do any of you know how long it has been since the battle?" he asked.

"A day," came the swift reply from Brock. "We were getting worried."

Ash hung his head at that. "Brock, I…"

"There's no need for that, Ash. You've learnt your lesson by now. I'm sure of that," Brock replied.

"Enough of that," interjected Lance. "Mr. Ketchum, on behalf of the League, I want to thank you for informing us on Team Rocket's activities. Because of your help, we have dealt a major blow to their organization. Not only have we stopped their plans, we've also finally managed to capture a high ranking member from their organization."

"I didn't do anything," Ash muttered in embarrassment. Come on, what was he supposed to do when his idol was praising him?

"On the contrary, you did a lot. With Archer captured, we can get information on the organization from him. This is a big blow to their organization, and our biggest victory over them, so far." Lance stepped forward and ruffled Ash's head proudly as Ash stuttered and blushed.

He fought to regain his composure, and once done, he asked. "So, what were Team Rocket doing in Mt. Moon?"

"Ash," Brock interjected with a warning tone. "Haven't you learned your lesson? Leave Team Rocket and what they do alone."

"It's alright, Brock." Lance said. "He deserves to know what he and his team almost died for. They were looking for fossils. And found quite a few of them too. What for, I don't know."

Ash flinched at the reminder of the near death of his pokemon. He looked at Janine once Lance was done talking and asked her, "My pokemon… do you have any idea what happened to them?"

She grimaced and nodded. "Dratini was mostly fine. Eevee was knocked unconscious, she healed soon as well. Pikachu and Flabebe, on the other hand, were pretty messed up."

Ash looked down, guilt filling his body once again. "How are they now?"

"They're fine. They're resting at the moment. Nurse Joy said that they should be fine by the time you guys leave the Centre."

"Thank Arceus," Ash sighed in relief. It wasn't as bad as Ash feared, particularly for Pikachu and Flabebe. He really feared the worst for them.

"So, you've caught a Dratini, huh? A mighty fine choice!" Lance said. "They don't just follow any trainer, so you must have something special in you. Tell you what, get a little stronger, win a few more badges. Tell me when your Dratini has evolved into a Dragonair and is showing signs of evolving into a Dragonite. I'll help you train it."

"Are you serious?" Ash blurted out in shock. "Why would you help me?"

Lance just laughed, and said, "I love the Dragonite family. And as I said, if any Dratini thinks that you are worthy of training under, you are alright in my book. All I'll be doing is guide you to make your Dratini the strongest it can be. Consider it a reward for what you helped us accomplish yesterday."

"Thank you. I really appreciate it," Ash said eagerly.

"Think nothing of it," Lance laughed again. "Speaking of rewards, I have more to give you."

"Uhh, there is no need for that," Ash mumbled out, once again blushing.

"Of course there is! I was going to give you a bigger reward but someone," here he sent Brock a nasty look, "told me that such behaviour should not be encouraged. So, you will have to make do with this." He took out a rectangle-shaped box wrapped in brown paper. Ash took it with unsteady hands, and looked at Lance to thank him. Before he could say anything, the champion continued, "Well! What are you waiting for? Open it!"

Ash smiled sheepishly as he followed the champion's orders tearing the wrapping paper apart. He opened the lid of the box and gasped in surprise. Inside the box were ten pokeballs, but they were not standard pokeballs. Five of them had the upper half coloured blue with two red-coloured patches in between. The remaining five had an upper half which was black with a U-shaped patch in between which was coloured gold. Great balls and Ultra balls. Surprising, since Ultra balls were not available to trainers. They were only available to the League.

"This is…" Ash was speechless. He looked at Lance to thank him properly but was stopped short by the man ruffling his hair once again.

"You'll be needing stronger pokemon soon enough. These will help you catch them. Make good use of them, will you? Now, we should be going, or Nurse Joy will personally come and kick us out. Get some rest, kid. And thank you for yesterday!"

Brock and Janine gave their own goodbyes as they left Ash to rest. Ash took the Great balls and Ultra balls and put them in his bag as he kept the empty box on his bedside table. He didn't want people coming and stealing the gift now, did he? As he was putting the balls in his bag, he remembered the pokeballs he had taken from the Team Rocket members that he had defeated. He searched his bag to find them, but was unable to.

'They must have taken them already and put them in the rehabilitation facility,' Ash thought. He had told Brock where he kept them, after all. He started feeling drowsy and realised that he had not fully recovered from his wounds yet. The conversation with Lance had drained him and any further thoughts on the consequences of his battle were to be done later. At the end of the day, no one was too badly injured. They would recover from this, better than ever before, he mused as his head hit the pillow and sleep overcame him once again.

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Ash had gotten a clean bill of health from Nurse Joy. His wound had healed, he just needed to recover some strength. Nurse Joy had given him strict instructions to take it easy for the next few days and then returned his pokemon. Ash had immediately left the Centre to meet his pokemon for the first time since the battle.

On stepping out of the Centre, he realized that the League had taken him to the Pokemon Centre at the base of Mt. Moon since it was the closest. The last couple of days had not been pleasant for Ash. The tongue lashing his mother had given him when he told her what had happened and why he had not called her for two days had been legendary. And it had hurt Ash to see his mother so upset knowing that the cause of her sadness was something he did. Professor Oak was not gentle in his reprimands either as he called him up to tell him the status of both Jonathan and him.

Speaking of Jonathan, the boy was quite upset. Even the joy of his Charmander evolving could not detract from the fact that his pokemon were very badly injured. They would need a few more days to recover. Fortunately, there were no permanent injuries. Ash had tried to cheer him up, but nothing that Ash said did any good. And what could he say? He was struggling with the consequences of the battle himself.

He quickly made his way to Mt. Moon, but stopped before he entered it. He had some important stuff to do, a conversation that was long overdue. Making sure that he was alone for now, he sat down and released all his pokemon. Joy filled his body as he saw that none of his pokemon even had a scar from the battle. They all were looking at Ash with concerned looks, taking in his exhausted face and paler than normal skin.

He smiled trying to reassure them. It looked more like a grimace. "I…" he started but stopped as he swallowed the lump in his throat.

"I owe you guys an apology. I charged in recklessly against Team Rocket and as a result, you guys were injured really badly. One of you guys could have been injured for months, or worse. All because of me. I'm very sorry." His head was bowed in shame and pain, his guilt eating him up. So, he was unprepared to feel his pokemon dog-piling him. Dratini wrapped himself contently around his feet while Eevee curled herself in a ball in his lap. Flabebe hugged him around his middle as Pikachu settled for his spot on Ash's shoulders.

Feeling the love coming from his pokemon, Ash finally let it go. All the pain, the anger, the guilt, the fear of what could have been, everything was released as Ash started sobbing. They sat there for a while, trainer and pokemon content in basking in the love from each other.

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Another consequence of the battle was that the intensity of the training sessions increased drastically. It seems like Dratini had shared what had happened to Ash with the rest of the pokemon, as he was the only one conscious at that time. Now that they know what it feels like to go up against a powerful pokemon, and the hopelessness that comes from knowing that they are not strong enough to protect Ash, they are determined to never feel that again.

Dratini had spent some time mastering Thundershock, but the majority of his time was spent trying to increase the power behind his moves. Now that Ash had seen how powerful a move Dragon Rage can be when he sent an overpowered one at the Electabuzz to knock it out, Ash wanted him to reach the same power levels normally and not in a fit of anger and desperation. And Dratini was slowly getting there as well, the power behind his moves was noticeably improving.

Pikachu had his hands full. He was close to learning Spark, which he spent time doing in the mornings. Evenings were spent on trying to master Thunderbolt. While he had released an extremely potent attack back in Mt. Moon, it was due to an abundance of electric energy coursing through his body as a result of the attacks that he absorbed. Now, when he had to power the move on his own, he was struggling. He could barely manage three Thunderbolts in a row before he was exhausted, and none of the three were even remotely close to the one he used in Mt. Moon in terms of power. But, at least there was progress. He had moved from two Thunderbolts to three over the last ten days. The power behind the move had also improved slightly.

Eevee was the one who had changed the most since the battle. When she had joined Ash's team, she was the strongest one in her pack, leading to her haughty nature. She had retained her arrogance for a while as she was better at battling than both Dratini and Flabebe. But, as the days progressed and turned to weeks, the gap between them decreased before it started increasing in the opposite direction. And all this lead to her having an identity crisis of sorts. The struggle while learning Shadow Ball was not helping either. She was losing confidence in herself and the few losses she was having had stamped out her arrogance.

But this battle had reinvigorated her. She knew that in the battle, she was just playing the supporting role. Because of her weakness, her trainer had been hurt. The trainer who she was slowly starting to love as family. So her drive had returned. She was no longer unmotivated as she was before. With her arrogance being checked, she started training harder than Ash had ever seen her before. She had finally returned to the fiery personality she had when she first joined Ash's team with the drive to become the strongest, and Ash could not be happier. With the increased effort and the gentle encouragement from Ash, she had made more progress in learning Shadow Ball in the last ten days than she did in all the days previously, combined. She could now gather the ghostly energy quickly and compress it into a ball and shoot it at a target. At the rate she was going, Ash assumed that she would have the move mastered in less than a week.

Flabebe had used the increased motivation to master Magical Leaf two days after the resumed their journey. Ash didn't really know what to teach her next since the more powerful attacks can be learnt by her only when she evolves. So he taught her Wish. Wish is a self-healing move like recover. Flabebe releases some chemicals in its body that trigger healing. The only drawback of the move is that it takes time for the chemicals to work, usually a few seconds. Flabebe had spent time trying to figure out the exact composition of chemicals, but she said that she was close to figuring it out. Ash didn't think that it will take long for her to get this move down.

But the biggest surprise had happened a few days ago. It was after a battle against a Hiker's Geodude who she had knocked out by using a powerful Magical Leaf attack. As Ash was about to return her to her pokeball to resume their journey, she had been enveloped in a bright white light. Her shape began to change as she doubled in height. Her ears had grown larger, and her tail had changed to the shape of a spade. She no longer rested on her flower, instead carrying it in her arms. She had finally evolved into a Floette.

Her evolution had been celebrated by Ash and the rest of his pokemon as she was the first amongst them to evolve. It was a major step for the team as one of their members had grown exponentially more powerful. And Ash had instructed her to spend the remaining time getting used to her power, even asking her to put a stop to learning new moves. It was a wise decision considering how much more power she had gotten just by evolving. Ash smirked as he thought of how much easier the second gym battle had become.

Speaking of the second gym battle, Ash was currently in the Cerulean Gym awaiting the Gym Leader. He had spent the last couple of hours watching an…enticing show by the Sensational Sisters, the sisters of the Cerulean City Gym Leader, who was the youngest of the bunch, a girl a few years older than him named Misty.

The battlefield was a swimming pool which had decks floating on the water surface interspersed around the pool. Ash was standing in the challenger's box and a few seconds later, he saw a girl with orange hair enter the Leader's box. The referee stood at a podium, and started speaking.

"This is a Gym Battle between Misty Waterflower of the Cerulean City Gym and challenger Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town. This will be a three-on-three battle and only the challenger is allowed to substitute pokemon. The trainers will now release their first pokemon."

"Go, Goldeen!" Misty exclaimed.

Goldeen is a white, fish-like pokemon with orange markings on its tail, back, and fins. On its forehead is a large horn.

"Dratini, let's do this." Ash chose Dratini as his first pokemon as of all his pokemon, he is the only one who can swim. Also, Ash wanted to keep Floette and Pikachu, who had more effective attacks, for Misty's stronger pokemon, like Starmie.

"A Dratini, huh? Interesting. It can swim in water and is resistant to water-type attacks. But don't assume that just because of the type advantage, you will win the match!" Misty exclaimed.

"I would never dream of it," Ash replied.

"Good," she smirked. "Challenger gets the first move."

"You will regret that," Ash warned. "Dratini, Twister!"

Instead of forming the twister in the air as he normally does, Dratini dove underwater and started forming it there. It was part of the plan that Ash had formed with Dratini before the start of the match. Ash had made the plan specifically with Goldeen in mind, knowing that the fish pokemon cannot survive outside water.

Ash smirked as he saw his plan come to fruition as Goldeen let out a yell as it futilely tried to swim away from the Twister. It got caught in the current and was sucked in. As soon as Dratini saw that Goldeen was caught in the created whirlpool, he started the second part of the plan. He increased the power of the Twister to launch the Goldeen high into the air. Once done, he stopped the Twister and swam up to meet the fish pokemon as it came down. His tail glowed silver as he almost swatted the Goldeen with enough force to smash it into the wall of the gym. The power behind the strike did the trick as Goldeen was unconscious before it fell to the ground.

"Goldeen is unable to battle. Dratini wins." Announced the referee.

"Okaaaay," commented Misty as she withdrew her Goldeen. "I did not expect that. No one has used the water against me. To see my biggest advantage being used against me is disconcerting, I will admit that. You are good, no question about it." She suddenly smirked. "This match just became a lot more interesting."

She released her second pokemon, who was Staryu, as expected. She also, Ash noticed with a smirk, released it on the platform. By winning the first battle way he did, he made sure that Misty's pokemon would not jump into the water to dodge the attacks. And with Dratini being in the water, the roles have been reversed. Now, Ash's pokemon had the whole battlefield to use while Staryu was restricted.

"Staryu vs Dratini. Begin!" Shouted the referee.

"Water Gun!" Misty shouted.

"Thundershock!" Ash countered.

Dratini dodged the sprout of water from the star shape pokemon and sent a stream of electricity in return. Staryu started rotating rapidly and rose in the air dodging the attack as well.

Ash rose an eyebrow in surprise as he saw the pokemon floating in the air. He had not expected that. The battle continued in a similar vein with no attacks making it to the opposing pokemon. Dratini dodged all attacks by diving underwater, the surface of the water stopping all of Staryu's attacks, even Swift, which is supposed to be unavoidable. Staryu, on the other hand, used its rapid spin to float above any attacks Dratini sent at it. Both trainers were vexed on what to do as this battle is new territory for them. Misty is not used to battling from the air and Ash is not used to trying to fighting a pokemon that was staying far away and attacking only from a distance.

Deciding that enough is enough, Ash decided to make a move. "Dratini, swim," he murmured so that his opponent would not hear his plan. He had found out long ago that pokemon had much better hearing than humans. "Stay there for a while and charge a Dragon Rage. Surprise it. Follow up with Thundershock."

Ash saw with baited breath as Dratini started the plan. He dove underwater, and stayed there. And did nothing for the next minute or so. A tense atmosphere descended on the battlefield as everyone waited for Dratini to make his move. Even Misty could not do anything but tell Staryu to be on guard since she knew that Dratini and Ash held all the cards for this battle.

Dratini suddenly burst into action. There was no warning from Ash, Misty confirmed that. No orders, no gestures, nothing. He broke the surface of the water and Misty could see an attack charged at the tip of its snout. She yelled out a warning to her Staryu, but it was for naught as the compressed ball of draconic energy shot towards her Staryu at breakneck speed. Staryu managed to shift to the side so that the attack impacted one of its limbs instead of the jewel at its centre, but the damage was done. It shouted in pain as it lost control over Rapid Spin, allowing gravity to do its work by pulling the injured pokemon to the Earth's surface.

"Finish it!" Ash yelled ecstatically, pumping his fist in the air at the plan working. Dratini happily rumbled in agreement as twin bolts of electricity originated from its snout and shocked the falling Staryu into unconsciousness, the super effective move doing the damage.

"Staryu is unable to battle. Dratini wins." Announced the referee.

"Alright!" Ash cheered.

"Not bad, Ash," Misty commented as she withdrew her Staryu. "This is the first time I've had to battle like this, without being able to use the water which is supposed to be my trump card. Now I know what other trainers feel like when they come here," she smirked. "But this battle is far from over. Seeing what you did in these two battles is getting my blood pumping. I'm going to give you the best I got. Let's finish this, Starmie!"

The evolved form of Staryu stood on the battlefield, ready to battle. Ash was slightly unnerved by the confident smirk on Misty's face. He knew that Starmie was her strongest pokemon, but this confident a smirk when seeing that she had just one pokemon left and Ash had three? She had something planned, Ash was sure of that.

"Starmie vs Dratini. Begin!" Announced the referee.

"Starmie, Ice Beam." Misty announced happily.

"Shit," Ash muttered as he now understood why Misty was so confident. Starmie knew one of the only moves that can knock out a dragon-type pokemon in one hit. Dratini wasted no time in going underwater to dodge the attack, instinctively knowing the damage the attack can cause.

"Finish this, Starmie! Thunderbolt!"

"Get out of there!" Ash yelled, but he knew it was futile. Misty had played this one perfectly. Using Ice Beam to ensure that Dratini dodges by going under the water left him with no time to dodge the follow up Thunderbolt. Ash grimaced as he heard Dratini screaming in pain from the electrified water, unable to withdraw him either. He had to wait for the attack to end for Dratini to float up, knocked out.

"Dratini is unable to battle. Starmie wins." Announced the referee.

"Good job, buddy." Ash said as he withdrew Dratini. "Rest now, you deserve it."

"I'm sorry for that, Ash. I know how hard it is to hear your pokemon scream like that and being unable to withdraw them due to them being underwater. Been there before." Apologized Misty.

"It's alright," Ash sighed. He gave a slight smile, and continued, "There will be instances when my pokemon will be injured far worse and by people who don't care about pokemon as much as you do. It's naïve of me to think otherwise."

"I still apologize."

"Well, then. Apology accepted." Ash then took out a pokeball and tossed it onto one of the decks on the swimming pool. "Let's do this."

Ash's pokeball opened to reveal his starter. While Pikachu hated being inside his pokeball, Ash had managed to convince him to do so during the important battles. This way, his opponent will not have an idea about his pokemon and his strategy before the battle even starts.

"Starmie vs Pikachu. Begin!"

"Let's start this with Quick Tail."

Pikachu blurred off, jumping from platform to platform as he ran towards the Starmie with his tail glowing silver.

"Reflect," Misty instructed calmly. A glowing shield, golden in colour, sprang up in front of the Starmie. Pikachu's speed was too much for him to slow down at the moment and he crashed straight into the shield. While he may not have damaged his opponent, his Iron Tail was strong enough to destroy the psychic shield. Unfortunately, doing so left him wide open, something Misty made full use of.

"Water Pulse."

A ball of water formed in front of Starmie and shot towards Pikachu, who was only a couple of feet away. It crashed into Pikachu, forming a river of water sweeping Pikachu away into the pool.

"Pikachu!"

"Let's finish this! Swift!"

Multiple glowing stars came out of Starmie's jewel in the middle of its body and honed in towards Pikachu. This was one of those attacks which never missed. It could only be countered, not dodged.

"Pikachu, swim inside the water!" Ash said, a plan forming in his head.

"You made the same mistake again, Ash! Even if Pikachu is an electric-type pokemon, it can still be damaged by an electric-type attack. Especially when it is so widespread as it is in the pool! Starmie, Thunderbolt!"

Multiple bolts of electricity originating from Starmie's jewel electrified the water. Misty waited for the tell-tale signs of Pikachu screaming in pain and the battle ending, but none came. She was further confused when Pikachu swam up to a platform a few seconds after the attack ended, looking none the worse for wear. In fact, he looked slightly better than he had before the attack hit him.

"Huh?" Misty asked.

"I didn't make the same mistake again, Misty. In fact, I counted on you using the same attack you used on Dratini to finish this match. Too bad, it worked in my favour! Pikachu, Spark! After that, show that pokemon what a true Thunderbolt looks like!"

Pikachu started running towards Starmie again, this time with its cheeks sparking and a layer of electric energy surrounding it.

"Reflect!" Misty shouted again, knowing that Starmie would not be able to dodge the attack as Pikachu was much quicker than Starmie on land. Once again, Pikachu crashed into the psychic barrier put up by Starmie, but was better prepared for it. As soon as his first attack ended, he used the electrical energy he surrounded himself in for the Spark attack to unleash a massive Thunderbolt, the electricity he absorbed via Starmie's Thunderbolt helping make the attack more powerful.

This time, the roles reversed as Starmie was too close to Pikachu to put up any form of resistance and got the full brunt of the attack. It screamed in pain as the super effective attack coursed through its body before falling down.

"Alright! Awesome job, Pikachu!" Ash yelled.

"Pika, Pika!" panted Pikachu, his chest heaving up and down, the last attack taking a lot out of him. Ash made a mental note of that and to make sure that Pikachu got lots of training in mastering the move.

"Starmie, Water Pulse, again."

"What?" asked Ash stupefied and watched in horror as Starmie formed another ball of water and crashed it into the ground in front of Pikachu. The stream of water formed hit Pikachu full on as he was too shocked to move. He was sent crashing back as he shouted in pain.

"How?" he asked again, not able to believe his eyes.

"Naïve, Ash. Did you really think that my pokemon would be taken out by one attack? Starmie is my strongest pokemon to battle with newbies for a reason. And even if you thought that the attack was enough, you should have made sure that Starmie was unconscious before celebrating. There are referees present for a reason. And now, this mistake is going to cost you the match. Starmie, Recover."

To Ash's further horror, Starmie glowed with a purple light as the Mysterious pokemon started to heal itself. Its drooping limbs straightened and it shook itself as the move finished doing its magic. On the other side, Pikachu was struggling to even stand. Ash grimaced at the turn of events and could not help but curse himself for his stupidity. He made a vow to not do any premature celebrations for the rest of his life!

"Pikachu, can you still fight? Or do you want me to switch you out?"

"Pika, Pika!" was the answer as the small, mouse pokemon glared at his opponent for the surprise attack.

"You should have returned your Pikachu! Now it will just suffer more!" Misty exclaimed. "Starmie, Swift!"

"We'll see about that!" Ash exclaimed as he turned his cap around, getting more into the match. "Thundershock to blast them away! Blindside it and then shock it again!"

Pikachu intercepted the stars coming at him with a weak shock of electricity and immediately phased into Quick Attack as he disappeared at full speed. He reappeared a couple of seconds later behind Starmie and sent a couple of bolts of electricity at it. Too surprised by Pikachu suddenly reappearing behind it, Starmie could only take the attack as it screamed in pain again.

"No! Starmie! Shake it off and use Bubble Beam!"

While the Thundershock would have been enough to finish it off before, it was hardly strong enough to finish off a recovered Starmie. It shook off the effects of the attack and sent a continuous blast of bubbles at Pikachu who barely dodged the attack. The battle was taking a toll on him, affecting his dexterity, something Ash made a note of, and Ash was sure Misty noticed it too.

Ash knew that Pikachu would struggle to dodge another attack. And he was too tired to produce another Thunderbolt. No other attack of his would be enough to finish this battle. Ash sighed as he realised that he had lost this round. But he would not lose the battle. Pikachu can assure his victory in the next round. Too bad he didn't win the round, Ash would have to apologize to him later for his stupidity.

"That Pikachu is weak! Finish it off, Starmie! Ice Beam!"

"Evade and paralyze it!" Ash countered.

Thin beams of ice originated from Starmie's jewel and arced towards Pikachu, who jumped above the attack and sent a thin stream of electricity at the Mysterious pokemon. Starmie merely redirected its attack to the airborne Pikachu who took the full brunt of it and screamed in pain before he finally fell unconscious.

"Pikachu is unable to battle, Starmie wins!"

Ash withdrew Pikachu, and said, "I'm sorry, buddy. We should have won this, but I lost it for us. You were amazing. I could not have asked more from you." He then put the pokeball back on his belt. He let Pikachu be in the pokeball so that he could rest in stasis.

"I must admit, your Pikachu is one tough cookie. He would have easily defeated Starmie had you guys not made that mistake."

"Yeah," Ash grimaced. He took out his final pokeball, and said, "It's all up to you now. Let's win this!" with that, he released Floette.

"A Floette?" Misty asked in surprise. "I definitely did not expect that. You definitely are an interesting trainer, Ash!"

"Thanks," Ash smirked. He loved the reactions he got from trainers when they saw his Dratini or his Floette.

"Starmie vs Floette. Begin!"

"Alright, Starmie! Let's start this with a Bubble Beam!"

"I want us to finish this, Floette. Pikachu has already weakened it" Ash said as Floette easily dodged the thin beam of bubbles sent by Starmie. "Wrap it up in your vines. Then finish it with Magical Leaf!"

When Floette sent numerous vines at the Starmie to follow Ash's instructions, Misty was calm since she was sure that Starmie would easily dodge the attack. Imagine her surprise when Starmie didn't move. Her brows furrowed, wondering what was wrong, when she saw it. A thin stream of electricity coursing through Starmie's body. It was then that Misty remembered Ash's last order to Pikachu before the mouse pokemon fainted. Paralyze it. She smirked as she realized that Pikachu had taken the hit but had severely dented Misty's chances of winning this battle. She really wanted a rematch with this kid. Time and again he was proving to be a worthy adversary.

"Use Swift to counter the leaves!" Misty instructed. While she may admit that the kid is good, she's not just going to sit there and let him win!

The stars produced by Starmie hit the leaves produced by Floette as the two attacks cancelled each other out.

"Floette, smash it into the ground. Once it is disoriented, finish it with Razor Leaf!"

The battle was anticlimactic compared to the previous battle as the paralyzed and weakened Starmie was quickly knocked out, the damage from being slammed into the ground and the super effective attack was too much for the Mysterious pokemon. It fell down and its jewel flashed. Ash didn't say anything, waiting for any surprise attack, having being on the receiving end of one already.

"Starmie is unable to battle. The winner of this match is the challenger!" The referee announced.

Only then did Ash let out a cheer as he hugged a cheerful Floette to his chest. "Great job, Floette!"

"Flo, Flo, Et!" his fairy-type cheered as well.

"That was a great battle," Misty said as she walked towards Ash in the challenger's box. "Do me a favour, will ya? Come back before you challenge the League and face my full team. It will be a fun battle!"

"Sure, I look forward to it!" Ash smiled as he thought that it would be good practice for the League, considering that Misty is one of the best water-type trainers in Kanto and she is also one of the most powerful ones as well.

"Here is your reward for beating me," she said as she handed out the Cascade Badge to Ash. "Along with that, you get the TM for Water Pulse. Now, there is something we Gym Leaders give the more promising trainers. Anyone we find promising is given a TM which can be used an infinite number of times. And that is what I'd like to give you, Ash."

"How can you find me promising when you saw what happened in the battle between Pikachu and Starmie?" Ash asked, a little despondent.

"That's called inexperience, Ash. Did you think that I've never done that before? For that matter, did you think that Lance has never done that before? You've just started your journey, you're bound to make mistakes. It's how you recover from your mistakes that define what kind of trainer you are. Anyway, your promise as a trainer has nothing to do with you making mistakes. It depends on the strategies you come up with and especially, it depends on the bonds you form with your pokemon. Both are exceptional from what I have seen, especially for a trainer who's been on the road for a couple of months."

"Thanks, Misty." Ash smiled as she was successful in cheering him up.

"Now, I just have to register you on this so that other Gym Leaders know that I have seen your promise," she said as she held up a device. "Now, they can't deny you a TM similar to what I have given." She started typing his name before she stopped short. "Wait a sec. This says that Brock has already registered you. Did he not tell you about the deal?" she asked, confused.

"He did," Ash admitted. "However, I wanted you to judge me worthy on your own, not because someone else has done so."

"Is that so?" Misty asked with a smile on her face. "That's a good attitude to have, kid. You keep proving my feeling that you will go far as a trainer to be true."

"Thanks, Misty."

"So shall we go to the Pokemon Centre?" she asked. "We both need to get our pokemon healed.

"Sure, let's go."

Both trainers left the gym talking to each other. As they were walking, Ash could not help the small, proud smile that came to his face as he took another step closer to his dream. He had learnt a lot on the trip to Cerulean. His journey would not be easy, his arrogance needed to be checked for it lead to pain, death is a possibility on his journey if he is not careful. He lost a lot of his innocence here, but at the end of the day, he was happy. All these events were making him and his team stronger, and he was that much more prepared for the rest of his journey.

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